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Random thoughts, settings, characters, situations, perhaps leading somewhere

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Snapsongs: “Super Sex” by Morphine

Thursday 28 March 2013 - Filed under Snapsongs

It’s a pretty singular image in my mind: I am hurtling through the High Plains dark on Route 2, the scenic route across Nebraska that evidently includes the pathway of Col. Wm Custer on his rendezvous with destiny. I am driving an elderly black BMW 528e and there’s not much rain hitting the windshield because I have a 30-mile-an-hour tailwind. (Later, when I stop for the night, I will discover that this resulted in close to the theoretical limit for this car’s efficiency: 37 miles per gallon.) It’s a bit wild outside. Why was I pushing fate at 80 mph in a gusty crosswind? Equal parts deathwish and youthful testosterone, to be sure… but I was also anxious for a possible future and in a hurry to have it begin.

It is May of 1995. I have set out across the American heartland on a solo road trip, ostensibly to exercise my photographic practice, but actually to bury ghosts and to offer my heart. That will come later. The photography will come first. That is why I am heading to Mt. Rushmore and to Crazy Horse right now, to see a chunk of America and to attempt a record of my travels. I had already chanced upon Carhenge earlier in the day, a replica of the trilithons and bluestones on the Salisbury Plain done with obsolete cars painted primer gray. I’d spent a happy half-hour shooting Plus-X and Tri-X in the rain with plastic bags over my two cameras. The omens were definitely trending upward, if only the weather would cooperate. I’d been keeping abreast of a huge system of violent storms ever since I’d set out two days ago. This windy downpour was merely the leading edge.

Morphine’s third studio album “yes” had come out that March. It was already a staple in my car’s Blaupunkt tape deck and was ready-made for road tripping. I knew just about all the songs, and any one might have done the trick. But “Super Sex” summed everything up in one nice neat package that night. And not even in just the obvious way. It’s a relatively simple song, relentless 4/4 beat on the hi-hat, octave runs burbling on the fretless bass, and a drive-through vocal that was half spoken and half sung. Honking sheets of baritone sax push blaring overdubbed powerchords above and below the main rhythmic lines. It’s a song for passing things at speed, over and over again in geographic rhythm — empty gas stations, slick shiny cross-streets, swinging traffic lights blinking red one direction and yellow in another. The chorus lifts up those sonic pieces and drops them down, over and over again, drawing parts out into a whine or a moan. It ‘s about sex, isn’t it? Well, kinda. It was about a guy in an unfamiliar city calling for transport, lodging and satisfaction, and his tone indicates he’s half expecting he’s not going to get any of them. She said she’d come if he came, and here he was, so where was she? He’s got all the pieces, all the parts, whiskey, smokes and chocolate — surely that’s the recipe? Surely there’ll be nothing but super sex? Even the goddamned president of the United States gets super sex.

I wasn’t driving for super sex, but I would take it if I could get it. I was driving for a woman, one with whom I’d had history, history which I did not think had been laid to rest one way or another. Sure I wanted sex. But I also wanted peace, love and understanding. I wanted dogs, canaries, kids playing in the sprinkler. I wanted to finally make a decision, take a stand, say, “This is what I want.” I wasn’t expecting to get it. I was expecting to drink the flask, smoke the pack and eat the bar all by myself. But I wanted to make the effort. I wanted to bring myself to an alien place, at the verge of an uncertain future, and say, “Take me, if you will.” Super sex was only a portion of that drive.

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2013-03-28  »  Edward Semblance