When I first heard "Oh Superman" back in the 1970s I thought it was somebody's idea of a joke. In some ways it sounded like, at least to me, a take-off on the European electro-pop that you could occasionally hear on the radio from groups like Kraftwerk. But, than again, I had no idea who Laurie Anderson was or what she was all about either. It wasn't until late 1979 or early 1980 when I started to hear excerpts from what was her major opus at the time, United States, a collection of tales, songs, and performances, that I realized she was far more than what could be contained within the confines of a five-minute pop song.
Those were the days when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was still broadcasting interesting and diverse programming, and one of the best of those shows was called "Brave New Waves". You could hear everything from punk to avant-garde during the show, and it was here I first heard United States. One night the announcer came on the air and said, "Laurie Anderson was in town tonight" (Montreal), and she then proceeded to play it in its entirety. I had never heard anything like it before. It opened my mind to possibilities that I had never even considered when it came to the idea of performance. Unfortunately what I didn't understand at the time was that it required quite a singular talent to be able to realize those potentials, and since then have failed to find few, if any moments, to equal the excitement generated by that initial hearing.
The past 30 years have seen quite a few changes in my life but I've yet to lose the motivation to create inspired by that night and I still experience a thrill when a new Laurie Anderson release is announced. Although I long ago realized there is no hope of recreating my experience of all those years ago - it was a singular conjunction of events and circumstances that were as much to do with my age and where I was in life as what it was I heard that night - her work is still something special for its intelligence and ingenuity. You can honestly say there's really nothing else quite like what she does being performed by anyone else.
Although she has produced albums like other recording artists, a number of her recordings are actually records of performances she has been touring for some time. So instead of merely being a collection of songs that may or may not be interconnected, they are more like listening to a unified work along the lines of an orchestral piece or even a play. Unlike those structured pieces, though, her work in the past has been less formal in its presentation, and is more a collection of music and spoken word works designed to communicate with her audience her thoughts and feelings about the state of the world.