Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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November 17, 2006
technology fails the musician

No-Longer Misheard Lyrics Dept.: Use of headphones to listen for the first time to a CD recording of Mission of Burma's laconic, hypnotic 1982 masterpiece "Trem Two" reveals to me that I, who mainly listened to LP recordings of the tune over crappy speakers, forever have been misinterpreting the closing, repetitive lyrical line, as

the factory floor

when it actually is

where thoughts are reborn

(a review of lyrics on MoB's wonderful website confirms my mistake.)

I liked my version better. It suggested the relentless, remorseless, dehumanizing backdrop thud of industrial production, a synecdoche for the inescapable, wider material context freezing the singer in alienation (I guess is the word) from himself, others and his desires, yet interlocking each. Drummer Peter Prescott's metallic clanking in the background, like clockwork machinery, which appears only there in the song, seemed only to seal the point. Though I suppose plenty of songs like that have already been written, not by Roger Miller but by Gill/King. Miller's lyric I guess has a more spiritual side, also worth appreciating, than I realized.

My erroneous interpretation of the piece fits better also with my memory of when I first really heard the song, maybe 15 years ago, at a party in a loft on a seedy block in Hoboken, dancing alone with an adorable (but engaged) social worker and a sweet, big-hearted bear of a grad student studying politics, John V., who I learned a year ago via the internet died suddenly in spring 1999 in Framingham, NY.