A blog devoted to the works of Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, The Gothic Archies, et al. This blog will feature news related to his work, as well as occasional fanboy gushes from the author. Thank you for stopping by, and may all your dreams come true.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Amnesia

Recently, a reader of this blog asked me to transcribe the lyrics to The Magnetic Fields' "Amensia."  In so doing, I found myself thinking a lot about the song, perhaps more than I had before.  Particularly, of course, its lyrics, some of which I found myself struggling to decipher.  Here is my transcription:

You mustn't put the Sun in your mouth
She's the filthiest girl in the world
She gets really dirty when she sets in the south
Y'know, she can't help it she's a Chelsea girl

Oh, yeah
Amnesia

My father's house gave birth to a car
That could burrow like a mole underground
It woke up the neighbors when it cried in the night
Y'know, baby cars can make an awful sound

And induce
Amnesia

Medusa turned her banker to stone
And she pilfered the keys to his car
She's driving cross country, but wherever she goes
She turns worthless people into modern art

Just like that
Amnesia

Many thanks once more to Mr. Nick David for amending my original transcription of these lyrics.  

I adore this song.  I have from the moment I first heard that jangly guitar intro and the fun little splat of a guitar before Stephin's last utterance of the word "amnesia" so many years ago.  I think its surrealist imagery lends itself more toward Susan Anway-era Magnetic Fields and I'd love to hear "Kings" fade out and for this song to emerge, but I'm magnanimously grateful for the skeletal version that does exist.  It provides a strange context for a period of The Magnetic Fields' career that I have unfortunately only been able to read about as opposed to truly having experienced it.

Stephin Merritt, of course, disagrees with all of my bullshit.  Quoth Chickfactor magazine:

"I recently downloaded, from disgusting evil website n*****r, a crummy bootleg recording of an embarrassingly awful live performance of an unreleased song of mine, labeled without any indication it wasn't from a record.  This is going out all over the world, under my name, and there seems to be nothing I can do about it.  I have spontaneously performed works in progress for my audience when it seemed appropriate, prefaced by a little apology spiel, but for someone to just steal that, take it out of context, and put it up on the web is a real, major betrayal.  It has done such damage to my relations with audiences-my sense of trust is shattered-that I can't perform unreleased songs anymore."

This gives the song so much more history and effect, I think.  Of course, one can hardly find reason to disagree with Mr. Merritt here (and one now understands why I have yet to link to a mp3 of the song), but it is a shame that he is embarrassed by it so.  I understand that their live shows at the time might not have felt conducive to proper reproductions of his songs (though, all the boots I've heard/seen have been lovely), but I will always find "Amnesia" to be a wonderfully pleasant song.  For the breech of trust, I am sincere in my apology to Mr. Merritt, but selfishly happy for the song's existence.

Also, while you're here, go read this review of Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields!

26 comments:

  1. The first "???" is "ground," completing the word "underground." I can't tell what the other ??? is even when I mess with the EQ.
    And could I have a link to that interview/article that has him saying that, please?

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  2. Ah wait, never mind about the lyrics. I see you already fixed it.

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  3. Wait, it's from a magazine. Just disregard everything I said.

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  4. Haha! Yeah, it was a poll in Chickfactor, I believe in issue 7. The question was something along the lines of "What is the worst representation of you on the Internet?" or something like that. CF used to always bash their polls, but I always liked them. Where else are you going to learn Claudia Gonson's, Stephin Merritt's, ld Beghtol's, Jon De Rosa's, Daniel Handler's, and Chris Ewen's opinions on the best-produced pop song all in one page?

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  5. i once started to listen to this song, but the recording was so bad i only lasted about :30 seconds in. it sucked. i felt completely betrayed by the audience.

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  6. Carlos, you highly suck. Stephin Merritt has already pronounced himself about the stress that produces him to have these lo-fi bootlegs on the net. Knowing Merritt and its perfectionist ethos, I understand his motives. But as a fan, I am almost feel to have a RIGHT to these songs. The songwriting is different, but at the level of his other songs in the Susan Anway era. You are doing little favour to people like me who would intrude into his house to steal unreleased recordings, risking my own life and the welfare of ones that love me (they know who they are - I don't). So please, reserve your opinion for Youtube or Amazon and avoid commenting like that here, as Merrit might one day be surfing this blog and read it and then we'd lose all our chances to get these recordings by pacific means. I hope you get run over by a baby car.

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  7. o were that i had the power to sway Mr Merritt's opinion in such a way. I was actually talking about the quality of the recording, not the song itself. but your post is hyperironic or hyperunironic and i can't tell and this whole thing is getting meta. i'm going to kill myself by staring into medusa's glassy claymation eyes now.

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  8. Man, when people start flaming on your blog, that means you've hit the big time, right? Right. So, thank you Mr(s). Anonymous for validating me!

    Anyhow, Mr. Pena, which version of the song have you heard? The one that starts with a guitar or keyboard? The keyboard one is rarer, I'd say. I actually lost my copy of it until the incredibly awesome Nick David came to my rescue a few days ago.

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  9. um..i think i heard a guitar version. this was many moons ago. like, 1,200 moons or so.

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  10. speaking of goths: let's talk about Gothic Archies.

    1. has anyone yet heard "Satan, Your Way is a Hard One"?

    2. any news on teh name change?

    3. isn't it ironic they dropped a song called "We are the Gothic Archies" when they in fact are no longer the Gothic Archies?

    4. Anywehre to find that song from the Coraline audio book? I haven't seen it as an individual track.

    5. anything else really unreleased?

    6. I love them!

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  11. 1. Is this just a joke of Stephin's or has it actually been written? Seems a bit tongue in cheek, although of course that could be said about the entire band.

    2. It is a mystery how anyone could say they're NOT the Gothic Archies.

    4. Ive listened to the audiobook and they play little snippets of the song before some of the chapters, as well as the rat song also found in the musical "Coraline". I haven't been able to find "You are not my mother" in its entirety, though.

    5. There's a studio recording of a song called "We're the Lucky Ones". I think it was used on a car website? Stephin has done a version of "The wheels on the car" for a car commercial. Also, he wrote a jingle for a gum commercial with the lyrics "Chew not on chocolate chili chips" that I've been dying to hear but haven't been able to find online. Pity! Stephin wrote a song for Kiki and Herb that hasn't seen release. And isn't there a totally different studio version of "The Charm of the Highway Strip"? Not that it'll ever see the light of day.

    6. Yes!

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  12. 5. Highway Strip - that is psychotic. knowing a different version is laying around somewhere. someone who talks to him really needs to find out if he is going to put for the holiest of holy grails: A Box Set!

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  13. There was going to be a 7" single for "Papa Was a Rodeo," though of course it was canceled. And I remember an interview from long ago where Stephin mentioned a Gothic Archies single he was trying to get off of his computer, or something like that. He was most likely talking about "Satan, Your Way is a Hard One."

    Here's a news post (September 24, 2000) that mentions a "Papa Was a Rodeo" single.
    http://stephinsongs.wiw.org/news00.html

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  14. 1. Oh, it's a real song, I just don't think it ever saw the light of day, unfortunately. In this interview (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/a-brilliant-head-rules-the-heart-710139.html?cmp=ilc-n#footer), he says it was written under the influence of The Rolling Stones. Good goddamn, I've wanted to hear this song since I first read that little misnomer in the 69LS jewelcase!!

    2. I tried to convince at least two (2) journalists to ask Stephin this question during all the press for "Realism," but I was steadfastly ignored. Quite annoying. All I know is that apparently The REAL Archies (aka Joe Dante) was irked at least a little by Stephin exploiting the name. Bah humbug!

    3. Sadly, yes.

    4.I'll upload it later. I think the song IS that short, though, I don't think it's longer than 30 seconds long. And, yes, Stephin sings the rat song on the audiobook and wrote the music for the Coraline website (though it's all incidental music).

    5. The unreleased "Kiki & Herb" song is the one that bothers me the most. It's called "You Should See it in the Snow," it's about 9-11, and it made LD Beghtol cry. Those are the only things I know about it, and it kills me!! The "chocolate chili chips" song is on Youtube, though, and it's funny, though not much else can be said for it. And, of course, I'd be remiss not to mention the 6ths record that Stephin abandoned some time in the last few years, and the potentially re-releasable A Buffalo Rome cassette. Um... I can't really think of anything else that hasn't already been mentioned, but I might just be blanking.

    6. Who doesn't!?

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  15. Hey Michael, do you a have a Youtube link for it? I've tried finding it on Youtube in the past but it's hard goings. It's surprising how many gum commercials there actually are.

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  16. That Kiki & Herb song sounds amazing. I'll ask them about it if I see them on the streets.

    oh, one more bit of Gothic Archies trivia: I saw them perform Scream and Run Away at a book reading at Barnes and Noble. Stephin was really, really hilarious, pouting, stomping around, playing a spoiled baby character. Lemony Snickett was also really funny. I think they did two songs, but I forget the second. This was about 800 moons ago.

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  17. I'm at work right now, but I'll hunt it down later. There was a website long ago that had it on there with a poll asking readers whether or not they thought it was SM singing. I remember laughing at all the folks who said he'd never do such a thing.

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  18. Mr. Pena, I'm not tempted to hate you, but I AM tempted to be tempted to hate you. I've seen the videos from Mr. Handler's book reading, and they're so funny and charming, and Mr. Merritt is in top form. I'd've killed to have been there. Oh, the woes of living in Kentucky...

    And, I might shoot Kenny Mellman an e-mail about that K&H song after all. A novel idea, that! I can't believe that'd never occured to me before.

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  19. email Kenny Mellman! he's nice, as most tards are wont to be.

    I'm jealous of your living in Kentucky. OK, I want everything. nyc, ky, the moon, kenny mellman, bbq potato chips...

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  20. Hey, those are my bunny ears in that picture! Or, I should say, Stephin borrowed my bunny ears to perform "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits" at the New Orleans show Easter weekend. He gave them back after the song and I still have them.

    Also, "Satan...Hard One" is indeed the song that is stuck on computer. Daniel Handler's heard it and like it. Only Stephin would just give up on it rather than re-record it.

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  21. Everything you just said, Mr. Murse, is awesome. Thank you so much for sharing!!

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  22. I took that picture of Stephin with the bunny ears. Someone in the audience had given them to him and, when he started to play "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits," he made a "I guess I have to put these on" face and then did. (At least that's how I remember it. Some of the early 00s were a blur.)

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  23. Thanks for sharing, Mr. Spell. I've loved that photo of SM with bunny ears for so long, too, so thanks as well for taking it.

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  24. This is a gloriously informative thread, but is Stephin's odd (apparent) use of the word "nigger" in that Chickfactor interview not startling to anyone?

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  25. Ha!! I had the same thought, but fortunately, there's an extra letter, so it should prevent further misquotation of Mr. Merritt.

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  26. those bunny ears! I gave them to him like two
    years ago in Berlin!

    you made my day, and my next 7 at least.

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