Tuesday, July 19, 2011

15 Minutes: The Girl Wearing Yellow Down Front

"Letter From a Fan". The one song (almost) no one is talking about. 

The one song about the one aspect of fame that we in the peanut gallery have something to say about because... it's us. 

There are all kinds of ways a fan can react to this song.  So far I've seen classic denial ("That's not me") relief ("Thank God that's not me"), and judgement ("I know people like that")

I think the reason we're not talking about it is because it puts us on the defensive.  Enoch and Barry are acting out what they see when they look at us.  The defensiveness comes in when (a) we don't like what we see in that portrayal, or (b) we know that what they seem to see is not what we intend, and we had no idea that's how we're coming across, or (c) we know in the bottom of our gut that the portrayal doesn't apply to us personally.

Everyone who heard "Letter From A Fan" first describes it as "creepy".  It's not the words that make it creepy, it's Nataly Dawn's performance.  First thing I thought of was the lullaby-like theme from Poltergeist.  Hence why I wanted to sleep with the lights on - and the closet door open. 
This song raised more questions than answers for me.
"Is this really what they (they = Barry, TPTB, any successful musician on a stage) see in their fan base?"
"Is this what they see/hear when they read a fan letter?"
"Do they think we're all obsessed?" 
"Can they tell the difference between someone who is innocently venting, versus someone dealing with issues, versus, a serious, true threat?"
"Do we really sound like this, or is it a result of the pressure described in 'So Heavy, So High'?"

Let's take a look, phrase by phrase.

remember I sent you a picture
I know all the names in your band
I was the girl wearing yellow down front
I was the first one to stand

OK - is there a problem here?  None that I can see, but I'm not the dude on stage.  She's describing what stood out to her at the show, what she thinks will stand out to him.  Lots of naivete - maybe.  Sometimes dude on stage notices these things, so I've heard from a few of them. 

it's silly to think you'd remember
it's silly pretending you'd care

but I want you to know I was there last night
I was there.....

Again, where's the problem?  So far we've just got stream-of-consciousness naive fan going on.  Even she can see she's being naive.  But something in the music and performance created a similar creative response and the need to express it. 

sometimes I think we're connected

Yeah, this is naivete too.  But if you break it down, music *does* form a type of connection by inspiring an emotional response.  So technically, it's accurate.  But I doubt if our Chickieboo is looking at it that way.

I dreamed we were talking last night

Again, people dream of weird shit all the time.  Pete dreamed of talking to Richard Attenborough's character from Jurassic Park once.  That's how the brain works.

day to day stress just undoes me sometimes
but listening to you makes it right

Show me ONE fan who hasn't used their favorite music/musician as a stress relief.

I'm positive someday you'll see me
and love me just like it was planned
I feel all the sorrow you're trying to hide
you'll realize I understand
oh how I understand

Yeah, naivete again.  I can think of some artists who chafe at this.  Or blow it off.  Again, we see that the music has created an emotional response, which means it was successful.  But what does it mean for the artist?  You can't tell if it's a kid being naive, or if it's someone who's going to steal rocks from your driveway.  Or just write real-person fiction of the pornographic persuasion on your fan network.  Maybe if you ignore it, it will go away?

So far, we're not hearing anything totally bizarre, word-wise.  But something about the presentation, the tone, the inflection, you can't put your finger on it but the girl is just.....    off. 

Fascinating how the songs are almost mashed up.  The fan POV is juxtaposed with the star's in "So Heavy, So High".  He's in hell, just doesn't want to admint it yet. 

another room
where the lights are too bright

I seem to remember stories about someone having tin foil in the hotel windows to make it dark enough to sleep during a hectic schedule.  Very effective for keeping the room dark.  Also effective for telling God and everyone what hotel and room you're in!!!

there's too many touching me
keep 'em away

Our boy is having a rough day.  Even something innocent from a fan feels like a cheese grater.  But the fan doesn't realize this, so they don't know to not take it personally if the star doesn't want to deal.  Hence the final verse coming up.

just turn off the pager
I tell ya the well has run dry
too tired to sleep
too wired to try

And this is why I said in an earlier post that the employees aren't the slaves, the star is.  He's "property".  The "asset".  The "talent".  His protests are so much hot air to the real owners looking to make money from our Girl Wearing Yellow. 

I've wondered from time to time, why would ANYONE want to work in this field as an artist?  It's indentured servitude on a good day.  For example the thousands of people auditioning for American Idol may as well wear "For Sale" signs and price tags. And if they think for a minute that Coke, and AT&T and Ford, as well as 19 Entertainment aren't going to claim a stake in their ass, they've got another surprise waiting. 

The rest of  "So Heavy, So High" expresses the same idea over and over in different words until the last verse of it:

hey I feel the moon breathin'
I hear electricity
I know the size of the sky

He's not feeling great here.   I see someone suffering from galaxy-class sensory overload.  He'd avoid this like the plague if his bargain allowed for it.  He never banked on this being a success side-effect.

And our little Yellow fan doesn't know what to make of our star's behaviour

you never waved back at the airport
I covered your poster in mud
I cut out the eyes on the photo you signed
I wrote you a poem in blood....

Before anyone says, "OH, that's totally crazy, No one I know would do that", I would redirect you to a BMIFC convention in the early 1980s.  I believe it was 1984  in Washington DC.  (Someone please post a correction in the comments if I have that wrong.)
Barry was supposed to appear in person, but didn't.  (I understand he was a day late.)  The best word I can use to reflect the first-hand descriptions I heard was "postal".  Posters defaced, fans packing and leaving early, cursing every step of the way.  A series of angry confrontations with one Mr. Garry C Kief who probably wanted to be anywhere on the planet except that location. 

Were all of these people certifiably insane?  Or were they just venting?  I'll bet my next paycheck that answer is in the eyes of the beholder. 

There are so many different fans out there - some I've met, some I've been, some I've only heard about - that it is hard for the song to make sense.    Everyone knows someone who has expressed the same emotions here at different times or places, but not all at once.

Here's how to make it make sense:  everything for our star is running together.  He can't differentiate many things from each other.  Why should the fans be different?  It's just more continuous noise.  So imagine, if you will, that each line or phrase, or repetition (I was there...  I was there...  I was there) is not one fan, but a different one.  All of these different people, personified by someone whose reality is blurring, as one not-quite-on-the-rails person. 

This way in spite of the differences in style and POV, it comes together as one song, one perspective.

OK, back to #Manilow chat on #Twitter!

1 comment:

  1. As always, incredibly insightful. The more I listen to this song, the more I can see how the lines between the two are incredibly meshed together, each seeing things from a perspective that the other can't grasp.

    As you said, there's so much to talk about with this album.