Monday, June 11, 2007

7 Means of Movement: Interlude 1, Bicycles

Shonen Knife, Cycling Is Fun.
Nat King Cole, On a Bicycle Built For Two.
Pink Floyd, Bike.
Englebert Humperdink, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize.
Kraftwerk, Tour de France.

Georgina: How impressively you pedal!
Augustus: How excessively it shakes!
Georgina: Your monster made of metal
Augustus: And every whisker aches.
Georgina: How impressively you pedal!
Augustus: Though it hasn't any brakes.

Dylan Thomas, Me and My Bike.

A confession: I never learned to ride a bicycle, and I don't think I ever will.

As the first interlude in our series, here are five cycling songs:

Shonen Knife's supreme "Cycling is Fun," driven by Michie Nakatani's bass and complete with bicycle bells, is from 1984's Yama-no Attchan. Shonen Knife's official site here.

"On a Bicycle Built for Two," officially titled "Daisy Bell," was written by Harry Dacre in 1892 (all that anyone remembers of the song is the chorus--the verses, which are filled with all sorts of woeful bicycle puns and metaphors, are hardly ever sung). Nat Cole's version, one of hundreds, was recorded on 15 May 1963 and released on Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.

(As a bonus, here's HAL 9000's deathbed rendition.)

Pink Floyd's "Bike," which for me is the best thing the band ever recorded, closes out 1967's The Piper At the Gates of Dawn.

Englebert Humperdink's "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize," is from the 1969 short film of the same title. Having never seen the film, I don't know why there's the odd cohabitation of English and French in the song, except such pairings were common in the late '60s (e.g., Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg). On 20th Century Masters (with eco-friendly packaging!).

The first real grip I ever got on things
Was when I learned the art of pedaling
(By hand) a bike turned upside down, and drove
Its back wheel preternaturally fast.
I loved the disappearance of the spokes,
The way the space between the hub and rim
Hummed with transparency. If you threw
A potato into it, the hooped air
Spun mush and drizzle back in your face.

Seamus Heaney, Wheels Within Wheels.

Kraftwerk's "Tour de France" is from 1983. This is the original version; Kraftwerk has made about 10,000 other mixes/remixes/rerecordings of this track in the twenty-five years since. As a result, I have no clue in hell where the original can be found on CD, but some remixes are here.

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