Thursday, December 06, 2012
The Very Square Dance
Dave Brubeck is dead. Dave Brubeck was a square.
I like squares. I think I'm a square, although that's not for me to say. It must be said about you. I think squares accomplish most everything notable in the world. The hipsters crib from the work the squares do, to achieve their ill-deserved notoriety. The squares invent the moldboard plow, turn the earth deeply, and feed the world with their crops. The hipsters later keep windowboxes full of plastic flowers. No one will remember Lady Gaga in a hundred years. My grandchildren will play Dave Brubeck records.
All my favorite people are squares, and in the arts, too. Dave Brubeck was L7, man. Yeats was the last man picked for dodgeball, writing poems about the first girl he ever kissed until the day he keeled over. Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was a joiner. Mark Twain was the mayor of Squaresville.
Dave went to school to be a veterinarian, and his teacher told him to go across the hall to the music room because that's where he belonged. He couldn't read music, so they gave him his diploma with the stipulation that he never teach music -- because that's what a music school is there to produce: music school teachers. Dave thought it was to produce musicians. What a dork.
What would you do if you were a pianist, fresh out of school? You'd smoke French cigarettes that smell like ass and affect some sort of accent and wear a beret and drink wine outa bottles in a basket and so forth. Dave joined Patton's Third Army. That's what squares do -- what needs doing. They figured out he was more valuable playing the piano to the Mauser fodder than being the Mauser fodder, and he toured around cheering people up.
Then he got out and started a jazz band, and did what squares do. He treated everyone as an individual, and had an integrated band, and he worked hard. He found a place to play, and he played there, and he collected his money, and kept working at what he was doing, befriending more people that could help him. Then he got real square.
I want you to picture yourself in a record company meeting. A guy that looks like he flunked out of veterinary school, but kept the wardrobe, comes in and says he'd like to make a jazz album. Jazz albums don't sell of course, but this dweeb, looking at you through glasses like the windows on a submarine, doubles down and says the whole album is based around playing in limb-contorting, ear-disorienting odd meters like 5/4 and 9/8. You could tap your foot to Blue Rondo a la Turk if you're a carnival sideshow geek, and have the extra limbs required, but for accessibility, that's about it. The rest of the record is wheelchair accessible for dancing after two martinis at the Copa, maybe.
So you're the A&R man. You just put out a Johnny Mathis record, maybe a Fabian single, or maybe you're tragically hip, and you're eating lunch with an Ertegun and you're pressing a Sarah Vaughn disc in the afternoon. What do you say to Ichabod Brubeck? Admit, it, you'd ring the buzzer and have him walking spanish to the curb courtesy of security. You'd have no way of knowing that Dave's record would be the first jazz album to sell a million copies. Only squares understand what squares are doing. Eventually the beautiful people get on the horn and yell at their underlings, "Get me one of those Barbell.. er.. Burdick... ah, whatever that goofy bastards that can't count to four are called. Brubeck. Yeah, that's it. Find me one of those. Them. Whatever"
I don't know why the world makes the squares perform their very square dance alone for a while while we titter at them. You're all going to dance to it sooner or later.