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January 22, 1971 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1971-01-22

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Friday, January 22,

1971

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Friday, January 22,

records
Wainwright unmasked as alive and well

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I

By RICHARD LEHFELDT
Loudon Wainwright III (At-
lantic SD 8260).
I often wonder just how much
we really know about M i c k
Jagger. One would imagine that
a man so much in the limelight
would have become, after so
many years of exposure, at
least vaguely familiar. But he is
not. Mick Jagger, every b o y
and girl's perfect wet dream, re-
mains strangely detached, un-
known and untouchable. Greil
Marcus, in a most perceptive re-
view of Let It Bleed in Rolling
Stone Magazine, notes that "the
Stones prance through all their
familiar roles, with their Roll-
ing Stones masks on, full of
lurking evil, garish sexuality,
and the hilarious and exciting
posturing of rock and roll Don
Juans." All we are left with
when listening to most popular
music is a mask, or a series of
masks. There is little supply of
or demand for honesty. Perhaps
a speculation on why there is
this lack of honesty is irrelevant,
but it is my own belief that it
evolves out of a need for other
people to live out our fantasies
for us. If one looks (simplisti-
cally) at the Fifties in America
as an era of repressed sexuality,
the Stones' libertine image (and
its enthusiastic reception) be-
come more understandable. Not
that we are necessarily any less
repressed sexually now than we'
were then, but there was none-
theles a tremendous sense of re-
lease in seeing our heroes, the
rock and roll stars, purported-
ly living the "life-style" we so
much desired to emulate.- But
the dream cannot help but pall.
The desire to emulate the rock
stars' fantasy existence led to
an understanding of its impos-
sibility, and finally to a pro-
found disgust with all that that
existence implied. The super-
stars have virtually refined
themselves out of any real
existence, have sacrificed their
humanity in favor of a role
which is gratifying to their egos
(which means gratifying to a
mass audience).
The first song on Let It Bleed,
"Gimmie Shelter," paints a har-
rowing picture of contemporary
existence. It is a song w h i c h
communicates beautifully, mu-
sically and lyrically, the f u I I
gamut of paranoia and t e r r o r
which the future holds. It Is a
song of despair, the only solu-
tion offered being escape (shelt-
er). As such, it is an extreme-
ly effective song; as usual, the
Stones maintain that edge of-
detachment which makes them
observers of rather than partici-
pants in the feeling they are de-
scribing. "Gimmie Shelter" is a
personal vision only up to a
certain point; beyond that, it is
nothing but another meticulous-
ly structured mask. It is pro-
bably no more autobiographical

than "Jumping Jack Flash".
And, even more significantly,
the vision in the song is com-
pletely descriptive rather than
prescriptive; it is a manual for
survival to the extent that
"Street Fighting Man," that
barbed cynical statement, is a
manual for revolution. T h e
Stones are not our seers, and
one could hardly expect them to
give us "solutions" to the prob-
lems they so perceptively depict.
These solutions most probably
do not even exist, but each hu-
man being who has experienced
the sort of feeling described in
"Gimmie Shelter" deals with it
in one way or another, and Jag-
. ger never condescends to tell us
how he is dealing with it (if in-
deed he is really experiencing it
at all). The Rolling Stones are
first and foremost rock and roll
musicians. rock and roll stars,
and this includes. as one of the
primary rules of the game, a
certain detachment, suoerious-
ness and lack of humanity.
I am here to rave to you un-
equivocally about a record by a
man alive in the Rolling Stones'
bleak landscape of terror, a man
struggling in his existence with
the problems which the Stones
dispassionately observe. No
"answers" are offered, but there
are no con-outs here, no self-
pitying cries for shelter. There
is no detachment, no slickness,
no snap judgments: only an
honest (and very talented) hu-
man beno sharins his exper-
iences with us. The man is
Loudon Wainwright III, a n d
rather than scurry around for a
trite batch of gushing expletives,
I will try to settle down and glve
you some calm. analytical im-
pressions of this record.
The record onens with a slow
song called "School Days," a
moving collage of childhood and
adolescent memories: "In Dela-
ware when I was younger /
I lived a life obscene / In the
shrine I had great hunger / I
was Brando. I was Dean." The
memories continue, going on to
Keats, Blake, and finally Bud-

dah and Christ. The tone is
gentle and nostalgic, not at all
judgemental or cynical. Wain-
wright's voice is high and gent-
le, beautifully matched with his
simple, non-acrobatic guitar
style.
"Hospital Lady," the second
song, is a slow, sentimental de-
scription of the memories of an
old, dying lady: "Clouds on the
eyes / Hide Al Jolson blue skies
... Old lady blues / Wears old
lady shoes / Her new lover is old
daddy death." The woman's pre-
sent existence is juxtaposed with
the vibrancy of her memories:
"There was a time not so long
ago / She was dancing with her
favority beau / Who died in
1953." Again, Wainwright's
stance is not judgmental or
pitying; he is at all points sen-
sitive and pentrating, refusing
to intrude on the situation he is
describing.
In "Ode To A Pittsburgh," that
city becomes a living person, com-
plete with a biography, a face
and a soul. Wainwright's feel-
ings for the place are mixed,
and he succeeds well in com-
municating his ambivalence.
Pittsburgh's squalor is not un-
veiled by way of a politico-ecol-
ogical statement; it is mere-
ly another facet of the city's
strange face and of Wain-
wright's own mixed emotions.
"Glad to See You've Got Re-
ligion" could have been writ-
ten for George Harrison, whose
personalized brand of religion
(complete with lavish orches-
tral arrangements) is at present
number one on the Cashbox Top
One Hundred Albums. It is a
song written to a friend who
has found peace in religion:
"Glad to see you've got relig-
ion / I'm glad to see you've
gone to God . . ." The friend's
solution is one which W a i n-
w r i g h t rejects for him-
self ("Me I'm still in trou-
ble / Sorry sicq and sad / Me
I'm still in trouble / But it's all
right 'cause I'm / Glad . ."),
but he does not pontificate,
genuinely does not believe that
his friend is deluded or "wrong."

"Uptown" is a song about
New York City, where W a i n -
wright apparently lives, but it
is just as much about any big
city. The first lines of the song,
"Downtown is where it's at / I
don't doubt that / but today I
can do without," should serve to
demolish Petula Clark's idyllic
fantasies about the joys of the
big city. Wainwright captures
exactly the feelings of desper-
ation which New York curries,
The song is a terrifying sort of
travelogue, with most of the
"sights" of the city being touch-
ed upon. Nothing capsules the
vast terror of the song t h a n
Wainwright's anguished voice
crying "Watch me baby hail a
taxicab."
The second side opens with a
clever little song called "Black
Uncle Remus," which adds a
dash of cynical realism to the
folk tale. It is as close to a
"protest song" as Wainwright
ever somes, and it works beau-
tifully.
The second song, "Four is a
Magic Number," follows directly
(in my mind) from "Glad to
See You've Got Religion," por-
traying Wainwright's frustra-
tion at being without answers
or universal solutions: "Every
time I sit you down / To tell
you what is true / For safety's
sake remember please / I would
shut up: if I knew." For him,
these answers just do not exist,
and he begs forgiveness for his
human fallibility. This is one
of the most successful songs of
the album.
In "I Don't Care," Wainwright
says goodbye to a girl he no
longer loves - or so he would
have her believe: "I think you
will be happy to know / I don't
love you no more / At least not
in the same old way . . ." At
every point, the pain in his
voice betrays the lie that he is
trying to force himself into be-
lieving. He is petulant, defen-
sive: "I really couldn't care less
/ And I may as we'll confess /
That little tune I wrote about
you last winter / It was a lousy
song," finally admitting-beg-
ging: "You can go / Or you can
stay."
r "Central Square Song" is a
slow, haunting tune about
"Mary McGuire and Big Frank
Clark," who "got drunk again
last night." Mary and Frank are
lovers, and the ballad is a sim-
ple description of the two of
them crossing Central Square
late at night, where Wainwright
sees them while waiting for a
bus. "She giggled and she gave
him her hand / The two of them
l--

staggered off into the night /
Like the king and the queen of
the land." The song, despite its
funeral tempo, is extremely hap-
py; the contrast between music
and lyrics creates a very ef-
fective tension in the work.
"Movies are a Mother To Me"
is a simple and charming ode to
the movies as a depression-
soother: "Sometimes I am my
own enemy / Sometimes my
own enemy is me / Then my
enemy and me / Go see a good
movie / We come out friends
again."
In "Bruno's Place," the final
song of the record, a chaotic
commune,acomplete with "yoga
girls," health foods and other
oddities, is described in a caus-
tic. tongue-in-cheek style:
"Bruno has a lovely place / It's
down on 7th Street / Bruno
has a lovely place / I go there
and I eat / But I don't eat meat
/ It's bad for my feet." Wain-
wright apparently really likes
these people, although he feels
vaguely disoriented and alien-
ated from them. The song has
a tender hilarity about it, and
it finishes the album on a happy
note.
This record shines brilliantly
amidst the stagnant sort of
stuff which comprises 99 per
cent of what I listen to daily on
the radio and on my own re-
cord player. "Several stars /
Played guitars / And were back-
ed with feeling / By a chop-
stick-wielding / Rhythm sec-
tion," Wainwright sings in
"Bruno's Place." How much of
the "music" that you hear
every day does this describe?
Yes, we are living in "times
of trouble," and our first in-
clinations are to struggle to
find shelter, escape in the
warmth of a dream which will
ultimately offer us no solace.
But "life goes on (bra)." Lou-
don Wainwright is alive, un-
mistakeably and joyfully alive,
and the challenge to live which
he throws out at every instant
of this record bespeaks an opti-
mism beyond the easy and tri-
sient "answers" you will find
in most all other musical ex-
pression.
The Michigan Daily, edited and man-
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Michigan. News phone: 764-0552. Second
Class postage paid at Ann Arbor, Mich-
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I

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Auditions set for musical
staged to fit talent

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A musical - completely orig-
inal; book, lyrics, and music -
all created and directed by stu-
dents will be one of the high-
lights of the 1971 Creative Arts
Festival, sponsored by UAC.
Marilyn Miller's Lance and
Drain draws together a great
amalgam of Michigan talent
with Mel Foster, a graduate stu-
dent in speech, directing, Dale
Gonyea; star of Musket's George
M! as musical director and
Wendy Shankin, a choreograph-
er from past University shows.

Auditions for the musical are
Saturday, Jan. 23 at noon in the
League Ballroom. If you plan
to try out, 'come prepared to
learn a dance routine, at least.
Producer Geoff Holczer (Mus-
ket, 1970) says "No one should
be afraid of his plethora or lack
of talent for this show. Certain-
ly it will take a high level of tal-
ent to attain a leading role, but
the other characters are struc-
tured to be altered to specific
talents."
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"GREAT
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Picture of the Year
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"Actress on
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