#45 Movie Star and Get Off This-Cracker. More on Selling out. The Marc Jacobs Edition M1 Tank.

02 Movie Star

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If you read my last post about the cycle of Revolution to Selling Out you might wonder where I put Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker on this scale?

I have of course already considered this. But before I do that let me briefly review.

First my theory is not a real theory, just a playful framework. Don’t go all crazy on me pointing out the inconsistencies and ambiguities. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds as Emerson once said.

Second the cycle is Revolutionaries>Domesticators>DeFangers>Tools Of the Man.

Third at all stages of the cycle there can be great artists and songs. Especially the second stage, the Domesticators.

Clearly Camper Van Beethoven was is in the revolutionary part of the cycle. Why? Because I say so. I made up the theory so I say we fit. Seriously there are a lot of good arguments for regarding Camper Van Beethoven as revolutionary. Let’s not have me blow my own horn. Lets assume it and move on.

Second Camper Van Beethoven satisfies my rule regarding what kind of capital financed these early recordings. Since we financed these records with our own meager capital, and with loans from an opera singing cowboy this is clearly informal capital.

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So yes, the logical conclusion is then Cracker is a domesticator. And i’m very proud of that. It is only within the narrow confines of (white) rock music that being commercially successful has a negative connotation. Can you imagine a gangsta rap or narcocorridos artist worrying about his fans thinking he is too rich and too successful? Do you think they would be hiding from their fans the fact they drive around in diamond studded gold plated Marc Jacobs edition M-1 tank?

I think not.

Being the domesticator doesn’t mean you compromised your ideals to sell more records. A lot of time the domesticators distill and refine a sound because that is the nature of their creativity.

In Cracker’s case we narrowed the eclecticism of Camper Van Beethoven, because Johnny and I felt more comfortable in the confines of Americana and Rock. We didn’t have a Jonathan Segel in Cracker to take us off on any ethnomusicologist expeditions. We didn’t have Victor Krummenacher for extended forays into the land of prog-rock or David Immergluck for the muscular psychedelia. If we’d tried to replicate that stuff it would have seemed like we were trying too hard. Instead we just tried to be honest with ourselves and our listeners. We played and wrote stuff with which we were comfortable. One result was we refined and distilled some of what I had started with Camper Van Beethoven.

But Conversely other elements were added to the mix. For instance Johnny and I were very knowledgeable and comfortable with country music. We could incorporate the Americana elements with much more authenticity. Whereas CVB sort of had to play the country stuff with tongue in cheek. Not Cracker.

So this added some authenticity to the americana roots with which CVB only toyed. This resonated well with a lot of people and also helped broaden our audience. Finally Johnny had a much less cerebral lead guitar style than greg. This allowed Cracker to rock harder than CVB and this re-adjustment in course pointed us just a little more towards the mainstream rock listeners.

But all of these small changes came from an honest place. That’s why Cracker was successful. We were not being disingenuous. We were “just doing what we wanna”. That’s exactly what we were talking about in Get Off This.

Remember the first Cracker album was a hit. As noted before there was a bit of a backlash against Cracker for “selling out”. So this is song is my riposte. Three chord song written in an hour or two. And with a talk box solo!

03 Get Off This

The other thing that Everybody misses when comparing Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker: The sea change at commercial radio. In 1990 when Camper Van Beethoven was touring Key Lime Pie there were at most 30 commercial alternative rock radio stations in the country. By the time Kerosene Hat came out there were more like 200.

Cracker and a bunch of other alternative rock bands had by 1993 domesticated a large new audience and a bunch of radio stations. That is peoples tastes and the institutions moved towards us, more than we moved towards them. This is a very important part of the domestication of a new sound or style. And this is why I have no problem claiming domesticator as a mantle. Essentially you and your fans generate enough activity and energy that others come to you.

I often tell people that if Camper Van Beethoven had stayed together we would have had the same success, the same kind of hits that Cracker had. The institutions and culture were moving our way. And Camper Van Beethoven and their fans always generated a lot of energy.

In fact the institutions and audiences were moving still moving when Kerosene Hat came out in 1993. Audiences had been exposed to a tidal wave of alternative rock acts for nearly 2 years. A song like Movie Star that might have seemed a little too punk, a little too left field for most people in 1990 was almost a little soft and pedestrian for alternative radio post Nirvana.

Still i enjoy the punk underpinnings of this track. I enjoy the simplicity of the arrangement. Two guitars bass and drums. Excepting a vocal and percussion overdub, the recording is all one live in studio take.

What is the song about? Good question! I’ve sort of been avoiding that. It’s another of those songs that is not easy to define in a couple of sentences or paragraphs.

First and foremost it’s got a high degree of sexuality but it’s not really easy to explain. I remember that I used to call one of my girlfriends a “beautiful animal.” Cause she often reminded me of some kind of exotic jungle or forest creature. She never took offense at this. On the contrary she enjoyed this banter. It’s also about repressed desires. The chief of police is secretly an anarchist. I know I know! More anti-authoritarianism! we should just go join an anarchist militia already. But the chief of police’s secret is treated less as political and more as some secret carnal desire. weird huh?

And then theres just the strange reference to Jane Mansfield. It manages to get the title to the song, but it really doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the song. Yet it’s evocative enough to create the strange unreality that the rest of the song needs.

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Get Off This.

1. C . . .   Am . . .   F . . .   C . . .

2.  C  .  .  .  Am .  . . F  .  . . C . . .

[Tab shows the two main riffs: 1. is effectively the bassline, 2. was actually produced from one of those vox-box things that Peter Frampton liked so much, by the sound of it. Take your pick which one you want to use where.]

[INTRO (see tab):]

[C] All these cats with holey jeans,[Am] dirty hair and titty rings,
Say[F] what your scene man, we got these[C] questions.
[C] Is it true that you have sold your soul?[Am] I say hey man, I don’t know
Lend me a[F] quarter won’t you, I’ll call my ac-[C]-countant.

Let’s get off[C] this, and get on[Am] with it,
If you[F] wanna change the world shut your[C] mouth and start to spin it
Get off this, get on[Am] with it
If you[F] wanna change the world shut your[C] mouth and start this minute

Petty little Ayatollah come around to judge and stone ya
all we’re trying to do is make a fortune
Yeah we ain’t got no government loans, and no one sends a check from home
And get this: we’re just doin’ what we wanna


Well the guitar player stayin’ out in Hollywood and sayin’
He’s just trying’ to get some sleep, but everyone’s complain’
Are you truly deeply cynical ’cause boy you know I loved you so
When no one knew your name and you were pompous. Still are


Let’s get off this, and get on with it,
If you wanna change the world shut yer mouth and start to spin it
Get off this, get on with it
If you wanna change the world shut your mouth, shut your mouth y’all

[C] N-na na na na,[Am] n-na na na na
[F] N-na na na na na[C] naaaa

Movie Star

[G]-[Gsus4]-[G(add C#)]
[G]-[B]-[C]-[G] [(i.e. no sus in the guitar break)] [ending:G]

Well the movie star, well she crashed her car.
But everyone said she was beautiful even without her head.
Everyone said she was dangerous.

Well the chief of police kept the crime off the streets.
But deep in his heart, we all knew he felt differently.
We all knew he was an anarchist.

Well I’d
I’d like to devour you
But you
You’d prob’ly
Devour me.

For your golden head, for your oat bran hair.
Deep in my heart
Girl you’re a beautiful animal
I’ll put a tag on your ear.

Well the movie star, well she crashed her car.
But everyone said she was beautiful even without her head.
Everyone said she was dangerous.

Well the chief of police kept the crime off the streets.
But deep in his heart we all knew he felt differently.
We all knew he was an anarchist.

Well I
I’d like to devour you.
But you
You’d prob’ly devour me.

Well I
I’d like to devour you.
But you you’d prob’ly devour me.

Girl you’re a beautiful animal.
Girl you’re a beautiful animal.
Girl you’re a beautiful animal.
Girl you’re a beautiful animal.

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