Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mann Oh Amiee Mann

In my life I’ve seen some pretty sad sights. I saw Don MacLean play ‘American Pie” for a couple of dozen bored college students one night in the lobby of a dorm. He was making a couple of hundred bucks a stop, and then moving on to the next gig, playing that one song, and a couple of others, and talking to people about what it was like to have one of the best remembered songs of all time, and then wind up going from small college to small college playing for a couple of hundred bucks a night. Apparently the “One Hit Wonder” circuit is alive and well, and features such famous artists as Tommy TuTone and Meredith Brooks. Forever defined by one song but my what a song, these people go on mini-tours and hope that one day, one night, one more song will come along, and…
            Tina Louise to this day hated Ginger, and it was far later in life than it had to be before she realized the other cast members of “Gillian’s Island” were not to blame for her not being able to get a role in anything that wasn’t making fun of her previous and nearly only role for the rest of her life. The cast of  “The Brady Bunch” and ‘The Waltons” and of course “Friends” have discovered that being well known and well loved as someone can mean you are that person forever. The obits are littered with child actors who were never allowed to grow up or did so and crashed hard, never to be able to reach past that cute little kid everyone loved for so long.
            Of course there are exceptions to this and I am not about to start trading names of those who made it versus those who didn’t. Acting is one thing but music is quite another. This is where the one hit wonder truly has made its way into the language with a vengeance.
            Aimee Mann became famous for a while in 1985 for her song “Voices Carry” She was in a band named “til tueday” and there for a moment in time, Mann looked like the next big thing. But it was that one song, “Voices Carry’ people wanted to hear, and the competition for air space in 1985, as well as video time on MTV was fierce. The big hair and rat tail that was her trademark disappeared, and so did Aimee Mann, at least from center stage spotlights.
            I am an unabashed, unrepentant, and undying fan, of Aimee Mann.

Til Tuesday’s three albums are a collection of eighties music but the exception is that most of the songs tell a story of some sort, with very vivid imagery, which would become a trademark in Mann’s songwriting. When Mann broke out solo she continued writing and singing, but with very limited success or exposure. In 1999, Mann sang for the critically acclaimed soundtrack of the movie, “Magnolia” and became somewhat of a cult figure in folk-alt music. Mann’s pure and clean vocals, her ability to tell a story, and the fact that she never quit led a lot of people like myself to become true believers in the woman’s talent.
            I’ve a MP3 player with over eight hours of Aimee Man on it. I’ve all three of the til Tuesday albums on it, and yes this was about the time we all converted to CDs. I’ve got all of her solo stuff there as well as Magnolia. I really like Aimee Mann, believe it or not, and she had provided me with a soundtrack to many a road trip, and to many a memory. Nearly all of her songs are love gone wrong songs, and none are very happy tales, but that is the way life usually is, or at least the way Mann and I see it.
            Her latest CD, “@#%&*! Smilers” offered to us in 2008, begins with “Freeway” a double entendre title for a road and for an inability to accept what is given. Next on the menu is “Star Man” which gives some insight on who inspires Mann, and why. “Star Man: only lasts a minute and a half, but it’s a gripping tale of denial or acceptance. “Looking for nothing” is classic Mann who manages to weave a short story into a song. In “looking For Nothing” Mann tells the story of herself and two friends going to an amusement park, and the results of the trip, all in less than four minutes and the song isn’t rushed at all. “Phoenix” drives in next and hammers home a love lost, but still… “Borrowing Time” reminds that life is short. “It’s Over” is a powerful song, full of incredible images and passion. “31 Today” isn’t supposed to be funny, but I’m fifty. The song has great phrases like, “drinking Guinness in the afternoon/taking shelter in the black cocoon” “The Great Beyond” is a classic Mann song showing off her voice, really. “Medicine Wheel” is a dark and gritty tale of low life loves gone worse. “Columbus Avenue” chides a lover for leaving. “Little Tornado” has one of the best lines, ever…”Little tornado, bane of the trailer park…”  “True believer” is an odd song, but well put together and the same can be said for “Ballentine” which closes the CD out.

            Okay, Aimee Mann and til Tuesday will not be for everyone, and certainly even fewer are going to collect every MP3 every recorded by Mann, even if her version of “The Grinch” really rocks. Aimee Mann is an odd woman, tall, skinny, brooding, and a victim of being the owner of one really popular song, long ago. But Mann is also a lighthouse in the dark for everyone who has never become famous, yet is creative. Neither rich nor famous, Aimee Mann keeps writing songs and singing them because more than fame or fortune, she is her art and her art is who she is. Aimee Mann has a great voice and a witty pen. I recommend her.

Take Care,

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