Douglas Coupland it was who coined the term 'option paralysis'. The tendency when faced with limitless choices to make none at all. He obviously knew music streaming was coming all the way back when he wrote Generation X. I often find myself defaulting to the same old albums and playlists simply because I can't think of what else to do. Voice control systems like Siri and Alexa make it much worse.
That why Andrew Stafford's recent Patreon tweak intrigues me. Andrew is both a music writer and a sports writer. (An odd combo, but an oddly common one too. I can think of a few others I know working both those dodges). He set his Patreon up to write a personal musical memoir – a successful experiment which will see Something To Believe In published by UQP in July this year. This latest tweak is a song recommendation, every Monday morning.
He picks a track and writes it up. There's usually a YouTube link. Simple, but hard. I think it's a brilliant idea, partly because I'm in awe of people who can write about music. I can't. All the years I wrote for Rolling Stone I never once filed an album review or a report from a gig. I have zero fucking clues about how you'd even start. And yet in four or five hundred words every Monday, Stafford writes sharply about the experience of a particular song, and the context from which it comes to us.
His most recent mini essay was about Warren Zevon's 'My Shit's Fucked Up'.
He kindly let me steal the whole thing for you, (but if you dig it you should check out his page over here):
I was tipped off to this Warren Zevon song by the Beasts' cover version. Having listened to the original, frankly - even given their weight of recent experience - they don't get near it. Zevon's performance on Jools Holland (above) is if anything even more devastating. It's not exactly what you'd call an earworm, but it might haunt you to your grave instead.
You've probably heard Warren Zevon, even if you don't think you have. His best-known song, Werewolves Of London, was a hit for him in 1978 and covered by the Grateful Dead, among others. You can find it on his third album, Excitable Boy. The cover of that album makes him look like a new-waver, but he was closer to Neil Young than the Knack, and he didn't particularly want Werewolves, which he thought of as a novelty, to be the first single.
It was no novelty, though. The Go-Betweens and the Apartments taught me about the importance of great opening lines in songs and the first couplet of Werewolves is a pearler: "I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand / Walkin' through the streets of SoHo in the rain." Zevon was working a much weirder groove.
Back to this song, though. Zevon knew his way around a tune. His voice on this is crumpled, but the melody - and it's a good one - is fleshed out by the strength of his fingerpicking. Apparently, Zevon had a major phobia of doctors. One day, knowing things weren't quite right, he looked down in the bowl, and didn't like what he saw there.
So this song is an imaginary conversation with Zevon's imaginary doctor. It came out in 2000 on his album Life'll Kill Ya. It wasn't until two years after the album's release that Zevon was eventually diagnosed with mesothelioma, and he was dead a year later. You don't need to know any of that, though, to get what this song is about.
See, Zevon's not talking about his shit. Not literally, anyway. He's talking about his phobia and his resistance to change, because he knows that's what's going to get him in the end. If we can't confront the sources of our worst fears, the stuff that lies even deeper within us, we only end up manifesting them in the long run. And that's the fucked-up shit.
In this interview with David Letterman, a long-time friend and supporter of Zevon's, the songwriter reflects on mortality less than a year before his death, offering maybe the most pungent closing line in rock history as a piece of parting wisdom: "Enjoy every sandwich." Welcome to the working week!
I wish I could do this. But we all know I can't. Anyway, again, the page is over here.