Thursday, November 28, 2013

Two Thanksgivings Ago

If you're my age, odds are your parents have at least one copy of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, a pretty enjoyable record of folky fun that you probably heard on Thanksgiving a few times.  And rightly so - there aren't many times that the lot of you would be stuck in one place all day with little to do and nowhere to go, so putting on the modern equivalent of an epic poem was a good idea.   I sometimes would play it on Thanksgiving as well, but music has certainly evolved into a more personal and less shared experience over the last 30 years, even if the music itself is getting shared a lot.  It's just going through ear buds.

If you've never heard the title track, "Alice's Restaurant," you should.  It's great, and reasonably funny/quotable.   "I wanna kill," indeed. 

There's a whole story in this 20-minute song and you might even say it would make a nice movie - and while they did make a movie of it, I didn't much care for it.  The long and short of it is a bunch of people move into a decommissioned church, throw out some garbage, and then go on about the draft. 

The draft also came up in another super-long song from about the same era called "Billy the Mountain" by Frank Zappa and the Mothers which I believe got on the cheap out of a used bin at Zia Records some point 10-15 years ago, as most of my species has a teenage Zappa phase they never grow out of.

The best version of "Billy" (so far) is on the album Just Another Band from L.A. and it would probably have made for a fantastic cartoon or short film.  It's goofy,it  references numerous L.A. landmarks, and it features a giant, talking mountain with his significant other Ethyl (a tree growing off of his shoulder.)  The premise: a mountain gets a check for royalties for posing for photos on postcards, and goes on vacation.  

I don't know how many people are putting out 20-minute songs today due to our attention spans - I don't know if "Trapped in the Closet" really counts as it's many parts - but I gotta say it's a delightful way to kill 25 minutes.   I would best describe it as a children's story for adults.  It feels like "dad humor," if that makes sense.  As in "this gets better the more young people think you suck."  I find myself liking it a lot more on each listen.  Since you've probably got the day off, give these a listen - but for "Billy," I do suggest following along the lyrics on Wiki Jawaka just because you probably won't get half the references even if you CAN hear them.

Also, if anyone out there in the world of animation is reading, I would very much like to see you make a 24-minute cartoon based on "Billy the Mountain."   That would be awesome.  Mostly just to see how you would handle animating lines like "A mountain is something you don't wanna fuck with / You don't wanna fuck with / Don't fuck around."

I want more stuff like this.   While there's tremendous appeal in a short song like Nerf Herder's "Doin' Laundry" sometimes you can only get the right kind of chuckle from a cross-country road trip involving a talking mountain.