David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 162: The Blue Aeroplanes (The Applicant)

July 8, 2022

A future Sylvia Plath planning conference.

Conference Organizer: O.k., how about the session on "The Applicant?"  What have we got in terms of, uh, well, applicants?

Committee Member: First, Dr. Maryanne D. Oise, with "Both Sides Now: Dual Gender Fluidity In Sylvia Plath's 'The Applicant.'"

CO: Sounds promising. Put her in the "to-be-considered" pile. What else?

CM: Dr. Alice Wilson-Batholemew.  "P-Values: Proof, Position and Power As Shown in 'The Applicant.'"

CO: I like it. Dr. Wilson-Bartholemew always has the most fascinating takes.  Anything else?

CM: Not really. I have something really off base, but not even sure I should mention it.

CO: Well, we do strive for 3 presenters per session.  Let me hear it.

CM: It's a recording of "The Applicant" by The Blue Aeroplanes.

CO: The Blue Aeroplanes? Is that like the Blue Stockings Society?

CM: Look at you, referencing the 1750s! No, The Blue Aeroplanes are the 1990s and they were a rock band out of Bristol, England.

CO: Rock band? What the hell?  They want to present at our conference?

CM: It's not really a request for them to present, just to play their version of "The Applicant."

CO: Come again?  Do they do a critical reading of it?  

CM: No, it's a straightforward presentation of the full poem set to some incredible rock and roll.

CO: I need a little more.  Who were The Blue Aeroplanes?

CM: I think the easier question is "Who weren't The Blue Aeroplanes?"  I found this old t-shirt online that lists 50 members on its back under the guise of "Are you now or have you ever been a member of The Blue Aeroplanes?"  

CO: I like it. Flirt with McCarthyism. Edgy. Surely, you can tell me a little more?

CM: Well, the main person in the band was this pseudo-poet, singer/songwriter Gerald Langley, who was not above putting literature to music. The band did the same with W.H. Auden's "Journal Of An Airman."  A tad pretentious maybe, but he does do justice to Plath's poem here.

CO: Yeah, but a man singing it? That seems likely to draw heckles from the crowd. Why don't we just devote a session to "Ted Hughes: Model Husband?"

CM: {Shudder} Ugh!  Well, singing is not even the word to use with his vocal style. Still, Langley serves the poem well. He enunciates the "rubber breast or a rubber crotch" with appropriate Plathian-sneer, as well as the "well, what do you think of that?" Honestly, I think this guy has heard the famous recorded reading by Plath of the poem, as he just nails the delivery from start to finish.

CO: All fascinating, I am sure, but why should we consider a beat-poet-rock-musician-wannabe's reading as worthy of our conference?

CM: Hey, don't shoot the messenger. This was simply submitted as part of this particular panel. I will admit, I kind of like the Plath-as-rock-star kind of angle here. If she had only died at 27?

CO: For shame!

CM: Sorry. More importantly, all the "talk talk talk" and the "will you marry it, marry it, marry it" does infuse the poem with some kind of pop-song hook. And the guitars here are fantastic. If The Blue Aeroplanes really did have 50 some members over the years, it sure sounds like about 40 of them are providing sharp guitar-laden riffs that mirror the unpleasant sharpness of the poem's fictional interview.

CO: Hmm, I am coming around to this.  Since this was recorded in the 1990s, surely there is some commentary about the song out there that we can appropriate for the panel?

CM: Sadly not. The Blue Aeroplanes released dozens of albums, and Swagger, the album with "The Applicant," seems to be the most favorably remembered one, and even then, barely. Sounds like even having the support of Michael Stipe wasn't enough.

CO: REM's Stipe?

CM: Yep, rumor is that for a long period of time, guests to his house had to choose either Swagger or Bulgarian Folk Music as music.

CO: Nice, I am liking this more and more.  All of this seems true to a poet who embraced her own weirdness. Let's add it to the panel. But, give Drs. Oise and Wilson-Bartholemew a heads up.  I am guessing they would have chosen the Bulgarian Folk music.

The Blue Aeroplanes. "The Applicant." Swagger.  Ensign Records, 1990.  Link here

Day 161: Morphine "Cure For Pain."

Day 163: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles "The Tracks Of My Tears."

See complete list here.