Wednesday, November 23, 2011

And Speaking of Unsettling....

Saw Ray Davies in concert over the weekend -- a lovely show, including the stuff with the Dessoff Choir, which worked far better than I had frankly expected it to. And of course, the "and then I wrote..." format isn't really hard to take when the person who's singing the songs has the sort of back catalog that Ray has.

But here's a song of his -- from the early 80s -- that he didn't do on Sunday, and I'm kind of glad. "Art Lover."

Which is not to say that it isn't a great song -- it is. But it's either about a pedophile or a divorced dad who's being prevented from seeing the young daughter he adores by a horrid ex-wife, which is to say that it's kind of heartbreaking and kind of creepy at the same time. In fact, its deliberately calibrated ambiguity is probably even more fine-tuned than Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and Ray's own "Lola" combined.

It's also infernally catchy, with -- given the aforementioned thematic ambiguity -- an emphasis on the infernally.


steve simels said...

Testing? Testing?

Anonymous said...

It is one of the greatest and saddest creepy songs ever.

I vote for the divorced dad theory. Unless he's on the staff of the Penn State football team.

Return of the Plumber

Maude Lange said...

Our Ray's been having it both ways (no pun inden... oh never mind) for years. See, e.g., When I Turn Out the Living Room Light.

Noam Sane said...

I never considered the pedophile angle, it always struck me as a divorced-dad scenario. And there's a surface cheerfulness, as with a lot of his music. Can't remember where it was but I once saw him play this on TeeVee...SNL maybe? It's a great one.

MJConroy said...

found this online:
"Here is the passage directly from Creem Magazine. This is Ray Davies talking;

Let's talk about "Art Lover". That song is ambiguous in the same way that "Lola" was. At first, it sounds like it might be about some sort of pervert, but I think there's a lot more going on there.

I had great trouble when I first ran through that song in the studio with the guys. I gave them a chord sheet, and they were really pissed off by this time because we'd already done something like 15 tracks. They said, "Oh fuck. He's not going to do another track!" And I said, "Just play the chords." I looked at their faces when we did the playback. First of all, they were just worried about what they were playing. The second playback, they listened to the words, and they looked like "What the fuck's he writing about?" I originally had put in a line that said something like "Sunday parents with their kids knowing they're just alone" which made it, obvious that it was about someone who was divorced and only had his kid on a Sunday. So I left it out because I wanted to leave the song ambiguous. I think ambiguity is a good tool, a good weapon I used it in songs like "Waterloo Sunset". And I think it just about works because it says "I'm not a flasher in a raincoat." One of the reasons they're not putting it out as a single in England is because the BBC has said there's a flasher in a raincoat, but it says "I'm not a flasher." So it does sound like a pervert to begin with, but I think it does work in the end and you realize what the song's about.

It's a good song. It's a sad song. And I'd love it to be a single. I wouldn't care if it bombed and died a death because I believe in that song so much "