Hello all, Happy Valentine’s Day to those that are betrothed, as well as to those who fear they are dying alone! Well, between graduate school, work, an internship, learning to drive, two Chihuahuas, a wife, and The Walking Dead, I am pretty busy at the moment. So today’s post is going to be only a quickie. I’ve got two songs for you today that are guaranteed to make you and your sweetheart blush, and will never be less than awkward to listen to in front of your momma.
First up is a song from the French pervert genius, Serge Gainsbourg, accompanied in a duet with the stunning Jane Birkin. This song was banned from radio in Spain, Sweden, Brazil, the UK, Italy, Poland, and Portugal, banned before 11pm in France, and denounced by the Vatican. Supposedly, the Vatican excommunicated the record executive who released this song in Italy, to which Gainsbourg responded by calling the Pope “our greatest PR man.” What could have caused all this? Well it was the pleasurable gasps and moans of Miss Birkin achieving orgasm towards the end of the record. It has always been rumored that the two lovers were actually going at it in the studio while recording this.
Well, here it is from sensual 1969, “Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus”…“I Love You… Nor Do I.” Enjoy!
Up second, is a song that attempts to scratch the same itch but does so at a different speed and a decade earlier. Released in 1958, I know nothing about who John & Jackie were, and most likely they were a creation for the rockabilly craze. Well, whoever they are, Jackie sure seems to be having a good time on this record; here’s their rockabilly duet, “Little Girl.”
Last week was a sad one for music. Not only were there the deaths of Etta James and Johnny Otis, but also I just found out that on January 16th the great songwriter and saxophonist Jimmy Castor died of cardiac arrest in a hospital in Henderson, Nev. He was 71 years old. James Walter Castor was born Jan. 23, 1940, in New York City and grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. Castor began his career in doo-wop and replaced childhood friend Frankie Lymon as lead singer of The Teenagers (McArdle, 2012).
His music developed to encompass a wide range of styles: from doo-wop to Latin jazz to funk to disco. Castor’s wit and way with an infectious groove has caused his music to have been heavily sampled by numerous hip-hop artists including Eric B. and Rakim, The Ultramagnetic MCs, N.W.A., Kanye West, 2 Live Crew, and The Beastie Boys.
—Find out why for yourself—
Off of his 1968 solo debut, Hey Leroy (althoughI believe it was first issued as the B-side to the 1966 single “Hey Leroy, Your Mama’s Callin’ You”) Here’s the feel-good Latin groove of “Ham Hocks Español.”
I might be mistaken, but I believe “Ham Hocks Español” was used as the musical template for “A Gun On His Hip And A Rose On His Chest” by the humorously creative side project formed in 2008 by Devendra Banhart and Gregory Rogove (of Priestbird and Tarantula A.D.) under the moniker of Megapuss. To my ears it seems that they merely squeezed it dry of the Latin grease and fuzzed it up for a surf sound. Regardless, Megapuss certainly shares Castor’s sense of fun, and these two songs will always walk hand-in-hand in my head.
Well, I could not end this post without featuring one of Jimmy Castor’s best-known works, the hilarious “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” which he and his group—The Jimmy Castor Bunch—put out on 1972’s It’s Just Begun. This song particularly resonates with me as I was once an employee of The American Museum of Natural History and would hear this constantly in my head while standing in the Hall of Human Origins. Watch the video below: featuring a caveman that has just gotta find a woman, and does when he encounters Bertha Butt of the Butt sisters.
JIMMY CASTOR; R.I.P.
Banhart, D. & Rogove, G. (2008). A Gun On His Hip And A Rose On His Chest [recorded by Megapuss] On Surfing [CD] Vapor Records. (2008)
Castor, J. (1966). Ham Hocks Español. [recorded by Jimmy Castor] On Hey Leroy. [Vinyl]. Smash Records. (1968)
Unfortunately, I’ve just learned of the passing of the incredible “Miss Peaches,” Etta James. Just five days shy of her birthday, Etta died this morning due to complications from leukemia at the age of 73. James had been diagnosed with leukemia in March 2010 (The Daily Mirror, 2011). Born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles to a mother with only 14 years of age, Etta was discovered and given her stage name by bandleader Johnny Otis (who, sadly passed away three days ago). With a clever twist, Otis simply reversed her first name from Jamesetta to Etta James.
Signing with Chess Records in 1960, Etta recorded the song most popularly associated with her, the stunning ballad “At Last,” in 1961. Although considered one of the all-time-great singers of R&B ballads, before saying farewell I’d like to celebrate her with a bit of gritty merriment. Recorded in 1966 for the Chess imprint, Cadet Records, here’s Etta James’ duet with childhood-friend and inexplicably underappreciated, pint-sized red-hot mama, Sugar Pie DeSanto: “In The Basement.”
Born Umpeylia Marsema Balinton, on October 16, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York to a Filipino father and an African-American mother, “Peliya,” (as her parents called her) was raised in San Francisco from the age of 4 (NPR, 2010). Sugar Pie was likewise given her stage name by Johnny Otis (I guess he just really had a knack for it). Known for using “cuss words that hadn’t even been invented yet” (Williamson, 2008), as well as incorporating acrobatic back-flips and dance-steps on stage, Sugar Pie DeSanto never let her 4’11” frame hinder her razor-sharp delivery. As she belts out in her sassy blues number “Use What You Got”: “if you know how to use what you got it don’t matter about your size.”
Use What You Got!
While trading lines, both James and DeSanto deliver such an abundance of sugar and spice to this soul-club, hand-clapper track that this basement seems to be hosting the best time there ever was to be had; a party where anything goes, and no one will ever know:
Oh, now tell me where can you party, child, all night long?
In the basement, down in the basement, yeah.
Oh where can you go when your money gets low?
In the basement, down in the basement.
And if a storm is taking place, you can jam and still be safe
In the basement, down in the basement, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Not to be upstaged by anyone, here’s Etta James’ heartbreaking “All I Could Do Was Cry.” Released as a single in 1960 and featured on her debut album At Last!, a year later, “All I Could Do Was Cry” apparently was inspired by the real life ramshackle love-quadrangle involving Etta James, her ex Harvey Fuqua, and songwriters Billy Davis and Gwen Gordy. The anguish is palpable on this one.
Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes (1935)
Nation as a Promise
This weekend I honor the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who more than most would have understood the weight of the words above. He knew that our Nation is a Promise—a promise that we each make to ourselves, and to our community—a promise of a Shining City upon a Hill. However, as Jesus Christ said as he gave his Sermon on the Mount, “a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (King James Version, Matthew 5:14). Martin Luther King, Jr. understood that not only was it our duty to judge our world, but that in turn it was our burden to be judged.
Our modern view of King’s August 28, 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech has had a tendency to reduce his words to merely a pictorial report of utopia. Yet, when King called for integration, he was speaking of our responsibility to our fellow man, and that true equality means that we all labor together to fulfill the promise of our nation, a promise that we have inherited, and a promise that we renew with each day we continue to build our homes here. King’s dream was not merely one of interracial hand-holding and pleasant afternoons together in the sun, but one where “[…] we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day” (Walenta, 2010). As Greil Marcus (2006) writes in “The Shape of Things To Come,” King’s most celebrated speech was one that “[…] judges the nation, and calls on each member to judge it in turn. The speech calls on each citizen to weigh the nation’s promises against their betrayal […]” (Marcus, p.34).
A Model of Christian Charity
Governor John Winthrop
President Ronald Reagan was fond of invoking the image of a “shining city” to promulgate a supposed moral superiority and an ideological slant on American exceptionalism, as well as to suggest that our nation could serve as guardian angel and warden for the world. Ultimately, his words were an expression of optimism. They did not take into account the age-old question of “who watches the watchmen?” Nevertheless, as conveyed in the 1630 sermon by Puritan and Massachusetts Bay Colony founder Governor John Winthrop—while aboard the Arbella, which sailed from the Isle of Wight to Salem, Mass.—this status as a City upon a Hill is one to be considered more of a threat than a blessing:
“The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely
with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to
withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a
by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to
speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We
shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause
their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out
of the good land whither we are going” (Religious Freedom, 2001).
Citizen King in the Great World House
The Computerized Plans of Destruction
As a citizen of the world, King not only appreciated the necessity for community as a prerequisite for peace on earth, but understood that community—regardless of one’s view or relation to it—is by its very nature inescapable; existence is nothing if not a multitude of threads and ligaments, by which each living thing is bound to another and all. Beyond this, King knew the obligation that comes with community. On June 14th, 1965 Dr. King gave a commencement address at Oberlin College in Ohio. Entitled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” the speech was more of a challenge to the graduating class than just a mere attaboy pat on the back and words of congratulations:
“All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together;
all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable
network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
[…] All that I’ve said is that we must work for peace, for racial
justice, for economic justice, and for brotherhood the world over.
We have inherited a big house, a great world house in which we
have to live together—black and white, Easterners and Westerners,
Gentiles and Jews, Protestants and Catholics, Moslem and Hindu.
If we all learn to do this we, in a real sense, will remain awake
through a great revolution (Oberlin College Archives, 2009).
As a true patriot, King not only loved our country and its inherent promise, but also was willing to descry that there is a disease within our nation, and that it was our responsibility as a people to deliver a cure. He knew that it little mattered where in fact Plymouth Rock landed. Regardless of semantics and pedigree, in the words of Woody Guthrie (1940), “This land is your land, this land is my land.” Again, as a patriot, King did not necessarily view the malady as an innate element to our nations principle architecture of government, Democracy, but rather the result of a promise perverted by those in power that seek personal gain through the influence of money and violence. Furthermore, I believed he viewed our nation’s malaise and inequity as a matter of depraved, cruel, arrogant, and often merely imbecilic value systems growing viral within our culture; a culture becoming a gluttonous creature in blind pursuit of comfort and dollars, obsessed with the distractions of torture and cartoons on the television. If one wonders what is wrong with this world—why these wrongs are prevalent—one need only to take a look at his world; to understand the product, one need only inspect the factory.
Despite his “I Have A Dream” speech remaining what he is mainly remembered for, I find King’s “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” to have endured as one of his most pertinent. On April 4, 1967 (exactly one year prior to his assassination) at Riverside Church in New York City, Dr. King delivered these words:
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the
fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.
On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on
life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we
must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed
so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed
as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is
more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice
which produces beggars needs restructuring.
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring
contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will
look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West
investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America,
only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment
of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance
with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.”
The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others
and nothing to learn from them is not just. (A More Perfect Union, 2011).
Essentially, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message remains one of Hope and Compassion, however, I believe there was a bit more fire & brimstone to his sermons than people care to remember. King knew that Time remains ambivalent to the aspirations of man. King knew that progress is not inevitable, but requires the vigilant struggle and toil of a conscientious community. King knew that with this community we could one day create “a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” King knew that without this community we are surely damned; our names will remain a stain on history, a curse upon all our offspring’s lips, and a curse upon the lips of God itself.
—The World is a better place for having had this man in it—The World can be a better place for having had this man in it—
Here is a YouTube post with the audio for Dr. King’s speech, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Beneath that I have pasted several of what I feel are critical passages from his speech, particularly in the context of our modern world.
“The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.
“So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
“What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
“We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing—in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.
“Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon, the only solid—solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call “fortified hamlets.” The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.
“Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call “VC” or “communists?” What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence, which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the North” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
“These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
“Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing.
“The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality…and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala—Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.
“And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
“In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.
“It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice, which produces beggars needs restructuring.
“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
“A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
“America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
“This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.
“These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions.
“It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes-hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”
“A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
“This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing—embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door, which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate—ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: ‘Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.’ ‘If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.’ Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.
“We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says:
“‘Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.’
“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood—it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect.
“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action.
“If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
“And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when ‘justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream’” (A More Perfect Union, 2011).
OK, now that I got that off my chest—
Here are a few tracks in tribute of MLK.
First up is perhaps my favorite Public Enemy song, 1991’s “By the Time I Get to Arizona.” Chuck D spits incisive line after incisive line at both the legislature and citizens of Arizona State after their refusal to observe a holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To give a brief history, Sen. John McCain (Republican of Arizona) voted against the creation of the holiday to honor King, and later defended Arizona Republican Governor Evan Mecham, who in 1987 rescinded a former Democratic governor’s establishment of the holiday. As a result, Arizona lost an estimated $300 million in cancellations of concerts, conventions and the 1993 Super Bowl (Hardigg, 1993).
Arizona State eventually relented to observe the holiday. Now, Arizona has gone on to note that in fact they are the only state that actually voted to recognize the holiday, unlike other states, which simply accepted the federal mandate. To me, however, that sounds like mere revision and spin, and an attempt to distract the issue with State’s Rights. One need only look at recent laws that permit the police force to demand your “papers,” to get a fair sense of Arizona’s collective conscious.
The video for this song was received in scandal due to graphic re-enactments of the civil rights movement and King’s 1968 murder interspersed with scenes of Public Enemy members leading an armed insurrection, which culminates with a series of political assassinations.
The heavy-metal-funk groove prominently featured throughout “By the Time I Get to Arizona” is a sample of the Bed-Stuy funk group that was formed in 1968 by three Panamanian born brothers: Mandrill. The sampled song, “Two Sisters Of Mystery” off of their 1973 album Just Outside Of Town has more in common with Led Zeppelin and Stone Temple Pilots than hip-hop, which goes to show just how eclectic P.E. could be.
Mandrill – Just Outside Of Town (1973)
However, the sample that I find particularly inventive occurs as the break-down when Chuck D grits his teeth and obstinately declares that he’s got twenty-five days to get to Arizona. To complement D’s message and delivery, the music is swallowed whole in a rhythmic swamp of menacing bass/drums and disturbing shrieks. These sounds bring to mind a perturbed vision of a playground massacre. Yet, with such precision, this snippet of looped sound is actually taken from a 1971 live concert by the Jackson 5 while performing a rendition of Isaac Hayes’ “Walk on By.” Recorded for the live/soundtrack album, Goin’ Back to Indiana, The screams are nothing but giddy girls cheering on the slow-step dance routine on stage. What a perfect subversion of sound.
The Jackson 5 – Goin’ Back to Indiana (1971)
Affirming the conclusion that most logical Americans arrive at, “[…] my money’s spent/on the goddamn rent/Neither party is mine/not the jackass or the elephant,” and directly stating the threatening consequences for cultural subjugation, “When the blind get a mind/ Better start fearing while we sing it;” off of Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black here’s “By the Time I Get to Arizona.”
Up next is Baby Huey and the Babysitters with their 1970 epic rendition of the song that for many came to epitomize the sixties’ Civil Rights Movement: Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” I’ve already discussed much of Baby Huey’s brief history and the story behind their Curtis Mayfield produced record elsewhere, so, I’d rather consider the impetus behind the song itself. Written by Cooke while on tour in early 1963 and recorded on December 21 of that same year, “A Change Is Gonna Come” was released on 1964’s Ain’t That Good News, which was comprised of the first material that Cooke had recorded in the six months following the drowning death of his 18-month old son. Unfortunately, this album would also be his last released while alive, as Cooke was murdered under mysterious circumstances nine months after the album’s release; he was 33 years old. Ten days after his death on December 11, 1964, “A Change Is Gonna Come” was released as a single.
Sam Cooke was driven to write this song after being both inspired and filled with anxiety upon hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Cooke felt challenged by the song’s depth and understanding of America’s current climate in regards to race relations. Cooke is quoted as saying, “Jeez, a white boy writing a song like that?” (RollingStone, 2012).
Baby Huey and the Babysitters do Cooke’s song more than justice by swelling it into an epic psychedelic anthem that keeps the integrity of the definition of psychedelic intact: soul-manifesting, or soul-revealing. Punctured with scattergun horns, Baby Huey maneuvers the ballad through various temperaments while relating various humorous but personal asides. The most poignant of these being “There’s three kind of people in this world—There’s White People, there’s Black People, and then there’s My People.”
Third, here’s the song that inspired Cooke to write “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Dylan, at the age of 20 in April 1962, introduced this song while onstage at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village, by stating: “This here ain’t no protest song or anything like that, ’cause I don’t write no protest songs” (RollingStone, 2012). He later said that he wrote the song in ten minutes, and anyone familiar with Dylan’s genius will believe him. The version I present was recorded live February 13th, 1974 in Los Angeles during Dylan and The Band’s joint tour. The fact that this tour was the first time Dylan had returned to the road since 1966 is evident in the unrestrained, muscular, and nearly irate delivery of this performance. Through the haze of Garth Hudson’s organ, Robbie Robertson provides some dynamic lead guitar that plays interesting games within the melody.
And to conclude, here are the final public words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The next day, at 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968, he was murdered by a coward while standing on the 2nd floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. If these words do nothing to you then check your pulse.
The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Meridian, 1974. Print.
Public Enemy and Island Def Jam Music Group (1991) (Creators). PublicEnemyVEVO (Poster) (2010, Aug. 27). Public Enemy-By The Time I Get To Arizona [Video] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrFOb_f7ubw
Ridenhour, Robertz, Gary G, Wiz, Depper, Mandrill, Santiago. (1991). By the Time I Get to Arizona [recorded by Public Enemy] On Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black [CD] Def Jam.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Xmas as much as much as the next guy, but there’s certain elements to this season that seem to heighten anxiety, and the days seem to pass in rapid succession. At moments, it can leave you feeling as awkward as a child walking in on Santa Claus making it with mom. Sometimes it just looks like it might be easier if it wasn’t one of “my” days.
So, here are two tracks that (along with Rum from my cousin Paul) help ease me into the Christmas Spirit:
Huey and his crew, “The Clowns,” hammered out this holiday record in their distinctive New Orleans style R&B in 1962. In fact, it was so distinct that it was soon withdrawn due to outraged reactions, which called the rocking treatment of these sacred tunes sacrilegious (Heer, n.d.).
In 2004, NYC’s (although I believe now they live in Philly) The Walkmen dropped their special Christmas Party 7″, EP. Here you’ve got guest Nicole Sheahan helping out on vocals. This one just makes me laugh, in a sentimental way.
Well, Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Goodnight!
“It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now? Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
Allowing my last post to bleed into this one, here’s a quote by Howlin’ Wolf given in 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Somebody has been cashing checks and they’ve been bouncing back on us, and these people, the poor class of Negroes and the poor class of white people, they’re getting tired of it. And sooner or later it’s going to bring on a disease on this country, a disease that’s going to spring from midair and it’s going to be bad. It’s like a spirit from some dark valley, something that sprung up from the ocean…Like Lucifer is on the earth” (Gates, 2004).
At first I was not quite sure how I felt about the whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement and could certainly understand the frequent critique that they did not express a clear “message” nor provided direct, and comprehensive “solutions” to their myriad grievances. However, as I was discussing the topic recently with a good friend of mine, I realized that the message might truly be a simple “Shit is fucked up!” It might not be eloquent—or serve well as a slogan for a Shepard Fairey poster—but I believe that this is what it all boils down to…somewhere back there we made a wrong turn, and we all need to register that fact first before we carry on with finding the right way forward.
Sometimes, “solving problems is not good enough or even the point, when the hardest task is not to denounce evil, but to see it” (Marcus, 1975).
Some suck their teeth and deign to say, “Get a job!” Sure, but then what? Particularly when in the grand scheme of the here & now, regardless of what you might think of your position and the comforts it affords you, we are all essentially shoveling shit in some debtors’ prison to please some plantation warden whose name we never even caught, nor knew we were indentured to. We are on the cusp of 2012 and still we live in a world where there are divergent rules and regulations for a particular set of privileged individuals, while the remaining masses are relegated to a servant-class status at best; at worst are horrors too innumerable to begin to list here.
Several months ago, a Polish émigré who abandoned a career in L.A. and now lives as a masseuse/farmer in Costa Rica said to me (after divulging her admiration for Alex Jones) “C’mon guys, we are living in the future; we should be building cathedrals of music, not fighting stupid little wars all for somebody else’s wallet.” Next she advised me to “throw out your television,” something that I admittedly am not quite ready for, but I do believe she has a point; shouldn’t we be somewhere else by now, somewhere other than here?
V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Alan Moore, the man (along with David Lloyd) behind the mask that has been co-opted as a symbol for much of what these movements represent, recently gave an interesting interview to Honest Publishing (2011) in which he discusses the Occupy movement, and the fascinating idea of ideological change. I have posted some excerpts below:
Alan Moore [photo by Mitch Jenkins, 2010].
“As far as I can see, the Occupy movement is just ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs. I can’t think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and our kids, possibly for generations, when the people who have got us into this have been rewarded for it; they’ve certainly not been punished in any way because they’re ‘too big to fail.’ I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who’s too big to fail. It’s a completely justified howl of moral outrage and it seems to be handled in a very intelligent, non-violent way […].
“What do you think needs to change in our political system?
“Everything. I believe that what’s needed is a radical solution, by which I mean from the roots upwards. Our entire political thinking seems to me to be based upon medieval precepts. These things, they didn’t work particularly well five or six hundred years ago. Their slightly modified forms are not adequate at all for the rapidly changing territory of the 21st Century.
“We need to overhaul the way that we think about money, we need to overhaul the way that we think about who’s running the show. As an anarchist, I believe that power should be given to the people, to the people whose lives this is actually affecting. It’s no longer good enough to have a group of people who are controlling our destinies. The only reason they have the power is because they control the currency. They have no moral authority and, indeed, they show the opposite of moral authority.
“With politics at the moment seemingly determined to keep ploughing on their same destructive course because they can’t think of anything other to do, when we’re facing the possibility of an economic apocalypse, of potentially an environmental apocalypse, we don’t necessarily have an infinite amount of time. I think that since our leaders are not going to address any of these problems then we really have no choice than to attempt to wrest the steering wheel from them. If they’re aiming at the precipice with the accelerator pedal flat to the floor, then we don’t have any other choices left. Do it now, in this generation, because we don’t how many more there’s going to be.
“So something has to be done […]. I would suggest beheading the bankers, but while it would be very satisfying and would cheer us up, it probably wouldn’t do anything practical to alter the situation. Behead the currency. Change the currency, why not? It would disempower all the people who had bought into that currency but it would pretty much empower the rest of us, the other ninety-nine percent” (Honest Publishing, 2011).
I think at this point in time it is quite obvious that we need something new, something other. In an attempt to be clear as to where I position my ass in relation to the fence, I am not opposed to civil disobedience, and I am certainly not advocating that we find recourse in performing pagan rituals with menstrual blood and hallucinogens “on the endless expanse of a Nevada prehistoric lake bed” (Grigoriadis, 2006, p.90), but perhaps we need to occupy our heads with new ideas about what it is we think we are doing here, and just why we are doing it?
There is a tendency in society to firmly believe that what there is, is all there is, forever, and ever, amen; close the book, grit your teeth, and shrug your shoulders. However, a mere glance over those shoulders back into history reveals countless worlds firmly fixed within the confines of their supposed reality: realities that today we either reject wholesale, or vivisect for whatever bits we wish to cling to…and sometimes those realities only linger because they’re making someone money.
Our current financial system, now seemingly entrenched into even every little spasm of our synapses, appears to work exceptionally well. Unfortunately, it does so only for those who were designated heirs-apparent during the design phase of this system’s architecture. Whether this lineage is through actual bloodlines or more of an inheritance through mutual ethics (or lack thereof), for the rest of us it’s a mug’s game. We’ll never get ahead this way. If the game has been bought, sold, and won a long time ago, perhaps it is time we invented a new game? It’s either that or one day we’re going to kick the whole board over in a fit, and if that day comes you better take shelter.
Callen Radcliffe Tjader, Jr. a.k.a. Cal Tjader (July 16, 1925–May 5, 1982) was a vibes player who played with Dave Brubeck and in George Shearing’s quintet in the early fifties before forming his own group and going on to gain an international reputation for his distinctive musical style that encompassed Latin, jazz, and soul music (McClellan, 2004). Signing to Fantasy Records in 1971, Cal Tjader released Agua Dulce with its hypnotic rendition of The Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter.”
Arranged by Ed Bogas the song features: Cal Tjader, vibes; Rita Dowling, Moog Synthesizer; Micheal Smithe & Pete Escovedo, Congas; Coke Escovedo’ Timbales; and either Richard Berk or Lee Charlton, Drums.
To stay within the theme, here’s “Mr Guy Fawkes” performed by the Australian psychedelic rock group, The Dave Miller Set. Originally written by guitarist Mick Cox of the Irish group Eire Apparent (who opened for Jimi Hendrix’s America tour of ’68), Dave Miller remodeled the song to be his group’s single in 1969 (Kimbal). I love Dave Miller’s proto-Layne Staley vocals atop this orchestrated ballad with a boot-stomping backbeat.
“Mr Guy Fawkes”
by The Dave Miller Set: Dave Miller (vocals), John Robinson (guitar), Leith Corbett (bass), Mike McCormack (drums). Produced by Pat Aulton.
Although I’ve by no means reached a terminus to my thought processes on these matters, I remain firm in my belief that there is much more than just all this.
Cox, M. (1968). Mr. Guy Fawkes [recorded by The Dave Miller Set]. On Mr.Guy Fawkes (single). Spin Records. (1969)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has died of a heart attack at the age of 69.
Now listen to the mesmerizing sounds of people mourning the loss of this psychotic despot:
And here are 50 fascinating facts about Kim Jong-il
from Dec. 19, 2011 issue of The Telegraph, although, I believe the word “fact” should often be taken within a certain light.
1 According to his biography, he first picked up a golf club in 1994, at North Korea’s only golf course, and shot a 38-under par round that included no fewer than 11 holes in one. Satisfied with his performance, he reportedly immediately declared his retirement from the sport.
2 He was a near-obsessive film buff with a reported collection of 20,000 plus video tapes.
3Kim, thought to be 5ft 2in (157cm) tall, is said to have worn lifts in his shoes and sported a bouffant hairstyle
4 He was suspected of killing his younger brother Kim Shu-ra when he was five after the child drowned in the family’s swimming pool in their Pyongyang mansion. The claims were never proved.
5 He was born on Feb. 16, 1942 aged 69, in a secret military camp on Baekdu Mountain, on the North Korean border, his official biography says. But Soviet records claim he was born on February 16, 1941 in the village of Vyatskoye, in Russia, where his parents were in exile during the Japanese occupation of Korea.
6 North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world. According to the US State Department, it has an estimated active duty military force of up to 1.2 million personnel, compared to about 680,000 in the South, with about one in five of men aged 17-54 in the regular armed forces.
7 In 1960, he began to study at the politics and economics department of Kim Il-sung University and graduated four years later.
8 His survivors are believed to include five children. The youngest, Kim Jong-un, is expected to eventually succeed him.
9 His eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, once believed to be the designated heir, appeared to have fallen out of favour after being arrested in Tokyo in 2001 while travelling to Disneyland on a forged passport .
10 According to his official biographers, his birth in Baekdu Mountain was prophesied by a swallow and heralded with a double rainbow and a new star in the heavens.
11 Kim was eight when his mother, Kim Jong-suk, died in childbirth, according to his official biography, although there are suggestions that his mother died of gunshot wounds.
12 He was known by more than 50 names including Dear Leader, Supreme Leader, Our Father, The General, Generalissimo.
13 He is said to have broadcast once in his country – in 1992, during a military parade in Pyongyang, he said into a microphone at the grandstand: “Glory to the heroic soldiers of the Korean People’s Army!” Applause broke out in the crowds and the parade participants cheered.
14 Nine years later, he was elected secretary of the committee before in becoming a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee in February 1974.
15 He was hailed as a demigod in North Korea while South Korea portrayed him as a vain playboy with a penchant for bouffant hair, jumpsuits and platform shoes designed to make him look taller.
16 The dictator travelled by private train for state visits – a decision believed to be connected to his apparent fear of flying, a phobia he was believed to share with his father.
17 In December 1992 he was Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, First Vice-Chairman and later Chairman of the National Defence Commission before being re-appointed in April 1993.
18 On Oct. 8, 1997, Kim Jong-il was elected General Secretary of the WPK.
19 Kim Jong Il was given the honorary title “Hero of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” in 1975 and then again seven years later.
20 In April 1992, he was given the title of Marshal of the DPRK. He has also received the Kim Il-sung Order three times and many other awards and honours.
21 After the death of his father Kim Il-sung in July 1994, it took three years for Kim to consolidate his power and finally take the title of General Secretary of the Workers’ Party.
22 Because, at his death, his father was named “Eternal President,” Kim never officially became president of North Korea.
23 Since October 1980, he has been a member of the Presidium of the Politburo and secretary of the Central Committee of the WPK and the Central Military Commission.
24 Between 1982 and 1998, he was deputy to every Supreme People’s Assembly.
25 His private train journeys were as luxurious as befitted a leader of North Korea, despite the millions left behind starving due to famine: one Russian emissary who travelled across Russia by train with Kim described how live lobsters were airlifted daily to his train.
26 He started working for the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in 1964.
27 At university it was claimed in his biography that he wrote no fewer than 1,500 books in three years
28 His all time favourites including Rambo, Friday the 13th, Godzilla and “The Eternal Bosom of Hot Love”.
29 He was said to be a particular fan of Elizabeth Taylor, the late Hollywood actress.
30 Kim ordered the kidnapping of Shin Sang-ok, the South Korean film director, and his actress wife, Choi Eun-hee, in 1978 in order to build up North Korea’s film industry. They made seven films before escaping to the West in 1986.
31 Kim apparently produced a patriotic 100-part documentary series on the history of his North Korean homeland as well as writing a book titled On the Art of Cinema.
32 Kim also apparently composed six operas and enjoyed staging musicals.
33 He was the main villain in Hollywood film, Team America.
34 He is said to have owned at least 17 opulent mansions
35 He reportedly spread the myth across North Korea that he could control the weather with his moods, as if by magic.
36 Kim had female staff inspect each grain of rice to check it adhered to standards of length, weight and colour.
37 He forced waitresses at restaurants frequented by foreigners in Pyongyang to have cosmetic surgery in order to appear more “western”.
38 He reportedly drank £450,000 of cognac each year in a country where average income was about £580.
39 A recent new list of luxury imports now also reveals a penchant for Chinese dolphins, French poodles, and African aphrodisiacs and is said to have developed a palate for Donkey meat as well lobster and expensive French wine.
40 A personality evaluation report on him, compiled by psychiatrists suggested that the “big six” group of personality disorders – sadistic, paranoid, antisocial, narcissistic, schizoid and schizotypal – which were shared by dictators Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein were also dominant in the late North Korean leader.
41 Minju Joson, a North Korean newspaper, reported once that Kim invented a product described as “double bread with meat” and created factories to produce them in order to feed his students and teachers. Some observers noted it was very similar to an American-hamburger.
42 Satellite imagery recently showed that he had installed a series of loopy waterslides.
43 The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is considered one of the most secretive countries in the world.
44 It is said to have acquired its nuclear programme from the Soviet Union in the 1980s
45 Estimates of the size of its nuclear weapons stockpile range from low single digits to just more than a dozen but there is no certainty the country has built a working bomb.
46 North Korea has faced a tightening international sanctions regime since 2009 after it conducted a series of illegal nuclear and ballistic missile tests, allegedly torpedoed a South Korea corvette and shelled a South Korean Island.
47 Its economy is reeling under the impact of UN sanctions and a series of natural disasters, according to data published South Korea’s central bank.
48 Statistics showed North Korea’s economy contracted for a second consecutive year in 2010 despite the North’s leadership promising to deliver their country to the “gateway of a mighty and prosperous nation” by next year.
49 The 23.9 million North Korean citizens are not able to freely use mobile phones or the Internet (with the internet domain .kp) although Kim considers himself to be a communications expert.
50 It is a mainly atheist or non-religious country with traditional beliefs with the UN estimating that men live on average 76 years and women 83 years.