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Whatever Happened to Fridays and So Slow...

By: Darrin Snider (darrin at indyintune dot com)
Sunday, November 1, 2009 7:00:00 AM

  

I pride myself on my diverse and tolerant musical tastes. Just last Thursday, I did my traditional "band hopping" night and caught a rock band, a jazz band, and a folk band all in the same evening, cleansing the palette on the trip in between bars with a bit of light classical courtesy of NPR. My 40,000 track music collection sports everything from death metal to show tunes and everything in between. I drive to work listening to electronic progressive. I do my evening rush hour with jazz fusion or rock oldies. I play alt metal while doing web design work; bebop when writing documentation. I check my emails while listening to indie/underground. I go to sleep listening to movie soundtracks. I claim that, as a pudgy, college-educated, 40-something, middle-classed white-collar guy from burbs with a wife and kid, I'm genetically programmed to hate rap and country, but secretly I know the words to most of Waylon Jennings' songs, and I do have some Public Enemy on the MP3 player. I walk through our shop floor scatting ad-lib ditties along with the rhythmic clanks and beeps of the machinery, and I can tell you that my car horn honks an F-Sharp -- so imagine my shit-eating grin when I'm stuck in traffic and Lolly Ramey announces the next track up will be Horowitz's Polonaise in F-Sharp Minor (can you say, "special guest solosit?!"). Oh, yeah, and I've spent the last three years interviewing artists and trying to document as much of the original music being made in the city of Indianapolis as I can. I may even write a book about that someday. Basically, you could say I'm a music nut, and I can pretty much find an enjoyable redeeming quality to anything with an acoustic signature.

Except...

I am disturbed by that fact that not only do I not "get" Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl," but also that it, quite frankly, it gives me "violent thoughts." Now, this is not to say that I have some sort of problem with Van Morrison. I love that guy. Poetic Champions Compose was in heavy rotation when I was a kid. I played keyboards in a band called "Into the Mystic." Hell, I even like "Moondance." Whenever I hear those first five iconic notes, however, my eyes roll back in my head, my throat tightens, and my brain prepares to shut down for the next four minutes. The song is an in-joke on my podcast; virtually every band mentions it, without prompting from me, as the song they hate to play, but are forced to endure because it gets all the girls instantly on the dance floor -- even the blue-eyed ones. Ray Ruiz, bassist for the Dirty Third and Vilafishburn, leaves the stage to get a shot of Jagermeister whenever his band plays it -- categorically refusing to be anywhere near his bass during the song. Jenn Cristy does a song called Mr. Beautiful Brown-Eyes which, though she denies it, I consider the definitive answer to Mr. Morrison.  Jeff DeHert actually taught me to play B-EG during a live performance (my photographer girlfriend at the time even snapped the picture -- see above -- which still holds a place of prominence on my living room wall), and his arrangement is probably the most palatable cover performed by a local artist."Palatable" in this case is defined as, "it doesn't actually make me dig my steak knife into my leg, but I do really look forward to hearing the start of his next song."

Maybe my overwhelming sense of dread and malaise is simply because the song is extremely overplayed. It's apparently the 4th most played radio song of all time. Both George Bush and Bill Clinton listed it among their favorites. I think the US government even used it to torture Gitmo prisoners at one point -- oh sorry, I guess the term is "harshly interrogate" now.Van Morrison got an award from BMI celebrating 8 million airplays of the song (of which I probably caught at least 6 million) -- and this doesn't count cover bands, which I guarantee every one of whom plays it once per night. Perhaps it's just the inanity of the "Sha la la la la" part, the image of drunken blonde bimbos in a football huddle screaming it off key, or maybe just the fact that -- as Josh Holmes put it -- nobody who covers the song plays it properly. There's just something about the song though.

Jeff's "emo version" (as he puts it) of the song got me to thinking though: Maybe it's strictly in the delivery. The song itself may be okay. Therefore I started a quest, scouring Amazon, last.fm, blip.fm, etc. in search of a version of that song that I can really get behind. I've probably downloaded and/or listened to 30 or 40 covers of it so far, and can report back that I have actually found many versions (mostly twangy country spins) that I loathe more than the original. However, there are a couple that I do find intriguing. Right now, although I'm sure it was intended as kitsch novelty, I'm leaning towards Vitamin String Quartet's version as being my favorite. I've also heard a couple good acapella and reggae versions that I like.  However, I'm still holding out hope that a death metal band has done it at some point in time. I also really feel like it would actually work great as a punk song in the irreverent style of the Dead Milkmen or Chaos UK, but so far the punk versions I've found have been too clean, and too close in tempo and vocal style to the original. I'm also trying to picture a dubstep or drum and bass version, which could have interesting possibilities.

I would tidy up this posting with a nice little concluding paragraph, but much like the song, consider this a long-winded fade out, and be thankful I just don't repeat these last couple of sentences over and over. After all, it made millions for Mr. Morrison.   Sha la la la la la la la la la la de dah.



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