Like most American kids, I went to camp during the summer. From age 7 to 10 I did all the usual camp things; rode horses, shot arrows, rock climbed and made lumpy ashtrays for the non-smoking parentals in ceramics. Another campfire tradition, in between state-mandated Kum Ba Yas, were ghost stories. Yet another year where our counselor attempted to give us the Gold Arrow camp canard about the B-17 pilot who plunged into the lake, and now whose ghost still haunted the area. By 9 years of age our cabin wasn’t buying it, we we’re jaded pre-teens. So our counselor, some hipster college kid, tried a different tact; let’s try esoteric, let’s try macabre.
Mid way through the soggy pilot story, who this year now mysteriously had a hook for a hand, through our coughs of ‘coughcoughbullshitcough‘ he conceded.
‘Yeah yeah you’re right, ghost stories are kinda BS, you kids are way to old for that kind of stuff. I guess you guys are grown up enough for us to tell you what REALLY happens around here.’ Intrigued that he seemed to think we possessed highly sensitive bullshit detectors, we let him press on. ‘Camps, secluded in the middle of the woods much like this one, are perfect targets for Brazilian kidnapper-pornographers. They fly secret midnight missions to remote areas, not unlike here, land on the water and sneak into camp to kidnap kids to take back to South America. While you’re eating your cereal, wondering where all those kids on the back of milk cartons disappear to, they’re all being held in seedy basements in Buenos Aires. You guys are grown kids so I know you can handle hearing this kind of stuff .’
None of us slept that night. Or the next. Or the even the next. 22 sets of ears open for the menacing bossa-nova sounds of Latin American perverts with their covert sea-planes.
The cool thing, like I mentioned above, was that he also got kind of arcane. Also replacing the ghost yarns, and I can’t begin to make this up, were existentialist stories about IRA snipers who accidentally kill their long lost twin Protestant brothers. But the one piece of odd culture he left us with one night, that will forever be etched into my brain is the night he played us O Superman by Laurie Anderson. I’ll never forget the staring up at the stars, with Anderson’s 8 minute opus of ‘Hah hah hah hah‘ playing in the background blowing my little mind. Hearing the robotic ‘Here come the planes…’ with the Milky Way stretched out above, very clearly staring back at me, and I’ll never forget how small and insignificant I felt. Yet oddly at the same time it felt very warm and comforting.
So all of that leads to this, O Superman, covered today in a few forms. We have two folk covers by Andre Herman Dune and Josh Millard, who likes his peppered with a little banjo twang. From 1982 have a couple of electronic/electro versions from A.P.O.. Also on the dance tip is a techno version from Silverspin. Side note, really wanted to feature the Booka Shade version but it turns out its a remix :-(. Lastly, and mostly for posterity, is a handful of live drum & bass versions from David Bowie (?!?!). FYI warning most are of dubious bootleg quality, the first ‘Live’ cut is probably the best sounding of the lot.