“London” (Nicky Thomas)

Probably most famous for being third in line (but the most successful) to record “Love of the Common People,” Thomas shifts from smarmy community-building to an immigrant’s plaint here. It’s a move from a coercive optimism for the poor to an embodiment of living death in which those of means “don’t care if I freeze to death and die.” The “promised land” is a set of shifting goalposts, each subsequent one narrowing the chances of survival. Salvation, too, is a false panacea, with your preacher soliciting money to go to the “holy land.” We’re implored to “give no money to that lying, cheating man.” But this shouldn’t be mistaken for either a sunny worry about equality (i.e. “we all go or no one does”) or a desire for deeds that match the (national) creeds. “Saturday night” proves formative for the trax’s critical dystopia; parties that are “outside” enjoy the practice of aggressive, excessive exchange. Come Sunday, we institute an economic austerity from the bottom up.


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“Nature Boy” (Nat King Cole)

Written in the 1940s by legendary proto-hippy Eden Ahbez (“ahbe,” to friends), who, according to Joe Romersa, much later disputed his own final, key lines (“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn/Is Just to love/And be loved in return”), arguing, “To be loved in return is too much of a deal, and that has nothing to do with love.” Doubled/echoing structure of this track, as well as other versions (Jon Hassell’s comes to mind), is therefore too safe and cozy.  That is: love, to be love, should not be subjected to economic calculus, exchange, “return,” and must instead approach the (impossible/singular) limit that is the gift. (Again, that is: to be done with “fools and kings,” one needs first to interrogate the final law of Beatledom: “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”)



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