WHAT WE SHOULD EXPECT FROM CRITICS….

…Well, nothing really. But I present this as a reminder that Donald Trump’s Twitter feed–and Donald Trump’s America–did not spring from a vacuum. And that culture is the tail that wags the political dog:

Cass Elliot–Don’t Call Me Mama Anymore [RCA Victor, 1973]
How about Fatso? D

(Source: Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Consumer Guide, originally printed in The Village Voice…and, not by accident, a long way from Naomi Cohen’s face. She was known for giving better than she got.)

 

PASSING THE TORCH (Segue of the Day: 3/14/17)

I’ve been waiting for these particular Patty Loveless/Miranda Lambert duets to pop up on YouTube with audio to do the performances justice. They’re here at last. And while Patty Loveless can’t truly pass a torch any more than George Jones or Al Green could, Miranda Lambert is the performer who has benefited most–both artistically and commercially–from the ground she broke open, stone by stone, a generation earlier without Rolling Stone or the Village Voice paying the least mind. The way Nashville politics work, Miranda will probably make the Hall of Fame before Patty does. (Go ahead, Nashville, surprise me…I’ll eat crow from now til the Judgement if you do. Cross my heart and hope to die.) But there will never be any doubt about who walks in whose shadow….and they really should do a duet album.

STUPID STUFF PEOPLE SAY ABOUT ELVIS (Quote the Nineteenth)

Haven’t done one of these in a while. One has to take a break sometimes…but, as the world insists on turning round and the sun insists on shining, so to do the crit-illuminati continue in their ceaseless quest to rearrange reality…Ergo:

Elvis might never have been born, but someone else would surely have brought the world rock ‘n’ roll.

No such logic accounts for Bob Dylan. No iron law of history demanded that a would-be Elvis from Hibbing, Minnesota, would swerve through the Greenwich Village folk revival to become the world’s first and greatest rock ‘n’ roll beatnik bard and then—having achieved fame and adoration beyond reckoning—vanish into a folk tradition of his own making.

(J. Hoberman, “Like a Complete Unknown: I’m Not There and the Changing Face of Bob Dylan on Film” Village Voice, November 13, 2007)

Now that, “never been born” bit is maybe a touch too illuminating. It trades the subtler forms of thought control for wish fulfillment.

But as the world’s foremost interpreter of crit-illuminati speak, let me translate the whole thing for you.

Elvis is not one of us. (If we can’t make him go away, we can at least make that point perfectly clear!)

Bob Dylan…he is one of us!

See how simple that is?

One thing I’ve never been clear on is whether there is some sort of entrance exam required for either entry to crit-illuminati circles or promotion therein.

If there is one, I’m pretty sure extra credit must be given for being able to say stupid stuff about Elvis and Bob Dylan at the same time.

MY FAVORITE FANTASY ALBUM (Not Quite Random Favorites…In No Particular Order)

Introducing a new category, “Not Quite Random Favorites”:

Beginning with My Favorite Fantasy Album, just beating out Al Green Sings the Delta Blues, which should have occurred along about 1978.

The Shangri-Las Do Dylan (which should have occurred along about 1966)

Preferably with this for the cover photo.

SHANGS1

Inevitably, of course, the humorless plugs in legal and marketing would have liaisoned and changed the title to The Shangri-Las Sing Bob Dylan’s Golden Hits or something. No matter. I would have settled for any compromise if it meant hearing Mary Weiss take on “I Want You,” which she once listed as one of her ten favorite records.

As for how the enlightened would have dealt with any of that (under any title or any cover), you can check this fascinating little time capsule from The Village Voice published in the immediate aftermath of Dylan “going electric” to a chorus of boos at Newport in 1965. (Unfortunately, you have to squint and read the article as a reproduction. I found it worth the effort but in case you don’t here’s the relevant statement: “The irony of the folklorists and their parochial ire at Dylan’s musical transgressions is that he is not Guthrie or the Shangri-Las, but this generation’s most awesome talent. And in 60 years you will read scholarly papers about his themes (terror, release) and the images (so similar to the disharmonies and exaggerations of a William Burroughs). And those learned men will be benefited by the most comprehensive set of readings that any poet ever provided.”

Of course, the Shangs’ reference is buried in contemporary hipster post-ironic irony (or something along those lines) delivered in the style which exists so that any inferred meaning can be accepted or denied as the situation calls for.

Meaning one is going out on a limb to say for absolute certain that it’s not a compliment.

Believe me. It’s not a compliment.

One of these days I’ll write about Dylan’s version of “Talkin’ World War III Blues” from Volume 6 of his official bootleg series, which captures his concert at the Philharmonic in the fall of 1964 (one of the greatest concert recordings ever, incidentally). That includes the bit where he slapped the Shangri-Las and Martha and the Vandellas up side the head and got one of the biggest laughs of the night. It may, among other things, explain why a Village Voice writer would not-so-randomly pull the Shangri-Las out of the air and stick them between Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. But for now, I’ll just dream on…and then look at things like this and wonder who the real revolutionaries were. (As Weiss once said about the London rivalry between the Mods and the Rockers: “I got off the plane dressed in black leather. They definitely knew where I stood!” Got her clothes in the Village by the way.)

shangs2

Next up: My Favorite Murder Ballad.

BEFORE WE MOVE ALONG….TURNS OUT GREIL MARCUS PUNKING THE SHANGRI-LAS IS NOTHING NEW (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #34)

…Why am I not surprised.

I’m still ruminating on a review of Marcus’ latest (much of which, as I’ve repeatedly written, I liked).

Meanwhile I came across this (while researching a link between Maria McKee and Patty Loveless…the internet is a very strange place).

Summarizing for those who don’t want to read the whole thing (which I do recommend as a valuable insight into the “standard rock narrative” echo chamber): It’s a lengthy essay on the Girl Group ethos (in which Marcus first conveniently limits the form to his own preconceptions, then repeats–or perhaps invents…it’s from 1975–the canard that this consummate singers’ music is “producers’ music”….and must be, because the singers are, well, girls). And he concludes with this:

Is there something that will wrap up the social, political, and sexual meaning of girl group rock? I’m not sure there is. Every time I try to draw a lesson from these wonderful records, it seems to defraud them, to be beside the point. At least, my points are beside theirs. What do they all come to? I don’t know.

But I do know this. If you listen to the Shangri-Las’ “I Can Never Go Home Any­more,” cut in 1965, you will find that the lead singer’s voice, from its tone to its phrasing, exactly matches, down to the most subtle inflection, the voice of Patty Hearst, on the tapes she made with the SLA.

(Source: Greil Marcus: “Girl Groups: How the Other Half Lived,” The Village Voice, September 8, 1975)

I confess I had never heard the Patty Hearst tapes before. So I followed the link (which I’ve re-created below) and…..

I’ve heard them now.

From its tone to its phrasing, it is as far removed from “the lead singer’s voice” (i.e., Mary Weiss) as two members of the same species can be.

To get this…

from this…

…is to truly “defraud” oneself.

Not to mention others.

I mean, what Marcus is essentially saying here is that the great “girl group” singers (a phrase nearly all of them detest, in part because it feeds the logic animating a piece like this one) were on a spiritual plane with a brainwashed hostage of a terror group.

That’s not just stupid, it’s vile.

I know I’ve been coming back to these themes a lot lately and I do plan to move on (if the world and the internet will let me!)

Meanwhile….Good God.