WELL, WE MUST TAKE WHAT WE CAN GET (MORE NOTES FROM THE STORY THAT NEVER ENDS)

So NPR compiled a list of the 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women (since 1964). You can read the rationale for the list here. It covers–or, if you like, CYA’s–the usual caveats for such lists. They were a little vague on why a list designed to put women “at the center” should have its starting point defined by the Beatles (Why not Julie London (as great an album maker as Frank Sinatra in the fifties)? Or Billie Holiday? Why not be really transformative and shake up the whole narrative, if it’s the whole narrative that needs shaking? And, if it doesn’t, why not just say so?).

But I’ll leave hashing all that out for some other day.

Today, I’m not gonna carp. Because the Shangri-Las made the list!

I only kind of wish (and I’m not complaining–that album cover above you hangs in my den, framed) they had made it with their other, stronger album (the even better version of Shangri-Las ’65*)

…which I like to say has cast a longer shadow than Rubber Soul or Highway 61 Revisited.

Or Blue (the Joni Mitchell album that tops the NPR list–like all corporate lists, it’s not long on surprises).

Of course, I say that with tongue in cheek.

Mostly.

But it’s funny what happens in shadows. I just saw Wonder Woman win WWI at the multiplex last week…and she did it looking and acting a lot more like a Shangri-La than anything her original comic-strip creators envisioned.

If you see Bob Dylan’s shadow hovering over the multiplex, where the genuine, authentic, one hundred percent true-life fantasy America persists in re-creating itself these days, be sure to let me know.

I’m not saying it’s a good thing either.

Just that it’s a thing.

An overwhelming thing.

That Wonder Woman, she’s fifty feet tall.

For now, though, I’m gonna let all the caveats go, and just use this as a reason to smile in a grim world.

[*–Shangri-Las ’65 was released before “I Can Never Go Home Any More” became a big hit. Their label then released a new version of the LP, re-titled after the hit, with “I Can Never Go Home Any More,” one the era’s greatest sides, replacing “The Dum Dum Ditty,” one of the few Shangs’ sides that isn’t great. I should probably add that “this has probably cast a longer shadow than Rubber Soul or Highway 61 Revisited” is something I first scribbled about Shangri-Las ’65 in one of those notebooks all writers keep about thirty years ago, before I knew I Can Never Go Home Any More, the album, existed. I’ve repeated it a few times since, including on this blog. But I ask again–who else joins the Ramones and Madonna at the hip? And what’s more “influential” than that?]

16 thoughts on “WELL, WE MUST TAKE WHAT WE CAN GET (MORE NOTES FROM THE STORY THAT NEVER ENDS)

  1. 1964…well that’s random.
    This reminds me of the way they count record sales beginning with 1958, ignoring Elvis in 1956 and 1957. Are you kidding me?

    There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Billie Holiday’s talent. When the Lady sang, you felt it. My favorite albums are Lady In Satin and Last Recording. Not long before her death, her voice seemed a rough counterpoint to the smooth orchestra, led by Ray Ellis. She takes my breath away.

    At least the Shangri-Las are given some of their due. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be much of a list. Given the way Girl Groups are usually treated, or not treated, we should be grateful, I suppose.

    • Yes, picking 1964 was very odd, considering the impetus for the list was supposed to be shifting the notion of significance to female artists–making them central in fact. 1964 was basically when college age males started taking pop music seriously (at least that’s the narrative). Complicated subject to say the least. But in some minds, the “sixties” must always rule. As someone who loves a lot of the sixties myself, I still find myself bemused.

      Agree with all you say, of course, about Lady Day!

  2. Were compilations, best-of LPs, etc. omitted? Without those, some great girl groups who lived on 45 would be skipped. There was never a Crystals album, for instance, that wasn’t a “greatest hits” collection, as far as I’m aware. This isn’t to mention that the Shangs’ “official” albums were essentially compilations of prior 45s.

    The funny part about the 1964 boundary is that the Beatles actually started recording for E.M.I. in ’62, and found commercial success — while influencing myriad others — in ’63.

    I can dig the Yank perspective, I guess, considering that girl groups were, like rock ‘n’ roll itself, fundamentally American.

    Your words about the long shadow cast by the quartet evoke some JWR statements that bear revisiting. You’ve previously pointed out some great stuff about how — this is what I read into it, anyway — they were the first group of young rock ‘n’ roll singers to be entirely self-invented, notwithstanding some help from those who signed them and created skeletons into which Shangri-Life could be breathed.

    They had certainly been harmonizing impeccably before they ever met anyone from the record business; theirs wasn’t a group assembled by an agent or producer. If Spector had ever gotten involved, he could never have passed them off as the Crystals, the Blossoms or anyone but themselves. Along those lines, “Nobody sang on Shangri-Las records except Shangri-Las” (M.W.).

    Their influence, direct or indirect, on pretty much every female rock ‘n’ roll / rock artist to subsequently arrive, along with the whole of punk (new wave has always sounded like Disco II to me, rather than the Punk II it was sold as), concerned that insistence on being individualistic and standing apart from the rest, musically and extramusically. There’s also the highly significant attitude aspect, of course.

    I sum it up this way: successfully exuding strength and individuality as women without trying to imitate men. (The lesson could stand to be re-learned nowadays.)

    Anyway, I hope you don’t mind; this is from “The Return of Mary Weiss” (11/3/13):

    “In breaking a lifetime of silence regarding her career with the Shangri-Las, Weiss has [in the Norton interview] driven about a hundred new nails in the coffin of Standard Rock Theology’s most damaging falsehood — that because they were female and often impossibly young, many of the greatest singers of the rock and roll era owed their success primarily to svengali-like male producers rather than their own drive and talent.

    “This lie is rooted in a deep, almost willful misunderstanding of SINGING AS A CREATIVE PROCESS, fully equal to writing and producing” [emphasis mine].

    “From her, we learn that the Shangri-Las’ revolutionary dress and stage manner — which instantly and permanently changed the way women could present themselves in popular culture and left a long, deep shadow on the New York street scenes that would eventually produce both punk and rap — were entirely their own. That they worked closely with their producers and arrangers at every stage concerning what they would record and how. That their impeccable, drop-dead harmonies, always a vastly under-appreciated aspect of the female group sound, were forged by years of practice in a hyper-competitive environment, where literally hundreds of fine groups never made it off the streets and only a handful ever had a hit…”

    Vital, and altogether too rare, observations.

    By this point, their influence is spiderweb-like and incalculable. In fact, this was already true as early as the ’80s. Suzi, the Runaways, and even the Ramones had been more obvious, direct descendents than, say, the Go-Gos. The latter might have made coke-cut mincemeat out of “Remember,” but the impetus behind their attempt was genuine.

    Mary’s ongoing integrity should also be taken into account, as it bears out, without exception over sheer decades, her quartet’s displays of non-conformity and sticking to one’s guns, which some of her proteges haven’t possessed. She resisted easy retirement on the proceeds of oldies revues, joined in rejecting material that “just wasn’t right” in ’77 (when Paley dropped the ball), and refused to “wear a rose in her hair and dance around.” Debbie Harry had no problem succumbing to the day’s faddish trappings. (At least “Heart of Glass” was, as far as I know, a one-off.)

    After all, why would any former Shangri-La follow trends after knowing what it was like to actually create them?

    Even if appearances on silly lists achieve nothing more than to return the Shangs to public attention, they thus nudge us a bit closer to the four-hour documentary that Mary and Liz are going to oversee and narrate, featuring a bunch of never-seen footage!

    A guy can dream.

    (Good thing, too, or Mary would never have been propositioned by the Norton owner.)

    The Shangs’ impact is even heard in the derivative jambalaya that is modern rock — the best of which, with each new album (switching to subjectivity now), screws with my sensibilities like only the most earnest, individualistic art / entertainment can, and makes me question my rather purist tastes in a healthful, palette-expanding way. If there’s not a portion of Mary Weiss in Shirley Manson, along with a generous helping of Shangs subject-matter influence in her lyrics, I’m as deaf as a Mercury Records executive.

    • Yes, they excluded comps (as in anything entitled “Best of” or “Greatest Hits” or the like). Leader of the Pack and first LPs by the Supremes and Ronettes were included (and are, as you say, basically collections of singles). It probably made the job easier and definitely weighed against 60s acts in general–especially those who have never been taken seriously by the very Narrative the list was supposedly meant to question, if not overturn.

      Still, I’m glad the Shangs were included. As we both agree, one of the things that was “shocking” about them, was that they broke all previous molds–and made new molds which are still being worked out, albeit in a fragmented culture (which is our problem, not theirs–they broke the old chains, only to see everyone from the political leadership to the crit-illuminati who didn’t get them the first time around forge new ones–our loss, but, truth be told the normal way of revolutions).

      And I have to say I was in a more optimistic place when I wrote the words you generously quote (I actually wrote the piece in 2007 and it was published in Rock and Rap Confidential–one of the events that started me thinking seriously about doing a blog some day!). Not a REAL optimistic place, mind you. I’ve been a pessimist/realist since the 1980 presidential election. But I still thought Rock and Roll America (a concept I’m gonna have to give a more definite shape as time goes by, since I keep referring to it) had a chance to survive, even if rock and roll, per se, wasn’t going to be anything but fringe music henceforth. Ah well….the divisions you speak of (between punk and New Wave even, much as the marketing departments tried to make them seem simpatico), have proven too much to accommodate. Everybody wanted to run back to their tribes. Everybody more or less has. And if Rock and Roll America is gone, then I figure “America” will soon follow–so now I’m a pessimist!

      Which is one reason I have to approach these lists cautiously….I started out with a piece about all the things that had been left out but it was turning into a kind of rant and that doesn’t help anything. The day I lose my sense of humor about this is the day I stop writing! (Just for instance they had Aretha Franklin recording her early soul sides in American Studios instead of Muscle Shoals…ay, yay, yay, yay!)

      But the main reason I keep gnawing at all this, is I still think the lessons from our Fall can be valuable to the future. And you never know who’s tuning in!

      Love the link BTW–had kind of forgotten about Garbage. They were one of the few bands I liked coming out of the alt-era (or whatever it was called).

      “I’m only happy when it rains.”

      Now THAT’s influence!

      • Absolutely: A sense of humor is essential. One of the funniest fallacies in the Narrative that you cite is the pre-assumption that meaningful, moving, exciting, influential and / or enduring rock ‘n’ roll didn’t truly begin until the British “invaded.”

        It’s not that I don’t like the Beatles, Stones, etc., of course; but it seems that anytime something comes up about ’60s music, whether in print or documentaries, it’s always “Beatles, Beatles, Beatles.” The gravity center of nearly every story told about the early days of rock ‘n’ roll — the nucleus into which everything leads — is the melodramatically proclaimed “arrival of four lads from Liverpool.”

        Sure, they held massive influence; but some of the greatest music ever recorded already existed (just ask the lads themselves, who were merely bringing it back to us at first) and was yet to come, and its birthplace had been, and would be, America.

        Western Worlders always run off the end of the earth with a fad. British rock ‘n’ roll and recycled rhythm ‘n’ blues were turned into fads by millions of kids, in spite of (almost separately) being musical styles and art forms. The novelty of it all was more appealing over here than the music itself.

        My general attitude toward “Beatles, Beatles, Beatles” is “Well, sure, but some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll pioneers and inventors were still writing and / or recording right here in the very birthplace of that music, thank you very much.”

        Your overlapping of Rock ‘n’ Roll America with America itself is therefore much more than a romantic notion, of course.

        (I still get a sad kick — as it were — out of the fact that the Shangri-Las’ last line on new wax was “And the music will play as the world fades away.” I’m not exactly sure why I find that so affecting. Maybe it serves as a great analogy for…us, as we closely clutch our favorite music and shout “You’ll never take us alive” at vacuous, derivative 21st-century pop? The whole country? Existence? What’s especially intriguing is that the song was penned by the Shondells’ usual writing team. Could Goldner still have been exerting some influence over material selection, even after the demise of Red Bird and the Shangs’ move to Mercury? Maybe nobody alive really knows.)

        • As to your last point, I think it’s one more example of the Shangri-Las having a kind of perfect arc–not the arc we, or they, might have wished for (of course there should be more music!)….but perhaps one they were meant for. It’s unique to them, in the same way the arc stretching from “Go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do” to “Man can’t you see the world’s on fire” is unique and perfect for the Mamas and the Papas. Just two examples (among not all that many really) of people so perfectly matched to their own Zeitgeist that they seem, in retrospect, almost inevitable…even though we know they weren’t!

          Highly recommend Tommy James’ autobiography BTW, for a fun read that’s also a great look inside the mob-infested machinations of the New York record biz in the period….Nothing specific to Goldner or Red Bird that I recall, but James’ mentor, Morris Levy, was the one who kept taking over record labels (including Red Bird) as compensation for Goldner’s gambling debts.

          Getting back to the Narrative–yes, it’s almost laughably ironic that the NPR folks chose 1964 and the British Invasion as their inflection point. One way to read the musical narrative of the 60s is as a series of what the Progs might call “white backlash” moments–For nearly a decade rock and roll was ruled by blacks, hillbillies and urban ethnics (heavy on Jews and Italians). Culminating, of course, in a “girl group” era where almost all the top talent, before and behind the scenes, was black or ethnic immigrant.

          And then…Voila! (to coin a phrase). Surf Rock. The British Invasion. Folk Rock. The San Francisco Sound. The Second British Invasion (heavy on British White Blues), Bubble Gum. Heck even the Garage Band explosion emphasized whiteness and suburbia (what’s whiter and more suburban than a garage?)

          And, of course, eventually, Punk–the whitest genre of all, since the others were all at least rooted in basic blues chords.

          But you could make an argument, in retrospect, that the original British Invasion was a kind of canary in the coalmine, warming of imminent disaster. Once the “thank God this rock and roll business will finally belong to us” idea took hold, it never quite got rooted out again. (And, as I’m gonna make a point of exploring in a post coming up some time in the near future, had it not been for the purely anomalous existence of Berry Gordy and Motown, Rock and Roll America as a racially inclusive idea would have probably died in the mid-sixties.)

          So finally there’s another irony in the Shangri-Las, who did so much to foment punk attitude, being the only new white act in the aftermath of the Brits arriving, to connect with black audiences. The culture’s subsequent failures of imagination weren’t theirs. I suspect that’s one reason their music feels so much like a lifeline to a lost world.

          Well that and Shadow Morton bumping into the only teenage girl in New York whose father had been found hanging from a telephone pole when she was barely old enough to walk and had grown up to have a voice like no other.

          Did I mention they were perfect?

          But you knew that.

          • Great points; I admit that I’ve never contemplated the whites-usurping-black-music angle (beyond the unintended humor of, say, Pat Boone singing Little Richard songs). Blacks had clearly, irrefutably invented rock ‘n’ roll, as it could have easily existed without “hillbilly” music — but not without “race” music. It would always be viewed by bigots as morally dangerous black music, regardless of who sang it.

            (Well, unless it was Pat Boone. He could squeeze the life out of anything.)

            Now that you’ve pointed out the possible relief of the Beatles’ whiteness on the brows of the old guard, I can’t help but to wonder how many feathers were ruffled by the Fabs’ hailing of black American rockers.

            What you note about the Shangs in that context leads me to try imagining James Brown’s shock upon seeing anyone else’s pigment. I can’t!


            Bonus Comment, Inc. Ltd. (TM) (R)

            The following is quoted from a 1968 essay written by Frank Zappa called “The Oracle Has It All Psyched Out” (whatever that means). I’m including it because I think you’d find it interesting. It certainly touches upon some points you’ve made in prior pieces, and others you’ve danced around (intentionally, one presumes, as the can-of-worms metaphor doesn’t say the half of it).

            Zappa’s use of the lone word “rock” for the whole shebang is probably a mere byproduct of the 1968 vernacular. (For reference, Hal Zeiger was a ’50s concert promoter.)

            [Quoting:]

            The early public dances and shows which featured rock were frowned upon by the respectable parents of the community. They did everything they could to shield their impressionable young ones from the ravages of this vulgar new craze.

            Hal Zeiger: “They did everything they could to make sure their children were not moved erotically by Negroes.”

            From the very beginning, the real reason Mr. & Mrs. Clean, White America objected to this music was the fact that it was performed by black people. There was always the danger that one night — maybe in the middle of the summer, in a little, pink party dress — Janey or Suzy might be overwhelmed by the lewd, pulsating jungle rhythms and do something to make her parents ashamed.

            Parents, in trying to protect their offspring from whatever danger they imagined to be lurking within the secret compartments of this new musical vehicle (rock music), actually helped to shove them in front of it, whereupon they were immediately run over.

            The attitude of parents helped to create a climate wherein the usage of rock music (as a pacifier, or perhaps an anesthetic experience) became very necessary. Parents offered nothing to their children that could match the appeal of rock.

            It was obvious to the kids that anyone who did not like (or attempt to understand) rock music had a warped sense of values. To deny rock music was to deny sexuality. Any parent who tried to keep his child from listening to or participating in this musical ritual was, in the eyes of the child, trying to castrate him.

            [The next paragraph reminds me of your words, very early on this website, about how “everyone has a voice.”]

            There was much resistance on the part of the music industry itself. Zeiger: “I remember a conversation with M– D–, a very famous songwriter, who has written many of our all-time favorites. He chided me for being involved with this kind of music and entertainment, and I said to him, ‘M–, you are just upset because it has been discovered and revealed that a song written by some young, colored child in a slum area can capture the fancy of the American public more effectively than a song written by you, who lives in a Beverly Hills mansion.'”

            [End quote]

  3. Well Zappa certainly had the Narrative down–interesting that it had already taken such hold by 1968. I can’t agree that it’s quite that simple, though. Yes, race music–or, as Jerry Wexler termed it, “Rhythm and Blues”–was the main, direct source of Rock and Roll. But it’s easy now, to forget how much “hillbilly” was in black music itself. Everybody from Howlin’ Wolf to Ray Charles to Louis Jordan to Chuck Berry to Charlie Parker freely acknowledged how foundational country was to their own music. (If you want to take it back further and go higher up the social scale, early jazz masters like Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton were proud of their ability to master white classical forms–and so on and so on. Music is a VERY insidious art.) As for the “mom and dad were frightened of the negroes” etc. I can only say that I’ve known of plenty of middle age white folks (including my very conservative mother–thirty-seven when she skipped work to see Elvis) who were huge fans of rock n roll (including Little Richard, who was as far out as it got). So while I’m sure the scenario Zappa references was a thing, it was hardly the whole truth–how much of it was imposed on the past by those who grew up to be rock intelligentsia of some sort (like Zappa himself) is hard to tease out. I don’t say he was wrong–just that he might not have had the whole story.

    I can tell you one thing: most southern whites weren’t afraid of black people–they were afraid of other whites. To accept race mixing is one thing. To accept that it’s YOUR house that will be burned down for your tolerance is another. Few have that sort of courage when it’s them the worst might happen to. Rock and Roll America was terrifying and exhilarating in its implications because it suggested the cross burners might be made obsolete–and they were. Post Rock and Roll America is dispiriting because we threw it all away and ran back to the Tribes. Doubly dispiriting because it didn’t have to be this way.

    Hope I don’t live to see what Post America looks like!

  4. Oh, I’m sure he didn’t have nearly the whole story — as you’ve implied, he was working from a very chronologically close perspective. Not bad without much hindsight, though. Apart from whatever the essay claimed about race, it bluntly pointed out, at quite an early date for such unapologetic directness, that young rock ‘n’ roll listeners felt that the development of their very sexuality was at stake.

    The whole essay (which appeared in Life at the end of June) is rather black and white — the pun is not intentional — but context helps: Zappa had grown up in a couple of small California towns near San Diego, and he and his family had dealt with a lot of bigotry against Italians, a byproduct of the second War. He immediately identified with early doo-wop and was arrested as a teenager for putting together an integrated R&B band. (The arrest was supposed to prevent the group’s first gig. It didn’t work, as his folks bailed him out.)

    So he was going to immediately zero in on the racial aspect of the anti-rock ‘n’ roll contingent when asked to write about the music’s history. I don’t think he was claiming that all whites — or all Southern American whites — hated the music. He was addressing those who did try to squash it. (Many weren’t in the South; I remember reading about some kind of huge anti-rock ‘n’ roll campaign in Detroit, for instance.)

    Do you think disco might have been some kind of collective, unconscious attempt at getting the tribes back together? (If only it had been based on musical merit more than dancing!)

    • Interesting how we all see it through our own lens first! John Cole’s biography of Fats Domino digs into the history of music riots going back to the twenties (all over the country, often with race mixing at the center, some way or other). The real promise of rock and roll was that we could live together….a concept that seems to be receding, alas. It may only be that when we finally got to the hard part, we just weren’ t up to it. The really depressing part is that probably means no one is.

      But yes, disco was definitely the closest we’ve come to re-creating the fifties crossover as a cultural moment. I like the music better than you do (though I confess my conception of disco was narrow at the time–didn’t realize when “December 1963” brought me into the record stores ready to spend my own money for the first time that I was buying a “disco” record)….That, too, was co-opted, only more quickly. The unfortunate part is that the mechanized aspects of disco became the industry and cultural norm, while the great singing that marked so much of it, became passe at best (and forgotten at worst).

      Reminds me I need to get back to work on my Vocal History of Rock and Roll category…break down the difference between disco and funk for starters.

      So much to do…so little time!

  5. Just for reference / just for the rhetorical hell of it: I define disco as “music created expressly for dancing.” It’s not my type. I’m a sucker for melody.

    To make matters worse, I don’t like or understand dancing itself. Music is for the ears. It needs (and is enhanced by) no extras, visual or otherwise. So you can see the problem when it comes to my trying to comprehend the existence of disco — or MTV, for that matter!

    It’s not even criticism of dancers. This is subjective stuff. I simply never got the point. I don’t have to, of course. Musicians are already involved in the music — at the productive end. (Ooh, that was snotty. It was so snotty that I’m keeping it there, just so others may enjoy a laugh at my accidental arrogance.)

    When everything is subdued in favor of some non-expressive robot beat, the song doesn’t taste good to my ears.

    The Four Seasons don’t count as disco. The ’75 song you mentioned is, like ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” a superb attempt at recreating the groove in “Rock Your Baby” by George McCrae, while adding a new melodic line. It works. That’s not disco — it’s distinctly soul.

    (While typing that, I realized all over again how goofy categories and labels ultimately are, especially when it comes to wildly eclectic styles such as rock and soul. I just wanted to selfishly define disco as dancing music, period, almost as a disclaimer regarding my comments. Disco is also always handy for some cheap ‘n’ easy humor, as it has been since the ’70s, and I can rarely resist the temptation when the opportunity rears its head.)

    Co-composed by a certain Mr. Casey you’ve written about:

    • Well to your definition of “music created expressly for dancing” I’d add the word “mechanized.” Not sure if I would put it in front of “music” or “dancing” but it should be in there somewhere. Lots of prior music was for dancing, including a lot of early r &b, western swing, etc. So you can make something great with it–even if it has a melody! (Though, to be fair, I’ve heard “Dancing Queen” described as a disco record you can’t dance to–I can’t speak to that myself because, like you, I don’t dance a lick.)

      But, like any genre definition with music (“genre” works better with literature and film, though, even there, it’s not perfect), it gets tricky. “December 1963” is probably best described as a good old fashioned white R&B record with a disco bridge. Which is why I could tell myself it was NOT a disco record, back when I hated disco–and can tell myself it IS one, now that I don’t hate disco.

      Funny how that works!….Our own little lens can be a shifting lens.

      But, as I’ve said re Mr. Casey in the past, if no overarching term like “Disco” had been applied to the development of certain styles in the mid-seventies, his band would have been heard as the great southern funk band they were–and they’d probably be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by now.

      Somewhere along the way, I’ll have to flesh out my theory of American Music in the 20th Century, which has something to do with the ways in which beat-happy African-Americans kept toying with melody (in the name of Subversion) and tune-oriented Euro-Americans kept worrying rhythm (in the name of maintaining Order).

      Not sure if I can handle all that in a blog-post, though. Have to get deep in the bones of the country’s history….might take a book.

      • Indeed — the part about the rise, fall, rise and fall of Stax would fill a book by itself. You’d then possibly feel the need to tie in some contemplation about why so many allowed the Dream to die with the Dreamer in ’68. That was surely the beginning of the re-fracturing you speak of. No independent recording studio that mixed white and black survived intact after that, from Chicago to Memphis to Muscle Shoals.

        Then came the Panthers, the dashikis…can you imagine music meaning as much in this century as it did around the middle of the last?

        (I guess it does, in a way — if we consider it a reflection of society’s vacuousness and regression to the cattle instinct.)

        It would be a nigh heartbreaking book to write. Maybe it’s more educational to simply take in the deep pain and bright, desperate hope in Mavis Staples’s voice.

        Agreed, re: the Sunshine Band. Those guys were a hell of a lot more than boogie men.

        • I’m thinking I want to write a book about Elvis’ relationship to black music….a weirdly underwritten subject (lots of complaints about it, just not much in the way understanding).

          But don’t tell anyone. I have to become a well known fiction writer first!

          • You will! Until then, mum’s the word. Personally, I’d inhale such a book. Nobody seems to bother digging into Elvis’s genuine love of, and long identification with, black music. And with all respect to Thornton and her great rendition of “Hound Dog”……I really LIKE Elvis’s version, damn it!

            (GASP! Sacrilege! Out of town with you, heathen!)

  6. That’s actually a very good example. People seem bound to choose–but both versions are great and Elvis’ is almost an entirely different record, arrived at through circuitous circumstances to say the least. But the main thing is, there’s no NEED to choose….which was sort of the point of Elvis’ music throughout his life…Here’s this BETTER way. I think we kind of forgot about that somewhere along the way.

Leave a Reply