333sound

Poetry about Music

Of the many many hundreds of proposals we’ve received since 2003 for books in the 33 1/3 series, if I remember correctly only one has offered to tackle its subject in the format of epic verse. And annoyingly I can’t remember what the album in question was – but it certainly wasn’t Men at Work’s 1981 opus, Business as Usual.

There’s a poem in the current issue of the New Yorker by Julie Bruck. Here it is, reproduced without permission. (If anyone wants me to remove it, just let me know.)

MEN AT WORK

I said, “Do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.
—“Down Under.”

We middle-aged sense them immediately:

four brittle pop stars sprawled across

the rigid fibreglass chairs at the airport gate.

It’s not just that they’re Australian, that gorgeous

thunk of English, the stacked electric-guitar cases

draped with black leather jackets, or their deep

tans on this Sunday night in midwinter Toronto

that holds everyone’s attention, drawn as we are,

pale filings to their pull. Even their rail-thin

lassitude attracts us, as it must Doug, the portly

Air Canada gate manager in his personalized jacket,

who arrives to greet the band, cranking hands

and cracking jokes. Doug, who must live in

Mississauga with the wife and a couple of kids,

and who insists the boys come back to play Toronto

next year, when we clutchers of boarding passes

will have abandoned our carry-ons for tickets

to a midsized arena and a resurrected band

whose lyrics never did make sense but

which are laced to a beat that won’t let go—

propelling us down the carpeted ramps

of late-night flights on feeder airlines, hips

back in charge of our strange young bodies,

now shaking down runways in rows.

Is that poem any good? I have absolutely no idea. And could somebody write a poem about Men Without Hats, too?

5 comments

  1. Bob

    It's a nice piece of Very Short Prose hopped into poem-esque lines.Interestingly, a classmate handed in the lyrics of Down Under as his own poem for Eng Lit homework.

  2. The poem about Sting was better:ON THE INEVITABLE DECLINE INTO MEDIOCRITY OF THE POPULAR MUSICIAN WHO ATTAINS A COMFORTABLE MIDDLE AGEO Sting, where is thy death?-David Musgrave

  3. MEN WITHOUT HATS AND THE DIGITAL UNDERGROUNDby Dave TiltonSo The Safety Dance and The Humpty DanceWere backstage at an MTV revival showWhile snares and whiny synths and reverbSonically grappled like wrestlers for the shortAttention span of an audience that moved,Like basking sharks, like bloated ancient Romans, Gorging themselves en route To the “click to delete” inevitability of pop.The Safety Dance asked, “Is it true you onceGot busy in a Burger King bathroom?”“I’m crazy,” was the reply, “and how can you be ‘S-A-F-E-T-Y’ without hats?”“We can dance, we can dance, everybody look at your hands.”“And when the dude a chump pump points a finger like a stump – ”“Francois!”“Oh yeah, that’s the break, y’all.”Dave Tilton is a San Francisco Bay Area musician and writer. His latest CD, Basement Tapestry, is scheduled for release on Newhatrecords in early 2011.

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