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Ernie Marrs: Plastic Jesus

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[1957/1964]
Scritta da Ed Rush e George Cromarty nel 1957
Grande successo di Ernie Marrs & The Marrs Family nel 1965
Testo trovato sulla Raymond’s Folk Song Page
Testo pubblicato originariamente su in Broadside # 39 e # 41, 1964
La versione di Ernie Marrs, registrata nel 1965, è inclusa nella compilation “The Best of Broadside 1962-1988: Anthems of the American Underground from the Pages of Broadside Magazine” realizzata dalla Smithsonian Folkways Recordings nel 2000.

The Best of Broadside 1962-1988

Una canzone “blasfema” ed “iconoclasta” che causò non pochi problemi fin dalla sua prima uscita, tanto che persino Pete Seeger, che ad un certo punto si era quasi deciso a registrarla, venne dissuaso dal proporla.

Plastic Jesus on the dashboard


Uno degli autori, tal Ed Rush, raccontava che la canzone nacque tra un gruppo di ragazzi di Fresno, California, che la sera, per rompere la noia, si trovava a cantare ed ascoltare la radio all’aperto. La stazione preferita era tal XERB di Del Rio, Texas, dalla cui frequenza giungeva sempre la voce di un predicatore fanatico inframezzata dallo spot di una ditta che commerciava Gesù Cristi in plastica da appiccicare sul cruscotto, dati per potentissimi talismani che avrebbero protetto il conducente da qualsiasi incidente.



“Plastic Jesus”, incisa dagli irriverenti e goliardici ragazzi californiani, divenne subito famosa ma intrasmettibile in radio. Nel 1963 ci provò un dj di Chicago: fu subito licenziato dal padrone dell’emittente. Anche quando nel 1964 il testo comparve sul Broadside Magazine foccarono le lettere di protesta. La canzone fu sdoganata solo nel 1967 quando entrò a far parte della colonna sonora di “Cool Hand Luke” (da noi “Nick Mano Fredda”), film ribelle ed antiautoritario di Stuart Rosenberg, dove “Plastic Jesus” è canticchiata dal protagonista Luke (Nick), sfortunato mago delle evasioni, interpretato da uno splendido Paul Newman.

Prairie Home Invasion

“Plastic Jesus” è stata incisa anche da Jello Biafra e Mojo Nixon nel loro disco “Prairie Home Invasion” del 1994.
I don't care if it rains or freezes,
Long as I have my plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car,
Through my trials and tribulations
And my travels through the nation
With my plastic Jesus I'll go far

Plastic Jesus,
Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
I'm afraid he'll have to go,
His magnets ruin my radio
And if I have a wreck, he'll leave a scar

Riding through the thoroughfare
With His nose up in the air
A wreck may be ahead, but he don't mind
Trouble coming, He don't see
He just keeps His eyes on me
And any other thing that lies behind.

Plastic Jesus,
Plastic Jesus,
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Though the sun that shines on his back
Makes him peel, chip, and crack
A little patching keeps Him up to par

When pedestrians try to cross
I let them know who’s boss
I never blow my horn or give them warning
I ride all over town
Trying to run ‘em down
And it's seldom that they live to see the morning

Plastic Jesus,
Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
His halo fits just right
And I use it as a sight
And they'll scatter or they'll splatter near and far

When I'm in a traffic jam
He don't care if I say Damn
I can let all sorts of curses roll
Plastic Jesus doesn't hear
For he has a plastic ear
The man who invented plastic saved my soul

Plastic Jesus,
Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Once His robe was snowy white,
Now it isn't quite so bright
Stained by the smoke of my cigar

If I weave around at night
And the police think I'm tight
They'll never find my bottle, though they ask
Plastic Jesus shelters me
For His head comes off, you see
He's hollow and I use Him for a flask

Plastic Jesus,
Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Ride with me and have a dram
Of the blood of the Lamb
Plastic Jesus is a holy bar

I don't care if it rains or freezes,
Long as I have my plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car,
Through my trials and tribulations
And my travels through the nation
With my plastic Jesus I'll go far

or [I don't care if the night is scary
As long as I got the Virgin Mary
Sittin' on the dashboard of my car.
She don't slip and she don't slide
Cuz her ass is magnetized
Sittin' on the dashboard of my car.]

Plastic Jesus,
Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
But I'm afraid He'll have to go
His magnet’s ruining my radio
And if I have a wreck, He'll leave a scar

inviata da Bernart Bartleby - 13/8/2015 - 14:01


Lettera in cui Ed Rush, autore della canzone (o, meglio, compilatore della sua parodia), spiega a Sis Cunningham, fondatrice e redattrice di Broadside, che cosa succedeva quando nei primi anni 60 proponeva “Plastic Jesus” in pubblico o il brano veniva trasmesso in radio…

Dear Miss Cunningham, […]
My singing partner, George Crocarty and I - collectively "The Goldcoast Singers" - began singing "Plastic Jesus" in January of 1962 at the Purple Onion in San Francisco. After getting the words, rather awkwardly phrased, from a Cal co-ed of our acquaintance, we put them into meter, set them to an innocuous (?) melody and surrounded them with dialogue reminiscent of a radio station in Del Rio Texas (transmitter 250,000 watts, thank you, across the border in Mexico) that I remembered listening to on my shortwave radio as a small adolescent in Fresno, California. We recorded our version of the song at the San Francisco State College Folk Festival in April of 1962 (this recording is on our first album, "Here They Are The Goldcoast Singers", World Pacific Records, 1806 (release number). Eventually, "Plastic Jesus" became our most called for song end the major selling point of the album. It was played on radio stations (mostly F-M) all over the country -- much to the chagrin of a lot people out in radioland and particularly radio station owners. The latter forced several crusading diskjockies off the air -- among them a big gun in the Chicago record market, who quit (according to reports) rather than stop playing "Plastic Jesus”, and another dj who alledgedly belted the engineer with his crutch (temporary broken leg) when the wicked engineer cut him off the air in the middle of "P.J." because a stockholder was on the telephone raising hell. At one point a tipsy lady came after me with an empty Heineken’s beer bottle while we were singing the song in a Portland Oregon, saloon. Things like this were common during two years of singing “Plastic Jesus" to the unwashed in posh folk clubs and sleazy coffehouses all over the western U.S. and Canada. Alas, George was drafted into the army and I've come back to school and the "Goldcoast Singers" are temporarily no more (I say temporarily, because I'm working out a new
"Goldcoast Singers" now), but in our small way (Ha!) perhaps we contributed to the folklore of America (Ha! Ho!), pretentious as that may sound.

Folklore-wise, I’ve discovered that the song was originally a Negro camp meeting (if there was such a thing) song that went:
"I don’t care it it rains or freezes,
Leaning on the arms of Jesus…"

and was the themeof a religious or quasi-religious, radio show from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the 1940’s. On hearing this, some wag changed the words and twenty years later they ended up in ay hands… ED RUSH.

Bernart Bartleby - 13/8/2015 - 14:51



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