|Oil of Dog
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A girl from France first told me about ALAN STIVELL. He is from Normandy playing folk songs of Britain and France, singing in French and Gaelic and English, playing the Celtic harp backed by a rock band. His music is dreamy and seaswept, the harp bewitches the ear. We listen to a song he wrote called “Reflets,” so soaring and aching and passionate I can only handle it once in a while.
Jack Goldstein continues to explain the ideas behind his sound effects records.
Gary: Urn, first of all, um . . . . . ah, yeah, we-yeah-we go a little bit more int-, um . . . . . (I burble my lips) okay. The distance, okay, that you’re talking about, now wh-wh-why is it important for you to control, um, your experience in the world, like? This is a word you use a lot, why do you talk about “control” so much?
Jack Goldstein: Well, because I feel like I live in a world where I have more fears than anything else.
G: Mm hmm.
J: And it’s a world that I basically feel intimidated by, mostly because it-it-it’s my relationship to technology that my body has-bec-has been made to feel inferior in relationship to it.
G: Mm hmm.
J: And that, ah, the media has given my-my conception of the world. And as a result of that, I feel like that has become my landscape to create my own world once again. So I’m involved in media that has given me my perception of the world to create my own world from within that. Which gives me control over the world.
FUCKING GUITARS!!!!!! SCREWING DRUMS!!!!!! BALLING BASSES!!!!!!
I SCREAM MICHAEL MCCLURE INTO THE ETHER MAKING HIS WORDS PLOP LIKE HUNKS OF MEAT OUT OF ALL THE RADIOS IN TOWN:
THERE IS NOT PASSION ENOUGH TO SCREAM OUT!
TO CRY OUT! TO DIE!
AND WE PLEAD FOR LOVE AND BEAUTY TO COME LIKE FABLED SHAPES
scratching at our windows!
To see them
It is 1977. I roar out these poems interspersed with lusty ripsnorters by Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Vanilla Fudge. FANTASTIC!
. . . . . Then we
Few people have influenced my own writing style more than Michael McClure. He is a hero. He wrote an essay about the word “fuck” which was essential to my awakening from my long atomic-age Victorian suburban Los Alamos slumber. A couple of years later, I finally see him read his poems in person. He looks almost demure, he could be a very seventies college professor type (were it not for the fact that he has no patches on his elbows), as he recites the “GRAHR MANTRA” like a pussycat:
Blue Black Winged Space Rainbow GRAHHR
His voice is soft, his Grahhrs are kitten meows, he is bemused, his eyes sparkle.
* Michael McClure. “THERE IS NOT PASSION ENOUGH.” Star. New York: Grove Press, 1964, page 58.** Michael McClure. “GRAHR MANTRA.” Star. New York: Grove Press, 1964, page 83.
Scott Field and I are talking to the marvelous boogie band, Dr. Feelgood. Tonight they will open for Gentle Giant. Once again, I was unable to distinguish the voices of the members of the group. We asked them about an old British form of cool, the Teddy Boys.
Dr. Feelgood: Teddy Boys in England is different from, you haven’t got anything quite like it here in America.
Gary: That’s right, that’s why I wanted to ask . . . . .
DF: These guys were these, they wear long coats down to their . . . . .
DF: . . . . . knees.
DF: . . . . . knees, almost, and they wear their hair slicked back. And the nearest thing is your . . . . . what you call . . . . .
DF: . . . . . greasers, what you call them in Eng-in America, they’re not quite the same thing. ‘Cause when we were playing . . . . . you’ve got to th-remember, we was playing rock’n’roll in the early nineteen seventies when in England that was ver-um, wasn’t fashionable music to play and they . . . . .
Scott: What was fashionable at that time?
DF: At that time, there was David Bowie and sort of like the-glam, the glam rock thing, y’know. Various, ah, Gary Glitter and that sort of thing. So we-we were very unfashionable. The only work we could get would be playing to these Teddy Boys. Which we weren’t anything to do with them, either, really, we were on our own but this was the nearest thing we-could, we could play to and we didn’t really . . . . .
DF: They didn’t like us very much, hahaha.
DF: They didn’t like us very much either, haha.
DF: We were really in trouble then.
DF: ‘Cause we-di-we didn’t wear the same clothes and, ah, have the same hair style, so they thought we were . . . . .
DF: We didn’t wear the uniform.
G: Even though you played their music.
DF: Yeah, we played their music, but we, y’know, in fact, we didn’t quite play their music because they wanted to hear pure, what they considered pure rock’n’roll. Whereas we were playing rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues with harmonic and some blues stuff as well, y’know, and they didn’t like that. You had to be for them, it has to be very very pure, what they considered pure rock’n’roll. Which is a different conception to what the American market . . . . .
DF: They were more interested in copy versions.
Scott: Was, ah, wasn’t John Lennon a Teddy Boy way, way back or weren’t they playing to these . . . . .
DF: Well, in the late fifties, everybody was a Teddy Boy.
DF: Yeah, leather jacket, this sort of thing.
DF: This was the fashion that people would have worn in those days. I mean, it’s, ah, it’s a fashion, y’know, I mean. But there’s a lot of guys now, y’know, who are forty years old who on a Saturday night still put on their old Teddy Boy coat, put some Brylcreem in their hair and go out and relive their youth again.
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This is a beautiful passionate tale by RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON called “Died for Love” from their album First Light on Chrysalis Records.
Some will die for fortune
The music is like that of a Celtic folk song but the instrumentation is electric. Richard Thompson used to be in Fairport Convention. How could such beautiful music be so completely overlooked? When I called Chrysalis to get some copies to give away they claimed to have never heard of the record.
* © 1978, Island Music, from First Light, Chrysalis, CHR 1177.
Scott Field and I are backstage talking to Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear, members of the British progressive band, Gentle Giant. They are on tour promoting their new album, The Missing Piece, a masterpiece, full of crystal sweet melodies, dazzling musicianship, and mysterious textures. Opening the show for Gentle Giant was the wonderful boogie pub rock band, Dr. Feelgood, and they were literally booed off the stage by the teeming hoard of classical-rock Buffaloons. My friend Scott is of the Dr. Feelgood contingency. His mind is a garage of rock. From him I learned to love the New York Dolls, Iggy and The Stooges, and Dr. Feelgood. For seven years, he did a late night rock show on WBFO until he was cancelled by the clowns who were trying to make room for their dreary jazzak. Scott has nothing to say to Gentle Giant, these esoteric explorers of the nether reaches of rock’n’roll.
Gary: Did you check, did you catch Dr. Feelgood tonight?
Kerry Minnear: Yeah, we’ve done, they’ve been on the tour so far.
G: And they got booed off the stage just about. What did ya, how-what did you think of what was going on there?
K: Just that, I guess, it-it’s a shame for them, they’re i-incompatible. I mean, that I guess in England, th-they’re quite popular, they play like pub places, y’know, small clubs, and they probably quite, they generate quite a rock’n’roll atmosphere, y’know. But they stick them amongst . . . . . you know, like two and a half thousand avid Gentle Giant fans, and y-you’re asking for trouble.
Ray Shulman: We had similar experiences in our, y’know, embryonic stage. We came over here and toured with Black Sabbath, on our first tour.
K: Yeah, we know the feeling.R: It is a pretty useless risk . . . . . useless pursuit. “Time to go home, lads!”
At the present birth rate, the largest minority group in the United States by the year 2000 will be the Hispanic Latino population. On the other hand, the fact that there are so many of us, planned parenting postwar babies means that the number of older white Americans is increasing, while the number of young whites is decreasing. In 1977, for example, the median age of the Hispanic population was 20.2 years while the median age of whites was 30.2. And, if I may platitudinously say so, white folks are getting older by the minute.*
All this means that it will be the duty of the baby-boom generation of whites to keep the stupid spics in their place just as the preceding generations worked so diligently to keep the damned niggers down. The honkies will comprise a large elderly conservative majority. All the fat old Republican hippies slobs will have to guard their gated well-lit cozy suburban homes.
This may mean that the new cool will be Latino rather than black. In the 60’s, in Great Britain, Cyril Davies, who formed The Allstars, and Alexis Korner of the Original Blues Breakers, were the impetus behind a blues scene that transformed rock’n’roll history. The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, T.S. McPhee and the Groundhogs, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Eric Burdon, Jimmy Page, John Mayall and many others all began their careers as part of this focus on blackman’s blues inspired by Korner and Davies.
In the next century, some future El Axis Kornereo and Cyrillos David will gather around them a crowd of talented British art students who love hunting up old treasures from the Salsa bins in the record stores. A dozen super groups and super stars will spin off from the Original Latin Breakers and the Salsastars. From Mersey and Liverpool will come the Brit-Mex Invasion, the Salsa Sound, the Mariachi Beat, and maybe even the Pentecostal Swing. The new cool lingo will be derived from Mexican, Spanish, and Puerto Rican street talk. The barrios and Latino ghettos will explode. Peyote and tequila will be de rigueur. The Incas and Mayans and Aztecs will live on in the dress and thoughts and dances of the children born of terrified fat old wretched middle-class whites.* Asiku Muhammed. “Black and Hispanic Youths Voiceless and Frustrated.” SUNY at Buffalo Spectrum, December 6, 1978, Vol. 29, No. 43, page one.
It was time for The Muffins. A quartet of multi-instrumentalists from Washington, D.C.
HOLY POTATOES I KNEW WHY I WAS THERE!!!!
Oh the hundred faces of this band laying it out like Soft Machine, Zappaesque dazzle, now it’s pop like Buffalo’s own Spyro Gyra, now they quote Stravinsky, Bartok, they blast it like Yes, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah loonies, Chick Corean rambles, electronic twists, free-floating improv, licks from Eric Dolphy, what laughter, what anger, what a band!! MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE!!!!!
But time was running short.
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I dream of a magical radio station. I do the all-night shift. It is fifty times the wonder of my show. Each night I swirl in music, there is laughter and lights, great shining fingers of sound of every color reaching across the city into thousands of homes, across the buildings and suburbs for miles and miles into farms and factories, I fling a glowing web of sound, and the smiles and pleasure of all who listen ride back to me on the threads of music. I know when I make contact, I can see and feel the airwaves. The beams twinkling from stars become hands applauding my music.
I come to the station at night. I leave in the morning. I wear a hat with bells and shoes with curly toes. In a patchwork coat, I shine like the skin of an elf. I know nothing of the other people who work in this radio station. I have never seen them. One night long ago they let me in. They have never tried to get rid of me. I am the phantom of the station, I come when no one is about and send my magic beams across the land. I am very famous. My show is very popular. I get lots of mail.
Then one day my rnoney runs out and my garden dies. I can no longer afford to eat. Surely the people who work at the station will pay me. I have worked all these years for free. Look at all the good I do. Surely they will pay me.
I visit the station in the day time. In my jingling cap and checkered coat and pointed shoes, I am like a gnome, a small rainbow before all those who run the station. They are grey towers. Their backs are all turned. I approach the station manager, Vladimir Estragon, about receiving a salary. He does not even turn around in his chair. We will see; very unlikely; expect nothing, he says. I creep out of his office past Little Chandler, the accountant and Bartleby, the traffic director.
I was never conscious of this before. I never knew the radio station was like this. I have been swirling too long in the beauty and dreams. I assumed they knew, I assumed they supported and admired what I do. I assumed they shared my vision, they could see the shining web of sound, the fabric of goodness and pleasure I wove across the city each night. But the airwaves are not visible in the daylight. The people who control the radio are blank and grey. Their eyes are red. They methodically conduct their business, making decisions, doing their shows, selling the station without any thought of who they touch, without any thought about beauty or communication.
I decide to go plead my case to George Tesman, the program director. He is meeting with Willy Loman, the sales manager. As I enter the office, the secretary who is always so kind and generous, Ms. Boule de Suif, scurries away and disappears through the back door. Tesman stands looking with red eyes out the window. Loman is opposite him, staring with red eyes at a rock’n’roll poster on the wall. I stand between the two backs. What is it says Tesman, without turning around. I explain that I would like to be paid. No money says Tesman. No money says Loman, who leaves without turning. I’ll see you George he says, I have to find out how our new salesmen, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are doing in the field. He leaves. But look at how successful my show is, look at all the fan mail, look at my high ratings, look at all these clippings from newspapers all across the land, look at all the record companies who want me to play their records, look at the unique service I provide, no one does what I do, nobody anywhere, nobody reaches lives like I do. Tesman does not say anything. I jingle out of his office.
I say goodbye to Mrs. Martin, the secretary. She is nice. Are you Mr. Martin, my husband, she asks me. No, I don’t even know who he is I say. As I leave the station, Dr. Benway’s News and Commentary is just going on the air.
I realize these people are more than mere bureaucrats. They are more than grey and dull. I see in their blankness something evil. They are at once benign and malignant. They are banal and destructive. But more than that, they are idiots. They wander about their chores at the station in a complete stupor. They do not think of beauty because they do not think. I realize I am surrounded in that place by a placid mindless evil. I remember as a child seeing a dead man walk down my street. He merely walked, treading upon anything that was in his way, without regard to flowers, shiny bugs, little toys. These are the creatures for whom I work. THEY DO NO GOOD. And where there is no good, evil fills the space. They are passive and calm, they do not actively kill or cause pain, but they do not cause good and beauty either. They see with blank red eyes, firmly set jaws, they walk without motion. They are like hollow reeds through which the infection flows. At home on my radio I listen for the first time to the grey bilge with which they putrefy the city in the day time.But time is running out. I have no money. I am starving. I climb into my chair at the station. It is my last show. The music is about me, weaving a shining lattice of beauty across the city, I can see it reaching from house to house, from city to city, to many lands, the rainbow web of beauty I create with music, I see a shining thread come to light as someone in that house turns on their radio, I see that thread fade away as someone turns off their radio and goes to sleep. And toward me across the beams of sound come the invisible joys, the thousands of trillions of electric sparks in the trillions of billions of cells and nerves in the minds of those who listen, the life and energy I give, it all comes back to me across the threads of sound, I can feel their pleasure at my music, I can feel the lives I fill, as I fade in the midst of my music. I am dying, starving. The stars applaud. The music fiercely swirls about me. I am fading. I look out the window across the city at my shining web. The Moon sheds a silver tear. I see a little man fly past the window in a coal bucket. He is dying too. Shining music. Fading music. It is my last song.
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This is a prancing song in 5/4 time called “Saturday” by a British group named DECAMERON.
When they close up the market
A magic song in the middle of a forgotten album buried in the budget bins of the import section of a store that was going out of business. Anyone who reads Giovanni Boccaccio (who lived from 1313 to 1375 and who wrote the 100 little tales compiled as the Decameron) can’t be anything but great.* © 1975 Scorpio Music, from Third Light, Transatlantic Records, TRA 304.
Postmarked January 8, 1977.
After you refused to play Ray Charles for me and allowed that band their levity at me, I had decided not to write to you anymore. As you can see, I have changed my mind. I’ve decided that I really don’t care if you laugh at me or my letters because I get satisfaction from writing them and from knowing that someone is reading them.
I must admit I have been most unhappy because you refused to play a song for your most avid listener. (I must admit that I do doze off now and then during your show.) How terrible you are!
Enclosed also is an interesting poem entitled “I Know the Truth But I Forgot”:
noun pronoun verb adjective adverb:
know the truth but you forget clause, box
The moon is in a phase
No authorship is provided for the poem and I have never been able to discover who wrote it. I think it is a good poem.
The signature on the letter has changed to “Thor Lite.” I can only shrug. I can never live up to the strange expectations people seem to have of even a nowhere “radio personality” like me. Yes, it is a good ego trip. Yes, it is a sign of cool. Yes, I love it in a way. But it is not possible to be a hero. I will always fall. Always. I cannot avoid making a big mistake. When I think about my heroes – teachers and performers I have admired – none of them has ever lived up to my expectations. They always eventually let me down.
Two months later I receive this note:
Dear Mr. Storm,
Radio Highlights of the Buffalo Evening News:
3 AM – WBFO-FM (88.7) – Oil of Dog: Gary Storm’s wee-small-hours show unearths a Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelung” cycle with explanations for “punks.”
And we did it too. David Bloom – pianist, linguist, WBFO’s opera expert – and I presented “Ring of the Nibelung for Punks.” Over the course of four nights, we offered the Metropolitan Opera’s production of the complete Ring Cycle. David sat at the piano and explained the music in all its symbological ramifications, and I sat surrounded by papers and books, explaining the story and the text in all it mythological depths. We interspersed our analyses between the acts of the operas. It was incredible. Read ahead and you will see.
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I cannot pry STEELEYE SPAN off the turntable. When I don’t know what else to do, I reach for Maddy Prior’s beautiful powerful voice. One night when Steeleye Span played the Tralfamador, I was introduced to Maddy as the DJ who made them famous. Ah!
No other rock group ever produced such subtle textures and colors with their music. These marvelous musicians seem to be able to select and control each subtle timbre that resonated from each acoustic and each electric instrument. This is one of their most beautiful arrangements, “Saucy Sailor.” Exuberant calm covers the town.
A PUNK IDEOLOGY
Good musicians – I am overly fond of saying – come a dime a dozen. Anyone can play licks if they practice enough. But there are those rare individuals I call great musicians. These are people who somehow express THEMSELVES, their distinct Personality through their instruments. They play themselves, in a very real sense, it is masturbatory, which is perhaps why so few people have the courage to be great.
A great musician need not be a good musician. Leigh Stevens who played on the first two Blue Cheer albums is one of my guitar heroes. In terms of technical facility, he was a terrible guitarist, but what a lunatic he was! The way he made that guitar explode and beg and gnash and whine, he must have been a mental case, you knew this guy was completely gone, he should have been put away, he was wonderful, inspiring.Good musicians almost ruined rock’n’roll. Doobie Brothers. Eagles. Foreigner. They glutted the market with thousands of boring albums and ponderous performances and heartless songs. Tight, impeccable session men without a speck of personality. Great musicians are rare, they are not too well-liked by record producers and other musicians. They are too unique, too uncompromising, too real as people.
Figure 31: Ed Cassidy, Randy California, and Larry “Fuzzy” Knight of the iconic group Spirit. “I don’t remember who this guy was. I think he was some stoned-out college DJ in St. Louis.” (Photo by Zowie.)
DOG MONEY AND PATHOS
And so I make all those horrible trips to Downtown Buffalo through the snow. And I try to find employment in this miserable dying rust belt city. I sign up with an employment counselor at the New York State Employment Office. She tries to help me find a job I don’t want. I want to do my show. I want to be paid to do my show. I keep getting horrible headaches. I am too depressed to try to understand where they are sending me and why. All about me are people who look sad. I take the typing test. I talk to stony faced advisors. I keep trying to tell myself I am special, I am Gary Storm, the famous disc jockey. But obviously, that won’t even get me a dime for a bus ride. The people around me don’t care. Someone gets upset in an office at the Employment Office. Police come and take him away. I do not belong here. All I want to do is my show.
I am so desperate I go down to the dipshit watered down AOR station, WBUF, and they let me do a show for one night. Some woman is doing the shift before me. I tell her I think this kind of radio isn't playing a tenth of the great music that is out there. She says Oh you are one of those people who thinks music is more important than commercials. We despise each other on sight. So I do a show and follow the playlist. I make a million mistakes. I keep playing the wrong records, I play the wrong carts, I start the turntables at the wrong speed, I say the wrong things, I finally just go to pieces. Never again. They do not call me back anyway.
I remember the first day I went to the employment agency. I was scruffy, it was slushy and freezing, I had my ripped college-kid coat on (a blue parka with orange lining), I was dirty, my jeans had holes in the knees, I hadn’t shaved, I felt like shit, I was mad at the world, I was talking to myself, I had a horrible headache, I had just enough money to ride the bus back home again. My head beat me and beat me blind, I could not think. I had no aspirin. Between Pearl Street and Main Street is a failed shopping mall. As I entered the mall from Pearl, I saw a bent little old woman, she was so scrawny, a kerchief around her head, a little navy blue long tattered coat, her eyes wrinkled and tired like little old brains, her front teeth jutting out of her face, her lower jaw rammed into her face so that she had the face of a squirrel, an old creeping squirrel. She was going through her purse and I thought she was laughing. “Ooooohh, I lost my money, all my money,” she moaned, “How will I ever get home again?” She was crying. I laughed.I LAUGHED BECAUSE I THOUGHT IN SOME HORRIBLE WAY, WITH HER LITTLE SQUIRREL FACE, SHE WAS LAUGHING TOO. I did not know what to do. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t help. “Where did you lose it?” I asked. She did not hear me. She was so afraid and sad, wandering in a little aimless line down the stairs. I should have offered to help. I should have done something. I should have given her the little money I had. I am not so lost. But I did not. I felt sad and evil.
PETER BLEGVAD AT THE MANIFESTIVAL
Peter Blegvad was lyricist and performer with the most advanced of all rock groups, Henry Cow and an offshoot called Kew Rhone. He took the stage reading and singing his extraordinary poems while Chris Cutler (also of the Cow) swirled and flailed in his drum set to the complex orchestrations of the bassist of The Muffins and Fred Frith on guitar.
A couple of days later we visited Peter in his little downtown hotplate apartment while his red-haired wife worked over some sewing. He was funny and elegant; we talked of William Burroughs, James Joyce, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Creeley, he told me of hungry travels with Henry Cow.
While we were there, he talked to someone about getting a construction job. “But,” I stammered, “You’re the world famous . . . . .” and he said That’s right and for a thousand dollars, I’d jump in a pool and fuck fish.
YOU SEE, THIS IS THE WAY IT IS WITH ART: THERE ARE THOSE WHO HAVE THE MONEY BUT NO TIME AND THERE ARE THOSE WHO HAVE THE TIME BUT NO MONEY. Shit. THE MUSIC I’M TALKING ABOUT HERE – this progressive alien space head rock – IS NOT THE KIND OF MUSIC YOU CAN WHISTLE DOWN THE STREET, BUT IT THROBS LIKE ROCK AND IT’S FREE LIKE JAZZ AND IT’S CLASSICALLY EXACT AND IT BREAKS ALL THE RULES AND IT’S SOMETIMES UGLY ON PURPOSE AND UNLESS YOU SEEK IT OUT, YOU MAY NEVER HEAR OR SEE IT BECAUSE THE BUSINESSMEN WHO RUN RADIO STATIONS AND CONCERT HALLS DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT IT, but it’s art and it’s real and it doesn’t make you dance, it moves you.
|Some kid, faltering voice, calls up with a convoluted story. I never do get the whole thing straight. Something about how he was hit by a truck, POW. Wakes up in the VA Hospital. He wants to impress the nurses, he gets horny just lying there all day. So this big male nurse lays trips on him. He sucks the nurse off, showing off to the girls. They get him out of there before he’s even all healed. He asks me where he can go to meet women. Why is he asking me? They never talk to me. He asks me to play “I’m Guilty” by Alice Cooper.||Image under construction.|
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ROY WOOD’s Wizzo was never released in this Country. My friend Louie the Mad Vinyl Junkie, gave it to me. He and I are fanatical admirers of Roy Wood and his old group, The Move. This is incredibly challenging music, big band rock with horns, keyboards, gigantic drums, a million guitars, and Roy Wood. There is every kind of music hidden in here: that huge deep metal bass sound created by The Move, those licks from classical composers, jazz interludes on the horns, and even some country swing. These are not songs, they are compositions.
It is tempting to call Roy Wood the British Frank Zappa when talking to people who never heard of him. They are both unrestrained geniuses of rock composition. But Roy lacks Zappa’s bitterness and is not overtly nasty. It may be that Roy long ago achieved that teenybop appeal that Zappa never found, he has been to the top of the AM Top 40 commercial world. There is a story that during the middle sixties, The Move threatened to break up if their next single did not reach number one on the charts. Such a stunt would be inconceivable in this country. Roy Wood seems to say “I’ll do what I want to do, I know I’m a genius.” Zappa seems to say “Fuck you, I know I’m a genius but if you want potty music I’ll give you potty music.”
The vocals on this song from Wizzo – “Waitin’ at This Door” – are as complex as anything dished out by the Swingle Singers, the improvisation is hot as Maynard Fergusson, the rhythms as varied as Debussy, the musicianship equal to any on the planet. The production is odd, very thick and cluttered, but this is all the Roy Wood Sound, almost like they’re playing at one end of a long tube. He says Dig this, I dare ya.
From the 20’s through the 60’s, jazz was the knife edge of hip. That hot swinging sound wheedled its way into the soul, kidnapping the disaffected spirits of Squaresville and Straight City. Jazz was the universal language, the emblem, the calling card, the ambassador, the jungle guerilla, the secret agent, the terrorist, the Philosopher – of cool. The best jazz can be described with the same words used to describe a cool person.
Jazz is music that never rests, it never seeks security, it repudiates boredom and regret and doom. It is hopping shouting flying – it is alive. Jazz is night music. Jazz is kicks, it is insane, it is a drug, a high, it is psychotic, crying and infantile, wailing and childish, raging and violent, sexy and smooth, suicidal, howling, pounding, loving. It is self-indulgent, it is self-love and self-glory. Jazz is music from the body, from the physical realms of quick flesh; its appeal is not of the mind. Its roots are in black culture. It is music of the eternal present, it sees no past or future. It lays nothing down forever – no jazzman plays the same solo twice, it is lived and it is gone. When the jazzman swings his axe, he is chasing the edge, the farthest reaches of music. Jazz that is not danger is nothing. It is dangerous because when the jazzman fails he is booed. Or worse, he is ignored. Or worse, he loses himself. But when he succeeds, he is totally alive, he knows the sweetest of pleasures, orgasm.
Jazz is never the music of loneliness because it swings. Swing is one kind of musical rhythm. Straight is the other. Jazz is swing. Almost all classical music is straight. Swing syncopates. It stresses what the straight leaves alone. It is on the offbeat. Swing is skip. Straight is march. The heart swings with each beat. But real swinging is more than a musical style. It is the life, it is the process, it is the way across space from here to there, it is the way from me to you. Swing it, Big Norm:
[T]o Swing is to communicate is to convey the rhythms of one’s own being to a lover, a friend, or an audience, and – equally necessary – be able to feel the rhythms of their response. To swing with the rhythms of another is to enrich oneself – the conception of the learning process as dug by Hip is that one cannot really learn until one contains within oneself the implicit rhythm of the subject or the person.*
Jazz says NO to the quick death of annihilation because it
lives only for now. It says NO to the
slow death of peace and boredom because it is never safe. Jazz is a mode of conduct amidst loneliness
and fear because it swings across space.
It’s got that rhythm, it walks that walk. It carries the message of cool, it talks that
talk. It is the sound of hope and
freedom in the midst of crumbling buildings and giant rats and explosions and
fires and filth and murderous guns and puking booze and nodding dust and fear
and starvation and utter loneliness.
BECAUSE ALL GREAT MUSICIANS ARE FREE WHEN THEY PLAY AND THEY WILL TAKE
ANYONE WITH THEM WHO CAN HEAR. Jazz is a
music of freedom. it is a music of survival.
It is a music of grace.
DOG MONEY AND PATHOS
Somehow after Several months of applying for jobs I don’t want, totally divesting myself of all pride and dignity, mooching off of friends, begging my parents for money, living like a pig taking scraps when I could – all because I don’t want to give up my show – the idea creeps into my neolithic skull of finding underwriters. Ah! Underwriters! Why didn’t I think of this earlier? The federal government has devised a sneaky scheme for non-commercial radio and television stations to solicit money from commercial businesses without seeming to do advertisements. They call it underwriting. This means that a corporation or a small business or a foundation will give a certain amount of money to a public station in exchange for a tax deduction and certain number of acknowledgements at certain times on the air. If you have watched Dick Cavett on PBS, you know his show is underwritten by The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. This means Chubb gave Cavett a wad of dough and in return every show begins with the words “Funding for The Dick Cavett Show was provided by this station and other public stations and by The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.” Everyone pretends this is not advertising because there is no description of the product or how much it costs.
In Buffalo, there is a small chain of taco shops called The Mighty Taco. The Mighty (as it is affectionately called) is run by two young men and it is fabulously successful. This is because they have associated themselves closely with the youth market by sponsoring many rock concerts, by employing many starving musicians, and by offering inexpensive food until 5:00 AM for the bleary-eyed rockers who have the munchies after last call, at 4:00 AM. And the Mighty really made its name by promoting itself with very clever silly radio advertisements. There are many taco shops in Buffalo, but for the rock’n’roller there is only The Mighty. These seemed like just the people to approach for my first underwriter. So I spent many days phoning and negotiating.
At last!!!!!! The Mighty is going to underwrite Oil of Dog!!!!!! They will donate $100 each month and in return my show will begin and end with the words “Funding for Oil of Dog was provided in part by The Mighty Taco.” Oh, bliss! Oh, joy! Oh, bless you Mighty Taco. Bless you bless you bless you bless you. I will always buy Mighty Tacos and rub them all over my body. I will wad them up and stimulate every orifice by body. No more job counselor scowls. I can easily live off of $100 per month until I find more underwriters. I can pay the rent so I will at least have a place to freeze and starve to death.
In the months that follow I find other underwriters. Central Park Grill, known as CPG, a big college hangout bar underwrites me for a few months. Fantasy World Used Record and Comic Store provides $100 worth of great old used records for a couple months. The Marrakesh, a used clothing store full of magical old duds provides money to finance the printing of the official Oil of Dog T-Shirt. The Bagel Brothers Bakery has been a consistent underwriter for several months. Bagel Brothers Bagels are now on my list of body rubs and orifice stuffers. Bless you. Bless you all. Beauty of music and loads of money on all your businesses. I love you all with an abiding and unswerving phyisical and spiritual passion.
The thing that makes me so angry is that the people who run the radio station were not entirely forthcoming with me – they said there was no money. But they knew there were ways of funding my show. I proved it, didn't I? And the point is that this is something the people who run the station should have collaborated on with me – it is their job to bring money into the station. It is their job to know the avenues and legalities of financing public broadcasting. My role is to do my show, fill a unique niche in the radio market, build listenership, attract donations to the station, and help build the record library. Theirs is to keep the station going.
But the obvious truth is that the people who run the station don’t believe my show has any value. They assiduously actively did not want to do anything to support my work for public radio. Regardless of my success, regardless of my uniqueness, regardless of my fervent desire to work for the station, regardless of the clear need for what I do in the Buffalo market, regardless of the good I did for the station as a whole – the people whose job it was to support programming at the station did nothing. And why? Is it actually because I play all kinds of music and not just jazz? Do they really operate on so subhuman a level as that? Why? I do not understand why. Public radio should be a haven for what I am trying to do.
The first night I broadcast the acknowledgement of The Mighty Taco, I explain the notion of underwriting to my listeners. I tell my audience:
I tell my listeners WBFO was not paying me even though my show is a full time job, broadcasting as I do, all night, four nights each week, and spending many hours during the day researching and obtaining new music. Underwriting will now pay for this use of the public airwaves. Bless you Mighty Taco I cry again.
Gillie Smyth, cosmic mother of progressive music, materialized with her band, Mother Gong. Cloaked and coweled, she recited a poem decrying rape while Chris Cutler, Fred Frith, Daevid Allen, and others made furious music to her words. Her poems were angry pronouncements about sexism.
I want to be friends with men
Sometimes zinging and twinging her voice through a synthesizer, she was gentle and wise.
* Gillie Smyth. “OK Man, This is Your World,” © 1978 Charly Music Ltd., from Mother, Charly Records, CRL 5007.
S(2)Most of the schmos who program jazz would never think of playing this piece. “La Creation Du Monde” by DARIUS MILHAUD is a masterpiece of orchestral jazz. Composed in 1923, this ballet depicts “a primitive African view” of the creation myth. Back in those days, jazz was considered primitive and African, I guess. Even though this piece is scored without violas (a sin!) it is a marvel for the imagination.
A few days after my first underwriting announcement, someone tells me how I was heard bellyaching on the air about my inability to get a job.Rage. Sadness. Don’t people understand that this is a job? Don’t the shits who run the station realize this? Don’t the shits who listen?
I’m standing in a local record store chatting with the manager. In my hand is an album I just found in the budget bins, Oh! Pleasant Hope by Blue Cheer. It is not a very good record but now I have everything by that group. Or so I think. Outside, the wind tosses an old newspaper across the parking lot. The sky darkens. Frightened barking of a dog. We pause in our conversation and look toward the street. Other customers look up nervously. Distant thunder. A traffic sign rattles uncontrollably. A sudden flash of of heat AND HE EXPLODES IN THE DOORWAY SHOUTING “WHERE IS IT?!?!?!?!?!?!?! HAS IT COME INTO YOUR ASSHOLE WAREHOUSE YET?!?!?!?!?!?!? LEMME AT IT!!!!!! LEMME IN HERE!!!!!!!” He throws down his motorcycle helmet, plunges through a group of startled Frampton-headed girls and plunders a record bin. “WHERE’S THE NEW NILS LOFGREN!?!?!?!?!?!?”
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT’S MAD LOUIE, LORD OF VINYL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“It’s over here, Louie,” says Tom at the cash register. “We held one for you.” “Well, I gotta have it, hand it over!” cries Louie with a bound, “I’ve been waiting for months for this. If this turns out as lousy as his last one, I’m going to make him swallow Herb Alpert whole. I don’t know what got into him. ‘I Came to Dance’! If he pulls that shit this time, I’ll personally come and dance on his face!”
“Hi, Louie,” I say.
“GARY! Howare ya? Heard anything good lately?”
“Well, . . . . .” and I show him the record in my hand.
“BLUE CHEER!! You have all six albums? Great! Have you heard Red Weather, Leigh Stephens’ solo album? Oh, god, Gary, you have to hear it. It’s great, it’s so great! That guy was so sick! What a guitarist! He should have been put away. If I was half as nuts as that guy, I’d be lying on the floor in a straight jacket. Maybe I should be anyway. The stuff he does on that second Blue Cheer album, Outsideinside, with that weird cover with the painting and the mushrooms! Fantastic!! That guitar sounds like a roomful of grenades. He was a sickie. And ‘Summertime Blues’!!! I first heard that and I nearly ripped my head off!!! And after Leigh Stephens left, they had Bruce Stephens, and then Randy Holden joined the group. He was on New! Improved! RANDY HOLDEN!!!!!! Have you heard that solo album he did on this little label called Hobbit Records? Nobody knows about it but me. OH MY GOD, IT’S FANTASTIC!!! This friend of mine brought it over and said ‘Look what I found in K-Mart. Who’s this guy Randy Holden?’ And I say, ‘WHO’S RANDY HOLDEN!!!? YOU MORON, HE’S ONE OF THE GREATEST GUITARISTS ON THE PLANET!!!!’ And Gary, when he put it on the turntable, my dick flew off and stuck into the wall!! And do you have that album, Mint Tattoo, that Bruce Stephens and Whatshjsname Kellogg put out with the porno cover, and do you know about those groups Leigh Stephens was in after Blue Cheer? There was Silver Meter, I’ll get you a copy of that. And then there was Pilot, the first RCA group called Pilot, not that second shit pop group. I think he put out two albums with them. AND KAK!! GARY, DO YOU MEAN YOU NEVER HEARD KAK!?!?!? That had Gary Yoder from Blue Cheer, oh what a great album. Oh, and if you like that stuff, I have to turn you on to these two totally demented completely sick groups, Dust and Black Pearl. Wait til you see the cover of those Dust albums. Cheeeeese! Tom, I have to be going, still have to hit Sam’s and Record Theatre and go shopping too if I have any money for food after all this vinyl.”
“Okay, Louie,” says Tom.
“NILS LOFGREN! IF THIS ALBUM SUCKS, NILS IS GONNA HAVE TO ANSWER TO ME! Where’s my helmet? Lemme outta here!” and in a choking swirl of vinyl, Louie, one of the world’s great record collectors, vanishes from the store.
“Have you ever seen his collection?” I ask Tom.
“No, but I’ve heard!”
“Yeah. He’s always giving records to people, helping them find things. He’s so wild, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more kind-hearted.”“Anyone who loves music that much has to be a saint,” says Tom.
DAZZLING DAVID BLOOM AND THE MUSICAL COSMOLOGY OF WAGNER’S RING OF THE NIEBELUNG (FOR PUNKS)
Gary: I concentrated a lot on the story, now why don’t you talk about the music a while.
G: S-sorry to keep you waiting so long.
D: Oh, it’s alright.
D: This is going to be a little bit confusing. It’s a very strange thing. Ahhh, what I believe in contra- . . . . .
G: I’m gonna, I’m gonna get some tea, would you like some tea?
D: Yeah, make me some tea.
D: I’m pretty sure that the main thing in this work is the shape of the music which you could look at as a mathematical object. A note has a certain frequency . . . . . [He plays an “A” on the piano.] . . . . . that goes 440 vibrations per second . . . . . [He plays an “A-flat.”] . . . . . and that goes a c-certain number fewer. And it lasts a certain measurable amount of time and that’s all you can say about it. If you take one note as Wagner does – it turns out to be an “E-flat” down here: [He plays the lowest “E-flat” on the piano.] . . . . . you take that note and you put it in half, you get a match . . . . . [He plays the low “E-flat”, and then plays the “E-flat” an octave above.] . . . . . and-and you have generated the number two, you hav-because you have two notes. And-and they respond to one another. Between the two of them, if you take that in half again . . . . . [He plays the “B-flat” above the low “E-flat”.] . . . . . you get one half-way between, and if you take that in half, you get one half-way between: [He plays the “G-natural” between the “E-flat” and the “B-flat”.] . . . . . and then you have an “E-flat” major chord. That’s the “E-flat” major chord, Gary!
G: “E-flat” major? Let’s hear it again.
D: [He plays it completely wrong.] Woops! [He plays a proper “E-flat” major chord.]
G: Alright, so-so you have one, and you divide that in half . . . . .
D: Oh, yeah. [He plays the “E-flat” and then the “B-flat”.]
G: Alright, and divide that one in half again . . . . .
D: [He adds the “G-natural” to the first two notes.]
G: Okay, so that’s the one, five and the three.
D: [He plays the “G-natural” again.] Yeah, you need the three. The octave, the five and the three. [He plays the chord again.] Yeah.
D: Okay, now. Those materials are what Wagner actually starts off with. He starts with the first note . . . . . [He plays the “E-flat”, then the “B-flat”, then the “G-natural.” . . . . . and then he adds another one, and then he adds a third, then he finally has the first tune which is very simple: [He plays the opening rising melody of the Ring of the Niebelung.] He adds a couple of more notes and the tune becomes a little more complicated, but it’s otherw-it’s basically the same: [He plays the same rising figure, this time harmonized in thirds.]
G: So what you have, you mean, the first-the first melody is based on just, ah, a major chord, right?
D: Right. [He plays the individual notes of the “E-flat” major chord.]
G: An “E-flat” major chord.
G: Okay. Okay.D: And then the second melody adds two more notes: [He plays the harmonized figure again.] And-and those are the basic materials of the scale. Those-anyway, gradually the other notes get added, and the other numbers get added and the other rhythms get added . . . . . Thank you. I do appreciate this. I’ve got Some tea now . . . . . Ah, all-of-th-, all-of, all of the musical material of the work is built out of . . . . . [He plays the low “E-flat” again on the piano.] . . . . . that first “E-flat.”
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