Saturday, May 23, 2009

Here in Status-Symbol Land

I recall with particular vividness an episode from my childhood -- my first critical pronunciation, I do believe. Seated on a stone wall in the courtyard of my school, I declared the following words to a coterie of my friends, who hadn't really asked my opinion: "Those Beatles think they're the Kings of Pop (yes, I really did use the term), but everybody knows it's the Monkees!"

I think I can be forgiven for this. The Monkees had a live-action television show -- and the Beatles had a rather terrible cartoon. This counts, to a seven-year-old. How was I to know that the Monkees' snappy dialog was a cynical, commercial attempt at an American version of the Beatles' snappy d. in "A Hard Day's Night"? It was funny, dammit!

OK, I can see getting all righteous about Mr. Green being so serene about the number of televisions in his house, but why's poor Mrs. Gray come under opprobrium for being pleased with her garden? Don't quite get that. But know this, and know it well: Never, ever piss off a Monkee by indulging in Conspicuous Consumption, particularly on a Pleasant Valley Sunday. They'll whip out a Goffin-King number with a killer off-kilter guitar riff and some great, great harmony vocals. And you'll slink off into Status-Symbol Land with your peacock tail between your legs.

Well. Happy P. V. Sunday to you all. No matter how many TVs you have.

PS: "Rows of houses that are all the same/And no one seems to care" still pisses me off.


Roger D. Parish said...

And to quote Pete Seeger:
"they're all made out of ticky-tacky,
and they all look just the same."

Homefront Radio said...

You could make a hell of a mashup with Anti-Suburbia songs, thinking about it.

I'm with you on this one. I never cared less if the Monkees were genuine musicians or not, especially with the killer songwriting on offer.

PVS would be in my Top 10 singles, especially that key change in the last chorus, (must take note of what it is), and the dreamy, swampy ending.

I think Mrs. Gray is a signifier of stuffy perfectionism, and general ignorance of the more serious issues of the world at the time. Civil rights, The Vietnam War etc simply do not register in her world: her Roses, (a notoriously fussy plant to look after), are her only concern.

Think of her as being the mother in 'She's Leaving Home' being completely suprised that her daughter wasn't happy. "What did we do that was wrong?" etc.

Neddie said...

I think Mrs. Gray is a signifier of stuffy perfectionismNice insight! I've also just flashed on another one: "Others complain about how hard life is/And the kids just don't understand" is quite reminiscent of the train scene in "A Hard Day's Night" where the stuffy City gent sniffs about "We fought the war for your sort," and Ringo responds snottily with "Aren't you sorry you won!" It's the Great Divide between the WWII generation and their offspring, who expected the luxury of the suburbs to accrue to them. Ain't life grand?

This stuff still just unwinds... The Gigantic Mystery of What Went Before...

Homefront Radio said...

I can't help thinking of Kenny Everett vs David Bowie: "I fought in the war for boys like you... and i never got one!"

Taking this concept futher, you have to consider the possibility that our collective unconciousness has created one damn interesting suburb via songwriting.

I like to think that Mrs. Gray lives next door to Mrs. Carver from 'A Fine Day For A Parade' by Fountains Of Wayne. Across the way is Mrs. Robinson, but there's whispers she's taken a sabatical recently.

Mrs. Johnson is down the road, but she's been having trouble with the local school board.

Dylan's Mr. Jones gets misdirected mail from Talking Head's Mr. Jones.

Hey, there's Mary, dancing across the porch while the screen door slams, heading to Thunder Road. REM's Sad Professor lives just around the corner.

It's probably Jill Sobule's 'Happy Town' as well as The Replacement's 'Happy Town'.

And did you hear about that Billie Joe McCallister boy?

You can easily imagine how complicated this city could get, and I chould create a detailed map, (although I have a sneaky suspicion I'd be more interested in the UK version).

The Viscount LaCarte said...

When I was in the 3rd grade I told some kids I thought that The Rolling Stones were better than The Beatles. The next time I was at "Rob's" house he went and got his father (who was a multi-instrumentalist jazz musician as an avocation) and HE told me that The Beatles were better.

cleek said...

any escape might help disprove the unattractive truth that the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth.

conform, or be cast out.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

What, Neddie's not gonna bring up "Respectable Street"?

Neddie said...

Funny you should mention it, ZRM... Yesterday on a long car trip "Respectable Street" came up on Shuffle, and I said to the wife, "Hey, this is an English "Pleasant Valley Sunday!"

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Except it mentions abortion...

Neddie said...

Ah, yes, but "in cosmopolitan proportions to their daughters" (whatever the fuck that means).

I bet Andy was looking for a five-syllable word with a trochaic rhythm, hit on "cosmopolitan," and never looked back. Could have been "Neapolitan" and served just as well.

Homefront Radio said...

Maybe I read too much into these things, but:

I always assumed Andy was referring to Cosmopolitan (The Magazine), referring to the tacky style of articles within. It's damn insightful in that context, as I've seen those kind of gossipy, borderline-offensive mother / daughter discussions playing out many times over a cup to tea and the latest women's magazines.

It's not just the abortion line: "ie. When You Shouldn't Keep The Baby", but also references to Contraception, "ie. Why Chuff Plugs Are Good For Women On The Go" and Sex Positions For The Husband, "ie. 50 Ways To Spice Up Your Love Life".

It's brilliant kitchen sink observation at work.

jdmack said...

Two things worth mentioning about this song.

1. Half of the Monkees play on this track. Mike is on guitar and Peter is on keyboards.

2. Hearing this song reminds me again that drummer Eddie Hoh had a really great feel. He plays on most of the "Pieces, Aquarius Capricorn & Jones" tracks, including the great b-side "Goin' Down."