Finally finished Britt Hagarty’s Gene Vincent bio The Day the World Turned Blue. It is out of print, a tad scarce, and can be pricey, but on a friend’s enthusiastic recommendation I tracked it down. I don’t regret it. Hagarty’s strategy was to research, interview, and clip articles in order to construct a four-square chronology while tracking Vincent’s personal, professional and painfully physical rise and fall, and that strategy succeeds if you are after the facts. There’s little analysis here (though I’m not sure there is enough art to justify an extended theorizing), and the author is a dyed-in-the-wool Rocker–Mods, be warned. However, I was kept locked in by Vincent’s twin struggles to develop artistically out of his early rockabilly explosion–he needed guidance, a sounding-board, and some serious push-back (sound familiar?)–and simply to keep moving on a leg that probably should have been amputated in the Fifties. It is unlikely that any major American pop figure endured longer (for Vincent, about 15 years) on stage under such constant pain–which, of course, he killed with not only actual medicine but booze, which likely killed him. Also, I was moved to check Hagarty’s enthusiasm for Vincent’s later performances by heading to YouTube, and had to admit I had unwisely assumed he was washed up at the dawn of the Sixties:
If you’re inclined Vincent’s way (listen to Ian Dury’s “Sweet Gene Vincent for a boost), I recommend it.
I wanted to share Kenny “Klook” Clark’s Pieces of Time record here, as I used the classic drumming team-up with Andrew Cyrille, Don Moye, and Milford Graves to prepare Nicole a little for our venture to check out the Graves documentary Full Mantis. You can hear Pieces of Time on Apple Music. However, I was trying to find the above collaboration between Graves and the late, great Don Pullen as my favorite example for her to dig, but I forgot I didn’t own it and didn’t think to look on YouTube (???). Anyhow, most definitely check that out–if you wanna buy a copy you better take a hammer to the piggy bank.
As for the Graves film? If you either a) love freely improvised music, b) are hungry for a daring music documentary, or c) want your mind expanded, as my friend John, a man who’s heard seven decades of music, said to me after we finished watching it, it’s a must. Simple as that. It’s all Graves, all the time–he’s the only talker, and never only in head form–and if you’ve heard him drum, you’ll know that’s a good thing. It’s got plenty of amazing music, dance, horticulture, science (one of the highlights, for me), martial arts, sculpture, medicine, history, and a couple great stories (including one brief one that explains the film’s perfect title). It’s structured, paced, and cut as if to a Graves improv. I’ll stop there, and only add that you should try to be at your sharpest if you partake. It does make fair and bountiful demands of the viewer.
I’d be remiss if I left out of the day proceedings the hour I spent with my good friend Donnie Harden Jr., seen above jamming on a Terry Lewis bassline. I met Donnie when he was a student and I was a teacher at Hickman High School. We hit it off immediately and instantly go into music geek mode when we see each other. I hadn’t seen him for awhile, and I’d grabbed him some Prince guitar picks when we were at Paisley Park last week. Also, I was giving him my vinyl of The Time and Ice Cream Castles, plus a spare CD copy of Sonny Sharrock’s Ask the Ages (Donnie’s a Hendrix and Mitchell nut, and he needs to meet Sharrock and Elvin!) and a loaner of the DVD for Standing in the Shadows of Motown–we talk about James Jamerson all the time. So I loaded all that up, grabbed us some KFC chicken tenders for lunch, and dropped by for a gab session. Sample topics: Does Terry Lewis rank? What’s the best Hendrix band? How can you tell who is playing what on P-Funk and Motown records? Why do I hate Jack White so much? Is all the vaulted Prince stuff that’s surely coming out going to be any good? How’d George Clinton get from doo-wop to Free Your Ass? Don’t your music friendships proceed the same way? I hope so. I’m going back over to continue our rap, because he always teaches me something!