Category Archives: Epic humans

Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town (Columbia, 1978)

Bruuuuuce

Chris Christie continues his clueless public fellating of The BOSSSSSSSS while remaining completely unaware that he is the villain of every song by The Boss, closing factories and forbidding his daughter to date the kid from the poor family and calling the Trenton PD to do a sweep of the homeless encampment down under the bridge. QUIT SHOWING UP IN GOOGLE SEARCHES OF “BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN,” JERKOFF.

Wayne Shorter, Moto Grosso Feio (Blue Note, 1974).

moto grosso feio

 

I had planned to do The Young Mods’ Forgotten Story, but I couldn’t get anyone to stand in for Fred or Sam (I would be Curtis, DUHHH). At that point I was just alone in a trench coat, so it was either gonna be this one or Odyssey of Iska.

The Brides of Funkenstein, Never Buy Texas From a Cowboy. Atlantic, 1979.

 

I believe the expression is “The bigger the headache, the bigger the pill.” Less popular but no less true is the expression “The bigger my love for Dr. Funkenstein, licensed administer of ear-canal narcotics including but not limited to rubbery bassline antidepressants, the greater the likelihood that I’m willing to forego monogamy and share my groom with my other sister-wives so we can blow the cobwebs out your mind.”

I wish George would give women a little wiggle room when it comes to roles – we are backup singers and side-project wives, and that’s it – but if I complain I’ll get kicked out of the family and he’ll easily find another fake wife to hit in the protons and make sure her hips keep moving. Having to share Dr. Funkenstein with some other ladies is better than no Funkenstein at all.

 

 

“They’re never gonna know that I move like hell” (why D’Angelo covering that Zeppelin song makes ridiculously perfect sense)

The story goes that swans are silent their entire lives, then cry out once, only when they are dying.

It’s not a true story, mind you—swans are loud and make grating honk noises—but it’s pretty and sad, and that’s why we hold onto it. In 1974, Led Zeppelin named their sparkling new post-Atlantic label Swan Song in tribute to the (untrue) swan-death myth. The label’s logo, a winged, brolic angel crying in pain, is taken from a painting done in tribute to the swan-death myth. The actual myth is Greek, and says that in ancient times, just before Apollo’s birth, a flock of swans circled overhead exactly seven times, singing. Apollo was the god of music; his birth was a glorious event and swans announcing it seems just right. But at some point the story got flipped. A “swan song” is now a death cry—a wrong, ironic meaning that’s now forever part of the Zeppelin story. D’Angelo emerged a couple weeks ago in Tennessee and covered Zeppelin, a glorious event. Somethingsomething Jesus, resurrection, the people rejoicing. The part in D’Angelo’s story where the irony comes in is when he put out an album in 2000 with songs about hair pulling and ass smacking (track 3), and something about wetness and thighs (you know the track). The label that released it: Virgin.

D’Angelo’s set at Bonnaroo contained nothing from Voodoo except for a snippet of “Chicken Grease.” But because it’s D’Angelo, earnest and sober (I think?) and in front of some keys, the audio from the show is still on daily rotation in my headphones thanks to the download link that’s not too hard to find (GO NOW, if you haven’t already GO GO GET IT GO). The setlist contains nothing surprising—Mayfield, The Time, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Parliament of course. The Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” fits in especially nicely, with its weird words and that great drum break after each bar. But it’s his version of Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” that lifts the set into next-levels territory. The track bangs, yes, satisfying my heart’s need for grown-man emo and my lower body’s need for bass. But it also satisfies my hungry nerd brain, because its back story makes it such a logical choice for him to cover.

A D’Angelo-Zeppelin meetup was probably bound to happen. Voodoo was recorded at Electric Lady studios; most of Zeppelin’s albums were mixed there. Jimmy Page and D’Angelo are both Rhodes guys, calm and bosslike on the instrument. Robert Plant and D’Angelo each had unpleasant periods involving car crashes and general coke mayhem. And “What Is…,” a dreamy little number at its beginning, settles into that mid-tempo BPM that D’Angelo always slays so easily. “Devil’s Pie” has a BPM of 90; “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine” is 87. “Lady” is 85, and so is the Zeppelin song. “Do do, bop bop a do-oh,” wails Plant at the end of it. The part could be lifted from a Soulquarians vamp session and you wouldn’t know the difference. “My my my my, my-my yeahhh.” You wouldn’t know the difference. D’Angelo and Robert Plant are men who are both fluent in Rural Southern–even though the commonwealth of Virginia is a little too close to Yankee territory for it to be taken seriously as a bluesy place, and Plant is from a town in the English midlands famous for its carpets.

D’Angelo is uncomfortable with his burden of sexiness. I know this from reading Questlove interviews. His public persona is almost swaggerless when it comes to sex (almost). Plant is much more comfortable with his aura of steam and lust – he wrote “What Is…” during his Tolkien-obsession phase and somehow managed to inject unsexy hobbit mythology into Sonny Boy Williamson-esque heavy-riffed gut punchers that he’d sing to willing, sexy girls in the third row. Plant became obsessed with Welsh culture in the late ’60s, druids and the like, mysticism, paganism. (Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, when pagans have historically witnessed the sunrise at places like Stonehendge, marking the event with ceremonies celebrating fertility. So, this post could’ve just as easily been about D’Angelo and Spinal Tap.) The thing in the song that “was” but that “should never be,” according to rumor and speculation and this is as good as the gospel to music dorks, is, hold up now: Plant’s relationship with his wife’s sister. Well goddamn. The theme of forbidden desires could therefore link Zeppelin’s “What Is…” with every D’Angelo-tagged post on MediaTakeout (D’Angelo’s own forbidden desires being, of course, narcotics, fatty food and mouthsex). But this is too easy, too shallow. It’s more interesting to consider that Tolkien, like D’Angelo, grew tired of the fans who loved his dumbed-down work. He saw himself primarily as a scholar, not a fairy-tale writer, and he hated that The Lord of the Rings was his biggest success. He would not have cared for Robert Plant’s great fondness for Mordor.

Written in a Tolkien haze, the thing that makes “What Is and What Should Never Be” so satisfying as a song covered by D’Angelo of all people is the very specific type of alienation shared by the two men. They are both people whose messages get distorted when they try to talk to us. “Everybody I know seems to know me well,” goes the closing verse, with the punchline being that nobody who bought their books/albums actually does. For D’Angelo it was his abs, for Tolkien it was his fantasy writings; they both felt a deep resentment for being praised for what they felt were their least important achievements. Tokien’s Hobbit and LOTR were his attempt to construct what he referred to as a “body of myth” – which happens to be exactly the same phrase used by ladies in describing D’Angelo’s form in the “Untitled” video, much to his dismay.

I am neither a pagan nor a Pentecostal at this point. Things are still cloudy for me, belief-wise. Though if God actually exists he will obviously one day fulfill my dream of hearing D’Angelo do the Ohhhh, oh-oh-ohh-ohh-OHHHH to open “D’yer Mak’er.” Its BPM is 90. He’d kill it.

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Then I look at you/And the world’s all right with me


The photo above, that Ginsberg poem, James Brown in Rocky, jazz, rap, and the Stankonia cover are all pretty fresh, but generally I feel outraged and sad when I think about the country I am from, America. Scroll back some; you’ll see it in previous posts about the death penalty, Rick Ross, John Boehner, FEMA. It’s not the day of celebration that the checkout lady at Vons would like me to believe (“You saved $8.02! HAPPY 4TH!”). But I’d still like to keep it positive today, in the form of a birthday compare & contrast for two American super Gs who were both born on Independence Day: Al Davis and Bill Withers! (1929 and 1938, respectively).

I’d also like to point out that non-graphed commonalities that both men share include being revered in my childhood home and both continuing to be revered in my adult home, apt. 680 – and not just because they both have a Dr. Dre Connection!*, god you guys think I’m so easy:

Al: NWA’s attire in promo photos. Ice Cube hosting that “30 for 30” episode.

Bill: his “Kissing My Love” provides the drums for “Let Me Ride” and a hundred other quality rap songs. Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” the fucking JAM (7), was produced by Dre and is built on the “Grandma’s Hands” intro. Teddy Riley doesn’t have a good voice but remember how stellar his Shorty get dowwwn, good lord/Baby got ‘em open all over towwwn was?

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2. Kinshasa.

3. Bill. Cam.

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Oh word: Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington’s birthday edition.

I never had much interest in the piano until I realized that every time I played, a girl would appear on the piano bench to my left and another to my right.

Duke understands me, clearly, based on his little piano anecdote. He understands most women, I guess. He also had a compulsive need to be around melody, so he understands me on that level too. Clearly.

Duke also said It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, the sixth-greatest “ain’t”-related colloquialism after

Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing,

Ain’t that a bitch,

King Kong ain’t got shit on me,

It ain’t trickin if you got it, and

It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t haaaa-aaave none. (sorry, Mom)

Ellington and Coltrane – “My Little Brown Book.” OH THIS ONE’S A KILLER, beautiful but sad and a killer, so let’s all remind ourselves about the joy of this one if it gets to be too much. You can feel it all over! (You can feel it all ohhhver, people.)

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Skepticism: variations on a theme.

1. “Fishermen and members of the community listen to Ken Feinberg, administrator of the BP claims fund, on March 28 at a public meeting in Mathews, La.” (Julia Rendleman/The Houma Courier/AP)

The Big Picture’s latest collection of hi-res beauty focuses on the Gulf oil spill, one year later. No more problems, everyone’s back to work, says the Logan who lives in a fairy tale. Turns out the region’s delicate ecosystem thrives on oil. Birds and fish are making love, churning out new generations. A butterfly landed on a rock in an estuary, flapped its wings twice in the sunshine, then flew off to go make butterfly love.


2. The King of the Universe/Master of Puppets/Mr. Dynamite/HBIC in a NY Mag interview.

Other than turning up in those files on Biggie’s murder the FBI released, cutting off his own arm then chewing it up and swallowing it, or showing up on the doorstep of apt. 680 and announcing he’s moving in to base the hell outta me every night, nothing Brandon does should be able to surprise you. It’s April 2011, in this, the Year of Our Lord, and he’s been rearranging the pieces on the cosmic chess board for a couple years now. So I rolled my eyes when I heard about that upcoming album title because his “Look at me, listen to me” hustle is unrivaled. Seemed like a big ploy to make RSS feeds quiver, go dumb with excitement. It worked. (Please consult the Internet–maybe type in “Lil B” and “gay,” then stand back).

But then I remembered that, just like a dude isn’t necessarily gay because he’s grindin in his tiny pants, an artist isn’t necessarily thinking about selling product when he names his product a certain thing. I’m deferring to my hopes and dreams here, embracing my inner Pollyanna, and just going with the assumption that Lil B really means it when he says he’s a gay ally, a supporter of GLAAD. Lil B cleaned up all the oil in the Gulf, solved the Biggie murder, made love to a butterfly, showed up on American Idol and cut off his own arm and fed it to Mister Cee while Faces of Death 7 played behind them on a huge screen. Lil B has successfully introduced me to post-skepticism. I’m living in the Brandon Epoch and for that I am eternally glaad. Still waiting to hear what he thinks of the topless pics I sent him; I believe he and I would make a good duo, despite our one tiny difference – I do support putting other people down (as long as the people being put down are not me or anyone I care about, or a poor person or a disabled person, and as long as the putting-down is done with stylish flair, over a beat).

Harlem – “Gay Human Bones.”

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Not long ago when things were slow/We all got by with what we know.

Over at Ego Trip they tell you Darryl Jenifer is one of their bloggers (!). You get that fluttery feeling in your stomach, start composing your first email to him in your head (“Hi Darryl! I live in Los Angeles and I have a blog too!”). Then you click the link next to his beautiful face and it goes nowhere.

“NOT FOUND; SORRY, BUT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING THAT ISN’T HERE.” Yes, I’m sorry too. I had hoped for lessons on bass playing, keeping food ital, smashing shit (amps, industry rules, people’s stereotypes in the ’80s), how to get Rollins to quit yappin in the tour bus on the way to Providence. I had hoped for tales of Bad Brains groupies – I am curious as to whether they were blessed in the hips department, or if this is a specific subspecies of groupie that only came to be in the city of Los Angeles, long after the band’s golden years. I cannot get any of that, you see, because that isn’t here. I looked for it but it wasn’t found. (Sorry.)

The visit was still a success, however, because I saw that the tiny bio Darryl wrote about himself sounds exactly like a Doom lyric! And because I discovered that Gangstarr video from ’92 (Premier’s t-shirt, c’monnn).

“I Against I.” Not the Bad Brains one, but Mos tries to kick a little patois here, plus he had that album with his friend that was named after a Marcus Garvey business venture to empower the African diaspora, so it’s sort of close?

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