Tag Archives: robyn hitchcock

I got a message for you

“I got a message for you, if I could only remember.  I got a message for you, but you’re gonna have to come and get it.”  Kardyhm Kelly gave me a tape of Zopilote Machine in 1995 and I played nothing but for a month.  “Sinaloan Milk Snake Song” especially.  Nobody but the Mountain Goats ever made do-it-yourself music like this, nobody else ever made it seem so believable that the things it occurred to you to say or sing while you were playing your guitar in your bedroom at home might actually be pop songs.   The breakdown at the end of this!

“I’ve got a heavy coat, it’s filled with rocks and sand, and if I lose it I’ll be coming back one day (I got a message for you).”  I spent a lot of 1993 thinking about the chord progression in the verse of this song.  How does it sound so straight-ahead but also so weird?  Also the “la la la”s (“Sinaloan Milk Snake Song” has these too.)

“Roll me in the greenery, point me at the scenery.  Exploit me in the deanery.  I got a message for you.”

The first of these I ever heard.  Douglas Wolk used to send mixtapes to Elizabeth Wilmer at Math Olympiad training.  This was on one of them.  1987 probably. I hadn’t even started listening to WHFS yet, I had no idea who Robyn Hitchcock was.  It was on those tapes I first heard the Ramones, Marshall Crenshaw, the Mentors (OK, we were in high school, cut us some slack.)

(Update:  Douglas denies ever putting the Mentors on a mixtape, and now that I really think about it, I believe Eric Wepsic was to blame for bringing the Mentors into my life.)

Why is this line so potent?  Why is the message never explicitly presented?  It’s enough — it’s better — that the message only be alluded to, never spoken, never delivered.

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More transitivity

I don’t really know anything about Amanda Palmer, but if there’s a picture of her hugging Robyn Hitchcock and Eugene Mirman, I guess that means I must like her?

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Happy Birthday, Robyn Hitchcock

The great man turns 60 today.

“(I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp,” The Soft Boys, 1978.

“Chinese Bones,” Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, 1988.  (Peter Buck plays guitar on this.)

“The Yip Song,” Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, 1993.

RH plays the 1985 Egyptians track “My Wife and My Dead Wife,” live acoustic, 2000.

“Viva Sea-Tac!” Robyn Hitchcock, 2003.

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What If….. The Bangles had recorded “Balloon Man?”

I learned from this thoroughly interesting AV Club interview with Robyn Hitchcock that he wrote “Balloon Man” for the Bangles.  He sent them the tape, and they never wrote back.

Bad move, Bangles!  This would have been a near-perfect Bangles song — it’s pretty, it’s weird, there’s room for much more harmony than Hitchock gives it, and the guitar breaks already sound like RH is imitating Vicki Peterson.  And the Bangles, of course, are ace cover artists, often outdoing the original:

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Robyn Hitchcock and Daniel Pinkwater

Robyn Hitchcock played the High Noon this weekend. I believe he had on the same shirt, a black flowy number with bright yellow spots, that he was wearing the last time I saw him play. An enjoyable set, but the thing about a guy with a thirty-year-long catalog is that even if you go in with a mental list of ten or twelve songs you’d really like to hear, it’s unlikely you’ll get more than a couple. In my case, I got just one, “Balloon Man,” the closest thing Hitchcock’s ever had to a hit.

I was walking up Sixth Avenue when Balloon Man blew up in my face
There were loads of them on Bryant Park so I didn’t feel out of place
There must have been a plague of them on the TV when I came home late
They were guzzling marshmallows and they’re jumping off the Empire State

I’d never realized how much this song owes to Daniel Pinkwater’s Fat Men From Space, a young-adult novel about an invasion by a plague of rotund aliens intent on consuming the world’s supply of junk food, leaving the Earth a sad yoghurt- and wheat-germy imitation of itself. When I was 15 my ideas about the purpose of literature were founded almost entirely on Pinkwater, especially his strange twin masterpieces Lizard Music and Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. Someday I’ll write a long blog post about this, but not today. Today I’ll just key in a quote that made me laugh from the Pinkwater book I’m reading at the moment, Uncle Boris in the Yukon:

Sled dogs look like wolves. They like to pose for pictures standing on some rock, gazing into the distance, looking like Siegfried. What they are thinking at such a moment, when the last rays of the sun are hitting their grizzled and handsome coats, and their intelligent profiles are to be seen at their best, is probably: “Soon I will move my bowels. Yes. That is what I will do.”

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