Sunday, October 26, 2014

Jack Bruce RIP

[Faithful reader Sam sent me a dead link of what I gather is Jack Bruce giving a bass lesson. A bass lesson from Jack Bruce is of dubious utility. I think it would be like a symposium from Lew Alcindor on how to be tall. Apparently Jack's passed away, to be reunited with his liver in Rock n' Roll heaven. RIP]

[Editor's note: First offered in 2006. For all you young kids out there: That's not George Lucas, Dumbledore, and Grandpa Simpson playing in a band together.]
[Author's Note: Never mind that; I'm still trying to get over the fact that someone is still playing a sizzle ride cymbal. And there is no editor.]

Hydraulic License Rock

The quality of this YouTube DailyMotion feed is better than most. (It's not all that high quality, but everything is pulled off of YouTube after five minutes now.)The quality of the music is too:

That's Cream, re-united and performing "White Room," probably their best-known song. I've watched it many times. It occurs to me that it explains a lot about rock music.

Those are old men. Eric Clapton, playing the black Stratocaster, has his hair mussed just so as a sop to youth, but they're old farts. Old farts playing rock music are lame. Cream is not. Here's why:

The term rock music has been twisted and stretched to cover just about any set of noises organized to sell discs. It's as if forty or fifty years ago a religion was founded, and you had to get the A and R rabbis at the record companies and radio stations to announce you were kosher, ie: rock and roll, to be consumed.

If there's anything lamer than old, bald men in spandex still yelping about the discontents of teenagers as if they were still in junior high, I haven't seen it. "Hope I die before I get old," only stirs the blood if the blood doesn't require Geritol. You're not allowed to pick that gauntlet back up and complain about your backache while doing so, too.

Performers used to acknowledge that their shelf life as young rebels fighting the man was short, and if they wanted to keep performing after it expired, they'd have to become part of the nostalgia industry. Listening to Peter Frampton in 1976 is excusable. Listening to Peter Frampton to remind you of 1976 is excusable. Listening to Peter Frampton as anything else is kinda silly.

Cream is a part of a tradition of adult music. They listened to music from America's black musical tradition, where it is was plenty acceptable to be an adult, and to consider adult themes. When they were young, they were striving to be old. Now they are old, and need not strive.

I watched them, and knew that I had seen their like before -- but not where you'd think. They were operating their machinery, and I had seen men operate familiar machinery before. I've known many men, skilled in the rough arts: masonry and concrete finishing and excavation and demolition and blasting--men past their physical prime, but still tough as nails, and wise, and able to leave any three youngsters in their dust.

They sit in the chair in the excavator, their knobby hands move the levers just so, and they move the bucket with the delicacy of the teaspoon. They wake up tired, and yet they never fade while working, because they husband their energies where the young and strong and dumb flail away and drop out. They stand in the shade whenever possible, and rest when it is offered, but do not flag; and they smile at one another at the end of the day's work, exactly the same smile exchanged at the end of this song, a knowing smile among those who have earned the respect of a fellow adult man.

And the young men watch them and learn.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From Hornets To Ladybugs

These are my two boys, also known as Unorganized Hancock, playing the Talking Heads song This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody ).

It's another selection from their performance at the Fryeburg Fair a week ago. This is the very last song I got on video. We recharged the battery in the camera between sets, but the kids outlasted it anyway. They played three shows, at one, two, and three o'clock. There was a particularly enthusiastic crowd for the third show, and the boys played a half-dozen encore songs, so the third set lasted for a full hour and ten minutes. All in all, they performed for 150 minutes, easy, not including two breaks. When I was a professional musician, a full day's work was three, forty-five minute sets. My boys were paid as adults, and earned it.

As far as I noticed, the Spare Heir never made a mistake. Not one. He's eleven. My wife told me he dropped a stick when I wasn't looking, but he just picks up another and never hesitates, so I didn't catch it. The Heir faltered here and there. Forgot a word. Fumbled over more than one Wes Montgomery lick. Then again, he had to play and sing for nearly three hours with only an eleven-year-old to help him. His might be the greater feat.

We fill the Spare Heir's bass drum with stuffed animals to be amusing, because he's been doing this since he was eight, but that's not the only reason. He plays too loud for the room they practice in. He plays too loud for everywhere if I don't stuff his drums. Playing loud is stupid, so I don't allow it. But he plays hard. Halfway through one of the songs, he looked at his brother, never missing a beat, and informed him over the microphone that the bass drum beater, which looks like a short tympani stick, and is operated by a foot pedal, had come flying off. He never stopped playing. I could have played those drums until Kingdom Come and still not loosened that clamp. It was fixed between songs, and off they went.

We have an abandoned bedroom in the attic that they practice in. It doesn't have any heat, or even any electricity for that matter. If the boys want to practice, they have to drag an extension cord all the way down the hall. The plaster is coming off the walls in big chunks. Until my Heir and I jacked up the house, the floor sloped like the Titanic two hours after they stopped for ice. It's still kinda roly-poly, but a dropped pencil doesn't make it all the way to the back wall anymore. The room used to be filled with hornets all the time. I'm allergic to hornets, and one sting will kill me in an instant, so I kept the drum lessons short. The roof over this room was open to the air when we moved here, and while we got rid of the squirrels when I climbed up there and fixed it, the hornets stayed. The windows in the dormer were in such bad shape that the hornets passed in and out through the defunct weight pockets and the window frames. My Heir and I got some old, salvaged windows from a neighbor's remodel, and some boards from another neighbor who was cleaning out his garage, and we installed the windows in place of the old ones, and trimmed it out with the free boards. Now the room is filled with ladybugs.

I hope my boys' lives will go from hornets to ladybugs in the same way -- with patient, unyielding effort. I am filled with doubts. How much better do they need to be before anyone notices that they're extraordinary?

[Update: Many thanks to Kathleen M. from Connecticut for her constant support of my boys. It is greatly appreciated]
[More up to date: Many thanks to Charles E. from The Land of Enchantment for his generous support. It is greatly appreciated.]

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Colon Day 2014

I remember Columbus Day because I used to play music in a hundred and one bands anyone that would have me and try to make money to eat and get cigarettes and I don't smoke and there still was never enough money and I played at a tee-totaling biker association party for two members' wedding not gay a man and a woman that arrived on a motorcycle with the woman I think wearing a white Wedding Dress and no helmet and we played for one hundred sober bikers and ninety-nine of them were like accountants and one was like a serial murderer but they all looked exactly the same so you had to assume they all would kill you if they got the chance instead of the more likely thing that they'd do your taxes if you asked nice and I never played Born To Be Wild for a Wedding Song before and the bride's father was in jail I think so she had to dance with the groom twice and the whole thing was held at the Italian-American Club on Gano Street in Providence but everybody calls it Guano Street for a joke haha and it's a real long time ago but it might have been the Portuguese-American Club I don't remember but I do remember it was Columbus Day and I went into the bar to get away from the sober biker accountants and that one serial murderer that were in the function room and it didn't matter if it was the Italian-American Club or the Portuguese-American Club or the Knights Of Columbus Hall haha that would be funny but I don't really remember but I distinctly remember a guy with a knife a real knife not a just a knife a dagger that came to a perfect point and didn't fold or look like you could do anything wholesome with it it just looked one hundred percent like it was designed and made to gut a bass player and that guy held that knife right under my chin and explained to me in Portuguese that Cristobal Colon was Portuguese and don't you forget it and my Spanish was very sketchy and Portuguese sounds like Russian to me not Spanish anyway but believe me I understood every damn word he said and I advise you all to answer the question did you know Cristobal Colon was Portuguese in the affirmative at all times.

The end.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Notes From The 2014 Fryeburg Fair

My two sons, AKA Unorganized Hancock, performed at the Fryeburg Fair on Sunday.

The Fryeburg Fair is the last big agricultural fair of the season in Maine. It's the biggest one in Maine, and it's considered a plum to get a job there as a performer. The boys played in a little bandstand called Draft Horse Park.

There were nice crowds for all three of the shows. I especially liked seeing all the little children. There were a lot of strollers, and toddlers toddling around. The bandstand is at a crossroads betwixt a congerie of footpaths, and most of the crowd simply pauses on their way by. There were many excellent double-takes when people looked to see who was playing like that, and saw my two midgets instead of the four adults they were expecting.

There was a monsoon on Saturday, so it was a blessing they had three Sunday shows. It's very iffy to have outdoor performances in Maine in October. Last year when the boys performed, it was in the low fifties, completely overcast, and it rained like crazy five minutes after they were done. I commented to my wife that they should schedule the fair a week earlier, and thereby avoid a lot of weather-related problems. The fair responded by sending out a notice that next year's fair will be held a week later than this year's. Every day is opposite-doppelganger-upside-down day in my life, and on every topic. 

There's every kind of entertainment at the fair. Whether you like Country and Western, or Country, or Western, or Country Rock, or Rockin' Country, or Contemporary Country, or Country Blues, or bagpipes, they have it all.

I'm kidding, of course -- it's worse. Ninety-nine percent of it is the playlist from any FM rock station in 1978. When we rolled into the parking lot, I rolled down the window to talk to the attendant at the gate, and the first thing we heard was a wan version of Margaritaville, which was plenty wan enough when it was first released if you ask me. I played that song for money a hundred thousand times, and twenty years ago I couldn't figure out why anyone would ever want to hear it ever again. Why they'd still want to hear it baffles me even further now, of course.

I ruminated on the topic a little bit. The big shows at the Fryeburg Fair are held at night, and the biggest act they had was a Billy Joel tribute band. I realize that an agricultural fair is unlikely to host much in the way of entertainment that I'd be interested in, but that one staggered me. I can't understand why anyone would want to see Billy Joel. Why they would want to see a wan imitation ...

There I go again. As I said, I got to thinking about it. The other night shows included a tedious-looking ensemble that played covers of Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Who, ELO, Fleetwood Mac, and several other bands I'd try to hurt if I ever encountered them. I thought we were thirty years past yelling FREEBIRD! as a joke, never mind a serious request. I guess not.

I think I'm beginning to understand it a little. It's garbage. All of it. It's garbage, and in their heart of hearts everyone knows it. That's why they get really angry if you mention it's garbage. The fanatic is so fanatical because in their heart they harbor a secret doubt. It's dangerous to spoil their artistic version of comfort food. They'll lash out like a rattlesnake that's been trod upon. If you tell me Mozart is garbage, I'll shrug and think to myself you're not very bright. If you tell a Metallica fan they aren't very good, they'll come at you with weapons.

A long time ago, I was in an upscale independent bookstore in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. They managed to have very little of interest for me in there, which is a pretty difficult thing to accomplish, as I have very far-ranging interests indeed -- I'm the intellectual equivalent of a garbage can; you can toss in most anything. There was woman in line in front of me at the register. When it was her turn, she immediately became very agitated at the soi-disant  hipster intellectual behind the counter. She demanded to know where all the feng shui books were. The poor fellow behind the counter, who had the physical frame and fashion sense of a concentration camp parolee that had just gone to the piercing parlor and then raided a Goodwill box, looked visibly afraid of this woman. He pointed out that there was a whole section of feng shui books. A whole aisle of them, actually, which in a little store represented a significant portion of the whole floorplan, perhaps larger than any other topic. He asked her if there was a particular book that she was looking for that she couldn't find, and offered to order it for her if they didn't have it. She snapped at him. "I don't want a feng shui book! I just want to make sure you don't take them off the shelves and put something else there!" And then she stomped out, empty handed.

No one wants to hear Margaritaville. They just don't want to hear what might replace it.

[Note to my readers: A lot of the equipment being loaded into that van, and the back seat and the seat belts in the van, for that matter, were paid for by the generous contributions to our little PayPal tipjar in the right-hand column of this blog, and for which we are very, very grateful. If you'd like to support Unorganized Hancock, hit the tip jar, or link to their videos, hit the like buttons on their Facebook page, or tell a friend. Many thanks.]

[Update: Many thanks to Kathleen M. for her continuous generous support of my boy's efforts via the PayPal tip jar. Also, thanks to the Execupundit, The Adaptive Curmudgeon, and Maggies Farm for linking to my sons' videos. It's greatly appreciated]

[BTW, my Interfriend from Cow Hampshire, Amy Kane, has much better pictures of the Fryeburg Fair than I can offer.]

[Yet More Up-To-Date: Many thanks to David G. from Missouri for his very generous blast on the tipjar horn. It's greatly appreciated]