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Hitchcockian chills


I've been loading my thousands of CDs (most of which have been in boxes for about three years) into iTunes in recent weeks and it's been quite a revealing experience. (It explains, for one thing, why I've never been able to accumulate any money. And this project is going to require two 2TB external hard drives, because I'm using lossless compression.) Sometimes it's embarrassing or mystifying. What void was I trying to fill with a Kurtis Blow's greatest hits? I already had "The Breaks" -- one of the earliest non-Sugarhill rap/hip-hop hits -- and ''Hard Times'' on various compilations... but it sounds good. And I do love compilations, especially those from obscure jazz, soul and R&B labels from the '40s, '50s and '60s (like Minit or Specialty or Sue or Excello), up to the better-known Vee Jay and Okeh and Ace and Commodore, or the bubblegum label Buddah (yes, it's spelled that way). And, of course, various label, period, artist and thematic anthologies put together by Rhino (including the massive Stax/Volt and Atlantic boxes). The "Beg, Scream & Shout!" box is the greatest.

But the reason I'm writing this now is my reencounter with Robyn Hitchcock. I did a piece a while back about the cinematic imagination of Joni Mitchell, and I was happy to reacquaint myself with "My Wife and My Dead Wife" on the album "Fegmania!" It's quintessentially Hitchcockian, reflective of Robyn's eerie ectoplasmic humor (though much of his work is more surreally Cronenbergian, bursting with ghastly biological horrors, as in "Star of Hairs" or "Tropical Flesh Mandala"), and suggesting Sir Alfred, too. In some respects it's a twist on "Rebecca," but funnier. Notice, too, the ways Hitchcock chooses to belatedly reveal what's going on, almost as if you were suddenly catching a glimpse of a ghost out of the corner of your eye. And the final pull-back at the seashore is masterful. This is quite a movie:

My wife lies down in a chair And peels a pear I know she's there I'm making coffee for two Just me and you But I come back in with coffee for three Coffee for three?

My dead wife sits in a chair Combing her hair I know she's there She wanders off to the bed Shaking her head "Robyn," she said "You know I don't take sugar!"

My wife and my dead wife Am I the only one that sees her? My wife and my dead wife Doesn't anybody see her at all? No, no no, no, no no no no

My wife sits down on the stairs And stares into air There's no one there I'm drilling holes in the wall Holes in the wall I turn round and my dead wife's upstairs She's still wearing flares She talks out loud but no one hears

And I can't decide which one I love the most The flesh and blood or the pale, smiling ghost

My wife lies down on the beach She's sucking a peach She's out of reach Of the waves that crash on the sand Where my dead wife stands Holding my hand

Now my wife can't swim but neither could she And deep in the sea She's waiting for me

Oh, I'm such a lucky guy 'Cause I've got you baby and I'll never be lonely...

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