Flaskaland
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
 
Strange Things Happening Every Day

Book Alert

Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe by Gayle F. Wald



Review By: Joan Osbourne, Singer-songwriter - June 14, 2006 "A book like this is long overdue. Rosetta Tharpe was a major star and a huge influence on the musicians of her day. Listen to her recordings and you can hear all the building blocks of rock and roll."

Review By: Bonnie Raitt, Singer/songwriter - June 14, 2006 "Rosetta was one of the most beloved and influential artists ever in gospel music... and she blazed a trail for the rest of us women guitarists with her indomitable spirit and accomplished, engaging style. She has long been deserving of wider recognition and a place of honor in the field of music history."

Review By: Isaac Hayes, Singer/songwriter - June 14, 2006 "Rosetta Tharpe was one of my first influences, one of the first people I heard sing. I'm glad Gayle Wald has done a book on her because people need to know."

Review By: Greil Marcus, author:Mystery Train:Images of America in Rock-n-Roll - June 14, 2006 "Rosetta Tharpe was larger than life -- but sometimes, as Gayle Wald tells the story, she was larger than herself. Wald's account of Tharpe's 1951 marriage in Griffith Stadium in Washington, D. C. -- she signed a contract for the wedding, then went looking for the husband -- is a classic American tall tale, except that it happened, and, in these pages, you are there."
 
Monday, February 26, 2007
 
Perfect Pitch

Jazz critic Whitney Balliet somehow captured the actual sound and shape of the music, and the humanity of his subjects, in his prose.
 
 
Doug Wouk's upcoming talk at EMP about Clydie King reminded me of this olde (2006) bookmark "Spectropop Presents Looking for Pat Powdrill" by Brian Nevill, from Downey Records to touring Ikette (with a bus crash in the middle) and then session singer right next to Merry Clayton. I think Brian did good work here!
 
 
Another reason why dead hippies hate boomers, this article: "Death & Co. is frightening some neighbors." The restaurant has apparently flipped a local musician who's accused of throwing rats at the place.
 
Sunday, February 25, 2007
 
Art break

I was just mulling through that repository of personal reminiscence, thinking about Chris Montez and Richie Valens and other reasons those records might have been important to me all those years ago.

I found myself tumbling through my intensely personal past and recalling that a school friend had invited me to her birthday party all those many decades past.

Because of many familial discouragements based on current societal pressures that had popped up in the town, where dances at school might have been agreeable but other gatherings would not (and recently a few such benign celebrations, such as an anniversary or a birthday party for kids, had been disrupted for no apparent reason and attendees dispersed with an undue amount of pushing and shoving on the part of the guys in the blue uniforms summoned to the premises by who, no one could even suspect, as the get-togethers were so far removed from the beating heart of precious village so as not to register a pulse or any movement on any kind of decibel meter, no matter how sensitively set).

So I had missed every rehearsal for a few weeks and had to bluff my way through the big trumpety procession and then the grand waltz which was the big, big dance at the quinceanaera (and guess what, I am ninety-nine per cent positive my young friend used the waltz from Sleeping Beauty):

All in the same same small village that still has this mural on the walls, which I had seen:

"Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco painted his 'Prometheus,' a mural that Jackson Pollock later praised as "the greatest painting in North America," in Frary Hall at Pomona College in 1930."

Right about that time, but slightly after the birthday party, the policeman who lived next to us finally quit his job on the local police force. After waiting for several years for appointment during which time commuting 35-miles to work in another county, he dumped this once-coveted job. Don't know why, really, but it seemed he didn't like how things were, and came to that conclusion after only a short time (maybe as long as a year) on the job. He was at odds with what seemed to be majority interpretation of policy. "Just because I'm from the South, the other guys expect me to go along with some things I don't approve of."

(And for some reason, that made another mural make more sense to me. So here's another mural, which I have not seen, except in historic photographs, so I guess that counts:

"And in 1932, David Alfaro Siqueiros painted 'Tropical America,' a mural for Olvera Street that was so controversial that it was ordered whitewashed by city officials and by Christine Sterling, who turned Olvera Street into a tourist attraction.")


When Mexico was a star on the screen
 
Saturday, February 24, 2007
 
Saturday Reading Room is Open

The Real Frank Zappa Book - free to read on-line

Frank Zappa's 1988 biography in HTML. "Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, it's Halloween. We were going to have some important guests here tonight -- we were expecting George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the American Nazi Party -- unfortunately, he couldn't make it -- but here's John Wayne."

(spotted 13 hours and 29 minutes ago by Digg)
 
 
For those us of who won't be making it down for the festivities, Daphne goes to Mardi Gras and sends some postcards home with audio enhancements:

1. New Orleans Night Club to the Rescue

2. Bohemian Rhapsody on the Streets of New Orleans

3. Mardi Gras Marching Orders
 
 
Girl, You Know It's True

Critic weighs in on the Hatto Hoax, provides cautionary advice, and delivers a moral:

"That any critic will bring a certain amount of prejudice, either for or against, a particular artist he has heard before is no surprise. It’s only human. If someone in your office acts like a jerk, you naturally think that he will act like a jerk again, and you will probably be right. One critical safeguard against prejudice, though, is to review the performance or recording in question -- that night, that disc -- not the performer’s career.

"I recall an incident a few years back when a local critic was sent to an orchestra concert in which a piano concerto by Franz Xaver Mozart -- Mozart’s son -- was to be performed. He is a minor composer, of course, and that critic was apparently primed not to hate what he heard. Only, instead of performing the concerto by Franz Xaver Mozart, the orchestra and soloist substituted Mozart’s “Coronation” Concerto. The critic didn’t know it though, because somehow he didn’t get the program insert. His review took what he thought to be the Franz Xaver Mozart concerto to task for ripping off Beethoven and for its general lack of inspiration, etc. The critic had not only not recognized the “Coronation” Concerto, he hadn’t recognized quality. Oops.

"But what does all this say about music criticism in general? Not much, I say. There are good critics and there are bad critics, just like there are good and bad plumbers and good and bad doctors. If one doctor gives us the wrong diagnosis we do not go shouting to the hills that medicine is a sham. We get a different doctor."
 
Thursday, February 22, 2007
 
Well ... I sometimes tend to root for the underdog, and so I continue my momentary fascination about a book proposal that might not have a chance of winning the big spin, especially judging from this post:

Anonymous said...

The Zappa book sounds interesting, though there is sooooo much written about him (even album by album...Ben Watson) that the book would have to reveal something new and interesting. That said, if it did this, it would be a great service to Zappa-dom. Freak Out! is contemporaneous with Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper's, but doesn't get nearly enough attention relative to the other two albums.

"There is sooo much written about him (even album by album...Ben Watson) that the book would have to reveal something new and interesting."

OK. I didn't know there was sooo much written. And what's wrong with old and interesting? Provided it's interesting. They should pick a writer who (rather than contextualizing in theory or emphazing extreme character or aberrant behavior) could vividly recreate the atmosphere and human beings who made the music, and the creative or reactive jabbing this way and that in response to other (sociological, sociopolitical, socio-social) all over the place and everywhere mounds of mush that combined into forces.

Imagine the high pitch whine of a teen star's adenoidal voice broadcast over and over on the tiny tinny transistors or expanding the grill speaker cloth of plastic table models or overamplified and painfully sibilliant on staticky car radios throughout the huge environs of greater Los Angeles, and that song becomes a local hit. So quite soon that same voice still singing that same song is then amplified through loudspeakers. But this is a lip-synched performance to the kids sitting on the bleachers of a teen show that's broadcast on local tv. And the host of the teen show is standing in glen plaid to the side and smiling as he lip-synchs along with the band lip-synching on stage. And the band lip-synchs their song at dozens of visits to this local tv show because the song is becoming a local hit and is even called in and requested on the radio show of the same person who also hosts the tv show:

"A thousand stars in the sky like the stars in your eyes
They say to me that therell never be
No other love like you-oo for me-e-e"

It could have been any such song of the time. Then imagine how such a thing might have made people feel. Then imagine how such a thing might have made other people feel.

THERE the music was.

In this instance, broadcast from the same stands near the Sea Circus where during the days the seals would flip, flop, clap, and in other ways perform, at a new marine-themed amusement park on a pier. Pacific Ocean Park (The name abbreviated even verbally as Pee Oh Pee) was created as a budget outing, designed to compete with other big amusement parks in the Southern California vicinity that shall go unnamed, and the admission was less than a dollar. In fact, it cost ninety cents for a grown up to get in.

Once the entrance fee was collected, you'd walk past a bubbling display tank of light blue and pink lobsters. (You'll say "This is a crazy story. Right away, that's not right, lobsters are red." And I'll say, yes, that's true. The marine handlers didn't aerate the water with enough oxygen and the lobsters had changed color and the strange colors in fact grew fainter and eventually faded out.)

Once past the lobster tanks inside the park, there was not just a plastic octopus, but palms carved and painted with geometrics, banana boats, flights to Mars, and not just a big roller coaster (bigger, better, and hopefully safer than the splintery white wooden one at the Pike), but there were clear plastic bubbles that carried people inside -- the seaspray bubbles carried their passengers on thin squeaky cables like a ski-lift completely out over the ocean following alongside a pier and then back to the park.

And the pee oh pee continued on outside of the park boundaries, because they had trolleys on rubberwheels that puttered along the beach all the way down the Boardwalk. An easy-going, slow moving ride to catch hold of the sights and sounds along the beach, the small train of two cars occasionally slowing to allow strolling pedestrians unaware that a silent trolley had eased up behind them to step aside and evade collision, and the trolleys'd go all the way to Venice where it was rumored the beatniks and Venusians and all the drug addicts and communists were, likely assembled to hear Tambu play his congo drums on the beach, where all the sandy alleys smelled like pee. On the trolly, you'd never get too close to those experiences. Then they'd turn the small trolley around for the trip back to pee oh pee. If you sat near the back of the trolley, even with no doors or windows, it sounded and smelled like a lawn mower engine. And a round trip cost a dime.

Although there was POP music for teens at pee oh pee, you didn't always have to go to the seal court where the shows were televised to catch the tones. Sometimes a stage would be set up elsewhere, maybe near some plastic mermaids or something.

Frank came along once for a show and I am fairly certain it was at pee oh pee, though it could have been elsewhere in a place similarly abandoned and lost to time, a show that hi-lined several currently popular acts ... a teen revue typical of the day made up of three or four short acts singing three or four short songs. As I say, there were more than one on the bill, but I only really remember one of the well known hit making acts on the bill.

This show was different because it wasn't lip-synched, it was performed LIVE ONSTAGE even though the groups shared some of the same backing musicians. The act riding to the tops of the current charts were a duo called April Stevens and Nino Temple, who were singing "Deep Purple". You might know the song, from the '30s and a mere thirty years later it was a near forgotten old standard dredged up from somewhere, one they had modernized (and I found out about that old standard business because my mom knew all the lyrics the first time I ever heard that song come out over the tv or radio):

"When the deep purple falls, over sleepy garden walls, and the stars begin to twinkle in the sky-eye-eye-yi-yi."

Well, I didn't know what to make of that hit duo, I barely remember her except she wore some kind of dress that had the hem sticked up harem style and he grinned a lot and wore a glittery medallion and maybe a V-neck shirt, but definitely combed his hair with an excess of petroleum products. But for this show at least they had acquired a lady player (electric guitar or electric bass, I forget, but that alone at the time was a bit strange) and during another of the songs (kind of a put-together instrumental for the pleasure of the crowd), the lady player was allowed to stretch out a bit and took a solo.

She looked like everyone else on the stage, in early '60s squareball duds and she was wearing a plaid skirt, but she was a woman and she could play and my sister's friend was there watching this very show. And the person onstage as it turned out was Carole Kaye. My sister knew about her, she knew of this lady somehow as a jazz guitarist.

Now as things had turned out this lady player was a staple in the studios, often recording hit tunes like these all night long (and some were good [por exemplo, (PAH-rah PAH-rah "La Bamba" by young Valenzuela y "Let's Dance!" (da da da DA da da da da da) by Chris Montez were my then current examples of good and were some of the songs she played on in the studio] and some were dreck, and some were dreck and became number ones), recorded one after another, with different groups strolling in for their turn at the mic.

And I know because I started getting the low-down, like when I went to the very studios that pumped out all the hits, I saw at least one heavy green gymnasium mat with handles just like the ones used in physical education classes for somersaults and tumbling (but ours at school didn't have black plastic ashtrays full of cigarette butts and bottle caps). And those were the mats that had been acquired somewhere and dragged into a room at the studio so the studio musicians could have a place to sit or crash on before the next cheap session came in to record what would be the next hit song. And years later Carol Kaye had mentioned these very mats in an interview.

So maybe in a way this live performance could be regarded as an unofficial audition, as this person Carole Kaye may have stuck in Frank's mind because she was later summoned to participate in what became "Freak Out", though for that she's listed as playing a 12-string. And in collecting lore on her, Frank might have been reminded once again that she was working as a musician trying to support her kids and was straight as an arrow but had played jazz in town behind Lenny Bruce and jazz guitar though she loved it wasn't paying the bills, well, maybe that swirled around in his thinking about things, too.

Well, this likely isn't new, and the lady in question stuck around only for four or five songs for the album. But just once I would like to read something about "Freak Out" that is more atmospheric and reminiscent of the times and captures something of the spirit of the people and breathes real places back to life rather than hearing revised information from yet again the same old people who say the same old stuff over and over again and they're the prevailing point of view.
 
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
 
My favorite blog post today, Rob Horning on Metablogging (where else, but PopMatters).
 
 
(snark, snark, snark, snark, snark)

New York Times was humiliated on Friday when its lead about US politicians debating Iraq appeared on its website captioned by a photo of head-banging heavy metal fans.

Times’ readers will know that the House of Representatives has been divided over President Bush’s escalation plan, but they won’t know the congressmen are fans of rock group Slayer.

That was the impression from the paper however, after a photo of bearded and tattooed men moshing in Manhattan captioned its story:‘A divided house denounces plan for more troops.’

According to the Daily Background, which broke news of the blunder, the offending image was displayed for at least half an hour to thousands of visitors to the NYT online, before it was taken down.

The photograph, reportedly taken at a Slayer concert by a Times photographer on Thursday, was intended for the paper’s music review section, due for publication in Saturday’s edition.


(read more here, New York Times Publishes Wrong Photo at Freelance UK, Feb 21)
 
 
Just ran into this witty 'beginning to shine an itty-bitty book light' post by Zoilus which reflects the itsy planetesimals whirling in the small cosmos known today as music journalism:


"It looks like the 33 1/3 series is becoming the Velvet Underground of publishing projects: Very few people buy the books, but everybody who reads them starts their own 33 1/3 book. They got 449 proposals in the latest round! Apparently the death of the album is occasioning a very crowded wake. I'm totally baffled by the people who propose writing books about albums that were released about 20 minutes ago ... "


[check the link to 33-1/3 and read through those list of names, but be prepared to float in a miasma. Of course, being self-centered, I kind of hope Zappa's "Freak Out" makes the cut, because that's the only one on the list I would ever be likely to pick up to look at.

In so saying, I must confess already I am concerned that whoever may have put that forward with the idea of writing about it [unless it's Barney Hoskyns or Simon Reynolds or some other such sympatico leaning towards highly intellectual and ethical metacritic] may just generally miss the boat and spend too much time listening to tales from let's say the Ichabods (one quite naturally leads to another, after all).

So, I'm concerned how that topic might end up, because I have my own point of view about things that I already suspect won't gibe exactly with more popularized and so prevailing views of history. And that concern is because this could be a fascinating research product that breathes persons and a geography back to life for a time.

Anyway, all of this tossing and turning of mine for the last few moments about a book that somebody else proposes that hasn't even been selected to be written about yet just goes to prove to me that everyone but everyone feels they have some up close and personal connection to whatever musician, let's say Zappa, if the musician happens to represent something that moves them.

That's everybody -- from the avid collector who fueled by a frightening acquisitive impulse piles up mountains of variations and boots to the dedicated archivist who can barely footnote all of them, to the only the facts ma'am name and date and place full of too many details and so desert dry historian who dutifully traces connections to the farthest most near improbable reaches before dotting an i, to the concert goer who meets an artist once and shares a few words (always remembered and quoted) to a concert goer who has never met the artist but years later insists, "Wow! (he said or sang such and such) Was he talking to ME about that?" (and doesn't share what that made him think of, much less why, because he is a scenester and though perhaps bright, is in no way capable of dotting the i much less crossing the t) to the person who intuitively feels that "he IS talking to me" to be the case and makes a mix-tape to share with a faraway friend who knows it is, too. In those cases, I would say, Yes, those artists -- they're talking and singing straight through themselves right straight to YOU! Still are! Even though you might not have been moving about and getting down in the exact same geochronicity. Simple, isn't it?

So this is a long way of saying I wonder today who might have wanted to write that particular book and why, and how if actually winning the big spin, the story might be presented, and most importantly what and who might be emphasized, and equally important what might be discarded and who might be overlooked, depending on the writer's preconceived notions. So I might take a look at that book if it wins the lotto.]
 
Sunday, February 18, 2007
 
The middle sixties thereafter soon arrived with the funniest description of music criticism in literature:

"Whenever I put the headset on now," he'd continued, "I really do understand what I find there. When those kids sing about 'She loves you,' yeah well, you know, she does, she's any number of people, all over the world, back through time, different colors, sizes, ages, shapes, distances from death, but she loves. And the 'you' is everybody. And herself. Oedipa, the human voice, you know, it's a flipping miracle." His eyes brimming, reflecting the color of beer.

"Baby," she said, helpless, knowing of nothing she could do for this, and afraid for him.

He put a little clear plastic bottle on the table between them. She stared at the pills in it, and then understood. "That's LSD?" she said.

(T. Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49)

[Disclaimer: I've only read V and that was more than 30 years ago. My critical assessment -- I have none, I didn't take to the book]
 
 
But it was there, a few years after this movie came out, that I first met Mimi and Joan Baez, though separately and on different occasions. And Joan even gave me a ride home, because this get together although I forget the occasion was at a house up past Foothill though below Baseline, somewhere along the small paved bumpy roads cutting through the citrus groves and by then it was long after sundown. And although I could have easily walked a few miles home and even made it faster by shortcutting through the orange groves in the moonlight, she offered me a lift and she was driving a Jaguar.

A Jaguar! I promised her I wouldn't get nervous and throw up in her car [way cool in joke, because she threw up in a friend's car on her way to her first performance at Bridges Auditorium, and I am so cool because Joan Baez offered me a lift in her Jag, you see]. And because it seemed I was a budding writer, I even got a phone call from her later, wherein she described a really cool bus trip she and Mimi had taken all the way down to the very tip of Baja, California. And among other things how they stopped and got off along the way there and stayed in a lady's house who offered them a room for a little bit of money, and they hung out and talked with the lady. She would talk and tell them about herself and her life and her village, and she was nice but would periodically take out a can of bug spray and douse the room. And because I was in that damn town while listening to stories about far away places, I wondered to myself if that brand of repellent would be effective against wasps.

But the point of this is, Joan Baez gave me a ride home and every bit in the same way as if one of my friends would have, and we had a little conversation.
 
 
So Frank moved around in that often arch-conservative stuffy little village I've spoken of so often here and usually not at all fondly and in not so kindly terms. And I ambulated in the vicinity there, too, so I know whereof I speak.

This is the same precious village with the eucalyptus and sycamore and carob trees and little old ladies in electric golfcarts, all centered around prestigious and expensive learning institutions that were equally difficult to really love and respect in an all encompassing nonjudgmental let's say earthmom way.

Especially given the intellectual atmosphere pervading and oftimes clogging the air throughout the community, with minute particulates in such overall outgassing which would be every bit as damaging and potentially dangerous as the unidentified yet poisonous elements in the smog beginning to encroach into the region. The right-wing arch conservative atmosphere sometimes could seem large, though individually the wherewithall was often wispy and slight as, nevertheless such thoughts and beliefs were as numerous as sour oranges in the region, and those mentalities often combined into a fog and seemed sometimes to grow larger still and form into a much denser and darker cloud. These influences would appear sometimes in our region, and you could sometimes catch a glimpse or thought you might have seen such a specter here or there, like the one(s) that sent an actor's son down the road for his education.

And judging from the gossipy item about those Hollywood types arriving to place foot on tread to step up to most treasured and marbled stair, supplicants armed only with dough and desire and hopeful expectation, only to have those hopes gently and administratively and effectively disabued as that town crier in the small local paper so gleefully anticipated, by proclaiming their short tourist stopover with the title "They Came to Claremont". The title drawn from a film of a similar name, and I even as a kid just said to myself about the admissions board, "I guess they didn't like the movie."
 
Friday, February 16, 2007
 
Kandia Crazy Horse takes a sharp look at the phenomenon called Freak Folk in "Freak Show: Race, Rock, and New Weird America".
 
 
He Said, She Said

"This week it's been all Frank Zappa all the time. Since Tuesday, the Rock Hall has hosted Zappa talks and seminars celebrating the iconoclast and rock 'n' roll satirist. And he deserves it. ...

Zappa, who died in 1993 of prostate cancer at the age of 52, was full of razor-sharp witticisms and comebacks. Once he appeared on the television talk show of an arch right-winger named Joe Pine. Pine had lost a leg in World War II and was proud of his wounded-vet status. It was the late 1960s, and Pine had only booked Zappa to ridicule him for being a hippie. Zappa walked on, sat down and Pine said, "You have long hair. You must be a girl."

"You have a wooden leg," Zappa shot back. "You must be a tree."

(from the MINISTER OF CULTURE, who also points you to the local Zappa freak. And, yes, there is one in every crowd. Joe Pyne appeared on local TV for LA audiences before going national with his show, and was known for showing off & waving his gun around once or twice during broadcasts. During the boil-up before the Watts Riots, he advised every white person in Los Angeles to go buy a gun. Now you can tell, the actual quote The Minister cites might have been changed somewhat over time and throughout historic or public memory, but the gist of it is still there, and the overall spirit of the exchange, so that's OK. So also now I suspect you can guess why some might have been inclined to refer to this televised atrocity quite simply as "The Joe Swine Show." It was a natural.)



)
 
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
 
With Strings Attached

"Away from the rumble of Shanghai’s highways and the cacophony of the shopping districts", Barbara Koh traces the current surge of interest in classical music in China, an attraction that is not likely to level off any time too soon.

(via Financial Times)
 
 
It's Monk Time Again

(check out this link, that shows GIs getting well publicized haircuts just like Elvis did when he went to Germany ... historic shavings of tresses)

American GIs, Shaved Heads and Cold War Music History

By David Gordon Smith in Berlin

Everyone knows the Monks, right? That anti-war group of American GIs who dressed up as clerics and changed rock history in 1966? No? Find out how the most important rock band you've never heard of are being rediscovered.

All right, my name's Gary .
Let's go, it's beat time, it's hop time, it's monk time now!
You know we don't like the army.
What army?
Who cares what army?
Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam ?
-- "Monk Time" by the Monks


The Monks getting their famous haircuts.
Right from the opening seconds of the Monks' one and only album, "Black Monk Time," it's obvious that this is no ordinary 1960s beat record. The album's first track, "Monk Time," begins with a keyboard playing a single telegraph-transmission note as a robotic drum thuds down on the beats in a techno-esque rhythm. Then an electric banjo comes in, thrashing percussively on the backbeats, followed by a crunchy electric guitar riff. The vocal is a deranged rant about the Vietnam War. Monk Time indeed.

Yet for all the dissonance, the Monks -- made up of five American ex-GI's in Germany -- built quite a following after the record's 1966 release. And these days, the band is experiencing something of a second coming. A star-studded tribute album came out last fall, complete with a release party in Berlin -- the group's first show in Germany in 40 years. The re-united Monks went on to play in London and Zurich and are currently in discussions about possible shows in Europe later this year.

Furthermore, a fascinating new documentary film called "The Transatlantic Feedback" -- which tells the story of how the five working-class American soldiers made rock history -- has won awards at film festivals the world over, most recently being screened over the weekend at the Gothenburg International Film Festival in Sweden, and will get a cinematic release in Germany in May.

And despite their advanced ages, Monk music is as fresh as ever.

"It was a pleasure to see those old-timers enjoying themselves the way they did," says Alexander Hacke of legendary German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten, who was at the Monk's recent Berlin reunion show. "The music still hadn't lost any of its aggression and anarchy."

But it wasn't just the music which won them an audience. The group took its name seriously -- they took the stage in black monk outfits and even went so far as to shave the crowns of their heads in a monk-style tonsure. (Think the Velvet Underground meets Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose.") Plus, there was a certain novelty factor to ex-GI's -- they had sat in their tanks, engines running, during the Cuban missile crisis -- singing anti-war songs.

As the film, which took eight years to make, reveals, the image was at least partly the brainchild of the Monks' two managers, Walther Niemann and Karl-H. Remy. The two intellectual art-school graduates took the five GIs' beat group, The Torquays, and re-invented them as a concept band. Niemann and Remy, who were also responsible for the innovative Bauhaus-influenced album cover of "Black Monk Time," gave the five Monks list of rules for how to behave in public and stay on message -- including always dressing as a monk.

The band even achieved fame in 1960s Germany due to appearances on the hugely popular TV music show "Beat-Club." Dietmar Post who co-directed "The Transatlantic Feedback" together with Lucia Palacios, was amazed to find that the locals in the village where the Monks had been stationed as GI's still knew the band when he filmed there. "Every single person over 60 who had been into music remembered them," he says.


To some degree, they would be hard to forget. The Monks, says Post, were the first punk band -- "except they could really play their instruments" -- and they've also been credited with inventing heavy metal and even techno, due to their love of noise and minimalist repetition.

Their egalitarian approach to music -- they played in a row on stage, pre-figuring techno pioneers Kraftwerk -- and their John Cage-style every-note-is-equally-important aesthetic were also innovative. They were probably also the first band that ever put a mic on a banjo and use it as a percussive instrument -- something which caused jaws to drop then and now. Guitar feedback is another one of their inventions -- Jimi Hendrix himself described their music as "strange" when he met the Monks backstage in Germany.

German electronica artist Alec Empire, who says he was "massively influenced" by The Monks, feels there is a line running through German rock music from 1960s' Krautrock, to Kraftwerk in the 1970s, through to Einstürzende Neubauten in the 1980s. "If you take these extreme bands, then the Monks are arguably the starting point for that," he says. The five Americans, in other words, may have laid the foundations for German rock.

British musician Genesis P-Orridge, a pioneer of industrial music with his bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, goes even further. "In a way they're the missing link between beat music and the Velvet Underground," he says. "If the Monks had only played more concerts, or if they had gone to England or gone to America sooner, they would have been huge."

The Monks' lack of commercial success seems to suggest otherwise, though. The music was simply too unconventional to attract a large number of fans at the time. "The Transatlantic Feedback" includes footage from "Beat-Club," showing confused audiences standing around while the Monks smilingly sing "People cry, people die for you / People kill, people will for you." "It's the strangest thing I've ever seen," Post admits.

Indeed, the band's experimental nature contributed to its eventual break-up in 1967. "The music was hard, it was minimalist, and at the time it could not find an audience," Monks bass player Eddie Shaw recalls. "The record companies could not continue to record us and so we had to stop."

And for years, they were largely forgotten, apart from a cult following among musicians in Germany, until Post came around -- the filmmaker is also the driving force behind the "Silver Monk Time" tribute album and the reunion shows. Post says his motivation for making the film was to set straight the widely held idea that The Monks were just another 1960s garage band. "Their music was much more important than that," he says. "Forty years later, the record is still interesting to listen to."

So too are the live shows. Singer Gary Burger has brought "Monk Time" right up to date with a new electronic version recorded with Alec Empire for "Silver Monk Time." But now, instead of singing about Vietnam, Burger rants about current US missions: "Why did you kill all those kids over there in Iraq? George Bush, who is he?"

"The Monks were an anti-war band," he says. "The messages that they gave in the '60s hold true today."


danke and credit copyright Spiegel online February 11, 2007

(2.16.07 Update. Here's a much older article waxing major enthusiasm for the Monks, courtesy of the finely honed directional beam of Prog Not Frog).
 
 
Great look at those olde singalongs still going on with a photo of

Henrietta Yurchenco, keeper of a musical flame.

By DAVID AUSTIN GURA
Published: February 11, 2007

IF you had been standing outside apartment 12E in the white brick apartment building at West 22nd Street and Ninth Avenue in Chelsea on Thursday evening, you would have heard songs taking you back four decades, to a time when it almost seemed that by singing loudly enough, it might be possible to stop a war.

It is on Thursday evenings that Henrietta Yurchenco, a 90-year-old former City College professor and radio producer, collects a few of her students to sing the same protest songs she sang and taught 40 years ago. The war on their minds is a new one, but many of the songs they sing, like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Study War No More,” were the product of wars long past.

Ms. Yurchenco, who this evening was wearing a jewel-studded peace symbol around her neck, still believes in the beauty and power of folk music. And her former students, now in their 40s and 50s, find that same beauty and power in their teacher.

Ms. Yurchenco taught ethnomusicology at City College in the 1960s and ’70s, when another war divided the nation. She held singalongs then, and in 2005, she revived the tradition with friends and former students.

Her charges group themselves around the kitchen table, surrounded by trailing ivy and colorful animal sculptures from Mexico and Guatemala, two countries where she has traveled and recorded traditional music. Ms. Yurchenco runs the singalong like a seminar: distributing lyric sheets, commenting on the repertoire, fielding questions. Every evening has a theme. This evening, the theme was labor, and the lineup included such songs as “Dark as a Dungeon,” Merle Travis’s song about the perils of coal mining, and “The Banks Are Made of Marble,” popularized by Pete Seeger.

When Ms. Yurchenco taught courses on folk music and the blues, students flocked to her home for singalongs. She barely had enough space for everyone. These days, perhaps half a dozen singers show up, although other musicians drop in. Among the regulars is Bob Malenky, a self-described “red-diaper baby” raised on such labor movement staples as “Joe Hill” and “Union Maid.”

At this singalong, after a rendition of “Join the C.I.O.,” Ms. Yurchenco described a fight she had with the song’s author, Aunt Molly Jackson, a cantankerous, Kentucky-born labor activist and folksinger. The fight took place during a picnic in the 1940s at Bear Mountain State Park, attended by musical luminaries like Leadbelly, and Mr. Seeger. “She was a peppery dame,” Ms. Yurchenco said of Ms. Jackson. “You had to watch out for her.”

Although Ms. Yurchenco’s folk repertoire is vast, she prefers songs that couple easy tunes with provocative lyrics. “We don’t do any mediocre songs,” she said. “The melodies are good; the words are wonderful.”


copyright NY Times

Yearning to Study War No More
 
Thursday, February 08, 2007
 
I don't have a clever title for this post. What I'll outline in first draft is something from the far distant past, and you can already suspect the topic is my sister's friend Frank. This was an emotional event of tremendous significance, and one which I was too young to fully understand at the time.

This takes place a year or two or three before the coffee smooching episode I've described recently below. I was quite young, maybe not 13.

The setting: a late '50s newly constructed tract house on Mills Avenue located on a major intersection on the outskirts of precious village. To color your imagination, the exterior of the house is gray with pink doors (Elvis' favorite colors, as it turned out). The driveway is steep. Emerald green dicondra is the lawn. Among the other trees in the front yard, there is a small palm at the front of the house and to the other side a slatted wooden bench by a large bush which always promised shade. The interior includes a turquoise cork lamp, what came to be called op-art wall clock, some marble tables, beige, beige, beige furniture walls and ceilings and occasional splashes of pink, pink, pink accents here and there and here's some more pink on the hand towels and pink it is here and there right down to a pair of pink chennile bedspreads. Some scratchy street scenes veer towards prickly modern but nonetheless are tamed and muted by pastel are on the walls held in wormwood frames and the bottom corners are adorned with Spanish names in small stylized print declaring the artist.

This is the daytime during the summer. I am in the beige living room or the beige dining room when the beige phone rings, and my sister rushes from her room to answer what she knows is a call for her. She spoke just for a moment or two when her eyes became large, and as she continued the conversation I in my young way rightly assumed the call was frightening her in some way. She told the caller she'd be right over, as soon as she could, and set the phone down. She sprinted into her room, to pull on some additional clothes, and rushed down the hall, to the front door, and was then outside. I didn't know where she was going. After a few moments, she ran back in the house and to her room to retrieve her purse containing car-keys, and again ran out the house. I heard her start her car, a '54 light brown ford, and she was off.

A few hours later she called and asked to speak with our mother, and during this conversation my mother was saying "what's wrong?" and "uh-oh" (expecting to hear bad news) and "oh no" and eventually "oh, no, I don't know about that" until eventually "well, all right, but are you sure he's really all right?" Then that was followed by a long distance call to my dad at work to make sure it was all right. Which apparently it was.

So a few hours later my sister arrived with Frank who was quite silent. And he spent days with us, because after some conversation with my parents, it was fine he stay days with us. This to me was a most unusual thing to have a friend, any kind of friend but especially a friend of the possible boyfriend variety spend days with us and all with parental approval. Although this presence necessitated some shifting, and I made my bed on the living room couch so that everyone could have a bed.

During that time, it was very quiet in the house, and my sister and Frank would talk for length in the back room. During this period of days, my father went off to work early as usual and would come home in the evening. During this period, I remember that my sister and Frank would go out just to take a drive and then return to the room. Mostly he was cloistered in the room he was using. When Frank would come out into the living room, my mother would ask, "How are you feeling, honey?" When my parents would leave (as they did for an entire day when the weekend arrived), my sister would encourage Frank to take a long warm bubble bath and even wash his hair for him.

I came in to see him flattened on his back on the bed in my sister's room, with my grandmother's white and royal blue striped towel draped over his middle, with his hair still damp. And from the door where I said "hello Frank" I could smell from across the room the same perfumy (and pink) conditioner my sister used on her own hair. And my sister would close the door and say she was going to give Frank a shoulder rub, which she probably did.

During this time, I don't recall seeing Frank eat very much at all, although I remember my mother worrying aloud about this and inquiring time and again and being refused time and again, which one afternoon prompted me to make some soup or a sandwich for him and I carried this to the closed door where I tapped like a polite hospital employee. My sister peeked out and held a finger to her lips to advise silence. Frank was sleeping, or at least he was laying there with eyes closed, the covers not quite up to his chest, and the sheets were lilac and there was a blanket though it was summer, and it was a deep green and a light-weight wool. The bedspread was turned down at the foot of the bed. And my sister took the food and set it on the dresser and closed the door.

One day I returned to find Frank up and about and walking to my parent's room to use the shower. And he showered more than several times a day during this period, one time a long shower of prolonged and incredible duration, so long I was worried about him in there alone for all that time and I knew it was hot water because the water heater fired up and because as he exited the room was swirling with moist steam so thick I was certain even the dresser mirror would be fogged. The vapor was so thick it nearly followed him like a jet trail as he padded back up the hall to the room.

At night, my parents would banish my sister to what was my room for the evening and then all would retire. But during the night I would sometimes hear the door of my parents room open then a tap on the door and another door open just to check and make sure my sister was in her approved area. And then the parental unit would be satisfied all was as it should be.

Then one afternoon I finally found Frank fully dressed and he and my sister were sitting in the patio chairs that suspended people by many pink spaghetti-thin vinyl tubes.

Then one morning Frank came out and ate breakfast with us all, and I'm sure the meal included potatoes fried in a heavy castiron skillet.

Then one evening Frank came out and watched a little television with my parents. And my dad and Frank were left talking alone and I heard my dad say, "I know how you're feeling, I've thought about it myself, too ... " but then my dad who was a fighter in his youth would talk about how to get out of tough situations, and likely how to get out of this tough situation.

And Frank and I talked a bit throughout all this, and maybe I even told him a story or two. And then Frank left, although my parents and sister often expressed concern for him after his departure. And by then we were all a bit unsure because we accepted the reality of the situation, painful and silently turbulent though it was, and you might never know really what people might do.

Until the afternoon it happened. And I know you won't believe this but it's true. My sister and Frank spoke on the phone many times a day after he left, and then one day he called and he had a broadcast quality voice and I could hear his voice nearly from across the room but I couldn't make out what he was saying. She just didn't look relieved, she was weeping and waved me to the phone so I could hear, too, the phrase repeated more than several times, bursting brightly from the receiver, a firm and believing loud almost angry voice: "The composer will not die! The composer will not die!"

You'll say this is too pat a story, that you've heard that line before. Well, so have I heard that line before and I've just told where and from who and what I remember about the circumstances.

After all this, we could laugh again, about anything really, but especially when talking about the turkey farmers and their prideful boasts about turkey eggs so big they sometimes held three separate yolks (and I would sometimes remind everyone which those were: "the funny one, the funnier one, and the REALLY funny one".)

So I've just told you a secret that I had promised my sister I would keep as a secret. But seeing as how she has been gone for just over twenty years and Frank about thirteen, I think it ok I reveal what I recall about an event that was been rumored about and hinted at. So I agreed to keep it as a secret, and have for all these years. I agreed to keep it secret and have done so, but to weasle a bit, I did not agree to keep it a secret for all times.

Besides which, it is my birthday coming up soon and I was once in the habit of giving other people presents on that day, and all I have at the moment is this story. I don't know what the issues were for Frank, but he survived his struggle with them and went on to great things, which just hearing about might help somebody caught in a bind to reconsider things.

Maybe I should have titled this what it is about, "The composer will not die!" because that is what is happening to this day. Thank heavens for that! Otherwise, there might not have been too much of a celebration at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

(second thoughts: actually what this is about is Frank needed music)

 
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
 
Yew! Not just rocking in San Francisco, but everybody's going to party this February in the middle!

Frank (needless to say Zappa) is elected to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Weeklong celebrations kick off Feb 13!
 
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
Valentines Day Launch Party for Free Summer of Love Concert in Golden Gate Park 40th Anniversary Events to Rock San Francisco and London

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Feb. 1, 2007 - The Council of Light, a non-profit organization, is proud to announce a free musical event that willcelebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love. The event will take place at Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, September 2nd 2007 and will feature world-class musical acts andentertainment that will represent the spirit and energy of the 1967 Summer of Love. A special event kick off party is planned for Valentines Day, Feb. 14 that will officially launch the beginning of the event's coordination and promotion efforts.

More information about the Summer ofLove event including participating bands will be released at a laterdate.Launch Party: The 40th Anniversary Summer of Love event launch party will be on Valentines Day, February 14th, 6pm to 10pm at 3075 17th Street, San Francisco and will feature live music by the band, Doc Craft and live sound board concert recordings of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. Also featured are 12 poster artists displaying their commissioned, "Summer of Love" commemorative event posters. The artists will be available for signing and collector's edition postersets will be available.

The event web site is http://www.2b1records.com/summeroflove40th and contains information about the event, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities.

Background: "The SUMMER OF LOVE" Represents:Truth and individual freedom. Freedom of expression. Creativity, love and respect for all things. Freedom for an individual to make a choice - sexually, spiritually and socially. The right to be different and still belong. Honor in refusing to fight without judging those who did. Our right to make a difference. Our right to think independently. Our willingness to share with others. There are moments in time when a word or thought has such power itchanges history; a generation so involved in the moment it becomesunstoppable; a spiritual awaking so profound that its very conception shatters perceptions, halts the world and makes people from all nationstake notice. It began with a simple four letter word ­ LOVE! - In the 1960's this word became synonymous with a generation and a city called San Francisco. It was a concept, a belief deep in the hearts of all who werethere (and those who wished they were).

It began with Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and their bus "Furthur", Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the "Beat Generation". They gathered in places like North Beach, Haight Ashbury, Palo Alto, Berkeley, Seattle, Portland, New York, and L.A. These pockets of anti-social, anti-establishment individuals questioned authority and their surroundings while searching for the real meaning of life and the deeper truths.

These small communities of like-minded individuals and "families" of communal creativity focused on poetry, art, folk music, jazz, and rock'n roll, demanding to be free of societal restrictions, restraints and hang-up's. Then one summer it happened! "We Were Everywhere". The pureness of thought exploded exponentially and there were now millions of us. This event, this historical moment which included most of 1967, became knownas the "SUMMER OF LOVE". During this period the Peace Movement was born with the "Human Be-Ins" in San Francisco and then the "Love-Ins" in New York. Anti-war demonstrations occurred everywhere and college campuses erupted with thousands of people refusing the draft. This startled the government; presidents were impeached, wars were stopped, and an entire generation stood up and said "Hell No". Social change was occurring and continued on multiple levels.

Out of this orderly chaos came the "Movements": The Free Speech Movement, Free Love Movement, the Farm Workers Movement, the Women's Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, the Environmental Movement, the Ecology Movement, the Animal Rights Movement, the Sexual Revolution, the Spiritual Movement,the Student Movements, the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement. The message was clear the world was uniting behind one principle and one thought ­ LOVE! and its affirmation of PEACE, COMPASSION, and UNDERSTANDING.

The word was brought fourth by musicians such as Peter Paul and Mary, The Mamas and the Papas, Donovan, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez,the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane and then carried on by many ofthe English musicians like Eric Clapton, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Because of this free thinking environment a renaissance of gifted genius occurred with the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. New concepts and inventions touched every segment of society. The transistor, the calculator, thecomputer and the internet all had their inception in the 1960's. A whole new creative sector of the economy developed within, took hold and became Silicon Valley.

The international community was in awe of thisexplosion of creativity, even Olympic athletes showed their solidarityby uniting with the winds of change. All this started with a simpleword, a simple thought ­ LOVE! and a generation of free thinking people willing to stand up and be counted and their willingness to be different.

Produced by: 2b1 Multimedia Inc and the Council of light For More Information, Contact: Boots Hughston, 415 861-1520, summeroflove40th@yahoo.com
Event web site: http://www.2b1records.com/summeroflove40th


(Source: 2007 Punmaster's MusicWire http://www.punmaster.com)
 
Thursday, February 01, 2007
 
"He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple credulity. His appetite for the marvellous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spellbound region."
(Washington Irving (1783–1859).

Why Barking Pumpkin as a record label name can never ellude human understanding.

Imagine times as they were then ... this is far back in the beginning early '60s now when bicycles weighing fifty pounds still roamed the streets and the weirdos were beginning to be drawn to certain pinpoints in the smaller reaches of the Pomona Valley and nestled in the tiniest area of this greater sprawling geography was precious village, a place of town and gown, trees and degrees, designed to replicate a New England town and with the inhabitants often exhibiting pretentious behaviors, both assumed and acquired.

We are in our rightful place, at the "coffee house" (the one where starving artists would sweep off the remainders of graduate student's evening coffee service, sometimes held still hot and steaming in fancier samovar styled urns, depending of course on which visiting dignitary had been impressing the graduates). And there are starched linen table cloths, the brightest of all whites ... and I am there feeling rightfully that I am at the center of my universe, because I likely have just had a conversation with Frank or some other and it may have been about music or some other lofty intellectual, poetic, sociological, or scientific consideration or a book or an idea ... and I am pondering the surrounding environment and trying to come to peace with it all, and being humbled by the mere consideration of the large expanse of human knowledge and the importance of teaching, as there are likely great professors at the school seeking to impart what they might know and have distilled as truth to the next batch coming up. So I may have been elsewhere in the day prior to this moment I am writing of, but I am sitting there with Frank.

When who walks in ... (how DID he find this place, a stranger himself to our small town) ... moving awkwardly and so totally unaware he is awkward in any way but who seems to me to be totally out of the scene and yet adhering himself to it ... and the thought Ichabod forms in my mind from the story I had read, from an olde booke written far back in time that still seemed current and should rightly strike fear into the hearts and minds of any real teacher or even anyone who doesn't want to be like that, I thought about the tale that contained Ichabod [not the televised and movified cartoon versions, nor any that might ever follow, but the original story] although I thought somewhat meanly that some elements of this personage before me could easily be regarded as cartoonish ... a "nebbish" I began to find other words to describe this character in front of me, walking stiffly about staring at this and that, and I suspected from the way he stood, or turned his head, and the manner in which he leaned here and casually rested there that he was not really comprehending any of it at all ... he could not comprehend any of it at all ... even the importance of being exactly where we were and why we were drinking a cup of coffee ... and I didn't even like the way he'd throw his head all the way back to sip down from his styrofoam cup those final dregs of liquid littered with small bits of coffee ground ... that character who walked in ...

So you see, there should be ways to keep people like that away ... keep them away from MY UNIVERSE ... THIS IS MY COFFEE HOUSE! borrowed though it is ... I can frighten them by throwing a pumpkin at them, or have a guard dog snap, and ideally even some cross between both ...

Although I will admit this person did give my sister a 45 rpm of a record he'd had something to do with, and I had played it on the big portable record player ... ("Oh I looked at the sea, and it seemed to say [hiccup, pause] You took my baby from me away .... " (echo, reversed meaning in next verse) "Come join me, baby in my endless sleep (fade out). Endless sleep. Endless sleep" (the record kind of skipped and clicked here as the needle picked up a dust ball and slid into the grooveless blank). And so she may have known him a bit better than I, at least well enough to have him give her a record he said he had something to do with a few years prior ... still, my sister didn't seem to like him very much, either ... and there he was ...

in MY UNIVERSE in OUR COFFEE HOUSE!!!

guard pumpkin arf! guard pumpkin arf! make him and people like him stay away ... now and forever more ... And I was likely thinking in a swirl, how on earth could I ever write about this, my own village (it was already so much larger than Ichabod's), or the inhabitants and the visitors to my own precious village ... and how THEY (let's say, the ones who owned the silver samovar and the table cloths) might in their foolish way be seeing US as living in our very own castles of indolence ... when THEY to me seemed to be lifelong permanent residents there themselves, in their own castles of indolence, and they didn't seem to mind being there (longing to be prestigious, always private, and very very expensive institutions of higher learning) a bit.
 
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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