Aquashow Deconstructed

Murphyland Records

Record Details

2015
Genre:
Rock
Elliott Murphy - Aquashow Deconstructed

The long-awaited return visit to his classic first album Aquashow (1973) where each of the ten original songs have been re-recorded with stunning new arrangements, intense vocals and renewed excitement. Produced by Gaspard Murphy. Aquashow Deconstructed gives Aquashow a well-deserved second life (Prestigious UK music magazine UNCUT recently called it an album classic) bridging the last century to the current one. This was the album that critics heaped praise and proclaimed Murphy the new Bob Dylan, Lou Reed or even, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Aquashow Deconstructed will be an instant classic for the legions of long time Elliott Murphy fans and also the perfect album to introduce new listeners to his music. In today’s instant celebrity atmosphere it is rare that an album is released with such a historic story behind it. Elliott’s son Gaspard Murphy has produced this album with young ears (he is now the same age Elliott was when he recorded the original (24 years old) and Elliott himself tried to play as many of the instruments as possible with brilliant contributions from his long time virtuoso guitarist Olivier Durand. And, as you might expect, like the original, Elliott is sporting a dandyish white suit on the cover! A classic album is reborn!

Tracklist

  1. Last of the Rock Stars -:-- / 4:00
  2. How’s the Family -:-- / 4:38
  3. Hangin’ Out -:-- / 4:30
  4. Hometown -:-- / 3:58
  5. Graveyard Scrapbook -:-- / 3:12
  6. Poise’n’pen -:-- / 2:47
  7. Marilyn -:-- / 4:41
  8. White Middle Class Blues -:-- / 3:23
  9. Like a Great Gatsby -:-- / 2:35
  10. Don’t Go Away -:-- / 4:18

LAST OF THE ROCK STARS

Naked telephone poles can’t describe
The way I’m feeling about you tonight
And a feeling on my back like an old brown jacket
Like to stay in school but I just can’t hack it
And I’m out on the street feeling like dirt
I’m afraid to get married because I know its gonna hurt
And I say

Oh oh oh – there’s the last of the rock stars
And me and you
Oh oh oh – rock ‘n roll is here to stay
But who will be left to play

Well I dreamed I saw the king in a fifty three chevy
Had a band on his mind and his hands looked heavy
And he rolled down his window I guess to say hi
I couldn’t see his face ’cause of the purple haze inside
And he was born to be the king – he was born to be the man
And he died though he was holy – although I doubt he’d understand
When I say

(chorus)

Adolescent predrug habit – if it means guitar you gotta have it
And you got your axe and you got your group
And your old man thinks its a waste of loot
And you wait all week for a Sullivan show
And you know that’s just where you wanna go
And you homework now is never complete
You don’t care – cause you have got that beat

So a highdy hi and a heydy hey
And a girls that home on Friday night and a boy that’s out to play
And some of us are masters and some or us are slaves
And than there’s that boy who knows he’s gotta play
And a messy desk drawer full of broken strings
You know these kids and you know of those things

(chorus)

Come on mama please don’t cry
Don’t you know how I feel inside

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HOW’S THE FAMILY

How’s the wife with the husband
Who doesn’t understand
Why she starts to cry each morning
And the coldness in her hands
And the cold cold ballerina
Whose thoughts of love and life
Have split her down the middle
Till she’s cracked like walked on ice
And the prince of fifteen years
With no roof over his life
Cause his parents don’t know of his meaning
Or his needle and his knife

And how’s the family
How’s the family

How’s the tired widowed grandmother
Who has lost half of her life
And the overweight aunt from nowhere
Who can cook but is no wife
And she thinks its so disgusting
About the movies that are made
And she sleeps with just a pillow
And a memory that fades
Of a husband who had tried
To do everything so right
Till his heart screamed and stopped beating
As he made love one last night

And how’s the family
How’s the family

How’s the boy and the girl
And the lives that lie ahead
And from two they join as one
They say we’ll love till we are dead
And the babies come and grow
And the mothers laugh and cry
And the men know who they’re working for
And what’s more they know why
Cause its happy to be said
When tears can laugh at pain
And if you love the thought of love
Your birth will never end and how’s the family – how’s the family

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HANGIN’ OUT

Well after baby comes around we’re gonna go downtown
And see what it is we should know
Don’t matter about the city
Cause the girls and boys are pretty
And like leaves in the fall they will blow
Into the place where there’s a scene and a screaming machine
They will go
And you can laugh you can stare but we’re all in the same damn show

Na na na na na

You might find yourself in Paris in a burning drugstore
And Rome’s Spanish steps are just around the corner
You can be in London in a hard rock cafe
And Max’s Kansas city got the same things to say
And I saw oh now baby
What we doing this for
And she says you better shut up
Cause you know who just walked in the door
Oh baby no no more

Na na na na na
Oh give me something more
Na na na na na
Oh baby what a bore

I’ve been taken and my conscience is aching
And I promise myself I won’t hang out no more
I see the same old faces in the same old dirty places
I say baby I feel just like whore
I said baby is this what living is for
Is there nothing more
Or is it just to score

You know I tried to find a movie or anything that’s groovy
To keep me off of the streets
But those books from nineteen twenty
They don’t really help me any
I guess its always been the same sale of meet
And now I don’t give a good goddamn where it is that I go
Ill be a hooker or a looker but I guess my business is show

Na na na na na

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HOMETOWN

I saw your mother downtown yesterday
She didn’t know me and her hair was gray
She told me all her kids had run away
They called at Christmas time but really what’s left to say
And now the neighbors they don’t talk no more
And late at night she listens to the wind under the door
And the cracks in the floor

Oh guess who I ran into in the waiting room
You know they use to say that kid was born with a silver spoon
He told me that he left his home much too soon
Cause no one ever told him about the power of a real full moon
And than he stopped and just closed his eyes
And whispered please could someone help him get outside

And don’t tell me you don’t hear that hometown calling you
Cause you know what baby your still doing all the same things
You use to do
Wo wo darling you never use to wait till tomorrow
And now you can’t wait at all

Hey what’s the news in the fashion world
Is it long or short
Is it straight or curled
Does it pull all my last years in a different world
Does it tell your mother
How long ago she was a girl
And even churchmen are wearing stripes
And all the hometown girls are getting in much too late tonight
I guess they gave up the fight

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GRAVEYARD SCRAPBOOK

Like a railroad train goes with rock ‘n roll
Like your notes on napkins
And your hooker stroll
Like a big brick wall right across your heart
I won’t be there in your hospital room
And I wont be there with a snow blown spoon
And I wont be there during rainy intermissions

You can make time pass with a deck of cards
You can hold your own with alcoholic rock stars
You can wear gold rings through your hands and nose
But I wont be there in your hospital room
And I wont be there with a snow blown spoon
And I wont be there for the funeral of your new family

And when you find what you’re missing
You better look who you been kissing
Cause the music stops and you’ll start listening
To the sound of your heart
I got a graveyard scrapbook full of sad old news
I got two thousand years of the Christian blues
I see too many gray men waiting to die
So I wont be there when the lights go low
And I wont be there as your habits grow
And I wont be there like some dead fly caught I your lampshade

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POISE ‘N PEN

I got a heart so thick that its tearing me apart
And a baby so sick she can’t tell us apart
And whoever’s in the big house makes no difference to me
And what you see is just a reflection of all the bathroom walls
In the cave where the bus terminal monster falls
Into the head of the golden runaway
Whose heard nothing at all
About the Thursday night crowd
How they live and how they love to see you fall

You can be the queen of hippies and I’m the king of fools
And we’ll have our bed for breakfast and watch the peasants drool
Till you find out that your palace was only their back room
And what you got are giant soup cans that laugh at your life
And a telephone existence and a magazine wife
And a drum that keeps drumming and a brain that’s so white
It goes out into the sun
And you find out why you love the night
Ain’t that a fright

Oh midnight raiders break down the doors looking for
Anti society
Pop city dolls who smoke long cigars
Looking for some notoriety
Who could have known what motion pictures could bring
Pandora’s box didn’t know everything
She’d never been to Beverly Hills

And what you hear is just the dark side of every joke
And the sound of French prostitutes who stare at you and smoke
Under a red neon sign that says god is hope
While all the bleach blond moms
Tell their pimpled bombs
Not to mope
Just use more soap

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MARILYN

I guess you’d say she had what it took
To make most of us take a second look
She stole our eyes but not our hearts
And all the time it tore her apart
Don’t you know she died for our sins
Marilyn Monroe died for us

What a body to make us dream
Our thoughts were dirty though she was clean
On screen we’d watch her tantalize
And with our own we would fantasize
Don’t you know she died for sins
Marilyn Monroe died for us

Marilyn Marilyn I didn’t mean to do you in
Marilyn Marilyn now its too late to start again
Don’t you know she died for our sins
Marilyn Monroe died for us

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WHITE MIDDLE CLASS BLUES

Three guys pass me by all in white t shirts
They’re in a sixty three super sort and they don’t like my looks
I’m in the middle of Brooklyn I can’t see no escape’
They say the south is a bummer
But this isn’t so great

Ain’t life a blast
So low down middle class
From the day you’re born you know you’ll never kiss ass
White middle class blues

Now I’m sitting down to diner there’s so much food on your table
You can throw away your vegetables you can eat till you’re not able
And you veins fill with butter and the blood won’t flow through them
And your kid ods on goof balls and gives the finger to you

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LIKE A GREAT GATSBY

Waiting for some dream lover like a great Gatsby
And then I look in the mirror and its only me
And hey now baby what’s on your mind
Do you ride on ancient ships under doctor Ekelbergs eyes to heaven
Ticket nineteen twenty seven
Hey baby I think you break hearts like an ice man

You know too many pictures gonna make you feel sad
Gonna make you think of all the good times
You thought you never had
And hey no baby use to follow you home
Hold on to you at dancing school and call you on the phone forever
But now your world begins with never
Hey baby you can’t even feel I’m breathless

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DON’T GO AWAY

When the sun in the morning and the stars means nothing new
To you what are you gonna do
And the moon and its man just make you feel so sad
Too bad better think of something new
Cause minds are breaking and hearts are aching
And I’m just sitting anticipating
About all the good things we can do
Just to try not and think about you

Don’t go away

Sit back lady gonna be a long long time
In line the people all want their say
So why not give me some of this and that old time grind
Who’d mind while we’re out anyway
And some dog is barkin’ an old time love song
And I keep finding your shirts in my drawer
SoI guess there’s nothing for me to do
But to paint your story blues

Don’t go away

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All Songs by Elliott Murphy ©1973
Published by Elliott Murphy
Lyrics Reprinted by Permission

After the deluge of resolutely positive press Elliott Murphy received for his 1973 debut Aquashow, it must have been difficult for this new rock star, or rock star in the making, to keep his feet on the ground. Paul Nelson in Rolling Stone raved about the album, calling Murphy “the best Dylan since 1968” and putting him in an elite category of new heroes, to include Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed, “murderers and creators, but not imitators”. The New York Times called Murphy “another candidate for leader of a New York rock school” and the Village Voice claimed “Elliott Murphy is going to be a monster”. After switching major labels in the ’70s (from Polydor to RCA to Colombia), he turned to independent labels to continue his career and moved to Paris, more comfortable in a city of poets, artists and bohemians. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise to the artist or his audience that someone who had initially been lumped into a group known as the “New Dylans” (with John Prine, Steve Forbert and Loudon Wainwright) could turn his hand to folk as well as rock, or even straddle the mutant dervish known as folk-rock, and ride it long and hard into a European sunset.

And of course it was the French who initially dreamt up theories of deconstruction which Murphy, “a Long Island super-punk with too many brains and too many heroes”, possibly had in mind when re-recording his debut for this 2015 release, Aquashow Deconstructed. The original Aquashow was named after Murphy’s father’s aquatic spectacular, which was based in 1950’s Queens, New York on the site of the historic World’s Fair, and featured an array of glamorous performers and attractions including Duke Ellington. The younger Murphy may have developed a taste for show business and performance from his father, but his debut seemed like an attempt to escape suburbia for a glorious rock and roll future; Aquashow is an album of spirited rebellion, a leather-jacket-brother to punk, concerned with disintegrating families and washed-up ways of living. It’s therefore a perfect piece to deconstruct when the initial aim of deconstructionism was to examine the contradictions and oppositions upon which a work is founded.

Since the ’80s, Murphy has been relatively free to lead his musical life free of industry expectations of a big hit, but Aquashow must have always loomed large in the background. Several years ago, Uncut magazine called it a “lost classic” and it hasn’t been released on CD since 1990. It is well and truly physically deleted, but floats grandly like an insolent ghost on the ether of the internet (find it on iTunes). Because this has become a mythical record amongst music fans, deconstruction however is a precarious business; it could be savagely dissected like a rabbit in a science class of clumsy no-hopers, and in an exercise of taxidermy, stuffed and mounted as some kind of trophy. However, although Aquashow runs as fast as a bunny on Dexedrine trying to escape the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, it could be better considered as the aggressor itself, a ’70s muscle car (maybe an Oldsmobile 442), only to be taken apart by someone who knows what they’re doing, to see how the engine runs, then put back together with added modernisation; juiced-up acceleration, a sleek paint job and some new chrome wheels.

To take deconstruction one step further, it’s possible that returning now, 42 years on, and re-recording the same songs from his most famous album but in a completely different way, is possibly not just the dismantling of an album, but also a demonstration that it has already been dismantled as a result of its’ own history; Murphy has performed many of the songs in concert over the years, and surely has nothing to prove to anyone other than himself. His debut was an electric and energetic blaze of anxious, acerbic wit and full of the vim and vigour of youth, proudly proclaiming (in the first song of the first album of his career) that he was “the last of the rock stars”. In itself this signalled the beginning of an end — that rock was dead or dying. First time around in ’73 the track was upbeat and loud with a funky guitar riff, but deconstructed it is a stark and apocalyptical vision in the face of a swirling blizzard; older, Murphy can now sing these lines without any irony whatsoever, and the instrumentation howls as if an oncoming ice-cream headache is inevitable. To fans, this may be Murphy’s most controversial moment in a recording studio, as he wilfully subverts one of his best known and well-loved songs. This transgressive statement means, of course, that his listeners may either love it or hate it in equal measure.

“How’s The Family”, a downbeat song about being unfulfilled in family life, also has a new arrangement, backed by strings. The last verse is taken with more drama than on the original, and it seems likely that this type of delivery is a result of the confidence and experience attained through a long recording career. The purposefully louche “Hangin’ Out”, detailing the perils of rock and roll carousing, has been a recent concert favourite and the new recorded version is full of energy, with a great choral arrangement. In 1973 the nature of the song showed prescient maturity to foresee the superficiality of show business; this time around it’s approached with a lighter, more humorous touch.

The original Aquashow was decidedly electric and recorded at the Record Plant in New York at the same time that the New York Dolls were clattering about recording their second album in the downstairs studio. On the whole, Aquashow Deconstructed takes a more acoustic approach. It’s possibly more European as a result of Murphy’s years in Paris, and with depth in the instrumentation and production. “Hometown” starts as a quiet, almost-blues song until a synthesizer sweeps in about half-way to great effect, and it has a fantastic instrumental ending with strings and harmonica. The lyrics remain noteworthy for their ingenuity, as Murphy asks “hey what’s the news in the fashion world / Is it long or short / Straight or curled / Does it pull all my last years in a different world?”.

“Graveyard Scrapbook” remains a defiant stand-out, starting with the call-to-arms of a single repeated piano note and later, one extended harmonica wail over insistent guitar chords, emphasising the determinedness of the singer in being absent from the object’s future — “You can make time pass with a deck of cards / You can hold your own with alcoholic stars… / And I won’t be there as your habits grow / And I won’t be there like some dead fly caught in your lampshade.” “Poise ‘N Pen” begins with enhanced solo electric piano reminiscent of ’70s Steely Dan, and then suddenly explodes into colour just as Andy Warhol makes an appearance with “giant soup cans that laugh at your life”. Murphy pushes it even further for the last verse, by leaping an octave, an impressive use of his voice.

Nelson’s comment as to Murphy having “too many heroes” was in fact a back-handed compliment, and in re-visiting the album the allusions to movie stars seem compactly written. “Marilyn” is the only song on the album to directly focus on one celebrity, but was probably the weakest song on the original album. Deconstructed, this has been addressed by making the arrangement more cinematic to suit the subject through spooky piano and a new up-tempo string interlude. The vocal this time around is preferable as well, precise like a clear spotlight, emphasising the singer’s awe for the starlet’s physical prowess. In contrast, the following track, “White Middle Class Blues”, is taken as a deep Chicago grunge shuffle, in the style of Murphy’s 2005 blues tribute album Murphy Gets Muddy; it’s mean and dirty and a perfect setting for a song about suburban angst – “from the day you’re born you know you’ll never kiss ass / White middle class blues.” The original headed towards light white pastiche, but the re-recording gains authority through Murphy’s deeper experience.

Generally on Aquashow, Murphy oscillated between dismissal of the ordinary and elevation of the finer things in life. “Like a Great Gatsby” is not necessarily about the great Fitzgerald novel. Although there’s reference to the book’s Doctor Ekelberg, the song is more about the illusion of cinema and the struggle we may have with our own identities, “then I look in the mirror and it’s only me.” The deconstructed version is more comfortable in its idiosyncrasy, and it turns out to be an improvement for this relatively short burst of lyricism.

If deconstruction is cracking nutshells to disturb tranquility, “Don’t Go Away” is an interesting close to Aquashow Deconstructed, with its noisy dogs barking an “old time love song”. Placed in a new beautiful string arrangement, this song gains in melancholy by being sung from an older man’s perspective because time is short; “minds are breaking and hearts are aching / And I’m just sitting anticipating / About all the good things we can do.” It becomes a postmodern love song, but almost fights against the ordinary meaning of deconstruction because looking back at history seems difficult or painful, and the future is more appealing (“too bad better think of something new”).

The photo art of the new album’s cover echoes the blurry circular frame of Aquashow‘s cover by Jack Mitchell (itself inspired by the artwork for Bringing It All Back Home — so that we are now several steps away from Dylan); it plays with perspective so that the viewer sees Murphy in an apartment, but also the modernist exterior — imposing skyscrapers and a menacing, bright white sky through the window behind him, an electrical cable and guitar in the interior background his only hope.

Aquashow Deconstructed is a much less angry and urgent work than Aquashow, with the raw sharpness reduced and distilled through the passage of Murphy’s experience, and this means it provides a more balanced view of the world. Ultimately we have the same words and music, but the artist has a different attitude now, grown a thicker skin. Murphy has re-made his “classic” album so that it’s “age appropriate”, not just to him (it would be a sad development if Murphy was pretending he was still in his early 20s), but also for a new century. It’s an obvious remark to say that it’s the work of a more mature man, but by deconstructing Aquashow, Murphy has possibly entered yet another phase of his career, one in which he can look back at his own history, à la recherche du temps perdu.

Charles Pitter – Pop Matters

CDs

France:
Murphyland Records

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