Jun 262013

Yesterday, while flipping stations in my car, I was faced with an extremely challenging Morton’s Fork; that is, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. All of the stations I had programmed in were on commercial break except for our local Oldies station and our local Classic Rock station. The Oldies station was playing Jimmy Buffet’s‘s “Margaritaville”; the Classic Rock station was playing The Who’s‘s “Eminence Front.”

I never thought it possible that a match up of any Who song with Jimmy Buffett would lead me to a Morton’s Form, but compared with the only Who song I despise, the gentle wit of Jimmy Buffett’s anthem had to be considered.

“Eminence Front” makes my flesh crawl. It’s a song that should have been taken behind a shed and shot. The nearly 2-minute opening promises nothing more than a lame re-write of the already lame “Join Together” (Greatest Live Performance Video Ever, notwithstanding). Then Pete Townshend steps up to the mic to deliver a demo-worthy, Kermit the Frog as Tough Guy approximation of the sort of bombastic vocal part Roger Daltrey would have delivered in his sleep. Had Daltrey sung this turd it would have been no worse than any other lame rewrite of “Join Together,” like “The Relayer,” or whatever that song is called. Of all of Pete Townshend’s Cry for Help songs—and Pete predates Jodi Foster as a great, heartfelt artist who can too often get lost in his or her own psychodramas—perhaps none is more desperate than “Eminence Front.” It’s his Contact.

For the first time in my life I chose to listen to “Margaritaville” over another song.

So that’s my choice. Feel free to comment on the wisdom of my decision or, better yet, throw an equally less-than-mediocre staple of Oldies or Classic Rock radio in the ring against my selection and see what the next Townsperson chooses. Then that person can toss a contestant into the ring against his or her choice. I’m curious to see what song is left on the scrapheap. Maybe, as a punishment, we can then burn the master recording.

Morton's Fork (choose the least-objectionable option): The Who's "Eminence Front" or Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville"?

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  28 Responses to “Morton’s Fork: “Eminence Front” or “Margaritaville”?”

  1. 2000 Man

    No way I’m listening to Buffett. That guy makes me retch.

    How about Hold Your Head Up by Argent? I loved that when I was a kid, but then I probably hadn’t realized it was only one line and three bars of music repeated until it was time for the next commercial break. I think that song is the first example of looping and radio station copies came on those carts that just keep going forever.

  2. I hadn’t considered that “Hold Your Head Up” was in the horrible tradition of endless, pompous rock marches! Like you, I thought that song was really cool until sometime in college. Then the same weaknesses were exposed over the song’s 4-day length.

    Pompous Rock March…is that an adequate term to describe these types of songs? An RTH Glossary entry may need to follow, once we have adequately identified this regrettable subgenre.

    All that said, I do like “Hold Your Head Up” a lot better than “Eminence Front.” Putting “Hold…” up against “Margaritaville,” though, would be tough. I’d probably go with “Hold…” just because I would get a more satisfying and humorous beef session out of it while it played.

  3. Oh, I’d take “Eminence Front” any day.

    Could’ve been worse. Could’ve been Journey.

  4. Eminence Front for me. Not a great song by any stretch but I kind of like the repetitive guitar lick. I could see how it would get annoying really quickly if I heard it a lot but I don’t so I probably would have opted for leave it on.

    By the way, Mr Mod, I’ve been talking with some of my band mates about getting Nixon’s Head, Shawnkilroy’s band and a few others together for a night we’re calling Captain Jack vs Captain Morgan or JB vs BJ. Each band would cover one Jimmy Buffet song and one Billy Joel song. Sure it’s easy to tear these songs down; the real challenge is to see if you can make something interesting out of them. (I have not yet approach Kilroy about this but I can almost guarantee that he’ll be on board with that “can do” attitude of his.) Best claim your songs now before all of the good ones are taken. (I could totally see Andy nailing Only the Good Die Young).

  5. diskojoe

    It’s a no-brainer for me. “Eminence Front” for me. Sure it’s no “Substitute”, but left w/the choice I’ll take it over “Margaritville any old day. I remember reading an obituary a few years ago where the deceased was descibed as being an avid Parrothead & I thought, how sad that his life boiled down to that.

    How about putting “Angie” by the Stones into the ring & see what happens?

  6. I’m surprised, so far, at how many of you are choosing “Eminence Front” over “Margaritaville.” At least the latter is a song. Can it be proven that “Eminence Front” even qualifies as music? It’s more unsatisfying, to my ears, than any imagined mash-up of the worst Pompous Rock Marches by Foreigner and Pink Floyd, like “Jukebox Hero” and “Have a Cigar.”

    As for diskojoe’s fine submission of the cheesy “Angie,” I’ll take that over either of the challengers and “Hold Your Head Up.”

  7. jeangray

    Ugh! The choice being presented makes me wanna take this Morton’s Fork & stick in my ear!

  8. Is it a requirement that you look and dress like that guy if you are an important film critic?!?! He’s a Lipton/Ebert/Stoner amalgamation.

    E.F. It’s still The Who.

  9. “Eminence Front” for two reasons:

    1) When The Ox kicks in with that awesome bassline at the beginning of the first chorus. That moment is better than anything else in the song, and I usually turn the song off after that first chorus.

    2) The high comedy of listening to The Who try to sound like early ’80s Genesis.

    “Margaritaville” has some witty detail in the lyrics, I guess. But I cannot and will not get past the awful Parrothead subculture, and all I hear are those assholes chanting “Salt! Salt!”, rendering moot the modest charms of this tune.

  10. hrrundivbakshi

    Can we do this remotely, via studio-prepared versions of songs as well? I would gladly chip in a BJ number. I pre-emptively choose “Allentown”!

  11. Excellent! But in for a penny, in for a pound. I’m gonna need you to show up live and you have to choose a Buffet song as well.

  12. There’s a better chance I would muster the energy to cover “Eminence Front” than a song by either Buffett or Joel.

  13. hrrundivbakshi

    Nope. Sorry about that. Gotta draw the line somewhere, and for me, Buffett is that line. I think I could more easily find a Styx song to cover than one by Mssr. Buffet. (That’s pronounced Boo-FAY.)

  14. Ha! What a kidder!

  15. ladymisskirroyale

    Oats: “The high comedy of listening to The Who try to sound like early ’80’s Genesis” – f*ing brilliant comment!

    I’m also voting for Eminence Front for one main reason: the keyboard loop. I just thought that was the coolest thing when it came out, and I still like it.

    In two states where I have lived, Arizona and Rhode Island, there were significant Parrothead folk, and they were unable to be tolerated. Just the thought of “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and the acapella sing along makes my blood run cold.

    On the Billy Joel theme, did I ever share that there is a cd for ballet classes that is includes orchestral Billy Joel? (The Man sold his music for this nefarious end?!) How about a nice slow tendu combination to “New York State of Mind”? I think my teacher liked to irritate me and always chose “Goodnight Saigon” for the rondes des jambes section. Painful.

  16. cliff sovinsanity

    I’ve got no quarrel with Eminence Front. To me, the lyrics and singing by Townsend always seemed secondary to the synthy loops, angular guitar and menacing single bass notes. Granted the vocals show his limitations but the song is a bit of “put-on” to begin with. He’s clearly lost his way. While the song really doesn’t go anywhere lyrically, the song structure doesn’t resolve itself in the end for that matter. It fades out, just like it should. Meanwhile…

    Margaritaville is as clever as farting happy birthday card. Rarely funny and tossed away at the end of the day.

    Would anyone care to tackle the mediocrity of Bad Company…the song?

  17. bostonhistorian

    Eminence Front? Not ringing any bells. Maybe I’d know it if I heard it. Margaritaville always reminds me of the wedding reception I attended after a Christian evangelical wedding service. No alcohol to be found, and all the Christian kids signing along to Margaritaville. Hell is where you find it, I suppose.

  18. I’ve got your back on this one, Mr Mod! E.F. is bloody horrible. Kenny Jones lost all credibility with his opening fill and it goes downhill from there (OX bass fills excepted)

    Margaritaville sucks too but at least it has a melody that gets inside your head and it is much shorter than EF

  19. Andyr, I can’t tell you how much your clear-headed perspective means to me on this subject.

    So far, I’m only letting Oats off the hook for his opposing take on this subject. At least a Young Oats actually liked neo-Genesis enough to be in on the joke of the Who trying to ape that style.

    As for the rest of you, if the Who jumped off a bridge, would you follow? For shame…

  20. bostonhistorian

    I have no use for the Who after 1966.

  21. Argument for Eminence Front: I’d rather hear that than You Better You Bet, or Athena. Weak, but true.

  22. BigSteve

    Eminence Front all the way. I love that track, though I have no idea what the lyrics are about (probably a good thing).

  23. I thought I recalled you being possibly the only person on the planet who actually loves that song. More power to you, BigSteve. As I did with Oats, I am granting you amnesty based on your ability to sincerely get behind that song and not just react against Buffett.

  24. hrrundivbakshi

    Do I win anything for actually having seen the Who perform this song live on their “It’s Hard” tour?

  25. diskojoe

    I give “Hold Your Head Up” a pass because it has the future rhythm section of the Kinks playing on it & hey, it’s Ron Argent of the Zombies, although I think he probably Gave What The People Want after what happened w/the Zombies

  26. I just saw yesterday that “The Zombies” (“featuring Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent”) put out a new album this year. The couple of songs I sampled sounded bad. A friend saw them play a couple of years ago and was disappointed by their New Direction. Too bad, that original band produced some excellent stuff in a short span, and Blunstone still has an amazing voice.

  27. I agree — I love the Who, but those are far worse than E.F. I would almost rather listen to a Roger solo album than those two.

    Put me down for EF or Margy-ville too.

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