(Listed in order of preference)
The Clash – The Right Profile (from London Calling):
There’s not much to write about this song. Joe Strummer uses Montgomery Clift as a conduit for something, but I’m not sure what. The song equates to the exhaust of spinning wheels; effort exerted over an ignored subject. The line between a pop song and a list is, in this case, diffuse.
Fugazi – Cassavetes (from In on the Kill Taker):
Not sure how this fits into the Actors‘ Studio chronology. Cassavetes apparently auditioned for Lee Strasberg as a joke then refused the offer to enrol, all to mock the behavioural psychology essential to Strasberg/Adler’s methods. Cassavetes was right, up to a point. He was wrong to let Ben Gazzara cut The Killing of a Chinese Bookie in half. In this way and others, Cassavetes was too generous to his actors. Seymour Cassel is very much in line with Cassavetes‘ anti-studio approach, also a Strasberg reject (involuntary to Cassevetes‘ voluntary). Only Gazzara graduated, per se, and carried into Cassavetes‘ films the notion that film is the actor’s conduit – not vice versa. And with this power imbalance, the teachings of betrayal seep through (c.f. Elia Kazan). This isn’t counting the graduates who shook off appearances and became something greater than their method. What’s the purpose of a teaching if not to transcend it?
The Law of opposites, so far, applies to these songs. The song that has a lot to speak (but not say) leaves me with little, whereas the song with little to say (or comprehend) leaves me overcompensating, perhaps. But it’s a step in the right direction. I seldom understand Fugazi’s lyrics. I tap my feet because of this.
The Go-Betweens – Lee Remick:
The perfect synthesis and true „Right Profile“ (i.e. the unspoken one). With The Clash my ears strain to understand the half-empty tribute, leaving with it the remains of the name „Montgomery Clift“, without the person. Fugazi and Guy Picciotto make the bare essentials audible, the rest is noise. The plain and simple tactic here is a process of elimination: what you don’t understand isn’t worth listening to. I’ve read the lyrics and they resemble a transcript. Very little reamins after this reading.
I re-iterate „perfect“ to additionally describe the song’s comprehension, as anyone could understand its lyrics in their entirety after a first listen. The process found in Lee Remick isn’t one of elimination, but of sublimation. The lyrics sound bad when read becasue they’ve been sung already. It’s a keen reminder that, for us, singing came before talking.
I’ll summarise each of the song’s effect, with some additional developments:
- The Clash: A list instead of a song. A title isn’t enough, but what is?
- Fugazi: A couple of names remain from my listening, enough to write about what wasn’t there.
- The Go-Betweens: A song that inspires a list. A name is enough, especially one. I do love Lee Remick and it thrills me to sing it in the same accent as Robert Forster.
The Lesson: That these songs can teach one to write as much as they do to listen. And now, a list of names – the most I could do in this chosen medium to to respond to The Go-Betweens.
A List of Actors Studio almuni who deserve a song, not only named after them, but about them (off the top of my head):
- Ralph Meeker
- Barbara Loden
- Seymour Cassel (in the aforementioned, anti-„studio“ vein)
- Carroll Baker
- Jack Garfein
- Bruce Dern
- Lois Smith
- Paul Newman (for Patrick)
Dedicated to my dear friend, Holger