J. Geils is gone. When I tell people that the J. Geils band was my favorite rock act of the '70s, they are somewhat puzzled. And every obit describes them as the band who did 'Centerfold,' indeed their biggest hit by a way. But by the time they got there, in the '80s, they were a pretty different act than 10 years before. I do think of that song as a novelty thing, and like a lot of what they did a lot better. When they started out, they were a great blues and basic rock/soul band.
I was already working on blues harp around when their first album came out ('70; I was 12), and Magic Dick blew me away, let's say. And also he was the featured instrumentalist an an arena-filling rock band. I remember I auditioned later for a band that was doing Kiss covers and suchlike, and Magic Dick was the only possible reason they could even conceive having a harmonica in a group like that. On the other hand, rock harp didn't get that far, and there is no harmonica on 'Centerfold.' This is insane:
They were kind of tasteless at many times - intentionally - in their stage personae and repertoire: Peter Wolf would wear that tux with a dollar sign, and roll through sort of Wolfman-Jack raps on stage which at times...weren't that great. 'First I Look at the Purse' became their theme song, more or less. They presented themselves as a crass American rock band. But I am telling you they could handle blues and soul-type styles as well as any white people ever, and pushed the boundaries of those forms a bit too.
Few bands have ever poured out more energy onstage. I did think of them as America's Rolling Stones. Every album after the first four (J. Geils Band, Morning After, Live: Full House, and Bloodshot) was a very mixed bag, but with really good moments. Dick continued to innovate: over and over he brought sounds out of the harmonica that had never been heard, playing with wah-wah pedals and phase shifters, among other things. They struggled financially through the whole decade, and I think made a conscious decision finally to see how many records they could sell. Can't really blame a band for that.
The UK is at least as diverse a nation as we are, with many similar problems, and we share a surprising number of anal-retentive characteristics. The Brits voted for BREXIT with less than half the electorate showing up and a lot of votes in favor of it just because they were pissed off at the seeming inability of government to cope and rather than blame it on themselves for electing the Tory wankers, they decided to blame the EU as the representative of all their woes.
The message of protest is often intrinsic or hidden. It has to be quietly subversive because our enemies are among us: our rulers and bosses
We, of course, had less than half the electorate show up and of that, less than half voted for Donald Trump. Our food, beer and dental work is superior; they have better schools for the most part and a functioning national health service, except they've shown in it and the other aspects of community life that if you want to have nice things as a nation, you need to spend the necessary money. Trump shares little with Margaret Thatcher except greed and basic deep-seated meanness.
This was in the LATimes circa 2003, also did some kind of bit on it on NPR.
By Crispin Sartwell
The other day my fifteen-year-old son needed to complete a homework assignment at the very last minute for his Spanish class. From a list of topics he chose to write a biography of Tito Puente. I asked what he knew about Tito Puente, and he told me that he'd googled and found that Tito Puente was a musician and also the leader of a European nation. It came to me that he'd confounded the King of Mambo with the Chair for Life of Yugoslavia.
But the biography would be richer in detail and more coherent if it conflated these eminent lives and so I resolved not to disabuse him. Here, word for word, is his report, for which, with a faith that touched me deeply, he depended on me for the research.
Marshall Tito Puente was that rare combination: political strongman and mambo percussionist. He played the timbale and the vibes as perfectly as he played the political winds that blew through Eastern Europe in the wake of World War 2, riding them to an ecstatic synthesis of absolute power and worldwide pop superstardom.
Indeed, he anticipated the astonishing political/pop crossover acts of our own era, displaying simultaneously the political acumen of a Barbra Streisand and the irresistible pop hookcraft of a Richard Gephardt. He purged his political rivals with the same improvisational megalomania that he employed to dominate the luxurious New York ballrooms of the fifties He'd beat you to death, as it were, with the same sticks he used to make you slither drunkenly around the dance floor in your best outfit.
Marshall Tito Puente was born Josip Broz in 1892 in the tiny village of Kumrovec to a peasant family. He made his name as a salsa agitator in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes between the wars, and was at first an enthusiastic ally of Stalin. Around the same time, he and his sister joined the "Stars of the Future" neighborhood arts organization, where young Tito was noted for his precocious cha-cha. Stalinism served as the model for Tito's "iron irritant of bureaucracy," as well as for his uproarious stage antics, imitated in turn by everyone from Desi Arnaz and Sheila E to Saddam Hussein.
But after leading the Puerto Rican resistance to Hitler - with his death camps and obsession with Patti Page - Tito Puente emerged as the primary figure in the newly constituted Leninist music fad. He served an apprenticeship in some of the finest Latin bands of the period, including those of Juan Peron and Fidel Castro, whom Tito always credited for teaching him the music business.
Finally, he led a fiercely independent Yugoslavia to its break with Charo, whose control of communism on the American airwaves was sagging even as her behavior became more erratic and Diva-esque. At the decisive moment, he issued the classic Dancemania, named in one critics' poll as one of the 25 most influential political manifestoes of the twentieth century.
A newspaper review of the period referred to Tito's "ability to literally drive a crowd crazy with his spicy heat from south of the border," a skill that served him well in international diplomacy, as well as in his efforts to confine political opponents to psychiatric facilities. Later he was to train that seductive beat squarely on Richard Nixon and a series of other American presidents, who invited him to perform at the White House even as they attacked his brand of Marxism. As Watergate broke over a shocked nation, Tito moonlighted as the eldest member of the Jackson 5.
He was declared President for Life in 1976, and in his career recorded about 120 albums, more than almost any other dictator in history. He won five Yugoslav Grammies. His influence is still felt today among members of the current generation of Latin music stars, such as Selena, Enrique Iglesias, and Pervez Musharraf.
So when someone tries to tell me I can't, I tell them right back about Marshall Tito Puente. Anything you can dream of being - tap-dancing firefighter, incredibly stupid professor of physics, white NBA star, or sweet and sour pork - you can be. Be it all and - like Tito - be so much more.
Crispin Sartwell's latest book is "Extreme Virtue: Truth and Leadership in Five Great American Lives"
it made me want to believe. @crispinsartwell (i) is tweeting a series of contemporary bluegrass gospel songs. i think this is most beautiful popular music, as good or better than it has ever been. here are the first two.
george michael was a fine pop singer. but before you make him an symbol of huiman liberation, you should ponder a bit. @OwenJones84, as others, treat him as a gay icon, in part because of 'i want your sex.' now, i say that is a pretty great princey pop song. but owen jones should watch the video, because it's very apparently hetero, softcore porn. not exactly a feminist document either. you'd have to say that it's one of the most impressive heterosexist works by a gay person.
the man was quite closeted, yes? until he was arrested for public sex. now, you can celebrate 'the party' as human liberation. you can, like michael purported to, find anonymous sex profoundly innovative or something, i suppose. i'm going to sortof try to hide my disgust, whether it's straight or gay. maybe the drugs were great too: all part of the human road to freedom. however, i have a funny feeling that george michael was loaded to the gills with addictions and compulsions, which were enslaving. also destructive: look at his touring and recording arc, and you will see a good artist who couldn't make art anymore, so free was he. also, dead. owen, and everyone, if that's the liberation you want or admire or are pursuing, i'll have to leave you to it.
i really first got exposed to hip hop in maybe '81 or '82, covering the 'get fresh fest' for the baltimore city paper. i saw that lineup three times here and there, i think: basically grandmaster flash and the furious five, fat boys, the teenage ll cool jay, run dmc. it took me some time to even figure out what was going on and why there was no band on stage. i would say that each time i might have been as impressed with whodini (jalil, ecstasy and grandmaster dee) as any of the acts. really, i think they were as good as run dmc, but have been kind of forgotten. 'five minutes of funk' for example, is a great concept, unfoldding in real time ('two minutes left'). some of the tracks, as on 'funky beat' were pretty excellent, radical productions for the era.
New Vets News Network Today Post. -- Lots of music ranging from a Ani di Franco Cover of Woodie Guthrie to Steve Earle and Dukes and Duchesses doing Hillbilly Highway to Gary Allan's remaster Juarez...to the horns of Hattin and the palisade at the Alamo...
If Hume awakened Kant from his doctrinal slumbers, perhaps this can rescue country western music from it lyrical and musical doldrums.
Miranda Lambert is an artist who sits on the cusp of my consciousness -- I listen to her stuff but don't stockpile it. May have to change my approach...This is about as bleak as beauty can be. The video conception is amazing, and the beginning and the climax are parallel. Part cinema noir, part medieval morality play, but fascinating musically and lyrically. She seems to break down the walls of country music's current lyrical malaise in a way that reminds me of Marianne Faithful's comeback...except she still has that marvelous voice where Marianne had in effect re-invented herself as an artist. I have no idea why she has yet to be cast in a Coen Brothers film, in a True Detective or Fargo...
and I promise if you ever hear me contradict myself
it's not a sign of the apocalypse
in my view hip hop had two great phases: early-to-mid '90s and early-to-mid 2000s. the genre reached its maximum commercial potency - at least in one sense - in the former period, and also its mature production styles. so, you know, dre, snoop, tupac on the west coast, the wu and rza and biggie on the east. (the reason i say 'in one sense' is that though you hear less pure hip hop now, you hear it as an element in virtually all pop music all over the world, from nashville to the cote d'ivoire.)
but when i talk about 2000-2010 as a golden age as well, you may be puzzled. i don't mean commercial hip hop, though there were also some relatively interesting artists there, like eminem or lil wayne: i mean 'underground' hip hop. that people understood hip hop to have 'sold out' and (for one thing) become totally apolitical in that period, actually helped create a whole world of non- or anti-commercial artists. they were often extremely radical politically, but also many of them had amazing flow and good-to-great production (production got a lot cheaper in that period).
so, i might mention dead prez, jedi mind tricks, 7l and esoteric, brother ali, j-live, aceyalone, anti-pop consortium, bahamadia, aesop rock, demigodz. but there were many others, and there still are. i do rate immortal technique as the best mc, ever. (eminem is his only rival to my way of thinking.) one of the great artists of the period was atmosphere (minneapolis; mc = slug; dj = ant). "scapegoat" and "god loves ugly" are two of the best songs in hip hop history, i believe.
no wonder you're in love with your therapist. go to sleep my little time bomb.
and look that was not that long ago, and a lot of these people were quite young, and many are still recording, along with a couple of cohorts that they influenced. i want to point out that atmosphere sounds as good or better than ever on fishing blues. slug was never a verbal gymnast like wayne or tech; he was always a killer writer with a cool and accessible voice. he's writing great right now.
i think a number of these artists should have the status of american masters at this point, and atmosphere is just as good and relevant now as they were a decade ago. i also think the beats have steadily improved, and the underlying tracks are actually pretty various; i'm crediting ant with a lot of the excellence of fishing blues. "won't look back" actually sounds like a pop hit, but there are many cool elements and styles throughout.
one good thing you have to live with: hip hop was a completely inter or multi-racial genre by 00s, like jazz in the 30s and 40s, or blues in the 60s and 70s. call it cultural appropriation if you like; i call it music.
after the inxs piece, i was rummaging around in my old clips. i can't seem to find the review of the inxs show, but i found a buttload of other stuff, including the interview with cyndi lauper. the album by her great baby-band blue angel (1980) - which i obsessively praised when i was talking to her, thus getting on her good side - is finally up on itunes etc. i say this album represents one of the greatest vocal performances in pop music history. no one ever sang like that.
actually as far as i can tell, cyndi only has a good side.
this is my review from the old washington evening star:
the star gave me my first shot as a music critic; i was working there as a copy boy. my daddy was a reporter there back in the '50s and early '60s. also i delivered the thing for what seemed like many years; i still remember my stack of papers floating away down nevada ave in hurricane agnes. the star died just a few months after this piece appeared.
there are definitely some excellent young female country singers emerging. last year i praised people like maren morris, cam, hailey witters, and caroline spence. caitlyn smith's ep 'starfire' is more or less in the same vein. of them all, she might be the singiest: pretty stunning range and power. she reminds me of someone who i think of as one of the all-time female pop vocalists: cyndi lauper. it's kind of in a contemporary soul vein, not that far from morris. both, as also the very fine witters, have this love-gospel thing going, which is more or less the origin of soul music in the first place.
i definitely like the bluesiness of these artists. my only criticism of 'starfire' would be that the instrumental tracks are a bit inert; i would have given her a somewhat more stripped-down frame. but she sounds great. here she is from a few years back:
another excellent recent ep is crystal yates's 'the other side.' it's darker in tone: very dark indeed. but the smoky, swampy vibe is compelling.