Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Last -- "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" (1977)


See that girl with the soft blue eyes
They never seem to close or show surprise

I'm not going to beat around the bush -- this is the best rock single in history, and it's really not even close. And I could easily have missed it altogether -- which makes me wonder what other great records are out there that I've never heard.

I moved to Washington, DC, in the fall of 1977, and quickly discovered the Georgetown University radio station -- like a lot of college radio stations, it played a lot of crazy, random stuff you never heard on commercial radio stations. For some reason (there were different conspiracy theories going around at the time), that station went off the air a year or two later.

One of its DJs was given a Saturday evening show (7 to 10 pm, I think) on the old WHFS -- a very quirky commercial (barely) radio station that is often mentioned in George Pelecanos books. I don't know the guy's name, but the show was called "The Mystic Eye," and I taped it on my stereo cassette recorder whenever I could. There's a lot of duplication in the 100 hours or so of tapes I still have, and "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" popped up several times, but somehow I never captured the DJ giving the name of the song or the band.  [NOTE: Months later, I got an e-mail from a fellow fan of the old WHFS, who told me the DJ's name was Steve Lorber and gave me his telephone number.]

Later, I made a single 90-minute compilation tape featuring my favorite songs from "The Mystic Eye," and this song closed it -- the ne plus ultra of a lot of great, bizarre music. I made a number of copies of that tape for my friends, and I always told them about the last song, and how frustrated I was not to know what it was. Once I even called a local radio station and left a message for a DJ who had worked at 'HFS back in the day, thinking he might know something, but I never heard back.


Fast forward to the 21st century, and my discovery that you could easily find song lyrics on the Internet. This song was a live recording, and my copies of it were often incomplete and always pretty hissy, and I couldn't begin to decipher all the lyrics. But I did pick up the phrase "plastic naugahyde" near the end. ("Modified hypocrites" probably would have worked just as well as a search term, but I had no idea that's what they were singing.)

This one's for you
You modified hypocrites
God! To raise your children like goldfish
In plastic naugahyde cells

I got exactly one hit when I plugged "plastic naugahyde" into a search engine (probably Alta Vista, not Google -- this was quite awhile ago, boys and girls): http://www.dannolte.com/last/ (now http://www.laexplosion.com/), where I found everything I wanted to know about "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" and The Last. My search was over. Eureka.

The album version of the song is pretty good, but much more top-40 in feel -- this version (released as a single) is MUCH better. (Don't miss the 13th Floor Elevators-ish ululation at about 1:40.)

Here it is, courtesy of YouTube -- I strongly recommend that you have the lyrics in front of you when you listen (they are available on the "LA Explosion" website), but I'm probably wasting my breath. You'll just do whatever you feel like doing regardless of what I tell you.


Oddly, I never listened to any other music by The Last (a band that has been described by reviewers as bringing together surf music, British Invasion harmonies, pop-punk, and neo-psychedelia). I really should go back to the "LA Explosion" site or iTunes or Amazon or wherever and give some of The Last's other songs a chance -- they might be just as good as this one.

So how do I plan to top this song? I don't. This blog isn't like those lame syndicated "top 40" radio shows that start with #40 and count down to #1. I could drop dead before I find time to post again, or I could simply forget my password. So I want to be sure that if this blog turns out to be a one-post wonder, that this song is the subject of that post.

Speaking of the girl with the soft blue eyes who is described in the two lines from the song that I quoted at the beginning of this post, I think I've been looking for her since I first heard this song in 1978 or 1979. (She doesn't have to have blue eyes, although that would be a nice touch.)

If you want to buy the live version of "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" from iTunes, click here:



Or if you want to buy it from Amazon, click here:






5 comments:

  1. I think the "girl with the soft blue eyes" line was written about one of the girls from the local punk scene [then consisting of about 95 people], Mary Rat or maybe Lorna Doom [bassist of The Germs] or Hellin Killer [married to producer/ former Screamer Paul Roessler] ... I do know for sure the "girl with the raven hair" was Trudie Arguilies Barrett, punk fashion icon and wife of The Screamers' drummer KK Barrett. [I used to like imagining it was me, but I was only 12 when the song was written and didn't meet Joe until 3 years later].

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  2. Visual aid:
    http://www.tumblr.com/search/Hellin+Killer

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  3. one "Last" thing - The Last have a lot of great songs, definitely worth a listen!
    Also check out my other "favorite band you've never heard of", The Gladhands [from NC, 1995-1999], esp. their last cd, Wow and Flutter.

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  4. Nipper Seaturtle, please send your e-mail address to 2or3lines@gmail.com -- thanks.

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  5. Love this band but have only heard a little of them. For the above I'd say, RIYL Violent Femmes or The Feelies.
    great blog here, cheers.

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