Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back stabbers and g.e.'s top 10 singles

As May draws to its inexorable close, we'll end the photographic 45s essays on a high note.

B-side The Seeds, "Pushin' Too Hard"

Like all good lists, the one below is a of a particular moment in its "synchronicity." It is not a list of the 10 best singles ever made (well except for entries 1-3 but then that was obvious!) but rather of my 10 favorite singles to listen to. I've added 3 honorable mentions for a nice round baker's dozen. The last singles removed from earlier versions of this list: The Box Tops, "The Letter" & The Grass Roots, "Temptation Eyes." I decided some of the latter's credit was blowback from the Blake Babies's fantastic cover and that wasn't right. As to the former, Alex Chilton doesn't need my approval to maintain his cool! Without further adieu . . .

My Top 10 Singles (anything but Long Players)

1 Freda Payne, "Band of Gold"
2 The Clash, "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais"
3 Otis Redding, "That's How Strong My Love Is"
4 Funkadelic, "One Nation Under a Groove"
5 The O'Jays, "Back Stabbers"
6 My Bloody Valentine, "Feed Me With Your Kiss"
7 New Order, "Blue Monday" the original "floppy" 12" (FAC 10)
8 The Buzzcocks Spiral Scratch EP (New Hormones 1/Mute 9122) esp. "Boredom"
9 Screaming Trees, "Flashes" Change Has Come EP (SP 48)
10 The Three Degrees, "When Will I See You Again?"

Honorable Mention

The Beach Boys, "In My Room"
The Beatles, "She Loves You"
Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)"

I'd love to see your list in my comments sections; there's always good old songs to remember and new ones to discover!

Friday, May 29, 2009

you're the Top, not!

The past two weeks my daily visits have been way up, still not anything that would get noticed by a serious nethead but quadrupling hits per day is a step forward. How would I know? Sitemeter, my own personal Panopitcon. much of this is due, of course, to Simon kindly linking to my entry in his "I Hate —" T-shirt competitions. Still a suspicious number of visitors' referrals started at a Google search for this image! Effing Dan Brown.

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss?; or the problem(s) with binary thinking.

Well not really. as we concluded last time there does seem to be a real shift going on in the music industry. And one can only assume it will affect the way scenes invent and constitute themselves. in a virtual world of MySpace do you still really need a physical locale? of course, at some level you do, but still and all . . .

However, this is also a good time to reassess the way we talk about culture and to get over/past one of my personal bugaboos: either/or binary thinking. Even Williams' famous tri-partite model of culture as emergent, dominant and residual is nothing more really than a 3D bell curve sliced along the y-axis. Factor out the temporal 4th dimension and you've basically another binary opposition UP/down or in /out. Don't get me started on all the subversion and containment nonsense which here rears it's ugly head in early Center research by Hall at others on Resistance Through Rituals and the way it infected the "New Historicism of the late 80s early 90s in my other field.

For example seeing the world in two dimensions or as a reflection of the options provided by two distinct and supposedly opposed choices fails to truly flesh out the complexities of life in its full dimensionality. Now I'm not going to blather on about twelve-fold strings or propose some kind of numeratist GTOC as the 2nd cultures answer to the wholy greil of the GUT. I do not mean to essentialize the study, analysis, discussion, and understanding of popular culture in its many manifestations through varying media for a simple starter cut-off. Rather I seek something like Geertz's notion of Thick Description but wit the caveat that the observer always already affects what he observes yielding moot the notion of Universal Truths & Cycle(s). Sure we must try to mean what we say but we must allow that we often misspeak or at least the linguistically encoded in a lexicon as rich as English's is the probability of noise, misapprehension, indeterminability. The ambiguity which is the true spice of life.

Well I seem to have circled around my topic dropping bunker buster ordnance without making real headway and it's now Friday quittin' time at 3 past 5, so I'll reel in. But we'll come back to these shoals and fish out some conclusions over the weekend. I promised after that only one more topic: the whole idea behind generefication.


Map ref 41n 93w; or, about places in/and space.

Now that the 7" scanning frenzy has ramped down, I return, at last, to Part deux of an extended meditation brought on by the great 'Nuum debate which occurred elsewhere and was chronicled, theorized, K-punked, woebotted, and impostumed starting here at one of Simon's other places. My intervention , no really more of an extending aside, a theorizing sideswipe, will avoid almost any mention of Hardcore, dubstep, or grime except these I just made. Why? because honestly I have nothing useful to add in that direction to what has already been said before. But the more generic questions of scenes and genres are issues that have plagued my waking hours (and perhaps even some more sleeping ones) since at least 1982 AKA sophomore year in Cambridge.

Back then I wrote an extended and intricate analysis of the Preface to Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy (162) Surely you know it "Democritus Jr. to the Reader"? A classic case of self fashioning, self-consumptions and several forms of self abuse rolled into one tight prose ball. Yes, I basically re-created Stanley Fish's classic text on same, Self-Consuming Artifacts, which I only discovered after the paper had been returned. Herschel Baker, no slave to fashion, was kind enough not to tell me what he REALLY thought of such conceits at one of our frequent meetings in his smoky Widener carrel. I suspect he and Stan the Man must have had some titanic intellectual brawls over Milton back in the day! But then everybody forgets Fish's first book was a rather straightforward reading of John Skelton's oeuvre: John Skelton's Poetry (New Haven: Yale UP, 1965). Even the master of misdirection himself admits the banality of said book, or at least its title:
Ever since my first book, “John Skelton’s Poetry,” was misclassified by Books in Print as an edition, I have tried to come up with titles that announced (sometimes in words that were too clever by half) that the content between the covers was original and even outlandish. I think I got pretty good at it — “There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech and It’s a Good Thing Too,” “Self-Consuming Artifacts,” “Professional Correctness,” “Is There a Text in This Class?” — but I can’t hold a candle to the headline writers of the New York Post.
—Stanley Fish, "Headline Art," The New York Times April 19, 2009.
There I go again just like the titular Don Juan off topic and away . . .

So back to the harem or at least, a contained space about/in which we can think about the meaning of the concept of "scene."

When speaking of scenes I think of metaphorical homes: musical ones, social ones, spaces and places. But we must remember after Bachelard that the scene as home is nothing but a substitute, a kind of home while still not a home. Because eventually every one leaves the scene whether for the next one, death, a new life in suburbia, or some other conversion experience.

Why are scenes so important to emergent music? And in many ways even more so to residual tones? Raymond Williams would alert us to the fact that as a dominant cultural form, certain musics don't NEED scenes to survive. they have late modern capitalism and all its inherent self-replicating systems and yet the digital bug has gotten inside the analog world and basically crushed it. Kind of like a post-modern Boll Weevil. Newspapers dead and dying, music magazines closing left and right and/or shrinking and "Re-Positioning themselves with the marketplace." A&R types running scared shitless any which way they can trying to figure a doable fiscal model for the 21st century music "industry."

That's at least a start. I want to riff with Simon on Jameson re: time and place. But like many a long jam I've gotten to the bridge on Part 1. Part 2 on the flipside.

Shannon; or, it's a dog people.

Cue Kasey Kasem's "These Guys Are from England" rant.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I write the songs.

A Colloquy

Why is this record autographed?
Therein lies a tale.

But it's from you and you still have it?
You're beginning to see the light!

Do Tell
Well, when I was in 10th-12th grade I sang in a local youth choir as the senior member. In fact junior and senior year I was the only member of my class participating so I got all the solos. Something of a minor local celebrity at the time what with various swimming championships, my own local Coca Cola ad, National merit semifinalist, Key club President, soon to be an undefeated Brain brawl team and individual champion, I was frankly a little studette as far as a nerd can be. There was this one girl in choir who kept making the googly eyes. Turns out she had one of the worst cases of puppy love I've ever seen. It got both embarrassing and uncomfortable as she would follow me everywhere silently a few steps behind. That and she was 13 but with a body going on 18 . . . ouch. But then I'm not Wooderson and was never tempted by the gal young 'un. Obviously one just waits for it to runs its natural course, right? Well no I was a smart alecky 16-year-old, so of course I came up with some crackpot scheme to end it quicker. It involved music naturally. I would give her The J. Geils' Band 7" "Love Stinks", and she would come to her senses . . . . D'oH! Of course she would have seen the gift and only the gift, not any subtle message it presented. Note how subtly I underlined the song's title. With a weekend to sleep on it, I wised up and have kept the record as a memento of this event and my near-folly. Summer passed. She entered the local high school and fell in love with a 10th grader who had moved in across the street. Naturally I was "crushed" at the loss of this "relationship". And so it goes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And now for something completely different . . . or what really caused Watergate, aka, the missing banjo tapes!

A long-lost friend no found from elementary school (John G. Riley ca. 1972) writes she's enjoying Steve Martin's new album The Crow. I remind her that he opened for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on the Will The Circle Be Unbroken Tour? ca. 1973 at FSU's Homecoming in Doak Campbell Stadium. She replies
yes...'the banjo is a happy instrument,maybe Nixon should have played a banjo things might not have gone so badly for him...'

I dramatize
Scene The White House: 'And Banj-O Was His Name-O [majestic strumming] Name-OHHH. That's aaah aaah aah all folks [extended pause as tape runs] Ah Rose Mary . . . John Dean-O wants to know how that take-O sounded . . . What? . . . Erased?!! . . . HOW MANY MINUTES? . . . ()%&#*($%$U** PINKO Liberal COMMIE _*^%#@#*(*%^& Uncle Joe was RIGHT . . .Get Me Haldeman. Tell Him the Usual Place in 10. [Phone slammed on desk. silence except for drumming of fingers against microphone] . . I'll get you, you . . .' And scene.

Now that's what I call a Foggy Mountain Breakdown!

Lonely boy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Misunderstood; or, in memoriam j.w.b.

Playing the studio wizard a la Dave Barbe to Jeff Tweedy's driven founding visionary from out of an earlier famous indie band a la Bob Mould, Jay Bennett and Barbe probably never got quite their full due for immense contributions to their band's output. Bennett's recent lawsuit, now probably moot whatever its merits might have been, suggested as much.

In Wilco's recording history, there's a great leap forward between the debut A. M. and the follow-up Being There. It's easy to forget after Uncle Tupelo broke up that Farrar and Son Volt were the early critical favorites despite putting out their debut second. Seems like many folks were in some kind of Tra(n)ce.While Farrar continued to twiddle on Straightaways, Tweedy found a new co-llaborator and rushed out a double sold as a single, Being There, in 1996. Wilco never looked back critically or commercially. Son Volt where are you now?

So Wha'appen? Two words—Jay Bennett: multi-instrumentalist, maximal partaker in Greil's "Weird Old America" vibe, obsessive perfectionist studio engineer, but what ears. In retrospect Yankee Hotel Foxtrot's massive critical presence was all about the production business model narrative and not so much the music itself. Never a good thing. I have plenty of friends who love the new Wilco version 3.0.1b and from what I've seen and heard they are a mighty fine and tight band live but the records seem much of a muchness; not fresh and new while still partaking of a nativist musical tradition dating back into the 18th century. That's what Bennett brought to the table and that's why he always will be the "SOUL" of Wilco to me!

I've been pleased to discover some critical movement re-assessing the whole Tweedy v. Bennett thing post-I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. Read esp. the two Chicago "beat" writers, Kot and DeRogatis to see the Sound Opinions coalescing.

So simply I'll close with this after Willie The Shakes

Friends, Amer'cans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Bennett, not to praise him.
The feedback that men do lives after them;
The melody oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Bennett. The noble Tweedy
Hath told you Bennett was slacktivist:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Bennett answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Tweedy and the rest--
For Tweedy is an reasonable man;
So are they all, all reasonable men--
Come I to speak in Bennett's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Tweedy says he was slacktivist;
And Tweedy is an reasonable man.
He hath brought many fans home to Live Nation
Whose very fees did general coffers fill:
Did this in Bennett seem slacktivist?
When that the poor have cried, Bennett hath wept:
Slacktivism should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Tweedy says he was slacktivist;
And Tweedy is an reasonable man.
You all did see that on the Inner Loop
I thrice presented him a Golden gong,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this slacktivism?
Yet Tweedy says he was slacktivist;
And, sure, he is an reasonable man.
I speak not to disprove what Tweedy spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is [breaking] in the coffin there with Bennett,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Still the one.

Following up on the calypso series, this is a random look at the 45s I bought in my deepest 7" phase ca. 1974 (age10)- 1979 (age 15). They will be presented with minimal commentary although they might be arranged in somewhat provocative manners . . . I'm just sayin'. No parts here. Each photo essay will choose one 7" song title as its own.

Ex Officio 7" 20 years after the fact in a new digital media age

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Calypso (part v); or, i can't get started.

What a conceptually great record cover. Kinda makes me yearn for an old Quadrophonic surround sound stereo system.

So THAT'S why they call IT a "JOY"stick!

You might be on a bad day Mr. Shelley, but boy do we want you to keep jerkin' back and forth . . .

Who knew The GREAT ONE had a legitimate alternative career beyond standup and TV gigs. I certainly didn't until I stumbled upon this 45 EP. A quintessentially 50s swingin' artefact.

I close with arguably the greatest mainstream single of the 1980s the last decade in which I bought 45s in any quantity.

If not that one, then surely this.

This concludes Calypso series 1. After a Memorial Day break, I might do a shorter second series focusing more on the heartbreaks of our collections, the stuff we bought when didn't know any better. You know more Maxine Nightingale less MoB, "Max Ernst." You'll be amused by such "faves" as this.

Come as you are.

A singular teaser for next week's post-Memorial Day photostream of my youthful 45 collecting: good, bad, and ugly. The Emotions, a girl group founded in Chicago 1968, hit #1 with this gem for 5 weeks the summer punk broke—1977. They were seen as proteges of Earth, Wind, and Fire's Maurice White. The finished the year #3 In the Billboard Hot 100 behind Rod Stewart, "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)" and Andy Gibb, "I Just Want To Be Your Everything" and ahead of Barbara Streisand, "Love Theme From 'A Star Is Born'." The biggest selling single of the 1970s in the Uk was Wings Nov 1977 charttopper "Mull of Kintyre/Girls' School." As to the most significant singles in the UK in 1977 . . . well I think I might start here with an "official" #2 [this space left blank] but always #1 in our hearts, minds, and phlegm globs and then move onto The Clash, "Complete Control".

Saturday, May 23, 2009

No sugar.

Your band's name in lights . . .well or on the marquee, at least.

Bored fan

You call THAT a Mosh Pit?

Grants as "Main Offender"

Loverboy called and they want their pants back stat!

Junior Keith Moon devil in training!

Get your CD here.