Song Of The Day 8/4/2013: Paul Williams - "The Hell Of It"


I feel a Paul Williams renaissance coming on. With his having just collaborated with Daft Punk, that may not be much of a stretch. I would like to see it happen. Williams wrote the song that is in the bloodstream of every person within ten years, high or low, of my age: "Rainbow Connection" from the first Muppet Movie. Yes, you have it in you. Don't pretend you don't. Go run some tests if you don't believe me. He also wrote three of the Carpenters' biggest hits, including "We've Only Just Begun" and "Rainy Days and Mondays." He co-wrote "Evergreen" with Barbra Streisand. He wrote the lyrics to the Love Boat theme. He appeared on the Brady Bunch Variety Hour and tried to steal Carol from her closeted husband. He caught soft rock's emotional profile and bottled that sucker for an entire decade. If you needed an agreeably penned sentiment with sweet, compact melodies, Paul was your 5'2" tower of power.

However, in the midst of all these floral arrangements, he also wrote one of the nastiest pop takedowns of the '70s, "The Hell Of It," which he wrote for his star turn in Brian DePalma's camp classic Phantom Of The Paradise. This song beats out Harry Nilsson's "You're Breakin' My Heart" mainly because it gets uncomfortably specific about the target of wrath: "Good for nothin', bad in bed / Nobody likes you and you're better off dead... If I could live my life half as worthlessly as you / I'm convinced that I'd wind up burning too." It's rather bracing in its meanness. It's a good song. It's revelatory.

Which led me to think of another movie idea (don't pay too much attention, my movie ideas are all awful): Why don't we make a revisionist historical movie about Paul Williams suddenly turning punk in the '70s using The Carpenters as his mouthpiece? Let's do it like in 24 Hour Party People, in that scene where the Sex Pistols are playing Manchester and everybody in the audience eventually goes on to form a band. We'll insert Paul into the audience. He gets inspired, flies home, writes some spiteful lyrics and changes the arc of his history. He gets acclaimed in the press. Karen finds an outlet for her personal issues. Richard finally gets to work with Malcolm McLaren like he's always wanted. Music's trajectory is changed forever.

Ah... no, wait, that's too close to the Nöel Coward story. Oh well, whatever, nevermind.

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