Archive for January, 2009

Song 6: I Can See For Miles

January 25, 2009

I’ve let things go a bit quiet here of late, though all those (millions, no doubt) who’ve been jonesing for more song action will be pleased to learn that I have a number of posts written up and ready to go in the next few weeks. For now though, just a quick one, to demonstrate that vital signs are still stable.

The Who’s 1968 album, The Who Sell Out is a pop art concept album based around the themes of advertising and consumerism. But like almost all concept albums, there’s a song or two that seems to have been shoe-horned in with scant regard to the integrity of the concept. “I Can See For Miles”, a seething warning to a straying girlfiend, is one such a song. Listen, it is awesome, no?

A great musical eccentric, Petra Haden is the daughter of revered jazz bassist Charlie Haden. A violinist since she was a child, she has played on a dazzling array of records that you probably have in your collection, first but not least of which is Beck’s “Loser” (yeah, I hadn’t noticed it had a violin on it either). For a year or two she was a member of briefly infamous Obama-boosters The Decembrists.  One of triplets (her sister Tanya is married to actor Jack Black) she occasionally performs with them as a sister act, The Haden Triplets (here’s a clip of them doing a pretty version of the Carter Family’s “Single Girl, Married Girl”).

In 2005, having never heard the record before, Haden was persuaded by a friend to do a note-for-note interpretation of The Who Sell Out. Well before Bjork’s entirely a capella Medúlla, Haden produced an oddball classic, “Petra Haden Sings The Who Sell Out“, using only her own voice, layered and multi-tracked. As if that weren’t enough, she decided to tour the album, which necessitated the recruitment of a choir, The Sell-Outs, and the arrangement of a 60’s rock album for 10-piece female choir.

All of which is a way of introducing the following clip, to which I’ve been addicted for the past week or so. The Who were probably the most resolutely masculine of all the classic rock bands, so there’s something wonderfully strange about hearing them interpreted thus. The performance is not quite “feminine”, with all the connotations that word entails, so much as it is defiantly female, something visibly underlined by the presence of a very pregnant singer at the far left of your screen . They are women: hear them roar.

Update: Embedding is disabled for this video, so follow the link here.