Thursday, January 26, 2012

Your Guilty Pleasure: Maybe Just By Holding Still It'll Be There

What happened to Joan Osborne? I know you are already pissed at me because now you have that song in your head at the mere mention of her name, but let me tell you that one of the real shames of 199-whatever was that that song catapulted her into everyone's consciousness, where she was widely hated for it. It was an earworm that ultimately only open-minded high school church youth groups and office workers who lived for Lite FM ease-you-through-your-workday radio could love.

That song unmercifully branded her as a one-hit wonder when I'd posit that Joan is actually an unusually talented musician. She's got Sheryl Crow's prowess and mid-America charm, but none of the Nashville/LA gloss and high-profile romantic partners (but don't get me wrong, I still to this day love this, and I will sing it in the car every time I am ever on Santa Monica Boulevard, and it is one of my go-to karaoke songs). But I'd go head-to-head with anyone who claims that Jewel's cheesy, free-spirit persona and whine or Alanis' carefully groomed nutjob ex, free-spirit persona and whine supercedes this woman's extravagantly lush blues growl.

On the other hand, while it imprisoned her, that song has also given Joan Osborne freedom that most artists dream of from their mattresses on the floor and day jobs and rusting Honda Civics.

Plus, she is from Kentucky. 

That song--Joan Osborne didn't even write it, and it was allegedly filler on her first album, which I can't say that I've heard. Well, maybe I have, but god only knows where or when, or if it was under duress or during a lift home. Look, the point is that this song, which is on that album, and which I probably first heard someplace like XRT, which was my FM ease-me-through-my-workday radio when I first landed here, this song is what that song isn't. Caffeinated blues-funk-old-upright-pianer fun--and that voice. Oh, that voice. I for one, forget every warble and strum of that other song when I hear this.

You know what, I used to wear my Beastie Boys "Aloha Mr Han"/Chevy Van ringer tee (purchased en concert, so fuck off) just like Joan wears whatever ringer tee-shirt she's wearing, over a skirt just a tad too nice for it, for, you know, some declasse contrast, and I'd feel all right, in it, because a. I looked cute in it, and b. the B Boys were my thing for a solid several years, and---oh god I am still so fucking angry that I let ***** borrow that shirt, that shirt which by that time I had moved through three apartments and into a new city--seven years!--and then we broke up through sudden and (then) chronic lack of communication (except the one time he finally returned my front gate key to me so that I wouldn't have to enter through the alley only, and that transaction only happened because I called him several times, ultimately leaving a message that said, "bring me my key because THERE IS A RAPIST IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD," which there was), and I every time I think about how I didn't think to ask for the return of both the key and that shirt my eyes practically bleed because musical group commemorative clothing only really means something to me when I've purchased it near or on the premises of the experience being commemorated.

Oh, it's available in the great big vintage store in the intertubes, but like hell I'm going to buy it when it's been carefully "curated" aside a sixty-fucking-five-dollar "Hip to Be Square" t-shirt and sterling fucking silver Kokopelli earrings .

...I'm not angry at or about him any more, or the unsolicited Kokopelli jewelry I've received in the 90s.

Or, really, the shirt.

Because, alright, these small oh-that's-RIGHTs are going to crop up, even years later, but what is key now, what persists now, more strongly than Joan's on-trend for 94 outfit, is how this song is an ode to, well, hooking up, but also to not to looking for, but knowing that there'll be the now-faceless person who'll follow you up your stairs one late night (or, rather, from whom you will borrow a toothbrush after squishing your underwear into your handbag). Whom you'll like so much you'll loan him your favorite, seven year-old t-shirt. When Like is in the air but not yet because they (and you) are just not quite there yet, even if you are standing next to a reasonable facsimile who reminds you that, even if he can't fix it, you can find someone who can.

It's the same jumbled-inside feeling that something's coming. 

I pretty much always think of Tony singing under the clotheslines when this Joan Osborne song crops up. I think about how laughter about something that hasn't happened yet bubbles in your throat, how you walk differently in the street when there are some definite maybes on your mind or social calendar, and how knowing, knowing like this can be either sly or pure, and how it feels to stop looking back at stained mind  pictures but ahead, toward dim images, from which something will emerge. 

Who knows?


Kurt Hartwig said...

There's a lot buried in here, but I'm going to start and stick with Joan Osborne. More than Right Hand Man, I preferred Spider Web.

Mego said...

Oh, the buriage (?)! Guilty as charged.

But I'm grateful for the new (to me) Joan! That voice. I forgot to add the time that I saw her on Letterman singing "Uncle John's Band" with some or other permutation of the Dead (Phil Lesh and Friends, I think). That's the moment I became a fan of that song. I couldn't find a clip, though.