Played Out

My favorite 30 seconds of Reservoir Dogs that don’t involve Chris Penn talking about black semen coming out of Michael Madsen’s mouth is a little scene that never got any love at all: the transitional little series of shots showing Tim Roth putzing around his half-painted apartment as Penn calls him from downstairs on one of those old mobile phones that looks like it saw action at Anzio. Roth’s character takes the call, and when it’s over he throws on a jacket, checks his guns (Roth is great with the props), and heads out the door. That’s all there is to it, but playing on a radio in the background is a swaying little C&W number that helps give the scene its sunny Sunday afternoon atmosphere. The song is called “Fool for Love”, and it came from the terrible Robert Altman movie of the same name. (It’s almost surely the worst film that the names of Altman, Sam Shepard, Harry Dean Stanton, the gaffer, the grips, the teamsters, or any of their children or grandchildren will ever be associated with.) I’d always thought I remembered the song from its air-play on the radio in the ’70s—it’s got that kind of ring to it—but apparently not, at least if Wiki’s to be believed. If indeed I did hear it before Tarantino’s movie, it would’ve been during the two very unhappy hours I spent in a movie theater in 1985.

The songwriter and singer Sandy Rogers is, it turns out, Sam Shepard’s sister. (I always wonder about the siblings of people who hit it big in the entertainment industry—no way can it be easy for them, and in some cases it must be mudslinging hell.) The song is fine as AM fodder, or maybe a dash more than that: one line in particular has kept me amused for a couple of days now. It’s about a guy who keeps blowing his relationships because his romantic streak is out of control, and the last verse goes:

The last time I saw him alive
He was standing up on the bride’s side
Yelling his objections at the groom.
The blushing bride was my best friend,
She turned around and to him said
“Yes, you were my only sunshine then…”

It’s the fact that the guy addresses his grievances to the groom that gets me; you’d have to be pretty strung out to start screaming at a wedding to begin with, and I can just picture some tuxedoed sap being startled by the red-faced nut-job blasting him from the pews. Even after multiple hearings I’m pleased by the bride’s generosity towards the man who’s wrecking the happiest day of her life, and in that last line Rogers packs a lot of the ache and tenderness we can feel for old lovers into just a few short words. Taken with Sam’s plays, it all makes you wonder just what the hell was happening inside the Shepard household while these people were growing up there.

Here’s the song. I’m warning you now, though, you do not want to watch the actual video.

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