Ignored Obscured Restored
“Balloon Man” was a 1988 “hit” for Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians. (It reached #1 on Gavin Report’s Alternative Music chart.)
Hitchcock wrote the song about walking in NYC in the rain while eating a falafel.
He spattered me with tomatoes, hummus,
And some strips of skin
So I made a right on 44th
And I washed my hands when I got in
And it rained like a slow divorce
And I wish I could ride a horse
And Balloon Man blew up in my hand
Besides the falafel hint, the whimsical lyrics are indecipherable. But after watching the official video, I can’t help but think that it was at least partially inspired by the balloon character Rover from the ‘60s British television series, The Prisoner. Hitchcock is of the age that he would have been very familiar with the show.
A bass line introduces the song and plays a key role throughout. The guitars go full jangle in the chorus and then come back at about 2:40 to take us all the way home.
In a 2011 interview Hitchcock gave to Will Harris of the AV Club, he mentioned the song was originally written for The Bangles.
“Well, “Balloon Man” I wrote for The Bangles, if you remember them. I was in touch with a couple of them, and I sent them a quarter-inch, 7.5 IPS reel. I don’t know if they did anything with it.”
I wish The Bangles had recorded it because it perfectly suits their style of harmony-filled, jangle rock.
Enjoy… until next week.
Love this, Tom. I’ve never gotten into Hitchcock, working too hard to be special, but in this case you elevate him.