what's that sound?
Been listening to the Parson Sound double-CD a lot. Mostly just
the first jam, which I listen to over and over, the one where
the vocals go "you couldn't show me what to do...you should
have showed me what to do..." and the background guy (credited
with "drums and seance") goes "JAA! JAA! JAA! BLAA!"
It's mad, kids.
'Scuse Me While I Think About Putting In A Different Video...
My wife and I happened to rent this disappointing made-for-Showtime
biopic called Hendrix last week. We also rented Guy Ritchie's
highly acclaimed Snatch (that was not a Madonna reference)
but, against our better judgment, decided to put in the biopic
Any hope the mis en scene
might have had -- the lead performance by relative unknown Wood
Harris is actually pretty good -- is ruined by lacunar scripting
& editing, anachronistic set design, and the fact that none
of Hendrix's original music could be used on the soundtrack. A
pickup band performs cover versions of "Hey Joe" and
"Wild Thing." The singer is not good at all, and to
have an actor lip-syncing on top of it borders on unwatchable.
The guitarist is actually okay, but still can't hold a candle
to the real thing, especially when it comes to a recreation of
the live solo
performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Elsewhere,
we get Toronto not passing for London (no matter how many double-decker
buses keep driving by), Billy Zane not passing for a mustachioed
Brit manager-tyrant, and MTV-style montages of historical newsreel
footage not passing for an historical zeitgeist.
We still made it through
the whole thing -- it's brisk enough. At the end, we learned that
Hendrix passed away on September 18th, 1970. This was striking,
because we had put the video in at about 11:30 PM on September
17th, so by the time said information appeared on the screen,
it in fact was the 31st anniversary of Jimi's death. From the
internet later that day, I learned that Showtime had premiered
it on September 18th, 2000, the 30th anniversary of Jimi's death.
By renting the video on a whim (free coupon from Blockbuster)
and choosing it for viewing over a more acclaimed Guy Ritchie
feature, we had synchronistically stumbled into observing an annual
requiem for Jimi.
The movie wasn't nearly
good enough for that to be fitting, so the next evening -- before
midnight, of course -- I broke out all kinds of Jimi Hendrix albums.
The first song I played was "Who Knows," the lead-off
cut from the Band of Gypsies LP, but that was just to set
the mood while Angelina got a drink of water in the kitchen. When
she returned to the den and joined me comfortably on our area
rug & pillow ensemble, I picked up the needle and jumped ahead
to track two, the epic "Machine Gun." After that we
played a song that had already, long before we met and long before
it was used in the 1993 Cameron Crowe sapfest Singles,
been a sentimental favorite of Angelina and I both: "May
This Be Love" from Are You Experienced? When that
song's introduction, a languid cascade of noise guitar, came out
of the speakers, Angelina exclaimed "Yes!" as fond connotations
came rushing in. She agreed that "Machine Gun" was epic,
but rightly sensed something a little sloppy and unfocused in
its quiet-to-loud-and-back arc -- Hendrix thrilling and wailing
and crying to the heavens with his guitar but not quite tying
it down from one section into the next. The mood is still extremely
heavy, but credit is significantly due to the Buddy Miles-and-Billy
Cox backbeat (Crazy Horse move over!) and Miles also thrills,
and gives good arc, with his vocals that come in at the end of
City Girls Fan Club members only...
The Carnival Folklore Resurrection series has been more or less
practice tapes/demos/live tapes, records that don't feel as much
like "albums" as they do "missives." Of course,
SCG has always messed with these distinctions -- one of their
more fairly respected albums, Valentines from Matahari,
was recorded live to a cheap boom-box in what sounds like about
40 minutes of 'studio' time. Either way, Sumatran Electric
Chair -- volume six of the aforementioned 'CFR' series --
feels more like an album, recorded in the studio and featuring
what feels like a 33.333/33.333/33.333 mix of songs, instrumentals,
and musique concrete, sequenced with great attention to what all
great works of art need to suggest: an arc, that is, an overall
shape and duration.
Totally bizarre song. I heard it for the first time ever a couple
weeks ago on WNUR. A single riff repeated over and over again,
with a doo-wop chorus singing the word "families" each
time the riff goes through its cycle. Cheesy, but drony, and the
voice of the guy jive-talking over the top was too much, like
he was trying to imitate a Puerto Rican teenage girl from the
Bronx or something. I was thinking "This is so weird it almost
sounds like Lou Reed. But of course it isn't." I called up
the DJ and sure enough, it was Lou Reed, a song from The Bells,
that album with Don Cherry. Maybe that's Don helping to honk out
the riff, but it sounds more like a sax section. Is the whole
Bunnybrains "For You I'd Kill" (recorded in 1989 despite
the topical title) sounds a lot like Jad Fair, specifically one
of the early Half Japanese rockers. It's sounds so much like an
early Half Japanese rocker that it's just as GREAT as an early
Half Japanese rocker. I guess the difference is that the Bunnybrains
get a little nastier with the imagery, repeating "For you
I'd kill!!!!" over and over in a high howl. But it's not
quite totally evil -- like with Fair, you get the feeling that
the singer might be a shy wise library nerd in real life. Besides,
the band makes it so groovin', that geekiness, barbarianism, and
killing are just puppet issues, with grooving being the
Did you know that the words "grocer" and "grocery
store" are related to the word "gross"? First there
was the Middle French adjective gros, which meant "thick,
coarse." Its feminine was grosse, from which Middle
English derived the word groce, which simply meant "an
aggregate of twelve dozen things." So, a grossery
is a store where twelve dozen (give or take) of any one good is
up for sale....What's up with Teri Hatcher in those commercials
for Howie Long? She's looking kinda skinny or something...What
are they selling again in those? I've seen about fifteen different
ones and I still don't know....When in the Chicago area, try El
Ranchero tortilla chips -- the best tortilla chips I've ever eaten,
and they have "No Cholesterol!" Made right here in West
Chicago, on South Kedzie Boulevard. Look for them at a Mexican
grocery, like Cuatros Caminos on Milwaukee & California....The
last movie I saw in the theater was From Hell, the Jack
the Ripper thing with Johnny Depp directed by the Hughes Brothers.
It wasn't quite excellent or anything, but it does linger in my
memory. The currently hip adjective "dark" actually
applies...Speaking of From Hell, and skinniness, has Heather
Graham lost a little too much weight?
I don't mean
to sound like Greil Marcus, but when Blind Willie Johnson sings
and plays "If I Had My Way I'd Tear The Building Down"
(recorded December 3rd, 1927) it's so intense and loud and growling
and DEFINITELY out of tune that it indeed sounds like he could
tear a building down. Greil would add something like "Tear
down the guitar, tear down the harmony, tear his own vocal cords,
tear down anything. Even after September 11th, 2001, I still want
Blind Willie to tear that building down."
I don't mean to sound like Robert Anton Wilson, but my five-disc
CD player's "shuffle" function is sending me synchronicities.
In addition to Blind Willie Johnson's Dark Was The Night
collection, I've got a couple discs from Captain Beefheart's Grow
Fins in there too, and just now, Beef's version of "Yer
Gonna Need Somebody On Yer Bond" ended and the changer shuffled
right to Blind Willie Johnson's original version, which is titled
"You'll Need Somebody On Your Bond."
Beefheart aficionados will recognize
that phrase, as it is repeated many times in the 19-minute jam
"Tarotplane" from the Mirror Man album. "Tarotplane"
is credited to Don Van Vliet, because when he added another refrain,
"I'm gonna take yuh for a ride in muh tarotplane," they
stopped calling it a cover. Even when it was a cover, it wasn't
much like how Blind Willie Johnson played it -- more a drone-blues
raga-stomp, a thrice-as-hard Grateful Dead.
And, for synchronicity no. 2, also in the
shuffler I have the 6-song CD that accompanied the copy of Richie
Unterberger's book Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers I
have on loan from Chicago's Harold Washington Public Library (an
amazing building, by the way). Earlier today, before
listening to these CDs (are you on the edge of your seat or what?),
I was reading Unterberger's chapter on Fred Neil, about how he
had written the song "Candy Man," which became notorious
when Roy Orbison recorded it and put it on the flip side of "Cryin',"
which was to be a smash hit single. Ah, but the shuffler hasn't
taken me to the Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers
disc, which Fred Neil doesn't even appear on, but once again to
Grow Fins, specifically to a moment from the Trout Mask
Replica "house sessions," where in between performances
by the band Mr. Beefheart can be heard performing an impromptu
solo a capella rendition of .... "Candy Man"!
Olivia Block is a Texas native and Chicago resident who composes
long-form works that combine field recordings with live instrumentation.
And she's cute too!