Flaskaland
Saturday, August 26, 2006
 
Say what?!

"This led to the Criminal Justice Bill's clauses banning gatherings of more than 10 people listening to 'music characterised by a succession of repetitive beats'."

(Britannia Rules the Waves Again)
 
 
EEK EEK A FREAK

She-brews continues a small series of one or two posts about famous celebrity beer: This ale's for you (yes, a Frank Zappa tribute beer has been unveiled in honor of the 40th anniversary of Freak Out -- mmmm-mmm... yeah! you betcha!)
 
 
Standing on Shaky Ground

(Alice Echols develops theories and writes books about the sixties and the seventies and the ... )
 
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
 

Science Proves: Music Makes Your Brain Happy

That reminded me of the Segovia lp I bought used when I was a kid. I don't even remember where I found it, as I didn't go to garage sales or thrift stores or the annual Pilgrim Place sales where the retired missionaries unloaded the curios they picked up in the Far East, as I was not, like many of my young friends, scouring for antiques and collectibles. But I used to play that record a lot, and I shared that record with Frank one time. Though, really, I shared more meals than music with Frank.

My sister, being older than I and so understanding more of the way the world was put together, would habitually bring her boyfriends home to share a family meal. While some would merely suppose that's because men (or growing boys) always have an appetite, the reality was these guys as young men didn't earn very much money and welcomed (and needed, more than mere sustenance) such generosity. Callow and more cynical types might look on this the same as feeding stray cats. This was the early '60s, and in a small geography of limited employment opportunity and real financial necessity, Frank wore a suit and white shirt and a tie then nearly every day that he showed prospective customers engagement rings, wedding bands, and cufflinks and crosses at Zale's Jewelers. They sometimes had a few glittering specialty items on display in the windows. Frank would especially laugh about those tiaras. So even though he worked every day, as indeed nearly every one else was forced to do, the wages were low, like nearly everyone else's.

Frank possessed very good manners at the table, and he was quite elegant as a young man, much different from the slouching rednecks reared in and still trapped in the vicinity, who would place their orders in public places by saying, "Gimme a coke." Frank's manners seemed even more refined when the parental units were hosting the meal. Once, on an exceptionally rare occasion when wine glasses were set around the table at home, Frank turned his over stem-up to indicate he would pass on the wine. That seemed to me to be expressive of very archaic manners. Once, on a special occasion like my Dad's birthday, he accepted the wine and raised a glass to my dad and took just one sip. Thereafter, his glass remained untouched and full until the meal had ended. As we cleared the table, my sister grabbed all the wine glasses and swept them into the kitchen where she poured the remainder from each quickly into her mouth at the sink. I chalked that up to the strain she experienced when dining with parents.

Occasionally, unchaperoned, we'd ... not dine out, exactly, but go to markets so small they should have been called mark-ettes, or visit other groceterias for fixings (though I ever after avoided the gross-ery store mentioned earlier). Or, we'd go get take out. And we hit a small variety of eateries unique then, establishments so idiosyncratic they should have been called eaterias, places that could only be found in the Pomona Valley. Delia's Grinders served a submarine so large three people could dine easily. Not so much for dessert, but merely to satisfy the sweet tooth, we'd travel far, because donuts could only be found in Pomona, but we'd spurn the neon-lit Winchell's though the plastic franchise was open around the clock and we'd avoid also the local dive called Carl's that deepsputtered their sinkbombs in sizzling vats of goo in favor of the rare and occasional and quite exceptional spudnut (a local phenomenon, a donut made from potato flour developed and served in an enterprise by the same name). And once in awhile to move away from canned evaporated milk as cream for the coffee (and the pot was always set to perking the moment Frank made his arrival, the intent every bit as instant as instant coffee), a trip to Mr. Milk Bottle was sometimes in order; that was a drive-thru creamery which in addition to huge stacks of grey cardboard cartons containing fresh ranch eggs also offered milk in glass jugs from a local dairy, milk that hadn't been tampered with too much, much less pasturized. They became quite famous later as Altadena dairy.

When my parents were footing the bill, the restaurant dining experience could be much finer and Frank was invited along on a number of occasions. We once traveled up twisty canyon roads, the cliffs a rich red dirt that local potters would scoop up and harvest for glaze, to Padua Hills. After plates of enchiladas, we listened to a live band in red sashes perform their high vocal harmonies over guitar and guitarron. Because my mother after incessant prying determined Frank was Italian, and so by definition must like Italian food, we dined once at Vince's ("The Largest Spaghetti House in the World"), a place famous for huge mounds of pasta and long loaves of garlic bread and because of their renown for huge portions, popular with local families. And another time (once only), we ventured to a pretentious eatery called Italian Village. Located in what could be regarded as the beating heart of precious village, the restaurant was a pretentious anomaly even for the vicinity -- only open for dinner, in the hopes of attracting a finer clientele than the occasional college students who might find their way into the village during daylight hours. And located then on a corner, surrounded on each corner facing by official buildings such as the Spanish-style library with walled courtyard, the town hall that held old-timey town hall meetings that could impress only those weepy with nostalgia who don't realize that's where strident yap-happy money-grubbing Republicans assembled, and the Spanish-style post office that ran Old Glory up the tall mast on the front lawn every day and had a swinging sign on the sidewalk out front with a picture of Uncle Sam showing his teeth and pointing his finger at all passers-by as if laughing at them or accusing them of something.

The most memorable thing about that meal at the Italian Village was that my mother became inexplicably and vociferously quite dissastisfied and began acting up at the table, which culminated in her adamantly refusing to allow the waitress to recite the single item on the dessert menu. The Padua Hills meal was likely among the most truly enjoyable, and though we did all go once to a place inconveniently positioned miles away through the Ontario prairie and abandoned fields and fenced cow pastures that I believe was called Marie's (a family-style Basque restaurant that served an appetizer of marinated tongue with bits of diced onion and tomato in small dishes), by that time my sister and Frank preferred to sit a bit farther away from my parents than they once had.

The most memorable meal out was a trip to the brand spanking new International House of Pancakes down on Holt, part of another new chain and the self-proclaimed "Home of the Never Empty Coffee Pot" which because of Frank's propensity for caffeine and his staggering near perpetual coffee intake might have been the root of the original suggestion. Other than that, this basically was just another in one of those new chains and becoming famous for serving pancakes for dinner with three or four varieties of supersweet syrup. My sister sneered in disgust when my mother suggested the place, because she recognized this as a budget outing and also because my mother was using confused phrases like "Kids like pancakes." Drawn like moths to a flame in their search for modernity and a new dining experience, the line of expectant diners stretched out the door at dinner hour. The meal was not memorable, and the new culinary experience nearly forgettable, and my mother later wondered why people made such a big deal about the place and pancakes in general, and finally observed that the restaurant charged too much "for just flour and water."

In the kitchen at home, music came across the radio. We'd try to avoid the hokey C&W and corny pop, the Bible-beaters, and those who spoke in tongues on the far, far right of the dial ... "Oh, K-WOW" Frank would sneer in response to hearing the station's call letters ... (his sarcasm ranged from the dripping acidic to outright venomous) ... and sometimes when twisting the knob, it seemed the whole radio was broadcasting nothing but tripe and swill and crud and pap, and that nothing good could ever conceivably come out. That was my job, to twist the dial in search of something suitable, and once in desperation I settled for "The Tennessee Waltz" which infuriated Frank. He was angry because it wasn't a real waltz. He went home and composed a waltz which he showcased to us within a month. He played the elegant "Guitar Waltz" for me, and he had composed that quite early on in his career, long long before it found its way to a recorded version. It was quite delicate, and short in duration, I joked, "scarcely a minuet long."

We also ate coffee shop versions of Reuben sandwiches at a coffee shop called Walter's in precious village, a cafe that had "Mahi-mahi" actually printed on the menu. We once ate much better versions of anything you'd care to order at Green's delicatessen down in Pomona, where the red-head twin sons managed the counter while dad ran the business in the back.

And thereafter because everyone was busy and because I lived hundreds of miles away, I didn't see too much of Frank after that until I went home for infrequent visits. One time I arrived and he came over, with my sister announcing he had just got his first record contract. This could have been cause for a celebration, but there was only the announcement. Which is a shame, we should have celebrated somehow as he already had a history of having been spurned by record companies. It was a lot more difficult back then to make a record, you know. And you know, too, Frank was not the only person to be rejected by Dot records (I was turned away, as well, but for a much different position. Years prior, when I was only 13 or 14, I was wildly optimistic and assumed the company was bigger than it really was and they might hire me and pay me some money to do something for the summer. I could grab a ride everyday into downtown L.A. with my dad, just as my sister had done when she worked that summer her first year out of high school at Clifton's Cafeteria (The famous landmark called The Pacific Seas, so we said my sister was spending the summer in the South Pacific, but we didn't say that too often). Well, what seemed like a big record company with a such a short name was run by a two- or three-person office. Although someone from Dot did call to inquire if I played music, I didn't get work from them and was sent a rejection letter on fancy stationery complete with an embossed printed envelope. So I applied there even before Frank did, but Frank kept his rejection letter, probably to fume over, just like e.e. cummings was known to do.)

For a subsequent year or more, in part due to being in the vicinity, my sister stayed in occasional touch with Frank. One time, when I was down for a visit she drove me all the way across L.A. to a little house that seemed no bigger than a single room, situated at the top of a hillock large enough only for the house where we had to climb many stairs to get to the front door. Frank responded to us at the door with "What do you want?"

Thereafter, I did see him here and there, every few years or so. He did fly up to the Bay Area for one reason or another at one time during the Free Speech movement, because I saw him around there at the time. That was back when P.S.A. airlines first launched and you could fly from L.A. to San Francisco for ten bucks!! Then I saw him a few times around Los Angeles, specifically at Cantor's, once at the deli case long about '65 when I lived in that big sprawl known as Los Angeles, but that was a place which I rarely went to (I much preferred walking to the deli in my own neighborhood rather than commuting vast distances) and in fact I stopped going Cantor's at all as it grew more popular with the music biz people and hangers-on. Although my sister took me there once on one of my visits in '67 or so and I saw him seated at a table and she asked me, "Aren't you going to go say hello?" I was certain she was joking.

A few years later, for reasons I'll never understand, people tried to give me tickets and entice me to see a new act called Alice Cooper at the Berkeley Community Theater. And I wasn't interested, so the tickets ended up in the hands of a teaching assistant I'd got to know who was reading for a sociology class I was taking. She attended the show and hated the whole thing, said it was the worst thing she had ever seen. I certainly wasn't interested in such shit after hearing a smidgen of description. Figures, I sneered to myself.

Once upon a time, many years prior, my sister, Frank, and I went to Laguna Beach for the day. He showed up at the front door wearing a pair of bright white clam diggers with small satin multi-colored ribbons of red, white, and blue factory-stitched down the side as decoration and a loud blousy tropical print shirt with the ends tied at his waist in a knot like a rhumba dancer. Clam diggers of yore were as popular at the time as hula hoops had been, and they came in one color (bright white) and were not baggy; they had a much tighter fit, and in fact had to have notches cut out and stiched just to allow for knee movement, and the trousers (more like pedal pushers, really) ended rather unattractively inches below the knee; back then Frank was quite lean if not downright skinny.
 
Sunday, August 20, 2006
 
The only thing I remember about meeting Don (before he became Captain Beefheart) is that he, Frank, and my sister arrived at home after having spent some time together traveling about the town. I assumed they'd been showing the out of town visitor some of the sights.

They exploded through the front door, my sister walking quickly ahead. Soon, they were seated on the living room sofa, and my sister sat as far away from Don as she could, perched nearly on the edge of the divan with Frank squarely positioned between her and Don. She and Frank would talk. Don would not. My sister seemed hesitant to engage Don in direct eye contact. When he shifted on the couch, or looked at them, or seemed about to say something (which as I recall he never actually did), my sister would cast her gaze elsewhere. Then once his interest from them had shifted, she would glance sideways at Don, as if he were crazy. As I found out later, he and Frank had some sort of argument in the car. "A donnybrook," I offered as only a simple smartass could.

While greater minds in the distant historic past might talk of many things, of water cannons and telescopes, this was a day of small bits that no one found interesting, when no conversation could go forward. As it ended up, I took a ride with Don and Frank because we were out to find some food to make for lunch. We ignored the closer new supermarket in town, the one that had thrown Frank out. We drove south past an immense stretch of fields with grass so tall and dry it was falling back in on itself, looking like a spent cornfield. We went all the way into Pomona, a sprawling citrus town that boasted little other industry, to a small neighborhood market on a major thoroughfare.

This was like an inner city market, if Pomona were a city then, and everything displayed on the shelves seemed a bit second rate, out of date, and overpriced for what it was. And yet people in the neighborhood and for miles around were forced to shop there, as no supermarket would move into that central section of town. The shop was not airconditioned, the aisles were not wide, and there were no carts. It seemed expected that no one would buy more than could be carried in one hand. Cardboard cartons on the floor held small piles of yellow onions just pulled from the earth, with thick layers of translucent skin and long brown roots still attached. There were some dented cantaloupes. Packages of puffy white Wonder bread and giant sized Baby Ruths were on special for a dime.

It was the annual scorch called summer and it was hot, really much too hot to eat. And I couldn't find anything edible or appetizing in the whole place. After pushing in through the wide screen door, the more oppressive the environment became, the heat having built up in the building throughout the day. The farther I stepped into the blast furnace, the hotter it got, and the waves of heat were palpable. A few customers roamed the narrow aisles, but the store was quiet. Aside from the embarrassing and unrelenting squeak of my tennis shoe soles across the entire stretch of linoleum, there was only the sound of a ceiling fan whisking the air and the occasional buzz of an unseen flying insect.

And markets then were not as atmosphere-controlled and scent-free as today. Forget airconditioning, there wasn't any. Due to the lack of air movement and the searing summer heat, the place was intolerable enough. But there was an odure that grew with each step towards the center of the store, an unidentifiable mixture of unpleasant odors that forced me to fight back a gagging response. Until the combination was undeniable and recognizable, the place smelled like a slaughterhouse. Towards the rear and dimly lit was a butcher section, with sawdust thrown on the floor. And behind the glass on long expanses of pink paper was a huge mound of brains, and next to that a pile of shocking white stuff steeping in a pool that turned from bright red to crusty brown at the edges as if the liquid tide had ebbed or evaporated, and other organ meats for sale. And Don was moving about before this display as if he were browsing. Frank had disappeared.

When we reassembled in the car, Frank carried a small bag by the rolled up edge. After waiting what seemed to be a long heatsunk while, Frank had to go back in and locate his friend. I sat in the front seat riding shotgun while Frank drove and Don sat in the backseat by himself. I stared out the side window, not saying a word the whole way home, realizing that if my sister had come along, I would have been obliged to sit in the backseat with Don, and I knew if I were to find myself there, I would be staring out the window to keep from making eye contact with him or maybe glancing at him sideways. Our outing was not just unproductive, but dismal and somewhat horrifying. And the mission was a failure, what ever were we going to eat?

We arrived back to the smell of fresh perked coffee. My sister had fired up the shiny stainless steel coffeepot factory-etched with a graceful fleur-de-lis. Frank carried his small bag straight into the kitchen. And while my sister stirred the mixture in the saucepan, and prepared to ladle out the canned cream of mushroom soup into turquoise bowls, I went outside and picked a few lemons from the tree by the patio. And I gave Don a small tour of the backyard -- the bamboo, the dicondra, the maples, the peach tree, and the loquat (neither fruit was ripe at that time of year).

Once inside, all of us seated at the formica kitchen table with a pink paper napkin neatly folded into a triangle and placed at each setting, Don surprised me at lunch by refusing to eat anything set in front of him -- not soup nor saltine nor coffee would pass his lips -- he drank a glass of water. He cut a lemon in half and bit into it as if it were an apple. I guessed he was mad at my sister as well as Frank. He talked and smiled at lunch but I don't remember what was said. People are always in a much better mood when blood sugar is elevated.

Later, I heard Don apartment sat or took up temporary residence in a neighboring town, in a small courtyard of apartments built from smooth round rock (a common building material in our vicinity, the rock an historic byproduct of clearing land for orchards). I knew someone who moved in there later, during which time the apartment had been added to and stylistically modified by a succession of artistic tenants. By then, the walk-in shower still had a plain brushed concrete floor but some tiling had occurred on the walls, and directly under the showerhead was a mermaid in mosaic, with both faucet handles strategically placed. A person described as "(whew) that crazy guy" had stayed there previously. And before you jump to conclusions, I don't know for a fact if that meant Don, as a lot of weirdos seemed drawn to that courtyard because of cheap rent and their own artistic natures. It was because of the fact that Frank brought him by for a visit that I assumed Don had an artistic nature. Not until years later when Trout Mask Replica came out did I learn he was a musician.
 
 
What I've been reading (Looking through the past darkly)

"That was then, and this is now. All such periods of intense excitement and change -- a wider way of thinking and being -- are short-lived. They are a true ‘high’ and the intoxication of those who help create them or even just live through them neither lasts nor disappears.

So we in Berkeley are living in a deep deep post-high nostalgia which we love and nourish and want to talk about in order to preserve it if only in words.

We don’t want our physical/psychic landscape to alter, so against all odds we resist. ... We listen to Dylan and Judy and Joan and Mick albums to remind us it was all real."

(Musings on an Identity Crisis)


(all below from an article about Joan Didion's "Years of Writing Magically":

"There is the sense in that piece, and several others of hers from that time, of someone looking on with a kind of appalled fascination at the excesses of late Sixties counterculture. The title essay of Slouching Towards Bethlehem was actually written in 1967, and dissects the ascendant hippy scene in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury area with a mixture of wry observation and mounting unease. 'I didn't see a lot of peace and love on the Haight in the so-called summer of love,' she says now. 'It seemed like every kid I talked to there was desperately unhappy.'

Was her original point of view essentially generational, though? Might she have immersed herself in the hippy scene had she been younger? 'I was from a different generation,' she drawls. 'I grew up in a different time and my writing was formed by the values of that other time. Had I been of the generation I was writing about, I don't know if I would have been swept along.'

I tell her that my favourite book of hers is The White Album, particularly the long title essay in which the dark energy that seemed to pervade California in the late Sixties is somehow reflected in her own faltering mental state. That was a time when a creeping paranoia took collective hold of the residents of Laurel Canyon and the Hollywood Hills, when what Didion calls a 'sinistral inertia' settled on Sunset Boulevard and its environs like a dank fog. In the tapestry of reportage that makes up The White Album, she moves in strange circles, crossing paths in her reportage with Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton of the Black Panthers and Linda Kasabian, a hippy girl who had become an acolyte of Charles Manson. The killing of actress Sharon Tate, wife of director Roman Polanksi, and five others, by the Manson Family brought all that Hollywood paranoia to a head. 'The tension broke that day,' wrote Didion. 'The paranoia was fulfilled.'

The title essay has a more personal subtext, though, the unravelling of Didion's psyche. 'I was supposed to have a script and mislaid it,' runs one memorable section. 'I was supposed to hear cues and no longer did. I was meant to know the plot, but all I knew was what I saw: flash pictures in variable sequence, images with no "meaning" beyond their temporary arrangement, not a movie but a cutting- room experience.'


Didion's Classics

Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)

In her first book of essays, Didion explores the fragmentation of American culture and writes in detail about her experiences in California during the late Sixties. In contrast to the usual rose-tinted views of the era, she paints a bleaker picture of hippy life on Haight-Ashbury, exposing the dark underbelly of the free love years. The title comes from Yeats's 'The Second Coming'.



The White Album (1979)

A companion-piece to 1968's Slouching Towards Bethlehem focusing again on the Sixties and countercultural California. Didion writes on subjects as diverse as the California Water Authority, psychiatry and bike movies, and portrays individuals such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Doris Lessing.
 
Friday, August 18, 2006
 
Jolt Cultcha

'Jolt Culture can be seen in the thrust of contemporary magazines from Rolling Stone and People to Maxim and Entertainment Weekly, which increasingly rely on pictures and short captions rather than longer form stories. Newspapers are responding to the trend through the heavier use of what's known as "alternative story forms" -- quick-hit information boxes that boil down the essential facts of any given story to a few easily digested tidbits. It is apparent in the rise of "talking-head" television, which substitutes passion for analysis, and in films that trade in jaw-dropping spectacle rather than taut narratives about characters facing tough moral choices.

Jolt Culture is often conflated with the "dumbing-down" of America. They are, undoubtedly, partners in crime. Trivia books -- which strip meaning from knowledge, providing us with information but the not the context we need to apply it -- embody this relationship. At bottom, they provide us with fleeting sensation.'
 
 
If all the pieces Ms. Carr pulled from acres of print are as good as what I've read so far, you'll want to hang onto your copy of Da Capo BMW 2006 in those leaner times just sure to be around the bend. This next carries an unassuming title, reminiscent of those ads for budget weekend getaways to locales recast as exotic that nobody I know has ever bought a ticket for:

Susan Alcorn writes of the road, the radio, and the full moon in "Texas: Three Days and Two Nights".

(I am always partial to history).
 
Thursday, August 17, 2006
 
Book Alert

Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music
By Wendy Fonarow (Wesleyan, $24.95)

"What's best about Empire of Dirt is that Fonarow's equally a thinker's thinker and a fan's fan. That's true even during an opening chapter ("What Is 'Indie'?") that mercilessly exposes some of the more questionable aspects of indie fans -— their tendency to presume their centrality in relation to other kinds of music fans, for example. (You will seldom read more blinkered music criticism than that of indie rockers who just, like, do not understand why or how anyone else could possibly not care one iota about their marginal bands of choice.)"
 
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
 
Daphne Carr announces the galley proofs are ready and who made the A-list for Da Capo's Best Music Writing 2006:

(Warning: Teasers ahead)

• Greil Marcus, Stories of a Bad Song/Threepenny Review

• Alex Ross, Doctor Atomic “Countdown”/The New Yorker

• Mike McGuirk/Rhapsody
Rush Hemispheres
Charlie Rich Behind Closed Doors
Ted Nugent Cat Scratch Fever
Kylie Minogue I Believe in You
Accept Balls to the Wall
Frosty Liquor Drink
Iron Maiden Number of the Beast
Boredoms Super AE
Kraftwerk Man Machine
Dream Theater Octavarium


Robert Wheaton, London Calling—For Congo, Coloumbo, Sri Lanka…/PopMatters

• Jon Caramanica, Ghetto Gospel/XXL Magazine

• Elizabeth Mendez Berry, Love Hurts/VIBE

• Charles Michener, Going Bonkers at the Opera: Glimmerglass Flirts with Chaos/New York Observer

Ann Powers, Crazy Is as Crazy Does/eMusic

• Miss AMP, Kevin Blechdom/Plan B Magazine

• Kimberly Chun, Touched by a Woman: Dolly Parton Sings about Peace, Love, and Understanding/Creative Loafing

• Frank Kogan, Frank Kogan’s Country Music Critics’ Ballot 2005/I Love Music

• John Biguenet, The DeZurik Sisters/The Oxford American

• Katy St. Clair, A Very Special Concert/San Francisco Weekly

• Nick Weidenfeld, Dying in the Al Gore Suite/The Fader

Tom Ewing, The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine”/Popular

• Geoffrey O’Brien, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”/The New York Review of Books

• Geoff Boucher, Ex-Door Lighting Their Ire/Los Angeles Times

• Dave Tompkins, Permission to ‘Land/Scratch Magazine

• Kevin Whitehead, Chops: Upstairs, Downstairs with Art Tatum (and Monk)/eMusic

• Robert Christgau, The First Lady of Song/The Nation

• Anne Midgette, The End of the Great Big American Voice/New York Times

• Bill Friskics-Warren, Bettye Lavette/No Depression

•Susan Alcorn, Texas: Three Days and Two Nights/Counterpunch

• John Sullivan, Upon This Rock/GQ

• Peter Relic, The Return/XXL Magazine

• Dr. David Thorpe, Thorpe’s Notes on R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet/Something Awful.com

• Raquel Cepeda, Riddims by the Reggaeton/Village Voice

• Wayne Marshall, we use so many snares/wayne&wax

• Andrew Hultkrans, Sweat and Lowdown/Artforum

• J. Edward Keyes, Where’s the Party? 13 Hours with the Next Franz Ferdinand/DIW Magazine

David Marchese, High on Fire/PopMatters

• Monica Kendrick, Bang the Head Slowly/Chicago Reader

• Will Hermes (as Robert Barbara) Vegetarian militancy, sound magick, B&D, and the most astonishing live show of my life/Loose Strife

• Moustafa Bayoumi, Disco Inferno/The Nation


("Excited?" she asks. "You can pre-order BMW2006 from Powell's right now. We look good in purple.")

[yes indeedy to all of the above! and a most happy synchronicity, as i was about to point you all to another PopMatters special in the midst of unfurling -- with the opener co-authored by Marchese ... "Riffing on Elvis" And uh ... I've provided links to a few so you can savor some of the favorite flavors and generally whet your appetite for more in print by the pound format).
 
 
Got some news today about writer Tom Terrell:

Sad news to report this afternoon. Just got a call from journalist Amy Linden and she tells me that Tom Terrell has stage 3 prostate cancer. It's a very aggressive form of cancer and it's far along. Tom got the diagnosis a week ago.

Like many journalists, Tom doesn't have medical insurance. So Amy is
getting together with some folks to stage a benefit for Tom. A venue hasn't
been announced but it will likely take place on Sept. 12th. Many of Tom's
favorite artists will be performing. Giant Step and the American Cancer Society are taking part.

Amy wanted me to put out the word to all of you, so you could share the info
with others who know Tom. She also would love for us to step forward with
any auction items we might be able to offer. She doesn't want anything that
could be easily bought at retail. Instead, she's looking for autographed
guitars, high-end box sets, autographed posters, etc.

Amy didn't know how to get a hold of Jerry Rappaport, but she asked that we
let him know. I don't have his current info, so if somebody could let him
know, that would be great.

If you would like to make a donation, or have auction items to offer, please
contact:

Amy Linden
amy_linden@...
718.596.0170


(I don't know what else to say. I don't know Tom personally.
But I've read some of his world music reviews and I'd marveled
where he got his good taste in music --
he'd cover the greats he loved -- Dom Um Rumao, Christina Branco --

This is the closest I got to knowing him, reading a remembrance he
wrote about his Aunt Shirley Horn ...

Cafe C'est What: Death and Music


I didn't know he'd been associated with Mango/Antilles, which at one
glittering transcendant moment in time was *the* hippest of them all,
I think.

Anyway, half a dozen years ago when I recognized my complete and utter failure to grasp the fiscal reality of journalism, I started believing that if you enjoyed reading an article by someone, you should send that person a little bit of money. This seems like a most appropriate time.)

[update: Forward regarding journalist Tom Terrell:

Please notify all these beautiful friends of mines out there that if they
want to USPS donations to me to offset all the medical expenses that are
guaranteed to come that they should make out checks and money orders (no
cash) to: "The Tom Terrell Benefit Fund"]
 
 
Kieron Gillen makes beautiful music in "Phonogram"

The answer to life is music. The solution to all your problems is music. Kieron Gillen explores the idea that music is truly magic in Phonogram, a new comic series out today.

"So all those years where I was surrounded by people using music not just as a casual pleasure, but as everything from a surrogate personality to life by proxy made me realize that it was a transformative power in the world. And, if there was anything akin to magic, then it is music. After all - a series of notes: how does that have the power to change how you feel? There's no logical reason. Science hasn't got a real reason yet. It's like magic. It's a small leap from that simile to 'Phonogram.'

"Music is magic. 'Phonogram' is based around the people who realise that metaphor is actually the true foundation of the universe, and so actively manipulate it to achieve their desires," continued Gillen.

(via comic book resource)
 
Monday, August 14, 2006
 
"If You Like My Politics, Flash the Devil Horns!"

Metal is evolving and this article takes a snapshot of some of the participants.

"Metal artists 'have responded to the culture and politics of the day,' said Donna Gaines, a sociologist and author of 'Teenage Wasteland,' a study of working class New Jersey metalheads.

'Metal music in the 1980s was often homophobic and 'very white,' she said, but current bands tend to be socially conscious and suspicious of political power. There's also more women in the audience — and fronting the bands.

'This is another generation rising,' Gaines said. ...

'It's really, really difficult sometimes to break through the cloud of apathy, so it's great when someone comes and asks why you are coming from your perspective," [Napalm Death's vocalist Matt]Greenway said during a recent tour stop in California.

'When you come into a country like America, when you challenge thinking, it's a great affront to some people,' he said. ...

'I appreciate that not everything has to be awareness raising or political,' he said. 'Music is also a form of entertainment, and it should remain that way. Variety is the spice of life. Escapism is a good thing if it doesn't cloud your vision.'"
 
Sunday, August 13, 2006
 
Maybe I read too much into things. Because I read the book "The Ninth Wave" (one of the few literary treatments of surfing), I never completely regarded the title of one of Arthur Lee's first records as mere surfploitation or even pandering to surfer mythology. I just played with the idea that "The Ninth Wave" by the LAG's was one of the first pop titles to be inspired by literature, and the music (instrumental) was part of the soundtrack being played as young folks stomped and pranced on the dance floor, or indeed did anything or went anywhere as the socio-political elements of the time unfolded. Lee's tune was released in 1964, and I'm not sure I knew it even existed then. But I had read the book by Eugene Burdick called the "The Ninth Wave" at about the same period in time. And Burdick was regarded as a most influential and timely writer, as his novel "Fail Safe" (which uncannily had hit the stands at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis just a few years prior) had been given cinematic treatment and released as a movie in 1964.

In Burdick's novel "The Ninth Wave", a young surfer grows up and embarks on a career in politics. However, he thrives best in the milieu of corrupt politics. His Machiavellian approach allows him to develop strategies to elect a Governor of California. Analyzing polls, exploiting media, and winning over the undecided voters propelled him and his candidate into power. Thereafter, he ruled by his motto that "hate and fear equal power", though he soon exhausted the populace by constantly manipulating their hate and fear. As far as the book was concerned, I recall the power broker was eventually swept out of power rather dramatically, and I felt he was most deserving of his prolonged death by drowning.

I'd picked up the book because I was interested in surfing and someone had described this to me as a coming of age story. And look what I found -- a young surfer grows up into a big scary, adult, totalitarian world ruled by fear and hate. Ah nuts, I said to myself back then, just like what's happening in real life.

But the title of one of Lee's first records gave me pause to stop and think about this co-incidence.

All I know is I made this connection and have drawn these conclusions in the privacy of my own mind.

(P.S. For awhile at least, you can listen to "The Ninth Wave" by jumping over here.)
 
Saturday, August 12, 2006
 
The Center for Political Song still provides current news.
 
 
I'm listening to bleep and honk of Ronnie and the Pomona Casuals "Out of Sight".

This is a slow "news" day so I'm unashamedly poaching. I'll nab a goodie that the more wide ranging and energetic Steve Rubio rounded up today, "Rich Man Poor Man":


Steve writes, "Here’s another one where I don’t know how long the link will last:

Rich Man Poor Man

Bob Dylan has a radio show on XM … I don’t have satellite radio, so I can’t listen, but Dylan’s show gets rave reviews, for his song selection, for his between-songs patter, the whole package. BigO Worldwide has posted an MP3 version of a recent show called "Rich Man Poor Man," with the theme of, well, rich men and poor men (Dylan’s show is actually titled "Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour"). It's a great listen … it has everything from Tony Bennett and Bing Crosby to Tom Waits and Emmylou Harris to Fiddlin' John Carson with Moonshine Kate."

(Well, I don't have XM, either, so I'm still listening to Ronnie & the Pomona Casuals, see. For me, at the moment, it's 1964. And I was clearly out of my mind when I placed their concert with the Byrds in a bowling alley. Not so unusual, given I wasn't even in the vicinity at show time and I was grasping at what I was sure I remembered someone once upon a time telling me).
 
Friday, August 11, 2006
 
Summer of 1976

"IT WAS during the heatwave of 1976, when the country was parched and the economy on its knees, that punk rock was born."
 
Thursday, August 10, 2006
 
People are still writing about Arthur Lee.

Forever Never Changes

"While other bands made history during the Summer of Love, Love was busy living through incendiary months, and on the album that resulted, Forever Changes, Lee documented in real time and in living color the Daily Planet of the hippie scene, or at least its underbelly -- which is perhaps the same thing. In other words, the album stands as the most accurate American version of the era, post Monterey and Haight-Ashbury."

"But it's not enough (nor should it be) to merely gesture toward an art work's ineffable qualities. What makes Forever Changes indelible is first and foremost its unmistakable honesty. The Los Angeles streets that broiled with heat and inspiration brought intimations of a severity largely absent from the rose-colored commentary that emerged from San Francisco. The songs on Forever Changes have a soul and sly élan that most of Love's contemporaries were incapable of conjuring. Lee described what he saw with deceptively simple, disarmingly straightforward lyrics that always evoked the feelings of an outsider. Lee, a black man, recognized what Chris Rock would later articulate, that no matter how many people profess to admire and envy you, few, if any, white folks would choose to trade places with you. This keeps the distance between what should be and what is foremost in one's mind; no amount of applause or plaudits or utopian hippie thinking can compensate for that disparity."

(via today's PopMatters)
 
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
 

SFMOMA Presents Turner Prize Finalist Phil Collins


(Hit the link for a graphic that helps set the tone)

Phil Collins, dünya dinlemiyor (the world won’t listen), 2005; Single–channel color video projection with audio, 58 min.; Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; © Phil Collins.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- From September 16, 2006, to January 21, 2007, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present New Work: Phil Collins, the latest exhibition in the Museum’s ongoing New Work series. Organized by SFMOMA curatorial associate Jill Dawsey, the exhibition will feature the work of British artist Phil Collins, who was recently short-listed for the Tate Britain’s 2006 Turner Prize.

Working in conflicted geopolitical sites around the world, including Baghdad, Belfast, Bogotá, Kosovo, and Ramallah, Collins employs video and photography to create strikingly intimate and nuanced portraits of people and places. Departing from much documentary and site-specific practice, Collins often communicates through forms of popular and youth culture, from pop music to reality television, soliciting people from the far-flung communities in which he works to participate in highly contrived performances. Recent projects include a disco dance marathon in Ramallah (they shoot horses, 2004), a restaging of Andy Warhol’s iconic “Screen Tests” in Baghdad (baghdad screen tests, 2002), and the production of music videos in Bristol (the louder you scream, the faster we go, 2005).

Says Dawsey, “Collins is engaged in producing an art of powerful counter-representations vis-à-vis the mainstream media and entertainment industries (not excluding the art world), which so often offer only a culture of leveling spectacle and sameness. Paradoxically, it is his use of a pervasive form like pop music that ends up dispelling stereotypes, showing how people appropriate and use pop culture toward their own ends, in their own idiosyncratic ways.”

The presentation at SFMOMA will center on Collins’s 2005 video installation dünya dinlemiyor (the world won’t listen), which features young people in Istanbul performing karaoke versions of tracks from the eponymous 1987 album by the British band The Smiths. First presented at the Ninth International Istanbul Biennial, this project is the second in a trilogy; the first, el mundo no escuchara, was filmed in Bogota in 2004, and the third and final installment will take place in an as-yet-undetermined location later this year.

For each incarnation of the project, Collins has selected local musicians and performers through an open call inviting fans of The Smiths and/or “the shy, the dissatisfied, and the narcissistic, to come and have their chance to shine,” in the language of the posters Collins wheat-pasted around each city. The volunteer vocalists take their turns at the microphone situated in front of a simulated backdrop, singing songs by The Smiths in their best nonnative English—it’s clear they know the words by heart. Collins records the performances continuously, with minimal edits, allowing the alternately awkward, disturbing, touching, and hilarious moments to unfold in real time.

The Smiths’ original fan base—the disaffected, rebellious youth of 1980s, Margaret Thatcher–ruled England, of which Collins was a part—found in the music a resonant message. Within the fraught context of Istanbul, The Smiths’ melancholic pop takes on new poignancy and urgency, as the karaoke singers ask us to listen to what the rest of the world won’t. In this way, Collins challenges the alleged hollowness of pop music, revealing its emotional core and the individuality of its fans. While dünya dinlemiyor establishes the power of pop music to bridge communities, transcend borders, and bring visibility to a part of the world rarely seen or heard from in a playful context, Collins is keenly aware of the potential to exploit his subjects in such a project.

About his work, Collins has said, “A camera brings interested parties together. It attracts and repels according to circumstance or whim. A camera makes me interested in you and you maybe interested in me. In this sense, it’s all about love. And exploitation. You could say that [this work] is driven by an emotional relationship with the subjects, rather than the rational or sensational standards of journalism, which also inhabit these territories.”

Collins was born in 1970 in Runcorn, England, and has been based in recent years in Belfast, Brighton, and, currently, Glasgow. He received degrees from the University of Ulster, School of Art and Design, Belfast, and the University of Manchester. Collins’s work has been the focus of solo exhibitions at the Tate Britain; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; the Temple Gallery, Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia; Milton Keynes Gallery; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Espacio La Rebecca, Bogota; and the Wrong Gallery, New York. Collins received the 2006 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize at the Photographers’ Gallery, London. As a finalist for the 2006 Turner Prize, he will participate in the corresponding exhibition opening October 3, 2006, at Tate Britain.
 
 
"Linda Ronstadt says of Ann Savoy, 'One time she came to visit me in Tucson and she brought me a box of rice that had a beautiful illustration on it that was so pretty. When she came back from Russia, she brought a box of tea like they have in the supermarket, but it had a beautiful design on it. She has a jeweler’s eye for beautiful things.' "

(I'm playing a game of relate and justify with myself. Why did that paragraph immediately remind me of the candy tin that Christopher Isherwood had -- it was an unimposing little box, the kind that ends up holding pincushions and spools of thread in a linen closet -- there was some kind of dutch countryside painting on the lid -- and I learned much later that he had carried it with him for years, it stayed with him during the pre-Nazi years in Berlin and made its way with him to China, and then to the U.S. as the world was about to become engulfed in 1939. And there it sat unobtrusively on a side table when I first saw it, decades after.

And that memory made me go find some Isherwood to remind me why I admired his writing so much. An effortless task on my part, as Isherwood can still say things to current readers:

"Am I afraid of being bombed? Of course. Everybody is. But within reason. I know I certainly wouldn't leave Los Angeles if the Japanese were to attack it tomorrow. No, it isn't that. ... If I fear anything, I fear the atmosphere of the war, the power which it gives to all the things I hate -- the newspapers, the politicians, the puritans, the scoutmasters, the middle-aged merciless spinsters. I fear the way I might behave, if I were exposed to this atmosphere. I shrink from the duty of opposition. I am afraid I should be reduced to a chattering enraged monkey, screaming back hate at their hate."

Isherwood wrote this in his diary on January 20, 1940)
 
 
An oldie but goodie, which didn't make me want to hear the record, because the pose of outlaw rebellion is hard to maintain when licking the pointy Nashville boot, but I enjoyed reading this review by Justin Cober-Lake, a good example of autobiography in music criticism.
 
 
Fair and balanced reporting

A fair amount of space was given here to the conservative hit parade, so now a fair amount of space will be given to "Living Outside, Looking In: Alienation in Popular Music" (which is worthy of more than a casual look).
 
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
 
Allegedly last CzechTek

"CzechTek organiser Tomas Vainer announced that this year´s 13th CzechTek music festival was the last one as it lost its original atmosphere, he told journalists today.

'CzechTek has become a mass event and its atmosphere of a techno music rave has disappeared,' Vainer said."
 
 
This just found:

Rockcritics puts up the Paul Nelson tribute page
 
Monday, August 07, 2006
 
AN APPRECIATION
1965, the Strip and Arthur Lee

Love's singer was a man in style and substance ahead of his time, a rock hall of famer recalls.

By John Densmore, Special to The Times
August 7, 2006

It was 1965 when I rushed down to the Whisky a Go-Go to stand out front and listen to a group called Love. My band, the Doors, was playing in a dumpy club up the street, and we were on a break. I craned my neck past Mario, the doorman, to get a glimpse of a band that was so far ahead of its time, the public still hasn't caught up.

The first time I saw Love, I was shocked. They were bizarre. Arthur Lee, the African American lead singer, wore rose-tinted granny glasses, and they had a guitar player whose pants were so tight, it looked like he had a sock stuffed inside his crotch. It was a racially mixed group who seemed to be friends. After experiencing Love, I knew I had a ways to go before being hip. Wearing leather capes and pin-striped pants, suede moccasins, paisley shirts and jackets with fringe everywhere, I wondered if they went out on the street like that. Not that they were fashion without substance; as Lee told us all: "And the things that I must do consist of more than style."


This was a revolutionary band, way before Jimi Hendrix. No black man had crossed over from "soul music" into rock before Arthur. I desperately wanted to be in this band. Arthur clearly had tons of talent and charisma, a quality that our singer, Jim Morrison, hadn't developed yet.

When we finally became the house band at the Whisky, Arthur graciously suggested to Jac Holzman, the president of Love's record company, that Jac check out the Doors. Due to Arthur's jump-starting, we got a record deal.

Jim and I would drive down from Laurel Canyon to the Chinese restaurant next to Greenblatt's Deli to get egg fried rice for breakfast. On one of those excursions "My Little Red Book" came on the radio, Love's cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song. "If we could make a record as good as that," Jim said, "I'd be happy."

Love went on to make several albums for Elektra Records, one of which, "Forever Changes," is a masterpiece (and, it should be noted, was produced and engineered by the vital Bruce Botnick). This album defined the '60s and is the "Sgt. Pepper's" of the West Coast, the "Pet Sounds" of psychedelia. One title from that album, "Maybe the People Would Be the Times, or Between Clark and Hilldale," reflects the street life on the Strip, the Whisky being located on Sunset Boulevard "between Clark and Hilldale."

*

And oh, the music is so loud

And then, I fade into the … crowds

Of people standing everywhere

And here, they always play my

songs

Wrong or right, they come here

just the same

Tellin' everyone about their

game

*

Forgive me now, for copying a slew of lyrics from this brilliant record, but better to quote a genius than wax on with helium upstairs.

*

On racism:


Around my town

Here, everyone's painted brown

And if with you that's not

the way

Let's go paint everybody gray

*

Reincarnation:


I've been here once, I've been

here twice

I don't know, if the third's the

fourth, or the fifth's to fix

*

War:


There's a man who can't decide

If he should fight for what his

father thinks is right

*

Prophecy (Arthur spent some time in jail years after this was written):


They're locking them up today,

They're throwing away the key,

I wonder who it will be

tomorrow, you or me

*

Philosophy:


This is the time in life that I am

living

And I'll face each day with

a smile

For the time that I have been

given, such a little while

And for everyone who thinks

that life is just a game

Do you like the part you're

playin'

*

Death:


Sitting on a hillside, watching

all the people die

I'll feel much better on the other

side …

*

Arthur, I hope you're sitting on that hill … in fact, the Doors' lead singer is waiting to show you where that hill is … and I'm sure you'll feel better.

Unfortunately, Arthur smoked so much herb that he was reluctant to leave his house. "Forever Changes" became a critical and chart-topping monster in England, but Lee wouldn't cross the pond. For those of you who are new to the importance of this band called Love, please check it out.

When I heard the news that Arthur died Thursday, I lit some white sage given to me by Native American musician friends, in honor, and to help Arthur Lee with his crossing. He was an extremely talented, tortured artist, not unlike Jim, and the two of them are sitting on that hill.

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

— Howard Thurman, African American mystic and activist

*

Densmore, author, essayist and drummer for the Doors, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

(Apologies to the L.A. Times, but I felt the need to reference the entire article. I'm not sure why, but it's more comforting to be back in the day at the moment, rather than in the moment where the world has found itself today in 2006. Don't worry, and don't be so impatient, you folks born later and carrying all your sets of experiences and memories and more recent history will have your turn with this, too.)
 
 
In light of Gram Parsons reading below, here's a timely review of the general flavor of the times, of a new publication by historian Andreas Killen: 1973 Nervous Breakdown: Watergate, Warhol and the Birth of Post-Sixties America


An "ambitious cross-disciplinary study of the electrifyingly chaotic cultural and political atmosphere of 1973. It was a year in which a number of important socio-cultural movements and trends faded, while other more enduring ones exploded into prominence; that year, according to Killen, a nation's collective '60s-driven neuroses were being explicitly played out in film, literature, architecture, politics, music, television, and gender relations.

Killen positing 1973 as the "end of the '60s" and the beginning of the postmodern era is an original and provocative claim. According to Killen, 1973 is the year when '60s idealism and activism has officially lapsed into widespread paranoia, conspiracy theory, occultism, and obsessive celebrity culture."

(via PopMatters)

(He's probably right. I once casually put the end of the '60s in 1967, because it seemed to me that Mark Kurlansky was right, that 1968 being the lousiest year in modern history marked the end of the era, with the remainder of the decade twisting and thrashing about in the prolonged shudders of its death throes.

(It's a teenage nervous breakdown, it's a nervous teenage breakdown
a teenage nervous, nervous teenage, teenage nervous teenage
cha cha cha cha wa wa wa yeah [version updated 1972)
 
Sunday, August 06, 2006
 
Sunday Reading Room is open

Here's a collection of articles on that Fallen Angel, Gram Parsons, assembled for Perfect Sound Forever. Jason Gross just caught the Parsons documentary, and provided some background reading.

(via yei wei blog)
 
Saturday, August 05, 2006
 
Lenny Brews, or actually Lenny RIPA (which seems like the 21 and over, grown-up version of Cherry Garcia), proves that America's savvy entrepreneurs can invent a product tailored for every conceivable social niche, maybe designed to appeal to those who don't happen to like the idea of Adolf Coors. This news article, quickly outlining a hipster grandma who caught Lenny Bruce at San Francisco strip clubs in the ancient of days, can be cheering to some, but only if you believe drinking a beer allows hip social statements to flow freely. And if you're doing that, why not call the new product line "She-brews" which might honor grandma herself?.

Anyway, I remember hearing a story or two about Lenny (and though I never saw him perform, I actually was in the same room with him once, and that surely must mean I was very hip even as a little kid, eh?, although I don't remember a thing he said for he was semiconscious at the time). Anyway, Lenny came onstage (this is from some hip older person who though maybe not hip per se was old enough to get in the door). Lenny was following the previous act, a small troupe of midget strippers. An act so tasteless and base, and generally sick and unappealing, it surprised even he. So he pronounced, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to science fiction theater."

Another time, a well known and well heeled prosperous hooker came in and she and her date for the evening were seated at a good table. And Lenny announced her arrival breathlessly, and called out a humorous obseqious public greeting to her and had the band play "Perfidia" in her honor, to which he sang "Chlamydia." Stories maybe your own hip grandma will tell you.

Me personally, I never went to such places. I happened upon the addagio dancers performing on the streets of San Francisco.
 
 
Wow, another hell of a week. I've read a lot about Arthur Lee's passing. Some of the rememberances are more notable to me than others, and that's all because of who I am, I suspect.

Jason Gross was determined to get a quote.

Malcom Lowry, Last Year at Marienbad, and Arthur Lee.

Just found Steve Rubio's "D.C. and me".

And this excerpt by Dero from Turn on Your Mind.

And Simon B's, which resonated with me because it was like a little jab (just a little jab, now, but not like another little twist of a knife in the heart), and his writing further sparked my memory banks (so I was a little opaque and incoherent in my remarks there). And since his departure, you can go nowhere these past few days without reading or being reminded of Arthur's passing. I've read on bulletin boards just how much Lee's "Forever Changes" has meant to people and how they'd just recently turned new people onto the music, their expressions of sorrow and loss softened with contemplations and wonderment how spirit continues to touch and inspire.

For me, it's not "Forever Changes", it's different (and earlier) music. I immediately thought of Ronnie and the Pomona Casuals, and remembered that fierce adolescent pride surging through me that the music from "our neighborhood" dancehall could not only be recorded but carried onto the radio, and Arthur was there helping to make it happen. He composed (and I suspect arranged) much of "I Want to do the Jerk" and hearing the song broadcast on local radio as I was riding around in the vicinity, I was very proud of him at the time for pulling that off.

Plus he was loyal in his own way ... I'm sure he had something to due with getting the Pomona Casuals on the same bill as the Byrds at some converted bowling alley a little bit later on. (8.12.06 correction, this was at De Anza Park in Ontario).

And snarky. He wrote a snippy song about Luci Baines Johnson -- the Johnsons, well, every paper was full of them at the time, and if you grew tired of reading about Lyndon and Lady Bird, you could read about the Johnson children (Luci Baines' daddy, now the President by murderous default, gave her a hundred dollars to spend as she wanted at a book store as a birthday present -- that ben franklin seemed like the fortune it was back then, as that amount paid out as weekly wages could support a family of four who were paying down a mortgage on their own home! But enough of high finance ... )

I guess I'll always remember Arthur as I knew him then, after all those are most of the firsthand memories of him I carry around. He was a very nice young man, really, and we both were very young at the time, and sometimes it's hard to believe I could ever have been that young. (Geez, look at the unbelievably youthful, well, absolute piefaces playing with Lee on the Dick Clark Show clip). But I don't have many anecdotes about Arthur or conversations to recount or quotes to drop. We just talked music.

Though we went to see a surf movie once (just to hear the soundtrack music), and a rare one or maybe as much as two times Arthur dropped by the house to listen to a few (as I only had one or two) of my Del-Fi surf albums. That was late 1963 early 1964. There was a little darkness swirling around him even then, as even thinking about the ocean can sometimes bring contemplations or reminders of a treacherous place beneath the inviting surface exterior. As I recall we one time discussed the instrumental "Church Key" and even though that was popularly regarded as a rhythm heavy "party" song (on 45 version backed I believe with "Six Pack") ...

OK, a feel-good party song called "Church Key" but that title actually reminded us both of a shark attack. That may have been due to recent published news or an article about a shark attack occurring somewhere in the world (certainly not where we were in the oceanless except in thought and music Pomona Valley, but that just went to prove how we each can carry our universe around within us, and the amazingly complex interplay and interconnectiveness of things and Rachel Carson was saying the same thing in her book on the ocean). "Church Key" reminded Arthur Lee (and me) of a shark attack because in a shark bite, each single razor sharp triangular tooth leaves a deep exact puncture that looks like you've punched open a quart of tomato juice with a church key. So you see, we were looking for a moment at least at what might be the real deal behind the never say die attitude of rhythm heavy party music.

And the next time I saw Arthur was 1965, and he was with a couple of girlfriends walking down the streets of Venice, one of those funny little streets near those beatnik coffee houses and I was surprised to see him. And I never went to any of the clubs to hear the Doors or Love nor the Byrds, I was just into another scene by then and travel to L.A. seemed a rather long commute even by L.A. standards.

Then that famous record of his came out in 1967 and I was half a state away from Venice by then, in a new turbulent geography with many profound, fascinating, and sometimes disturbing events taking place regularly if not nearly every day, which when combined all threatened to push any recent memories into the far distant past and labeled not so important as what's currently going on. You know what, it didn't really register that was the same Arthur Lee I had encountered previously, though I did catch on to that (everybody was beginning to look, act, and dress much different than they did a mere few years prior).

Then long about 68-69, and this is probably during the period that Berkeley after a lot of teargassing and nightstick beatings and smacking people down into the pavement and expressions of still irrepressible youthful defiance was under "martial law" declared by the governor complete with strictly enforced curfews (no one allowed to move about on the streets after sundown), and still the youth were irrepressibly defiant. About that time there, I read a newpaper article about Arthur's former bandmates getting into quite a bit of trouble for armed robbery to fuel their drug habits and looking like they were headed for San Quentin and I remember feeling very uneasy about that news and it was too late (even though I didn't know any of them) to feel anything other than disgusted, well, I just basically felt ashamed for them all.

Maybe that's also why I prefer to remember Arthur as he was, all those many years ago, rhythm junkie surf dude of the mind, pumping out r&b or whatever would catch hold in the real and fast changing world, a mover, optimistic, determined, talented, and just generally in love with music.

And brave. Think of it -- His was the only black face in an ocean of white faces at the high school auditorium where we watched that surf movie with little blond gremmies who because of their attitudes and expressions (upon noticing a stranger in their midst) whose combing habits that evening at least seemed to ape Adolf's famous waterfall cascade across the forehead.

And brave. Because in my small town, where nearly every little thing which seemed contrary to the prevailing status quo was deemed threatening or questionable and so was noticed, commented, and acted upon to squelch or punish. The local police force (all two or three of them, still rooted in the attitudes of the deepest South) would have to be informed and briefed by their superiors there were a few college students from Africa on campus and around town, you could recognize them by their dashikis and caps, for fear the foreign students would be mistaken for blacks and harrassed or worse, causing an international incident. Or certainly at the least they'd be guaranteed to be noticed, followed, timed, and given parking tickets. So I thought Arthur could be brave and courageous in pretty much the same way I regard people who knowing full well the ocean can be full of sharks and occasionally become a dangerous environment still insist on heading out to play in the waters.

[update 8.8: You can listen to Luci Baines right here)
 
 
Late breaking news

Thomas Mapfumo denied visa for UK Womad because of "Suffer in Silence."
 
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
 
Who wants yesterday's corn flakes, when there are nutritious morsels like this floating around: Caryn Rose and her longterm, close-up and far away, yet immensely personal relationship with the Beatles: "For George".
 
 
It takes a desperate man to sing a desperate song dept.

'"Use the music and the full concept of the counter culture," he passionately continues. "Not everything has to be political. You buck the system by creating music they don't understand, by having clothes and language they don't understand, by not taking shit-dumb-stupid-brain-dead-fuck-up jobs that destroy you and eat your life and then you're dead. You don't want their music that's picked out by Sony and EMI. You don't want the food that's been packaged for you by McDonald's. You don't want the movies that they have chosen for you. You don't want your job as a way of thinking, or the candidate they have chosen for you. I think it's a question of total resistance from morning til' night on all fronts cultural and political."

He stops and looks out the window upon 2nd Avenue for a brief moment. A touch of nostalgia glimmers in his eyes. He begins fondly reminiscing about his days as a working class child growing up in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. "We were the loser class," he softly utters. "We were ready to be shipped off to 'Nam. And here were these people playing this weird guy with a weird voice...Bob Dylan. I remember his first album.”

"But remember, it was all fringe shit until it became mainstream."'

(Geez. That reminded me of where the concept of Eat the Rich really came from. I was not surprised the neo-con gadabout who bought a t-shirt in Beiruit and found a ready title for his book couldn't bother tracing down the source, as he was no where near the fringe.

Here it is, the truth for all time:

Late 1971, early 1972. Where else, but Berkeley, California. During that brief calendar span, an underground paper (I recall it being the Berkeley Tribe) published an interesting article that had a much different tone than the usual polemics of the times. This was a strangely literate piece of writing, one which turned the premise of Jonathan Swift’s “a modest proposal” to eat the poor completely inside out and back again, ending with a conclusion contrary to his, but every bit as humorous, that we should eat the rich.

At the time, I marvelled at the elegant writing, the prose was far and away superior to any other currently being published, and I thought it was a wickedly funny piece that somehow gave me hope that a sense of humor and intellectual rigor could remain intact. So I kept the article for months showing it to various friends, none of whom lodged it anywhere near the level of significance I did. But years later, I always wondered what entrepreneur dreamed up the idea of the t-shirt to sell to tourists, though I wasn't so surprised a song came out with that title, nor at all surprised a book churned out from a Rolling Stone cast-off who didn't dare claim to invent the phrase. And the beat goes on.)
 
 
(Man, am I tired of hearing about John Lennon's midnight room service orders of corn flakes delivered as current news, and current strategies for having a top ten UK hit).
 
 
60 second interview

Eritrean writer and musician Senait Mehari was abandoned by her mother as a baby. Her father beat her and sold her to the Eritrean Liberation Front, which was fighting a war against Ethiopia. She spent three years in a training camp before being rescued, moving to Sudan and later Germany. She now has a successful music career. Her biography, Heart Of Fire, is out now.

(read more here).
 
 
Womad sounds like it was fun. Vanuatu group wins accolades pounding out Bowie on a teachest.
 
Compiling the best online articles about music so there will be more of both in the future. In periods of drought, the reader will be innundated by my own blogs on the matters.

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