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Gnothi Fucking Seauton

October 9, 2009
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The sun is out, it’s -11 outside for some goddamn reason, and I’m having Twizzlers for breakfast while listening to my iPod on shuffle, which is the Most Dangerous Game because you never know what’s going to happen next. It’s like:

Beatles
Zeppelin
Jay-Z
Cat Power
Beck
Gunther and the Sunshine Girls
Zeppelin
Kate Bush
Snoop Dogg (Regulators, mount up!)
Joanna Newsom
Beatles
Stones
Cheeky Girls
Bob Dylan
Sleater-Kinney
Scatman John
Zeppelin

Just fucking weird. No getting around it. But if you don’t mind listening to your own strangeness express itself musically, letting the iPod pick the playlist can lead to some pleasant surprises. Now and then it chooses a great song you haven’t thought to put on in months, or a song you didn’t even realize you had. And sometimes it picks total shite, which can be enjoyable in its own way. I don’t think any musician will ever, intentionally or inadvertently, write a more perfectly ridiculous line than “Touch my bum; this is life” (Cheeky Girls, “Cheeky Song,” 2002).

One of the most intriguing categories of shitty music is terrible songs by groups that are brilliant 99% of the time but every once in a while hide a big piece of shit among the jewels. Like all the sitar tracks on the later Beatles albums. What the fuck, boys? In all flaming seriousness, what the fuck? Despite its overall excellence, I can’t listen to Revolver from start to finish because of the goddamn sitar tracks. They are unlistentoable! They are so bad! Just fucking tuneless and irritating! God! And I can’t lower my guard when I’m playing The Who’s Greatest Hits, either, because damned if I’m not all tensed up waiting to hit the “skip” button before I’ve endured more than three seconds of “You Better You Bet.” That song fills me with rage. If I’m in the mood for campy gayness – which don’t get me wrong, sometimes I definitely am – I’ll put on certain Queen tracks, or Meat Loaf’s “Bat out of Hell” album. But Daltrey and Townshend, when I choose you guys for living room ambiance, what I’m looking for is a good honest kickass rock song. Jesus.

And I love the Rolling Stones, especially on a Saturday slothternoon when I’m courting melanoma on the patio with a novel in one hand and glass after sweaty glass of lemonade in the other. The Stones are fun incarnate. They’re always rockin’ out at their place and they always want you to come over. I’m completely on board with almost all of their pre-1980 offerings – the frustrated lust of “Satisfaction,” the manic piano gymnastics of “Sympathy for the Devil,” the farty bass line of “It’s All Over Now.”  But can anyone explain to me what the fuck those dudes were thinking when they came up with “She’s a Rainbow”?

She comes in colours everywhere.
She combs her hair.
She’s a rainbow.

I just don’t understand this whole situation. Is the first line supposed to be some kind of sex reference? Because if not, why does it read like one, and if so, why is it so damn disgusting? I’m not a doctor, but if I or a loved one were to come in colours anywhere, let alone everywhere, I would be like, “Holy shit!” Then I’d probably phone the hospital. I definitely wouldn’t be the least bit turned on.

The climax than which no more disturbing can be conceived is followed by one of music’s most impotent lines. She combs her hair? Me too! Everyone else on earth too! Except bald people! This line seems to have been slotted in for the sake of rhyme, but what’s so weird is that “everywhere” rhymes with like nine million things! One of which maybe could have related to the theme of the song, whatever that is. What does “she’s a rainbow” even mean? She wears colourful outfits? She’s a lesbian? Both? We never find out!

And the whole song is so musically lame, too. What is that instrument in the background? How did it become involved?

MICK JAGGER: I’m not really feeling this song, Keith. It doesn’t make much sense. I think we can do a lot better.

KEITH RICHARDS: Oh, no worries, mate – we can totally salvage it by saturating the entire track with stilted riffs from this tinny-ass one-octave novelty piano for four-year-olds.

Like everyone else in the world, artists are entitled to have an off day now and then.  Sometimes the Muses are off visiting their unaging mother on Olympus and the best thing you can come up with is something like “She’s a Rainbow.” But that’s exactly why editing exists. The next day, or the next week, whenever clarity returns, you have to be honest enough with yourself to see your subpar creation for what it is and either modify it heavily or discard it lightly. Gnothi seauton, as the Greeks said. Know yourself. Shit is all the more conspicuous when it’s sandwiched between masterpieces.

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