Static and the final word. Or: If it goes without saying, why say it?
Chronicles aka "The Dylan Book"
Didn't I tell ya he'll never let you down? Where do I start? It's crazy, sane, wicked funny, big hearted, cryptically poetic and straight up all at the same time. A mindfuck of a book. And just like... ah... flat out good fun. Dylan reveals surprises one after another. His peers? Frank Sinatra Jr., Johnny Rivers. His loves: Mickey Rourke, Rubber band sling shots (the kind they don't make anymore). Mentors: Gorgeous George, Jim Dickinson. A full meal and damn satisfying in so many ways. Dylan gives us the last word on Dylan and he's only getting started. A random insight: After years soaking up every thick book he could beg borrow or pull down from the shelf of the heaviest cat's in the east village, Dylan taps into the holy grail, when he strikes gold with an acetate John Hammond Sr. gives him of a poisoned dead blues singer who died by misadventure (Robert Johnson who was poisoned by a jealous woman- legend says he was on all fours, barking like a dog when he drew his last breath). Dylan's insight into all things Robert Johnson is alone worth the price of admission here. Ever the original, his dissertation quickly dismisses the whole tired Hollywood sold-his-soul-to--the-devil mythological/made for the big screen corniness and mathematically breaks down the genius of the King of the Delta blues. He sight's his admiration for the throwaway lines. This comes at the end of the book but only marks the beginning of a body of work that eclipses everything he set out to emulate. Dylan spells out how among other sources of inspiration, he distilled his own voice out of the 20 songs that Robert Johnson's recorded and incorporated them into his own bag off tricks in ways no cornball Dylanologist could have guessed. Dylan was eager to turn his mentor Dave Van Ronk on to his discovery -- but alas, Van Ronk wasn't feeling it. This is where Bob Learns to trust himself. It's a monster moment and just one of many moments big and small that stack up on top of each other page after page. Dylan let's us into his mindspace as he pokes around the past with an amazingly vivid memory or imagination (whichever the case may be). An unlike most instantly disposable showbiz books, he let's a lot of people off the hook and resist's the temptation to settle scores. Although I chuckled a little, bracing myself for a little dirt, when he recounts that somewhere during the Oh Mercy session in New Orleans, after fighting over how to cut a song till three AM, upon setting out the door, he turns to the high priest of pretense Lanois and asks, "Danny, are we still friends?" Day-um! Bobs got feelings too! I couldn't help but feel for the dude. I guess that's why we love him.
When I first heard JJ Cale, he sounded to my ears like he was from another galaxy or at least another planet. As well he should, he's from Oklahoma you know. I've heard this record by chance twice in the last few weeks. Once at 3 AM as we were loading out of the Du Nord—Kelley Stoltz was DJing and laid the needle to rest for the whole of side one after a long unrewarding night of humping gear and songs, (the drudgery, those steep steps, urgh!) it changed the mood of the room and immediately lifted my spirits. Heard it again last night spilling out into the St Francisville cabin park, after three days of rain, the air was hanging thick—the crickets were cricking and the major 7th chords of Magnolia mixed in with the sticky atmosphere. It sounded beautiful and smelled heavenly. Made me wish I could freeze the moment. Got me thinking back to seeing JJ live at the GAMH in San Francisco with Stephanie and Rolly Salley so many years ago, I remember overhearing someone over my shoulder whisper, "which one's JJ?"
Mystery man? I got your mystery man.
Angola State Prison Rodeo
Today is the 40th annual Angola prison rodeo. Just a few miles down the road from the Magnolia, this is where convicts dressed up in cowboy duds are dared, (sign up for the chance actually), to successfully grab a red poker chip from between a Brahma bulls horns for a shot at $1,000. And then there's "dead man's hand" where the last guy sitting at a fold up table clutching his playing cards while being terrorized by angry bulls gets a prize. The gnarliest blood and guts rodeo out there bar none. Angola state pen was once the home of Leadbelly after he was convicted of first degree murder. The legend is that the warden gave Leadbelly a pardon for singing so good. Louisiana has a history of stories like this—I'm told of one where the sheriff personally takes a blues singing prisoner to his Friday night gig only to pick him up 2 AM and return him to his cell. They've got this odd respect for musicians down there. The rest of the country should take notes. Angola is also the scene of real horror. Wandering around the Angola Museum gift shop where I purchased a cool hat, I know it's hardly an original thought, but I can't help but wonder, how can our government kill to show that killing is wrong? How does that make sense? And why is it that without exception, every person who's ever been executed in the history of USA is dead poor. Period.
Featuring Howard Tate
Hal Wilner's Randy Newman tribute at Royce Hall
Speaking of Louisiana. The most riveting—the most emotionally devastating musical moment (the best kind) this year had to be hearing Howard Tate sing Louisiana 1927 at Hal Wilner's Randy Newman tribute at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus back around the holidays 2003/2004. His voice clear and true and pure as anything I've ever heard sang of `rain and water 6 feet high in the streets of Evangeline'. At the time, I was in L.A. trying to cut a record and it wasn't exactly flowing. My soul brother Greg Leisz invited me down to this star studded event. Sitting in the balcony all by my lonesome, I was as the kids say, feeling it. Maybe Tate's performance was made all the more poignant knowing that he had himself crawled from the wreckage of his own life to be there to sing it. Later in the show he returned to sing Every Time it Rains. It hurt. Made this boy rather homesick. Everyone brought those songs home that night. It was godhead. Transcendent even. And the singers that didn't bring `em all the way to home plate—the songs brought them home. Victoria Williams, Davey Farragher, Vic Chestnut, Gavin Friday, Rip Torn, Bob Neuwirth, and a bunch of others, I can't remember. Lotta love up there.
Randy, you missed out dude! (Newman had played the night before but was a no show for the tribute) I know you think you would have hated it, but I think you'd have been surprised—I know I was. Just about the sweetest circle jerk a Randy Newman fan could hope for. Me? The session I was in LA for? I cut bait and went home the next day.
London Calling reissue
I originally bought the cassette issue of this record second hand at Rasputin's in Pleasant Hill. It was still five bucks or so (it was a double album after all). I remember because they used to identify the price with a little colored Avery label dot --yellow in this case. I had saved up and purchased one of the early ghetto blasters from some electronics place on Main St. in Walnut creek. I listened to this cassette and nothing else. For a short while there, I had a job at a flower stand and I actually dropped the cassette in a bucket of water. I freaked. Warped the hell out of it but not enough to get me to stop playing it. I think I still have the cassette. Strange, all the things I don't have anymore. Anyway, I always heard more than a little Dylan in Joe Strummers phrasing and snickering spittle. On the bonus CD of rehearsal demo's AKA the Vanilla Tapes, I was thrilled to hear Strummer leading the Clash through a Police and Thieves like, ska'd up version of Dylan's the Man in Me from New Morning. That song was always a backroom at the Albion staple. I suppose I got some satisfaction in knowing that I'm wasn't crazy about that connection. This record is still a kind of blueprint for the kind of records I aspire to make. Taking their cue, I learned to embrace all the music around me. Country music, disco music, top 40 whatever you want to call it music, anything goes. These Clash guys—the Four Horsemen of the punk apocalypse. Anything goes. There's the ragtimey folk music of Jimmy Jazz. The straight up disco of Train In Vain. The Bo Diddley goes to Jamaica of Rudie Can't Fail. Rockabilly's Brand New Cadillac. Themes of survival that spoke to me, (I was living with my folks at the time going to a fairly posh school but hey, it's was all about survival man! and this was the soundtrack). Identity crisis's, endurance and even a bit of history, (Spanish Bombs). Rambunctious, righteous, religious and rocking. Heck, they could really play! The grooves! The horns! And just for grins a (huh? what?) hit song! (don't forget the record closes out with a almost straight up little disco number called Train In Vain). A bona fide smash. Instantly timeless and contemporary all at the same time. Do you know how hard that is to do? Sing Michael SING! A rare thing. A minor miracle. Can't name a bigger record right now. If they re release it in another 25 years I'll but it again.
Ghostface's Take Me Back Morrisey's First of the Gang To Die
The World is Full of Crashing Bores and How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I feel?
The record that ups the ante set by Johnny and June with Jackson. It's hip hop. It's theatre. It's pretty damned engaging. Ghostface is one sensitive dude. Don't let him tell ya otherwise. He may not know it himself, but I do. Sure he roars out of the gate pissed off, spitting at his bitch, but he does an about face within 32 measures, "You want me to take you back? "No disrespect but you were psycho honey -- you want ME to take YOU back?" He goes on to bitch about the price of jumbo shrimp ("a buck fifty for eight!). And indignantly spits, "That wasn't right calling the cops on me!" Ghost's girl retorts: "Your sex wasn't wow but I dealt with it/three was a crowd but I dealt with it. Who loves you baby, breaks up your weed...? Ghostface breaks down: "Remember when you was drunk, you went behind a tree and pee'd . Damn I miss that shit!" Take me back. Take me back pretty please!" Take him back why-don't-ya?
I don't know hide nor hair of the Smiths. I spent a season or two in England back in the day when they were ever-present. Green On Red's crew/agency's management overlapped into their world. But, I was a snob, if it wasn`t Bob Dylan I didn't want to hear about it. I recently heard this track on the radio and had to hear more. "We are the pretty petty thieves!" sings Morrisey in a song about some gang banging character named Hector, over a kind of electrified Ronettes thing with like 20 guitars—it's weirdly cool. Cruising music 2004. The tell me he's got a loyal following in the Latino community. Multo bizzaro.
Phil Crumar CDR
Phil Crumar is originally from DC. I think he's been creeping around the Mission district for years now. He comes off like Ghostface on the shoulders of Kris Kristopherson. I can only fantasize writing songs this great. He burned me this CD of a record he's working on and it's brilliant.
This song really killed me.
Six Feet Under
I wished I could run a revision on my SFU ravings from the previous Chuck's Corner installment. So, here it is. Seems like I turned around, I blinked and it went all Melrose Place on my ass! Sucker punched! How was I to know they'd pull more than enough soap opera tricks to make Aaron Spelling blush? Oh my! the shame! The hypocrisy! The spiritual decay! Rip the mask off of a seemingly normal family with more than it's share of kinky conflicts and what do you get? Tori Spelling! How could I have been such a chump?
I hate to front, but Yo, I got this CD from a faithful supporter at a show recently. What can I say, it's one of the perks of the gig. A CD of Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick studio sessions. Most of the tracks are sans vocals. Just a rhythm section and string overdubs. Listening to these arrangements up close and getting inside the nooks and cranny's is really something. It's like a breathtaking view into Bacharach's brain. Rock and roll it aint --of course it never pretends to be, but make no mistake -- it rocks. The guitar chinks cut with a diamond cutters precision—you could set your clock to `em. There's even a Dionne Warwick stunt double on one track. Why dude? Presumably, Dionne was on the road pimping previous masterpieces. Gorgeous, fascinating shit.