365 Days of Album Recommendations – Nov 2

Phil Ochs – Rehearsals for Retirement


A very difficult album to listen to, this is. A sort of baroque folk suicide in progress. It’s an extraordinarily emotional experience, just living with this album. I think it would be so even if one didn’t know the story behind it, and the story to follow.

If one does know the stories, it’s only that much more heartbreaking.

At the song level, “uneven” is probably a pretty fair assessment. Some of the songs rank well below Ochs’ finest. But then some of the songs are easily as remarkable and poignant as anything Ochs ever released: The Doll House, William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed, and The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns are almost unbearably gorgeous.

But it’s the lyrics to My Life that do the listener in:

My life was once a joy to me,
Never knowing, I was growing, everyday.
My life was once a toy to me,
And I wound it and I found it ran away.
So I raced through the night
with a face at my feet, like a god I would write,
All the melodies were sweet, and the women were white.
It was easy to survive, my life was so alive.
My life was once a flag to me
And I waved it and behaved like I was told.
My life was once a drag to me
And I loudly, and I proudly, lost control
I was drawn by a dream
I was loved by a lie, every serf on the scene
Begged me to buy.
But I slipped through the scheme
So lucky to fail
My life was not for sale.
My life is now a myth to me
Like the drifter, with his laughter in the dawn.
My life is now a death to me
So I’ll mold it and I’ll hold it till I’m born
So I turned to the land
Where I’m so out of place
Throw a curse on the plan
In return for the grace
To know where I stand
Take everything I own
Take your tap from my phone
And leave my life alone
My life alone.

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