Thursday, December 07, 2006:

body snatchers mix, part 2

pod hatching (Siegel, 1956)
I guess I should have explained a bit more about the mix last time: most of the songs are tangentially related to the Body Snatchers stories at best, and the mix isn't limited to what could fit on a CD (mostly because I'm not one to make tough decisions). Along the way we'll see some songs with a passing resemblance and others that are different from how we remembered them.

Betty Everett and Jerry Butler -- Love Is Strange
I've written about Betty Everett twice before. This one is one of the better tracks off Together--sweet lyrics and a sweet duo, but what sells it for me is when each of them take it solo towards the end. And then I'm completely sold, yes.

(As for the rest of the LP ... no. It's mostly middling, with tracks that tend to stop at competent without making it to genuinely affecting, and I'm not surprised it's gone out of print. I can't speak for the CD linked below, though--haven't heard it and it's awfully pricey for me to pick up.)
[They're Delicious Together]

Little Milton -- If You Love Me
If guitars were animals, PETA would stage a protest about this song.
[Anthology 1953-1961 ]

Little Johnny Taylor -- If You Love Me (Like You Say)
Keeping with the Chicago blues, the horns, the electric guitars, and the general theme--this one has a smoother melody on the vocals, less grit on the delivery, more syncopation on the horns, and an organ buried in the mix.
[Greatest Hits]

Muddy Waters -- I Feel So Good
Blues piano with a harmonica and a drumset rocking the joint, letting the public know that feeling good can be contagious.
[At Newport]

Ann Peebles -- Slipped, Tripped, and Fell in Love
Three great things about this song: the bass, the organ, the background vocals. The first one runs throughout; the next two stop in for tea and leave right after. You'd consider it rude, except now you're friends and you just hope they can stay longer next time.
[The Best of Ann Peebles: The Hi Records Years]

Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.
--William Dement of the Stanford University Sleep Research Centre, Newsweek, November 30 1959

A bare-bones plot description of the Body Snatchers stories (all of them): residents of a community come to suspect that certain loved ones are not themselves, but are perfect physical replicas without any genuine emotional responses. They discover that people are in fact being destroyed and replaced by impostors hatched from alien pods, one by one, as each one of them sleeps. A small group of people decide to fight the aliens, and at least two of them are in love.

From there the details differ--in the characters, locations, resolution, and treatment of themes, with implications about each story's beliefs. But fundamentally the story is about love and vulnerability and the loss of individuality. It's about being human and getting tired and needing to sleep. We're no more vulnerable than when we sleep, as Wes Craven knows, but Finney didn't create a sardonic villain to dispense gory deaths; instead he poses the more psychological question: who will we be when we wake up?

It seems a silly question, easy to laugh off, yet sleeping itself is somewhat troublesome. "We all go a little mad sometimes," sure. We might go a bit unhinged on hearing some devastating news, but that's not all, is it? It's a truism that no one wants to hear about anyone else's dreams, and probably even psychiatrists are faking it, but what are these things? Our brain tells us the earth is a swamp and that people drive Yugos over fallen mossy trees past dully interested brontosauri, and then we get up in the morning and yawn and stretch and go make tea or cofee. Our brain sorts out the desk and dusts the bookshelves and dumps the dreams in the trash. We go around with this tacit agreement that dreams are mostly meaningless, yet the brain keeps making them; and we go to bed knowing that we'll go a bit insane but that it's no big deal, really, that in the morning breakfast and a shower will set us right again. And it does.

Yet in the Body Snatchers stories, sleep doesn't make people temporarily insane; it makes them perfectly and utterly sane, endlessly and coldly logical. It destroys the identity in a more permanent way; falling asleep leads to being replaced by an alien being who has all the same memories but none of the emotion. The consciousness is transfered to another body, the humanity left behind somewhere in the gray fluff, to be swept away and thrown in the trash.

The stories feature alien characters encouraging humans to quit struggling, to give up and accept their fate. It's a conversation that enhances the horror and the sense of betrayal: former friends have changed--changed horribly--and don't mind at all; in fact they want us to join them. Given that humans are fond of thinking that emotions are distinctly human (a dodgy proposition given the evidence that dogs, primates, and countless other mammals show grief, insecurity, jealousy, and indignation), the stories can also be read as an exploration of the fear of evolution. The pods are much more efficient at reproducing than humans are, and they seem to get along much better; and in each version of the story the chances of human survival begin to look slim. Perhaps each story is asking if it's not merely an accident that humans have reigned so long, and if we truly deserve our self-proclaimed perch at the top. If so, it's no surprise that the stories have proved enduringly horrifying.

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Love these tracks you posted and past posts.
I wanna be a Falcon, sweep and fly.

Great! Great! Great!

Forget PETA -- Give me some more of that guitar sound.

Excellent selection. Not sure where the bodysnatcher bit comes in, but fine tunes! Thanks.

Thanks, everyone.

Anon, they're tangentially related to the Body Snatchers stories--mostly to the Kaufman version, but I rearranged the tracks (and the posts) at the last minute and the relationship got a bit muddied.

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