Based on faint signals from the endless stream of subliminal chatter that makes up most of the 21st-century information deluge, I discerned that something was going on with The Go-Go’s.
First, a musical featuring their songs (Head Over Heels) opened at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015. A “farewell tour” (yeah, right) followed quickly thereafter in 2016. This was followed by a performance in 2018 in support of the announcement that Head Over Heels had made the great leap and would soon appear on Broadway. A documentary about the band appeared on the screens of Sundance right before the pandemic hit earlier this year (now available on Showtime and quoted extensively in this review). Though COVID-19 scuttled any plans for an oxymoronic farewell tour sequel, the band has optimistically rescheduled the concerts for 2021. Then, completely out of the blue, The Go-Go’s released their first new single in nineteen years on July 31, 2020 (lifted from the documentary).
The marketing side of me couldn’t figure what all this activity was about. It looked like your classic partially-planned, partially-serendipitous publicity campaign, but to what end? If the master plan was to build some buzz for a future on the casino circuit, it seemed like overkill. What were these girls up to?
The fog cleared through a piece that appeared on Spin just a few days before I started writing this review: “Dear Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Induct the Go-Go’s Already.” I then traveled back in time and found an article on LGBTQ Nation (written by one James Duke Mason, who happens to be Belinda Carlisle’s son) that celebrated the documentary and bemoaned the Go-Go’s exclusion from the Hall: “The glaring omission of the Go-Go’s in the 2020 list of inductees to the RRHOF is a testament to the institution’s irrelevancy.” There seems to be a burgeoning groundswell of support on behalf of The Go-Go’s—there’s a Facebook page promoting their candidacy, while Gold Derby, a site that publishes odds on the major American entertainment awards, identified the group as favorites for the honor in 2021.
Having long believed that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was as irrelevant as irrelevant gets, I found it hard to believe that anyone would invest the slightest bit of energy into a campaign to gain entrance to such a thoroughly corrupt institution. I hope the Go-Go’s get the call and tell the Hall they can shove the award where the sun don’t shine.
That won’t happen because The Go-Go’s are a group of Second Wave feminists who fought for inclusion within the current system and not Third Wave feminists who advocated revolution against the patriarchy (Belinda Carlisle made this very clear in the documentary). Second Wave feminists (like Hillary) wanted to prove that “anything men can do we can do.” The Go-Go’s did that with Beauty and the Beat: the first album by an all-girl band who played their own instruments and wrote their own songs to top the charts (for six weeks, no less).
Let me be clear: that was a big deal. There wouldn’t have been a Third Wave if it weren’t for the women who had the courage and patience to break the endless maze of glass ceilings that constitute the patriarchal structure. The Go-Go’s proved that girls could do it, inspiring an entire generation of women to fulfill their potential in the field of music. Kathleen Hanna said it best: “As a young girl, going into a space where women own the stage, and own it unapologetically, like they were born to be there — to me it represented a moment of possibility.” There is no question that the female rockers who followed the Go-Go’s owe them a debt of gratitude; ergo, they qualify for induction under the loosey-goosey standards set by the Hall itself: “Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” I happen to think that clearing the way for more than half the human population was pretty damned significant.
The argument against their induction is the simple truth that they didn’t last that long—after three studio albums marked by declining sales, the group splintered. Part of it was the usual stuff—drugs, alcohol, internal conflicts, the usual downsides of fame—but they also facilitated their own destruction by buying into “common industry wisdom” and refusing to move on from the formula that led to their breakthrough. Replacing the intensely dedicated Ginger Canzoneri with an “executive management team” was certainly a no-win deal with the devil; even worse was the rigidity of the other band members in denying Jane Wiedlin’s request to sing one of her own songs on Talk Show because they couldn’t get their heads around someone other than Belinda Carlisle doing the lead vocals (?!). This short-sighted decision led to Jane’s departure and a full collapse shortly thereafter. Their insistence on continuing to call the same old plays in the playbook with the same old players tells me they wouldn’t have lasted much longer anyway—bands that fail to grow rarely last, and if they do, they find themselves playing to a shrinking fan base.
But hey, if Del Shannon (a two-and-a-half hit wonder) could make the Hall, so should the Go-Go’s.
It’s important to note that the criteria cited above contains no reference whatsoever to the quality of the music. So, if a shit band captures the hearts of the mindless masses, sells tons of records and spawns a slew of shit-band imitators, Shit Band #1 belongs in the Hall.
Though it won’t have much influence on their chances of successfully completing their quest for enshrinement in the hallowed halls of Cleveland, I shall now proceed to my evaluation of the quality of Go-Go’s music based on the evidence provided by their most popular and most highly-acclaimed work—their debut album Beauty and the Beat.
The Go-Go’s began life in the highly active, exceptionally inclusive and DIY-supportive L.A. punk scene of the late ’70s. “Anybody could do whatever they wanted—it was total freedom,” remembered Belinda Carlisle. The original members had very little in the way of musical experience or training, and though adding Charlotte Caffey to the lineup gave them a member with some classical piano education, Charlotte had been drawn to the punk scene in defiance of that education: “All this music theory, rules, had to be thrown out the window.”
As the band gelled and developed more confidence, they replaced their original DIY drummer with Gina Schock, who not only had a great punk name but had worked hard to shape herself into a solid rock drummer and expected her new band pals to adopt an equally strenuous work ethic (“It doesn’t hurt to rehearse, it only makes you tighter”). Eventually the Go-Go’s became the house band at the Whisky a Go Go, where they connected with the English ska/punk bands Madness and The Specials, leading to a U. K. tour that served as their Hamburg experience. They left the Mother Country a much tighter band with a low-budget single on a British indie label (“We Got the Beat”) that garnered some L. A. radio airplay. At the height of their local success, they once again emulated The Beatles by making a controversial change in the lineup, replacing bassist and punk devotee Margot Olavarria with one Kathy Valentine, a guitarist with no experience on the bass (a condition Ms. Valentine quickly corrected by going on an extended coke binge and immersing herself in the band’s lo-fi demo tape). The change coincided with a gradual but steady turn towards more pop-oriented tunes. While that shift did not sit particularly well with the punk purists, the Go-Go’s were determined to broaden their appeal in order to secure a big label recording contract.
Despite the growing buzz, the major labels, having learned nothing from the infamous Decca-Beatles fiasco, unanimously decided that “All-girl bands just don’t sell records” and left the Go-Go’s out in the cold. When a paradigm is stuck in neutral, only an outsider can shake things up; fortunately for the Go-Go’s, they found one in Miles Copeland III, manager of The Police and brother of drummer Stewart Copeland, who had co-founded I. R. S. records with the intention of signing cutting-edge, boundary-pushing artists.
What qualified the Go-Go’s as boundary-pushers may appear to have more to do with their essential dicklessness than their music. Anybody can listen to the Go-Go’s and pick out the obvious influences (punk, British Invasion, 60’s girl groups and surf music), recall their DIY origins and understandably assume that Go-Go’s compositions are simple, derivative efforts. Your average anybody could then plop his ass in front of the stereo, experience the music going down nice and easy and say, “Yep, pretty simple stuff.”
Hand that anybody a guitar and ask him to play along with “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “You Can’t Walk in Your Sleep” and “This Town,” and I guarantee you that in a couple of minutes his fingers will be tied up in knots as he shouts, “What the fuck?”
Although the Go-Go’s made it sound easy, you have to look under the hood to appreciate the complexity of their music and rhythms. Some of their chord patterns would have thrown Mozart for a loop, and even when a song calls for very simple chording, they instinctively knew how to manipulate time and rhythmic expectations to create all kinds of surprises. Though producer Richard Gottehrer successfully coaxed them into slowing some of the high-speed punk tempos they used when playing live, several of the songs on the album are still pretty damned fast, making for some high-quality chord change practice if you’re up to it.
Once Gottehrer taught them the basics of recording, the Go-Go’s developed a signature sound that was bright and tight, the result of a rock-solid rhythm section and well-executed vocals. On Beauty and the Beat they convey infectious energy, not unlike the more harmonic bands of the Invasion. In contrast to the glaring pomposity and deadening overproduction you hear on the supergroup monstrosity Asia (the only album to outsell Beauty and the Beat in 1982), the Go-Go’s come across as girls who are having the time of their lives and want you to join in the fun. What is very clear from listening to Beauty and the Beat is that the Go-Go’s believed in themselves and their ability to beat the guys at their own game.
Beauty and the Beat lives up to the album name with the introduction to “Our Lips Are Sealed,” featuring the sound of Gina Schock’s steady drumbeat (a greeting that will be used to kick off a third of the songs on the album). Jane Wiedlin helps strengthen the beat with her contrasting eighth-note attack on rhythm guitar, followed by the sweeter texture of Charlotte Caffey’s guitar arpeggio, which in turn cues Kathy Valentine to enter the fray with her thumping bass. Kathy’s entry is somewhat dampened by the simultaneous appearance of a synthesizer, a superfluous addition that serves two purposes: 1.) to let future audiences know that the record was produced in the synthesizer-crazed ’80s and 2.) to give idiotic critics like Stephen Thomas Erlewine an excuse to attach the fake genre label “new wave” to Go-Go’s music. I find the synth annoying as fuck and would have preferred more open space to highlight Kathy’s marvelous picking.
My pique is mollified by Belinda Carlisle’s attitude-laden soprano, delivered in a girlish tone of slight cockiness that reminds me of Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las but with a more melodic quality. The connection with the girl group era is further strengthened with the inclusion of the line, “It doesn’t matter what they say,” a rather prominent piece of lyric in The Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You.” It’s important to note the lyrics were written by Jane Wiedlin’s temporary love interest, Terry Hall of The Specials and Fun Boy Three, who mailed Jane the lyrics from the U. K. and asked her to tweak them and come up with the music. Not knowing any better (translation: not having been subjected to classical music theory), Jane came up with a chord combination that makes no sense whatsoever but works like a charm—that out of place A# chord and her subtle departures from the A major scale really enrich the listening experience (as does Jane’s sanctioned lead vocal moment on the arpeggiated intermission).
The lyrics, based on Jane-and-Terry’s somewhat illicit relationship (he had a girl on the side), essentially renew the time-tested rock ‘n’ roll story of facing down the [fill-in-the-blank] (parents, friends, teachers, clergy) who frown upon one’s choice of steady squeeze. Rather than giving into dad (“Leader of the Pack”) or taking a posture of sultry defiance (“Baby It’s You”), Jane and Terry conclude that the best option is to “pay no mind to what they say,” shut the fuck up and enjoy what you have. As a woman who has had more non-standard relationships than most, I heartily endorse this advice.
The ladies harmonized exceptionally well on “Our Lips Are Sealed,” but they take it up a notch on the bouncy British Invasion tune, “How Much More.” Though the chord structures and harmonies recall the sweeter upbeat songs of the invasion, Gina Schock’s near-punk-speed drumming would have blown the Brits to smithereens—just compare her thumping toms on the chorus to Dave Clark’s chorus work on “Glad All Over” and you’ll have to admit it’s Gina by a landslide. Belinda imbues the lead vocal with sweet sincerity and power while the guitarists provide gorgeous three-part harmony support on the verses and richer four-part harmony on the chorus. The only thing I’m puzzled about is why “How Much More” wasn’t one of the singles—it’s a great tune that can change my mood from sourpuss to sweetness-and-light-and-strawberries-and-cream in a heartbeat.
“Tonite” doesn’t quite turn me back into a grump, but I find the rhythms rather clunky and the connection between Gina’s drums and Jane’s rhythm guitar out of whack. Party songs in minor keys generally don’t work unless you’re providing background music for the wake of a person everybody despised. One could say that the carpe diem lyrics foreshadow one of the major causes of the Go-Go’s relatively speedy decline:
There’s no one
To stand in our way
Get dressed up
And messed up
Blow our cares away
I don’t think the use of the word “blow” here was an accident on the part of the Caffey-Wiedlin-Peter Case songwriting team. Cocaine is right up there with cheesy synthesizers on the list of “Things I Will Never Understand About the Eighties.”
“Lust to Love” involves an important evolutionary step in women’s history—the era of unbridled lust that followed the delightful realization that The Pill was not just about birth control but about women gaining the right to fuck whoever they wanted to fuck whenever they wanted to fuck. Hooray! We can use guys as sex objects just like they used us! Yay, freedom!
The thing is . . . unless we’re talking about a woman with strong dominant tendencies possessed with the discipline and desire to control wayward emotions AND a male partner who seriously and sincerely gets off when she dominates with intentional coldness and distance . . . you’re going to run into a problem common in the fairer sex. Women generally have an ample reserve emotional intelligence and there’s nothing that gets in the way of objectifying a sex partner as thoroughly as empathy . . . or worse, feelings of tenderness towards the intended object. That’s the dilemma facing Belinda Carlisle’s character in “Lust for Love,” and man, is she pissed off about it:
It used to be fun was in
The capture and kill
In another place and time
I did it all for thrills
“Love me and I’ll leave you”
I told you at the start
I had no idea that you
Would tear my world apart
And you’re the one to blame
I used to know my name
But I’ve lost control of the game
Cause even though I set the rules
You’ve got me acting like a fool
When I see you I lose my cool
I love the drama of the song—the open space featuring only Belinda, pizzicato guitar and (later) ominous tom from Gina recall some of the Shangri-Las more dramatic moments.
I have no evidence to support the hypothesis that Jane Wiedlin was referring to Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s “Ode” when she wrote “Change the lines that were said before/We’re all dreamers, we’re all whores,” but my Irish grandmother used to read me that poem when I was a wee lass and dammit, this is my blog and I’ll cite lines from my favorite poems whenever I fucking feel like it:
We are the music makers,And we are the dreamers of dreams,Wandering by lone sea-breakers,And sitting by desolate streams; —World-losers and world-forsakers,On whom the pale moon gleams:Yet we are the movers and shakersOf the world for ever, it seems.
Whatever her reference point, it’s pretty clear that Jane was thinking about Los Angeles, but her experience there spawned a different take:
Change the lines that were said before
We’re all dreamers – we’re all whores
Like worn out cars
Litter the streets of this town
Litter the streets of this town
This town is our town
It is so glamorous
Bet you’d live here if you could
And be one of us
In other words, stay the hell away from the City of Angels.
The song is noted for its abrupt time signature switch—three measures of 4/4 followed by a single measure of 2/4—executed perfectly by the band. However, there’s a lot to love about this piece—Belinda’s clean and clear vocal, delivered in a tone of slightly bitter cynicism, marked by pauses of varying length as she spits out the words “this town”; the spot harmonies that appear throughout; and Charlotte Caffey’s fabulous lead guitar work that lies somewhere between surf and secret agent. Two minor key songs in a row can be kind of a downer, but the combination of “Lust to Love” and “This Town” confirm the notion that the Go-Go’s were a group of very talented women willing to break both societal expectations and musical norms.
Side Two opens with their well-known anthem, “We Got the Beat.” I expect I’ll get the same kind of flak from commentators that I received when I pronounced the B-52’s “Love Shack” one helluva song—something along the lines of “I can’t stand this song—the DJ’s played it to death!” Well, tough titties, folks, because I think the Go-Go’s nailed this one and it fully deserves its status as a timeless rock classic. Belinda’s vocal is even more girlish as she moves to the upper part of her range, but the unique quality of her voice is perfect for this kind of song (and her status as an ex-cheeleader certainly helped on the “YEAH!”). Charlotte strengthens her cred as a great surf guitarist while Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine and Jane Wiedlin wisely avoid the tendency to overplay their rhythmic parts, delivering a strong, danceable beat with just the right amount of punctuation. The stop-time-let’s-all-clap-and-do-the-fucking-Watusi part is a perfectly executed crowd-pleaser.
I do have one nit to pick regarding both “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed.” Both songs are tuned to different pitches, so if you follow the published chord patterns, your opening A chord is going to sound bloody awful. I don’t mind “We Got the Beat” as much because the guitars are tuned a half-step higher, so all you have to do is slip a capo on the first fret and you’re good to go. Unfortunately, you have to tune down a half-step for “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which is a pain in the ass, especially if you don’t have locking tuners and you have a cheap-ass Strat like mine that goes fucking crazy whenever I try to use alternate tunings.
You’re welcome for the PSA.
“Fading Fast” is a good cool-down song after the heat of “We Got the Beat,” a song where Belinda Carlisle rises above the pedestrian you-lied-you-bastard lyrics and delivers a rich vocal that manages to express both the ragged feelings of relational exhaustion and a deep inner conviction that she’s strong enough to withstand the loss of this loser. I also love how Kathy Valentine’s bass plays a more prominent role in the mix, as she always manages to fulfill the rhythmic support role while finding opportunities for harmonic enhancement. Hmm. Now that I think of it, the two best bass players I know personally were both ex-lead guitarists, so maybe that’s where you should look if your band is suffering from the all-too-common Flaky Bass Player Syndrome.
I think I’m the only person I know whose favorite song on Beauty and the Beat isn’t “We Got the Beat” or even “Our Lips Are Sealed” but the third and only non-charting single from the album, “Automatic.” With its dark tones, Charlotte’s sinuous minor-key guitar riff and sudden bursts of silence, it’s the perfect dramatic vehicle for Belinda to nail her audition for a spot in the 1920’s Berlin cabaret show. Her deliberately mechanical clipping of the syllables (aut-o-mat-ic-ic-ic) reflects the values of the modernistic thread in Bauhaus whether she was aware of it or not. Given the cinematic possibilities of the song, I was surprised that they didn’t produce a supporting video with Belinda in drag, surrounded by smoke, performing for an audience of gender-flexible guests. I think the Go-Go’s could have used an erotically sophisticated video to offset the girls-having-fun routine on the “Our Lips Are Sealed” video and thereby earn some cred with the artistic types.
The Go-Go’s opted for the Bo Diddley beat for “You Can’t Walk in Your Sleep (When You Can’t Sleep),” but their performance here feels more obligatory than fully invested. The primary value of the song is to confirm my deep suspicion of songs with unnecessary long titles. I think they began with a decent concept on “Skidmarks on My Heart” (men loving their cars more than their girls) but their fascination with the concept led to metaphoric diarrhea that gets quite tiresome in short order.
As they approached the finish line, the Go-Go’s found themselves short one song. Richard Gottehrer recommended they shy away from their standard playlist and perhaps consider doing a cover song. The ladies weren’t too keen on that option, and rightly so—a cover song would have eliminated the concept of an all-girl album filled with songs written (or co-written) by the girls themselves. Fortunately for posterity, Kathy Valentine offered up a song she had written when she first moved to L. A. (the first song she had ever written) and her bandmates jumped at the chance to record it.
Given the three-year space between Kathy composing the song and its unexpected emergence in the studio, it’s amazing how the song perfectly captures both the obstacles the Go-Go’s faced and the determination to overcome anything and everything that stood in their way. According to Songfacts, “She was living in a ramshackle apartment with dim prospects when she took out the guitar and came up with the song, which is about not giving up.” Set to an exuberant high-speed beat peppered with syncopated thrusts, “Can’t Stop the World” is also a melodic-harmonic Invasion-oriented delight. Belinda gives us one of her strongest vocals and the band plays and sings with genuine enthusiasm. The enthusiasm is understandable, as they all had to deal with the unique difficulties women face in trying to define themselves in a society that would prefer to limit women to a predictable, supportive role—difficulties of both internal and external origin that Kathy described so effectively in the song:
I gave up looking for a reason
To live with things just the way they were
I came around
Used to be easy to get to
So they got to me just about every way
Caught with no cards up your sleeve
Not much to choose from
Grew up all along just thinking that you couldn’t lose
Don’t want to live without that security
You think that with a little bit more you’ll be alright
Can’t stop the world
Can’t stop the world
Can’t stop the world
Why let it stop you
Why let it stop you
Why let it stop you
While “We Got the Beat” may be the anthem for the fans, “Can’t Stop the World” does a much better job expressing what the Go-Go’s were all about. They had come to a point in their lives when they weren’t about to let anyone or anything stop them—not the men, not tradition, and certainly not the classic female struggle with self-doubt.
Though Beauty and the Beat was a slow bloomer, taking seven months to reach the top of the charts, the Go-Go’s eventually pulled off the miracle. It may have been only one moment in time, but it was a vitally important moment for women and for music in general—greater inclusion meant greater diversity and different perspectives on music. And while I admit I don’t think the honor is all it’s cracked up to be, the Hall is pretty much all we’ve got in the way of recognizing such significant contributions to music, so I’ll be very happy if the Go-Go’s finally get the recognition they deserve.
I do not like Paul Simon, man.
I do not like him, Sam-I-Am.
In this version of the Dr. Seuss classic, I play the role of the unnamed character and my asshole father plays Sam-I-Am. Having asked me again and again to review Simon, Garfunkel or both, I thought I had shut the door pretty firmly in my non-review of “The Sounds of Silence” in the Dad’s 45’s Series, Part Three:
“Do I have to, Dad?” “Yes.” “But I can’t stand Simon & Garfunkel.” “Paul Simon is an important American songwriter.” “Paul Simon is just the English major version of Neil Sedaka.” “Come on. He was a more-than-credible poet.” “If he was such a credible poet, why did he have to keep reminding people he was a poet and that Artie was just a one-man band?” “How about if we extend the series to 1968 so you can do ‘Mrs. Robinson?’ Surely you see the value in that song.” “I think it’s a dumb-ass song. They tried to show how hip they were with the ‘I Am the Walrus’ snippet and that reference to DiMaggio was astonishingly racist. Who needed DiMaggio when you had Willie Mays? Was it that the white folk back then didn’t cotton to Willie because he was a black dude?” “Well, if all you’re going to do is trash Paul Simon, then don’t bother.”
In truth, the conversation went on a little longer, and I might have said something like, “If I ever hear a Paul Simon song I like, I’ll review the whole fucking album.”
I wish I wouldn’t have said that . . . but I had no idea that a confluence of global events and a failure in predictive science would conspire against me:
- Wednesday, October 28: Macron announces Lockdown: The Sequel, effective Friday, October 30. Maman calls and suggests I come for dinner Thursday night; I remind her that their house is within the 1 km radius restriction, so what’s the rush? “You never know,” maman replies. My mother has amazing instincts.
- Thursday, October 29: A nut with a knife slices up three people at the Basilique Notre Dame that morning; the authorities place the city on a terror alert. I think it’s best to stay put while the gendarmes round up the usual suspects, so I cancel dinner. Meanwhile, I receive texts from three American friends asking “Are you okay?” I respond to all three as follows: “Thanks for your concern, but have you ever known me to spend any time in a fucking church?” I only know the place because I used to walk by it on my way to the Burger King I patronized for my daily Diet Coke fix.
- October 30-November 2: I spend most of my time fucking, writing and walking the dog, waiting to see how things play out. I chat with maman Monday night and we agree that I’ll come for dinner the following day. She reminds me that Tuesday is Election Day in the USA and cautions me that because my father is in an exceptionally giddy mood due to his fervent belief in a Biden victory I should avoid ruining the good vibes with my equally fervent belief in a Trump coup-d’état. Good girl that I am, I agree to her conditions.
My partner, dog and I arrived at about 5 p.m. Tuesday evening, long before the polls closed in the States, but early enough to ensure we’d be able to get home before the 9 p.m. curfew. Dad was in the living room listening to a playlist of some of his favorite tunes; after acknowledging his presence with socially-distanced V-for-Victory signs, we headed to the kitchen to help with meal preparation. When I had completed my tasks, I wandered back to the living room and started thumbing through Dad’s LP collection, looking for a couple of vinyl versions on my to-do list. Every now and then Dad would belt out a line with noticeable and slightly off-key enthusiasm—“Everybody must get stoned” and “She’s got it, yeah baby, she’s got it.” I kept thumbing, half-listening, sometimes humming, occasionally moving my hips to the more appealing beats.
“What are you doing?”
I thought it was kind of obvious and wanted to respond with some snark, but I remembered maman’s injunction to avoid spoiling the mood. “Well, I was looking to see if you had a copy of Masterpieces by Ellington . . . ”
“No, no. What is your body doing?”
I didn’t know what the fuck he was asking me. How should I respond? Breathing? Monitoring my metabolic rate and making the necessary cellular adjustments? I opted for clarification. “What do you mean?”
“You were wiggling your ass.”
“Okay—I always wiggle my ass to the beat when—”
“You were wiggling your ass to Paul Simon!”
“Bullshit. You know I don’t like Paul Simon.”
“Your ass says differently.”
Continuing to luxuriate in his oversized comfy chair with my pooch in his lap, Dad used his remote to flip back to the previous song, which, much to my dismay, turned out to be “You Can Call Me Al.”
“Okay, so what?” I respond with some trepidation.
“Well, I distinctly remember that you said something about if you ever found a Paul Simon song you’d like, you’d review that album.”
“Fuck,” I said under my breath. I thought old guys were supposed to be losing their memories.
“So, while you’re thumbing through the collection, why don’t you save yourself a little time and thumb over to “S”, where you’ll find Graceland under Simon, Paul. Give it a try.”
“Try them, try them, and you may! Try them and you may, I say.”
“Fuck,” I repeated, uncontrollably shaking my ass to the African beats.
To be honest, I was kind of surprised that Dad didn’t nail me before that conversation: I made a semi-positive comment about Graceland in my review of Future Games, where I related a conversation involving the album in which he was a participant. Perhaps the intensity of my overreaction to Simon & Garfunkel caused that thought to linger in his psyche and dismiss contrary evidence as fake news.
I hope that’s the last time I use that phrase.
The truth is I really didn’t mind hearing Graceland when it came up in the rotation on the home stereo during my youth—I just didn’t take it all that seriously. I’ve always considered Paul Simon something of a lightweight, an opinion that hardened as I explored the work of his contemporaries. Can you imagine Bob Dylan or Phil Ochs writing cutesy-wootsy crap like “59th Street Bridge Song,” “Kodachrome” or “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover?” I’d classify his early work as “Pop Songs for Virgin English Majors,” marked by poetic pretense and very little depth. His most acclaimed early-period work, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” is the funeral song I never want to hear at my funeral.
Wait a minute . . . I’ll be dead, so . . .
I considered Paul Simon a competent pop songwriter, producing superficially intellectual versions of Brill Building tunes. He mastered the formulas at an early age, shifting his style and subject matter in lockstep with the changing tastes of the listening audience. That opinion still stands.
Two things happened to make Graceland the exception to the rule. The first was the lackluster chart performance of the album Hearts and Bones, an album snarkily described by Robert Christgau as “a finely wrought dead end.” Since he had no chance of turning himself into Madonna or Prince (the new favored children at Warner), the label wrote him off as a has-been and couldn’t have cared less about what Paul Simon was going to do next. As Simon himself pointed out, the label’s indifference freed him from the pressure of producing something salable according to schedule. He was free to explore other possibilities.
Those possibilities came in the form of a bootleg cassette of South African street music (mbaqanga), identified in the documentary Under African Skies as Accordion Jive Hits Vol II by the Boyoyo Boys. In the film, Simon recalls how he couldn’t stop listening to what would have been a primitive recording at best, entranced by the music and the enthusiastic beat. He asked a pal at Warner to track down the artists; Warner did him one better by hooking him up with South African record producer Hilton Rosenthal, who sent him a stack of recordings of black artists and suggested he record an album of South African music.
Simon thought that was a great idea and resolved to go to South Africa because he wanted to “work with people whose music I greatly admired.” The problem he faced was the U. N. cultural boycott, which required member countries “to prevent all cultural, academic, sporting and other exchanges” with the apartheid government and specifically ordered “writers, artists, musicians” to stay the hell away. After talking it over with Harry Belafonte and Quincy Jones—and after receiving the full support of the South African black musicians union—he decided to make the trip.
What he did not do (though Harry Belafonte recommended he do so) was clear his visit with the African National Congress (ANC), an oversight that would lead to a whole lot of grief in the future. From Simon’s perspective, the visit had nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with artists connecting with artists. He would be attacked for what the cognoscenti considered naïveté, but I fully understand and support his perspective. Music is a far more unifying force than politics and cultural exchange is vital to our survival as a species. The black musicians wanted him to come because they saw the opportunity to share their music with a world audience, which they should have had every right to do.
And no, Paul Simon did not exploit the musicians from a perspective of white privilege. He did what white people are supposed to do: he used his privilege to try to improve the lives of the underprivileged and even the playing field. He paid the musicians triple the New York hourly studio rates earned by elite session men. He gave them credit for their work on compositions, allowing them to earn royalties. He flew them to New York to help with the recording process and enabled them to see (and delight) millions through an extensive world tour. Whether you like the music on Graceland or not (and I haven’t weighed in on that aspect of the story yet), Paul Simon’s role in this story is above reproach.
Once he arrived in Johannesburg, Simon spent two weeks in the studio with the best musicians Rosenthal could recruit. Except for his intent to record one of the songs on the cassette (“Gumboots”), the sessions consisted of unstructured jams peppered with nonsense lyrics and scat that Simon hoped would yield workable phrases and themes he could transform into album tracks. Though the music they played wasn’t particularly complex, Simon had some difficulty getting in sync because he was used to writing songs based on chords, while the foundation of modern South African music is the bass part. Engineer Roy Halee picked up on this when editing and mixing Graceland: “The bassline is what the album is all about. It’s the essence of everything that happened.”
Interestingly enough for a self-styled poet, the lyrics to the songs on Graceland weren’t written until after Halee and Simon had painstakingly built the music from the recording scraps. Simon had to learn how to sync the meter of his poetry with the bassline, which in turn forced him to honor the virtues of poetic economy. This imposed discipline severely limited the tendency of Simon to go “too cute” or “try too hard to be hip,” as evident in his earlier work.
This is a very brief summary of the backstory; if you want to know more, Under African Skies is an unusually balanced and often moving story of Graceland and its worldwide impact.
Now . . . let me recite my mantra and then we’ll get to the songs.
“Try them, try them, and you may! Try them and you may, I say.”
“Boy in the Bubble” opens with the distinctive sound of Forere Motloheloa’s piano accordion, immediately signaling a departure from the guitar song norm. That perception is quickly confirmed by the subsequent appearance of four shocking, thunderous beats from Vusi Khumalo on the toms and the warped tones of Bakithi Kumalo’s bass. Motloheloa’s core riff came from a song he wrote as leader of the band Tau Ea Matsekha, a song about “paying tribute to a beautiful woman who he found and is happy with.” The song was included in the album pile Rosenthal sent to Simon, who checkmarked it as something he wanted to explore in the Johannesburg jam sessions.
The music that came out of that session and through the editing process certainly doesn’t have the feel of an ode to female beauty. The minor key and strong forward movement communicate a tense urgency—and the opening verse is in perfect sync with that subliminal message:
It was a slow day
And the sun was beating
On the soldiers by the side of the road
There was a bright light
A shattering of shop windows
The bomb in the baby carriage
Was wired to the radio
Simon said the song was about the dichotomy of “hope and dread,” but that abstraction lacks the power communicated by his juxtaposition of bomb and baby carriage. The verse depicts both calm and storm, evoking the curious historical pattern of major disasters occurring on days of calm, sunny weather. December 7, 1941. November 22, 1963. September 11, 2001. When witnesses to those events talk about their experiences, their stories often begin with phrases like “it was a quiet Sunday morning,” “it was a perfect day in Dallas,” “the skies over New York were clear and cloudless.” When those folks mention the weather, they’re struggling to grasp the senselessness, the shock of a sudden life-changing event.
Simon then proceeds to shock the listener with the first line of the chorus, “These are the days of miracle and wonder,” a phrase that comes across as incredibly tone-deaf following the depiction of an act of terror, but actually reflects a profound understanding of the dichotomous nature of human existence. Yin and yang. Darkness and light. Good and evil. Radios are delightful when they play your favorite tunes and radios can become instruments of evil when wired to set off an explosion—both applications are the result of human “ingenuity.” Remaining true to his narrative of a dichotomous reality, Simon repeats “These are the days of miracle and wonder” at the end of the chorus, but follows it with the paradoxical “And don’t cry, baby, don’t cry/Don’t cry.” Our miracles and wonders always exact a price, as most clearly demonstrated in the systematic disruption that follows every major technological innovation and wreaks havoc on the working classes.
Verse two is a bit obscure but deals with the greatest dichotomy of them all—the cycle of life and death. Verse three is the most exuberant, with Simon’s thoughts spilling over into a sort of appended verse set to the music of the chorus. The overflow communicates the exciting and terrifying speed of change, the danger of “staccato signals of constant information” (prescient, given that Graceland is pre-Internet) and Simon’s perceptive insight into who’s running the show (he provides a succinct description of how the world works in Under African Skies):
It’s a turn-around jump shot
It’s everybody jump start
It’s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
Medicine is magical and magical is art
Think of the boy in the bubble
And the baby with the baboon heart
And I believe
These are the days of lasers in the jungle
Lasers in the jungle somewhere
Staccato signals of constant information
A loose affiliation of millionaires
And billionaires and baby
If you’re struggling to find contemporary examples of how a technological development that appears to be a good thing turns out to be a very, very bad thing because of the power held by “a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires,” look no further than your Facebook home page. “Boy in the Bubble” isn’t dated in the least—Simon succinctly describes the essential struggle of the human race at this point in the evolutionary cycle, brilliantly integrating those lyrics with a mix of musical styles and diverse instrumentation.
I have at least one important qualification for reviewing the song “Graceland.” I’ve actually been there! I sat in the pink Jeep from Blue Hawaii, visited the well-tended gravesite and marveled at the exquisite bad taste of the Jungle Room. I hung out in the gift shop, filled with matronly southern women with their silvery-gray hair wrapped up in buns cradling armfuls of Elvis memorabilia. While visiting Memphis, I also explored the scene on Beale Street, just missed the duck parade at the Peabody Hotel and witnessed the brutal poverty of the Mississippi Delta.
Paul Simon took pretty much the same trip, but for different reasons (I just wanted to listen to some music, experience the history and have a good time). He had been working on the lyrics to one of the songs and used the term “Graceland” as temporary filler until something better came along. For some damned reason, “Graceland” wouldn’t go away, so he decided to fly down and give it a look-see. It can’t be stressed enough that this was Paul Simon acting on instincts and following his whimsy, as befits a recording artist whose record company had pretty much given up on him. He had the great good fortune to experience a blessed moment of artistic freedom, a very rare occurrence in any artist’s life, no matter where they are in the hierarchy.
What blows me away about “Graceland” is how completely Paul Simon captured the mood and symbolic meaning of the place. When I visited, the atmosphere was one of relative stillness, even with all the tourists passing through. These were people on a pilgrimage to a holy shrine, lowering their voices to near-whispers out of respect for the sacred environment. The faces of the visitors as they departed radiated an almost spiritual serenity as if the experience was healing in some way—as if being with Elvis had helped them recover from some kind of pain or difficulty.
Simon’s pilgrimage begins with a jaunt through “The Mississippi Delta . . . shining like a National Guitar,” following the river of life through “the cradle of the Civil War,” on his way to join the American hadj as it converges toward the hallowed ground:
I’m going to Graceland, Graceland
I’m going to Graceland
Poor boys and pilgrims with families
And we are going to Graceland
My traveling companion is nine years old
He is the child of my first marriage
But I’ve reason to believe
We both will be received
At this point, Paul Simon could have taken the path forged by Ray Davies’s alt-Norman character in Soap Opera, explained to the listening audience “I’m doing research for one of my songs,” and written a cute little number about this “crazy” place he decided to visit on one of his pop star whims (Paul Simon’s greatest sin has to be the overuse of the word “crazy”). Fortunately for posterity, the Paul Simon who wrote “Graceland” had been recently humbled by commercial failure and crushed by the collapse of his marriage to Carrie Fisher. As he approaches the shrine, memories of that loss come to the fore, forcing him to realize that like all the other pilgrims headed to Graceland, he is searching for an experience that might heal his wounds:
She comes back to tell me she’s gone
As if I didn’t know that
As if I didn’t know my own bed
As if I’d never noticed
The way she brushed her hair from her forehead
And she said, “Losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow.”
Tragedy has the virtue of eliminating the need for pretense; no matter how much you try to put up a brave front, people can see and feel your pain. Simon arrives at Graceland, looks at the people surrounding him and realizes they are one and the same: human beings trying to deal with deep existential pain coming together in shared grief in their search for some kind of comfort:
And my traveling companions
Are ghosts and empty sockets
I’m looking at ghosts and empties
But I’ve reason to believe
We all will be received
I may come across as a cynical, cold-hearted bitch at times, but I was actually quite moved by my visit to Graceland and I felt nothing but love and respect for those matrons clutching their Elvis relics while wiping away an occasional tear. I think Paul Simon felt the same way—his humiliations made him one of us, “tumbling in turmoil,” part of the multitude of ghosts and empties sharing a profound sense of loss.
Shit. Seven paragraphs and three long quotes into this song review and I haven’t even mentioned the music! I could do seven paragraphs on Bakithi Kumalo’s fretless bass part alone, a collage of arpeggios, truncated phrases and ghost notes that punctuate the rhythm from the drums and percussion while establishing complementary rhythms that propel the song forward. Or Ray Phiri’s amazingly fluid and diverse lead guitar, featuring toned-down, high-speed arpeggios in the background with lovely melody-enhancing solos. And then we have The Everly Brothers handling the harmonies on the chorus in one of the sweetest examples of icing on the cake in my musical memory. While I remain totally baffled by “Mrs. Robinson” winning the Grammy for Record of the Year, I have no issues with “Graceland” winning the 1987 award—it’s a great song with great performances all around.
After two fairly deep pieces, Simon shifts to the lighter side with a song about a Manhattan soirée in “I Know What I Know.” The Johannesburg recording was a family affair, with members of General M.D. Shirinda and The Gaza Sisters inviting children and siblings to the studio. The intro features a noticeably brisk and loud guitar accompanied by an enhanced snare attack that certainly grabs the listener’s attention and then some, so it’s something of a relief when they ease into a background role. The semi-random appearances of The Gaza Sisters singing in the Shangaan language and dropping in sets of joyful whoops from time to time add to the absurd party atmosphere. While the song doesn’t explore the passive-aggressive toxicity of these dreadful parties to the extent that Phil Ochs does in “The Party,” Simon does a fine job of recording for posterity the witless conversations focused solely on sniffing out a partygoer’s status so one can decide if they’re worth the effort. The song sort of collapses into the next track, “Gumboots,” the song that initially led Simon down the path that wound up in Graceland. It turns out to be more of a zydeco number with its breakneck speed and deft accordion, but the lyrics feel like pre-Graceland Paul Simon with too many cute turns of phrase (“I said hey Senorita that’s astute/I said why don’t we get together and call ourselves an institute”). Tuning out the lyrics does allow the listener to appreciate the lovely background vocals of Diane Garisto and Michelle Cobbs.
Side One ends on a positive note with “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” featuring the marvelous choral work of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I love the sound of deep male voices and the inherent melody and rhythms in many African languages, so listening to the a capella introduction is a special treat for me (I also love the way Ladysmith’s gruff timbre contrasts with Paul Simon’s smooth and gentle vocal). Ray Phiri’s distinctive guitar opens the song proper, set to a mid-tempo sway with exceptional contributions from the percussion quartet and horn trio. The lyrics aren’t much to write home about, a sort of non-story about a rich girl and a poor boy that somehow results in the equalizing experience of “Sleeping in a doorway/By the bodegas and the lights on Upper Broadway” without much explanation as to how they got there. Simon also resorts to his habitual use of the word “crazy,” convincing me that it’s his all-purpose go-to when the language center in his brain goes on the fritz. The best lyrics in the song can be found in Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s introduction, translated from Zulu as “It’s not usual but in our days we see those things happen. They are women, they can take care of themselves.”
YES WE CAN!
Flipping over to Side Two, we engage with the song that got me into trouble in the first place, “You Can Call Me Al.” The song has a noticeably different feel than the other songs on Graceland, having been recorded entirely in New York, but the continuing presence of Phiri, Kumalo and Ladysmith provide an ample measure of continuity. The groove that set my ass to waggin’ was the work of arranger and synthesizer man Rob Mounsey, who combined a nine-piece horn section with unique bass and percussion contributions to keep the beat moving. I don’t know how anyone can help themselves from ass-wagging to this song—it’s superb, street-struttin’ stuff.
Paul Simon gave a rather vague and confusing explanation of the song in an interview with SongTalk magazine, probably because the guy in the song going through his mid-life crisis who finds himself getting “soft in the middle” and in need of a photo-opportunity pretty much describes Paul Simon at this point in his life. It’s not entirely biographical; I doubt very much if Simon lost his faith in role models because (not being an Evangelical Christian) his hero “ducked back down the alley with some roly-poly little bat-faced girl.” However, he does admit that the last verse is autobiographical in the sense of describing the culture shock he experienced in South Africa. What he describes is not specifically tied to his experience but generalized to depict the average American, lost and clueless in foreign climes:
A man walks down the street
It’s a street in a strange world
Maybe it’s the third world
Maybe it’s his first time around
Doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound, the sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says, “Amen and Hallelujah!”
Of course he would. On sensory overload with all those furriners speakin’ funny and his dollars worthless, he chooses to chalk it all up to his god rather than trying to engage with the natives and maybe learn something in the process.
The sexy, sassy sound of “You Can Call Me Al” gives way to the occasionally more soothing but still intensely rhythmic “Under African Skies.” The softer sounds come from the Simon-Linda Ronstadt duet in the verses; the rhythm was described by Hilton Rosenthal in the liner notes as “a Zulu walking rhythm,” a modestly assertive, prideful gait. Both vocalists raise the intensity in the chorus, though only Ronstadt reaches full belt-out mode.
The “Joseph” in the song probably refers to Joseph Shabalala, leader of Ladysmith Black Mombazo and not the New Testament Joseph, as the often-wrong Stephen Holden has asserted. The lyrics promise “the story of how we begin to remember” but I’ve searched high and low and can find no evidence of such a narrative. I do know that the narrator (such as it is) cannot be Paul Simon, who was born far away from Tuscon, Arizona and, unless he is hiding a very big secret, is not a girl (“Give her the wings to fly through harmony”). There are indeed some attractive lines in the lyrics (“This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein”), but beyond the spare description of Joseph, not much in the way of coherence. I think the music is beautiful and I love the work of Ray Phiri and Bakithi Kumalo (again), but after hearing recordings of the live version with Miriam Makeba taking Ronstadt’s role, I find the original comparatively disappointing.
According to Songfacts, “When he returned to America, Simon wrote “Homeless” and put a demo of the song on a tape, which he sent to the group (Ladysmith Black Mambazo), letting them know they could change it any way they wanted. The demo cassette was Simon on piano singing only the line, ‘We are homeless, homeless, moonlight sleeping on the midnight lake.’ Shabalala continued the story in Zulu to complete the songwriting process.” What he did was borrow some of the lines from a traditional Zulu wedding song, resulting in a set of lyrics where “homeless” takes on multiple meanings, none of which sync with the modern Western definition of homelessness as a phenomenon resulting from income disparity, technological progress and property rights:
- In the context of a Zulu marriage proposal, the word is used as an argument for union, as in “we are homeless now, but together we can create a home.” That’s sweet.
- Another translation (from Shabalala) of the introductory lines describes a temporary, nomadic existence: “We’re far away from home and we’re sleeping. Our fists are our pillows.”
- A subsequent passage (beginning with “Zio yami”) translates roughly into “My heart, you have killed me from the cold,” equating homelessness with loneliness.
- The English lyrics sung by Ladysmith also describe the displacement of people following a major storm (“Strong wind destroy our home/Many dead, tonight it could be you”).
And though Paul Simon did not want Graceland to be a political record—a naïve wish if there ever was one, given the nature of apartheid—the subtext can easily be interpreted to equate apartheid with homelessness, in the sense of living within the geographical boundaries of a state while being excluded from participating in the creation and sustenance of that state. The line “Somebody cry why, why, why?” is political, whether Paul Simon likes it or not.
Lyrics and language aside, “Homeless” is a mesmerizing and moving choral performance, thankfully delivered a capella. If you ever joined a school chorus or a church choir, you know it takes a lot of practice to get all the voices in sync—and I’m just talking about getting everyone to hit the right notes. The great choral groups go beyond that and connect on a spiritual level, with each individual feeding off the energy of the others and giving it back in return. You hear that very clearly in Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s performance on “Homeless,” where the group completely immerses itself into the music and the shared experience, intuitively responding on all levels—dynamic, rhythmic and emotional. What’s even more remarkable is that Paul Simon’s contributions don’t feel at all like those of an outsider—he also catches the spirit and delivers appropriately impassioned lines. I can’t listen to “Homeless” without tearing up, and the source of those tears come from both the bitter sense of injustice forced on those remarkably gifted artists but also the awesome beauty of human voices joining together in spirit and song.
Let me take a moment . . . Paul Simon is about to go crazy on me.
I was stunned to learn that Simon hadn’t planned to include “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” on Graceland until a combination of an unexpected performance on Saturday Night Live and a Warner-imposed delay of its release caused him to reconsider. I wish they’d excluded “Crazy Love, Vol. II,” a song about a loathsome character improbably named Fat Charlie the Archangel who approaches the prospect of divorce with equally loathsome stoicism. Ray Phiri’s band Stimela provides the background music, which is easily the best part of the piece, but their talents are wasted here. I don’t exactly why this phrase came to mind, but I’ll spring it on you anyway: this song is nowheresville, daddio.
Paul Simon wanted a couple of tracks that connected African and American music, so he popped down to Lousiana and found a real zydeco band complete with washboard by the name of Good Rockin’ Dopsie And The Twisters to deliver the goods on “That Was Your Mother.” This is a sprightly little number with Alton Jay Rubin (aka Rockin’ Dopsie) on accordion supplying counterpoint rhythm and fills and a solid sax solo from a gent named Johnny Hoyt. The tale involves a father relating to the son the circumstances behind his birth; dad is your classic traveling salesman who hit the road in search of booze, broads and good-time music (not necessarily in that order). While “standing on the corner of Lafayette,” a “young girl, pretty as a prayerbook,” happens by . . . and I guess something happened between the two to produce a kid, but Simon gives us no information as to how or how quickly consummation took place, nor does he imply that the kid was the result of a virgin birth. But while Simon may be squeamish about sex, his narrator pulls no punches when he tells the son his appearance on the scene was not particularly welcomed:
Well, that was your mother
And that was your father
Before you was born dude
When life was great
You are the burden of my generation
I sure do love you
But let’s get that straight
Joe Strummer waxed lyrical about the line, “Before you was born dude/When life was great,” and I have to admit I had to laugh at the sheer honesty of the statement—perhaps the loose feel of zydeco makes it feel okay . . . oh, hell, I’ll admit it—I never wanted kids and it’s exactly what I would have said to a kid had I ever been so unfortunate to have one.
For the finale, Simon flew over to East L. A. to work with Los Lobos, an exceptionally talented rock band versed in multiple styles who at the time were a year away from their breakthrough hit (“La Bamba”). The song that came out of the session was saddled with the unwieldy title “All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints.” The lyrics are about . . . a former talk-show host, no . . . a former army post, no . . . okay, it’s the talk show host . . . well, the lyrics make little sense and I would like to nominate the line “ever since the watermelon” for Worst Line to Ever Appear in a Paul Simon Song. If you put the lyrics aside and focus on Paul Simon’s intent to link African and American influences, the song works, largely because Los Lobos kicks ass right from the get-go. The intro featuring Louie Perez banging a steady beat and Conrad Lozano ripping it on the bass is a great warmer-upper, and both David Hidalgo (accordion) and Cesar Rojas (guitar) keep the heart pumping with propulsive power. Though I don’t think much of the song, the enthusiastic performance of the band allows us to leave Graceland on a perfectly natural high.
On to the reckoning . . . Graceland is an outstanding piece of work featuring fabulous and inspiring music played by world-class musicians and engineered to near perfection. While there are a couple of lyrical misses, the album contains at least three certifiable masterpieces of the songwriting art and several top-tier tracks guaranteed to elicit a smile and some energetic hip-shaking. Graceland had an enormous impact throughout the world, exceeding anything Paul Simon could have hoped for when he made the courageous decision to work with black South African musicians. And yes, the album had a political impact—by giving those musicians worldwide exposure, Simon transformed apartheid from an abstraction to a tangible evil oppressing the lives of real human beings with hearts, souls and undeniable ability. Both the music and the story of Graceland are deeply moving, and it certainly deserves to be included in any discussion of the greatest albums of all-time.
Sigh. It takes a big girl to admit she’s wrong, and though I’m only 5’6″ and 122 pounds, I think I can do this.
I like Paul Simon, man!
I do! I like him, Sam-I-am!
And I would listen to him in a boat
And I would listen to him on a goat
Okay, I think that’s enough. Ciao!