Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sittin' On Top Of The World

Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.

He still doesn't know what to do with the cold dead gaping lens looking at him. He was odd anyway, but you see his eyes flit around, fixing on the director, then the camera, and then he looks at the near distance and scans the place where the audience should be. Old habits die hard.

It takes a certain kind of weirdo to look at a dead black glass eye and act like anything in particular in front of it. The audience is theoretical at that point. It's why the entertainment business is peopled with so many sociopaths now. It used to just attract freaks. But they were freaks that had some idea of what a fellow human being was. They were sitting right there in front of you. They were just facing the wrong way. Now the audience starts out theoretical. It gets worse from there.

I love the credits at the open. I picture people huddled in a converted church or apothecary or warehouse looking at the reels in the dark of a roadhouse night. The crackle wasn't all static on their radio. Both the crackle and the static are gone now.

People were ubiquitous, and entertainment was rare and prized. We're flipped now.

I didn't know the Bob Wills version of that song. It's great fun. I did know Bob Wills, because he was important, in an obscure sort of way, and he encapsulated a portion of the spinning globe at a certain time in a certain place. I could point out to you that there's not one person in Rock music today who knows how to play the guitar as well as that fellow there.

I knew Howlin' Wolf's version of that song. To say it was different is to say you should wear sunglasses when you visit the sun. You Tube doesn't have it, if it exists. This'll have to do, to give you the general idea:

Get the picture? I did. That man is talking to me. Most people wouldn't know who either one was, nor care to. The remainder would mostly like one, or the other. America as I picture it isn't worth a fig without both of them in it.

Howlin' Wolf's dead and buried. Bob Wills lies a-mouldering in the grave. One spoke to the other, and vice versa, and they both talk to me from beyond the grave. Because they learned to look into the cold dead lens, and picture me in it.


Patsy said...

They are both so authentic--Wills raising his eyebrows for no reason like someone is goosing him. And Howlin'Wolf's habit of sucking his lower lip in and out. Not an affected bone in their body.
Reminds me of Erroll Garner and Glenn Gould on piano--different, but each so thoroughly themselves. On old recordings, you can hear Garner grunting and 'yeah'ing to himself. And Gould singing and humming along with his Bach.

SippicanCottage said...

Patsy- I know the Errol Garner records you are referring to, but I don't know the Gould ones.

I found the Howlin' Wolf video mesmerizing. It's one of the most direct and powerful expressions of a man's mind I've ever seen captured. I watched it a bunch of times.

I feel like you could write a book about that video.

Harry said...

Nice post.

I've heard Bob Wills for decades but never seen a video of him. The awkwardness was painful to watch.

You had it pegged regarding entertainers, except I'm sure they all start with real audiences, but don't make it to media stardom unless they can learn to perform for the glass eye.

Your observation that we are living in a culture saturated with pre-fab entertainment no longer attached a social experience made me think of listening to early music over the Internet and of the iPod, perhaps the emblematic device for detached and packaged entertainment. Bowling alone indeed.

SippicanCottage said...

Hey Harry. We're fellow Massachusetti, I see from clicking on your name. Thanks for reading and commenting.

David53 said...

My favorite Bob Wills' tunes are Roly Poly, Miss Molly, and Big Ball in Cowtown. All of which have been rerecorded by numerous other entertainers. Being from the Mass,it surprises me that you know who he is.