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Monday, April 18, 2011

Like a Great Gatsby/Elliott Murphy, and more

As reported yesterday by CBS News Sunday Morning, the Long Island mansion that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby was demolished on Saturday. The current owners could no longer afford the upkeep, and the once-elegant building had been condemned. The story moved us to repost our item about Elliott Murphy's song "Like a Great Gatsby," inspired by the novel, supplemented with a word about Reg & Phil's song "Daisy Buchanan," named for the object of Gatsby's desire.

Elliott Murphy's 1973 debut album Aquashow features the song "Like a Great Gatsby," a reference to F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby, published in 1925. The song opens with the lines: Waiting for some dream lover like a great Gatsby/And then I look in the mirror and it's only me--a reference to the novel's rich and mysterious title character. Gatsby lives in the wealthy-with-new-money Long Island community of West Egg and pines for Daisy Buchanan, who lives across the bay in the wealthy-with-old-money community of East Egg. Gatsby fell for Daisy before he became wealthy, and social constraints kept them apart. Everything he has done--acquiring a fortune, throwing extravagant parties--has been designed to attract her attention. But Daisy is married now and lost to Gatsby, just as the narrator of the song seems to be addressing a woman beyond his reach (Use to follow you home/Hold on to you at dancing school and call you on the phone forever/But now your world begins with never).

The line Do you ride on ancient ships under Dr. Eckleburg's eyes to heaven alludes to one of the key images in the novel, a fading billboard on the road into New York City featuring a huge pair of blue eyes behind enormous yellow spectacles. ("Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens," speculates the narrator, Nick Carraway.)

On his web site Murphy talks about the album's cover art: "I suggested that we shoot in the Palm Court of the Plaza Hotel because that’s where part of The Great Gatsby took place. . . . The white suit I had bought not far from Gatsby land on the north shore of Long Island. It was made in France and I still have it hanging in my mother’s closet. Maybe I should give it to the Hard Rock Hotel."

For another musical take on Gatsby, there is Daisy Buchanan by the duo Reg & Phil, from their self-titled 2010 album. Here the narrator (or possibly a series of narrators) tries to convince Gatsby of the futility of his obsession with Daisy.

Mr. Gatsby, I know how this feels.
I won't forget her name; 
You're right, she's a steal. 
But this Saturday's one hundred; 
It's the one hundredth party. 
You'll want hundred more 
days and house filled. 
you'll need a lifetime 
of days and house filled.

A free download of the song is available on the Reg & Phil website. The video features stills from the 1974 film The Great Gatsby, adapted from the novel.

The Great Gatsby (Kindle Edition)

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