Don’t Look At Me, from Watch The Birdie (Day 54)

Let’s roll the video for today’s song, Don’t Look At Me, compellingly performed by Claudia Carlsson.

Late at night. An adolescent boy sits slumped in front of the television. His mother, evidently poor and under considerable strain, is finishing the dishes. She looks at him, then turns to the audience.
Look and see
Look at Lee
As he looks at TV
Sitting there
With a glare in his eye
And I really try to reach him
Yes I try.
How I’ve tried
It’s as if there’s a wall
And I can’t get inside,
I can’t talk to him at all.

Look at me
See, there only is so much that I can do.
And I try to keep in touch.
Yeah, I know you don’t believe me
But it’s true
And I do
Have my pride
As you see

Look at Lee
Is it right
That he sits day and night
Little fella
By the television’s light?
Like a zombie on the sofa or the floor.
Is he bored?
Yeah, he sure has it tough
He should get off his duff
‘Cause I’ve had about enough.

It’s unfair
When the only thing that’s in you is despair,
You are told that it’s a sin, you
Can never not continue to care.
Well, I swear that I’ve tried
Can’t you see?

He’s a brat, he’s a bother,
And I seem a little bitter, I bet
Well, I’m a hell of a father
And it doesn’t matter what you say.
Yeah, I know he’d be better
With a sitter than a TV set.
Although I know that it’s shitty,
I don’t want your pity
‘Cause we live this way.

So if I take a lover
And he gives me a hard time
And if I take a drink
And I give him a beating,
Well, give me a break!
It’s just give and take,
For heaven’s sake,
And if he gets hurt,
It’s an honest mistake.
I don’t want to hear your goody-goody bellyache,
So don’t look at me!
Don’t look at me!
Don’t look at me!

Don’t Look At Me was originally written for my 1979 musical Assassins, as the principal character recalls his mother (modeled on what I had read about Marguerite Oswald and her relationship with her son, Lee). Please don’t think for an instant that this grotesque character has anything to do with my own mother, a sweet and lovely woman whose steadfast love and support has been a constant presence in my life! If you can detect her presence anywhere in this medley, it’s in the previous song, where she’s trying to whistle a happy tune even though shit and fan are in the midst of colliding.

At this point in my development as a songwriter, I’d written camp, fluff and pastiche, but hadn’t really tackled this kind of dramatic songwriting before, and I’m surprised how well the result holds up to scrutiny years later. I think the couplet “shitty/pity” feels too obvious, but the herky-jerky rock vamp that starts up around the beginning of the second verse is quite splendid, and the music of the refrain (“he’s a brat, he’s a bother… I’m a hell of a father…”) seems very effective. Both this song and the next one, also from Assassins, deserved another chance to be heard, and they bring a strong whiff of angst into the final third of Watch the Birdie.

Still, if this was my mom, she’d scare the crap out of me – even dolled up in a peachy cocktail dress like Claudia is – and undoubtedly I’d have to go shoot a President or something. Right?

If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194; the links on the right are songs chosen at random from previous posts. Want to contribute to my interactive composition, “Hear My Song?” Read more here. Want to receive daily songs delivered direct to your inbox? Sign up here!

One thought on “Don’t Look At Me, from Watch The Birdie (Day 54)

  1. Pingback: I Can’t Change The Channel, from Watch The Birdie (Day 55) | Notes from a SAVI Savant

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