Song of the Week Revisited – Rocket Man, Pearls Before Swine & The Man in the Moon, Grinderman


I recently learned that Tom Rapp, a psych-folk innovator and the creative force behind Pearls Before Swine, has died after a long bout with cancer. This news has prompted me to pay him tribute by revisiting a SotW posting I originally distributed on April 4, 2009. You can read his full obituary here:

Back in the late 60s/early 70s, Tom Rapp recorded several fine “psychedelic folk” albums with his band Pearls Before Swine. His finest was The Use of Ashes (1970). This album was recorded in Nashville with some of the same session men (Charlie McCoy & Kenny Buttrey) used by Bob Dylan on Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding.

That album’s “Rocket Man” (not to be confused with the Elton John/Bernie Taupin song used in a recent episode of My Name Is Earl) is my favorite and this week’s song. The lyrics were inspired by Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” and tell the story of a son’s astronaut father that dies in space:

My father was a rocket man
He often went to Jupiter or Mercury, to Venus or to Mars
My mother and I would watch the sky
And wonder if a falling star
Was a ship becoming ashes with a rocket man inside

I was first turned onto Rapp and Pearls by my brother and his college buddies (they were big in Boston). A couple of years ago my buddy Joe M. (the drummer in San Diego’s Pink Floyd tribute band) revived my interest in these records when he let me borrow a boxed set he picked up. It wasn’t until this more current listening that I picked up on Rapp’s Carol Channingesque lisp. How did I miss it all the times I listened to this song/album in the 70s?

If you get a chance, listen to “The Jeweler” from the same album. It’s truly a gem. (Sorry!)

I was recently reading a MOJO article on Nick Cave and learned that his Grinderman song “The Man in the Moon” has a very similar feel and lyrical content, so I have to include that as a second song of the week.

My daddy was an astronaut
That’s what I was often taught
My daddy went away too soon
Now he’s living on the moon

Hang on to me people, we’re going down
Down among the fishes in an absence of sound
It’s the presence of distance and it’s floating in time
It’s lack and it’s longing and it’s not very kind

Sitting here scratching in this rented room
Scratching and a tapping to the man in the moon
About all the things that I’ve been taught
My daddy was an astronaut

They’re perfect bookends.

Enjoy… until next week.

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