Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Surfing with Everlast and JoJo Gunne

Unfortunately this live video lacks Carlos Santana's axe-for-hire, the only worthwhile aspect of the song, but anyway--here's "Babylon Feeling" off Everlast's Eat at Whitey's:

I admit as much as the next guy that House of Pain was pretty much beyond reproach, but Everlast's career as VH1 bluesman seems to be marked by two aesthetic misconceptions:

1. that blues songs must be slow and boring, and...
2. that bluesmen can get away with singing slow boring songs because they could, if heckled, beat up the rest of us.

In "Babylon Feeling", Everlast details his experiences meeting allegorically named women. The woman named Babylon "hooks [him] to the gills" with "all of her forbidden thrills," she breaks his heart and steals his will, par for the course with Babylon cliches. But hold on!--he meets other women too:

...There's Destiny, who elevates his soul, frees his mind, and shows him all his fates, which his "stream of conscious" navigates. (Right before my favorite line in the song, "I orbit around the sun at high velocity." Hey, me too!)

...There's Confidence, who inspires nothing of the kind in our friend Everlast. Rather, she points out all his flaws, makes his spirit tense, and makes his arms "heavy" ("Yeah, my greatest flaw is that I work out too much." Hey, me too!).

...There's also a little bit of Alive (Mambo No. FIVE!) (unless her name is "A Lie", but "Alive" fits the rhyme scheme better), who for some reason controls him with her fear and makes his lust thrive. Doesn't sound like living to me, but I'm sure he had his reasons.

So after walking us through his pilgrim's progress, Everlast begs womankind in general to save his soul and, in the tradition of Eddie Money, take him home, and he sums it up by explaining that he's got a "Babylon feeling." It seems like all these women, no matter what their symbolic attributes, remind him of his Mambo No. 1, a Babylon Jezebel who needs men like fish need bicycles and leaves our hero to ramble on, through deepest depths of Mordor or wherever. Dealing with women gives Everlast the same feeling he gets from the woman named Babylon, who boasts "forbidden thrills," perhaps somewhere deep inside her pants. All I really get out of this song is that Everlast has trouble finding the clitoris women who make him feel good about himself, and he probably gets off on sex being dirty and guilty. He's not the first.

F'rinstance, there is Jo Jo Gunne's 1972 "Babylon":


The Jo Jos were a spinoff of psychy rockers Spirit, whose "Fresh Garbage" I'm constantly being hounded to play at Lot 49 concerts. What do we know about Jo Jo's Babylon? She sings the sweetest song. She's taken multiple lovers. Her house is in flames, the pain of which goes straight to her heart. She herself is a fiery lady who almost--almost--drives Jo Jo crazy. (Imagine!) The Jo Jos probably named this woman "Babylon" for the same reason Anonymous named a murderous robber "Babylon" in his 17th or 18th century Child Ballad: it's got symbolic heft and speaks of "forbidden thrills" (as in Everlast). And also, very conveniently, when Babylon is the name of a woman, you get some free lunch symbolic associations with the Whore of Babylon from St. John's Revelation.

So maybe Everlast and Jo Jo Gunne just don't like Roman Catholicism. They're not the first.

No comments: