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Posts Tagged ‘shel silverstein’

Freaky Repost: “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 31, 2014

I visited the library today, and checked out some decidedly non-freaky music, so I’ll just revisit an old freak for freaky times’ sake.

 

I’ve mentioned my love for the great and subversive Shel Silverstein before.  He’s a little like Frank Zappa, in that his freakiness very nearly reaches saintly levels.  His take on the world was unique, to say the very least.  It’s in some ways very difficult to reconcile the sweetness and delight of his children’s work with the sometimes raunchy counterculturalism of his adult work.  Although when I think about it, there really isn’t that much difference.  His poetry, especially, had quite a bit of his strange, dark humor (click here for one of my favorites).

There was a lot of anger in Silverstein’s work, too.  Powerful emotions are the fuel for creative fire, and it seems that Silverstein had many different emotional states to fuel his fires.  (Check this rant out for evidence of his rage in its full glory.)  Uncle Shelby generally turned his anger into humor.  You can catch more flies with honey, after all.  He also seemed to point his middle finger at society for the most part.  He seemed to have no patience for traditional mores and values.  I don’t know what Silverstein’s philosophy or ideology consisted of, but I have a feeling it could be boiled down to “be kind to each other, and have fun.”

Fun is what “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball” is all about.  Gettin’ down and gettin’ funky with all the freaks.  One thing that stands out is how many of the freaks are what many people would consider sexual deviants.  (I wonder if this is where Macy Gray got the inspiration for this song?  And I dare you not to smile if you watch the clip.)  Okay, I know that “getting your freak on” is slang for sex; it’s also slang for dancing, which can be considered fully clothed sex set to music . . . if it’s done right.  But sexual deviance is not a requirement for freakiness in my book.  And even though there’s a lot of sexy funtimes  going on in “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball,” I get the feeling that’s not quite the point.  The point seems to be accepting what’s different about people–in others and in yourself.  Tolerance is the first commandment of freaks everywhere.  Sure, let it all hang out, but don’t judge anybody else for doing the same thing.  Live and let live, whatever floats your boat, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Really, this is a bunch of opposites attracting, bouncing in and out of each others orbits.  Dancing, laughing, fooling around in dark corners (or broad daylight . . . I’m not one to judge.)  I’ll bet there’s an awesome spread of appetizers and drinks.  Maybe even a mirror ball spinning from the ceiling.  Sounds like a pretty awesome party to me.

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Posted in Freaky Friday, Music, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Freaky Friday: “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 19, 2013

I’ve mentioned my love for the great and subversive Shel Silverstein before.  He’s a little like Frank Zappa, in that his freakiness very nearly reaches saintly levels.  His take on the world was unique, to say the very least.  It’s in some ways very difficult to reconcile the sweetness and delight of his children’s work with the sometimes raunchy counterculturalism of his adult work.  Although when I think about it, there really isn’t that much difference.  His poetry, especially, had quite a bit of his strange, dark humor (click here for one of my favorites).

There was a lot of anger in Silverstein’s work, too.  Powerful emotions are the fuel for creative fire, and it seems that Silverstein had many different emotional states to fuel his fires.  (Check this rant out for evidence of his rage in its full glory.)  Uncle Shelby generally turned his anger into humor.  You can catch more flies with honey, after all.  He also seemed to point his middle finger at society for the most part.  He seemed to have no patience for traditional mores and values.  I don’t know what Silverstein’s philosophy or ideology consisted of, but I have a feeling it could be boiled down to “be kind to each other, and have fun.”

Fun is what “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball” is all about.  Gettin’ down and gettin’ funky with all the freaks.  One thing that stands out is how many of the freaks are what many people would consider sexual deviants.  (I wonder if this is where Macy Gray got the inspiration for this song?  And I dare you not to smile if you watch the clip.)  Okay, I know that “getting your freak on” is slang for sex; it’s also slang for dancing, which can be considered fully clothed sex set to music . . . if it’s done right.  But sexual deviance is not a requirement for freakiness in my book.  And even though there’s a lot of sexy funtimes  going on in “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball,” I get the feeling that’s not quite the point.  The point seems to be accepting what’s different about people–in others and in yourself.  Tolerance is the first commandment of freaks everywhere.  Sure, let it all hang out, but don’t judge anybody else for doing the same thing.  Live and let live, whatever floats your boat, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Really, this is a bunch of opposites attracting, bouncing in and out of each others orbits.  Dancing, laughing, fooling around in dark corners (or broad daylight . . . I’m not one to judge.)  I’ll bet there’s an awesome spread of appetizers and drinks.  Maybe even a mirror ball spinning from the ceiling.  Sounds like a pretty awesome party to me.

Posted in Freaky Friday, Music, Rock, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Uncle Shelby

Posted by purplemary54 on August 18, 2012

I became interested in poetry, both writing and reading, because of Shel Silverstein.  I worked in the school library in 8th grade (and 11th and 12th, for that matter), and there wasn’t always a class visiting.  So when there wasn’t anything else to do, the librarian would pretty much let me run amok through the books, reading whatever I felt like.  My wanderings brought me to A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends.  Now we’d always had Shel Silverstein books in our house when I was a kid.  The Giving Tree was an absolute staple.  And one of my uncles gave my brother a copy of Uncle Shelby’s A-B-Z Book for his birthday one year, but I think I read it more than he did.  (I highly, highly, highly recommend that anyone with children in their lives gives them a copy of this book at some point.  It isn’t really a children’s book, but it is one of the most subversive things I’ve ever read.  I grew up on Uncle Shelby, Looney Tunes, Sesame Street, and H.R. Pufnstuf.  Really ought to explain everything there is to know about me.)  But I’d never seen his enchanting poetry books before.  Alternately heartwarming and surreal, Silverstein’s poetry was not just about things that would interest children but took children seriously as readers and people.

Which is interesting, since it seems like much of Silverstein’s career as a musician was about not taking things too seriously.  He wrote some very good serious songs, but he became famous for his satirical humor with songs like “A Boy Named Sue” and “The Cover of Rolling Stone.”  And he was responsible for this classic stoner tune that is notoriously difficult to find copies of.

“The Great Smoke-Off” was one of those cult classics that you had to be both nerdy and cool to know anything about.  It was always on Dr. Demento’s year-end  countdown of silly songs.  It was also a great big middle finger in the face of “decent” society.  There really aren’t that many songs this explicitly about drugs that doesn’t demonize them. (Official Disclaimer: I do not use, nor do I advocate the use of any illegal drugs–or most legal ones, for that matter.  I do believe drugs should be legalized, but also extremely regulated.)  I always felt like I was breaking some kind of law just listening to this song.

I don’t know how much of his music is still in print, frankly.  I know you can get CDs of him reading many of his poems, often with special editions of the books themselves (worth the extra money, IMO).  I also know that the world is a better place for having had Shel Silverstein in it.  He treated children like they were worth listening to and treated adults like they were children.  It would be nice if more people got those priorities straight.

Posted in Music | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »