Laurie Anderson – O Superman.

As an 11 year old my musical exposure was somewhat limited. I had a small flat, mono, cassette recorder, a radio and a record player in a suitcase.

The Top 40 show was about as religious as I got on a Sunday. 5pm til 7pm i’d be there eagerly listening to the charts. The bulk of which I detested.

It’s fair to say us Brits are an eccentric bunch and one particular Sunday I was exposed / treated to an unexpected foray into the world of art via the Top 40 show.

Looking back i’d say the majority of buyers of this fantastically unique track could have bought this single down to it’s novelty appeal. Novelty as in, you know, Shaddup A Ya Face, The Birdie Song, etc. However, novelty, this song / piece, is not.

Fascinated by Laurie Anderson’s – O Superman for my first ever listen I sat there pretty stunned just looking at the radio. What I was looking at I was not sure. What I was hearing was something totally new. How could this be so high in the UK Charts. My gob was well and truly smacked.

The looped “Uh-Uh” had me transfixed. The lyrical content had me fascinated. This last week I have been quite ill with “flu and as many will know when ‘flu hits you hard there’s little you can do except lie down motionless and wait for it to pass. At the worst part of the “flu this song entered my head. This sounds very corny but the ability to run all of the lyrics through my mind from memory (I had not heard the track for about 5 years) was reassuring at time when I was actually worried about how much of a grip the ‘flu had on me.

The only song I can even begin to draw a comparison with would be Baz Lurhman’s – Sunscreen, which, as charming as that track is on first listen IS a novelty track.

O Superman bewilders. What does it mean? I doubt we’ll ever really know. The track is so ahead of it’s time it leaves me as puzzled today as when I was listening to it as a little boy in the 4th Year of Junior School aged 11. I truly believe even now in 2011 that it still is ahead of it’s time.

The lyrical imagery contains scenes of love, parents, need, war, doom, uncertainty, greed and hope all in it’s near 9 minute sprawl.

In the track the voice claims to be “your mother”. But why does it follow that “well you don’t know me, but I know you”?

Furthermore the “Here come the planes” line does give a huge chill post the 9/11 attacks. The end of the song leaves with a keyboard moment that indicates the voice leaving you and you continuing. Maybe this is just my take on it.

So after that voice has gone you feel like you’ve been warned by something that cares, why it has done this you do not know but you kind of enjoyed it being around. The brief musical interludes of flute, bird song and an instrument I cannot decipher add to the unique charm.

Flashback to the early 80’s. This song was followed by “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want Too) which was Number One in the Top 40… but this was by so far the best song to grace the Top 40 that week or any week since.

If you have never heard this track before. In the same way that i’d envy someone that had not seen, say, Bladerunner, enjoy. It may baffle – but also it may leave you charmed, sad and hopeful all at the same time.


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