Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Laurie Anderson - O Superman/Walk the Dog

Laurie Anderson
O Superman/Walk the Dog


Released 1981 on One Ten
Reviewed by Lawrence, 18/10/2014ce


This is a record I laughed off in the 80's but it's not so funny now is it? I think I am now officially insane after finally understanding this...

I will not talk about the B-side. That's pretty irrelevant anyhow. I think this record should be taught about in classes not only concerning music or art, but also ethics or philosophy because I think the message is that important.

So this track on the A-side I would not call a song really. It is an art piece and not only that but a dire prophecy that came true. I'm not saying that because I'm a fan of Anderson's art in general -- much of her pieces never really hit it with me except for this one. She now has a reputation for being Lou Reed's widow, but not many have heard this record but if they did and remembered I'm sure they wish they could forget...

This of course was from a very long performance piece entitled United States. This was the first release culled from it and was striking enough to be a hit in England. It was lumped in with New Wave and often played on radio shows concerning that fad, maybe because of its oddness. It's very much of its time but the lyrics are what stand out. Again it's not really a song although it does have bits of music, but it's mostly a sequencer playing one repetitive note.

However what makes this so creepy is how this track's predictions came true. It's similar to how Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo affected me, which didn't do much the one time I saw it but the memory of it seemed much more disturbing.

What this monologue is about is how in the future there is a danger of humanity losing its humanity. People not truly communicating their feelings or anything at all until they become impersonal automatrons. Things like art or culture or even just giving a damn are shunned for the worship of technology and greed. And you see this today, particularly after 9/11 and now people texting without really communicating. The mournful music at the end of this track is a goodbye to an America and world in general that seemed worth living in but is now empty.

This actually reminds me of Ayn Rand's overrated work, although Anderson is obviously the polar opposite. I think this is because of the overall icy cold distantness of this track, as I get the same feel from having trying to read Rand's work. I think the main message is that Anderson sees the things Rand embraces as not a paradise but a huge vacuum.

So I wish everyone to try to play O Superman at least once. If you can't find the single look for the album Big Science that features it. It's the only hope for a now dire world. Yes, this track has truly made me insane. Ha ha! I should carry those signs saying that the end is near...


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