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Monday, August 5, 2013

IT'S ONLY ROCK AND ROLL BUT I LIKE IT




Hearing the Psychedelic Furs. I've not listened to enough music lately. The Psychedelic Furs is a band that has satisfied my ear for a long time. Having 2 of their cds, often when I want to hear some music and don't know what, the Psychedelic Furs is the answer. I see they have a website and they're still touring. They played in Charlotte 5 nights ago. I'd have gone to that concert if I'd known about it ahead of time. That would have been a good one to drive a hundred miles to. They're grown up now, 2 decades after, but I imagine their musicianship is that much better and their performance of the music is too. I don't usually listen to music when I write, because the music takes me over completely and all I can do is listen. The reason I've not been listening to music much is it takes me over completely. Before I put on a Patti Smith album or Bob Dylan, Bryan Ferry, Jane's Addiction, The Clash, Generation X, Black Uhuru, Burning Spear, Angelique Kidjo, SE Rogie, Alternate Roots, Aerosmith, Skeeter & the Skidmarks, Ralph Stanley, Whitetop Mountain Band, to name a few that take me over unmercifully, allowing no wandering of mind, before I put them on I have to have enough time to listen to the album all the way through. SE Rogie coming to mind makes me want to hear him. Beautiful lilting palm wine music with acoustic guitar and singing from Sierra Leone.


s e rogie


The world has so much beautiful music in it, it's hopeless to want to hear it all. I've tried to hear it all, at least a general sampling, but it can't be done. I start listening to North African Rai and can't go on from there for a long time. Or start listening to Islamic sitar music from India. That's it. And then there is what happens when the Rolling Stones come on. I'm all ears. No matter what song by them, it has my full attention. On cd, the only Stones albums I have are the one live at very small clubs, Stripped, where they play almost unplugged greatest hits, blues songs, Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone, and their first album that has I'm a King Bee on it. I tend to like everything by the Stones. Their first album continues, after all the great ones like Black & Blue, Exile on Main St, to be the one I return to. Just now found a website that plays the entire album, youtube, so it is playing now as I write. Didn't intend to do that, but am in a Stones bluesy mood. Velvet Underground had a similar groove as early Stones. Stones went to the big auditorium sound, not hardly by choice. There was no auditorium on earth big enough not to sell out immediately for Stones tickets. I never saw a Stones concert. It seemed too much to me like going to Woodstock to go to a place so big the band is the size of vertical ants on the stage, like seeing them from a plane. I like to be able to see that it is human beings on the stage. I don't like to be so close that I see how dirty they are. Too close, they're just people, like us, not big stars, not a fantasy of what a rock star oughta be. It's just dirty, sweaty, stoned American and English young'uns looking to meet some chicks and make some money.


rolling stones


Jagger is singing I'm a King Bee. It takes me back to the Fifties, high school, hearing Slim Harpo singing it on the black stations in Kansas City and Wichita, stations I listened to as much as the white stations. That's where I heard Bo Diddley, Big Mama Thornton, Big Maybelle, Etta James, Jimmy Reed, Little Richard, Chuck Berry. Some of them were played on the white station, but when I listened to both, I heard the best of the new music twice as much. The white station would be where I'd hear Marty Robbins' Singin the Blues. Ray Charles singing Lonely Avenue was incredible. What'd I Say was stellar, like the Stones' Satisfaction a few years later. This Rolling Stones blues and r&b album takes me back to the music like this I heard on the black stations in the Fifties. That's where the music was played that I loved. Didn't have to listen to Paul Anka on that station. They played Mickey and Sylvia. Everything they played was something I wanted to hear. I'm hearing why the great blues guitar pickers, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry were impressed by what they heard when Keith Richards was making music with them. On the Stones concert video Martin Scorsese made, Shine A Light, Richards and Buddy Guy get to going on a guitar duet, whatever they call it when they play in perfect sync. They tore the place up. In an interview clip shown in the film, somebody was interviewing Richards and Ron Wood together. Asked which of them was the best guitar player, Richards said (I paraphrase), We're both just ordinary guitar players, but together, nobody can beat us.


dionysius and the satyr
 
 
I've let the Stones album play again, and again. It takes me to my very own foundation in music. The beginnings of rock n roll occurred with the Penguins' Earth Angel, the Coasters' Searchin, Bill Haley & the Comets' Shake Rattle and Roll, Little Richard's Tutti Frutti, Chuck Berry's Maybelline, Bo Diddley's Bo Diddley, Elvis's Heartbreak Hotel, Jerry Lee's Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On, then the whole body of work by Chuck Berry and Little Richard throughout my Jr Hi and High School, the years when a kid really needs his own music. I had the super good fortune to see both Alan Freed Rock N Roll Shows. I think the years were 58 and 59. They were fabulous for a high school kid who by then had a head totally involved in rock n roll. Rock n roll was my escape fantasy. At one of the shows, Fats Domino played his set and filled out the time of two players who'd missed the show, Jerry Lee one of them, Screamin Jay Hawkins the other, from probably being too drunk and whatever else. Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and the girl group I loved the very most, the Chantels, were there. I heard the Chantels sing their two hits, Maybe and Every Night, from twenty or so feet away in adoration. I was like a Catholic boy kneeling before statues of saints aching his heart out to be a real boy. Chuck Berry played at both the shows. After work, walking to the bus stop to go home from work the day of the second Rock N Roll Show, a gold 57 Cadillac with venetian blinds in the back window, mudflaps and a license tag that said, C BERRY, passed by so close I could have reached out and touched it if I'd seen it in time. Flipped me out. I had all his 45s to that date. The show was that night. Larry Williams fell off his upright piano attempting to dance on top of it drunk. I loved seeing Mickey and Sylvia sing Love Is Strange.
 
 
chuck berry
 
This music from the Rolling Stones' first album brought that period of music back to life for me. I was a hung-up Fifties lonely teenager listening to Dion and the Belmonts sing about it. Oh Susie Q, baby I love you. Ronnie Hawkins' Mary Lou I loved as much as any Little Richard song. Little Richard stood out for me way beyond everybody else. Bob Dylan took care of that zone for me next. I'm goin to tell you a story 'bout Mary Lou, she's the kind of a woman make a fool of you...She took the keys to my Cadillac car, she jumped in my kitty and she drove a-far. Learned many years later, his band, The Hawks, evolved into Dylan's band, The Band. I guess it's all right to call Elvis the king of rock and roll, but for that title, I'd have to go with Bo Diddley. I'd give it to Little Richard if he hadn't had so many facelifts. He's the undisputed queen of rock and roll. I say Bo Diddley because the Sixties bands leaned more toward the Little Richard and Chuck Berry sound, except the Velvet Underground that came after the Bo Diddley and the Buddy Holly sound. Punk that started in 75 went with the Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly sound funneled through the Velvet Underground. A very large portion of the rock ever since has been of the Bo Diddley sound, a tight, quick beat. His influence in rock is every bit as direct as Chuck Berrry's and Little Richard's. I had the good fortune to see Bo Diddley at Ziggy's ten or more years ago, when he was 74. He gave an all-out concert, and it was, indeed, Bo Diddley his very self. It was thrilling for me, loving his music my entire music-listening life, Bo Diddley playing all those songs that are standards in the jukebox of my mind. The Bo Diddley beat is in me as much as Carlos Santana's guitar. Ron Wood made a live album with Bo Diddley in concert at a small New York venue in 1988, Live At The Ritz, dynamite rock and roll.   
 
 
ron wood and bo diddley
 
 
 
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