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Tuesday , December 14, 2010
Walking Down The Street with Laura Jane: Muswell Hillbillies by the Kinks
As I make an obsessively huge deal out of nogoodforme.com constantly, there is nothing in this world I love more than walking down the street while listening to music on headphones. It imbues the dirge of the days with at least some added colour; at absolute worst, it's always satisfying to validate one's cruddiest and most self-destructive moments by soundtracking them to the maddest, saddest songs your fake best friends ever wrote. I structure every day of my life around getting in the maximum possible amount of "walking around listening to headphones" hours.
I will gladly wake up two hours earlier than necessary to guarantee myself bonus headphones-time; I usually get off the subway a couple stops before where I'm going, since listening to headphones while sitting stationary on public transit sells the whole experience short. You need to be able to walk, or swagger, or strut, skip, whatever, in time to the beat. Or, more excitingly, in homage to the sentiment.
This inaugural installment of Walking Down the Street with Laura Jane will examine how the Kinks' 1972 masterpiece, Muswell Hillbillies, can help all of us feel sexier, cry openly on the street, wake up in the morning, smoke five drags of a cigarette, open up a fake eating disorders clinic, and/or all, and/or none, of the above.
ALSO: If there is any particular album you think sounds particularly awesome-est on a Headphones Walk, and think I maybe haven't listened to on headphones yet, but perhaps would totally dig, and also might do a good job of writing about, on headphones, in the future- please let me know. These horizons of mine, yes, they should be broadened.
1. "20th Century Man"
It is the new morning of a brilliant Thursday. You have so many awesome things on the agenda for today! It is earlier than your usual wake-up time, but you went to bed early last night and so are perfectly well-rested. Besides, it is always so nice to be out and about before your normal self would be. You're "on top of your game," and maybe the way the yellow-grey air feels at 6 or 7 AM reminds you of day camp, daycare, traveling, or one of the times you stayed up the whole night through.
It's time to leave the house! You are brimmin' just brimmin' with half-manic anticipation, and the coffee you're about to grab isn't going to help, but, like: awesome. Don't forget to lock your front door! Sometimes we forget these things. You are a girl, and wearing a gossamery, mother-of-pearl hued sundress that hits at mid-calf. As you stick your key into the lock and turn it, press play on "20th Century Man." Do your best to time it so that it takes you approximately thirty seconds to elegantly, frolickally canter down the stairs of your apartment building, or house.
If all goes according to plan, you will blast open your front door at precisely 0:35 seconds into "20th Century Man." It will feel like, Whooooshhh! The sunny summer air smiles at you. Nobody saw it, but it all looked like an alternate take of the opening credits to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Here you are! Life is fresh.
Your name is Laura Jane Faulds, and "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues" is your second-least favourite song on Muswell Hillbillies by the Kinks. The way Ray Davies pronounces "schizophrenia" annoys you. You have nothing to say about listening to "ASPB" on headphones, except "It's kind of okay." You are walking down the curve of Spadina where Avenue turns to Road, past the rich kid houses, trying to think of a funny joke. You realize that, as you walk, you are tearing leaves off of trees with surprising vehemence, ripping them up into little pieces, and throwing them at nothing.
"I think that's the best you've got to offer on this one, Laura Jane," you decide.
"Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues" by the Kinks functions optimally while its listener tears leaves off trees and rips them up. Q.E.D.
You are still named Laura Jane Faulds. It is Monday, August 10th, 2009. You are on holiday. You are listening to "Holiday," and, as of tomorrow, the word "holiday" will be etched into your skin for the rest of your life, which is fine by you. You are thinking hard about "holidays." If it had been a few months ago, you would have just reached the incorrect conclusion that All Life Can Be A Holiday, if you put your mind to it and maintain a positive attitude! Anything's possible.
It's true that anything's possible, but it's a lie that all life can be a holiday. If all life could be a holiday, what would a holiday be? Nothing. There would be no holidays! Fuck that! If there were no holidays, boring normal life would be even more boring than it usually is, which is near-inconceivable.
In two days, you will be home. It won't be the hottest day of the year, that day when we all are unified in how the first thought at the forefront of all of our minds', right up at our foreheads, is, boringly "Boy! Hot enough for ya?" But it is different for you, a bit, because you are a "The Hotter The Better!"-type person. Most people seem miserable, but you are on cloud nine, on a holiday, sweating cools you down. Your skin feels good.
In two days, you will return to boring, normal life. You will wake up in the morning and run out to Starbucks, where you will boredly, bashfully order your standard iced Americano. You will sit at your computer and the hours will erase themselves so fast as you type Kinks-words into the Movable Type Publishing Platform. You will work a terrible, terribly-boring job, but at least it will be one which allows you to zone out and write about the Beatles in your head. You will find new records to write about. You will cut negative people out of your life. You will eat. The summer will be over. It will turn cold, and you will curse the shittiness of the hand you got dealt, the "Canada hand." You will, inevitably, be affected by seasonal depression. You will ask yourself: "Why, weather? Why do you have to fuck with my ability to walk down the street listening to headphones the way I obviously should be?"
And then you'll realize: it's time for another holiday, Laura Jane. So, you'll go on one. And that's why we all do it. All of it.
"My name is Laura Jane Faulds," thinks you. The extreme pertinence of this song's lyrical content to your exact life experience is at once stirring and hilarious. You're fully over putting this song on because you are on your way to go eat and are irrationally freaking out about it, and Ray's positive re-appropriation of the loaded term "fat" is a source of comfort for you. Now, you just kinda jam out to it. It's a step below bombastic, which is your ideal state of emotional existence. You make a joke in your head about how your #4 goal in life should be to open up a Kinks-themed anorexia rehab clinic called "The Dying of an Eating Disorder Condemnation Affiliate." Or maybe "Laura Jane is... The Dying of an Eating Disorder Condemnation Affiliate."
"Alcohol" by the Kinks is the hottest shit in the world. Listen hard, and swagger like the saucy little bitch you undoubtedly are. It doesn't matter where you are or what you're doing, at precisely 1:56 in, right before "Rum/Scotch/Veudka...etc," it is your Earthly obligation to perform the exact shoulder-shimmy so thrillingly demonstrated by George Harrison three minutes and twenty-one seconds into the video for "Hello Goodbye":
6. "Complicated Life"
You behaved stupidly last night. You went out with a group of people who you don't like. Anytime you said anything to these idiots, they would subject you to crackerjack mimicry of "the way the characters talk on Sex and the City." This is an incredibly pervasive phenomenon that, in 2009, plagues approx. 80% of 15-50 year-old women. They say things like:
"You cannot have this man in your life without making it perfectly clear where you stand. You need to know how he feels about you. We just, like, really don't want to see you get hurt again, Honey."
You hated them. You felt "silenced," and dealt with it by getting belligerently fucking drunked. Oops! Here are some things you may have done:
-Made out with a frat boy in a bathroom stall to that MGMT song about fucking models
-Told him, "I feel really safe around you"
-Competed with strangers to see who could "handle" the most tequila shots
-Repeated the sentence "I could drink all y'all motherfuckers under the fucking table any fucking day of the fucking week, motherfuckers!" several times
-Poured a drink on a stranger's head because you thought he was somebody else
-Threw an apple at a car and the car alarm went off and it was really funny to you
It is the next morning, or maybe late afternoon. You wake up with a pain in your neck and a pain in your chest. The memory of your self-destructive evening washes over you; you smack yourself in the forehead, but then are over it, and shrug. Whatever! We all deserve that night sometimes. You think, "Cut out the struggle and strife, it only complicates your life." Then you go eat French toast or something. Later that night, you get wildly stoned and binge-watch episodes of Sex and the City on DVD. Perhaps you are named Laura Jane Faulds after all.
7. "Here Come The People In Grey"
You know what fucking sucks? Fucking bureaucracy. If there is one person who agrees with you on this matter, it is Ray Davies of the Kinks. So kindly, he has written you about fifteen thousand "Damn the Man!" anthems. He is tormented by his anti-authority issues, it seems, and this afternoon- so are you! Here are some examples of bureaucratic crappiness you may be dealing with:
-Something relating to Student Loans. You are standing in line at the "Bursar's Office." "Why must every administrative employee at my university be so goddamned incompetent?" wonders you. Someone in line in front of you is eating corn chips really loud.
-This morning, you received a telephone call from an unknown number! "Oh my God!" you thought- "Maybe it's that hot dude I met a bar seven months ago who wore blue Converse with red shoelaces and never called me!" But it wasn't. Instead, it was your cell phone company calling to let you know that you are now eligible to upgrade your long-distance package. "Um, can you call me back tomorrow?" you ask, semi-sad, wholly exasperated. Tomorrow, you will make a point of ignoring the phone call.
-"Why don't I know the PIN number on my credit card anymore? Why has this happened? What has gone wrong?" Am I a victim of identity theft? You have procrastinated dealing with re-setting your credit card PIN for weeks. Now you are at the bank, re-setting your credit card PIN. Wouldn't you rather be doing anything than this?
Get the motherfucking motherfuck out of that fucking bank ASAP, and put on "Here Come the People in Grey" by the Kinks. I'm sure you will find the similarities between the bank employees and the people in grey uncanny.
I don't really care what you do while you're walking down the street listening to "Have A Cuppa Tea" by the Kinks. I only care what you don't do.
Whatever you do, do not walk down the street listening to "Have A Cuppa Tea" by the Kinks while drinking a cup of/"cuppa" tea. That is so unnecessary, and will guarantee you nothing but an entirely non-special, anti-magical headphones experience. Listening to "HaCT" while drinking tea is the only thing lamer than forcing yourself to listen to "Rain" by the Beatles because it is raining out.
If you really need to boringly construct your life around matching your Kinks song to the literal circumstances of your afternoon stroll, you are more than welcome to put on "Sunny Afternoon." Miraculously, it is never lame to put on "Sunny Afternoon" on a sunny afternoon. It just makes you happy. You will get an insane craving for ice-cold beer, and drink a Corona at three in the afternoon, which will makes you sleepy, and then fuck off your entire afternoon. Then you'll feel guilty for fucking off your entire afternoon.
9. "Holloway Jail"
IF YOU ARE A GIRL*: This is a very important song for all women to listen to regularly. Songs about babes in prison are the best types of songs. As far as I'm concerned, every woman should aspire to commit sexy, dramatic crimes of passion. Today, you are her: a pre-Prisonette. Last night, you brutally murdered your abusive husband with a broken Tanqueray bottle while wearing red lipstick, leopard-print peep-toe pumps, a red dress, and eyeglasses. It was the greatest moment you have ever known. "A life in prison will be worth it," you think. At least, in prison, you can finally fucking relax.
But this is not true. It is a reverie. In real life, you are you. Hey, you! You're cool. You may not be a sexy murderess, but at least you're a cool 2009 girl with a vacant stride, fantasizing about murdering people, and listening to "Holloway Jail" by the Kinks on headphones. You aren't wearing high-heels, because they hurt your feet, but feel free to pretend you are. Pout boredly. If any single dude looks at you, cock your left eyebrow in his direction, and laugh a little. He doesn't stand a fighting chance.
*Girl= Officially the opposite of "Dude"
IF YOU ARE A DUDE: I don't know. Jerk off to it?
Things are not going very well for you. You are long overdue to have something really great happen, one of those moments that gets you back on track and reminds you that maybe you shouldn't commit suicide live on the Internet to "Vociferous Slam" by the Homosexuals when you get home. You work in retail. Earlier today, you were actively slacking off and imagining different ways of killing yourself, when your boss caught you slacking off. Said she, bitchily: "Something you can do, when the store is slow, is, like, re-fold jeans?"
You imagined yourself killing her, and then killing yourself. "We sell belts in this store!" you thought, excitedly. "That means I can hang myself in the bathroom on my lunch break!" But sadly, once lunchtime rolled around, you were too lazy to follow through. You are now regretting that decision.
Then you listen to "Oklahoma U.S.A" by the Kinks. It is so quietly, delicately sad. He understands that you are miserable, and you are- you can be- but now, you are able to see the dense, seeping beauty of melancholy. You sit down on a curb, smoke a cigarette, and cry a little.
It is the best moment of the worst day.
11. "Uncle Son"
N/A. This song sucks, and I only ever skip forward to "Muswell Hillbilly" when it comes on. If you don't hate this song, keep me posted on some things you can do to make it suck less, I guess.
12. "Muswell Hillbilly"
Whenever I have to do something that really scares me, I have this thing that I do, where I smoke five drags of a cigarette. It's called "This thing I do where I smoke five drags of a cigarette," or, if I'm in a cutesier mood, "The 5 Drag Action Plan."
It doesn't matter if I want a cigarette or not; I light one anyway. I look at it. Hopefully, it is a Marlboro Medium 100. Slowly, controlled-ly, I take four drawn-out and emotionally-preparatory drags. As I smoke slow, I think nice, pro-Laura Jane thoughts. I coo sweetly in my ear. I remind myself that it is OK to be scared, and that accepting your own fear is so much stronger than wishing it away. And why should I barely mind? It all will disappear so soon!
The Last Drag: is purposeful and hard. I grimace a little after taking it. I toss my cigarette, stomp on it if it didn't fall too far, and think, "You're unstoppable, Laura Jane!" The weight lifts. I am the "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" of human beings. Sew-oh-oh-oh. I walk towards the obstacle with no headphones but fabulous posture (of course!), do the scary thing, rock the shit out of it, realize it wasn't, love myself, brush imaginary lint off the front of my dress, flick down my sunnies, plug my headphones into my ears, listen to "Muswell Hillbilly" by the Kinks, and move on, or along.
"Muswell Hillbilly" is for the end of things, a song for as the credits roll. What I love most about it is how it is, ultimately, an ode to self-acceptance. In Ray Davies' opinion, it is dull and uncool to be from a nasty slum in North London named Muswell Hill. I know how he feels, and don't we all, unless we are named Stella McCartney or Sean Lennon? I am from 1550 Grosvenor Street, Unit #5, Oakville, Ontario, Canada- but, my heart lies, maybe, in old Muswell Hill. I haven't been there, but I've seen it in my dreams.
Take me back, to that "local" of his, the one with "Cats on Holiday" written on the front of the door, that one, it, that I ain't never seen.
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