‘So Long Dad’ by Randy Newman

The everyday awfulness of human beings is becoming a theme in these stories now; no writer has given voice to awful human beings more dependably than Randy Newman.

In ‘So Long Dad’, a son returns home to visit his father and we get to hear about it via the son’s small talk. (“What’s new? Do you still work at the drugstore? Is that true? Still polishing the same floor?”) It soon transpires that the son is getting married and so this will be the last time he calls in to see “dear old Dad”.

Come and see us, Poppa, when you can.
There’ll always be a place for my old man.
Just drop by when it’s convenient to
Be sure and call before you do.

As devastating as Cheever, plus you can whistle it.

As to whether it is legitimate to include songs and TV programmes in this personal anthology, I once wrote an entire book about The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society LP, which is one of my favourite albums AND one of my favourite collections of short stories. Take it up with the New Yorker.

First recorded by Randy Newman on his debut LP Randy Newman, Reprise, June 1968; preferred version recorded by Harry Nilsson with Newman accompanying on piano, Nilsson Sings Newman LP, RCA Victor, February 1970