Little Green Doggy Bag
My favorite DJs on Blip.fm have turned me on to several cool songs I’d long forgotten. In some cases I’d either forgotten or never knew the title and artist — like in the case of “Little Green Bag” by George Baker Selection, a number 21 hit in the U.S. in 1970.
You know how a song gets stuck in your head? Well, usually it’s just part of a song — the part of the song that contains what music industry insiders refer to as “the hook” — because it grabs you.
Can a song be one large hook? I ask because “Little Green Bag” is stuck in my head in its entirety.
Suffice to say, “Bag” is hook-laden. I warn you: Don’t play this video unless you’re prepared for a musical brain imprint that could take days to fade.
Smiling yet? Go ahead. Play it again. Or play one of the many other videos of this song on YouTube. I can wait.
AllMusic.com reviewer Stewart Mason characterizes “Bag” as “utterly beguiling”. Sho ’nuff!
George Baker Selection was a Dutch band. Their other hit in the U.S. was “Una Polama Blanca”, which peaked at number 26 in 1975. Baker is Johannes Bouwens. At 64, he continues to perform and record as a solo artist and is master of the domain GeorgeBaker.com. (To see the English translation of Baker’s site, click “English” beneath the navigation menu; strangely it seems one cannot get to the translated version directly.)
With a track this cool, itemizing the qualities runs the risk of detracting from the pleasure. But I’ll do it anyway.
“Bag” features what are typically rock music’s supporting players — the bass and the rhythm guitar.
- With the bass-driven opening, we’re put on notice to expect something, if not special, then at least different.
- Persistent rhythm guitar drives us the rest of the way with varying intensity — except for the break. All the changes in intensity are timed just right.
- When the bass comes back out front for the break, it’s no wonder Baker is moved to stage-whisper — for the second time — “yeahhh”.
There is an extraordinary dissonance to “Bag”. Had I heard the verses and chorus separately, I would say no way they’re from the same song. But with the rhythm guitar as glue, it works.
- The verses (“Lookin’ back on the track for a little green bag …”) sound like what you would get if you threw “It’s My Life” (The Animals), “Clean Up Woman” (Betty Wright), “Venus” (Shocking Blue, another Dutch band), and “Israelites” (Desmond Dekker and the Aces) into a blender and switched it to “High”. (That is, what you would get if you didn’t get a god-awful mess.)
- The chorus (“Looking for some happiness but there is only loneliness to find …” — I needed to consult a lyrics site to decipher those lines) brings to mind the 1982 number one hit “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, another extremely catchy track.
“Bag” is like a jigsaw puzzle — the pieces could only fit together in one way. How that happens is, like Mason writes — “utterly beguiling”. Delicate percussive accents add to the enjoyment.
As for the vocals, I love Baker’s delivery — the stage-whispering and other embellishments, the way he dials up the intensity and pitch in the middle of each verse, the hiccup-py “out of sight in the day”, and the English-as-second-language quality. The meaning of the lyrics? Who cares! They are merely the conduit for Baker’s fun delivery. Many commenters on YouTube insist the little green bag is a bag of pot. Judging from the video, I’d say they’re probably right. Not that it matters.
You may remember “Bag” as the soundtrack for the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 movie, Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino’s 1994 follow-up, the rollicking Pulp Fiction, is one of my all-time favorite movies, so it’s strange that I haven’t seen Reservoir Dogs. Now that I know “Bag” is on the soundtrack, I won’t delay much longer.
In fact, last night I rented the two-DVD 10th anniversary reissue of Reservoir Dogs from the library and will watch sometime before the end of the month. James Berardinelli, my online “go-to” guy for movie reviews, gave Reservoir Dogs the maximum four stars, as he did Pulp Fiction. I’m concerned I might be put off by some of the violence, especially the “ear scene” which I’ve seen in part on YouTube, but I’ll avert my eyes if need be. (I think I’ll pass on the two not previously released camera angles of this scene — DVD “bonus features”).
I expect watching Reservoir Dogs will ensure the imprint of “Bag” in my brain lingers a few more days.