Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Casey at the Bat

Casey at the Bat is a political allegory. An impassioned song about John Cale's favorite professional sport, baseball*. A pure pisstake. An on-the spot improvisation that Cale didn't think much about. A rant about a friend or enemy or acquaintance or musical accomplice. None of the above. Take your pick. This Even Cowgirls Get the Blues track is notable on the strength of the vocal, which is a full-out screamer despite some note of mischief and humor in Cale's voice.

Like the wonderful namesake 1888 poem (this is a very lowbrow lit album, isn't it), it's about a failure. The difference is that this is an indictment of an intransigent guy who lets down his team and the fans by not showing up. That could describe any number of musicians! I like the idea of "Muddville" as an allegory for the Mudd Club (according to that Wikipedia entry, named after the previously discussed Dr. Mudd), and "Casey" as the star of an important band. It's an amusing idea, anyway.

It's an expansive and hard-rocking song that's musically a wee bit reminiscent of the Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime" (but that ain't no Mudd Club). It starts out with dueling guitars, surprisingly enough. An aggressive electric organ takes the lead once the vocal starts. Cale sounds like he's enjoying himself on this one, maliciously and mercilessly swinging away at the hapless Casey. It breaks down to simple piano to lead into the coda (apparently fooling the mastering engineers at ROIR - they cut it into two tracks). Electric organ and guitar come back with a vengeance, chain-gang backing vocals start, and Cale starts in on Casey again. It ends with lungs-out screaming: "You're a coward, Casey, a coward!"

Hell, try it out on me (login required; no-login AUTOPLAY! streaming version available here; suggestions for file hosts gratefully accepted). Anyway, it's one of the better tracks on an awfully difficult to find and difficult to like album.

* This is highly unlikely.


Ian said...

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Jack Feerick said...

Unlikely it may be: but I remember reading an interview with Maria McKee (in THE FACE, I think; late 80s, I'm sure) where she talked about how she'd inevitably been disappointed when she met her heroes; she and Jimmy Iovine had lunch with Cale and his manager, and she had an awful time because, apparently, "all he wanted to talk about was baseball"!