Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm Not Sure How I Feel About This Song

My good buddy El Guapo chose Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” for his music of the day yesterday, and I enjoyed watching/listening to it on YouTube. It’s an old favorite that I haven’t heard in a long time. It got me thinking about something I started writing recently, intending to post it here. So I went back and finished…

I have some John Denver on my iPod, and earlier this week his song “Rhymes and Reasons” came up in the shuffle as I listened while walking to class. Musically, it’s a pretty typical song for him, with a nice, simple melody, straightforward arrangement, and his pure, unique vocal style.

I like John Denver, and his music always brings memories of my youth, because my parents had several of his albums on vinyl. (We didn’t own any CDs at the time, mainly because they weren’t invented yet.) I also like Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, and (probably most of all) Willie Nelson.

As I’ve said before, I DO NOT like flower power, make-love-not-war, we’re-all-children-of-mother-earth, pot smoking hippie music. (Let me interject here that I get a kick out of “Alice’s Restaurant” in spite of its overt anti-war theme. I find it original, thought provoking, and very funny.) Anyway, when I listened closely to the lyrics of “Rhymes and Reasons” for the first time the other day, I was a little troubled.

Here is its chorus (after the first verse):
   For the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers,
   Their laughter and their loveliness could clear a cloudy day.
   Like the music of the mountains and the colors of the rainbow,
   They’re a promise of the future and a blessing for today.

Following the next verse, the first two lines are unchanged, but the third and fourth lines go as follows:
   And the song that I am singing is a prayer to nonbelievers:
   'Come and stand beside us; we can find a better way.'

Some things I am absolutely certain of. For example, I never doubt the following:

  • Raspberries are delicious. Tomatoes, not so much. Mushrooms are not meant for human consumption—think about it, they’re FUNGUS! 
  • B-52s have always been awesome and always will be. I'm talking about both the USAF bomber and the band from Georgia, but not the "beehive" hairdo favored by the women in the band, which is sometimes called the B-52, apparently because of its resemblance to the bomber's bulbous form. Pretty straightforward, huh?
  • Spring is best. Winter is miserable. Summer is fun but often intolerable. Fall is okay but kind of depressing. 
  • Ewan McGregor is cool incarnate. If he and Catherine Zeta Jones were to mate, their child would be so perfect, mortals could not stand in its presence. (It’s too bad Ewan took his friend Charlie along instead of me to ride motorcycles around the world. I would have been a perfect candidate for that.)
  • Anyone who gets deeply, emotionally involved with any professional sports team is a moron, maybe even a bozo. 
  • The Jaguar XKE is the most beautiful car ever conceived by man. 
  • Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, is a genius.

On some other stuff, I’m ambivalent. “Rhymes and Reasons” falls into that category. I want to like it, but I can’t fully. I kind of like it when I listen passively and ignore the lyrics.

Don’t ask me to explain. "Rhymes and Reasons" is musically superior to “Alice’s Restaurant” by any technical measure. Denver’s vocal talent exceeded Guthrie’s. Lyrically, “Rhymes and Reasons” is by far the less revolutionary of the two songs. Applying objective standards, I should despise “Alice’s Restaurant.” But artistic tastes are subjective. We cannot reduce aesthetics to a collection of absolute, black-or-white judgments or empirical quantification. In the words of Ulysses Everett McGill (played by George Clooney) in O Brother, Where Art Thou, “It’s a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.” Amen to that.


  1. Love the Ewan McGregor & Cathrine Zeta Jones baby idea. Good call. That would be the most amazing child ever. *Fun fact, my best friend and Matt Groening went to the same high school.*

  2. That IS a fun fact!

    Check this out. I used to work with a guy who went to high school with Renee Zellweger.

    You and I, Sarah, are kind of big-shots.

  3. It's a nice song, but I like the music much more than the lyrics.
    There are many songs where either the music is wasted on the lyrics or vice versa.

    I've seen Gordon Lightfoot (fell asleep) and Willie Nelson (Awesome. He's Willie. Freaking. Nelson.)
    And I also love spring, if only for the rising hem-lines as the weather grows warmer.

  4. You make a good point, Guap, although that's not what I had in mind when I gave my opinion on Spring.

    Years ago, David Letterman read a Top Ten List on the best things about Summer. I remember that one line was simply, "Hot chicks. Less clothes. 'Nuff said."

  5. If you are in the right environment, it's not hard to find scantily-clad women all year long. (You are referring to women, right?)

    I am sorry you hate winter. It's too bad you live in Utah.

    As for tomatoes, if you get them from the supermarket, they are insipid and flavorless things that somewhat resemble tomatoes. If you pick them from mine or someone else's garden, they are sweet and full of flavor that tastes like nectar from the heavens.

  6. I don't know why my comment was published anonymous. I typed in Weenie Girl.

    Anyway, I'm not planning a trip around the world but I'd love to take a motor road trip. I was going to go with Ewan but I don't appreciate that he blew you off. If you're up for it, I could invite you.

  7. I'm not sure what's up with the comments. At least it lets you submit them, anonymously or otherwise, and that's something, eh?

    I still think Ewan should have invited me along, but hey... bygones. I'm planning my own trip for next summer, not around the world, but around the western U.S. and southern Canada. We'll take 2 weeks to see 9 states and 2 provinces, the entire U.S. Pacific coast, and much of Vancouver Island.

    One more thing: I've tried garden fresh tomatoes. My family always grew them, and I cannot stand their taste. Nectar from heaven? Phooey! (But you're entitled to your own opinion, of course.)

  8. Do you go with your family? How do you plan such a trip?

  9. Not the whole fam, just me and a friend. I try to take one long-ish bike trip every summer, but that usually means 2 or 3 days and maybe 800 miles. This will be my first multi-thousand mile odyssey. I've been dreaming of doing a trip like this for years, and it looks like everything will fall into place for it in 2012.

    How do we plan such a trip? Talk about it a lot. Argue over whether we should be adventurous (read CHEAP) and camp out, or stay in motels to enjoy such luxuries as beds and showers. Discuss what kind of motorcycle I should buy, since my 400cc dirt bike won't cut it. That kind of stuff.

  10. Oh, hey! The Squeeze went to the same high school as Matt Groening, too! (Not at the same time, of course.) Small world!

  11. You're welcome to a bed (or an air matress maybe...) on your road trip if you're going through Las Vegas. I have fond memories of John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot as well (maybe we had the same parents growing up?) and now I will have Rhymes and Reasons stuck in my head for the rest of the day. I think I need to go dig my John Denver cd's out of the car. For some reason I love to listen to them while I drive the car in the rain. And Gordon Lightfoot is best listened to in the fall. And I don't know where they went wrong raising you, but tomatoes are delicious. That's all.

  12. Alright Jill...

    1) I might just take you up on the offer of a place to crash. I'll probably get to Vegas the first night and make for Tucson on day two. This will most likely be in August or September. We'd also like to stop in on our next trip to D-land with the whole family.

    2) Gordon Lightfoot has several good songs, but he's no John Denver, and he can't even compare to Willie Nelson. Although, I think "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is one of the best narrative/folk songs ever recorded.

    3) For my getting "Rhymes and Reasons" stuck in your head, You're welcome!

    4) If you can eat raw tomatoes and not gag, you're the one with whom they went wrong. Terribly wrong.

    THAT is all.


    Could it be that The Squeeze is Sarah Tishko's best friend? I kind of thought she was talking about another lady, but one can never tell... you've got Seven.

  13. I might have to nominate myself for the bozo list because I do, indeed, get deeply involved with a sports team. Football. NFL. I can't help myself. It's easy to really immerse yourself in the competition and get into the couch-coaching. I'm not like most ladies - I actually got into an argument with the hubs because he didn't want to get me the NFL Sunday Ticket! I bleed football.
    I do eat raw tomatoes, regularly.
    Ewan is awesome. My favorite scene, ever, with him? Star Wars, Ep. 3, when he screams "You were the chosen one!" at Anikin. Best. Thing. Ever.
    And Catherine Zeta-Jones is THE girl that I put up in my office when I was really working out hard. She's as gorgeous and as she is smart!

    And yes... I'm with you on the spring thing. I'm giddy when I see the first leaves budding on the trees.

    P.S. I don't want to be on the bozo list. That is all. Carry on.

  14. You had me at Jaguar XKE. Make mine a convertible - British racing green! My favorite car ever.

  15. Sandy, you are obviously a woman of refined tastes, because you gave U. by C. a look.

    Or, I mean, because you appreciate the beauty of the XKE.

    Thanks for checking in.