Sunday, October 10, 2010

Music Review: WAITING OUT THE EIGHTIES: PART 1 (1985, The Coupe de Villes)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 40 minutes.
Publisher: "RRRRRRictus Records."
Best line: "I'm waiting for heaven...back in nineteen sixty-seven."


[Author's Note: While there is a wealth of information about John Carpenter in general, there is a dearth of actual information about the Coupe de Villes. If there are any corrections to be made- for example, I am sure that I have confused the voices of the three on occasion- do let me know.]

Readers of this site will note that I possess perhaps an unhealthy obsession with the The Coupe de Villes- a rockin' trio comprised of filmmakers (and buddies) John Carpenter, Nick Castle, and Tommy Lee Wallace. Though they'd tooled around for years, and it took them until 1986- with the closing credits song to BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA- to find a mainstream platform for their groovy tunes, Carpy and the boys were obviously more interested in promoting their filmmaking than their songwriting. Case in point: they recorded an entire album in 1985, and didn't even try to release it- they simply handed out a few copies to family and friends. This album was entitled WAITING OUT THE EIGHTIES, and as a direct result of the digital era, we can now easily bring its soothing strains into our homes without the benefit of being Tommy Lee Wallace's nephew. Now I've gone on about the concept of The Coupe de Villes in my music review of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, and in my John Carpenter Fan-fiction Volumes 1, 2, and 3, so I'll dispense with the pleasantries and get straight to the music.

This is a terrific album. And I say that with a straight face. I know that you can't see my face from there, but the expression upon it is unreservedly earnest. I probably listen to at least one track from this album every day. My girlfriend wishes that was an exaggeration.

#1. WAITING OUT THE EIGHTIES.

The title track, and it lives up to the heightened expectations that generally accompany title tracks. Probably the best song on the album, it's got a catchy melody, impassioned vocals, and some kickass three part harmony. We begin with a heated soliloquy by Nick Castle, and it's mostly the Nick Castle show, but John Carpenter shows up at the chorus with his calm, collected, Jim Morrison-style inflections, and then the finale is a whirlwind of overlapping, melodious pleadings (Tommy gets into the mix, too, I believe), which made a transcription difficult.

"Loving you- is so hard to do- you're in the wrong time, baby– Loving you...I should forget you...I should get you outta my life!

I saw you runnin' and I saw you smile, my heart had started to beat...
Pulled up beside you and you ran for a while, I started cursin' the lead...
You told someone else was in your heart
You thought I looked outta style
You turned away and you tore me apart

I'm waiting out the eighties, I am waiting for you
I am waiting out the eighties, I am waiting for you
I'm waiting (It's what you think you are) out the eighties (It's what you think you do), I am waiting (You say that's over now) for you (You say that's up to you)
I'm waiting (The way you let me down) out the eighties (The way you walk away), I am waiting (Move on and walk away) for you (Move on and walk away)

You do the workout when you get the blues
You say it helps you survive
You need the money for your upscale shoes
The ones from Rodeo Drive
You told me someone else was near your heart
You thought I looked like a loser
You turned away and you tore me apart

I'm waiting out the eighties, I am waiting for you
I am waiting out the eighties, I am waiting for you
I'm waiting (It's what you think you are) out the eighties (It's what you think you do), I am waiting (You say that's over now) for you (You think it's up to you)
I'm waiting (The way you let me down) out the eighties (The way you walk away), I am waiting (Down and walk away) for you (Down and walk away)
I'm waiting (It's what you think you are) out the eighties (It's what you think you do) [LOOOVIN' YOUUU], I am waiting (You say that's over now) for you [SOOOO HARD TO DO] (You think it's up to you)
I'm waiting (The way you let me down) out the eighties [TRY TO FORGET YA, HONEY] (The way you walk away), [TRY TO FORGET YOU] I am waiting (Move on and walk away) for you (Down and walk away) [LOVING YOU...]"

Lyrically, I'm not quite sure if this song is about a crazed stalker (Michael Myers?) or a stuck-up bitch. A few of the songs on this album are about glassy-eyed, upwardly mobile females (think Meg Foster in THEY LIVE), so I'm gonna go ahead and side with the Coupe de Villes in this tiff.

What's it really about? I think Carpy & Co. are disillusioned with the consumer, Reaganist 'new morning in America' yuppie bullshit (again, think THEY LIVE), and they're hoping that it'll blow over with the end of the decade. 'Maybe when the 90's begin, little miss jogger will become a little more human and a little less corporate shill.' We all know how that turned out. Perhaps the fact that the 90's didn't bring consequential socio-economic change is why the Coupe de Villes have never released another album. They were just too disillusioned.

#2. 1967.

This one's got Carpy front n' center. A few of the 'Eastern' synth sounds from the BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA soundtrack get some play, too, but pay 'em no mind. And there's an infectious bass-line that makes me wanna reflect on my life:

(John):
My lovin' you is like an empty night
There's somethin' in me and it just ain't right
Too many people in their fancy clothes
Too many people all alone

(Tommy and Nick):
No more empty nights
No more empty nights
Make me feel all right

(John):
Baby, don't go
I have to say I'm sorry
Baby, you knowww
I'm out of time and place
I'm waiting
For heaven
Back in Nineteen sixty-seven

My lovin' you is something I don't feel
We're pushin' midnight and it just ain't real
Too many people bein' movie stars
Too many people all alone

(Tommy and Nick):
No more empty nights
No more empty nights
Make me feel all right

(John):
Baby, don't go
I have to say I'm sorry
Baby, you knowww
I'm out of time and place
I'm waiting
For heaven
Back in Nineteen sixty-seven

I was alive...
Nineteen sixty-seven
I was alive...
I was alive..."

John Carpenter is not a real emotional dude. As far as I can tell, he's a bona fide Stoic. When faced with injustice in the world, he possesses the necessary detachment to stand back and make a parable about the times (THEY LIVE, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, et al.). His singing voice is stoic, too- it's harder to tell when things really have weight to them, because he always tackles a song with the same booming honesty, whether it's about big trouble in little China or about his personal life. "1967" is a fairly haunting ditty, and I certainly get the sense that the material is near and dear to Carpy's heart. I don't wish to wax too philosophical, but Carpenter- in his hatred for the superficial eighties- reflects back on a time when he was nineteen years old, and life meant something different. He looks around at the world of 1985 and sees that he doesn't belong. He's out of time, he's out of place, and there's no way to escape. When he's pouring his heart and soul into THE THING and the world is embracing E.T. instead, how do you come to grips with that? It's also an apology to a loved one (who? Adrienne Barbeau? But I don't think it's my place to hypothesize) about his position in that foul industry called entertainment, and how it has robbed him of the exhilaration of youth- that which made him alive. As he repeats the line "I was alive...", there's a real quality of sincerity that shines through, and I think you'd have to be made of stone not relate. There's a compulsion to revisit his nostalgias and his regrets, but he never really can go home again. There's something strangely private about it, and you almost feel as if you're intruding on a personal moment merely by listening, which is one of the highest compliments I could ever pay a song. Probably the emotive core of the album.

#3. SHE HAS FRIENDS IN L.A.

Another lament, but this one has a little more hope at the bottom. It's catchy, too. I'm pretty sure John sings this one, but it sounds a little higher than usual for him, so there's the chance it could be Tommy.

(John):
"She has friends in L.A.
Tattoos and cocaine
They hide their eyes
She hides their pain

She has friends in L.A.
They all drive new cars
They all know exactly who they are

(All):
I know she works at night
She doesn't drive
I know she'll see the light
Keep our love alive
Keep our love alive

(John):
She has friends who know me
Not on speaking terms
They thinks it's clear
I have to learn

(All):
I know she works at night
She doesn't drive
I know she'll see the light
Keep our love alive
Keep our love alive

(John):
She has friends who miss her
Say I'm not to blame
They turn their heads
They feel ashamed

(All):
I know she works at night
She doesn't drive
I know she'll see the light
Keep our love alive
Keep our love alive
I know she works at night
She doesn't drive
I know she'll see the light
Keep our love alive
Keep our love alive
Keep our love alive"

Well this one certainly keeps alive the themes of the album thus far. I'm pretty sure it's about a hooker, and the "she doesn't drive" line may or may not be a reference to Missing Persons' 1983 single "Nobody walks in L.A." Anyway, this hooker-buddy is caught up in the wrong crowd of cocaine-snorting, nouveau-riche shitbirds of the 1980's. The Coupe de Villes are having none of it. And well, I don't want to beat a dead horse. You see where I'm going with this.

#4. MANHOLE.

This one's a little funky, a little Elvis-y. Hey, it's from the man that made ELVIS, the movie. This song's pretty upbeat, despite the fact it's about an unfortunate, cuckolded gentleman, who's taking it pretty well, all things considered. I'm unsure if the lyrics are meant to be sexually graphic or more theoretical in nature, but I suppose it doesn't matter. I guess you could see this as a continuation of the theme of humans being degraded by the values of the eighties, if you'd like. Again, I'm pretty sure it's John singing, but it's got that rockabilly-ish twang to it, so it's hard to tell.

"I was your man
Or so you said
And I was always there to hold you in your bed
Well I heard
Heard that you were runnin' around
You're a manhole, baby, you take it underground

I was your king
Bought you a car
But I never got to drive it very far
Cause I heard
Heard that you had leased it out
You're a manhole baby
They open you a lot

You take me down, baby, down, baby, down
To where it started from
Down, baby, down, baby, down
To where I came undone
Round, baby, round, baby,
Until I lost control
Down, baby, down, baby,
Lost my soul
Let's twist
Let's twist

I was your (unintelligible)
Your only man
But there are only certain things that I can stand
Cause I heard
Heard you were playin' your hand
You're a manhole, baby
I'm sure you understand

You take me down, baby, down, baby, down
To where it started from
Down, baby, down, baby, down
To where I came undone
Round, baby, round, baby,
And then I lost control
Down, baby, down, baby,
Mmm...lost my soul

Let's twist
Let's twist
Mercy!
Alright!"

#5. HARD ON ME.

Nick Castle (for the most part) takes over for a bit with a heartfelt love ballad. This one's got a lot of two part and three part harmonies, some soothing keyboards, and a tempo that kinda drags. Musically and lyrically, it's probably one of the weaker points of the album, and its nearly four-minute running time doesn't help. Know, however, that I generally have a prejudice against ballads in general (and especially against quasi-generic break-up ballads that don't incorporate existential undertones). They do get some bonus points, though, for mentioning The Monotones' "Book of Love" (which Carpenter featured in CHRISTINE!).

"It's curtains, baby
Act three is over
And the school of love is closed forever
We tried
To keep it goin'
All those empty nights we spent together

Baby, can you understand
What I say
Understand about me

Baby, can you take a stand
If I say
'Go on without me'

Easy
Just let go
Well you can
Take some time before you go

Oh, come on baby
(Come on baby)
Come on, darlin'
(Come on darlin)
Know you make it hard on me
Real hard on me

It's finished baby
It's history
And the book of love is closed forever

We tried
To make it happen
All those lonely days we spent together

Baby, can you understand
What I say
Understand about me
Baby, can you take a stand
If I say, 'Go on with out me'

Easy
Just let it go
Well you can take some time before you go
Mmm, come on, baby
(Come on baby)
Come on darlin'
(OH MY DARLIN')
You know you make it hard on me
Real hard on me
Hard on me
You-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo hoo, baby
Hard on me
Hard on me"

#6. SHE DOESN'T WANT YOU ANYMORE.

I'm pretty sure Nick continues on with a quasi-southern rock/synth-pop lament, full of three-part harmonies and gritty guitar riffs. As counter-intuitive as it seems, I would almost compare the song to Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes." Despite the 'downer' status of the song, the final thirty seconds gives Tommy a screamin' guitar solo, and his greatest opportunity to rock out on the album thus far. Lyrically, I'm gonna be honest: I'm not sure what this is about. Is the 'she' of the title the heroine of the song and 'you' the singer, or is the 'she' the heroine's mother and the 'you' the heroine? Hard to say. I'm probably giving this a little too much thought.

Your daddy don't take it hard when you cry
Mama tears you apart when she lies
Will they save you?
Will they save you?
She doesn't want you anymore
She doesn't need you anymore
She doesn't hope you take her home
Mmmmmmmmmm

Daddy won't see your eyes anymore
Mama won't sympathize like before
Will they save you?
Will they save you?
She doesn't want you anymore
(I can hear her say goodbye)
She doesn't need you anymore
(I can hear her say goodbye)
She doesn't hope you take her home
(I can hear her say goodbye)
Mmmmmmmmmmm

She doesn't want you anymore
(I can hear her say goodbye)
She doesn't need you anymore
(I can hear her say goodbye)
She doesn't hope you take her home
(I can hear her say goodbye)"



To be continued with part II...

And though it's a little late to officially remain part of Radiator Heaven's John Carpenter week, do yourself a favor, head over there, and catch up on some great Carpy-related articles you may have missed.

6 comments:

J.D. said...

Wow, now THIS is dedication - reviewing the Coupe de Villes' album! Very cool. I always wondered what this sounded like and I have this sneaking suspicion that when Carpenter dies all kinds of tapes of unreleased material of the Coupes jamming will surface. I think that this group was a way of Carpy blowing off steam when the film world got him down (which was often, I'm sure!).

Sean Gill said...

Heh, I'm glad you enjoy! I hope that, even if Carpy gets into that place where he no longer feels like dealing with the stress of filmmaking, that he can always sit back, relax, and jam out with Nick and Tommy. (And I hope that they really do a Coupe de Villes salute/handshake as depicted in my fanfiction.)

TheShape said...

Wow. That was an incredible close reading review of the album. That kind of attention is usually reserved for the Beatles! Thank you!

Breddouson said...

Thank you so much for lyrics!

Breddouson said...

Thank you so much for the lyrics!

Sean Gill said...

The Shape,
Glad you enjoyed!


Breddouson,
Of course!