October 2003 Archives
The book's done at last--turned it in last night, after which Lisa took me out for Indian food to celebrate. I somehow don't quite feel the sense of accomplishment that I might, but maybe that will have to wait for it to actually get published. This does, however, give me a reason to start emailing and calling everybody I've been blowing off over the last couple of months. Sorry, sorry, sorry to you all.
I'll be on WFMU next Wednesday morning, 9 AM-noon, probably doing a special Boogie Fever, pt. 1 show, assuming I can get the appropriate setting-up done. Other than that... I'm not making plans too far ahead. A little writing, a little organizing, a little soft-shoe shuffle.
Lots of great responses to the questionnaire so far. Keep them coming!
The 801 played for the second and final time last night. Lots of people came--thank you!--and took home a ton of books and CDs that needed caring new homes--thank you also! We played for what in retrospect was probably too long, but it was one of those "last show ever, let's play every song we know" situations. Paula Puhak came up and sang "The True Wheel" with us. The accordion-plus-four-part-harmony "Some Of Them Are Old" went over nicely, I think--at least one person in the audience seemed to be tearing up a little.
And me? I'm two days away from turning in the book. That's how I am, and it's just about all of how I am.
So the questionnaire meme is going around again--I actually really like the idea of personality-type surveys, but never fill them out, because I'm always frustrated by a) the preponderance of questions whose answers are totally uninteresting to me--I mean, even Proust's questionnaire was kind of dull, b) the preponderance of questions that are like "and so what's your Social Security number, just asking for no particular reason?," c) how freaking long they are.
Here, then, is my simple twelve-question questionnaire. You are invited to post your answers in the comments section, propagate it via your own site or whatever, or, if you prefer, quietly ignore it:
1) What's something you (seriously) aspire to do?
2) What's the best piece of creative work you've ever done?
3) With what fictional character do you identify most closely?
4) Name a favorite visual artist of yours.
5) What album have you played the most in your life?
6) If you were to get a (new) tattoo, what would it be?
7) What's the best thing you can cook?
8) What could you teach a really good class on?
9) If you could take any class, what would it be?
10) What do you wish somebody would ask you?
11) What do you wish people would stop asking you?
12) What do you wish somebody would send you in the mail?
Konked out early last night, following a hot-hot-hot 801 band practice (sadly without Leela, who is preserving her dulcet tones for Tuesday)--I think we actually now know four songs we didn't get to play at the first show--and a couple of failed attempts to see the Thermals play. Missed Fat Day, too, which I'm unhappy about, though apparently they're taping at WFMU this morning.
Current station of the parashah: the expanded reissue of the Deep Freeze Mice's I Love You Little BoBo With Your Delicate Golden Lions, their fifth album and one of the most self-indulgent records ever made, which doesn't mean it isn't really good in places. They're like the wacky pop version of Nurse With Wound. Bonus points for titling it after a line from Ginsberg's "The Lion For Real."
Happy 41st birthday, Live at the Apollo (or at least the performance contained therein)!
May you give me more pleasure than pain by your 42nd.
Highlight of CMJ so far = Rob Crow and Optiganally Yours at Luna Lounge last night. That man is goofy. Interesting that he stuck almost entirely to songs from the first OY album (which is better anyway), but--showmanship! costumes! members of his other band in animal masks and dresses! audience participation! Also appreciated that in the course of an hour we'd seen him cover both "Spanish Flea" and "Minor Threat," the latter on acoustic guitar, very quietly, and about 150% as fast as MT themselves. His right hand is a blur.
Have been doing some... interesting interviews for the JB/LATA book. Best quote so far: "The only two honest people in the music industry are me and Clive Davis, and he's a sonofabitch." Also just interviewed DBC Pierre for a tiny piece for the Voice next week--besides having good initials, he's the author of Vernon God Little, which just won the Booker Prize and is awfully funny.
(Email I sent to a Voice fact-checker last night:
"'Velcro fucken ant-farms seize my gut'--p. 43
'They need a skate-goat, they want to hang somebody high'--p. 67
'fucken'--pp. 3-199 passim")
But beyond that there's the book issue, for me, which is that wonderful things are being published and I can't allow myself to look at them yet. Everything and More is banned from the premises until I turn in the manuscript. If Rising Up and Rising Down happens to show up, I'm not going to let myself even open the box (not that that's likely, given that it appears to have been delayed to mid-November). Even The Slippery Slope is likely to live up to its title. Not to mention the copy of The Count of Monte Cristo that's been tempting me from about page 100 for weeks. And let's not even get into that Looney Tunes DVD collection that's due out next week. Ohhhh.
I finally understand the terrible flaw in my plan: that I am not actually Vladimir Nabokov.
Note 1: I have tested my hypothesis and discovered that, as I suspected, it is impossible to be sad and listen to Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns at the same time. Please note: the finest Huey "Piano" Smith album is a dubiously legal CD on the Jax label, called Rockin' Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu--Amazon doesn't have it, and I've only ever seen it once (and bought it then). My suspicions are particularly aroused by the fact that it's got something called "Blow Everybody Blow (Take 73)."
Note 2: I had been wondering for about ten years--not all the time, but occasionally--"what the hell is that very, very familiar tune Huey 'Piano' Smith's saxophone player quotes in his solo on the outtake version of 'Lil Liza Jane' that's on that Jax CD?" Then, tonight, as I was playing it, I realized I'd heard something else that quoted it: some P.D.Q. Bach piece. Which meant it was a classical theme. Luckily, I have a primitive Macintosh that still has HyperCard on it. What a beautiful program that was. And I've got a HyperCard stack called Tunefinder; it appears to have been released as a stand-alone OS X application, which is fortunate, but the gist of it is that you input the first eight notes of your melody and it tells you what it is. Which, in this case, is Dvorak's "Humoresque." Nice.
Little else to say. On a steady regimen of 2000 words a day, which is good for the manuscript but not good for my psychological well-being--I didn't leave the building all day yesterday, and it wasn't the first time this week. Occasionally, I take a little break to listen to something non-Live at the Apollo-related, like the new Stephin Merritt soundtrack (five new songs, insubstantial but pleasant, roughly as lightweight as The House of Tomorrow EP, 12 minutes of new stuff, okay let's put Live at the Apollo back on again and get back to work).
In the middle of working on a long piece this afternoon, I suddenly felt desperately tired, lay down and fell asleep for two hours, dreaming of being in a hotel somewhere in a city I didn't know, and being introduced by a casual acquaintance (unknown to me outside of the dream) to his friend Bob, who turned out to be Bob Dylan; the three of us spent a while wandering around the hotel's grounds, watching waiters push fancy white cakes on carts across carpeted balconies toward grand ballrooms.
I woke up and realized it was time for me to get down to Tonic to see Pelt play to a room with maybe 18 human beings in it, counting their friends and families and the bartender. I love that they started out playing rock in a pretty-much-default way, but eventually started doing something totally non-default: amplified acoustic drone music with banjos, cello, esraj, strange percussion instruments, etc.--the music of all sorts of places with rivers going through them. I think I'd seen them only once before (shaking the spheres of the heavens at Terrastock II), but I continue to have a very soft spot for their records. Their only real conceptual peers, I think, are the Sun City Girls, who are a lot more... um... unreliable.
Also read a chunk of Barry Miles' Beatles Diary, a day-by-day description of what they were up to through the '60s. I remember seeing a quote from George a few years ago to the effect of "you have to understand that we were together everywhere all the time for eight years straight," but looking at their 1962 calendar of at least one show almost every day and often two or three--in different places--I'm realizing that they saw more of each other than most people who work together or live together. Wow.
Successful cooking experiment last night: pad thai, made according to the instructions on the package of wide Thai rice noodles, but with some extra onions and carrots for texture and flavor, plus a combination of sherry and shoyu subbing for the fish sauce and barbecue-flavored seitan instead of shrimp. More experimentation with BBQ-Thai combinations may be in order.
And I'll be helping out a bit with Michelangelo Matos' brilliant new project Boogie Fever, although probably not until I finish up the book. More R&B! The second best kind of music EVER!
Just wrote a very long entry that got eaten by this computer. But the gist is: the 801 played our first show last night, and had a great time. And here's a picture:
We appear to be playing our second and probably final show on the 28th at the Charleston. Come see us!
So a week ago there was a special episode of "Re:Mixology" on WFMU, for which the station's associates were invited to submit remixes, mash-ups and covers of Electric 6's "Gay Bar." I put together one called "Rich, Straight-Acting"--you can hear the whole show here.
My newest unhealthy dependence (and I have so many!) is on protein shakes. Actually, "unhealthy" might not be entirely the right word to use. After a week getting started on a pleasant vanilla-spice-flavored protein powder with spirulina, I went for a giant vat of "Source of Life Vitamin, Mineral & Protein Energy Shake with Whole Food Concentrates--Natural Delicious Creamy Granola Flavor." That would be one of those kinds of granola that has vague metallic undertones, I think, but I don't care--two scoops of this stuff, a cup of rice milk, a banana and a quick buzz in the blender, and my eyes are saucers for hours. I understand why protein shake mixes tend to carry warnings that they're not to be used as the sole source of calories in a diet. And the label lists a whole bunch of healthy-sounding things I can't even pronounce! Ever since the FDA approved placebo for over-the-counter sale, companies like this have had it made.
Unrelatedly: The good news is that somebody has had the brilliant idea of covering
"California Über Alles" with topical lyrics. The bad news is that that
somebody is Dramarama.
Nothing like a good exhausting band practice to get one's brain in order and one's muscles aching: rock therapy! The 801 played through our entire set in 39 and a half minutes today, partly due to my starting "Third Uncle" at a tempo for which I don't know if my bandmates will ever forgive me.
My fast yesterday was preceded by a West Indian "rundown"--vegetables, curry, coconut milk, half a jalapeño--and ended by a trip with a bunch of Lisa's photo pals to Katz's Deli, an East Village joint that's been there for, apparently, over a hundred years, and doesn't seem to have been consciously altered in design in a really long time--it's more sort of accrued. Every sign in the place is curling and yellowing; getting food there involves a complicated and unique procedure.
Looks like the 801 are going to be playing on Tuesday, Oct. 14, at The Hook (with Flaming Fire and Crimson Sweet). Here's info on the club...
I went to the Museum of Television and Radio this afternoon to do some research for the book, and got to see a couple of amazing documents: a mid-1968 hourlong TV special called "James Brown: Man to Man" (JB at the Apollo, doing some Vegas-y standards, a very long "Man's World"/"Lost Someone" medley, a brief interlude for footage of him walking around Harlem and Watts, and finally some serious funk) and, even better, an 11/25/1968 episode of "Playboy After Dark."
As many of you probably know, as obsessive as I get about James Brown, I'm really fascinated by Marva Whitney, a singer who performed in his revue from 1967 to 1969 and made two albums and a handful of singles (she later made a few more singles without his involvement in the '70s). This particular show guest-stars the two of them, as well as Clay Tyson (a really lame comedian who was with the revue around that time--from whom, it appears, JB got the line "I may not know karate, but I know ka-razy"), Soupy Sales, Bill Cosby, and Three Dog Night (!!). The format is Hugh Hefner leading his guests around his mansion, which is full of young nubile types lounging around looking sort of stoned and smiling; the musical guests sing, or lip-synch, it's hard to tell sometimes, along with prerecorded backing tracks, and everybody banters in a fairly scripted way.
This particular episode was made a few months after Brown, Whitney and crew went to Vietnam, which Hefner mentions. Now, I know there was some kind of romantic entanglement between the two of them. (From an interview I did with her a few years ago: "Let me say this. James, first and foremost, loved women. Okay? Loved women. And as far as being a one and only? I don't know, okay? As far as me being with him a lot? Yes! ...Yes, we went to dinner, you know, but if I was that much of a girlfriend, I wouldn't have to have left. But he's a man, you know, and I don't think I was that ugly, you know.") In fact, Marva is gorgeous here, and done up to the nines, with a sparkly green sequined dress. She sings "Who Can I Turn To," and rips so hard that you can hear her mic being turned down mid-phrase so she doesn't blow it out (the stoned hippie couple behind her is digging on it); later, she lip-synchs "Your Love Was Good For Me," another of those songs that are way worse than her performance.
But JB is there with this other woman in a purple dress, and spends a lot of time with his arm snaked around her waist, while Marva occasionally glances over and looks daggers at her. Hugh comes over and says to JB, "so I understand you've got yourself a new jet plane--do you fly a lot in it?" Woman in purple purrs "we go all over!," which is the only thing she says on the show. Who is she? What the hell is going on, interpersonal-dynamic-wise?
Marva Whitney, incidentally, appears to have performed at Richard Nixon's inaugural ball. Nixon appears for about three seconds on the episode of Laugh-In I watched at the MT&R, confusedly muttering "sock it to... me?"
Only other real reportable news is that Lisa and I went to see Urinetown on Thursday for her birthday--I think I'd have appreciated it more if I just kind of stumbled into it in the context of, say, the Fringe Festival, but Little Sally is a character actor's dream role, and Spencer Kayden does lovely things with it.
Observations on working on the James Brown book (now that I'm past what my initial deadline would've been, had it not been extended, thank God):
*I have now played Live at the Apollo approximately three squillion times, and I am still not tired of it. That's a good sign.
*The reference works that are most useful to me are not the ones I'd thought they'd be. Lisa's copy of Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 is invaluable, though.
*It's amazing how many enormous, gigantic, incredibly popular R&B hits of 40 or 50 years ago are now out of print.
*There is not only no site devoted to "Pigmeat" Markham, there is no online source that can tell me when he originated the "Here Comes the Judge" routine, or what exactly was on all those early Chess records he made.
*Listening to a one-minute chunk of something on Amazon is not entirely satisfying, but it's better than nothing.
Simple yet effective thing I made last night, from a Madhur Jaffrey suggestion: sauté two big thinly sliced-up and thoroughly cleaned leeks until they turn golden; add a bunch of kale sliced up into thin ribbons, and two cups of stock; bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat down low and simmer for 20 min. or so. Went very well with the leftover mung bean stew.
The band has a new name, as of this morning: we are the 801.