Friday, July 28, 2006
Lulu's back in town ...

Joel Selvin writes about what Linda Ronstadt is up to these days (with a mention of John Jacob Niles)

(Her cover of Elvis Costello's "Girl Talk" was more than pretty good, but Elvis's demo of his own song likewise was splendid. I don't believe he ever released his version).
Here in toto is Rob Horning's latest daily musings about Marginal Utility on PopMatters. (It's much better to read this than what I had planned for today, some snarky remarks about contagious OCD hoarding syndrome and Bill Graham's air-conditioned basement storage facility) [8.4.06 update: Don't laugh, if you were. This is a real disorder especially common to certain geographies. For example, "Only the memories remain: Grateful dead vault moved"].

Conspicuous cognition

By Rob Horning

Maybe Terry Eagleton is right, and we are now in a period “After Theory”. But the generation of liberal arts students who were obliged to read Levi-Strauss, Lacan, Deleuze, Barthes, et. al., still remain, and some of them are now working critics. This, I think, explains the surprising amount of coverage that Green Gartside and his “band” Scritti Politti have recently generated with a new album. Gartside is almost too good to be true: You couldn’t ask for a better subject upon which you could trot out all that poststructuralism you were forced to learn. At a time when theory was still fresh, Gartside started a band named after a book by the Marxist cultural theorist Antonio Gramsci, wrote a song that announced his love for Jacques Derrida (appropriately called “Jacques Derrida"), and slowly charted a course toward mainstream pop at its most synthetic without ever abandoning his frequent lyrical allusions to linguistics and psychoanalytic theory. Hence, there is a lot of postmodern praxis to explicate: the fusion of high and low culture, the intertextuality of social production, the reification of ideas in language, unstable irony, love as a metaphor for ontological and epistemological dilemmas epitomized by deconstruction, etc. Infuriatingly, none of this stuff makes Scritti Politti especially pleasant to listen to (as anyone whose given “Anomie and Bonhomie” a listen); suitably they are much better in theory than in practice.

The working critics of 1985, when Scritti Politti released its most successful album, Cupid & Psyche 85, were not interested in such stuff (and neither, likely, was the audience): David Fricke’s Rolling Stone review, which was content to dismiss Gartside’s lyrics as “abstract word games,” pretty much set the tone. This album yielded the band’s only American hit, “Perfect Way,” which managed to reach the charts despite being packed with puns on Lacanian buzzwords, lacks and voids and difference, that went over just about the entire audience’s head. (I remember liking the song when it came out, but wondering if it was going to get me beat up. But that fear abated as it became almost an act of courageous subversion in my high school to stop listening to Boston and Foreigner and adopt a fancy for wimpy English pop.) Now, as the articles linked above demonstrate, that is one of the first things noted about the song, suggesting something of theory’s lasting practical impact on the mundane level of magazine culture. Part of what makes Gartside fascinating is that it remains unclear why he decided to saturate his songs with graduate-seminar material—was there a subversive agenda at work, and if so what did he want to subvert, the complacency of the pop audience or the pretensions of the theory itself (which, of course, would instruct us to see him as doing both simultaneouly)? But even though critics are now willing to frame their discussions of Scritti Politti with references to Lacan and Derrida, they remain unwilling to take the theoretical ideas seriously, instead reducing them to superficial appliqués, tokens in a round of philosophical hide and seek. In other words they do a reductionist postmodern move on Gartside’s songs and refuse to attribute any depth to them even while acknowledging their complexity. The generation of critics who mastered poststructuralist theory had no interest in carrying the revolution forward; they are content to know the ideas and deploy them dismissively in order to send a discreet message about their own educational capital: “I may be writing popular journalism, but I’ve cracked the spine on Anti-Oedipus too.” So if theory can be said to have failed, perhaps it’s because those who learned it and put themselves in position to dissemenate its ideas only managed to see it as an intellectual status game. It may even have a Vebelesque aspect; we flaunt knowledge of theory we regard as worthless because it proves how much time and intellect we had to waste on something so apparently useless—it’s conspicuous cogntion.

(this is a reminder that you, too, should look at PopMatters every single day because there's sterling stuff to be found in every single corner of the page).
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Beruit Band Holds Benefit for Internally Displaced

Staging a concert during a seige.
What I like about people like Simon Reynolds is the way he drops weighty multi-faceted jewels that bedazzle you and entice you into looking more at When Brits and Hip-Hop Collide:

"The British have always had a thing for the music of Black America. An almost-random example: Paul Weller. In the mid-'80s, shortly after launching the Style Council, Weller opined that black people were "the only people making any good music, like they've always been." This attitude is surprisingly common among U.K. music hipsters. What makes the British different from black-music devotees in other countries is the combination of pious reverence with a lack of humility. From the Rolling Stones onward, British artists have always been totally confident that they can not only master these foreign forms but contribute to their development. So, Weller, for instance, immediately ignored the implication of his remark (hands off, Whitey) and churned out his own faux soul.

Embedded in the British response to blues, soul, funk, hip-hop, deep house, et al., is a paradox: The strenuous effort to be authentic immediately creates inauthenticity. The more fiercely you identify with the original, the more you erase your own identity and end up producing something not only unoriginal but deeply redundant. This cruel dilemma—fidelity versus mutation—has convulsed British music repeatedly over the decades: from the schisms of trad jazz vs. free jazz, to blues purism vs. progressives, to more recent debates about hip-hop, where the argument is about whether British rappers should ape American MCs or instead inject stilted Anglo cadences into their flow and parochial references into their lyrics."
You hoo and a hearty heigh ho silver. The New Lost City Ramblers ride again, and while the new fangled kids have names like Duh-uh-aah-wow-Dao, they're garnering new fans everywhere they play on the Left Coast.

[I was so happy to read that post! I was also happy that particular writer/listener said he never took to the Byrds. Me neither, and not even at the time. Remember that business in Venice 1965, the person walking out the door with the guy who drove the black saloon? I knew him, they knew each other, and he wanted to make a career in show business. About this time, he'd heard a patently false radio rumor disguised as metro dj report that the English band I was beginning to dislike (see the Freaks post below) had been in an airwreck a la Holly/Valens/Bopper and endless unknown numbers of short-hop puddle jumping sky king C&W musicians commuting to a job, and he'd told me his "heart dropped" when he heard that news. That incident, the "reportage" of which spun on out for hours to tantalize, torture, or otherwise emotionally impact susceptible or interested listeners eventually proved to be false, yet with relief and continued reflection on his part, became momentous in significance, nearly indescribable but of near cosmic proportion, that is to say in other more mundane language a meaningful event if even a non-event as it acted as a signal to him, allowing him realize how important music was becoming. He'd also told me he'd never paid much attention to music before, but now he felt more personally involved. By now, you see, his neighbors were "The Byrds" (he said then to me with much respect and with surprise that I didn't swoon with delight by mere mention of their name, that is as if I should know immediately who they were) and he grabbed his first gig as their roadie or something. And despite everything, I was happy in a way for him that music was beginning to transform into something significant for him and not continue to exist merely as something that comes across the radio to while away the driving time.]
High Colonic

No matter how many books I publish, I can’t kick my addiction to my other occupation, the scorned one that offers me succor and sanity: Proofreading.

By Melissa Holbrook Pierson

"On the spectrum of skills, proofreading lies somewhere between waitressing and stacking firewood. It is the ideal occupation for writers waiting for the large contract on their first book or for the recent graduate, waiting for life to start. It is also ideal for someone who is deeply conflicted, who imagines herself in a competition for World's Oldest Ingénue, or Longest Spinning of Wheels -- "

(via Mediabistro)
Monday, July 24, 2006
I just want to thank everyone who ever showed Jessie Mae Hemphill a bit of genuine kindness in any way. Even all you anonymous bus bench strangers, waitresses, people on the street, or any other who encountered her and were nice to her. She genuinely appreciated that and she was certainly worthy of your respect and your kindnesses small and large. It meant the world to her.

She was very kindly and generous to me and I am both proud and grateful I had the chance to get to know her a bit even if from far away.

Jessie Mae
Sunday, July 23, 2006
A Wild Voice Falls Silent After Giving One Last Performance: Dika Newlin

"Her pale blue eyes are closed, but she's awake. I remind her that she launched my journalism career. Back in the late 1970s and early '80s, she was a freelance music critic for The Times-Dispatch. One of her reviews rubbed me the wrong way so vigorously - as much of Dika's creative output tended to do - that I vowed to become a T-D music critic myself.

Now it's her irreverent "The Elderly" casting a pall on the sun-washed room: "The elderly, the elderly, the rackety packety, rickety pickety . . . "

You can't help wondering: Could this highly trained woman sing in tune at gunpoint?

I recall one of her performances at the now-defunct 6th Street Marketplace. Her dissonant piano composition and (deliberately?) off-key screeching had shoppers and passersby staring furtively and fleeing stiff-legged.

If they had been cats, the fur would have stood up on their necks.

Which was Dika's goal. It's why she rocked like a punk. It's why one of her favorite photos (and paintings) reveals her gnomish body stretched out on a pool float, gloriously insulting a swimsuit.

She has been a touchstone in a town where a humid sedateness has been counterbalanced by a cool and outrageous art and music scene. (Richmond's punk scene, for example, is known around the world.)

Virginia Commonwealth University barely endured her tenure as a hands-off music professor - the polar opposite of Schoenberg's overbearing style.

She read dictionaries at age 3, began composing at 8, graduated high school at 12, had a symphony play one of her compositions at 14, finished college at 16 and had her doctorate at 22. One of her books on Schoenberg "will be read by generations to come," wrote a critic for The New York Review of Books."
Saturday, July 22, 2006
(from Olga)

Jessie Mae Hemphill Hospitalized

Jessie Mae was addmited to The Med hospital in Memphis and is in the critical care unit. I went by to see her this morning and she was unconscious and in "guarded" condition. The nurses would not divulge any further information to me about what had happned (as I am not a relative), but, it looked pretty grave to me. I tried to talk to her but she was unrepsonsive. She is hooked up to a bunch of machines and I do fear the worst.

If you are a fan or friend of Jessie Mae, please send her your well wishes and prayers.

The Med Hospital
Critical Care Waiting Room:
Jessie Mae Brooks
877 Jefferson
Memphis, TN 38103
Guillermo Hernandez: Expert on the Corrido, a Mexican Ballad Tradition

By Valerie J. Nelson, Times Staff Writer
July 22, 2006

Guillermo Hernandez, a leading authority on the corrido — a Mexican ballad tradition that dates back more than two centuries — and an expert on Chicano literature who helped establish an expansive collection of Mexican and Mexican American music recordings at UCLA, has died. He was 66.

Hernandez, a UCLA Spanish professor, was found dead of a heart attack Sunday in his Mexico City hotel room, his family said. He was on a field trip while leading a UCLA summer program in Puebla, Mexico.

"He was one of the main motivators of current research in Mexican American popular culture, especially the corridos," said James Nicolopulos, a corrido expert and Spanish professor at the University of Texas at Austin. "He's irreplaceable, and I don't know what we are going to do without him."

While director of UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center, Hernandez played a pivotal role in establishing the Arhoolie Foundation's Strachwitz Frontera Collection. The digital archive of more than 30,000 recordings is one of the most diverse collections of Mexican and Mexican American music at any university. (The archive can be accessed at digital.library.ucla.edu/frontera.)

The project is funded primarily by the Los Tigres del Norte Fund at UCLA, named for the band from San Jose that corrido scholars consider the Rolling Stones of norteño music. Los Tigres, along with its record label, Fonovisa, established the fund in 2000 to promote the study of corridos — working-class music often dismissed on both sides of the border.

"Certainly no one else could have talked a group like Los Tigres — the biggest thing there is in Mexican regional music — into granting a half-million dollars to a project like this," Nicolopulos said.

When he was a student at UC Berkeley, Hernandez's passion for the corrido was ignited while he was consulting on "Chulas Fronteras," a 1976 documentary about music on the Texas-Mexico border. One of the filmmakers was Chris Strachwitz, owner of the folk-music label Arhoolie Records and keeper of an immense collection of commercially recorded Mexican and Tex-Mex music.

The record producer invited Hernandez into his archives, which hold more than 100,000 individual performances spanning almost 100 years. The collection covers many styles, including the corrido, which began as an oral tradition that continues today in Mexican villages. Frequently in waltz time, the songs often chronicle events with pathos and satire, accompanied by accordions and 12-string bass guitars.

Hernandez "became totally fascinated that this material was being recorded so long ago," Strachwitz said. "And he became a champion for the literature of the poor people who are generally not represented in academia, because they don't write books or dissertations; they just make up these incredible songs."

To document the corrido, Hernandez went where his colleagues often would not, into cantinas and dance halls in rough neighborhoods in Mexico. With his natural warmth, he would convince wary balladeers puzzled by an academic's interest that he was just a regular guy, colleagues said.

Recently, Hernandez published an article in the Chicano studies journal Aztlan that documented his decades-long search for the author of a classic and widely imitated 1928 recording, "El Contrabando de El Paso" (The El Paso Contraband). The prisoner's lament is important to the history of the corrido, because so many artists learned the form from it.

Relying on old prison records, Hernandez was able to solve "one of the great mysteries of the corrido," Nicolopulos said, and identify the accidental lyricist: Gabriel Jara, a smuggler caught with 90 gallons of homemade liquor who shared his tale via U.S. mail with a singer on the outside.

Among Hernandez's written works was a 180-page pamphlet that accompanied "The Mexican Revolution: Corridos," a four-record set put out by Arhoolie Records. His translations and transcriptions of the songs were "magnificent," Nicolopulos said.

Hernandez's 1991 book, "Chicano Satire: A Study in Literary Culture," also was important because it traced the genre back hundreds of years, said Chon Noriega, who followed Hernandez as director of the Chicano Studies Research Center. Hernandez ran the center from 1992 to 2003.

In the early 1990s, Hernandez began holding international conferences on the corrido and often conducted seminars. One in Monterrey, Mexico, had a lasting impact after Hernandez taught his audience, primarily amateur enthusiasts, how to do fieldwork on the lyrical narrative.

"These people went back to their hometowns … and produced an immense body of information. It's just been a gold mine, and once again, Guillermo was the sparkplug for that," Nicolopulos said.

In 1998, Hernandez curated one of the first museum exhibits on the corrido, and the Smithsonian Institution sent it on a 10-city national tour.

Born Feb. 28, 1940, in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Hernandez was one of six children. He grew up with "a love of the whole country," because the family moved around Mexico for his father's job as an educator, said Yolanda Zepeda, whom Hernandez married nearly three decades ago.

Hernandez earned three degrees in comparative literature at UC Berkeley, including a doctorate in 1982 with an emphasis in Spanish medieval literature, and joined the UCLA faculty.

He had a reputation as a caring mentor who liked to joke, cite proverbs and speak in metaphors.

"He was always bringing comedy into the conversation," said Felicitas Ibarra, a graduate student. "We all thought that his classes were full of joy and excitement, and the three hours flew by."

In addition to his wife, Yolanda, of Santa Monica, Hernandez is survived by Arturo, his son from his first marriage, which ended in divorce; three other sons, Luciano, Guillermo and Gabriel; two sisters; two brothers; and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 9:30 a.m. today at Holy Cross Mortuary, 5835 W. Slauson Ave., Culver City.

Instead of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Guillermo E. Hernandez Memorial Scholarship Fund, UCLA, 1309 Murphy Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times |
A Backstage Pass to Intimate Moments in Rock's Odyssey

7-page special summertime spread in the L.A. Times by Robert Hilburn that highlights the biggest stars he encountered during his 40 year tenure at the Times.
Friday, July 21, 2006

The University Press of Mississippi has announced that it will publish the autobiography of late Mississippi bluesman Sam Myers in October.

Myers, 70, died Monday at his home in Dallas of complications from throat cancer.

The autobiography, Sam Myers: The Blues is My Story, was co-authored by Myers and Jeff Horton, a blues musician and journalist.

Myers performed with many blues legends, including B.B. King and Muddy Waters, and served as drummer for Elmore James.

The book tells Myers' story - from attending the state school for the blind in Piney Woods to his W.C. Handy Award-winning collaboration with Texas blues guitarist Anson Funderburgh.

(For more information, visit the University Press of Mississippi’s Web site at www.upress.state.ms.us)
Another moment of awakening

"Skeletons in America's Musical Closet"

"I’ve just stumbled across a weird little corner of the Internet that’s twisted my honky head off, causing me to re-examine some of my long-cherished attitudes about music.

"I’ve always argued that music has been a positive force in our culture. I believe that rock ’n’ roll played a role in ending segregation, cutting short the carnage in Vietnam, and tearing down the Berlin Wall; that Woody Guthrie’s guitar killed fascists; that somewhere in heaven Louie Armstrong still blows his trumpet, standing on a corner beside a celestial Jimmie Rodgers singing “Blue Yodel No. 9” for all the assembled saints."

(Remember how Ray Stark kind of glossed over the fact that his dad was in the sheet music business in New York? I think he was honestly ashamed of that and wanted no connection with it. Although these items lived for a long time in the piano seat with a close down lid and sifted down to the bottom of the stack everywhere across America. Well, you really can't choose what family you're born into or the time and society they happen to be living in, you know. So actually Ray and my mom Annabelle (who I believe met only once or twice) had their own historic luggage to tote, and while one bag might have come to carry a Vuichon label, they had something in common because they both had something to do with show business, i.e., vaudeville) Whereas me, as a curious kid, I'd opened that piano seat lid and had to ask for some explanations.)
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Lucky Thursday Doubles

Usually the things I find lately are written by my same favoritos, but that's the way it goes.

1. Here's Jason Gross talking about "Freak Folk: A Genre by Any Other Name" and pointing to his current read, "Summer of Love Redux". I loved the part about biblical beards, the place nicknamed "Little Berkeley" (that small pinpint on the coast full of big ideas and some genuinely creative and interesting types who despite all that I can't describe as large or heroic in any way, a real and physical locale which the more cynical or professional journalistically jaded of my generation designate as "where hippies go to die"), and the reconditioned chicken coops. I remember when a fierce summer rainstorm came up thereabouts just last summer (one of the chilliest-billiest, drenched with cold icy rain and counted as displaying the fewest days of sun managing to peek out of the usual grey sky due to an unseasonal and mercilessly unremitting overhang of fog, and generating the wettest and best weather for ducks in historic record) and my feeling of being ill-at-ease and cooped up that summer was growing apace. Still in the city and with paved streets, though bordering the old cowfarm, the street lined with old wood houses that seemed to stand alist, as if sinking and tilting in the gooey loam, likely with their narrow beadboard ceilings creaking and weighted with the ever growing stalygmites of mold, there was a farmette (a plot of land with a typical old wooden house and with structures assembled from salvage, an outbuilding and a plastic sheeted greenhouse). The people attached to this place usually were walking about barefoot even on the coldest wettest days, and one always carried a banjo even into the field with the tall grass. That particular night, the winds and rain were exceptionally fierce, buffeting and slapping everyone's houses, and the storm raced and tore through the area all evening. I knew the thin floppy plastic sheeting on their greenhouse could not have survived. I was certain their dream would fail, and I knew the precise instant of their recognition when I heard a woman's voice wail: "Oh .... bummer!"

Would I like freak folk as a "genre". I'm not sure. I tend to be a hard sell, and I've heard a few groups recently who are pointed that way. One of which had way too many members in the assemblage (as though that is supposed to mean there are a lot of folks like that out in them thar hills that you just don't normally see or know about until they creep out of the corn patch, though I realize perhaps there is also the safety in numbers theory in operation), and they sounded pretty much like a jugband as they bounced out naughty lyrics to a banjo beat, their multitude of voices also combining in warbly harmony on what struck me as a preposterous and pretentious new volk song composed in German. I didn't like those two bands too much.

2. Simon Reynolds on "Prose and Cons", the current state of the universe in music criticism. (I don't know if this writing is new, per se, but it is new to me today). Simon says:

"This may make me feel more positive, but I’m not sure I believe it. There’s plenty of well-written music journalism out there. But Great Rock Writing means pieces that make my blood boil with excitement, and these have become infrequent enough to be singular events.

"Rather than there being a drought of genius, though, I think the reasons for this situation are structural and historical. The same conditions that mean giant figures no longer stalk the stage of Rock (Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Joy Division, Public Enemy etc.) also explain the dearth of rock-writer colossi of the order of Nik Cohn, Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs, Paul Morley et al. As much as they’re motored by their own aesthetic vision and will-to-power, epoch-defining bands are condensations of social energy, which is what gave songs such as ‘Gimme Shelter’ (1969) or ‘Rebel Without a Pause’ (1988) their impact. If records aren’t freighted with that sense of something at stake, the words written about them will lack an equivalent weight.

"There’s a sense, too, in which almost all of the stark, grand statements were used up some time ago, and what’s left, for musicians and critics alike, is complexifying and filling in gaps. The cutting edge of criticism today involves a subtlety that goes deeper into music rather than reaching out to connect the sounds to the wider world. There is a smallness to music writing today that is appropriate to its subject; the endless proliferation of micro-scenes and sub-genres requires fine distinctions and specialist terminology. This sort of writing can make the epic language of older rock criticism – the exaltations, exhortations and denunciations – seem overblown and clumsy, based as it was in the idealistic investments in music that took first hold in the 1960s and then resurged fiercely with Punk and post-Punk. That kind of over-estimation of music’s power can seem hopelessly naïve from today’s standpoint of scaled-back expectations. But the effect on the writing is a reduction in temperature: from fiery ‘n’ fevered to the cooler registers of expertise and irony.

"There are a host of qualities that make for Great Rock Writing – too many to list – but a few less obvious ones are worth highlighting, if only because the current climate renders them extinct. One is being prepared to take things so seriously you make a fool of yourself; another is a taste for meta. By this I mean a willingness to question the assumptions of a given scene, and then go beyond that, to address the largest questions of all – the whys and what-fors of music and music-writing. All the aforementioned true greats had a penchant and flair for assessing the ultimate worth of the endeavour."

Oddly, all this reminded me of something I didn't do in Venice 1965. I had heard about a classically trained fellow there named "Joe" Byrd. I think of him today because he's settled in that damp Northern geography teaching music at a college there and also in that same vicinity were to be found some of Frank's old schoolmates and workmates. Just as Zappa and Byrd had once been in propinquity or within easy commute once before, I thought to myself. Anyway, because Byrd was rumored back in 1965 to be working on a rock opera (and I don't know to this day if that was true or not), and because he had good footing in classical music, I was going to try to introduce them. That was an intention on my part and I even set about to try to make that happen. It was just an idea, but something or other happened to dissuade me. I think I read his c.v. or heard something about him that made me think they wouldn't get along. Now years later, as the result of an online encyclopedia, I discover that they likely had heard about each other early on from the music happenings they were each involved with long about 1965-66, and guess what? "Joe" said he didn't like Frank's music then. So I say to myself this morning my intuition about that all these years ago was right. Funny how you can think about things you set aside and didn't do and take comfort that you were justified in not pursuing these things. The movie making the rounds at the arthouses of LA at that time in 1965 was an old classic made in the late '30s or early '40s, "Freaks" ... about sideshow freaks in a traveling carnival who'd formed their own little society and genuinely cared for one another, pitting themselves against the outside world that regarded them as the freaks they were, and that world also sold tickets and made money from their freakiness. [highnoon update: "Freaks"]This was an immensely popular film in the small arthouse theaters of that time, and you can kind of guess and follow the squiggly line where the motif of freaks and carnivals and sideshows went from there, as it obviously made it onto a number of Los Angeles artists albums, and not just California artists, but a rather famous foreign rock star also caught that film in that exact era and location and time and used the concept later on himself on some album art. This is a hackneyed overused thing to say right now, but it's still true. I know that for a fact that he caught that flick in an LA arthouse in 1965. Well, I've kind of gone off point here, but I'm rather thankful I didn't run away and join the kind of circuses some people dreamed up for themselves. One of the other underground movies of the time was announced by an 8x10 handbill written in elaborate cursive, beginning with "the moving finger writes, and having writ moves on") but I can't for the life of me remember what that one was about, but I remember a real sense of darkness with no redeeming light.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
The Rolling Stones Owe it All to Black Music, Professor Says

Yeah. Soon after I first heard the newly released Rolling Stones "King Bee" coming across the dial one warm night in the far away desert, and I found out later this was a white English group, I was saying the same thing to myself.

Anyway, everybody knows that now. But at that time, way back then, I didn't particularly mind.

What I'm struck with today is that even reading about music for me is like a taste of that little lime-blossom dipped pastry that French guy wrote about so long ago. The mention of Paul Oliver's name brings back a warm summer day also in 1964. Well, it was warm as the Indian Summer of the Bay Area would allow. I was browsing through the remainder tables in front of City Lights Bookstore and had come across a small pile of Paul Oliver's biography of Bessie Smith. This was a thin paperback book, with a pen and ink drawing of Bessie on the cover, reduced to a dime. I felt awful finding those, but scooped up three or four copies to share with friends. I was trying to pump myself up to the thrill of the hunt when I looked up and straight into the eyes of Chris Strachwitz, and judging from his expression, he felt about the same as I did, and he also had more than a few copies of the Oliver book.

I was very sad just now to read of Sam Myer's recent passing. "The Deacon of the Delta." When I used to drown in promo records, I'd have to find my own things to listen to for myself. A half hour drive down the canyon and I tossed a nickel into a meter, because I knew the Melody used CD store would not disappoint. I emerged with a recording of Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets (featuring Sam Myers) live at the Grand Emporium. I hopped back in the car, slipped in the disc, and turned on the aircon and eased away from the curb, with the idea that I could continue on with my many errands on a trip into town. Well, no -- that music was so good, I mean these guys are awesome (no other word!), I pulled into the lot where they had the farmer's markets, and what came on but "Wild Cherry" with the spoken intro "For my friend who brought me the tomato out of his garden, thanks. This one by special request."

Well, this is pretty damn timely and good, I thought, but because that concreted area was a money maker for the city and so patrolled frequently for cheap sneak thief offenders, a black and white (actually a white and blue) appeared and circled the lot, and that vehicle was known to reappear regularly. So the parking meter became my jukebox -- I dropped a few more nickels in, a few minutes allotted for each stamped picture of jefferson, listening to the disc all the way through. I chilled, the air con blasting in the one one oh temp, and that was June 27, 2003 (I just found the receipt tucked into the plastic cover for the disc).
Monday, July 17, 2006
The Ramblers planted the rural seeds of the ’60s

"Its not entirely an exaggeration to say that the 1960s happened because of the New Lost City Ramblers. The folk-music boom was the direct consequence of their having introduced urban audiences to such rural masters as Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, Mississippi John Hurt, and Doc Watson. In Chronicles, his autobiography, Bob Dylan claims he started writing songs because he couldn’t play traditional music as well as Seeger did. Half the cover tunes in the Grateful Dead songbook were learned from Ramblers records."
Recalling the Twang That Was Alt-country: a Genre Rides Into the Sunset

(via Bob Sarles www.ravinfilms.com. subscribe to his newslist by sending a note saying you want to join in on all the fun to bsarlesWire at aol dot com)
Just breaking news ...

National Geographic launches world music channel
"Bob Dylan Reminds Us of Our Common Dreams" (Theme Time Radio)

(via Bob Sarles)
Saturday, July 15, 2006
An article on juke joints:

"Most juke joints are closed. They have long been on the decline, drying up and dying out. People fled north, towns emptied out, shacks were razed, drugs and violence brought decay, casinos lured customers away and bluesmen kicked the dust. Writers and music fans have been lamenting the death of the blues for a while now.

But just as the last of the old-school holdouts are letting go of their tremendous legacies, a budding enthusiasm is cropping up."
Friday, July 14, 2006
Friday afternoon reading room is open.

A longer than usual think piece on Divine Trash: the psychology of celebrity obsession

Is celebrity worship hardwired into our neural systems? Who knows, but "humans do like to gossip, and while some idolise, most are quite happy to dish out dirt on celebrities and spread it. In fact, Turner thinks the word 'worship' misrepresents our relationship with celebrities. He thinks that having someone to look down on makes us feel better about ourselves, so one of the functions of gossip magazines and celebrity-packed tabloids is to create objects of contempt for the working class. And the media are a fickle lot according to Turner ... "
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Real Life Stories: Jerry's last ride

Back in the ancienter of days, 1967 maybe edged into 1968, Jerry and Caroline would see me walking up University Avenue and perhaps recognizing a familiar face or maybe they were just like that with everyone, they'd pull over and just offer me a ride towards campus in one of their matching white and black little BMW’s. These were the older boxier style of BMW’s, they looked a little like Austin Minis, and the cars were quite white with dark shiny black roofs painted for contrast. Caroline was behind the wheel that particular day and really enjoyed wheeling that baby around.

I'd seen those cars buzzing around various times. I didn’t know they each had an identical car until I saw them each behind the wheel of a separate vehicle headed in different directions shortly later. Caroline loved that car, and always was smiling when she was behind the wheel. She had long curly kind of wild hair because she liked to drive with the window open. It was funny, she drove with the perfect 10-2 position of her hands on the wheel to have good control of the vehicle and I would perch on the thin leather of the back seat with my book bag on the floor.

One day a little later, I stopped by a place they were housesitting for a friend in Berkeley, I guessed to get a little farther away from the San Francisco scene and have a little vacation across the Bay. The cars were parked at the curb out front, and I was starting to laugh as I made my way up the stepping stones to the French garden door because there were a lot of donkey bells and blue donkey beads hanging on a rope as a doorbell for callers to announce themselves. The neighbors must have been amazed at the arrival of so many camel caravans in an urban area. Beneath the bell, a big potted cactus caught my eye. This and that was said, I had just a few minutes to peek in to say "Hi" while I was on my way to class and maybe drop off something from the health food shelves at the Coop on my way back because I knew they just wanted a little time alone and they knew it, too.

Nobody but nobody had very much time but would try to make a little, and we started talking about their cars. I remember Caroline saying about their matching his and hers BMWs that they kept hoping the cars would breed, and I pointed out that they probably couldn’t do that parked as they were. To continue the joke, I walked past a few days later and the cars were parked like stuck dogs, back bumper to back bumper, but I don’t know if that were an accident of parking or an intentional joke on their part. But they could be a cute couple. Caroline didn’t like Berkeley’s habit of giving parking tickets at the first sign of an expired meter, but who did.

The last time I saw Caroline in her BMW in Berkeley, we were riding up Dwight Way or Bancroft Avenue towards Telegaph. She was a little bummed and it showed in her driving, because she had one arm draped out the window and was steering with one hand at the bottom of the wheel to make it easy to reach over to shift. Well, that can be hazardous. She was wearing kind of a lot of beads, and had put on a few what she called "el-bee-ess." I could tell she’d been stressed as she said she had a tendency to eat for relief and Jerry really liked to chow down. Things got better, I guess, because the next time I saw Caroline, she’d gotten a new brighter hair-cut, sort of a blond pixie, which gave good accent to her cheekbones and eyes and she was cutting a trimmer leaner figure. She used to have a doubled breasted grey wool coat she wore everywhere, which reminded me of a confederate general's. You know in all of this happening to be around Jerry Garcia and Caroline (I didn’t even know she was called Mountain Girl until I saw that in print much later on and figured it might be her), I only went to one Grateful Dead concert at one New Year’s eve show as 1967 turned into 1968 and that was just ok, so immemorable as not crowd a brain cell. I'm pretty sure I stood and watched the whole show, as I was a sturdy sort back then. Some of their guitar jams even then were like listening to kids on a long bus trip singing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" and by the time they got to "Take one down and pass it around, two bottles of beer on the wall" my mind had wandered elsewhere and was having a much better time. I mean I had really lost interest. I truly didn’t have a lot of leisure time and the Dead per se were not my trip. Plus, they weren't "political".

You see, it's not like we were friends or anything. But we happened to be in the same neighborhood so to speak and I would run into them now and again. And later on, although I ran into Jerry a few more times when he would come to play at various clubs I had something to do with, these events were separated by more than a decade. And then I ran into him in Hawaii maybe '92 or '93 at a health food store and the lady he was currently married to was throwing her weight around, demanding special treatment from the staff because they were dropping so much money there, and generally acting like a badly behaved yuppie inisting on having her way. I even helped carry a big box of veggies out to the rent-a-jeep where Jerry was behind the wheel. And then soon after he was dead.

[p.s. it struck me as quite a coincidence, isn't it, with all the names there are to choose from in the world that one of their daughters was christened Annabelle, which was my own mother's name. Well people in the '60s didn't invent name changes -- they weren't the only ones reinventing themselves and changing their names, though they'd dream up stuff like "Star" or "Aquarius Wonder Woman" or something else they felt was more suitable. My mom was from the South and had shortened and modernized her name because ... well, just because (she was ashamed of having come from the South because of all those damn Southerners, you see.) I'd always liked Caroline, she was sometimes adamant about being a real peace-lover.

And what I'm saying is this: One of the nicest things about music then is that it was part of the community. There was the feeling, too, that the musicians were understandable as they were members of the community. In Berkeley, Country Joe and his Fish were definitely a part of the environment. Blue Cheer even rented a two-story house and painted their band name on the side just as an expression of who they were and that’s where they were. We had bands of our own in our own damn towns.)
How Bill Became A Footnote

The thing that strikes me odd about blogs is that they live temporarily, in a disconnected way. And people can dart about in a most peculiar manner given their momentary distraction or even a nanosecond's worth of interest.

There are real intellectuals blogging who have something important to say, ongoing every single day. My favorite, Rob Horning ... wow ... I read him every single day. His musings always strike deep in my emotional and intellectual wellbeing and I sense a resonance within my very core. But I can dart about like a gnat, too. His discussion today on communication encouraged me to look at my sitemeter.

And what I found -- I mean generally I can barely remember when or what I was writing or thinking about, this blog thing doesn't have an index I can use even if I wanted to, and all the people who still read here (that is, what I laughingly refer to as my reading audience) probably think I have been blowing smoke at them about all those famous names I have encountered who might or might not have had an impact on me, but they at least had enough influence so that I remember their names. Or sometimes I think they might think I am lying, or twisting things up purposefully, or something, or I'm just a goof tripping out or a looney tune fantasizing, but basically I've decided what I've believed all along, that no one really gives a shit, and certainly people don't give a shit about anything other than what they're currently interested in. But the sitemeter this morning reminded me I wished there was such a thing as footnotes to this blog.

So I'm going to post a couple of links here that are connected today because someone was looking for a name (and unbeknownst to me, someone like me was writing about that near unknown person in 2003, a fact I did not find out until a few moments ago!) As the researcher I used to be, and I was a heady intellectual once upon a time, both facile and articulate and dedicated that way, with a large maybe colorful and sometimes pretentious vocabulary, there's a part of me that says that's logical.

This morning, I say "isn't that amazing!!!" That an idea or scrap of memory about a person can get a person, even one single person, into some kind of motion, even if for a moment or two, even if they're sitting on their butt as intellectuals are known to do and they sit on their butts at great length, longer than people who are watch tv everyday do)

Didn't This Machine Used to Only Kill Fascists?
How Folk Music Can Kill or Be Killed

And today! (Hurrah!) Bill Becomes A Footnote in History! (Just like he probably always thought he might be), in a reference entitled:

"Attached is from Gerrit Dommerholt, International HD Associatio [thanks Gerrit]! Paper is from the Gateway November/December 2003 (Newsletter Australian Huntington’s Disease Association (NSW): Woody Guthrie and Huntington Disease. This brief account of Woody Guthrie is instructive to clinical geneticists. It tells the story of one famous man's understanding of and struggle with Huntington's disease."

(And I'll be damned, squeezed in there is Bill.)

From the first marriage:
1. Gwendolyn Gail (Gwen) Guthrie ("Teeny"), born 11-1935, died 1976.
2. Sue Guthrie, born 1937, died 1989.
3. Will Rogers (Bill) Guthrie, born 1939, died 1960, car crashed against railroad in California."

[Well, you don't get much of a sense of who Bill was or what he might have been up to just from his name in a list, do you, unless you have a vivid imagination.]
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I don't know anything about Paul Nelson. But I tell you I was glad to find what Scott Woods described as a loving tribute. The only thing of Nelson's I'd ever read was his defense of Bob Dylan going electric, and I'd happened across that years after it was published, in a friend's memorabilia stacks, those nostalgia relics or collectable items or historic significants from the olde folke daze. But I knew a little something about Nelson's connection with Dave Snaker Ray, Tony Little Sun Glover, and Spider John Koerner and that was probably only because I'd glommed onto their record when it first came out, so I'd read and heard about him in the misty past as things were happening.

But over the past few days, I've been reading here and there about Paul Nelson's long tenure writing for Rolling Stone magazine, and him splitting a hamburger (maybe cutting it right down the middle, I thought) to share with fellow writer Dave Marsh in the old days, and how he might have really gone off to pasture and work for meager wages at a video store in Greenwich Village, which is where he was when he was the first rock critic interviewed and published about at rockcritics.

His demise "apparently from starvation" doesn't mean to me that because he was suffering "memory loss" recently he forgot to eat. And while everyone else is talking "Beautiful Mind" though maybe meaning it (still, you know there's that book by the same name about an eccentric mathematician), and sometimes it seems the people in the know are implying but not saying "sensitivity" or "writer's block" or even something else.

I didn't know the guy or follow his career, but today, to me, his death ... I don't know how to say this right .... You know what I think? I think he was murdered by capitalism.
You know me by now, I'm the one who hates death. I didn't like reading about the demise of Bruce Welnick (who many close to him called Bruce Sicknik behind his back), and what was possibly the last emotional straw for him, a well-paid performance, a reunion of sorts, at some unnamed corporate event in Las Vegas. The music press just didn't do their job on that one, they and the "new" Dead played along with the powers that be and the band or their legal representatives all pretty much set their names in permanent ink on the non-disclosure agreements in exchange for God only knows what (stacks of glittering bullion and future access to more of the same undoubtedly), as the private corporate party is every bit as secret as the rites shrouded at Bohemian Grove, where the Grateful Dead also agreed to perform their hippy wiggle music, because after all they were never "political" and having eaten mounds of 'shrooms and given acid to their doggies and kitties and horses, they are free thinkers and attracted what they saw as the best minds of their generation who lacking anything better to do hovered around them like groupies. I'm afraid I'd lost what respect I might ever had for the Grateful Dead a long time ago, say 1967, and I'd never really liked their output, and while Bob Weir (who many close to him call Bob Weird straight to his face) says only *he* is incapable of reuniting the band (though those unnamed corporate party brokers certainly seemed capable of pulling that off and the Bohemian Grovesters even more so) and a person they invited in to their fold (which they say in hindsight once he began being troublesome wasn't correctly structured as an audition, meaning they were as lazy as always and got the wrong guy and that wrong guy makes too much of the scene and is increasingly excluded and ends up slashing his own throat. Wow, they're the engineers of their choo choo train, okay.
Monday, July 10, 2006
March 21, 2000 -- The World As You Know It Is Now Over

The July issue of Wired traces "The Rise and Fall of the Hit
The era of the blockbuster is so over. The niche is now king, and the entertainment industry – from music to movies to TV – will never be the same."

Three pages by Chris Anderson outline the death of the hit.

"On March 21, 2000, Jive Records released No Strings Attached, the much-anticipated second album from NSync. The album debuted strong. It sold 1.1 million copies its first day and 2.4 million in the first week, making it the fastest-selling album ever. It went on to top the charts for eight weeks, moving 10 million copies by the end of the year. The music industry had cracked the commercial code. With NSync, a pop-idol boy band fronted by the charismatic Justin Timberlake, Jive had perfected the elusive formula for making a hit. In retrospect it was so obvious: What worked for the Monkees could now be replicated on an industrial scale. It was all about looks and scripted personalities. The music itself, which was outsourced to a small army of professionals (there are 60 people credited with creating No Strings Attached), hardly mattered."

(The inevitable result, niche marketing is an old concept. And while some predicted the fiscal undoing of an ossified economic power base would likely result from an engine conceived and created in the crucibles of that very same ossified economic power base, who could have foretold it would be called "No Strings"?)
Sunday, July 09, 2006
It All Comes To Not a Quite Perfect Circle (The Lines are Sometimes Squiggly and Faint Like Not Just the Ink is Running Dry But the Pencil is Running out of Lead).

I just discovered Hal Ashby directed the life story of Woody Guthrie. I didn't know that. I saw that movie for the first time in a remote area in the early '80s, in a rural town theater that charged $2 or $3 for admission. I almost didn't see it because I was having the shocks and struts replaced on my car. The repair took hours longer than it should, and I killed extra time wandering around the hills because this haphazard establishment was located in the middle of nowhere, miles away from the next small hick town that likely wouldn't have any place more pleasant to wile away the time. I mean you can only browse for so long in the hardware store. Before leaving the mechanics, because I had a long drive through the mountains ahead of me, I'd made a point of asking him if he was certain he'd tightened all he should.

I was trying to be nice about it -- this struck me as an awful place to work, there was a lot of pneumatic hammer noises and loud clanking, and some of the people were working on cars out in the dirt. This was summer and the ground was hardpan, and had it been winter they'd be working out in the mud. And there was a bunch of cars and these people were working pretty steadily, sometimes running from one vehicle to the next. After he'd assured me the vehicle was tight as a drum and his boss took my money, once I hit the highway the car began bouncing dangerously, and I'd had to return and ask him again to take another look. So he discovered his mistake and apologized and fixed it, and I drove off and ended up at the movie theater seeing a movie that was by no means first run, and in fact I wasn't sure if I ever knew it had even been made. But I wanted to see the movie I guess because I liked the idea of Woody Guthrie and had read his biography years before and because of who I was in the past and the people I knew then, I felt I had a distant kind of attachment with him and it was nice to know he was still around, so to speak.

Back along the beach in 1965, I generally rode a bicycle around town. And once as I was headed down a side street, I saw a beautiful old black Jaguar saloon. Sometimes all people in that neighborhood would find would be parking tickets on their cars. Well, I liked this car and decided to write a poem for the car and put it under the windshield wiper. That's the last I thought of it. Then a few days later, I was riding past the car again and walking out of the house was someone I actually knew with the owner of the car. It was kind of embarrassing. And I kind of forget how this happened, because things were so casual then. But it ended up I was asked to a little get together and because I went to that get together and talked with a guy a bit about poetry, I went on a date with the son of a Hollywood actor. Now, this is not because I happened to move in such circles, but they all clump together, and here this son of a famous Hollywood actor in an oblique way asked me out. Well, I didn't know he was the son of a famous Hollywood actor, he looked like anybody else.

You can guess I was a pretty shy person, and I was doing my best to avoid "show biz types" which is where all my other friends it seemed were heading and purposefully and with some determination, because there was some kind of cultural collateral jingling. I avoided show biz because I genuinely didn't fit in there.

I didn't even decide at that point to really branch out and hang with show biz types. How it came together was he had said "oh, poetry" in response to something someone or I had said at the party, if you could call that a party, just a small handful of people and I couldn't for the life of me see where the people were connecting, except they'd all come from upper middle class families and went to the same high school or something and now were hanging in a beach town til they decided what to do with their lives and their own careers took off. That is to say, I guessed they just knew each other. As we never even set a day or time or anything that would make this "a date" per se, just maybe run into you again down the road kind of thing, I essentially forgot about the conversation.

He just showed up at the door of my place, there was no appointed time, and we hopped into his old Thirty-Five-Dollar-Mobile, it was maybe 1940-ish, the year and model indistinct, and unrecognizable and indistinguishable as being a moving vehicle. We started driving up towards Wilshire Blvd while deciding where to go to eat. The car was billowing lots of gray smoke that became darker and more frequent as we made our way to the first traffic light a scant three blocks from where I was living at the time. There were a lot of loud sounds of backfiring and rods going through the engine block despite him pulling the choke in and out repeatedly. The vehicle had lost power. I had my hand on the doorhandle in case the dashboard erupted into flames and I needed to jump out or just leap and help push the car through the busy intersection.

He just managed to make it through the intersection before aiming towards the curb. He hopped out, the car engine was still running despite the fact he’d turned off the ignition. I remember seeing him running around back of the car and suddenly standing on the sidewalk at the passenger side, and he may have gone so far as to pry open the passenger door for me. Then he stood at the pavement with his thumb out as a way of inviting me to hitch hike with him on up to wherever it was we hadn’t decided to go yet. I told him it was kind of chilly as I didn’t have a jacket, he was just in levis and a t-shirt, so I said maybe I would catch up with him later, I was going home. But I probably thanked him for taking me out. As I crossed with the light and looked over my shoulder, he was still standing there with his thumb out. I probably waved, "Adieu! Au revoir! Auf Wiedersehen!"

Weeks later, that car with the key still in the ignition was still sitting by the curb on that major thoroughfare with a few more parking violations building up under the windshield and I saw this guy driving his new wheels up the street, another beat-to-hell thirty-five-dollar-mobile that was destined to last maybe as long as the last one had, or maybe not. That was one way to thumb your nose at the status seekers and the notion of planned obsolescence. But it was a good thing he was accustomed to hoofing it barefoot as it gave him good practice for his later role in television. He was the guy who played "Woody Guthrie" in that Hal Ashby movie.

So you see I can say, as many, many, many can, "I once went out with a Hollywood actor."

What made me uncomfortable back in 1965 was a trend that I felt would just become worse over time. 1965, that was also the year I became aware of the vast numbers of poor people living on the edges in run-down hotels or alleys there. There were a lot of older poor who spent their times on the waterfront or on the park benches. As for the hoboes, they just kept migrating until they hit the ocean. A rather nice guy who ran a cheap pastrami sandwich place painted yellow with red lettering would hand out leftover sandwiches at closing to these folks.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice ...

So some of the people I knew were going into a new show biz that they were claiming to invent as they went along. They believed it would in any way be different from what went before because they were on the premises. What distressed me the most about the kind of "nouveau" society that was forming as I was leaving it behind were what I considered to be the negative aspects of humanity. The "nouveau" society was expressing the same lack of values that distressed me in the little village I came from. There were too many false friends, too many climbers, too many fortune hunters, too many and too much of all the things I didn’t value. As I had been raised in a community that included many wealthy and powerful people, I’d watched people’s maneuvers, using one social group for a foothold and then casting them off once they’d achieved that rung, only to clamber to the next limb to get close to the people with real influence. People would use other people miserably, their friends, their connections, their talents, their ideas, and succeed, then they’d conveniently forget about the person who’d given them the leg up. Finally, all social artiface was disgarded and people would try to buy other people and sometimes succeed at that, as well. Just watching it and hearing about it was bad. The very rich are quite sensitive to any hint of being used, and have a real paranoia that way that is quite contagious and some of that had rubbed off on me, too. Some society.

It seems everything moves in circles sometimes. The fellow with the black saloon also became an actor, and you've likely seen him in some movies along the way, and it turns out I can mention him here because he narrated a little something about the history of rock and roll and this blog is devoted to music.

And some of the older beatniks back then had whined a bit about Hollywood moving in because it seemed they would ruin the Venice neighborhood, whereas I kind of agreed, but saw it as a near inevitability as this happened to be beachfront property after all. But I don't mean the guy with the old black Jag.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I confess I have been a bit self-absorbed lately and looking at a symbolic era and place in the hills above Los Angeles that I had very little to do with because it was and is so well-publicized and can be held up as a symbol of the end of an era. I was especially struck by this remark in a recent review of a book about the place:

"Methodologically, Laurel Canyon illustrates the danger of reliance on modern-day interviews in historical studies: can an accurate picture of the past come from people with 40 years of hindsight, reflection, and regrets? Subjects are all too eager to reminisce and share rumors and gossip even when they admittedly can't remember details and/or sources."

Why I would question the Walker book is that he currently resides in the place he is writing of, he is now making his life there, and has made a career publishing in L.A. papers so I suspected that nothing juicy would be dished.

I decided this morning that's why I probably could never bother writing about the people I'd encountered along the way. I mean "people with 40 years of hindsight, reflection, and regrets."

I can't help as a human being to compare and contrast, I like this person, I don't like that one so much because of x or y or z. It might be about me.

Of the people I encountered, if they're still associated with the business and were during those glory years everyone is sick of hearing about, they tend to make their roles in that history large and expansive. A few years back, I ran into a person I had known off and on for many decades. Actually, I made a special point of visiting and went far out of my way and spent far too much money on travel and used up my own valuable and precious time, all out of some misplaced concern on my part I suspect. She was a person who I now felt had been emotionally and psychologically contaminated by her life around the music business. Her exposure to life in general and the toxicity of that cultural environment in specific, at least as I witnessed it, was by now nearly beyond repair.

She recited in a line all of the events dripping with pop-culture significance held important by that society which meant she could regard herself as an integral part of that world or at least had some history with it. She was here, and she was there, watching this happen, when something else happened, throughout all those years, and privy to much insider gossip and backstabbing. She was there in front of me, and her rapid in-a-line recitation designed as evidence of her stature in the community was unnerving to me. I didn't want to listen to it. Oddly, and rather abruptly, she expressed concern about the impending toxic pollution likely to emerge from a CD manufacturing plant being constructed in a neighboring town.

She grew angry and warned me never to write about her or her husband, who is still working in the business. "Don't write about us!" She began to threaten me, and said she would put a curse on me and believed she could. Well, truth is, I wouldn't write about them anyway because who wants to make fun of crazy people, but I can understand better why her husband hired a publicist soon after that visit.

Why I would never write about the things that I sometimes find important is that my own memories by now are fragmented and distant, with much history of my own in between.

In that precious village I keep telling you about, that still stands but essentially has ceased to exist as it once was except for a fragment of my memory now and again, which on my last visit there was as profoundly disappointing and unpleasant as it could ever be, as it seemed the place had carried itself and its inhabitants to the most logical extreme of cultural evolution.

Today's shard of recollection is just that, a shard. Many years ago my sister and her boyfriend Frank Zappa and I went to see a new touring exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls that landed in the small village. I told you there wasn't much to do in town, and the scrolls (and their history and rediscovery) were the topic of much discourse. An amazing archeological find that defied imagination! A rarity and treasure on display in our little town.

But I can't remember anything about why we might have gone (except it was something to do), nor any conversation we might have had after viewing them. Though I carried home a brochure from the exhibit, and remember standing near a group of nuns who were peering through the glass case, clearly, for me, this was not a significant event in any way. Yet it's a little scrap of history about Frank Zappa. He saw the Dead Sea Scrolls with his own eyes.

What I'm saying is, none of my memories of Frank encompass that sort of haughty melodrama that surround certain other people in the business, so while there is a fact or detail here or there, they don't make good copy. And slim in number. If I were to try to write about it, the book would be no longer than 3 pages.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
If I saw the movie "Shampoo", it barely registered as it was so far removed from my version of reality, moving as I did through the sixties in a place very different from Belair or Beverly Hills or even Hollywood. But Pauline Keal saw the movie and wrote about it (and is cited as "Pauline Kael wrote that 'watching Shampoo, one is amazed that [era] ever existed at all'(606)") and naturally neo-con journals continue to write about '60s nostalgic movie soundtracks and what they represent in this modern day and age: "Nothing is more natural than allowing memory to replace truth with nostalgia," is offered as openers.

I guess I'm saying I'm surprised that Hollywood intelligentsia even noticed the sixties were happening at all and were never terribly successful in representing the era except from their own self-absorbed and well-funded point of view. What I mean to say is, they were making movies about themselves and trying to foist their loser images off as representing every nook and cranny of an era. That they happened to buy some records along the way and pay for the rights to use the music in an overanalyzed going into it and overanlyzed after viewing it soundtrack, so what? Who in their right minds would take "Plastic Fantasic Lover" seriously -- it sounded like the guy who wrote it was coming down from bad acid and woke up in love with his vacuum cleaner. And actually that might account for his very high voice.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Some jets practicing for a local airshow streaked overhead and scared my cats off the desk. That reminded me it's getting to be the Fourth! Back in my small town, we didn't have anything as fancy as jets going overhead on the 4th. It was quieter, no firecrackers allowed in town. And the only firework stands were miles away in the valley and doing a brisk business as a fundraiser for one local group or another despite the risk of burning down the countryside in the parched summer weather. So no firecrackers, no jets, but kids would carry their kites around all day to fly in the park after the parade. Then everybody would kill time with dinner at a long picnic table or go home for the meal, then by taking naps, running around, eating corn on the cob, or playing til nightfall eventually arrived, and then the official fireworks were ignited and they lasted only a few minutes because those things were expensive.

I thought about the annual 4th of July parade as it once rolled down a major thoroughfare in that small precious village of my past. Almost everyone was invited to take part. If any had a convertible, or vintage car or truck, or unicycle, the vehicle made its way into the parade. The old flat black model T truck that had performed each year would roll again bedecked with a flag on a side mirror and a load of watermelons piled in the short bed. The boyscout troop, with shoulders thrust back proudly and emulating military precision, would stream down the boulevard shoulder to brown uniformed shoulder, clad in shorts, their chubby knees daring sunburn.

The yearly ubiquity, a fancy convertible bedecked with long gardlands of white paper flowers and unusually somber older ladies in jersey dresses and large hats seated in the back, with the car's signage proclaiming they represented the Daughters of the American Revolution. The tennis team would march in white shorts and collared polo shirts while carrying their rackets. There would be a burst of brassy music from the marchers who had held trombones and trumpets at the ready until they reached a particular landmark where they were signaled to begin playing, and the boom of the high school football team bass drum. And a few snare drums, or at least one, because there was always a group of young teenage boys selected to represent the Spirit of 76 with flute, drum, and head bandages. The John Birch color guard would sound whistles and twirl the flag like acrobats, ready to perform publicly after endless drilling on the high school football field after hours, and their shiny chromium helmets sparkled and gleamed in the sun as did occasionally the wood stocks glint on their genuine and likely loaded armed and ready rifles they shouldered as they strutted. Almost everyone in town took part in these annual parades despite the small crowd of onlookers along all five blocks of the parade route. And if you needed a break from the heat, you could always step back into the park under the shade of sycamores and buy a cooling lemonade or sno cone.

The last year I joined with that community to observe these festivities was long ago, the very beginning years of the Viet Nam conflict, and after a small detail of Veterans from Foreign Wars had walked down the road, there had been a few conscripts in khaki and one or two in big-collared navy blue riding in convertibles, too. They weren't veterans just yet, they'd just graduated from high school and were just going in.

They were likely proceeded or followed by the cheerleaders. After the cheerleaders pranced down the road, smiling, shaking their paper pompoms, the long white tassles on their white boots wiggling and swaying, the smaller girls would make their appearance. They'd wear the same one piece swimsuits they used daily at the children's wading pool in the park and march with their knees high, twirling, tossing, and dropping batons. That year for the first time I noticed one of the smaller girls seemed reluctant to take part in the march, a mere supposition on my part, because she was really out of uniform, wearing a paper bag over her head with eyeholes cut out.

And then after all the vehicles and marchers had made their way down the street, there was a sudden wheeled burst down the avenue from a pair of retired missionaries in their electric golfcarts. While the golfcarts had once been allowed access to the sleepy village to allow the enclave of retired missionaries to shop for necessities, the powers that were began going after them. You'd see an electric cart here and there being cited for some traffic violation or another and one of the two uniformed cops in town without a bumper to rest his foot on printing laboriously in his yellow pad. I don't know why they were targeted in particular, maybe it gave the town fathers something to do. But it seemed not only did those vehicles not use gas (an idea that could only have originated from the reddest part of Russia in that day and age and village), they were deemed a traffic hazard. And they just didn't park right in the diagonal slots downtown, as far as the town fathers were concerned. After one incident, which had to do with a cart parked on a little hillock in front of a bank slipping its brake and bumping into a bicycle rack, after years of negotiating safely around town, the golfcarts were summarily banned by the city fathers from operating on any village by-way.

They were, well, verboten on the roads of our village, but here I just told you I saw them. There they were, rolling down the road in the 4th of July parade that year, almost flaunting the city fathers, if not being just outright confrontational. They were the sauciest of the whole bunch that year, they and that little girl wearing the brown paper bag. What better way I thought to celebrate independence.
The Britannica's summer reading list for rock crits
Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock n Roll

(book review)
My Sonic Youth

Discussion of crappy stripped down sounds accepted as normative continues:

"In a recent and much-discussed article in Stylus magazine, titled "Imperfect Sound Forever," music writer Nick Southall took his profession to task for its vagaries in this area. 'I think music journalists have a responsibility,' he wrote, 'to listen to records on at least half-decent equipment-film critics wouldn't (I hope) review a film based on viewing it on an iPod Video during a train journey, and film studios would be aghast if they did....I know more than a few people who've reviewed albums based solely on MP3s-I've done it myself in the past, to my shame.'"
Sunday, July 02, 2006
(With reference to David Crosby below, who wept openly on television as a free commercial touting organ transplants, thankful for his "second chance", and who likely will never be anything other than a complete and deranged asshole, I wrote a parody in 1999 which pissed people off).

I was somewhat influenced by recent publicity about a rock star who was himself the recipient of a liver transplant acting as the sperm donor for another rock star. This little tune was inspired in part by recent readings concerning ethical issues in deep ecology, most particularly non-legislated issues in the current xenotransplantation and xenozoonose debate concerning cross-species diseases, which create risk not only to the transplant recipient but also to the public.

For example, recently, two porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV’s), which can infect and replicate in vitro in human cells, have been found in laboratories in the U.K. The dangers of inadequate screening of donor animals for known zoonoses is considerable. Heretofore, pigs were considered the safer donors.

Spunkify your Life (a parody)

(melody "I’m A Hog For You Baby" by Leiber & Stoller, new words by wtc)

She’s a hog for you, baby

And she can’t get enough of your "love"

She’s a hog like you, baby

She can’t get enough of your "love"

When she meets with the technicians

That’s the only thing they’re thinking of

This little piggy went to Gen-Tech

And the other little piggy stayed home

The first little piggy knew he had such high specs

That he could inflate himself when he was alone

You’re a hog for you, baby

But they can’t get enough of your "love"

When they evaluate results

That’s the only thing they’re dreaming of

This little piggy had a transplant

He said it made him extremely strong

Now that same little piggy might suffer from exhaustion

And he’s chemically enhanced all night long

Because they’re hogs like you, baby

And they love to get paid to make "love"

So take it on the tv

And pretend it’s coming from above

This little piggy raped a hooker

He pulled her into his car by her hair

Now this little piggy’s written up in her book

But the other piggies just don’t care

This little piggy sold some records

And injested every single kind of known drug

Now this little piggy blows his cookies on the phone

About his arsenal and collection of slugs

This little piggy went to prison

He didn’t stay in there very long

The guys on the cellblock really liked him

They said he felt like one of their own

This piggy plunked away at love-ins

He was invited by the gang to join in

Now this piggy published volume two of "his life"

How he sang down the wall of Berlin

While we’re hogs, like you, baby

And there are things that we can make use of

When they asked you to stand and be counted

This can’t be what they were thinking of

The first pig’s in defiance of the mainstream

The other piggy says she has an issue

Now the first pig is in defence of the mainstream

And he’s publicized as a piggy with a tissue

We’re tired of hearing about you, baby

Won’t you just shut up and not speak of

How retro interlards in vitro

You’re the kind of public jerks we are sick of

copyright 1999 wtc
Sunday morning ennatainment -- Barney Hoskyns continues to make ripples with Hotel California, and Walker's Laurel Canyon is often cited as well. One of those curly cue twists of humor: "... and, bizarre as it now seems, the phenomenal success of disco music. 'Stayin' Alive' was the final musical death knell for the Laurel Canyon set."

(just a reminder to any Ottawa citizen: Frank Zappa didn't use drugs and was genuinely opposed to drug use, enough so he made an anti-drug public service announcement for television in the early '70s. 'member? Guilt by association or propinquity can lead to shaky, false assumptions. And it's disrespectful to his memory.

And as to this sentence placed near the end of the article: "And then, of course, there is CSN&Y who are back in each other's company for reasons that aren't totally clear and perform in Ottawa next Saturday at Scotiabank Place."

Beats me, too, but Canada is Neil Young's hometown, so to speak. Because of that alone, they're sure to have a ready made audience there. And certainly not because Americans fed-up with the current administration are expatriating themselves en masse to Canada, because your country would be full to bulging in no time if that were the case. Nor is Canada the great sanctuary for war resisters it once was in recent modern history , nobody's in a hurry to go there, either. No. It's a high-ticket show on a stage that sounds for all the world like a financial institution, and Neil's going back to that place he once sang about, in North Ontario, because "all my changes are there".

[7/3/06 update Back to the Future Thrillseekers are given the tour of coming attractions with explanation why these different acts might find resonance within the community, and draws a simple fiscal conclusion:

"Without question, the biggest coup for Bluesfest this year is landing a couple of music legends. Monahan says the festival has been chasing the Grammy-winning slide-guitar queen Bonnie Raitt for several years. She's booked for July 8. Same with seasoned blues and soul survivor Etta James, who performs July 13.

For the loyal blues crowd, those two acts alone make it worth the passport price of just over 100 bills. (At twice the price, a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young ticket doesn't seem like such good value in the music-per-dollar ratio ... maybe that's why CSNY's July 8 show at Scotiabank Place, the same night as Raitt, is not yet sold out.)"

Easy to see sometimes, yes?
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Recruited to tout Russell Crowe's CD

He was being considered for a position: an ongoing saga of a near impossible ascent to personal publicist, with some advice about interviewing tossed in, and a cautionary tale continuing to wag.
From the Memphis Flyer, a great read about the recent photo-op at Graceland. Not quite a whistle stop, but coming anyway soon to a town near you.
From a yellowed copy of the L.A. Times, a true story that really captures the spirit of the entertainment industry place (believe me about this, for I've been there, and if not Hollywood there exactly, then a place very close that's rubbed off forever, or certainly until the present).

Don't Leave Your Desk, Unless It's for Good
By Liza Monroy, Liza Monroy has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek and the Village Voice.
June 18, 2006

I'd been working for a mega-agency for a while when an old-school actor's small production company offered to hire me. I wanted to be in development, so it was perfect. The production honcho (I'll call her Nancy) never removed her headset during my interview, taking calls throughout. I got maybe 10 minutes. It wasn't a good sign, but I was still bright-eyed and hopeful.

"Don't take anything she says personally," said Alexa, the old assistant, finishing off my three-night training period. "Goodbye!" She waved as though I were walking down a gangplank.

My first task was to reconcile the office petty cash supply, used for things such as intern errands, stamps and Nancy's peanut-butter protein power smoothies. My spreadsheet showed the cash supply as $200 short.

"Alexa must have stolen it," Nancy snapped.

"She seemed like an honest person," I said.

"You seemed like a smart person," Nancy said. She dropped a stack of papers and a bag of potato chips on my desk.

"Messenger this home."

"The chips too?" I asked.

"Those are for you." She strutted off. I stood in my cubicle, dumbfounded. "Thanks," I said to no one.

That evening, as I was wrapping up for the day, Nancy kept calling until I answered.

"I was in the bathroom," I said.

"I don't care where you were! You are responsible for always being at that desk."

I considered getting a bedpan to keep under my chair, or quitting. Because Nancy was going to work on a film in Canada, I decided to stay put for the summer.

Up north, Nancy hired a Canadian assistant, Jackie. Jackie and I became cordial, discussing Nancy's needs by phone. One morning, Jackie broke down.

"Do you hate her too?" she sobbed. "She made me peel her hard-boiled eggs. When I handed them to her, she said `You peel them.'"


"She's about to be kicked out of her hotel," Jackie continued. "She cursed out the manager in front of kids. He asked her not swear in front of them, and she yelled, `I don't [colorful expletive] care about the children!"

"Well that's surprising," I said.

"So you know she's . . . ?"


Entertainment industry assistants receive instructions by listening in on their boss' phone calls. It was immensely time-saving and extremely impersonal. If I wasn't on a call and missed an important bit of information, I got screamed at. But it was also how I found out that my romantically unattached boss was pregnant. After breaking the news to a colleague, she said: "It won't affect the timing of the movie!" The next thing she said was: "Nobody knows. I hope my assistant isn't listening!" Too late now.

She eventually told the movie star who owned the company, saying she planned to work right up until the birth and return "immediately thereafter."

"Does she think a baby is something you pop out and stick on a shelf next to your Oscar?" I said to Jackie. "Not that she has one."

A bit later, I e-mailed my resignation so she couldn't call and scream.

"You committed to working here for a year," Nancy wrote back, adding that she would sue to keep me in the job. I didn't care.

That Friday, I left half an hour early (7 rather than 7:30) to head out of town.

"Why are you not at your desk?" she yelled when she called at 7. "You didn't ask permission to leave. You absolutely cannot do this again."

I'm already gone, I wanted to say. Now I'll dish for a book deal: "The Devil Wears a Headset."
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.

07/01/2002 - 08/01/2002 / 08/01/2002 - 09/01/2002 / 09/01/2002 - 10/01/2002 / 10/01/2002 - 11/01/2002 / 11/01/2002 - 12/01/2002 / 12/01/2002 - 01/01/2003 / 01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 / 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 / 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 / 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 / 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 / 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 / 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 / 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 / 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 / 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 / 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 / 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 / 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 / 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 / 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 / 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 / 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 / 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 / 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 / 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 / 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009 / 01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010 / 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010 / 11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010 / 12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011 / 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011 / 07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011 / 10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011 / 01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012 / 08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 / 09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013 / 10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013 / 11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013 / 12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014 /

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]