A Portrait of Privilege in Fastball’s New Song “White Collar”

Listen to the “Grand Wizard of the Weenie Roast”

Fastball from day one: (l-r) Joey Shuffield, Tony Scalzo, Miles Zuniga (Photo by Sandra Dahdah)

Everyone knows Tony “The Way” Scalzo can write a big-hearted pop song – the timeless type, worthy of the jukebox eternal. The kind that makes couples lock eyes and whisper, in unison, “It’s our song.” At times, like Fastball’s 2017 single “I Will Never Let You Down,” he’s grazed McCartney-ian splendor.

Less acknowledged is the fact that he can also compose the same quality of tune about an individual who’s a total piece of shit.

On the new Fastball single, Scalzo paints a humorous and complex picture of the common American white collar criminal – a life of big money and small consequence. Broaching such a topic didn’t sit high on the locals’ list of the priorities, but the song sparked from a phrase spitballed by frequent collaborator Kevin McKinney: “Sunshine overdose.” That prompted a vision in Scalzo.

“This idea of a guy cruising down the [Pacific Coast Highway], coked up and rich and young,” explains the singer and multi-instrumentalist. “His wealth is acquired by nefarious means and he’s heading for a fall. That kind of shit.”

The opening quatrain evidences its author’s sly wit:

Sunshine overdose,
Body looks good, but your brain is toast.
Driving up and down the Pacific Coast,
Grand Wizard of the weenie roast

“The first couple times I sang that I had a hard time keeping a straight face,” he admits. “A shit-eating grin would come up, but it’s the line I believe in. I’m poking fun at that character, but at the same time I’m also giving him humanity.”

The track, off Fastball’s forthcoming seventh album The Help Machine, produced by Los Lobos wild card Steve Berlin, also conflates the light punishment of remorseless financial frauds with the absolution of sin granted by another group that wears white collars.

“White collar also refers to religion, the clergy, and that whole idea that nothing is what it seems,” says Scalzo, who repeats, “Get religion and say you’re sorry” at the end of each verse. “Basically, if it’s wearing a white collar, it’s probably a criminal.”

“White Collar” closes with a scene taking place on visiting day at a minimum security prison. The protagonist’s family has come to visit, but it’s short, awkward, and there’s “nothing to say.” It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for him.

“I don’t have any sympathy for this guy,” says Scalzo of the man in his piano-driven track. “He’s gonna get over. He’s going to get religion and get on a podium one day, and all’s going to be forgiven. It doesn’t matter how many people he screwed. I’m not crazy about that message in general.

“So no, I don’t dig this guy. He’s an asshole.”

Here’s the world premiere of “White Collar” before The Help Machine arrives October 18:

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Fastball, Tony Scalzo, Kevin McKinney, Soulhat, Los Lobos, Paul McCartney

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