"I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan…"

Well, hey, I’m the friendly stranger

In the black sedan
Won’t you hop inside my car
I got pictures, I got candy
I’m a lovable man
Let me take you to the nearest star
“Vehicle,” The Ides of March.
Everyone has guilty pleasures, things which they are vaguely ashamed to admit they like.

A lot depends upon the social context, of course.  I would view watching Survivor as a guilty pleasure, because I think it has no socially redeeming value and it created a genre which threatens to engulf all television.* (I actually don’t watch Survivor, mainly because I find most of the contestants beyond annoying.)  Most people in this country would disagree, given its ratings.
Then there is music.  There are people (such as the Not So Little Drummer Boy) who are appalled at my love of Jimmy Buffett.  I feel the same way about thrash metal, but I don’t think it is anything to be ashamed of, simply a matter of differences in taste.
But there are songs which espouse world views that I find disturbing. “Don’t Fear The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, for example. Its pro-suicide call is unsettling, to say the least, cowbells or no cowbells.
Or “Sweet Home Alabama.”  The defiant response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” and even more the shout out to George Wallace (“In Birmingham, they love the governor”) carries a racist undertone that really makes me cringe.  I still listen, because the song also has the most infectious honky-tonk piano work ever.  As I get older, I like the song less and less, piano not withstanding.
Then there is the whole genre of “pitiful woman” songs from the sixties.  The entire oeuvre of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap falls into this category, as does “The Worst that Could Happen” by Brooklyn Bridge.  I find these songs at the least annoying or at the most infuriating.
Except for “Vehicle” by The Ides of March.  I love this song.
Part of it is nostalgia.  My eighth grade jazz band played it, and it has always been a favorite of mine due to its kick-butt sax part.  The horn parts are marvelous as well, energetic and exciting.
But the lyrics are seriously creepy.**  This sounds like the man that all of us were warned about in third grade. And high school: “If you want to be a movie star, I can take you to Hollywood….” 
I keep trying not to like this song.  I keep telling myself it is anti-feminist of me to like this song. I keep telling myself that this guy sounds like a stalker.***  And I keep failing: I still am in  love with the horns and the deep growl of the lead singer’s voice.  If this guy sang this to me, I might actually get inside that car.  Well, probably not, but I sure wouldn’t mind him singing to me.
There.  That’s one of my guilty pleasures.  And you know what? Even after talking about it, I still like it.
*Of course, if you want to really talk about a lack of socially redeeming value, there is always Rock of Love, which I watched for three seasons.
**But not nearly as creepy as “Father Figure,” by George Michael.  Eewwww.
***But not as much as the guy in The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”  Sting said he was astounded when he heard that some people played this at their wedding reception.  I can understand his reaction.
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1 Response to "I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan…"

  1. Anonymous says:

    I keep trying not to like this song. I keep telling myself it is anti-feminist of me to like this song. I keep telling myself that this guy sounds like a stalker.*** And I keep failing: I still am in love with the horns and the deep growl of the lead singer's voice. If this guy sang this to me, I might actually get inside that car. Well, probably not, but I sure wouldn't mind him singing to me.I think there's a whole category of things that could be termed "sexy at a distance" – things that we might not actually want in real life, but oh my the fantasies are hot. And the question of social appropriateness doesn't always play a role in what the sexual side of us finds hot.I think it's ok to indulge in the mental images, and to honor that part of ourselves which is animal. There are often deeply ingrained evolutionary reasons for what we find hot, and survival of the fittest isn't all that well known for its overlap with propriety.- the Resident Shrink

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