|Staying Out of Touch (let us now praise solipsism)|
|Staying out of touch
is easy and fun! It comes quite naturally when you reach my age (think
Jesus circa the crucifixion). But the newest and really best kick is
how that old nagging feeling that maybe I've been missing something,
particularly in music, has faded completely, leaving only the crystalline
knowledge and satisfaction that I am missing absolutely nothing current
that would move or interest me in the slightest. I am blissfully unaware
of Sigur Ros, the latest lumbering world weary dispatch from Radiohead
(somebody turn em on to a Spike Jones record or something a little more
light hearted, I think it might be their next innovation!), whoever the
British media thinks is gonna save (from who or what and why?) Rock music
this week, bands that get in fights with other bands that I don't know
or care about and whatever is hailed as avant-garde and ground breaking
by Wire or Pitchforkmedia.com, to name only a few. These
heated discussions, arguments, events and hype can all be met equally
with a blank unknowing or caring stare and a shrug of my shoulders. Its
all Greek to me baby! And that's the way I like it. Cause truly its
not meant for me. If it moves you that's fine with me, there's plenty
of it out there for you and many others who share your passions. I hold
these truths to be self evident, verily and amen.
Me, I just drift like those spacemen in Kubrick's 2001 farther into my own lovely space filled with "vintage" paperback books (a real celebration of the ephemeral if ever there was one), DVD's, the occasional c.d. reissue (Chris Lucey makes it in a big way) or game of croquet (a gentleman's game!) and the ever expanding pool of old records, now fed by two streams (hello Tera!) instead of one. Indeed a pool that threatens to become a raging torrent that might one day cave in the floor of my back room. Hell I can geek out for hours on the color combinations on the cover of my 1966 edition of Ballard's The Impossible Man, the cartoon Elliot Gould as Philip Marlowe motion picture tie in cover of Chandler's The Long Goodbye, the curvy backside of the blonde gracing the paperback edition of Mickey Spillane's The Last Cop Out (warning the prose in that one wears out its welcome before the cover) or the first Black Cat Edition of Genet's Thief's Journal. And all the while I might be listening to Rip, Rig & Panic's 'I Am Cold', Henry Mancini's 'Peter Gunn' or Mr. Lucky LP's, the Stark Reality playing Hoagy Carmichael, or John Barry's soundtrack to Séance on a Wet Afternoon.
Time travel isn't hard, you can build your own machine right there in your living room. A willing and interested partner is a nice addition as well. Then just pick the time period and surround yourself with its sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Set your coordinate points as you see fit. Your version is probably infinitely better than the actual time (not to mention just as "real"), infused as it is with only your heavily charged symbols and filtered contents. Say, look over there, is that Bill Burroughs in a 1920's movie, part hardboiled, part sci-fi, and all the way Carney freak show? And wasn't that Gregory Corso who just flashed by in a cape spilling wine, gesticulating wildly and then vomiting in the corner at a party in Paris for Marcel Duchamp? I swear I just saw Paul and Jane Bowles trailing after ruthless Arab lovers along the streets of Tangier ready to take them in the name of Allah for everything their Nazarene money might buy, and all to the sounds of the pipes of pan.
|Recollect it's late
1976 in my living room and I found myself at Rehearsal Rehearsal's watching
the Clash and the embryonic Slits and Subway Sect rehearse. During breaks
we get lit on big spliffs and special brew, play pinball and listen to
the Modern Lovers and Althea and Donna on their jukebox. Simonon looks
impossible. I just watch Strummer through the haze of smoke develop outlandish
and garbled conspiracy theories and earnest, if not a little misguided,
to stencil on his clothes. The great thing is that despite all the rhetoric
you can always eventually get him high and drunk enough to cut the shit and talk
instead about Captain Beefheart, Gene Vincent, Bo Diddley or Eddie Cochran. And
his rotten tooth grin in such discussions immediately dispels all the urban guerilla
posturing in a sea of truly timeless humanity and warmth. I know then that he's
gonna be alright, his heart is pure. Other times I find myself in the middle
of a surprisingly erudite discussion about Erik Satie, Cole Porter and the Gershwins
with Vic Godard. He stands out from this crowd rather effortlessly I note, better
things to come from that one. If it all gets too much I just lie back and watch
the Slits flit about teasing their hair and sharing gossip in an almost impenetrable
dialect. I laugh to myself at Ari-Up's bizarre appropriations from Jamaican patois.
Other times I'll slide for a spell into the world of the Smiths circa 1983/84 and all those meticulously and beautifully arranged references in interviews, lyrics and choice of color tinted cover stars, some flowers and gayness to combat all that Factory grayness. And all with paths twisting out to other music, books and films. I recently had to set a young lady straight who was accusing the Smiths of being one of the most depressing groups ever. Wow! As misguided as those who would have you believe that the Velvets were really just about junk, S&M, depravity and leather. You don't get it do you? Round these parts the Smiths get the nod for being a band with a fine sense of humor, camp and parody (usually of their own pretensions) that was liberating for all, perhaps males in particular, be they straight, gay or any other way. You don't write lyrics about the sun shining out your behind without a healthy dollop of humor, a sense of play and the ridiculous/sublime and maybe even knowledge of the cosmic joke (has nature been playing tricks on you?).
Or maybe I might dip into REM circa 1983 with the
whole Southern Gothic shot,
the perfect beauty of that Chronic
Town EP, all frozen in time forever with gargoyle in blue and Flannery O'
Connor references too. I find those five tracks inexhaustible, probably the
most magical sounds that band ever layed to tape, true psychedelia without any
hippie trappings. Next
travel into the creeping dank Kudzu cover and soundscapes of Murmur and
all it implies, not the least being the rainy backwoods of Georgia and its eccentric
folk artists, an appreciation of the long neglected charms of the American South
(albeit from an outsiders perspective, probably even better for it). See that
angelic full-lipped singer is still well preserved there with curly blondish
locks, mumbling apparent yet still portentous non-sequiturs while the guitarist
chimes an extension of the best that McGuinn had to offer and bass and drums
carry the melodies, all enough to luxuriate in for eternity if one so wished.
And I am not alone in my travels. I know a girl who lives in Vegas circa 1962 and she's quite content to stay there, thank you very much. She introduces me backstage at the Sands to Dino, Frank and Sammy. We dress to the nines, throw back martinis and since we're hip to the scene every once in while we sneak in the toilet for a toke. Other times she takes trips with me to the New York streets of 1982 where we watch the uptown and downtown scenes mingle to create a new music and masterpieces on trains, or Sue Brewer's boarding house where we listen to Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Roger Miller trade songs and shots of whiskey or the 1966 Hollywood strip where we dance to the Seeds and Love. We've found no borders yet impenetrable and no cops or bureaucratic red tape that can stand in our way. Only beautiful worlds, worlds where Sonic Youth never existed and the world is a much more honest and authentic and frankly less annoying and ironic place for it. A place where Harry Crews' books are widely read and unsullied by associations with awful Kim Gordon side projects. After all there's still Scott Walker vinyl out there to be found, played and entered into. I will say hello to Jacques Brell, Henry Miller, Ingmar Bergman and Jack Jones for you.
© 2004 William Crain