Mission of Burma

Fame and Fortune

Composed by Roger Miller

Song Review by

"Fame and Fortune" appears on the seminal art punk pioneers Mission of Burma's brilliant Signals, Calls, and Marches EP. Roger Miller, the more experimental and idiosyncratic of the band's two principle songwriters, offers a relatively more conventional offering here, a wistful melody centered on an even, mid-tempo, droning stomp. The band pounds out a single chord, extending into a hypnotic thump by drummer Pete Prescott as he bears down on the tom-heavy beat, guitar and bass buzzing in unison. The lyrics analyze the nature of fame and success, deriding selfish ambition as a shallow endeavor and criticizing the "see-through people" and the "see-through monuments" society builds to honor them. Miller sings in a direct wobbling voice, "Fame and fortune/Facts of life/Most of what makes it is useless tripe/So change the angle of the battle plan/To hit the target." The song has no chorus as such, the arrangement only stepping up for the second verse, Miller's delivery becoming more emphatic as the chords modulate higher until they break off into an instrumental section. Here, bassist Clint Conley holds down the rhythm, strumming steady bass chords while Prescott and Miller wander off in different directions, the drums swirling in a kind of free-form scatter of fills and cymbal accents while Miller descends into squalls of high-pitched, skittering feedback. The atonal storm gradually calms, the drums falling in sync with Conley's picked bass arpeggio, supporting with gently thudding toms and bass drum as the guitar feedback fades away. Miller and Conley then engage in a beautifully delicate call-and-response vocal and Miller repeats the line, "The beginning at the ending," as Conley intertwines an ascending harmony, crooning in response, "One goes up, one goes down," before they both shout, "Hey!," releasing into the final verse, guitars kicking back in, the tempo returning to a driving, straight charge. The song concludes with the band vamping on a simple chord progression, with Miller chanting the lines, "Fame and fortune is a stupid game/Fame and fortune is the game I play!" "Fame and Fortune" displays Mission of Burma's ability to combine solid melody with their own unique ideas of song structure and arrangement, which the group would continue to develop over the course of their brief, but highly respected career.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Signals, Calls and Marches 1981 Matador
Mission of Burma 1988 Rykodisc
Accomplished: The Best of Mission of Burma 2002 Rykodisc
A Gun to the Head: A Selection from the Ace of Hearts Era 2004 Rykodisc 3:34
Matador at Fifteen 2004
Various Artists
Matador 3:58
blue highlight denotes editor's pick