Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Robyn Hitchcock on NPR's "Wits"

Robyn Hitchcock

A couple of weeks ago, on March 15th, I attended the taping of Robyn Hitchcock’s appearance on NPR’s radio show “Wits” at the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul. The two guests for the show were Robyn and Paula Poundstone. It’s only been six months since Robyn last came to the TwinCities, but I was more than happy to have him back again so soon. When he was at the Dakota he had said, “I’ll see you in the spring.”  Robyn sang some songs from his new album, and also appeared in a couple of sketches, playing “The Great Gazoo” from “The Flintstones,” the owner of a time travel shop, and also an evil scientist. (Which was a perfect part for Robyn and his wonderful speaking voice.) He also made up some theme songs to non-existent game shows, like “Ham Wing,” “Some For You, Some For the Astronauts,” and “One Question About A Bird,” which was the highlight of the evening for me. This segment gave us a glimpse of Robyn’s quick mind and his ability to make anything he sings sound very catchy.

Robyn also had some funny things to say during the interview part of the show. Host John Moe tried to get an answer as to why “Visions of Johanna” is Robyn’s favorite song, and Robyn gave one of the most straightforward answers I’ve ever heard him give in an interview. “It manages to go in two completely opposite emotional directions at once, not unlike life itself. On one level it’s really sad and on another level it’s incredibly funny.” 

I also learned that “Magnum Force,” the second Dirty Harry movie with Clint Eastwood, is a movie that Robyn would watch again and again. I think some people thought Robyn was being facetious with his answer, but I suspect he was actually being truthful, since his terrific 2006 song “(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs” is based on the plot of “Magnum Force.” (Hence the song’s references to “Clint” and San Francisco.) 

“Wits” certainly wasn’t a full Robyn Hitchcock concert by any means, but it was still a very fun evening, and it was cool to hear some songs from his new album “Love From London,” just a week after it came out. Robyn performed lovely versions of “Be Still” and “End of Time,” as well as a rocking “Devil On a String.” All three of those songs are on “Love From London,” which I would strongly recommend to any Hitchcock fan. Robyn also sang a sing-along version of David Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes,” which I was more than happy to sing along with, doing my best faux-Bowie croon. As a bonus, Robyn also sang “My Favorite Buildings,” which he dedicated, as always, to the Foshay Tower, which must surely be one of Robyn’s favorite buildings, since he’s mentioned it at every show I’ve seen him do in the Twin Cities. “My Favorite Buildings” is one of my favorite Robyn Hitchcock songs, so I was very pleased to hear it.

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