I am coming back, but not for a little bit. I just need a little more time alone with my thoughts. Which is normally a bad thing, given my penchant for imagining the worst. But I think this recharge is just what I need right now.
Just checking in to honor a couple of passings in the music world.
The first is peripheral. Mick Jagger’s girlfriend L’Ren Scott was found dead from an apparent suicide in her apartment in New York. It’s always tragic when someone takes their own life, but even more so when that person is young, talented, and successful. My heart goes out to her family and friends.
The other passing is of the Stooges’ drummer Scott Asheton. Asheton–along with his brother Ron, Dave Alexander, and of course, Iggy Pop–helped create some of the most glorious noise in Rock history. The Stooges were the prototype for Punk, and they were pretty damn awesome.
That’s the rub, isn’t it? I’m not really in the mood right now. I’ve been feeling like I don’t have as much to say, although clearly I’ve still got stuff to write about. But I just haven’t been feeling the music lately. So I’m gonna step away for a few days, probably not more than a week. I’ll do a little housekeeping on the blog (and maybe some in my actual house, too). I’ll still be reading and commenting. I just think I need a little break to think about things, percolate some ideas. And then I’ll come back tanned, rested, and ready to go.
Well, ready to go, anyway.
Catch you on the flipside!
My original plan for today’s post didn’t pan out. Maybe next week. Instead, enjoy this somewhat timely repost. You know, since the rebooted Cosmos has begun airing on Fox/NatGeo with scientific rock star Neil Degrasse Tyson stepping into the late great Carl Sagan’s shoes.
I’m actually a little ashamed at how little I know about Sun Ra and his Arkestra. He’s one of the leaders of Freak, being the composer and creator of some of the finest experimental jazz out there. Now I admit to liking a certain amount of free and easy in my jazz, but I also like a certain amount of structure to it, which is why I’m such a late-comer to experimental jazz. And I’ve only really dipped my toes in this fascinating subgenre. Ornette Coleman ain’t the only bird in this musical tree.
Sun Ra is decidedly freaky as a person; some might call him insane, but I don’t think that was ever the case. A very spiritual and religious man without a formal religion, he consciously separated himself from the life that men of his time were expected to live; he refused to follow the paths that were traditionally laid out for him. Sun Ra claimed to have been to Saturn, and to have communicated with aliens there. He believed he had a mission to speak to the world through music.
It’s kind of hard to decipher what the message here is supposed to be. This is wild, chaotic stuff. But it’s a controlled chaos, starting with a gospel-like chorus and taking off into a melange of musical notes, the tones and rhythms clashing and competing with each other while blending almost seamlessly together. It’s like an aural Jackson Pollock painting. The saxophone weaves in and out, the bass runs like a river current below the rest. It’s beautiful.
Which might well be what Sun Ra was trying to tell us. That the world is chaotic but still beautiful. That you can be an individual and still be a part of something. That all we have to do to travel to the cosmos is to let go of whatever is weighing us down. Gravity is just another illusion in Sun Ra’s universe. Nothing can hold you back if you know where you’re going.
This post by Kira got me thinking about definitive songs in my life. (Really, it was her reply to my comment, but that’s niggling.) There’s a lot of them; in a sense, that’s kind of what the jukebox is about. But it also reminded me of this turning point in my musical fandom.
I was thirteen or fourteen. My parents and I had gone to Big Ben’s, the music store at our local mall. They were in the video section looking for a movie to rent. (Remember, this was 1982-83, and renting VHS tapes was a pretty new business. The store had converted some of the bins meant to hold vinyl LPs into displays of empty boxes; you took your choice to the counter, and they inserted the videocassette.) I was just wandering around the music half of the store, browsing aimlessly, not looking at anything seriously because I didn’t have any money. I still listened to Top Forty AM radio at this point, so I was pretty sheltered musically speaking. I was a weird, skinny, unpopular kid. I had a few friends, but really hadn’t found my niche yet. I had an older brother who I was pretty sure hated me (I’m still pretty sure about that), and my parents were on the verge of splitting up. Then I heard this music over the store’s sound system.
I was hypnotized. That voice, that music, seemed like it came from another planet. I took my short self over to the tall counter, and asked the clerk what was playing. I think it was a girl, and she pointed to the cover of Long After Dark that was displayed. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I had no idea who those guys were yet, but I was sold. I went to the “P” section, and stared longingly at the album. I almost went and asked my parents if I could have it, but something held me back. I don’t know what drew me to the song, not really. I just remember feeling transformed.
I didn’t see the video for “You Got Lucky” until many years later. It doesn’t really make much sense in the context of the song, but I love it. It captures some of the wonder of discovery that I had in Big Ben’s that evening. This is the song that made me a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fan, and it will probably always be my favorite.
Sometimes I just get a little bee in my bonnet. Today’s bee decided to sting the morality police.
Y’all know who they are. They’re the people who think it’s okay to tell everyone else how to live their lives. They want to spread the gospel (not to be confused with The Gospel) of their narrow-minded little view of the world. They think everyone ought to follow a certain set of moral rules–except of course for themselves.
I’m not criticizing any particular group, religion, or creed. This kind of immoral morality seems to sprout up regardless of your persuasion. It does seem to be most visible among certain groups, who shall remain unnamed, but there’s at least one in every crowd. Religious people who regularly violate the tenets of their faith. The “fiscally conservative” politician who freely spends taxpayer money on luxuries for him/herself. The academic scholar who plagiarizes. Throw a rock. You’ll hit someone who thinks the rules only apply to other people.
I don’t like people like this, which is probably why I like this song so darn much. I’ve got my own set of morals and rules, and I’m not gonna say I don’t screw up pretty regularly. I try not to judge people who make honest mistakes, but people who deliberately try to impose their beliefs on others only to turn around and break their own rules are crappy excuses for human beings.
And I’ll get off my soapbox now. Enjoy the rest of your evening.
It should be apparent to any regular readers I might have that I have a deep and abiding love for really cheesy music. I believe this stems directly from being raised during the 70s, King God Decade of Cheesy Music. Of course, this extended to the 80s, when Rick Springfield finally made it big with both hit singles and a gig on General Hospital (that was back when soap operas were still relevant). Now to be fair, Springfield was a decent musician; he could sing and play guitar nicely. He was also a pretty fair songwriter and wrote some nice hooks. Top Forty all the way. It also didn’t hurt that this was the dawning of MTV and the commercial viability of music videos. Rick Springfield was, in a word, hot.
Flowing raven locks, pouty lips, and a nice bod. What’s not to love? He even had the cojones to rock white pants and white shoes.
“Jessie’s Girl” is a good song, despite its lack of depth. Unrequited love always sells really well to teenagers. Although, I’ll be honest, I have no idea why he’s pining away for Jessie’s girl. She looks like a shallow mouth-breather to me.