Anxiously awaited book on Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues
in the works by Elijah Wald.
The long holiday weekend ahead reading room
Just in case you haven't taken a good long look at this article from
The House at World's End
The Hangman's Ancient Sunlight.
the multicoloured version
In Search of the American Popular Song dept.
An older issue of parlor songs
, but it's always current to look back through history.
"Music is reflective of the society and beliefs of a given time. Music from the 30s contained themes relating to the depression, the 40s music was consumed with patriotism and the war. Throughout the history of popular music, much of the music gives us insights into social issues and beliefs."
Racism and Prejudice In Music
Racism and Prejudice In Music (continued)
Current favorite real-life blues story dept.
Oh, the humanity
"Some years back, when I could be seen schlepping my drum kit in and out of various night spots around town on a regular basis, I was loading my band's gear into the Blue Max when I looked up and saw the bluesman Sonny Rhodes coming down the sidewalk. Rhodes was a fixture on the local blues scene at the time, a gracious, middle-aged black man with a classic blues voice and penchant for wearing turbans and playing great lap steel guitar. We'd jammed a few times at late sessions, but never really socialized beyond the stage. I waved a greeting and was surprised when Sonny stopped and said, "Hey, man, let me help you get that stuff inside." And he didn't go on about his business until we finished moving the whole carload of equipment into the stage area. "Have a good show tonight," he said as he headed back onto the sidewalk followed by my eternal gratitude."
Another current real-life blues story (courtesy of Richard Flohill):
SONNY RHODES PACKS UP HIS TURBAN
For more than 30 years, Stony Plain artist Sonny Rhodes - King of the Lap Steel Guitar and perennial W.C. Handy Award nominee - had worn a turban on stage. "I got the idea from Chuck Willis, and after he passed on, I kept the tradition alive."
Now, however, as a bizarre result of the tragedies of September 11, he's put the turban away. "Man, I got threatened three times - once in Edmonton and once by a guy who had a pistol on him," he said. "They said that wearing a turban was showing respect for
terrorists, and they were offended by it. I never heard so much nonsense in my life, but all I need is some crazy s.o.b. with a gun taking things out on me, and I'm not taking any risks."
Fans will be delighted that his famous red suit is still part of Sonny's formal stage gear. And he has a VERY snazzy new black cowboy hat to finish off the ensemble.
New site dept.
"Now usually I don't do this, but uh...gonna hit em, break em off with a little preview to the remix."
DOWNHILL BATTLE //pre-launch//
(via those troublemakers at Arts Journal Daily
The most highly recommended lengthy reads of the day (and on into the evening):
1. Robin Carmody's moving, consuming epitaph for music writer Ian McDonald
(at The House At World's End
(via rockcritics daily
2. PopMatters Top 100 Songs of 1977-2003
. Compiled and briefly talked about by the staff at the magazine of global culture. Whatever you might think this seems to be on the surface, this is not just another list.
(I threw my number in a hat and won the privilege of writing about David Bowie's "Heroes"
. I confess, I couldn't make myself stop at the 200 word mark.
You know, we have really good writers at PopMatters. A person just wrote me, still thinking about one of his pieces on the Top 100, and said he could easily have gone on for pages about that song and its significance. I hope he'll do that some time.)
3. Proper grammar, Pop-a-grammar, Propaganda, Prop-agenda
Brian Eno sounds out the "p" word
and explains how this might work in these modern times.
(via the fine folks at mediachannel
Policing pop dept
After recently being served with a cease and desist order via email, the music parody site Don'tBuyMusic.com
is back online (with a link to Rob Walker's article, "What is Parody?")
Loosely coupled thoughts on song writing by professionals in the real world of show business
Why don’t these people just write songs about what they really know about, the things that take up the majority of their waking and dreaming lives?
- how to have someone select the right ski wax for your nordic adventure on the slopes of
sapporo, aspen, or vail
- how to dry the nailpolish quickly under a dressing room fan in time for the tv interview
- how to juggle a busy schedule of a french restaurant for lunch with getting to the tailors to have the hems of the trousers resewn so they drape properly, mixed in with a confusing array of a tooth bleaching, a touch-up manicure, more busy shopping sprees, and a trip to the hairstylist
- how to survive the rigors of the executive frequent flyer waiting lounge at the airport
- how to soil the best hotels under anonymous names when touring so your group can stay there again on future tours
- how to pimp for your record company president, your manager, and the boys in the band, take what you want from the available flesh without alienating anyone more powerful than you
- how to avoid paper cuts when opening accounting reports from the record company
- how to order meals in at hotels
- how to jilt the hotel for payment after emptying the room’s refrigerator bar
- how to get the right dvd/vcr player to remain on friendly terms with the record company coke dealer
- how to get the right name for the barbizon model when you call the company for a little
- how to talk your way into a more famous celebrity’s limo so you can feign surprise when you have your photo taken together and published in a magazine
- how to have your underlings use your name properly so you get free admission and back stage access to any show you want to see
- how to tell the chauffeur to wait in the car, you’ll be back down in ten minutes
- how to impress the european air stewardess into “dating” you
- how to impress the air singapore stewardess into “dating” you
- how to give an appropriate “come hither” look to a potentially useful woman
- how to impress the “actress” or “model” into “dating” you with a minimum of capital outlay for a new outfit and restaurant tabs for her
- how to impress the waitress by running her legs off and then leaving her a big tip to show what a good sport you are, but only if she finds your attitude properly amusing
- how to deflect the attention of a spouse when you return home because you picked up STD someplace
- how to talk seriously about beauty and fashion magazine articles with your girlfriend and have her retain helpful interest in your conversation
- how to pack the complete dr. hauschka kosmetik tonikum product line and still have room for six pair of shoes
- how to fake that the brain damage received from using “Ecstacy” is merely middle-aged forgetfulness or the result of using more public-friendly drugs
- how to cover up the doctor bill for the cardiogram required before the doctor will rewrite the viagra script by telling your spouse “it’s just a little arythmia, nothing to worry about.”
- how to properly instruct, train, and groom the new girlfriend so she’ll eventually become something you’d be proud to own
- how to show up for dinner invitations, bring nothing to the table, and be invited back (hint: just look at the host’s self-photographed naughty photos and videos)
- how to properly use a young woman’s eagerness to oblige to milk the most out of the relationship in terms of acquiring new networks for your career and new numbers for the business rolodex
- how to listen to yet another year of continuing gossip about child sexual abuse by another celebrity and never think of dropping a dime on him to the authorities
- how to display proper concern about dropping an ash in a private club in front of a reporter
- how to cut short any conversation that might turn towards providing useful information to a young person coming up who might one day become a potential competitor
Song Contest Reminder (seems they're still interested in searching up new song writing talent):
The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) Deadline Is Only A Few
For more information and to enter online or via mail, please go to:
Enter your songs now - ISC is giving away over $100,000 in cash and prizes.
Entries must be postmarked on or before September 15, 2003.
All musicians, bands, solo artists, and songwriters are invited to enter
their songs. This year's competition includes 13 categories: Pop/Top 40;
Rock; Country; AAA/Roots/Americana; R&B/Hip-Hop; Blues; Folk/Singer-
Songwriter; Jazz; World; Gospel/Christian; Dance/Electronica; Lyrics Only;
and a special Teen category for songwriters 18 yrs. old and younger.
ISC is designed to promote excellence in the field of songwriting and
provides an unique opportunity for songwriters to gain exposure and
recognition. The competition offers both amateur and professional
songwriters the unprecedented chance to have their music heard by some of
the most influential and high-profile leaders in the music and recording
industry. This year's competition features a distinguished panel of
Rob Thomas (Lead Singer/Songwriter, Matchbox 20)
B.B. King (Legendary Blues Artist)
Pat Metheny (Jazz Guitarist)
Phil Vassar (Country Artist, Singer/Songwriter)
Dan Haseltine (Lead Singer/Songwriter, Jars Of Clay)
Vanessa Carlton (Singer/Songwriter - Teen Category Only)
Bebe Winans (Gospel Artist)
Guru (Rapper/Composer, Gang Starr)
Paul Oakenfold (DJ/Producer/Remixer)
Raine Maida (Lead Singer/Songwriter, Our Lady Peace)
*NSYNC (Teen Category Only)
Nile Rodger (Producer/Performer - Chic, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, etc)
Monte Lipman (President, Universal Records)
Arif Mardin (VP/GM, Manhattan Records)
Bruce Lundvall (CEO/President, Capitol Jazz/Classics)
Frank Callari (Sr. VP A&R, Lost Highway Records)
Tina Davis (Sr. VP A&R, Def Jam/Def Soul)
Rose Noone (Sr. VP A&R, Epic Records)
Jimmy Bralower (VP A&R, Atlantic Records)
Kim Stephens (VP A&R/Promotion, Lava Records)
Tara Griggs-Magee (Sr. VP/GM, Verity Records)
Robert Beeson (President, Essential Records)
Errol Kolosine (GM, Astralwerks Records)
Michael Gudinski (Chairman, Mushroom Group Of Companies)
Please pass this information onto anyone you think might be interested in
ISC, and don't forget to check out our sponsors and media partners listed
International Songwriting Competition
Zero Governors Avenue #6
Medford, MA, USA 02155
(There are a few links there with samples from last year's winners available for your listening pleasure.)
Christopher Howse (in writing about low culture v no culture
) invites you to:
"Imagine your head is made of timber. Well, every time you read a daft story in a tabloid about a silly celebrity it is as if a termite has been transferred into your xylomorphic noddle. By the end of a year, your brain will be nothing but a crumbly galleried shell.
"This is absolutely scientific. Our Technology Correspondent reported last week that some academic psychiatrists at Southern Illinois University have alarming data on Celebrity Worship Syndrome, which leads to depression, anxiety, social dysfunction and psychosis [report, Aug 14]
Apparently, Celebrity Worship has reached such massive proportions, manifestations are now regarded professionally as a syndrome of some kind or the constellation of such symptoms present as a form of disease. One person made an early self-diagnosis:
Mad Icon Disease
Others are inclined even momentarily to take a more philosophical spin on "Living in a fantasy world
"Most of us have been accused at one time or another of "living in a fantasy world." The funny thing about such an accusation is that it's perfectly true, but not in the way that our accusers generally mean it. Because most of us are inhabiting worlds generated not by our own fantasies, but are instead ensnared in a tangled web of fantasy spun out of the minds of everyone around us. Unfortunately, due to the economic circumstances of the corporeal world, so many of our fantasies are mutually exclusive that most of us can only imagine what it would be like to live in a world where our fantasies are encouraged to come true. "
I don't think I've posted this here before.
Adventures at the Bottom of the Music Trade
That used to be a tragedy that they threw out the tapes. Nowadays, be assured every name-brand musician with twenty, thirty, forty records released during their twenty, thirty, forty years of performing also has twenty, thirty, forty years of sound board tapes. Every note and squiggle played onstage during those twenty, thirty, forty years has been immortalized forever on tape, and all are likely about to be re-engineered, recombined, and released in untold numbers but are likely to be twenty, thirty, forty small plastic volumes of vanity.
Powerful music turns us into holy fools
, RAY ROBERTSON says, making us do and imagine foolish things.
World Music Stories Project
A Request for Consideration
The end of world music
- - - - - - - - - -
DEAD STORIES PROJECT
A Request For Submissions
From Bill Keenom
If the prospect of telling Grateful Dead stories makes you yawn,
cringe, or worse, yak, then read no further. If you are still among the faithful,
or once were, please read on.
I'm looking for people willing write two or three pages describing
their most memorable Grateful Dead concert experience.
These stories may include descriptions of the venue, the people,
the drugs, the music, the electricity of a great show, or even the
awful disappointment of a lousy show. How you happened to be
at the show, or the way the event may have impacted your life are
also potential material for your story.
Being a great or seasoned writer is not the point here. Having you put
your honest, heartfelt memories in writing is what I am after. My intention
is to collect the most interesting stories and edit them into a collection
with the hope of publishing them in book form.
If this project is of interest to you, and you have a story to tell,
please send your recollections as text in the body of an e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not send these as a document
attachment to an email.
If selected for publication you will be credited with your name and a
bit of personal background text, which will be presented as an opening to each
Feel free to mention this project to your friends, especially if they
have an interesting Dead story. Direct any questions you may have about this
project to me directly at email@example.com.
Sincerely, Bill Keenom
Co-author, Michael Bloomfield - If You Love These Blues
Tired of those old style magazines, a group once got together to publish a magazine in a format other than print and bound.
Of course, they had a pop issue
Which contained the musings of a music critic
In the interest of fair and balanced reading, revisit Aspen
, the magazine in a box.
Tired of radio Ga Ga, locals band together to beat "pop prattle" and might just flip their Wigtown. That is to say, a strange and promising new radio station sighted on the horizon
. Stay tuned.
The Electric Review
is a brand new magazine published by John Aiello. Believe me, the Electric Review is worth more than a cursory glance.
Keep turning the pages there and reading, stay tuned, and be prepared for the surprising eruption of poetry in the midst of writing about music:
"Anoushka's playing, like her father's, is deeply rooted in Buddhism, paying homage to spirits and unnamed ghosts with the gifts of the earthly body. And like her father, Anoushka's music is but an extension of the soul, peeling away these tin masks of human suffering and replacing them with the perfect serenity of unborn dreams. As Anoushka performs, it's almost as if she is lost in conversations with God. This is music of magical proportions, moving men from their secret chairs, casting the whole skulls of mountains into transparent shadows. At once, heaven has been reunited with the earth and the sun."
(From ANOUSHKA SHANKAR & THE SITAR
IN CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD By John Aiello)
And watch for insights into what music might really be:
"Putumayo is unique in that it strives to recreate communities among the scattered cold torn landscapes of America, binding segregated worlds together, uniting the hungry and the forsaken and the blind through the invisible beauty of music. One brief sampling of this material reveals an original vision that has stepped past the "profits first" bottom line and reconnected us with the true idea of art."
(Coming soon, the next issue of Electric Review.)
"I understand full well how easy it is to slip into the language of insincere, formulaic vacuity, a language that reduces words and meaning to the lowest capitalist denominator. I know it's easier to write what you think other people want you to mean than to figure out there's no way to say what you really mean in certain contexts. I know it's easier to whack people on the head with hyperbole than to sell them on subtlety. And I know it's easier to plug in a bunch of clichés than to try to convey what music sounds like. "
Reading music press releases and seeing red.
(An unusual silly season series, wherein the San Francisco Bay Guardian
tasks their music critics to write about music writing
I posted today on I Love Music. (one of the 7 comments under a thread titled "PopMatters the website". Today's winner for most posts on a day's topic, currently 203 comments under a heading "The Village Voice Thinks You're Stupid".)
Yes, I like PopMatters, too. And today more than ever, because all the pieces just fell together -- everything lined up perfectly and communications worked as they should so that some good could come into the world. OK, I write and publish on PopMatters, so of course I like the place, but let me tell you what just happened.
As I zero in on this, remember I live in the same world as you, where it often seems everybody is concerned only with advancing their own careers and personal agendas, where individual or corporate profitability are the yardsticks by which all worth is measured or even valued, and where everybody tailgates and nobody donates blood. I never would have dreamed that this latest development would ever materialize, which only goes to prove the world is still perfectly capable of providing good surprises.
I wrote my original review on Jessie Mae Hemphill
for PopMatters after hearing Jessie's record broadcast on a small local radio station as I was winding down through the hills on my rare commute into town. Her music was so captivating that I thought I'd like to hear some more. So I moseyed in to the local record store, not really having much hope as the odds of me finding a copy of that very record were remote indeed, especially if you can imagine my little hick town. But nonetheless there was a used copy of the CD in the bin before me like one of those happy coincidences or small miracles you hear about.
Well, after listening some more, I decided to write about this music. After doing some background research and emailing people back and forth, I learned Jessie was in some genuine difficulty. There were some other obstacles mixed in for me, as I preferred the original cover photo where she was holding her Handy awards, but that original LP had long ago fallen from print and was rare as hen's teeth. But I cast about and asked for help from complete strangers in a blues discussion group, and several people (one guy lived in France!) went out of their way to scan and send me the cover. Another even set up the album on a chair in his living room and photographed it, sending me a digital picture!
Having learned more about Jessie along the way, I also felt a little guilty having bought the CD used (I figured Jessie wouldn't get any royalties and I knew by then she could use the dough) so I mailed her a little bit of money with a copy of the article once it was published (because I also figured she didn't have ready access to the internet).
Truthfully, as even the CD was "out of date", PopMatters was likely the only magazine that would even consider such an article for publication, especially by a humble hack such as I who holds no claim to fame or career.
Then a while back someone got in touch with me asking if it was okay to quote from the article. Now let me say, this form of courtesy is almost unheard of in the modern world, too, where most tend to look on articles and reviews as their property once the words hit print.
Here's what just recently showed up for Jessie, which I just found a few days ago on the internet:
Jessie Mae Hemphill Foundation
So you see publications like PopMatters can play their part in helping to make a beneficial difference and even impact individual lives. So that's why I like PopMatters.
You're havin' a birthday, happy birthday to you
Flaskaland posts patriotic tribute to American spirit:
20 years of reggae on the river
(and they said it couldn't be done)
Addendum: What isn't reported is that traditionally all the concessions were run by local non-profit groups, and were likely the major fund-raiser of the year for them -- these are rural schools, rural health centers, volunteer fire departments, local little theatre, ecology groups, environmental groups, salmon restoration projects, save the river from getting polluted more groups, lots of do-good groups, and so on. Or at least that's a sample listing of who used to be around there, there might be slightly different ones now.
While the VOA
, would you have ever, ever in your wildest imaginings have thought that reggae on the river would ever, ever be mentioned by the VOA
... please notice the words "biggest" and "best"). While the VOA
article taps some of the historic roots, I'll provide some litty bitty root follicles.
I'm doing this because I'm told that people who know the music industry know it is driven by gossip and that means that in music journalism people want gossip
Well, that's likely true, but also they've started playing a unique online version of Reggae on the River trivia.
OK, one of the performers at this year's festival was responsible for bringing Jimmy Cliff over on his very first U.S. tour -- imagine those distant days of yesteryear, long ago when Jackson Browne had facial hair and groupies.
Hey, this is getting juicy already. You know (wink!) -- Groupies!
Well, I could describe them if I chose, but be assured they were sometimes toothsome lasses with frizzed coiffures and wooly shawls or silky scarves, who wore toe rings and favored natural look earth-color chinos. Anyway, this was back in the day when reggae was nearly unknown to anyone outside of Jamaica or certain locations in England, though heard occasionally on records broadcast in the South of France or in England or the more with-it radio stations (usually in college towns, at least in the U.S.), and reggae was witnessed by most only in movie form in art-house cinemas. This also was back in the day of social upheaval and unrest in Jamaica, and Chris Blackwell would soon give Jimmy Cliff his big pink mansion .... This sounds a magnanimous reward and unspeakably generous, but I can't help but being reminded of that time I'd heard of, shortly after Pearl Harbor when a similar phenomenon temporarily erupted -- the rich folks in Manoa, Hawaii gave their upscale homes and mansions to their local Japanese servants because war was looming large and in such upheaval they knew they couldn't sell their properties -- yes, so Blackwell gave his house to Cliff and the record company magnate was about to move himself and his mom from their plantation island home to safer quarters while they rode out the storm.
Well, I kind of got off track there a bit, so back to Jimmy Cliff. But nonetheless people took a creative risk for what they believed in and Jimmy Cliff was contracted to share the tour with Jackson Browne shows, and this was the first time Jimmy Cliff had been to America to perform. It's also true to say that in those days, the audiences in (say, Pocatello or Tucson) who had come to hear Jackson Browne just didn't all catch the wave at once -- they just didn't get it, not right away.
In those days, too, the security squads coached and instructed by Island records acted every bit the same then as they do now with U2 -- they packed themselves densely like a football squad around Jimmy Cliff and kept everyone at arm's length, being "protective". It's almost hackneyed now to say the very person who suggested Cliff for the tour in the first place couldn't even get close to say hello to him, even though they were sharing the same stage night after night.
Because that nowadays has become so commonplace everywhere as to become some form of rock star anecdotism, too, to talk about how you can't get back stage to say hello to your friends or can barely get in to perform, yakity yak yuckity-yuck. OK, I admit this might've been a funnier anecdote twenty-five or thierty years ago before it became a par-for-the-course reality in everyone's repertoire of experience.
But that person who got Jimmy Cliff his first tour in the U.S. is scheduled to perform at this year's festival. Can you guess which performer that might be?
Times have changed a lot since then. These days, I sometimes doubt anyone even remembers or cares there ever was a place called Fireman's Hall or how any of this really was getting started, but I for one think it's fun and dare I say important to know something about history, especially local history Back in the days when reggae on the river was still inchoate, still forming as an idea, just a figment of longing and imagining and a dream yet to be realized ...
Back when there was no budget to speak of in a community center, a local reggae band was tapped to perform at every single local benefit, and people thereabouts really liked reggae so there were a few outside reggae bands booked into the Fireman's Hall, with the idea of making some money and then being able to bring more reggae bands into the area to perform.
Starting logically in the count-up to success was Earl Zero
, a one-man show. Earl that night was a toaster and a prancer and performed with echoed amp heavy on the reverb and a handheld mic on a wriggly cord that looked like it was from a taxi driver's radio. He was, truthfully, by no means a famous or high earning performer. Yet Earl Zero
was so taken by the spirit of everyone there, and what they hoped to someday do, he donated his entire evening's pay (all of $300) to help fund future reggae shows, I think with the idea that he would in this way be helping other reggae musicians down the road to take a trip out of shantytown.
That was awfully nice of him, wasn't it? Bless the Earl, too.