Last Friday I went to hear Janis Ian perform at the Sellersville Theater. Good show. At one point, though, she began to sing "Love Me Do" in a slow and sincere manner and at the break genially scolded the audience for not getting that it was supposed to be funny.
I can't speak for the rest of the audience -- maybe they were all louts, I don't know -- but personally I listened raptly because her version had an unearthly purity I found entrancing. It put me in mind of another slowed-down Beatles standard, which I've never actually heard performed, but which has stayed with me for decades.
It was back in the early Seventies and I was sitting in a diner having a cup of coffee and a donut one afternoon when another diner moved his plate and cup and sat down beside me. It was Bob the Musician. I knew Bob's last name, mind you, and still do, but back then, when I was young, it was just sensible policy not to air people's full names in public. So B the M he was.
Bob told me he'd stopped by to say goodbye. That he had a gig in California that could be the start of a real career and was leaving tomorrow. That his band had achieved "every white rock band's ultimate dream and hired a black female back-up singer." And that he'd retooled "I Am the Walrus" as a slow, romantic number.
Back then, understand, nobody did covers of Beatles songs. The very idea was blasphemous. It was like writing your own version of the Koran or revising the Ten Commandments. But Bub the Musician had done exactly that.
In heaven's name, I asked -- why?
Bob the Musician smiled. "I just wanted to see yuppies slow-dancing to me singing 'yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog's eye," he said.
Then he hoisted his guitar case and left.
Thirty seconds later, the diner's owner came over and said, "Do you know that guy you were talking to? He just left without paying his bill."
"I never saw him before in my life," I said.
The Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention is the weekend . . .
. . . though, oddly enough, it's in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. If you're going to be there, feel free to say Hi. I'll be there all weekend, and I'll be ubiquitous. Just like Chun the Unavoidable.
And as always . . .
Poem du Jour has been updated. Check out "The Arrow, the Song, Will Not Stay Us Long."