Waking Up With Wilford Brimley

January 9, 2010

I woke up this morning to find Paloma under a blanket on the couch and Wilford Brimley’s whiskered mug on the television screen.

But there was more. There was the actor who played the titular character in The Mummy as well as Lance Henriksen (obviously supressing his dignity and picking up a paycheck).

As Wilford babbled away with a Cajun accent and I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, Jean-Claude Van Damme strode heroically into frame with an impressively sculpted mullet affixed to his noggin.

In the lower right-hand corner of the screen I noted the logo for Spike TV and everything I was witnessing made as much sense as it possibly could.

I looked at Paloma.

“It’s really bad,” she informed me, not elaborating but not needing to do so. I was watching Wilford Brimley fussing over some moonshine.

(personally, when I’m in the mood for a bad action flick from the ’80s/’90s, the hunt begins and ends with Steven Segal)

So, I’m struggling to awake, pondering Wilford Brimley and – and I am likely not alone here – my thoughts turned to Quaker Oats. I mean, anyone from the States that watched any television during the past twenty years recalls his stint as their pitchman and his almost threatening declaration that the consumption of those oats was “the right thing to do and a tasty way to do it.”

And, I can’t think of Wilford without thinking of Phil Kaufman.

Those of you neck-deep in music lore might recognize the name of Kaufman, who, as a road manager, worked with everyone from the Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa to Emmylou Harris and Marianne Faithfull. Kaufman was also involved in the theft of Gram Parsons’ body and, fulfilling Parsons’ wishes, his cremation in the Joshua Tree desert.

Paloma’s mother has long been a friend of Kaufman’s and I had met him years ago (in the presence of Marianne Faithfull, no less). For whatever reason, right or wrong, to me, he bore some resemblence to Brimley. I think it was a moustache thing.

I’m feeling better, though. I have had some coffee. Now, all I need to do is cleanse the mental palatte, completely evicting Wilford and his oats of malice from my headspace.

So, to help do so, here is a quintet of songs from Marianne Faithfull…

Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
from Broken English

I knew little about Marianne Faithfull when the bookstore next to a record store where I worked scheduled her for an appearance. So, I grabbed a copy of Faithfull: A Collection of Her Best Recordings to have signed.

She was a tiny woman, petite and rather elegant. And she was smoking a cigarette.

As she signed the CD cover, she commented that she probably should quit smoking. Then, she took a drag and remarked that her grandmother smoked two packs a day and lived to be in her 80s.

Marianne Faithfull – Working Class Hero
from Broken English

When I finally sat down with Faithfull: A Collection of Her Best Recordings I instantly became a fan and one of the songs that converted me was her take on John Lennon’s Working Class Hero.

I knew the song, but her menacing version was far more powerful to me than the original. So much so that I convinced a band with whom I was working to open their shows with the song using Marianne’s cover as the template (it worked flawlessly).

The band found only limited success, but I spent the next few years accumulating most of her catalog.

Marianne Faithfull – Times Square
from Faithfull: A Collection of Her Best Recordings

Given the mostly uneven nature of Marianne’s albums, the compilation I grabbed to have her autograph was a wonderful introduction to her catalog. Times Square, like her strongest material, is a song that she completely inhabits.

Marianne Faithfull – Sliding Through Life On Charm
from Kissin’ Time

Marianne has often collaborated with other artists and I was interested to hear Kissin’ Time as she worked with an impressive array of modern rock acts like Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, Blur’s Damon Albarn, and Beck. For the most part, the album was less than the sum of its parts.

However, Sliding Through Life On Charm, her collaboration with Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, was a keeper, a driving four minutes or so of chainsaw disco laced with autobiographical references and piss and vinegar.