Sunday, November 23, 2008

Where They Chain Up the Sun

What follows is a speculative origin for the personified cure-all that is Jenny Lewis’s Fernando.

I first heard this song more than two years ago, at a benefit for 826 Valencia that featured Lewis alongside such folks as Aimee Mann, The Mountain Goats, Sarah Vowell and John Krasinski. I liked the song and downloaded it straightaway, even if it was a lousy live recording of it taken from a performance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Lewis finally released a polished studio version of “See Fernando” just this year, with her new Watson Twins-free solo album, Acid Tongue. Now, after having listened to the good version a few dozen times in my iPod, I have to wonder who this Fernando guy is — or at least who he is to Jenny Lewis.

If you have no idea what I’m speaking of, here is the best clip of “See Fernando” I could find. (The official, fancypants video is likely forthcoming.)



The lyrics, according to this website, are these:
I wear a ponytail like a waterfall
Loudspeaker or land slide
I have a room key and a Johnny
A good buzz, feeling all right
Pitch a tent, pop a top
Forget about what you ain’t got
See the sites, sleep until night
Stamp your feet, turn out the lights

If you want to go where they chain up the sun
See Fernando, see Fernando
He’ll buy a bottle of suds for you and everyone
See Fernando, see Fernando

If you’re high strung or stressed out
Down in the dumps, been turned out
Stabilized, motorized, insecure or fable-ized
Curious or furious, picked apart like Prometheus
Legalized, penalized, simplify, dry out your eyes

If you want to go where they chain up the sun
See Fernando, see Fernando
He’ll buy a bottle of suds for you and everyone
See Fernando, see Fernando

You’ve been Jezebeled, back from hell
Cooling off, feeling well
Tired of talking, talked out
Ticked off or toughed up
Too talled or backed up
Haven’t made your mind up
DVDed or TVed
Tired of falling to your knees

If you want to go where they chain up the sun
See Fernando, see Fernando
He’ll buy a bottle of suds for you and everyone
See Fernando, see Fernando

And if you want to go where they chain up the sun
See Fernando, see Fernando
He’ll buy a bottle of suds for you and everyone
See Fernando, see Fernando
There’s a lot going on in this song, but not a lot of it necessarily meaning much. The verses pretty much describe various states of being the speaker or the addressee have arrived at — some enviable, some not, some completely inexplicable — and then offers a single solution to all of them: seeing this dude Fernando, who lives where the sun is chained up and who will apparently buy everybody champagne.

Aside from the random allusions to biblical and mythological characters such as Prometheus — who himself was chained up, not for sun-related misdeeds but for giving primitive man the gift of fire — and Jezebel — who appears as a verb here and whose bodymeat was eaten by dogs, the verse lyrics do not seem to be saying much of anything — lyrics for the sake of lyrics. None of it gives us any clue who Fernando might be or why Lewis might have attached this name to the guy who can do everything. My initial thought was that it had something to do with the San Fernando Valley, which she could have had some experience with during her previous career as a child star but which I’d also imagine she would not today equate with anything good.

As a result of no further leads, the mystery lingered until last week, actually, when a series of links dumped me on the blog Heartless Doll, specifically on its list of reasons why The Golden Girls was and is good. The show’s sixth listed virtue is the fact that watching it offers glimpses of people who are now big names but were relative nothings at the time they guest starred. Sure enough, Jenny Lewis is included on this list.

The proof, both of her appearance and her weird, Baby Doll-like accent:



Is it significant to anyone else that her appearance on fairly well-known show would have revolved around a prized teddy bear named Fernando? Could this one walk-on — admittedly only one among a great many during Lewis’s early years — have made such a impression on her that she’d recall it as an adult? And if not, who the hell is Fernando?

Dammit, Jenny, could you please just Google yourself and tell me?

Previous songs of the week:

3 comments:

  1. This is probably my favorite song on "Acid Tongue." You might be on to something with that teddy bear idea. I assume it isn't the same Fernando as in the ABBA song.

    I'm not entirely sure about the sun being chained, but wasn't there some Central American culture that had a solar hitching post?

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  2. What Google taught me just now: There's an artifact at Machu Picchu called the Intihuatana stone. That name translates into English as either "the hitching point of the sun" or the "hitching post of the sun," depending on who's doing the translation. So that's notable.

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  3. Well, Fernando was actually her drug dealer. And there's kind of a LOT of drug references in that song(and the whole album), it's really not hard to miss... the whole song is talking about acid trips and buying drugs. Jenny Lewis is definately one of my favorite artists right now.

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