or, Further Contextual Imaginings
Did you know that “Just a Gigolo” was originally an Austrian song that was “a poetic vision of the social collapse lived in Austria after World War I, represented by the figure of a former hussar who remembers himself parading in his uniform, while now he has to get by as a lonely, hired dancer”? It was, and that is the most awesome fact you are likely to learn today. It makes you wonder, what other David Lee Roth covers have been ripped from their original context? Perhaps “California Girls” was a song of mourning for the flower of California womanhood cut down in the San Francisco Earthquake, never replaceable by the young ladies of other territories.
And in a world of gritty reimaginings (btw, you know what’s long overdue for one? Hogan’s Heroes), it’s sometimes worth looking back to the originals. For instance, you know the Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels? Hard-boiled Scottish noir, full of rain and drinking and gruesome crimes, all very hard boiled. The title character is a messily divorced inspector who doesn’t play by the rules, often drunk and foul-mouthed, haunted by his dark past and his failure to join the family business of… stage hypnotism.
OK, so that’s ridiculous. How’d it get in there? Because Rankin has done a gritty reimagining of the older Inspector Rebus novels, lighthearted romps about a rumpled inspector and his dapper hypnotist brother, swanning around Edinburgh solving wacky wordplay-based crimes. Wouldn’t you like to read those?
Actually, now that that’s typed out, it sounds like Ellen Raskin, whose books don’t actually need any added grit. I recently obtained a copy of Figgs & Phantoms and it’s exactly as messed-up as I remember it being, enough that I went and checked to see if it was written just after she’d found out she was dying. It wasn’t though. [Not, I hasten to add, messed-up in the typical YA manner of “the kids betray their old-man friend and get his place trashed and when they try to make it up for him by taking him to see his beloved baboon it’s died and he expires from grief on the spot, so they have to think about what they’ve done while the brave high-school existentialist is Beaten Up by the Conformist Hordes Who Just Don’t Understand Or Care.” Messed up in an interesting way.]
This post may seem random, but at least I didn’t try to work in how Louis Armstrong, with “Black and Blue,” turned a song about black men rejecting a dark-skinned woman into a civil rights protest, just by dropping the verse. Anyway it’s not as random as the “Just a Gigolo” video: