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Are you wrung out and anxious? I’m sure wrung out and anxious. Tell you what, let’s chill a minute. Let’s mellow out and take a languid walk down to Venice Beach, meet a few friends, and drink ourselves stuporous under the California sun, doesn’t that sound nice? What else have we got to do?

I first heard Drinking in L.A. over a car radio, and was immediately taken with it, only to discover later that it was about fifteen years old, and was on an album I’d owned for around twelve. Bran Van 3000 was a Quebec group described as an “electronica collective”, whatever that is, and this is by no means their only catchy song, but this one’s special, there’s just something about its dull affected dissolute tone, perhaps not so much sad as rueful, that sounds exactly like getting aimlessly buzzed on a hot L.A. afternoon ought to sound.

It’s autobiographical. According to a story in the Toronto Star, the song had its genesis when, “after a heavy night of drinking, James Di Salvio found himself one morning groggily coming to consciousness, face-down on a pristinely green West Hollywood lawn and, with his head throbbing angrily, he quietly reprimanded himself: “What the hell am I doing, drinking in L.A.?” At the time, Di Salvio was in California trying to break into the movie business, and this is the story of how he and a buddy were making half-hearted stabs at writing a script. They’d start the day all full of piss and vinegar, but before you knew it they’d be down at Venice Beach again, boozing. In the result their plans always come to nought:

But we did nothing
Absolutely bupkis that day

It’s not like they haven’t achieved anything in all this time. They’ve settled on an how the movie should end (but we’ve got a conclusion / and I guess that’s something…), but, O.K., not much else, even though this very day started with a fresh idea that sounded promising,

a script surprise
A mafioso story with a twist
A “To Wong Foo, Julie Newmar” hitch

… but it sounds like that fell by the wayside, along with all other ambition of any kind, on the bus ride down to the beach. Yeah, I guess they could spend a few hours indoors, trying again to hammer out a boffo screenplay that somebody over at Paramount or Universal would buy, but, you know. It’s just so much easier to hang around on the patio, right?

I just love how it starts, with the voice-over blaring the sort of DJ patter that would assault the sleepy listener’s ears upon waking up to a clock alarm set to “radio” instead of “ring”:

Hi, my name is StereoMike
Yeah, we got 3 tickets to the Bran Van concert this Monday night
At the Pacific Pallisades. You can all dial in if you want to answer
A couple of questions, namely
What is Todd’s favorite cheese
Jackie just called up and said it was a form of Roquefort
We’ll see about that
Give us a ring-ding-ding! It’s a beautiful day!

Hey, wake up! And give us a ring-ding-ding, it’s a beautiful day. Too beautiful to waste doing something purportedly constructive, that’s for sure, and let’s drink to that, again and again. You can carry on like that for quite a while, you know. Months and years, even. Until one fine day you wake up, look in the mirror, and wonder just what the hell it is you’re doing with your life.


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