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The Dead Skunk Guy
September 25, 2004 8:55 AM   Subscribe

25 years old and I pretty much had made it. The critics’ darling was now a success. So what happened? Why is it that many of you here today aren’t quite sure who the hell I actually am, aside from Rufus Wainwright’s father? Why is finding a CD of mine akin to archeology? Where were the follow up hits to "Dead Skunk," funny animal songs like "I Met Her at the Pet Store" and "Stay Away From My Aardvark?"
My Cool Life by Loudon Wainwright III
posted by dodgygeezer (20 comments total)

 
I love his blatant admission that his 'i wish i was a lesbian' song was an attempt to cash in on a fad before he got too old to drag his guitar around anymore. He rules.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:02 AM on September 25, 2004


Dead Skunk has been a campfire favourite of mine for years. Thanks for the insight.
posted by sauril at 9:12 AM on September 25, 2004


Great post, I've been a fan of the man for a long time.
posted by chrid at 9:52 AM on September 25, 2004


I am proud to be old enough to always think of Rufus Wainwright as Loudon Wainwright's son.
posted by JanetLand at 10:14 AM on September 25, 2004


I am proud to be old enought to always think of Loudon Wainright as the son of Loudon Wainwright, the author and journalist whose essays I used to skip in Life Magazine. I wonder the elderest Wainwright was any good?
posted by Faze at 11:58 AM on September 25, 2004


I'm with JanetLand. I do like Rufus, but I'm afraid I've got three of Loudon's songs in permanent rotation, and only one of Rufus. "Dead Skunk," "I Wish I Was A Lesbian," and "Rufus is a Tit Man" are not those three songs.

When I've tried to present people to Loudon, I recommend the album Therapy. "This Year" is a rich, regretful song of another disunified family holiday, and my favorite. There's a good mix of cool introspective ballads, choosy singer-songwriter indulgences, and jokey fun tunes.

My first knowledge of Loudon came from a guest appearance on the television show MASH. He fit right in with the wisecrackers, as I remember it.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:05 PM on September 25, 2004


My first knowledge of Loudon came from a guest appearance on the television show MASH.

Me too. I remember him singing that song about tokyo sitting up on the hill. I actually have a vinyl copy of Attempted Moustache sitting in a box somewhere.

But Rufus is pretty damned cool in his own right, his cover of "Across The Universe" is a perfect match of siner and song.
posted by jonmc at 12:11 PM on September 25, 2004


I remember "Dead Skunk" as being one of the last AM radio songs I liked before I forever shut myself off to that medium, and the name Loudon Wainwright stuck with me because of its singular sound.

However, I have no clue who Rufus Wainwright is.
posted by mischief at 12:20 PM on September 25, 2004


I found it interesting that he makes no mention of "suicide is painless." I love the guy's stuff; his wordplay is astounding.
posted by mwhybark at 12:21 PM on September 25, 2004


Rufus's version of his old man's "One Man Guy", with his sister Martha singing beeyutaful backing vocals is amazing. Of course, in Rufus' case, the song has could have a slightly different meaning.

Chez Richat, we love Rufus. For me, Loudon is alright, but Rufus speaks to me a little more....
posted by Richat at 12:25 PM on September 25, 2004


mwhybark, that's cause it wasn't his song. It was Johnny Mandel's.
posted by jonmc at 12:25 PM on September 25, 2004


Boy, was this posted by the right member, or what?
posted by scarabic at 1:19 PM on September 25, 2004


Great post. I love the whole Wainwright franchise. [The highest-quality merchandise at low, low prices! ;-)]
posted by lilboo at 1:33 PM on September 25, 2004


" I found it interesting that he makes no mention of "suicide is painless." I love the guy's stuff; his wordplay is astounding."

"mwhybark, that's cause it wasn't his song. It was Johnny Mandel's."

No, well half right. Music by Johnny Mandel, lyrics by Mike Altman.

I never really "got" Loudon Wainwright III. Too...twee. Steve Goodman and others were better lyricists.
posted by paddbear at 4:01 PM on September 25, 2004


I agree, jonmc: Rufus's cover of "Across the Universe" is the one song I have of his in permanent rotation. The first time or two I heard it, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. He sounded so...abandoned and alone.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:22 PM on September 25, 2004


"This Year" is a rich, regretful song of another disunified family holiday, and my favorite.

You know, I like "This Year," too, but I was describing the song "Thanksgiving." Duh.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:23 PM on September 25, 2004


D'oh! Wasn't he on in the first season, or is that Mandel too?

He was!

I guess I just figured it was his. I have a clear memory of him actually playing the song. Or, again, is that Mandel, from the film?
posted by mwhybark at 11:56 PM on September 25, 2004


I'll never forget the first time I heard of Loudon Wainwright III, it was a couple of years ago when he was on Conan O'Brien. But my memory's just like that.
posted by cell divide at 12:16 AM on September 26, 2004


I first heard Loudon on Jasper Carrott's comedy show about twenty years ago. He seemed terribly out of place, his songs were sometimes completely lost on the audience but he always stuck in my mind. I guess it was his cheery masochism in trying to win over an audience who were stoney faced and unappreciative of zany americans. I still wasn't sure about the songs but I quite liked him. You can read more about his experiences here.

A few months after the Carrott series finished, I was watching one of my favorite shows - MASH. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the zany american again and suddenly it dawned on me that this guy might be a bit more than a fly by night.

Having said that I've only recently had the pleasure of hearing his records. It's a mixed bag, but songs like Your Mother & I and Westchester County are some of the finest I've ever heard.
posted by dodgygeezer at 4:12 AM on September 26, 2004


I'm so old I thought Rufus Wainwright was either Bob Dylan or Tim Buckley's son. And I always through of LW III as Kate McGarrigle's (now ex-)husband.

I have LW III's first five LPs, bought back in 1970-1975; the success of the skunk song, ultimately, probably ruined his career. People didn't want to hear anything else, even though he had a lot of other fine, understated songs.

My favorite: The Swimming Song from his 4th album, which ends with the very nice song, Lullaby. That one starts out "Shut up and go to bed" and includes the lyric "You're not biting you're barking you're toothless / But you're ruthless (you're Rufus)."
posted by LeLiLo at 7:34 PM on September 26, 2004


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