Welcome, pals, to the dustbin of history; the never-ending tale of the Tired Man! The story of men being “fed up with it” is just called “History:” “Make it new!” quoth irate facist Ezra Pound, and modernism gets an audience! Fuck capitalism!, quoth Marx, and the dancing table becomes commodity magic! I know it’s glib to refract a broad moral history through the single lens of male fatigue, but what I’m saying is that these songs of men feeling bored and agitated and sleepy—mostly, obviously, because of a woman—cast a broader, and deeper, line when they get all shuffled together.
Punchin’ cows sure don’t arouse me anymore
I’m getting’ tired of listenin’ to the coyotes snore
Oh, sleepin’ on the Rio Grande is makin’ him snore –
I’m a tired cowboy
Just a tired guy!
Welcome, pals, to the dustbin of history; the never-ending tale of the Tired Man! The story of men being “fed up with it” is just called “History:” “Make it new!” quoth irate facist Ezra Pound, and modernism gets an audience! Fuck capitalism!, quoth Marx, and the dancing table becomes commodity magic! I know it’s glib to refract a broad moral history through the single lens of male fatigue, but what I’m saying is that these songs of men feeling bored and agitated and sleepy—mostly, obviously, because of a woman—cast a broader, and deeper, line when they get all shuffled together. Continue reading “Big Sound Saturdays: Tired Man, Vol. 1”
Good morning, sweet dreams ~
Tom Waits, harbinger of Good Morning Blues, was so delicate in the nineties. Like Blind Willie Johnson, he threw his voice in multiple directions, dug underground for the Mad-Meg-style scratchy gorging sound that definitely doesn’t owe, entirely, to the cigarettes, and rose above the surface for the croon that he sustained throughout his early years. “Blue Skies,” a sweet, lovesick prayer for the morning, is Waits at his upper-register prettiest.
It’s not really a “pretty mix,” though; Jimmie Rodgers’ “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” is lovely (and, I admit, something I’ve used before), The Beatles’ 1966 instrumental warm-up of “I’m Only Sleeping” has a lounge-y xylophone thing that’s very pleasant, Leadbelly’s “Good Morning Blues” is a peripatetic affront of an instruction book—how to fight the blues—and the song of my youth, Belle & Sebastian’s “Sleep the Clock Around,” is kind of aggressively nice, but the rest are much more unsettling. Sticking mostly within the late 1960s to the early 1990s, this mix is meant for the all-powerful and totally movable witching hour: can’t go to sleep, can’t wake up, early old morning and late late night.
Lee Hazelwood, whose music’s is so disorienting in the morning, all sexy and string-y and smarmy and full, sings back and forth with David Bowie (RIP): “The Bed” to early Bowie’s mono version of “Let Me Sleep Beside You.” Then across to Randy Newman—famed LA-lover and composer of one of the greatest cartoon movie theme songs ever—Randy Newman (“Last Night I Had A Dream”), and back out to the vibing and sufficiently wobbly Incredible String Band’s “No Sleep Blues.” Anchored by Rolf Harris—a comedian in Australia, once famous for being funny and for imitating the didgeridoo with his voice in “Sun Arise,” track 7—and rounded off with Marvin Pontiac, John Lurie’s very talented and “very elusive” alter ego, Good Morning Blues charts the sun in orbit. Good morning, sweet dreams ~
S.A. brings us sounds for sleep–just what we needed for this busy time of the year. There’s Cajun and British folk songs, American ballads and gospel jubilations. Plenty to curl up with. Happy Saturday night.
A few years ago, I learned the name of something I’ve experienced my whole life. The irresistible warm tingling on the back of my head and around my ears that I get, rarely, from an older woman speaking softly—in middle school, my friend’s mom describing her teaching job, a waitress explaining the specials at my high school haunt, one of my many post-college female bosses describing spreadsheets. It has a name, which Andrea Seigel describes with very relatable awe on This American Life: “autonomous sensory meridian response,” nonsexual euphoria. Existing, without question, anecdotally, ASMR lacks real scientific substance. It’s a pleasure connection that we’ve yet to codify. There’s a reassuring connection, I think, between the group of people who feel this and listeners. Call it disparate communities, alone together, and think of how hard it is to describe why sound makes you feel things. Not silly—important, and this is a mix to prove it.
Sonic softness, warmth and light and jingling bells, is oft-sought and under-actuated in folk music. It’s easy for a sound to become burdened by its progenitor’s emotionality, and if there’s anything I hate it’s a sappy folk song. These sleep sounds, culled from American and some Caribbean recordings from the late 1920s up through the late 1960s, have this “unbearable lightness.” Autoharp and ukulele and lots of a capella—Zora Neale Hurston play-singing “Bama Bama” during her ethnographic trip to Haiti in 1937, take note!—fall in and out of each other, a patchwork for rest.
In lots of ways, they’re strange together. The Pinder Family has Bahamian folk hero Joseph Spence, whose verse acrobatics entered the American pantheon by way of an American tour in 1978 and a slew of covers by the likes of Ry Cooder and the Grateful Dead. “The Genial Hawaiians” were borne of the Hawaiian culture craze that came into its own just around 30 years after Queen Lili’uokalani was forced to abdicate her throne in the face of American colonial invasion. There’s still no official agreement—no science!—on what exactly to call the instrument that Washington Phillips made to accompany himself in the sixteen extant recordings he made for Columbia Records between 1927 and 1929. And Alan Lomax sent Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” in a capsule into outer space so that aliens might know what the world is capable of. There’s Cajun and British folk songs, American ballads and gospel jubilations. Plenty to curl up with. Happy Saturday night.
Special thanks to the preservers of many of these songs: Dust-to-Digital, Joe Bussard, the Association for Cultural Equity, Chris King. Songs may not have a science, but they always come from somewhere. These archivists, collectors, and re-issuers are committed to preserving the memory of these artists.