Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wild On Mars and Earth

Garland Jeffreys - NYC

Reviews of Garland's "Wild in the Streets" have come in from both Mars and Earth. Enjoy!
Best Wishes,
DW, Assistant to Garland Jeffreys
From (

Music on Life on Mars: Whoopi Wild in the Streets
Whoopi guests along with a trio from The Wire, but it's music from Garland Jeffreys that ties it all together.

While overshadowed by the stunt casting of Whoopi Goldberg, and several actors from The Wire, the real story in this episode was the music. As we've opined before, the year 1973 is a gold mine for cultural references, and Life on Mars has done a good job of digging through that treasure trove. I just wish these episodes lived up to the riches it unveils. Take for example the use of the Garland Jeffreys song "Wild in the Streets."

A Puerto Rican superintendent appears to have thrown a nine-year old black girl off a roof, causing a race riot led by the Black Liberation Army. As Captain Hunt opines, "it's like my sister eating a cheesecake -- it's gonna get real ugly, real fast." This all sets up "Wild in the Streets" to be the perfect song. As Garland Jeffreys writes in his blog, he was "inspired to write the song that summer after reading about a murder in the Bronx -- two boys, twelve and thirteen, threw a girl off a roof." That this lines up perfectly with this week's murder investigation is one thing, but when you also throw in the fact that Jeffreys himself is half Puerto Rican, half African-American, you have the perfect song choice -- possibly ever.

Of course, there's still plenty of other music in this episode, and so much of it is beautifully obscure, like the pure funk of Marion Black's "Come on and Gettit" or the bottom-heavy grooves of Boscoe's "He Keeps You", just the kind of raw sound you'd expect from an underground DJ (played by a gender-bending Whoopi Goldberg). Meanwhile, to signal that there is a truce in the race war, we get the interracial sounds of Sly & the Family Stone ("Everybody is a Star") and Three Dog Night ("Black and White"). Finally, only in 1973 would laying down the rhymes of Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" be considered cool.

I don't know about you, but I was so happy to see all The Wire cameos, first Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer) as a priest, then Cutty (Chad Coleman) as the leader of the BLA, and finally, Lester (Clarke Peters) as Clams, whom we haven't really seen since the first episode (and sadly, in all likelihood, we won't see again).

Life on Mars - Episode 1.05
1. "Wild in the Streets" - Garland Jeffreys
2. "Ice Ice Baby" - Vanilla Ice
3. "I'm Gonna Keep on Loving You" - Cool Blues
4. "Come on and Gettit" - Marion Black
5. "He Keeps You" - Boscoe
6. "Anywhere in Glory" - The Mighty Indiana Travelers
7. "Everybody is a Star" - Sly & the Family Stone
8. "Black and White" - Three Dog Night
From 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them, Toby Creswell, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006.

Garland Jeffreys' first notable contact with the world of rock was the friendship he struck up with Lou Reed while they were both at Syracuse University in the 60's. He appeared on John Cale's first solo album, Vintage Violence, but made little impact until one single, "Wild in the Streets", was a minor radio hit in 1973. The song has a beautiful slashing Stones feel with big open chords set against an insistent drum beat. A massive back beat that pulses behind a song about social breakdown and the abandonment of kids by a cold-hearted society. The song appears to reference the 60's exploitation movie of the same name where goofy college kids take over America – only in Jeffreys' version it's not the idle rich but the kids in the ghettos who are breaking out. Mostly, though, the song resides in the vitriol of the riff that drives it like a battle anthem.

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