Let’s Not Be L7! (Fri-Sun, August 3-5, Columbia and Springfield, MO)

We’re living it up a bit before “summer” ends, so I’ve been quiet here. In sum:

I.

Drove around Columbia Friday morning running errands and hanging out, and repeat-played this song that we both love as much as a song can be loved.

I have a story about it. I bought it as a cassingle prior to the album coming out, right at the point where I’d gotten dumped by a woman my relationship with whom I more or less willed into being, who I knew liked me but didn’t like me, who more or less humiliated me one evening over a wine error (I don’t even really like the shit), and who clearly wasn’t my type to begin with. BUT I was impatient with my relationship success as my thirties were approaching, and I was a touch desperate. She lowered the boom on me at a fuckin’ laundromat, then showed up the same night at the one party at which I was fairly sure she wouldn’t possibly appear on the arm of her boss (Gross! Dating your boss is for losers!). I drank myself into a stupor, then existed within a dark cloud of doom for a week or so. Even though I really knew she was no great loss.

OK, so for every one of those days, I kept the cassingle on repeat-play in my car. Every day, to and from work, the record store, and the bar (Holy Trinity at that point), this song was blasting. The music? RADICAL. Frightening, in its way–note how that main riff just won’t resolve. Surprising, too (was that a one-note sample from Stevie Ray Vaughan playing on Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”? Flav merging Tattoo into Scarface?). ENERGIZING, for certain–it creates an aural scenario that seems to propel one into acting on some life-or-death imperative. And…the rapping? Chuck D climbed into my Top 5 MCs pantheon on the strength of this performance, and I already loved him. “I got so much trouble on my mind! / Refuse to lose!” he proclaims, and that by itself was a mantra that got me through many of those days and into a positive perspective in front of my classrooms (I was teaching five classes of ninth graders!). Not just any MC could ride those rhythms and disruptions! Yessireebob, he made some eye-raising statements in that song that I wasn’t comfortable with, but, hey, it’s a free country, he didn’t exempt much of anyone from responsibility for our (still intact) Terrordome, and his critics tended to overlook his moments of tenderness (yes) and compassion (yes). “….[N]othing worse / Than a mother’s pain for a son / Slain in Bensonhurst!”? “God bless your soul and keep livin’!“? Add on to all of that the thick, exciting scratches of Terminator X and the dense mix of samples that could not be recreated for sale today by Jeff Bezos, and, well, it’s no wonder I could (and still can) listen to it on a loop.

Funny thing is, the woman I was cruising around with listening to it repeatedly Friday morning was the one whose arms I ended up rebounding into–she loves the song almost as much as I do. Thanks to Chuck–still fightin’–and PE, and thanks to Nicole, my life-long soul mate.

II.

Saturday we were stompin’ on our old grounds (the original “Terrordome” for me, now that I mention it) in Springfield, Missouri, on hand to meet up with fond ol’ friends and celebrate our great pal Jill’s birthday. She likes party buses, we like party buses, so we party-bused around The Queen City. We visited Tropical Liqueurs for some frozen dranks, we paused at her future gravesite (she and we are fans of perspective–it helps you get the most out of life), we put our heads together at a hidden lakeside, we sprawled out en masse at the Rail Haven Route 66 Motel, where Jill’d rented a room for her stay and where the young Elvis actually once slept (pause for a pic)–

Elvis 'Otel

–and we landed at The Dugout (formerly The Twilight), our favorite Springfield dive (where I used to meet a favorite English prof and my classmates for pitchers, lit discussion and wisdom dissemination when I was a mere undergrad).

But. But. One of my favorite moments of the whole evening was, well, breaking a rule. It was clearly posted up by the front of the bus: “No swinging on the poles.” Another rule that I didn’t make but which has often seemed to swirl around my brain since I became middle-aged is “Thou shalt not dance anymore.” Well, Jill–are you starting to see how heroic she is? I hope so–is an excellent DJ. She plugged her phone into the bus sound system and just You-Tubed up some tracks, which built us up to such a frenzy that, fueled by Budweiser and a Sex on The Beach snuck in there, I had to jump up, grip the pole two-handed and begin boogieing to her inspired choices. And yelling the lyrics (I’m sorry, Jill!)! Is it untoward for a 56-year-old man to be acting thus? It probably was, but it must be admitted I was joined on the pole by at least two other partygoers! If you find yourself turning away from this tableau, please first reckon with the trio of tracks that moved us off our duffs:

And the blower-off-the-topper…

You play those three in a row sober and see if you can stay put! I bet you’re UP right now if you played them! And wasn’t that last little tune prophetic? I can’t help celebrating it every time I hear it.

III.

A somewhat bleary state of being met us as we arose Sunday morning. Even when we find ourselves up pushing the dawn, we usually awaken right on the other side of it. Nicole arose temporarily; I am seldom ever able to go back to sleep once I awaken. I sat down under a lamp in the corner of the room, cracked a book (Issac J. Bailey’s sad and revelatory My Brother Moochie, if you’re curious), and put in some headphones to listen to a new purchase. Simply put, it’s the best free jazz record I’ve heard this year, and there have been some gooduns (including one by the main man here). It’s out of Portugal, which has an amazing scene, and you should give it a whirl. It’s mos def not a dialogue of the deaf; this band listens and responds in sensitive and creative and sometimes visionary fashion. The driving force, that main man, is Rodrigo Amado–remember the name. He’s been around, but in another way, he’s just getting started:

IV.

What goes up must come down, but the comedown was euphonious–that should always be a Sunday goal, shouldn’t it? When we returned to Columbia, we had to scramble to an event we’d bought tickets for somewhat optimistically, but also under the influence of our wise and cosmopolitan friend Jackie. Columbia’s “We Always Swing” Jazz Series is a near quarter-century-old blessing on our town that, through the hard work of Jon Poses and his staff, brings some of the finest musicians to us to hear. Sunday night was the 2018-2019 kickoff event, a three-set performance by local heroes the Columbia Jazz Orchestra. Sounds very neat for a final night of the week, eh?

Well, a clear sky, a 101-degree early evening, and a bit-too-posh-for-us rooftop venue initially discouraged me. I muttered, “We could call it a donation.” However, Nicole rallied me and I’m glad she did. We got to hang out with Jackie, her mischievously-witted and historic husband John, our old friend Brent, and his wife, the drinks were nice, and the band played rowdily but splendidly, with selections from Thundercat (“Them Changes”) to Ellington (“Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,” and they ain’t).

Columbia Jazz Orchestra

I’ve reached a conclusion. On New Year’s Day, I vowed to post an entry here every day. Not so difficult, because I listen to music every day. But, folks, when you’re really living it’s sometimes hard to squeeze in some huntin’ and peckin’–and, admittedly, some days I’ve somewhat forced these entries. So…if you’re keeping score at all…I’m going to post when I can. I will strive to every day. It’s not like millions are hanging on my every word, but I enjoy it, it’s good for me, I’m goal-oriented–and maybe a couple of you do look for me to chime in daily. But I’m gonna live first!

(Note: realize that final sentence is written as an urging to myself, not as a command to you. I’m sure you all are doing fine.)

Funkadelic, Mayfield, Redding, and Gaye Day (June 20th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

One thing I’ve noticed about this listening diary project is it makes me feel too responsible. Specifically, responsible for playing new releases, and even new acquisitions (not the same thing anymore)–sometimes months will pass before I actually slap a mailman’s present on the turntable. The deal is–by this time in a normal year I’d have probably listened to Professor Longhair’s Crawfish Fiesta five times by now, or had a couple-three “Dylan Days” or “Wills Weeks.” I feel like I’ve neglected many time-tested goodies.

Not today. National news got to my ass yesterday, so I needed medicine today–proven medicine.

I thought listening to Marvin Gaye’s evolution might be healing, so I journeyed with him from “How Sweet It Is” through Here, My Dear. Speaking of which, a recent reissue tagged on an extra disc of alternate takes, extended versions, and disco mixes. That usually translates to crap, but in this case, the alternates, arrayed in the same running order as the official version, is superior–more grooveful, more funky, and better balanced against the subject matter (divorce). It was good to me!

Good to me? The way to keep that buzz going? O-T-I-S! Stacked up the fantastic Dictionary of Soul, the underrated duet album with Carla Thomas (they were never in the studio at the same time, BTW), and a cherry-picked Dock of the Bay, with this deep-cut fave:

They say two martinis are perfect, no need for a third. Not true with a soul record shakedown, but I needed a little mescaline in my grits, so I moved on to my three favorite Funkadelic albums, Let’s Take It To The Stage, the accurately-titled Hardcore Jollies, and, of course, One Nation Under a Groove. In some ways, the group’s extraterrestrial/subterrestrial (get me?) fusion was even more of a balm than Marvin’s yearning and Otis’ good cheer–I was reminded that, as Hunter Thompson wrote, “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Evidence?

(I used to skip this song; now, I never miss it)

(Even more righteous 40 years later!)

At present I’m rolling behind some Curtis Mayfield pickin’ and persuadin’, specifically We’re a Winner and The Fabulous Impressions, which features the incandescent “Isle of the Sirens,” simultaneously the greatest pop song ever written about The Odyssey and one of Mayfield’s greatest patented encouragements to The Movement:

It felt so good to be irresponsible today. I think I’ll make a week of it.

Literary Notes:

I finished Chris Weingarten’s 33 1/3 series venture upon PE’s Nation of Millions. 4.3 outta 5: consistently interesting, witty a bit more than intermittently, and, most important, informative. You’ll learn much about the construction, contents, and context of the record, including a bounty of detail about records sampled and simply influential. In case you decide to read it, here’s a completed musical companion–you’ll be delighted and surprised. Put ‘er on shuffle for best results!

“The Rhythm, The Rebel!” (June 17th, 2018, Monett, MO)

Since I’m on va-cay and out of pocket, I’m departing from my newly-established Sunday ritual of Spotifying the week’s listening and sharing another project I’m working on that might benefit and enlighten you and me.

I’m two chapters into Chris Weingarten’s so-far stellar 33 1/3 offering on Public Enemy’s Nation of Millions. I’ve read a passel of ’em; this is vying for my favorite, though it’s perhaps a shade too glib and overwritten. One neat thing Weingarten does is focus on the construction process behind a highly constructed album that, due to the profusion of samples the Bomb Squad layered in, couldn’t conceivably be made today, even by a moneybags like Jay Z.

What I decided to do was, chapter by chapter, include all the sample sources, influential tracks, and highlights in a YouTube playlist as a reading supplement. Needless to say, it’s under construction, but it’s already 29 tracks deep and is enjoyable independent of the book.

For our edification, enjoyment, or both:

Aaaaaand…this week’s awards!

Plucked from History’s Dustbin (best recent purchase of an old record): Everything But The Girl’s Amplified Heart.

Grower, Not a Shower (old record I already owned that’s risen in my esteem): Bettye LaVette’s relatively new Things Have Changed.

Encore, Encore! (album I played at least twice this week): Big Youth’s Screaming Target.

Through the Cracks (sweet record I forgot to write about): Busdriver’s Electricity is On Our Side.