Today’s track is definitely a departure from the family-friendly tracks I’ve been posting the past few days. It’s a song from my 1979 musical Assassins that I wrote for the character Squeaky Fromme, and the Squeaker is on my mind these days, as I prepare to talk about the Sondheim-Weidman Assassins in class tomorrow. The song Sondheim wrote for this character is Unworthy of Your Love, and it’s pretty much perfect; this song is, well, not perfect. But definitely of interest.
The eagle goes for the eyes.
The crimson snake of chaos writhes.
Fuck me in blood, in blood!
Fuck me in blood, in steaming gore!
Helter skelter, helter skelter.
Open the gates.
Chaos pours in through every opening.
Jam up your asshole and scream!
You can’t shut me out!
The flood will not be stopped!
Like molten steel, it blazes through your bowels.
Live flesh torn asunder.
Your city is rotting.
The stench is inescapable.
Putrid flesh and the dead heaped into steaming piles.
Like the phoenix, I arise,
This is it, friends, the song that made Lew Gilbert squirm. My dad was a great supporter of my artistic ambitions, and never gave me anything but encouragement, but sitting in the theater watching a pre-teen girl sing this lyric, he felt pretty uncomfortable, and you might feel that way too.
Twenty-five-year-old me thought this lyric was over the top and quite possibly hilarious, which might make you wonder if I’d done a few too many bong hits. Casting a young girl seemed edgy to me and director Bill Turner, but in hindsight, I think the frisson that her performance created wore off quickly and we would have done better with someone who could have delivered real emotional force. And sing in tune. Sorry, Ellen, you were great, and really game, and I love you for that, but the tape doesn’t lie.
Of course, Lew was thrilled to hear that I’d been approached by Sondheim about acquiring the rights to my idea, and he kept encouraging me to pitch other ideas to Steve. I think he was worried that my sensibility was too artsy and far-out, but he seemed to understand that Sondheim wrote Broadway shows and thought there might be gold for me in them there hills.
The second half of this is pretty nifty, if I’m allowed to say that about my own work. In the second half, the character singing is a fictional assassin known only as “G,” modeled fairly exactly on Lee Harvey Oswald, and I used his story (disaffected loner drafted into a conspiracy to kill the president) as the narrative throughline of my musical. I composed a fugue to accompany the lyric in which he explains his plan and how he expects it to go “by the numbers.”
The “Assassins” tag will call up a slew of other posts from the previous 112 days that I wrote for that show, and the Assassins page on this site has links to an article I wrote about Sondheim’s Assassins and another scholarly article that explored the connections between his work and mine. Some of the tracks on the blog are from the Theater Express production of Assassins, but then I recycled some of the songs into other shows (most notably Watch The Birdie), and I’ve tagged these songs as I blogged them.