Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kind of blue

Blues music is as ordinary as a dog. In a lot of cases you're talking about a man and a guitar and a time signature like cold molasses; lyrics cut down to nothing but a single declaration of fact.

The moment I 'got it' is engraved very distinctly in my mind. It was genuinely like falling in love. I don't mean romance, I don't mean the limerance; I'm not talking about an emotion at all. I mean that thing that's bigger than you, that flow and change that rolls through you and brings something new to life. I was about 12 or 13 at the time. Nothing has changed.

Now here in my declining years I'm still stuck with this thing and I carry it like a worry. I like a lot of different kinds of music. I love metal, thrash, rock, funk, Motown, I can sing everything off Goodbye Yellow Brick Road word for word in my sleep, I love the Kronus Quartet, Robert Kyr, Bach, Glenn Gould, Aretha Franklin...my tastes are pretty fucking eclectic. But none of it happens to me the way that blues music does and I do not understand that now any better than when I was in Jr. High.

I know I've been annoying on the subject too. I know I have. And I swore I would not be this kind of person. One CANNOT dictate taste to other people. I KNOW this. It's rude. I remember the first time I read American Splendor... I was so blown away that I wanted to walk up to people on the street and MAKE them read it. Of course, I did not do this. That 'social restraint' mechanism in your head that keeps you from having public arguments with trees and cats and dumpsters and shit kicked in, as it should. I restrained myself, realizing that not everybody wants to have complete strangers come up on them raving and slobbering about Harvey Pekar.

That restraint is completely absent when the subject of John Lee Hooker comes up. 'You need to buy this,' I'll inform some poor fool down the racks from me. Apropos of nothing. Just turn to them and hold up the Rhino compilation like John Brown's bible. 'You see this? You need this. Right here. This is the VOICE OF GOD, DUDE.'
I've done this. Yes I have.

Not to say that I like the blues unconditionally, or that I could stand listening to it all the time either; I mean, come on, right? There are simply times you don't want to hear about how someone wants to lay on the railroad tracks and die. But then again, you can hear that in the context of the blues and it will raise you up in your heart like the St. Matthews Passion being sung in a big church will raise you up, if anyone can get with that.

I have no more in common with someone like Leadbelly now than I did when I was a poo-butt kid. I have no idea what it is about this particular kind of music that is speaking to me so clearly. None whatsoever. But nevertheless it cuts straight through me like I don't even exist. I'd like to be able to apologize if I've offended anybody, but to tell you the truth I'm not sorry because I did it for your own good.

15 comments:

  1. There's something ... Blue Angel Folkways Records, I have 11 of them, Broonzy, Sykes, Hopkins, Greenway, Terry&McGhee and what makes me cry Champion Jack Dupree's women blues ... if it's well done it's in one note, a musical aleph ... shit you have to come up with that now ..

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  2. Now I have to go and listen to Blues AS WELL AS EVERYTHING ELSE .
    I am not at all sure this is going to fit in with Beasties usually sunny Disposition .
    But for you I will give it a go

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  3. Perhaps you can give us a few pointers where to start with Blues?

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  4. You already know that you are preaching to the converted.

    I got hooked by Hooker et al very young too.

    I shall look forward to your tutoring sessions with Beast & Frobisher.

    I'll have Mago give you a foot massage while he's here.

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  5. I think that the Blues come straight from the heart..and especially from a bruised heart, which we all have.

    It's not trying to talk to y'er brain either, the Blues is a heart to heart medium. There aren't any big lofty cerebral messages..nope, nope, nope..just plain talkin' healing-helper.

    btw; I threw caution to the wind and published the tree choppin coppens photo to celebrate post #500.

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  6. Anonymous8:01 AM

    I like the Chicago Blues along with a bunch of other stuff. About the only thing I cannot abide for an extended period of time is Polka...or reruns of Lawrence Welk.

    Ever listen to Lenny Welch wail "Since I Fell for you"? Sexy goose bumps, I tell ya.
    Retro

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  7. *polkas in and out of the room*

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  8. mago: big bill broonzy! lightning hopkins! C Jack dupree! hell yes!

    beast: deal with some Howlin' Wolf, the London Sessions.

    RATSO: my darling, go out and pick up a copy of Miles Davis: Kind of Blue.

    coppens: well there you go. all that AND a picture of you with no shirt on chopping down a tree? hell yes, im THERE BABY.

    retro: oh lordy, laurence welk. gaaaaaaaaaah!!! no! get it off me! get it off me! it burns!

    mj: polka your cheezy butt on down to Mt.Angel Oregon, lady. the Wurst Fest is coming up! just think of it...germans...polka music...beer...a canadian....kind of a 'WURST CASE SCENARIO'.

    yes, I'll be here all week.

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  9. Love the blues. Robert Johnson is one of my favorites and of course Muddy Waters.

    I had to go to Chicago for work a few years back and was lucky enough to be there during a big blues festival. Lots of knowns as well as unknowns playing in every bar in town. It was awesomeness.

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  10. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Not exactly the blues...but since we are chatting, it seems like I hear about somebody JUST the day after they died. I heard NPR one morning years ago in Barrow and they were saying that this song, "When Did You Leave Heaven" was sung by Joe Wilson ( I think was the name) lovely voice, I found a CD, purchased it and that was about the only song that I liked on the CD. Poor Joe. Retro

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  11. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Ooh! OOH! What do you hear when you listen to a Blue record played backward? Same thing...its a BLUES record.

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  12. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Ooh! OOH! What do you hear when you listen to a Blues record played backward? Same thing...its a BLUES record.

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  13. joy: there you go. Robert johnson. Muddy is one of my all time FAVES. i just talked my boy into buying Electric Mud and it was so, so sweet to hear that coming out of his speakers I cannot tell you!!!

    retro: this plumb eludes me. of course, I have been drinking....

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  14. When you guys talk about "modern" metal stuff I wander back to Purcell or somewhere. But then someone says Miles Davis and I'm tripping over baroque fiddles in my rush. 'Les Filles de Kilimanjaro.' 'Sketches of Spain.' And did you leave out BB King?

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  15. Hm, blues coming from the heart. All of the stuff I grew up hearing seemed to come out of the...chicken...heart...looking...area. Ahem. WANG DANG DOODLE AND MY LITTLE RED ROOSTER BUDDY

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