Friday, October 31, 2003

The real history of the rock and roll years -- the 1960s (from a Scottish newspaper):


APRIL 1965
Bert Jansch records his first album using a reel-to-reel tape machine and a borrowed guitar. He sells the recordings to the Transatlantic label for GBP 100. The album goes on to become one of the most influential guitar albums ever."

(And Bertie never saw another penny from that record, most especially not the publishing royalties because of the way the contract was written and later interpreted in a lower court of English law. Booo-oooo-oooo! Boooo-ooooo! Hoooo-ooot! Mon!)


Another bunch of dedicationists talking to each other about music on their blog, Talk About Music:

"So it's Halloween, and I have a few things to tell you all that should be pretty scary. How's this for starters - noted public exhibitionist and Bush supporter Britney Spears is releasing her fourth album on November 18. Commenting on her new material earlier this year, the renowned noncomposer said, "Anyone can write a boring artistic song. But a pop song is the hardest sh-- to write."

Scary, indeed. But, you argue, it's not like Brit-Brit's new album includes a duet with Madonna or anything.

Actually, it does.


Okay, that's not going to frighten Tim, who thinks Madonna is better than Norah Jones. Well, here's something that will really scare the Shinola outa ya; a new concert album has been added to the Emerson, Lake and Palmer catalog - Live in Poland.

First the Polish people had to deal with invasions from the Austrians, the Germans, and the Russians, now this. Did the Pope really liberate his homeland to make it safe for art rock?

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. (How do you say that in Polish?) Happy Halloween!"

Thursday, October 30, 2003
Gentleman Jason Gross of Perfect Sound Forever popped up to spread the word (and remind me I have been remiss in not mentioning this before now):

"If you have any interest about women, arts and media, see this new mailing list for women journalists: Girl Group."
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
"When all the archtypes burst in shamelessly, we reach Homeric depths. Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion. Just as the height of pain may encounter sensual pleasure, and the height of perversion border on mystical energy, so too the height of banality allows us to catch a glimpse of the sublime."

The word according to Eco

The cliches will be having a ball for some time to come.
Room for marginal error dept.

Like a snake devouring its own tail, the archives for this site have begun disappearing again due to ongoing thrashings and spasms of blogger technology. Gone without a trace are the first three anxious months of existence in the ether.

So once in awhile from here on out, I'll post a link to something from those bygone days, just to prove some things are worthy of surviving the test of time.

Certainly good reporting on music history like this piece should continue to be read:

Where does the lion sleep tonight?

Monday, October 27, 2003
How looking at an artist's body of work can explain how vacuity might with success inspire copyists and imitators, thus increasing the size of the social vacuum. Newton: Edgy or vacuous?
D.S.: There’s already so much chaos in life. You turn to art to escape it.
M.C.: Chance becomes its own order, if you choose to use it. Instead of planning a specific order, you use chance, and out of it will come a new kind of order.
D.S.: But it would probably be an inferior order, a nonorder.
M.C.: Exactly. So that it opens your imagination. Chaos is chaos only if you think it is chaos.
D.S.: That’s incorrect. Some situations are genuinely chaotic.

The critics dancing

Sunday, October 26, 2003
(sigh) Another obituary, but a reminder there were a few other people operating in the vicinity who were also responsible for reggae -- and rocksteady.

Critic expresses concern about the blanding, I mean the vibrant exchange of cultural values.

Shrink-wrapped uniformity overtakes Asia
Word for the day dept: "Convergence"

Media 'convergence' a prism for pop culture

The distinctions between media, and the lines between commerce and art, are fading into oblivion as the blending picks up pace.
Saturday, October 25, 2003
The Attack of the Surf Banjo: Amazing Similarities and Other Wavy Coincidences

How I enjoy reading articles like this splendid period piece called "The Average Folk Music Fan circa 1963" by Ronnie Lankford.

This really hearkens back to a time that was relentlessly conforming, all us kids safely installed eight hours a day in the Austro-Prussian obedience factories known as the public school system, and the surrounding environment of this very buttoned-down conformity could be unremittingly stultifying for us all. But in my memory at least it also seemed a more innocent time, likely because I was young and innocent myself. But remembered as a time that held promise of changing into something better.

Residing all those many years prior in our precious little village was a young man named Michael Stewart, who would perform occasionally with a little folk trio he had assembled. "Clive" Fuller I believe went to school in the area and was on standup bass. A bit rotund as a young man, wearing horned rim glasses and suit, he bore an uncanny resemblance at that time to a popular film character, “the 9th richest man in the world” in the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and because that was a laughable conceit, nothing was done to dispel that. I’ve forgotten the girl singer’s name, I come up with Sue, but she actually went to my school, too. Anyway, Michael’s older brother was John Stewart, who had some reputation in the folk music world and that reputation promised to grow as he had just joined the Kingston Trio. So it was this group of younger folks still in their final years of secondary school all joined up to play music in the town and valley here and there, maybe with the idea of growing up one day to be successful, maybe to be like the Kingston Trio.

This is like fall of 1961 or 62. I was in occasional and then rare communication with John Severenson of the new “Surfer” magazine as I kept sending in cartoons and stories; they’d ask for more of these things from me, but never printed anything of mine that I know of. He actually called me on the phone once or twice; once to ask for a rewrite he didn’t print. Another time, he called to let me know they were going to co-sponsor a Surf Fair at Long Beach Memorial Auditorium and was asking about entertainment possibilities.

Why not? I had already been to the First Huntington Beach “International” Surfing Competition, an event which had been seriously impeded by a giant oil slick from a tanker that went down off the coast, the miles of oil washing in to despoil the waters and cake the beach with dark lumps of slime and goo for months afterwards.

But at that Huntington Beach contest, while Dave Whittington was shooting the pier despite the judge’s prohibitions not to and despite the slippery brown sludge coating his board, I’d also got to hear a new band in the flesh called the Beach Boys. So it was that I was asked about entertainment, as the promoters of Surf Fairs also enjoyed having music as a part of things because the kids liked it. My first most obvious young thought was to recommend the Beach Boys, but I was advised they were already too expensive and busy by then and anyway the promoters hadn’t designed the event as a dance. In fact, I was further cautioned, it had been difficult enough to persuade those in charge of renting out the keys to provide use of their facility even for a fee for such an event. It seemed there would be no surf music allowed at the surf fair.

So it ended up Mike’s little folk music trio made their appearance there at a surf fair. Not the first big International contest, one that even had a single television cameraman to provide local news coverage of the real-time contest and oil spill, no no, but a smaller everyday surf fair and exposition in distant Long Beach, at a large building painted a bright white to resemble local Spanish style architecture and better reflect the sun, a place with steep front stairs, called the Long Beach Memorial Auditorium.

While nearer to home, on other more familiar pretend beatnik coffee house stages, Michael was known to open the set with a simple pronouncement: “We're the Ridgerunners." Then he'd cue the trio with a "beep beep" sound like the cartoon roadrunner makes before he zoomed into a breakneck fast banjo breakdown that grabbed everyone’s attention. And this opening was designed to dazzle.

Anyway, at this show at the surf fair, where it was advised that no surf music would be allowed, Michael called the crowd to the stage by tinkling out the opening to “Let’s Go Trippin’” on his banjo and then crescendoed into playing his banjo like a surf guitar for a joke. It was actually quite funny, as good as any stage gag can be, and he at least got the crowd of blond, plaid-flanneled or madras-plaid, huarachi-shod gremmies (I was there, prancing in retread) to look at the stage.

A few years later when Michael added a few more members to form the larger group "We Five" that got the hit song, I think the original configuration had changed. I thought he had gone back to study at the University of San Francisco, but he’d moved back to the area to go to Mt SAC. They did a song called “You Were On My Mind.” But that was later.

His brother, John, took a keen interest in politics at a grass roots level and started up a discussion group in town for the young people, I forget the name of the group, but we would meet in small groups to discuss various issues and turn all the ideas around. John went on to help Robert Kennedy in his 1968 Presidential campaign and continued making music in a style that had fallen a bit out of popular fashion.

Michael Stewart continued in the music business, too, and produced a few records for his brother. I thought it interesting to find his name as producer here and there on a lot of records -- Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” is likely the best known. This was a save-your-life and make-a-fortune work, the album that rekindled Billy’s debut after the young NY songwriter had expressed extreme disappointment with his life, the state of the universe, and a career that was going nowhere by his suicide attempt (drinking a bottle of furniture polish). After a stomach-pumping and a restorative trip to Bellvue, he’d gone on to be disappointed in a similar manner yet again, after he made his first record. He'd signed a management deal with a person he decided had turned out to be a scurilous type, the same person who'd found him a record contract and he subsequently argued with that same manager and the record company. That's where he was at when Michael Stewart found him playing piano apparently under an assumed name in Los Angeles.

So Michael eventually produced Billy Joel early on, sometime in the seventies. Earlier on as the sixties crashed into the seventies, he'd produced “Joy” by a couple of people who moved in periphery with some of the people I knew in the Bay Area, Toni & Terry, who had made up a vital part of the Joy of Cooking (maybe more on them later). Then, he produced as well as for a local Honolulu band who had the totally cool name, “Poi Dog Pondering.” Kind of like a Hawaiian Nipper. He rounded them up and produced them after they’d left Hawaii for the mainland as the eighties nudged on into the nineties.

Michael’s gone now, I learned a few days after he died via an email report from a mutual acquaintance. His memorial service was just a few hour’s drive from where I live, but I didn’t attend. I’ve never been crazy about going to funerals or wakes, and there are just too many of them lately.

And anyway I was just a person, one of many encountered in a lifetime, scarcely remembered if recalled at all from such a long time before and not any part of his life or career during the intervening decades. I figure that’s ok I didn’t go, as he likely wouldn’t have had any reason to attend mine.

He was a nice enough fella, really. Please regard this as my Long Beach Memorial to him.

But I can’t for the life of me remember the name of that high school discussion group John Stewart founded. (If anybody happens to read this and knows, just stick it in the comments box or something, please.)

The music to many seemed too shiny faced and overly wholesome. The industry society of the time kept changing around them all, and soon someone was joking to me she knew of someone who had bedded all the male members of the New Lost Christy Minstrels (I'll pick that name because I especially hated a particular folk-rock radio hit rendition of Jesse Fuller's "San Francisco Bay Blues"); I was even informed that folk groupie collected their autographs as a memento of her conquest in a Giddeon Bible purloined from the motel room that doubled as the love nest for that occasion.

Truthfully, the industry society kept changing around everyone although the folk music circuit continued stubbornly and sometimes foolishly on; by the '80s, really, it was rather embarrassing to even hear about a coked-out dulcimer solo. Much less to happen upon a whacked out, overly enthused character spontaneously bursting into "If I Were A Carpenter" in a setting not at all remotely conducive to such rapturous extemporized displays.

Well, so much for folk music today.


(But wait, insert contemplations on Mike Stewart and John Stewart here)

Adviso: I enjoy turning the pages of my mental diary now and again, to see how it is remember things without first referring to other people's data stacks. I mean it's something to do, isn't it?

As for John Aiello's observations:

... "a piece that shined a pained eye on what it’s like trying to make meaningful music for a mass audience."

"Unfortunately, without the advertising muscle of a major label, the music is often left to languish, wallowing in waste and obscurity, embittered by the cruel immorality of a generation that chooses money over the blood of the human soul."

" ... a zen-like meditation on the journey of one man’s soul as it moves toward the distant silhouette of heaven in a dream. "

"... not slick enough for the shopping mall mentality of America in the 21st century."

"The emptiness of landscapes buried in the broken promises and tired dreams of a dying people. Hope betrayed. The cold and silent passage of time. Bones now fading back to dust. It's hard to dance to this kind of music. And it hurts when you make us think."

-- well, sounds like Aiello is writing about music, doesn't it?


The following comment was posted:

Date/Time: Jan 06 2004, 10:43 am

Poster: Jerry Burgan

IP address:

Email: officialwefive@yahoo.com

Homepage: http://www.wefive.net

RE: Oct. 25, 2003
Very interesting --and touching --story. As Michael's partner and the other singing member of the 'folk trio' that played at the surf fair mentioned in the story below, I can say that it was indeed a memorable event at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium. The girl's name was indeed Sue (Sue Ellen Davies) and Pete (Clive) Fullerton was the bass player. Some other interesting notes that are missing from her recollection is the fact that the Righteous Bros played "Little Latin Lupe Loop" and Bruce Brown actually narrated an early version of what became 'Endless Summer'. It was quite a night.

Regarding John Stewart's 'discussion' group... It was called Quiet Fight. John would go to area high schools while traveling the country with the Kingston Trio and do afternoon assemblies where he sang songs about American history and important issues of the day. The Ridgerunners did a couple of those concerts with him at Garey High in Pomona, and Damien in LaVerne. Much of the music was also recoreded and used as a sound track for the documentary film about the US Space program called 'With Their Eyes On the Stars'. In addition to John and the Ridgerunners, the sound track singers also included John Phillips, Scott MacKenzie (in their post Journeymen days), and another Claremont girl named Eileen Duffy who sang briefly in the Ridgerunners before Beverly Bivens joined the group and it became We Five.

Sorry to hear that you didn't make it to Michael's funeral. It was a very positive and simple tribute to a very creative man who was much loved as a husband, father, brother, partner and friend. Songs were sung and I'm sure that he smiled.

Sunday, October 19, 2003
Why Frank Zappa was a hard act to follow

I feel obliged to add this note: What kind of stories do you want to read? Lists of famous people doing their small strange things? Read about their sex? Of course, being human we all have some element of the prurient about us.

If you think there was lots of sex in rock and roll, there undoubtedly was a whole lot of that going on, but don't make too many assumptions about me.

I have to tell you that Zappa was a little mean, too, but he was more angry and intolerant of human stupidity. And because there is so very much of that in the world, that meant he could easily be angry much of the time. I wouldn't know how he went on developing as a person, I'm guessing, as I don't recall seeing him in the flesh to even say hello to since about 1965.

But here's where knowing "famous" people can be a real disadvantage. I try not to name drop because that's just empty and boring to listen to. Christ, who cares, really, which Costco it is where Madonna buys her cigars or any of these other personal details of famous lives?

But decades ago I had mentioned once to a friend at college that I had known Frank. So he, knowing this, later suggested we see a flick when it came out. “The new Frank Zappa movie ...”

The producer/director (I guess Frank) was able to encourage a drunk and dimwitted Peter Tork (famous for being a "Monkee”) to be filmed dipping his weinie into a bucket of plaster and start pumping, which says volumes about the basic common sense possessed by musicians of that era. That film when I saw it back in the early 70’s embarrassed me and cut me to the quick because I couldn’t believe someone I had known (namely Frank) would make something like that. Seeing it was like
part of the embarrassments of being human, like watching people you know lose complete control of themselves.

Sometimes, the only thing I find comforting when dealing with some of the realities surrounding those I have mentioned is that most of these people are dead. What bothers me more today is that musicians and entertainers in general have allowed their world to become a steadily increasing, faster running open sewer and are inviting everyone to jump in. If you don’t jump, they just try to foist it off on you in some other way to show how “worldly wise” and sophisticated or elemental they are.

Who gives a shit about your version of things? You’ve allowed your world to become even a worse place than it was when you first entered it, and shame, shame on you.

Who I've been listening to:

The Slackers -- they are just wonderful (sounds a bit like dipping into old style reggae) and they are so respectful
and completely sincere about it ...

The Festival of the Desert I'm ashamed to say I've had this for months. I just broke it open a few days ago and it is the best (though strangest) live record I think I've heard.

The track by Blackfire, a Native American group, is profoundly heartfelt and just foggin rawks -- "What Do You See" -- It may make you believe in the power again.

I've been playing that one quite a bit over the past few days, sometimes my core goes wobbly from the sound of raspy chanting. Just a bunch of red punks, they must be.

Blackfire, those wonderful beings swept through the edges of the territory where I live, and performed one night at Feather Falls Casino in Oroville, smack in the old goldfields, a land visited also in those distant fevered days by Cecil John Rhodes himself.

Did you ever suspect he had come here to California -- the English colonialist set his own foot here -- Cecil John Rhodes -- propelled in part by his dreams to reclaim America for the English empire? The man for whom Rhodesia was named, and who also is remembered by his name affixed to the scholastic honorarium bestowed upon only of the greatest of scholars, those known now as Rhodes Scholars.

Well, he did. He wasn't just shaping South Africa, he was here, too, on a brief tourist stopover, an outing to sift through the Sierra Nevada slopes for diamonds pried from the mother's bones. He bought a diamond mine or two, of course, while passing through the way some might buy a tourist curio. His mine, but one that helped dribble funds into the DeBeers company coffers, was one of many near a place called Whiskey Flats, a camp that eventually became a town where today too many of the framed wooden houses are painted with cheap barn paint, a dusty red, a particular hue that when the sun hits just right and if you know anything of history or even something of events in the here and now, it's a color that can easily remind anyone of a wash of dried blood -- it's a town known as Cherokee.

Don't care to know the stories? Then, let's dance. Come on, everybody, let's dance.

"Ministers of Cool Pt. 2"

Where ministers of cool once danced
Saturday, October 18, 2003
Why the stories are important dept.

"The stories we know help us see who we are," Ms. Rose said in her fast, urgent way, her gaze never drifting from behind metal-rimmed glasses. She was sitting over a mug of coffee in a funky, fashionable downtown restaurant. "If we don't take those stories seriously and understand them as part of our social and political formation, then we may be increasingly manipulated in ways we may not want to be."

Tricia Rose in the paper of record

A Year of Writing Dangerously

Quite a good outline on the different types of (music) journalism when writing for newspapers.

(Keep taped to the wall to gesture towards in the event anyone ever suspects there might be a difference between a reviewer and a critic. Subtly outline sidebar with colored marker.)

Thursday, October 16, 2003
A threek, not a fork in the tributary of music history

According to geeta, Matos "has gone completely mental with Boogie Fever, the R&B answer to Tom's Popular and Mike's American Hot Wax."

Bangs Bangs (They Call Him the Hunter ... )

Sensei Dilemma: When Lester Bangs comes back to write about "world" music

Why is it whenever I get a significant amount of money I spend it only on essential things? Not on things like taxicabs for long drives through the deserts for clandestine visits to Kazakhastan nightclubs where bears and naked women dance together at the end of long chains. Or buying small trinkets to bribe the doormen at some European hip-hop scene. Life for some seems nearly destined to continue as one big collection of global party experiences. Both for those when granting the interviews to their journalists who believe everything Hunter Thompson said, showing up reeking from the Polish vodka of last night’s club adventures to show they’ve read some Lester Bangs, too. This morning, at least their hangovers were softened from a genki drink buzz and gentled by the whisper of buffalo grass growing on a central European plateau. Then after the interview they’ll all stroll drink in hand across the footbridge to kill more time at the Otani’s koi ponds before heading out for what promises to be a gory evening in the Harajuku.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Worthy of a longer look:

GLOBAL It's a Small World for Pop Conglomerates

Listening to the Beat of World Music
Drugs, Sex, and Rock n Roll Study Guide
New book alert dept

Britain and the American South: From Colonialism to Rock and Roll
We invent definitions for ourselves as we go along,
sometimes sharing tastes.


A List of Music Historians, Compilers, and Music Connoissieurs

Dig deep enough through the links above and you'll discover where and when the phrase "rare groove" was invented.

Monday, October 13, 2003
Radiohead Rorschach: An innocent fifth grader's picture is worth a thousand-word critical analysis.
A Report from the Underground: Music Criticism

Sunday, October 12, 2003
A necessary development: Pipe Down
Last obituary for the day.

A belated farewell to Neil Postman, who always knew why he was laughing.

Why pop matters
In a small town with one stoplight many years ago, one that was bordered with the overpainted white spikes of picket fences, the town fathers legislated and enforced morality (overnight parking on the street was forbidden, and it was a "dry town", i.e., no beer wine or liquor was sold in city limits).

Near us was a small mom and pop store, just half a block away across the county line in San Bernardino County. My mother would send me there on small shopping errands, sometimes with notes authorizing me to pick up cigarettes for her. I was a known quantity at the little store as I went to school with the son of the people who owned the store. Periodically, in the hottest time of summer, I would hang out when my young friend was watching the counter as just a kid. I’d slug down a bottle of Sunspot, a big green bottle of carbonated grapefruit juice that also had a picture of a cup on the side and said, “As much caffeine as a cup of coffee.” The store, just across the county line, sold beer and wine.

The city fathers kept leaning on them in various ways, applying pressure, to make them stop selling booze, as college kids would sometimes drive over there and buy it. I think because they sold alcohol, some people suspected they might have more cash on hand than they actually took in. Once in awhile, they were the targets of hold-ups. One time, as a child, I was hanging out a bit and a man walked in and soon we were in the middle of a stick up.

We were all walked into the back room to the big beverage refrigerator by gunpoint. The store-owner Dad had started selling barbecued chickens, which he would cook on the premises in a stainless steel rotisserie back by the cool box. People could buy a chicken and carry it home in a paper bag. He was Mexican and was raised with a number of “folk beliefs” or “superstitions.” While we were gathered by the cool box, waiting for the thief to empty the register and hoping he would leave right after, he gave me a chicken heart to eat in that circumstance to “give courage.” I ate it, but all of this business was giving me a bad taste. I returned home with a pack of blue Newports for my mom, and never said a word to either parent about what had happened. But I told my sister and her boyfriend, Frank Zappa.

Frank would go to that little store now and again. He didn’t like some of the attitudes he encountered with some of the store clerks in the other stores, who tended to judge people by their appearance. Once, he got mad because he had to wait so long in the line of the one and only brand new supermarket, and he was just buying a magazine. So he finally got up to the cashier and suggested they open another line, as everybody had been waiting far too long. The cashier was a little smart with him, and said, “Is that all you’re getting?” Frank said yes. And the clerk muttered, “Can’t you afford to buy anything more than just a magazine?” Frank said loudly, “What is this shit?” And the clerk summoned the manager because this “Mexican” had used bad
language in front of the other customers. It ended up they escorted Frank out after he had made his purchase, but the cashier hurled another insult. Frank said later, “He called me a spic!” Frank spat out a laugh even though he was very angry. “He thought I was Mexican!”

Friday, October 10, 2003
Not just a new blog of note, but Emma!
Dateline: Read in a land that time and music forgot

A rock and roll critic is something to be

(via cheek)
Why rock 'n roll guys get all the girls

Warning: Fallacious reasoning in operation here. (First, the obvious truth: rock 'n roll guys don't get all the girls.)

And unfortunately this article does nothing to approach or explain the inverse, why certain musical trends (for example let's say the new romantics rather than jimi hendrix) meet with any success being a big pant-hoot while completely devoid of the nutritious fruit.

Otherwise, this article (a little bit scattered in approach and not really demonstrating the conclusion promised by the title and the lead-in) is interesting in so far is it collects and sticks in a variety of obscure data. The very act of preparing an article drawing broad parallels invites the idea that music should generate and attract some form of activity (in this article, he's suggesting brain activity) in addition to boom-chicka boom-chicka boom-chicka.

Warning: Contains no spine bending humor or quick insights

I remember when the realization landed, though it took years for the understanding of it to eventually gain enough mass to roll over and somewhat flatten the affect for all of us for a time.

Like an asteroid which appears to inch its slow-mo way across the vast distances of outer space, the plot and track of which people have been following for many years before it finally crashes through earth's protective atmosphere to wreak the destruction it so naturally carries with it when moving anywhere outside its natural element of a large vacuum.

These rough thin thoughts and observations I am about to let fly one after another, totally unplanned and so unedited, are hardly as earth-shattering as that, but this all has to do with point of view and perception. You see, if some alien lifeforms were riding that imaginary asteroid, they might be commenting excitedly one to the next on how fast they're travelling and how they seemed to really be going somewhere.

My early realization wasn't so terribly shattering or profound, but mildly disappointing. We weren't all really singing from the same song book, however much I might wish we all were. And that likely meant we viewed many other things differently as well.

It landed kerplop, without much ado. It was during one of the free concerts at Provo Park in Berkeley, you can guess this was far back in the day, one of those small gatherings that betoken a bigger expression of people and community and other larger concerns.

By chance, I was standing behind a woman from New York who was talking about her one abiding and real interest in life, making money collecting and selling valuable old jewelry. But in the meantime, until she started her dream boutique where she could reside perpetually surrounded by her element and be supported in luxury forever from her acquired market skill of buying cheap and selling dear, she was some sort of booking and touring agent for young and aspiring English rock acts. There she was, a decade or so older than the crowd, fashionably but unobtrusively dressed though for a much more formal sort of business setting. Though she seemed to be so terribly out of place away from her New York neighborhood sidewalks, she was casually chatting someone up about getting her bands some exposure at the (her face said "strange" while her eyes said "dirty little hippy") gathering.

Not so much with the idea of generating any kind of groundswell of interest from those quarters, but more with the notion that some form of credibility might rub off and that would make her acts seem more credible to an eventual larger audience.

It was a little like in the land of multidimensioned psychedelia, she was asking about the possibility of bringing in a truckload of free beer to really get the party rocking for the frat boys. You're familiar with the tone and attitude despite the attire and pretensions of grace and class: it was the basic thoughtless fool hogging both sides of the road, straddling the double yellow stripe, very middle-of-the-road. Like the faux homey friendliness and big smile of the otherwise pushy motor-mouthed red neck who think he's sized you up by figuring out what your needs are and most importantly what you're willing to spend, all in order to sell you as much as you can afford in the way of a beater off his used car lot.

So that's how it was Leslie West and Mountain soon performed their utterly inappropriate for the times and spirit blam blam blam "uh huh uh Mi-th-ith-ip-pi Queen" bull caca set at Provo Park one summer Sunday, by simple virtue of their connections with Felix Pappalardi's connection with this Manfred Hermit boys in matching brown wool suits booking agent or something. It was LARD-y, all right. Like I said, her area of expertise was handling the fading-from-current interest English acts but still had something resembling connections despite the new rock palace trend and so knew how to get them in to all kinds of places. These types of people just started intruding where people in their shared reality of let's say extended summer of love honestly opened their arms and welcomed them. Little did the blessedly naive know the money grubbers with the bad attitudes were beginning to uncoil and slither out from the nest to search out and devour, the long-haired gentle loving crowd being viewed exactly the same as anyone else, as so many slow moving fattened frogs just begging to be parted from their greenbacks.

At the time, all that said to me was that she (let's expand that to say "they") didn't really understand. But I began to suspect that they really didn't care. They really didn't give a damn about what any of this they were seeing before them might be about, it was merely viewed as an opportunity that presented itself and one to think about grabbing, squeezing, and milking. And moreover they didn't care if we knew it or not, they were out to use us all.

Flash forward to me bending my elbow with my rich cup of coffee this very morning and my first blurry waking thoughts. While I can honestly say and believe that people like her and by extention her clients may have not have had very much to offer themselves, they did indeed manage to win something for themselves. In fact, everything for themselves. Short term or long term, they got it. Every single bit they could squeeze out of any one or any connection and all for themselves and like kind. All of that and even more. They ended up getting so much, in fact very much more than all that they were originally planning on or even wishing for themselves.

This small event, one of many vignettes destined to take place everywhere, was but there and then a mere speck, a briefly blinked back irritating mote generally unnoticed by the eye of history. But when combined, this form of irritation became denser in magnitude, like the endless mounds of bland mush tossed by a cook at the wall; without taste buds he's devised another method to see what will stick, and to measure the full effect, he must step back to see how deep and wide the pool of pablum once its dribbled down, puddled, and settled into form. For more poetic sorts, maybe this all was like the mitsou dripping from an angel's eye. I don't really know, and would it matter?

My only real understanding and connection with what is called the New Romantism was a poster portrait of Boy George a person I knew stuck up on her commune wall in 1982 or so -- an overly large and brightly colored visage which usually irritated her room mates every bit as much as she likely suspected it would, merely by reminding them of the world at large existing outside the walls of their house.

I know nothing about New Romanticism or who might represent them musically. So I'm guessing here:

How the New Romantics might really be (the spiritually deprived, politically unaware, and socially unconscious) unclaimed descendents from leftovers of the '60s:

The art set in Britain’s sixties and seventies tended to draw parallels between the Futurists and themselves. The Futurists, you will recall, provided the momentum for the subsequent Dada movement. In a nutshell, Dada as a group flourished during the first world war in Europe,
“having as its program the discovery of authentic reality through the abolition of traditional cultural and aesthetic forms, by a technique of comic derision in which irrationality, chance, and intuition were the guiding principles.” As a group, they said they arose in direct response to the war, and most often their poetry was a confusing array of images sprayed out like machine gun bullets.

Although the intent was to shock the bougeoisie by presenting the absurd, the taboo, and the commonplace out of context, their art was of the moment. They were famous for their “happenings,” and Dada has been described as rather like a circus, to which each performer contributed a turn. No specific style evolved, they utilized every medium including typefaces and print, but the longest lived style was collage.

While Dada was a shortlived movement, and not very well documented, it had a lasting impact on what was seen as art from there on out. Dada as you can suspect lead to Surrealism. Anyway, in the swinging London of the sixties and seventies, many artists believed they had found their own surrealistic roots in the Futurists and Dadaists (happenings after all were happening everywhere, and it was easy and wonderful to see it was happening, man), and so they began seeking out representatives.

As I recall Dali was still living in Spain at that time and most of the well-heeled British musicians joined with other representatives of European nobility and high society, travelling there to pay homage. All of which ended up as more like a prolonged exposure to the living surrealism of his beach parties. And for some reason the British “trendies” of those times also took hold of New York artists Andy Warhol and William Burroughs and embraced them as their own (as many surrealists had fled to New York in the time of WWII and so by propinquity had some influence on the art that followed) and eventually went there to pay homage to them.

Here is where my attempt at anology can end abruptly. In the '60s, what war did the young English artschool design set see themselves reacting to?

From what little I saw at the time in Britain, they essentially being far removed from the realities of the Viet Nam and the civil rights protests that had immediately preceeded that conflict in the U.S., this conflict took the form of a generational war on youth. The older folks were seen merely as “stodgy” representatives who wanted to close down (let’s say) “the sock hops” to keep the younger folks from getting out of hand. The young folks saw that as grouchy old people complaining because the kids were having too much fun. The young folks saw that as an intrusion on their freedom to “be who they were.” Something like that. It wasn’t very much in the way of “warfare” and it wasn’t a very unusual response.

Philosophically speaking, it wasn’t very much in the way of philosophy, either, and if the war motif is carried on, “the enemy” can easily become any one who isn’t on exactly the same sort of trip.

The '60s -- this era I'm sure you are tired of hearing about was genuinely a time of tremendous exploration.

But the truth is nearly every generation reacts in some way against its predecessor, and at this time (for certain UK design set) the challenge to old forms was taking on the tone of humorous disrespect. I could imagine some of the young folks as they were relegated to the social dumping ground of British art schools saying something about it, that some highflown etheral pun would eventually result, one man's savoir-faire being another man's flip remark, whereas people in America could be every bit as simple, “Guess I’ll go to collage and study Arp.”

I'll say right now I'm going to persist in purposefully misusing a word just below -- the first half of the standard everyday dictionary definition of "synesthesia". Maybe I am too lazy at the moment to find a more appropriate word or I am trying to make a point: ("synesthesia" defined (1st half): "A phenomenon in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another."

Let's try right now to rub out for the moment the last part of the definition, which goes on to explain "as the hearing of a sound results in the sensation of the visualization of a color," or even a taste. An impossible definition, although in a real sense this misplaced sense and sensuality of New Romanticism may very well be all that has ever resulted as a response to a real stimulus.

So ok I am drifting here, reaching for this idea, but the first half of the definition is moving towards what I am trying to outline: a stimulation of one thing that evokes or influences the sensation of another.

There is an assumption of a response, but there is no assumption that this is in any way an appropriate or genuine response, is there? In fact the very word I choose as a descriptor implies I believe the response is outlandish, perhaps difficult but not at all impossible to fully understand, in fact one hardly worth the effort of even taking too seriously.

I saw that the British “arts” crowd had accepted the "synesthesia" of the sixties, but they’d been won over by the sensual aspects and never got much farther than that. They were subsumed by hedonistic aspects, and because I was American, it seemed to me they’d caught hold of only part of the big message and so had “missed the big trip” entirely. Their form of hedonism, consisting of what could become an unending quest to experience new physical sensations (music, clothes, dope, exotic experiences, which required exotic locale) was actually an expression of the same rapacious appetites that they believed they were reacting to in their parent’s generation. They merely took on new forms.

But as this expression of theirs was not a global quest for domination of resources, such pilferage considered a “bad thing”, this form of what I'm mistakenly insisting on calling "synesthesia" (“I’m just doing my own thing” and not bothering anyone else) was not considered “a bad thing.” Plus it was connected to an exploration of “inner space”. Nonetheless, they were benefitting from the cornucopia provided to them by various “colonial” endeavors and relying on the stability of infrastructures that others provided.

The world of "synesthesia" as I think of it must be a self-absorbed personal place, and if you’re at all familiar with the mentation attached to smoking “herb,” you’ll recognize that much of that “high” is associated with slowly become aware of your senses and how they are playing throughout your body. The world of the senses becomes enhanced and the subject of total fascination.

Anyway, they had their silks and spices and everything nices. They’d talked themselves into believing they had better taste than their parents. I had hoped this was a temporary pose, but as that music part was a part of entertainment and that had become a big business that seemed destined to become bigger, it was guaranteed to go on long after its period of usefulness.

Although I love some of them to bits because they made art that touched a large part of my life, it’s kind of pitiful in a way, really, that “pop” musicians and their album cover “artists” (the photographers and the designers) are the most notable examples of my generation’s “artists.”

Because of the very numbers of people putting out records, there was a dedicated and prolonged pillaging of images and techniques from what had gone before, history as it was preserved in our collective unconsciousness. We didn't have too much of the fop, dandy, or twit as icons, but the wild west cowboy images were immensely popular with people working in Los Angeles, but those designers went on to devour and spew out a variety of other images that were recognizable. They went on and on with this, gobble and spew -- images that had made their way into our consciousness by previous advertising success, until eventually they started making those music videos. And the sad truth is that all of these people, without exception, painted their own roles as large, expansive, and terribly important.

The problem I have with New Romanticism, as I know little about it, I don't know what values if any they were imparting.

Such things don't come through any of the music that I've heard. And some of this may be due in part because they keep to their own society, and as every one there was terribly important because they were part of that society, so had to be the next guy at the table. So the tables were crowded with very important people.

I’m glad they keep to their own society. They haven’t really been a part of any but their own community for close to three decades. In fact, I found myself wishing for a global geography to be set apart for them under some international agreement.

Perhaps an island that would keep them contained to their own exclusive company. That way they can write songs about each other, take photos of each other, go to see each others movies, be invited to appear in each others movies or write soundtracks for them, talk of each other, talk to each other, and just generally stay the hell away from everyone else.

Fairly soon, if they live long enough, they’ll be driven to creative desperation and start making references to each other’s songs and videos in their own songs and videos and leave our shit alone.

They really don’t have a lot to contribute to the real world sometimes, do they? and they barely draw from it in that they chew up the predigested images of who they think we are and spit them back out at us. All to make some money in order to live apart anyway. Then they tell us in a variety of ways we’re too easily fooled and perhaps too stupid to know the difference between their staged presentations of “reality” and a tape played backstage looped out through the speakers. They’re so much cleverer than any of us because, you see, we’re falling for their act.

So that’s why they’re already buying properties in England with the idea of drinking tea and getting knighted. So why don’t they just close in that little open space on the Jungian “C” and close the circle entirely? They can only really share common experiences with each other. What the fuck can they tell me anyway about anything? What they have to impart is nearly useless information for me.

Why would I care to learn anything of the stress of fitting a manicure into a busy schedule before engaging in eight minutes of the false convivialty of a tv talk show host?

They provide advice and gossip one to the next so I suppose that’s a form of communication that might be valuable to them to make a living. All right then, you boys tell each other how to better dry the nail polish.

But, really, twenty, going on thirty years of this. These people just go on far too long, an overextended callow youth eventually growing into a callow adulthood, snacking themselves silly on perpetual panini, and now they want to make themselves even bigger while finding their places in history.

I've no solution, but what I decided was the really beautiful people are somewhere else.
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
An adviso for music historians:

"When we invent meaningful deaths for Mozart, we are probably misleading ourselves. Unmatched skill and infinite beauty, annihilated by a pork chop."

Brahe's Bladder & Mozart's Murder
Saturday, October 04, 2003
Paying for the Bill of Rights (Free of Charge and No Admission): More on Frank Zappa's sense of humor

Not every body in our valley saw things in the same light. I remember the time I called a local deejay on a Pomona station to ask him to play a song I liked, released on 45 rpm, “Sixty Minute Man,” and instead of just ignoring my request, he launched into a tirade with me on the phone that blew my ears off, saying he would never play that song because of the lyrics and “you know what I mean about that and you know what he really means (that’s just filth!) and just the title alone is enough to keep it off my show” and he hung up on me.

Aside from one alarming encounter with a hostile lunatic on the streets of Los Angeles, I had never had any one respond to me in such a completely anonymous vicious tone before and being a young teenager I was really and genuinely shocked. These are the kinds of things you take to older more experienced people for explanation or comfort, and my sister and Frank did their utmost best to explain to me that it wasn’t just because it was “black” music that the deejay refused to play that song.

I listened to the song again at the record store listening booth and still couldn’t find anything wrong with it. If I was missing something, nobody was telling me what it was, but my naive attempts to unravel the hidden message if there was one caused a certain amount of hilarity.

Frank decided to launch a phone-in one evening as my sister and I sat at the kitchen table with him hanging on the phone. Frank got into a lot of periodic arguments with that guy, it’s like he became an occasional hobby with Frank, so he would call him up now and again just to irritate him by requesting “that song.”

There would be the predictable response on the other end and Frank would break into a grin and roll his eyes and shake his head in disbelief.

Frank would say things like, “Well, okay, I understand you don’t like the title. How about just calling it “Fifty-Nine and a Half Minute Man” and playing it anyway?”


Thursday, October 02, 2003
I like margaret cho's blog. She sometimes explains why music is currently important to her.
Why '80s music won't really survive past the '80s

The stuff that held the era and its value system together:

1. Social aspirations to only continue living unaffected and protected in a world of placid indifference.

2. Unsparing use of clichés. The empty word was the correct word. Contrary to the opinion of snobbish intellectuals, the placid murmur of cliché was always preferable to the expression of strong feeling, which was an embarrassment.

3. Repetition of the tired old error that Einstein proved "everything is relative" and so morals don't matter -- a classic example of the equivocal fallacy, as neither of Einstein's theories of relativity had anything to say about moral relativism.

Although most people are aware that the events which they are moving through will one day be in their past, they’re not fully aware that these events will one day become history. Even though American society is a broad and vibrant cross section of humanity, the people who set the tone for society and so define the age we live in are generally, as always, the people who have the largest voice and point of view in the media.

As to why '80s music won't last, it simply isn't relevant (or it's our current lousy economy, silly!)

I think (or rather I hope) that American society is genuinely embarrassed about the '80s. Or at least the attention to the importance of form which the highly visible yuppies displayed. All that (trying not to resort to screed) fashionable self-seeking, money-grubbing, splendor-luxuriating, mileage-plused, titanium-carded, novelle cosmopolitan, highly-chromed, deep-lustred, self-absorbed expressions of economic muscularity and personal magnificence which became the visible representations of the aspiring power elite in the '80s. When appearance *was* everything.

And *everything* apparently consisted only of fashion, power, money, sex and celebrity poured into the overflowing dish of American culture.

However sweet-tasting the pour for some once the cap of the honey bear was unscrewed, yuppies themselves weren’t that easy to take. Because of their own endless expressions of the high value they set only on themselves and like kind, they seemed to move through social landscapes much in the same way that cannibal galaxies transverse across outer space. They weren’t that nice as a group of people, either. If you weren’t instantly recognizable as being one of them, you simply weren’t considered as anything but a momentary impedance, or regarded as a courtier awaiting to provide service. And, too, in powering their way to the top of whatever heap or slippery slope they strived to ascend, these yuppies somehow expected others to tactfully swallow their insults as if they were oysters served from a silver platter. Not quite regarded as socially useful as a piece of furniture, you were a speck of lint to be brushed off. As the yuppies seemed to regard themselves as the distant relatives of European minor nobility, they always allowed themselves that pretense of privilege, and because they could rise to that level so very quickly in that economy, they might as well dream only of a future of buying properties in England with the idea of sipping tea and being knighted by the Queen. In the meantime, they just put on the right clothes, were seen in the right places, leased if they must the appropriate status vehicle, but were seen in it and mentioned it always.

Because of the “interconnectiveness” of global markets, European yuppies also flourished and prospered during those heady years of Reagan-Thatcher economics.

Individual motion already made easy due to the benefits of a bull market was accelerated by the very mass of momentum generated by like kind. Yuppies having striven so earnestly for their achievements believed they rightfully deserved the comfort they’d won for themselves.

Nonetheless, with such high expectations for their own personal comfort and not at all reserved in demanding the special favor for themselves they felt entitled to, unsurprisingly rare were any expressions of real gratitude, the social graces being directed more towards the K (for “kvetch”) factor. Yuppies did their utmost best to make others feel like lesser creatures.

As the yuppie is a convenient icon for that era, any representation of that socio-political ghost will be banished to the grave where it rightfully belongs. I think the small stuttering resurgence of '80s music at this time partly is the last dying gasp of that social phenomenon.

All of it’s looked at now like just so much froth on the latte. The '80s as an era had all the soul of a three hundred dollar pair of shoes.

Alas, those who are the new power elite came up through the '80s and now they aspire to set the tone for society and so seek to define the age we live in.


The following comment was posted on the old commenting system:

Poster: Lynn S

IP address:

Email: lynnsislo@yahoo.com

Homepage: http://www.aeternam626.com/weblog/

I'm not sure about the social philosophy - I just don't know - but it seems to me that music (popular music, that is) started getting less interesting in the 80's. Actually, it started in the late 70's. I graduated from high school in 76 and I started noticing that year that there were fewer songs that I really liked a lot. They were mostly just okay, nothing special. The late 70's and the 80's just sort of blend together in my mind. I can remember a few songs from that time but I usually can't recall whether they were popular in the late 70's, early 80's, mid 80's or later. I just sort of stopped paying attention. I still kept the radio on all the time but it was all just background music.

Two young Hercules have combined their efforts to tame the twin pythons of pop music in the U.S. and U.K.

Michael Daddino of Land of a Thousand Dances has begun a project of writing about every single number one song in America since January 1, 1950.

Sunday, September 28, 2003
Eileen Barton, "If I Knew You Were Comin' (I'd've Baked a Cake)"

"Sometimes I think I know how Adorno must've felt when he was exiled in America."

x x x x x x

Meantime, across the pond, not a spontaneous invention but a creative agreement to share in this Herculean effort, Tom Ewing of Freaky Trigger promises to review "The UK's 950+ Number One Hits ... in order, irregularly, for as long as I can bear to keep doing it. A history of pop in the shape of a chart." (Beginning with November of 1952, when number one position were first based on record sales rather than sheet music sales.)

(wave of the tip sheet to scott at rockcritics daily)

What makes a (music) critic

"The fundamental job spec requirements: clarity of expression, an infallible memory, ... lightly-worn technical expertise, social graces and a pair of open eyes and ears, ever-ready to be astonished.

Beyond these skills, serious practitioners bring something extra to the art. No great critic was ever a monomaniac."
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
A Legal Defense Fund and Downhillbattle invites you to read about it:

The Defense Fund, (at downhillbattle.org/defense) allows everyone who thinks the RIAA lawsuits against families are callous and unfair to make a contribution to one of the people who have been sued. The fund is based on a p2p model -- donations go directly from donors to RIAA targets with no middleperson collecting or distributing the funds. This mechanism solves both the trust and tax issues that would plague a centralized defense fund. They currently have 9 RIAA targets signed up, and together they have a total of $60,000 in estimated legal costs.

The Defense Fund is about three weeks in the making. They've talked to about 50 of the people who've been sued, and it's been a sobering experience.

"Initially we, like everybody else, thought about the
lawsuits in mostly strategic/intellectual terms (i.e. this is--or is not-- a good move for the record companies, etc.) Talking to these families made us realize that the people being sued are not computer savvy, have no idea what hit them, and that they have real lives with real problems and shouldn't have to deal with mega-corporations suing
them to make a political point. The economy is not good right now.

"Lot's of the people who've been targeted are facing unemployment, debt, and in one case even eviction. The major labels' claim to speak for artists in this is transparently false, and the RIAA's blatant self-interest makes these lawsuits even more disgusting.

We hope the Defense Fund will be able to raise some money for these people, either to fight the RIAA or to settle the suit and get on with their lives -- their choice."

Below are some links to articles about Downhillbattle in the press:

denver post

new york times

Think a bit about the 12-year old living in the projects who just liked hearing different versions of her favorite song -- her mother was threatened by the suits and there goes $2,000 that could have been used for her education. You've followed some of these stories that have made it to print. Now read a few more.

You can exercise your good citizenship as a consumer:

Check out the tones flying in under RIAA Radar

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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