Down At Marlene’s – Flash Harry
There is a slightly hollow and echo-y sound to the guitars that introduce you to ‘Down At Marlene’s’ which suggests that Marlene’s is a seedy backstreet joint. Phrases like ‘sidewalk’, ‘out in the street’ and ‘neon lights’ in the lyrics enhance this image. The singer is addicted to going to this place, even though “there’s nothing for me” there.
The song itself feels like that. It has an addictive punky wreckless guitar rhythm and menacing bass. The vocals are threatening, yet you are drawn in by them. Its frenetic forbidden fruit that leaves you feeling dirty afterwards, but at the time, you can’t help yourself. A further line talks about “the band and the audience are part of the show”, which draws you deeper into the voyeurisism of it all, suggesting that by merely listening to it, you become a part of this sleazy set up.
The inner sleeve of ‘Take What You Can’, the album that this gem first appeared on, has a picture of a torn up old ten rand note (you remember the ones with van Riebeeck on?). No, Flash Harry are not saying that buying this album was a waste of money, but could be pointing to the social scene set up in the song. It is an eye into a world that you may not want to visit in reality, but thank to Keith Berel and the rest of Flash Harry, you can view it from the safety of your speakers and maybe not feel quite so grimy afterwards.
Where to find it:
Vinyl album: Take What You Can – Flash Harry (1982), A.D. Records (DTC 1000)