soundtracking with Jordan Zivitz April 2010: David Bowie, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan

April 10, 2010

This month from 11th ave music guy, Jordan Zivitz: When good artists do bad things.

David Bowie: The Laughing Gnome

Yeah, Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity are pretty okay songs, but Bowie never again scaled the epic heights of this 1967 single, perhaps the greatest tune ever about gnomes that wasn’t written by Pink Floyd. It certainly sets a record for the number of puns about small woodland creatures in a song. (Top points for the “London School of Ecognomics” one.) Most of these are delivered in a 78-RPM squeak that makes The Chipmunks sound like netherworld demons, as Bowie and the gnome trade dialogue that could only have been written by someone who was very, very drunk; very, very high; or very, very living in the ’60s.

Billy Joel: California Flash

I admit it: I like Billy Joel. At least, I like Billy Joel when he isn’t singing Uptown Girl, or Big Shot, or psychedelic metal. That’s right — before he was everybody’s favourite sensitive ’70s piano guy who isn’t Elton John, Billy was a hell-raising longhair in an organ-and-drums duo called Attila. That’s him on the right, decked out in medieval armour and chilling in a meat locker. I’m guessing the photo — and Attila’s one album — were produced during some bizarre college hazing ritual that poor Billy had to take part in when his fraternity ran out of consenting sheep.

Bob Dylan: The Boxer

The Boxer is so masterfully written that you’d have to work really, really hard to do a bad version of it. At least, that’s what I thought before I heard Dylan’s rendition, which sounds like it was recorded while he was waiting for the rinse cycle to kick in. Thanks to the magic of studio technology, Dylan turns himself into a one-man Simon & Garfunkel, and we all know that his ability to harmonize is the foundation of his career. The two Dylans go in and out of tune, sync up only occasionally, trade “lai la lai”s (1:32), and seem to forget
the words at the same time (2:11). A comedy classic that makes the rest of the maligned Self Portrait album sound like Blonde on Blonde by comparison.

Jordan Zivitz was the subject of 11th ave’s Proust Questionnaire 5.0 in March. You can read that here.


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