Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Man Who Couldn't Afford to Orgy

In honor of American greeting card holiday Sweetest Day (aka "Bribes for Sex Day"), here's a song about sex. Well, it's not about sex, exactly: it's about availability to orgy, which usually involves a wider selection of sensual pleasures. You might suspect from the title and the album it's on that "The Man Who Couldn't Afford to Orgy" is some Poe-laced account of the death of a cuckolder. It isn't - that was to come later, heh heh heh.

What it is: just a quiet little quasi-novelty number.
Who can afford to orgy:

  • The postman
  • The con man
  • The milk man
  • The butcher
  • The astronaut
  • The curate
Who can't afford to orgy:
  • The poor man
  • The sad man
  • The green man
  • The policeman
  • The snowman
  • The woman (?)
Who is he? John Cale, who's sorry to mention that he couldn't afford to orgy.
Do you believe him? Judy Nylon's come-on vocals for the "choruses" just about melt the vinyl, polycarbonate, or silicon they're played from. Do you?
Doesn't that sound like...? "In the Summertime"by Mungo Jerry? It sure does to me - "inspired by" rather than "ripped off from," but nevertheless...
Fun fact: This was the only single (b/w Silvia Said) released from Fear, a strong candidate for Cale's best album. Beach Boys vocals or no, this is not single material. Crazy man.

1 comment:

johnny marimba said...

I'm very grateful to have found your site, and look forward to rooting around. But I must take issue with a couple of things in this post. It is not just a novelty number. Lyrically, it's very much in the same vein as "The Gift" from White Light White Heat. Both songs are about the dissonance between the sensible approach to finding love, versus the desire for romantic abandon, roughly after the classic "superego vs. id" motif. The sensible side is saying "can't afford to party" where the girl is calling him on, saying "take a chance cowboy," if you will.

In both songs, the comic aspect is a way of analyzing the errant ways in which we explore our longing for intimacy. The music serves as either anesthetic for the biopsy or a drink for the party, take your pick. I find the dissonance between the "oldies" piano triplets and Phil Manzanera's ripping guitar solo to amplify the underlying conflict motif.

As to "why was this the single?" I'm thinking that they saw this as the most "Bowie-esqe" of the set; think of whimsical songs like "Kooks" or the "said she had to squeeze it" line in "Suffragette City." Bowie was selling records by the stack in those days, and don't discount the nostalgic feel of the music that ran through a lot of the glam-related scene.

Finally, however, let me sound a note of agreement. Judy Nylon sounds like the siren call I will hear right before my unanticipated but ironical death. It wouldn't be the worst way to go.