inessential by Brent Simmons


Introducing SOAP for Frontier.

Did you hear about Louis Miller?
He disappeared, babe,
after drawin' out all his cash.
Now Macheath spends like a sailor,
did our boy do -- something rash?

Got Napster last night, listened to various versions of Mack the Knife: Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Nick Cave, Tony Bennet. (I tried but failed to download the Louis Armstrong version.)

Taking an example from Dave, I downloaded my personal favorite Bob Dylan song: "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again."

Well the bricks lay on Grand Street
where the neon madmen climb.
They're all placed there so perfectly,
they all seem so well-timed.
But me I sit hear patiently,
waiting to find out what price
you have to pay to get out of
going through all these things twice.

Has this Greenwich Village poet been reading Nietzsche? (It's Nietzsche, right, that eternal return stuff?)

But anyway, I dig the poetry of this song. Less wise, more surreal, than Subterranean Homesick Blues, but full of compelling imagery.

Of course, part of my fondness is nostalgia: as a boy in the early '80s I had most of Dylan's '60s albums on vinyl and cassette. Highway 61 Revisited, all that.

I remember sitting alone in my room at night, listening to Dylan through the headphones, reading On the Road, thinking -- everything sucks, the system sucks, adults suck, school sucks, but Dylan understands. This was the Reagan era, morning in America, a good time to hate the world adults had created. Good clean fun, part of a healthy upbringing. You're never too young to start using the f word. (F is for fascist.)

Back to Mack the Knife, more nostalgia: when I was in college I sometimes claimed -- in jest, as conversation -- that I was the re-incarnation of Bertolt Brecht, born again as, horror of horrors, a capitalist American pig. I even wore a Brecht-like hat.

Oh the shark has such teeth dear,
and he shows them -- pearly white.
Just a jack knife has Macheath dear,
and he keeps it out of sight.

When the shark bites with his teeth dear,
scarlet billows, starts to spread.
Fancy gloves though, wears Macheath dear --
so there's not a trace of red.

Napster should probably be classified as a drug. It's one thing to have all these memories and associations tied up with music -- and quite another to be able to access them all whenever you want.