Friday, May 4, 2018

Third Rail – "Invisible Man" (1967)

The invisible man stepped out of his door 
Precisely at 7:10
He bought the paper and caught the train
With the rest of the invisible men

Like that invisible man, I took a train to my office every day.  But I was almost never out the door at 7:10.

Invisible men taking the train to work
Forty years ago, when I was a brand-new government lawyer, I usually left the house by 8:10.  But my departure time eventually slid to 9:10, then 10:10.  

In the months leading up to my retirement last year, it slipped to 11:10 or even 12:10.  That’s because I felt obligated to visit my mother in her assisted living apartment every morning before heading to the nearest Metro station.

*     *     *     *     *

“Invisible Man” tells the story of a nameless, faceless, white-collar drone who is indistinguishable from all the other nameless, faceless, white-collar drones who work at his company.

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Sloan Wilson’s hugely popular 1955 novel – which was made into a hugely popular movie the following year – told the story of an “invisible man” who also struggled with the surrender of freedom and individuality that was expected of those who worked for large corporate organizations.  

Today’s featured song is a two-minute, fourteen-second distillation of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

*     *     *     *     *

Although there were hundreds of other attorneys at the law firm where I spent the bulk of my working life, I didn’t really feel invisible there.

But I felt very invisible last Saturday night when I journeyed to a hip Washington bar to hear a local band that was recently featured in 2 or 3 lines.  

That’s because everyone else at that bar were twenty- and thirty-somethings.  I’m 65 years old, which meant that I was invisible to them.

I’m not looking for you to feel sorry for me because of that – I’m just stating a fact.

(Actually, that’s a lie.  I am looking for you to feel a little sorry for me.)

*     *     *     *     *

“Invisible Man” is not the only Third Rail song that says “Fie!” to corporate conformity.  

The group’s best-known song, “Run, Run, Run,” also pokes fun at the “straight world rat race” (to quote Allmusic):

Up at the morning at half-past eight
You can’t have your breakfast ’cause you’ll be late
Tie your tie like a hangman’s noose
Ain’t no time to drink your juice

The brains behind the Third Rail were Brill Building songwriter Artie Resnick (who co-wrote “Under the Boardwalk” and “Good Lovin’”), his wife Kris, and 20-year-old  wunderkind Joey Levine, who later sang the lead vocals on “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” and other bubblegum-music hits.  

Levine eventually became a very successful advertising jingle writer.  (Who can forget “Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t” for Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars?)

Here’s “Invisible Man,” which was released in 1967 on Id Music, the Third Rail’s one and only album:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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