favorite line in O SUPERMAN by laurie anderson

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

inspired by my recent discovery and obsession with this song, which i'd somehow never heard despite finding a copy of Mister Heartbreak in my parents' basement when i was 18 and playing it over and over. i looked it up because of a post in the Imagine vs. Walking on Thin Ice poll, where shakey was insisting that Imagine was one of the most subversive massive pop songs ever released, and moka said

How is Imagine a weird pop hit? Not being facetious. Like if you say O Superman is one of the weirdest pop hits ever that makes instant sense for me but Imagine sounds like a standard, straightforward piano ballad.

and then i heard it & watched the video for the first time. i started crying on the street thinking about the song & video the next morning.
i've read every thread on ilx about this song & laurie anderson and am still desperate for analysis, i think this one is decent, but i always like what posters here have to say. it's become one of my top 10 favorite songs ever in 4 months. i have a favorite, or one that moves me the most, but will wait, would rather hear what others think first.

Poll Results

OptionVotes
'Cause when love is gone, there's always justice. And when justice is gone, there's always force. And when force is gon 19
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms. Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms. In your electronic arms. 17
Well, you don't know me, but I know you. And I've got a message to give to you. Here come the planes. 9
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. 7
Here come the planes. They're American planes. Made in America. Smoking or non-smoking? 6
This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the hand, the hand that takes. 5
Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you coming home? Hello, is anybody home? 5
O Superman. O Judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad. 4
And I said: OK. Who is this really? And the voice said: 2
So you better get ready. Ready to go. You can come as you are, but pay as you go. Pay as you go. 2
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of the 2
Hi. I'm not home right now. But if you want to leave a message, just start talking at the sound of the tone. 2


flappy bird, Thursday, 22 February 2018 01:31 (two months ago) Permalink

in before the "there's always Mom" landslide

startled macropod (MatthewK), Thursday, 22 February 2018 01:57 (two months ago) Permalink

yeah, which is my pick, and the only that got cut off lol

flappy bird, Thursday, 22 February 2018 01:58 (two months ago) Permalink

oh so did the USPS motto. oh well. you all know the words

flappy bird, Thursday, 22 February 2018 01:58 (two months ago) Permalink

which line is nearest the end

mookieproof, Thursday, 22 February 2018 02:22 (two months ago) Permalink

Mom line

kolakube (Ross), Thursday, 22 February 2018 03:42 (two months ago) Permalink

"There's always Mom...Hi Mom!"

Dangleballs and the Ballerina (cryptosicko), Thursday, 22 February 2018 04:01 (two months ago) Permalink

well, you don't know me.

but i know you.

difficult listening hour, Thursday, 22 February 2018 04:39 (two months ago) Permalink

Isolating many of these lines just reminds me why I found this song so effing creepy when I first encountered it at 15.

Dangleballs and the Ballerina (cryptosicko), Thursday, 22 February 2018 04:40 (two months ago) Permalink

flappy bird if you appreciate this song, you'd really appreciate the title track "big science" too

i remember the corned beef of my childhood (Karl Malone), Thursday, 22 February 2018 04:47 (two months ago) Permalink

And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds
'Cause when love is gone, there's always justice. And when justice is gone, there's always force. And when force is gone, there's always Mom. Hi Mom!

flappy bird, Thursday, 22 February 2018 05:08 (two months ago) Permalink

xp yea i need to listen to The Big Science! i don't know why i haven't yet. waiting to find it in a record store??? or just can't stop listening to O Superman

flappy bird, Thursday, 22 February 2018 05:09 (two months ago) Permalink

"When love is gone..." etc plays with a verse from the Tao teh ching which adds to the sense of womb retreat or sinking into loss of will for me.

But "your petrochemical arms" is the 3 words I find most euphonious.

smashong pumpgong (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 22 February 2018 08:10 (two months ago) Permalink

"Here come the planes" is this amazing bleak elation tho. None of this piece is reducible to the semantic content of the words. It's all about the modulation

smashong pumpgong (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 22 February 2018 08:14 (two months ago) Permalink

Probably top ten for me too. When I was a kid (why did I watch this video over and over as a kid) I thought she was saying "O George" and I wondered who George was so I'll vote for that.

orifex, Thursday, 22 February 2018 08:24 (two months ago) Permalink

I think about this song a lot.

triggercut, Thursday, 22 February 2018 08:27 (two months ago) Permalink

Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you coming home?

lol old people confused by technology.

lana del boy (ledge), Thursday, 22 February 2018 09:02 (two months ago) Permalink

This is my favourite song, so it's impossible to choose. Every line gives me goosebumps like nothing else

Badgers (dog latin), Thursday, 22 February 2018 09:17 (two months ago) Permalink

Seriously, such a hard decision but I went with

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.

Just kind of sums up the submissive context of hyper-capitalist politics but also the womb-like feel of the song, like I want to be enveloped in its amniotic sound and its insidious undertones

Badgers (dog latin), Thursday, 22 February 2018 09:21 (two months ago) Permalink

Probably top ten for me too. When I was a kid (why did I watch this video over and over as a kid) I thought she was saying "O George" and I wondered who George was so I'll vote for that.

― orifex, Thursday, February 22, 2018 8:24 AM (fifty-seven minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

My mum always used to think it was 'Oh John'

Badgers (dog latin), Thursday, 22 February 2018 09:21 (two months ago) Permalink

Noodle Vague OTM upthread. Some great posts all round.

Badgers (dog latin), Thursday, 22 February 2018 09:23 (two months ago) Permalink

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPBR5UmYLls

Ô Souverain, ô Juge, ô Père - Jonas Kaufmann

Mark G, Thursday, 22 February 2018 11:08 (two months ago) Permalink

electronic arms

10 print "eatme" 20 goto 10 (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 22 February 2018 13:03 (two months ago) Permalink

O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.

One of those songs where I get so absorbed that the lyrics become less literal and just become part of the music.

Cat Power's "Colors and the Kids" is another song like this for me.

nicky lo-fi, Thursday, 22 February 2018 13:25 (two months ago) Permalink

There was a rough time in my life a few years ago where I would play this over and over and over at work and on the way to and from work. Operated as some kind of melancholic Xanax. One of my favorite songs of all time.

circa1916, Thursday, 22 February 2018 13:40 (two months ago) Permalink

How is Imagine a weird pop hit? Not being facetious. Like if you say O Superman is one of the weirdest pop hits ever that makes instant sense for me but Imagine sounds like a standard, straightforward piano ballad.

OTM.

"Minneapolis" (barf) (Eric H.), Thursday, 22 February 2018 13:42 (two months ago) Permalink

I know this is slightly off topic, but the album she's just done with the Kronos Quartet is excellent.

Dan Worsley, Thursday, 22 February 2018 13:50 (two months ago) Permalink

xp to self

Remembering that stretch, I would alternate Smog's Permanent Smile with O Superman. Seemed to fulfill a similar function and speak to a kind of resignation from a different angle.

circa1916, Thursday, 22 February 2018 14:05 (two months ago) Permalink

Your petrochemical arms is a phrase for the ages.

piscesx, Thursday, 22 February 2018 14:48 (two months ago) Permalink

i put this song in a mental category of artists/songs that i heard about for a long time before i actually listened to them, and then when i finally listened, i felt dumb for having waited so long because they are so perfect. it's a pretty small group but along with "o superman" (and big science as a whole), i put "hammond song" by the roches and "the downtown lights" by the blue nile in there too.

na (NA), Thursday, 22 February 2018 15:22 (two months ago) Permalink

ha! I'd put Hammond ?Song on a similar pedestal too, funnily enough although I discovered it a lot more recently.

Badgers (dog latin), Thursday, 22 February 2018 15:23 (two months ago) Permalink

i didn't really listen to that blue nile album until like two months ago. it's reassuring in a way to be in my late 30s and know that there's still tons of amazing music that i haven't heard yet, even from within my lifetime.

na (NA), Thursday, 22 February 2018 15:26 (two months ago) Permalink

it's reassuring in a way to be in my late 30s and know that there's still tons of amazing music that i haven't heard yet, even from within my lifetime.

yes. it's so beautiful

flappy bird, Thursday, 22 February 2018 17:32 (two months ago) Permalink

Congratulations, NA, you're now me at 14. The next 14 years are sweet and then it all goes to hell.

Three Word Username, Thursday, 22 February 2018 18:01 (two months ago) Permalink

The hold me mom line is my favourite cuz it offers a bit of false hope

kolakube (Ross), Thursday, 22 February 2018 18:08 (two months ago) Permalink

hey man congrats on having heard every good song by the time you were 14

na (NA), Thursday, 22 February 2018 18:17 (two months ago) Permalink

it's the resignation & lack of other options that make that line (and the song) so uniquely moving and creepy. you're in the arms of Mom whether you like it or not, unless you go and live off the grid or move to a country not ruled by the military industrial complex

xp

flappy bird, Thursday, 22 February 2018 18:19 (two months ago) Permalink

"Here come the planes" is the line that comes to mind when I think of this song. Agree on its greatness and its austere strangeness. Years later it still seems like this glittering ominous monument.

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Thursday, 22 February 2018 20:54 (two months ago) Permalink

Man this song is weird. Wikipedia says this song is about Operation Eagle Claw, but damn if I can figure that out.

Mr. Snrub, Thursday, 22 February 2018 21:52 (two months ago) Permalink

A few years ago I visited an exhibition on Postmodernism, at the V&A in London iirc, they had a nice dark room with seating where you could watch the video on a loop, it was perfect.

MaresNest, Thursday, 22 February 2018 21:59 (two months ago) Permalink

"judge"? It'll always be "Johnnie" to me.

Jeff W, Thursday, 22 February 2018 22:00 (two months ago) Permalink

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djyusgCuUiI

flappy bird, Friday, 23 February 2018 04:00 (two months ago) Permalink

Love this thread, it has pointed me back to United States Live, which is sprawling and brilliant, I need this in my life more often.

MaresNest, Friday, 23 February 2018 16:58 (two months ago) Permalink

/Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you coming home?/

lol old people confused by technology.


One of the things I love about US/BS is that a lot of it is this haunting/sinister/whatever take on what is essentially 80s brick wall standup. You seen these answering machines they have now? You know when you're on a plane and the captain comes on and says

scotti pruitti (wins), Friday, 23 February 2018 17:03 (two months ago) Permalink

Yes!

smashong pumpgong (Noodle Vague), Friday, 23 February 2018 17:04 (two months ago) Permalink

lmao

whaaaaaaat's the deaaaal with Mom? she's got a lot of arms!

flappy bird, Friday, 23 February 2018 17:09 (two months ago) Permalink

otm. I met this guy...

JoeStork, Friday, 23 February 2018 17:11 (two months ago) Permalink

flappy bird have you heard “The Big Top”?

JoeStork, Friday, 23 February 2018 17:12 (two months ago) Permalink

My friend hates this song. Probably should disown him

kolakube (Ross), Friday, 23 February 2018 17:12 (two months ago) Permalink

"NOW OPEN THEM!!!"

Mark G, Friday, 23 February 2018 18:36 (two months ago) Permalink

Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you coming home? Hello, is anybody home?

Every December 24th, this happens.

sarahell, Friday, 23 February 2018 19:24 (two months ago) Permalink

flappy bird have you heard “The Big Top”?

― JoeStork, Friday, February 23, 2018 12:12 PM (two hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

yeah i listened to most of United States for the first time last night. honestly having a hard time connecting with a lot her work, so much of it is interesting social commentary & performance art but none of it - yet, ime - coheres into the triumph of form & function & emotional wallop of O Superman. Mister Heartbreak is great but that's much more of a pop record (relatively speaking).

flappy bird, Friday, 23 February 2018 19:55 (two months ago) Permalink

But I need to listen more...

flappy bird, Friday, 23 February 2018 19:55 (two months ago) Permalink

honestly i haven't been able to really get into laurie anderson much beyond big science (though i enjoy the home of the brave soundtrack too)

na (NA), Friday, 23 February 2018 19:57 (two months ago) Permalink

Sharkey's Day tho

flappy bird, Friday, 23 February 2018 20:01 (two months ago) Permalink

Flappy try another day in America. It's pretty sublime. My favourite Anderson records are strange angels, big science and homeland

kolakube (Ross), Friday, 23 February 2018 20:03 (two months ago) Permalink

^^^ those plus USL are the core imo

wins otm re: standup, particularly acute when live obv. a fave clip of her doing "mach 20" on tv:

https://youtu.be/SirOxIeuNDE

def someone doing a "routine" there, Voice of Authority and sperm projection and wiggly beat or no. (and the track is well-chosen bc it is the one of the most like a joke, building just like one before trailing off into disquieting wonder instead of ever quite punching.)

difficult listening hour, Friday, 23 February 2018 20:14 (two months ago) Permalink

the 90s mostly-spoken stuff can be gorgeously dark tho, "same time tomorrow", the one where she remembers where she came from it had burning buildings and a fiery red sea, the title track on "the ugly one with the jewels" (is this like... true at all? never checked.) drearier listens but full of key moments

difficult listening hour, Friday, 23 February 2018 20:18 (two months ago) Permalink

Oh yeah heart of a dog is also essential

kolakube (Ross), Friday, 23 February 2018 20:20 (two months ago) Permalink

i have tried several of her other albums and i don't connect to them. i don't hate them, and oddly none of them are super different from big science, but they're just not for me.

na (NA), Friday, 23 February 2018 20:22 (two months ago) Permalink

animal collective owe laurie some of that my girls money

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaBbHGKLp88

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zol2MJf6XNE

flappy bird, Friday, 23 February 2018 20:27 (two months ago) Permalink

ok who is this really?

orifex, Sunday, 25 February 2018 12:31 (one month ago) Permalink

^also part of a famous standup comedy routine! (B*ll C*sby's Noah bit)

scotti pruitti (wins), Sunday, 25 February 2018 12:57 (one month ago) Permalink

It would be pretty difficult for me to pick one single favorite from 1981 (or even a few dozen, really). But if I absolutely had to, 'O Superman' might be the one.

Flappy Bird, if you haven't proceeded to 'Big Science' yet--you really need to. 'o Superman' is the high point, sure, but it's really a rather amazing album--writing, performance, production, coherence--that things like 'US Live' or 'Strange Angels' or 'Mister Heartbreak' (much as I love those) barely suggest.

Soundslike, Sunday, 25 February 2018 16:32 (one month ago) Permalink

i listened to this on the way to work this morning and started crying

marcos, Friday, 2 March 2018 20:46 (one month ago) Permalink

three weeks pass...

https://media.giphy.com/media/14ouOwZDPad0Na/giphy.gif

flappy bird, Thursday, 29 March 2018 17:49 (three weeks ago) Permalink

hi mom

scotti pruitti (wins), Thursday, 29 March 2018 17:50 (three weeks ago) Permalink

One of the things I love about US/BS is that a lot of it is this haunting/sinister/whatever take on what is essentially 80s brick wall standup. You seen these answering machines they have now? You know when you're on a plane and the captain comes on and says
― scotti pruitti (wins), Friday, February 23, 2018 5:03 PM (one month ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I was thinking that Talking Heads sometimes have this kind of new wave + performance art + stand-up comedy vibe as well - I always thought the song titles for Fear Of Music looked like the track listing for a stand-up LP where the track titles are the subjects of the various 'bits'

soref, Thursday, 29 March 2018 18:06 (three weeks ago) Permalink

So true, trying to think who would be a good fit, my vote would be Mitch Hedberg.

MaresNest, Thursday, 29 March 2018 19:24 (three weeks ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Saturday, 14 April 2018 00:01 (one week ago) Permalink

Soref - you seen the fred armisen talking heads mockumentary? Sounds like it’s up your alley

after party for the apocalypse (Ross), Saturday, 14 April 2018 03:32 (one week ago) Permalink

for posterity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bk_-fLpmM4E

flappy bird, Saturday, 14 April 2018 04:18 (one week ago) Permalink

^ Laurie Anderson performing O Superman in NYC one week after 9/11. I didn't hear this song for the first time until late last year and I'm glad that my memories & associations with it aren't burdened or changed in the ways it was changed almost everyone that had heard it before 2001.

flappy bird, Saturday, 14 April 2018 04:21 (one week ago) Permalink

It's gotta be petrochemical arms, but the whole thing is a masterpiece.

MikoMcha, Saturday, 14 April 2018 08:23 (one week ago) Permalink

weird timing with this poll ending today. all i can think about is Wag the Dog, Eisenhower's farewell address, and this song. how she captured - in sound - the feeling of living in the powerful country on earth, stuck in a never-ending war that we never see, or we can choose not to see or think about. nabisco otm so many years ago about how this song changes our perception of time, and it just doesn't sound womblike, it is a womb, comforting & hypnotic & dark & soothing but with something so sinister barely audible past the song's horizon, until the very end.

flappy bird, Saturday, 14 April 2018 22:35 (one week ago) Permalink

*most powerful

flappy bird, Saturday, 14 April 2018 22:35 (one week ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Sunday, 15 April 2018 00:01 (one week ago) Permalink

missed this poll. would have had a damned hard time choosing anyway. amazing song. "so hold me, mom" for emotional punch, maybe.

explosion from DOOM courtesy of id software (Doctor Casino), Monday, 16 April 2018 13:40 (one week ago) Permalink

heartened that every line got at least 2 votes

flappy bird, Thursday, 19 April 2018 05:59 (five days ago) Permalink

Fewer lines than you might think for an eight minute track. Admittedly there are musical breaks..

Mark G, Thursday, 19 April 2018 10:21 (five days ago) Permalink

this is one of my favorite songs but i didn't vote in this bc separating out the lyrics of this song doesn't make sense to me. i will say that "so hold me mom in your long arms" feels like the emotional release of the song, though it also has to do with the way the music shifts under that line.

na (NA), Thursday, 19 April 2018 14:25 (five days ago) Permalink


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.