DESPITE our relentlessly gloomy attitude about the world of music and the arts, we CultureCrashers are major fans of Aimee Mann. We spoke to the LA-based singer-songwriter about artists who taught her something about songcraft — Dylan, Elton John, Gilbert O’Sullivan, about her first steps into writing, and the importance of song structure and music theory. Here’s my piece, which starts this way:
When I was a kid, the first time I really paid attention to lyrics in a different way was the (1972 Gilbert O’Sullivan) song “Alone Again (Naturally),” which was a hit on the radio, and the melody was really nice, I liked the vibe of it, it had a bouncy thing, which was maybe slightly melancholy. And then a friend said, “You know what that’s about, right?” And I said, “No,” and they said, “He’s going to commit suicide.” And that kind of changed the whole thing for me. It was like, for people who wanted to pay attention, there was almost a secret message. If you didn’t want to pay attention, there was this pretty thing, and maybe there was a line or two that stuck out – it would be a different kind of experience. But if you were paying attention, it was hiding in plain sight.
This is for a series I’m helming for Salon called Trust Me On This; there are several still coming.
Mann, by the way, has a recent collaborate album with the punk musician Ted Leo called The Both — it’s outstanding. She’s doing a couple of Christmas themed shows at club Largo in LA, on December 3 and 4. She then heads to the Bay Area and the East Coast. Full tour here.