“Me, My Old Man, and a Hundred and Twenty Babies”

“When I Grow Up” by Michelle Shocked another one of those songs I just adore.  I think it’s as much a song about childhood as it is about adulthood and I love it because it rewards repeated listens.

It’s a creepy song.  Usually, when you hear the tingling of tiny bells, it’s an indication that you’ve entered some place, some interior.  On the one hand, the chirp of bugs and the outside noises work against that assumption (is that a dog yelping in the distance?) and yet, don’t you suspect that you have entered some kind of interior, some strange space where babies yell in blues phrases for watermelon?

Shocked’s voice toys with you, too, sometimes gruff and other times sweet.  The driving rhythm line couple with her playing on certain phrases makes you want to move, but the song again, seems to toy with whether you should move quickly–there’s almost a clickity-clack insistence that you should hurry towards your destination–or whether you should stick around–listening for the noises in the distance, dwelling on the melting sun, the freezing moon, the exotic fairytale diet of the ten dozen children, the casual exaggerations of a child daydreaming.

And it’s romantic in a way that pleases me.  I, too, want to be an old woman.

Not today, of course, but some day, a long way off.

11 thoughts on ““Me, My Old Man, and a Hundred and Twenty Babies”

  1. Oh, I love that song. Thanks for reminding me of it. I’m gonna have to listen to that record tonight.

    I love the way she’s able to be quirky without the least bit of cutesiness in her voice or her lyrics.

  2. OH MY GOSH! I love you now. Totally love you.

    I didn’t know there was another person in Nashville who even LIKED Michelle Shocked.

    I met her when I was in London, right after Short, Sharp, Shocked came out. I love her in ways that cannot be described with words.

    And yes, this is a creepy song. Not as creepily sad as “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” or as sadly resignedly creepy as “Anchorage”.

    Which, btw, if you can find the live recording of Anchorage, it’s worth its weight in gold.

    In fact, I imagine you might find it quicker than you think.

  3. Well, naturally. Everyone loves B. Even Charlemagne.

    I’m not getting the creepy that you two do. Creepy how? I think we may have a problem centered on different definitions of ‘creepy.’ I think of it in the sense of ‘of or pertaining to a creep,’ which I recognize is kinda idiosyncratic of me, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what you mean.

  4. Creepy in the tinkly bells, thrumming base and demented bird-call opening. It’s got a beatnik intro groovy, and her voice is processed in that echo-y vibe with the rattlesnake rattle in the background. then the reverb in her vocals kicks up.

    It’s like being haunted by the future on a peyote trip. (At least that’s how I’ve always perceived it.)

  5. Yes, exactly. That’s what I mean by creepy–it’s unsettling in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.

    “It’s like being haunted by the future on a peyote trip.”

    Ha, I think I have plans for the evening now.

  6. Ah, hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck-raising creepy. Yes. Yes, it is.

    In my own personal language, that’s ‘spooky.’ Some day I will have to learn to speak English properly. I work these definitions all out in my own head and never actually check whether they’re correct.

  7. she’s also a confrontational and well-spoken psychiatric survivor,

    Isn’t that what the title of “Short, Sharp Shocked” and her chosen moniker “Shocked” are about? I seem to recall that she had some pretty abusive shock therapy as a teenager.

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