Sunday, March 28, 2010

The most inexplicable cover ever

Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was originally intended to be sung by a male performer. Having a woman perform it totally changed the entire meaning of the song, and was, all in all, a pretty smart move.

On the other hand, the Beach Boys covering the Phil Spector-written “I Can Hear Music” was a decision so mind-bogglingly incomprehensible and confusing that I still don’t understand it.

There’s a certain genre of songs that are common to fifties/sixties girl groups, the song about sex told from the female perspective. The most typical is “Will you still love me tomorrow?” which is a tinpan alley song about the fear of sex and abandonment. The female perspective on sex is a lot more anxious, since the female gender’s got a lot more to lose.

“I Can Hear Music” was a song written for Ronnie Spector in 1966 about a woman losing her virginity. The first line is “this is how I dreamed it would be.” The song makes zero sense when sung by a male vocalist. A woman sounds sweet and innocent, whereas a guy singing the same thing sounds, frankly, like a total dork, the kind that weeps after sex.

What’s more, there’s nobody with a voice like Ronnie Spector in pop music: her voice was distinctive and overpowered what was around it. She was the last of the generation of pop music singers where their voices were bigger. For instance, I couldn’t – even on a bet – recognize the difference between, say, Kylie Minogue and Madonna just by how they sound. Like a Frank Zappa song, even if you never heard it before, you can always tell if it’s Ronnie Spector.

So imagine hearing the same song emerging from the Prozac throat of a queefy, weedy white boy dweeb like Carl Wilson. The song was a girl-group pop song, and the Beach Boys covering it is like hearing Bobby Brown do the Rolling Stones. What's more...and this is something that definitely requires a lot of surprising as it must be to the modern perspective, the Ronettes were the "tough girls" of rock, the Joan Jett of their time. Even in the sixties, the Beach Boys weren't exactly the Rolling Stones. They were something you could listen to with your grandmother.

Here’s what I find astonishing: I’ve seen people that only know the Beach Boys version! The most inexplicable cover ever is one that a great many people don’t even know it’s a cover.

Incidentally, I didn't really understand a lot of things about women and their behavior until I understood something: the fundamental anxiety about sex. There's an association in the minds of a lot of women between sex and fear. This is why women like predatory vampires, for instance: women are often sexually fascinated by things they're afraid of. This is also why many romance novels feature dark, sexually aggressive and untrustworthy giggolo type.


David said...

If it makes you feel any better, I never heard either version before.

You have to wonder why Mike Love is even there in that video; he's useless enough on a good day, but when he's not singing lead, do we really need him to stand there and snap his fingers?

I hear you on the "sex and fear" thing, though of course it's not limited to women. They're afraid we'll leave them after sex and we're afraid they won't let us.

I think you're right about vampires and bad boys, though. They figure in an awful lot of romantic novels, but the thing is those books often have the same goal as any romantic lit: get the guy to commit. (Sure he's a rake who uses women and tosses them aside, but once he knows *MY* love he'll settle down.) This always struck me as odd, since in domesticating the rogue, they're taking away the reason they loved him in the first place, and thus dooming the relationship once contempt sets in. But considering how often I've seen it happen in real life, I can't call it unrealistic. A gal's only got two options, really, when she goes for the bad boy; either he stays the same and breaks your heart, or he changes for you and you grow to despise him. But you can't tell a woman anything.

Incidentally, you'll be happy to know I finally broke down and bought a couple volumes of Essential Tomb Of Dracula and it's good stuff. I like vampire lit, too, but only when vampires are portrayed the right way; as inhuman, unabashedly evil monsters to be feared and destroyed.

(Also, and apropos of nothing, I also got an "Essential" volume of Englehart's Captain America. See what a bad influence you are?)

Julian Perez said...

There's an element of fear for men, but I think it's much more fundamental for the female experience. This is why vampires are such a big deal, for instance - and why the fandom for something like Gargoyles tilts surprisingly female. And also why the bad guy on a TV show will almost always have more female fans.

As for Tomb of Dracula...good going! Gene Colan was awkward on superheroes, but he was BORN to do stuff like this. If you're going for Marvel Horror, you can't do much better: don't forget to also pick up Essential Man-Thing.

I hear what you're saying about the gothic horror stuff. Vamps have been reinterpreted this way and that, to have someone like Wolfman go back to their traditional roots as fearful and Old-World is actually quite refreshing.

What I find interesting about Drac was that he was actually not always the pure villain: he was an honorable guy, and sometimes evil monsters (like the story with the skeleton) evil needed to be opposed by Dracula, who represented a better class of evil.

It was actually interesting to see Blade's early appearances. It's a funny thing about him...he had his movie made at a very, very weird time for comic book movies, when comic book movies tried to run away from the superheroes as much as possible: this was the era where only non-superhero comic translations were made, like the Crow, the Mask, and Men in Black. This was also the era where the X-Men wore Deep Space Nine uniforms instead of traditional costumes, a decision that from the perspective of today's comics movies looks a little weird.

I'm very pleased you picked up the Englehart Captain America stuff. When I think of a good comics story, I think of this one, one where a hero is different from the end than he is at the beginning.

There are a few occasions where I suppose I can be angry and alienating, but I suppose that's because I feel sometimes like a combination of yelling and pounding my head against a wall: I can yell because I think nobody's really listening.

In fact, I should do a blog post sometime where I analyze this in depth.

A word of warning: the art is hit or miss. On the plus side, the more intense stories were done by Frank Robbins, but there's also the Sal Buscema/Vinnie Colletta team.

You picked up CA Essential vol 4, right? That one's all Englehart. Essential 3 has the beginning and Essential 5 has the tail end.

David said...

I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure there's a connection between beating your head against the wall and yelling. You should look into it.

I have to say I always kept Gene Colan at arm's length, but you're right that he works well on Drac. Maybe that's because his figures can often be so undefined, swirling and ready to slosh off the page like a spilled Coke. That doesn't fit so well with "check out these abs" superheroes, but it makes perfect sense for a guy who lurks in the shadows and literally turns into a mist. (I also got Volume 2 of Dr Strange, where Colan also seems to "fit").

Mitigating my Colan-itis (Colitis?) as well are the inks of Tom Palmer, which bring an Adams-esque sensibility to the strip. In fact, with all respect to Dick Giordano, who sadly passed this last week, and considering my lukewarm feelings for Marvel, I have to say Palmer was probably Neal's best inker.

Yep, it's Vol. 4 of Cap. Tales of Wonder had a sale of $6 each on select Essentials, so I stocked up. Funny what a $6 price point will do; I figured it would be tough sledding to get through nearly 500 pages of Sal Buscema art (I think of him like Ross Andru -- competent but dull), let alone in black and white, but at this price I'm enjoying it. Even Colletta hasn't ruined it, yet.

Englehart has a knack for dialog and pacing, at the very least. Also I'm realizing this was the period I first came to discover Cap, possibly the first Marvel character to make it past my defenses (though I've long since lost my originals). Anyway it explains why people always argued with me when I said Cap had super-strength. Normally he doesn't, but he does here, where I "met" him.

I almost went for the Avengers book, but then I remembered Mantis and the "Celestial Madonna" storyline and decided maybe $6 is a lot of money after all.

Doc Savage said...

Hey, nice use of racism in this post too! You sure are classy