Sunday, July 23, 2017

CULTURAL AFFAIRS WEEK NO. 4: “ÉTUDES, BRUTE?”



Julius Caesar suspects Brutus of practicing compositions on the piano. “I heard music,” the strongman alleges. “Études, Brute?” If only our back-stabbiz had been musicians, instead. They’d of (sic) kept their steely, steely connives in their two-nix and we’d of (sic) slugged-down an Orange Julius Caesar Salad. In short, weed’a lived and it wouldn’a been uh backstabbiz atoll. Later, Caesar and Brutus haggle over which catalogue-retailer to patronize. “J. Crew, Brute?” says Caesar. They have some thought-balloons in this arena, some Ideas of Merch. To this point, the pooch hasn’t initiated a coup, a coo hasn’t emanated from the putsch. And as for empire, Romulus hasn’t reamed us out, Remus hasn’t loaded a CD-Romulus into the disc drive. Anything could happen, even détente, even breaking bread, peace-meal. It’s both terrifying and wonderful all at once, kind of like Brutus, bored out of his bust, making his late-night Bru-tay call to a gal, a Gaul pursued by the scent-o’tour, himself. Rife goes on. A gambling conference kindles-up at a hotel across the street, where someone delivers The Keno Address. When indentured servants reinsert their false teeth, they become dentured servants, no? Ever notice how antlers resemble driftwood? It’s like mature bucks are washing up on shore, waves and waves of sea-sawbucks, them and their weather-worn driftwood antlers, ten bucks a dozen in Ten-buck-two. If you have a job, or if you seek a job, then you’re under occupation. Behold the afternoon sun. It could be—a little bit—hotter before the instrument begins to fail, and it will begin to fail, the mechanism failing the person: this is our bleak future, dear citizen, all mechanisms will begin to fail. At the request of Brutus, Julius Caesar agrees to engage in the nautical guessing game, Battleship. As dick-tater, Caesar goes first, of course. “A-2, Brute?” he guesses. He guesses correctly, even though he doesn’t kitchen-sink no gravy bloat. The bodies of the other senators reflect on every bright surface, their motions unlike stabbing but in emphasis of their numbers, their jagged rationale. They attack Julius Caesar for being a crass-dressing tyranny even as they, themselves, will become tyranny, with or without the salad dressage, and they, themselves, will be slain by the residents of tyranny 2-B. Recital is a good deity, too shrewd for the mothball operas that resolve themselves (phone booth, no mouthpiece) in the public confessionals of prepaid gravity, amid the sunlit metals of confrontation.


Cultural Affairs Week 2017 Editorial Schedule
Novelty Government U.S.A.
Études, Brute?
To Be Announced


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

CULTURAL AFFAIRS WEEK NO. 3: NOVELTY GOVERNMENT U.S.A.




If only Novelty Government U.S.A. would “heart.” If only it would spray-paint. Then it could spell “i ♥ melody” in a fuzzy charcoal proclamation on the northbound side of an overpass which fjords—yes, fjords—a minor, trickly tributary. (A crick.) Novelty Government might prefer a gal named Melody. Or it might prefer the melodious through-action of music, “i ♥ melody.” Some constituents might regard the potential for two affections as ambiguous, too complicated to merit their untethered support. After all, they had voted for Novelty Government U.S.A. with the lobster-redness of exasperation, a lobster-redness that hearkened back to the single-minded exasperation of earlier generations, pioneers, men and women donning severe sugarloaf caps. Novelty Government does womanize, thus, on the one hand, professing amour (and sporting ‘under amour’ garb) for the hand of one woman in particular, might wrinkle a few lobster-red thought balloons, but as for “i ♥ melody,” the melody of song, well, just what in the Jiminy Cricket does that proclaim? And what kind of melody would Novelty Government U.S.A. prefer to heart? (Jessica Simpson cover-crooning a ditty by Scritti Politti?) One opines “if only” since Novelty Government doesn’t appear to heart, own spray-paint, hang out on the overpass, know a gal named Melody, and tap its toes to melody. It’s not difficult to imagine Novelty Government U.S.A. in the girth of a business suit, adopting poses that could be described as the “scrunched fists of seasonal desecration” or “lobster-red effort to distinguish between a bowel movement and a gasser” or “juvenile hyperventilation upon denial of favorable building permit to construct another leisure resort.” Novelty Government U.S.A. would like us to think that everything conspires against it—virulent veganism of everyday columnists, ghostly voters arising from Tammany Hall graveyards, grousing of international cultures yearning for subsistence—when instead, Novelty Government can cradle “the red telephone” anytime it chooses. It can destroy the world again, and again, and again.





 
Cultural Affairs Week 2017 Editorial Schedule
Novelty Government U.S.A.
To Be Announced

Thursday, July 13, 2017

CULTURAL AFFAIRS WEEK NO. 2: LIST OF ACTIVE CONSPIRACY THEORIES.



When we run out of liquid assets (and we will run out of beer) perhaps our bankers will lend a hand, lend an ear, you know, a personal loan from an actual body. Let’s deconstruct the moment when a man claiming to be Jackson Shiitake knocks on your door: (1) He prefers to be called “Jack” and (2) “Jack” Shiitake doesn’t know jack sheet-music about the mushrooming morel of the story. The elk prefers a member of its ilk (who is an elk) and owing to a sense that its ilk has been bilked out of funny-money honey-bunny, the Elk would like to Lodge a complaint. Behold, dear citizen, the Sneeze-Fart Combo also known as Novelty Government U.S.A. “Please refer to the press kit,” says representative of Sneeze-Fart Combo, when asked about a list of active conspiracy theories. The press kit sits beside the steamship round of beef electric carving kiosk, and contains, does the press kit, an expository essay (entitled “Meineke Kampf”) that describes the political need to muffle, to muzzle, to squelch. What’s Happening!! comes on TV. There’s Fred Perry, in the red beret and suspenders, popping around as his character, Rerun. There’s Fred Perry haplessly chasing the pickup truck, wind-milling with futility. You’re watching a rerun of Rerun running (and re-running) after the vehicle in which Raj and Dwayne have achieved a comfy existence. Nowadays, your potato rental doesn’t include utilities, your snifter rental doesn’t include utilities, your venison rental doesn’t include utilities. (You gotta pay alternating current, you gotta pay landfill, you gotta pay sports drink, you gotta pay fossil fuel.) Buddy, I know of only one society that can boast hundreds of names for “The Imbecile,” or pronounce it “IN-BUH-SOYLE,” if you prefer poetry.



Cultural Affairs Week 2017 Editorial Schedule
List of Active Conspiracy Theories


Monday, July 10, 2017

CULTURAL AFFAIRS WEEK NO. 1: EXPLAINING MY CRUSH ON AĻONA OSTAPENKO.


The winning moment at Roland Garros. Bedlam!


When unseeded and relatively unknown Aļona Ostapenko (more commonly known as Jelena Ostapenko) met No. 3 seed Simona Halep in the finals of the French Open, the sports oracles might’ve foreseen a quiet, straight-sets triumph for Halep, who, with a win, would’ve overtaken Angelique Kerber to become the top-ranked women’s tennis player in the world, a height she hadn’t yet reached. If contemplating the all-time greats, one considers the likes of Billie Jean King and Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong, Steffi Graf, and of course, the still-active Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. The nationalities—American, Czech, Australian, German, American—leave off Halep’s Romanian origins and Ostapenko’s Latvian roots. When Halep took the first set and led 3-love in the second set, it seemed as if she would become only the second Romanian woman to win a grand slam event, joining Virginia Ruzici, who also triumphed at Roland Garros in 1978. No Latvian tennis players—neither men nor women—had ever won a grand slam event.

En route to the finals, Ostapenko played four three-set matches, including a notable quarterfinal triumph against No. 11 seed Caroline Wozniacki (4-6, 6-2, 6-2). This might’ve favored Halep, who’d only faced two lengthy matches before the finals, among them a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 semifinal victory over No. 2 seed Karolína Plíšková. Down one set, and love-three in the second set, Ostapenko might’ve been content to capitulate, might’ve been content in the knowledge that she’d earned a berth in a grand slam final just a few days after her twentieth birthday. But the viewer could detect the formulation of the comeback, in Ostapenko’s expressions and gestures, from the flailing, frowning, and pouty, to the steely, sage, and jubilant. She captured six of the ensuing seven games, to secure the second set, 6-4. Her opponent was no slouch, and took a 3-1 lead in the third set, but even then, the viewer couldn’t envision a derailment. The wiry-armed Latvian was swinging for the lines.

It’s not that simple, of course. According to Reuters, Ostapenko committed 54 unforced errors to accompany her—punishing—display of 54 winners. (Halep would collect 10 and 8, respectively.) Ostapenko would lose her serve six times, but this wouldn’t deter the upstart, as she would break Halep’s serve eight times.  She didn’t just punish the ball on winners (and unforced errors) but virtually every time she swung her racket. Trailing in the match didn’t seem to matter. So long as there were more balls to clobber, she would clobber them. Ostapenko profited from a ridiculous bounce, a net cord at 3-3 in the third set, but many champions receive lucky bounces, especially those who fight the hardest. She took five straight games to close the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, her first title as a professional. The French Open champion didn’t play recklessly, but just shy of recklessness, and maybe that’s how we can define her game. Ostapenko delivered powerful ground-strokes from numerous angles, balances, and stances, just shy of recklessness. She dwelt—regally, precariously, bravely—on that edge, and won the French Open as an unseeded (and mostly teenage) player. She should never play tennis any other way.


Ostapenko’s smile is as formidable as her inside-out forehand.


It surprises me often enough when intelligent people reject the meaningfulness of athletic competition. To the contrary, the fearless vision of Aļona Ostapenko and her unwavering dedication to attacking the boundaries of the tennis court, moved me—I admit—to teary eyes, right after she scorched a backhand return of serve down the line to clinch her match versus Simona Halep. Ostapenko appears to be a kindly person and she didn’t exult in a way that mocked her opponent, yet there too, I found the celebratory imagery to radiate importance: a dazzling reward that compensated her own achievement, as well as the powerful force (Halep) arranged against her. The seasoned American announcing crew was stunned; who wouldn’t be? And who wouldn’t see this performance as a blueprint for any creative foray? There. That’s the crush. Learning from this young person to gamble—every moment—on the promise of your vision. 



Sources of Information:
NBC broadcast of the French Open women’s final
French Open match highlights, on YouTube
French Open Women’s Singles 2017 complete results at Wikipedia
New York Times article on Ostapenko’s first name
WTA listing for Jelena Ostapenko
Jelena Ostapenko Wikipedia page
ESPN story about Ostapenko’s progress at Wimbledon
Virginia Ruzici Wikipedia page
Roland Georges Garros Wikipedia page


Cultural Affairs Week 2017 Editorial Schedule
Aļona Ostapenko
Études, Brute?
To Be Announced


Sunday, June 25, 2017

RICHIE MAYO AND THE PARAMOURS GRIND US INTO THE GROUND FROM SIXTY YEARS AGO WITH THEIR SHAKER MASTERPIECE, “CRAWLIN’ (THE CRAWL)”




1. We know very little about this song and its musicians.

2. Likely personnel include: Richie Mayo (bass), Frank Perry (guitar), Mel Barnet (tenor saxophone), Mike Marrow (drums), and Don Edmonds (piano).

3. The band recorded “Crawlin’ (The Crawl)” on Varsity Music’s Campus label in Philadelphia, 1957.

4. A few years later, in 1961, a band known as the Untouchables re-recorded the song, bundled with “Benny the Beatnik,” on To-Da Music’s Rello label. While the personnel aren’t fully known, the guitar player (Frank Perry) for the Paramours appears to be part of this recording, and is given credit for composing this second version. It ain’t no slouch, as they say.

5. The original version may have been responding to The Stroll, which was both a teenage dance and an early rock ‘n’ roll song. In the dance, a line of boys and a line of girls would face each other at opposite sides of the room, akin to “reels” from other eras. One couple at a time, the dance partners would meet in the middle and stroll down the two lines, dancing while holding hands. The song, “The Stroll,” was first recorded by a Canadian band, The Diamonds, and first released in December, 1957, on the Mercury label. Ultimately, it’s a pop song, but owing to its rowdy saxophone, it reached #5 on the R&B charts. The record, the recording, would enable the song and the dance to occur simultaneously, a great triumph, perhaps, for connoisseurs of coincidence.

6. Dictionaries, as we know them, tend to define “stroll” as to “walk in a leisurely way” whereas “crawl” is typically cast as “dragging the body along on hands and knees.” The former is pleasant whereas the latter is burdened and grimy. (Ahem.) But that’s not all. The song is called “Crawlin’ (The Crawl),” as if to insist upon some slangy distance, the parentheses, between the two worlds. At the very least, “Crawlin’” is much less theoretical than “The Crawl” and to some degree must represent the unscripted form of the experience.

7. As an aside, “paramour” is defined as “a lover, especially a lover of a person who is married to someone else.”

8. Both versions of “Crawlin’ (The Crawl)” were re-released in 2013, as part of an early rock revival on Jazzman Records in the United Kingdom. Some Jazzman records emphasize the concept of burlesque, which their choice of labels—Sleazy, Sin Street, Smutt, et cetera—amply confirms.

9. “Shakers?” you ask. “SHAKERS,” I reply. Look into it.

10. In the end, here we have a suggestive song that’s crawlin’, played by a group of lovers, recorded sixty years ago, with wailing guitar and growling horn, and it’s no wonder that the band members have to shout “yeah!” at intervals. In part, those shouts acknowledge the genesis of an edgy translation, a code that instructs us to move.


Sources of Information:

YouTube comments
45cat entry for Untouchables
Wikipedia entry for “The Stroll
45cat entry for The Diamonds
YouTube video for The Stroll
Free Dictionary entry for Paramour
Discogs entry for the Jazzman reissue

LIST OF REJECTED CONSPIRACY THEORIES.




If it’s feasible, then it can be stored in the freezer. If it’s dirigible, then it can be mourned by a dirge. Too many dirges, however, might cause you to walk with a blimp. In the next room, Yokel Ono sits on a barstool and croons about life in the rural prefecture. In one of the songs, an ante-lope makes off with the poker kitty that otherwise belongs to the rubber baron. He, the rubber baron, derives great affluence from prophylactic sales, but his penile business practices draw wide condom-nation. So yeah, a different fellow wants to raise fruit trees in anonymity, and so this fellow adopts a nom de plum, or would that be a nom de prune? Sadly, he struggles at agriculture, and succumbs, mildly, to gardening of the arteries. His real name is Norman, he’s a standard fellow, and when war finally erupts, he settles on Norm de Guerre as the assumed name for his saboteur of duty. Eventually, his alias gets him on the A-List. When the Jerusalemite studies you, by the by, he got his Zion you, he got his Zion you. I hate it when the hit man, one Mr. Reaper Cussin’s, mouths off, over and over again. Finally, I have to confront the hit man, one Mr. Reaper Cussin’s. “Hey Bud,” I say, “Are you assassin’ me?”


Also see: List of Active Conspiracy Theories

Sunday, April 16, 2017

OH, LIZA: THE VARIATIONS, ORIGINS, AND AMERICAS OF “LI’L LIZA JANE.”

 Nina Simone performed “Little Liza Jane” throughout her career. 


In 1927, the poet Carl Sandburg declared, “There are as many Liza songs in the Appalachian Mountains as there are species of trees on the slopes of that range.” This unmagnified observation would help introduce one of two “Liza” compositions in his crucial effort, The American Songbag, a celebrated, voluminous compilation that bestowed significance upon numerous folksongs. “Liza Jane” depicted lonesome drifters who attempted to ranch the “flat prairies and level horizons” on the western plains of the Appalachians, but a second tune, “Good-By Liza Jane,” apparently accompanied a Midwestern circus as a minstrel song. The character, Liza Jane, is rather incidental to the silliness of the circus minstrelsy—a horse falls partway down a well, a snail bursts through the tail of the goose that swallowed it, a woman crosses a bridge that that wasn’t yet built—but in the mountain range version, Liza Jane (the character) assumes more prominence. In that piece, the narrators make jugs of molasses in order to “sweeten little Liza Jane” and contrast the hardest work of their lives (“a-brakin’ on the train”) with the easiest, “a-huggin’ little Liza Jane.” Questions about the relationships of these variations as well as their origins might not persevere in the inquisitive mind of the listener would the song not persevere among recording artists. Nina Simone, for example, delivered stirring renditions of “Li’l Liza Jane” throughout her career, including a fabulous live performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960. Wynton Marsalis, David Bowie (as Davie Jones), The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Pete Seeger, Taj Mahal, Vince Gill, Duane Eddy, Doc Watson, Slim Harpo, and Fats Domino, among others, recorded the song. (Some of these recordings, Dear Reader, leap out of the ol’ phonograph better than others!) In many renditions of the tune, Liza Jane represents an object of courtship, one who eludes the promises of gifts and affection with elegiac steadfastness. 


 The Hill Billies recorded “Mountaineer’s Love Song” in 1926. 


Step Back
When investigating John Lomax’s early 1930s recordings in the penitentiaries (and other areas) of Louisiana, the writer Joshua Clegg Caffery encountered “Little Liza Jane,” terming it a “crossover dance number” performed by African American string bands and jug bands. In his book, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings, Caffery parses a version of the song performed by Wilson “Stavin’ Chain” Jones. The most charming passage of the tune, “Some people tell me Liza don’t steal, Little Liza Jane / And I caught little Liza in my cornfield, Little Liza Jane,” stamps a humorous realization onto a piece that otherwise, according to Caffery, veers between “unrelated episodes constructed out of stock phrases.” Even as that might be an unfair qualification, the author draws an incontrovertible distinction between Stavin’ Chain’s version of “Liza Jane” and the repertoire of Appalachian fiddle tunes such as “Susan Jane” and “Lasses Cane,” songs quite similar to the mountaintop variation introduced by Sandburg (although not the minstrel piece.) Terming them “second cousins once removed,” Caffery still acknowledges distant lineage between the Louisiana and Appalachian compositions. Many early recordings of “Li’l Liza Jane” predate the Lomax field recordings, among them these two popular versions: Earl Fuller’s Famous Jazz Band recorded “Li’l’ Liza Jane—One Step” in 1917 and The Hill Billies recorded “Mountaineer’s Love Song” in 1926, both in New York City. The former, recorded by white musicians, carries the African American melody, whereas the latter, its “second cousin once removed,” clips along with obvious Appalachian fiddling qualities. While “Mountaineer’s Love Song” doesn’t mention Liza Jane in its title, the singers frequently recall her throughout the piece. Neither rendition, however, accounts for the genesis of “Li’l Liza Jane”—not nearly. The untraceable Countess Ada De Lachau published sheet music for a version of the song, “Li’l Liza Jane,” that was performed as entr’acte incidental music for a thriving Broadway three-act comedy, Come Out of the Kitchen, starring Ruth Chatterton, an actress who knew Amelia Earhart and would later fly solo several times, herself, across the United States, in addition to becoming a best-selling novelist. Broadway audiences heard “Li’l Liza Jane” as many as 224 times between the play’s opening in October 1916 and closing in May 1917, not long after Congress voted to declare war on Germany as part of the mobilization for World War I. Don Tyler, in his book, Music of the First World War, cannot classify “Li’l Liza Jane” easily, dubbing it “part folk song, part [minstrel] song, part early jazz, and part early country.”


Wilson “Stavin’ Chain” Jones is pictured during 
John Lomax’s field recording sessions in 1934.
 


Step Back, Twice
According to The American Songbag, one C.W. Loutzenhiser of Chicago recalls seeing a performance of the minstrel song “Good-By Liza Jane” as a child attending the circus. No date accompanies this information, but we can assume that minstrels may have been performing versions of the song in the nineteenth century. (According to Caffery and other sources, Liza and Eliza were stock characters in many minstrel shows.) At least two writers published scores earlier than the mysterious Countess Ada De Lachau, one being Harry von Tilzer’s “Good Bye Eliza Jane” (1903) and the earliest being Eddie Fox’s “Good Bye Liza Jane” (1871.) The Fox version doesn’t appear to lampoon blacks, and instead, bills itself as a “comic song,” offering rural themes and silly couplets such as “Chickens and hens have gone to roost / A hawk flew down and bit an old goose.” The von Tilzer sheet music, on the other hand, portrays two black men in a stereotyped cover image and narrates a dialect-heavy scenario in which Eliza Jane has betrayed a lover, who then demands his belongings and promises to skip town before having to pay the rent. To be sure, the song’s estimable legacy exceeds sheet music and popular recordings, and we must take an important moment to understand that “Li’l Liza Jane” also served as a dancing game, or more specifically, a “Stealin’ Partners” dance-game song. In her 1918 collection, Negro Folk Songs, Book 4, the ethnomusicologist Natalie Curtis Burlin informed the tune “‘Liza Jane” as one during which an unaccompanied man would dance in the center of a circle, surrounded by couples. He would ‘steal’ a female partner, and the resulting single man would repeat the process, amid joyous lyrics in which a suitor urges Liza Jane to follow him, to Baltimore: “I got a house in Baltimo’, L’il’ ‘Liza-Jane / Street-car runs right by ma do’, L’il’ ‘Liza-Jane / O Eliza, L’il’ ‘Liza-Jane / O Eliza, L’il’ ‘Liza-Jane.” (As an aside, Natalie Curtis Burlin famously spent time transcribing songs on Native American reservations, including one stay accompanied by her pal, Theodore Roosevelt.) Additionally, Burlin would note an observation by Charles N. Wheeler, who wrote about a tune, “‘Liza Jane,” sung by African American soldiers in France, during World War I, perhaps the New York 15th (Colored) Regiment. According to his article in the Chicago Tribune, Wheeler related the words, probably sung as cadence, which began, “I’se got a gal an’ you got none—L’il’ ‘Liza Jane / House an’ lot in Baltimo’—L’il ‘Liza Jane.” 


The Countess Ada De Lachau helped popularize  
the song by publishing this sheet music in 1916. 


Roots in Slavery, Africa, and England
Whether or not the African American soldiers drew from Countess Ada De Lachau, they nevertheless restated her entry to “Li’l Liza Jane,” a phrase—“I’se got a gal an’ you got none”—that reinforces, however in reverse, the basic situation of the stealing partners dance game. The placement of Baltimore in many versions of “Li’l Liza Jane” may comment on some of the song’s evolutionary twists or may offer poetic convenience, seeing as “Baltimore” can be (and is) end-rhymed with words like “door” and “floor,” both evidence of house ownership, and both cited as reasons why Liza Jane should follow her suitor. The Countess Ada De Lachau’s sheet music, despite being billed as a “Southern Dialect Song,” contains a curious English tilt, “I will take good care [of] thee,” a line that Nina Simone maintains in her 1960 Newport appearance. Many of the African American recordings of “Li’l Liza Jane” offer melodic parallels to the African song of welcome, “Funga Alafia.” While several sources corroborate this observation, a listener can simply verify the claim by playing virtually any recording of the African American “Li’l Liza Jane” and virtually any recording of “Funga Alafia.” It might follow that the melody of “Funga Alafia” accompanied enslaved Africans as they were brought to the United States. How then the melody became affixed to English words, and where these English words ultimately originated, may be anybody’s guess, but one slave narrative from the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration confirms that a version of “Li’l Liza Jane” was being sung in Louisiana before the Civil War. This blogger found the narrative of Lucy Thurston extremely painful to read, but she recited, at 101 years of age, quite a few lines of the Liza song she sang: “Hair as [black] as coal in de mi--ine / Lil Liza Jane / Eyes so large and big and [fine] / Lil Liza Jane / OHooooo Lil Liza, Lil Liza Jane / OHooooo Lil Liza, Lil Liza Jane.” Indeed, the score by Countess Ada De Lachau emphasizes a refrain similar to Lucy Thurston’s rendition. “Ohe—————Liz – a, Li’l Liz – a – Jane,” it reads, with weight placed on the “Ohe,” before plunging toward the name of the woman who, either lightheartedly or earnestly, the crooner courts.



Slim Harpo and His King Bees play “Little Liza Jane” in 1961.


Apologies, Further Listening, and Listening
“I apologize for the imperfections in this work,” wrote Carl Sandburg, in the prefatory material to The American Songbag. “No one else is now, or ever will be, so deeply aware and so thoroughly and widely conscious of the imperfections in these pages.” Your humble blogger would like to express the same feelings—obviously on a much smaller scale—as those of Sandburg, a stately character revered for his writings, politics, and humility alike. To the contrary, The American Songbag stands out as a work of massive significance. Together with a few other sources, including The Acoustic Music Sourcebook and the online Traditional Tune Archive, it led me to a host of electrifying Appalachian-themed recordings of the song. Look for Uncle Am Stuart “Old Liza Jane” (1924), Fiddlin’ John Carson, “Goodbye Liza Jane” (1926), Tenneva Ramblers “Miss Liza Poor Gal” (1928), Bradley Kincaid “Liza up the ‘Simmon Tree” (1928), and Charlie Poole “Goodbye Liza Jane” (1930), among others already mentioned. Don’t neglect its second cousin once removed, either. Among others already mentioned, seek Huey “Piano” Smith and His Rhythm Aces “Little Liza Jane” (1956), Fats Domino “Lil’ Liza Jane” (1959), Art Neville “Little Liza Jane” (1965), Scott Dunbar “Little Liza Jane” (1970), and the Slim Harpo version, “Little Liza Jane,” that sits atop this concluding paragraph. What is it about Slim Harpo, man? Recorded blurry from the public address system at the National Guard Armory on Sage Avenue in Mobile, Alabama, on July 1st,1961, the King Bees and their leader play this version Through-The-Roof. By then, more than one hundred years had elapsed between Lucy Thurston singing “Li’l Liza Jane” in slavery and James “Slim Harpo” Moore inhabiting the song as part of a raucous celebration. The shouting and hollering in 1961 ought to learn us a thing or two about the magnificence of human transformation.


Likely personnel for Slim Harpo’s version of “Little Liza Jane”—James “Slim Harpo” Moore (vocals and harmonica), Rudolph Richard (guitar), James Johnson (bass guitar), Sammy Brown (drums), and Willie Parker (tenor sax).


Sources of Information
Carl Sandburg, The American Songbag  (Harcourt, Brace & Company, New York, 1927)
Nina Simone recording information for Nina at Newport (1960)
Joshua Clegg Caffery, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings (LSU Press, Baton Rouge, 2013)
Wilson “Stavin’ Chain” Jones recording information for “Little Liza Jane” (1934)
Earl Fuller’s Famous Jazz Band recording information for “Li’l’ Liza Jane—One Step” (1917)
The Hill Billies recording information for “Mountaineer’s Love Song” at Discogs (1926)
Come Out of the Kitchen production information at Internet Broadway Database
Ruth Chatterton entry at Wikipedia
“Li’l Liza Jane” (song) entry at Wikipedia
Don Tyler, Music of the First World War (ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, Calif., 2016)
Harry von Tilzer sheet music for “Good Bye Eliza Jane” (1903) at Library of Congress
Eddie Fox sheet music for “Good Bye Liza Jane” (1871) at Library of Congress
Natalie Curtis Burlin, Negro Folk Songs, Book 4 (G. Schirmer, New York, 1918)
Natalie Curtis Burlin entry at Wikipedia
Countess Ada De Lachau sheet music for “Li’l Liza Jane” (1916) at Duke University Library
Lucy Thurston Works Progress Administration slave narrative (late 1930s)
Traditional Tune Archive (various pages) 
Martin Hawkins, Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge (LSU Press, Baton Rouge, 2016)
Slim Harpo Sting it Then! (1961) at AllMusic
 

MOPTOP!

Please forgive me my amateur filming technique. 


I caught Sleaford Mods at Warsaw in Brooklyn on March 30 of this annum, and won’t forget that show anytime. For those who don’t know the Nottingham-based Mods, they are one part vocalist Jason Williamson and one part ‘beat-master’ Andrew Fearn. On that chilly evening in Brooklyn, the first night of their North American tour, Williamson famously brought the howling, gruff intensity, and Fearn, shouting off-microphone, shook and danced with trademark can of lager. It was quite ‘sausagey’ on line to get inside, but inside, many cute girls bounced around. Perhaps the audience could’ve misbehaved a bit more, but that’s an inconsequential quibble. Why admire the Mods without reservation? Why declare this the greatest show I’ve ever seen? It’s quite selfish really. They’re the performers I’d like to be. Unafraid to rage, to skewer, to curse madly, to bounce, to spit, to croon, to be odd, to be more energetic than groups half their age, to find their own space, to resist commercial molding—Sleaford Mods should be a lesson to every band and every poet who might (unaccountably) seek any other route.

You can listen above to one song, “Moptop,” I recorded on me phone, mate, from the show. It’s a song off the group’s newest album, English Tapas. In part, the song refers to the “moptop hairdo” of Boris Johnson, a British politician to whom some might apply words that rhyme with “punt” and “yacht.” According to the band, the song also delves into: “…the void that is modern music, internet attention spans, one-dimensional acts and the current trend of reformed bands looking to cash in with PR-heavy assaults that try to conceal their pointlessness.” Working from a few online lyrics sources, here are, what I think to be, the lyrics. Enjoy.

MOPTOP

Do you mind? You biffed my nose!

He’s got a blonde mop, he’s got a moptop
He’s got a blonde mop, he’s got a moptop

I’m sick of what I tell you for note
Saying fucking sorry to the catalogue vote
Having to be a bit naff and inclined
When all I really wanted was to batter ‘em blind
These pleasantries and intelligence
Are no real match for the spoon and tuppence
Of ale stops and tired minds
I think before I say it better be in line

I think before I say it better be in line
I think before I say and let the words slip by
I think before I say it better be in line
I think before I say and let the words slip by

He’s got a blonde mop, he’s got a moptop
He’s got a blonde mop, he’s got a moptop

I feel like I’m not gonna cope
The game has changed its proper
Now it comes with no hope
Rotten clementines, no socks, no pants
All reformed band and dead pop chants
Like the tinsel mate it’s the ‘70s
Reminds me of a time when we were little kids
Reminds of a time when the coast was clear
But now it’s meatballs and jam as I float around, oh dear
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

I think before I say it better be in line
I think before I say and let the words slip by
I think before I say it better be in line
I think before I say and let the words slip by

He’s got a blonde mop, he’s got a moptop
He’s got a blonde mop, he’s got a moptop

I think before I say it better be in line
I think before I say and let the words slip by
I think before I say it better be in line
I think before I say and let the words slip by

He’s got a blonde mop, he’s got a moptop
He’s got a blonde mop, he’s got a MOPTOP!


SONNET (FOR BOOTBLACK ECHOES)



The gloomy liberal and the crabby liberal pursue severe doctrine.
Both suckle a cage-free, pasture-raised hoompty doompty.
Allow the word “haunt.” It’s a looker’s word.
Allow, allow, allow, allow, allow.
The sun bulges through a puncture.
Body temperature climbs another tenth, enjoyable.
Once again, condensation overcomes the hierarchies of disorientation.
The gutters of mysterious syllables muddle
the bootblack echoes of central thoroughfare. [Consider:
moments de-installed from servitude, untethered
mechanisms that meter (1) inference or
(2) deduction.] As to the affiliations of reanimated cruelty?
A bullet can rend the corners of a woman’s impoverished overcoat
the gray corners of her mouth an “O” of perpetual outrage.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

THE SHAKERS ERA: A NEARLY FORGOTTEN PERIOD THAT PRODUCED SOME OF THE ROWDIEST AMERICAN MUSIC EVER RECORDED.

Paul Gonsalves playing at Newport, 1956.


When the featured saxophone player for the Duke Ellington orchestra introduced his solo for “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, a ‘platinum blonde’ concertgoer provoked the crowd to dance in the aisles.  The raucous scene inspired the soloist Paul Gonsalves to blow through twenty-seven rollicking choruses, a famous and heroic effort that singlehandedly revitalized the orchestra’s slumping fortunes. In an interview with the New York Times many years later, the dancer, Elaine Anderson, also credited Count Basie drummer, Jo Jones, for emboldening her and the Ellington musicians, by rapping a rolled-up newspaper near the bandstand. “I went mad,” Anderson said, referring to the uninhibited wildness of her dancing. “And the madder I went, the madder Paul Gonsalves went.”

Many great studio and live jazz performances had yet to be recorded, and many great bandleaders would realize (one or more) signature moments in the ten years following Ellington’s triumph at Newport: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s Village Vanguard material are but two examples. If jazz had coined a soaring new idiom—bepop—that would fuel post-war exhilaration, it would arguably become a more abundant form in the 1950s and 1960s, one that would ultimately interrogate convention with such discordant effects, it might’ve extinguished itself with furious abandon. Eventually, listeners would charge toward rock ‘n’ roll. (Have you heard of this phenomenon?) They charged, did these listeners, toward Elvis Presley of the U.S.A. and The Beatles of Great Britain. The Rolling Stones would emerge. Bob Dylan, too. These titans prospered. But surely, this wasn’t the only racket in town.


Kind devotees of this blog may recollect my jump blues
post from a few years ago, one that attempted to summarize my lengthy foray, as anthologist, into that impressive, if nearly forgotten music. During said decade-long endeavor, I would encounter “other infectious tunes” that couldn’t be included, stylistically, but not for lack of merit. The descriptor, “titty shaker”, might’ve accompanied a given song, and whether the term blustered into vulgarity, it probably distorted some of the fine musicianship on display: saxophone, guitar, piano, and/or organ work. Jean-Paul Sartre, in his 1938 novel, Nausea, would banish such talk—“My titties, my lovely fruits”—to the head-swimming dolor of a Paris café, and besides, dear reader, I shake to this music, I, a man who sporteth not shakable bosoms. Let us not designate a sex, a cleavage. The person shakes! Elaine Anderson (as well as the entire Newport Jazz Festival) still shakes to the Paul Gonsalves saxophone workout! 


  The ‘platinum blonde’ Elaine Anderson dancing. 


Once the jump blues compilation neared completion, I experienced the melancholy of discovering no new (old) music. Noting my mopey disposition, a friend encouraged me to double back. Thinking that I might modestly compile two hours of these “Shakers”, I embarked, instead, upon another voyage rife with eventful discovery. I would often admit “I can’t believe what I’m hearing” in response to a string of obscure recordings, many of which don’t exist in digital platforms such as iTunes or Pandora. I commenced to acquire these songs, twenty-five at a time, until I’d amassed 600 of them, produced by 500 different leaders or bands. They fit, broadly, into two categories—Shakers and R&B Shakers—yet most of the songs share traits, virtually none of the music offers any suggestion of burlesque, more than half the songs don’t employ lyrics. Most of the tunes were recorded between 1958 and 1964, an important little period that would give way to the British Invasion.


Before we continue, please understand that I have no idea what I’m talking about. The many genres (or subgenres) represented in my Shakers compilation—early rock, instrumental rock, instrumental rockabilly, early R&B, garage, surf, Latin, reggae, soul, northern soul, early punk, and so forth—each require a substantial volley of scholarly activity, in order to comprehend various dynamics. Some of the leaders and bands—Link Wray, Duane Eddy, Sandy Nelson, Johnny and the Hurricanes, Bill Black’s Combo, King Curtis, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, Huey “Piano” Smith, Barry White, Little Willie John, and a few others—would deservedly garner broader attention for their vibrancy, but the vast majority of the Shakers compilation features nearly-forgotten fast-cookers.
 I’ve listened to a lot of records, but I’m undoubtedly missing a lot of records. And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s never to overlook the B Side.

I’ve previously posted songs by J.C. Davis (“The Splib, Part 1”), Frank de Rosa (“Irish Rock”), Willene Barton (“Rice Pudding”), The Royaltones (“Royal Whirl”), and the luminous Plas Johnson (“Downstairs”). Some of my other favorites include The Yum Yums (“Gonna Be a Big Thing”), The Monitors (“Mama Linda”), Piano Slim (“Squeezing”), Cozy Cole (“Cozy’s Mambo”), Big Bo Thomas and the Arrows (“Big Bo’s Iron Horse”), the Nomads (“Icky Poo”), The Saxons (“Camel Walk, Part 1”), The Revelairs (“Ridin’ High”), Al Duncan (“Cossak Walk”), and The Ricco-Shays (“Damascus”). These are but a few of the outrageous dancers, stompers, rockers, grinders, head-bouncers, groovers, crawlers, swingers, walkers, and shakers. I deejay off this music just about every Thursday night at the Black Squirrel in Adams Morgan. “Come on down”, as they say.


Today, I’ve posted a Shaker from 1962 or 1963, “The Sinner”, by the Terri-Tones, and an R&B Shaker from 1960, “A Night with Daddy G, Part 1”, by the Church Street Five.
 


The Sinner” by the Terri-Tones (1962 or 1963).


A Canadian group, the Terri-Tones were named for leader Terry Kelly, who described the band’s chief output as “R&B-sourced instrumentals.” Wives and girlfriends of the musicians can be heard whispering “Sinner” just before the band launches into a piece that defies category, but includes unequal parts of frantic horn charging off a cliff, guitar boogie shuffle, early chime of  surf constellation, western (movie) motif, and the gnawing bells of incisive realization. It occasionally slows for the band’s benefit as well as ours. The A-side, “Go”, appears in the Shakers compilation as well. (Wives and girlfriends holler “Everybody go!” just before the band rockets forward.) The Terri-Tones played in Canada and the States, and backed Dick Clark’s Caravan when it toured through their burgh. To this blogger’s knowledge, they recorded only two songs, even as they demonstrate a greater knowledge of “the sinner” than everybody else. 



A Night with Daddy G, Part 1” by the Church Street Five (1960).


Gene “Daddy G” Barge founded The Church Street Five, which recorded for Legrand Records in Norfolk, Va. A saxophonist who admired Lester Young and played on Chuck Willis’ hit, “C.C. Rider” and Jimmy Soul’s hit, “If You Wanna Be Happy”, among others, Barge also played with heavyweights Bo Diddley, Jackie Wilson, and Muddy Waters, among others, and knew everybody. (Even as he is Gene Barge, with a G, his nickname derives from a Norfolk pastor.) Barge never prospered off his recordings, and taught high school in Norfolk before working for Chess Records in Chicago. “A Night With Daddy G” was divided into two parts, an A-side and a B-side, (both are R&B Shakers), before Gary “U.S.” Bonds recorded lyrics to the song, by then repurposed as “Quarter to Three”, an eventual number one hit. Barge honks wildly on “Quarter to Three”, “A Night with Daddy G”, and everywhere else. There is no finer party. Amen. 


Sources of Information:

Bill Dahl page for Gene Barge 
Wikipedia page for Gene Barge 
Jean-Paul Sartre book Nausea 

Likely personnel for “The Sinner”: Terry Kelly (bass), Wayne Malton (keyboards), Kerry Cornelius (saxophone), Tony Langlaan (drums), and Gary Delaney (guitar).

Likely personnel for “A Night with Daddy G”: Gene Barge (saxophone), Nabs Shields (drums), Junior Fairley (bass), Willie Burnell (piano), Leonard Barks (trombone), and voices. 

SONNET (FOR ROWBOATS IN THE WOODS)



Are you in-country or incontinent?
Is your auntie’s bedroom an auntie chamber?
Do you fuck the fascists?
What is the rate of error with man-made lakes?
How can I overcome institutional inertia?
Who were the forebears of The Three Bears?
Isn’t the bullet harvested (more or less) the way the potato is harvested?
To the wounded, who insists upon stitching his own wound—‘ok, suture self!’

Why are there rowboats in the woods?
Is it a moon-colored day or a rain-colored day?
Can a bird be both scarf and insinuation?
Why does a person mourn within the apparatus of erosion?
What will our brothers be singing?
What will our brothers be singing, when we return their bodies to the earth?