Observations and arguments.

Uncalled for: One Was Johnny

I’ve learned that a common thread in my musical taste is a fondness for tracks in which if you stop and listen carefully to a single element–a vocal performance, a guitar riff, a backing horn track–you realize that the musician is doing something that in isolation would be completely uncalled for. Overripe. Near-ridiculous. And yet, within the overall mix, the excessiveness doesn’t stand out. And rather than detracting from the track, it somehow adds value to the overall vibe.

Today’s case in point, from the boy’s as yet limited musical collection: Charles Larkey’s stoned-funk bass line from Carole King’s “One Was Johnny,” the musical adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library story, as featured on the soundtrack to the television special Really Rosie. (Song available from iTunes.)

The boy was introduced to the four Nutshell songs from his DVD of Where the Wild Things Are, and we’ve listened to them by now hundreds of times. This morning he was working on his number puzzle, while attempting to recite “One Was Johnny” from memory. Except that each time he would get to “6” (the monkey), he would skip to the point at which the monkey steals the banana, which is from the back, descending half of the song (if you’re not familiar with the story, it counts from one to ten and back again). At this point he got a bit confused, in realizing that a) “banana” doesn’t rhyme with the previous line (“bit the dog’s tail”); and b) after “banana” comes “5”, and yet he’s holding the number 7. So we headed into the boy’s room and put the CD in the player to listen to the song again, so that we could get it straight once and for all.

Larkey was apparently also King’s bass player on Tapestry, which now I need to go back and listen to that again.


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