Expunging the Simply Inexpungeable

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

It is “The Who” who sing it on the album The Who Sell Out (1967):

Welcome to my life, tattoo
I’m a man now, thanks to you
I expect I’ll regret you
But the skin graft man won’t get you
You’ll be there when I die

(And they sing it so sweetly, too: just savor the descending harmony at the end of this chorus. If you don’t already know it, you can get some of the melodious flavor of the song from Amazon with Windows Media Player and with Real Player, although unfortunately these extracts don’t include that stretch of harmony of which I speak.)

Ah, but it doesn’t have to be the “skin graft man” anymore – these days tattoos can be erased by a procedure involving a laser. As it happens, and as the lead to a recent article in Berlin’s Tagesspiegel reports (Bleibende Schönheit, or “Beauty That Sticks Around”), “Many British want to be rid of their tattoos.”

(Just before we go “under the fold,” let me add that The Who Sell Out was quite a remarkable concept album, one of the first of that genre, with station-jingles and faux commercials interspersed between the individual songs. The schtick was to make the entire album sound like a pop music program from one of the “pirate” radio stations, broadcasting those days from ships out in adjoining international waters, outside (or so they thought) of UK regulatory jurisdiction. Consistent with all this, the front and back of the LP/CD cover features the boys of the band individually posing for mock product advertisements: Heinz Baked Beans, Odorono (some type of deodorant; probably fictitious), etc. Later on, in the late 1980s, the band would embark on “reunion tours” actually explicitly sponsored by companies such as Budweiser. But then they had also sung “I hope I die before I get old” back in 1965 – and three of the four original band members made it into the 21st century thirty-five years later. One’s attitudes often tend to change as one grows older, I’m given to understand.) (more…)

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