Monday, June 30, 2008

What I listen to when I mow: The Ultimate 5th Dimension

Even in the years when I didn't move unless I was on fire, I liked to mow the lawn. I never spent any time analyzing why a deeply sedentary person actually enjoyed pushing a loud, heavy machine over tall grass, I just enjoyed it. I enjoy it even more these days when I'm a little more in shape, and I can plug the earphones in and sing away at the top of my lungs (we're out in the country, I am not offending any ears)(and since I cannot carry a tune even if it's handed to me in a bucket, ears would be offended, believe me).

Lately my grass cutting music of choice is The Ultimate 5th Dimension (Amazon link- not so you can buy it, but so you can listen to clips if you like: ). There are plenty of familiar ballads, but it has a good beat and you can mow to it.

I'm from the 5th Dimension era (though I can only remember Marilyn McCoo and her husband Billy Somethingorother, and have no idea the names of the other 2 guys and gal), so this is the music of my adolescence, but even without the nostalgia factor, I think it holds up pretty well. Their cover of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In is a classic, no doubt. And they had hits with other covers: the Mamas and Papas Go Where You Wanna Go, the Association's Never My Love (a nice take on that song, which I prefer to the original), Brooklyn Bridge's The Worst that Could Happen, and Workin' On a Groovy Thing (written by Neil Sedaka and Chet Atkins, a pair I never suspected of working together, much less on a song like this).

But mostly their music was originals, and since it was the 60's, a lot of it was about love, sex and... you thought I was going to say drugs, didn't you? Nope (though anything associated with Hair certainly carries the whiff). Liquor.

Yeah, in the era of LSD and pot, The 5th Dimension often sang about getting blotto. On cheap wine no less. You might assume that Stoned Soul Picnic was about drugs, but stoned also meant drunk when I was in high school, and drinking is what this song is about. It also brings up a very specific memory of swimming in the Pilchuck River after berry picking (no booze involved, sorry to say), and it always makes me smile (and only very recently did I realize that there was no line about *trains of parcels*, though I ask you, does that make any less sense than *trains of blossoms*?). Sweet Blindness is only about getting drunk, and it's hard to interpret Paper Cup as anything but a description of a descent into hopeless alcoholism. The females are the lead singers on most of the drinking songs, which is odd (though it certainly works musically).

Though the tempo and melody often belie it, most of the sex/love songs aren't of the happy variety: Bacharach's One Less Bell to Answer, Wedding Bell Blues, Last Night I Didn't Get to Sleep at All, Carpet Man, Puppet Man, and my favorite on the entire CD, The Girls' Song (by Jimmy Webb channeling Burt Bacharach). If I Could Reach You is a lament that can be boiled down to I'm doing it with you (you just know that's the way the narrator puts it), why don't you love me? Every time she sings "to love you good enough on the outside, to make you feel it on the inside, maybe I could make you stay", I say to myself (because that's the way I roll when I mow), "Give it up, Honey, that never works."

But the 5th D could get explicit too (or as explicit as they could get on the radio in the 60's), Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes's "tunnel with a pendulum beat" always gives me a chuckle.

Sure, they had their token protest songs (Save the Country), and environmental bits in Ashes to Ashes, but mostly the 5th Dimension was about pop music. Enduring, drinking, flirting, yearning for the one you can't have, lawn-mowingly good pop music.

The only dud on the whole CD is a previously unreleased cover of Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye, which was unreleased for a reason- the whole song is off. The emphasis is on the wrong lyrics and the entire rhythm is thrown off as a result. But I just skip that one, and get back to the rest of the album.

Speaking of which, the grass is tall today. I'd better get to work.


Bunny said...

The ceramic Balls are interesting to look at and I am curious. A google search for "ceramic ball use?" had the top entry as water treatment.

#4 said...

Lawn mowing is in our blood....I find it a great release after a hard day at the office...I put on radio headphones and listen to the 60's and 70's station...Did mine on Friday during 86 degree weather. That was not to bad...yesterday was 105 and today is going to be highter... so I am happy it will not need it for a couple more days when the temps should be lower.....Happy Mowing...of course Elton John is my lawn mowing music of choice.....