I was saddened today to see that the great sci-fi writer Frederik Pohl had passed away, aged 93; if you can be sad at someone passing at that age. I come from a geeky sci-fi stock and know my Zelzaneys, from my Simaks, from my Pohl’s and there are literally boxes and boxes of sci-fi paperbacks in my parents’ house – some good, some pants, some great. As a kid I read them all totally indiscriminately and one that I really loved was Pohl’s Gateway series^. Like his best of his contemporaries the fact that his vision of future tech looks decidedly clunky by our current standards is irrelevant, because Pohl essentially wrote about the human condition and the likely effects of stellar expansion on both it and society. Oh, and his stories were exciting.
So far, so sad, but what’s all this got to do with Ween You Were The Fool shaped picture disc? I hear you ask. Nothing other than the fact that I went to the shelves looking for something a bit melancholy tonight and I hit on this one, partly because I love SPDs and because I remembered it as being a very straight, sad country track. I never really got on so well with the LP this was taken from 12 Golden Country Greats*, which I do own, but this single was a class act. When I bought it in July 1997 the fact that the B-side was called ‘Piss up a Rope’ sold it to me instantly; I knew I had to own it, can’t resist a good swear – no-one of decent character can.
The A-side, is as I remembered it a straight, sweetly sung country track. Notes of discord are provided by a couple of menacing guitar sounds near the end and a little more reference to ‘plugging holes’ than is strictly necessary. As with all Ween when they play it striaght I’m always a bit tense just waiting for the punchline that doesn’t come. I love the way that the Ween boys went to Nashville to record this and used a whole heap of genuine Nashville veterans too such as Charlie McCoy, the Jordanaires and the late Bobby Harman – I mean, Christ! they all played with Elvis and Cash! Bob Dylan so stole the whole idea for Blonde on Blonde from Ween, probably out of jealousy that he’ll never write anything that speaks to, or will define a generation as clearly and perfectly as ‘Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain’.
‘Piss Up a Rope’ is another matter entirely, here Ween abandon all taste and decorum and just go straight for the outrageous-lyrics-sung-in-an-unlikely-genre jugular. On a strictly non-peer-verified basis I counted 11 pisses, 2 fuckin’s, 3 turds, 4 asses, 2 balls and 3 big booty bitches. The comedy comes from the fact that you know that these offensive redneck lyrics are being delivered in character by Ween and there are yuks in that, BUT as with quite a lot of other supposedly funny bits and bobs, you spend too much time acting all redneck and offensively macho, then after a while you may just as well be all redneck and offensively macho. So whilst I can raise a wry, knowing smile at,
My dinner’s on fire
While she watches TV
And if you’ve ever wondered
What it’s like to be me
She takes all my money
And leaves me no smokes
Yells at my buddies
And insults my folks
I’m breakin’ my back doin’ the best that i can
She’s got time for the dog and none for her man
And i’m no dope
But I can’t cope
So hit the fuckin’ road and piss up a rope
although the rest of it raises my liberal hackles – precisely as it was designed to do.
One more thing, Ween always put out great looking records and this one is no exception. They used a very normal, if overly colourised, boardroom picture clearly showing a deal having just been done. It’s wonderfully redolent of countless training videos I have endured over the years and again, knowing it’s Ween and knowing the song title you end up looking for a hint that all’s not fine and dandy; which apart from the fact everyone in the picture looks like they are ripped to the tits on Exec-U-Crack**, there isn’t.
Clever dudes Ween, clever dudes.
Which brings us back around to Pohl, who I’m sure will be riding that Heechee spacecraft as I type.
^I wouldn’t want you to think me too parochial but Gateway gets precious 1537 literary bonus points for mentioning my home town of Carmarthen, he refers to a Welsh lady,
‘a stocky, fair young woman from the food mines of Carmarthen named Hwa’
*a 10 track record, of course.
**a highly potent amphetamine-based, completely fictional drug – banned in at least 39 countries, probably.