“What I Am” was the mega-single off of Edie Brickell And New Bohemians’ debut album, Shooting Rubberbands At The Stars. But it’s the album’s second track, “Little Miss S,” that we’ll listen to tonight.
Miss S is Edie Sedgwick — the old money socialite, artist, model, actress, Andy Warhol muse, Vogue “Youthquaker.” She represented the absolute best and worst of the ’60s: Brilliantly talented, drop-dead gorgeous, and dead at 28 on barbiturates. The other Edie, Brickell, sums up what killed Miss S in the opening verses:
Shooting up junk in the bathroom
Making it with punks on the floor
Living the scene out of her limousine
Little Miss S. in her mini dress
Living it up to die, in a blink of the public eye
Day glo paint on an electric chair
Electric dye in her lover’s hair
A pretty sight in the middle of the night
Made up for everyone to see
Swingin’ on the branch of a broken family tree
Those last two lines in each verse undo me. Every time.
I’m reminded, and not in a good way, of Jill Sobule’s tribute to actress Joey Heatherton, “Joey.” Heatherton had an unspectacular career, what seems to have been a nice life, and lived to the comparatively ripe old age of 69. Why Sobule bothered to write a song about her, I don’t quite understand — although it is catchy in a “Soul Bossa Nova”-lite way. The lyric to Sobule’s song is like a laundry list — “Joey did this, then Joey did that.” Brickell’s song paints you pictures of Sedgwick’s short and tragic life.
So if “What I Am” is remembered for its pretentious hippie philosophizing, “Little Miss S” should be remembered as proof that Brickell can be an affecting songwriter of lasting power.