Saturday, November 21, 2009

Eat To The Beat

With Thanksgiving approaching, I inevitably thought of Arlo Guthrie’s classic song, “Alice’s Restaurant” (“it all started two Thanksgivings ago”), which then prompted me to think about food. As a (secular) national holiday, Thanksgiving (originally associated with our Puritan roots), ironically, has come to be associated with excessive appetite, the propensity to over-consume. I say this because the day after Thanksgiving is now referred to as “Black Friday,” a celebration of the consumer mentality, the biggest shopping day of the year. Oral excess is to be matched by excessive spending: in one massive mashup of excessive appetite, one is to over-eat and then to over-spend. Material acquisition, health, and decadence all merge into one colossal celebration of figurative orality.

In metaphorical terms, “appetite” is to sexual fulfillment what “thirst” is to spiritual fulfillment; both terms are used as figurations of human longing and desire: “sexual appetite,” and “spiritual thirst.” Both terms collide in the figure of dead Elvis, celebrated on the one hand as a nice boy with deep religious convictions, and on the other as someone with an insatiable appetite for snacks and so-called “junk” food. His life story is contained in images, from his well-known baby photo to the picture of Elvis in his coffin, as published in National Enquirer. So many rock ‘n’ roll songs have celebrated appetite, I thought I’d list a few to coincide with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Appetizers:
The B-52’s - “Rock Lobster”
The Beatles - “Savoy Truffle”
James Brown (as Nat Kendrick and the Swans) - “(Do The) Mashed Potatoes”
Jimmy Buffett - “Cheeseburger in Paradise”
Steve Goodman - “Chicken Cordon Blues”
Hot Butter - “Popcorn”
Jay & The Techniques - “Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie”
The Newbeats - “Bread and Butter”
Harry Nilsson - “Coconut”
Paul Revere & The Raiders- “Hungry”
O. C. Smith - “Little Green Apples”
Tin Tin - “Toast and Marmalade for Tea”
Warrant - “Cherry Pie”

Sunday, November 15, 2009


No one remembers happy lovers. “Happily ever after” simply means stirring the oatmeal and doing the laundry, and that sort of scenario is uninteresting. Romeo and Juliet, Casablanca’s Rick and Ilsa, Antony and Cleopatra, Lancelot and Guinevere, all are famous lovers whose stories end tragically. James Cameron’s Titanic is the biggest grossing film of all time—and it’s not because it’s just another disaster film. Without the tragic love story, and the obstacle of the class barrier that in large part creates it, you have another Poseidon Adventure. As Lysander observes in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Ay me! For aught that I could ever read,/Could ever hear by tale or history,/The course of true love never did run smooth.” The greatest obstacle to love is death, but one of the most prevalent obstacles is that of class—even in America, where we’re not supposed to care about such things.

Songs About The Class Barrier:
Phil Collins – Like China
Billy Joel – Only the Good Die Young
Dickey Lee – Patches
Gene Pitney – Princess In Rags
Johnny Rivers – The Poor Side of Town
Sonny & Cher – Baby Don’t Go
George Strait – Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind
Conway Twitty – Tight Fightin’ Jeans
The 4 Seasons – Rag Doll
The 4 Seasons – Dawn (Go Away)
Charlie Walker – Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Hank Williams, Jr. – This Ain’t Dallas
Mark Wills – Jacob’s Ladder
Faron Young – Country Girl

Required Reading:
Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse
Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World