Inappropriate Walk Up Music: Neil Diamond

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Neil Diamond is a veritable fount of inappropriate. His unique combination of old-timey showmanship, bombast, and ego is rivaled by few other performers. Witness “Cherry Cherry Christmas,” a Yuletide tune he composed that wishes happy holidays to one and all by namechecking the titles of his own songs. That takes some seriously chrome-plated, sequined balls.

Hot August NightThere’s virtually no Neil Diamond song that wouldn’t be inappropriate for the purposes of walk up music. (How “Sweet Caroline” has become a ballpark sing-along staple, most notably at Fenway, is a mystery to me.) But if I had to pick one–and by the dictates of this series, I do–I’d have to opt for “Porcupine Pie.” This somewhat obscure track, from his 1972 live double-album Hot August Night, is an insanely ridiculous song sung with the utmost sincerity and seriousness. It takes a very special sort of person to play this song in front of an audience and not crack a smile. And to also use the image seen here for the cover of your album.

I would have been blissfully ignorant of this masterpiece were it not for The Best Show on WFMU. Years ago, host Tom Scharpling searched for the worst song ever made. The first candidate was “The Loadout” by Jackson Browne, a truly awful, thoroughly cynical song. (“Here’s a tune about how much we love you slobs in the audience!”) But two years later, “Porcupine Pie” was put forward as far worse, and I can’t disagree. I cede to Tom’s analysis at this time, from the episode from June 25, 2006, as it says far more than I can (and also includes a critique of a song that’s almost as weird, “Done Too Soon”).

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