Thursday, April 9, 2015

Magic Bus

Remember in Trading Places, in the climactic scene at the end, when Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) and Valentine (Eddie Murphy) pull off the one of the greatest screw-you vendettas of all time by cornering the market on Frozen Orange Juice, making themselves rich while simultaneously bankrupting those evil Duke brothers?

Sure you do.

Well my favorite part comes between the :46 mark and the 1:00 mark of this clip, when Valentine nervously prods Winthorpe to make his move, only Winthorpe calmly and assuredly waits, waits, waits...and then POUNCES.

I love that. He knew exactly when the time was to make his move, not a moment sooner. He knew he'd be fine showing patience and biding his time; he knew the whole plan was safe and in place while he hung back and waited. And then when he did make his move...everything changed. For good.

I love that. Mayhap I've already said that, huh?

Anyway. Think about that, about the nearly uncommon patience to hold back for just the right moment, when you listen to this amazing little piece of rock-n-roll perfection. Particularly right around the 2:25 mark.

There is already so much to love about this surprisingly understated song up to that point. As Dave Marsh once said (I paraphrase) Pete Townshend pretty much puts on a clinic in what the right person can do with an acoustic guitar. Roger Daltrey's voice is commanding throughout, showing even a strain of sweetness on some of the verses. But Keith Moon...

...Keith Moon is only sorta there for the first two-thirds. I mean, he's definitely there. The woodblocks that set the jaunty pace for the song right from the beginning are all him, giving a slightly modified Bo Diddley foundation to it all. But what of the rest of it? The legendary fills? The crashing mayhem of constant cymbal abuse he brought to so many of their songs that became perhaps the defining characteristic of The Who's music? It's not really there. Moonie is hanging back, setting the pace but not really taking us on those majestic and terrifying Wonderland journeys he so often chose to do. Even when the music comes full flourish at the 2:05 mark, he's still missing out on a lot of the fun.

Only no, he's not. He's just playing possum. Biding his time. Fooling us all into thinking he's not here. Because at the 2:25 mark, GLORY BE does he make an entrance!

With no warning of an impending storm, Moon rolls in, literally, like the Tasmanian Devil we always knew he was. His playing is so violent, so chaotic, so jolting that it changes the entire marrow of the song. Which exists for its final minute on a plain it was not remotely near until Moonie picked up the sticks and gave his drums the what-for he knew they deserved. And it's perfect. "Magic Bus" is a great song for the first 2:24. It's an even greater song after that. Thanks for that, mate.

Just like the cool and confident Winthorpe, Moon knew the time was coming. But only he knew exactly when that time was. And what to do when it got here.

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