Real Life Rock Top Ten

A Monthly Column
of Everyday Culture
and Found Objects

by Greil Marcus

(1) Favorite election film: “You Don’t Own Me” PSA (YouTube). “I’m Lesley Gore,” says the sixty-six-year-old onetime pop star, “and I approve this message.” It’s powerful to see dozens of women and girls lip-synching to the song that, so long after its moment on the charts (produced by Quincy Jones, #2 in 1964), has become such a touchstone—here, for abortion rights. As there is in the final-judgment almost–Law & Order bang! bang! of the music, there’s a sense of menace in the pacing of the quick but somehow hesitating cuts from one woman, duo, or trio to the next—directed by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Maximilla Lukacs, the little movie has the feel of Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. With the men in the “Top Comments” section hitting back (“Who would want to make love to the unlovable women hating men that open their big yaps on here?”), the spot, which is sure to be back, or remade, for all foreseeable elections to come, was an election in and of itself.

(2) Corner Laughers, “(Now That I Have You I’m) Bored” from Poppy Seeds (Mystery Lawn Music). Led by singer and ukulele player Karla Kane, this San Francisco combo has its feet in the pool of the Smiley Smile Beach Boys—the supposedly throwaway music (“Vegetables,” “She’s Goin’ Bald”) they made after they gave up on Brian Wilson’s Smile masterpiece. It’s sometimes sun-blindingly bright, never less than sweet. It may not wear any better than the singles of another San Francisco band, the long-forgotten Sopwith Camel of “Hello, Hello” fame. But for bringing new life to the dying art of parenthetical titling, this song would make my chart anyway.

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Greil Marcus is the author of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, and The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, and other books. His column, Real Life Rock Top Ten, runs monthly in the Believer.


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