Randy VanWarmer's The Things that You Dream (1983)

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I started paying attention 23 seconds into the fourth song, “Gonna Build me a Rocket.” Here is the childlike lyrical approach of Brian Wilson, the impending star-doom built into Space Oddity, and that shuffling Wings-era World Music laze that makes Saint Paul McCartney’s little songs work. Any easy-drinking colloid of those oh-so-soft-canonical influences makes looking out to space and then inside to our human space anxiety feels warmingly familiar: 

“Gonna build me a rocket, in my back yard/ And I’m gonna blast off out to outer space/ And I don’t care if I don’t come back/ Because I’m just one of millions in this human race.” 

The fact that a tender, careful song like “Gonna Build Me a Rocket” is immediately followed by a rock-o-rocko-buddy shitcover of “Do You Believe in Magic” reminds you that the early eighties remains littered with the commercial detritus of socially-faux-progressive Republican econo-anus fingering trickling down, even now, past wrinkled white knuckles and onto our turntables. It’s an attempt at an easy hit in the 7th inning of a fading mini-star’s narrow career, but it still hurts, like milking a dry tit.

Still, “Gonna Build Me a Rocket” sticks with me throughout this diligent listen to Side B, which is unremarkable. I wonder how close to himself Vanwarmer kept such a song. Is having the opportunity to record one great song worth the pain of slogging through 9 others? Or is that no longer the calculus on the far side of your short career?  

After he died from leukemia in 2004, his family had some of his cremains sent into space in 2007, and then again in 2012. On rockets.

“Might never see a flower grow, again/ Might drift in space until I grow old, and then/ But I don’t care because I’ll be flying when I die.”

Phil Shaw