Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Baffling Music I Listened To In The Days Of My Sappy Youth (Before I Discovered Punk Rock and Everything Changed For The Better) (Part 4)

That slamming sound you hear is from the collective jaws of my readers hitting the ground after hearing me admit to once liking the oddball collection of studio outtakes Garden in the City from Earth-mama songstress Melanie. If you're unfamiliar with her work, she's the aural equivalent of a doe-eyed pastel-shaded Margaret Keane painting.

I was introduced to her granola-infested oeuvre through a friendship with my high school's Freshman rebel. He seemed to abide alone (the parents he professed to live with were always away on mysterious "camping trips"), he sometimes smoked cigarettes and frequently got sent home from school for refusing to wear shoes. His unexplainable affection for this LP of boho folkie musings should have given me pause, but his outsider status amongst our age group drew me towards it all the more--it seemed to me just one more intoxicating swirl of icing on the iconoclast cake.

At the time, my alarming ignorance of rock history strengthened the assumption that Don't You Wait By the Water was a vérité recording of purist backwoods blues and that Lay Lady Lay was a Melanie original (after finally hearing Dylan's "cover", its curious lack of flute freakout left me wanting). Listening to the painfully sincere title track as an adult causes my eyebrows to arch ever upwards: why the freaky pronunciation of the word country? How can you befriend a cloud? To paraphrase Carla Bley's reaction to The Shaggs: that song brings my mind to a complete halt.

Although Garden in the City was not a chart-topping mega-hit, Melanie would later find fame via her soft-porn pop hit Brand New Key, as well as renewed celebrity amongst indie hipsters after being recruited by Stephen Merritt as a vocal guest of The Sixths. Garden's closing track (People in the Front Row) cemented its place in the pop pantheon after being sampled by Australian rap act Hilltop Hoods.

My shame over once favoring this musical transgression has never wavered. As soon as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame installs confessionals, I'll be the first one in line chirping my Act of Contrition.

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