Sunday, January 6, 2013

Todd Rundgren -- "I'm in the Clique" (1970)

I'm in the clique
I know every trick
And I can get a chick 
'Cause I'm in the clique

We learned in law school that the law is a "seamless web" -- different areas of the law are interconnected to such a degree that it is impossible to draw a clear dividing line between, say, contract law and tort law.

I got your seamless web right here -- and it's name is 2 or 3 lines, where no featured song is an island, entire of itself.  You can count on very few things in this life -- but those things you can count on include death, taxes, and every song on 2 or 3 lines being part of one or more series, which often overlap but which always come back to . . . that's right . . .me! 

2 or 3 lines sashays from one featured song to the next with such apparent effortlessness and savoir faire that most people are surprised to learn just how much thought and care goes into determining what songs are to be featured and the order in which they appear.

From the movie Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
"How much?" you ask.  "Surprisingly little," 2 or 3 lines answers.  That's because the seamless web that is made up of the hundreds of songs that have been featured on this blog are an organic creation that springs fully formed from my imagination (much as the dragon's teeth that Jason of Golden Fleece fame sowed into the ground sprang fully formed into armed warriors). 

Our previous little 2 or 3 lines gem featured Kanye West's "Clique" -- a decision that was made on the spur of the moment when Yeezy let the world know that his demon seed had successfully invaded Kim Kardashian's uterus.  (I hope that such frank medical terminology doesn't shock you.)

But listening to the song and hearing the word "clique" -- a French word meaning "a narrow exclusive circle of persons held together by a common interest" that was first used in 1711 -- triggered an involuntary memory in the mind of 2 or 3 lines.  And almost before I knew it, another link in our seamless web had been forged.  (Mixed metaphors are so much more fun than plain old unmixed metaphors, don't you think?)

As I have often observed, pop songs are to 2 or 3 lines what madeleines were to Marcel Proust.  (When it comes to 20th-century novelists, Proust absolutely pummels James Joyce.)  And the little musical teacake that I suddenly tasted in my mind's mouth -- this metaphor is getting a little out of control, but we must soldier on to the finish! -- was Todd Rundgren's 1970 song, "I'm in the Clique."

"I'm in the Clique" appears on the eponymous debut album of the band Runt, but let's call a spade a spade -- that album was really a Todd Rundgren solo album.  Rundgren later released an album titled A Wizard, A True Star, and that is no exaggeration -- he is a musical wizard and a true star.  (Not a regular star like the sun, but more like a giant star -- or even a hypergiant star.)

I bought the Runt album many, many years ago, and it has a lot of great songs.  Rundgren is an extremely eclectic musician, and Runt includes bluesy tracks, straightforward rock 'n' roll, and Laura Nyro-style piano-based pop.  (Laura Nyro has been sadly neglected by 2 or 3 lines, but we will cure that deficiency next month.)

"I'm in the Clique" is often described as a progressive rock song, but I think of progressive rock as keyboard-driven and classical-influenced, with not a single note out of place.  (Think King Crimson, Yes, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.)

He's a wizard, and a true star
But this song is much more improvisational -- the long instrumental interlude before the last verse is much closer to experimental jazz than progressive rock.  The rather free rhythmic structure (generally, it's 6/8) is also characteristic of modern jazz.

The clique in Rundgren's song appears to be a group of New York City musicians who have clawed their way to a certain status in that very competitive arena, where most of those who have entered the fray have ended up residing on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.  

The singer -- who is a member of the clique in question -- is addressing a fledgling musician who aspires to join it, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he's got to pay a lot of dues before he will be admitted.    

Maybe you're a wheel in your hometown
Maybe you're the best on the block
But by the time you make it in New York
Your axe will be in hock

("Axe" in this context means "guitar."  "In hock" in this context means "in hock.")

Guitars in a pawn shop (a/k/a "Axes in hock")
I originally intended to say even more in this post.  But why gild the lily?  (Or, to use Shakespeare's actual words, why "gild refined gold" and "paint the lily"?)  If this post is not the Platonic ideal of a 2 or 3 lines post, I'm damned if I know what is.  

So I'm signing off for the time being.  Happy trails to you, dear reader . . . until we meet again (which will be in just two days).

Here's "I'm in the Clique":

"Clique" here to buy the song from Amazon.  (Yes, I did use that play on words in the previous post.  And I'd use it in the next post if the next post featured a song with "clique" in the title, which it won't -- so I won't.)

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