Monday, May 16, 2011

Have a Good Time

Looking back over the last three songs, we find somewhat of a trilogy. In "Gone at Last," we find a sad person whose spirit was lifted when his "burden" was "shared" by another. In "Some Folks' Lives," we have a sad person who seeks solace from God.

In this song, the speaker is not sad, but by his own admission, he "should be depressed." Was his burden shared? Did he find religion? Nope.

He's just decided to have a good time.

There is a line in the movie (I know, again with the movie quotes) Spinal Tap that informs. Viv, the keyboardist, is asked by the interviewer, "What is your philosophy of life?" Viv responds, inserting a dramatic pause, "Have a good time... all the time." Rather than be seen as a call to hedonism (which it probably was), it could also be taken in reverse: "All the time, regardless of what is happening, try to enjoy the situation and find the fun in it."

We begin with an idea one seldom hears in a song. Rather than a song about a birthday, it's a song about a day after a birthday. Whether the ongoing sex our speaker has been "exhausted" by was in celebration of the occasion or has been going on for some time now is immaterial. The point is, he has neglected his health and his need for sleep in pursuit of immediate gratification. His body is begging him to take a break... "But a voice in [his] head says, "Oh, what the Hell-- have a good time."

In the previous number, the speaker began by speaking in general terms ("some folks") and moved to the personal ("Here I am") and back. In this song, the speaker starts with personal information and now moves to commentary on the State of the World.

He derides Midwestern puritanism as mindless, phobic "paranoia," and shrugs that the press is less interested in informing him than seducing him for his "dime." He is neither, he concludes, "worrying" about the news or his soul, nor "scurrying" along with the rat race up the corporate ladder (that is not a mixed metaphor-- rats can race up ladders if they want to, so there).

He does ponder that he might be imprudent in his unwillingness to care for himself, plan for the future, or consider his fellow man. His conclusion again is a shrug: "What can be done?" Nothing he is willing to do, certainly.

God is interjected here, but not in a prayerful way as in "Some Folks." Here, God is just another commodity, another convenience. The same way a carpet cleaner might be called to deal with a stain on the rug, God Himself is told to bless our things --"the goods we was given"-- and to bless "our standard of livin'." In between is the usual "God bless America" we hear at the end of presidential speeches.

Usually, it is Randy Newman giving us cynical songs about careless Americans whose attitude is that the world is a paper cup-- there for their convenience and disposal-- with songs like "It's Money That Matters" and "My Life is Good." Here, it is Simon taking the voice of a heedless, feckless boor.

Who is, nevertheless, having a good time. Until he truly runs that body down.

Musical note:
The sax solo is by jazz bebop virtuoso Phil Woods, who has recorded with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Thelonius Monk. But you most likely know his solo from Billy Joel's song "Just the Way You Are."

Valerie Simpson, of Ashford and Simpson fame, does the backup vocals on this track, too.

Next Song: You're Kind

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