A Song Tells a Story


A Song Tells a Story

Friday afternoon. The weekly trek that takes me from Montreal to the Eastern Townships. Choosing my IPod over the radio once again. The song, What a Shame About Me by Steely Dan comes on.

I am quite familiar with this song because Steely Dan is one of the few groups that I very rarely take off my IPod. There’s something about the sophisticated jazz rock chords that constantly charms and re-charms me.

But what struck me this time, more so than ever, was the storyline in the song, how clear and linear it was, a snapshot in time. A straightforward story using very hip and enticing jazz chording is, for me, a very winning combo. It gets me every time.


I was grinding through my day gig
Stackin’ cutouts at the Strand
When in walks Franny from NYU
We were quite an item back then
We talked about her films and shows and CDs
And I don’t know what else
She said, yeah, Hollywood’s been good to me
But tell me – how about yourself

I’m still working on that novel
But I’m just about to quit
‘Cause I’m worrying about the future now
Or maybe this is it
It’s not all that I thought it would be
What a shame about me

She said, talk to me, do you ever see
Anybody else from our old crew
Bobby Dakine won the Bunsen Prize
Now he’s coming out with something new
Alan owns a chain of Steamer Heavens
And Barry is the software king
And somebody told me in the early 80’s
You were gonna be the Next Big Thing

Well now that was just a rumor
But I guess I’m doin’ fine
Three weeks out of the rehab
Living one day at a time
Sneaking up on the new century
What a shame about me

What a shame about me
I’m thinking of a major Jane Street sunrise
And the goddess on the fire escape was you

We both ran out of small talk
The connection seemed to go dead
I was about to say, hey, have a nice life
When she touched my hand and said:
You know I just had this great idea
This could be very cool
Why don’t we grab a cab to my hotel
And make believe we’re back at our old school

I said babe you look delicious
And you’re standing very close
But like this is Lower Broadway
And you’re talking to a ghost
Take a good look it’s easy to see
What a shame about me
What a shame about me

(I can’t send you the tune via email, sorry, but I hope that you can hear it at amazon.ca or ITunes. Watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oSuvy6DKuU)

On another note, I saw three very good films recently. The first, a docudrama, is about a small group of Jewish families living in the Ukraine during World War II who lived underground in caves. It was playing at the Cinema du Parc and is entitled No Place on Earth. The dramatizations of actions occurring 71 years ago were… hmmm, I’m looking for superlatives — the scenes (setting, acting, camera-work) were so well done. In terms of moving from past to present, dramatizations to documentary, the film, while a daunting challenge to produce, could not have been more perfect. Its theme of a mother’s stubborn and dogged refusal to allow her family to be annihilated is very inspirational as well.

The second, currently playing at the Cineplex Forum, is The East. I had not heard of Britt Marling before seeing the film, but I’m a real fan now, to the point that I’ve ordered her two other films from Internet film rental zip.ca. I’m usually not a fan of what is called “thrillers” and the term is used loosely in this case. It’s an action drama film that’s quite riveting. And I highly recommend it.

The last film, viewed last night, is entitled The Way, a film about a man deciding to undertake the famous  Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail in Spain. The film is understated; it touches the right emotional chords without being maudlin. The emotional bonding between the main characters is entirely believable. Plus the scenery is beautiful. Highly recommended.



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