“Cricket LaRue” is a song from Mod Hippie’s album WANNABE NOBODY, which is the latest release on my own label, Karma Frog. It’s the latest video I’ve put together for a Karma Frog artist with an Asian theme, this time focused on my current residence, Cambodia:
The video is almost entirely composed of a mash-up footage from a 1969 Cambodian movie called “La Joie de Vivre,” which was directed, believe it or not, by Cambodia’s “king-father,” Norodom Sihanouk, one year before his deposal and the beginning of the descent of the country he more or less founded into the nightmare to come in 1975.
Besides being a (mostly) benevolent despot, Sihanouk was an ardent Francophile, patron and participant in the arts, which is one reason the Cambodian music scene flourished in the ’60s. The royal family and the music and arts scene intermingled freely, and King Sihanouk himself made quite a number of films – more notable for their enthusiasm and time capsule quality than for their cinematic expertise – highlighting the vibe that was “swinging Cambodia” at the time.
The movie (and video) captures stylish performances from many of the top performers of the era (including a very brief cameo of Ros Sereysothea, the incredible singer/songwriter who was queen of the pop scene at the time but of whom almost no archival footage exists – I’ll be writing about her in a future blog). If you’d like to see the musical performances in their original context, and very informative info about each of the singers in the comments, I recommend the clip below:
To me, this footage is incredibly poignant because all of those carefree, joyful musicians and dancers were either killed or subjected to unthinkable misery just a few years later. I can easily relate the Cambodia pop scene of the mid ’60s, with its high quality and comraderie, to the pop scene in Los Angeles in the mid ’90s, and given the current anti-knowledge/anti-“elitist” hysteria engulfing my own country it’s all too imaginable how, as a young Cambodian friend described it to me, “they rounded up all the smart people and killed them.” (Not to say I think anything like the Khmer Rouge will happen in the U.S. Just that I can see that how the same social forces, amped up to 11 in the context of an ongoing war, could escalate that badly)
I wanted to acknowledge this reality without killing the essentially happy/mystical mood of the song, so I inserted a brief montage of some of Cambodia’s leading singers of the era (after the words “it’s so cool…”) with pictures of a row of guitars hanging on a wall, a row of manequins, and a menacing figure, to give a brief nod and tribute to what happened.
As for the song itself, it’s one of my favorite tracks we’ve done at Karma Frog. It’s a cover of a song by Mike Schnee, who in his Chissum Worthington persona originally imagined it as a quirky ode to a close friend (who does bear a slight physical and stylish resemblance to the woman in the video as it happens). I went off the Mod Hippie demo which reinterpreted the track as a spooky/swampy vibe, which I loved.
There was a great bass line on the demo which drove the track and I copied it note for note, which is why Teresa does not play bass on this track, since she would have physically strangled me if I’d made that request of her. Teresa’s ghostly vocals do dominate the proceedings, though, as does the endlessly inventive guitar riffing of original Beach Boy David Marks, who does the Fender honors here. D.J. Bonebrake of X also layered multiple tracks of drums and rhythmic tom-toms, and the spiky arpeggio line on the chorus is me on the guitalele. Kurt Medlin adds some cool percussive touches and it’s mostly Jason on the crunchy electric guitar…and of course Doug McGuire sets the tone with his sly, drawling vocal. The cricket effects, btw, are the same ones I used on the Bule album and were recorded in Bali.