What can I tell you, life intervenes. We wore out the kids so I'd have time to work. So the deadlines are met and the fires are put out, the bills are collected and I can get back to what's important.
So here's where I left off....
Letter From a Fan/So Heavy, So High is one of the songs that's going to get its own post in due time. The character is in WAY over his head, he can't handle the push and pull of his new life anymore and he has fewer and fewer outlets to vent and people to lean on.
Genius recording strategy on this one. All echo - like he's talking up an empty well. He's completely separated from reality, especially himself. He wanted to spend all his time, energy and attention on himself, and now that's all he's got left. Except for the "enemies and slaves". Got a little problem there, pal - they're not the slaves. You are. The ones you think are "slaves" are really your caretakers and owners. And no, they won't leave you alone until you've worn out your usefulness to them.
Who Needs You
Ten feet tall and bullet-proof! And more straight-ahead pop but more of a rockabilly slant a la The Fabulous Thunderbirds, or even Jerry Lee Lewis. Methinks Barry took notes when he was working with Reba McIntire a couple of years back. The character seems to be in between completely believing his own publicity (I know where I'm headed / I know what they like) and salvaging the last vestiges of his self-esteem (In tight with me - right / you come when I call). My children have tantrums like this. Especially the two-year-old who has the most legendary temper. Sure I come when she calls - she can't change her diaper by herself. She may want what she wants but I put her toy on the top shelf and close the gate to the stairs so she doesn't tumble on them. But she's in charge, by God, in her own mind. Like at bedtime tonight, she threw a fit because she didn't think she was tired. Five minutes in her crib she's unconscious. Yeah, she really knows what she wants. Same thing.
He's so wound up he can't even believe in the sincerity of a friend (concerned as a friend / yeah I know what you mean / I'm nobody's friend / I'm your money machine) so if he wants to lean on someone for support, he can't.
Best line in the song: I'm everywhere 'cause I'm God!
Oh yeah, he's gone.
Next best line in the song: I can stop when I want to
Who's he trying to convince?
Winner Go Down
Another single-post-worthy song. Anderson packed a lot into these lyrics - there's a lot to think and write and talk about and he's getting these ideas across in only a few words.
How much of the thoughts in this song are "in the moment, as they happen" and how much are retrospective, after the fact?
"They love to see a winner go down"
Who exactly, is "they"? The network news media? The audience? The fans? The non-fans who don't like his music? The girl in yellow down front? The record company execs? iTunes? Amazon? Half-assed self-important critics from Rolling Stone? Someone else?
I'm going with the news media since (simulated? real?) news clips are layered over the fadeout. But the single post would come with exploring the other "theys".
The visual I have with this song is someone bitterly watching Entertainment Tonight or something like it with a story about himself. The editors focused on something outrageous, got most of the facts wrong, exaggerated what little they got right, and used the result to boost their ratings. At the character's expense. And there's nothing he or anyone can do if they want. Unless the story is completely fabricated and he can prove it in court (like Carol Burnett in 1981) it can't be fought. The news media will wrap themselves in the First Amendment all the way to the bank. If he didn't realize before that he was a piece of meat, it's impossible to avoid now.
Slept Through the End of the World
Strong contender for the most profound song on the record. All of the character's defense mechanisms, tantrums, rationalizing, avoidance, and sheer denial are useless. He has no choice but to look himself in the mirror and see what he has become. It's the key turning point of the story: he can either go to further lengths to avoid the truth (which is where people drink or drug themselves to death), he can literally lose his mind and go insane. Or he can choose to build himself up. You can't really tell at this point what his choice will be. He's wallowing in the stench of reality. Focusing on himself not only did not improve his life, it ruined it. (I'm tellin the shadows and echoes / shoulda told you / but I was wrapped up in me) You can't help but feel how exhausted he is - like he barely has the strength to strum the guitar.
Acceptance. His mind has made the choice. He's going to acknowledge the mistakes he's made and put himself together because no one is going to do it for him. From a mental health standpoint, the healthiest thing he can do, but also the hardest. Now he's looking back at the mistakes he made and seeing them as mistakes (Maybe I played too hard / maybe I ran too fast) For once, his pride is going to be his strength rather than his undoing, if he stays in control of his life in the future (something to prove now / they say you're through).
15 Minutes (Reprise)
The work ethic is back. The sleeves get rolled up again and he gets back to work. But is he really going to plan his life better? Or is he suffering from the "smartest guy in the room" phase again? What is he going to do differently this time around? What choices are different? Do those changes make that much of a difference in the long run? Has he really changed his attitude about pursuing fame with lines like "been there once / I know the road to glory / watch me fly!" Hmmmmm......
Everything's Gonna Be All Right
It looks like success is back but life is better this time around. Besides, ever since "Copacabana", you just have to have a dance number, no matter how serious the record is. (Just like "They Dance" on Mayflower.) I'd still like to know what it takes to go headlong into fame - 2nd, 3rd, whatever time around - and avoid the pitfalls.
Congrats Barry ( and Enoch and everybody else who made this record) There's so much here, and yet so many open doors we're going to be talking about this for years. And congrats all around (again) for the Top Ten debut. No one else deserves it more.