POE THE FRONTIER PHILOSOPHER (Great Quotations)

My major reading goal for the year was/is to read the Running Press edition of The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe. I’m a bit more than halfway through so I’m right on course. The surprising thing so far has been just how little of Poe’s output was dedicated to the tales of horror and the macabre for which he’s best (and nowadays almost solely) known.

Horror was definitely his metier…you can literally feel his pulse quicken–the writer finding himself–when he writes his first true horror scene in “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.”

But, like most great writers he had many dimensions. His greatness in horror came from a much deeper foundation. Here in “The Journal of Julius Rodman,” he gets as far into the heart of the frontier adventurer as even Fenimore Cooper, with whom most people forget he was an almost exact contemporary:

“Some singular evidences of the feeling which more or less pervaded us all occurred during the prosecution of the voyage. Interests, which, in the settlements, would have been looked upon as of the highest importance, were here treated as matters unworthy of a serious word, and neglected, or totally discarded upon the most frivolous pretext. Men who had traveled thousands of miles through a howling wilderness, beset by horrible dangers, and enduring the most heart-rending privations for the ostensible purpose of collecting peltries, would seldom take the trouble to secure them when obtained, and would leave behind them without a sigh an entire cache of fine beaver skin rather than forego the pleasure of pushing up some romantic-looking river, or penetrating into some craggy and dangerous cavern, for minerals whose use they knew nothing about, and which they threw aside as lumber at the first decent opportunity.

“In all this my own heart was very much with the rest of the party…”

(June, 1940).

Thus was America born. How it dies will be up to us I guess.

SUZI Q REMEMBERS ELVIS…AND LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE, IT’S HER OWN WAY (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #157)

There’s a new documentary out on Suzi Quatro, the pioneering rocker who sold fifty million records worldwide but is best known in her native land for a hit duet and a part-time role on Happy Days. Sheila O’Malley reviewed the documentary for Ebert.com. You can find the review by following the link here.

Then Sheila and I got into a wide-ranging chat about women in rock (which you can find by following the link above and scrolling to the comments) and she sent me a link to something I just gotta share here. Please look, listen and smile:

If the YouTube thread sends you straight to “Stumblin’ In” like it did me…just keep listening.

TO THE LONG, HOT SUMMER AHEAD (Late Night Dedication: 7/2/20)

I think we might be about five cosmic minutes away from the national media discovering that Antifa and Black Lives Matter are secretly funded by the Trump campaign. Meanwhile, no matter what happens, I plan to gas up my BB pistol (yep, it’s one of those) and dance in my underwear where the neighbors can see me.

That oughta keep ’em at bay when they come to burn my record collection. I hope so, because I’d hate for any hooligans to find out one of these things can still take your eye out at twenty paces, just like mama said.

Everybody’s been warned so CRANK IT:

THE LAST TEN RECORDS I LISTENED TO (Summer 2020, Countdown)

Another all-vinyl edition….

10) The Miracles Greatest Hits From the Beginning (1965)

Even after the old three record Anthology from the 70’s and one of the greatest box sets ever from the 90’s, this is still part of every basic record library. Nowhere else can you experience the unadulterated joy and pain of the young Smokey Robinson quite so purely or all at once or so connected to his (and Motown’s) doo wop roots. When you’re listening, it’s impossible to believe that he actually got better.

9) Various Artists Atlantic Jazz: Kansas City (1986)

This was part of an extensive series the Atlantic label issued in the 1980’s to exploit their considerable Jazz catalog. It’s the only one I picked up along the way and this is probably only the second time I’ve listened to it. Put it this way: It has me considering tracking down the whole series.

8) Burning Spear Rocking Time (1974)

This is the album Winston Rodney released just before his monumental Marcus Garvey which, especially in its double-cd tandem Garvey’s Ghost (which Greil Marcus once called surf music with slave ships on the horizon, a description that will never be bettered) is one of the essential albums of all time. My copy’s on the original Studio One label and I can’t say whether the scratchy quality is from a primitive recording or just crappy vinyl. Somehow it adds to the music’s ghostly quality. I’m not sure I’ll ever have the nerve to listen close.

7) Jerry Butler The Best of Jerry Butler (1970)

A talisman of my life. If more people could say the same, the world would be a better place, because from this distance the Iceman sounds like a man trying to heal a world that pointedly and specifically refused the medicine and opted for nihilism instead. Wonder how that’s working out…

6) Jackie Wilson Jackie Sings the Blues (1960)

A recent discovery and a miracle. The only overlap with his various excellent comps is “Doggin’ Around.” I always wondered what a whole album of Jackie in “Doggin’ Around” mode would sound like. Now I know: Epochal.

5) Various Artists Less Than Zero Soundtrack (1987)

A trash metal soundtrack to a desultory movie about a desultory time, broken by occasional nods to nascent hip hop…And elevated to permanent relevance by two startling sides: LL Cool J’s sly, menacing “Going Back to Cali” and the Bangles complete re-imagining of Paul Simon’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” as a hard rock anthem to die for, both of which evoke the hellish landscape of 80’s America far better than the movie did.

4) Various Artists Beserkley Chartbusters Volume I (1975)

The most famous power pop compilation from the most famous power pop label. Not bad but I can never help remembering that Raspberries had already taken this concept as far as it could go so it mostly makes me want to listen to Raspberries.

3) Jefferson Airplane Volunteers (1969)

This has been in heavy rotation on my turntable of late. I can’t imagine why. What with the proof that 1969 never really ended because we never really resolved its contradictions all over the news yet again maybe I keep thinking that if this is never going to provide the answers it will at least lead me back to a clarification of the questions. Not bad for a bunch of Limo Libs. Still the first album I’d play for a youngster who wanted to begin understanding the Sixties.

2) Spirit The Best of Spirit (1973)

They made good albums, but this is still my go-to, maybe just because, in 1979, when I bought it, it was the only thing available in the malls of America. Or maybe just because it’s great on its own. They didn’t really need conceptual LPs. They were a conceptual band and they had that one quality that makes any artist prone to being under-appreciated: There was no one else like them. Get your ass to the animal zoo indeed.

1) Dusty Springfield Golden Hits (1966)

One of these days I’m going to start a category for Perfect Albums or maybe just Perfect Things. This might be Exhibit A. My copy survived the Great Jefferson Arms Apartments Flood of 1981. (Fair enough as the flood was technically started by me–personally I blame whoever reversed the threads on the hot water handle in the bathroom sink, which made it a dangerous proposition to leave for work when the water had been cut off in the middle of shaving. Probably because they were shutting down a flood somewhere else in the complex….And I thought the roaches were bad before! I did feel bad about inadvertently terrorizing the cocker spaniel next door. The cute girl who owned him was at work too.) I could afford an undamaged cover now I guess, but somehow it would feel like messing with karma to replace anything that has spent forty years making me smile.

‘Til next time….Hope this Popsicle stand hasn’t burned to the ground by then!

“OH WHAT TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE…(What We Should Expect From Critics: Nineteenth Maxim)

…When first we practice to deceive

(Walter Scott, 1808)

“Dolly Parton’s “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy,” released as a single in 1969 and included on Parton’s The RCA Years 1967-1986 (RCA), is best heard on the hard-to-find A Real Live Dolly Parton, a 1970 RCA LP recorded at Sevier County High School, Parton’s alma mater, which also features “Bloody Bones,” a ditty about orphans who burn down their orphanage.”

(Greil Marcus, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, “Notes and Discographies,” 2008 edition, p. 360, emphasis mine)

“But Warren Smith (1933-80) had no real affinity for the black rhythms rockabilly took off from (though Smith, in his heart an Appalachian balladeer, can be heard for the quirky delight he was on his Classic Recordings: 1956-59, Bear Family, an ideal Sun retrospective that includes the devastating “Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache,” “Ubangi Stomp”–one of the only rockabilly records with the word ‘nigger’ in it–“Black Jack David,” and “So Long I’m Gone.”)”

(Ibid, pp. 368, 369, emphasis mine)

I always wonder. Are they delusional or do they just lie?

I finally got hold of that “hard-to-find” Dolly Parton LP this week, based entirely on Marcus’s recommendation which had been floating around in my head since I read the 1984 edition of Mystery Train. It’s a good album (everything she did in that period was at least good). I didn’t worry too much that the LP’s version of “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy” was no patch on the studio recording and cut in half to boot, that this clearly wasn’t the best place to hear it. Such things are a legitimate matter of opinion.

But imagine my surprise when, after all these years, “Bloody Bones” which I had never even listened to on YouTube because I wanted to hear it the first time in the full context of Dolly singing it live in front of her home town crowd, turned out to have nothing whatsoever to do with orphans or orphanages or burning anything down. By all means listen, because I could never convey with mere words just how far from the reality Marcus strayed.

While I was reconfirming his account of “Bloody Bones” I read around in the other “Notes” and came across the assertion that Warren Smith, recording for Sam Phillips’ Sun label in the 50’s had actually used the word “nigger” in “Ubangi Stomp” which was his followup to the regional hit “Rock and Roll Ruby” and an obvious attempt to break him nationally.

I’d heard “Ubangi Stomp” a dozen or so times over the years and two or three times very recently and this allegation had me scratching my head. So I listened to the song three more times last night and also looked up the lyrics on the internet.

No one who follows along here will be surprised to learn that Warren Smith did not say “nigger” on “Ubangi Stomp”–a song that is actually about being so caught up by the native music of Africa that the white boy decides to abandon ship and maybe, just maybe, take up with a local girl.

One thing this particular encounter with classic Crit-Illuminati tactics brought to light was a possible reason Marcus, among many others, have treated Bill Clinton like an untouchable hero instead of the snake oil scumbag he so obviously was and remains.

When the reality is too discomforting to confront…make things up.

Unfortunately, per Philip K. Dick, “reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

Hence the Nineteenth Maxim:

Pay attention and don’t lie. And if you fail to follow this, don’t be surprised to find yourself living in a world you despise.

ANOTHER REMINDER THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS GET TOMORROW’S NEWS HERE FIRST

Because human nature is really not hard to predict. From NBC news tonight regarding the toppling of U.S. Grant’s statue in San Francisco:

Demonstrators Topple Statues in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

…as predicted by me, three years ago.

(In other news, they got Cervantes, too. He was a former slave, but to Muslims, so that doesn’t count in a country where the majority of the population believes the United States invented slavery.)

Hey, Eddie. Before I leave this alone for a while….Remind ’em where we are now and just which road we’re on:

FIRST CAST THE BEAM (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #156)

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

KJV Matthew 7:5

Little Steven Van Zandt posted a question to his followers on Twitter asking them to name the first album or single they bought. One of the responses was Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd (the hilarious, self-mocking title of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first LP).

In reply someone whose Twitter handle is TrumpIsaCriminal wrote:

@littlestevenug  should play Skynyrd for a lark. They were not as ahead of the curve as the Allman Brothers, but they were not racists ( though some of their fans might have been).

I immediately thought “As opposed to who else’s fans I wonder?”

It got hilarious, though, when I scrolled through the first two hundred or so responses and found not a single black person had replied, and only one person had mentioned a black record (Eddie Kendricks’ “Keep On Truckin'”). To be fair I had been led to the feed in the first place by Odie Henderson’s funny tweet about going into a record store to buy the Four Tops’ “Reach Out” and hearing Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling” on the store speakers and buying that instead. So one black person DID reply, even if he is a professional film critic.

I mean, if Ronnie Van Zant was still alive and had a Twitter account and asked his followers to list the first records they ever bought, the response wouldn’t have been more racist than that would it?

Yeah, I didn’t think so:

DEVIL’S DOUBLE DICTIONARY: Hypocrisy

hypocrisy: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform

When a man changes his mind to disagree with me: Opportunism

When a man changes his mind to agree with me: Growth

All entries in the Devil’s Double Dictionary at RPM will be accompanied by this photograph of Ambrose Bierce, author of the original Devil's Dictionary.

All entries in the Devil’s Double Dictionary at RPM will be accompanied by this photograph of Ambrose Bierce, author of the original Devil’s Dictionary.

SOONER OR LATER, THEY’LL COME FOR SOMETHING YOU CARE ABOUT….

Because it’s not about the Confederacy…and it’s not about statues:

Liverpool’s Penny Lane…

Philadelphia’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution…

…Next?

Don’t worry. If you don’t care about these, they’ll be around for you soon. Then you can scream “But I’m a liberal!” and give them a chance to say “We know. Thank you!”