Shirley Manson Has Fish Eyes

March 29, 2008

What the @*#&! is up with that?

Pretty harsh words about the Garbage front woman, huh? Imagine how surprised I was to find that I was the one that made this statement despite the fact that I find her quite fetching indeed. Was I drunk when I said it? Had she just stolen my wallet? Had I tapped into some deep-seeded anti-Scottish prejudice which had been previously unbeknownst to myself?

It was none of those things. Instead, it was someone appropriating something I had written and incorporating their own feelings regarding the ichthyological aspects of Ms. Manson’s orbs. It’s one thing to be plagiarized – to have someone claim your work as their own – but something different to have someone attribute work to you which is not yours.

I found the quote while researching Manson and it caught my eye. When I pulled up the website to see what the deal was, I found an album review of the band Angelfish, which was a band for whom Manson sang lead prior to joining Garbage. it concluded by saying, “Shirley Manson has fish eyes. What the @*#&! is up with that?” which had not been in the review I had written. And there was my name attached to it.

My mind reeled. It was a small world! What if Shirley should come across these disparaging remarks attributed to me? Any fantasies of an evening of carnal bliss with Shirley I might have had – haggis and a hot oil massage – would surely have the same chances of success as that lone Angelfish album. I had to bring the miscreant that had misrepresented me to justice, but the website, aside from my review, was in Polish.

So, I did a search for the offending opinion. I got a match and to my surprise, the quote had been spoken by Shirley Manson. In an interview she had given, she spoke of how her childhood had been filled with cruel taunts about her exotic eyes. She spoke of how children would say, “Shirley Manson has fish eyes. What the @*#&! is up with that?”

It was quite a relief to know the truth. More importantly, it was a relief to know that Shirley, should she read my review, would know the truth. I could know occupy my mind with more pressing matters, secure in the knowledge that if I ever met Shirley, any advances I made could be rebuffed on their own merits and not for something she might mistakenly thought I had written.

Garbage – When I Grow Up
From their second album Version 2.0, this hyper kinetic track always makes me smile due to its nursery-rhyme-on-speed vibe and Manson’s playful delivery. Favorite line…”When I grow up, I’ll be stable.”

Garbage – You Look So Fine
Also from Version 2.0, this one is probably my favorite song in Garbage’s catalog. With its pulsating undercurrent, I’m drawn in from the first notes of this lush, dreamy track which closes the album. The hypnotic, almost indifferent manner in which Manson offers lyrics like, “You look so fine. I want to take you home. We’ll waste some time. You’re the only one for me,” makes her true intentions a mystery.

Angelfish – You Can Love Her
Angelfish only released one album which I suspect is long out of print. For the most part, it’s a fairly ordinary affair, indistinguishable from the numerous guitar-driven alternative bands of the early to mid-90s. In fact, this cover of a Holly Vincent (known for Tell That Girl To Shut Up with her band The Italians) song might be the best offering, particularly Manson’s sultry vocal take. However, it was an Angelfish video on MTV’s 120 Minutes program which got Manson noticed by producer Butch Vig as the missing piece for the band that would become Garbage.

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The Beatles: "They Were Just Like You And Me"

March 25, 2008

With the recent passing of Neil Aspinall

One of the more memorable characters whom I’ve come across was Michael, a diminutive Englishman who was one of our staff at a record store where I worked for several years. He was nearly twenty years older than most of us twenty-somethings and, because of his age and more proper demeanor, had our respect like few other grown-ups. He was akin to that one uncle we all seem to have.

Michael was ecentric and enigmatic. He reminded me of a craggy-faced, tousle-haired Gilligan (of Gilligan’s Island) and, like Gilligan, his wardrobe rarely changed – worn, faded blue jeans, a plain, brown-leather belt, simple, white tennis shoes, and a white t-shirt which, during the colder months, would be covered by a flannel shirt. The only concession to fashion was his occasional donning of a red bandana around his neck.

Polite and proper, Michael was generally aloof as though constantly daydreaming. It only added to our curiousity. However, what really piqued the interest of many of us, who were music junkies, was Michael’s past. It was all so cryptic like his mutterings about the moon when it was full. We knew that Michael wasn’t famous, but it was rumored that he had often kept the company of those who were during the late ’60s in London.

Steve Winwood was supposedly a friend. As were several, if not all, of the Rolling Stones. There were stories that the legendary Nick Lowe’s song “I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock & Roll)” had been inspired by one of Michael’s ex-wives. We knew that Michael had written a song for a singer named Mary Hopkins whose albums had been among the first released on Apple Records, the label created by The Beatles. There were rumors that the song was the cause of a rift between him and Paul McCartney.

We’d heard that he had been friends with The Beatles.

The subject of The Beatles was one that those of us who worked with Michael for years never brought up (despite the obvious temptation). Finally, I was presented with the opportunity. One of my co-workers had loaned me a copy of The Love You Make, a behind-the-scenes account of The Beatles by Peter Brown, the group’s longtime business associate. It was in my backpack one day as Michael checked me out as I ended my shift. He saw it.

“Excellent book,” he said. “That’s just the way it happened.” I had an opening. As casually as possible, I took it.

“So, Michael,” I said informally, feigning indifference, “you knew those guys, right?”

His reaction was a prolonged, gutteral groan and a waving of his hands, an expression of frustration from him that the staff was long familiar and I had always found rather endearing. I also considered it the end of my attempt to get the truth. I was distracted by a co-worker and was quickly engaged in another conversation at the store’s main counter.

Moments later, Michael crept up beside me and slid a slip of paper in front of me. All it said was “yes.” I just smiled at him and he rubbed my shoulder and walked off.

Several days later, I was again completing my shift and Michael, again, was checking my backpack. The book was still there. Michael said nothing. He checked me out and wandered off.

I stood behind the counter, gathering my belongings, preparing to leave. Michael, again, crept up beside me.

“It was just like you and me,” he whispered loudly, almost hissing the words. I had no idea what he meant and my face registered confusion which Michael picked up on.

He glanced around before returning his attention to me. His voice was now so quiet that he practically mouthed “The Beatles.”

“They were just like you and me,” he continued, his hands gesturing between the two of us. “They were just regular guys. We’d just have conversations like you and I do.” He seemed to be as awed by the idea as I was at his cryptic confession.

The Beatles. I was standing next to someone, someone with whom I had worked for several years, who had known The Beatles. I wanted to know more. I wanted to ask questions.

I didn’t.

The Beatles – Across The Universe

Nick Lowe – I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock And Roll)

Nothing Says Easter Like Ravenous, Rampaging Rabbits

March 22, 2008

Forget the hunt for eggs or the ceremonial carving of the spiral-cut, honeybaked ham. No, Paloma and I opted for a more unique way to celebrate Easter this year – snagging a carryout pizza and watching Night Of The Lepus.

For those of you unfamiliar with this cinematic opus (and I’d guess that would be virtually anyone who stumbles across this post), Night Of The Lepus was born out of the nascent groundswell of environmental consciousness of the early ’70s, a movement that influenced many science fiction films.

I recall having seen it as a youngster when it was shown on CBS’ late night movie, a cornucopia of B-movies shown after the local news in the ’70s which often featured nature run amok.

And amok it runs in Night Of The Lepus in the form of rabbits the size of Volkswagens who have developed a taste for humans. Actually, they seem disinclined to consume the terrified townsfolk, instead gnawing on them as though they were large, pale carrots.

Paloma and I had tentatively planned to make a tradition of an Easter viewing of Night Of The Lepus, but, alas, next year it might be pizza and Bugs Bunny as one viewing of the film seems to have been enough for her.

And now, for some Easter-inspired music…

Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit
It’s impossible for me to hear this song now and not think of the scene in Platoon where Charlie Sheen’s character is introduced to “The Heads.” I also keep thinking that it would make an inspired choice for Bjork to cover.

T. Rex – Rabbit Fighter
When the inevitible CGI-powered remake of Night Of The Lepus arrives (and you know it will), perhaps they will opt for a little Marc Bolan from his classic set The Slider. And please, let them cast William Shatner (especially as the late DeForest Kelly was featured in the original). Who else would you rather see battling brawny bunnies?

Echo & The Bunnymen – Lips Like Sugar
When I asked Paloma, a big fan of Ian McCullough and the boys from the beginning, what track I should post, she surprised me by noting this one as her favorite (I would have guessed something perhaps a bit darker like The Killing Moon).

Patti Smith Group – Easter
Sure Horses has the cachet and was a groundbreaking release, but as I was a tyke and unaware of its impact at the time, I’ve always leaned toward Easter as my personal favorite of one of my favorite artist’s early (pre-1988) output.

Bill Hicks – Easter
The late, great comedian shares his thoughts on how Easter is celebrated and who can argue that a goldfish pushing a lincoln log across the floor wouldn’t be pretty miraculous?