Saturday, October 03, 2015

Song of the day

"Messin' With The Kid", by Ed Kuepper.

Like Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson, Ed Kuepper spends a lot of time revisiting, and reworking, his back catalogue. (I don't even know how many versions of "Eternally Yours" I own. You might say "too many". You would be wrong.)

Unlike at least two of the others, though, he has never taken the edge off that back catalogue by insisting on putting out an album of new material every year or so. In fact, Ed hasn't put out an album of new material since "Jean Lee And The Yellow Dog", in 2007. (News flash: a new Ed song, "Never Too Late", has just appeared, on the soundtrack album to "Last Cab To Darwin", along with an album's worth of instrumental swatches.)

Not that we have been starved of material in the interim. The revived Prince Melon Records has been working hard on a significant but elusive "Bootleg Series" of mostly live recordings by Ed, The Aints, and The Laughing Clowns. Meanwhile, two albums of "new" Ed material have emerged on CD in the last few years. "Second Winter" is a kind of alternate take on his early solo albums, sparse of instrumentation and heavy of atmosphere. Then last year he put out "Return Of The Mail-Order Bridegroom", another solo recording of older Ed songs and with a few covers thrown in (he bravely takes on "No Regrets", and wins).

The highlight of this album, for me, is "the return of" a couple of Kuepper/Bailey songs, from the time when dinosaurs really did still walk the earth. "Brisbane (Security City)" is from the third Saints album, the one where Ed started driving in a different direction from Chris Bailey. (Not coincidentally it was also the final Saints album to have Ed on board.)

"Messin' With The Kid", though, is why we are here. It stood out on the first Saints album, "(I'm) Stranded", for being something other than a three-chord maelstrom. As with Lennon/McCartney (or Forster/McLellan -- actually not so much with the latter), the joint songwriting credit can make it a bit difficult to discern whose songs are whose, but in later years, especially since the gradual rapprochement between Keeper and Bailey, Ed has reclaimed the song as his own, which possibly answers that question.

(As further evidence, in the intervening years Ed recorded, for the "A King In The Kindness Room" album, a song called "Messin' (Pt II)", which is musically pretty close to "Messin' With The Kid", but with different lyrics. It is instructive to play them one after the other. They are both fine songs.)

The original "Messin'" was full of the pent-up frustrations of youth. The version on "Return Of The Mail-Order Bridegroom", which was recorded a mere 37 years later, and which I have uploaded for you here, for a short time, and as long as nobody minds, demonstrates that it is a song that can outlive youth. Ed here drapes it in adult clothes, with an air of melancholy, of nostalgia, perhaps, for a couple of frustrated kids on the streets of Brisbane in the mid-seventies.