It's a random compare and contrast exercise:
Another LA Times art piece, this by new pop music editor Ann Powers, "Common Dissents".
This is a deep spread, with pop culture analysis and examples of argument (interactive multimedia, videos, and a lyrics gallery):
'When Young recently stated that he made the album "Living With War" because no younger artists were picking up the countercultural torch, he unfortunately associated his efforts with a generational attitude that drives Generations X and Y crazy. "It's a clichéd Rolling Stone boomer-idea, that pop culture managed to stop a war, that musicians once had power as galvanizing figures," wrote twentysomething blogger Tom Breihan in a May 17 Village Voice column decrying such views.'
So musicians are responding in a wide ranging way to their perceptions of current realities which means their critics will be obliged to, as well.
As with this "The War Profiteer: A classic-rock icon steals Newt Gingrich's motto and the hearts of aging hippies everywhere
," coincidentally also published May 17, but far from New York and the Village Voice as can be, in an Oakland, California paper called the East Bay Express.
All I know for sure is that David Downs, the new music editor for the East Bay Express, is angry. So angry, he focuses completely on the superexpanded role in history that only the superegos of superstars could ever allot their superselves. Much of Downs's article is nearly incoherent to me. I haven't a real clue what he's going on about, except his anger and I caught onto that rather than "Impeach the President", he's turned the tables as a satirist should and suggests we "Draft Neil Young" instead.
'Which brings us back to the drafting of Neil Young.
'Bad back or not, conscript this man. Stick him on the wall of the Green Zone with that harmonica in his mouth and bullets whizzing by, and roll the cameras. The sight of our sad, confused old Crazy Horseman limping around, yelling "I've been a miner for a heart of gold," could match the pathos of that little girl running from napalm with her clothes burned off her.
'That's how you rock a vote and make a buck. With televised carnage and a draft.
'Just ask "Ohio."'
Then there's the flip side, the real deal, with "The Hatred Behind Hadji Girl.
That form of hatred is also expressed in this morning's news.
But these soldiers are likely to be punished, while the songwriter is not.
OK, now you boys and girls run along a stop a tank.
Diary of a One-Man Grateful Dead
"When he died in 1869, Louis Moreau Gottschalk was the most famous musician in the Western Hemisphere. New Orleans's answer to Europe's great virtuosi - the Chopin of the Creoles, as he was called - "
(via arts & letters daily
What's been rabbit punching me like a small nasty imp for years has now been reduced to steady raindrops falling on my head, that series of uncomfortable realizations and steady stream of proofs that the whole music scene has shrunk. And because of that current but insistant perception of mine, that means I might look at the new music of the dirty south a little differently than other people i know and make them mad because i don't take it nearly as seriously as they do. whether it's rev horton heat, hellbillies, or the drive-by-truckers, because of my views and thoughts about the shrunk scene and reduction by social atomization, the whole assortment of music seems small. all the music of the new dirty south tucks into a single small genre i call hickabitty. except maybe for bobby lounge
but so what i think that? in fact, i barely listen to music at all lately. my sound system died and i can't afford to replace it. and even though i work in the field, so to speak, i don't listen to music very much at all or go to the shows. truthfully, i hate the business. it's full of liars, lunatics, and thieves, and they drive everyone who has to deal with them in any way crazy or at least temporarily wild or at the least seem to force you to lose control while dealing with any of them. so i don't listen to much music, and i certainly won't buy music because that would only help support the liars, lunatics, and thieves.
that's why it's unusual that i've been listening to music lately. in particular, one song and quite regularly for the past week. in fact, the only song i've played i have been playing over and over. and it's from a cd somebody misplaced and hasn't asked about so far. because i consider it unclaimed, i've taken it home temporarily. i've borrowed it without permission because the owner isn't around to ask. i found my old fifteen year old personal cd player, so old the black bits of sponge that cup the earpieces are nearly turning to dust.
and i listen to a live version of "sympathy for the devil" through those headphones. i think to myself that's a lot better song than many of the other live versions on the cd, and infinitely superior to "high wire
" despite the little bit of moral anger expressed in that latter composition.
i get a lot more pleasure these days doing almost anything else than listening to music. this morning, for instance, reading about art. especially these two articles (one on the recent klimt sale
and one on the new dada exhibit in new york
). and i say i enjoy reading these, i enjoy them very much! i want to write the writers or the arts editor, anybody there, and thank them for writing these. and for running these, because i loved reading them. i think they allow me to gain a wider view and think larger thoughts, if only for the moment.
yet i wonder sometimes if i'm drawn to these things out of some small interest in myself -- that i'm attracted to them only because i had a personal connection however long ago and remotely and across the universe distantly to each of these eras through people i'd encountered along the way.
NEA and Columbia J-School Announce Third Classical Music Institute
By Vivien Schweitzer
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Columbia University School of Journalism have announced the third NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera, to be held October 15-25 at Columbia University in New York City.
András Szántó will direct the institute, which is offered for journalists living outside of major performing arts centers, in collaboration with artistic advisor Joseph Horowitz and Anya Grundmann. Attendees will work with senior journalists including Justin Davidson of Newsday; Jeremy Eichler, Anne Midgette, James Oestreich and John Rockwell, all of The New York Times; Terry Teachout (The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, ArtsJournal.com); and Alex Ross of The New Yorker. Participants will also meet senior staff of Carnegie Hall, the American Symphony Orchestra League, Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic and other leading music institutions. ...
NEA Chairman Dana Gioia said, "All the American arts depend on media coverage and intelligent criticism. This is especially true for music, where institutions and performers thrive on insightful coverage and reviews. The NEA Arts Journalism Institutes bring working critics from all over the country together to develop their skills. This program improves both the quantity and quality of this country's journalism, which benefits both the artists and the public."
Life on the avenue
*The Great Black Way L.A.'s Central Avenue in the 1940s and the Lost Negro Renaissance RJ Smith PublicAffairs: 400 pp., $26.95 Lady Sings the Blues The 50th Anniversary Edition Billie Holiday with Will.
"Come, let's stroll. Let us stroll to a different time and place — Los Angeles' Central Avenue during its heyday in the 1940s."
When I was a kid I didn't exactly stroll, but sometimes I would rollerskate or ride my bike or used to drive with my parents down Central Avenue
. Before that, many years in the distant past, the family home held a Maxwell Street address. That was in Chicago. So I sometimes feel I have the right to say something about those places. And the music, too. And my impressions. I remember when I was a young teenger, no longer living anywhere near Central but a world away, and reading the first line of Billie Holliday's autobiography. The book was already an old copy and the cover was crushed and wrinkled. Brutally frank, compared to celebrity memoir or even the tabloids of the day, but still protective of her mother in the harsh first line.
Back when every tree in Berkeley respirated tear gas for days after the melees on campus or the surrounding environs, when that little worker's collective record store was supplying excess profits to community groups, and I in my regular every day life was scrimping and saving for another few week's education while mopping the table tops of spilled beer in a blues and jazz club ... I not only had that big rock arena experience I told you about with that English group ... I also saw Crosby Stills Nash (and maybe even Young, not that that would matter a whit) perform onstage, somewhere across the Bay. This was close in time after both Monterey and Woodstock.
That evening, I got to see another music act I'd never before seen because they usually played in far away San Francisco.
As I recall, Cold Blood opened and in their way they nearly blew the new up and becoming more famous by the minute act right off the stage. Cold Blood (and Lydia Pense in particular) was very good that night, they'd thrown their hearts and souls into their set.
Then came the famous group, and those guys loved being on stage with each other and themselves as individuals. As the set wore on, I was surprised they weren't wrapping their arms around themslves and giving a big self hug. I don't know, I tried to have an open mind, I even tried to like them. But they were putting me off. They weren't at that time played very much if at all on the underground radio stations I listened to. And the rare times that they were, well, they weren't my favorite group by far. There they were onstage, and although they could harmonize in nodes, I ungenerously thought that might only be the result of some genetic accident, like the corns on Bing Crosby's uvula that resulted in his golden tones. And I did think how fortunate they were to have found each other in this big old world, to resonate one against the other to provide the listening audience with such pleasure.
That evening, it was small things irritated me about them. They way they'd beam or smile in self-satisfaction at each other after a well rehearsed harmony. I don't even remember what they sang, but it was likely the songs they were making famous at the time. And I didn't care for the onstage remarks, nobody knew what the hell they were going on about. Especially things like Graham Nash chatting between tunes, pandering to the audience, telling us he was just like us, showing us how hip he was and by extension we in the audience must be, just for being in the audience listening to them. Talking about his early career with "The Hollies" ... I mean, who had ever heard of the Hollies, that was like a hack's line of introduction from a press kit. I doubt anyone in the Bay Area had, we were distracted by other events and cultural explosions at the time. And if we had, even heard of the Hollies, that is, so what? What difference would it make, really, more especially if you had actually listened to their stuff. And then Graham asked rhetorically, "Can you imagine working with such squares?" Wow, I was getting a good idea.
I didn't pay to get in to that show, and I wouldn't have even if I'd had the money to spare. I was comped by someone who was associated with this group. I almost didn't go even comped. At the time I felt uneasy, like the plastic world of Hollywood was trying to not just knock on the door but hog its way and if the entry were still barred, then ooze its way in around the cracks in the door. And I fought against what I considered to be snobbishness or exclusivity on my part and attended. They weren't playing in Berkeley, but over someplace like San Rafael or Marin.
Saturday Reading Room is still open
(OK, so it's Sunday morning; we forgot to turn off the lights last night)
The trouble with paradise
*Hotel California The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends Barney Hoskyns Wiley: 324 pp., $25.95
By Erik Himmelsbach, Erik Himmelsbach, a writer and television producer, is at work on a book about the history of Los Angeles radio station KROQ-FM and the alternative-culture revolution.
COMING down hard off the Technicolor freakout of Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and the divisive election of President Nixon, musicians began ditching didactic rock in favor of a mellow brand of acoustic alchemy. It was nothing so much as the sound of surrender, and though the message rang at lower volume, it was still unquestionably clear: OK, we can't change the world, so instead let's dig our pain.
By the early 1970s, post-hippie angst was paying off quite handsomely, with Los Angeles serving as rock's leading exporter of introspection. The era's artists became superstars (The Eagles; Crosby, Stills & Nash), the string-pullers became obscenely rich and powerful (David Geffen, Irving Azoff) and those who chased the dream and stumbled (Gram Parsons, Gene Clark) crashed that much harder. They formed a remarkably insular community — artists worked together, played together and slept together, with Laurel Canyon serving as a kind of "Melrose Place."
It was a critical moment in rock history — a time when innocence and ambition collided. Not surprisingly, innocence got the fuzzy end of the lollipop. The fallout was a musical climate so perversely corrupt that punk rock had to be invented. You had drug-filled hedonism, corporatization of pop music and the unwelcome emergence of an oxymoronic genre of music dubbed "soft rock." L.A.'s maestros of mellow had spawned a monster.
How did they do it? In "Hotel California," Barney Hoskyns explains where it all went wrong — how so many groovy hyper-literate songwriters turned into pretentious, backstabbing, coke-sniffing lunatics. A British journalist and editor of "Rock's Back Pages" — an online library of music writing from the last 40 years (to which I have contributed) — Hoskyns is well-versed in the lay of LaLa land. Among his previous books is 1998's "Waiting for the Sun," a broad history of pop music in Los Angeles.
Here, the focus is much narrower. As the book's subtitle suggests, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, David Geffen and the Eagles are the divas in this sonic soap opera, but Hoskyns grounds the sensation with the stories of the scene's supporting cast — Randy Newman, Judee Sill, Jimmy Webb, the staff at Warner Bros., the folks who never lost their vision, even when blinded by the spotlight's seductive allure.
Through hundreds of interviews conducted over the last dozen years, Hoskyns methodically chips away at the era's artifice and ego-driven mythologizing, revealing a creative landscape that was less stardust and golden than it was green with greed and white with cocaine residue.
The genesis of what became known as country rock serves as the book's point of departure, with ex-Byrds singer Clark, Buffalo Springfield and the Flying Burrito Brothers mining a mythic past for inspiration, circa 1967. At first, they were united in a barefooted struggle for a musical utopia, converging at Hollywood's Troubadour, North Hollywood's Palomino or in the backyards of Mitchell or canyon queen bee Mama Cass Elliot. Such artists as Newman and Van Dyke Parks could thrive without the burden of commercial expectations.
Everything changed in the summer of 1968, writes Hoskyns, when "a loose triad of alpha males in denim jeans" began jamming in the canyon. Together, they were a super-group: David Crosby (ex-Byrds), Stephen Stills (ex-Springfield) and Graham Nash (ex-Hollies), three prickly personalities who created heavenly harmonies that touched millions. No one figured it would last (they were right) — music producer Jerry Wexler joked at the time that CSN's 1969 debut should be called "Music From Big Ego."
Something was happening here, and it was left to an opportunistic David Geffen to market mellow into moola. The New York native, who'd earned his music business chops guiding the career of jazzy songbird Laura Nyro, was the shrewdest new-school manager in the rock world. (Wexler once told Geffen: "You'd jump into a pool of pus to come up with a nickel between your teeth.") He was ruthless, but his artists trusted him — many worked without a contract.
With Geffen calling the shots, CSN added a Y — Stills' former Buffalo Springfield sparring partner Neil Young — and turned into the American Beatles. Their success sent Crosby's already high profile to the edge of overkill. For better or worse, the walrus-mustachioed singer was nothing less than the L.A. scene's face, its bon vivant, the model for Dennis Hopper's giggling, drug-munching sidekick in "Easy Rider."
Already insufferable, Crosby turned the scene into a personal fiefdom. Hoskyns' recounting of his antics pegs him as the embodiment of an encroaching self-absorption: He slept with Mitchell, did smack with Elliot, appointed himself spokesman for a generation. "David was obnoxious, demanding, thoughtless, full of himself," Geffen said.
Mitchell stepped into this star-crossed universe by virtue of a well-publicized relationship with Nash (after her tryst with Crosby but before bedding Stills and James Taylor). The partnership spurred the wispy blond from Canada into a period of powerfully introspective songwriting. "The Nash/Mitchell cohabitation was the Laurel Canyon dream incarnate," Hoskyns writes. "For the first time in pop, there was a direct, almost diaristic correlation between songs and relationships."
In 1971, just as Mitchell's true confessions began making noise on the pop charts, Geffen formed Asylum Records, a label devoted to woe-is-me genre artists such as Jackson Browne. Geffen also helped hatch an ambitious band called the Eagles, who joined his label that August. The Eagles cherry-picked sounds from the cream of the recent L.A. scene — a bit of Burritos, a splash of Browne — as the basis for its baldly commercial sound, and Geffen aggressively hyped the group as the embodiment of the laid-back California lifestyle. It worked: America quickly embraced the hirsute country-rock boy band, whose easy-going-down anthems were tailor-made for AM, FM and country radio.
"We wanted it all," Glenn Frey told Hoskyns. "Peer respect. AM and FM success. No. 1 singles and albums, great music, and a lot of money." Guitarist Frey was the good-time guy, the author notes. His partner, Don Henley, was the solemn, serious one. But Henley's righteous-dude persona was a pose. He got two years' probation for drug possession and was fined for contributing to the delinquency of a 16-year-old girl who was treated for drug intoxication at his house in 1980.
Hoskyns says Henley's troubles were symptomatic of a scene running its course, of pop music's Camelot losing its grip. People had gotten rich and left the canyon for Malibu. They developed serious drug habits. They stopped selling records. They became a bloated joke to a new generation of musicians, who mocked the hippie excess. When the Eagles imploded in late 1980, it was a coffin nail to the whole bloody mess, save the inevitable rehab bills.
Of course, before the Eagles finally flew their ego-torn coop, they had left America with "Hotel California," a doomsday hit ("you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave") that served as a hummable epitaph to the once-harmonious canyon era (and an appropriate title for this book).
Hoskyns tells a cautionary tale (what rock 'n' roll story isn't?). But "Hotel California" is also a lesson in cultural anthropology: Its heroes and villains were among the first rock stars to become rock gods, creating a regal distance from their audience. "We were now applauding the presence of the artist rather than the performance," light-show artist Joshua White tells Hoskyns.
When the applause died down, there were a lot of casualties. Parsons and Sill were dead, Clark was immersed in the bottle. Young got weird. Mitchell got jazzy. Crosby went to jail. And Geffen became king of the universe, even doing his part to put the hippie dream out of its misery in 1985, when he sued Geffen Records artist Young for making uncommercial records. There was nothing left, save an echo of the message Peter Fonda offered to Hopper in "Easy Rider": "We blew it, man."
Florida in the fall. University of Florida prof William McKeen
throws open the doors to the public. That means YOU can sit in on his entire college class on the history of rock n roll.
An inspirational meeting near the summit
Music writer Chuck Klosterman
reading hardly a tectonic shift for attendee:
"The event was provocative, and for about a half-hour following his reading, the approachable Klosterman fielded audience questions ranging from love to record industry politics, the heavy metal resurgence and his developing novel. He is an enthusiastic guy with an inquisitive perspective, but his thinking is by no means revolutionary or awakening. Listening to his stories about the road, traveling and writing, I couldn’t help but feel that there are plenty of folks out there that could do what he is doing. In a nutshell, he is getting paid to experience, talk, think and be a part of pop-culture and music. What a great life. I left the Boulder Bookstore more motivated to pursue my own creative ambitions."
Sounds like a reasonable response, possibly a bit flattened of affect from prolonged exposure to monoculture, and a search that promises to be time-consuming.
An olde book review reveals a hidden truth, the type of misprint that could make copy editors or even a historian gnash their teeth or snigger in disgust:
The Blacklisted Journalist publishes a book review by Joyce Metzger of "A Long Strange Trip", prepared by Dennis McNally.
All of which is pretty colorful reading. Until I hit the klinker, a direct quote from the book:
"On May 15th, police and CHP entered the People’s Park as, Dennis wrote, “6000 Berkeleyites marched down Telegraph Hill. The next day, the police trapped 3000 and strafed them with tear gas from helicopters.”
Telegraph Hill is in Boston. He meant Telegraph Avenue, which is in Berkeley. A small mistake that can mean utter unfamiliarity with the scene, certainly in terms of geography.
And here, too, is Peter Coyote at the top of the mast. Back in the day, I thought he looked silly wearing a vest shirtless, chokeband beads, buckskin colored hiphuggers, black cowboy hat, and that stupid little twirly feather ear ring. He wasn't Peter Coyote, then, but he was becoming Peter Coyote. I guess they all kind of clump together.
It's not hard to imagine those times when parody or humor is misunderstood by an audience.
Today, one of the most searched for items on the spectacular Youtube is a farewell song by Connie Chung, a swan song performance which confused and outraged her viewing audience.
I once heard a story how shock jock Howard Stern at his height of popularity had his staff pen a ditty for Robert Palmer to sing, a little parody, some kind of jab at Connie Chung who then still held her TV broadcast job worked into the lyrics, and she by all reports responded with a televised retort to Mr. Palmer. Shadowboxing through media.
That's all free associative speculation and I've learned of all these events far after the fact, not immersing myself at the time in media.
But such ivory tower detachment, a form of philosophical distance, can afford a focus now and again. I fully understood George Michael's self-parody, which I happened to catch as a music video. One which so incensed the arresting policeman that he sued the rich rock star for damage to his reputation, emotional damage, and some sort of psychic suffering.
And I am quite distant from media. Merely the occasional and anonymous recipient of their broadcast material, and though caught occasionally by the spitfire usually I can escape unharmed. For instance, a woman I met recently who was once heavily entrenched, attached to, or making money from the classical music world in distant New York, was in the habit of commandeering dinner table conversation. And she was telling me why she loved Rush Limbaugh. My fettucini became instantly unappetizing and uninteresting when she voiced that name, and I recoiled instantly. Once again, I say to myself, I find myself seated in a very wrong place. Unlike a radio, there was no convenient dial to switch.
Rush is funny, she insisted. The funniest man in the world. A genius. She would laugh out loud in her car stuck in traffic listening to Rush. His greatest comedic coup, she believed, was during the rising hysteria in America after 9-11, and she was in New York at the time. She described his skit about the terrorists coming ashore in rubber boats and unloading. And she described this, what she was presenting as an on the spot improvised skit which would only prove his genius to me, nearly word for word, and those words were horrifically familiar to me.
Well, I remembered that skit! Vaughn Marlowe
, a who had once hosted a KPFK radio show in Los Angeles in the sixties, had developed that whole skit during the Viet Nam war, or maybe a little before!! Vaughn spun discs by Lord Buckley and Ken Nordine and word jazz and humorous stuff. Rush who was a DJ in California himself at the time or some of Rush's writers must have listened to some early California competitor radio! And took this whole piece of radio history on as their current own creation ... I was duly appalled!
Vaughn, if he is alive, should sue! And so should KPFK if they have the money and want to waste some going up against the great satan of the broadcast world, or ever bothered taping any of their broadcasts.
Anyway, I was quiet as I listened to her spiel. And then I asked her why she would believe anything that comes out of the mouth of a motor mouthed goof simply because he's hogging up the microphone, broadcast countless thousands of hours a day everywhere throughout the nation, fueled as he was on whitetrash heroin. Especially when he can't even come up with his own original material. I merely said, "Hey, Vaughn Marlowe wrote that" and went back to my salad.
Didn't I just say the '60s are over? This next article is about people taking more of an anti-authoritarian stand, with armed bouncers at the door to be sure everybody leaves them alone: Brazilian Funk gaining a worldwide audience
Though "State law prohibits disc jockeys at funk balls from playing songs that celebrate criminality", "Funk is the musical CNN of the favelas," said Brazilian journalist Silvio Essinger, who's written extensively about the genre. "It's a music that doesn't depend on the big record companies or the tastes of the middle class. Funk is absolutely free and absolutely connected to what's going on in the communities.".
Fernando Luis Mattos da Matta, or DJ Marlboro, the unquestioned star of Brazilian funk.
For more than a decade, the hyperactive 43-year-old has strived to pull funk out of the ghetto and into the good graces of mainstream Brazilians. He hosts one of Rio de Janeiro's most popular radio shows and has even appeared on children's television variety programs. This year, his record "Funk Brasil" topped the country's pop charts.
Da Matta has traveled the world to spread the gospel of Brazilian funk, winning high-profile American fans such as the Philadelphia-based disc jockey Wesley Pentz, known as Diplo.
"I'm showing people funk is much more than all the violence and sex they hear about," da Matta said during a break in a set he was playing recently at Canecao, Rio de Janeiro's most prestigious nightclub. "This is true Brazilian electronic music."
Just a reminder, the '60s are over
"Journalist Alan Bisbort - who cut his teeth writing for underground hippie publications in the '60s and is author of the counterculture flashback books "Rhino's Psychedelic Trip" and "The White Rabbit and Other Delights" - defined hippie culture as "the possibly naive belief that a better world is possible."
Book review x 2
A look at those olde folke years
A review of Tom Stoppard's new play Rock n Roll
"In some senses Rock'n'Roll is a symbolically rollicking episode of Ab Fab about class, consciousness and revolution written by a ruthless genius thinking at a speed unfashionable in this day and age."
"His history of rock'n'roll misses punk, but in a way the Plastic People supply it with their driven, desperate versions of Tom's canon. For Stoppard, rock'n'roll is now history, tamed and tagged, endlessly replayed, echoing softly through the iPod eternity. In the play he makes his case for how and why it is important history, and how it all really ended when Communism did, or when vinyl did, or even when Syd, his Elvis, stopped singing."
(Yeah, like I was just saying, mild in the streets.)
(via Mr. Reynolds at blissblog
I had a flashback of memory, riding on a city bus up University Avenue in Berkeley back in the late '70s. The smell of teargas and public outrage had long faded, there was an imported hat store now, carrying in high ticket tropical weavings to fuel a then fashionable fad.
The airbrakes sounded for a sharp stop at Shattuck Avenue, and I debarked and crossed the street, remembering the time the riot cops and demonstrators really had a stand-off there. No burning barricades anymore, and in a way thank heavens for that.
So I was having a flashback of memory, thinking barricades as I moseyed. I noticed the Bart construction barricade was wallpapered with posters. These posters were so different from any of the posters that had ever appeared in town that I had seen, the concert posters or the calls to action in the old days.
These new posters were oversized, in color, and slick and glossy. A veritable fortune to print. And here they were. A wall of them. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars stapled to the plywood.
The posters depicted a copper toned, golden portrait of Garland Jeffreys
. I knew it was Garland Jeffreys because that name was on the poster, too. I recognized the name Garland Jeffreys, I'd heard that song "Wild in the Streets" recently on local radio, although I had missed it the first time it was around. And from recent newspaper reads I knew he was soon to appear in the area. And from those articles, too, I learned for the first time he was in some way associated with Lou Reed and that meant a distant association in some way with "The Velvet Underground." Hey, that's really something, I thought. They used to call the subway the Underground in London, before it was called the Tube (and their records were just becoming popular hereabouts, I meant the Tubes and White Punks on Dope not the one about burning leather and zippers sending sparks into the night) and this structure was to be the BART. And that underground thing as a word seemed to be the end of any similarity I could come up with.
OK, a record company street team had taken over the expanse of plywood announcing the re-release of an old product. And I suspected the hands on the staple guns were those of a relatively well-paid record company street team at that, even if they were unpaid college interns using their friends energy in exchange for free tickets or other minor bits of pelf. Why should any of that bother me so much? I don't know, and I don't to this day, but it all seemed so pampered, plushed up, smoothed over, and glossed out, and contrived. I think that's what bothered me the most, that contrived part. I didn't want to waste my time even looking or thinking about those posters anymore.
So the next time I rode that bus, I took a different number and rode straight up University so I didn't have to walk past the record company's free advertising space barricade. And I couldn't help but notice that somebody with printing skills and a pen had altered the whole lot of posters to read "Mild in the Streets."
I didn't giggle out loud or point my finger and yell "hey looka that". I merely smirked a bit because I felt I understood.
It's summer, maybe the dog days of summer, and time for the silly season in American press when they can't find anything newsworthy to write about. So there are lots of features on food and fashion and usually an drippy ice cream cone finds its way to the cover of a national magazine somewhere. Less and less music news or artist tours to report due to the way industry has been structuring itself over the past decade. Apparently the same is true for the British press. That means I don't have anything terribly worthwhile to write about, either.
There are galas awarding humanitarianism and charitable acts
Lebenty Lebentynth Reggae Tour
about to splash again, revived after hiatus to generate much needed income for expansion
Also to be funded in part by the flight of capital, I mean investment incentive
conveniently coat tailing on the tour.
And of course the left-behinds, those lesser tabloid types
whinging and sounding like so many sacks of sour grapes, or old two faced moralistic types.
And a few reissues that cause the remote music critic to ponder re-assessment of what has been presented as historic fact or legend
All I know about any of this is something I'd read probably in Rolling Stone back in 1974. Talking about the then up and coming Island records. An anonymous person close to the scene was quoted as saying (this might not be an exact quote as I'm remembering something I read only once over 20 years ago), "They're so cheap they wouldn't pay five dollars to watch two chimpanzees fuck." And somehow, that single solitary veddy British vulgarity symbolized what I was certain was the entire inside scene to me. I had a vague idea, but who really was that "they" the speaker was referring to? That implied there was more in operation there than a single visionary figurehead calling all the shots, something that implied a cultural mindset.
From this month's Nation, a diagram of the National Entertainment State 2006.
The media ownership chart over the past ten years has suffered a thickening. Which may be why most press these days seems dense.
My cheap two cents guess
I just read blisshog's question of the morning,
and I think Gould meant Schwarzkopff
not as in Stormin Norman but as in Stormin Norman's aunt, the famed soprano Elisabeth
, Both spellings with f or ff were in common usage at that time even in the press (though people would laugh at the double ff as it could easily stand for "friendly fire". Get it? Sometimes the name would be mispelled "Schwartzkopf, even in the press, although the family likely long ago had dropped the "t" as too cumbersome a spelling of a foreign name and besides it could be construed to mean "black". Something like the Guv'nor's name, see?)
(p.s. a wild guess -- i think she vehemently objected to peter seller's parody, "would it not be loverly" but that's just a wild wild guess. because you con't make fun of dose notzies.)
I was sorry to hear that a brave reporter died. I'll raise a toast today to Czernin
I knew something of Maria Altmann as I grew up. When I was a kid, a twinkling more than a half a century ago, my mom took me to the consignment shop Mrs. Altmann
ran. The clothes were rather expensive, the cast offs of a fashionable clientele, coming as they did from some entertainment people who did what they could to help support her in her new life here in the States. Mrs. Altmann was always very well dressed and had nice clothes, and she looked exceptionally good in red.
The Hard Rock Cafe vs Cobain's Guitar
. Today's small story concerns a bad case of sanitosis by those who currently hold the keys to a tiny treasure chest in the lesser of the magic kingdoms.
Rob Horning captures the moment of realization, (that little blink of the large historic eyeball) perfectly with his excellent "Moonlight Feels Right
". The dribbling down could barely inspire a voiceless shout to the uncaring universe, "Has it all come to this?", could it.
Rumors never traced down department
Retrieved from today's memory banks is one of those things classified as Hollywood rumors I'd heard ten, fifteen years ago when I was nowhere near Hollywood and had nothing to do with the industry. Actually, I can't even remember where or when I heard this.
If you've read the Back to the Garden story from the LA Times below, you might marvel at this, as I frankly don't know if it's true or not and the worse truth is, I don't even care: Dave Geffen had grown so wealthy from his investments that he gave Jackson Browne all his royalties back, i.e., all the revenue that Geffen's enterprises had made from Jackson's music on Asylum (all the way up to the point where Geffen sold the company).
Hearing about that rumor (suggesting a form of exceptional generosity) could make a person regard Dave Geffen a bit differently, as the person was in a way insisting to me "David's not all bad." If that is a true story, what would have prompted such an expression of such an exceptional generosity?
I'll likely never know, never having been introduced to or even meeting or speaking with either person in question.
The only other thing I know is a rumor from 1971 Jolly Old England, when Dave Geffen was said to have come for a visit and was said to like the English tradition of private clubs (which coming from his element of Hollywood and Hollywood media almost any person could understand why he would be drawn to that form of exclusivity). The only thing I know for certain about him because I once saw a picture in a magazine is that he literally built and lived in a glass house.
(p.s. when I first heard Barney had departed for Los Angeles for this project, which I learned only because I subscribed to a London rock n roll e-list with a zillion other people, I was interested in following the progress of his project. I did this even knowing I might never read the book he was in the process of preparing. "Oh, be careful" I'm sure people said to him, as if he were embarking to cover a controversial warzone. Long about the time I guessed the galley proofs were circulating, a newspaper I read online pronounced that Barney Hoskyns had been a heroin addict. So in reading that, I guessed somebody somewhere didn't like something in the book, and that smacked of Hollywood media to me.)
Elsewhere in today's music news, from the Washington Post, comes the back story of the making of a Chuck Berry documentary
(originally released in 1987, re-released on DVD, so we get to hear the story again in 2006).
Back to the Garden
(LA Weekly reviews two books about the LA music scene that existed for a bit 30+ years ago)
From Xispas Magazine blog post, June 13, 2006: www.xispas.com/blog/
South Central Farmers Evicted Today
Early this morning, at 5 PM, a squadron of helicopters, squad cars, and bulldozers came to remove the 350 families from Mexico and Central America who have made 14 acres in an urban blighted area into a garden oasis in South Central LA (41st and Alameda streets). The South Central Farm is the largest urban farm in the United States. Last reports were that bulldozers were tearing down the fences and tearing into the carefully plotted trees and plants.
This battle to save the amazing gardens and farm has been waged for weeks when a wealthy developer demanded to get the land back from the city so he can build warehouses and industrial sites (in an area chock full of warehouses and industrial sites). The farmers, however, have been on this land for 14 years.
Celebrities such as Darryl Hannah, John Quigley, and Danny Glover have recently taken part in supporting the farmers. All the protests in support of the farmers have been peaceful. The attack this morning shows that LA City, like most cities in this country, cater to the rich and powerful.
South Central LA needs another industrial development like a hole in the head. Any possible new jobs would be miniscule for the vast needs in this community. The farmers were creating their own healthy food source, working long hours, insuring the land would be used to help others.
One woman supporter of the farm, Rufina Juarez, on June 10 started a fast and sit-up on the tallest walnut tree, replacing Julia Butterfly, a renowned environmentalist.
The bulldozers and strong sheriff's presence is reminiscent of the Chavez Ravine evictions in the 1950s of mostly poor Mexicans that eventually laid the way for the building of Dodger Stadium. Mexicans and other poor people have been routinely evicted from their homes and creative work spaces throughout LA history.
In East LA, the largest Mexican community in the country, the building of several freeways for mostly suburban commuters in the 1950s and 1960s destroyed many other neighborhoods. More recently the largest housing projects west of the Mississippi were destroyed or renovated in East LA, and largely privatized, to remove most of the poor people (what we call the "Cabrini Greening" of America, after the planned destruction of subsidized poor people's housing in Chicago's large and mostly African American Cabrini Green Housing Projects for upscale townhouses and businesses).
This ongoing taking of land goes back to the Native removals, to the conquest of half of Mexico, to the removal of poor black and white sharecroppers in the South, and countless "urban renewal" projects in America's poor cities. All poor, regardless of color or nationality, have been affected. We must not let these kinds of removals continue in the name of "progress" (read: to enrich the coffers of the already wealthy).
The South Central Farmers represented self-determination and self-sufficiency. Now many of these families will probably need to be dependent on other people and industries for work and lodgings.
We need to spread the word about this outrage. The poor have to come together, organize, and win back their dignity and ability to rule and survive by their own means.
Two for Tuesday special
Here's a fabulous two-part piece on how a music journalist was recruited as a word warrior to champion music and then deemed inappropriate for the task at handI Was Russell Crowe's Stooge
It's fair to say Russell's music was a surprise. Where I had expected a lumpen, tuneless racket, what I heard instead was something far less remarkable - the colourless strums of a subway busker glazed with the deodorized slick of Christian rock. The most charitable thing I could feel about it was that it wasn't complete crap.Circus Maximus
A group of writers centered in Aspen, Colorado plan to study songwriting from songwriters in what is likely a well-funded program called Lyrically Speaking
. What you will notice from this article is that writers are much more careful with written language than spoken language. One writer is credited, while the songwriter is not. Spot the obvious omission that results.
Czechs and thugs and rock and roll
Wherein an esteemed member of the esteemed English press seeks to elucidate the pulsing socio-political connectivity between the Plastic People and Frank Zappa and Velvet Underground while throwing in the Sex Pistols while talking about an event in recent Czech history. (My reminder to students of music history: just don't forget it was the English who threw the Czechs to the wolves in the first place, and indeed the second place, and didn't do a whole hell of a lot in the third place, which pretty much sets the time and place that the article is concerned with.) For me, it might be interesting, too, to hear from a Czech music journalist on how these musics washed ashore on the Coasts of Bohemia and were received.
(from today's guardian) "A toast to the journalist," he announces, looking me square in ... They insist there is nothing they wouldn't write about, that their music is their whole life. ... "
(from today's electronic infitada)
CB: In your most recent book of poetry ZAATAR DIVA there is a poem that I particularly love, "DADDY'S SONG," that takes me back to the time of Sam Cooke and his ballad "A CHANGE GONNA COME." Could you talk more about this poem and your relationship with your father and Sam's musical impact on your relationship with your dad?
SH: The poem is very literal. When we watched the film MALCOLM X at home, my father sat in his chair during the film and there was no sobbing, no theatrics. But I turned to look at him in the middle of this scene, where Sam Cooke's song played, and he was crying. Sam Cooke somehow got to the Third World, because he was so fine, and he had that voice. So, the developing world welcomed his vice into their homes. So when my father came to the US, a young father of three in 1979, with my mother who was pregnant with their fourth child, he was familiar with Sam Cooke. I would hear him talk about Sam Cooke, and he was coming with this idea of America; then he was put up against Disco music that was coming out of the stores and cars and then eventually rap music which followed not much later after that. So, for him, Sam Cooke represented his version of America. I think music in general has played a very healing part of my life. Sometimes it's human voices, which I guess it is as primal as it can be, and sometimes it's the vibration of the saxophone or the drum. And I wanted to make a connection between not just Sam Cooke's tragic life and my father's life and Malcolm X's life and my own life, but I wanted to make the connection to the generational pull of music. Sam Cooke, who came from absolutely nothing - like my father came from - and wrote all these other songs like CUPID, SHE WAS ONLY 16 and all these kinds of bop songs, and through all of it created an anthem for people all around the world. I wanted to remember everyone involved in the making of that moment in my life."
[the first an interview with a band
made up of boys in striped suits who make funny faces at the camera and worry about how critics regard them, coming as they do from a performance round in amsterdam porn palaces and the title of the piece pronounces the entrance of so much heckspawn, and present these much dimmer princelings of darkness for your reading and listening and contemplative pleasure)].
[the second an interview with a woman poet
who talks about a poem she wrote about a song and its personal and historic implication]
Who would you rather have in your brain today? (it's the randomness of search engine result display, one above the other and next to each other)
What Zimbabwe recording artists
endure to collect their paltry royalties
(This morning, I tried posting this below but blogger choked on its own tail and wouldn't let me!)
The Truth can be all around us everywhere and all the time and we can be aware we're drowning in it while there's not a drop to drink
On PopMatters today is another of Rob Horning's exceptional musings about Marginal Utility on "interns
At Burning Man 2000, where I labored on the Man's daily newspaper, The Naked Truth, a fella who was dissatisfied with his regular newspaper career talked to me about his experience with interns. He believed his career such as it was had been impacted, and his sentiments are echoed in Horning's piece. That's publishing.
For me, a record company intern hired because he said he loved music was culled from USC where he played marching drum for the college drill corps and took a class at college in the ghetto jazz that had bubbled up from my old historic neighborhood. He overnight expressed a CD to me that I barely had time to listen to before the interview that had been arranged months prior.
The delivery truck had to bounce a long way up the bumpy road into my rural outpost, and the shipping alone cost more than the CD would in the stores. And the CD was a small square shape, and though not the same hue as that well known brand of by-products it was blue, reminding me all the more of a can of Spam because this was THE anthology collection of the many released prior. That's the record biz.
And just day before yesterday, a former movie producer I know complained about all the guys from Harvard and Yale she'd had to deal with while she made her career in Hollywood, how they'd never read a book even at college because they were devoted to their business training at a prestigious school where they got degrees paid for by their fathers, and she was being streamed into making movies from previous television shows. That's the movie biz.
And it's all combined into the same bigger than ever and steadily increasing piles of glop and undeniable mediocre mush.
Well, I can't do anything about it.
All I do is sometimes make up small songs that capture a prolonged historic moment:
Raspberry Reich Forever ... Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you
see E e e
No harm in that, is there? Or I respond emotionally to smaller facets of this moment that have gone on and on for years now --
Like yesterday when I first saw the little ad box on the yahoo mainpage touting a new release, with an action still of a hero culled from "the new Superman Returns movie" and his red white and blue is nestled next to, not quite blurring into as that would be too obvious, but nearly matching the colors of co-sponsor Pepsi, I burst out in spite of myself:
"Supercan ... thrown at the screen ... da da da DA da da DA da da da .... Supercan"
And I was all by myself. But I could sing that because I'd heard the original superman television theme music. Though it barely matters.
And then I met a fellow who played piano and roadied for elite Warner Brothers record stars, who worked off tour in the Hollywood entertainment sector, but for Fox TeeVee News in the sports section and he described his working partner (maybe the one who ran around the football field with a camera strapped to his helmet) as a genius (so that must have meant he regarded himself as a genius, too, mightn't it, because he's there working right along side him?).
I could go on and on and on with my reactions to these on and on and on stories, but really, it's same-o same-o for everyone else, it seems, and has been for awhile now. The trick is to try to keep yourself amused.
Continuing on in the blues and boxing connection is this splendid reflection on PopMatters by Mark Reynolds,"Negritude 2.0: Coming Out of the Hazy Past."
The strange saga of the Living Buddha
who plans to proselytize on a rap record.
Recovered memory challenge: Just Give me Some Tooth
This is actually quite a good read, butPimp my Smile
implies "the grill" is a new invention.
There were people in the fifties who flashed gold every time they opened their mouths, when they smiled or laughed or shouted or sang. There was a musician from someplace like Louisiana who'd had a gold star implanted in a front tooth and a photograph of that became part of some album art in the '70s. That's because an English rockstar had a ruby installed in the '70s and a shot of that tooth made the cover of a national magazine. Which came first? And where is it, that album cover?
Although it's true the rare entertainer long before had a diamond studded tooth
(and her real nickname was Diamond Tooth Lil, though Hollywood later gave her a new stage name) while other kids
were just learning the steps, and swirling and shakin it down (but she didn't have a jewel or precious metal implant that I've ever heard of, so she's kind of bobbing around in my stream of consciousness and hard to work into any of this)
I feel like I rolled doubles this morning because I found writing about two different artists I like alot:
A look at Kenneth Patchen
(at Perfect Sound Forever). He's something, that Patchen. Once I found his work, and I'd found his poetry first (probably the collected works), everybody else of the time seemed to pale by comparison. I carried a copy of his Journal of Albion Moonlight, which was a thick book, and read it throughout the summer that first summer I spent in Berkeley. There was nothing else like it even then, and that book had been written more than twenty years before I'd picked it up. The books were black and white, as were his sketches in the poetry books, so here's some of his more colorful
Then a review on the new Charlie Musselwhite record.
Once upon a time, I did a review on Charlie Musselwhite