As soon as I heard the song “Temptation, Lust and Laziness” playing in the bar in the scene in “Last Summer,” a rare film notably starring a very young Bruce Davison, I knew I had to have the soundtrack. I was also puzzled when Davison’s character says, “Here’s the new one by The Band” when looking at the jukebox. The Band is one of my favorite bands and I certainly wasn’t aware of this song being by them.
A little digging revealed more information. It turns out that The Band were under contract with another record company, and so they weren’t able to be credited in the soundtrack. They had to appear under fake, made-up (and ridiculous) band names - in this case, “The Electric Meatball” and “Aunt Mary’s Transcendental Slip and Lurch Band.” Both “bands” were, in actuality, just various combinations of The Band’s members, along with producer John Simon, who did lead vocals.
So I was able to find the soundtrack (available only as a vinyl LP) and the song (which you can only hear bits and pieces of, over the crowd noise in the scene in the film) was as awesome as I imagined it to be. I consider it to be a “lost song” by The Band, more or less, except for the fact that John Simon is doing the lead vocal. The harmony, though, is distinctly Levon Helm.
Listen to the song here. On Youtube. If you are a fan of The Band, you may like it.
The song is a rather clever story that tells the tale of a man who is led astray by the titular “temptation, lust and laziness.” Each of these vices are personified as a character in the song, in the three different verses: a scarecrow, a farmer’s daughter (from the classic “traveling salesman stops at the farmhouse” joke) and a man who forces the narrator to play cards and drink beer, apparently. The last two verses, about lust and laziness, basically make sense, but the first (temptation) is confusing the hell out of me, even after listening to the song many times.
Here are the lyrics, as near as I can tell (and I may be mishearing)
Oh, met temptation in a cornfield, disguised to look like luck
There was a fifty-dollar suit and a scarecrow, up leading to the bluff
I said Lord above, I wouldn’t trade a favor for those clothes
And then Lord above, he turned his head, and the scarecrow froze.
What the hell is this supposed to mean? Am I hearing it correctly? Could anyone offer an interpretation? Has anyone else seen that movie? (You can watch the scene from “Last Summer” which that song appears in here.)