Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Peggy Lee- The Case of M.J.
One of my parents’ favorite songs was Peggy Lee’s "Is That All There Is?" Hearing my folks soulfully croon along with the desperately cynical anthem was troubling. Those over forty surely recall the tune. "If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing," Lee woozily sings. "Let’s break out the booze and have a ball." You may also recollect the song’s narrator rejecting suicide, only because she’s "not ready for that final disappointment." Not exactly a comforting cup of Tang.
It seemed the adults in my life subscribed to this jaded philosophy in the early ‘70s. Frequently awakened by maniacal laughter, I would blearily stumble onto the hallway’s shag carpet to witness the big people whooping it up in a blurry world of cocktails, cigarettes and dirty jokes. I get it now, of course, but at the time I was bewildered by this unsettling house of mirrors.
The infamous single was released in 1969 but it wasn’t issued on a proper album until 1975's unfathomably bizarre Mirrors. "The Case of M.J.", like the rest of the Leiber & Stoller project, is perversely upsetting. Still, deranged fans of Randy Newman, Magnetic Fields, and even the Dresden Dolls might find an affinity for this out-of-print record.