Thursday, May 10, 2012

Musical Musings: Poe- "Hey Pretty"

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New Year's 2001-2002, I was down in Baltimore and went to a huge bonfire celebration out in the middle of nowhere. You can guess what kind of a night I had; I wake up on Jan.1 after spending a couple of hours curled up under a blanket on the floor of my friends Jaeger and Anthony’s apartment.

I always wake up kind of slowly, getting a feel for what’s going on before really reaching full consciousness and that day was no exception. As fate would have it, what woke me up was Jaeger listening to Poe’s second album “Haunted.” I remember hearing the sound of a phone dialing and ringing and Poe singing, “I thought you should know that he died today he closed his eyes and he left us at 12:03. He wanted you to know he isn’t holding a grudge and if you are you should let it go.” And then the somewhat eerie-gothic-pop-rock-techno music began in all its glory. I’d never heard anything like it, I stayed there on the floor completely memorized and I think I listen to the whole album. At least that’s how I want to remember it.     

To say that Haunted is a great album is kind of an understatement. It’s a work of art and easily in my top ten albums of all time.

Haunted is a concept album; it’s a tribute to Poe’s father who passed away in 1993. Poe found recording of lectures he’d given and used them as a sort of found art in her songs. She also may have used recordings from her mother’s answering machine. I’ve never been sure if those parts are found art too, I tend to think they’re just playful fabrications.

But Poe’s relationship with her parents isn’t the only thread in the album. The other main theme is the dovetailing of her music with her brother, Mark Z. Danielewski’s book “House of Leaves.” The novel is about, among other things, a mysterious closet in an old house, a closet that doesn’t exist in our reality, a closet, which begins to grow! The book isn’t required reading to enjoy the album but a familiarity with both definitely enhances the experience.

So, what’s the point of this post, other than reminiscing about old times and giving a little valentine to one of my favorite albums?

One of the tracks on this album is “Hey Pretty.” You can find it here:

Now, when I got back to college (New Paltz in upstate New York). I bought “Haunted” and “House of Leaves” as quickly as I could and started playing the heck out of the album and reading the novel. One day I was listening to the album and someone said, “Does this one have the hidden track on it?”

Sometime after I bought the album another edition of the album came out. This one had an additional hidden track at the end of it. A remix of “Hey Pretty” that features Mark Danielewski reading a passage from “House of Leaves.” Well, needless to say I had to go out and buy the album a second time in order to have the additional song. Here is the remix. (I couldn't embed this video for whatever reason)

Which version do you like better? To me they are practically different songs and I like each of them for different reasons. I think as a song the original is a better song. It doesn’t really need the spoken word. But the passage fits so well on the remix that it really is a great piece of art. I definitely remember reading the novel before I heard this remix and the passage was memorable even before I heard it set to music.    

1 comment:

  1. It is indeed a great album. As for "Hey Pretty," I'm not sure if it's just because the remix got more airplay on the local stations than the original, but I prefer it with the spoken word. When I bought the album later, I found it strange listening to the track without hearing "fast, slow, fast, fast, slow." Happily, the CD I purchased had both versions on it. ("Haunted" has to be on my list of Top 50 All-Time Favorite Songs, BTW. I find it to be a very moving piece of music. Thanks for reminding me that it's time to put that album back into rotation for the daily commute.)