Loudon Wainwright III's new album Social Studies, his first for Hannibal Records, in lieu of escaping, was released on July 13th. It's a look back over the last 10 years in music and words, (lots of 'em); 15 songs looking at current and re-current events, cultural phenomena, and other people, places and things. For a welcome change Wainwright is not singing about himself. Instead it's Jesse Helms, Tonya Harding, Bills Clinton and Gates, Sadaam Hussein, The Beatles, Santa Claus, and O.J. Simpson who are the songwriter's protagonist targets.
"Y2K" is the album's first single, set for release in June, (due to good rockin' behavior). It's a James Brownish funk thang which celebrates the end of everything as of Jan 1, 2000. In addition to focusing public awareness on the serious problem of the millennium computer bug, Wainwright is also anxious to cash in on the impending catastrophe and its accompanying paranoia.
"This Y2K is the latest craze. It's lock and load for the final days"
Many of the songs on Social Studies were originally commissioned and aired on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." A few were rejected by public radio due to the manila-like size of the envelope being pushed.
Social Studies was recorded in a week's time in New York and was produced by Joe Boyd and John Wood. It features the swinging musical stylings of Chaim Tannenbaum, David Mansfield, Greg Cohen, with special appearances by The Roches, Jenni Muldaur, Ken Pearson, Lenny Pickett, Peter Ecklund, jazz guitar great John Scofield, and original "Dead Skunk" drummer Richard Crooks.
O.K. that's enough about the new album.
Now, kindly take the time (approximately 50 minutes) to listen to Social Studies, the eighteenth Loudon Wainwright album in your personal collection. You'll note that rather than reflecting on my own cheesy life, with Social Studies I've chosen to focus on the cheese of others. Not one mention about my relationships, past and present, my parents, brother, sisters, or about my beautiful children Rufus and Martha Wainwright: as a parent I have concerns about the amount of publicity they've been receiving. Goodness, I seem to have slipped into the first person singular.
Oh well, who cares? When we speak let's speak about me / me who was nominated for two Grammys, me who appeared on Broadway in "Pump Boys and Dinettes" and in the movie "Jacknife" starring Robert DeNiro, me who recently wrapped the film "28 Days," due out later this year, starring Sandra Bullock, directed by Betty Thomas. How about me? Songwriter to the greats? Johnny Cash ("The Man Who Couldn't Cry"), Big Star ("Motel Blues"), Freakwater ("Out of This World"), Norma Waterson ("Dreaming") and Robbie Williams ("Jesus in a Camper Van").
Some trivia, perhaps?
Did you know I turned down an opportunity to join Steely Dan (see CAN'T BUY A THRILL reissue liner notes)? Were you aware I was a charter founding member of Spinal Tap? Have you forgotten that it was me and not that scumbag Paul Schaffer (a dear friend) who was the original musician/couch sidekick on 'The David Letterman Show' when Dave's show first was aired in the afternoon.
All of this plus "Dead Skunk" (written in fifteen minutes in 1972, it became the #1 single in Little Rock, Arkansas for six weeks) and M*A*S*H (you may have seen me portray Capt. Calvin Spalding, the singing surgeon for six weeks). You'll have to admit I'm a shoo-in candidate for VH1's "Where Are They Now" program. Loudon Wainwright III / lover, fighter, actor, skunkman and legend / coming to a venue near you. Don't miss me.
- Loudon Wainwright III