Song of the Week – The Monkey, Dave Bartholomew; Monkey to Man, Elvis Costello & The Smartest Monkeys, XYC

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

The great New Orleans R&B artist, songwriter and record producer, Dave Bartholomew, died on June 23rd.  I’m totally embarrassed that I missed it but that was right around the time that I was in Sonoma for 3 days and on the east coast for the following 10.

Even if you don’t know him by name, I’m certain that you’ve heard his work.  He wrote or co-wrote many Fats Domino hits, like “The Fat Man”, I’m Walkin’”, “Blue Monday”, and  “Ain’t That a Shame” – a pop #1 in 1955.  And there’s more — “I Hear You Knocking” (Smiley Lewis) and “My Ding-a-Ling” (Chuck Berry).

He produced Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” that was an R&B #1 in 1952, and Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.”

Today’s first SotW is Bartholomew’s own “The Monkey.”

“The Monkey” is a social commentary about the way humans have descended from “the monkey” but doesn’t always behave like the superior species.  (Unfortunately, a very apropos sentiment in today’s divisive political climate.)

Here’s another thing a monkey won’t do
Go out on a night and get all in a stew
Or use a gun or a club or a knife
And take another monkey’s life
Yes, man descended, the worthless bum
But, brothers, from us he did not come

In 2004, Elvis Costello released a song called “Monkey to Man.”

The opening lyric is “A long time ago, our point of view as broadcast by Mr. Bartholomew.”  I would venture to say the significance of that reference was missed on all but a few.  (Now you’re in the know!)  There’s a YouTube video of Costello and Bartholomew doing a live performance of “The Monkey” together with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Costello’s song picks up where Bartholomew’s left off.

And now the world is full of sorrow and pain
And it’s time for us to speak up again
You’re slack and sorry, such an arrogant brood
The only purpose you serve is to bring us our food
Sit here staring at your pomp and pout
Outside the bars we use for keeping you out
You’ve taken everything that you wanted
Broke it up and plundered it and hunted
Ever since we said it you went and took the credit
It’s been headed this way since the world began
When a vicious creature took the jump from monkey to man

XTC also recorded a track with another variation on the theme.

“The Smartest Monkeys” was on their 1992 album, Nonsuch and tackles the subject of homelessness.

Well man created the cardboard box to sleep in it
And man converted the newspaper to a blanket
Well you have to admit that he’s come a long way
Since swinging about in the trees
We’re the smartest monkeys

Thank you, Dave Bartholomew, for the legacy you left us and the inspiration you paid forward.  RIP.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Senses Working Overtime, XTC

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Today’s SotW is from the “Restored” dresser drawer. It is “Senses Working Overtime” by XTC from the English Settlement album. “Senses…” reached the Top 10 in the UK but only managed #38 on the Rock Album Tracks chart in the US. It was released in two formats, the 4:34 single version and the 4:53 album version. Why Virgin records thought they needed to cut out a few lines to make the song 19 seconds shorter is incomprehensible to me.

“Senses…” is an impressive composition. The musicianship is amongst the best in the vast XTC catalog. The first of three sections opens with a folky “medieval” sounding acoustic guitar playing some variation on an E flat chord. Shortly it’s joined by a cool bass line. Colin Moulding plays his fretless bass with creativity and panache. I especially dig the legato slides.

The middle section makes effective use of diminished chords and acts as the bridge to the rousing count-up chorus.

The drumming is ear catching. The fills in the choruses (after the count of “5”) insist that listeners play “air” drums along with the record.

The lyrics are cryptic. Is it a peculiar love song? Is it about an insane person? It doesn’t really matter. To me it’s a lot like The Beatles (John Lennon’s) word salad, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” The expressive lyrical imagery is way more important than the “meaning.” Thematically, the lyrics are much closer to The Beatles (George Harrison’s) “All Too Much” from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.

Beyond the words are the way they sound. It was a creative mind game to write “1-2-3-4-5, senses working overtime.” After the count, you expect to hear 6-7 (seven) and get the word “senses” that’s a bit of a trick.

Sadly for us XTC fans, there were few opportunities to see the band live. In April 1982, just a few months after “Senses….” was released, the band played their last concert in San Diego. Andy Partridge experienced a nervous breakdown of sorts and was unable to perform in front of audiences. He retreated, Beatle like, to the studio and crafted several more outstanding albums – including Skylarking, Oranges & Lemons, and Nonsuch.

Enjoy… until next week.

BTW – Did anyone notice that everyone in the video is playing left handed — including the drummer. Still messing with our senses?