Day Eighty-Nine: "Livin' in the Fridge" from Alapalooza
Over the course of his four decades in the “business”, Al has illustrated a Dick Clark-like genius for discerning which pop acts and songs will endure, and which are doomed to be forgotten. Of course, with the exception of “Ruthless People”, Al has the luxury of parodying songs that have already proven their popularity through radio spins and sales.
But not every hit song endures, and a lot of music that has endured never even threatened to hit the pop charts. After all, Pat Boone scored hit after hit after hit in the 1950s while Big Star famously never became famous. Big Star most assuredly failed to become big stars during their brief time as recording artists, but they’ve proven roughly a million times more important and influential than Boone.
“Livin’ on the Edge” was one a series of comeback smashes Aerosmith scored in the late 1980s and 1990s after kicking heroin and getting high on life and blockbuster commercial success. It hit the charts alongside other smashes like “Amazing”, “Crying”, “Janie’s Got a Gun” and “Love in an Elevator” but has not endured like those songs for a very good reason.
For starters, “Livin’ on the Edge” does not have an iconic music video over-sexualizing either Alicia Silverstone or Liv Tyler. That certainly does not help. But “Livin’ on the Edge” has failed to endure because it is boring. Oh sweet blessed Lord is it ever boring. It’s one of those “socially conscious” songs veteran bands record when they have nothing to say, yet feel compelled to speak out all the same.
“Livin’ on the Edge” is a well-intentioned if exceedingly fuzzy message song about how it’s crazy the way the world is today, what with all the problems and social issues and whatnot, and what about the children and the future?
Yes, “Livin’ on the Edge” takes itself very seriously, which makes it perfect for parody, particularly since the song is solemn, ponderous and self-serious on a musical as well as a lyrical level. It announces itself as an Important Song about Very Important Things so there’s something oddly cathartic about Al transforming a song that professes to be about everything into a silly little tune about next to nothing.
“Livin’ in the Fridge” replaces the big social concerns of Aerosmith’s original with a much more personal sense of gut-wrenching horror over the state of a refrigerator that long ago ceased to be a conventional repository for foodstuffs and become something of a living, breathing ecosystem, like a marsh or a bog that happens to contain opened, half-eaten, mold-ridden jars of Jiffy peanut butter.
The parody finds Al on familiar ground undercutting the pretension and seriousness of Rock music at its most pompous by transforming famous songs about sex or love or the state of the world and human society into silly ditties about food and television shows.
As usual, Al gets all the details right, beginning with Steven Tyler’s almost comically earnest vocals and thudding earnestness, and “Livin’ on the Edge” is so devoid of self-consciousness and self-awareness that it really opens itself up to satire. On “Livin’ on the Edge”, Steven Tyler reverently, if semi-confusingly references the Yardbirds and a much earlier message song when he croons, “If you can judge a wise man/By the color of his skin/Then mister you're a better man than I”, sounding entirely too impressed by the faux-wisdom of his words.” So it’s great to hear Al take the piss out of some prime rock and roll pretension by changing the words and the tone so that the lofty question becomes, “If you can name the object/In that baggie over there/Then mister, you're a better man than I.”
As with “Taco Grande” and other of Al’s over-achieving food song parodies, there’s something weirdly satisfying in seeing just how perfectly Al is able to substitute obsessing about food over the original song’s much different concerns. The song is filled with loving, perfect little details, like the original song’s moody background cries of “Ooh, ooh, Ooh ooh” replaced by “Ew, ew, ew, ew.”
By the end of the song, the titular food storage container has become a sentient, angry universe all its own nearly as threatening and dangerous as Jurassic Park. The song’s obsession with mold recalls the stomach-churning culinary comedy of the early b-side “School Cafeteria” but with a slick, full-band sound and style that perfectly replicates the twisting, Eastern-sounding groove of Aerosmith’s pompous original, but to ends both stomach-churningly disgusting and comic.
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