Driving back from Seattle this week I finally listened to the recent Pere Ubu album in its entirety. Imagine my surprise when, 26 seconds into this song, David Thomas drops in a random “Pablo Picasso” reference:
“Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil,” says Mr. Thomas. “Pablo Picasso never sold his soul to the devil, but a black guy from the Delta, I guess that’s gotta be the explanation.” From there “Worried Man Blues” goes off in seven different directions, and at times tries the patience in vintage Ubu fashion. But I consider it a valuable contribution to the ongoing dialogue.
The original “Worried Man Blues” is a traditional song first recorded by the Carter Family way back in 1930. But Philistine that I am, the first version I heard was by Devo, who recorded it for Neil Young’s movie The Human Highway in 1982. That performance is not on YouTube, because Neil I assume; this Vimeo link is subject to expire at any moment. Enjoy it while you can.
Apparently Devo also used to do this song back when they used to open for themselves as Dove, the Band of Love — sadly, before my time.
It’s a funny song, when you think about it. “I may be worried now, but I won’t be worried long.” I don’t know how to take that other than, “I’ll be dead soon and none of this will bother me anymore.” Talk about your cold comfort. Reminds me of Douglas Adams:
Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.
And while we’re approximately on the subject, one thing that is on YouTube is this fantastically weird number, also from Human Highway. Sit back, turn it up, and leave your worries behind. Rock’n’roll is here to stay, man.