Thanksgivings: Big Star’s Thank You Friends and Scott Walker’s Thanks for Chicago, Mr James

If rock n roll is to be trusted, it would appear that human beings are […]

David Zahl / 11.24.10

If rock n roll is to be trusted, it would appear that human beings are not hard-wired for gratitude. Songs dealing with the subject are that few and far between. Or perhaps the medium just lends itself to discontent? Either way, putting together a good Thanksgiving mix is no easy task. On their controversial Third record, Big Star made one of the few lasting, if utterly facetious contributions to the genre. Alex Chilton was not a happy dude at the time, deeply disappointed about what he perceived as the false loyalty and empty promises of the music business (and lifestyle), and he decided to sneer at it as publicly as possible. But given the season, perhaps we can/should take it at face value – Lord knows some of us can use all the help we can get in connecting with the “spirit” of the holiday:


Next, a seedy and sumptuous track from Scott Walker’s disowned Til The Band Comes In record (which is pretty great, btw), “Mr James” really captures the way we mask rejection with gratitude, or cloak it in condescension (it’s not you it’s me). Past-tense thankfulness sure seems to lean toward sentimentality, does it not? I certainly prefer the more responsive and in-the-moment, aka Gospel, type. But far be it for me to argue with such great orchestration:


p.s. Come to think about it, “Mr James” was actually my introduction to Scott – I was seduced by the seduction, as it were. If you’re not aware of the mystery and majesty that is Scott Walker, the man responsible (in part) for bringing both Radiohead and Blur together, the well is very deep. Just watch 30 Century Man, and then buy Scott 4, followed by Scott 2.

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