Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Cold Hard Facts of Music

1. Only in the last few years have I discovered the quirky greatness of Porter Wagoner. He had a syndicated TV show when I was a kid, but he might as well have been from another planet.

A perfectly crafted lyric, with a great little twist there at the end. Note also where he refers to the noises getting "louder from within." Is he referring to the naughty activity inside the house, or to the command hallucinations in his head? In three minutes the narrator goes from clueless innocence ("gosh, I'll sure surprise my wife!") to a hard-bitten cynicism in which he one-ups the worldly stranger.

It's fun to think that during the Summer of Love, when Wagoner would have appeared so out of touch to my 11 year old mind, he was actually singing of the Permanent Things, i.e., the Cold Hard Brutal Unchanging Facts of Life.

Wagoner specialized in a whole sub-genre of tortured and darkly troubled souls, 29 of which are collected in The Rubber Room. And of course, his duets with Dolly Parton define the art.

Here's a little song about another mixed race sociopath for whom things don't turn out well:

2. The Pixies: last truly great rock group? If not, who am overlooking?

3. The greatest live rock album just got greater: The Complete 1971 Fillmore East Concerts by the Allman Brothers Band. Speaking of the Permanent Things, solid audio proof of at least three of the four transcendentals, truth, beauty, and unity (although the latter was no doubt aided by performance enhancing drugs).

For you young 'uns, in this famous track, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, there are two guitar solos. The first one is by Dickie Betts, at about 3:10, and it's great: thoughtful, exploratory, and then passionate at the end. But then, after the organ interlude, comes Duane's solo at 7:48. Notice how it slowly builds to such a peak of intensity (starting at about 10:10), calms down momentarily, and then soars even higher at 11:40. There are lots of virtuosos, but few with that kind of pacing and narrative drive:

4. Fuggin' hippies in the line of fire. Classic!

37 Comments:

Blogger son of a preacher man said...

"The Pixies: last truly great rock group? If not, who am overlooking? "

Motorhead

8/03/2014 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I have to admit I am not a metal fan. Not sure if I've ever even heard one of their tracks. But they also antedate the Pixies and a number of other greats. For example, as much as I loathe REM's politics, their first few albums on IRS are outstanding.

8/03/2014 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Whoa - I dunno why, but I wasn't expecting things to get quite so real at the end of the Wagoner song. Usually that type of story is told as a joke. At least, these days it is. Maybe because to so many people, marriage is a joke and not a sacrament.

One thing I like about a lot of these videos is watching the singers' faces - a good singer is usually telling a story in musical form, not just belting out notes. I thought his face looked awfully serious the whole way through. Once it reached the end, I understood why.

8/03/2014 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

The Allman Brothers track is nice. Can't say the Pixies are doing it for me today, but probably because I'm battling a cold; sinus problems and screaming just don't mix...

8/03/2014 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I love his accent and the timbre of his voice. Just sounds Real. And quintessentially American.

8/03/2014 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It is possible that the Pixies are Boy Music.

8/03/2014 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Tristan loves to hear Tame cranked up in the car on the way to a game, to get him pumped up!

8/03/2014 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

May be - I'm not sure they'd be my thing unless I were in a very particular sort of mood.

8/03/2014 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

lol - definitely boy music :)

8/03/2014 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Neophyte said...

The Replacements - Particularly around the time of the "Tim" album, though they slightly predate the Pixies.
New Model Army - Best Album is "Thunder and Consolation" you will probably like their music, you will definitely hate their politics.
Stereophonics - I love Kelly Jones voice.
I will lose all credibility asking this, but I have always wondered about your opinion of U2 and also Bono, specifically. . . .

8/03/2014 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I guess I don't know the Stereophonics. I love StereoLAB, though. I guess I don't know New Model Army either.

I am just now catching up with the Replacements. I bought one of their albums back in the day -- probably Let it Be -- but they failed to connect. I just recently purchased a compilation & really like it.

I have tried to get into U2, but their appeal escapes me entirely. I much prefer the Bunnymen, who have a similar sound but without the insufferable pretension. Bono seems like a particularly soulless vocalist. Entirely too white. If I were from Ireland, Van Morrison would make me want to give up singing anyway.

8/03/2014 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Southern rock was the last sound of the truly free nature of our nation.

8/03/2014 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Or as Gregg Allman said, there can be no such thing as "Southern rock," being that rock is obviously rooted in the south.

What a northern pretension, as if tedious Manhattan socialists would ever come up with such a liberating medium of expression!

8/03/2014 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger son of a preacher man said...

Actually I am only a "best of" fan when it comes to Motorhead and said that mostly out of jest and my knowledge of Pixies and REM are even less so.

Bob,

It seems you do like British new wave. Ever listen to Peter Murphy?

8/03/2014 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I do not know Peter Murphy. I just listened to samples from the compilation Wild Birds, and my ears are intrigued.

8/03/2014 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I hear a lot of mid-period Bowie in there, also the art song weirdness of Scott Walker.

8/03/2014 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Huh. That either sounds intriguing, or like the audio equivalent of pickles and milk. Not sure which.

8/03/2014 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Hi Bob,

Porter Wagoner's co-star on that great TV show, which I also watched as a kid, was of course Dolly Parton. I didn't understand why I liked that show, but somehow I did.

Dolly's song I will always love you, was written for Porter Wagoner when she left his show for more stardom than he was ever going to have. But he was for real.

8/03/2014 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

O.k. no messing I think I've twigged it. So man has two natures. His animal nature as described by Charles Darwin and when it's transcended his Divine nature as described by Jesus Christ. Your Divine nature will be in invert proportion to your animal nature. The bible refers to the animal nature in man as 'the beast'. Your personal beast can be a lion or a pussycat depending on how well it's been domesticated. TRUE religion will help in the training process, but you must be ever watchful or it can go feral again. Sexual instincts reside in the animal nature, hence celibacy for religious orders. But isn't God taking a chance with man, who has free will and may not continue to procreate and in a few short epochs the dolphins could be scratching their heads when they unearthed the fossils of the dinosaur who found God. If you didn't know any better you'd say that God was playing dice, and loaded dice at that. An atheist might say loaded with libido, but the rest of us would say loaded with Love. Which all reminds me of the catchy little hit of the sixties by the aptly named band 'Amen Corner' called 'If paradise was half as nice'. A lyric of it goes - if paradise was half as nice as heaven that you take me to, who needs paradise I'd rather have you-. I think I'll put my whip and chair away for now and put down a saucer of milk.

8/03/2014 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Verticality + time pretty much = the Adventure of Life. Time without verticality is pointless nihilism, whereas verticality without time is stasis and boredom.

8/03/2014 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Pixies were so great in their day! Even saw them live back then. Replacements are in their league. One of my favorite songs from them is so full American soul and angst.

8/03/2014 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think I figured out why I didn't get them. Too much else going on at the time . Also, between REM, Marshall Crenshaw, Chris Isaak, Long Ryders, X, and others, I suppose I wasn't in the market for another American band.

8/03/2014 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ah. This explains how liberals took over my profession.

8/03/2014 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Skorpion said...

Here's another much-covered country tune with a nasty twist at the end.

8/03/2014 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'd only heard the Gram Parsons version, which is pretty authentic.

8/03/2014 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Evan Sayet is excellent! Anyone read any of his books?

8/03/2014 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

They broke the mold with Gram Parsons. He paved the way for a lot of great bands.

8/03/2014 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Porter was a homeboy. One of a kind.

Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, that was some drumming.

Gram Parsons, I remember coming out of a stoned fog one night, hearing Parsons singing something and thinking, "If only country music were like that." And Emmylou.

8/04/2014 05:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Seems to me the Eagles wrecked country music. After them all the country acts wanted to sound more like rock bands. But as with with "Christian rock," they're not making rock better, just making country worse.

8/04/2014 07:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Dude said...

I hate the frickin' Eagles, man!

8/04/2014 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe if Parsons had stayed within country instead of trying to embrace the rock world, he'd still be alive today. Or at least he might be a proper alcoholic instead of a dead heroin addict. In any event, becoming friends with Keith Richards is a major risk factor for death by any cause.

8/04/2014 07:27:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

It's kind of astounding that he's still alive.

8/04/2014 07:28:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Listening to all this country music reminds me of sitting in hot cars with no AC, cracked vinyl seats, rolled-down windows, someplace very dusty, with a lot of brown and orange decor.

8/04/2014 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Music is in the ear of the "behearer", no doubt, and I generally don't like a lot of what passes for Christian rock, but one group I like a lot is Needtobreathe. They are probably more properly categorized as a crossover band but their last album is more overtly Christian themed. Very good musicians with the lead singer who has a raw quality that I like. Their studio recordings are very good but their live performances are better as the soul of their music is better when unleashed than buttoned up.

They're country boys from Possum Kingdom South Carolina - ya gotta love that.

8/04/2014 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The better country music today is nostalgia or celebrating the fact that one is not very sophisticated.

Imagine a cage match between the androgynous Taylor Swift telling her boyfriend they are never getting back together and Kitty Wells' in her raw reply to Hank Thompson -- "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels".

8/04/2014 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

in 1991, popular titles were:

Extreme, More Than Words (ugh)
Bryan Adams, I Do It For You (ugh)
Wicked Game, Chris Isaak (excellent)
Losing My Religion, REM (meh)

at the same time as

Gonna Make You Sweat, C&C (whee!)
Unbelievable, EMF (meh)
Around the Way Girl, LL Cool J (yep)
Motownphilly, Boyz II Men (uh oh)

it's clear which way the winds of popularity and music technology were blowing

in the same year (Nevermind was 1991), Nirvana was the coup de grace on rock

i.e., rock ended in madness and death

metal (and variations) is the afterlife of rock

in some versions, it's what happened when rock went to hell; in others, purgatory

youtube = rock in heaven

there are exceptions

what we're now seeing in American music, I think, is a complete supernova --

8/04/2014 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Nirvana was heavily influenced by the loud-soft-loud dynamics of the Pixies, but with only one great album, they can't really take their place among the greats. It's like the Hall of Fame -- you need more than just one good year to be selected.

It was right after 1991 that I turned to jazz. The day Cobain died was symbolically more or less the day the (rock) music died, at least in terms of being a vital or innovative form. There have no doubt been good things since them, but nothing really new. As far as I know.

8/04/2014 01:15:00 PM  

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