In May of 2004, Thomas Bartlett sent me an email containing some out-takes from an interview he had done with Stephin Merritt for Salon:
“There was a section of the interview that the editors, for some reason, decided not to include. I asked him if it was fair to say that he consistently preferred music by white artists to music by black artists—if he basically didn’t like African-American, and African-American derived, music. As evidence (as if any evidence was necessary), I cited a feature he’d done for Time Out New York a few years back, where he picked a favorite song or recording from each year of the 20th century. The list of one hundred songs was pretty laughably short on black artists. His response was to look carefully through the list, and tell me that, as best as he could figure, there were exactly eleven songs on the list that were ‘produced, written, or performed by’ black artists, and that eleven percent of US population is African-American, but that it was less for much of the 20th century, so in fact he slightly over-represented black artists on his list.”
Joe Gross writes: "In case you weren't sure who was the illest band of all time." (For the shy, is it Sly and The Family Stone playing "My Lady" live at Ohio State-maybe 1969? 68?)
On a parallel track, the hardest song I've heard all week is Little Milton's live version of "Let Me Down Easy," available again on his installment of the Stax Profiles series. The song was originally released in 1973 on "What It Is (Live at Motreux)." On this song, drummer Calep Emphrey wedges himself into an historical spot between Al Jackson, Jr. and Rey Washam. Little Milton sings the song to smithereens, most smitheringly when he draws out a high falsetto drone for almost a minute. I kept turning up the CD to make sure I was hearing a sound, and that it was a sound Little Milton was producing with his voice. I was, and it was.
If I had time, I would transcribe all of Lou Rawls' "Street Corner Hustler's Blues," a spoken word bit that segues into the live version of "World of Trouble" included on the forthcoming, posthumous Rawls best of. His routine raises some issues: Did Rawls get his propers? Should Chappelle should have been driving around with Lou instead of Mos Def?
Def Leppard: Putting "Waterloo Sunset" down like a champ. Kicks ass all over the Matthew Sweet/Susanna Hoffs covers album.
The Futureheads: Why the slowing down? Not the slowing down!
Black Helicopter: Dinosaur Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr.
"People who know well such animated city streets will know how it is," Ms. Jacobs wrote. "I am afraid people who do not will always have it a little wrong in their heads, like the old prints of rhinoceroses made from travelers' descriptions of rhinoceroses."
Read this piece from yesterday's New York Times.
1. Where, and when, does the author undermine the concept, put forth early, of the "bad old days"?
2. Who looks out a subway window? Isn't acid etching a kind of border dispute settlement, leaving all the ugly-ass aluminum to the MTA's Virginity Assertion Initiative and ceding writers the much smaller real estate of windows that no one ever looks through? Except to make sure they haven't missed their stop? Which you can still do, even with acid tags? (EXCEPTION: When you're rolling on elevated tracks. And if you're going to Shea, it's wicked fun to look at all the warehouses, especially the one with the polka dots.)
"Mr. Bandier said he was not musically inclined as a child, although his dream was to grow up to be a member of the Temptations. 'That didn't work out,' he said. 'But it doesn't matter now because I own all of their stuff.'"
"Once again, the furious arms reaches out for another edible cigarette."
"Dad, those aren't really cigarettes."
"I think he knows that."
"Dad? Why won't you do tiger style?"
"Because we're in a restaurant."
"We don't care."
The Tom Moulton CD K wrote about yesterday simultaneously justifies the existence of record nerds and puts them out of work. When the crates are dug, they'll have to find new petroleum. Which is fine—this stuff should be easily available, running loose in the digi-sphere. I expect I will have similarly warm feelings about the Larry Levan compilation when I get to it.
I will be reading poems on Monday at the 11th Street Bar between A and B. 7:30 PM sharp. Here is the same information, in different words, on a different website. The reading has been organized by Failbetter magazine.
How many times can I listen to "Good Morning, Captain"? Apparently more times than many.
Check iTunes on April 25. Check for The Streets. Maybe buy it.
Last night, I ate at Next Door Nobu. At approximately 7:17, La Lohan and her posse swept in and took the nearest round table. There she was, mere feet away. Yazoo! Her newsboy cap came off. On the street, no looking! In here, Please See Who I Am, Mr. Fish Man. The posse: Lohanella; her little sister Aliana (a pinched face under an unhappy halo); The Momager (who looked like she'd been rolling around in a clothes dryer for three days); two young women; and a man. Guesses of provenance, in order: publicity, choreography, friendship. Lohangiano and her friends played with their Blackberrys, musique non stop. LL Cool L looked uncrazy and stable, though distracted, tired, and maybe even plain old sad.
"Be Part of The Phenomenon" is the tagline for the forthcoming Da Vinci Code movie. See the billboard? White letters (or are they numbers?) break off from a thick clump in the lower left corner and begin flying over the Mona Lisa face. (Nerd bukkake? The linked poster is slightly different from the rectangular billboard on 42nd and 8th. No idea what the enormous one looked like.) A puzzle you'll be solving, rabbit. Maybe a game, now it is.
Perhaps we're building to the most embodied commodity of NOW, a product synergistically co-branded with two big market stars: a video game that will bring back Christ. Video games are subscriber goods (I made that up: apologies to economists for not using the proper term of art), a hybrid of software and hardware: you have to buy the thing over and over, never fully getting the goddamn thing, which gives the game an aura of regeneration (like Christ) and impossibility (like Christ). (By contrast, new cars are bought every five to seven years, on average, but when they fall apart, companies keep you in the spending loop with peripherals, accessories and repairs, though they can't be sure you won't pay these monies to a third party.)
Anyway, the prospect of making Christ return will have the youth buying new cartridges forever (or putting in quarters, if you're all Missile Command). How the game will promise this matters little, like most promises now. SPECIAL EXTRA-CHRSTY UPDATE: This just in from Eric Church, via song: "I believe the Bible is cold hard fact, and I believe that Jesus is coming back before she does."
"Do you know why I like watching cars?"
"Because you never see exactly the same person in exactly the same car."
Snow Patrol: It is OK to admit that you are having a hard time. You may need time apart from your "self." Reintroduce yourself to the things that have always made you happy. Be careful of sharing too much information with those around you. Give yourself some quality moments—see an old movie, take a nice long walk, visit the local job centre.
Allison Moorer: Now is your time to speak up. Don't worry about being in anybody's shadow. Put your fucking mack down. Seriously. Drop a three. Pop that shit. Most truly.
Gnarls Barkley: Are you rushing into new friendships too quickly? Don't doubt yourself. Revisit the happy moments of your past; take out old photo albums, and think about that great song you wrote for Tori Almaze. (You, the fat one—I'm talking to you.)
The Walkmen: We can't read your stars, but we do have a question: What is with the Dylan? What is WITH THE DYLAN? Did we miss three albums?
"Hi, baby. How you doin'? When you get home, call me back. This is Charlene, 'bye. I'll see you at school on Monday, OK? Bye. How was your vacation? And I hope that you're OK. OK? Bye."
Some country singers name politicians by name and pick up ideological baggage by its academic handle. Most, though, choose to tease out the political in everyday life, unpacking mundane acts, many of them compulsory, be it going to work or opening your eyes. This topicality is an implicit imperative of country. If you threw a dart at the country charts today—or if you had done it in 1976—you’d hit a song that reaches social facts through stories told in clear, literal language. Jamey Johnson's tearjerker "The Dollar" describes a father who works too hard, and the child who offers him “some pennies saved up from the tooth fairy” so he won’t have to; the narrator of Kenny Rogers’ new song “Someone Is Me” notices “cigarette butts lyin’ in the sides of the street” and a “swastika sprayed from an aerosol can” and ventures that “somebody should do somethin' about it—maybe that someone is me”; and Jamie O’Neal’s 2005 hit “Somebody's Hero” is a paean to a stay-at-home mom caring for a young daughter who grows up—in a typical two-generations-in-one-song move (see also "Wide Open Spaces")—to care for that same mom, now in a different home: “The envy of the nursing home, she drops by every afternoon, feeds her mama with a spoon.” Everyday problems get more airtime in country than in any other genre, especially if you consider drinking an everyday problem.
This would be a killer Indigo Girls record.
"Hello, I'm not sure if I have the right number. This is Rich, the guidance counselor at PS XXX. I'm calling about Martha. She seems to be very sad because of her grandmother's passing. Could you please give me a call? Thanks a lot, bye bye."
Charlie Rose recently underwent heart surgery. To keep his show going, a bunch of people are guest-hosting individual segments. I am one of those people. Last Thursday, the nice people at Bloomberg taped me interviewing Fiona Apple, and this segment will air tomorrow night, the 11th of April.
Continuing my fit of Yes-saying, I agreed to be the house band for Jordan Davis's excellent Million Poems Show this Wednesday. This event will take place at The Bowery Poetry Club at 6:30 PM. Joshua will read some of his poems, something called The Higher Lows will happen, and I will be on stage far too much.
And on Monday, April 24th, I will participate in the Failbetter installment of the Reading Between A and B series. The event starts at 7:30 PM and takes place at 11th Street Bar, which is mnemonically located between A and B.
More surprising than the city-spanning appearances of my big old gob is that fact that I now enjoy the work of Cocteau Twins. I cannot entirely account for this. Parsing my taste is so not-whoa that I will make an observation a Twinshead must have first made years ago. Elizabeth Fraser often sounds like Chrissie Hynde, nowhere more than on "Fotzepolitic," which is essentially a translation of The Pretenders' "2000 Miles" into Hopelandic. (Please do not email me to point out that the lyrics of "Fotzepolitic" are in English.) In a related transformation, The Raconteurs have turned "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" into a Brendan Benson song called "Steady, As She Goes." This may have something to do with the fact that Brendan Benson is in The Raconteurs. I enjoy Benson, and The Raconteurs old school CRT website.