Tag Archives: Greil Marcus

A MOUTHFUL OF PENNIES PRESENTS: EL AMBIENTE BIEN BABES Y BEAN DE URUGUAY: VOLUME 1

Hello all, what follows is Volume 1 of two very special mixes I made upon returning from the motherland: Uruguay. Truly, this was the best trip I’ve ever been on. Along with a little bit of background and history, here I try to capture the atmosphere and sentiment of me and my wife’s experiences through the sounds we listened to while there, as well as with what I was inspired to dig up and look into upon our return. By no means am I trying to bore anyone with vacation photos, nor is this a fully detailed account of any of the artists featured on the mix; for that matter, nor is this a thorough history of that wonderful little country nestled between the massive Brazil and Argentina, settled on the banks of a river as wide as a sea. It is, however, an attempt to communicate a certain vibration. Feel free to just press-play, sink in, and enjoy yourself.

Thanks,

Bobby Calero

P.S. I did the majority of the translations here, so don’t hesitate to chime in if you have a better suggestion, as knowing two languages is more automatic while translation itself is a slippery art form. Likewise, feel free to offer any information or corrections you might have on any of the various topics addressed here. Remember, in this (somewhat) instant field of self-publishing on a blog , there are no editors or proofreaders to rely on. —Enjoy!

[Note: This two-volume mix is best enjoyed when under the sun, so be sure to break it out a few times over the course of the summer!]

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

ambiente volume 1

————-______________\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/

——————————-(Click to Listen or Right-Click-Save-As to Download)—————–================__^__===================  ===  _ ===== == =   = =  __  _

A MOUTHFUL OF PENNIES PRESENTS:

El Ambiente Bien Babes Y Bean de Uruguay: Volume 1

1) Let’s Go Away For Awhile – The Beach Boys (1966)

2) Sun King – The Beatles (1969)

3) Para Hacer Musica, Para Hacer – Miguel Y El Comité (1971)

4) Esa Tristeza – El Kinto (1968)

5)  No Puede Ser – Los Campos  (1972)

6)  Hermano Americano – Montevideo Blues (1972)

7) And I Love Her – La Fragua (2001)] [Snippet]

8) Valentine Day – Paul McCartney (1970)

9) Jacinta – Eduardo Mateo (1972)

10) Fields Of Joy – Lenny Kravitz (1991)

11) La Conferencia Secreta del Toto’s Bar/Mi Tía Clementina – Los Shakers (1968)

12) African Bird – Opa (1976)

13) Barnyard/Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine – Brian Wilson (2004)

14) Principe Azul – El Kinto (1968)

15) Fly – Nick Drake (1970)

17) Hombre – Eduardo Mateo &Verónica Indart (1969)

18) Norwegian Wood (Baguala) – La Fragua (2001)

19) 4th Time Around – Bob Dylan (1966)

20) Zamba De Mi Esperanza – Jorge Cafrune & Los Chalchaleros (1964/2000)

21) Gioco di Bimba – Le Orme (1972)

22) Siempre Caminar – Limonada (1970) [Snippet]

23) Luna de Margarita – Simón Díaz (1966)

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

A MixTape by A Mouthful of Pennies (Bobby Calero).

Cover art and all personal photos by Keri Kroboth.

 —————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

————————(CLICK TO LISTEN & DOWNLOAD)    


—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

IMG_4049IMG_4059

Babes & Bean (1/29/13)

Babes & Bean (1/29/13)

[1)   Let’s Go Away for AwhileThe Beach Boys (1966)]

[…] something everyone in the world must have said at some time or another. Nice thought; most of us don’t go away, but it’s still a nice thought.”

—Brian Wilson (Linett, 2001).

One stunning facet from the warm gem that is The Beach Boys’ masterpiece Pet Sounds. It is physically impossible to be nervous about flying when wrapped in this sound.

Brian Wilson at the San Diego Zoo, February 15th, 1966. (Photo by George Jerman).

Composed and produced by Brian Wilson and given life by the finest musicians of The Wrecking Crew, with this tune the warts and worries of whole world can simply soften into a realm of tranquil sound. For some reason or another, this song always brings to my mind the Jim Carroll poem, Fragment: Little N.Y. Ode, from his 1973 collection, Living at the Movies. This work too comes across as a satisfied sigh:

Jim Carroll, June 22nd, 1979 (Photo by Michael Zagaris)

I sleep on a tar roof.

        scream my songs

                          into lazy floods of stars…

a white powder paddles through blood and heart

                                                                                     and

the sounds return

                                      pure and easy…

Ah, this city is on my side.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Punta del Diablo

Punta del Diablo

[2)   Sun KingThe Beatles (1969)]

August 22, 1969, one month after recording “Sun King.” (photo by Ethan Russell and Monte Fresco).

Having received The Beatles Box Set as a Christmas gift from my wife, I flew to Uruguay with my brain fully saturated in what is truly some of the greatest music ever recorded. Here, sun-kissed and brylcreemed, we have one of John Lennon’s contributions to “the Long Medley” that concludes The Beatles’ final masterpiece, Abbey Road. It all feels so free and easy; its emphasis on breath and the simple pleasure that exists in the soft spaces in between perfectly captures a languid day in the seaside village of Punta del Diablo, located 185 miles east from the capital, Montevideo, and just under 27 miles from the Brazilian border.

Punta del Diablo

Punta del Diablo

Here on this mix I conclude the track with a jumble edit of Beatles’ scraps and others to break and segue…

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Entering a conceptual room by Uruguayan artist Luis Camnitzer (born 1937), on display at the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales in In Parque Rodó, Montevideo. Here every object that would appear within the room, such as the rug, the curtains, and even the branches of a tree one would see outside a window are all plainly labeled within the empty room for you to fill in. Silly, simple, and great, I think.

Entering a conceptual room by Uruguayan artist Luis Camnitzer (born 1937), on display at the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales in Parque Rodó, Montevideo. Here every object that would appear within the room, such as the rug, the curtains, and even the branches of a tree one would see outside a window are all plainly labeled within the empty room for you to fill in. Silly, simple, and great, I think.

A would-be Librarian in front of a conceptual bookcase

A  Librarian in front of a conceptual bookcase

[3)   Para Hacer Musica, Para HacerMiguel Y El Comite (1971)]

In 1969-1970, Miguel Livichich made his fame in Uruguay and throughout the rest of South America with the group El Sindykato (The Syndicate). However, by mid ’71, due to “differences” (primarily financial) Livichich left the group to quickly form another whose name held a certain allusion to the band he abandoned: El Comité (The Committee). Approaching the band Feeling Rock he made it immediately clear that he intended to be the leader:

“I told them, I want a band to join me, but we all work together […]

Accept, and we make a titanic effort. An aggressive launch. I do not

lie, in fifteen days we were recording the LP. It was pin, pin and we

were playing at all the dances. It was amazing working with Miguel

Y El Comité” (Lion Productions, 2011).

This new group consisted of Washington Pachetto on drums and percussion, dual guitars handled by Bengochea Piece and Jose Maria Sanguinetti, Gustavo Luján on bass, and Miguel Livichich himself as principal songwriter, lead vocalist, on guitar, and responsible for the congas—an essential element to the candombe beat (the traditional musical style of rhythm idiosyncratic to the Uruguayan region) which Miguel Y El Comité helped pioneer the fusion of with swinging pop and rock music fuzz. As with so many groups of this era, financial hardship, frustrated ambitions, and political persecution by a military dictatorship helped scatter and silence the band.

However, here is the opening track off their 1971 debut, in which they cut through the illusory fat of image and fads and declare what is and what is not necessary “to create music, to create…” (By the way, to my ears this stuff sounds like just about the best groove music that The Beastie Boys never got to lovingly crib).

You don’t have to go around in weird clothes

You don’t have to have Che’s books

You don’t have to have hair, or a beard

Nor smoke Ambientex

…To Create Music…

You must know an inverted chord

You must listen to a little John Sebastian

Do not sing in gringo, they don’t understand you

No matter how much you shout, shout, shout…

…To Create Music…To Create…

You don’t have to have thousand-dollar equipment

It’s your soul that must sound

What good is an imported guitar

If you don’t know what it is to tune it?

…To Create Music…To Create…

…To Create Music…To Create…

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The corner of Cerro Largo and Ciudadela in the Ciudad Vieja neighborhood of Montevideo.

The corner of Cerro Largo and Ciudadela in the Ciudad Vieja neighborhood of Montevideo.

IMG_3809

[4)   Esa Tristeza – El Kinto (1968)]

Here we have one of the finest songs by one of the finest groups this world has ever known. While, as exceptional as they were, a band like Los Shakers may have received a reputation as “the Uruguayan Beatles,” this was due to their adoption and adhesion to an Anglo style. Meanwhile, it is El Kinto that truly deserves that moniker for their spirit of innovation and reinvention. As early as 1966, while most groups sang in English, they were insistent upon composing songs in their native castellano rioplatense Spanish (the variant dialect spoken mainly in the areas in and around the Río de la Plata basin of Argentina and Uruguay) and El Kinto were the first group to integrate Uruguay’s native music of candombe with psicodelic rock, pop, and bossa nova.

Economic yet strange in style, El Kinto consisted of two primary composers: percussionist and vocalist Rubén Rada (perhaps Uruguay’s most celebrated musician), and brilliant guitarist and vocalist Eduardo Mateo (perhaps Uruguay’s most celebrated iconoclastic madman). Despite some personnel changes the group featured the amazing talents of Walter Cambón on lead guitar, Urbano Moraes on bass and vocals, and Luis Sosa on drums. By 1969, after Rada and Moraes amicably left the group to pursue other opportunities they were replaced by virtuoso percussionist Mario “Chichito” Cabral and bassist Alfredo Vita. When the group completely disintegrated by the early part of 1970, despite being celebrated by the Uruguayan counterculture as a musical phenomenon, El Kinto had never actually recorded an album or even released a single other than as the backing musicians for a few pop acts. Oddly enough, all existing recordings of this group were quickly done so to play behind the group as they mimed a performance on the live, music television show Discodromo. Luckily, each appearance on the program allowed another opportunity to record, and so we have the roughly twenty tracks associated with the group today.

Esa Tristeza” (That Sadness), a Eduardo Mateo composition sung by him and recorded in June of 1968, features such a peculiar, fluid shuffle that lilts along with some of the most poetically haunting lyrics I’ve ever heard:

That Sadness

That sadness that you have

Comes from a tired face

Comes from open hands

From hands that have escaped

From hands that have escaped

That sadness that hangs

Where your hair ends

Comes from a sea that has dried-up

While you dreamt desires

While you dreamt desires

You Think, You Go On And Think

I know very well what you have

There is in your life a past

Dust that the wind does not carry

Are your bad memories

Are your bad memories

You Think, You Go On And Think

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Somewhere along the street Sarandí in Ciudad Vieja.

Somewhere along the street Sarandí in Ciudad Vieja.

IMG_4221

My wife and I with several generations of my Facal family

My wife and I with several generations of my Facal family (Tio Julio, R.I.P.).

IMG_2887

[5)   No Puede SerLos Campos  (1972)]

Los CamposNaturaleza Viva (1972).

This lovely, harmony-driven slice of psyche-pop is the opening track to Los Campos’ (The Fields) second (and, unfortunately, last) LP: Naturaleza Viva. I believe the album’s title is supposed to be a play on words, but attempting to translate it hurts my head. Essentially, it is the opposite of a “still life,” as in a painting. The musicians (Julio César Arostegui on lead vocals and organ, Juan Gadea on lead guitar, Enrique Machado on rhythm guitar, Gustavo Musto on bass, and Pedro Robaina on drums) come together to create a seamless groove that is made all the more buoyant by the charming chant of the female vocal choir (Mariela Avellanal, Rosario Berro, Alicia Dandreis, and Silvia Richi).

The whirling tone of the Gadea composed “No Puede Ser” (It Cannot Be) works nicely against the distressed sentiment of the song—one likely shared by many South Americans (particularly artists and intellectuals) living under the austere depravity of a military dictatorship, where expatriation seemed to be the only viable solution to poverty, prison, or even death:

“No! I don’t want to go. I want to sing, in my country. It Cannot Be!”

            Los Campos were rather successful, touring the whole interior of the country throughout 1972 with the full band, choir, light machines, and projectors (Peláez, 2004)—all culminating in a large year-end concert accompanied by a twenty-piece orchestra at Teatro Solis, Montevideo’s opera house (built in 1856 it is also Uruguay’s oldest theater).

El Teatro Solis sandwiched between two newer structures.

El Teatro Solis sandwiched between two newer structures.

The entrance steps to Teatro Solis

The entrance steps to  Teatro Solis

In late 1973, however, in a story that is sadly repeated over and over with these bands, unable to sustain a career at home Los Campos traveled to Europe to perform in Spain, France, and Switzerland, but soon broke up in 1974.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The House of Remote Control, located somewhere in the Centro neighborhood of Montevideo

The House of Remote Control, located somewhere in the Centro neighborhood of Montevideo

One of the pieces up for the DOGMA group show—featuring artists Javier Abreu, Julia Castagno, and Ernesto Rizzo—on display at the more subversive Subte museum, located underground, underneath the Plaza del Entrevero, on18 de Julio Ave, Montevideo.

One of the pieces up for the DOGMA group show—featuring artists Javier Abreu, Julia Castagno, and Ernesto Rizzo—on display at the more subversive Subte museum, located underground, underneath the Plaza del Entrevero, on 18 de Julio Ave, Montevideo.

[6)  Hermano AmericanoMontevideo Blues (1972)]

Gastón “Dino” Ciarlo

Dino first came to prominence in the Uruguayan music scene as a DJ on Radio Ariel and with the beat group Los Gatos as well. On the weekends of his youth my father would attend dances where Dino served as the DJ, always spinning the latest in rock‘n’roll and candombe-beat. After a brief stint of releasing candombe-inflected pop singles himself and an LP as a solo artist in 1969 and the early 70’s, Dino was looking to abandon both his solo career and his legendary radio show La Tenaza (which tended to feature music by Bob Dylan, Cream, Ray Charles, and others like that). He knew that to accomplish the experimental musical ideas he had rolling around in his head for quite some time now he required a full band skilled in the diverse sounds of traditional Uruguay folk music. Dino searched for a band in order to “[…] fuse the rawness of rock music with obscure native rhythms like malambo, milonga and chamarritta […]” (Tornatore, 2007).

“The tropicalismo of Brazil made us realize that we had work

to do with our own national music traditions”

—Dino (Tornatore, 2007).

In 1972 he found just the group to accomplish this with—Montevideo Blues: Eduardo “Pocho” Díttamo (guitar and backing vocals); Néstor Barnada (guitar and backing vocals); Horacio “Niño” Costa (bass); Julio César “Lelo” Surraco (percussion); and José “Pepe” Martínez Díaz (drums). In addition to this “folk-rock” sound, this album features extremely incisive, political and socially conscious lyrics—particularly for a time when it was a true danger to do so. Like many at the time, Dino had been growing increasingly politicized, intensely so with his compositions. During his concerts of ’71 he would often pause in the middle of the show to read the Acts of Parliament, only to afterwards declare, “You realize that these guys are a bunch of liars!” (Tornatore, 2007).

Around this time—as the economy was collapsing, labor and student movements were holding demonstrations and strikes, and the left-wing urban guerilla group the Tupamaros were fighting the government in a struggle for equality and justice for the people—the government followed the example of so many other South American countries and declared a police state. In June 1968, President Jorge Pacheco, trying to suppress unrest, enforced a state of emergency and repealed all constitutional rights. The government began a program of imprisoning political dissidents (often secretly), used torture during interrogations, and brutally repressed demonstrations (Nahum, 1991).

Flag of the Tupamaros National Liberation Movement

By 1972 the majority of the Tupamaros had been either killed or were imprisoned under horrifying conditions where they would remain for well over a decade. In July of 1973, despite the deteriorated threat posed by the suppressed political dissidents, the government under Juan María Bordaberry dissolved parliament and ceded government authority over to the military, under whose auspices he remained as the first in a series of military approved presidents.

“President” Juan María Bordaberry

This bloodless coup led to further repression and the suppression of all political parties. The following month, the Tupamaros formed the Revolutionary Coordinating Junta with other leftwing groups pursuing urban guerrilla warfare in South America. This all soon led to Operation Condor, in which the military regimes in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia all cooperated to repress, kidnap, torture, and kill intellectuals, socialists, and others deemed opponents. “Conservative estimates suggest a minimum of 60,000 people were ‘disappeared’ during Operation Condor […] and countless more were imprisoned and tortured” (Olle, 2012).

Upon their release from imprisonment after the collapse of the dictatorship in the late 80’s, many of the former guerrillas banded together to form a political party, which in recent years has won all of the elections and are now the progressive head of the Uruguayan Government. On March 1, 2010 former Tupamaro José “Pepe” Mujica—who spent 14 years in a military prison (two of those confined at the bottom of a well)—took office as President of Uruguay. On March 5th of 2010 former president Bordaberry was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his involvement in 1976 political assassinations. Prior to that, on October 22, 2009, another former Uruguayan president/dictator, Gregorio Conrado Álvarez was sentenced to 25 years in prison for 37 counts of murder and human rights violations (BBC, 2009).

President José “Pepe” Mujica

However, back in 1972 when Dino and Montevideo Blues were recording their sole album there was little hope in sight. Dino felt that this situation needed to be addressed in their music:

We follow the course of history, the history of those who suffer

from economic situations. And I say to you that I have been

hungry, and cold, and have had problems trying to buy a liter of

milk for my children. Yet the creators of the problems continue

to promise a better future: “within six months, we are going to see

 an improvement,” “this year no, but next year yes, dear compatriots,”

and so on throughout history. The fault is always placed on the

international markets, and never on the bad economic conditions

that lead to social disasters; the blame is always placed upon

pensioners, teachers, health care workers, and of course, it is

always the fault of the left…When a musician or a composer

looks around and sees how his brothers live, he puts it in a song

—Dino (Tornatore, 2007).

Before Dino even commences with the declarative holler of his vocals “Hermano Americano” (American Brother) immediately demands the attention of your spinal column and shoulder muscles with its frenetic eddies of guitar that ripple around the percussive, clipped gallop of the rhythm and the corpulent bounds and burrows of the bass. This pace soon all give way to the weight of a rasped, surreal monologue over a jazz riff, wherein a child’s nightmare coalesces into the horror of bureaucracy and corruption that plague the world of adults. Another element of this song that I love is that it does not address the U.S. with blind ire, but with a moral superiority that serves to condemn and shame American arrogance. Here, Dino and Montevideo Blues wag their finger at the greasy muscle and appetite of the United States, and with good reason. All of the South American dictatorships were put into place not only with the U.S.’ support, but actual involvement.

Dan Mitrione

On July 31st of 1970 the Tupamaros kidnapped one Daniel A. Mitrione who had been serving under the Nixon administration as a United States government advisor for the Central Intelligence Agency in Uruguay. Mitrione, who was once quoted as having said, “The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect” (Patar, 2001) had been sent to Uruguay to instruct the police force there on effective torture techniques. It is said that “Mitrione had built a soundproofed room in the cellar of his house in Montevideo, in which he assembled selected Uruguayan police officers to observe torture-technique demonstrations” (Hevia Cosculluela, 1981). Allegedly, these demonstrations were conducted upon vagrants picked up off the street who were executed once the lesson was over. The Uruguayan government, with the United States backing, refused to meet the Tupamaros’ demands and Mitrione was later found dead in a car. Other than the two fatal gunshot wounds to his head, there was no other signs of maltreatment; he had not been tortured.

Art on the street Sarandi.

Art on the street Sarandi.

Hermano Americano” (American Brother)

American Brother

American Brother, this is for you

American Brother

American brother, remember

That the owner of the world is not the strongest

But the one that is right

The pirates

Have a thousand frigates

Pointed sabers,

They always wear neckties,

They have hair on all their feet,

Heads of the dead,

and long hands.

The Pirates are all made of glass

And many get scared when

They talk of the town

Once they have retired

All they do

Is run for Deputy

American Brother

American Brother, this is for you

American Brother

American brother, remember

That the owner of the world is not the strongest

But the one that is right

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

La Leyenda performing their murga at the Teatro De Verano (Feb. 8, 2013)]

La Leyenda performing their murga at the Teatro De Verano (Feb. 8, 2013)

La Leyenda performing their murga at the Teatro De Verano (Feb. 8, 2013)

La Leyenda performing their murga at the Teatro De Verano (Feb. 8, 2013)

[7) And I Love HerLa Fragua (2001)] [Snippet]

Originally Released in June of ’64 as a 7” single.

Just a snippet of the Argentinean band La Fragua’s rendition of Paul McCartney’s beautifully stark opening phrase to The Beatles “And I Love Her.” While in our apartment in the Pocitos beach area of Montevideo (generously lent to us by my amazing aunt and uncle in Australia) I nearly immediately turned the dial to 97.1 and tuned in to discover the wonderful public radio station Babel, which plays classical, Jazz, and a vast array of “folk” music from around the world: everything from bossa nova to Tibetan throat singing! Babel remained the only stationed I listened to the entire time I was there in the capital, and one of the many groups it turned me on to was La Fragua.

Formed in Bariloche, which is situated in the foothills of the Andes on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake in Argentina, La Fragua perform remarkable covers of The Beatles tunes by incorporating the folkloric instrumentation and traditional styles of South America—here you can watch them perform a fun rendition of  “Yellow Submarine as a Chamamé (a sort of Argentinean Polka).

Anyway, the reason here for including only a snippet (other than time constraints) of “And I Love Her” is that this musical phrase was utilized during one of the more placid segments (of which there were very few) of the hilarious Murga we saw performed by the group La Leyenda (pictured above) at the Teatro De Verano, an outdoor amphitheater in which a major portion of the Carnaval concerts are held. A type of theatre, murga operates as a sort of “cultural therapy” in which competing groups prepare a 45-minute long musical play consisting of costume changes and a suite of songs that address (often hysterically) current events and “hot topics” in Uruguay or elsewhere over the preceding year, such as racism, the legalization of marijuana, gay-marriage, and reckless drivers (a true hazard in Montevideo).

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Fuente de los Candados, where lovers leave an inscribed lock

Fuente de los Candados.

"The legend of this young fountain tells us that if a lock with the initials of two people in love is placed in it, they will return together to the fountain and their love will be forever locked."

“The legend of this young fountain tells us that if a lock with the initials of two people in love is placed in it, they will return together to the fountain and their love will be forever locked.”

Poster hung up at Bar Los Beatles in Montevideo

Poster hung up at Bar Los Beatles in Montevideo

[8) Valentine DayPaul McCartney (1970)]

McCartney

IMG_2955

IMG_4121

IMG_4207

After spending the live-long-day walking along the beach and through the town of Punta del Diablo, eating empanadas and fresh seafood, we spent the evening on our deck watching the shore, talking, and (accompanied by some Fernet Branca and liters of Cerveza Patricia) doing a little tipsy boogie-woogie to this and other numbers off of Paul McCartney’s solo debut, McCartney, released in April of 1970.

Playing every instrument himself (although his wife Linda does add the occasional backing vocal), McCartney’s impeccable knack for the interplay of rhythm with vertical melodies is here applied to a rough-recorded and ramshackle patchwork of pop, blues, rock & roll, country, funk, and folk. Odd, amusing, and never taking itself too seriously—this quick LP is a simple pleasure to listen to. Under appreciated—highly recommended.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

IMG_3187

The streets of Colonia del Sacramento, the oldest town in Uruguay

The streets of Colonia del Sacramento, the oldest town in Uruguay

[9) JacintaEduardo Mateo (1972)]

A sweet bossa nova by a pure musician. By the time El Kinto had officially disintegrated in the early part of 1970 most of Mateo’s friends and associates were already convinced that he had gone completely insane. Despite the fact that these same people viewed him as a musical genius, they did not know what to make of his habits of disappearing for days at a time, either to lock himself up somewhere in a rented room to explore new realms on his instrument while searching for spiritual enlightenment through chemicals, or to wander the streets with nothing but pajamas and a guitar—there was always a guitar, a rare constant in this man’s unhinged life. Once, my uncle saw him walking the streets at night with one foot aligned with the curb, the other with the gutter, so that he was forced to maintain an awkward and drastic limp to his gait—how’s that for a metaphor?!

Speaking of this period in Mateo’s life, Uruguayan singer Verónica Indart had this story to tell:

“The last time I saw him was in the first years of the 1970s. I was

with Héctor, my husband, and Mateo arrived. He entered, he took

up the guitar, and he sat down to play by the window, looking at the

sea for a long while. We listened to him. When he finished, he got up,

he set down the guitar and he went out the door without a greeting.

That was Mateo. He arrived, gave us his music and went on without

greeting us, because it was not necessary” (Lion Production, 2006).

In 1971, for those who were fortunate to have heard Mateo play there was no doubt of that man’s overwhelming talent—mental illness or not; however, beyond a handful of tracks there existed little recorded evidence of it. This would soon change due to the influence of talented singer Diane Denoir, and through the dedication and passion of producer Carlos Píriz. Píriz, a recording technician who had worked for the live, music television show Discodromo had recently started the record label De la Planta along with Jorge “Coyo” Abuchalja, guitarist for the group Los Delfines. The ethos behind this venture was to maintain a Uruguayan label that was dedicated to Uruguayan musicians, providing them with better production, recording techniques, and better distribution than the then norm. Fortunately, through Píriz’s connections, they were able to secure regular studio time at ION Studios in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the recording technology was far superior to that found in their native country (four tracks as opposed to two at most, for example).

Diane Denoir

In October of 1971 one such artist they chose to present to the public was the singer Diane Denoir. As she was recording a fair amount of Mateo’s material for her De la Planta debut, she felt it was only appropriate that the artist himself accompany her on some of the tracks. Having convinced Mateo to take the trip, Píriz quickly took advantage of the rare opportunity by persuading him to stay and record a solo LP for the label. However, in spite of Píriz’s optimistic plans to complete the recording in one week, he soon found that dealing with this erratic artist would be an ultimate test of endurance and patience.

            The sessions went like this: Mateo had an alphabetic notebook,

and stuck in each page he had bar napkins upon which his songs

were written. If he knew the first letter of the title of the song he

wished to play, he would find the correct napkin, which would help

him remember the melody, so that he could recreate the original idea

he had envisioned when he had composed the song in the first place.

            Remembering the songs was only the first obstacle […]. Mateo

would record songs one day, and erase them the next. “The first day

he recorded three or four things,” Píriz recalled. “The following day

he came in and said, ‘erase them. For Mateo, they are all wrong.’

We erased them. And that process of erasing the previous day’s work

continued for four or five days. At that moment, I understood that this

would be the system for the whole disc […]. I decided that I will be the

person who says what was well-recorded, or not, and I began to keep

all the material.”

    On other days, Mateo went to ION studios only to say that he was not

inspired, and would return the next day. Then there were the days that

he appeared at the studio, and asked, “What time do we record tomorrow?”

“The same as today, at four o’clock,” Píriz would say. “Okay I am going,

until tomorrow,” was Mateo’s only reply (Lion Production, 2006).

This whole arduous process continued for two months, until one day when Mateo said to the producer that he was stepping out of the studio to buy a pack of cigarettes, and never came back. He had returned to his streets in Montevideo. Píriz was left holding hours of recordings of these fragmented sessions—the only proof that Mateo had even been there. A labor of love, Píriz would then spend the better part of a year assembling these into the album that would be released in December of 1972: Mateo Solo Bien Se Lame.

One of the thirteen brilliant compositions that Píriz extracted from the chaos is the lovelorn “Jacinta.” Through his dedication, Píriz was able to capture on this record the complex sensitivity of this troubled artist. Seeing as how, other than a rare background vocal here and there, Mateo created every sound on this album himself, his essence truly shines through each composition. I particularly love the closing movements to this track, when the song suddenly shifts to a delicate chooga-chooga as the singer warns: “Hurry, the train is leaving.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

A personal touch on a city bus.

A personal touch on a city bus.

[10) Fields Of JoyLenny Kravitz (1991)]

Each bus in the capital city of Montevideo tends to have some idiosyncratic feature, some personal touch that distinguishes it from others. This fact, coupled with their apparent cleanliness (you can typically find a bucket filled with cleaning supplies stuffed under one of the seats) led my wife and I to believe that each driver might actually own the bus he drives. In addition to the personal touches—such as a neon peace sign or a John Lennon poster—the drivers tend to play their own radio over the loudspeaker system. On one particular ride we took from the neighborhood of Pocitos to Ciudad Vieja the driver was rocking Lenny Kravitz’s sophomore album, Mama Said, released in April of 1991.

As this is the only Kravitz album that could accurately be described as brilliant (believe me, I own a good deal of them), and seeing as how I haven’t listened to it in about a decade—I was truly enjoying this ride: The bright, hot light of the sun piercing through the blue curtains while over the rumble of the engine the opening notes of acoustic guitar walk calmly alongside the slow psychedelic trill of a mellotron, falsetto vocals— “…All trouble slowly fades away…”—all mounting to an outburst of rock ‘n’ roll cut and crunch. Taut and diverse, on his follow up to his 1989 debut, Let Love Rule, Kravitz develops the catchiest elements of his influences (the obvious ones being Hendrix, Lennon, Sly Stone, Prince, and Al Green) but elevates what could have been mere revivalism and kitsch by focusing them through the various, fervent emotions and anguish churned up by the impending end of his marriage to actress Lisa Bonet, mother to his two-year-old daughter, Zoe.

Kravitz & Lisa Bonet with their daughter Zoe.

Kravitz & Slash

Impressively, Kravitz essentially functions as a one-man-band here on this album, playing nearly every instrument and even creating the horn and string arrangements. Opening track “Fields of Joy” is one of the rare exceptions, featuring the soaring, keen-edged and held bends of Slash’s guitar playing. “Fields of Joy” is also a rather peculiar choice to open the LP with, as it is a cover of a little remember group, The New York Rock Ensemble, who first released the song on their 1971 album Roll Over. This song in particular was co-written by the group’s organ and oboe player Michael Kamen who would go on to find fame as a composer for films such as Lethal Weapon, and the Die Hard movies. Another member of the group, Martin Fulterman, would later be known as Mark Snow, creating the theme music for several sci-fi television series such as The X-Files and Smallville. I wont go into what I believe went wrong with Kravitz, but I am sure that more than one of you must have rolled your eyes upon seeing his name. Swallowed whole by the cartoon menace of image and frivolous fads, I assure you that at one point he was fairly consistently recording some solid tunes.

Our "Fields of Joy"

Our “Fields of Joy”

This song certainly popped up in my head more than once while roaming on horseback, rounding up cattle and sheep on roughly 2,400 acres of land at the estancia, Panagea; a gaucho ranch located about an hour outside of Tacuarembó in the far north-central region of Uruguay (it is this area that Uruguayans believe was the birthplace to the world’s most celebrated figure of Tango, Carlos Gardel, an assertion that is still hotly contested by both France and Argentina, who both lay claim to him as a national son).

An old advertisement for yerba mate on display in one of those odd old galerías that run through the blocks surrounding the avenue 18 De Julio in the Centro area of Montevideo.

An old advertisement for yerba mate on display in one of those odd, dusty galerías that run through the blocks surrounding the avenue 18 De Julio in the Centro area of Montevideo.

Panagea is certainly one of the greatest places to be found on this green earth:

IMG_3497

IMG_3509

"I was told when I grew up I could be anything I wanted: a fireman, a policeman, a doctor - even president, it seemed. And for the first time in the history of mankind, something new, called an astronaut. But like so many kids brought up on a steady diet of westerns, I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero - that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth, and justice. And in my heart of hearts I still track the remnants of that dream wherever I go, in my endless ride into the setting sun." - Bill Hicks

“I was told when I grew up I could be anything I wanted: a fireman, a policeman, a doctor – even president, it seemed. And for the first time in the history of mankind, something new, called an astronaut. But like so many kids brought up on a steady diet of westerns, I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero – that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth, and justice. And in my heart of hearts I still track the remnants of that dream wherever I go, in my endless ride into the setting sun.” – Bill Hicks

Real-deal gaucho & ranch-hand, Balinga.

Real-deal gaucho & ranch-hand, Balinga.

Owned and operated by Juan and his wife Suzanna—who together are a splendid combination of culture, dry-humor, and convivial conversation—this ranch offers one some first-hand (albeit clumsy hands in my case) experience of the no-frills yet pure-joy of the Gaucho culture. I implore all who read this to make an effort to visit this place and stay in their grand (albeit without electricity) home. It was here at Panagea that I also encountered this bit of wisdom, hand painted on a sheet of wood:

IMG_3474

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Bar Los Beatles

Bar Los Beatles

[11) La Conferencia Secreta del Toto’s Bar/Mi Tía Clementina Los Shakers (1968)]

The phenomenal, Uruguayan musical siblings, the Fattoruso brothers (Hugo and Jorge Osvaldo), got their start as children playing in a jazz trio with their father. In 1964, however, upon hearing the music of The Beatles the brothers decided that this model was the direction they needed to take their music and image, and enlisted bassist Roberto “Pelin” Capobianco, and drummer Carlos “Caio” Vila to create Los Shakers. Singing original composition written in English, they developed into a pop-rock sensation that, like basically every other band in existence in the 60s, would follow the new musical leads established by each subsequent release by “The Fab Four.”

By 1968, as Osvaldo Fattoruso would later note, the band was “tired of playing at being the Beatles” (Zolov, 2011) and soon went their separate ways. “[Los Shakers’] dissolution marked the end of an era in which, for a brief period, English-language Uruguayan rock dominated the South American pop charts” (Zolov, 2011). However, they would first release their attempt, ala Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, at a psychedelic masterpiece: La Conferencia Secreta del Toto’s Bar  (The Toto’s Bar’s Secret Conference). During the recording of the album the group had already determined to dissolve, and thus abandoning commercial aspirations, they diversified their sound and added native rhythms to create a more original, organic musical sensibility modeled after the “strange” liberation of form The Beatles had demonstrated. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had as great an impact on Latin American culture as it did throughout the rest of the world. As Ian MacDonald wrote in his exceptional track-by-track assessment of The Beatles’ output, Revolution In The Head:

When Sgt. Pepper was released in June [of 1967], it was a

major cultural event. Young and old alike were entranced. […]

In America normal radio-play was virtually suspended for

several days, only tracks from Sgt. Pepper being played. An

almost religious awe surrounded the LP. Paul Kantner of the

San Francisco acid rock band Jefferson Airplane remembers

how The ByrdsDavid Crosby brought a tape of Sgt. Pepper

to their Seattle hotel and played it all night in the lobby with a

hundred young fans listening quietly on the stairs, as if rapt by a

spiritual experience. “Something,” says Kantner, “enveloped the

whole world at that time and it just exploded into a renaissance.”

            The psychic shiver which Sgt. Pepper sent through the

world was nothing less than a cinematic dissolve from one

Zeitgeist to another. In The Times, Kenneth Tynan called it

“a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization,” a

remark now laughed at but nonetheless true, if perhaps not quite

in the way that it was intended. As the shock wore off, voices

from an earlier age began to complain that this music was

absolutely saturated in drugs. Not wishing to promote LSD,

the BBC banned “A Day In The Life” and “Lucy In The Sky

With Diamonds,” while others found drug references inn

Fixing A Hole” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

More Bizarrely, “She’s Leaving Home” was attacked by

religious groups in America as a cryptic advertisement for

abortion.

            While half these claims were spurious, it would be silly

to pretend that Sgt. Pepper wasn’t fundamentally shaped by LSD.

The Album’s sound—in particular its use of various forms of echo

and reverb—remains the most authentic aural simulation of the

psychedelic experience ever created. At the same time, something

else dwells in it: a distillation of the spirit of 1967 as it was felt by

vast numbers across the Western world who had never taken drugs in

their lives. If such a thing as a cultural “contact high” is possible, it

happened here. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band may not have

created the psychic atmosphere of the time but, as a near-perfect

reflection of it, this famous record magnified and radiated it around

the world (2007).

It’s easy to write-off La Conferencia Secreta del Toto’s Bar as a “Sgt. Pepper” rip-off but I could rattle off the top of my head a dozen renowned groups (The Rolling Stones, for one) that did the same, only not as convincingly or inventively as Los Shakers.

Che Guevara visiting with Uruguayan President Eduardo Victor Haedo at Haedo’s summer home in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Aug. 7, 1961. Che was sent to head Cuba’s delegation to the economic conference of the Organization of the Amercian States (OAS) at Punta del Este, Uruguay, where he denounced U.S. President Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress.” (Click here to read the remarkably audacious, yet earnest speech that Che delivered on August 8, 1961 at Punta del Este: http://www.marxists.org/archive/guevara/1961/08/08.htm

Recorded shortly after the assassination of Argentine guerrilla revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara by Bolivian special forces trained, supported, and orchestrated by the CIA, the title track, “La Conferencia Secreta del Toto’s Bar”—which segues directly into the amusing, listless and ragged jazz waltz of “Mi Tía Clementina (My Aunt Clementine)—is “a sardonic retelling of the [January 31] 1962 meeting [in Punta del Este, Uruguay] that led to the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States” (Zolov, 2011). Despite being a founding member of the OAS, following the Cuban Revolution of 1959 The United States had encouraged OAS representatives from South and Central America as well as the Caribbean country of Haiti to advocate a hard line against Cuba, which would eventually see Cuba suspended, denied the right of representation and attendance at meetings, and of any participation in activities.

Maybe I read it in a storybook/Maybe in a picture/beneath the author’s desk/There were three generals with little boots/Each one with a pocketful of medals/ […] /From London, Paris, Berlin, they went on holidays/They billed the kids from Uruguay/And stopped at San Rafael” —(San Rafael being a very popular hotel/casino in Punta del Este, which on February 18, 1969 would be robbed by members of the Tupamaros for a total of 70 million pesos).

IMG_3074

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

El desfile de llamadas, 2013

El desfile de llamadas, 2013:

IMG_4326IMG_4302IMG_4323IMG_4300IMG_4324IMG_4261IMG_4268

[12) African BirdOpa (1976)]

Opa: the Fattoruso brothers & Ringo Thielman

To demonstrate the sheer virtuosity of the Fattoruso brothers—soon after the dissolution of Los Shakers they moved to New York City and formed the latin-jazz fusion group Opa: featuring Osvaldo now on drums, percussion, and vocals; Hugo now handling vocals and keyboards; and Ringo Thielman on bass and vocals. Through their concerts during the early 1970s this exceptionally innovative trio caught the ear of Brazilian percussionist extraordinaire Airto Moreira (who helped color and create the sessions surrounding Miles Davis’ genius work on Bitches Brew, which was already featured in these pages, here.

Airto Moreira

Airto was so impressed with the fluid, musical camaraderie of Opa that he employed the group (along with his own wife, vocalist Flora purim, and guitarist David Amaro) to function as the band for his stunning 1973 LP Fingers.

Fingers line-up: Flora Purim, David Amaro, Airto Moreira, Hugo Fattoruso, and “Jorge” osvaldo

Essentially utilizing the same musical configuration (but adding Hermeto Pascoal on flute), Airto would then go on to produce and contribute to Opa’s only two LPs, 1976’s Golden Wings, and Magic Time, released in 1977.

A Rubén Rada composition recorded for Golden Wings (Rada himself would become a member of the group for their second LP), the sound of “African Bird” perfectly hints at the sensation of standing amongst the crowds on the street Isla de Flores, while watching the participants in the Llamadas parade their way through the neighborhoods of Barrio Sur and Palermo: the intricate rhythms of hundreds and hundreds of drummers marching while mammoth flags and banners pass over the throng of brightly costumed and bare-skinned dancers.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The wife and I helping Juan Manuel and Balinga corral innumerable sheep so that they could receive their vaccines and treatment for hoof rot:

The wife and I at Panagea helping Juan Manuel and Balinga corral innumerable sheep and cattle so that they could receive their vaccines and treatment for hoof rot:

IMG_3579IMG_3584IMG_3572IMG_3560IMG_3422IMG_3425

IMG_3409———-

Two works from the Pareja series (or Cosmic Couple series) by Uruguayan painter, potter, musician and key figure in the Constructivism Art movement: José Gurvich (January 5, 1927 – June 24, 1974).

IMG_3886

————-

Sitting in the sunshine along Montevideo’s Rambla:

IMG_3804

SMILE

SMILE

[13) Barnyard/Old Master Painter/You Are My SunshineBrian Wilson (2004)]

It is generally understood that The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper was in part created in reaction to The Beach Boys’ brilliant and Brian Wilson directed LP Pet Sounds. In 1967, while deeply entrenched in an attempt to create an ambitious follow-up to that work, a 24-year-old Brian Wilson would suffer a severe and complete mental breakdown. This, along with conflict within the group would force them to abandon the project that Wilson had collaboratively conceived with lyricist Van Dyke Parks: SMiLE.

Wilson while recording the track “The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow).”

Despite being envisaged as a “benchmark in the use of the studio as the ultimate instrument, […] the next step in the evolution of record production” (Leaf, 1990), in September of 1967 the world received in its stead the rerecorded scraps, Smiley Smile. While wholly enjoyable (and at times brilliantly weird) it is hard to disagree with Carl Wilson’s assessment of the album as “a bunt instead of a grand slam” (Carlin, 2006).

Astonishingly—thirty-six years after the project was aborted and after decades of arduous mental rehabilitation—in 2003 Wilson (along with Parks and Darian Sahanaja, keyboardist and backing vocalist in Wilson’s touring band, The Wondermints) decided to take on the daunting task of revisiting and completely rerecording the entire conceived album from memory!

Turn that frown upside down

The trio made subtle changes to the music when necessary,

and in the spring, Wilson headed to Studio One at Sunset

Sound in Los Angeles to make his record. Just as he’d made

the original “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes & Villains” there,

Wilson gathered his band, strings and brass to record the tracks,

cutting the basic arrangements live while doing the vocals on

the same tube consoles his old Beach Boys had (Leone, 2004).

The results, released in 2004 as Brian Wilson Presents Smile, is a stunning, intricate suite of songs that create a musical journey across a conceptual America, from east to west: beginning at Plymouth Rock and ending in Hawaii. Although exceedingly delayed, it certainly lives up to what Wilson ambitiously described in 1966 as “a teenage symphony to God” (Richardson, 2011). Perhaps weird on my part, but one of my favorite sections of this album has always been when the melodic cacophony of “Barnyard” thumps, plucks, and sways into a glum rendition of the American standard “You Are My Sunshine.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Me with my cousin’s boyfriend and musical director for the troupe Mi Morena: José Redondo

Me with my cousin’s boyfriend and musical director for the troupe Mi Morena: José Redondo.

Some shots from the elaborate musical Mi Morena performed at the Teatro de Verano for the Carnaval season of 2013:

Some shots from the elaborate musical Mi Morena performed at the Teatro de Verano for the Carnaval season of 2013:

IMG_3632IMG_3647IMG_3649IMG_3651IMG_3656IMG_3660IMG_3619

[14) Principe AzulEl Kinto (1968)]

Oscar Wilde in 1882 (photo by Napoleon Sarony).

Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only

find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he

sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

Oscar Wilde, in The Critic as Artist (1891).

Another remarkable track from El Kinto in 1968; the at-times lugubrious but always tender lullaby “Principe Azul” (Blue Prince), about one boy’s desire to enter his dream and stay there. The song was musically composed by Eduardo Mateo, while the lyrics were the work of actor and theater director, Horacio “Corto” Buscaglia. In 1969, these two would go on to create and direct the Musicasiónes, a series of four live concerts fundamental to Uruguayan popular music held between June and November at the Teatro El Galpón in Montevideo.

By 1969, El Kinto had great prestige among counter-cultural

young people in Uruguay, people described as having “an

expansive mentality characteristic of the Woodstock era and of

the hippie movement.” All the band needed was someplace to

play on a regular basis, a way to establish themselves in a relaxed

setting (perhaps harkening back to those days in Orfeo Negro).

Theater El Galpón came to the rescue […]. El Kinto was the host

group [for the Musicasiónes], assisted by a myriad of guests who

made renaissance music, danced tango, recited poetry, or played

music: jazz, bossa nova, candombe, free improvisations in support

of movies that were projected on stage, as well as other music best

described as indefinable. There were slides, sketches, dances, and

creative light effects, all obtained with negligible economic

resources, and realized without rehearsals (Lion Productions, 2006).

 “Principe Azul

Eduardo Mateo -vocal, rhythm guitar

Urbano Moraes – keyboard, bass

Walter Cambón – lead guitar

Luis Sosa – drums

“Chichito” Cabral & Rubén Rada – percussion

 —————————–

Dream, Blue Prince.

Little child you are.

You’ll have moons of cheese.

Where will the moon go?

It strikes twelve and you’ll have

Little glass slippers.

Blue Prince, you’ll have them soon,

Little mice will bring them.

When you wake from your dream

The sky will no longer have the moon.

You should look for that kiss.

Better follow your dream.

You’ll have an enchanted forest.

Alongside the drumming rabbit,

White squirrels will come.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

IMG_4125IMG_4118IMG_4119

[15) FlyNick Drake (1970)]

Waking up feeling a little worse for wear in our little beach-side apartment in Punta del Diablo, and after procuring a large cup of coffee (not an easy task in Uruguay, I had to convince the woman behind the counter at a small beach-side bakery to dump the remnants of the pot into a plastic container she happened to have on hand as opposed to only selling me a tiny paper cupful), I believed Nick Drake’s album of 1970—Bryter Layter—would be the perfect thing to ease into the bright day with. The second of the trio of LPs he recorded before his death on November 25, 1974 from an overdose of antidepressants, this has always been my favorite of Drake’s albums. Here, Nick Drake’s ethereal yet morose melodies, and introspective, poetic lyrics are granted a Baroque elegance through the production work of Joe Boyd and arranger Robert Kirby’s undulating orchestration. The end result is a work that is captivating without being obtrusive, something that holds the weight of “art” but is still pleasant to listen to.

As the album played I sat in the sun to drink coffee mixed with chocolate milk poured from a plastic bag and read Voice Of The Fire, the spellbinding debut novel by celebrated comic book writer Alan Moore. Released in 1996, the novel takes place in the month of November but over a period of 6,000 years and follows the lives of twelve people who lived in the same area of England (Moore’s hometown of Northampton). In a twist of metafiction with the last chapter, Moore describes the work with these words:

It’s about the vital message that the stiff lips of decapitated

men still shape; the testament of black and spectral dogs

written in piss across our bad dreams. It’s about raising the

dead to tell us what they know. It is a bridge, a crossing-point,

a worn spot in the curtain between our world and the

underworld, between the mortar and the myth, fact and fiction,

a threadbare gauze no thicker than a page. It’s about the

powerful glossolalia of witches and their magical revision of

the texts we live in. None of this is speakable.

Unfortunately, with more-or-less a hundred pages to go, I would go on to lose the book while staying at the Panagea ranch; even still—highly recommended.

Perhaps in a couple of decades Juan and Suzanna’s adorable daughters, Dharma and Abril, will enjoy the book?

Perhaps in a couple of decades Juan and Suzanna’s adorable daughters, Dharma and Abril, will enjoy the book?

IMG_3556IMG_3562

Anyway, as the seventh track “Fly” swelled and chimed with John Cale’s moaning viola and ornate harpsichord, my wife began to stir from her sleep in the upstairs bedroom. Through that initial gauze of first opening your eyes to a hangover she heard Drake’s repetitive whine of Please and believed that there was a diminutive cop at the door squeaking out “Police!…Police!” A slight, sluggish, yet amusing panic momentarily followed.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The tower and tomb of aviator and pioneer Aaron De Anchorena (November 5, 1877—February 24, 1965), set on his ranch where the left bank of the San Juan River flows into the Rio de la Plata. Upon his death he donated all 1,370 acres of this arboretum and wildlife conservatory to the state to serve as both an educational park and as the retreat home of the president.

The 246 ft. tall tower and tomb of aviator and pioneer Aaron De Anchorena (November 5, 1877—February 24, 1965), set on his ranch where the left bank of the San Juan River flows into the Rio de la Plata. Upon his death he donated all 1,370 acres of this arboretum and wildlife conservatory to the state to serve as both an educational park and as the retreat home of the president.

A snippet of the 320 steps that spiral up the tower’s interior

A snippet of the 320 steps that spiral up the tower’s interior

The view from atop the tower and tomb

The view from atop the tower and tomb

[17) HombreEduardo Mateo & Verónica Indart (1969)]

Eduardo Mateo (1940–1990).

In 1967, just as El Kinto were commencing their brief but significant career built from the remnants of the band Los Malditos, Eduardo Mateo met singer Verónica Indart and life-long friend Horacio Buscaglia. By 1969 El Kinto began to dissolve, in part due to Mateo’s erratic behavior, “his drug use, his anguished search for a transcendental spiritual dimension, his intransigence and pursuit of full authenticity” (Lion Production, 2006).

As singer Vera Sienra (with whom Mateo worked with on her lovely and delicate debut LP Nuestra Soledad) said of him at this time in the musician’s life:

Mateo was always strange, an almost unreal man in

many aspects. He could be very aggressive, very violent,

but he also was an extremely timid man, very spiritual,

with a great tenderness. His ambitions were creative. He

put all his genius, all his effort, all his pride there, while

others were suddenly looking for ways out of Uruguay.

Suddenly, Mateo was like a hermit…he had moments

when he communicated in monosyllables. You had to

interpret it. It was almost a conversation in key

(Lion Production, 2006).

Throughout the years of 1968 and 1969 Mateo spent long stretches of time living at the home of Buscaglia’s parents in the Montevideo neighborhood of Malvín, and from this intimacy the pair would enter a creative partnership that would produce, among other things, the beautiful song “Principe Azul” and the Musicasiónes series of concerts as well. In 1969, as the two became absolutely enamored by the traditional ethnic music of the Orient—particularly Hindu—they embarked on what would be one Mateo’s numerous unfinished projects. Intended to be one of the first productions released by the newly formed De la Planta label—beyond selecting the title of Horama, they never got further than recording three songs: “Hombre,” “Mumi,” and “Margaritas Rojas.”

The hypnotic dirge of “Hombre” features Verónica Indart’s vocals, which despite their cold drone are imbued with a certain empathetic charisma, which similar singer Nico of The Velvet Underground could never quite seem to fully get across for me. The whole enchantment is completed by Federico García Vigil’s work on double-bass, while Mateo provides both the percussion—emulating the timbre of tablas despite being played on bongos—as well as byzantine acoustic guitar, in which one feels they could wander for hours and never find an exit.

Hombre” (Man)

While the man sings

Kills

Lives

Man

Time makes the boy

Something

Cries

Man

Joins his hands

Calls shouting

Man, Man, Man

Where the people pass by

Dreams

Run

Man

A far caress

Groans

Sorrow

Man

Joins his hands

Calls shouting

Man, Man, Man

Man

Only

Man

Man

Man

IMG_3350

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

One wall along the street of Pérez Castellano in the Ciudad Vieja neighborhood of Montevideo

One wall along the street of Pérez Castellano in the Ciudad Vieja neighborhood of Montevideo

Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo

Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo

My wife assimilating into the ubiquitous culture of bitter yerba mate at my aunt's house in the Prado neighborhood of Montevideo, where my mother was born and where all my family there now lives.

My wife assimilating into the ubiquitous culture of bitter yerba mate at my aunt’s house in the Prado neighborhood of Montevideo, where my mother was born and where all my family there now lives.

My cousin and I before the Australian wood of a Eucalyptus tree in El Prado.

My cousin and I before the Australian wood of a Eucalyptus tree in El Prado.

[18) Norwegian Wood (Baguala)La Fragua (2001)]

Here we have a full performance by the wonderful group whose music I was introduced to though Montevideo’s remarkable radio station Babel: La Fragua. Over the course of two albums thus far La Fragua perform renditions of The Beatles tunes by incorporating the folkloric instrumentation and traditional styles of South America into their covers. Taken from volume I of their De Los Andes a Los Beatles series, they creatively reconceptualize the Lennon-McCartney penned classic “Norwegian Wood” as a baguala. The baguala—being a unique folkloric genre native of northwestern Argentina where the valleys extend from the Tucumán province to the border of Bolivia—descended from the mixture of Spanish Colonials with the indigenous communities of the Diaguitas and Calchaquíes peoples. Clever and celebratory throughout, La Fragua demonstrate their brilliant talent for arrangement with the subtle but startling fade-out made here by transitioning from a mesh of festive, adenoidal chanting and crystal guitars to the somnambulated twinkle of the descending chromatic bass line from “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

Released on the brilliant Rubber Soul LP in December of 1965, “Norwegian Wood”—made indelible in popular memory by George Harrison’s innovative use of a sitar to double the main descending line—was begun by Lennon during January-February of 1965 while on a skiing holiday in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Lennon’s elusive narrative is now generally recognized as a confession to his wife of an affair, however, at the time it was truly the product of The Beatles attempting to break new lyrical ground; particularly in the wake left by Bob Dylan’s stunning singles from earlier that same year: “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” As Ian MacDonald writes, Lennon was quite aware of the inspirational debt he owed Dylan and actually grew to be quite troubled by what might be the songwriter’s reaction:

For his part, Lennon was uneasy about trespassing on Dylan’s

territory and when the latter, on his next album Blonde On

Blonde, produced an inscrutable parody of Norwegian Wood

called “4th Time Around,” the head Beatle was, as he later

admitted, “paranoid”: what did the title mean? Norwegian

Wood, I’m A Loser, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,

and…Baby’s In Black? Or was it the [peaked “Dylan”] cap

[Lennon wore]? And what was Dylan driving at in those closing

lines: “I never asked for your crutch/Now don’t ask for mine”…?

In the end, the matter was settled amicably when the two met—

for the fifth time—in London in April 1966. In truth, Dylan got

on reasonably well with Lennon, with whom he had a fair amount

in common (2007).

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Graffiti stenciled in along the street of Tristán Narvaja, Montevideo.

Graffiti stenciled in along the street of Tristán Narvaja, Montevideo.

[19) 4th Time AroundBob Dylan (1966)]

Dylan on Jacob Street in lower Manhattan in 1966 (photo by Jerry Schatzberg).

A few drinks into an evening in our rented apartment in Punta Del Diablo, I recall listening to Bob Dylan’s double LP and masterpiece of 1966, Blonde on Blonde, and attempting to explain to my wife why “4th Time Around” is one of the greatest songs of all time and how it features one of the most captivating narrative structures ever attempted by a popular recording artist. While I might not recollect all that I said, I stand by those statements. One thing that has always fascinated me about this track is how simply, logically, and direct the unexpected turn in narrative is designed; particularly so on an album comprised of, albeit genius, but often oblique verse ingeniously stitched to free-floating phrases from, as Greil Marcus has expressed it, “The Old, Weird America.” Here, Dylan once more demonstrates how he is a true artist of the songwriting form.

During those years, with the daunting amount of brilliant material he produced, Dylan must have worked on his craft constantly.

With all of its miscommunication, jilted feelings, occasional hysterics, postures, one-liners, and silly rapport (as if Lewis Carroll and Groucho Marx had both just watched Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell brilliantly bounce off each other in Howard HawksHis Girl Friday and got the idea that they should team-up to write the details of a tryst at its end), the moment that it is realized that the entire jumbled affair of an afternoon in a woman’s house has not been confided to you, the listener, but to the woman who is featured in a photograph seated in a wheelchair, a woman that he immediately paid a visit to after the conclusion of the related events—this moment elevates the entire song into a complex emotional and intellectual spectrum of interpersonal relationships rarely ever touched upon so elegantly before or since the day this song was recorded down in Nashville on February 14, 1966 by a twenty-four-year-old Dylan. To add yet another layer to this impressive narrative, the tale is not being told to this woman on the day that these events occurred, but in some distant present. Much like the circular tune from which this takes its inspiration—The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood”—the song operates as a confession of an indiscretion. It is the narrator coming clean and giving a complete account of what transpired that day he showed up on her doorstep with a shoe full of Jamaican Rum. However, this confession concludes with something other than a sentiment of remorse; it is more of a succinct summation of the dynamic of their particular relationship. It might be cold, but it is certainly not unfeeling:

And you, you took me in,

You loved me then,

You never wasted time.

And I, I never took much,

I never asked for your crutch,

Now don’t ask for mine.

The inside gatefold art for the first pressing of Blonde on Blonde, released May 16, 1966

Furthermore, it has always impressed me with what precision of language and time these narrative feats are accomplished. After all, it is still only a song, and one with the duration of just four minutes and thirty-five seconds. Other than perhaps a character or two’s affection, nothing here is wasted. With the economic exactitude of clockwork and the finest art the whirl of relatively candid words, delivered with cartoon dust in the throat, juvenile whimsy in the sinuses, and his flawless sense of emphasis are perfectly synchronized to an “archaic waltz” (Heylin, 2009) that is taken at a fast clip and put through its paces by the expert Nashville session men (such as Charlie McCoy, Kenneth Buttrey, and Joe South) Dylan employed to help him capture “that thin, that wild mercury sound” as he later described of the album in an interview with Ron Rosenbaum for Playboy in 1978.

Although both women featured in this tale might disagree, you the listener arrive at the final spirals of the song feeling much like the narrator: that there is nothing more that need be said. At a press conference given in San Francisco in December of 1965 Dylan stated, “All my songs basically say is Good luck. They all tail off at the end with good luck, hope you make it” (Gleason, 2006). With its final words spoken, with its final go-rounds of the spindly tune accompanied by the rapid tapping of percussion and harmonica trailing, it’s as if the narrator is walking off with an awkward smile that suggests: Hey, what more do you want from me?

Feb. 1966

Admittedly, I am a Dylan fanatic, but how can you not marvel at the mind that can create such things?

As an obvious nod to the iconic image of the songwriter by Milton Glaser, this photo illustration by Andrew Nimmo and Beth Bartholomew was created to accompany Duff McDonald‘s article, “Inside Dylan’s Brain,” published on April 8, 2008, in Vanity Fair.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Art on the street Sarandi.

Art on the street Sarandi.

[20) Zamba De Mi EsperanzaJorge Cafrune & Los Chalchaleros (1964/2000)]

One evening in Montevideo we went out to catch a tango or two at Baar Fun Fun (pronounced foonfoon if you don’t want to receive a searching stare of incomprehension from a cabdriver). Founded in 1895, the club’s close quarters are comfortably comprised of old wood, a small stage, and walls cluttered with pictures of national icons of tango such as Carlos Gardel and festooned with brightly colored soccer jerseys and other bric-a-brac.

IMG_3156

The space might be tight at times, but like true Uruguayans they don’t seem to fret too much:

IMG_3155

I don’t recall the performers’ names that evening, but as my wife and I sat at a small table on the open-aired deck drinking Tannat wine as well as a small glass of sweet Uvita, we were treated to quite a show. A slick and taut couple rhythmically kicked, swiveled their torsos, twirled and stepped seductively to the evocative sounds of a bandoneón, all within the blue glow of a spotlight that cut through the dim room from above. At one point the man in the dark suit paused to posture and comb back his polished black hair while the woman wrapped tight in a red dress pumped her muscular thighs and sent the sharp heel of her shoe flitting past the eyes of the audience seated before her. It was a pleasure to watch something so controlled that yet suggested nothing but abandon.

IMG_4191IMG_4195IMG_3153IMG_4194

This couple would alternate stage time with a small, older man with a great big voice who would accompany himself on acoustic guitar. Despite the fact that this man must’ve been only in his early sixties he would begin each love-sick tune with something like: Whoo, che, it must be fifty or sixty years since I’ve sung this one, so forgive me if I don’t recall all the words. This performer would then proceed to deliver the proper compound of stentorian command and injured drag that these types of songs demand—these songs that are so often the beautifully captured expression of men struggling to retain the will to live within the annihilation of love. After one of these amusing preambles the performer struck a familiar sputter and slope across his guitar strings and I immediately recalled hot summer afternoons of my youth spent at my grandmother’s: me, reading some Dungeons & Dragons type fantasy novel, listening through the ratcheting of cicadas to hear her sing along while tending her garden, or otherwise in the kitchen preparing a fine meal.

IMG_3142

Written by Luis Profili in 1950, “Zamba De Mi Esperanza” (Zamba Of My Hope) gained widespread popularity when it was featured on the 1964 LP Emoción, Canto y Guitarra by Argentine folk singer Jorge Cafrune, becoming something of a Latin American standard (it is one of the only songs my mother ever learned to play on guitar). Despite its obvious tone of longing and sweet sorrow (or, “the comfort in being sad,” as Kurt Cobain once phrased it in Nirvana’s song from 1993  “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle”), and despite the fact that it contains nothing that even remotely concerns politics, the song was summarily banned in the 1970s by the military dictatorship that had seized power in Argentina. Perhaps with its root ethos of hope and perseverance they found the song as offensive and a threat to their agenda? That agenda being that which is always the ultimate aim of all tyranny: the complete subjugation and defilement of the soul.

To a family of Syrian-Lebanese origin, Cafrune was born August 8, 1937 on his parents’ ranch (La Matilde), which was located in the northern Argentine province of Jujuy. “El Turco,” as he came to be known, grew to be a gaucho cult figure, riding from town to town on horseback, always with a guitar and a song.

In 1977, at the age of forty and after spending several years living in Spain, Cafrune returned to Argentina, which was governed at the time by the brutal military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla. During a performances at the Cosquín Folk Festival in January 1978, Cafrune refused to obey the interdict the regime placed upon one of his most-loved songs, stating: “Although it is not in the authorized repertoire, if my people requests it of me, I am going to sing it” (Ramos, 2004). Days later Cafrune was to begin a pilgrimage tour in honor of José de San Martín, who along with the likes of Simón Bolívar, and Uruguay’s own national hero, José Gervasio Artigas, helped liberate South America from the Spanish Empire in the early 1800’s.

Gral. José de San Martín—as depicted by amazing comic book artist ( The Cisco Kid, Hernán the Corsair) José Luis Salinas (Feb. 11, 1908—Jan 10, 1985).

My wife within Artigas' Mausoleum: an underground room beneath his statue at the center of Montevideo's  Plaza Independencia

My wife within Artigas’ Mausoleum: an underground room beneath his statue at the center of Montevideo’s Plaza Independencia

Intending to visit the capitals of each province, like a true gaucho this entire tour was to be conducted all on horseback.

As he set out upon his white horse on January 31, 1978, and under what could only lightly be described as “suspicious circumstances,” Cafrune was crushed by a passing truck in a “hit-and-run.” Nearly twelve hours later, on February 1, 1978, Cafrune succumbed to his severe injuries and died.

Cafrune in the 1970s

The rendition I present here is an amalgam, which features Cafune’s original recording of “Zamba De Mi Esperanza” synced up to one by the the Argentine quartet, Los Chalchaleros. Released in 2000 on their farewell double LP, Todos Somos Chalchaleros, Los Chalchaleros first gained international recognition with this song back in 1965. Formed in 1948 in the northern province of Salta, Los Chalchaleros are one of the most respected artists of traditional Argentinian folk music. With its sense of profound respect for both the material and for the man responsible for its ascendancy, I find this version particularly emotionally resonant.

Zamba De Mi Esperanza

Zamba, from my hope

You dawned like a longing.

Dream, dream from the soul

That sometimes dies without flowering.

Dream, dream from the soul

That sometimes dies without flowering

Zamba, I sing to you

Because your song spills love,

A caress of your kerchief

That wraps round my heart

A caress of your kerchief

That wraps round my heart

Star, you who looked

You who heard my pain,

Star, allow me to sing

Allow me to love as I do now.

Star, allow me to sing

Allow me to love as I do now.

Time, that goes by,

Like life, never returns.

Time is killing me

And your love will be, will be

Time is killing me

And your love will be, will be

Sunk on the horizon

I am dust taken by the wind.

Zamba, never leave me,

I, without your song, cannot go on living

Zamba, never leave me,

I, without your song, cannot go on living.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Living by candlelight at night at Panagea.

Living by candlelight at night at Panagea.

Montevideo at night

Montevideo at night.

Traditional costumes on display at El Museo del Carnaval:
IMG_3727IMG_3723IMG_3714IMG_3734
Items for sale on the street:
IMG_3099IMG_3751IMG_3755

[21) Gioco di BimbaLe Orme (1972)]

IMG_3759IMG_3756

While making our way through the crowds gathered on a sunny Sunday morning for the vast flea market that encompasses numerous blocks surrounding the street of Tristán Narvaja in the middle of the Cordón neighborhood of Montevideo, I heard a song that immediately seized me. Side-stepping over to a tarp-covered table displaying a myriad of vinyl and CDs and stacked speakers bumping this haunting melody, I asked the gaunt and graying proprietor what was playing. After a suck and an exhale of his cigarette he excitedly handed me a CD case and asked in slight disbelief if I’ve never heard of the Italian prog-rock group Le Orme.

Staring at the cover art—an arresting oil painting by imaginative Italian artist Walter Mac Mazzieri (1947-1998) titled Garbo di Neve (which I believe translates to something like “The Grace of Snow”) and that features viscous colored gloops pulled and contorted into the cartoon shapes of sullen men, women, and beasts—I answered, “no.” Although now that I think of it I’m fairly certain that my uncle Raul attempted to get me into this group years and years ago when I was not quite prepared to tackle what prog-rock had to offer, this song sounded so strange and attractive. Within the sun-drenched textures of this ballad, behind the atmosphere of somnambulate ease created by a delicate interplay of acoustic guitar, the fanfare and waltz of synths, warm sing-along vocals, and the exquisite use of mandolin and clavinet that alternate between a caress and a tickle through the break—I sensed something deceitful, something wicked.

As it turns out this song—“Gioco di Bimba” (Game of The Little Girl)—is the second track off of Le Orme’s 1972 masterpiece, Uomo di Pezza (Rag Man). Having begun their career in Venice as another psychedelic pop group of the late 60s, by ’71 with their sophomore album Collage, Le Orme (The Footprints) had developed into a much more complex and symphonic set; this progression occurring despite now having been whittled down to a trio: Toni Pagliuca, keyboards; Aldo Tagliapietra, voice, bass, guitars; and Michi Dei Rossi, drums, percussion.

Operating almost as a concept album, at least in terms of its tone and themes if not as a fully fleshed out cinematic narrative, the seven tracks that make up their third LP Uomo di Pezza are threaded together by a poetic examination of spiritual and mental illness, violence, broken dreams, the depersonalization and anxiety of our modern world, and how men and women struggle to negotiate these while attempting to live in “reality.” Essentially, these songs concern the mystery and menace of the human condition, or as one erudite and perhaps mystic minded critic wrote on their Wikipedia page, “The lyrics of Uomo di pezza describe a helpless masculine attitude, juxtaposed to an unknown, inscrutable feminine universe.” Still my favorite track off of this brilliant work, “Gioco di Bimba” is a dream that sours into a nightmare of violation, repression, and the futility of repentance. By the end of this disturbing tale the Rag Man cannot stop repeating to his tailor (for what other God could there be for a Man of Rags?) “I did not want to wake her this way; I did not want to wake her this way,” but, horrifically, it matters little, for “in the game of the little girl, a woman loses.”

Gioco di Bimba” (Game of The Little Girl)

As if by incantation she rises at night,

She walks in silence with eyes still closed

Like she’s following a magic song,

And on the swing returns to dreaming.

The long robe, the face of milk,

and moonbeams on thick hair.

The wax statue stretches out among the flowers,

The jealous goblins are spying.

Swinging, swinging, the wind pushes,

The stars are captured for his desires.

A furtive shadow is pried from the wall:

In the game of the little girl, a woman loses.

A cry in the morning in the middle of the road,

A man of rags calls to his tailor.

With a lost voice he forever repeats:

“I did not want to wake her this way,”

“I did not want to wake her this way.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The exercise equipment placed within public parks:

The exercise equipment placed within public parks:

IMG_3821

Where the street of Sarandi ends as a breakwater pier far out into the Rio de La Plata.

Where the street of Sarandi ends as a breakwater pier far out into the Rio de La Plata.

[22) Siempre CaminarLimonada (1970) [Snippet]]

Just an engaging snippet of the opening to Limonada’s “Siempre Caminar” (Always Walking). Limonada, being the project created by guitarist Walter Cambon and drummer Jose Luis Sosa after the dissolution of El Kinto, released only one album in 1970. Although overall a solid work with some true highlights and hooks, one certainly gets the feeling that something is missing, leaving you less than impressed. Or as Sosa himself expressed it:

            With Limonada, Walter and I thought we wanted to continue

the lineage of El Kinto. I never liked Limonada. I do not like

anything about Limonada. Because something is missing. It is

something that is lame. Headless. The songs were there, musical

possibilities, the musicians even. What was missing? [Eduardo]

Mateo was missing. Or a mind like Mateo’s was missing, a genius

was missing. A dictator was missing, something of that

sort” (Peláez, 2004).

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

IMG_4465

[23) Luna de MargaritaSimón Díaz (1966)]

Standing at the airport in the early a.m. and attempting to check in, my wife and I were informed at this last moment that we in fact were not permitted to board as our last connecting flight to New York had been cancelled due to impending snow storms that were anticipated to bury the eastern seaboard of The United States. Told that there were no other flights available to us for nearly a week, we were stranded in Montevideo. At least, that would have been the case if my beautiful family there did not immediately offer their home to us. They did so without even the slightest sigh of inconvenience.

We spent these additional days walking Montevideo from top to bottom and I can say with confidence that we now know this city better than anyone in my immediate family back in NY, as they emigrated from their country only as they were entering their twenties. Also during this unexpected furlough (which often at times, albeit not unpleasant, felt much what limbo must be like) we were able to make a best new bud—my cousin’s dog: a scrappy little Yorkie named Luna. It was as if she could sense that the only thing we were truly homesick for from our lives back in Queens was our two little oddball Chihuahuas, Patti and Moose.

IMG_4007IMG_4577

From our first afternoon at my aunt’s home on, Luna pursued and hoarded our affections, crawling into our bed to nap curled up between us and chasing off their other dog, a lumbering yet gentle German Shepard named Tango, whenever he attempted to enter our room. With a familiar light of demented acumen in her eyes, and a sweet, yet truly weird disposition akin to that of our own pups (I am convinced that Chihuahuas come with their heads already creatively wired when they’re born) she’d nudge our hands with her muzzle the moment we paused in our petting of her. She truly helped, and I’d often find myself singing this song to her in a mock mellifluous voice:

Luna de margarita es

Como tu luz

Como tu voz

Y como tu amor

IMG_4414

Admittedly, my first contact with this tonada by Simón Díaz came from Devendra Banhart, with his much more spectral version released on 2005’s brilliant Cripple Crow.

Devendra Banhart with collaborators Andy Cabic, Noah Georgeson, and Thom Monahan. (Photo by Autumn de Wilde).

However, I’ve since grown to adore the original, released on the LP Caracha Negro in 1966, where Díaz is backed by harp player Hugo Blanco and his band.

Hugo Blanco y Su Conjunto

Born in Venezuela on August 8, 1928, Díaz is hugely responsible for the development and continued popularity of the traditional music of the llanos, which are the vast grasslands that span from Venezuela into the plains of Colombia. He would eventually go on to apply his sweet tenor and pleasant face to a popular children’s show, forever after being known by generations of Venezuelans as Tio Simón, or “Uncle Simón.” As for me, whenever I hear “Luna de Margarita” I will forever think fondly of that sweet pup and the warm home where I met her.

IMG_4487

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

IMG_3864

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Well, there you have it—the conclusion to Volume 1 of my special two-part mix, El Ambiente Bien Babes Y Bean de Uruguay. If all goes according to plan, the post for Volume 2 should be a much more bare-bones affair; so, come on back in a month or so for the second and final installment. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself!

———————-BOBBY CALERO———————————–

REF:

Alejandro Fatur (Poster.) (2009, Mar. 5). Yellow Submarine (Chamame ) La Fragua – de los Andes a los Bealtes [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idJDmC6EQsI

Carlin, P. A. (2006). Catch A Wave: the rise, fall & redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale.

Carroll, J. (1993). Fear Of Dreaming. U.S.: Penguin.

Cobain, K. (1993). Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle. [Nirvana] on In Utero [CD]. DGC Records. (1993).

Gleason, R. J.  (Producer). (2006). Dylan Speaks: the legendary 1965 press conference in San Francisco. [Motion Picture]. New York: Eagle Media.

Hevia Cosculluela, M. (1981). Pasaporte 11333: ocho años con la CIA. Presencia Latinoamericana.

Heylin, C. (2009). Revolution in the air : the songs of Bob Dylan 1957-1973. 1st ed Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review Press.

Lead, D. (1990). Smiley Smile [Liner notes]. In Smiley Smile [CD]. Hollywood: Capitol Records, Inc.

Leone, D. (2004, Sept. 28). Brian Wilson: Smile. Pitchfork. Retrieved from http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/8781-smile/

Linett, M. (2001). Track-by-Track Notes [Liner notes]. In Pet Sounds [CD]. Hollywood: Capitol Records, Inc.

Lion Production. (2006). Eduardo Mateo [Liner notes]. In Mateo Solo Bien Se Lame [CD]. Geneva, Il: Lion Production.

Lion Production. (2006). El Kinto [Liner notes]. In El Kinto [CD]. Geneva, Il: Lion Production.

Lion Production. (2011). Miguel Y El Comité [Liner notes]. In Para Hacer Musica, Para Hacer   [CD]. Geneva, Il: Lion Production.

MacDonald, I. (2007). Revolution in the head: The Beatles’ records and the sixties (3rd ed.). Chicago, Ill: Chicago Review Press.

Nahum, B. (1991). El Fin Del Uruguay Liberal. Ediciones de la Banda Oriental.

Olle, N. (2012, April 10). Disappeared In Uruguay. BBC. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/disappeared-in-uruguay/172/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8321478.stm

Patar, P. (2001, Sept. 2). Dan Mitrione, un maestro de la tortura. Clarin. Retrieved from: http://edant.clarin.com/diario/2001/09/02/i-03101.htm

Peláez, F. (2004). De Las Cuevas Al Solis. Vol 2. Perro Andaluz ediciones.

Ramos, H. (2004). Jorge Cafrune : memorias de un hombre libre. Córdoba: Del Copista

Plath, S. (2000). The unabridged journals. K. V. Kukil (Ed.). New York, NY: Anchor.

Richardson, D. (2004, October 28). Wilson’s Smile: Brian Wilson finally finishes his “teenage symphony to God.” The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/music/article/Wilson-s-SMiLE-Brian-Wilson-finally-finishes-2678579.php

Rosenbaum, R. (1978, March). The Playboy Interview: Bob Dylan. Playboy.  p. 69.

Tornatore, V. (2007). Montevideo Blues [Liner notes]. In Montevideo Blues [CD]. Geneva, Il: Lion Production.

Wilde, O. (1980). The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde. Alvin Redman (Ed.). New York: Dover.

Zolof, E. (2011). Shakers And Mockers: Uruguay’s Place In Latin Rock History. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/altlatino/2011/07/25/137627714/shakers-and-mockers-uruguays-place-in-latin-rock-history

72ND TIME AROUND: HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB DYLAN!

Today, May 24, 2013, Bob Dylan has turned 72! Despite the fact that this man (whom I’ve already confessed is considered by me to be a genius of his medium) has been featured numerous times in these pages, I wanted to post something in celebration of his seventy-second year. I would have preferred to present something more recent from his extensive catalog, perhaps something off of one of the five marvelous albums he’s released since 1997; however, due to simple time constraints, that’s just not possible. Instead, what follows is an excerpt from an upcoming post entitled El Ambiente Bien Babes Y Bean de Uruguay, which features a MixTape with that title as well. This excerpt concerns my thoughts on what I declare to be “one of the greatest songs of all time, [which] features one of the most captivating narrative structures ever attempted by a popular recording artist,”— “4th Time Around.” I hope you enjoy it and help Dylan ring in his 72nd by giving this tune a whirl or two.

On a side-note, I’m excited to say that this July I’ll be seeing Dylan in concert for what I believe will be the 5th time around. His current live shows have been receiving some of the best reviews I’ve ever read and this upcoming tour—The Americanarama Festival of Music—is set to feature opening performances by My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Ryan Bingham, and Beck! Dylan himself still puts on one a hell of a show—Happy Birthday!

————————————————————————————————-

[Note: The following is a slightly altered excerpt from the post: El Ambiente Bien Babes Y Bean de Uruguay: Volume 1.]

Bob Dylan in 1966.

———————-(CLICK TO LISTEN) 

Like it? Buy it.

A few drinks into an evening in our rented apartment in Punta Del Diablo, I recall listening to Bob Dylan’s double LP and masterpiece of 1966, Blonde on Blonde, and attempting to explain to my wife why “4th Time Around” is one of the greatest songs of all time and how it features one of the most captivating narrative structures ever attempted by a popular recording artist. While I might not recollect all that I said, I stand by those statements. One thing that has always fascinated me about this track is how simply, logically, and direct the unexpected turn in narrative is designed; particularly so on an album comprised of, albeit genius, but often oblique verse ingeniously stitched to free-floating phrases from, as Greil Marcus has expressed it, “The Old, Weird America.” Here, Dylan once more demonstrates how he is a true artist of the songwriting form.

With all of its miscommunication, jilted feelings, occasional hysterics, postures, one-liners, and silly rapport (as if Lewis Carroll and Groucho Marx had both just watched Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell brilliantly bounce off each other in Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday and got the idea that they should team-up to write the details of a tryst at its end), the moment that it is realized that the entire jumbled affair of an afternoon in a woman’s house has not been confided to you, the listener, but to the woman who is featured in a photograph seated in a wheelchair, a woman that he immediately paid a visit to after the conclusion of the related events—this moment elevates the entire song into a complex emotional and intellectual spectrum of interpersonal relationships rarely ever touched upon so elegantly before or since the day this song was recorded down in Nashville on February 14, 1966 by a twenty-four-year-old Dylan. To add yet another layer to this impressive narrative, the tale is not being told to this woman on the day that these events occurred, but in some distant present. Much like the circular tune from which this takes its inspiration—The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood”—the song operates as a confession of an indiscretion.

Made indelible in popular memory by George Harrison’s innovative use of a sitar to double the main descending line—Lennon’s elusive narrative of “Norwegian Wood” was released on the brilliant Rubber Soul LP in December of 1965. This song is now generally recognized as a confession to his wife of an affair, however, at the time it was truly the product of The Beatles attempting to break new lyrical ground; particularly in the wake left by Bob Dylan’s stunning singles from earlier that same year: “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” As Ian MacDonald writes in Revolution in the Head, Lennon was quite aware of the inspirational debt he owed Dylan and actually grew to be quite troubled by what might be the songwriter’s reaction:

For his part, Lennon was uneasy about trespassing on Dylan’s

territory and when the latter, on his next album Blonde On

Blonde, produced an inscrutable parody of Norwegian Wood

called “4th Time Around,” the head Beatle was, as he later

admitted, “paranoid”: what did the title mean? Norwegian

Wood, I’m A Loser, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,

and…Baby’s In Black? Or was it the [peaked “Dylan”] cap

[Lennon wore]? And what was Dylan driving at in those closing

lines: “I never asked for your crutch/Now don’t ask for mine”…?

In the end, the matter was settled amicably when the two met—

for the fifth time—in London in April 1966. In truth, Dylan got

on reasonably well with Lennon, with whom he had a fair amount in common (2007).

This photo is a fake, but pretty cool regardless.

This one, however, is real—Lennon and Dylan, 5/27/66. “I just remember we were both in shades and both on fucking junk. … I was nervous as shit. I was on his territory, that’s why I was so nervous”—John Lennon to Rolling Stone in 1970 (Beuchamp & Shepard, 2012).

Whatever the inspiration for Dylan’s tune, it certainly surpasses Lennon’s for emotional complexity. It is the narrator coming clean and giving a complete account of what transpired that day he showed up on her doorstep with a shoe full of Jamaican Rum. However, this confession concludes with something other than a sentiment of remorse; it is more of a succinct summation of the dynamic of their particular relationship. It might be cold, but it is certainly not unfeeling:

And you, you took me in,

You loved me then,

You never wasted time.

And I, I never took much,

I never asked for your crutch,

Now don’t ask for mine.

The inside gatefold art for the first pressing of Blonde on Blonde, released May 16, 1966

Furthermore, it has always impressed me with what precision of language and time these narrative feats are accomplished. After all, it is still only a song, and one with the duration of just four minutes and thirty-five seconds. Other than perhaps a character or two’s affection, nothing here is wasted. With the economic exactitude of clockwork and the finest art the whirl of relatively candid words, delivered with cartoon dust in the throat, juvenile whimsy in the sinuses, and his flawless sense of emphasis are perfectly synchronized to an “archaic waltz” (Heylin, 2009) that is taken at a fast clip and put through its paces by the expert Nashville session men (such as Charlie McCoyKenneth Buttrey, and Joe South) Dylan employed to help him capture “that thin, that wild mercury sound” as he later described of the album in an interview with Ron Rosenbaum for Playboy in 1978.

Although both women featured in this tale might disagree, you the listener arrive at the final spirals of the song feeling much like the narrator: that there is nothing more that need be said. At a press conference given in San Francisco in December of 1965 Dylan stated, “All my songs basically say is Good luck. They all tail off at the end with good luck, hope you make it” (Gleason, 2006). With its final words spoken, with its final go-rounds of the spindly tune accompanied by the rapid tapping of percussion and harmonica trailing, it’s as if the narrator is walking off with an awkward smile that suggests: Hey, what more do you want from me?

Admittedly, I am a Dylan fanatic, but how can you not marvel at the mind that can create such things?

Bob Dylan in Liverpool, 1966. (Photo by Barry Feinstein). “Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches / I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages” from “Thunder On The Mountain” by Bob Dylan in 2006.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB

FROM

—————————————-BOBBY CALERO————————-

REF:

Beauchamp, S., Shepard, A. (2012, Sept. 24)). Bob Dylan and John Lennon’s Weird, One-Sided Relationship. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/09/bob-dylan-and-john-lennons-weird-one-sided-relationship/262680/

Dylan, B. (1966). 4th Time Around. [Recorded by Bob Dylan] On Blonde On Blonde. Columbia Records, 1966.

Heylin, C. (2009). Revolution in the air : the songs of Bob Dylan 1957-1973. 1st ed Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review Press.

MacDonald, I. (2007). Revolution in the head: The Beatles’ records and the sixties (3rd ed.). Chicago, Ill: Chicago Review Press.

Rosenbaum, R. (1978, March). The Playboy Interview: Bob Dylan. Playboy.  p. 69.

THE JULY 3RD WATER-LOGGED MASSACRE

underwater, it was

immediately strange

& familiar

                                                from Paris Journal by Jim Morrison (1971).

In the early hours of July 3rd, 1969, founding member and celebrated multi-instrumentalist of The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones was found face down at the bottom of the swimming pool at his country house at Cotchford Farm. Located in East Sussex—about an hour’s drive from London—Cotchford Farm had once been owned by A.A. Milne who was inspired by the surrounding environs to create Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin, and their various friends’ adventures in the “Hundred Acre Wood” (and in this fact I’m sure lies the basis for a fun, psychedelic cartoon).

His body found by Janet Lawson, a 26-year-old nurse who was then dating The Rolling Stones’ tour manager Tom Keylock, and Jones’ girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, whether Brian Jones’ death was the result of murder committed by Frank Thorogood—a forty-three-year-old builder contracted to do work on the grounds but whose role had grown to a be a sort of “minder” for the unraveling Jones (Jones, 2008)—or was truly “death by misadventure” as the coroner’s official verdict stated will likely remain a rock ‘n’ roll mystery.

The last known photographs of Jones, taken by schoolgirl Helen Spittal on 23 June 1969, shortly after his departure from the Stones.

(Lewis) Brian (Hopkins) Jones was twenty-seven-years-old at the time of his death in 1969 and had only a month prior been asked to leave The Rolling Stones. On June 8, 1969, Jones was visited by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts, and was told that the group that he had formed and named back in 1962 would now continue on without him. Permitted to announce the news as he saw fit, Jones issued a statement the next day announcing his departure, stating, “I no longer see eye-to-eye with the others over the discs we are cutting” (Wyman, 2002).

Brian Jones’ last picture with The Rolling Stones.

Jones’ being kicked out of the group has been seen with more than a critical eye over the years, with many choosing to see this as merely the result of greed and a power grab by “The Glimmer Twins” of Jagger and Richards. However, it needs to be recognized that not only did Jones’ numerous arrests and convictions for narcotics make it impossible for him to acquire a work visa to tour with the group, but that Jones’ excess and addictions had left him often unable—and more so averse—to contributing to the band’s music. It’s all well and good that Keith Richards was a junkie too, but at least he showed up and participated at rehearsals.

Brian Jones—in part because of his flamboyant sartorial style, beautiful boyish good looks, and the mass quantities of drugs and alcohol he would ingest—had been always held up as the figurehead for the group and had come to be celebrated as a Dorian Grey type figure. This, coupled with his skilled musicianship and true love of the blues, served to bridge the gap between London’s occultist dandies and the dirty music of the American south (Hill, 2011). There are many who believe that The Stones’ claim to greatness ended with Jones’ departure, but I (as anyone who’s listened to their double LP of 1972, Exile on Main St.) strongly disagree. However, Brian Jones’ influence and contribution to this group cannot be expressed enough.

Never a songwriter but rather a true musician, Jones had an uncanny ability to pick up any instrument and add that essential and odd element that would distinguish The Stones from every other R&B bar band of the swinging scene of London in the ’60s: think of the sitar on “Paint It Black,” the marimbas on “Under My Thumb,” or the dulcimer on “I Am Waiting.”

Jones’ talent did not only lie in implementing instruments hitherto unknown in the musical lexicon of rock ‘n’ roll, but extended to the flavor he could add with more traditional instruments such as harmonica, guitar, and keyboards. Brian Jones was simply ingenious at creating the proper moods and appropriate atmospheres a song required. He was style, and he was content. For example, consider his bottle-neck guitar on 1968’s Beggars Banquet track, “No Expectations.” Other than Jagger’s pouty-mouthed vocals of lament, it is Jones’ contribution that imbues the song with its thick syrup of loneliness.

The original cover photo for Beggars Banquet (photo by Michael Joseph).

———————————-(CLICK TO LISTEN

Like it? Buy it.

However, by the time of this song’s recording in the summer of 1968 Jones’ enthusiasm for the group had waned and his contributions became less and less. Mick Jagger later stated in a 1995 interview for Rolling Stone “We were sitting around in a circle on the floor, singing and playing, recording with open mikes. That was the last time I remember Brian really being totally involved in something that was really worth doing” (Wenner). In fact, upon being dismissed from the group Jones nearly immediately contacted Mitch Mitchell (drummer for The Jimi Hendrix Experience) about the possibility of beginning a new band together. Jones had recorded with him before (along with Hendrix himself, as well as Traffic guitarist Dave Mason) in a session at Olympic Studios in London with Chas Chandler producing and Eddie Kramer engineering. Held on December 28th 1967, this session was conducted during the initial recording dates for Jimi Hendrix’s masterpiece, Electric Ladyland, before Hendrix moved production to the newly opened Record Plant Studios in New York the following spring.

The alternate cover for 1968’s Electric Ladyland (photo by David Montgomery)

Jones had grown to be quite friendly with Hendrix and his group and had in fact introduced them on stage to the audience at The Monterey Pop Festival held in June of 1967 (effectively introducing Hendrix to America itself, as he had little recognition in the states up until this point—Hendrix cemented his prominence by famously ending his performance by setting his psychedelically painted Fender Stratocaster on fire in what seemed liked some sensual, voodoo ritual).

Brian Jones introduces The Jimi Hendrix Experience to America in 1967 at The Monterey International Pop Music Festival

Despite often being characterized as “over-sensitive” (a disposition that frequently lends itself to acts of manipulation and cruelty) of all the Stones only Brian was adored by the community of musicians, artists, and general audience springing from the counterculture of the ’60s; of all the Stones only Brian was invited to record with their rivals, The Beatles: in mid-May of 1967 playing oboe on “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” and alto sax on “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number).”

London, 1968: Brian Jones, Donovan, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Cilla Black, and Paul McCartney.

Yoko Ono, Brian Jones, Julian and John Lennon,1968.

The Jones/Hendrix session would produce only two alternate takes of a single instrumental composition entitled “Little One,” which despite its impressive structure and performance remains unreleased to this day. As the two takes are incredibly similar, with one noticeable difference being Hendrix implementing a slide to his guitar on “take 2,” I have never been able to decide which I enjoy more…and so I present them both to you.

Little One (take 1)

——————————————(CLICK TO LISTEN

Little One (take 2)

———————————————(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Brian Jones – Sitar and percussions

Jimi Hendrix – Guitar

Dave Mason – Bass and sitar

Mitch Mitchell – Drums

Brian Jones & Anita Pallenberg

Jones’ penchant for excess had been exacerbated by his intense romantic affair with Italian-born actress, model, sexpot bombshell, and epicurean, Anita Pallenberg. She has been described as powerful, brilliant, and absolutely mad; all often in the same breath.

Anita Pallenberg as The Black Queen/The Great Tyrant in Roger Vadim’s cult-classic sci-fi film of 1968, Barbarella.

Anita with co-star Jane Fonda in the titular role of Barbarella.

Jones and Anita together were known to over-indulge in narcotics and sex, and often their relationship would delve into dark, sadomasochism.

However, in 1967 while Keith Richards, Jones, and Pallenberg were vacationing together in Morocco, Richards and Pallenberg began an affair after Jones became ill and was checked into a hospital. Eventually Pallenberg left Jones for Richards and the two had a relationship that lasted until 1980 and which resulted in numerous children (as well as accelerated drug abuse). Perhaps as much as boredom and dependency, this betrayal led to Jones’ dissolution from The Rolling Stones. For, as much as “the hippies” advocated a free-love philosophy, it remains a philosophy that is much more difficult to put into practice than it is to place as a slogan on a placard.

Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg, and Keith Richards in 1967.

Jones’ continuing substance abuse led to a fragile state of mental health, marked by paranoia, distraction, and even violent outbursts. Yet, despite all this, as I have said, Jones remained the adored golden-haired child of the ’60’s. Upon Jones’ death numerous songs were performed in his name, Pete Townshend wrote a poem titled A Normal Day for Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day, and in Hyde Park on 5 July 1969, The Rolling Stones performed a free concert in Jones’ honor (as well as to introduce new member and brilliant guitarist, Mick Taylor). Stagehands released hundreds of white butterflies as part of the tribute (many had already suffocated in their crates and so were tossed dead onto the audience) and Jagger read excerpts from Adonais, a poem by Percy Shelley concerning the death of his friend John Keats:

I weep for Adonais -he is dead!

O, weep for Adonais! though our tears

Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!

And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years

To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers,

And teach them thine own sorrow, say: “With me

Died Adonais; till the Future dares

Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be

An echo and a light unto eternity!

The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park on 5 July 1969.

Marianne Faithfull

However, it should be noted that Watts and Wyman were the only members of The Rolling Stones who actually attended Jones’ funeral. Neither did Pallenberg attend. Concerning this absence and its effects, Marianne Faithfull has written:

             Brian’s death acted like a slow-motion bomb, It had a

devastating effect on all of us. The dead go away, but

the survivors are damned. Anita went through hell from

survivor’s guilt and guilt plain and simple. She developed

grisly compulsions…Keith’s way of reacting to Brian’s

death was to become Brian. He became the very image of

the falling down, stoned junkie hovering perpetually on the

edge of death. But Keith, being Keith, was made of different

stuff. However he mimicked Brian’s self-destruction, he

never actually disintegrated (Greenfield, 2006).

It is rumored that it was Bob Dylan who paid for Brian Jones’ extravagant casket. Perhaps it was intended as a form of apology? For as Daniel Mark Epstein writes in his highly engaging biography/memoir, “The Ballad of Bob Dylan,” from a passage concerning Dylan’s inclination towards cruel, acerbic words spat at those he viewed as pestering him while he and confidant Bobby Neuwirth held an amphetamine-fueled court (performing “mental gymnastics”) at New York clubs like Max’s Kansas City:

            Brian Jones, the gifted, exquisitely sensitive English guitarist

who founded the Rolling Stones, idolized Bob Dylan. Jones was tiny,

an inch shorter than his hero, blond-haired, blue-eyed, and

androgynous looking, sporting frilly Edwardian blouses and bright

scarves. He was notoriously volatile, needy, and drug dependent.

By and by Neuwirth led him toward the table where the maestro

was holding court.

             Neuwirth welcomed the celebrated multi-instrumentalist who

had taught Mick Jagger how to play harmonica. Dylan bared his teeth.

First of all he declared the Stones were a joke—they could not be taken

seriously. Now everyone could laugh at that, true or not, because the

comment cost nothing, drew no blood. But then he explained to Jones

that he had no talent and that the band, joke that it was, ought to replace

him with someone who could sing. This made Jones unhappy, after all

he had been so happy to see Dylan in the bar. The Englishman swept his

flowing hair out of his eyes, which were tearing up as Dylan went into

detail about Jones’ musical handicaps. Jones began to cry. Now the whole

mob could see his weakness; it was a terrible sight, the flowing locks, the

lacy sleeves, the weeping—just the wrong image for a group called

“The Rolling Stones.” Dylan concluded. He may have been right; Jones

did not seem to be long for the Rolling Stones, or this world, for that matter.

A couple of years later he was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool.

Some say that Dylan paid for Jones’ lavish coffin (2011).

Brian Jones and Bob Dylan attend a release party for the Young Rascals at the Phone Booth nightclub in New York City in November, 1965. (photo by Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)]

Nearly immediately after Jones’ death (possibly even the day it was reported) lead singer for The Doors, Jim Morrison composed the poem: Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased:

I’m a resident of a city

They’ve just picked me to play

The Prince of Denmark

Poor Ophelia

All those ghosts he never saw

Floating to doom

On an iron candle

Come back, brave warrior

Do the dive

On another channel

Hot buttered pool

Where’s Marrakech

Under the falls

the wild storm

where savages fell out

in late afternoon

monsters of rhythm

You’ve left your

Nothing

to complete w/

Silence

I hope you went out Smiling

Like a child

Into the cool remnant

of a dream

The angel man

w/ Serpents competing

for his palms

& fingers

Finally claimed

This benevolent

Soul

Ophelia

Leaves, sodden

in silk

Chlorine

dream

mad stifled

Witness

The diving board, the plunge

The pool

You were the bleached

Sun

for TV afternoon

horned-toads

maverick of a yellow spot

Look now to where it’s got

You

in meat heaven

w/ the cannibals

& Jews

The gardener

Found

The body, rampant, Floating

Lucky Stiff

What is this green pale stuff

You’re made of

Poke holes in the goddess

Skin

Will he Stink

Carried heavenward

Thru the halls of music

No chance.

Requiem for a heavy

That smile

That porky satyr’s

leer

has leaped upward

into the loam

———————————————————

Jim Morrison in the Summer of 1969.

One Jim Morrison’s final notebook from his time in Paris, 1971.

Despite its obvious merits to any literate that would take the time to read it, the poetry of Jim Morrison has always been too casually dismissed. This dismissal mostly comes as a flippant reaction to the audience who have come to embrace Jim Morrison: generally comprised of awkward adolescents and teenagers who believe they are obsessed with death—when in actuality it is sex and a sense of discovery that has strangled their brains. Often, for this group of admirers it’s not even the man Morrison they cling to but the dark image of him, the risk and pleasure he represents. Yet, developing and hormone-addled youth shouldn’t be judged here, nor their easy acceptance of projected iconography that has certainly been marketed towards them; but the adult academics and intellectuals who continue to not only disregard the man’s work, but actually let out a little chuckle of disdain at his mention do deserve a harsh word or two.

To my mind and tastes Jim Morrison was a truly gifted American poet with a distinctive American voice and cadence that should be appreciated and celebrated, as Whitman’s is, as Robert Frost’s is, as Hart Crane’s is.

Again, he is dismissed because he was a rock star, but who could argue that if Rimbaud had come of age during the 1950s and 1960s in the United States that he wouldn’t have pursued the decadence of rock ‘n’ roll as a form of artistic expression before abandoning it all for the world of commerce?

Another factor for the lack of recognition (if not contempt) for Morrison’s writing is the confounding of his lyrics with his poetry. Although the two are not always mutually exclusive, for the most part they remain two different animals. Whereas Morrison might have crooned into your ear that there were “weird scenes inside the goldmine,” within his poems he could go on to meditate on these scenes, and although odd, it’s also all so very familiar:

I have a vision of America

Seen from the air

28,000 ft. and going fast

A one armed man in a Texas

parking labyrinth

A burnt tree like a giant primeval bird

in an empty lot in Fresno

Miles and miles of hotel corridors

& elevators, filled with citizens

                        (circa 1969)

There are certain conventions and limitations placed upon a lyricist that might work splendidly while sung along with the buzz and hum of an electric guitar or the roll of a drum but that nevertheless fall flat or seem simply self-indulgent when read upon the page. With the verse, notes, and fragments of dialogue that he constantly scrawled into the notebooks he always carried, Morrison could drop any “Lizard King” posturing of his rock ‘n’ roll persona and indulge in what he always saw as his true work: poetry.

Freeways are a drama, a new

art form. Signs. Houses.

Faces. Loud gabble of Blacks

at a bus stop.

With lines like these from the ending stanza of his poem The Guided Tour, or others such as “The bus gives you a hard-on/with books in your lap” Morrison was attempting honest artistic communication of a facet of the American experience, and more so the human condition. There are certainly lines of both Morrison’s lyrics and his poetry that come off as silly, but it should be remembered that he was still only a young man in his twenties and searching for his “voice.” This search itself is actually one of the aspects of his work that I find makes it so enjoyable. Additionally, despite the calculated images of a serious young Adonis with a svelte naked torso writhing in tight leather pants across many a teenager’s t-shirt, it should be noted that Morrison could be an incredibly goofy guy. For a more humanistic view of the man than the mystic hedonist that is traditionally depicted, I highly recommend you watch Tom DiCillo’s 2009 documentary When You’re Strange, narrated by Johnny Depp.

The dichotomy presented by the easy access to excess and fun afforded by being a rockstar butting up against a desire to pursue his literary ambitions with a serious, sensitive intelligence had begun to wear on Morrison fairly early into The Doors career. This discord—coupled with his highly addictive personality—led Morrison to begin drinking heavily, wander off, and participate less in the band’s creative/recording sessions; particularly for their third and fourth LPs, 1968’s Waiting for the Sun, and The Soft Parade, released in 1969.

Morrison in the closet of his room at LA’s Chateau Marmont hotel, May 1968, as The Doors were finishing recording sessions for Waiting For The Sun. (photo by Art Kane).

By 1969 Morrison often seemed dissatisfied if not outright bored with The Doors and their music, but had been dissuaded from quitting by the other members. He would go on to state in an interview with CBC Radio, “I’m hung up on the art game, you know? My great joy is to give form to reality. Music is a great release, a great enjoyment to me. Eventually I’d like to write something of great importance. That’s my ambition—to write something worthwhile” (Nester, 2011). His growing lack of interest in the music is occasionally evident in the band’s creative output of the time. This statement is in no way meant to disparage the music of The Doors, as I still believe to this day that together, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger had one of the most singular sounds ever created by a rock band. I’m not even certain they qualify to be labeled as “rock.”

Cinematic in scope and theatrical in presentation, The Doors fluidly merged jazz associated time signatures with Latin rhythms, the primitive stomp and lustful swagger of the blues, and the sinister yet jaunty gait of a vaudevillian circus—the whole sound given flight by extended flourishes of flamenco, surf-rock riffs, and sharp apoplectic convulsions of psychedelia. Inexplicably, this sound could still urge the listener to tap his foot and sing along. Play any album by The Doors and tell me what other group (even those that are attempting to emulate) sounds like this? I suppose the only appropriate genre label for this group would be “weird.” Yes, they were a band of weirdos.

Take for example their performance of “Universal Mind” on the night of July 21st, 1969, where a showtune lament suddenly cascades to take on Mongo Santamaría’s “Afro Blue” (in an arrangement made famous by John Coltrane in 1963):

“Universal Mind” July 21st, 1969

—————————————–(CLICK TO LISTEN)

When at their best, what distinguishes this group’s sound from the majority of their contemporaries is that they not only sound extraordinarily alive and on a journey, but filled with dread at the awesome wonder of being so; the sound of there being “something not quite right.” It is that underlying but persistent sense of creation confronting dread that has bestowed their music with longevity despite (or perhaps as a side-effect of?) our desperate-for-the-next-hit culture. However, by the time The Doors were completing The Soft Parade, it seems Jim Morrison had grown fed up with the band and what the audiences expected of them, frustrated with his literary ambitions, and more so disgusted with both himself and the state of American affairs.

Being drunk is a good disguise.

I drink so I

can talk to assholes.

This includes me.

                        (from As I Look Back).

Could any hell be more

horrible than now

 and real?

                        (from Lament For The Death Of My Cock, 1969)

Do you know we are being led to

slaughters by placid admirals

& that fat slow generals are getting

obscene on young blood

Do you know we are ruled by T.V.

                                                (from An American Prayer, circa 1970)

            On March 1st, 1969 The Doors were scheduled to kick-off of their biggest tour ever by playing the Dinner Key Auditorium in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami. Morrison had spent the week prior regularly attending performances by The Living Theater in California. These performances were meant to challenge conventional notions on love, decency, morality, and freedom of expression, and featured scantily dressed and nude actors both on stage and interacting directly with the audience. Inspired, Morrison has all this in mind when he steps on stage. However, after fighting with his girlfriend Pamela Courson, he has also spent the entire day drinking and missing connecting flights to Miami. Arriving late, he is extremely intoxicated.

A converted seaplane hanger, the Dinner Key Auditorium is filled well beyond capacity (the promoters had taken out the chairs in order to sell more tickets) and the air is stifling from the Florida heat. The performance that evening will be considered a disaster and would end abruptly when the stage collapses under the weight of the audience that had rushed up there at Morrison’s insistence. Morrison himself would be tossed into the crowd by an overwhelmed security guard. Afterwards, the Dade County Sheriff’s office issued a warrant for Morrison’s arrest claiming that he had deliberately exposed his penis while on stage, shouted obscenities to the crowd, simulated oral sex on guitarist Robby Krieger and was drunk at the time of his performance, he would be accused as well by the press of attempting to incite a riot. Although the man certainly was inebriated and did use “obscene” language, and the concert itself was perhaps not the best example of professional musicians, what occurred was a man’s impassioned plea for a spirit of brotherly love to permeate our cold, war-profiteering culture, and for the people to “wake up” from their lulled stupor, submissive to every sadistic and avaricious whim of a ruling elite; an elite that today is popularly called the “one percent.”

“You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ idiots! Lettin’ people tell you

what you’re gonna do! Lettin’ people push you around! How long do

you think it’s gonna last? How long are you gonna let it go on? How

long are you gonna let em push you around? How long? Maybe you

like it. Maybe you like being pushed around! Maybe you love it! Maybe

you love getting’ your face stuck in the shit! Come on! You love it,

don’t ya! You love it! You’re all a bunch of slaves. Letting everybody

push you around. What are you gonna do about it! What are you gonna

do about it!”

With these fervent words, and his repeated assertions of, “I aint talkin’ about no revolution, and I’m not talking about no demonstration, I’m talkin’ about having a good time; I’m talkin’ ‘bout love,” as well as his commands that the audience “love your neighbor ‘till it hurts,” Morrison might have been drunk but his message was still as poignant and passionate as those by any other concerned citizen, such as those by my favorite comedian (and philosopher) Bill Hicks, who twenty-four years later told his American audiences:

“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, ‘Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?’ And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, ‘Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.’ And we … kill those people. ‘Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.’ It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love.

“The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”

For the most part, Morrison’s rants that evening made it impossible for the band to play through any of their hits as he insisted on repeatedly directly communicating with the audience, and his inebriated state seemed to rattle their typically intuitive musical communication. Essentially, it was not a great show. However, there are moments that are great examples of raw, blistering, “rock-out-with-your-cock-out” (pun intended) music. Morrison’s voice itself here exemplifies what he once wrote in one of his notebooks under the title of As I Look Back:

                        Elvis had sex-wise

                        Mature voice at 19

Mine still retains the

nasal whine of a

repressed adolescent

            minor squeaks & furies

An interesting singer

at best—a scream

or a sick croon. Nothing

in-between.

The following track has been slightly edited by myself to focus upon the more poignant and entertaining moments, in terms of this discussion:

The Doors, March 1st, 1969

——————————————-(CLICK TO LISTEN)

The Doors live at the Dinner Key Auditorium, Miami (March 1st, 1969):

Are you Ready/Back Door Man/I Want Some Love/Five To One/Talkin’ Bout Some Love/Touch Me/I Was Born Here/Light My Fire/I Wanna See Some Action.

After the “Miami Incident” The Doors had found that the majority of their tour had been cancelled by the venues, as they were no longer willing to host them. Later that month Jim Morrison uses the forced lull in touring as an opportunity to record some of his poetry without the presence of the other members of The Doors. One of the finest of these recordings features Morrison’s memories of attending high-school dances as an army brat (his father was Rear Admiral George Stephen Morrison and happened to be in command of the Carrier Division during the controversial Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964—how’s that for a generation gap?). This piece is titled, Can We Resolve The Past?:

Jim Morrison in 1964 (photo by Alain Ronay).

——————————————(CLICK TO LISTEN)

On Monday, April 28th, after further cancellations and the possibility of a three-year sentence in a Florida prison hanging over Morrison’s head, The Doors entered PBS Studios in New York to record for the show “PBS Critique.” Along with several other songs they performed their blues vamp “Build Me A Woman,” as well as the psychedelic epic (and title track) that closes The Soft Parade, which was due to be released on July 18th. A rarity for them performance wise, “The Soft Parade” is another fine example of my earlier statements regarding the total idiosyncratic nature of The Doors’ sound.

With their entire American tour cancelled, the group accepted an offer to perform at The Forum in Mexico City for four dates at the end of June.

The Doors in Mexico, June 1969

It would have been returning from this brief engagement in Mexico that Morrison would have first learned of Brian Jones’ death and subsequently compose his poem, Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased. Shortly after, with The Doors securing the two nights of July 21 and 22 at the Aquarius Theatre on Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, Morrison would self-publish this work and distribute it freely to those in attendance. To his irritation, the majority of The Doors’ audience, who only seemed to come to shows in anticipation of a spectacle, left these chapbooks to litter the floor—unread.

The Doors at the Aquarius Theatre.

On the evening of the 22nd, Morrison would tell the audience: “Hey, I’m tired of being a freaky musician; I want to be Napoleon! Let’s have some more wars around here. What a stinking, shitty little war we have runnin’ over there. Let’s get a big one! A real big one! With alotta…killings, and bombs, and blood!”  A little over two weeks later, a man and three women, “hippies” by all accounts and members of a cult, would enter a luxurious home in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles and butcher five people, including actress Sharon Tate who was eight-months-pregnant at the time. They were directed by one man: Charles Manson. The “Manson Family” would later be arrested in Death Valley where they had been living while searching for a hole in the earth that would lead them to a fabled underground city. Four months after this concert the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam (in which roughly 500 unarmed Vietnamese men, women, the elderly, as well as children and babies were murdered by the U.S. military) becomes public knowledge after being suppressed for some twenty months by the government.

At this show The Doors also debut some preliminary compositions for the album they would record at the end of the year, Morrison Hotel, subsequently released in February of 1970. Of this material, one highlight is the live rendition of “Maggie M’Gill

——————————————————–(CLICK TO LISTEN)

December 1969, Los Angeles, CA – Jim Morrison stands amidst a group of men outside the original Hard Rock Cafe in the skid row area of downtown L.A. – Image by © Henry Diltz/Corbis]

December 1969, Los Angeles, California, USA — The Doors dine in a Mexican restaurant. From right to left: Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, and Robbie Krieger. — Henry Diltz

At the time of recording Morrison Hotel, it seems that Morrison’s lyrics and poetry begin to achieve a certain new level of maturity, as well as gaining a synthesis of vision between the two. As a poet, as a lyricist, as an “old bluesman,” Morrison comprehended the pure expression—the psychic communication—that can be achieved through symbolism. I believe the music itself on this album (and the next and last, L.A. Woman) reflects this. Many claim that these albums were “a return-to-form” but in reality The Doors had never sounded quite like this. Although by no means did Morrison cease his self-abuse, it does seem that he and his long-time girlfriend (wife, for all intents and purposes) did reach a level of stability, and that Morrison, at her urging, dedicated himself towards his writing more fully.

(photo by Raeanne Rubenstein)

Jim & Pam (edmund teske 1969)

While touring to promote this album, on April 7th Morrison had two poetic works bound together and published in one volume: The Lords and The New Creatures. The first half—The Lords—with its subtitle “Notes on Vision,” contains numerous thoughtful essay-like meditations on the human-condition in relation to his ability to experience reality, particularly in light of modern advancements in his ability to create the pictorial through the cinema. This work also explores both the liberation to be found in being an artist as well as the sinister element of subjugation that can occur through all this.

“There are no longer ‘dancers,’ the possessed.

The cleavage of men into actor and spectators

is the central fact of our time. We are obsessed

with heroes who live for us and whom we punish.

If all the radios and televisions were deprived

of their sources of power, all books and paintings

burned tomorrow, all shows and cinemas closed,

all the arts of vicarious existence…

“We are content in the ‘given’ in sensation’s

quest. We have been metamorphosised from a mad

body dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes

staring in the dark (p. 29)

“More or less, we’re all afflicted with the psychology

of the voyeur. Not in a strictly clinical or

criminal sense, but in our whole physical and

emotional

stance before the world. Whenever we seek to break

this spell of passivity, our actions are cruel and

awkward and generally obscene, like an invalid who

has forgotten to walk (p. 39).

“The Lords appease us with images. They give us

books, concerts, galleries, shows, cinemas.

Especially the cinemas. Through art they confuse

us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns

our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted

and indifferent” (p. 89).

Beginning the “Roadhouse Blues Tour” on January 17th 1970 at the more intimate Felt Forum within Madison Square Garden in New York, those born after a certain era have always been given the impression through marketing that The Doors had past their prime once Morrison had put on pounds, grown a beard, and abandoned the leather pants for jeans and a t-shirt. However, I believe the band has never sounded as dynamic and fully engaged with the music as they did on this tour. In fact the majority of live recordings you’ve most likely heard from this group, despite the “young lion” images of Morrison emblazoned on the LP covers, come from this era. It seems that at the band’s beginnings Morrison had calculated a figure so powerful and alluring that there was nothing he could do to destroy it.

As a demonstration of the band’s prowess at this time, check out what perhaps might be their finest live performance ever put on tape: from Saturday, May 2nd at The Pittsburgh Civic Arena, here’s “Roadhouse Blues.”

——————————————-(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

Concerning the song and this performance, cultural historian and critic Greil Marcus (who, to those familiar with my blog by now must realize is one of my favorite go-to-guys for critical insight) had this to say:

“In Pittsburgh, on May 2, 1970, for the fourth number of the set, the band hammers into the song. It will take them seven minutes to tease, demand, threaten the song to force it to give up every secret it was made to reveal, and the drama unfolds when Morrison, his voice already desperate, preternaturally full, expanding with each line, descends into the bubbling swamp of the tune, the place without words. He disappears into the maw of the music and keeps going, you gotta cronk cronk cronk sh bomp bomp cronk cronk eh hey cron cronk cronk ado ah hey che doo bop dag a chee be cronk cronk well rah hey hey tay cronk cronk see lay, hey—he sustains it all for a solid minute. It’s harder than it looks. With each measure of vocal sounds the pressure is increased, the pleasure is deeper, the abandon more complete, the freedom from words, meaning, song, band, hits, audience, police, prison, and self more real, precious, and sure to disappear around the next turn if you don’t keep your eyes on the road. In that long minute, Morrison sings the whole song in another language, one only he could speak, but that anyone could understand. There is no document he left behind where he sounds more fulfilled as an artist, as someone who threw down the gauntlet and said to himself, to you, to whoever was listening, to whoever wasn’t, follow that” (2011).

Another fine example is their performance of “Love Me Two Times,” from August 21st at the Bakersfield Civic Auditorium in California. Here they effortlessly let the song drift where Morrison takes it, incorporating elements of the blues standard “Baby Please Don’t Go” (first recorded by Big Joe Williams in 1935), and “St. James Infirmary Blues,” that anonymous American ode to love lost through iniquity, made famous by Louis Armstrong in 1928 and covered countless times since.

(photo by Michael Parrish)

—————(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Having turned down an offer to perform at the Woodstock Festival, The Doors now agreed to play what was intended as the European version, located at the East Afton Farm on an area on the western side of the Isle of Wight.

Morrison would spend the following two months on trial for obscenity, but what was truly on trial was not only an artists’ right to express himself, but any American citizens’ right to do so. After a state-sponsored “Rally for Decency,” the Miami jury (the youngest member was 42 years old) convicted Morrison on misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure and open profanity while acquitting him of two felonies and two other misdemeanors. His bail was raised to fifty thousand dollars and he now faced a certain prison sentence (Melnick, 2010).

Following his conviction, Morrison filed an appeal and he and the band would spend the uncertain winter of ’70-’71 recording their sixth and final album together, L.A. Woman.

Just prior to the full commencement of the L.A. Woman sessions, On Tuesday December 8th, Jim Morrison would spend his 27th (and final) birthday at another recording session held exclusively for his poetry. Although the majority of these recording remains unreleased, on this day he would recite a devotional poem titled, Science Of Night.

December 8, 1970.

————————————————(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Four days later at “The Warehouse” in New Orleans, The Doors would play their final live concert together. Halfway through this show Morrison seemed at first distracted and then just completely spent. After slumping down on to the floor, Morrison grabs the mic stand and continually slams it into the stage eventually splintering the wood. Then throwing the stand aside he leaves the stage. Ray Manzarek later states that he witnessed at this show all of Morrison’s “psychic energy” abandon his body.

Jim Morrison at The Doors last performance, December 12, 1970 at The Warehouse in New Orleans, LA.

L.A. Woman sessions (photo by Frank Lisciandro)

In preparation for a new album, over the next few weeks that followed their final performance The Doors would convert their office and rehearsal space—The Workshop, located at 8512 Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles—into a recording studio. Despite numerous detriments at the time, L.A. Woman would be an artistic triumph. Recorded and mixed in only two weeks, and although these sessions were for the most-part a relaxed affair, it would feature some sublime and manic moments as on the title track, as well as marvelously rough recorded booze-soaked blues as on “Cars Hiss by My Window.”

——————————————-(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it?

This album would also feature some of Morrison’s most direct and plaintive lyrics:

I need a brand new friend who doesn’t bother me.

I need a brand new friend who doesn’t trouble me.

I need someone who doesn’t need me.

                                                (“Hyacinth House”).

Here is that song recorded as a demo at guitarist Robby Krieger’s home studio:

—————-(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

Jim Morrison would be dead within six months of these recordings.

L.A. Woman sessions (photo by Edmund Teske).

In the hopes of some respite from the threat of imprisonment, as well as a desire to escape his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for some time and concentrate on his writing once more, Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson relocated to Paris on March 11th 1971. At the time, he told The Doors’ manager Bill Siddons, “I don’t know who I am, and I don’t know what I’m doing at the moment. I even don’t know what I really want, I just wanna go away” (Moddemann, 1999).

Wandering Paris

Moving to No. 17 Rue Beautreillis, Morrison placed a desk near the window in order to write at. Spending the majority of his time wandering the streets, Morrison carried his notebooks in a bag at his side at all times.

So much forgotten already

            So much forgotten

            So much to forget

            Once the idea of purity

            born, all was lost

            irrevocably

            […]

            And I remember

            Stars in the shotgun

            night

            eating pussy

            til the mind runs

            clean

            […]

            A monster arrived

            in the mirror

            To mock the room

            & its fool

            alone

            Give me songs

to sing

& emerald dreams

to dream

& I’ll give you love

unfolding

[…]

Naked we come

& bruised we go

nude pastry

for the slow soft worms

below

This is my poem

for you

Great flowing funky flower’d beast

Great perfumed wreck of hell

Great good disease

& summer plague

Great god-damned shit-ass

Mother-fucking freak

You lie, you cheat,

you steal, you kill

you drink the Southern

Madness swill

of greed

you die utterly & alone

Mud up to your braces

Someone new in your

knickers

& who would that be?

You know

You know more

than you let on

Much more than you betray

Great slimy angel-whore

you’ve been good to me

You really have

been swell to me

Tell them you came & saw

& look’d into my eyes

& saw the shadow

of the guard receding

Thoughts in time

& out of season

The Hitchhiker stood

by the side of the road

& leveled his thumb

in the calm calculus

of reason.

(excerpts from Paris Journal by Jim Morrison)

Wandering Paris on June 17th, 1971, Morrison came across two young American street musicians who were playing guitar in front of the Café de Flore. The three, getting drunk throughout the day, would rent an hour from a little local recording studio and attempt to “jam.” Morrison would tell the engineer it was his own band called Jomo And The Smoothies. “I get twenty-five percent of everything that happens, right?” he asked the other two musicians (Moddemann, 1999). However, these two new acquaintances failed to take any of it remotely seriously, despite Morrison’s repeated attempts to get them to settle down into any song. Eventually he would suggest one of his own more recent compositions and would begin to drunkenly, yet passionately bellow and croon his way through his ode to Pamela, “Orange County Suite”:

June, 1971 photo by Alain Ronay

——————————————————————(CLICK TO LISTEN)

[Note: this track has been edited by me to remove much of the incessant and amateurish noodling of the other two musicians and focus upon what would be Jim Morrison’s final recorded performance]

For those who have been wondering why a discussion of Brian Jones has somehow transformed into a lengthy discussion of Jim Morrison and his work: two weeks after the above recording was made, and exactly two years later to the day of Brian Jones’ death, On July 3rd 1971 Jim Morrison was found dead in the bathtub of his Parisian apartment by his girlfriend Pamela. He was also only twenty-seven years old. They had spent the evening of the 2nd at the cinema watching a western starring Robert Mitchum, titled Pursued. Returning to their apartment at about 1.00 a.m. on July 3rd, Morrison sat down at his desk and attempted to write but could not concentrate. Instead they watched some Super 8 films of a recent Moroccan vacation and listened to old Doors albums. Afterwards the couple went to bed.

Plagued by coughing fits for weeks now, Morrison woke up and vomited. There were traces of blood within it. Not wanting to call a doctor, Morrison sent Pamela back to bed, and filled up the tub for a hot bath. The last thing she remembered hearing him say was, “Are you there, Pam? Pam, are you there?” Later that morning she found him submerged in the water with a smile on his face. At first she thought he was playing a joke. No autopsy was performed and the official cause of death was listed as “heart failure.”

Epilogue:

Exactly forty-two years after Brian Jones’ death, and exactly forty years after Jim Morrison’s death—on a rainy afternoon in the town of Big Indian, located in upstate New York, My wife and I were married. Everyone made it through to the other side of that wet day just fine.

———————-Bobby Calero——————————–

Epstein, D. M. (2011). The Ballad of Bob Dylan. New York: Harper Collins.

Greenfield, R. (2006). Exile On Main St.: A Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones. Philadelphia: Da Capo

Hill, C. (2011). The Lost Boy. The Bluegrass Special. Retrieved from http://www.thebluegrassspecial.com/archive/2011/july2011/brian-jones-rolling-stones.html

Jones, S. (2008, Nov. 29). Has the riddle of Rolling Stone Brian Jones’s death been solved at last? The Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1090439/Has-riddle-Rolling-Stone-Brian-Joness-death-solved-last.html#ixzz1z12zlGI5

Marcus, G. (2011). The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening To Five Mean Years. New York: Public Affairs.

Melnick, J. (2010, Sept. 20). Back in the Day: Jim Morrison Convicted of Indecent Exposure. Beached Miami. Retrieved from http://www.beachedmiami.com/2010/09/20/day-jim-morrison-convicted-indecent-exposure-sept-20-1970/

Moddemann, R. (1999). Jim Morrison’s Quiet Days In Paris. The Doors Quarterly Online. Retrieved from http://home.arcor.de/doorsquarterlyonline/quietday.htm

Morrison, J. (1969). The Lords and The New Creatures. New York: Touchstone.

Morrison, J. (1990). The American Night. New York: Vintage Books.

Morrison, J. (1988). Wilderness. New York: Vintage Books.

Wenner, J. (1995). Jagger Remembers. Rolling Stone.

Wyman, B. (2002). Rolling With the Stones. England: Dorling Kindersley.

THE NARCOTIC WRECK QUINTET—PART 2: WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT YOU TO SEE ME THROUGH?

"The Genius"

Unfortunately, many of my generation grew up with Ray Charles as “the other blind, black guy” that wasn’t Stevie Wonder, and as the man hocking Diet Pepsi during commercial breaks while watching say, The Cosby Show, or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. As I grew up in a Coca-Cola household, the man lost points right there. So it was not until a few years ago that I gave him a true listen, and oh boy can this guy’s voice make you quiver, shake, and melt all in one song! Couple that with his extraordinary talent for composition and you begin to really appreciate that Ray Charles existed in a world of sound, and that the music he shared was coming from a place deep down inside.

Most are familiar with the biographical facts of Charles’ life through the entertaining—if somewhat caricatural—2004 film, Ray, starring Jamie Foxx, and so I don’t really feel the need to go into all that. Before moving on to song #2 of my planned 5 part series, I will point out that Ray Charles was an admitted drug addict since the age of 16.

In 1978 writer Greil Marcus joined The Band’s guitarist, Robbie Robertson, and Martin Scorsese in the filmmaker’s home in the Hollywood hills. The purpose of this visit was to discuss The Last Waltz, an amazing documentary Scorsese had made of The Band’s farewell concert held on Thanksgiving night of 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. What follows is an excerpt from the resulting article printed in the magazine New West:

Scorsese pulls out a Ray Charles album; the song he wants us to hear is “What Would I Do Without You,” from 1957. It’s a slow, tragic blues ballad; there’s the assumption of a happy ending, or at least of resolution, in the lyrics, but not in Ray Charles’s singing. “Leave out a few Billie Holiday tunes, and there’s more heroin in that music than in anything you’ll ever hear,” Robertson says. “Heroin does something to your throat, it makes the voice thicker. Listen.” We do; the title of the song takes on a new, acrid meaning. “We used to do it,” Robertson says, “‘What Would I Do Without You,’ after we left Ronnie, when it was just the five of us, before Bob, before Big Pink. But we couldn’t get away with it. The song was too down, it was death. That’s what it is. People would just sit there, or they’d leave” (Marcus, 2010).

I believe that this serves as a sufficient enough preamble to this song. So, originally released as the flipside to “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” and compiled two years later on Ray Charles’ album Yes Indeed!!, here’s “What Would I Do Without You.”

————————————————————————————————-(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

Ray Charles – vocal/piano

Joshua Willis – trumpet

Joe Bridgewater – trumpet

Don Wilkerson – tenor saxophone

Cecil Payne – baritone saxophone

Paul West – bass

Panoma Francis – drums

——————————————-Bobby Calero

Ref:

Charles, R. (1956). What Would I Do Without You [recorded by Ray Charles] On Yes Indeed! [CD] Atlantic. (1958). Rhino. (2008)

Marcus, G. (2010). Bob Dylan Writings 1968-2010. U. S.: Public Affairs

BREAK THE SILENCE OF THE NIGHT

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain–

All, all the stretch of these great green states–

And make America again!

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

Vs.

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.

Charles Moore, Arrest of Dr. Martin Luther King, 1958. ©Charles Moore/Blackstar/Eyevine

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).

A Beautiful Symphony of Brotherhood.

James Karales, Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965, 1965. Photographic print. Located in the James Karales Collection, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University. Photograph © Estate of James Karales

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 advisers 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 anti-revolutionaries. 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.”

—————(Click To Listen)

Like it? Buy it.

Sam Cooke

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.”

—————(Click To Listen)

Like it? Buy it.

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.

Bob Dylan and The Band 1974 Tour

Like it? Buy it.

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.

——————————————Bobby Calero

Ref:

The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Meridian, 1974. Print.

A More Perfect Union. (2011) Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.-April 4, 1967-Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence. A More Perfect Union. Retrieved January 13th, 2012 from http://4amoreperfectunion.blogspot.com/2011/01/rev-martin-luther-king-jr-april-4-1967.html

Cooke, S. A Change Is Going To Come [recorded by Baby Huey and The Babysitters] On The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend. [CD] Curtom. (1971) Water. (2006)

Dylan, B. (1962). Blowin’ in the Wind [recorded by Bob Dylan and The Band] On Before the Flood. [CD] Asylum. (1974) Sony Legacy. (2009)

Hughes, Langston. (1935). Let America Be America Again. Retrieved January 13th, 2012 from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15609

Marcus, G. (2006) The Shape of Things To Come. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Oberlin College Archives. (2009). Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution. Oberlin College Archives. Retrieved January 13th, 2012 from http://www.oberlin.edu/external/EOG/BlackHistoryMonth/MLK/CommAddress.html

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.

Religious Freedom Page. (2001). A Model of Christian Charity. Univerrsity of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 13th, 2012 from http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/sacred/charity.html

RollingStone (2011). The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. RollingStone. Retrieved January 14th, 2012 from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-500-greatest-songs-of-all-time-20110407/bob-dylan-blowin-in-the-wind-19691231

RollingStone (2011). The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. RollingStone. Retrieved January 14th, 2012 from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-500-greatest-songs-of-all-time-20110407/sam-cooke-a-change-is-gonna-come-19691231

Walenta, C.  (Ed.). The I Have a Dream Speech by MLK. USConstitution.net. Retrieved January 13th, 2012 from http://www.usconstitution.net/dream.html

JUST DON’T FEEL WELCOME HERE NO MORE

August 7, 1970 rehearsal

Elvis was a hero to most

But he never meant shit to me you see

Straight up racist that sucker was

Simple and plain

Mother fuck him and John Wayne

(“Fight The Power” by Public Enemy, on 1990’s Fear Of A Black Planet).

Not only are the above lyric revisionist malarkey (albeit malarkey within an incredibly well-constructed song—with The Bomb Squad’s dense, intricate layers of loops upon loops, and Chuck D’s relentless delivery) but also they stem from the resentment that lies in a false belief that Elvis Presley owes something to somebody.

Perhaps it is difficult, looking back from here on our modern perch, to realize that Elvis did not emerge from the factory floor, fully equipped with “Karate Chop! Power Action” and packaged with a set of poor colored-folks songs that were market-tested to go over like hot cakes with the sterile white youth.

Elvis was some strange, new strain of American; he was something that America had been searching for. He was a creature of self-invention as well, who had the imagination to view himself as something other than white trash on welfare, and had the ambition to see his delusions come true. That is what I feel is the essential element to Elvis Presley’s best work: the Fantastic.

Without imagination mankind would be a hollow thing—robbed of its aspirations and the confidence with which to pursue them. There must always remain a tinge of the fantastic in our minds in order for mankind to rise above its self-perceived dull life. Without this fundamental component where would Herman Melville be, other than just another sailor looking for work?

Besides all the metaphysics and philosophy: Elvis could sing these songs better than anyone else—wet with wisdom and amusement from the guts—and to the ears’ of America’s children it felt just like sex.

So in retort to Chuck D—in reality, how many peoples’ heroes have appeared on stamps? Furthermore, how many people even have heroes to be commemorated anymore? But Chuck D does tend to make a good argument, and at the very least makes a man think. As he once said, “Words are your artillery” (Edwards, 2010). Public Enemy is certainly a phenomenal group that should be required listening in public schools, particularly in an age where the content of most hip hop has more corporate endorsements than a racecar’s hood. Anyway, more on Public Enemy come January 16th.

Now, to return to the miasma of race, authenticity, the fantastic, and Elvis (and at this point in my life I have grown so bored by race discussions that I wouldn’t even bother unless I thought there was a good story in it) I’d like to post something written by Greil Marcus. Marcus (1975) writes in Mystery Train (probably the last time I’ll be quoting from this book for awhile as I had to return it to the library):

“—but for Elvis, the blues was a style of freedom, something he couldn’t get in his own home, full of roles to play and rules to break. In the beginning the blues was more than anything else a fantasy, an epic of struggle and pleasure, that he lived out as he sang. Not a fantasy that went beneath the surface of his life, but one that soared right over it.

Singing in the fifties, before blacks began to guard their culture with the jealousy it deserved, Elvis had no guilty dues to pay. Arthur Crudup complained his songs made a white man famous, and he had a right to complain, but mostly because he never got his royalties. Elvis sang “That’s All Right” and “My Baby Left Me” (one of his first sides for RCA, and the only one in the Sun rockabilly style) with more power, verve, and skill than Crudup did; his early records were more than popular with blacks; but still the implication, always there when Crudup or Willie Mae Thornton (who made the first version of “Hound Dog”) looked out at the white world that gave them only obscurity in exchange for their music and penned them off from getting anything for themselves, is that Elvis would have been nothing without them, that he climbed to fame on their backs. It is probably time to say that this is nonsense; the mysteries of black and white in American music are just not that simple. Consider the tale of “Hound Dog.”

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were Jewish boys from the East Coast who fell in love with black music. Hustling in Los Angeles in the early fifties, they wrote “Hound Dog,” and promoted the song to Johnny Otis, a ruling R&B bandleader who was actually a dark-skinned white man from Berkeley who many thought was black. Otis gave the song to Thornton, who made it a number one R&B hit in 1953; Otis also took part of the compser’s credit, which Leiber and Stoller had to fight to get back. Elvis heard the record, changed the song completely, from the tempo to the words, and cut Thornton’s version to shreds.

Whites wrote it; a white made it a hit. And yet there is no denying that “Hound Dog” is a “black” song, unthinkable outside of the impulses of black music, and probably a rewrite of an old piece of juke joint fury that dated far beyond the birth of any of these people. Can you pull justice out of that maze? What does Huck owe Jim, especially when Jim is really Huck in blackface and everyone smells loot? All you can say is this was Elvis’s music because he made it his own” (p. 154-55).

Stranger In My Own Home Town – Elvis Presley (Demo July 24, ’70)   — — — Click to Listen

The track I bring you today is Elvis Presley’s run-through of Percy Mayfield’s “Stranger In My Own Home Town.” Percy Mayfield was the remarkably gifted songwriter behind “Hit the Road Jack,” which Ray Charles made a hit in October of 1961.

Here is Elvis at RCA Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, on July 24, 1970, rehearsing for his upcoming Las Vegas concerts at the International Hotel. Elvis really drags his vocal through the mud of America on this one. Contained in the same breath there’s a languid playfulness and straightforward emotional anguish, each in equal measure. This is what it sounds like when the Lord of Mischief resigns himself to being a truck driver. You can see how the sentiments for this song might’ve been particularly relevant for him, as he truly could never return home again without being seen as some Freak Show King. This demo features Ronnie Tutt keeping rhythm and some great guitar licks & freak-outs from James Burton that border on Phil Upchurch’s psychedelic-funk style in certain places.

Despite what one can say about his descending into B-movie parody in the mid-sixties, or ending as a swollen song-and-dance-man swaddled in rhinestones and Lycra, this hillbilly from a two-room shotgun house loved music. To some extent, you must see that the goose that lays the golden eggs must be maintained complacent with prescription pills and antibiotics if you want to continue to sell product; and that is in a sense what I believe happened to the man in the end.

Here’s how Elvis put this song down on tape more than a year prior on February 17, 1969 at American Sound Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, while recording the album From Elvis in Memphis. This up-tempo, orchestrated stage version features some sick electric sitar by Reggie Young.

Ref:

D, C., Sadler, E., Shocklee, H., & Shocklee K., (1989) Fight the Power [recorded by Public Enemy]. On Fear of a Black Planet [CD] Def Jam/Columbia. (1990)

Edwards, P. (2010). Chuck D: How To Rap. HipHopDX. Retrieved Dec. 20th, 2011 from http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/interviews/id.1557/title.chuck-d-how-to-rap

Marcus, G. (1975). Mystery train (4TH ed.). New York: Penguin.

Mayfield, P. Stranger In My Own Home Town [recorded by Elvis Presley 7/24/70]. On Cut Me & I Bleed [CD] RCA Victor. (1999)

That Bad Man, Cruel Staggolee

An All-American Myth—and he’s a mean one.

Here is an icon—an archetype— that men have both celebrated and reviled in song, and have attempted to emulate ever since that bad night in 1895. On Christmas Eve in North St. Louis, “Stag” Lee Shelton shot down Billy Lyons in The Bill Curtis Saloon—or was it the night of the 27th in The Bucket Of Blood, or in The White Elephant

— It was only 1 of 5 similar murders that day in St. Louis—

“The song spreads like a game of Chinese Whispers across the South as musicians hear it and play it back from memory with their own embellishments. The Stag Lee of the song is hung for the murder, sent off with an elaborate funeral, kicks the Devil from his throne and takes over Hell. Reality slipped away and the myth was created.” (Redhead Production, n.d.).

“At least one version of the song was sung as early as 1895 and written or recorded versions began showing up by 1910” (Dodson, 2003).

As cultural critic and historian Greil Marcus (1975) writes:

Somewhere, sometime, a murder took place: a man called Stack-a-lee—or Stacker Lee, Stagolee, or Staggerlee—shot a man called Billy Lyons—or Billy the Lion, or Billy the Liar. It is a story that       black America has never tired of hearing and never stopped living out, like whites with their Westerns. Locked in the images of a thousand versions of the tale is an archetype that speaks to the fantasies of casual violence and violent sex, lust and hatred, ease and mastery, a fantasy of style and steppin’ high. At a deeper level it is a fantasy of no-limits for a people who live within a labyrinth of limits every day of their lives, and who can transgress them only among themselves. It is both a portrait of that tough and vital character that everyone would like to be, and just another pointless, tawdry dance of death. (1975, p.66)

That there pretty much sums up the seed behind every braggadocio hip hop & gangsta rap album I’ve ever heard.

The version below of this classic tale comes from Los Angeles band Pacific Gas & Electric, off their 3rd album, 1970’s Are You Ready.

I really dig the shuffle and swagger on this one, and the hints of dust in vocalist Charlie Allen’s voice. (I’m not even going to discuss the cover art).

————————–(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

“what does the song say exactly? it says no man gains immortality thru public acclaim. truth is shadowy. in the pre-postindustrial age, victims of violence were allowed (in fact it was their duty) to be judges over their offenders—parents were punished for their children’s crimes (we’ve come a long way since then) the song says that a man’s hat is his crown. futurologists would insist it’s a matter of taste. they say ‘let’s sleep on it’ but theyre already living in the sanitarium. No Rights Without Duty is the name of the game & fame is a trick. playing for time is only horsing around. Stack’s in a cell, no wall phone. he is not some egotistical degraded existentialist dionysian idiot, neither does he represent any alternative lifestyle scam (give me a thousand acres of tractable land & all the gang members that exist & you’ll see the Authentic alternative lifestyle, the Agrarian one) Billy didn’t have an insurance plan, didn’t get airsick yet his ghost is more real & genuine than all the dead souls on the boob tube — a monumental epic of blunder & misunderstanding. a romance tale without the cupidity” (Dylan, 1993).

Ref:

Dodson, A. P. (2003). A Song With a Story of Its Own: Scholar Cecil Brown’s search for the oft-sung exploits of Stagolee underscores the indelible power of our oral culture. Black Issues Book Review. 5(4), 60-61. Retrieved Dec. 18th, 2011 from Academic Search Complete

Dylan, B. (1993). About the songs. In World Gone Wrong (p. 2-3) [CD liner notes]. Columbia Records

Marcus, G. (1975). Mystery train (4TH ed.). New York: Penguin.

McCulloch, D., & Hendrix, S. (1996). Stagger Lee (Illus.). Image Comics

Redhead Production. (n.d.) History. Stagger Lee. Retrieved Dec. 18th, 2011 from http://www.staggerlee.com/pgs/history3.php

Traditional. (n.d.). Staggolee [recorded by Pacific Gas And Electric]. On Are You Ready [CD] Yellow Label / SPV. (1970)