Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Return Of Belinda's Birth Father! (Now That She's, You Know, Rich And Famous) AKA "It's Everything But Partytime"

Hey, so remember Belinda's birth father? You know, the one who abandoned her family when she was about seven years old - just about the age where it would be the most traumatic? Not the alcoholic who beat the shit out of her; that was her stepfather. You've got to keep the crappy father figures straight. Well, in all likelihood, Belinda had probably forgotten about her own birth father too. Until one evening in the summer of 1982, that is. From Lips Unsealed:
...I had received word through our record company's office that a man claiming to be my father wanted to me meet at our show in Baton Rouge. Apparently he had told local press there that he was my father, explaining he had been shown a photo of me as a little girl in the Vacation tour program and it matched a photo he kept in his wallet.
Sure, buddy, and I'm the tooth fairy.
Reluctantly, I agreed to meet him after the show. Then I had to work through the anger I began to feel toward him for handling a matter as private as our reunion in such a public forum. I didn't like the way he made a big stink out of it in the paper. On the bus, as we arrived in Baton Rouge, I kept saying, "It just isn't cool."

I was angry with him for more than talking to the press. I harbored long-standing feelings of resentment and hurt toward him for disappearing without any explanation when I was little, never sending child support to my mom or making contact on birthdays and holidays to see if I was alive. I also chafed at the nerve he had coming back into my life now that I was famous.

How could I trust any of his motives?
"Hi Belinda, so nice to see you! Oh, you're a big rock star now? What a surprise! Say, let's get together and catch up! Maybe you can buy me dinner?"
I ran through various scenarios of what seeing him would be like. Each one gave me the creeps. I wished I hadn't said yes.

My stomach was in a knot through the show, especially toward the end when I began to think about confronting my father. He had brought his new family, a wife and two daughters. Afterward, as they were ushered backstage, I locked myself in our dressing room and snorted coke till I rendered myself emotionally numb and stupid enough to face him, not that I was any good at expressing my emotions anyway.
There you go. That's how you prepare yourself for an awkward family reconciliation, folks.
At our reunion, I was friendly to everyone, probably too friendly and trying too hard in order to compensate for being loaded. My father took me aside and tried to deliver what he must have thought was a heartfelt explanation of why he left - basically his side of the story. As soon as he began to blame my mother, I tuned him out. I pled exhaustion and ended the evening.
Some people just know how to get on your good side.
However, they wanted to see me again before we left and so all of us met the next morning for breakfast and hung out for a spell afterward. This time, I was hungover instead of high, but still pleasant. As we parted, my father's daughters, the ones with whom he replaced me, said they loved me.

"I love you!" they called.

Waving good-bye as they got in their car and drove away, I thought, How can these people love me? They don't even know me.
Good question, Belinda. Very good question.

In the film version of Belinda's life, the song that needs to be playing on the soundtrack during this particular scene would have to be "It's Everything But Partytime." A rare Jane/Gina collaboration, the sixth track on Vacation exudes an eerie, hallucinatory atmosphere that the Go-Go's never quite replicated anywhere else in their catalog. Humming away in the background is either a very odd synthesizer or some heavily processed backing vocals, but I can't tell which - and that's cool! You can practically hear the drugged-out exhaustion seeping through the speakers. "It's Everything But Partytime" is like if the Go-Go's tried to make a Pink Floyd song. On the lyrical side, Jane apparently laid down a challenge for herself: to see if she could write a song where every word ended in "ing":
This is the place for celebrating
This is the crowd that's fascinating
This is the time for concentrating
To hear some words worth translating

He's rapping 'bout his meditating
She's dying for some medicating
And though I shouldn't be complaining
What's lacking here is entertaining

We're all looking for a good time
But what we get is empty rhyme
When everything's right but nothing is fine
It's everything but partytime

Talk about decorating
A room that needs sophisticating
When conversations become straining
No one's good at interest feigning

According to Belinda's typically erudite pre-song comments in a November 1982 Berlin concert clip, "it's a song about parties - not good parties, bad ones." But that last couplet right there ("When conversations become straining/No one's good at interest feigning") could pretty much serve as the final word on Belinda's little inadequate family get-together. Hell, the phrase "When everything's right but nothing is fine" could probably be her career manifesto. I mean, here's your birth father, finally willing to be a part of your life after all these years, you're band's on top of the world, and yet, underneath that smiling, water-skiing exterior of yours ... well, it's everything but partytime.

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