Disney Girl

Eviscerated dreams

Exploring the Axis

I was thinking of the first song I heard Thin White Rope play live. It was from their first record— a record that I bought in anticipation of the gig. The pressing was faulty, and the entire second side was filled with a whooshing sound. As I waited for them to come on, I could hear other people talking about the record at the next table. Their copy was faulty too.

In the 80’s indie scene, records were largely promotional material to get you to go to a show— shows were not done to sell records, instead, the business model went the other way around. I think that’s where the music industry got off track— but I digress. Exploring the Axis was a promising rough start for a band that helped shape my consciousness.

Disney Girl starts with a strange shaped feedback. For an aficionado of feedback, old cartoons, B movies, and photography the lyrics made sense:

We both know the moonlight’s just blue filters on the daylight
But we don’t go south anymore cause backroads echo phantom saws

You are my disney girl, too many fingers for your world

We should go in white, top down, see quiet streets in tiny towns
Love in swamp-cooled Bates motels, your tailfin glasses, scarves as well

You are my disney girl, too many fingers for your world

It was 1986. I hadn’t really started wandering quiet streets in tiny towns. But I had begun to be more aware of all the minute imperfections in things, including those cartoon figures with extra fingers. I was beginning to take notice of the broken nature of the world, and was unconvinced by the sheen of artifice overtaking photography. Cindy Sherman was becoming big. The turn toward “postmodernism” seemed to me a scar on the heritage of “truth” in documentary. I didn’t get the joke yet. Thin White Rope helped, with Kyser’s lumbering gait across the same cultural landscape. He wasn’t sponsored by Madonna.

The short little song means more to me today. While I recall my first impression was how closely the sound matched the landscape I knew, I was doing some wandering research today and found out things that make me like it even more. I never thought of a Disney Girl as the epitome of perfection— I was too wrapped up in the extra fingers. With the launch of Disney Girl magazine in April of 2002, and the discovery that the song parodies a beloved Beach Boy’s song penned by the same guy who wrote “I Write the Songs” for the saccharine crooner Barry Manilow, the puddle of guts is getting deeper.

There is a profound contrast in what “Disney Girl” meant to me, and Johnston’s song:

Just in time words that rhyme
Well bless your soul
Now I’ll fill your hands
With kisses and a Tootsie Roll

Oh reality, it’s not for me
And it makes me laugh
Oh, fantasy world and Disney girls
I’m coming back

My fantasy world was not filled with kisses and a Tootsie Roll, but with love in swamp-cooled Bates motels. I suppose my fantasy world was rather noir, and not the campy noir of Sherman. Reality didn’t often make me laugh then. There were phantom saws out there, not:

Open cars and clearer stars
That’s what I’ve lacked
But fantasy world and Disney girls
I’m coming back

Disney girls always had extra fingers for me. When I go back, it’s to scarier fantasies and imperfect girls, not glossy postmodern productions of a past that never was. I was never a Beach Boy’s fan, but I was a fan of Thin White Rope. That’s where I go back. Nice to see tailfin glasses coming back too.