Eyes That Can See in the Dark

a music journal

January 15, 2006 (link)

2:00 PM

By request:

"An Unpredictable Girl Like Julia", lyrics by R. Holder, sung by John Fulker. (That link's no good right now, what with the ASPMA site being a moribund mess at the moment, but one hopes that'll change in the future.)

The overbright acoustic, the "ga-GOON-GOON" tom intro, the coke-fueled good-times sub-Saturday-Night-Live alto sax solo: even without the synth, everything about this Holder/Fulker production shouts, not "Babies, babies, babies!", but "Eighties, eighties, eighties!". (And I tell you what, Holder/Fulker ain't no Harder/Fuller.)

G major is so happy, you know? (Hi, Delta Burke!) And then it goes to F, and to G, and then we get our five-one, with a happy little ninth chord in the guitar on beat 4, and here's Mr. Fulker:

A strange person like Julia
Strange by night and day

And the Prosody Demons strike right away: "A strange per-SON". Triste yesterday, if you put your thing down etc., but in that context at least it makes sense. We can't necessarily blame Mr. Fulker, though, he may just be singing what's on the page.

Never liked to say "Hello" or "Good morning"

So quickly is the grindylow of bad scansion pulling this song into the weeds: "GOOD mor-NING". Detective John Kimball could teach this song a lesson.

Just want to pass you by in the hallway
And on the stairs
Looking like a person in a different world

Probably more like this than this, one would assume...

As I listen to this, I'm undecided as to whether Mr. Fulker -- who has a pleasant enough, if unremarkable, voice -- is singing over a pre-recorded tape or not. I'm tempted to hear the song as shoehorning Mr. Holder's lyrics into a pre-fabbed song structure, and there isn't a lot of interaction going on between the singer and the band. Hmmm.

Never likes to travel on cars or buses or trains
Just going on her own sweet way
As there is no tomorrow

We get an unexpected little instrumental break after that line. The song structure is just so weird, you know? It's gotta be a canned track.

Meanwhile, if Julia is (as we're about to discover) a "small-town girl", then she's evidently doing a whole lot of walking around that small town of hers. How does she get to school? (Assuming that's where the "hallway" and "stairs" are.)

Given that this song was probably recorded in the early '80s, either there's an "if" missing in that last line, or, you know, 1914, 1925, 1975, 1994...

She's just a common small-town girl
A girl who cares for nothing else

And we've all known some like that, to be sure. R. Holder, may I introduce you to Otto Kernberg?

She plays dilly-dally round the house

I know that this probably is just a slightly offbeat way of saying "she dilly-dallies", but I like to imagine our Julia as playing some terribly retro, old-tymey kind of game, somewhere in between Costly Colours and mumbledy-peg.

And now this song-poem takes the kind of abrupt left turn that we love 'em for:

You could call her a punk rocker
A skinhead
Or a stupid witch

Whoa, there! "Much anger in him" indeed -- not to mention a powerfully ambivalent attitude towards the object of one's affection. Our mental picture of Julia becomes clearer -- the nose piercing, perhaps, and obviously the hair or lack thereof -- and we imagine our Mr. Holder, or at least his narrator, as both longing for and detesting this Julia, who may or may not have at one time returned his affections, but who has evidently wounded him enough for this sudden lashing-out.

She's listening to X and Siouxsie and the Clash and early Cure, smoking cigarettes and drinking and playing in a band, and he lurks on the edge of her scene, never quite belonging, embittered and frustrated...

She's known by her character
Not to have or hold

Ah, so the love was not requited. And it wasn't just lust -- one guesses he had wedding fantasies, from that second line. Just as the second reel ends, his stoner friend takes him aside: "You've gotta give it up, ma-a-a-an. No one can tie Julia down. She's a free spirit, she's so...unpredictable."

But he wants to save her! Can't he rescue Julia, before the reefer and the sex claim her and lead her to an untimely death involving motorcycles? Alas, no:

You could call her a streetwalker
Gazing at cars and buses

"My blood runs cold / My memory has just been sold", it seems. This is, one presumes, the last glimpse before the end: is this the fate that awaits her? She stands by the side of the road, that spark he once saw in her, now stamped out. Just a junkie waiting for the next trick, so she can put some reefer in her veins. (Or maybe she snorts it.)

And the sax comes in: what better way to lament lost love? I didn't know drug addiction and prostitution could sound so happy! It's like a party! The guitar is going fast now! You're opening for the Buster Poindexter, really?! Wow, I like Foghat too!

Come back, John Fulker, come back!

Ooh, a strange person like Julia
Strange by night and day

The bus is pulling away, and as it does, he sees her on the corner! "Everybody's talkin' at me..."

No, scratch that: he's made a fortune with hot investments, licensing the Mattel Aquarius for mass production in Mexico, and has come back to take care of some business. And as he leaves this small town forever, riding in his Testarossa...

A strange person, Julia
Strange by night and day

...he sees her, by the side of the road, near the on-ramp for the interstate. He stops at the traffic light, their eyes meet, and she gives him a look -- it could be a look of recognition, of pleading ("Will you save me from this?"). Or is it merely the look of someone sizing up their next trick, deciding on a price?

An unpredictable girl

And so he puts on his Ray-Bans, hits the gas pedal...

Ooh, Julia
Oh, Ju...

...and drives away, taking flight on the interstate as the credits begin to roll.

(And at the very end of the reel, after the copyright notice, in still white letters: "My loves are like empty wine glasses / I tasted too much fruit, too ripe, unripe / Before its time, before I knew that it meant nothing / Nothing simply because I could not have you... / But when I did, you meant nothing to me too.")

Current music: can you predict the unpredictable?

(Comments for January 15, 2006)

January 6, 2006 (link)

12:10 AM

Bits from here and there:

  • I am currently the twelfth hit if you type the search string "Why hasn't homestarrunner.com updated in a month?" into Google. This is doubly amusing (?) as I've been wondering the same thing myself! One hopes all is well with the Brothers Chaps and family...

  • JDB, frequent commenter on outsider-music-related posts around these parts, has started a Y. Bhekhirst info page. It seems to be down at the moment, but when it comes back up, do take a look.

  • You've probably seen this elsewhere, but if not, hear the sad and infuriating story of "My Lobotomy" (also here).

  • Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate. (aka "how I spent my Christmas vacation", sort of.)

  • George Packard is one terrific writer; if you need reminding of that fact, go read the current (Dec. 21) entry at The Daily Screech. Get well soon, Little Kitty. (Postscript: R.I.P, Little Kitty.)

Current music: Pink Floyd - live at Ernst-Merck Halle, Hamburg, Germany, Nov. 14, 1970

(Comments for January 6, 2006) (2 comments so far)


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