11.23.2008

11.22.2008

JODY REYNOLDS 1932-2008

Just in via the Goner Board: pioneering rockabilly weirdo Jody Reynolds has passed away.

Known primarily for his 1958 hit "Endless Sleep," a creepy, slithering slab of romance doom and gloom, and "Fire of Love," a rumbling bit static menace, Reynolds was widely influential. "Endless Sleep" was covered by the MC5, "Fire of Love" by Gun Club, and other songs by artists as disparate as Nick Lowe, Marc Bolan and John Fogerty. A true visionary- RIP indeed.

The LA Weekly has more on their blog.

"Endless Sleep" by Jody Reynolds:



The haunting duet "Stranger in the Mirror" with Bobbie Gentry:



The Gun Club performing "Fire of Love" live in Madrid:



Marc Bolan's glam version of "Endless Sleep":

11.21.2008

SCOTT WALKER: 30 CENTURY MAN

Stumbled across something interesting just now: the UK trailer for a documentary on one of the most aggressively singular personalities in rock'n'roll history, Scott Walker.



Apparently the film premiered in London way back in 2006 and has been playing festivals and limited engagements around the world ever since. A quick perusal of the film's MySpace page suggests that the film will be opening stateside in limited release: NYC on December 17th and San Francisco and Berkeley on January 23rd. Additionally, in a blog posting on the site the director is asking for help to further promote the film in the hopes that it will be shown on more screens in more cities, including Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Austin, and Philadelphia.

If you're a Scott Walker fan with some free time and want to bring the movie to your city, you can contact the direct via email: plasticpalace_llc@yahoo.com

11.17.2008

ON BULL RIDING

The other night at the little hole in the wall bar across the street from my apartment, one of the TVs was turned to professional bull riding, opposite Will Smith chatting with Oprah. After I ordered my drink I found myself standing in the middle of the place gawking up at the television. Bulls are so ferocious and otherworldly looking and really handsome (if terrifying) animals. But what really captured me was the jarring contrast between the crazy drama of the bulls as they violently thrashed and the jaunty cartoonishness of the riders. Their costumes are a wacky synthesis of modern branded sport paraphernalia and the classic western costume. They wear what look like bullet proof vests over western shirts, and enormous tasseled chaps. Somewhere between Lefty Frizzell and Starship Troopers.

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The whole event is so heavily aestheticized, I can imagine gay subculture really taking the look in new and exciting places (the SS leather daddy thing is pretty tired).


Weirdest of all are the rodeo clowns, scurrying around dressed like some hold overs from the days of minstrelsy and medicine shows. Albeit, there's a strange nobility in putting oneself in serious danger while looking like a total douche.

I think you have to grow up in Real America for any of it to make sense. But as bar spectacle it was all pretty wonderful.

Lefty Frizzell - Look What Thoughts Will Do
Lefty Frizzell - I Love You a Thousand Ways
Lefty Frizzell - If You've Got the Money (I've Got the Time)

11.09.2008

TITUS ANDRONICUS 10/23/08 @ EMPTY BOTTLE, CHICAGO

A couple of weeks ago I went with fellow Big States blogoscribe Joe Dixon to see Titus Andronicus at the Empty Bottle. Bird Talk opened playing spunky punk pop that could have fit comfortably among Lookout's roster c. '95. After that was another holdover, the band Shopping, fronted by a singer sounding very much like PeeChees' frontman Chris Applegren. Maybe this is representative of the rising stock of 90s bay area punk? The openers perfectly illustrated the ambition-less loyalty to style that Titus Andronicus fully transcend. Right away they owned all the sloppy stage craft and antics of any good punk band, but didn't stop at spirit and posture. They clearly know how to write a song which is always a big advantage. But they also aren't afraid of drawing from several musical histories, even those that might seem best avoided. They displayed a kind of "I love Rock n' Roll" shamelessness, but buoyed by smart lyrics and unflaggingly catchy songs. Midway through their set they covered Weezer's Sweater Song, which might give the best idea of how their sound balances the big and dumb with the small and felt. Best of all, there was none of the guilty cuteness that might suggest they didn't mean it for real.

There's an easy comparison to Springsteen (they're from New Jersey), which isn't to say they sound like him, because they don't really. But their music doesn't avoid Springsteen level hugeness and the unfashionable belief that rock can be righteous, or is at least more fun when it feels that way. By the end of the night I felt something like faith, both in the band and in the belief that fun and smart really don't have to be mutually exclusive.





On Myspace

YOU GOT TO DIE



For several months now I've been enthralled by the Blind Willie McTell song "You Got to Die" from the Atlanta Twelve String album. It's difficult for me to write much about it without succumbing to breathless praise. That being said, I'm pretty sure it's perfect.




Among the song's many charms is a great example of the 'talking guitar' blues convention in which the instrument finishes the singer's phrase. Take for instance the last chorus -- "You got to die/ You got to..." the final chord rings out, followed by the sound of knocking wood (fingers tapping on the body?) The twelve string guitar has an unnatural beauty even in the most prosaic player's hands, but this here is some next level business. The irregular rhythm-- leaning heavily on the chorus before speeding up on the verses-- and a vocal performance that goes from whisper to preacher's trill, give an idea of McTell's singularities and general greatness.

The song is related, thematically and structurally, to "You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die" by Charley Patton



and more explicitly to "You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond" by McTell's friend Blind Willie Johnson.


(**the divshare flash player has been acting up. if the embedded player isn't showing up, you can scroll down to the mp3 links at the end of the post**)

On Blind Willie McTell's 1940 session with John Lomax, nine years prior to the Atlanta Twelve String recording, Mctell briefly talks about Johnson.

Lomax: "what do you consider his best music?"
Mctell: "Well, sacred music. He have a heavy voice. Most sound like a preacher."

While Johnson & Mctell's recordings share the irrepressible prettiness of the melody (supported by Johnson's female accompaniment), Johnson's crazy false-bass growl makes for a very different impression. Initially Johnson seems to have replaced Mctell's lyricism for a fire and brimstone warning of damnation. But a minute in, Johnson begins singing in the first person.

I heard the voice of Jesus saying
He told me he had risen
Now in the waning midnight hour
I don't hold my breath

Johnson addresses the basic fear of dying alone while McTell sings of the imminence of death. And of course, that Christ provides an out --

"Death is not extinguishing the light from the Christian; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come."

Blind Willie Johnson's song "John the Revelator" was included on Harry Smith's seminal American Folk Music and "You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond" on Sam Charters' The Country Blues, giving Johnson a continued visibility and influence. The song was heavily covered and adapted in the sixties by Donovan, Taj Mahal, Buffy Sainte Marie and Captain Beefheart, among others. There's a very unfortunate youtube clip of Donovan performing the song. I considered including it, but thought wiser. It's out there if you're curious.

Captain Beefheart - You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond


Blind Willie McTell - You Got to Die
Blind Willie McTell - Just As Well Get Ready, You Got to Die an earlier version from the aforementioned 1940 session with Lomax.
Charley Patton - You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die
Blind Willie Johnson - You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond
Captain Beefheart - You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond
Mississippi John Hurt - You Got to Die
Elder Roma Wilson - Better Get Ready A version turning up the celebratory attitude. "Ain't it grand to be a Christian!"


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