We know about noir lit and film noir, but what about noir music? I just posted my nomination for "Best Noir Song" to my crimespace--Lush Life. Written by Billy Strayhorn when he was just eighteen or nineteen, this is one of the best musical evocations of an alcoholic haze and sick-of-the-world bitterness, brought on by a too-close brush with an amour fou. The narrator survives, but only in a half-life ... a lush life.

With lyrics like "too many through the day twelve o'clock tales", this song is a noir masterpiece. The version I've posted, by the legendary jazz singer Nancy Wilson, is my personal favorite.

So what about it? Is it One for the Road? Angel Face? What's your favorite piece of noir music? And how has it inspired you? (Lush Life remains one of my emotional anchors to the noir mood ...)

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Allison Moorer does a great bit of musical noir called "Dying Breed":

I take a pint of whiskey
And crack open it's lid
I drink the bottle empty
Just like my poor daddy did

I take after my family
My fate's the blood in me
No one grows old in this household
We are a dying breed

I take a red and blue one
From my Mama's purse
I wash 'em down with homemade wine
To see what kicks in first

I take after my family
My fate's the blood in me
No one grows old in this household
We are a dying breed

I take another needle
Black powder and a spoon
I set my sights on heaven
And shoot for the moon

I take after my family
My fate's the blood in me
No one grows old in this household
We are a dying breed
Social Distortion - "Ball and Chain"

Well it's been ten years, and a thousand tears
And look at the mess I'm in-
A broken nose and a broken heart,
An empty bottle of gin
Well I sit and I pray
In my broken down Chevrolet-
While I'm singin' to myself
There's got to be another way

Chorus:
Take away, take away
Take away this ball and chain
I'm lonely and I'm tired
And I can't take any more pain
Take away, take away
Never to return again
Take away, take away
Take away this ball and chain

Well I've searched and I've searched
To find the perfect life-
A brand new car and a brand new suit
I even got me a little wife-
But wherever I have gone
I was sure to find myself there-
You can run all your life
But not go anywhere

Chorus:
Take away, take away
Take away this ball and chain
I'm sick and I'm tired
And I can't take any more pain
Take away, take away
Never to return again
Take away, take away
Take away this ball and chain

Well I'll pass the bar on the way
To my dingy hotel room-
I spent all my money
Been drinkin' since a half past noon-
I'll wake there in the mornin'
Or maybe in the county jail-
Times are hard getting harder
I'm born to lose and destined to fail-

Chorus:
Take away, take away
Take away this ball and chain
I'm lonely and I'm tired
And I can't take any more pain
Take away, take away
Never to return again
Take away, take away
Take away this ball and chain


My 4-year-old loves this song, by the way. Because life is just so terrible when you're 4 and your parents tell you No all the time, and your baby brother is crying in the carseat next to you and you're out of your favorite drink....
Another Social D fan!
So one more set of lyrics from me ... "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)"...I suspect that he might wander off to murder the two-timing dame after he leaves the bar. Or maybe kill himself. You decide.

One More for My Baby

It's quarter to three, there's no one in the place except you and me
So, set 'em up, Joe, I got a little story you oughta know
We're drinkin', my friend, to the end of a brief episode
Make it one for my baby and one more for the road

I got the routine, so drop another nickel in the machine
I'm feelin' so bad, wish you'd make the music pretty and sad
Could tell you a lot, but you've got to be true to your code
So, make it one for my baby and one more for the road

You'd never know it but buddy, I'm a kind of poet
And I got a lot of things to say
And when I'm gloomy, you simply gotta listen to me
Till it's all talked away

Well that's how it goes and Joe, I know your gettin' pretty anxious to close
So, thanks for the cheer, I hope you didn't mind my bendin' your ear
This torch that I found must be drowned or it soon might explode
So, make it one for my baby and one more for the road
That long, long road
The speaker always struck me as a blowhard. I have a hard time imagining him taking action, no matter the harm done to him.

But he'll make the same mistake again, I think.
Yeah, you're probably right. But I'm always fascinated by "Will the worm turn?" speculations. ;)
wait. how did i not think of townes van zandt???? oh, yeah! just about everything he wrote.
I'd have to put the Peter Gunn theme at the top of my nasty hardboiled noir songs.

For something more in the bittersweet-love mode...hm. How 'bout "Moonglow"?
Love the Peter Gunn theme! Just caught Experiment in Terror last night on DVD (Blake Edward's only foray into thriller territory--and it still featured bumbling cops--and the greatest thing about the movie--besides Lee Remick and San Francisco locations--is the Henry Mancini score.

I thought the opening shots of Lee crossing the Bay Bridge at night, combined with Mancini's dissonant music, was great. Wish I could say the same about the rest.

Mancini's stuff was terrific--and oh, so swanky!
Mancini has done some great noirish music, eh? Love the music and photography in Experiment in Terror.

I've started loading a bunch of noirish themes into the little virtual jukebox gizmo thingamabox on my personal Crimespace page. (Right now I'm listening to the theme from Mannix, of all things.) It's kinda fun, and it makes me feel like those crazy teenagers, with their YouTubes and their MySpaces and their Christina Aguileras and their 50 Cents.
God, Kevin, I love the wonka-wonka. Brings tears to my eyes, thinking of all those side-burned TV tough guys with long, low cars.

The days when 50 cents could buy a Tomb of Dracula comic book and a slurpee. When Pop Rocks were the drug of choice on playgrounds. When Kolchak kicked vampire butt and Kojack licked lollipops.

Those crazy teenagers can keep YouTube, buddy--we had the wonka-wonka. Thanks for the memories! ;)

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