Friday, December 28, 2012

The Girl From Ipanema, in Body and Song


Her voice is as cool and effervescent as a champagne bottle left overnight in the bucket. Nearly subdued to the point of sedation with a tone that dances on the flat side of the notes, Astrud Gilberto appears to have absorbed all the confident insouciance of the Carioca girl of whom she sings. Then add to this that ultra cool saxophone––the archetype of sex and titillation going back to the days of burlesque––that in the mouth of Stan Getz gets a full porn work out. Add a pulsing samba rhythm––samba, possibly an Arabic word corrupted in Portuguese, translates as a "blow struck to the belly button area"––and you may've the sexiest song ever recorded on the subject of a stalker's blue balls. (The man who watches the Girl walk by "each day" and smiles and loves her, could warrant a restraining order.)




The song apparently represented more than just someone's wet projection of a Brazilian babe. The composers admit it was inspired by an actual person and her name was Helô Pinheiro (pic at top). Pinheiro would've been a girlish 19 when the song was written. After the song was a big hit it went on to be the Brazilian bossa nova standard (originally released in 1962) and possibly the second most recorded song in pop history. Pinheiro would attempt to capitalize on some of that success. Being the girl led to modeling gigs, public appearances, her own boutique named for the song (Garota de Ipanema), and posing for Playboy twice (in her less girlish years): once as a Playmate (1987 at age 44) and again in a pictorial featuring her with her daughter (in 2003, she would've been a ripe and cougarish 60): As seen here at right––The Brazilian Waxes of Ipanema––even as a grandma she's still tall, tan, and very tappable.

This just in: Want to see what she looks like in a bikini at age 63?

Thanks to the blog Crying All the Way from the Chip Shop for the heads up.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Music that Matters, pt 4



32. Sam Cooke, Bring It on Home to Me: There's a long tradition of wordless yelping in music, that space where no word can express the inexpressible so well as an unadorned jet of hard wind thru the pipes. I love this song for so many reasons but especially this: Before every refrain of "bring it to me" both Cooke and Lou Rawls launch a long, loud "Oh!" For me, this is the highest form of prayer; What sums it up better for our Maker than that?

33. Sparks, Propaganda: From 1974 but ageless. Helium-fueled vocals no one else on earth could sing over intricate melodies that keep the music's skin taut and wrinkle-free after all these years. My sister thought they sounded like a bad dream (she said that a lot about my record collection) and she was probably right. But once we begin our working life the dreams are mostly bad anyway; better to marry with it a melody that could raise you up like a meat hook.

Something for the Girl with Everything on German TV done sometime in the 70s.

And for those who don't know Sparks, this:


34. Piano: I once took piano lessons so I'm a little predisposed to the keys. For my money the piano is the coolest drum ever invented and in the imaginations of Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Scott Joplin, Gershwin, Scriabin, Schoenberg, Janacek, etc, it is the voice of God and not Patrick Stewart or Morgan Freeman like some people may think.

35. Blind Faith: As a child I loved this record from the first listen, a deep melancholy resonance riveted together with great hooks. I always thought Stevie Winwood sounded like he was singing through a mouthful of spicy Pad Thai. As inspiredly crappy as his elocution was, for me it only made his voice all the better. Every song on this record is brilliant; Nearly as enchanting to me as was the naked pubescent girl holding the vintage hood ornament on the cover. (The whole friggin' album can be heard here.)

36. Gang of Four, If I Could Be: Electric guitar had been around for, what, 40 years?, and then this guy comes along. A guitar that sounds like a combination of Don King's hair and growling dogs and unlike anyone else. Anxious white Brit funk with perfect proportions of dissonance and polyrhythms that's neither derivative nor inauthentic; How'd they do that? Who knows, but they did.

37. Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles Live, Them Changes: This Buddy Miles song was decent enough in its earlier incarnations but this version from '72—both in Santana's latinate grooves and punchy rhythm guitar and Buddy's testifying soul shouts that are the vocal equivalent of a Marshall stack—is beyond stellar. Buddy's nearly supernatural screams may only have two or three recorded peers in existence (that I know of). Also, usually a singer's shouts of "say yeah!" are worth little more than eye rolls for the pandering salt licks they are, but here they're utterly brilliant. May've been the career peak for both of them.

38. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bayou Country: These guys were monstrous when I was a kid. They were in advance of grunge by 30 years and more authentic than the whole of it by at least 100. Fogerty's solo on Born on the Bayou was the quintessential example of Blues Theft 101, no machine gun runs of blazing notes just the guitar solo as haiku narrative. Another reason this record is branded into my psyche: I was 11 years old at our neighbors' Fourth of July party when one of the girls the host and I had been flirting with all night (in the typical under-cover-of-teasing pre-adolescent style) began dancing with a couple of drunk adults in front of the living room stereo. This record played and suddenly on the hips of this beskirted, giggly girl the world changed forever. (Bootleg here.)

39. Thin White Rope, Sackful of Silver: There are many records you learn to love over time, kind of like in an arranged marriage. For me, Sackful was more like the drunken hook up you still wanted to wake up with 10 years later. Their nary-a-keyboard, dual guitar sound carved through with mid-range tempos and streamlined rhythms may've been the de rigueur of 90s alt rock but their harder and darker version was more gestalt than alt––less Sunny Day Real Estate and more Swans (they did cover Can after all). It's a combination of a-fifth-and-two-packs vocal rasps and the clean-and-sober melodic lead guitar lines that can still, to carry on the metaphor, make the bed springs squeak. (On the Floe here.)

40. The Isley Brothers, Fight the Power: Punk rock as testifying shout from 1975; there wouldn't have been enough coke in the world to even make Rick James this punk funky. These guys love to sing even when they're telling you how pissed off they are. The whole of side one is so dense with hard beats, funky synth curlicues, and let-baby-brother-play-like-Jimi riffs that not even gamma rays could pass through. This record should've influenced a whole generation of guitar hard soul bands but didn't. Maybe the problem was the fluffy ballads stuck on side two. Still, a great one-sided record.

41. Funkadelic, Tales of Kidd Funkadelic: These guys also should've influenced generations of bands, black rock especially, but their anorexic legacy has been criminally small (save the Chili Peppers, Prince, & a few others). Wiki credits them as funk fathers: Maybe, but I think they transcend standard forms. (Should sampling count as an influence?) In the early days they were equal parts funk and psychedelia and didn't really jack their stiz until the five albums of the '73 - '76 period. Funkadelic's deep bench included a busload of great guitar players and singers, some James Brown refugees, madman George Clinton, and the amazing Bernie Worrell who steals the show often (how many times is that said about a synth player?). Salted with absurdist humor and inspired insanities, a batch of great riffs, a canon of songs begging to be covered, and those great Pedro Bell covers––they were a band as a brand and one hell of one at that. (I'm Never Gonna Tell It here.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

RIP Dave

A little late on the tribute wagon: The brilliant Brubeck and Quartet bangin' through one of his iconic tunes while on a magic carpet ride over the picturesque freeways of Los Angeles ca. 1962. Dig that mellow Paul Desmond sax tone: smoother than a hookah.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Abstract Sexy of Björk

I love Björk (pronounced something like B-yerk). She being that rebelliously creative, adorably gifted singer-songwriter from the land of ghosts, elves and various huldufolk. She the ruler of an untouchable realm whose greatest natural resource is that voice. I love how she's at once beautiful and delicate as a flower and yet as rough and impervious as rhino skin. To my eye she's also spectacularly sexy and mysterious in that cold clime, northern hemisphere kind of way. I love that she's a mom. I love her cool website, her technophilia, that her new album is called Biophilia, and her heartbreaking performance in Dancer in the Dark. (I love that she streams her new multimedia remix album. Hear it here and other places.)

I'll admit I haven't listened to her in some years. I love her first two albums but for all the reasons listed above her music can also be difficult––a little too heady when a little more heart would do. Not that we shouldn't envy what that head can do. And that's not to say her songs aren't created with enormous passion––her passion is all over the place. It would have to be to follow a muse so otherworldly and personal as hers. She could've easily pandered a career from star producers wanting to trade up her fame and fortune by churning out mainmstream techno-ditties. Instead, she chose a more challenging path, an aspect that only adds more bonafides as to why she's so bitchin'. Maybe it's my fault. Maybe I'm too western hemisphere, too Southern California to at times find her work nearly as cold and remote as her native Iceland. She's kind of like William Burroughs of icy alt-pop: Highly respected by legions, understood by few.

Whatever. I still love her. Here's her latest video. It's sexy but in a very imagistic and abstract way. It's throbs with tumescence and glistens with fiery fluids. Writhing and pulsating thingies float and erupt in loin provoking ways, like a Westside Story dance sequence choreographed for spermatozoa. See if it doesn't stimulate your nethers to oozing as well. But in that northern hemispheric, Eyjafjallajökull-fearing kind of way.



Just discovered this: Here, Björk gets gushingly busy with herself with help from machine enhancements. Whew!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"The Most Shocking Music Video of 2012"

Well, according to somebody but you decide.

Continuing with our recent infrequent theme of highlighting world music gaining Western notice, we present Die Antwoord. A duo hailing from South Africa, their Afrikaner heritage may explain why they think blackface is larf-worthy. Hip-hop/rave is the what they're labeling it. You might consider their self-conscious attempts at offense to be funny, naive, or just plain mean but more likely they're a combination of all three. I doubt American artists would be allowed the same satiric liberty or politically incorrect latitude these exotic-born stunts are perpetrating here. (Americans are supposed to be held to a higher standard of multi-culti political correctness, or as I like to call it, sensitivity.) In my estimation their "satire" is about 25 ticks harder than anything Ricky Gervais or old schoolers like In Living Color have served up (wait till you see what they pull out of "Lady Gaga's" whisker biscuit) and they've got more anti-celebrity venom than Eminem, Trey Parker and Matt Stone combined (and cubed). (In one scene note the wall behind them is painted with various celebrity slams.) The group, which may also include an anonymous hooded DJ as a third member, are not above unabashed fronting: Die Antwoord is only one part of a long running series of naked commercial enterprises that includes merchandising and other media projects. They'll readily admit their work is aimed at the market which could make them more than a little cynical. And this doesn't even begin to address the many potential circular layers of colonialist offense here which could be as deep as a slave ship hold: White South Africans appropriating and exploiting a diasporic African American art form into a apparently successful business model with acute self-aware ironies. You might accuse them of having all of the street cred of, say, a Vanilla Ice but they're already way ahead of you––mastermind and leader Ninja can be seen wearing a Vanilla Ice t-shirt in YouTube interviews.



Yo-Landi Vi$$er's girly squeak of a voice––she being the ultra slender, ultra-blond, ultra sex kittenish member of the duo––lends a well chosen incongruousness to the profane and expletive loaded spew. (She and Ninja have more than a business union, they have a child together.)

Here, Die Anwoord responds to their critics which may be as interesting as the work itself.



Just for comparison's sake, here's something generally considered to be grittily authentic. One could argue––as bell hooks does so eloquently––it's a little too snug within the white supremacist-capitalist-misogynist patriarchy view of blackness. Because of their brand of apparent authenticity they got a free ride on grief for the flagrant political-incorrectness. Even courting anti-homophobe and anti-misogyny advocates like Sinead O'Connor as fans.



Another approach: Here the jesterism is more open-eyed and the violent nihilism eschewed for a more good natured parody approach. Alas, such maturity didn't garner them the kind of sales enjoyed by NWA. (Gangsta Rap, a genre in which NWA would be pioneers, despite bell hooks, would prove to be a huge seller.)



Thanks to Josh Morris for bringing this to our attention.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jack White and The Philosophy of Constriction

Interesting to see how Jack White has become The Power of Limitations guru. (Google it: This may yet be his greatest legacy.) If it were his whim he could probably tour the concept into a self-help empire. (Thankfully, it's not.) The greatest product of the experiment that was The White Stripes may've been how it's stripped-down architecture demanded a creative Zen—simple resources ardently applied. In The Whtie Stripes Method, every gesture and expression required fullness to operate at optimum capacity. Aside from the band's quality and execution––which I think we can all agree were some of the best of the ought tens––the experiment itself was a noble one. Aside from Jack's passion, which was decidedly more acute than most of his peers, The White Stripes had used the same formulas and three chord basics as seen at any coffee house open mic or street corner busker the world over. The difference being that Jack's chords produced Seven Nation Army.



The moral: If you can't do it with a thrift shop guitar, buzzing amp, and your dilettante girlfriend on drums, don't bother. Unless you do it because you can't NOT do it, surrender now. If you're not creating because you can't find the time or energy or space, your equipment or resources aren't up to the task of your grand vision, then give up. You're a fraud. But, if your writing/art/music/dance/acting teacher thinks you can't but think you must, you may just be onto something: Maybe not yet, but eventually. But first: Bleeding, sweating, and crying. What'd you expect, it is war after all (to paraphrase Picasso).

The late Charles Bukowski made a similar point if a bit more abstractly:

So You Want to Be a Writer

If it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
Unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
If you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don't do it.
If you're doing it for money or
fame,
don't do it.
If you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
If you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
If it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
If you're trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
If you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
If it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

If you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

Don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
love.
The libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don't add to that.
Don't do it.
Unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
Unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

When it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

There is no other way.

And there never was.


Maybe not gospel but true enough. Don't do it unless you mean it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gnesa and Effin' the Ineffable

Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987)




You may've seen this, it's been getting around (and over 2 million hits on YouTube). Many have already chimed in with snarky reports. I'm not going to do that. In a generation ruled by AutoTune, Gnesa isn't afraid to go raw. She could've easily scrubbed up her vocals––which here can get as pitchy and flat as a clay pigeon––but she didn't. Behind the make-over and lycra clubwear Gnesa keeps it real (more or less). Even more interesting is the fact that she's not even a singer, really. Her verses more resemble a kind of (nearly) tonal-talking. Her dance skills are slightly more rudimentary than your average exotic dancer but, like Mick Jagger, the raw style may be her signature. There is something curious––ineffable even––about her skill set that makes her oddly compelling. You want to know her story. What drives her? Is it impervious self-confidence, the power of uncrushable dreams? Or, is it all just irony on a fireman's ladder plus stilts? Is her talent so ineffable that most us will never know it or is she just an innocent, a kind of Ed Wood of vanity pop music?

Check the video on YouTube and note the absence of snarky or negative comments. Not a ONE. Of the video Popcrush.com said, "[it] simply consists of Gnesa attempting to give Snooki a run for her money... give Gnesa an A for effort and an epic fail for, well, everything else." Weknowmemes.com said she is "9000 times worse than Rebecca Black." Come on now, that's not fair (except the maybe the Snooki comparison). The fact that her song and video got made at all, as well as Rebecca Black's, is in itself a success. How many never even make that plateau? How many finer wines are there in the world turning vinegar because their holders are too afraid to try? Not Gnesa.

Gnesa FTW.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Still Rotten

On one hand, how could your band refuse a chance to appear on American Bandstand? It's reach was monstrous, its path as mainstream as it got, and its cred totally corporate. Later in his career Dick Clark marketed himself as America's oldest teenager. Truth was, he was more America's youngest oldster. Hip on culture Dick never was––he always came across more as a friend of the parents than of the Now Generation––but on business Dick was mogulsville, baby. (Dick Clark Productions just sold in September for an estimated $370-$385 million.) American Bandstand, while never a significant organ of the music industry, did have stamina and that accounts for something. While the guest list didn't often stray far the most middling of the mainstream (Barry Manilow didn't do its theme song for nothing, you know) you'd think for a band like Public Image Ltd (PiL) it might've been an honor to get such national air time. But when your leader and figurehead is Johnny Rotten/Lydon, a personage whose brain always seemed deprived of serotonin, well, to borrow a line from Hubert Selby: You didn't really expect him to behave, did you?

"Something interesting and special" indeed.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Music that Matters, Pt 3






22. My musical reactionary dad's playlist didn't vary in over 80 years, so the endless sound loop of his big band records may've had a retroviral effect: Ellington, Basie, Shaw, Dorsey, Goodman, etc: Especially Mood Indigo, Ellington's Victrola romp from the '20s when pop music had banjos instead of ProTools. Poignant and compelling like a hunchbacked 6'10" cross dresser in stiletto pumps.


23. Iggy Pop, Funtime and the whole of The Idiot: This record loomed large in my senior year of high school, its proto-industrial sound would later remind me of those Marxist academic malcontents who insist our institutions were designed to make us compliant consumer sheep who hate unions and non-conformity. Funtime was aware of all that but instead focuses only on getting drunk and laid. Intimations of literacy and sophistication from a guy who once sang Cock in my Pocket.

24. Billy Holiday, Strange Fruit: Hearing this you might actually believe Billie sang this under a tree while a dead body dangled from it. THIS is selling a song.



25. Cream, Sunshine of Your Love: I was eight or something when this was on the radio so for me this is the guitar lover's ur-riff. I kind of imprinted on this. By today's standards it's the sound equivalent of a cave painting but for old people like me this is the O.G. balls on shizz, or whatever the current expression for really cool is.

26. Ray Charles, What'd I Say: My twelve-years-older brother played Charles around the house when I was a tot. Charles' voice is at once sexy and friendly, which might be creepy from a guy in a plaid blazer but for Charles it works. The electric piano is way sexy too but not in lingerie-and-heels way, more of a handcuffs-and-dripping-candle-wax way. This is the sound of people having a good time.


27. Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits: I heard this on my parents Magnavox console, a record-player hidden in a cabinet as big as a combine harvester. At one time these appliances occupied living rooms across America like a Levitz designed Berlin Wall. When my parents were out my older sister threw this on and loud. Funk: Like Emma Goldman said, what kind of revolution is it if you can't dance to it? (The much sampled Sing a Simple Song here.)

28. Stevie Wonder, Innervisions: A synthesizer is easily the most abused instrument in Western music (and whatever it is Kenny G. plays); Stevie understood the synth's potential in a way that no one else did (except maybe Eno). Not to mention that amazing underwater Clavinet sound of his. Generally speaking, Stevie is a giant but for three albums in the 70s he was nearly unstoppable. For me this was the best of the lot. (Too High here.)

29. The Zombies, She's Not There: For many years I only knew this song from the car radio; Even through crackling AM static, flutter and distortion this song was the epitome of cool. Still is.

30. Magazine, Secondhand Daylight album: A British band most of my friends never heard of, though several of the members went on to do other things (which they also never heard of). For 2 1/2 albums they were the best band in the universe as far as I was concerned. Long ago I saw them at a toilet of a club called the Cuckoo's Nest. The band played a slow opening instrumental while the singer stood staring into the audience for several minutes wide-eyed and wordless, like maybe he'd just seen his grandparents in Nazi uniforms fondling the gym teacher. You might've expected him to be heckled but no one did. The lesson I took from that moment was sometimes you just have to stand and withstand. Doing it on your own terms is always sexier. (Feed the Enemy here.)

31. The Doors, Five to One: The Waiting for the Sun album was a birthday present from my sister (R.I.P.) and the first record I ever owned. As a child I assumed someone other than Morrison sang this because the voice sounded too otherworldly and dark, even for a guy with Oedipal fantasies. (Now I realize he was just rollicking drunk.) The net effect was a phantasmically insane vocal in both mind and sound. Clearly, he was digging somewhere behind the gates that only a fifth of whiskey can tear down. In the song's last quarter Morrison looses a scream that sounds like the damned on their first day in hell: Awe-inspiring, ugly, beautiful, and god damn if I'd want the to live the life that could produce such a thing.


The Doors in my neighborhood.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Music that Matters, Pt 2

12. King Crimson, Starless: A five minute guitar solo built on one note that—seriously—will make you wonder why every other guitar player uses so many.

13. Thelonious Monk, Well You Needn't: Monk plays the piano like it's another kind of drum. Monk's chords and offbeat strikes make you realize that our hearts probably speak in angular chords played at weird intervals too.

14. Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows: For me, pretty much the best lyric ever written. Cohen's lyrics are like the best guitar solos you've never heard. Amazing to think that his great moment of enlightenment was "I have to sing." You could imagine his superego responding "you fool, with that voice?" leading to an ego versus superego brawl like two poets on a bender ending with the ego triumphant; years follow playing folk clubs and dodging beer bottles and eventually the result is this song. This is the voice of a brilliant frog. (A great song when someone else sings it, too.) 


A respectable rendition by Concrete Blonde here.

15. Steely Dan, Black Friday: Maybe it's true that only absurdity can properly describe our tragedies ("...with nothing to do but feed all the kangaroos"). Black humor also helps. And Fagen's voice serves both masters perfectly.

16. Jacques Brel's If You Go Away: I don't care who sings thisSinatra, Neil Diamond, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Cher (Hell, even Sonny couldn't ruin this)—it's a song that (nearly) transcends the singer. (Streisand covered it first.) It's also the most elegant exploration of psychotic obsessive-compulsive love stalking you'll ever hear. A real weeper out of the right mouth.

17. XTC, Dear God: Beautifully uncomfortable stabs of one person's truth that pretty much captures my religious views as well. Try this attitude at your next sales meeting or job interview: People will be too scared of you to say no. 
18. Velvet Underground, Venus in Furs: An amazing combo of a bondage lyric, eerie slurring viola, a beat that chugs like a room-sized cloud of bong smoke, and a primitive oiled-up-around-the-campfire vibe that works even though it sounds as if it was recorded with a mic stuffed into a tooth filling. Listening to this you might think you could make music like this too. You'd be wrong, of course, but it does give one hope.

19. Blue Oyster Cult, Hot Rails to Hell: A favorite band of mine in high school which exploits the Satisfaction riff again (sort of inverted) but what else should a hot rail to hell sound like? A perfect song for the drive to my teenage hellhole minimum-wage pot scrubbing job.
 

20. Roxy Music, Song for Europe: Bryan Ferry's vibrato is like your hands on ten cups of coffee following a week-long fast at gunpoint. I love how this song kind of explodes at the end. People with better ears than mine say he sings a little sharp. I say we should all be so sharp.

21. Jeff Buckley, Grace: Somewhere in the song's last minute Buckley's voice trips off into insanity: Not the insanity of the homeless guy cursing outside my window at three in the morning, but the kind of genius insanity that only comes from deep breaths of the infinite blowing out a voice that was thousands of years in the making. There's an old rabbinical tale of a man who gets his wish to see the face of god. Afterwards, his friends come to visit and find him hiding under his bed for the unspeakableness of what he saw. There's a moment in Grace where Buckley sounds like he saw it too. Even the most disillusioned cynics may get chicken skin on this one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Music that Matters, Pt 1



Some years ago you may've seen this forward viralizing Facebook:
"The So-called Life Changing Record List": Think of 15 albums, CDs, LPs (if you're over 40) that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it... etc, etc.


No true fan could refuse a taunt like that. So
with a music fanatic's sense of duty, I wrote my own version. Now five years old, this little rant would eventually become the seed for creating this modest little blog. Over time the list grew bigger and bigger until it eventually became the bloated mastodon of joyous self-indulgence it now is. The first ten are posted below with more installments to follow. 

Understanding that music is often at least as much an emotional experience as an intellectual one, often it's the context, associated memories, time of life, etc, that can make a sound archetypal for one person while only water torture for another. To wit: Had it not been for The Cars' Just What I Needed wafting up from the radio downstairs as I was losing my virginity it may've only remained the bubblegum rocker that it is to millions of others. Instead, it will always be the plaque over my gateway to awkward coital bliss. Also, the music of my generation, rock music in particular, became all the more personal for me as my unnerved Swing Era father pretty much took me to task for it my entire life. Culture through music, he was sure, was eddying its way down civilization's toilet bowl. (While some lamented society's doom with drugs and sex, for my dad it was Pepsi-cola.)

As far as the So-called Life Changing List is concerned, I strayed from the original list-of-albums concept and turned it into something more like a compilation of abrupt first kisses that grow into torrid musical love affairs.

1. The first time I heard The Doors at six years old: A hard bossa nova groovelike The Girl From Ipanema as a streetwalkerthat gives way to the hypnotic falling bombs of "break on through to the other side!" For tiny me, it was a kind of Pentecostal moment. 

See Jim lip-synching uncomfortably here.
2. The Rolling Stones, Either The Last Time's hounds of hell fade out on the "no no nononos!"–a sound not found in my parents record collection--or the guitar riff from Satisfaction, the pissiest guitar sound ever. Both sum up perfectly the sound of teenage angst which for me started somewhere around third grade. (See it performed here semi-live without the hounds-of-hell fade.)


3. Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols: All of it but especially Holidays in the Sun: Note the eruption of a break that follows the "over the Berlin waaaaaallllll." Say to yourself next time you think you've done something especially well, whatever it is: Have I thrown down a slab of my great passion as authentic as that? If the answer is yes, then you've been all you can be.

4. Radiohead, OK Computer: The slow burn of Exit Music for a Film. Sometimes a pouty, abstract, and turbercular-looking young Brit is the perfect vehicle.
5. The Beatles, moments by the megaton but especially: A Day in the Life, the "ah-ah-ahs" following "then somebody spoke and I went into a dream." Sucks you into the ether like a wind tunnel at mach III. 
6. Diamonda Galas, the banshee wails of Do You Take This Man: If you haven't heard her she's a brilliant and amazing sick puppy. If the history of female anger could be summed up in one voice, this is the one. (Not that I haven't heard enough female anger in my lifetime, but here, at least, it's interesting.)

7. Lee Hazelwood, Some Velvet Morning: I played this around the house and soon three year old daughter was singing "some velvet morning when I'm straight," most likely the greatest opening line ever. My three year old understood that line's intent about as much as the Bush men-folk do syntax, still, a broken man's lament from the mouth of a babe can be sickeningly cute.

8. 16 Horsepower, American Wheeze: A song about God–not that toga-wearing "purpose driven life" pansy, but the blinded psycho who might've had Abraham go all West Side Story on son Isaac—sung over the hardest bandoneon you'll ever hear and a slide guitar that might've been played with a pitchfork: Magic. This isn't mascara and black leggings style goth but the true demented Gothic: With torches, inbreeding, and a mania for bloody holy-vengeance. The fact that an irreligious soul like me can love this can only be proof of its inherent genius.



9. P.J. Harvey, Rid of Me: Describes wanting someone to a sick excess and then hating them for it because, as it turns out, they don't want you. And then, taking the only appropriate action under the circumstances which is to make their life a living hell. A kind of deep humiliation that requires a distorted guitar and a country girl wail from the bottom of the well for the proper goosebump. 

I don't know if this is definitive but you'll wonder how this petite Dorsett farm girl squeezes all that sound out.

Another version from her performance on Jay Leno and her famous sheep castration story.

10. House of the Rising Sun: a great song done by many but I prefer The Animals version. A little opera about blaming parents for one person's boozing, gambling and whoring mess. Pray our kids don't sing this about us one day. (Fortunately, unlike the parent in the song I'm not a gambling drunk. But then my girls aren't in high school yet. [My eldest began this year.])

11. Led Zeppelin, the fade out shrieks of Whole Lotta Love: About Plant's singing I remember my older sister complaining "This guy is so in love with his voice," like it was a bad thing. The whole outro vamp fade of the song becomes a circle jerk between Plant and Bonham to see who could swing their banana the hardest. (Page's guitar does its territorial pissing all over the rest of the song.) Plant's wail is a castrato howler monkey's from the treetops and Bonzo pounds his sticks with a methamphetamine abandon and that may be his balls hitting the kick drum. The bluesmen Zep stole from, particularly Muddy and Wolf (and Willie Dixon who successfully sued for songwriting credit), did plenty of banana swinging of their own but were loath to bare their chests for real, unlike these guys. Whole Lotta Love may be the apotheosis of the testicular form and anyone who would cover this version without understanding that should be pilloried. (The TV singing shows have provided too many egregious examples.) 

Though, I suspect both P.J. Harvey and Diamanda Galas would have the huevos to do it justice.




Monday, October 8, 2012

"We're Not Coming."

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the Pistols in 2006. As you'll see, they chose not to attend. (While Mr. Rotten gave them the respect of a handwritten note, you'll note that the style of his writing and singing are very similar.)

Wiki devotes a line to the matter but more space to the general controversies of the institution itself which, you may not be surprised to know, operates more like a business and less like a museum.

Also noted that if an artist chooses to attend, induction comes with a price.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

K-pop Is Koming


The post below was published in September of 2012. Recently––December of 2012––a brouhaha erupted over Psy's impending performance for President Obama and some lyrics he performed in 2004 regarding deaths caused by the U.S. military in South Korea and around the world. This article from the Guardian U.K. offers some much needed perspective on the situation. Please read.

His moniker is Psy (for Psycho, nee Park Je-Sang or Jaesang). He may not be a part of the Korean pop music scene AKA K-pop, at least he'd rather not think so. In South Korea he is called "The Bizarre Singer." (This passes for bizarre in Korea?) In the U.S. he may also be a sign of things to come. Americans have traditionally had phobias about music with non-English lyrics but this may be changing. I may be attracted to this for all the reasons that I liked the Archie comic as a kid. Archie wasn't handsome or smart, had freckles and red hair (like me), no ball skills, no money, and no friends outside of Jughead. What he did have was the two hottest girls at Riverdale High fighting over him (at least on the covers, inside the books Veronica was usually more blasé). Psy has the chicks and also no illusions about his quotients of coolness, trimness, or danceness. (See him splash in the bath and sit on the toilet.) But who cares? He still has the chicks and the most virulently watched video in K-pop history. He may also something of a subversive in Korea (see link below).

I was alerted to this video by my 14 year old daughter. She is part of the post-modern generations that care nothing about gay marriage, cultural miscegenation, or music with lyrics that can't be understood. Perhaps they are the Brave New World at last. That should keep the Tea Partiers awake at night.





The Atlantic looks into Psy and gives some context to his video here. Adult son and his 60 year old mother bust a move Gangnam Style here.

Addendum: The records-keeping authority announced Friday morning that Psy’s Gangnam Style broke the record for “Most Likes on YouTube” with 2,141,758. That breaks the previous record set by LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem (1,574,963), Justin’s Bieber’s Baby (1,327,147) and Adele’s Rolling in the Deep (1,245,641). (It should also be noted that Psy is edging close to 100,000 dislikes as well.) Gangnam also has racked up 227 million views [over 823 million by Nov 25], which puts it just outside of YouTube’s list of the 30 most-viewed videos ever. [Gangham Style is now the Most Viewed Video Ever.] Postscript to the addendum: Gangnam Style now has the distinction of being the first video to break the billion mark.

Addendum excursus, etc: Gangnam is now moving into future trivial pursuit territory. Proof is this Berkerly, CA based Korean-American group giving Psy the Nouvelle Vague treatment. Together, the group is adorable but the girl is adorable cubed. Her hand gestures are just so.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In praise of cranky old geniuses

This has been making the rounds: With furrowed brows and evermore furrowed face, Dylan obliged yet another The Rolling Stone Interview, this time in support of his newest album. And that furrowed aspect of that face––the gestural lining, the graying cloud of hair, and the more recent addition of a mustache that is the car salesman's version of debonair––is very much in effect in his words. But then Dylan has always been more dark matter than shining star. As a guy edging ever closer to overripe maturity myself, I have nothing but respect for the old guys who can still deliver big––Leonard Cohen, Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Ian McKellen, etc. (sorry Clint)––and Dylan, now 71, delivers here epically.

The newsy red meat from the interview has been popping up on the interwebs news sources like juiced time lapsed mushrooms. That old crank Mr. Zimmerman just brought slavery fresh into the national conversation again! And, yes, his music referenced the material of others as have many other songwriters in history in a longstanding musical tradition: To this he responds, appropriately: So what of it, m*****f*****? If the new record Tempest has half as much salt and spice as the interview then handle this disc like you would a jalapeña pepper: It may leave some eye-searing burn on your on your fingers. See what all the fuss is about here.

Slightly less geriatric but none the less for it, is one of my favorite bands of all time, Television, heard in a vintage performance captured in their fully muscled prime from 1977 and available for download at Aquarium Drunkard, a blog I humbly submit as one of the best and longest running music sites around. Better yet, if you've been deprived of the experience of this band up till now, then hear it here, now. I've had a crush on this record since discovering it in high school. For me, this record is a rare diamond, un-occluded from start to finish. Really. It's that m*****f***ing good.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Roxy served raw a la 1973

Roxy Music: One of the great twisted voices of the 70s whose musical skid marks were left all over the 80s. They were a band that understood the importance of total integration of branding. In their early period, as evidenced below, their every aspect was a highly overdriven exercise in style: music, hair, make up, glittery fashion, PR, graphics, ambiance, milieu, and all with a quotient of cool as envisioned through a group of mascaraed, ersatz art school twinks. They were stylistically glam and yet miles away from it. They bore vestiges of prog yet had none of its excess or pretension. They had the insolence of punk and the self consciousness of New Wave at a time when New Wave was only used to describe French cinema. Their songs represented shovelfuls of music hall, cabaret, vaudville, showtunes, a thimbleful of The Beatles, and generous dollops of misappropriated Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Blue Cheer. And all of it done in a way that was quintessentially British.

Later on they'd smooth out the kinks and become the sleekly mature and buttoned up sound so favored by the AOR mainstream (see Avalon). It was a respectable move but nowhere near the prime of their kinkier origins. In 1973, their glory was in those kinks. You should love them if you don't already.

See here for an earlier post on one of the great songs from their early mid-period.

1) Do the Strand
2) Editions of You
3) In Every Dream Home A Heartache
4) Re-Make/Re-Model



Thanks to Dangerous Minds and Art Chantry for the prompt.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dum Dum Girls do Ono

While on the subject (see previous post), here's a band of four young glamorpusses doing a tribute to Ono's legendary Cut Piece (originally performed in 1964 and more recently in 2003).



An even more glamorpuss take on the band can be seen in this video.

A film of Ono perfoming Cut Piece.

A description of the piece:
Ono’s work related destruction to interpersonal, often intimate, human relations. This element was particularly thought-provoking in Cut Piece. Ono sat motionless on the stage after inviting the audience to come up and cut away her clothing, covering her breasts at the moment of unbosoming. Cut Piece entailed a disrobing, a denouement of the reciprocity between exhibitionism and scopic desires [scopic being a belabored way of saying the experience that the subject goes through in its interaction with the other] between victim and assailant, between sadist and masochist: and, as a heterosexual herselft, Ono unveiled the gendered relationship of male and female subjects as objects for each other. Kristine Stiles, 1998

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yoko Oh No


Long before she encountered that Beatle, Yoko Ono blazed a brilliant kind of trajectory of her own. Art critic Peter Frank described her this way:
Well before she emerged into popular awareness as John Lennon's wife, Yoko Ono had established herself in vanguard art and music circles as one of the most daring, innovative and eccentric artist-performers of her time. As one of the founders of the Fluxus movement at the beginning of the 1960s, Ono helped identify and define the playful, subversive, visionary sensibility that has undergirded experimentation in all the arts ever since. Her poem-like verbal scores, her films, and her staged performances anticipated everything from minimalism to performance art, the furthest reaches of new cinema to the most extreme of Punk-New Wave music.
That legacy is mostly pushed aside next to her role as Beatles destroying dragon lady. Of course, this isn't true. That story would be far more complicated. Certainly she didn't deserve much of the grief and slime flung at her, then or now. (Ono addresses this point with her critics in her song Yes, I'm a Witch [1974].) The truth is, she never shaped John Lennon into anything he didn't want to be. (A much stronger defense of her can be seen here.) Granted, she has never been well understood. According to the tattling memoir of a former employee, she may've been more interested in her own musical ambitions than Lennon's. (Ono had already performed at Carnegie Hall in 1961.) Though, for her part, she would give Lennon access to the art world. Where Ono's life or work are concerned it's fair to say that none of it gains much favor with only a cursory understanding. (Like the artist herself, her work is both severely complicated and extremely simple.) What she did have was enough force of personality to be able stand with—with, not behind—one of the strongest artistic characters of the 20th century. (Lennon's first wife Cynthia accused him of an attraction to strong women, and in less charitable moments, having a "mommy complex.") As an artist, in fact, Lennon claimed it was her work that influenced him. (Lyrics for Imagine came as a result of reading her book Grapefruit, he would say.) She made him happy in a way no one else did or could; clearly, he was smitten. But for the legacy of her own work, that may have been better served had she never met him.

(And who hasn't fallen in love at least once in their life with someone their family and friends didn't like?)

In 1970 John and Yoko, along with Ringo on drums and Beatle cohort Klaus Voorman on bass, recorded a group of songs in one improvised session. (One imagines Ringo shaking his head in disbelief from the stool.) With an additional session with avant jazzer Ormette Coleman, the sessions would become the Plastic Ono Band album. Ono's vocals were a series of abstract screams, shrieks, and various throaty calesthenics forged into a kind of vocal tsunami (and a little like the break in Surfin' Bird). In Japanese musical tradition this is very much like hetai, a style born out of Kabuki theater. One critic described her vocals as Zen vaudeville. This style may be best represented here:



Upon its release the album found little critical support (although, notably, Lester Bangs and a few others would disagree). You can see how Lennon's audience might have thought she was stealing his head. What's particularly noteworthy about this piece, besides Ono, is Lennon's most un-Beatle like guitar playing, a style wild and raging with abandon like Tomorrow Never Knows played through a randomizer. It's easy to see how the collective jaws of Beatles' fans might've hit the floor.

It would be at least 10 years later that some of the material here served as a style guide for a more experimental wave. Upon hearing the The B-52s (admitted Ono fans) even John Lennon was surprised how mainstream her influence had reached.

As it turns out, Ono's life story was loaded with even more tribulation than her singing: Her sensibility and character may be easier to understand once you know that it was forged out of a life of upheaval and coming of age as a constant outsider. The fact that her artwork explores the engagement of both the audience and artist's self-immolation makes much more sense.

The first time I heard Why? I was floored. Even all these years later, it's still flooring—it's music as emotional karate. The fact that John Lennon would embrace this stuff only speaks better of him.

 Maybe Zen slapstick would be the better description.

What I think we should do in life is to keep dancing rather than marching. Yoko Ono, 2009

Just discovered this: Yoko and John onstage with Frank Zappa and the Mothers for an off the cuff performance. May give some hint as to why Yoko wasn't, er, fully appreciated. (Note how some members of the band go Ono at the end.) Clearly, Yoko is fearless.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reconnecting with Tissue



Those of us growing up in Southern California during 1978-1983 may remember the Long Beach-based Suburban Lawns. Their rise accelerated and gained certain acutity when Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) directed their first video Gidget Goes to Hell. A happenstance that no doubt had everything to do with it being aired on Saturday Night Live. Local radio airplay and print attention followed (their Slash cover at right) leading to a respectably successful album (by local band standards). The Lawns are also one of the few bands of the period that in retrospect don't come off as hopelessly dated. (Or, like all of 80s music, for that matter.) To prove the point, check the local bounty of material available at this site.

The Suburban Lawns sound eschewed the trendy posturings of digital synths and de riguer flanged guitars. making the sound practically classic rock by today's standards. And singer/keyboardist Su Tissue herself (nee Sue McLane), with all her quirks, conceits, vocal sound effects and coloratura—a kind of bottled-up Yoko Ono—still sounds innovative. Features that keep the band's sound as perky and collagen fresh as it was when it was recorded. You might think Tissue's vocal stylings were a mirror to her soul as her onstage persona radiated both an extremity of adorableness and a nerd-like unsocialized quality. Clearly, the band was far less interesting when she wasn't behind the mic. (She was a good piano player too.) Her personal style had its adherents: One fan described her as able "to pull off of a remarkable mix of Little House on the Prairie meets the Manson Girls, beautifully." (I don't agree with the sinister angle of the Manson family, but okay.) Google the band now and find a robust amount of ongoing interwebs activity: Their cult is still very much alive. A legacy that's owed all to her.



The band's complete canon included a couple of singles, an album, and a five song EP before the internal momentum fizzled out. The final recordings pointed toward interesting new possibilities, a kind of Cocteau Twins cum slightly funkier Bowie-Eno trilogy direction, but with more humor. Post-Lawns, Tissue continued studying at the Berklee College of Music (after earlier attending Calarts—poor little rich girl) and recorded a short album of ambient instrumental music—30 minutes of slight variations on a groovey piano figure with added layers of ambiance (done in the days before digital loops). It would've made an arresting soundtrack to a wistful French film at a seaside. All of this would've had us hoping for bigger things to come from her. Alas, it was not to be.

A recent interview with former member Frankie Ennui offers some insight. Find it here.
An original pic sleeve of Gidget Goes to Hell is on eBay for $55.

All of these should be long out of print now.
Download:
Suburban Lawns: Gidget Goes to Hell self-issued 7" inch single (1979)
Suburnan Lawns: Baby from Baby EP (1983)
Su Tissue: 2nd Movement from Salon de Musique (1982)

A personal note: Once, I was in a band. We had the opportunity to open for Suburban Lawns at the Cuckoos Nest in Costa Mesa, CA ca. 1981. The Lawns at the time were getting loads of local air play. As was often the case, I'd have school and work the next day (community college, no Calarts for me) so I'd gather up my equipment (an organ and electric piano/harpsichord [pre-digital], a guitar, an amp, cords and sundry other crap that'd require five trips to the car to load) and leave early as was my habit. (During my time we'd play with Jonathon Richman, Violent Femmes, X, The Go-Gos, and other bands long gone from memory. I'd leave before they all went on too. Yeah, I was a fool.) The club was quite packed that night (we didn't often get to play to full houses so it was very exciting—it was the peak of my very, very short musical career). We did very well that night. The audience was loud and enthusiastic and we were beside ourselves. (Our band was also co-ed: two girls and three boys.) Our success had apparently unraveled Ms. Tissue. She paced around the "backstage" loft before going on and talked to herself unconsolably in a kind of repetitive Rain Man way. (This was a secondhand account told to me by another band member.) I could only attribute her reaction to her highly creative and requisitely insecure artistic nature. I never got the chance to see her live but from what I've seen on YouTube, while the band was certainly interesting they could appear a little stiff on stage. As a young man admiring Tissue from afar, she was a nerd's lust fetish of a girl: Cute, physically awkward, unpretentiously brilliant (I'm guessing), socially clumsy, and just diffident enough in ways that young men can ruthlessly exploit (again, I'm guessing). I'm sure I would've loved her. Even now, imagining her in her overripe suburban middle-age with pictures of the kids covering the dust-covered piano she's still the thinking older man's bohemian heartthrob.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Taking liberties with Libertango


Did you ever have to go digging into academic journals for research? Then you know of their prison romance with language: the overuse of overlong words and arcana, words bent, twisted, and hammered into misuse, and language generally used as camouflage. From my experience, art journals are some of the worst offenders of all. (Once, a professor red-inked a friend's paper to "eschew sesquipedalianism." Or said another way: Try using smaller words and bigger ideas. Indeed.) But, if you do have to slog through the art journals in the course of your career then I recommend the Dadaist and Surrealist periods as some of the cleverest noodlings ever committed in the service of Ivory Tower shop talk. A favorite image of mine comes from French poet Comte de Lautréamont AKA Isidore Ducasse: As beautiful as the chance encounter on an ironing board of a sewing machine and an umbrella. For me, a description of how the beauty of words and images of art can, in the best circumstances, make both order and logic irrelevant.

A sewing machine and an umbrella in this case are not unlike the collision between Astor Piazzola and Grace Jones: He being the master of the Nuevo Tango (a mix of tango with jazz) and a demigod of Argentina (so you'll hear in the video below)—and she being the Jamaican-born dance club diva, actress, model, muse, proclaimed friend of Piazzola, erstwhile scenemaker, and general all style bombardier. Libertango is far and away the most most significant tango ever composed, having found its way into about 500 different recorded releases (according to Wiki). This lyrical version, dubbed I've Seen that Face Before, was a hit for Jones in 1981. Well beyond the tango, Libertango is, to my mind, quite likely one of the greatest melodies ever written, anywhere. As a dance, the tango can be like the Kama Sutra on stilts. As a rhythm, its roots are both of Europe and Africa—Africa being the key ingredient to any dance with a sexy wiggle in it. At times the tango takes on a marchy 2/4 beat, but it's a march that walks with a hard on. Though, it's a sexiness that can't be separated from the images of the dance. What Grace Jones did with her version here—the more rigid tango-iness smoothed out, its hide retooled like a vaquero's leather bandolero, and all of it pierced through with an electrocuted club beat—leaving behind a teasing amount of the original melody but with just enough of its own substance to keep things at an intriguing throb. Kind of like the joke comparing sex and pizza: Even when the song is bad it's still pretty good.



Jones was 61 at the time of this performance. Her near golden age voice is still punchy though it ventures closer to Rock of Ages territory than it might've when she still wore a fade. Even still, she seizes the stage with a lusty bravado that her younger peers would have to admire. And fer crissake!, this grandma is wearing a thong!

During her peak in the 80s Jones created a niche for her take on dance club music that drew on slightly more hipster source material—Iggy Pop, Roxy Music, The Pretenders, Edith Piaf—as well as a battery of horny entendre-loaded, synth drenched joints of her own. With her Jean Paul Goude get-ups, iconic style, and ever-present chat show spectacle, she cut a refreshingly notorious figure. If you care nothing for her music, you've still got to admire her durable and unshrinking image.

Here, below, is a more traditional take on the Libertango melody presented in a geeked-up, dry hump musical fantasy. (Here, Yo Yo Ma's even more straight ahead version—minus the hump.) The jagged and yet hypnotic quality of the Libertango melody brings visions of crotch-grinding and high slit leg flashes while still needing nothing of the tango itself to melt all on its own. The song is utterly universal: I can't imagine how anyone, anywhere couldn't love this tune. Just can't. Surrender and just dig it.



That Kama Sutra on stilts in case you need reminding:




Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The world could not support that many ballerinas: Fleetwood Mac & its footnotes - acid, infidelity, & a little bit of suicide


Just before everything blew up
You've probably heard about Bob Welch's passing. For those who don't know, he was the singer-guitarist-songwriter from Fleetwood Mac's middling middle period of 1971-74. His greatest contribution to the band may've been in leaving it: His departure would unleash the band's destiny of mega-platinumtude and fertile tumult under the Buckingham-Nicks juggernaut. (A grouping that clearly kicked up Christine McVie's mettle as well.) Despite all that followed in his wake, Welch would play a significant role in the band's adolescence. Interest from American audiences spiked during the Welch period, a time when American radio was awash in Jackson Brown, Carly Simon, The Eagles and singer-songwriters peddling squishy introspectives and world consciousness. Perhaps it was the waft of ocean breezes and Ozium shrouded weed Americans responded to in the Southern California-born Welch's voice. (The band's first U.S. gold record Future Games would also be Welch's—and Christine McVie's—first with the band.) Or, maybe jaded Americans had just had enough of the blooz and Welch's folkier version of melodic pop was the sound they were looking for.

Peter Green (née Peter Allen Greenbaum) formed Fleetwood Mac in 1967 after short stints in several bands including replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. (The Bluesbreakers were another band best remembered for the those who left it.) From Mayall, Green recruited Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. Despite Fleetwood Mac's considerable critical and financial success, Green's restlessness would continue; he departed after only two years and eight months. (It's been suggested that Green gave the band its name so McVie and Fleetwood could more easily continue without him.) One might even argue (I would) that those two years and eight months may've been among the most prodigious of any band of that '67 - '69 period. To wit: Mac's sales in the U.K. under Green would exceed The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined (according to the Man of the World doc). Before Green departed (a story now the stuff of legend—think Syd Barrett's acid bingeing only with cult abduction), he'd record three albums. The records were inspired if not extraordinary blues and if that's all they were we probably wouldn't be mentioning them now. Even when considering the period in the honeyed glow of retrospection, only one of those three albums gets much critical respect today. Mysteriously, much of their best recorded work, certainly their best singles, were left off of the albums; Green Manalishi, Albatross (a rejiggered version of this became Lennon's Sun King from Abbey Road), Oh Well, Black Magic Woman (a flop for Mac but enjoying the half life of uranium for Santana thanks to Classic Rock radio).  Further proof of the historical myopia we've come to expect from record execs.

I happen to be of the mind that Green Manalishi and Oh Well are among the best songs to come out of the sixties. To back that up, you should note that Green's roster of A-list fans—Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, B.B. King (who famously said Green was the only guitarist to make him "break into a cold sweat"), Joe Perry, Carlos Santana, Steve Hackett (of Genesis), and on and on—are only too eager to issue frothy superlatives for the man. 

Green Manalishi:


Oh Well


Green going it alone:



In his autobiography Mick Fleetwood admitted that the band probably owed its early seventies existence to Welch. A period featuring a cocktail of strife and drama that would shadow the band with all the usual rock-life trappings—egos, drugs, alcohol, and infidelity—but with the added thrust of short-lived guitarist Bob Weston's hook up with Fleetwood's wife. Weston would be sacked and a distraught Fleetwood would force an immediate cancellation of their tour. Coincidentally, Mac footnote Weston died only days after Welch. According to Weston's obit in the Telegraph, the seventies for Mac would've been the stuff of quintessential reality TV: Christine McVie would hook up with one of the band's crew (the apparent subject of her You Make Loving Fun) and legendary Beach Boy philanderer Dennis Wilson. Stevie Nicks would have her own rock star hook ups and John McVie, less interestingly but thoroughly rock and roll, nearly drank himself to death. Maybe it was all of this darkness the surviving members were trying to forget when they shunned Welch at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. (Green was there.) Or maybe it was Welch's lawsuit against the band for unpaid royalties.

The dispute would find closure as Welch took his own life on June 7th. As the obituary in People magazine notes, Welch's note indicated that suicide was his response to a certain future as an invalid, the result of a debilitating spinal injury. You have to respect Welch for the gallantry of not wanting to be a burden to his wife. He knew what he was in for: He'd just buried his own invalid father only years before. You'd hope an event like this might inspire discussions in our culture about choice in our end of life decisions in particular, otherwise known as euthanasia, and healthcare options in general, but that'd probably be asking too much.

Once, Dr. Jack Kervorkian had the compassion and courage to seize the frontier in this debate. He was rewarded with prison. Since then, it seems the subject has been closed.

But I digress: Hypnotized was one of Welch's best known Mac compositions. The song addresses Welch's acute interest in UFOs. He would also write a song about the "very true" supernatural power of the Bermuda Triangle and the Air Force's conspiracy to keep it secret.



After Fleetwood Mac, Welch formed the trio Paris with ex-Jethro Tull bassist Glenn Cornick. Though Paris may've represented some of Welch's best work, the band recorded two albums to little acclaim and sales. Welch followed with a hot flash of platinum success with his solo album French Kiss, "a mix of hard rock guitar, dico-ish rhythms, and sweeping strings" (according to Wiki). But, the success would be brief: Welch squeezed out one more gold album before dropping off the charts completely.

Hear one of Welch's best songs from the Paris days, Big Towne 2061, below. (A live rendering from 1979 can be found here.) I noticed the CD of the album was going for $80 on Amazon.



Download: Paris - Blue Robin

As you may've guessed, the title of this post was taken from the season finale of Mad Men.