Better Call Saul, Prefab Sprout and Albuquerque

Something very odd has been happening. After writing about Rupert Holmes (of Pina Colada Song fame) a couple of weeks ago I have been bombarded by Rupert Holmes references. I am pretty sure I hadn’t thought about him or his song for years, but lo and behold, one of the writers for my favourite magazine dedicated her entire column to him this week, reminiscing about their time together at a literary festival – It turns out he is now a successful novelist. (Hope he isn’t writing books about men being tired of their “old ladies” – grrr.)

Last night when we were watching Better Call Saul (the great Breaking Bad spin-off series), there was a scene where the main character is caught filming in a schoolyard – When challenged, his story is that he is making a documentary about Rupert Holmes (of Pina Colada Song fame – it always has to be qualified), who went to school there. Of course he didn’t, but of all the people in music to use, how bizarre that it had to be him.

saul

I was still reeling from this when I remembered that last week I wrote a post about the song “A Horse With No Name” which featured in Breaking Bad. Like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is set in Albuquerque which is right in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Funny they have never used the Prefab Sprout song The King of Rock’n’ Roll I thought, as Albuquerque is mentioned eight times as part of the chorus. Yes you’ve guessed it, it was the first song to be played on the radio when it came on this morning!

It turns out that there is a name for such coincidences, The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, but my favourite description of it comes from Highland author Jane Duncan, who back in the 1950s came up with her own name for the phenomenon, and wrote the following:

A “palter-ghost” is a thing that comes to mind as follows. Imagine that one day you wake up with a pain in your knee, go to the doctor with it and he diagnoses housemaid’s knee. When you emerge from the surgery it is about a hundred to one that the following events – or something similar to them – will happen.

  1. The woman cleaning the doctor’s front step will have a bandage on her leg that simply shrieks “housemaid’s knee”.
  2. The magazine you buy to read on the bus on the way home will have a Home Doctor article on housemaid’s knee.
  3. A woman with a shopping basket on the seat in front of you will be telling her companion a grim story of a second cousin who had a complaint, diagnosed as housemaid’s knee, but which was really gangrene and how, in the end, she died in agony.
  4. In the evening paper there will be banner headlines on the latest murder, and on reading the ghastly details you will discover that the unfortunate victim, far from deserving her gory end, had been a patient lifelong sufferer of housemaid’s knee.

That is housemaid’s knee in the form of a “palter-ghost”, that phenomenon that palters in a mischievous, supernatural way with your daily life and very reason. Anything, given certain conditions which I am at a loss to tabulate, can suddenly take on the character of a “palter-ghost”. 

So, a bizarre introduction to the song The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll from 1988, but that is how it popped into my head today. The British band Prefab Sprout had a run of minor hits from the mid ’80s to early ’90s but this was the one that achieved their highest chart position of No.7. It was the second single to be taken from their album “From Langley Park to Memphis” (although from Durham they were really into their Americana) and is apparently about a washed-up 1950s star who is only remembered for his one-hit novelty song. Don’t really think I would have worked that out for myself but the more I write about songs from “The Soundtrack to My Life”, the more I realise how little I have ever really thought about the lyrics – I either like the whole sound and rhythm of a song or I don’t. I am a sucker for a great intro and that is usually what reels me in.

langley

Personally I think we, the record-buying public, are being led a merry dance much of the time. I read the supposed meaning behind the lyrics and then I find out that the songwriter just needed a word that rhymed – Fans (short for fanatics remember) often read a bit too much into the lyrics I feel, but hey that’s just my opinion. I’ll get back to looking out for more Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon coincidences like being introduced to a new colleague called Rupert Holmes or being told that someone has just booked a trip……. to Albuquerque!

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyrics
(Song by Paddy McAloon)

All my lazy teenage boasts are now high precision ghosts
And they’re coming round the track to haunt me
When she looks at me and laughs I remind her of the facts
I’m the king of rock ‘n’ roll completely

Up from, suede shoes, my baby blues
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque

The dream helps you forget you ain’t never danced a step
You were never fleet of foot, hippy
All the pathos you can keep for the children in the street
For the vision I have had is sweeping

New broom, this room, sweep it clean baby (hot dog!)
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Sing out boy…
High kickin’ dandy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah
Long legged candy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah yeah

Now my rhythm ain’t so hot, but it’s the only friend I’ve got
I’m the king of rock’n roll completely
All the pretty birds have flown now I’m dancing on my own
I’m the king of rock’n roll completely

Up from, suede shoes, my baby blues (hot dog!)
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Are ya lonesome?
High kickin’ dandy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah
Long legged candy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah yeah

Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Sing out boy…
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
(The king of rock ‘n’ roll)
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque, yeah!
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
(The king of rock ‘n’ roll)
Hot dog, jumping frog
Albuquerque

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

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