There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Falling in love with love made Rodgers and Hart the darlings of Broadway, but nursing an obsession with sexual obsession made Gary Wilson a hit with free-form radio back in 1977, when the multi-instrumentalist self-released his only album, You Think You Really Know Me. A quarter-century later, it has also made him a night clerk at a sticky-book shop in San Diego. But now that the disc has gotten the deluxe rerelease treatment from New York’s Motel Records, perhaps Wilson can start scoring adult movies instead of selling them. “You Were Too Good to Be True,” for example, would make a great closing theme, its electric-piano vamps and high-hat skitters bolstering a buzzing single-note lead line as the blonde drives off in a T-top Firebird. Of course, this most commercial of the album’s cuts is an instrumental. It’s when Wilson opens his mouth that he gets into trouble—and comes into his own as an artist. His overriding preoccupations as a 23-year-old were chrome, “sick trips,” and “making out” with these creatures of whom he has heard tell called “chicks.” Even a recluse like Brian Wilson could make it sound as though he’d met an actual woman once or twice in his life, but when his namesake Gary gets all funky on “I Wanna Lose Control,” grunting, “I feel cool,” it’s impossible to imagine he has ever, you know, felt cool. As an artifact of the fantasy life of a basement misfit armed with a Farfisa and what’s got to be a Slinky stapled to the ceiling, You Think You Really Know Me is without peer, its sui generis combination of incantatory declamation, circular lounge jazz, and Cage-inspired noise perfectly evoking the angst of a guy stuck in the emotional holding pattern of adolescence. Every time such an overlooked oddity is unearthed, hipsters oblivious to the fact that there isn’t much popular music that doesn’t sound like popular music come tumbling out of the woodwork, slack-jawed over their new discovery’s failure to find mainstream success. Usually, one of them ends up writing the liner notes. So never mind that the frenzied conjurer of “6.4 = Make Out” should never be allowed to buy candles, duct tape, and billiard balls; we are told that “Gary Wilson should have been a superstar.” And in a parallel universe where all the FBI profilers moonlight for Clear Channel, maybe he is. —Glenn Dixon