Thursday, October 02, 2008

Great Lost Singles of the Sixties (An Occasional Series)

Somebody mentioned this the other night at Eschaton, and I'd forgotten how much I liked it -- from 1968, it's Cream and their thoroughly atypical pop masterpiece "Anyone for Tennis."

I think this is an all but perfect record and, heretical as it may be, by far their finest accomplishment in the studio. Those sighing strings, that chiming dive bomb guitar, the lovely mix of bemusement and regret in Clapton's uncharacteristically delicate vocal...and of course, the lyrics.

Twice upon a time in the valley of the tears
The auctioneer is bidding for a box of fading years
And the elephants are dancing on the graves of squealing mice.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn't that be nice?

And the ice creams are all melting on the streets of bloody beer
While the beggars stain the pavements with flourescent Christmas cheer
And the Bentley driving guru is putting up his price.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn't that be nice?

And the prophets in the boutiques give out messages of hope
With jingle bells and fairy tales and blind colliding scopes
And you can tell they're all the same underneath the pretty lies.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn't that be nice?

The yellow Buddhist monk is burning brightly at the zoo
You can bring a bowl of rice and then a glass of water too
And fate is setting up the chessboard while death rolls out the dice.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn't that be nice?

I can't think of a song that so brilliantly evokes the whole post-Summer of Love, what do we do now with the bastards pointing guns at us? vibe of 1968; you can practically hear the Hells Angels revving up their motorcycles for the apocalypse at Altamont to come. Which makes the song's origin -- they wrote it for the soundtrack to a mediocre biker flick -- just that much more ironic.

BTW, did Eric Clapton ever sport a less flattering look than the one in the video? Sheesh...that mustache is really heinous.


Anonymous said...

eric clapton would look good with a bag over his head --

Gummo said...

Wow, I've never heard this song before.

Thanks for turning me on to it, steve.

TMink said...

First time for me too.

I think Eric was in that stage where he and George were briefly becoming one person. They switched a wife and a hairdo!


steve simels said...

Gummo --

You should hear it in stereo. Get thee to iTunes, I suggest.

steve simels said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Totally agree with your points, Mr. S. I was intrigued by Clapton's unfortunate mustache, and wondered if this look was documented on the back of my trusty LP copy of History of Eric Clapton. Indeed it was, but he doesn't look nearly as bad in the photo, where he kind of resembles same-era George Harrison, as in the TV shoot, which is horribly over-lit.

Anonymous said...

Badge was always my favorite Cream song but Anyone for Tennis has always been a close second!