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Archive for May, 2013

“C Jam Blues”

Posted by purplemary54 on May 30, 2013

When I typed Oscar Peterson into the search bar over at YouTube, this is the first video that came up.  Since I know virtually nothing about Peterson, I chose to use it for today’s clip.  Glad I did, because this is a pretty cool tune.

In case you haven’t already guessed, Oscar Peterson is another one of my dad’s jazz favorites.  I was going through some old vinyl the other day, deciding what to keep and what to let go.  I decided to hang on to the Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson LPs, along with a few others.  Even in the 1950s, when Rock & Roll was being born and my father was a teenager, he gravitated toward jazz.  This clip is from the mid-60s, around the same time he would’ve met my mother, but I’m sure he’d been listening to Peterson long before.

He was a quirky dude, my father, with eclectic taste.  He loved jazz and poetry and archaeology.  He studied ancient Egypt as a hobby; he read The Iliad and The Odyssey to my brother (I remember hearing the Winnie the Pooh books).  He could recite pretty big chunks of “The Jabberwocky,” and would frequently read Robert Service poems out loud.  He liked to drink and talk and argue.  My grandmother used to say he never met a stranger.  My mother said once that he could build you a ladder to the moon, and come in on time and under budget.  He would always drop money in the Salvation Army’s red kettles at Christmas.  He stayed late at work when they ordered him to lay people off, trying to find ways to move the work and money around so that every member of his team could keep their jobs, calling in favors from other departments when he couldn’t keep someone in his.  He knew what it was like to be out of work, with a mortgage and family.  He used to tell tall tales about going on a cattle drive when he was a teenager (as if my grandmother would’ve allowed that).  He took us to the zoo to meet his elephant, Peach.  (I don’t remember how he acquired Peach, but he donated her to the San Diego Zoo when he found out how much elephants ate.  She lived there, then the Wild Animal Park–which goes by a different name now.  They shipped her off to Chicago a few years ago, where she died.)  He was a die-hard Yankees fan, and he loved the horse races.  He liked rooting for the underdog (I guess that’s where I get it), and he’d do anything for someone he called a friend.

That’s about all the memories I have the strength for right now.


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“I Am a Patriot”

Posted by purplemary54 on May 27, 2013

Dedicated to everyone who fought.  And everyone who dissented.  Because in the United States of America, the dissenter is just as much of a patriot as the soldier.

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“All This Time”

Posted by purplemary54 on May 25, 2013

I’ve been at my mom’s for a few days, and will be here for a few more.  She’s home from the hospital, and recovering okay.  She’ll be moving in with me soon enough.  From one parent to the next.  Primarily what this means for the blog is that I might continue to be a little spotty about posting for a while yet.  Sorry.


This is not one of Dad’s favorites, but it is a song that always makes me think about him.  (Daddy was also the first person I ever heard compare this song to something by Paul Simon.  He understood rhythm and stuff from his days of playing clarinet as a kid.)  My relationship with my father wasn’t nearly as fractious as Sting’s was with his, but we had our differences.  In the last couple years, I got tired of the way he would bait me into arguing about trivial things.  We are a family of arguers, but it seemed he was just trying to pick fights out of spite sometimes.  My father liked to disagree with people.  He liked playing Devil’s advocate.  Some of it was him wanting to show off how much he knew; some of it was him wanting attention.  Mostly, it was just who he was.

I can hear my father in these lyrics.  He would be the guy saying “What good is a used up world, and how could it be worth having?”  This song, the whole album really, was kind of a preview for me, a flickering light of the tangle of emotions I knew I’d be feeling when Daddy decided to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Sting wrote The Soul Cages, the album “All This Time” was taken from, in the wake of the deaths of both his parents in a relatively short time.  The album is a song cycle, meant to be listened to as a whole.  Listening to the songs individually doesn’t hurt, but they’re more meaningful in context.  He had a difficult, highly conflicted relationship with his father, and it shows in these songs.  If you’ve never listened to the whole album, I recommend it.  It is as emotionally and spiritually moving as it is musically pleasurable.

I’m feeling a lot of weird things right now.  Relief, anger, overwhelming sadness.  Worry for my mother, for my father’s brothers and sister.  Pressure to get things done.  Annoyance with people expecting me not to be able to figure things out.  Tired.  I know it’s all part of the process, but I kind of just want everything to be over so I can go back to my life.  Even though my life isn’t ever going to be the same again.


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Ray Manzarek

Posted by purplemary54 on May 22, 2013

So I totally dropped the ball this week on an important classic rock passing, but in my defense, I’ve had a few other things on my mind.  And there’s a reason I don’t ever post about the Doors: I don’t like them.

There’s a few Doors songs I kind of enjoy, which means I won’t turn off the radio immediately if they come on.  But I generally make it a point not to listen to the Doors.  I think Jim Morrison was a pretentious twit.  (I also happen to think he faked his death in 1971, and went on to live a quiet life of anonymity on a ranch somewhere in Wyoming.  Or something like that.)  I think Ray Manzarek was an even more pretentious twit.  But he was loyal to his band, and the memory of his friend.  He was a father, a grandfather, a husband, and a musician.  And he helped create a sound that defines some important years for a lot of listeners.

Fact is, Manzarek could play really well.  Yeah, his organ solo on the album version of “Light My Fire” goes on just a snick too long (I’ve always had fantasies of sneaking up and unplugging that damn thing).  But he knew his stuff.  He was a tireless promoter not just of himself, but of music in general and the memory of Jim Morrison in particular.  “Break on Through” is one of the few Doors songs I can listen to without screaming, and it features some awesome organ work by Manzarek.  I might not like the Doors or Ray Manzarek very much, but I will not downplay his talent or his importance.  Their importance as part of the rock scene in SoCal is huge; they were the house band at the Whiskey a Go Go in the 60s.  The Doors’ music had a peculiarly Californian type of existential dread to it, and Manzarek’s organ added a wonderful depth to it.  This is the sound of suburban malaise gone toxic.  It also rocks pretty hard.

So on behalf of his fans and loved ones, I join the chorus of voices wishing Ray Manzarek farewell.   It’s not my thing, but his music mattered.

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Posted by purplemary54 on May 21, 2013

Ahmad Jamal was always one of Daddy’s faves.  His taste in jazz ran kind of funny.  He tended toward the piano players and combos.  Most of what he liked was kind of weird and eclectic, but there was a streak of smooth jazz in him (The Modern Jazz Quartet and Tom Scott being the smoothest).  I tried to get him to go out and see Jamal play on the occasions the man toured in our area, but Daddy generally preferred to stay home with his puzzle books and Law & Order reruns.  It’s too bad; he could’ve seen something like this.

A commenter on YouTube said this track was called “One,” so that’s what I’m going with.  In spite of my father’s love for Jamal’s music, he never caught on with me the same way Monk did.  I like the music, but I’m not enthralled by it.  I’ve always tended toward horn players, like Charlie Parker or Wynton Marsalis.  I don’t know what preferences in jazz instrumentation mean; probably nothing.  I also abhor smooth jazz, favoring instead anything smokey and greasy—I like my jazz kinda dirty.  Maybe Ahmad Jamal is a little too refined for my taste.  He’s got some spice to his playing, with just the right amount of Afro-beat, but it all seems kind of clean.

Speaking of clean, I’ve begun going through the clothes and stuff.  I’m going to wash a bunch of things and donate them, but there’s a lot of stuff that ought to be taken out and burned.  Daddy liked to wear his clothes until they were literally falling off his body.  (You have no idea how many times we’d go somewhere, and I’d glance at him only to notice the shoulder of his shirt had torn open.  Or the elbow.  Or the back pocket of his pants.)  I know there’s a lot of people in the midwest right now that wouldn’t mind some of my father’s old shirts.

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Posted by purplemary54 on May 19, 2013

I’m trying to get back into the swing of the blog, but I might be a little irregular sometimes.  I’m still kind of a wreck emotionally.  And since my mom is sick again, I’ve got her to worry about, too.  I haven’t been able to lean on her for support the way I want to because she’s ill, so that’s been adding to my stress levels.  The only thing that seems to be going right is that Dad’s piles of papers are mostly useless, and I can toss the stuff.  Right now, it’s a lot of waiting for forms to fill out and other stuff.  *sigh*  It’s a good thing there’s music.

One of the things I will always be grateful to my father for is introducing me to the music of Thelonious Monk.  The jagged, dissonant notes blend seamlessly.  No one played piano link Monk.  Jazz helps fill something inside of me that I had no idea was empty, and it helps to listen to it now.


Posted in Jazz, Music | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Jukebox Down for a Little While

Posted by purplemary54 on May 12, 2013

I’m sorry, everyone, but I have to take a little time off.  My father passed away this afternoon, and I just don’t have any music in me right now.  Since I love this space and all of you very much, I’ll probably be back soon.  I might not be posting happy stuff, but I’ll be back.

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“Lovers in a Dangerous Time”

Posted by purplemary54 on May 11, 2013

Last time I posted about Bruce Cockburn, it was in angry response to the still ongoing, ever more brutal civil war in Syria.  Cockburn wrote most of the songs on 1984’s Stealing Fire after he made a trip to Central America and witnessed firsthand the horrors that many, many people there were suffering.  Horrors that continue today in other countries.  Horrors that will occur in other places in the future.  It seems like no matter where you go, there is some megalomaniac monster who thinks it’s okay to bomb/poison/torture/rape/destroy/burn anyone who looks at him cross-eyed. *sigh*

I looked at the headlines on my Yahoo! homepage today, and saw this, and my heart cheered a little.  There is some justice in the world.  It might not be perfect, but at some point, somewhere, these bastards will get what they deserve.  Even if it isn’t in a courtroom, even if the punishment is only cosmic, the Universe will catch up with them.  (I wonder just how many times Hitler has been reincarnated as a bug only to get smashed.  He’s got millions and millions and millions of lives to make up for, after all.)  Violence only begets more violence, and the only way to really fight back is to love.

I referred to this song in my other Cockburn post because it’s how I got introduced to his music.  Of course, U2 helped with that.  In “God Part II” on Rattle & Hum, Bono sings about hearing this song: “I heard a singer on the radio, late last night.  Says he’s gonna kick the darkness ’till it bleeds daylight.”  I was entranced by the lyricism and power of those words.  It is an amazing truth.  Because the only way to fight darkness is to expose it to light.  Love conquers hate, forgiveness trumps revenge, silence only ends when somebody speaks up.  I get very pessimistic about humanity on a pretty regular basis; people just seem to can’t help hurting each other.  But then one good thing happens.  Some firefighters rescue some kittens from inside a wall.  A man on the street helps a kidnapped woman escape.  A dog alerts his person to a fire, and she runs back in to rescue him when she realizes he didn’t run out with her.  Yeah, there’s always gonna be assholes who shoot people for their iPhones.  Yeah, there’s always gonna be politicians who ignore their constituents and vote to fill their own wallets.  Yeah, bad things are going to happen.  And sometimes it feels like all you hear about are the bad things.  But then a train conductor stops a commuter train to rescue the dog that got tied to the tracks.*

“When you’re lovers in a dangerous time, sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime.  But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. Got to kick at the darkness ’till it bleeds daylight.”



*All the specific stories I refer to are actual news stories, mostly local to SoCal.  Although I’m pretty sure at least one of them is kind of familiar to folks right now.

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Freaky Friday “In the Dark”

Posted by purplemary54 on May 10, 2013

Okay, so I know pretty much zip about DJs and their music.  I’ve heard it called by a number of different monikers, including house and industrial music.  But my familiarity pretty much begins and ends with Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” (which is an awesome song, btw).  The only other thing I know is that the massively talented Bob Mould is apparently also massively talented at DJ-ing (if you choose to believe insane music geek Henry Rollins, which I do).  Otherwise, DJ music is pretty much a blank for me.

Which really left me wholly unprepared for this.

I first heard about this video over at Dangerous Minds, so I gave it a look.  I’m not sorry, because it is so amazing to see and hear.  But it is also profoundly unsettling.  The music is by a DJ known professionally as The Gaslamp Killer (named after the downtown San Diego district near the convention center, where ComicCon is held).  I sampled most of the tracks from his 2012 album, Breakthrough, which “In the Dark” is from.  The majority of the album is in the same artistic vein–which means it’s quite good, but there’s something dark running just beneath the surface.  The video is directed by a pair of filmmakers billing themselves as Hyperballad.  Their use of dichotomy (black/white, men/women, light/shadows) helps create cryptic, ominous visuals that accompany the vaguely terrifying music perfectly.  It’s rare to find a video and song so well-suited, even in this day and age.  The effect is striking, to say the least, but it’s not something I want to watch all the time.  Or, really, ever.

I’ve had creepy things on my mind for quite some time, now.  It started a number of years ago when a former coworker turned me on to the TV show Supernatural, which reawakened my childhood love of ghost stories and paranormal weirdness of all kinds.  I occasionally watch My Ghost Story: Caught on Camera on cable, and I’m very much looking forward to The Conjuring, which will be in theaters in July (it’s based on a case involving Ed and Lorraine Warren, supernatural investigators I read about as a kid).  I also just read The Exorcist, which is one of my favorite scary movies, and which proved to be a good read as well.

The only real difference between the novel and the movie (beside a lot of language and some sexual imagery that would’ve earned the movie something stronger than an R rating) is that the novel was so emotionally unsettling.  I spent a couple hundred pages really getting to know these characters, getting inside their heads, even as the world turned upside down on all of them.  And there’s no explanation as to why it happened.  There’s no instigation or provocation.  The demon just shows up and takes possession of an otherwise ordinary child.  That’s the crux of what makes something like The Exorcist so frightening: There’s no reason behind it.  It just happens, and all these people are left dealing with the fallout.  Kind of like life.

Well, I’ve just been a little ray of sunshine the last couple of days, haven’t I?  It’s probably a sign that I could use some more sleep.

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“Do It Again”

Posted by purplemary54 on May 9, 2013

Sorry about no post yesterday.  Things sort of got away from me.  Dad’s still having problems, too–slightly different, but related to everything that’s been going on for months now.  Really it’s all been building for years.  He just didn’t take good enough care of himself–little to no exercise, primarily–and now he’s reaping the consequences.  *sigh*  It’s just a big, endless, vicious cycle.

One of my favorite Kinks songs, “Do It Again” chronicles the boredom and alienation of life, the greatest vicious cycle of them all.  I don’t mean that life is bad, or anything negative.  But it is just one damn thing after another.  “Day after day, I get up and I say, ‘C’mon do it again.'”  It doesn’t really matter what you do, how much you love your job or your family, eventually it wears you down.  You get fed up and tired.  And it doesn’t matter what you do to change things up, you’ll still be the same person who will eventually get fed up with everything all over.  “The days go by, and you wish you were a different guy, different friends and a new set of clothes.  You make alterations and affect a new pose: a new house, a new car, a new job, a new nose.  But it’s superficial and it’s only skin deep, because the voices in your head keep shouting in your sleep, ‘Get back!'”  (A possible homage to the Beatles?)  What are you trying to get back to?  I suppose that depends on who you are.  And who you want to be.

There’s a sense of history to this song, but that’s no surprise.  Ray Davies has always been the most British of the British Invasion rockers.  He seems to carry his nationality with him like a touchstone.  It’s a big part of the reason why the Kinks never had the same commercial success in the U.S., but it’s also what makes him so interesting.  He understands that a large part of his identity is tied up in his Englishness, and that much of what makes him English is bound up in the history of England.  He gets that it’s just another cycle, and he’s just another spoke in the wheel.

I guess that’s how I’ve been feeling lately.  I’m not in control of anything that goes on (as if I ever was), but I can control how I react.  I’m still working on that one.

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