Friday, April 10, 2020

"Illegal Smile", "Spanish Pipedream", and "Sam Stone"

The first two songs on John Prine's eponymous 1971 debut hope for ways out of "dead ends": in "Illegal Smile", drugs help to "escape reality"; in "Spanish Pipedream", a woman convinces "a soldier on my way to Montreal" to "blow up the TV", "go to the country", and establish a counterculture. The image of the Canada-bound soldier complicates these hopes: he was evading the draft to avoid becoming like the album's "Sam Stone", a soldier who returns "from the conflict overseas [...] with a Purple Heart and a monkey on his back" and later dies of a morphine overdose. Ultimately, the shellshocked soldier's "illegal smile" doesn't help him to "escape reality." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 April)

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