CONTEMPLATIONS ON PSEUDO-INDUSTRIAL NOISE, SOUTHERN HIP HOP
AND SONGS COVERED BY LEONARD NIMOY
By Heidi Johnson-Wright
Some days, I think I need theme music. Not because I’m important or special or deserve attention. In fact, if it were up to me, I’d make my way through the world largely unnoticed.
But because I use a wheelchair for mobility, the world has chosen for me. Often, I get stared at, but that’s a given. What I’m referring to goes beyond that.
Many days, I’ll be rolling down the sidewalk minding my own business, steering plenty clear of pedestrians. Yet someone half a block ahead will see me approaching and yank their child out of my oncoming path. I mean darn near tear the kid’s shoulder out of the socket. Sometimes the sight of the poor little kid flying through the air jolts me so much, I whip around to see if I’ve unknowingly left a row of maimed bodies behind in my wake.
Then there’s the wannabe comedians. You know the guy at the party who keeps repeating the same corny jokes that were only mildly funny the first time he told them? Well, that guy follows me around. I can always pick him out of the crowd by the goofy smile on his face as he sees me approaching. He thinks he’s clever, yet I know exactly what he’s going to say before he says it:
“Hey, little lady. Better slow down – you’re gonna get a speeding ticket!”
Someday, I’ll get up the courage to holler back:
“Hey, doofus. Better stop passing gas – you’re gonna get a farting ticket!”
But perhaps simply broadcasting theme music from my wheelchair as I motor along would be the way to go. So, I’ve been researching songs that might work.
The first one I considered is a song by the noise rock band, The Jesus Lizard, called “Wheelchair Epidemic.” How perfect is that? I mean, it’s got the word “wheelchair” in the title, for Pete’s sake. Plus, it’s got a hard driving beat and true to its guitar-driven pseudo-industrial noise roots, the vocals are nearly indecipherable.
But before I downloaded it and blasted it on my Beats Pill, I thought I should check out the lyrics online. Here’s the first verse:
“Hep hep, hep hep, hep hep, hep hep
Your words are broken, you got the flu, that tour of smokin' your times are through
Your body's achin’, you need a rest, your body's achin', take a rest I say
Ah ah, ah ah, ah ah, hey”
Then the “hep hep” picks up again and the F bomb is dropped. I didn’t have a problem with the any of that. But then I discovered the second verse includes an ugly homophobic epithet.
No, thank you. Back to the drawing board.
Perhaps I would do better with a song about rolling along, and I immediately thought of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’”. Who could forget those immortal Southern hip hop lyrics:
“They see me rollin’/They hatin’/Patrolling they tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty.”
But then I remembered the song also uses a word, frequently found in rap music, which makes me very uncomfortable.
Un-uh. I had to try again.
What about reaching further back into music history for a song with a more subtle message? I racked my brain. The only thing that came to mind was a song written by country and western music legend Mel Tillis, made famous by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. The song charted number six on the Hot 100 in 1969. Anyone reading this blog remember “Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town”?
I hadn’t listened to the song in ages, but recalled its indirect reference to the Viet Nam War. That appealed to the Boomer in me. A quick search online revealed that “Ruby” has been covered by many artists, including Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, Carl Perkins, Cake, The Killers – even actor Leonard Nimoy.
I queued up “Ruby” on Spotify, then it all came rushing back. The song’s about a paralyzed guy in a wheelchair who can’t satisfy his woman, so she steps out on him to get her needs met. Then he fantasizes: “(i)f I could move I'd get my gun/And put her in the ground.”
Yikes. Looks like I’m going to have to write my own dang theme song.