too much typing—since 2003

9.21.2005

loneliness and dreams

One measure of the depth and strength of the Robyn Hitchcock catalog is that he has several excellent songs which have never seen official release. Often, such songs just don't fit with the mood of a given album, and sometimes it seems time simply passes such songs by. I suppose it might seem odd as a musician to release as new a song written ten years ago. Still, it's a real shame that "Surfer Ghost" has never seen official release. It is, of course, an unwritten bylaw of the pop-geek guild that no song with the word "surf" in the title can avoid being compared, at some level, to the work of Brian Wilson - and I suppose the opening vocal lines, interweaving as they do, might be regarded as Wilsonesque. But Hitchcock's cleverer than that - and the real Wilson influence here is this song's suite-like structure, moving through three distinct sections without tying the whole thing back up in a symmetrical little bow. This track was apparently recorded (by Hitchcock and Andy Metcalfe) in 1995, and at one point it was slated to be the title track of Hitchcock's then-forthcoming album, which eventually turned into Moss Elixir (and its originally LP-only companion, Mossy Liquor) - neither of which featured "Surfer Ghost," however. I actually think it would have fit quite well on that album - but it seems I am not the deity that rules the decisions made by Robyn Hitchcock. I will refrain from detailed comment on the lyrics - except that this seems a relatively early entry in Hitchcock's move toward slightly more direct and emotionally open, less overtly surreal lyrics. Of course, he's still Robyn - and trying to parse out every line literally, as if the song is really a slice-of-life (or slice-of-death) short story, is a mug's game.

Coincidentally, around the same time, Milwaukee's Blow Pops made one of their final recordings, a cover of the Psychedelic Furs' "The Ghost in You," which appeared on a compilation winningly entitled Gag Me with a Spoon: Don't Records Celebrate the Eighties. (That's not a question: "Don't" was the name of the label.) Okay: those facts are "coincidental" at all - what is is that in my mind, the feel of the Blow Pops' arrangement of this song is fairly close to something I could imagine a full-dress studio version of "Surfer Ghost" wearing for the Moss Elixir CD. Less electric guitar, probably - and Deni Bonet's violin - but that sorta reverby acoustic rhythm would definitely fit, I think. (This song also proves, unexpectedly, that the Blow Pops did listen to music recorded after 1976 or so.) Uh-and there's the word "Ghost" in the title, because apparently I'm celebrating Halloween early. All things are connected - oh yes they are.

Robyn Hitchcock "Surfer Ghost"
The Blow Pops "The Ghost in You"

1 comment:

slugbert said...

This is what the Psychedelic Furs would have sounded like if they had lived up to the name they gave themselves. Swirly, jangly, warm, open.

I like.