Monday, September 22, 2008

Suddenly, Last Summer

It's officially the first day of autumn, which puts an official end to my summer hiatus. American Idol is but a distant dream, until the new season starts up. There's apparently some kind of election coming up? Meanwhile, YouTube videos come but mostly they go, replaced by "We're sorry, this video is no longer available." Some blog housecleaning is in order.

The end of summer made me think of the phrase Suddenly, Last Summer, which brought to mind Montgomery Clift, who starred in the strange movie based on the Tennessee Williams play, which brought to mind another Clift movie, the one that inspired my nickname here and on Flickr. Which led to YouTube and finding my favorite scene from the movie: Tell mama, tell mama all. It seemed an appropriate way to start another blog season, a bit of timeless beauty (it doesn't get more beautiful than Liz and Monty circa 1950) amid the political ugliness of these current days.

Suddenly, Last Summer also made me think of The Motels, my favorite pop noir band of the 80s. Their ode to lost summer romance holds up pretty well as a song, though the video for it fares less well. A recent interview with Martha Davis, the band's sultry-voiced singer, confirms that she's still making music. My favorite Motels song is Total Control, so I found an old live version of it and a version from just last year. The old version has Martha holding a lit cigarette (how times have changed!) that made me fear for her fingers. The performance is rather affected, unnecessary melodrama accessorizing the naturally haunting voice. The recent version is pared down by comparison, smoke-free, and lovely. It's always interesting to see how musicians handle the youthful material that made their names. Some try to turn back time, as if the world and their fame has stood still. Others, like Marianne Faithfull, use the passage of time to bring new meaning to a song. (I think of her singing As Tears Go By as a pretty young waif and, years later, as a world-weary, rough-voiced reincarnation of her former self.) Few artists are as smartly self-conscious as Marianne Faithfull, but Martha holds her own, then and now.

Suddenly, last summer. Time passes, out of our control. Welcome to autumn.