O Superman

Every so often I do deviations on my usual heavy historical blogs. This will be one of those deviations.

It is really about one song. A song that really should never have become a hit for more then one reason. Yet it did, and also became one of my all time favourite songs.

“O Superman”, aka “O Superman (For Massenet)”, is a 1981 song by performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson. The song became a surprise hit in the United Kingdom after it was championed by DJ John Peel, rising to #2 on the UK Singles Charts in 1981.Prior to the success of this song, Anderson was little known outside the art world. First released as a single, the song also appeared on her debut album Big Science (1982)

“O Superman” begins with a fast vocal riff — “ah ah ah” — that establishes itself as the song’s rhythm, a constant Reichian pulse. Anderson narrates the story, more speech than singings, her voice fed through a vocoder like an accompanying choir of an infinity of robots. Roma Baran, her producer, throws in a series of minimal patterns on a cheap Casio keyboard that both brighten and cheapen the sound, and lets darkening chords rumble underneath as the lyrics become more and more disquieting.

Not only did the song have a bizarre structure, it also was more then 8 minutes long.

But the lyrics to it are cheer genius.

“O Superman.
O judge.
O Mom and Dad.
Mom and Dad.
O Superman.
O judge.
O Mom and Dad.
Mom and Dad.
I’m not home right now.
But if you want to leave a message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.
This is your Mother.
Are you there?
Are you coming home?
Is anybody home?
Well, you don’t know me, but I know you.
And I’ve got a message to give to you.
Here come the planes.
So you better get ready.
Ready to go.
You can come as you are, but pay as you go.
Pay as you go.
And I said: OK.
Who is this really?
And the voice said: This is the hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They’re American planes.
Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice. And when justive is gone, there’s always force. And when force is gone, there’s always Mom.
Hi Mom!
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms.
Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms.
Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.”