“Hey Hey Guy” (Ken Laszlo)

Primo Italo disco from 1984, and easily mistaken for an early Pet Shop Boys trax, unless you are listening to the long version with the spoken word introduction and interlude. The scenario involves gay “love for hire,” arranged over the telephone, with a whiff of both the anonymous and “dangerous.” One suspects that none of those involved here—Laszlo, Marco Torre, and Gianni Corianni—is proficient in English, but this can’t explain why the phone conversation sounds like two spies using secret code. Neither side seems to be responding to the other: “Oh dear, you have a phone,” says the rent boy (which is truly odd since he seems to be making the call). The French trick replies, “Yeah, hey guy, tell me about your menicure” (some neologism for a male manicure, and trimming what exactly?). You won’t get your answer here. And on and on, the oblique non-sequiturs never stop: “It is the true.” “Don’t fool out, it’s dangerous.” “Everything is same as all.” If you don’t understand this conversation—it’s hinting tone without clear referents–then perhaps you don’t belong. Delinking from the realm of the straight and straightforward.

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“The Seventh Son” (Willie Dixon)

According to W.E.B. Du Bois, in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), “the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.” By invoking the tradition of the “seventh son,” a figure of creative power aligned with werewolves, witches, and sorcerers, Du Bois makes clear that double-consciousness is more than alienation and deficit; and, in Willie Dixon’s case, he can heal the sick (i.e., grasp doubleness as a double-edged sword), raise the dead (produce a history of and for Africans and African Americans, for example), and even predict the future. And all of these powers have something to do with the experience of being racialized and the special knowledge of language that it provides: “Now I can talk these words that sound so sweet/I can make your little heart even skip a beat.”


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“You I’ll Be Following” (Love)

If this trax concerns “real” human beings, then it’s a story about the singer’s shift from chasing drug dealers all over the globe to a new place where another person has replaced drugs in his affection. But Arthur Lee’s vocal emphasis on “I” and “you” makes one wonder whether the deeper topic is strictly pronominal. Émile Benveniste, in “Relationships of Persons in the Verb” (1946) teaches us that first, second and third persons are born together and in hierarchical, force relations: “‘I’ is always transcendent with respect to ‘you’,” for instance, and both “I” and “you” lord it over the third person (or what Benveniste pointedly calls “the non-person”). So what does it mean to suggest that, at some time in the future, “You I’ll be following”? It would be too much to ask Lee to figure out a way to alter the entire structure of language. But at least this trax suggests an extended holiday from primacy.


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