The coolest song I’ve heard recently is a fantastic version of Warren Zevon’s ‘Carmelita’. It’s by an L.A punk band called Fidlar. I’ve played it rather a lot while waiting for things to happen at work, in the interstices between meetings and tasks. Roughly about the time when I’m trying not to bum a cigarette from the records management team. It’s surprisingly effective in this regard.
Once I get home, I’ve been playing the Linda Ronstadt take on it as well as Wazza’s own versions . I particularly like a version he does with Jackson Browne, recorded for a radio station in the seventies. This is a live version:
It’s a cool tune about being pretty much out of it. Out of control, out of petrol, out of juice, out of hope. The narrator describes his circumstances (“I’m all strung out on heroin/on the outskirts of town”) and is feeling pretty sorry for himself but he doesn’t spell it out. He calls out for comfort, one way or another: “Carmelita hold me tighter/I think I’m sinking down”.
What I really like, what I adore, is the unstated absence of Carmelita. She is nowhere to be found. She offers him nothing, and why would she? He’s got nothing but a typewriter, a deck of cards, a room in some wayside motel and time to kill. And though it’s never said Carmelita won’t ever hold him, won’t ever give him succour, she isn’t even in the conversation. She’s not there. I find something magical about this wishing. The sheer waste of it.
I think I like it so much because there’s no gathering up, no two by two onto the ark, just a long afternoon thinking about the romance of the self. And that is made to sound as ridiculous as it is by the song itself. It’s a song about self-pity that manages not to be self-pitying. Love it.