Blastitude 11
issue 11  dec 2001/jan 2002
page 6



Chicago Live Report, early edition
There's a common belief about improvised music, that the concert is more important than the record. If this is true, then why is it that when I go see a duo performance between Peter Brotzmann and Ken Vandermark, all I can think about is how much I'd rather be back home, listening to Machine Gun or Nipples (or for that matter, the Revolutionary Ensemble LP I was listening to when I left) than seeing Brotzmann perform right in front of me...Okay, so maybe the reason is Vandermark...I'll admit, that anti-Vandermark essay by Stanley Zappa in Bananafish #14 rang fairly true. Still, the single greatest musical moment of the evening, I think, was during one piece when Brotzmann stopped playing (a rare occurrence) and Vandermark made his monstrous baritone (bass?) sax sound like a goddamned rubber band. A particularly quiet rubber-band at that.
       The second (or perhaps first, by a hair) greatest moment was the entire opening piece, when Brotzmann played a regular ole clarinet and made it sound, yes, like a "shenai" or a "muezzin." I don't even know exactly what those things are, but there was a heavy Arabic influence on what Brotz was doing...winding snake-charmer scales and off-the-hook vibrato. At times during the latter part of the piece, he stopped fretting notes altogether and just started rubbing the clarinet really quickly. You could say he was making the phrase 'masturbatory clarinet playing' ring truer than ever before, but it still sounded really good.
      Speaking of the Revolutionary Ensemble LP, I'm back home spinning it again, and DAMN...this is a good album! Not as heavy metal as the ESP-Disk "Vietnam 1/Vietnam 2" release, it takes more of a Sea Ensemble approach. On the Inner City label, released in 1978, and appears to be self-titled. I declare it a lost classic and think 4 Men With Beards should reissue it. I didn't know about it, just bumped into it at the Sulzer Regional Library up in Chicago's Lincoln Square, so I have to give it back. I have a feeling it hasn't been reissued on CD yet. Oh wait, this is supposed to be a column about live music...back to the Vandermark/Brotzmann show...
      Yeah, don't get me wrong, it was cool to see 'Herr Brotzmann' play live, and, to refer back to last issue's harangue, worth the (standard) $10 admission. wasn't SUPER cool. The $10 Derek Bailey show I saw WAS super cool...I left feeling like I had been privy to an EVENT. I knew I could've seen a 'greater' Derek Bailey show...but it was still intense. As for Brotzmann, it was something to see his multiphonic, muezzin-like, and really quite altogether LOUD techniques happening in the same room, but I still felt like their approach was just soft vs. loud or fast vs. slow or 'demure' vs.'blowing guts out.' There's a VAST amount of territory in between (or beyond) these two poles -- ask the Revolutionary Ensemble or Anthony Braxton and his solo alto) -- but these guys are falling for the same one-or-the-other dynamics that made (makes?) emocore so tedious.

Cecil, did you hear about this one?
The other day I watched two different videos. One was part ten of that Ken Burns Jazz documentary and the other was the Andy Kaufman-hosted episode of Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special. (1981.) During that, while videotaped sitting on the couch in his home, Kaufman explained various things about his life and his art. He related the anecdote (well-known to Kaufman scholars) about how when he was a kid he would perform to an imaginary camera in the wall of his bedroom, revealing that every day he would perform "four hours of programming." This was a fascinating parallel to an anecdote told in the jazz documentary, about Cecil Taylor; at some point, in the early Sixties perhaps, Taylor would perform a full concert every night in his apartment. He never had an audience, but it kept his music sharp and developed. Andy Kaufman and Cecil Taylor...two poles of a particular axis in the Blastitude universe.......

Sung to the tune of that Buggles tune...
The biggest threat to a good record store used to be its employees: used record stores with a large staff sucked because all of them bought (and stole) the very best records that came in. Used record stores run by a lone proprietor often had a better selection, because once the lone proprietor had his/her home copy of any one 'very best' title, he/she could put all the rest that came through into the regular stock. Now has totally killed the record store, because the lone proprietors and the large staffs alike all just hold back every desirable record that might otherwise make it into stock so they can sell it on e-bay for potentially inflated auction prices. A longtime friend of mine co-owned the best used (and new) record store in Nebraska (and a couple other states in the area), Omaha's Antiquarium, but he quit a couple years ago when he realized he could make more money selling records exclusively on, which he's done ever since. Then again, I've only bought one record from ebay (Carnival in Babylon by Amon Duul 2), and I felt ripped off because it was a cut-out (the seller forgot to mention there was an entire corner of the cover completely missing), and that the shipping cost another $3. That's why I'd still prefer to find stuff at record stores...if they didn't all suck now.

More Blueprints!
Every now and then I write a nostalgic essay of some long-gone era of taste in my record-listening history. In an earlier issue, there was a story about listening to the band Newcleus while I would breakdance. Well, a few years before that, when I was around 8, 9, or 10, I was really into spaceships. This was in the years right after Star Wars, with the original Star Trek still shown on syndicated TV. Me and a couple other nerdy elementary school cohorts fell for spaceships hook, line, and sinker, and we got in deep. So deep, we would beg our moms to special-order us expensive (like, over $10!) 'technical manuals' that featured 'blueprints' of the spaceships and gadgets that were invented for these entertainments. A series of books authorized by Star Trek was especially good, with pages and pages of straight-faced, realistic blueprints of the Enterprise. My Mom didn't give in to my begging, but my blueprint buddy Trevor 'got his way' a little more often, and we used to pore over his copy for hours.
       We were also into good ole rock music. Boston's comic-booky AOR hit "Don't Look Back" was a favorite of ours. We wanted the album anyway, just so we could own a piece of the radio, but when Trevor brought his brand-new copy to school one day, I could tell it was special before he got it out. He described what it was in an awestruck tone: "The front cover shows a giant spaceship shaped like a guitar! And on the inside....there's blueprints of the spaceship!!!" He had said it! The magic word! Blueprints! I had to have my own copy, and saved up $6.98 (plus sales tax) of allowance money and accompanied my Mom on the twenty-mile trek to the Pamida's store in Shenandoah, Iowa, the nearest place that I knew would have it. At the store I broke out the velcro wallet and did the deed. Back in the car, I tore off the plastic shrinkwrap and, enveloped in new album smell, breathtakingly pulled the inner sleeve out. The blueprints! (I'll admit I remember being slightly disappointed with my own copy. It was cool, but just a view from the top and a view from the side, with none of the detail of the Star Trek Technical Manual. When I got home I blasted "Don't Look Back" and swooned to "A Man I'll Never Be" but even then I didn't think the other songs were all that hot -- for example, "Party" was a lame rewrite of their previous album's token 'party' cut, "Smokin'.")
         That was 1978; a year earlier I had a somewhat less fulfilling experience with a rock album with a spaceship theme. The record was the Electric Light Orchestra's Out of the Blue, a double LP. I had to have it because of the radio hit "Mr. Blue Sky," which I adored. It also had the rocking "Turn to Stone." While spending the summer at my grandma and grandpa's house, things came to a head. They lived in very rural Chase County, Kansas, a beautiful, almost mystical place but not especially entertaining to an 8-year-old sci-fi nerd. In one spare room, Grandma had an antique looking but presumably functional record player. She seemed to think it would work just fine if there was a record I wanted to buy "in town" (Emporia, 18 miles away) with my "savings." There certainly was! At the Flinthills Mall Musicland, Out of the Blue had its own display right in the doorway. I grabbed a copy and bought it, declining to even browse the rest of the store.
         Back at Grandma's, I rushed to spin "Mr. Blue Sky" first, even though it wasn't the first song on the album. Its first few bars offered the expected rush of pop bliss, but then...the skips began. An almost constant barrage of skips, making it impossible to listen to my dream song. I tried other tracks on the album, but to no avail -- this record sounded ruined. My grandparents recommended that I take it back and exchange it for another copy. It was a long few days before another trip to town was scheduled, but we got the album exchanged. There was no doubt in my mind that this one would be perfect...but it was just as skip-ridden. Worse, in fact. I was fully ready to make yet another exchange...third time's a charm, right? I had to hear "Mr. Blue Sky" unsullied. But Grandma recommended that I just get the cash back. If it had happened twice, it might not be a fluke, and Emporia was just too far away to keep traipsing back and forth exchanging albums. She was right, but the cash was a small consolation for the loss of "Mr. Blue Sky" and what I assumed to be several other ELO classics.
       But time really does heal all wounds, and I pretty much completely forgot about Out of the Blue. Until recently, when J. Hischke of the Flying Luttenbachers mentioned that Weasel Walter's secret all-time favorite band was ELO, like he's got his free jazz/death metal/brutal prog thing goin' on, but when someone puts on Out of the Blue, he goes weak in the knees and a tear of joy comes to his eye. This seemed rather anomalous to my friend, but then he wasn't a 9-years-old radio addict when ELO was huge...[Weasel responds via e-mail: "Just to clarify, I have no 'secret love' for ELO. It's very public (to the point that they've been on my site's recommended listening list for years now). However, I don't like Out of The Blue that much. There's a lot of filler on those LPs. I prefer New World Record and Eldorado."]
       And just earlier today, my desire to own that elusive album came rushing back. I was in a decent little Chicago record store called Planet of Sound. When I entered, the clerk was playing Love it to Death by Alice Cooper, very loudly. The track: "Long Way To Go," sounding stellar. When the song ended, there were a few moments of silence as a new record was cued. I heard one clerk say "Oh yeah, gotta hear the fade-in!" The other, as he put needle to vinyl, agreed, "The fade-in is hot!" As I dug through the bins, my ears were piqued, and within seconds came the churning synth-overdrive introduction to "Turn to Stone." And yes, the fade-in was and is very hot. At the counter, while spending three bucks on the Tar Babies' Honey Bubble, a better-than-you'd-think underground white-funk LP on SST Records, I asked "Is Out of the Blue for sale?" "No man, that's Bob's copy from home!" No problem, no big deal...I'll find another one.
       After leaving the store, on the way down the sidewalk, I told Angelina the whole story about how I was into albums with spaceships and how frustrating my experience with Out of the Blue had been. I realized that the problem almost certainly had to have been with my Grandma's antique record player. It probably hadn't been used in months, if not years, and it surely needed a new needle. Back then, I was too young to question the fidelity of my Grandma's household items.
       POSTSCRIPT: In researching this tale just an hour ago, I found an honest-to-goodness punchline to the story from the ELO bio at "The platinum-selling double-LP, Out of the Blue, appeared in 1977, although the record's success was tempered somewhat by a lawsuit filed by Electric Light Orchestra against their former distributor, United Artists, whom the band charged flooded the market with defective copies of the album."


Celebrity Blurring
Going through ancient unlabeled videotapes from the dusty recesses of my shelves, I screen a few seconds of a lame-ass SNL skit in which Dana Carvey plays a cowboy telling "Tall Tales of the Recession." His small baby-faced stature and ludicrous redneck accent make me think of David Spade playing the title character in the recent Hollywood formula comedy Joe Dirt. Inevitably, with all this redneckitude, Jeff Foxworthy comes to mind. And here the celebrity blurring begins. It's not so much that you're mistaking one for the other, it's that they're so interchangeable as entertainers. Interchangability is something we take for granted from any entertainer, thanks to Mr. TV Remote, but these guys are eerily interchangeable. Their height, hair-color, and complexion are all roughly similar. Though the accents differ, they're all some variation of 'Middle North American', and their voices all have the same basic pitch. Can you think of any other incidents of celebrity blurring?

Short takes...
It's finally winter in Chicago, with a snowfall of 8 inches...keep those shovels handy! I've finally witnessed first-hand the Chicago winter phenomenon I'd previously only heard about, where people put furniture on the street in order to 'reserve' their parallel-parking spot...the idea being that if you had to dig your car out of snow before you could drive it, then by golly that spot better be waiting for you when you get back...understandable, but it hasn't snowed for about five days, and people still have their ghetto-ass baby-chairs and rickety card tables 'decorating' the streets...and if you move somebody's shit and then park there, they'll slash your tires, drag keys across you door, etc....I think it's kind of silly, and if people have to do it there should be an unwritten rule than any one car only gets one 'furniture-reserving' per blizzard....speaking of Chicago customs, this guy I work carries around a camcorder and likes to get footage of the freaky girls in his West Side hood. Our job involves travel, and at this hotel room in Wisconsin Dells he was showing me and the crew some of his cinematography. There were scenes from his friend's brother's bachelor party where the strippers were getting ALL the way nekkid. He said he had footage of them doing some even freakier things to the guest of honor, but we didn't get a chance to watch that part. I went to take a pee, and when I came back more freaky shit was goin' on: some dude was actually holding a girl up on his shoulder. She was wearing little daisy duke shorts, and letting him more or less just pose her in freaky porn-mag positions as my co-worker got it all on tape. I said "So these are more strippers?" He looked at me for a second. "Naw, man...this is McDonalds, man..."




1. Angus Maclise
He's the patron saint of this magazine. He played in the Velvet Underground, which gives him a rock pedigree, but hell, if his wall-to-wall conga-wailing on jams like "The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda" aren't ROCK, then...well, yeah, that's the problem, not enough folks realize that tracks like that are ROCK -- not 'loft jazz' or 'free-form psychedelia' -- just ROCK!
2. Angus from the Liars
This quite tall Australian is one of the few ROCK frontmen I've seen in a while who doesn't dress up like he's being a 'rocker' for Halloween. He actually just stretches out and ROCKS, chanting away, wailing on his antique delay pedal, spreading his frame all over the place. The Liars don't do anything special or cute, they just....ROCK.
3. Angus Young
I fucking love AC/DC (Bon Scott era, natch). Angus has made his Gibson SG wail -- one sound, one setting, no effects boxes ever -- for 27 years, but anyone with hips should know that the reason their music so instantly slays is the way Angus's rhythm guitarist brother Malcolm (and the bassist and drummer, of course) chugs. When I was 12 years old, Angus Young was the No. 1 Angus, with a bullet. Thing is, it was by default. Now that I'm 31 and I know of a couple more Anguses, he can't help but slip (albeit respectfully) in the ranking. Now if we were ranking Malcolms.......
4. Angus McPake
Organist and guitarist for contemporary Scottish "las vegas grind" type band The Thanes. Don't know if they're any good or not, never heard 'em, but Angus McPake might be the single greatest rock'n'roll name of all-time.
5. Angus McBean
Took the very well-known (albeit rather gay, in the non-sexual sense of the word) photo that appeared on the cover of Please Please Me by The Beatles.
6. Angus Gaye
Session drummer. Worked with Burning Spear. Getting kinda obscure here. Not as many Anguses as I thought.



"Why Does Everybody Hate The Strokes?"
by Joe S. Harrington