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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #6

Posted: June 24th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted August 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

I hadn’t slept for three days and I was jonesin’ bad when I met my source at a dilapidated record store in south Los Angeles. “I need something, man,” I told him, my voice shaking. “Give me anything, as long as it packs some punch!” My source nodded and led me into the back room. Lest you think I was merely pining for some some junk, let me correct your feeble-minded assumption. I kicked the horse long ago and was in total agreement with Keith Richards’ observation that “heroin is for pussies.” I had a new monkey of my back now… music! I craved it with every fibre of my being, but only the good stuff – the crazy stuff. You can take your Britney Spears, your P.O.D., hell, even your …Trail of Dead, and stuff it up your socks. I wanted something that spoke of the lost generation of now, the reckless angst of modern youth. Like an empathetic vampire, I thrived on such musical cacophony. “Check this out,” my source said, removing a long play album from its plastic wrap and placing it on the turntable. The needle hit the groove and suddenly the room was fill with sweet, wonderful music. It was sound unlike any I had ever heard and it filled my soul like a Truck Stop waitress filling a mug with the murky black. “Yesss…” I said, feeling the driving hunger in my soul subsiding. “This is it, man… I’ve never felt this high before… don’t stop… don’t stop… oh, man, whatever you do, DON’T STOOOPPPPPPPP!!!!”

My source, a longtime music addict himself, knew what I was going through. He held me in his arms as we listened to this musical ambrosia over and over into the night. I question whether I should reveal the identity of this album to you. It may well convert you into a music fiend as well, my friend. I may be creating a generation of night travellers that walk the record shops in vain, looking for a greater high. But my journalistic integrity demands that I must reveal it to you. I cannot hide from you what is the greatest musical collection ever. It is… SESAME STREET: THE BEST OF ELMO!

Everyone knows Elmo, right? The squeaky muppet from the children’s television show, Sesame Street. He prances about, excitedly speaking in high-pitched yelps, forever entrenched in some sort of ecstasy overdose. But did you know that he has his own album? Indeed, he has collected some of his finest musical interludes, into one collection: SESAME STREET: THE BEST OF ELMO! Elmo, is of course, a man… er, muppet, with an understanding of the classics. Thus he opens his album with his own rendition of the “Sesame Street Song,” the ditty that has opened the show lo these many years. Elmo keeps the best parts, but isn’t afraid to add his personal flavor to the tune, in the way that Tony Bennett might interpret a classic Cole Porter composition. Elmo then moves on to a more personal tune, entitled, “Elmo’s song.” While stretching the boundaries of accepted verse, he offers this narrative:

This is the song, La , La, La, La, Elmo’s song, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, Elmo’s song.

As Big Bird enthusiastically intones, “He wrote this himself!”

Next up, Elmo moves into a jazz tap number, “Happy Tappin’ with Elmo.” Busting out the tap shoes, Elmo breaks into some eclectic dance rhythms and asks the listeners to “tell your Mam and Pappy that you’re happy tapping with Elmo.”

The best performers are unafraid to share the spotlight, and Elmo shows himself as one of the greats on “One Fine Face,” a duet with muppet Ernie. Immediately following that is the classic rock number, “Elmo’s Off To School” with the recurring chorus:

Elmo’s off to school
Elmo’s off to a real good start
Elmo’s off to school
Having fun and getting really, really smart

But a true test of a singer is their ability to perform ballads. Elmo shines true with “Elmo Wrote His Name,” a detailed retelling of Elmo’s first attempt at writing his name.

If I have a personal favorite on this album, it might be Elmo’s cover of Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash.” Elmo successfully the excitement of the original while updating it with a modern energy.

His next offering, “Imagination”, is a tribute the power of her mind, Elmo describes the many places he can go when he simply closes his eyes and lets his mind travel. Use of psychedelics is not mentioned, but certainly implied.

Elmo makes John and Paul proud on the next cut – a cover of the Beatle’s “Drive My Car.” With the E-Man singing harmonies as solid as the fab four, the listener is left wondering if there wasn’t a fifth Beatle – not Pete Best, or George Martin, but Elmo himself.

Perhaps the weakest is track 10 – “Be Doodle Dee Dum.” It seems to primarily focus on the premise that it’s fun to sing the phrase “Bee Doodle Dee Dum” over and over. After trying it out for a few hours, I came to the conclusion that this song was kind of childish.

Awww yeah… Can a muppet get a lap dance? Cuz’ Elmo is da house with track 11, “The Alphabet Rap.” Straight from the ‘hood, Elmo raps out the Alphabet sounding like a streetwise Too Short. Move over, Snoop Dog! Take a chill pill, Wu-Tang!

Not content to have one song touting the power of imagination, Elmo offers a second. “In Your Imagination” has kind of a late sixties feel, reminiscent of the Mamas and the Papas. It includes several lyrical gems like:

It’s remarkable who you can meet in your imagination
You can make friends with a seal and engage him in deep conversation (seal sounds)

Then Elmo hops into Bossa Nova territory, with the Latin infused “Take a Breath.” The main premise of this song is that of a reminder for children to take a breath. (As he accurately states, “If you stop your breathing, you’re in deep, deep trouble.”)

As a senior in high school, I performed bass in the orchestra for a school production of the musical, “Pippin.” I’m reminded of that style of music when listening to “Just One Person,” which could easily be a late sixties ballad performed by Diana Ross. Designed to bolster the esteem of children, the song ends with Elmo saying, “Elmo believes in you… Elmo loves you too…” It’s kind of creepy, actually.

The entire Sesame Street gang joins in for the finale. “Sing a Song” is a mid tempo number that starts sedately and then moves into a rousing chorus advises people to “Sing a Song.” If you listen closely you can hear Oscar the Grouch yell, “C’mon motherfuckers! Sing a song now! Or I’ll eat you! At this point, the album is finished. But don’t despair; as Elmo points out, you can simply play the album again. “See you at the beginning!”

Wil Forbis

Wil writes for the delectable Acid Logic webzine, as well as for this crackin' outfit here. He's also an obvious habitual liar, going on how he describes himself in his other writings. Truth is, Wil is a two foot tall computerised metal monster who likes nothing better than to CRUSH, CRUSH and CRUSH humanity to within an ounce of its puny life. When he's not CRUSHING, he enjoys tennis and jogging.


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