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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Every story's a remake

When a Facebook friend posted a link to a video of the Sex Pistols doing their song "No Feelings," I posted a link to Bananarama doing the same song.

You would have thought I’d posted that puppies aren’t cute.

The gist of the ensuing comment thread was that Bananarama’s version sucked because "No Feelings" is supposed to be performed with passion and venom, the way the Sex Pistols did. But then, they did every song that way. Bananarama, on the other hand, performed the song in their usual frothy harmonies, accompanied by bouncy drums and a delightful synthesizer-generated whistle.

Not rock ’n’ roll, right?

Wrong.

The poodle-haired ’80s sound combines with the original lyrics to make Bananarama’s version more ironic, but no less aggressive, than the Pistols’ original. It may be passive-aggressive, but there are many roads to snotty.

“I got no emotions for anybody else. You better understand I’m in love with myself, myself…my beautiful self.”


Try this: Sing those lines to whatever music enters your head. Do it once while sneering and spitting out the words. Then do it the way a little girl might sing about a flower she’s just picked.

See? It’s still mean the second time. Just in a different way. That’s why this song tops my all-time list of excellent remakes. Others in the top five are Devo doing the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” Soundgarden doing Devo’s “Girl U Want,” Van Halen doing “You’re No Good”—which Clint Ballard wrote and Linda Ronstadt turned into a No. 1—and Nazareth doing Joni Mitchell’s “This Flight Tonight.” In each case, the unlikely contrast of styles and attitudes casts the song in a new light.

Satisfying. Very satisfying. Imagine what the world be like if we followed the rule, “There is one and only one way to _______________.”

This applies to writing, too, I think. If there really are just seven basic plots, and we were bound to the “one way” rule, all of the stories that could be written would have been written three thousand years ago. Instead, we have libraries and Amazon bookshelves full of permutations and combinations of man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. the environment, man vs. machines/technology, man vs. society, man vs. self and man vs. the supernatural. (Feel free, of course, to insert woman for man in each case.)

So what is Fast Lane? I think Lara’s fighting more than one of these battles. She wrestles with her own wallflower nature. She fights society’s expectations for women and attitudes about sexual roles. She butts heads with other people, and goes mano a mano with more than a couple mujeres. She even comes up against technology.

Also, Fast Lane’s hero, Clay, appears to be a little more flawed than most romance heroes. I trust my readers to recognize that what you see with Clay up front is not what Lara eventually gets. Reviews so far confirm readers do get it. There are many roads to happily-ever-after.

I don’t think I came up with the Bananarama version of a romance novel. Fast Lane follows enough of the rules to be taken seriously in the genre. Just not the rule that says there’s only one way to do it.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you completely ignored Justine Bateman's version of Satisfaction.

Dave Thome said...

Yeah, that lady could act AND rock.