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Posts Tagged ‘racing’

Silly Love Songs

September 23, 2015 | by

Man. Car. Love.

I was asked recently to write about my favorite love song, and I debated what to say. It wasn’t that I didn’t know which song to pick. I did. But I knew it was a weird choice.

There are many songs that are almost too painfully emotive to listen to. We all have them. Some—“Exotic Arcade” or “Night and Day” for me, or “To Here Knows When” or “Naomi”—are too bittersweet. Others are simply too tied up with being young, like “Black Car” or “Frenesi” or “Autumn Sweater.” In some cases, it’s pretty obvious why a song carries bad associations: after one breakup, all I did was lie on the floor and play “Walk a Thin Line” on a loop, forever. One that almost brings me to tears with its sheer, surprising beauty is “The Love of the Princess,” the romance theme from The Thief of Baghdad. All these are some of the best love songs I know. But the one song that reliably makes me cry, every single time I hear it, is “Little Deuce Coupe.”

It’s a great song: Brian Wilson said it was the favorite of the Beach Boys’ car oeuvre, and Frank Zappa praised its “progression V-II.” But that’s not why I love it so much. Rather, I consider “Little Deuce Coupe” to be the purest love song about a boy and his car ever written, and as such the purest love song ever written.

Now, I don’t care about Ford Model B’s. I don’t care about the flat head mill or the pink slip or the competition clutch with the four on the floor. I don’t really know what any of that means—hell, I can’t even drive—although obviously 140 miles per hour is fast and I guess really useful for drag-racing circumstances, when some loud braggart tries to put you down and your girl has to look in your eyes and tell you everything will work out all right.

And of course I recognize on some level that Pet Sounds is the better album, and that “God Only Knows” and “Don’t Worry Baby” are two of the most beautiful love songs ever written. But even they can’t touch me like “Little Deuce Coupe.” Is it crass and consumerist? Of course. Was it all a part of the cynical sun-and-fun PR machine that my dad still bitterly blames for luring him to Pomona? Sure. Was the fragile young Brian Wilson being browbeaten and bullied by his tyrannical father during the recording of Surfer Girl? Obviously! And that’s leaving aside a lot of things you could say about male aggression and the glorification of competition and danger, to say nothing of penis substitutes. I mean, to some degree all this goes without saying. 

But we know love when we hear it, and the love in “Deuce Coupe” is a love that will never, ever die—a love that’s both fresh and based on care and hoping and probably saving up and restoring, too. Maybe a song about a horse, or a dog, could approach the power, but to my mind nothing has. Brian Wilson said in the notes to Surfer Girl’s reissue, “We loved doing ‘Little Deuce Coupe’. It was a good ‘shuffle’ rhythm, which was not like most of the rhythms of the records on the radio in those days. It had a bouncy feel to it. Like most of our records, it had a competitive lyric. This record was my favorite Beach Boys car song.” It has all the joy and pain of youth, but none of the associations. Just pure sweetness. 

I’ve listened to the song twice to write this—and so I’ve cried twice, too. You don’t know what I got.

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.

A Horse Named Paris Review

June 7, 2014 | by


Go baby go!

With the Belmont Stakes upon us, today is an apt day to revisit a our Spring 1976 issue, in which George Plimpton made an astonishing equine discovery:

This office received a letter from an English writer who reported that at the racetrack he had put a fiver on a horse named Paris Review … We have looked into the matter. Paris Review, a chestnut with a handsome star on his forehead, was born in 1972 in the U.S.A. (by Noholme II out of Pride of Paris), bought by John Hay Whitney’s Greentree Stables at the Saratoga Stakes, and named by Mr. Whitney soon after.

Paris Review, pictured above, may never have enjoyed the cultural primacy of your California Chromes, your Secretariats, or even your Mister Eds—maybe it was that missing definite article holding him back—but he had his day in the sun. In his second year, he won, placed, and showed in a series of races in England. After that, he was bought as a stud and sent to Australia, where presumably he had a lot of fun.

Plimpton closes the piece by “passing on to the Australians a few suggestions of titles of poems and stories ‘out of’ the literary Paris Review which could be applied to Paris Review’s offspring”:

Looking Backward; Last Comes the Raven; Ho Ho Ho Caribou; Phenomenal Feelings; Travel Dust; Chest of Energy; The Flying Fix (!); Mister Horse. If there were not a limit imposed by the Racing Commission on the number of letters possible in a horse’s name, we would offer these two poem titles, Going Downtown to Buy Some Pills, and (our favorite) Nimble Rays of Day Bring Oxygen to the Blood.

Read the essay here, and gamble responsibly this evening.


Timm Kölln on ‘The Peloton’

July 1, 2011 | by

Left: Manuele Mori. Right: Andy Schleck.

In 2005, photographer Timm Kölln began an ambitious five-year project to document professional cycling through the voices, faces, and bodies of the athletes who define it, traveling to major races around Europe and shooting riders alone against a white backdrop moments after they stepped off the bike. The result, The Peloton: Portrait of a Generation, collects ninety-six photographs and interviews with professional cyclists—some superstars, some journeymen, others now-forgotten names of the sport. Kölln’s photographs capture the utter limits of physical experience in an athlete. His interviews (conducted by journalists from the magazine Rouleur) skip the familiar clichés of sports journalism to offer unvarnished and nuanced perspectives on what it means to spend a life on two wheels. Looking ahead to the start of the 2011 Tour de France tomorrow, I recently spoke to Timm from his home in Berlin.

For you, was it the cycling or the photography that came first?

Photography. I grew up in Spain, and when I was a kid my parents wouldn’t let me have a bike. They thought it was too dangerous to ride in Barcelona. But I always had this dream of having­ a racing bike. And when we moved back to Germany, the first thing I did—I think we’d been in Berlin for two days—was buy a bike, not a racing bike, but a bike.

I was always inspired by older sports photography, and that also influenced me in my approach to cycling. When thinking about how to do the portraits for The Peloton, I thought the only way to get as close as possible to the riders' states of mind and efforts on their bikes was to shoot them without helmets and without glasses, an image we rarely get in sports media.

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