Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Miss. Etta. James.

That's how I hear her name in my head, from years of listening to my cassette of Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll!, when she's introduced by Chuck Berry, all three words very clearly separated and pizzicato. Her intro on Etta James Rocks the House, which is what I've been listening to a lot recently and one of the best live albums ever, if you ask me (I think I like "Baby What You Want Me to Do" best), as well as Sweetest Peaches 60-66, sounds kinda similar. But I always hear it in my head the way Chuck Berry says it.

(There are a lot of phrases from that album I hear in my head, all of which come out at weird times, especially what Chuck says at the end of "Wee Wee Hours"?--I think--which is, "Sure gotta play some pritty pritty chords to be a rocknroller, jack." And his version of "I'm Through With Love" comes warbling out at weird times too.)

Goes without saying I love her much. I love her voice and expressiveness and easy mastery of flow and she makes me want to be the sassy fat girl I think she was. I love her growls and chirps (when I can't always stand them on either people) and I love her deep register.

This man who once broke my heart into a million pieces told me that he couldn't stand to hear "At Last" one more time because he had shot video for so many weddings, which meant that he had overlaid that song as a soundtrack for the happy couples a billion times--everybody apparently requests that song. He had heard it way too much. I know that song is seriously overplayed, and overcommercialized, but it was the first time I had heard somebody say they just couldn't listen to it anymore. To me it is one of those songs that is overexposed, but it's not its own fault, and it holds up, regardless. Its bones are good. A standard/classic, wore thin, that still has the possibility to move and can be used very judiciously. (Probably should have guessed from his reaction to this song that things might not work out, I suppose.)

(An interesting topic: songs that are occupational hazards of certain jobs. Like "Shout!" if you're a wedding band or "Rock Me Like a Hurricane" if you work at the state fair. I once had a hairdresser break face and tell me absolutely seriously once that if he heard "I'm Too Sexy" one more time he was going to kill himself.)

It's a funny song, though, "At Last." I can't ever imagine choosing it for a wedding--well, maybe--but not as a big theme song, because it's so sad. Every note of that song belies its lyrics; you're not at all sure--at least, I'm not--that Etta's really found anybody, at last. Seems like she could be fooling herself, or dancing with a ghost, or at least as if the pain of the past is still bigger than the present.  It sounds mournful and alone and pretty. All reasons to like Etta James's abilities and the song more.

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