Sunday, November 29, 2015

Just like Sister Ray says

If you are working for The Man there will be days, even many days, even most days, when you will find yourself floating in a haze of impotent rage at the wasteland ditch that Fate has dumped you into, forced to spend the majority of your waking life dying of excruciating loneliness surrounded by people from whom you are alienated, doing work that enables obscenely wealthy people to become even more obscene - at best.  But most likely it only allows petty little suck-ups like your manager to ingratiate himself with his bosses so that he can ascend to a higher level in the corporate hierarchy and then repeat the process until he becomes king of the company or the country or the world until death puts an end to the utter inconsequentiality of it all.

On such days you may enjoying listening to the Velvet Underground's Sister Ray, the cacophonous, endless musical equivalent of William S. Burrough's Naked Lunch and which achieves the kind of nihilistic sensationalism that American playwrights strive for constantly but so rarely achieve. The music fits your mood to a T, from the moment the distorted guitars and drums begin the first of endless repetitions of dum-dah-dah-dum-dah-dah-dum-dah-dah-DIH-DIH-DAHH, eventually joined by an equally distorted organ.

This puts you in the right frame of mind for the lyrics:
Duck and Sally inside
They're cooking for the down five
Who're staring at Miss Rayon
Who's busy licking up her pigpen
I'm searching for my mainline
I said I couldn't hit it sideways
I said I couldn't hit it sideways
Ah, it's just like Sister Ray says
It isn't entirely clear what is going on here but if you guessed that Miss Rayon is a heroine-dealing tranny-hooker you would be correct. And the hopeless debauchery of it all is a tonic to your own  quotidian hopelessness and you start to groove to it while also working on some piece of corporate inanity. Maybe you stop paying attention for a moment to the song's narrative thread and absentmindedly sing along with it:
Too busy sucking on my ding-dong
Too busy sucking on my ding-dong
You notice the uncomprehending bemusement on your coworkers face and you tune back into the lyrics:
He aims it at the Sailor
Shoots him down dead on the floor
Oh, you shouldn't do that
Don't you know you'll stain the carpet
Don't you know you'll stain the carpet
And by the way man, have you got a dollar
Oh no man, I haven't got the time time
Too busy sucking on a ding dong
She's too busy sucking on my ding dong
Yes, this is it. This is the casual horror that is a refreshing change from your stupor of misery. You realize that this is how much some people mean to you in all your alienation - at worst they'll stain the carpet. And you smile and sing along for the benefit of passers-by on the gray wall-to-wall of your circumstantial prison:
Too busy sucking on my ding-dong
Too busy sucking on my ding-dong
But as in every human transgression there are consequences:
Now, who's that knocking
Who's that knocking on my chamber door
Now could it be the poh-leez
They've come to take me for a ride ride
Oh, but I haven't got the time time
Too busy sucking on my ding dong
She's too busy sucking on my ding dong
Oh, now, just like Sister Ray said
And maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it's good that you can't shoot a sailor down dead on the floor without paying for it, but in any case you have now alienated yourself from your coworkers a little bit more when you didn't even think that was possible, thanks to a wretched filthy late-1960s blood-stained shooting gallery in the Lower East Side or the Bronx.

It gives you an inexplicable feeling of relief.

And you remember it isn't always so bad. Yes mostly. But not always. And you even remember that once in a while there is a flip side:
Jonathan Richman plays a portion of "Sister Ray" on his song "Velvet Underground." Indeed, it has been argued that Richman's "Roadrunner" is, considering its distorted organ solo (provided by producer John Cale) and chordal similarities, largely a reworking of "Sister Ray" in musical terms, although Richman's positive and life-affirming lyrics about the joys of driving around suburban Boston are in marked contrast to Reed's detached saga of "debauchery and decay".[7][8]

Whip it on me Jim.