Wednesday, June 27, 2007

O Superman (For Massenet) - Laurie Anderson

Cause when love is gone, there's always justice/ And when justice is gone, there's always force/ And when force is gone, there's always Mom - Hi Mom!

The alternately weird, funny, and chilling O Superman was the first Laurie Anderson piece I ever heard, and made me an instant fan. I like this Anderson-authorized video a lot, too, although I had my own ideas for a video script

The 1981 song's full title is O Superman (For Massenet) as Anderson reportedly got the idea after hearing the aria O Souverain from Jules Massenet's 1885 opera Le Cid.

Anderson originally recorded O Superman for a New York-based indie label, 110 Records. The song was - and is - part of a much larger four-and-a-half hour work entitled United States, which wasn't fully released until 1984. O Superman would first appear on album in Anderson's debut, Big Science in 1982. But before the album, O Superman was a single, and an unlikely 8+-minute hit in the U.K., making it to the #2 slot in 1981.

This is the hand, the hand that takes/ Here come the planes/They're American planes. Made in America/ Smoking or non-smoking?/ And the voice said: 'Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers/ From the swift completion of their appointed rounds'
As many others did, I thought of the Here come the planes line after 9/11. Anderson, a New York native, who had retired the song from live performance several years earlier, responded by performing O Superman at two shows in New York the week after the attacks.

If you liked O Superman, you can learn more about Laurie Anderson and her work at her web site.

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