I begin with a correction: the following epic poem is technically Dadaist, not Surrealist.
Two years ago…well, two years ago everything was different. Outside of places like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”), almost nobody had ever heard of COVID-19. The race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination – a preview of the general election – was barreling toward the opening rounds in Iowa and New Hampshire. In fact, with two exceptions, that was all I was writing about in November and December 2019. The first exception was the first of two deeply-personal, albeit lighthearted, essays about the Netflix series Stranger Things.
The second, which I published on December 6, took lighthearted to a gloriously absurd level. After describing the development of my Thanksgiving cleaning ritual since 2012– “complete with full on singing and dancing. Cavorting, even.” – I added…
In preparation for Thanksgiving 2019, I curated a playlist of 55 tracks totaling 3 hours and 50 minutes on my classic flywheel iPod. I usually make the playlist a bit too long, finding myself wandering around listening to the last few tracks, but this year I actually had to restart the mix, playing the first two tracks again while I took out the garbage and recycling.
Darn, what a shame.
To honor this mix, of which I am quite proud, I decided to create a surrealist epic poem consisting of representative (read: the ones I most enjoy singing) lyrics from each track in sequence. As three tracks are instrumentals, two serve as overtures to the two parts of the poem, and one introduces the dramatic conclusion.
Because of COVID-19 – as well as the entrance of my mother-in-law into a Memory Care unit and a severe illness in the family – my wife Nell and I barely celebrated Thanksgiving last year; there was minimal cleanup and no new iPod playlist. This year, however, even though there were only five of us (Nell and I, our older daughter, our younger non-binary born-female child and the cousin, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, who officiated at our wedding; other family members checked in via FaceTime), there was a substantial amount of cleaning.
Oh, The Admiral put in a welcome appearance as well.
I somehow had not anticipated this much cleanup, so I did not construct my playlist until our cousin had left and everyone else had retired to their bedrooms for the night. Having recently rediscovered – and humbly reevaluated – the pop-culture shooting star that was Culture Club, I quickly purchased five more of their tracks – as well as Love & Kisses’ title song from the woefully-underrated Thank God It’s Friday – for this mix.
As I had two years ago, I underestimated the time it would take to complete the entire cleaning process, so the 37 tracks I carefully ordered ended about 15 minutes earlier than I did (excluding the final emptying of the dishwasher). In a nice bit of unintended symmetry, I again opened with the mix with the Stranger Things theme. This year, however, there was no third instrumental track before the concluding track.
My eclectic taste in music is well-established, and this mix is no different – even with eight Culture Club tracks; each is, like Thank God It’s Friday, a nugget of pure pop joy. And, you know what, after two years of pandemic shutdowns and restrictions, unhinged claims of electoral fraud, protests and violent counter-protests, supply chain disruptions and reemergent inflation, and just general societal grumpiness, that is exactly what we need right now: unbridled, downright-goofy, exuberant nonsense.
Just as in 2019, this year’s mix is heavy on the generic classifications of “New Wave” (11 tracks) and “Post-Punk” (3), dominating the 21 tracks released between 1980 and 1988. That said, the 11 tracks released between 1985 (The Cure’s “A Night Like This”) and 2005 (Coldplay’s “Talk”) are mostly “alternative rock” (7), with two “shoegazing” (Lush), one “indie pop” (Lloyd Cole and the Communications) – and one “AOR” (Journey). Unlike two years ago, however, the seven tracks from the 1970s are plurality hard rock (Aersomith, Van Halen), followed by one each classified disco (Love & Kisses), pop (Hall and Oates), post-punk (Joy Division) and “unclassifiable rock”: Michael Nesmith’s synth-pop gem “Cruisin’.” That leaves two brilliant pop songs from the mid-1960s: Bobby Darin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” and Spanky & Our Gang’s “Lazy Day,” the opening vocal harmonies of which never fail to astound me.
The only repeat track, again unintentionally, is Heaven 17’s “Let Me Go;” this is what the past two years are now telling us: let me go already, it is time to get on with the rest of your lives.
And with that – the epic journey begins.
Overture: Theme from Stranger Things by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
So you take a picture of something you see
In the future where will I be?
You can climb a ladder up to the sun
Or write a song nobody has sung
Or do something that’s never been done
Or do something that’s never been done.
I been to the edge
And there I stood and looked down
You know I lost a lot of friends there baby
I got no time to mess around.
You don’t know
You don’t know
It’s not there
You don’t care
You’re still inside of me
Beneath the cotton core
My pictures smile at me
And soon they’ll rise and soar.
Some sweet hog mama with a face like a gent
Said my get up and go must’ve got up and went
Well I got good news, she’s a real good liar
‘Cause the backstage boogie sets your pants on fire.
All the advice seemed so unkind
“If you don’t stop, you will go blind.”
Tell you it’s none of their business
Then console you with a big kiss
On the lips and on the back of your neck (oh hey).
When they ask me
“What are you looking at”
I always answer
“Nothing much” (no much)
I think they know that
I’m looking at them
I think they think
I must be out of touch.
Don’t make me feel any colder
Time is like a clock in my heart
Touch we touch was the heat too much
I felt I lost you from the start.
Maybe I should feel guilty
Is that the American way?
But I just look at myself
As if I were above me
You must be thinking something
But you ain’t saying nothing
You remember me
I have been here always.
Watch me clinging to the beat
I had to fight to make it mine
That religion you could sink in neat
Just move your feet an’ you’ll feel fine.
Blue sky, Sunshine, what a day to take a walk in the park
Ice cream, Day dream, ‘til the sky becomes a blanket of stars
What a day for pickin’ daisies, and lots of red balloons
And what a day for holdin’ hands and bein’ with you.
It’s not a case of telling the truth
Some lines just fit the situation
Call me a liar
You would anyway.
An excuse is all you’re in for
The abuse is all you crave
Sure you just what is in store
Wait and see if I’ll behave
To the center of the city, where all roads meet waiting for you
To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you
I was motion through the silence without motion, waiting for you
In a room with a window in the corner, I found truth.
Ooh there’s a fire in his eyes for you
For you she cries
Ooh do you know she still cries for you
Ooh there a fire in his eyes for you
Ooh nothing stands between love and you.
Bet you make the fool run
Bet you know how
To make it last forever
But you know I’m never really sure
If you’re just kissing to be clever.
Let me in I’m cold
All messed up but nowhere to go
You got indecision, and indecision is my enemy (well)
Unlock the cabinet door, hey hey hey (hey hey)
I’ll take whatever you got, got, got
Now I’m on it, now I’m on it
And you’re done.
Overture: Face Down, from Café Flesh, by Mitchell Froom
Now I think of every hour
When you still retained your power
And the precious nights we’d share
When we’d breathe in common air
The feeling now you’re gone
This wretched life goes on
The knife inside of me
It turns just like a key.
Ooh, you know I
I found the simple life ain’t so simple
When I jumped out, on that road
I got no love, no love you’d call real
Ain’t got nobody, waitin’ at home.
It’s easy to lay down and hide
Where’s the warrior without his pride?
You may not like the things we say
What’s the difference, anyway?
Put a smile on your face,
Things are coming your way,
Out there somewhere tonight,
(It’s the right time and place).
White boys fall out
In a world of decisions
Show me what is
Then show me what isn’t
A heart too slow
That’s how we know
That’s how we know
Your white does the blood flow.
‘Cause it don’t bleed
And it don’t breathe
It locks its jaws
And now it’s swallowing
It’s in our heart
It’s in our head
It’s in our love
Baby, it’s in our bed.
Somewhere the sun is shining
On this world, but not for me
Two lovers’ hearts a-rising
Oh, how long before I’m free?
Words are few
I have spoken
I could waste a thousand years
Wrapped in sorrow, words are token
Come inside and catch my tears.
Oh oh I can feel the magic of your touch
And when you move in close a little bit means so much
Ooh yeah, you’ve got to understand baby
Time out is what I’m here for.
It’s high tide
In the still of your room
And the big snake’s a crawling
Through the smoke and perfume
To be your baby
I will not be your man
I will be around when you fall.
Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam
People on the streets tryin’ to find a plan
People on the streets lookin’ for the land
Lucy and Ramona and their brother Sunset Sam.
War, war is stupid and people are stupid
And love means nothing in some strange quarters
War, war is stupid and people are stupid
And I heard them banging on hearts and fingers
Save my love for loneliness
Save my love for sorrow
I’m givin’ you my onlyness
Come and give me your tomorrow.
My splendid art
Oh, my sad profession
Now stick with me and I’ll betray you
For should I lose my bad depression
My splendid art
I will betray you.
Uptown their sound
Is like the native
You send her
The boy with pop is slender
Did he say maybe
Or I’m not sure
He’ll be a boy for you
But you need more.
Here in my humble room at night
I often wonder what goes on out there
What makes them run so scared
I often stare at the people passing by
But they can’t see me through my window shades
Just like I’m not even there.
I tried but could not bring
The best of everything
Too breathless then to wonder
I died a thousand times
Found guilty of no crime
Now everything is thunder.
Guns that cross the street
You never know who you might meet
Who’s in disguise, who’s in disguise
Ooh as you blow a storm
There’s no one there to keep you warm
It’s no surprise there’s something in my eyes.
I’m coming to find you if it takes me all night
A witch hunt for another girl
For always and ever is always for you
The most gorgeously stupid thing I ever cut in the world.
The conclusion of the 2019 essay rings just as true today:
Perhaps, just as Jews on Passover spread the reading of the Haggadah across multiple family members and guests, you could use these stanzas to defuse your next fractious gathering. Simply have each person present read a stanza, cycling through everyone until the final one. I expect the utter nonsense of the successive passages will serve as a much- needed distraction.
And, of course, here is the actual playlist:
|Stranger Things||Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein||2016|
|Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love||Van Halen||1978|
|Desperate But Not Serious||Adam Ant||1982|
|Left of Center||Suzanne Vega||1986|
|Time (Clock of the Heart)||Culture Club||1982|
|It’s a Laugh||Hall and Oates||1978|
|Church of the Poison Mind||Culture Club||1983|
|Lazy Day||Spanky & Our Gang||1967|
|Play For Today||The Cure||1980|
|Girl Can’t Help It||Journey||1986|
|Miss Me Blind||Culture Club||1983|
|Face Down||Mitchell Froom||1984|
|Runnin’ With the Devil||Van Halen||1978|
|Dog Eat Dog||Adam and the Ants||1980|
|Thank God It’s Friday||Love & Kisses||1978|
|White Boy (Dance Mix)||Culture Club||1982|
|Belly of the Whale||Burning Sensations||1982|
|Do You Really Want to Hurt Me||Culture Club||1982|
|One On One||Hall and Oates||1984|
|Big Snake||Lloyd Cole and the Commotions||1987|
|The War Song||Culture Club||1984|
|If I Were a Carpenter||Bobby Darin||1966|
|Charlotte Anne||Julian Cope||1988|
|I’ll Tumble 4 Ya||Culture Club||1982|
|Private Life||Oingo Boingo||1982|
|Let Me Go||Heaven 17||1982|
|It’s a Miracle||Culture Club||1983|
|A Night Like This||The Cure||1985|
You are welcome.
Until next time…please wear a mask as necessary to protect yourself and others – and if you have not already done so, get vaccinated against COVID-19! And if you like what you read on this website, please consider making a donation. Thank you.
 I am deeply indebted to a wide variety of online lyrics website for help in deciphering most of these lyrics.
 Precipitated, in fact, by a bad fall while staying in our previous apartment for Thanksgiving 2019.
 Album-oriented rock