The Saddest Song In The World; Then The Most Joyous

Logo for the seminal punk band Flipper

* * *

I love my iPod or, rather, I love my iPod’s shuffle mode. Placing a song out of context is a great way to re-discover it. Few things please me more than listening to the beginning of a song, realizing that I’ve heard it a million times and still not being able to place the damned thing until–Bam! Now I know who it is. At which point, I hear it with relatively fresh ears. Lovely.

Unexpected and sometimes abrupt juxtapositions are also a bonus of shuffling tunes. While jogging in the park the other day, The Mekons’ “The Letter”, a faux-country song about unendurable loneliness, reared its bleary head:

“I waited till you didn’t show/drunk on the bus on my own/swollen faces in yellow light/tomorrow can sink like a stone.”

Not an ideal sentiment by which to exercise, nor does the song’s lurching tempo encourage the kind of momentum necessary for a cardiovascular workout. But then “The Letter” ended and I heard . . . rain. Then a loping bassline, a pennywhistle and (yes!) the most joyous song in the world. Here are the lyrics in their entirety:

“She’s a sex bomb my baby–yeah!”

So begins and ends, yes, “Sex Bomb” by the San Francisco punk band Flipper. Endlessly repeating the above line over a barrage of guitars and a shrieking saxophone may seem like an abusive joke–and it is, particularly over the course of eight minues. But the song is also a testament, roiling and true, to the indomitable optimism inherent in the creative act. Really.

“Sex Bomb” is ridiculous, expansive, hilarious, a minimalist tour-de-force and, in the end run, unstoppable. Hearing it on a spring day in New York City came as a balm and served as a reminder of why life, in all its confounding perplexity, is worth the trouble.

Postscript: This isn’t the first time I’ve extolled the merits of the iPod. Here’s a shuffling of a different sort.

© 2011 Mario Naves

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