02 August 2006

nancy sinatra & lee hazlewood - "big red balloon" (from the nancy & lee again lp, out of print.)

then, one day, one of them tries to leave--and does. but in a most peculiar way ...

"big red balloon" is the damnedest song, i swear.

it's like "send in the clowns" meets "up, up & away," as sad as the former, as sprightly as the latter. it's central conceit is as bizarre as anything from a kafka story & at the same time as ordinary as dirt (admittedly, the combination of these two is what gives kafka's stories their power). it moves, too, in unanticipated ways.

well, not entirely unanticipated : after all, you have the song title. lee, in what's fairly typical for him, fucks around w/ the gender roles. listen to nancy's part; listen to lee's part; play it again & think how much easier it'd have been if they were reversed. "easier," true, but less incredible, in as many ways as you wish to interpret that word.

the music, unlike many of the nancy & lee duets, sounds like it could've come off of any of lee's contemporaneous albums, esp. cowboy in sweden : there's a charging acoustic, swathes of strings & high-pitched backing vocals. it sounds like the opening credits to some country caper or another, filmed in panavision.

i say, it sounds like the opening credits but what nancy doesn't realize is that this is the last reel. she didn't know that he would really go. she figures he'd never leave--shoot, he'd never get that damned balloon off the ground. as he leaves the ground, he gets in his last rebukes : he'll never eat her cooking again and he's headed for heaven (might even touch the moon!). one of his last criticisms is as unexpected as it is tender : "you never gave me children," he laments, "you never had the time."

he's unloaded all of his baggage : his new life has begun. maybe if things had been different, nancy would be in the balloon w/ him; at one time, i'm sure lee would have lassoed the moon if she had asked. but it's far past that point & anyway lee is ten feet off the ground. our ways of escape are unique to us, it would seem, and they're always available whether we realize it or not. sometimes it's just a matter of finding the will to get that damned thing off the ground.

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