REAL LIFE ROCK TOP TEN

A MONTHLY COLUMN
OF EVERYDAY CULTURE
AND FOUND OBJECTS

by Greil Marcus
SPECIAL FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT EDITION

(1) Miguel João (Chiado Square, Lisbon, April 6). A street singer with an early Springsteen look and an unusual style. Most people trying to sing songs on the order of the Wailers’ “Concrete Jungle” or Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”—songs that are like whales in their power to displace everything around them—act at least slightly embarrassed. João strummed sharply, with silences, and sang as if he’d written the tunes the night before—as if, with great seriousness, he was fooling with them, experimenting, working them out as you watched.

(2) A Canção da Saudade, directed by Henrique Campos (1964). At Leão d’Ouro in Lisbon, the literature professor Américo António Lindeza Diogo pulled out his iPod to pass around a perfect print of “the first Portuguese rock-and-roll movie.” Starring pop star Vitor Gomes and Ann-Margret lookalike Soledad Miranda, it’s a parable of cross-generational conflict as expressed through—and ultimately resolved by!—music: traditional fado v. the new sound, which ultimately blend into a new new sound. What’s so gripping about the film is that you may have already seen it a dozen times: with the same plot, the same faces, the same gestures, the same contrived, spontaneous songs and dances, the picture was made between 1957 and 1965 in the US, the UK, Germany, France—for all I know Canada, Mexico, South Africa, India, Brazil. All except for one stunning shot: the cast ringing a stairwell and looking down to the camera on the distant bottom, just like the Beatles on the cover of their first album.

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Greil Marcus is the author of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, and The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, and other books. His column, Real Life Rock Top Ten, runs monthly in the Believer.

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