Flaskaland
Monday, March 31, 2003
 
Goldberg: Ghost of Toto

By Tod Goldberg

I have a student who believes that Jeff Porcaro, the late drummer of the band Toto, is haunting her house. She states this as absolute fact, as if it isn't even a remote possibility that the ghost is John Bonham or Keith Moon. It is Jeff Porcaro and that is that.

"Did you know him?" I asked. We were sitting at a campus eatery dining on bagels and drinking coffee just like normal people might do, except that one of us was having a Poltergeist experience of the prog-rock variety.

"I'd never even heard of him before we met on the Ouija board," my student said. "I've found subsequently that I don't really care for his
music."

By day, my student is a corporate concierge, which means she spends most of her sun-lit hours doing soul-scorching tasks such as arranging hotel rooms for visiting mistresses, procuring tickets to Carrot Top shows and generally acting the role of in-house bitch for the corporations that use her services. In the evening, however, my student likes to read books on out-of-body experiences, enjoys a raucous round of Ouija-ing and is prone to lay out the tarot whenever the, ahem, spirit moves her. So if anyone were ever fit to be living in a haunted house, it would be her.

"Did he live in your house?"

"Oh, no," she said. "He just sort of moved in about six months ago. He's very pleasant."

"Pardon my ignorance here," I said, "but just how exactly do you know that the ghost living in your house is the dead drummer from Toto? Does he leave cryptic messages about the `rains down in Africa' on your mirror while you're showering?"

My student took a sip of coffee and considered these questions for a moment. She's an older woman--I'm not sure of her exact age, though I'd suspect 40 came and went fairly recently--and her face is pale in a healthy way. She knew I was teasing her but opted instead to answer me seriously.

"Well," she said, "one night about a year ago my friend and I were talking on the Ouija and we came across a spirit who told me I was sick, that I had a tumor and that I needed to visit the doctor. I thought it was just some crazy thing, like how we sometimes got a spirit who claimed he was William Shatner, even though William Shatner is alive. But it just kept repeating the same thing over and over again until it really started to freak me out. It wouldn't stop until I agreed to visit a doctor. I felt fine, though, so it just seemed weird to me. But I'd promised, so I went for a general checkup."

I've only known my student for three months, but none of this sounded off-kilter. If anything, it sounded perfectly normal in comparison to other tales I'd heard. But when she said the checkup produced some odd blood results, it seemed more than a little odd. When she said that doctors later discovered a malignant tumor beneath her left breast, it made goose pimples crawl down my back. After a successful surgery and a long convalescence, my student finally got the energy to return to the Ouija.

"Right away," my student said, "the board says `I told you so!' and we start chatting and the board tells me that his name is Jeff and that he was a drummer in a famous band called Toto and that he died in 1992."

I opted not to argue the relative merits of the word "famous" in relation to Toto and instead said, "Well, okay. But how does a ghost opt to set up shop in someone's house?"

My student exhaled in exasperation. "You're being na"ve. He's my guiding light now. He watches over me. He simply saw that I needed someone and so, when he felt I was ready, he left the board and appeared in my house. He's not there every day. You could come over and not notice anything."

"How do you know when he arrives?"

"He turns my overhead fan on and off."

"So let me get this straight," I said. "Jeff Porcaro from Toto lives in your house as a spirit and his big trick is that he turns on your overhead fan?"

"Drummers play in the background," my student said. "It makes sense."

I've experienced a number of weird paranormal things in my 32 years on this planet--including the time I shared an elevator with Pauly Shore--but none of them was nearly this interactive. I'm not sure what I believe about the afterlife (I'm not even sure what I believe about this life--especially since I now have Scientologists sending me sophistic hate mail) but I can't help but wonder how, of all dead musicians, my student ended up with Jeff Porcaro as her personal ghost. I asked her if she had any idea.

"Maybe he just likes my fan," she said, "but he saved my life."

I couldn't find an argument for that.

Source: 2003 Punmaster's MusicWire http://www.punmaster.com


 
 
"What strikes me about pop criticism of late - and this afflicts the broadsheets as well - is the tyranny of received opinion. ...

"What gives here? Maybe writers are too hidebound by the notion of providing their readers with glorified consumer guides rather informed criticism. Maybe the sheer doggedness of the reviewer's task dulls the senses, precludes reflection and encourages the quick response. Are there so many mediocre albums coming out that, were reviewers to be honest, their negativity would send readers scurrying to the news section in search of some light relief? I think, as a record buyer, I honestly would prefer that.

"Give me rigour, insight and a healthy disregard for the dictates of fashion or received wisdom any day over the dull consensus that holds sway today. What I want is to be entertained, informed, and even jolted into a new way of thinking - listening? - by a review. For that to happen, as with fiction or classical music or film, it requires a close reading of the text - or record or film. And a willingness to fly in the face of received wisdom."

Want to listen to yet another music critic's paranoid wail, "Can't I Trust Anyone These Days?"

Of course you do!

(via our beloved Arts Journal Daily)

(addendum: "Are there so many mediocre albums coming out that, were reviewers to be honest, their negativity would send readers scurrying to the news section in search of some light relief? "

My answer is a resounding yes to the first question, and a trip into the honking Hungarian saxophones and Balkan beats of Besh o droM to the latter. Or rollerskating or bowling, or perhaps communing with ducks and other feathered friends of the waterways and flyways; maybe not a swan, but certainly a wild goose.)


 
Sunday, March 30, 2003
 

If you haven't been following Mark Anthony Neal's Critical Noire, shame on you, but here's your chance to meet him; plus hear him tell a bit of who he is and why he writes about music.
 
 

Critic cornered: A reader's lash teaches a valuable lesson

 
 
Books and records, records and books:

protecting an endangered afghan species

cairo practice

 
Friday, March 28, 2003
 

Marshall Bowden comments on when jazz musicians attack critics or "Dance of the Infidels"

wherein Bowden regards the duties of the critic rather more seriously than any of the people he here references while explaining how it is musicians go ballistic and the variety of critical experience:

"It may not make them stupid, but neither does it qualify them to review these works in publications that purport to offer critical analysis. In any case, it would appear that college students are no longer required to study the arts, writing, or critical analysis. And why should they? It’s much easier, and probably more lucrative to just get out there and say the first thing that pops into your head, like Simon Cowell on American Idol."

As Bowden is trying to elevate the conversation, I can give him credit.
 
 
Why Wah-wahs are a must by Dilip Raote
 
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
 
I am always saddened and taken aback by the passing of a real lion, knowing how rare they really are. Goodbye to Patrick Moynihan, who I had the privilege to meet in discussion several times right after he had ended his ambassadorship to India and at a time when he was considering entering politics in the U.S. He is not merely among the very best examples of the public intellectual and public servant, he is among the finest examples. We all were privileged to have him thinking and acting on our behalf, representing our country and people. I've been privileged in my life to have encountered some of the best and brightest.
 
 
Derk Richardson on Evolving from the perpetual wince reaction:

'AND I MUST admit / Today my inner pessimist / Seems to have got the best of me," sing-speaks Ani DiFranco in the middle of "Serpentine," the 10-minute epic song-poem on her new album, Evolve. And if that doesn't resonate in the sour marrow of your own culturally/politically induced depression, then continue duct-taping your windows, programming your TiVo to catch the Joe Millionaire sequel, and talking amongst yourselves while the clear-cutting of everything from Head Start to pension plans continues unabated outside your little plastic castle. Meanwhile, DiFranco will try to figure out how to cope when "Pavlov hits me with more bad news / Every time I answer the phone."

 
 
War, and sex, and rock and roll

Yesterday's news is that the war's taken over the search engines, outpacing sex and music in search queries. In the never ending news from the war zones, today's winner for bad ideas is the lad mag publisher that has taken upon itself to ship over createloads of free copies of the magazine to men in service. I can relate anything to the music industrial complex.

This reminds me of another war, back when a woman who became famous in the New York-London subset started out her career as a "model" for "men's magazines." What that might mean to some if they happened to look at those photos would vary. One person's idea of "glamor" is another person's "gross out." In her instance, she traded on her Asian appearance for cheaply produced specialty men's magazines for U.S. military personnel in Viet Nam during the war. Produced in the U.S. as a side project by a low-level editor of some skin mag like "Playboy" and distributed only in Southeast Asia, the tone of the magazine was about "Penthouse" level, the cover a military olive drab and glossy black, the rag called "Fortune Cookies." Sociologically speaking, a magazine of this sort is interesting if depressing. You know as well as I it's a jerk off rag, but aimed towards the men in service who were intrigued by Asian appearance. Not too safe to get too close to many Viet Namese women at that time aside from the officially sanctioned brothels and bars on R&R, so the mag realistically filled some kind of niche.

"It is no great matter to make a goddess into a witch or a virgin into a harlot; but to achieve the contrary, to give the humiliated dignity, to make the fallen worth coveting, for that either art or character is needed." [J. W. Goethe, 1749-1832]

When Goethe wrote that, I’m pretty sure he didn’t have people like her in mind. The rock stars she socialized with once she got a leg up were all careening badly behaved stumble bum drunks. Those were the big boys, the rich and famous ones. Everyone knows this about her, but no one mentions it because it's like reminding a German his uncle was a Nazi during the war. Just keep in mind, I regard her as the kind of woman who says, "I always have rich boyfriends." Now, she's married to a faded-from-fame musician. Nonetheless, her society speaks of her in respectful euphemisms that don't begin to provide any real depth to a person I see as a rather shallow creature, if you can see what I mean.

Two rock stars later, she got a job with a major record company, lasting all of a year there (actually that was a typical time-frame for any administrative type female who wasn't related by blood to the owner). She was physically attractive, dressed well, presented an alluring and promising appearance, and lent the atmosphere an air of the "exotic woman." Then she got a job with another. Can any of us assume she didn't give it away, because that would cheapen her wares, but that she was more than willing to be friendly with those men she recognized as influential or powerful who could aid her with advancement in her career. Imagine her in her high-priced short-length silk kimono sitting on a couch sipping a high-ticket drink waiting to dress to go out for her expense paid outing to a fancy restaurant and free access to a club for a night's entertainment, and you might have an accurate picture.

She moved around and visited a lot and already had many connections that soon would become the property of the record company.
In the big scheme, she really didn't do very much, but who among them would care? She was thought to add an aura of (some body's idea of) sophistication. These women are noticable, available, and easy to come by because they are hovering everywhere at the edges of the music business. In fact, they are always moving towards the forefront because they are encouraged to and they are not in any way reserved. They are there to be used. They’re always looking for boyfriends because the boys can help them with their agendas.

If this were your constant environment in terms of women, do you feel your own attitudes toward women would become somewhat skewed and contaminated even if you happened to step out of that reality? As a male preferring women, would you just gladly dip from the available fish in the pond? Would prolonged exposure to this environment permit you to feel free to be disrespectful of all women thinking they must all be like that, were they but “offered” the chance. Or would you try to demean them with put downs and other misogynistic remarks should they not fall into that group? In other words, what kind of person do you believe you would you become in this sort of environment? Making use of those women means you’re damaged goods, too, you know.

You people don’t know me, but like anyone else, I can be compassionate when there is a reason or extenuating circumstances. Other times, I’m as judgmental as the next and have every right to be, because in looking at others and saying “yuck-phooey, that’s an ick-shit way to go” helps me decide how I will try to behave and so who I will be. Age doesn’t matter, kids, look forward to it
as one long ongoing process.

P.S. to my Guardian Angel: Those crateloads of porn mags making their way now to the Gulf, can you make sure please they become kindling, compost, or fish food before they arrive on scene. Much bad karma in those glossy pages that shouldn't be passed on any farther.
 
 
Step back into the record aisles of yesteryear

Anatomy of a record purchase
 
Monday, March 24, 2003
 
Knock yourself out reading a collection of the L.A. Weekly's biannual music issues.
 
 
A timely and thoughtful contemplation on art amidst the guilt or "When the pleasures of art inspire feelings of guilt" by Julia Keller.

via today's Arts Journal
 
 

"I have a disinterest in criticism when it doesn't really drag in seemingly absurd things into a review. Why should I read a review when it only relates the sounds? A critic needs to jump from the central subject to whatever is conjured up when listening to the music. So I do want to know that a particular song makes him think of a sandwich he once ate. Or that the twang makes him long back for that journey through the Midwest he undertook with his best friend. I want something whole, not merely a sum of the parts that are pressed on a record. It's a rarity. Partially because the media doesn't want it anymore, because... well, the public hasn't been brought up with those writers,... We need more Hazzlit in our life."

Thoughts posted on her site by the inimitible Stevie Nixed (still on her bumpy ride @ 08:37 PM CET March 20, 2003)
 
Sunday, March 23, 2003
 
"He also earned money in the field of music criticism, and his slashing commentaries set the standard for this little art." To Hell and Back.

 
 
Got the latest article on John Fahey in the email box today courtesy of Bob Sarles dedication to keeping music and culture alive and breathing.

This was a hard read. I could barely read through Fahey's first spate of obituaries and now with a posthumous release he's being roughly manhandled and shoved into the grave again. I know other people who had much more to do with Fahey than I, but I'll give you my quick glimpses as I think of them. I'm tired and not much in a writing mood, but I feel the need to say this right now while it's fresh.

The first time I heard of Fahey, I heard his music. My guitar playing pal commuted thirty-five miles on the freeway all the way to my house to bring over an lp to share, which he had just acquired and was excited about. An original copy of Fahey's first record, complete with a glued-down cover. I'd never really heard anything quite like it, and although his technical skill was impressive, there was no chance of me acquiring a copy of my own as I was advised it was rare as hen's teeth.

Then a few years later the very same guitar playing pal and I were among the packed throngs at one of the UCLA Folk Festivals (1964 or 1965). Breaking for lunch meant long lines at one of the university dining commons, and I managed to withstand those long enough to get a large coca cola which I carried out into the courtyard. I sat down, propping my back against a building and within talking distance of the fellow next to me. He asked before I could take a sip, "Did you get that for me?"

I wasn't sure if he was serious but I had to laugh. He had five or so copies of that rare record next to him, and I commented on that rare fortune. Yes, you've guessed, that was John Fahey himself in the flesh. Being a college student, I didn't have the five bucks to buy a copy of the record right then, but he heard from me about my friend driving many miles just to play it for me, and obviously because that young man was a talented player himself, that was a tremendous compliment.

I crossed paths with Fahey several times, once in Santa Monica or Venice and then again in Berkeley. One time, on one of the days after a long winter when the sun at long anticipated last was starting to burst through in the Bay Area, I took a walk with some folks and Fahey met up with us. We were all galavanting in shorts, promenading down the avenue, so happy that spring was about to burst out, and even John was wearing cut off levis (just to show off his gams, I am sure).

He was very handsome fellow as a young man, and when people are young, as I also was, you tend to be more forgiving of odd behaviors, or perhaps don't entirely trust other people's powers of observation, or perhaps not realizing that depression or mental illness is even a possibility for people or if it is you tend to regard it as a temporary phase. With maturity and experience, I came to think of John Fahey as a person struggling with severe depression who derived much of his emotional support from music. So what the hell? Why drive more nails in a dead man's coffin? Such are the infirmities of genius. He was able to work through all that and make some beautiful music. Most of which, I will add, eventually became too dark for me to listen to at any length once I had been exposed not so much to him but the stories about him from people I knew, but that's just me. They did not tell those stories unkindly.

If there is a song that sums John Fahey up to me, it would have the line: "In the pines in the pines where the sun never shines."

He had a good crazy sense of humor at times, though. You don't hear much about his "Win a Date With John Fahey" mini-tour, but that was a part of him, too, he really did that for a lark.

One time I saw him in Berkeley casually playing outside on his Gibson and the sun happened to hit the white spruce front and make it gleam. That's a nice memory, too.

Another time, he was inquiring about a record from an avid record collector and friend. They were bartering, and the collector was driving a brutal bargain, insistant that the record was immensely valuable. Fahey finally asked what the collector would be willing to take for it. My blood chilled when the man replied with, "Your first born, John. Your first born." So the first one of the kittens that John and Jan's cat (I think a siamese) birthed eventually went to live at the record guy and his girlfriend's home; and so the rare 78 rpm exchanged hands.

I must admit, though, you can get awfully fatigued with any monoculture, and hippies in Berkeley and the Bay Area in the sixties could outwear their charm.

Apparently, things got bleaker for Fahey emotionally in the '80s. He came to visit friends of mine who were stalwart friends of his since the beginning. Fahey sat upstairs reading during a bonechilling cold rainy winter evening with the windows open, like he wanted to catch a cold and die, and the hostess had to carry up a bowl of warm soup and beg him to eat it because he wouldn't come downstairs.

Such behaviors can be troubling and disturbing to other people, but try to imagine what he must have been going through himself. So I would be inclined never to paint a portrait of him in absolutes. There are just too many areas of gray already.

My best memory: Watching the new foreign film by a famous director in a theatre in Berkeley, and when the guitar work came into the soundtrack, people a few rows down began applauding, and saying "Yay John!"

They were his stalwart friends from the very beginning and they still most likely are. When Fahey died, the DJ (who had been friends with Fahey about forty years, since they first drove out to California together from Takoma) played a whole show devoted to him. I'm not in that radio zone, but that show carried enough significance for a friend to call me just to tell me about it. He also menioned that he was glad his own college-age children were there visiting so they could be introduced to the music of John Fahey. Not often played on the radio, but it's nice to know that his music is out there and he is appreciated, which probably is all he ever really was looking for in life and music helped him that way, too.

So hip hip hurray! Long live John Fahey! Long Live John Aloysious Fahey. (He was the first person I ever met named Aloysious, and I told him that once, too.) Long live friendships! And long live the real power of music.

P.S. If you have time, there are some photographs I once saw on the internet of Fahey's last residence, with sunshine coming through the window but still a bona fide flophouse -- at least for his puppy and cat, the cushions on the couch well indented from those critters snuggling down into them. Among cat lovers in particular, Fahey had a reputation of always having very nice cats. Here's John Fahey's website.
 
 
Thank heavens for cable TV. The Bach Consort and the King's College choir combined for a spectacular presentation of St John's Passion, complete with a countertenor and one female voice (a soprano) -- a piece of beauty sent out to the world all the way from Cambridge, England.

 
 
Cheeky! Yes, clicking on Cheek's latest offering on sex and drugs and rock and roll, I was reminded of, well, sex and drugs and rock and roll. Which can be sometimes perceived as a history of convenience.

History: “a set of lies agreed upon.” (Napolean)

Or, to the victors belong the spoils. Popular writing (or great writing like Joyce) I am told is supposed to be earthy. Once you poke through the surface, you get to the place where the worms inhabit and crawl. I hate remembering some back stage scenes, rehearsals more contrived than what’s presented publicly to the audience.

I remembered a guy who always maintained, much in the same way that Hugh Hefner is inclined to do, that sex is an every day part of life, and so he was willing to use other people’s sex so he could get ahead in his career. He had developed a relationship of convenience with a woman who had access to the important The Record Company crowd in part so he would be accepted and taken
seriously by The Record Company crowd. That way, too, he got to acquire all of the important phone numbers in their contact lists, names in their rolodexes, their anecdotes became his knowledge, and most importantly their social (read business) connections would become his.

As the reader, you’re now ahead of where I was at the time because I really didn’t know this about him yet when I bumped into him once backstage at one of her concerts.

Of course, every one else was way ahead of me in thinking this about him, because they were accustomed to such attitudes, such tactics are merely assumed behaviors.

Anyway, back to the wings of the stage. He was still in pursuit of his dream, standing to the side in a mid-sized hall he couldn’t yet begin to fill on his own name. He stood there in a gray suit. A bouquet of flowers, stems wrapped in green waxed florist paper, a token which he had carried in, were laying now on top of a nearby amplifier. Either too much of an effort to so much as hold the bouquet, or maybe he felt that made him look too much like a “suitor”.

But during the show, he did use his time efficiently to arrange to have the flowers given to her at the end of the performance onstage in one of those staged gestures so commonplace in productions, about as genuine as saving the hit song for the obligatory "encore". "Oh, baby's breath", she laughed.

She did actually record one of his songs that he had been trying to sell her (after no doubt his label insisted on songwriter’s “first right to record”). Her record company was pressuring her to put out pop music to appeal to a more mainstream base, and she obliged. Her career was stalled by her brief immersion into the thin pop mainstream. But that cover meant a great deal to him, as he
now had his music out simultaneously on two different labels, labels he hoped would begin competing financially for him in exactly the same way they encouraged bidding wars among the clubs where their artists were contracted to perform.

Finally, he moved up the ladder to the real stars and was crossing over into business acquaintances with the important movie and entertainment crowd, all while achieving a bit of much-wanted fame himself. He was being handed the keys to the Magic Kingdom.

Nevertheless, because he was habituated to a form of anecdotism he could be relied upon to recount his conquests. Reputations are often enhanced by the more important people who are shining up the sheets for the lesser stars. He shared his stories with his coterie, this form of casual reminiscence taking on the social form of an equivalent of a vicarious gang banging.

Presenting early on to the women who could enhance a career someway as the sweet-natured boy who lavishes affection (like a flower for a secretary who will with the right form of attention come in handy and he moving thus through his career like a lilac-salesman), his remarks soon were often graceless boasts, merely dropping the important name he was currently humping.

Most often, he contrived to demean his conquests while his prestige by mere mention of propinquity to them was polished to a
brighter shine. He'd deliver the synopsis of his previous evening’s success, such as it was, in one of his boozy, rambling, poorly phrased, and badly-timed punch lines: “Well, I had been drinking the night before ...”

Was he ever at all intelligent or amusing, no. Were his observations always riddled with pretensions of class, always.

For instance, he tsked about his stage name: “I wouldn’t have picked such a damned common name”. Except, he pronounced the word “damned” as “dimmed” in the way that lousy 18th century novelists wrote of prancing pimpernels and in exactly the manner in which out-of-it British royalty currently spoke, but he was not in any way aware he was anachronistic in speech patterns. He wasn’t joking. That’s merely how he spoke and obviously thought. Of course, his bevy of courtesans would insist he’s merely being “ironic.”

I find myself wishing sometimes most show biz people were just wind-up toys that I could put back in their box when I’m tired of them.

I hate their memoirs, too. Always heavy volumes of historic narcissism -- a magnum opus of upper-class vainglory and scrupulous evasion. And everyone they’ve ever associated with are just the best and brightest there ever were. Compliment, cliche, drone, drone, drone.
 
 
Thank god for the internet and people who are passionate enough about music to think about it and write well about it. Long circulating but fascinating discussion on dilettantes by some of the more fascinating people on the internet writing about music -- our beloved blisshog takes off like a shot after the freaky trigger pulled one off.
 
Saturday, March 22, 2003
 
Music magazines, memories about music and place, time, and the realization. Mark Richardson's electroacoustic nuggets.

"If you were to trace your relationship to music on a graph, with the x axis representing time and y representing your current engagement with what's happening, the resulting line would mostly consist of small squiggles interrupted by the occasional spike upward. These are the moments when you hear something new and exciting for the first time. Sometimes an entire plane of music, heretofore unexplored, suddenly spreads out before you and fulfills a need you've long had, maybe one you weren't even aware of. ...It's that moment where the possibilities seem endless and you can't imagine being bored with music ever again.

...Writing about music becomes an enormous pleasure when you're trying to get all the conversations you've had in your head out into the world somewhere."

via pitchfork
 
 
Another country heard from:What? Another American music journalist in Prague?

What? Another rock star in Beijing?









 
 
Basic reminder # 2. To write about music, you should appreciate the music and make a concerted effort to write, as this person did:

"Sue wrote this piece in response to an Advanced Composition class held this June. In it, she captures the feeling of a favourite song."

The Magic Power of Music

My favorite Farsi song, "I am Happiness, Happiness is Me" takes me away from the earth. When I listen to my favorite piece of music I let it fill my ears, and through my blood, I let it catch my heart. It warms my heart and stops my mind. I float, leave my body, and I become a soul: no weight to carry, no memory to think of, no pain to be hurt by. I become a bird, no longer in cage; light to jump, quick to run, free to fly. Up in the sky, I hear only one sound: "I am happiness, happiness is me, let the earth be jealous of me, for he is in love with me, he looks after me and he cares a lot about me." And I hear again, "I am happiness, happiness is me." After the music ends, I feel I am back to Earth, yet with a peaceful heart, and still without weight.

 
 

Cape Verde Musical and Cultural Biopolarism

Sentence number one:

"Eurocentric ideological presuppositions must be resisted for historical accuracy, since the victors have so far written the history for the world. As an African proverb states that 'until the lions get their own historians, the history of hunting will always glorify the hunters.' "

Also deals with how language is used by those in power (ugly stuff).
 
Friday, March 21, 2003
 
"Eight Mistakes that Music Critics Make": list compiled by Mark Desrosiers on PopMatters.

 
 
Two articles related to music peddling I read yesterday that made me glad for investigative music journalism. They were also the exact same two articles I read yesterday that made me sneer:

1. Media giant's rally sponsorship raises questions

2. Race to riches
 
 
"Little did they know, that while I was eating bark and catching salmon with my bare hands for physical survival, I was making sure I survived emotionally and psychologically by compiling a list of, let's say, my 100 favorite albums.

The list helps me to remain feeling calm about my situation and keeps me from panicking."

When is a list more than a list? Also when it puts the list maker in touch with arts and wonder.
 
 
"Instead of sitting in front of the idiot box waiting for bombs go off Wednesday night, we sat out in the back yard till way after dark chatting with our son about music and we told him that every single generation is always absolutely certain that the music they grew up listening to is the best music ever made. The fact is, the music our generation listened to is the best music ever made."

Please note the social significance of music as an escape mechanism.

The article goes on with the inevitable enumeration, though atypical as it's not listed as it usually is with all the solemn importance as a recitation of the geneaology of Agamemmnon's staff.
 
Thursday, March 20, 2003
 
Sights and sounds of a world at war

MSU journalism Professor Bill McWhirter, who saw music's impact on the front lines when he worked as a war correspondent for Time magazine in Vietnam, said war-related music served less as a reminder to soldiers about war, and it served more as their escape from reality.

"It's a high without much meaning or lasting effect," he said. "When the beer and music wore off they were still in a place they didn't want to be.

"If rock 'n' roll was supposed to tell you life was fun, this life was not fun."



 
 
John Ashcroft singing his own composition "Let the Eagle Soar" available for listening here.
 
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
 
Broadcast guidelines from VOA: "Music will not be used to make editorial statements."

Writing about music or anything else, investigative reporting is an Endangered Species
 
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
 
"Writing was my second love and I wrote about my first love, music!" Lito Molino. There's a whole big world of music Western audiences have never even heard.
 
 
(Man, how fast things can change. This walking the walk, talking the talk piece about forced feeding, one I wrote in the late high-rolling '90s, is a curiosity history piece now)

Hey, Marilyn, glad to catch up with you. This is Terry, Terry Tune from William Morris Agency. William Morris! You know, the guy who designed the wallpaper you have in your foyer? Ha ha! Yeah, he made it into Beardsley’s frontspieces, too.

Ha ha! Can you hear me okay? I’m on my speaker phone in my car right now, well, actually it’s not my car, the Audi TT is back in the shop again. That’s TT, baby, for a Terry Tune car.

How’s your little turbo doing? I loved to watch you try to get that little s-car go. Not going to tell me any more Saab stories, are you? No, no, of course not, sweetheart.

Say listen! I have a deal for you. How would you like to solve all your booking headaches?

I can give you a Terry Tune tablet. You’ve got a choice you don’t need to even think about. You can take a block of TT, that’s a block tour of 12 country and western bands. One signature, twelve dates you don’t have to worry about any more.

And it’s good for us, too, sweetheart. They all caravan following the same route, start one out, then roll out the next. Get my drift? They stay in the same hotels, don’t even have to change the sheets, and that means a bulk rate discount on the usual corporate rate on rooms. Twelve buses, twelve trucks of equipment, and twelve bands all travelling at tiptop fastclip speed from one venue to the next.

We got a bargain box store discount on the radar detectors, and the bottom line is tight as it can be, so we can offer you the best rate on this one.

Is that your phone or mine? I hate these cheap visor talk things, this is my boss’s car. Sounds like I’m calling you from Germany!

Do you need to take that call?

We’ve got an advertising deal for co-op ads, too. We guarantee the newspapers will have camera ready ad copy. Everyone mentioned chips in a proportional share for their portion of the measured ad space. It’s a picture of the band and gives the dates for the band in your club.

And the big record store is involved in this one. The record is on sale at the same time in the big record store. The records will appear in the big store a week ahead of the bands and the posters go in the big store’s window, the same time as the press ads run.

It’s all camera ready and we just drop in the name of the venue and the dates. You and the big store share the billing on the radio ads, too. Yes, babe, radio, too.

Good deal, huh, and your venue and the big store just split the advertising cost. It’s easy, it’s all on our accounting software, and they’ve got their own van on the tour, it’s rigged like an RV with electric hookups and they’re still wired with ISDN in the rare case of sunspots or in case the weather goes bad and the satellite up-link junks out. So there’s never a question that comes up that can’t be answered by them.

So we’ve got a deal on that one! I’ll fax you the contract as soon as I spot a payphone.

All right, now let me tell you about our block tour of 10 reggae bands. Then remind me and I’ll tell you about another thing. Hang on a minute, I’m in traffic here and have to make a left turn ...
 
 
Many criticize music journalists for not paying enough attention to how the business side of music is really put together or how it works. This is part of the atmosphere the musicians who make the music must move through. They're forced to understand the business in order to succeed financially (i.e., make a living) and so are obliged to become bean counters themselves. For the music journo, to impart such a story means investigative work and specialized writing. This is a fairly good example of what seems to be happening economically today. The dog eat dog music industry is reduced to snatching at scraps. incubus sings the blues
 
Monday, March 17, 2003
 
There are times when Boyd's ability to connect the dots is both audacious and smoothly persuasive.

There he is, in the same class, listing the social forces that shaped rap: the '70s oil embargo, Japanese car imports, U.S. auto plant cutbacks, school integration and white flight and a shrinking urban tax base, drug dealing, Ronald Reagan's war on labor unions, cuts in social programs -- think about this, he injects with total certitude: Were it not for cuts in school-music funding in the '70s, the first generation of rappers would have been accompanied by instruments; they wouldn't have had to sample other tracks.

And there are times when Boyd crosses the line into, well, into Todd Boyd territory, where most academics fear to tread.

That notorious PhD



 
 
Oh! One of Hornby's most famous pieces available for a read: songbook
 
 
"Trying to explain the pleasures of fandom is a bit like trying to explain how comedy works.

Too much analysis can kill a good joke and spoil a good song. Still, thousands of academics in universities around the world have had a go at it in recent decades.

English sociologist Barry Richards reckons that "the pleasures of fandom are at their strongest and best when they confirm our sense of belonging in the social order".

He says they're "vital for the containment of the anxieties with which we all struggle". ...

Maybe that English sociologist is onto something, though, because one of the symptoms of fandom is an evangelical desire to share your new-found passion with as many people as possible."

play it again, fan




 
 
Policing pop department.

Brawl erupts after song played at rodeo

Felix Fanaselle says he and another rodeo patron got into a fight during the playing of Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American.
By Elma Barrera
ABC13 Eyewitness News
(3/14/03) — Talk of war with Iraq has sparked an atmosphere of tension and anxiety. And it may be to blame for a brawl that broke out at the rodeo Thursday night.

ABC-13 report

With some 15,000 to 20,000 folks at the rodeo drinking beer and having fun, things can get a little out of hand at times. It happened when a tape of Lee Greenwood's song Proud To Be An American was playing. Some rodeo fans were standing and others were sitting down. Felix Fanaselle and his buddies chose to remain seated.

"This guy behind us starts yelling at us (because) we're not standing up," said Fanaselle. "He starts cussing at us, telling us to go back to Iraq."

The 16-year-old said the man seated behind him started spitting at him and spilling his beer on him and his friends.

"By the end of the song, he pulled my ear. I got up. He pushed me. I pushed him," said Felix. "He punched me in my face. I got him off me."

When the dust settled, Fanaselle had been handcuffed and released. He and John McCambridge were cited for "mutual combat" and fighting in public. That's a $200 fine. Fanaselle's lawyer says you don't have to stand for a country and western song.

"I guess next time, he'll think maybe we need to stand for the Okie From Muscogee," said attorney Clayton Rawlings. "This is phony patriotism. This man needs to be ashamed of himself for what he did."

Rawlings says he and the Fanaselle family will give McCambridge a chance to make this right without going to court. The family says the biggest insult was McCambridge telling Fanaselle to go back to Iraq. Fanaselle is half Hispanic and half Italian.

"He was born in this country and who is this clown to tell him to go back where he came from? He came from Houston, Texas, so he is where he came from," said Rawlings.

Rawlings says if the citation isn't dismissed after witnesses testify, they'll be going to court with accusations of assault and battery, mental anguish and lawyer's fees. Eyewitness news tried to contact John McCambridge in Austin for his side of the story, but so far there's been no response.



 
Sunday, March 16, 2003
 
Still true today:

The question is put forward: How can we fix music journalism? Journalists would have to "stop caring about the industry and start caring about the readers," says DeRogatis. "In the sense that we owe them our honesty, and we owe them journalism as exciting as the music. At its best, music criticism is a conversation between people who care passionately.

"I can't avoid my readership. They're here, and I talk to them and I run their letters, many of which say 'Dear Moron....' I want to have that conversation. I think that's the thing that's missing in the New York media establishment. I know, because I've talked to these people. They don't give a shit, they don't know who they're writing for. They're writing for each other. They're writing to further their career, and they're writing to impress each other, and they don't know who's reading their copy."

 
 
Oh joy, just found this! Ruth Padel writes about music in everything from "Art in a Time of Terror" to the "Marriage of Figaro". (She's definitely worth reading).
 
 
These are not even by current definition mutually exclusive, contradictory terms: Entertainment Ethics
 
 
Before writing about music, it's preferable that such a person should be able to listen to and appreciate music. While the results of this practice are not criticism per se, doesn't hurt to revisit basic music appreciation.
 
 
A few basics of critical writing.
 
Saturday, March 15, 2003
 
Where the word "fan" comes from. (Yes, it's a rather long article Camille Paglia developed, but what the heck, it's her study wherein she provides the missing ingredient in "sex, and drugs, and rock and roll". Plus telling you where the word "fan" comes from.)


 
 
The history behind a song that unified a movement
 
 
(Oh, God, how I hated, truly hated Emp-TV)

I Hate MTV, Part II some of my random thoughts on the topic (you’re in my brain now, so be careful and be sure to take off your shoes for the full effect ... )

I saw a band on MTV a couple of times and they weren’t too interesting even for 1984. The first time, they were singing a song about being hungry like a wolf. Wow, what a metaphor. Like a stagnation’s leap of imagination. That one really forced me to break out the polevault. Could it be they were referring to their appetites. Then came another. Could there ever be something as single leveled, paperthin, and obvious as that first one? Ooh, ooh, say tootie, I got a good idea.

The only people who could buy into that form of technicolor simple bimbledom are the somebody has to do it to me because nature says it’s time to do it and I just gotta and I know you just gotta so let’s just gotta.

Or the hormone-and-alcohol-soaked and out-of-control and crazy like a bad seed bunch.

Or the remains of human beings suffering from some form of brainstem detachment from which higher functions decay from longterm neglect leaving only the nerve endings quivering for some kind of continuation of prolonged electrical or self-stimulation.

Or some shambling rapidly disappearing shadow of humanity which after a long coke binge has been reduced merely to basic limbic system surges. Such are things that most sane people eventually grow up and out of or die from.

Or worse, they’re on a natch! Quick, bring me the laughing gas!

Then they continued with their Vap Attack and began drawing video image material from stuff that old pooped out queerball pastyfaced slouching junkie verse-drained William Burroughs was writing about back in 1971. That old vampiric geezer! I couldn’t figure out why English “trendies” in 1971 were so attracted to what was such a limited expression of what was dark and aberrant in America back in 1963 before he put even himself to sleep. Burroughs, the snarling somnabulist who can barely squeeze out one thought even with the help an eyedropper! You saw his Junkie title on the bookstands, hundreds of copies spreading out like a virus that just would
invade, replicate, and destroy. Invade, replicate, destroy. Burroughs was old stinking bone dust in 1971.

Much less 1984! I thought, what? Ooh, some big Orwellian message trying to go on here, straight from the glossy lips of these teentanged foreign fashion hounds? It’s been done and said before, blinky and nod. You people are the xerox machine of musical notes. No wonder you worship your small dim princeling of darkness. Burroughs? What’s with this puffy graspy little boy band with their name taken from a bad bloated bald wicked evil villain dude from a Space Bondage flick? How old were you when your mommy took you to see that? Nine? And you decided on that name because your mommy didn’t like it? Ooh, Bad Boy!

What were these people trying to say? They think it’s a tough, scary world when they come to visit? (How the hell would they know? Those prissy strutting neo-fascist wussy wimps just fly around first class before soiling the very best hotels. Thank heavens it’s under phony names.)

Or tell us about Burroughs again? (How the hell would they know what he was trying to say or not say, he didn’t know anymore himself. Fact is, he was using razor blades to shred his poetry on a page. My cat shreds more artistic statements on my couch. But he hadn’t been saying anything for twenty years, and now they were trying to translate it back to us? And even given their current ages, they’d probably have to have it read out loud to them.) They want to communicate “something” to the American public by spewing out as their own these predigested, repeated, ugly, tired, old, dark, degrading, fascist, loser images from a guy who couldn’t cope with the world even with a razor blade. He wasn’t even a poet anymore, now he was the barest skeleton of a writer draped in a black coat fluttering on the fringes of NY gallery alleys. He was a rags and bones man now, the king and subject in his small realm. And still he needed to be flatout unconscious to do it. Did you twitwits mean you have to be dead to deal with the world as you
want to make it for us?

What were you people singing about?

“Let me take you to Icky-Poo Park
We can pretend we’re the Beatles
(Coo-coo, ca-choke! Coo-coo, ca-choke)
Oh, the Red Coats are coming!
(Smirk to yourself, that’s a double entendre)
It’s howdy Deja vu
It’s Deja Vu time dudes
Said it once, so say it again, the Red Coats are coming!
We’ll ride our painted carousel horsies straight smack down
Into the Valley of the Whoopie Cushion Dolls
And take you on a voyage through the
Recycled shipping excelsior of our minds.”

Ooh, pip pip. Let’s have a smash party and ooh yummy! have jellied eels coming out the tummy of the dead bear we present as the center piece. Ooh, pip pip. Who dey, now? Dese widdle pack of tansy monster boys? Wow, dose naughty nookums kids, they’ve got natural functions? Anything else they got? Let’s get lower yet, rub our buttons on the wood and prepare to scarf even more of
what we stick our big long snooty snoots into, whatever sauce-riddled pig they’re serving up tonight down at the D.D. Diner. And their “tone” made me want to hold my nose and imitate Bland Frankie of the Avalon in his Pierre le Fleur voice trying to sing:

“Oh, D.D. Diner (D.D. Diner)
You look so finer, (D.D. Diner)
You’re on a whiner, D.D. Diner,
I’ve changed my minder, D.D. Diner
Oh, D.D. Diner (D.D. Diner)”

And what’s with this little fruitcup making snide longdistance videotaped remarks on MTV? That little bonedry twispy braindead besotted bewildered Le C’est C’est Bon of Mal Roulet Bow Wow Band peddled his little pink (blank) so much you can drive a truck through it! It’s a wonder that guy can see the microphrone past the dangling bangles of his dingle dangle ‘do. I’m surprised he can even breathe much less sing, he overdosed on a cloud of aerosol blowback from his latest trip to the hairdressers. What was it that little woofie rasped? He had a Wasp and Spider, too, way back then, and wished he could have had it so easy? Actually, he sort of lisped, “Wathp and Thpider” but you know how the communication-impaired are. He can barely get his tongue out of the way and back in his mouth where it belongs to say a single word anyone can understand. Ooh! Get down, Scary Teen Poppa!

You float on your own hot air. Take that little peppermint striped candy cane straw from what’s packed in your nostrils. That’s the only material you know except for the styrofoam pellets of what passes for your mind. What was it you were referring to when you used the words “music” and “art”? Certainly not what you do.

You’re a collection of neopreme notes and that’s all that helped you float when you lost your keel and your rudder (as well as your childish bladder) and steered on without direction in your sodden peagreen boat. What is this, S-Man, nearly lost you at sea? Got you an N.D.E.? Those are the only letters you’ll have after your name, nobrain, simple simon’s not just a rhyme, it’s your wellknown reality. No name, no face, get braced, you lost your twit race. Simon sez, simon sez, same old notes in the same old songs.

All flotsam and jetsom ebb in, the debris and the small bits mix in, they are soggy and bobbin, you’ve fogged out and hit bottom.

Quick, call the net, scoop, and removal squad and load this one on out of the hyperbaric chamber and carry him not home for resucitation but out, out, out for instant high temperature disposal at the on-your-way-out toxic waste station.

Slither thee away, Slimin Rhymin. Remove from the loops of your thin chalk-lined tailored trousers (those ridiculous dust striped, drape fitted pants that would only make a clarabell with bicycle horns want to dance) take your little snakeskin narrow trendy belt and twine it thee about thy throat and then per chance you’ll achieve a note. Stuff your head in a sack, Jack, you couldn’t sing your way out of a paper bag if your life depended on it.

Wind a narrow little rag about your head
Like you is some sweating sensei samurai warrior,
High and mighty rock and roller,
powderpuffin lock and loader
Canals of Venice (California)
limeball punting floater
“artistic” kind of guy.

Maybe if you stuff it just right,
Your swelled head just might
Have an expanded fit into your own headwound universe
So easily contained by the confines of your hieroglyphic headband
Stetch-o, change-o, switch-o, change-o, (Cosmic),
So big and small and the same time
Stuff what’s leftover flapping into your ears
The rag-bottomed logograms will soak up the remainders,
And keep the rest of your brains from draining out your ears.
You simple scion in the Land of the Rising Scum,
Dim Sum Dumpling Chicken Chunk Humping Chimpanzee Bad Monkey Boy.

You’re a dip, dip, dip, dip, dip, dip, dip
And too dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb
To get a job.

Man, you couldn’t get a job holding a tin cup and dancing at the end of a chain for an organ grinder! Man, you are so dumb you’d watch Silk Stalkings for the miniskirts and think it’s really happening for real right there in the living room with you. You’re on a Pig-malion trip all right, Chunckbloat. Then it’s like you hear something you think is like Beatles music (ooh, listen to this one, his consciousness is expanding across the universe):

Little blobs of neopreme
Are floating like an upset boat
Reminding and annoying me ...

Take the rake and claw the sand
Scrape zen designs in litterclay
Your mental catbox needs a change
Your lyrics stink like kitty pee ...

Scarf-a-roo-hey-a
I’m outta here!
Nothin’s gonna change their world ...
Nothin’s gonna change their world ...

Push your sleeves up past the elbow like people did in the late fifties (they only did that for publicity poses, fool!) and walk towards the camera. That’s all you could ever push effectively. Wiggle those narrow shoulders that are skinnier than your tie and narrowier than your thinking. Such Bad boys!

Those spineless limeys! That’s the spineless limey band. Go suck a escargot, woofpunk, you is what you eats, and you leave a trail of snot behind you wherever you go. dog chow kal kan munchin horsemeat stuffin powderpuffin bow wow ungrateful whelp bad bad band.

And as for your old ladies .... they must be desperate! Why don’t they just go to the pound and buy one?

That band on tv in 1984,
the pancake foundation and mascara outlined
powderpuffin twitboys in turquoise
with spiky leather dogcollars woofing, whining, and whimpering
as they thumped their stumps along,
Their plastic repeating on the rotational playwheel
just spinning on the MTV wheel,
oh the music video windmill,
oh wow, just like “the windmills of their minds”
going down into the drink,
like poor little Micky Jagger
Was just a pore little “butterfly broken on the wheel.”
Is that what they were trying to say?

You call that ART? Quick, Henry, the flit! If you think that is ART, it is so bad, it’s potentially harmful to the viewer. You are Bad karma kids. Basta ya to youse!

(inspired by a line in the archives of silence: (The oft-quoted dictum, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" is valid enough, but perhaps poetry about either might be more successful.)
 
Friday, March 14, 2003
 
Hard to get a record on the radio, skeptical of the impact of the standard 100-word record review, and ads in print media are expensive and must have a sharp focus to be effective. What all this means is that musicians who had been quite unavailable for comment are more willing to grant interviews (which they tend to view as a big unpaid ad for themselves). The music journo will sooner rather than later be asked to consider conducting interviews.

A guide to the art of interviewing.
 
 
"...pop music is just weather -- everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it." The lightest line from last year's exploration of "Cultural Pessimism and Rock Criticism".
 
 
Poked by a sharp stick, music writer Kurt Hernon details his own response to the critical process, lays out rules for himself, and decides "I am not a Critic and, Yes, I am a Cheerleader: Hernon Responds to a Faceless E-Mailer"

One of Hernon's guides for self-regulation: "I don’t write about records I do not like because there is barely enough time and energy to spend on letting people know about all of the good stuff out there that otherwise might go forgotten and left behind."

(via rockcritics)
 
 
In examining the past, some people respond with the "what ifs" and the "might have beens", trying to wish a "colorful" era or character back to life, all expressive of a dissatisfaction with the ways things have turned out. In response to a book review on blogcritics, I posted this:

After that idiotic flip out scene at Bill G's in 1977 (which is quite unpleasant just to have read and heard about at the time, violence and piggery being what it is) ...

I remember an immensely talented parody of Led Zep that was broadcast throughout the Bay Area on what was the vestigial remains of "underground" radio in 1978. A true parody, the subject was a mock of media favorites who have achieved massive and sometimes questionable popularity. This was a crossed version: The "Theme to Gilligan's Island" performed in the style of "Stairway to Heaven", but not merely imitative or sound-alike.

Led Zep's legal squad inexplicably exploded on the scene, out to (somewhat inconceivably) collect all copies of the tapes. They apparently interrogated the radio station personnel in order to uncover the source, to find and punish the parodists as well. They apparently implied they were out to search and destroy, sending out threats and warnings. Well, those tactics were ineffectual in the long run as they predictably always are.

But that seems fairly typical of Led Zep vibes. At the time, I doubted they could even so much as comprehend the cultural complexity of the parody.




 
 
"But Arabic pop music as a genre is probably less "political" than it has ever been in modern times. The recordings and videos are increasingly the product of a homemade cultural syncretism that combines traditional Arab music with influences from all over, especially the United States, Europe and India. It is more experimental, less nationalistic, more erotic and more concerned with issues of personal desire and self-fashioning. In short, it is a great deal like all modern musical forms, including those in the West."

Paranoid pop: Music and modernization in the Arab world

 
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
 
Back when I had time to write for fun, or out of some kind of desperation -- an old overcaffeinated loosening up the tongue pulling it out of the air and from here there and everywhere exercise I just found again.

Spin and Marty: When music meets art

I remember reading with a strong mixture of empathy and compassion David Sinclair’s (June 9, 2000) article in the London Times, “Man, I Feel Like a Rock Hero”, which discussed Ruth Padel’s new book, I’m a Man -- Sex, God, and Rock and Roll”. Sinclair says Padel speaks of rock as a “vast wishing well of sexuality." While arguing her case on “cock rock”, she also revives a theory that rock stars embody much the same cultural values as those espoused by the gods and heroes of Greek mythology. Sinclair concludes that rock today suffers from not being an authentic expression of manhood. That’s always been the case for some rock.

While it’s clear the British lady poet feels the Pharos at ancient Alexandria burning deep within her chest and springs forth such notions to better light the world, her point of view is clearly focused on her version of some British rock groups. She must be a younger person to be reinventing this notion at this time.

Certain rock groups, that’s what we in Hawaii in our primitive way would call real “gala-gala”. Usually in “pidgen” simple words are repeated intact to act as adjectives or adverbs and provide emphasis. “Deep-deep” for example would translate into “deeper” or “deeply”. While “gala” in English means a festive occasion or celebration which requires a certain attire, the phrase “gala-gala” does not in any way mean twice as much of that.

In the event you have limited Hawaiian, “gala-gala” is in its original sense:

1) that itchy twitchy feeling you get far back in your throat when you have an advanced respiratory congestion, are exposed to something cloying, or have an allergic reaction to, for instance, consuming a substance which forces the expulsion of that

2) long strand of lougey you are obliged to (hock-pooey) spit out. This is the body’s natural evolved response to environmental or physiological assaults on the system.

In fact, I can develop a thesis that certain rock and roll bands can be traced in an evolutionary manner straight back not to Homeric gods (because you have to face it they were fictitious inventions springing from the heads of retsina-soaked Greeks), but rather to a much less imaginary and simpler lifeform -- let’s say the simplest sort of mollusk which slithered through the bottom reaches feeding before oozing out over the edges of the primordial soup and taking on its new stature as a landed creature, a creature despite its simple origins we can now recognize as the Gastropod, or snail.

Just look at the similarities. Most snails are actually brightly decorated and are host to many parasites. The snail travels about by extending, wiggling, and retracting itself upon its pod, or siphuncle, while laying a trail of excreted mucous. Carrying everything it needs with it, essentially moving along in its own small universe, attracted towards fulfilling its solitary needs by the snail’s equivalent of sensing with what are many times mistakenly called antenna.

The snail actually does not possess a brain in the way that other life forms do, the snail’s system is primarily a primitive tangle of nerve cords. The “horns” on the snail’s head are actually sensory tentacles used to probe and prod to determine if an object is suitable for devouring using the radula (large “horny tongue” and “big teeth”). The snail has only the partial makings of a heart. What this creature does have are a form of “tongue and lips”, what can pass for a set of “lungs”, and an “anus” (which because the snail has no brain, is fitted conveniently on its own head). Primarily concealed by its own shell, the snail is essentially an asshole whenever it pokes its head out.

Often retreating into its self-propelled motel room as its own nature demands, the shell providing both support and protection, to tend to its personal needs. The snail ignores the presence of all, even other snails, even while sharing the same lettuce leaf until nature calls and it comes time to sex. To add to its already strange nature, to increase its chances in sexing, the snail is a hermaphroditic creature. The snail marks its passage through life protecting its own delicate underbelly from abrasive surfaces with its own self-generated long trail of snot. While they seem like small harmless creatures, snails can be deadly to some human beings unfortunate enough to suffer exposure to them. Infected themselves by their own form of “fluke” their presence can easily contaminate an environment.

Don’t believe me? Look at the cover of Little Feat’s Sailin' Shoes (1972). There’s the snail or siphuncle and another creature in satin smallclothes (the one vaguely reminiscent of Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy”) as if to show by allegory the full evolutionary possibility of “snot”.

Which is perhaps why certain creatures end up even referring to themselves as “Boogie Men” their genetic memories reminding them of their own simple origins as well as other things that now have to do with noses and nostrils, all of which is vaguely reminiscent somehow of “snot”.

Of course, the original meaning of words transform over time to better reflect realities in current useage as any sociolinguist will tell you about social perception.

Moving back in time to discuss art of a finer nature, Thomas Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy”painted in 1770 quite naturally (as with familiarity and knowledge one simply can’t think of one without thinking of the other) leads to thinking of his other famous work, “Pinky” (actually a portrait of Lady Howe standing in flowing pink dress), which because of that basic elegance could not be easily utilised by artist Neon Park. Rather, a theme from another work was set in its place, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “Girl on a Swing”.


Painted in 1768, the picture was considered to be quite risqué in its time, as there was a young man in the corner staring up the dress of the girl in the swing as her petticoats rustled in the air. The best art historians will tell you that the Rococo period in France emphasized powder, perfume, and artifice, all presented with an air of friviolity and a highly polished finish. On the album cover, here the “girl” on the swing is replaced by a highly decorated cake with a triangular slice suggestively revealed for all to see (ooh la la!) whether it’s “swinging London” or just “swinging in L.A.” And art historians will tell you that while Fragonard was depicting gilt-edged frivolities, Gainsborough at the same time in his painting selected “idealized” subjects, “idealized” portraits of the English nobility which patronized and financially supported his works. So the two schools of painting and artists (Gainsborough and Fragonard) existed in near chronology and propinquity.

On the album art, Fragonard’s “suitor” who was nearly hidden in the bushes is replaced by the “snail” but there is the addition of another figure nearly concealed in the bush, which Neon Park as artist said was a portrait of Brueghel. I’ve read that Brueghel many times traveled in disguise to paint his scenes of rustic frolic and peasant dance, it being the custom in Brueghel’s time to regard the country yokel as a figure of fun much as Shakespeare did. I do not think that either Shakespeare or Brueghel accepted this custom out of snobbery, but in rustic life human nature was less disguised and covered up with a veneer of artificiality and convention than in the life and manners of the gentlemen artists such as Gainsborough portrayed. Thus, when they wanted to show up the folly of humankind, playwrights and artists often took “low life” as their subject, as Neon Park did here. For Park, living and working in the center of the music business in L.A. and privy to much insider information, may have drawn some of the inspiration for his surrealistic presentation from his own observations or his “listening to the god voice that speaks thru motel room air conditioners everywhere.” Thus said, “Limey” and “Slimey”, those words can sometimes “rhyme-y”.

Park’s Brueghel is adorned with an oil funnel worn as a cap on head (from a self-portrait) but now reminiscent of the tin woodsman from Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. A creature which while the merest machine knew something was lacking in himself and is now perhaps more widely known for singing in his later incarnation in a movie “if I only had a heart.” Park’s Breughel is bearded also to imply the wisdom of age and to give a visual wink that the artist is “bearding” or making a mock of some rock. As to that new form of “Blue Boy”, he seems to consider every “female” as merely something to smack his lips over and regard only as something to be devoured, with about as much thought and care as scoffing up a tasty piece of cake and with as much thought after the fact as is given to a piece of cake once eaten. Were this new “Blue Boy” to even to discuss a “torte”, should he per chance be asked if he would want a piece of cake, he would most likely put his silver foot in his mouth and remark that the little uptwirled accents of icing “look like tits.” Whatever, sometimes you just wish these types would crawl back under whatever rock they’ve crawled out from. The original Gainsborough “Blue Boy” happens to be part of the Huntington Art Collection in San Marino, California, if only to symbolize that America is a country rich enough to attract what England regards as “national art treasures”.

As poet P. Hemenway asked more or less recently, “What we should be asking ourselves here is how we are marked by the old ways from such hand-delivered insults. A simple sniff or sniffle on the part of some, and you can see again the figure swaggering from the garden and you can almost hear the convulsion that folds out a fat round of great hurled sounds bringing up a thread of clear and tenacious effluent spilling out all the way to his chin, until with one flick he sends the viscous string cartwheeling through the late sun to rest upon the near honeysuckle into whose blossoms he dips his whiskey.”

Although Hemenway in the original piece was describing the passage of an older gentleman farmer, perhaps an esquire or a simple melon farmer, moving through the yellowed sear of the harvest season, the poem had to do with a young person’s recognition. While originally there was only youthful hope, naive expectation and thought of the promised taste of nature’s simplest pleasures and succulent bounty, all thought of that diminished to disgust and disappointment once bearing witness to a habituated, mechanized, and ritualized flicking of snot and spittle.

Some sorts of pop music, rather than being exalted to the stature of the heroic, mythological, or merely the larger-than-life, you have to admit is merely something made by snotty kids with perhaps an overactive musical talent. That's a perhaps for talent, too. And you know who I mean by that as I have discussed “Blue Boy” so much.

So that’s “gala-gala”, never to be confused with “ougi” as that is a completely different concept.



 
 
More on "the death of protest music"

"Entertainers who sell the most never lose sight of the nature of entertainment, which is not about presenting people with unpleasant truths or calls for action that they don't want to hear."
 
 
"Let's spend some ... time together"

Untangling the strings and getting ready for the puppet show, the Rolling Stones ever sensitive to culture differences agree to drop four of their defining tunes from the set list for their upcoming China Tour:

brown sugar, let's spend the night together, and a couple of other ones
 
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
 
The something is happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones Dept.

Late or overlooked news:

The big chill has lifted at last for Sarah Jones. FCC Muffles Artist's Message

"Legal briefs do not often sound like music reviews, but Jones' brief challenging the FCC fine said it best: 'Ms. Jones used the hip-hop vehicle in Your Revolution because she believes it is a beautiful and creative art form. She believes that the appropriate response to the objectionable and disturbing elements in hip-hop is not to walk away from the art form, but to answer back with something more sophisticated and meaningful.' "


 
 
A welcome reminder it exists, the continuously updated Bomp Bookshelf. Lots of upcoming releases to look forward to.

Policing Pop, likely to be of high quality as the others published in the Sound Matters series, and so well worth searching out.

"Fans and detractors of popular music tend to agree on one thing: popular music is a bellwether of an individual's political and cultural values. In the United States, for example, one cannot think of the counterculture apart from its music. For that reason, in virtually every country in the world, some group identifies popular music as a source of potential danger and wants to regulate it. Policing Pop looks into the many ways in which popular music and artists around the world are subjected to censorship, ranging from state control and repression to the efforts of special interest or religious groups to limit expression.

"The essays collected here focus on the forms of censorship as well as specific instances of how the state and other agencies have attempted to restrict the types of music produced, recorded and performed within a culture. Several show how even unsuccessful attempts to exert the power of the state can cause artists to self-censor. Others point to material that taxes even the most liberal defenders of free speech. Taken together, these essays demonstrate that censoring agents target popular music all over the world, and they raise questions about how artists and the public can resist the narrowing of cultural expression."

(via the long way around from Nárazník)

 
 
Of course, analysis of cultural subtext in country music is one thing; radio and tv play is quite another matter and of principle, tantamount importance to today's entertainer. This story, about how Charlie Daniels says he didn't send his publicist out to fight on his behalf, speaks for itself.

It appears Daniels removed himself from the real fray. Yet, somehow, such music artists would have a little more credibility if they weren't just worried about getting played on The Radio Station and selling records. Any idea how many of them have showed up at the recruiting station to actually enlist? Do more than bend a string on a USO tour (They used to send the girls out to do that, you know).
 
 
This is from way back, a March 3 post on Micah Holmquist's blog, examining how some songs work (which actually also describes how some propaganda works):

"All three songs on the surface talk to those who disagree with the speaker in each song and yet have become celebrations for those who do agree with the speaker. This isn't unique to right-wing country songs, as most pop and country songs that have sing-along appeal have it because the audience identifies with the speaker, but it does suggest that the point to these very political songs is not convince or change minds but rather to create a common bond based on a few shared stands and a belief that too many people don't see things the way they ought to, which is to say the way the song does."

Erik Boehlert continues the discussion with his worry piece,"No. 1 with a bullet."

Update: forgot to include this link to the lyrics (from 3/3/03 Chicago Tribune feature)
 
 
That loveable feisty Flak.

James Norton explores faraway everyday music, the telephone hold music in Iraq.

 
 
"I can't talk, he can't talk," Barghouti said, pointing to his colleague, Bassem Maali, as they listened to the song. "The people are afraid to talk, but Shaaban sings. It's 100 percent there. He sings through the music what people are saying in the street. He's not scared."

Arab Pop: "Attack on Iraq"

via poppolitics
 
Monday, March 10, 2003
 
"We're being held to standards of false perfection," says Tessing, a Long Beach, Calif., psychotherapist. "Someone who's written a song may be intimidated because they're competing with polished acts on radio. It's not like the turn of the century, where everyone played an instrument and got out on the corner to sing. The expectations on self-expression are way too high today.

(My advice, ignore those egotistic assholes on corporate radio or anyplace else they happen to show up, especially seeing as how all they're doing is killing off human expression)

The emotional component of music explained somewhat.

 
 
According to Burlasová, most folk music genres describe the everyday life of people; their work or their relationships to each other and to nature. However, ballads take up topics that are unusual and exceptional, and their aim is to present the moral codes of the time. They often give insight into people's behaviour in times of crisis, in situations that question people's ethics.

slovak spectator on slovak ballads
 
 
"But the Rhode Island disaster, in which scores of the innocent were suddenly swept to their death by flames, brought out another, grimmer Keillor. He made his ballad into a moving and highly realistic commentary, locating the source of the fire in the psychology of music and show business.

He clearly fixed the blame, but not on the company that installed flammable soundproofing or the inspectors who missed it or the owners who didn't control what happened in their building. He blamed instead the ambitions of performers, with which he associated himself. The victims in Rhode Island may have been killed by men with long hair and rock 'n' roll dreams, but in a larger sense they were destroyed by vanity, ambition, memories of past glory and the blind carelessness that accompanies desperate yearning for success."

Oh Lord protect them, Protect them from you and me ....


(personal note to myself: this is one of those weird intersections I was talking about below -- once upon a time, I managed a place called Fireman's Hall that was torched by a young arsonist who worked among other places as a volunteer fireman at the fire station right next door ... and my husband when he was an abalone diver saved another diver after an attack by a great white shark. These are, unfortunately for our psyches and personal histories, true stories. You're free to make of them what you will, but as my husband says of his experience, "Yeah, it's too bad I didn't survive ...")
 
 
Not that anyone is really wondering but those critics who keep asking, "Where is all the protest music?"

A few paragraphs of explication from the article above:

There may be other reasons, too, that we hear so much from the '60s. ''The '60s as a whole exercises this potent mystique on the imagination of youth today,'' says Nicholas Bromell, an English professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the author of ''Tomorrow Never Knows: Rock and Psychedelics in the 1960s.''

''Their music produces very little in the way of hope,'' Bromell says. ''It's very smart, very sharp, very edgy, very cynical about everything. The kids are very wised up; they're very shrewd. You need to be more than wised up when you decide to protest something. You need to believe that your protest is going to change something.''

 
Sunday, March 09, 2003
 
An intriguing special issue No. 10 of Tin House, dedicated to music, and I'm guessing more than worth the back issue fee.

The contents of No. 10 Tin House

From a remarkable new writing voice, here's a long poignant excerpt from "Low Down" by A.J. Albany, whose bittersweet written reminiscences of her childhood as the daughter of a famous jazz pianist deserve quite some attention.
 
 
"Too often, music criticism today is as dry as the academic music it still tries to foist on an unwilling public. Reilly's essays, compiled from his monthly contributions to Crisis magazine, are the diametric opposite. A man of great erudition and wide real-world experience who has at various times made his career as a Shakespearean actor, high-government official, and extremely accessible writer on matters of history, philosophy, and religion, Reilly writes essays that will amuse and enlighten even those who don't know the particular compositions or composers at issue.

When was the last time you read music criticism that moved you emotionally, made you laugh and cry, and ultimately filled you with hope?"

(Joshua Gilder on Robert R. Reilly's Surprised By Beauty)
 
 
"It draws all your attention to the performers rather than to the music. Often, it is merely an attempt at shortcutting to success, taking away from the depth of the music itself."

The startling new abundance of skin on classical music covers
 
Saturday, March 08, 2003
 
On Talent

To Ellis Marsalis, the work ethic his own father taught by example is primary to success, be it in commerce or in art. "When I was teaching [high school]," he says, "I used to see a lot of talent that didn't particularly go anywhere, and at first it was really mysterious to me. I couldn't really understand it—I mean, to see a seventeen-year-old kid who's a natural bass. Those are born. You don't learn to do that. And to hear coloratura sopranos who couldn't care less. I was forced to reappraise what my understanding of talent is. Then I eventually began to discover that talent is like the battery in a car. It'll get you started, but if the generator is bad, you don't go very far."

(from The Atlantic -- a long piece on Wynton Marsalis by Mr. David Hajdu. Black berets off to jazzbo Marshall Bowden for the pointer.)
 
 
"García Lorca, tracing the same quality in Gypsy music back to similar roots in India, called it cante jondo—"deep song." What he said of deep song may be the best description I know of the supreme instrumental meditations of Coltrane and Bull:

Notice, gentlemen, the transcendence of deep song, and how rightly our people call it "deep." It is truly deep, deeper than all the wells and seas that surround the world, much deeper than the present heart that creates it or the voice that sings it, because it is almost infinite. It comes from remote races and crosses the graveyard of the years and the fronds of parched winds. It comes from the first sob and the first kiss."

(from a great remembrance piece by Bill Wadsworth on Sandy Bull)

I'd love someday to write a meaningful review of that come-back record, Jukebox School of Music. The music alone is so good, makes me believe in miracles.
 
 
Music and Culture


Basic Questions
• Who plays the music?
• What are they playing/saying?
• Where are they playing?
• Why are they playing?
• (When) was this music created?

Who?
• Women? Men? Both?
• Members of a particular social class or ethnic group?
• People of high/low social status?
• Professionals? Amateur?
• Everybody? Specialists?


What?
• What Instruments, rhythms, melodies, scales, forms?
• What meaning (if any) does this music and musical behaviour have for society?
• What do the words (if any) mean?
• What is important--the musical sounds, or the event the music accompanies?

Where?
• In a Night club?
• Temple?
• Dance party?
• Ritual?
• Social gathering?

Why?
• To celebrate group identity,
• To entertain,
• To express religious devotion,
• To heal the sick,
• To earn money,
• To generate prestige(for themselves or others)

When?
• Is this old music still being performed in a meaningful, growing tradition?
• Is this new music, recently created for short term consumption
• Is this old music preserved for prestige or historical reasons, but largely without an audience?


(see more about Music Culture – Jeff Titon
 
 
A response to everyday music. Thinking about music?!
 
 
(late rough draft of memory: remember this part -- "The promoter was a friend of mine and had asked me to invite the performer to a party after the show ... ?")

Update:
The promoter, a BMW-riding fashioner of verse who bore a remarkable resemblance at the time to the Jean Paul Belmando of imported films, got hooked on promoting concerts. Within a few years, he opened a rock palace called "The Hippodrome" far to the south. During that period, he also scripted a film with the Viet Nam war as a backdrop. The film went into production, was completed, and for whatever reason simply disappeared from sight. The film existed only in some historic archive in a San Francisco museum until just recently. A few musicians I knew in those old days were recommended and they provided music for the soundtrack. I never did see the film. captain milkshake



 
 
As 2003 has been officially designated the year of the blues by the U.S. Congress, we can look forward to a lot of print devoted to the blues.

(Courtesy of 2/21/03 post at scribble, scribble, scribble

"The blues is so...encoding and fetishizing

I try not to filch from Andrew Sullivan, since I figure it's my responsibility to write my own bloody blog. But this was too good not to share. Thanks to him for the pointer.

Robert Cantwell is an adjunct associate professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina. Something called the "Experience Music Project" will hold a "Pop Music Study Conference"—a spectacularly bad idea—next April, and Professor Cantwell intends to deliver a paper titled "Blues Residues: Blackface, Bakelite, Fossil Fuel." Here is the precis:

Metaphors of blackness link it to residues: of ash, soot, coal dust, and burnt cork, thence to the collier, smith, and engineer, to mummery and minstrelsy, finally to travesty, inversion, and social chastening, on the one hand, and to conversions of energy, physical, social, political, on the other. In the blues disc, as cultural residue, as human trace, as musical contest or struggle, these metaphors converge. At once token, sign, text, miniature and windup toy, the disc encodes and fetishizes an human action—one thinks of Tiger Woods's golf stroke, recently captured as a computer file by outfitting him with a sensor-embedded electronic drysuit from which the stroke can be digitally read, capable of endless repetition, not "preserved for posterity" but embodied as the end and original of all possible golf strokes, at once consuming and resurrecting the game.

Like Nepalese religious shrines tendered on cow dung, the blues disc is an "opportunity for devotion." In the three economies in which it occurs, of the market, of society, and of the self, a disc collection such as James McKune's or Harry Smith's becomes a kind of counter-capital, a harvest of filth, like Dickens's dustman converting what is dispersed, discarded, ruined, and despised to what is recovered, concentrated, and renewed, rendering it at once rare and precious, scandalous and subversive. In the vertical archeology of the social body, it is an edifice of the repressed, making one's own despised or ruined condition available for contemplation and turning it, by virtue of our irrepressible sociality, into a source of cultural power. "Whatever we worship we make sacred." (Patanjali).

Further comment would be superfluous, except...I want a red-hot mama to rock me like my vertical archaeology ain't got no bone."
 
Friday, March 07, 2003
 
Add this book to my growing stack of how did I never know about this:

"Music in Everyday Life is the rather dull title of an anything-but-dull book. To take one example from this remarkable study, what could be more fascinating than a consideration of how introducing music changes the way we experience units of time? Think about bicycling along a familiar street while humming a tune and, upon “snapping out of it,” you realize you have not only missed the scenery, but have lost a segment of time as well. Author Tia DeNora, a University of Exeter professor and past winner of the International Sociological Association's “Young Sociologist” award, contends that in such instances, music does not simply fill in the time of waiting or the activity, but it “reconstruct[s] the ongoing aim” of an individual's action. Thus, and as DeNora adroitly puts it, the expected outcome of the activity (i.e., destination at the ride's end) is instead experienced as coming “too soon,” spoiling the pleasure of the music (8)."

Hey, wait a minute, that's Tia Denora, Music in Everyday Life. (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
 
 
"As I was paying for the magazine, the cashier looked at the cover, read the tagline above Lou Reed's name and said, with a hint of repulsion and in a very whiny voice, 'Accentuate the negative! Oh my gawd!' "

Nightclub Jitters just had to buy a magazine with Lou Reed on the cover, and look what happens when you accentuate the negative.
 
 
late first rough draft of memory

Just reading the title of the book Positively 4th Street, I was reminded of Mimi Farina, who I met briefly during an historic whirlwind called approaching winter 1963 in San Francisco. Mimi was onstage with the Committee, a comedy revue beloved by the local intelligentsia and tourist alike, and once or twice the doorman for reasons I will never fully comprehend let me and my singing partner in to watch the show for free. Bizarro improvisations, "zany" is the word for them (they'd improvise poems in crossover styles of "Kates" and "Yeets", and the audience was literate enough then to be in on the joke).

Another of the Committee's memorable regular skits was about an execution. The convict was dragged in and buckled into an electric chair. The warden and the guards were adjusting the straps, and as the steel cap was being settled on the prisoner's head, he began cackling, spitting, and hurling hilarious abuse at his captors. The condemned man spewed his venom at last, believing he had nothing whatsoever left to lose. After a few minutes of this hysteric insult, the warden and his helpers glanced at each other, unbuckled the straps, pulled him from the chair, then beat and kicked him to death.

Back then I was a guitar picker in the smallest and most obscure of venues, and the City Lights Bookstore was my mailbox in the city, their bulletin board held my occasional pieces of incoming mail with a thumbtack. All of which might sound more poetic than it really was. Not of any kind of lost generation, but rather an in-between generation, I was too late for the beatniks and too early for the hippies. And to those who really might not suspect or know, should you care, there is no beach in North Beach.

Late November, I'd arrived at one of the small coffee houses for the scheduled gig guitar case in hand, floating on air, amazed and thankful to have a small paying j-o-b onstage in a slightly larger than the smallest and most obscure of venues. So amped up about this stroke of good fortune to have spent nearly the entire day in rehearsal and re-rehearsal. But arriving at the appointed time, the club was dark, the doors were locked; the little coffee house was shut up tight as a drum. I panicked internally and was wondering how we had blown it, showing up on the wrong day or date. As I stood disbelieving, I finally noticed a small framed portrait draped in black in the window. A photo of John F Kennedy had been clipped from a newspaper and placed into the small frame, and there was a candle burning next to it.

It was Eric Andersen folksinger happened by and told my singing partner and me that Kennedy had been shot and killed that day. That we didn't have the job that night though a financial hardship of profound proportion was scarcely noticed by either of us in view of the enormity of the news. The newsracks were all empty as we continued on, but one held a paper with a dark black headline. We went down the street to Mike's poolhall instead to share one cup of coffee and to get out of the chill. We read through all the newspapers littering the tables, and we sat there for what must have been hours. About that time, we noticed an energized person walking up to the front door, then back down the street obviously to talk to someone. He reappeared at the door and was identified to us by a man at a nearby table as Alan Ginsberg (sic). He was peering in through the windows, perhaps looking for a recognizable face. He decided to enter, and made his entrance by pushing quickly through the doors. He settled at a far table, back to the wall, his visage facing towards the people seated in the room, and within moments the floors squeaked with the sound of wooden chairs being dragged across linoleum. He was immediately surrounded by people who were pulling their chairs and scooting their tables to be closer to him.

Aldous Huxley (one of my personal heroes of that time) had also died that very day, but because of the ongoing news surrounding the President's assassination, Huxley's obituary was delayed nearly a week before even receiving space enough to be published in the local paper. That was doubly sad, but it seemed bigger and more metaphysically significant than that, like things were threatening to slip apace and descend quickly into an impending overall darkness.

In propinquity with some of the famous artists of the era, I'll tell you now that I never sought them out. Every one of them I ever happened to see or run into I watched from afar and I doubt more than two real words were ever exchanged with any of them.

While you might think that we were little insignificant coffee house players, you're right, we were; we were young, but our music act was actually so-so aspiring to be ok. In fact, my singing and picking partner, possessing a natural talent of some significance and just needing proper time for nurture, went on to make a respectable career in music for himself once he returned to Los Angeles -- back to the land where opportunities both held more promise and seemed to beckon more brightly; where there was a receptive and lucrative market for his songwriting and arranging skills, and his playing; he being native to the area, he knew better how to move through the scene and make use of his connections. I remained in the Bay Area, genuinely not experienced enough to go on as a solo act and finding it hard to round up another guitarist, much less a steady guitarist, let alone one as gifted as he; though I actually ended up playing backup guitar a few times for J.C. Burris, who immediately "borrowed" my three dollar Marine Band harmonica. He tricked me out of it forever and for all times by asking to see it, then played a little while on it. He then dramatically tapped it in his hand, and wiped his hand on the side of his coat. Then shook the harmonica towards the ground like he was still shaking his spit out of it and casually wiped the harmonica off on his pantleg. Then gave it an extra little polish on the arm of his coat before handing it back to me advising, "Never loan your harp to anyone." It was his harmonica after that. But I didn't really mind because (a) he was a nice fellow and played very well indeed, and (b) he was quite clever and humorous in how he got the instrument away from me; so we played together a few times, but we scarcely made any money.

A few years later, spring of 1965, (I first scribbled 1965, but in the clear light of day it was spring of 1964) in a small town at the far edges of the L.A. basin. Because of my limited connections to a concert, after the show, I met Bob Dylan. He shook hands like a dead fish. The promoter was a friend of mine and had asked me to invite the performer to a party after the show, and I obliged, but soon had to scurry back to the host of the party to advise that Bob Dylan had a large entourage of people traveling with him, "my friends", he'd said waving his hand towards the group in introduction. He wanted to bring all his friends to the party, too, and, he laughed as he told me, "I have a lot of friends."

At the after concert party, which was in a tract home rented by students in a suburban neighborhood on Kansas Street, we all were honestly amazed when they showed up. I was betting they wouldn't. Soon, I wished they hadn't. As I recall, Dylan arrived later than most. Within an hour, I watched in horror as Bob Dylan (in some kind of idiotic snit that people tend to make allowances for only when it involves the rich or famous) grasped a woman by the front of her blouse and then brutally backhanded her across the face not once but twice, SLAP! SLAP! knocking her offbalance, she staggering and dropping to one knee, holding a hand across her reddened cheek and sobbing. She was part of his entourage, and only the locals (i.e., we fools who had arranged to get the necessary dough coughed up to sponsor the show, and so had made the mistake of inviting these people in the first place) made our feelings known about this. I was there, I know what I saw, and how I felt about it then, which is how I feel about it now. I freely admit I did not sob or weep, for to let fall a single tear would have been a waste of salt, when Dylan snapped his own neck in his highly publicized loss of control, that one involving a two wheeler.

I never bought another of his records and to this day I have a hard time even being in the same room should one happen to come across the radio, if a radio happens to be on. I sneer mentally and viscerally, and disgust and negativity clouds my thoughts. Other people I know who have encountered this guy since tend to pontificate in deep baritone voices of respect: "I had dinner with him at a philosophy professor's house in Berkeley". (he's a genius, the professor's really smart, and I was invited there, so I must be pretty great, too) Or happy, hippy, birkenstock, and homespun, they recount in in waycool alto what a regular downhome fella he is: "I met him at his home in New York, and he brought out his guitar and everyone played music for hours." (per rainbow aquarius sunshine woman, he's gen-u-whine down to earth, like a friend, and plays guitar in his own living room like a friend). I remember differently and I know given the span of time that has already elapsed, that impression is not likely to change.

A year probably two after that concert debacle, back again in the Bay Area, I rolled on the floor giggling and holding my sides. A tape purporting to be made by Mimi's famous sister Joan (a twelve-string guitar was strumming and a female voice was mimicing Bob Dylan's nasaly clipped enunciation of the Coaster's song, "I'm Searchin "), was broadcast over the air by an underground FM radio station. This surely had to have been some kind of a hoax.

Because I am not a famous person, there is no reason for me to be around famous people. But based on what I came to know back then, in a limited but immediate way, Mimi and Joanie seem to be my idea of people. I've not read Positively 4th Street because I've heard from other people I respect that Mr. Hajdu completely missed the trip and misplaced their trust.

Ergo, it's painful to consider but easy to do: Dylan's whiny muzac gets clicked off. Because it touches on Dylan, I won't read Hajdu's book.

I'm not sure why I chose to share any of this today. I usually make it a rule never to write or talk about anyone I might know in show business until they're dead, because someone will just find a way to use them. And even being from real life, this would have been a pretty generic series of anecdotes, except for the name-dropping part. Drawn from real life, it doesn't make any kind of sense. Except that as you grow older, and experiences stack up, one thing reminds you of another and sometimes things intersect in strange ways.

With Mimi (bless her soul), I am always happy to hear one of her songs come across the radio, but it simply doesn't happen very often. The last time was the day she died. I heard her bright sweet voice and the sparkling sound of a hammered dulcimer as I followed the road by the river towards home. One of my favorite songs by her, one so textured and complex, it reminds me to forget even trying to figure out the big mystery of life when just one relationship can be so damned mystifying:

Reflections In A Crystal Wind

If there's a way to say I'm sorry, perhaps I'll stay another evening, beside your door, and watch the moon rise, inside your window, where jewels are falling, and flowers weeping, and strangers laughing, because you're dreaming that I have gone.

And if I don't know why I'm going, perhaps I'll wait beside the pathway where no one's coming, and count the questions I turned away from, or closed my eyes to, or had no time for, or passed right over because the answers would shame my pride.

I've heard them say the word "forever", but I don't know if words have meaning, when they are promised in fear of losing what can't be borrowed, or lent in blindness, or blessed by pageantry, or sold by preachers, while you're still walking your separate ways.

Sometime we bind ourselves together, and seldom know the harm in binding the only feeling that cries for freedom and needs unfolding, and understanding, and time for holding a simple mirror with one reflection to call your own.

If there's an end to all our dreaming, perhaps I'll go while you're still standing beside your door, and I'll remember your hands encircling a bowl of moonstones, a lamp of childhood, a robe of roses, because your sorrows were still unborn.



 
Compiling the best online articles about music so there will be more of both in the future. In periods of drought, the reader will be innundated by my own blogs on the matters.

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