Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Sixty Minute Man/Sixty-one 10”, 2013

sixty minute man frontAh, I’d planned to work through Oldham’s discography in chronological order but I think a little timeliness in getting copy out would be good, especially for these hard-to-obtain items that the Bonnie-fan exploitation machine keeps churning out every few months. This one’s a right doozie. Released in mid-March, 2013, you could only buy it from a physical location—a pub called the Dogfish Head in Delaware. Oldham talks about the evils of commercialism in his book, and one gets the feeling that making a limited edition record (numbers not disclosed) only available at a single physical location, knowing full well this would exasperate fans the world over, is a perverse act of marketing chutzpah deliberately designed to satirize our desire for product; the filling of our little Lacanian voids. As for me, I’ve never set foot in Delaware; fortunately some entrepreneurial young gentleman from New Jersey ‘accidentally’ bought more copies than he needed and made them available to those of us who live thousands of miles from the USA’s second smallest state. Around the time of its release a website called Grub Street Philadelphia posted the songs online as soundfiles, but were asked to take them down, presumably to protect the oh so preciousness of the record’s exclusivity. Here we’ve got one cover of a sixties doowop song, and the other an Oldham original, on a nice little heavy duty piece of vinyl.

sixty minute man labelSixty Minute Man… was originally performed by Billy Ward & His Dominoes, whose version available on youtube is classic crooner doowop pop. It’s renowned for its ‘risque’ lyrics about kissing, teasing, squeezing and “blowing my top.” In the original, lucky girls got fifteen minutes of each with “Lovin’ Dan” but here, it’s with “the Bonnie man.” Four x fifteen minutes doesn’t quite square up with the line, “I’ll rock ‘em, roll ‘em all night long,” if he’s only a sixty minute man. I suppose for someone who lives in the north of Norway say, during summer where the night only lasts an hour, then this might hold true. You have to love the challenge he sets up: “If you don’t believe I’m all that I say / Come up and take my hand.” But is this really that much of a boast? I mean how much effort does it take to spend an hour rolling in the hay with someone? If I was singing that line it would be more like ‘sixty inch man’ or ‘sixty year man.’ Don’t believe me? Come and take my hand, ladies. Yuh. Anyway… Oldham sings it in lazy sleazy comic tones while a background troupe sing the main refrain “sixty minute man” in jokey falsettos all the way through the song. The music is a generic soft rock r’n’b sound, with not really much else to report. The backing singers (uncredited on the sleeve) provide some pretty nice contrapuntal harmonizing during the main chorus, and the tune is nice, but this is somewhat more laidback than Billy Ward’s take. Yeah, it’s good to see Oldham back to wearing irony on his sleeve, even if he loves the song, which I’m sure he does. It’s a goodie.

sixty minute man labelSixty-one… is a song named after the beer that this release promotes. The theme here is alcohol, filling the void at the center of your soul (that again), and a seventies soft rock crooner vibe. It’s more interesting than the A-side, and one detects subtle humour beneath the lyrics, which begin with the Bonnie-narrator stating in a lovely soft high vocal, “I don’t know why I was given life,” when what life amounts to is nothing more than finding “an abundance of love and money.” Lone piano notes, and shimmering organ line. The only thing that makes the pursuit of these feel real is “flirtation and alcohol.” Right on. The godawful programmed-sounding rhythm section kicks in and from there it all goes downhill into drunken delirium as Oldham finds himself “giving pass” to all his troubles, “laying in a field of bubbles blown by lips” he wishes were always his own (see photo on back sleeve). The chorus is wonderful: “For an hour I was happy, I was happy, I was happy,” he sings, a double-tracked Bonnie in the background, each ‘happy’ louder than the one before and sounding more determined to mean it. Alas, “and then it all went black.” That’s what I mean about humour—an honest ode to the psychology of drinking. It seems he then begins singing to himself, things like, “watch me as I cave to what you need” among lines about his drowning heart, running out of time, “drowning in a glass of bubbles” and this “intoxicating ju-ju” which destroys one’s sense of time. Two more glorious choruses of telling us how happy he was for that hour before the song ends and everything goes black again. It could be 1977. Oh, I must have missed the acoustic guitar, which ends the song. Lovely.

sixty minute man backWell, was that worth the journey this record’s taken from somewhere in Delaware via New Jersey to a certain Asian metropolis halfway around the globe? Probably not, but some of us just … have a very large void to fill. Go here to see my complete Oldham vinyl discography in review.

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About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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