Any Day Now
I read the other day that Chuck Jackson had died. I recognized the name immediately, though I may not have encountered it since 1962, when his recording of "Any Day Now" was on the charts. I would have been thirteen or fourteen, and was prone to bouts of infatuation which were often called then, and maybe still are, "puppy love." Slight and fleeting though these spells were, the feelings involved were quite intense while they lasted, and I recall the way that song spoke to them. I hadn't heard it for many years, but was pretty sure that it would be one of those whose appeal transcends nostalgia, a genuinely good piece of work. And it is.
I had no idea that it was written by Burt Bacharach (who as you know also died recently). No wonder it still holds up. Songs like this are as close to immortal as anything produced by the popular music of...I was about to say "our century," but now it's "the last century," a phrase which I associate with writers of roughly a hundred years ago referring to the 19th.
Surely teenagers still have those experiences, but I wonder whether any pop music expresses and appeals to it in the way that those songs of the last century did, whether that kind of romanticism has been stifled by our culture of crude sex. Apparently some very large percentage of boys get their first exposure to pornography before they're of the age I was when my heartstrings were sounded by "Any Day Now." By "pornography" I mean not mere nudity, as in the Playboy magazines that I sometimes saw when I was growing up (a bit later than thirteen or fourteen, I think), but what used to be called hard-core pornography. And a certain amount of popular music is directly, crudely (and often stupidly) sexual to an extent that would have been considered obscene, far far beyond the bounds of the commercially or even legally acceptable, in 1962, or for that matter in 1992. If you don't know what I'm talking about, let it go; you're better off not knowing.
And I'm informed by a commenter at National Review that many ordinary girls "from good families" are appearing on OnlyFans, a web service where men pay to see women be sexually provocative, a term which is apparently quite broad (see Wikipedia). This, according to the same commenter, is making the young men who know these girls in real life and might want to "date" them pretty unhappy.
No surprise there. It's been some years now since I ran across a pop song called "I Liked You Better Before You Were Naked On the Internet." Wondering if my memory was correct, and if maybe the line was just a joke and not an actual song, I find that it does indeed exist and was released in 2004, by a band called From First to Last. I haven't heard it and don't especially want to.
And the girls will be totally baffled by the negative reaction, when they were told that such behavior would be "empowering." As if there is anything new or clever in attractive women using their sex appeal to get male attention, and more, including money. They won't be merely baffled; they'll be offended, and complain about sexism and misogyny.
What a sad mess our culture has made of love, sex, and marriage.
It's almost always and almost necessarily true that old people feel some sadness that the world they knew in their youth is passing away, though I guess that's been exacerbated by the rapid changes in the world which have been the norm since roughly 1800, and especially since 1900. I often think of my grandfather, 1978-1973, who came of age before the automobile was anything more than a curiosity, and lived to see men on the moon. No one since has seen quite that magnitude of change. And though the technological changes since roughly 1970 have not been as dramatic and transformational as those he saw, the cultural change may be just as great.
In any case, I certainly find myself today feeling that I'm not living in the same country I grew up in. It's a common complaint. And I don't mean just the obvious cultural changes relating to sex and so forth, still less the technological changes. It's not even the political shifts and conflicts, in any direct and clear sense. I mean a sense that the basic idea of what this country is, how it is governed, what our responsibilities to it and each other are.... It's hard to articulate, and I think for now I'll just leave it with the thought that large numbers of our citizens, or "citizens," no longer see the nation in anything at all like the way the constitution describes it. I wonder if they even share with the men who wrote the constitution anything resembling the same idea of what a human being is, much less what a good system of government ought to be.
I keep hearing from a number of people that they feel like something really, really fundamental has changed over the past few years. Sometimes they describe it as a sense that something has broken. Often they mean the pandemic, and the extent to which we were misled and abused by authorities we really need to trust if our system is to function, and the way anyone who dissented was shut down, if possible, and ostracized by the alliance of government, media, and big technology--though it's cause for a little hope that much of that misbehavior has been exposed.
I wouldn't argue with that, but it seems to me that if there was any single thing that broke the already very strained mental fabric of the country, it was Donald Trump's election. Trump was and is a fairly terrible man, but he himself didn't do most of the damage; rather, the reaction to him did. His success was in great part due to pent-up frustration on the part of millions who felt, quite correctly, that the people running the country not only did not care about them but were actively hostile to them.
People went crazy both for and against him, and those against him were the ones I just named: government, media, big technology, the most powerful people and institutions in the country. For them, Trump and his followers were and are an abomination which must be destroyed at all costs in order to save "our democracy," a term which they all seemed to latch onto simultaneously as if they'd received instructions, and which, after I had heard it a dozen or so times, I began to understand to mean "rule by Democrats." So they made things worse by a dishonest attempt to depose him, which further inflamed his supporters. Then came Biden, who might have had a shot at calming things but chose instead to be as divisive as Trump.
Anyway, I don't think most people can sincerely say "We're all in this together" about the country as a whole anymore. The reds are red together and the blues are blue together, and each views the other as a mortal enemy. What can change that?
Anyway, I don't think this country, the one in which we now live, can produce music like "Any Day Now." And I miss the country that did.
I think Playboy was horribly destructive also, but I am sure not as much as the porn that must exist now.
70% of churchgoing men-I assume catholic and protestant-are regularly viewing porn. If one thinks that is not horribly destructive,they are-in my opinion- deluded.
Only God knows how horrible the effects of that are: "He who looks on a woman to lust on her has already committed adultery with her in his heart".
People are always whining about Trump-at least he had the courage to allow his ugliness to be exposed to the "outside"...millions of men (and a growing number of women) are now viewing porn-in the dark.
Back in the day I remember going into peep shows and hearing the whir of the 8 mm film as I looked at really awful stuff.....
It was a sordid scene then. It is no less sordid now in its "cleaned up" form -drawing millions into the lake of fire.
Josh Mcdowell-who I think has had some pretty good observations about Christianity- says that he believes "Porn is the greatest threat to the Church in the last 2000 years".(I think I have heard that he has spoken to more college kids than anybody ever)
That bad? I dont know.I do know that it is horribly destructive and that this evil must be purged from the life of Christians.
I have counseled with porn addicted men(as I once was). When freedom begins to come there is always an accompanying joy....real...deep...God given...joy.
Posted by: John D. Horton | 03/06/2023 at 09:41 PM
Playboy was definitely bad, but I think there's a big and fundamental difference between nudity and actual sexual activity. Our tolerance of pornography (in that second sense) available to pretty much anybody including children is sick. It's one of the things that somewhere in the future is going to cause people to say "what the hell were they thinking?!? what was wrong with them?!?" just as we do about things like slavery and torture. Yeah, I might or might not quibble with "greatest threat in 2000 years" but it really is a quibble. Enough to say it's a huge one.
Posted by: Mac | 03/06/2023 at 10:28 PM
Thinking about this a bit more, I do disagree about "greatest threat." I started to say that the whole attack on marriage, family, and sex is the greatest threat, but then decided it's even bigger than that. The greatest threat is the whole modern world-view, which enables and encourages all those ills. I saw the Whole Earth Catalog mentioned somewhere the other day. I had not thought about it for many many years so I looked at the Wikipedia entry and found that its statement of purpose began "We are as gods and might as well get good at it."
Posted by: Mac | 03/07/2023 at 08:25 AM
Yes...wouldnt get into a fuss about the relative harm. What I do know is that the infiltration of this horror into the mainstream of the church is grievous.
I also know that a Holy God will not tolerate this indefinitely.
Posted by: John D. Horton | 03/07/2023 at 03:46 PM
To my knowledge I've not heard this song before (I'm a bit younger than you), but I have similar feelings about other songs from the period and even older ones that I heard as a kid. There is an innocence that has been lost about love and romance -- it has all been subsumed under the category of "sex" -- and it most likely won't be back. Freud may have lost the war in academia but he won on the level of culture.
This is an excellent piece, and your last paragraph about sums up exactly what I believe about it. I'm currently reading Wendell Berry's recent book of short stories, How It Went, which is something of a set of fictionalized memoirs, with Berry's character Andy Catlett standing in for the author. At one point Berry describes a family, the Branch's, who never really bought into the idea of the "modern," but instead practiced a "conscious and deliberate, principled marginality." This is where I have come to regarding the culture. Not an opting out, but more of a deliberate situating of myself as much as possible at the margins. I've found that it not only serves as a sort of barrier against many troubling aspects of the "new" that are better avoided, but it also warms one to the "old," so to speak, by helping you see and appreciate many of the good qualities which have been or are being lost.
Many will dismiss this as simple nostalgia, and there is an element of that. But I've grown to see it as more like a sense of cultural piety, a respect for our elders and forebears and for those good things that they once loved and appreciated.
Posted by: Rob G | 03/08/2023 at 06:59 AM
I do know this song, but not Chuck Jackson's voice singing it. I'm sure it has been covered countless times but I do wonder which voice in my head is the one.
Last night my wife was watching a new Perry Mason series on HBO Max which seems to be his story prior to the original TV show back in the 50s or 60s. I didn't watch much, but what I did watch was almost shocking at how this period piece taking place in maybe the 1930s had been written in such a way as to have the characters all speaking in modern jargon (and yes, lots of cursing). I thought, "Perry Mason really cleaned up his act when he started his law practice years later!" I was going to comment on it to her, but decided to just go to another room and read.
Posted by: Stu | 03/08/2023 at 08:17 AM
They just can't help themselves--the movie/tv people who have to put in all the crude language etc. That aside, the insertion of modern jargon really gets on my nerves.
The version of "Any Day Now" you hear may be by Ronnie Millsap. According to Wikipedia, it was a big hit for him in 1982. Actually went higher on the charts than Jackson's.
Posted by: Mac | 03/08/2023 at 09:04 AM
I did look it up in Wikipedia too, and decided that Millsap was likely the one. He had lots of music on the radio in the 1980s. Also saw that Elvis Presley covered it - need to seek out that version too. He could pretty much sing anything and make it sound great.
I do not want to give the misleading impression that I am terribly put off by cursing in film and TV shows, but in this instance it did seem very out of place since most of us of a certain age can easily recall Raymond Burr playing that character. Burr may have cursed like a sailor in real life, but I never heard him do it. :-)
Other than Perry Mason I think the only other Raymond Burr role I can recall is in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, if I remember correctly.
Posted by: Stu | 03/08/2023 at 09:15 AM
"This is where I have come to regarding the culture. Not an opting out, but more of a deliberate situating of myself as much as possible at the margins."
More or less the same is true of me. Though I guess I'm pretty much at the margins anyway, living where and thinking as I do. I keep wanting to break myself of the habit of paying too much attention to the political and cultural mess. I'm sure you've heard the term "outrage porn" and I'm definitely susceptible to that: having kind of a hunger to read about the latest affront to truth and sanity. I've asked myself whether that's not the main reason I read Rod Dreher's blog. And right, it's definitely not simple nostalgia. Sure, I have some of that, but that doesn't explain it all by any means. I think of Bob Dole's speech at one of the Republican conventions in the '90s, saying it wasn't just a nostalgic delusion that some things have changed for the worse: "I was there. I remember."
I went off Facebook for Lent, and immediately felt as if some loud annoying noise had been turned off. And I don't mean political acrimony, which I don't see that much of anymore, as most of the people I'm connected with there have mostly given that up. Just the endless scroll of fragments, little pieces of stuff all totally disconnected from each other. At the moment I lean toward not going back.
Posted by: Mac | 03/08/2023 at 09:19 AM
"I do not want to give the misleading impression that I am terribly put off by cursing in film and TV shows"
Depends totally on the context, whether it seems natural for the characters and so forth.
I don't recall Raymond Burr in Rear Window but that could very well just be my memory.
Posted by: Mac | 03/08/2023 at 09:22 AM
Raymond Burr was the villain in Rear Window. I remember him also in Ironside.
Posted by: Robert Gotcher | 03/08/2023 at 11:16 AM
Heh. I was thinking that if he was in RW he was probably the villain.
Posted by: Mac | 03/08/2023 at 11:22 AM
Ironside! That's right. He was in a wheelchair. Definitely a show before its time back when there was little to zero representation for handicapped people.
Posted by: Stu | 03/08/2023 at 01:41 PM
Burr also starred in the U.S. version of the original Japanese Godzilla film, which I'm pretty sure was released before Perry Mason debuted.
Posted by: Rob G | 03/08/2023 at 03:06 PM
I remember watching Ironside and wondering if Raymond Burr was in a wheelchair in real life. Alas, I did not have the internet to answer the question for me. The answer seems to be no.
Posted by: Mac | 03/08/2023 at 09:12 PM
Countries don't produce music; people do. There are people in this country producing music that reflects the virtues of Any Day Now. It just doesn't make a splash.
Posted by: Robert Gotcher | 03/10/2023 at 02:27 PM
A very cogent point, Robert!
Posted by: Stu | 03/10/2023 at 03:20 PM
Well, sure. But countries produce people who make the music. I may agree with "music that reflects the virtues" of "Any Day Now". "reflects the virtues" is fairly vague, so give me an example. This gets kind of subtle. I would say, for instance, that Gillian Welch's The Harrow and the Harvest is at least equal in quality in some objective way to much of the music of the '60s. But it's so different from Burt Bacharach that it's an apples-oranges comparison.
Posted by: Mac | 03/10/2023 at 06:29 PM
The fact that the "music that reflects the virtues of 'Any Day Now' " is nowadays pretty much an outlier says a lot about the country that's producing the people who are producing the music. The music reflects not just the sensibilities of its producers but of its listeners as well, and the listeners are in some sense products of the larger culture. As Jacques Barzun put it, we get "the culture we deserve."
Posted by: Rob G | 03/11/2023 at 07:21 AM
It occurs to me that I know of at least one excellent example: A Girl Called Eddy.
Highly respected, but not very popular. She's only released two albums in 20 years. I have the one on which the above song appears and it's very good. In another time and place there might have been more than one hit single from it.
"all my life I've been a massive Burt Bacharach fan"
Posted by: Mac | 03/11/2023 at 09:58 AM
Oh, I agree. I was just being a smart-alack.
I think the problem has to do some with lost innocence. Not that the songwriters of old were innocent or weren't cynical, but their audience was open to the romantic and the direct in a way our era is not, especially among the young. Irony rules.
The other factor is that many of the old songwriters were classically trained and deeply influence by jazz. Bacharach is a perfect example. Even Paul McCartney, thought not classically trained, had a father who was a musician and big band leader. I hear Lady Gaga was classically trained, but I know nothing about her music. But I don't think she could have thrived if she presented herself like, say, Carole King.
There are little blips of light here and there. I've mentioned before the group SHEL. (I did a 52 albums on them.) At least in their premiere album, their songwriting showed signs of being in touch with what made the old songwriters great. Maybe a little too angsty. They were classically trained. I think their second was too much influence by the modern pop scene.
Posted by: Robert Gotcher | 03/11/2023 at 03:33 PM
"...their audience was open to the romantic and the direct in a way our era is not, especially among the young."
Yes, that's the essence of it. And it's not only the audience, but the musicians as well. A Girl Called Eddy is very much swimming against the current. But it's interesting that the album I mention above was release on the Anti- label, which is deliberately counter-mainstream.
Posted by: Mac | 03/11/2023 at 11:19 PM
Here's the link to your post about SHEL.
I like that album a lot. Sorry to hear that about the second.
Posted by: Mac | 03/11/2023 at 11:21 PM
Concerning A Girl Called Eddy: from Wikipedia.
"Moran's influences include Burt Bacharach ('all my life I've been a massive Burt Bacharach fan'), Karen Carpenter, Scott Walker, Carole King, and Paul McC.artney."
Interesting that she mentioned three names that have already been part of this discussion.
Posted by: Robert Gotcher | 03/12/2023 at 04:18 PM
I was slightly surprised to see Karen Carpenter in that list. Not saying she doesn't belong, just that I was surprised.
Carole King was a great songwriter, but I've always thought Tapestry was a hugely dull album.
Sometime in the next year I'm going to have something to say about Scott Walker. Very peculiar guy.
Posted by: Mac | 03/12/2023 at 04:35 PM
I'm from Wisconsin. Scott Walker was our former governor.
Posted by: Robert Gotcher | 03/12/2023 at 07:14 PM
Yes, and I was often a little startled when I saw his name in the news.
Posted by: Mac | 03/12/2023 at 09:57 PM
"I was slightly surprised to see Karen Carpenter in that list." Especially when you compare the voices.
Posted by: Robert Gotcher | 03/13/2023 at 08:48 AM
Posted by: Mac | 03/13/2023 at 12:59 PM
Moran's and Karen Carpenters.
Posted by: Robert Gotcher | 03/13/2023 at 01:23 PM