Flaskaland
Saturday, January 22, 2005
 
Jazz History Fetaured in Upcoming Auction (from the State 1-23-05)

NEW YORK — There is Charlie Parker's King alto saxophone, with mother-of-pearl keys, his primary horn in the 1950s.

There is Benny Goodman's clarinet, John Coltrane's soprano and tenor saxophones, Gerry Mulligan's baritone. Thelonious Monk's tailored jacket. A ribald 27-page letter from Louis Armstrong to his manager. One of Ornette Coleman's notebooks from the late 1950s, with his practice exercises and, on one of the last pages, one of his greatest compositions, “Focus on Sanity,” written in pencil.

Home movies of Coltrane shoveling snow outside his house in Philadelphia in the late 1950s. Charlie Parker concert recordings made by his wife, Chan, and high school book reports by Monk.

On Feb. 20 at the Allen Room in Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall, Guernsey's Auction House will put all these items, and many others, on the block at a special jazz auction. Previews will be held on Feb. 18 and 19, but Guernsey's would not estimate how much the auction will make.
 
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
 
'Member how Frank Zappa as a young struggling musician tried to write commercial jingles and ended up writing parodies?

'Member how the Holy Modal Rounders would travel around the country like ethnomusicologists, taping every everyday person they could singing a commercial jingle?

Or maybe you don't know what a commercial jingle is or why it is they're gone and why anyone might miss them?

Read here: The irresistible, singable, stick-in-your-mindable jingle is dead

Of course, I wrote about this once a few years back. A long piece. I made it long because I knew it would likely be the last time I ever thought about commercial jingles. (You might also notice my name is missing at the top as the author, although I originally posted the thing myself -- and I even credited a friend for proofreading and cleaning up my English. That was back when I did a few things at blogcritics. Yeah ... missing name, that must have been an early software glitch of some kind.)

You can read that here, Jingles and His More Famous Sidekick
(Even know who I was referencing by "Jingles" -- no? ask your great grandma if you're really interested)


 
Monday, January 10, 2005
 
In case you don't know, now's the time to bookmark
PopMatters new free music section.

 
 
Readers take up the pen themselves to laud the SF Chronicle for
Joel Selvin's article on music critic Ralph Gleason (see below).

 
 
As some of you may know, Amy Phillips contributed a chapter to a book called
Let Fury Have The Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer,
which was published by Nation Books last month
(for more info, go to www.letfuryhavethehour.com).

On Monday, January 10th at 7:30 pm, Amy's going to participate in a reading at the Barnes and Noble at Astor Place, along with Antonino D'Ambrosio (the editor of the book) and Chuck D. Yes, THAT Chuck D.

Anyway, you are all welcome to come out.
 
Saturday, January 08, 2005
 
Class on Music Publicity

On January 22, the Journalism, Public Relations and Fund Raising Dept of UCLA Extension is again offering its comprehensive "Publicity in the Music Industry" class to be headed by Cary Baker. Check the link for details.

 
Thursday, January 06, 2005
 
OK, you can vote here for the best music blog of the year. Flaskaland was nominated, we (that's the editorial we) were most surprised and pleased to learn, but we're not in the final running either because we're too humble to be self-promoting or this is not strictly speaking a music blog. This blog deals with the process of writing about music, and happy we are whenever people find it interesting and useful.

Meanwhile, you can still vote for that entertaining powered up weirdo over at XRRF aka No Rock and Roll Fun (or whoever else you fancy) on the list, in the Best of Blog awards. If you have a moment to spare.





 
 
$Radio, $Radio

Payola is dead! Now what will we listen to? Salon's award-winning Eric Boehlert continues reporting on (payola) radio.

"The bizarre, sleazy system of independent radio promotion may finally have bitten the dust. But believe it or not, pop radio may get even worse."

(Note to the future: it always gets worse before it gets better.)

 
 
Not often do people who write about music deliver a statement of intent, as Geeta Dayal has done here. Good to keep track of what initially motivated.
 
 
Bob Sarles Music Wire alerted me to the odd fact that the Soul of Country Music is now in Hollywood. (Now that might make you worry ... )

(If you don't subscribe to the Music Wire, why don't you? You're missing some interesting news about music from a unique cultural mindset you don't often run into in these here days. Shoot an email expressing interest to BsarlesWire@aol.com)

 
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
 
Music Journos Join for Massive Attack

Rockcritics has posted their year end extravaganza. This past year, Jason Gross and his sharp eyed coterie of writers and critics have all but worn out their eyes to assemble and deliver to you The Best Music Scribing Awards 2004. When they say perfect sound forever, they mean it.

In times of cultural drought (like all of last year and more than a bit from the year or two before, carrying on through into the time being), this collection will give you plenty of mental fodder. So read there, if you care.

 
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
 
Music education is alive and doing well in Mississippi, where the kids are singing the blues -- the Delta blues.
 
 
A touching story about a form of music therapy not mentioned much,
"A Music Therapist Lights Path to Life's End."



 
Monday, January 03, 2005
 
The Best Music Writing 2004 from the pages of the Orange County Weekly

"Writing we’re proud we had this year, highlighted for one little moment. We’ll go right back to total shame next week."


JONATHAN RICHMAN: "Everything I truly valued in rock & roll was right there: magic, adventure, rhythm, mystery, intimacy, emotion -- without the amped-up armor or smug poses most rock was dressed in then. And he had life figured out. His song ‘Affection’ said everything one really needs to know in life, which he pretty well reiterates in the title of his upcoming Vapor label album, Not So Much to be Loved as to Love." (Jim Washburn)


LIZ PHAIR: "We don’t ditch our friends just because they’ve stumbled. We don’t even ditch them if they turn uncool -- or have ‘committed an embarrassing form of career suicide.’ We’ll forgive you your fling with the cheerleaders; just never make us hear their names again." (Rebecca Schoenkopf)

 
Saturday, January 01, 2005
 
Signs of Life finds hope in a new book (make that brilliant new book)

"[Mat] Callahan has written a brilliant new book, called 'The Trouble With Music,' (AK Press, 2005) which offers the most compelling blend of philosophy and music criticism to see release in several decades.


" 'I think that people really have to go out and find music. This is really important, because the people who are really music lovers are the ones who actively pursue music. It doesn't just come to them conveniently. That's a very important thing to say now; you wouldn't have had to say that 20 years ago. Because then, the people buying records, the people listening to the radio, were actively pursuing music. Now, it's like wallpaper; you're inundated with it. If you're 18 years old, it's really hard to turn off what's being thrown at you and find your own expression within it. If you're not willing to make the effort, or you can't find time to go and seek out the music that you like, and you're not willing to sit down and devote an hour to listen to it, or go to a gig and see a band, then I'm not sure you'll get it. To be honest, you have to make the effort.'

"Sometimes that effort can seem Herculean, if you are a person for whom music has long been an essential element in your life, be it as a lens through which you view your existence, a means by which you enter into some sort of community with your fellow men and women, or a way to chase the wolves from the door, at least temporarily.

"Care about music this much, and even a casual glance around you can be disheartening. Television commercials regularly feature songs that at one time were the voice of the counterculture, and are now being employed to hawk SUVs. Watch pundits gloat in the wake of the presidential election as they claim that its results proclaim a mandate denying "pop stars" the right to speak out on social and political issues, that indeed they should "stick to entertaining us." Peruse the list of Grammy nominations and feel your heart sink - the middle of the road seems to be the only piece of real estate listeners, musicians and industry types are willing to invest in."

 
 
PASSINGS
"The late greats"
"This year saw the passing of a number of notables in arts and entertainment."

Do you ever read the year end lists? Today's LA Times listed the departure of 151 notables in arts and entertainment. I hope I counted right so as not to seem to have excluded anyone mentioned there. It seemed a very long roster, especially for someone like me who usually avoids such things. Passings. It's a little sad to think about the dimming of such lights. And the whole experience can be downright sobering. What a strange way to mark the end of one year while presumably getting ready to look forward the next.

This year's no different. Mixed in with the many other famous names I recognized were several people I'd actually met and got to know bit. They are in their rightful place as the stars, and I recognize I was the bit player or the crowd scene extra who appeared in any of their lives. They all left strong impressions in the shifting sands of time, as well as on people who came in contact with them. One of the guys on the list I remembered only for being quite rude to me, and that was over ten years ago, but I shouldn't mention him here because he had nothing to do with music. But what a way to be remembered even by an anonymous person like me. In the old days, I would say "let that be a lesson for you -- be polite to that bus driver (store clerk, waitress, etc.) but nowadays why even bother to instill such refinements as manners or courtesy or even simple consideration.

Met Jan Berry and maybe I'll tell you about that sometime. Gypsy Boots was a health food advocate down Hollywood way. Steve Allen played the piano when Gypsy appeared on his show to announce his candidacy for President. The slogan Allen made up for him: "Nuts and fruits for Gypsy Boots". Gypsy has since been credited with originating the phrase, "Don't panic. Go organic." His is a name certain generational cohorts would recall.

Didn't meet Marlon Brando. Didn't meet Ray Charles, but I gave his album as a Christmas present to a friend whose dad taught choir and classical music at a nearby college. The starchy dad ended up listening to Ray Charles Greatest and made the first and only conversational remark to me when he admitted when I asked him what he thought of it. He'd liked it.

Well, come to think of it -- in fact, there are many more people on that list who I've never met, talked to, or sat across a restaurant from than the handful I did.

You’ll say, huh -- so what, my coffee’s getting cold. This is getting at the point. Their passings usually and immediately remind me of other people I've known who are now departed. Their passings remind me of in some way of them, the people I've known that were in some oblique way involved these celebrities. And I probably knew those people, a lot better (or a little better, depending) than anyone who will ever make an LA Times End of Year Passings List. But the list reminds me of times gone by.

Spalding Gray I'd met, but I won't go into that here.

Here's the big anecdote. Ray Stark. I could start this off by saying I could tell you a lot of stories about him. But I can't. I know of only one.

I knew a person because I kept running into and otherwise bumping into him in Westwood tea shops or on shopping trips for shoes or visiting trips with my folks when I was a few years younger. It turned out he was interested in attending college in the same town I lived in and he would have to show up once in awhile for all the various stages of the “campus tour,” tea at the dean’s, and other parts of the do-I-want-to-go-to-this-college process.

I guess he did. He eventually managed to break through the admission process despite his association with “Hollywood,” and started going to school there long about fall of 1962 or 63. He caught my attention more because he was the original “block buster.” Be patient and I'll explain that in a minute. I would help out with the “little theatre” productions on campus and run into him there, too. His Dad would always find time to show up for those performances and sat in the audience wearing his black beret. You might have heard of his Dad, Ray Stark. He was pretty famous as a producer of those “Hollywood” movies. I knew his son, Peter.

To let you know some part of the social milieu, the colleges were private, exclusive, and expensive. None the less, they were highly respected and had genuinely attracted great teachers. There is always some form of one-upsmanship in academia which sometimes takes its lower expression as a put down, so the graduates of certain Eastern schools would be dismissive of our little village’s schools. They tended to say that the kids who attended these colleges were simply rich kids who bought their way in and weren’t of “suitable caliber for any of the Seven Sisters,” and dismissed the place out of hand as “the poor man’s Ivy League.” The strong implication being that the students and their parents, by not being born into a family with a prestigious name and inherited wealth, were simply inferior by nature of birth. The local colleges in their attempt to develop a legitimate reputation by emulating some of their competitors occasionally lost sight of
things and tended once in awhile to imitate the worst aspects. The local colleges were accused even by recent graduates of being “snob factories” themselves.

For instance, the colleges sought to recruit students from what I can only comparatively call “the nouveau riche.” This would be the intellectual fodder drawn from the groups who were recently making their way up the social ladder, the children of industrial magnates and so on. During the admissions process, the colleges at that time discriminated against certain “types” of even that society, and in fact had refused entrance to a qualified student who wanted to attend. The refusal was couched in vague, high-flown, and bureaucratic language. Van Heflin’s son had applied to go to school and was turned down. The scuttlebutt around town that could be quoted after hearing it first or second hand, was that some elements on the admissions board thought and said “the son of a Hollywood actor has no business here.” Because it seemed that some of the powers-that-were at the schools were saying people who happened to be born into certain families should simply go on down the track and attend schools that the colleges themselves regarded as inferior to themselves, watch out. This was a serious matter. And more especially so because the discrimination seemed based on parental occupation in “Hollywood.” These schools were known as “liberal arts” colleges. And we would say, “liberal” arts? How can they call themselves that unless they’re deluding themselves. And even if they’re not and know they’re not really “liberal” arts, what’s with the discrimination. I mean, Van Heflin is a German name, he'd likely fit right in ... what gives?

Peter was sure to run into problems in moving through academic society there, in that precious village, especially when mixed in with all the problems of growing up as he did in Beverly Hills society, so we did our best to make his stay in town passable for him. His grandma'd worked in vaudeville, my grandma worked in vaudeville, and there was blindness in each of our families, those were about the only things we had at all in common.

Peter was a young man just trying to strike out on his own in life and he was facing his own sorts of challenges. So we’d talk to each other a rare now and again at the college get-togethers -- he’d come over to my house a few times to listen to music, we’d talk about comedy, we’d talk about books that had made it to the screen, mostly comedy -- books like The Egg and I, or Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. Whether these films were successful adaptations, or if that really mattered if it were a comedy, and how the funny bunny books weren't being written like they used to back when people read for entertainment. And this and that. Not a lot, we didn't talk about these things a lot as we did not have a great deal to do with one another. He had ideas about movies from a point of view that until then was far removed from me. He also didn’t have a lot of people to relate to at college, was forced by rules to live in the dorms, and he would go home nearly every weekend, sometimes beginning with Tuesday night.

He enjoyed humor a lot, but the people he was around on campus didn’t understand his form of “goofing.” Or just misunderstood him entirely, it seemed. Some college official suggested he try out for the rugby team. Some of the guys in the dorm would bait him, and instead of getting into a slugfest, he’d just respond by ratting his hair or something to freak them. So I think he was pretty lonely there. I remember him joking about keeping a bottle of gin and martini shaker handy at all times in his glove compartment in case he got stuck in a traffic jam when driving through the village. (You easily catch that joke: there were no traffic jams at that time in that small precious village).

Also, Peter was Jewish so maybe the colleges were beginning to change some of their other attitudes by admitting the son of a person rich from Hollywood.

At this time, this was a village of less than 1,200 year-round residents (the college students weren’t even computed into the census figures) and had one traffic light at a downtown intersection. At that time we had all of three (maybe six, maybe twelve, hard to tell, really) Jewish families settled there within the boundaries of the town. The Jewish folks there at that time seemed to keep their heads down and did their best not to be noticed too much in order to “blend.” There were no black families in residence anywhere within the “city” limits until the recently widowed Mrs. Medgar Evers was invited to move in to a little rental house up on 10th street, which she did do, but that was a few years after the time I am speaking of, a little later in time. And I’ll be damned if the neighbor next door didn’t run a Dixie Flag up the flagpole. Can you imagine anyone, anyone rotten enough to do that even living in the same town as you?

Anyway, Ray Stark died this year. He was likely the most influential of all the people I've mentioned so far, the ones I'd encountered a bit that is. But his death this year (together with Spalding Gray's) actually made me think more about Peter's. The domino effect.

As it ended up for him, in 1971, Peter committed suicide by throwing himself through the window of his NY apartment. The next thing I heard about was a crass talk-show remark from an actor who'd appeared in many of Ray Stark's films and who'd come to rely on the producer and the beneficence of Hollywood. This could be seen as a strange remark indeed. Off-the-wall or off-the-cuff, or just reaching for a convenient example, but one that happened to throb with sensitivity. Something like, "I've been disappointed in my career, too. But you don't see me jumping out a window because of it." And there likely was a blow-up of some kind and the actor was soon persona non grata.

And me, one day all these people came crowding into my mind, for reasons unclear and so unknown to me now (but that's what they mean by having a lasting influence, I guess), I made up a small song one day to the tune of a famous Elton John song (Can you guess which one?)

“So Goodbye, Elliot Gould
It’s your old society now
You can’t trash the guy in the penthouse
He’s just not listening now

Up to the bottom and down to the top
You’ve been sowing the corny-fed rows
Oh I’ve decided your future lies
Will express the past like this.”


I didn't, of course, know the actor in question. The important thing to me is that Peter had been working on a movie script in college, a comedy, and one I'd got to hear a bit about from him as the idea began formulating. After Peter's death, Ray found the raw script, writers polished it up as happens, and the movie premiered in 1975, which was the year I caught it playing in a multiplex in a ridiculous hick beach town called Hollywood-by-the-Sea. Believe it or not, the whole thing revolved around a real dream my sister once had, which in hearing about from me, totally cracked Peter up. I think that was the first time I had ever seen him actually laugh. He thought that was the funniest thing he had heard that day. In that dream of hers, my sister was in a car crash and carried to a hospital unconscious, where she remained in a coma, had reconstructive facial surgery and orthodontic enhancements, lost weight due to the lengthy duration of drip-feeding, and emerged from the coma a changed person -- beautiful, and so she was instantly popular. As seemingly effortless and unconscious glide to social acceptability as we each in our own way had witnessed others around us make. Peter expanded on that premise to have her unrecognized, disguised by a new mask, wreak revenge on some of the people who had previously made her life miserable. What can I say in this case except hooray for Hollywood. So there, you see, you can say you know that Hollywood can be a place built on dreams.

You might think I'm breaking my own rule here, going on so long about a movie and not mentioning music, but Peter was also the grandson of Mr. Stark, the man who developed the sheet music business in New York in the 1900’s. And Peter's grandma was Fannie Brice, and you’ve probably heard of Barbra Steisand who made a movie about Fannie Brice and so on.

The end. Know what I mean?
 
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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