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*10.19-BARON SATURDAY (Pretty Things)

Pretty Things

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Oh! Baron Saturday!
Sorrow, he'll show you games to play.
He bends his mouth up to your ear
The words won't disappear.
He'll take your eyes out for a ride
Through an eyeglass of tears, it's not clear.

Oh! Baron Saturday!
White visions black, Mister Malady!
'Neath a sky of milk you're drinking silk
You've fast the runcible spoon.
On satin plates young maidens wait
To be devoured in the glare of the moon.

     Except for Baron Saturday (3x)
     Your life was cool,
     Good senses rule--
     Throw your life away.

Oh! Baron Saturday!
Let him steal your mind away.
He'll show you the grave of someone who was saved
From living their life in a year.
He'll show you the grave of someone who was saved
From taking his life with a knife.

     [Chorus]

[Drum Break into mellotron]

     [Chorus (2x)]


Baron Saturday begins side two of the album SF Sorrow. In the story, Sebastian F. Sorrow has lost his beloved to a fiery death. In his state of depression he encounters “Baron Saturday”, who seems to serve a purpose similar to the Acid Queen in The Who’s Tommy. However, Baron Saturday is a traditional voodoo figure known as Baron Samedi (“Saturday” in French), a loa in Haitian mythology who stands at the crossroads of life and death. He is usually depicted with a top hat, black tuxedo, dark glasses, and cotton plugs in the nostrils, as if to resemble a corpse dressed and prepared for burial in the Haitian style. He has a white, frequently skull-like face (or actually has a skull for a face) and is noted for disruption, obscenity, debauchery, and having a particular fondness for tobacco and rum. Baron Saturday leads Sebastian into the Underworld. The English speaking world is far more familiar now with Baron Samedi (thanks in part to the Grateful Dead) than audiences in the 1960s, so for most listeners it would have been the first time he’d been heard of. The idea of drawing pop music symbols from “third world” cultures in the Western Hemisphere was a relatively new phenomenon in 1968. The “Haitian” festival drumming that makes up the break has a resemblance to the Brazilian Carnival drumming used by the Rolling Stones in Sympathy for the Devil, which was released on Beggars Banquet the following month in England. (Unfortunately, SF Sorrow was held back from release in the United States until August 1969, by which time it would have followed both Beggars Banquet and Tommy, lessening its effect in the States.)

In Tommy, the visions on LSD, though sometimes terrifying, reveal an inner truth by which to lead the world into enlightenment. The vision that Baron Saturday offers to Sebastian has the opposite effect, cutting him off from the world, and leaving him without relief for his loneliness. The Baron’s flippancy about the value of life, communicated through nonsense verse (which with the use of a runcible spoon evokes Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat) does nothing to alleviate Sebastian’s mourning for his lost love. Baron Saturday seems to exult in being beyond such trivial matters as life and death; he is the exception to the rule of mortality that humans must live by. The chaotic and loud drumming in the break becomes overwhelming and completely out of sorts with the beats in the rest of the song, producing disorientation in the listener, as if watching a Carnival parade pass. The drums give way to an electronic sound much like a present day car alarm would be set off by noise, and gradually the drums are replaced by a bit of mellotron flute sound before the rhythm of the song resumes with its screeching accents communicating shock and surprise. For final irony, the last bars of the song resolve themselves in a barber shop harmony similar to that used by the Zombies in their song Beechwood Park, as if all the terror that Baron Saturday brings could be easily resolved by simply dropping the curtain on the show.

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