In traveling through life, I've accumulated a pile of mental and emotional associations with music, where in just hearing the name of a musician or song can sometimes spark a memory or feeling. This is hardly anything terribly special, well maybe it is. It just goes to show that Proust was probably right, as anyone who focuses at all on music who knows about Proust would likely tell you. But this music as memory phenomenon doesn't only apply to Proust and Mahler, you know.
Just seeing this article on Oscar Brown Jr
a few moments ago reminded me this morning of that little precious little village where I spent a few formative years. I never heard Oscar Brown Jr perform and knew him only from a few records all those decades ago, when I was a young an impressionable person who wanted to see Oscar Brown Jr.
Anyway, just my desire of wanting to see Oscar Brown Jr put me in touch with my first version of a ticket shark. I'll say right now, I can't remember all the details of how this went down. But there was a small clasified ad in the local weekly offering tickets to one of Brown's concerts for five dollars.
That seemed very cool, very far out indeed (long before there was a phrase 'far out') that Oscar Brown Jr's name made the pages of our local paper even in a classified ad. But then when I called, there weren't many tickets left and they were ten dollars. "That's just the law of supply and demand" in so many words as it was explained to me.
Ten dollars was out of my range as a teenager. This is back when gas was less than a quarter a gallon mind you, and cigarettes had three pennies change held in cellophane on each pack when delivered straight out of the machine that took a quarter. And because mine was not a consuming, burning desire to see Oscar Brown Jr, I let that opportunity pass by.
I didn't listen to public radio then or watch public tv, but some of my friends or more likely their families did. It turned out, Oscar was putting on a well publicized concert, one in which he'd offered tickets as an incentive for people to donate to public radio or public tv. So this local entrepreneur with each ten dollar donation got a couple of tickets for free and he was selling them locally in town.
OK, he'd got the tickets fair and square, supporting a good cause in the process, and really he could do with them whatever he chose. He chose to place an ad in the local paper. Those classified ads designed to fill up what would have been an otherwise blank page in a no-news town, that is, a section that provided some sort of community communication, were a minimum of fifty cents at that time, if you counted up the words and multiplied by pennies, and he'd bought one of those ads to tout his tickets.
I don't know why that incident overall bothered me as much as it did.
Except that, well, for starters, the asking price for the ticket wasn't the same as the advertised price. And as a kid I couldn't help but think, "There ought to be a law ... "
And for some reason this memory reminded me of another involving a local policeman. We always had two local policemen in the village back then. One for the day and one for the night.
During slow and sleepy summer daylight hours, one of them embarked on mission to gather revenue for the city. On foot patrol around the village square, he began small one summer's day and confiscated an unlicensed bicycle or two he'd noticed leaning on their kickstands here and there throughout the village. As the season progressed into the searing heat of summer, he grew more determined, and soon he'd prowl around outside where the kids went in for a coca cola. He'd check out the iron horses resting on their sides on the lawn of the library when the kids were inside for story hour.
He always hit it lucky, like shooting fish in a barrel to find unlicensed bicycles especially in a small college town. When he captured an offender, he would roll the bike a block or two to the stationhouse and waited for the people to come in and report a stolen bike. Or maybe they never came in to report it.
When I went in to report a bike missing from its parking place, he asked me how long I'd had the bike. Well, it was nearly new, just a couple of years, and I was providing a description of stolen property, after all. He informed me he'd confiscated the bike because I hadn't bought a license. My bike was in jail. I had to walk two miles home to collect 50 cents and returned to pay the license. When I plunked the change on the counter, he informed me I had just paid for the previous year's license and now owed him another fifty cents.
I didn't like that too much, either.
He continued. One day, fueled by success and perhaps encouraged by his superiors or encouraged by the seeming lack of opposition and complaint, he rented or borrowed a truck with tall wooden sides. He drove to the junior high school and stalked the bike racks. He loaded every bicycle that wasn't currently tagged into the back of the truck and drove off. I think he was let go shortly after that last incident.
Great God Almighty, what an often crap little town that was. But I learned so much about merchant and mercantile proclivities, traits which seemed to drive everyone in town.
Interesting, though, isn't it, that people are comparing Oscar Brown Jr to the Last Poets nowadays ...
Get ready for the jam ....
They're circling the big rink and are beginning to pick up speed .... soon they'll be shoulder to shoulder looking for a way to make their way up and through the pack ....
so much speed and power even the spectators are wearing crash helmets ...
That's right! It's time for the 2006 EMP Pop Music Conference
The Kids are All Right ...
Dweezil has found at last the appropriate suitcases and now embarks on the revived Tour de Frank
(postponed from a few years back).
[Boy, I wish I had the money to see this!]
I'm still reeling from Geeta Dayal's recent burst on food and music
, because I have known some artists and some of those manifested preferences about food that bordered on fetishes:
Anyway, her wild and scary plunge examining the other expressions musicians sometimes make living the life that fuels their music reminded me of this quote long ago from Eno:
"It was really slummy. We'd sit around the kitchen table at dawn feeling tired and a bit fed up - me with a bowl of some crummy German cereal and him with albumen from the egg running down his shirt."
I'll tell you, though, that Geeta is on to something.
Today's SF Chronicle biographs none other than Mr. Mysterious, James Booker
, whose piano playing would activate a Richter:
"I had the privilege of seeing Booker perform three times during the 1982 festival, a year before he died. One of the shows, at a divey bar with a laundry in the back called the Maple Leaf, proved to be one of the most incredible musical experiences of my life. Booker was playing a blues, I can't recall which one, maybe "Black Night." With a left hand like a piston with a heart and brain in each finger, Booker more or less hypnotized me. His right hand, fanning runs that didn't seem humanly possible, engendered a feeling I'd never experienced. I can't really explain it, but it was as if he cracked open a portal in my soul and poured all his world of pain and wisdom directly in. I looked around the room, and people were weeping."
And quotes Booker himself on music: "Music is a mysterious art ... and people that's really good at it ... they get a little taste of the mysterious ... sometimes mysticism, too. In fact, all of the time they have mystical, mysterious attributes, but it's whether or not they're aware of it that's important."
Another brick in the wall of shame surrounding the Pomona Valley, that place I spent some teenaged years.
Today's sad news
via rockandrap confidential
Eighth grader Anthony Soltero shot himself through the head
on Thursday, March 30, after the assistant principal at De
Anza Middle School told him that he was going to prison for
three years because of his involvement as an organizer of
the April 28 school walk-outs to protest the anti-immigrant
legislation in Washington. The vice principal also forbade
Anthony from attending graduation activities and threatened
to fine his mother for Anthonys truancy and participation in
the student protests.
Anthony was learning about the importance of civic duties and
rights in his eighth grade class. Ironically, he died because
the vice principal at his school threatened him for speaking
out and exercising those rights, Ms. Corales said today. I
want to speak out to other parents, whose children are
attending the continuing protests this week. We have to let
the schools know that they cant punish our children for
exercising their rights.
Anthonys death is likely the first fatality arising from
the protests against the immigration legislation being
considered in Washington, D.C. Anthony, who was a very
good student at De Anza Middle School in the Ontario-
Montclair School District, believed in justice and was
passionate about the immigration issue. He is survived
by his mother, Louise Corales, his father, a younger
sister, and a baby brother.
Ms. Corales will speak to the community after mass on Sunday,
April 9, 2006 at 12:00 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
She will ask for a prayer for Anthony, whose funeral and
burial are scheduled for Monday, April 10 in Long Beach,
where he was born.
CONTACT: R. SAMUEL PAZ
This is just to let you know it seems to me that only time has passed and many things haven't really changed there.
Back in the ancient of days, I went to school in a neighboring town. I went to the school that Frank Zappa pulled his brother from. Keep in mind that among other things, this was a school that had really right wing people like Mr. Walter Knotts come by to deliver school pep talks to us in the auditorium. I always liked the history teacher who would get up, hold his nose, and walk out on those types of lectures in absolute disgust. Students were obliged to remain. And those who did not attend these lectures had their absence noted and they were punished by the school administration. Occasionally, Mr. Knotts' place of business would be referred to as "Knottsiberry Farm" as a sly commentary on the political leanings he would express in his talks to us kids. But that joke was never used and likely never heard by the people who had invited him there to speak.
Those were the ancient years of my youth. And during that time, honest to God, once at a thrift store in a neighboring town, I had come across a set of white satin papa-mama-baby klan outfits complete with blood-red crosses and pointed matching hoods. Just three fluttering white satin ribbons pinned to the wall of shame.
School of rock
Strange but true tales of UW music research
By Eric F. Lipton
You've likely gone all day — heck, all week — without wondering about the root causes of music censorship or the social bias against metalheads.
Luckily at the University of Wisconsin, there are researchers working around the clock, often with federal grant money, to explore these and other issues related to music. Here are just a few real-life examples of the work currently being done.
actually takes a look at some of the reasons why music is meaningful. And, of course, quotes another writer's thoughts on music: "I stumbled across a passage from Neil Gaiman's novel, Anansi Boys
. He writes, 'Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughingstock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams and gone. That's the power of songs.'"
The sweet sound of Zulu music and the film 'The Lion's Trail'
Monday, April 3rd 2006
Solomon Linda has finally gotten his due. Linda, a South African musician, wrote one of the most recognized songs in the history of music, "Mbube" (translated, "The Lion"). Some may be familiar with the retitled, "Wimoweh" (an inaccurate spelling of the song's Zulu refrain "uyembube"), sung by Pete Seeger and the Weavers in 1952, but every one living today, within listening distance of radio or TV, has at one time or another heard the most popular version, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," made famous by the Tokens in 1961. It has been sung by over 160 artists from all corners of the globe in one form or another over the years, and is regularly heard in movies, TV shows and commercials.
Last month, Solomon Linda's heirs, three surviving daughters living in poverty in South Africa, won a six-year battle for royalties from the song their father penned "in a matter of minutes," according to family lore, "in a squalid hostel which housed black migrant workers in Johannesburg in 1939."
Linda, born in the heartland of rural Zululand in 1909, was influenced as a teen-ager by the new syncopated music that had swept across South Africa from the United States since the 1880s. He worked this rhythm of shifting strong and weak beats into the Zulu songs he and his friends sang at weddings and parties. In the 1930s he joined other young African men who left home to find menial work in Johannesburg, which by then was a gold-mining town in search of cheap labor. Linda's musical popularity grew in the big city, and in 1938, his band, the Evening Birds, were spotted by a talent scout who took them to the only sub-Saharan Africa music recording studio, owned by Italian Eric Gallo, to cut a number of songs.
"Mbube" was a major success for Linda and the group in 1939, selling over 100,000 copies in South Africa by 1949. He was motivated to write the song, he said, based on his boyhood experience of chasing lions that stalked the family's cattle. It was sung in true Zulu tradition, a cappella, with Linda's falsetto voice adding an overlay of "eeeeees" to the baritone and bass main line. To this day in South Africa, this improvision is called Mbule.
The style has most recently been popularized by another South African group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, which gave a dazzling performance several years ago at the Reichhold Center for the Arts on St. Thomas.
Ignorant of copyright laws at the time, Linda sold the rights to "Mbube" to Gallo records for 10 shillings ($1.70) shortly after the recording. However, under British laws then in effect, those rights should have reverted to Linda's heirs in 1987, some 25 years after his death. (The Imperial Copyright Act of 1911, commonly referred to as the "Charles Dickens provision," states that if someone created something and died, after 25 years the rights should revert back to the heirs who are entitled to renegotiate royalties.)Being poor and black in South Africa, Linda and his heirs remained ignorant of their rights for more than 60 years.
In 2000, a South African journalist wrote a feature article for Rolling Stone magazine, highlighting the musician's story and estimating that "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," had earned $15 million for its use in the Lion King alone! This prompted PBS to film the recent documentary, "The Lion's Trail," in which Linda and the original version of the song was publicized worldwide. In 2004, with the backing of the South African government and Gallo Records, Linda's three surviving daughters, Delphi, Elizabeth and Fildah, brought a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company for the song's use in The Lion King movie (the only non-Elton John song), and musical without paying royalties to them. The settlement was reached with Abilene Music, which had attained worldwide "rights" in 1992 and who had licensed the song to Disney. It gives the daughters 25 percent of all past and future royalties from the song, estimated to be in the millions!
As for Linda, he made little or no money from his song, dying a pauper with less than $25 in his bank account. (Seeger, who had gotten the music from a friend who supposedly "discovered" it in the early '50s, once sent Linda a check for $1,000 - perhaps prompted by a pricked conscience.) He collapsed on stage in 1959 from what would later be diagnosed as renal failure. After a lengthy period in and out of the hospital, he died on October 8, 1962. His widow, Regina, was left so poor that she was unable to purchase a head stone for his grave. One was finally placed there 18 years later.
After 67 years, Mr. Linda's family can now walk tall and reap the benefits, including long overdue recognition, of this very unique, talented individual and his timeless gift to the music industry.
Henrita Barber, a Daily News contributing columnist, lives on St. Thomas.
Memories of rockstars on location in days of yore:The Place (A brief History)
"[Laurel Canyon] is unpretentious. You know your neighbors by the names of their dogs."
And now this book by Michael Walker (paragraph via Bob Sarles, but I don't know who to otherwise name in attribution:
'Laurel Canyon's rock 'n' roll legacy'
"Call Hollywood's Laurel Canyon the original rock 'n' roll suburb. From the mid-1960s to the early '80s, a massive influx of British rockers and East Coast bohemians mingled with local druggies and folkies, rockers and hippies in a leafy mountainside enclave just north of the Sunset Strip.
"Author Michael Walker's 'Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Legendary Neighborhood,' (Farrar Straus and Giroux) chronicles the canyon's decadent musical menagerie as it came to be defined by the rock royalty that lived there -- members of the Doors, the Byrds, the Mamas & the Papas, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell, among many others.
"There was this tribal life, this incredible hotbed of talent," Walker, a Laurel Canyon dweller, explains. "Two dozen of the baby boom generation's signature artists were neighbors in a place with a history of tolerating unapologetic behavior.
"There was a lot of energy and creativity. A lot of what turned out to be the 20th century's most lasting compositions were recorded in Laurel Canyon."
But don't overlook smartypants Barney Hoskyn's new book on "Hotel California (Singers Songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the LA Canyons 1967-1976)"
. The rise and fall of the West Coast sound, with a lot of colorful anecdotes.