Thursday, February 11, 2010
I'm a Catastrophe!!!!
Among the many, many stories contained within the many worlds of song-poems, few are weirder to me than the story of William Howard Arpaia. I can hardly do it justice in a few lines, but there is a really good rundown on the man and his work here. One thing that ASPMA site does not mention is that Arpaia claimed to have suddenly developed the ability to write songs, marches and polkas on his 61st birthday.
That essay is also quite a bit more admiring than what I would probably write about him. Based on his lyrics, I find him to be a fairly contemptable person, a crank, really - one of those "things will never be as good as they were in the old days" types. I also suspect that by the time he started producing his albums, he wasn't exactly in position of all of his faculties anymore.
And I haven't even gotten to the music. For the most part, his tunes are fairly samey, with odd melodic runs which switch abrutly to notes that don't seem like they are where the tune had been heading. And I have a hard time telling his marches or his polkas apart.
This one, however, is an exception, as is the most famous of his records, "Listen, Mr. Hat". Like that one, this one never appeared on an Arpaia album. Maybe it was unintentional, but I don't think so, and I don't know who had the idea - the performers or Arpaia himself - to perform this in a Dylanesque voice, but assuming it was deliberate, it was a masterstroke. Please enjoy Lance Hill with "I'm a Catastrophe":
For completeness sake, here is the (endless) b-side, "The Christmas March":