“Morning Girl” is perhaps the gaudiest, most overwrought single to crack the Top 20 at any point in the ’60s. And god, I love it, either despite or because of the fact.
The Neon Philharmonic is the brainchild of Tupper Saussy, a Southern jazz arranger who in his middle ages figured he’d try his hand at orchestral pop. Mix in a record label who decided to market the product, The Moth Confesses, as high-brow quasi-Van Dyke Parks psychedelia, and the resulting listen is equally ear-bleeding and rapturous. The album is something of a song cycle or concept album that doesn’t hold much water, but the parts outweight the sum, which suits me fine in this case.
Back to “Morning Girl”, though. Following what appears to have been an ill-advised one-night stand, the narrator awakens some naive waif to scoff at the wetness still behind her ears. Questionable in taste but subtle enough, the song is very slightly enjoyable for its message, but the utterly discordant mash of strings and horns makes for a fantastic treat. If you like scrunching your eyebrows when you listen to music, that is. Oh, and vocalist Don Gant, hrm…good voice, if laid on a bit thick. Which is somehow also very enjoyable. Pardon my vacillation—I’ve come to approach this album as a spectacularly entertaining automobile accident; I love it so. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s so contrary to what normally gets through.
Tupper Saussy, after another Neon Philharmonic album and a string of singles, the anti-government conspiracy theorist in him won out and the man spent a dozen or so years on the lam from the FBI, wanted for tax evasion. After a stint in prison, Saussy puttered about with painting and arranging, dying in March 2007. Oh, and he helped James Earl Ray write his autobiography. But of course.
All kidding aside, The Moth Confesses is entirely well recommended. It’s become something of a sneering snicker for rock aficionados to accuse one another of enjoying, i.e. one can only like The Moth Confesses in a fit of indulgent obscurantism, but forget that. I hated “Morning Girl” for a long time–I recall the song bringing me from out of slumber as it played on the radio late at night–but I came around, bit the bullet, bought Rhino’s exquisitely compiled Neon Philharmonic set, and now I genuinely love every bit of it.
The “Morning Girl” shared here is from that Rhino set. I’ve chosen to share the alternate radio-only mono mix.