January 28, 2010
Conversations With Robin Page 4.
Conversations between R. E. Prindle and Robin Mark
Concerning certain musical questions.
Sorry to be so remiss but I was really involved with writingt Exhuming Bob 23 a and b: Bob, Andy, Edie and Like A Rolling Stone. I got them up a couple days ago and then I was really exhausted.
I think they’re really good work, real Sherlock Holmes stuff. The feud between Dylan and Warhol with Edie Sedgwick as their pawn is very important althougth Dylan has been very effective in shuffling it under the carpet.
I’ve always been amazed that no one came after Dylan because of the savage badgering he and Neuwirth put people through during what was apparently his Acid phase. Anent that I’ve always been suspicious of the back wheel of his bike locking up, obvious sabotage to me. Of course the reuslt would be flying over the handle bars that did happen. A probable result of that would be damage to the head neck and/or back with a very good chance of being paralyzed from the neck down much as Christopher Reeve did from his horse jumping accident which was also contrived.
Who would take that exact means to attempt to paralyze Dylan, I don’t think murder was intended. Warhol is my first choice. In addition to other humiliations Dylan publically insulted him in both Stone and Street using motorcycle imagery. Of course, it is now clear that chrome horse refers to a motorcycle so the line reads: You used to ride on a bike behind your diplomat…. Warhol had a bike and was Edie’s ‘diplomat’ so stripped of an obscure term the meaning is clear- Edie and Andy.
In Street Dylan sings: You know you’d like to see me paralyzed…so the bike accident is prefigured in the imagery of the two songs that have references to Warhol. If and when you read Part b of Bob And Andy the inference that Warhol’s crew were the perpetrators will become more evident.
That was hard work pulling all those details together but rewarding. Still, I’m going to have to take a week or so to recover. Research goes on of course. I think next I’ll tackle Exhuming Bob 24: Bob, Jack and Allen. I’ll start working on the ton of the period some.
Part of Elvis’ problem was that the ton shifted so dramatically after he was drafted. He began his career in the post-war ton of the late forties and early fifties actually causing the shift or, at least, abetting it. Then he was removed from the flow for two crucial years. when he came back the Kingston Trio had already shifted the ton toward the Folk genre that made Dylan possible but made Elvis an anachronism. While I don’t believe Elvis was part of any Illuminati type thing earlier or later it is quite possible that some such sort of conspiracy found him a useful tool. Of course, Parker, who was in the country illegally, could easily be manipulated to betray his and ‘his boy’s’ interests.
By the time of the return from the military Presley’s career was obviously being directed by Hollywood. So, who was getting what from mismanaging Elvis’ career?
December 17, 2009
Exhuming Bob 22:
Prophet, Mystic, Poet?
Back in the early sixties a film appeared under the title: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. It was a Jewish fable clothed in Western Americana not unlike Bob Dylan’s lyrics.
The story line is about how to deconstruct one legend and reconstruct it to suit one’s purposes. The gist is that once a falsehood is enshrined as legendary truth it is impossible to debunk it. This film and notion was obviously for goyish consumption. As we know from experience a whole culture with a long history can be ‘debunked’ with minimal trouble if you control the media. Thus in fifty short years Americans have gone from being the most benevolent and generous people on Earth to the most destructive self-centered Nazi types. Furthermore Americans were conditioned to believe it about themselves. ‘Why do they hate us?’
The secret was contained in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. One of the primary agents of that change was the prophet, mystic ans seer, the very Jewish Bob Dylan. I left off poet because at best Dylan is merely an effective lyricist.
A San Francisco Bay Area fellow, Seth Rogovoy, has written an essay on Dylan with the above title without the question mark. Stephen Hazan Arnoff who is the executive directory of New York’s 14th St. YMHA has written a review of Rogovoy which he subtitles ‘Jerimiah, Nostradamus and Allen Ginsberg all Rolled Up Into One.’ High praise indeed, if unwarranted. Just as Mr. Arnoff inflates Dylan’s significance he grossly inflates that of the pornographic so-called poet, Allen Ginsberg. Perhaps it is time to use techniques learned from ‘Liberty Valence to debunk the reputation of Dylan.
Dylan is no prophet, he is merely topical using enigmatic phrasing to give the appearance of depth. There is little actual difference between the topical material of Dylan and Phil Ochs. Mr. Arnoff improbably writes:
(Dylan’s) prophetic persona is particularly resonant in his first few albums where songs like “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” sets the gold standard for prophecy in popular music.
Prophecy in popular music? What’s that? Actually neither song is prophetic. ‘Blowin” actually refers to the past of Dylan’s youth in Hibbing although topically it has usually been extended to represent the then current civil rights activities in the South. ‘Times’ is merely a cocky know-it-all sneer at politicians who aren’t aware that the kids are alright, on the move, have a voracious apetite to eat them up. Both songs have borrowed tunes (no crime or even sin in my estimation) and, if Rogovoy is correct lyrics cribbed from the Bible.
As Mr. Arnoff notes, Rogovoy chooses a single critical lens- Judaism- for understanding Dylan and his work. No fault in an essay, pointing out the Jewish influence in Dylan’s work. Actually Mr. Rogovoy is no innovator or pathfinder, the same material has been adequately covered by numerous investigators including myself in a series of essays.
But Mr. Arnoff also notes there are other avenues to approach the songs that Mr. Arnoff believes are equally valid: Greil Marcus explains him as a mystic raconteur of the secret history of the United States, coded thorugh traditional music while Christopher Ricks describes a master interpreter of classical Western literature and thought.’ (cough, cough)
While Greil Marcus is another good Jewish boy I hardly think he is a responsible authority on anything. He takes roughly the same approach as Mr. A.J. Weberman while the latter is vastly more entertaining. I have to combine Mr. Marcus and Mr. Ricks. While I certainly respect Dylan’s intelligence and acumen I would have to question both the breadth and depth of his education.
Dylan attended high school in Hibbing, Minnesota which is a far cry from any of the leading cultural centers of either the Western or Eastern worlds. I grew up in a slightly larger town up North than Dylan although probably not much different than Hibbing intellectually. I keenly felt the lack of intellectual opportunites when I went out into the large world.
There is a question as to whether Dylan graduated from high school while he never attended college. Immediately immersing himself in folk music he left Minnesota for NYC. There he found people with libraries of which he availed himself while boarding with them. This was a very brief period during which he could only have picked up names and impressions such as he employed in his song Desolation Row. His girl friend Suze Rotolo introduced him to more culture than he could have imagined from 1961 to 1965. This could not have been much.
During that time Dylan spent a lot of time writing songs, drinking and drugging and touring. Not a lot of opportunity to become a ‘master interpreter of classical Western literature and thought.’ I have no idea what Mr. Arnoff means by ‘classical.’ I doubt seriously if Dylan is any authority on, say, the pre-Socratics. If Mr. Ricks believes as Mr. Arnoff represents him I would have to question Professor Ricks’ qualifications for his post. There’s something wrong there.
Now, as to Mr. Marcus and his mystic raconteur of the secret history of the US. What secret history? Dylan says he studied the ante-bellum South from newspaper accounts in the archives of the NYC library. This would have been over a couple of months only. As near as I can tell he did so with an enquiring and open mind and is fully capable of making cogent observations. This however is scarcely a secret history while being only one brief period and region.
What Dylan has done is immerse himself in the songs of the US. He says that when he visited Carl Sandburg it was with the itent to discuss Sandburg’s ‘American Song Bag.’ One certainly has to respect Dylan’s song knowledge and his excellent taste. This knowledge however is well beyond Mr. Marcus’ ability to understand. He, as far as I have been able to ascertain had nil knowledge of songs and music until he joined Rolling Stone Magazine in the late sixties.
Up in Hicksville Dylan immersed himself in every kind of music, without discrimination. He was fully conversant with Hillbilly as his native music. The Carter Family was a living entity to him and not an academic study. All those now obscure names were living legends to him and not mere footnotes at the bottom of a page. Thus while Dylan’s Jewish influences are prominent, uppermost and dominant he nevertheless has a foot in both cultures. His American culture is musical however, and what sounds like ‘a secret history’ to Mr. Marcus is merely the hillbilly interpretation of ‘revenuers’ ‘white lightning’ and such. I do not see Dylan as a ‘classically’ educated man.
Mr. Arnoff displays his Jewish bigotry when he says: Messianic Judaism (or Jews for Jesus) is the weakest form of interpretation for Dylan. So far as I know no one interprets Dylan’s work through the lens of Messianic Judaism. However it is equally apparent that Dylan was interested enough to study the topic carefully. That says more for Dylan’s open mindedness than Mr. Arnoff’s narrow minded bigotry. One must be ‘open minded’ n’est-ce pas?
As Mr. Arnoff notes, Dylan always said he was ‘a song and dance man’ and I think that says as much as need be said. Anyone who has been able to entertain a significant audience nearly fifty years now has to have a serious talent. One should bear in mind though that Dylan appeals to a relatively small and well-defined audience he himself defines as ‘the abused, misused, confused, strung out ones and worse.’ This is his core constituency to which he ‘kvetches.’ Apparently English isn’t good enough for Mr. Arnoff.
Dylan’s greatest song is Positively Fourth Street which is maximum kvetching. I considered myself abused and misused when I first heard the song. The lyrics had me slavering like one of Pavlov’s dogs when he heard the dinner bell ring. But, like Pavlov’s dog there wasn’t really anything on the plate. Once I passed through that phase of my psychology I lost interest in Dylan.
While Dylan has managed to retain, recruit and entertain his audience he is far from the man who shot Liberty Valence or Jeremiah, Nostrodamus and Allen Ginsberg all rolled up into one. I’m afraid that’s one legend that will be debunked before it’s formed.
Kvetcher or not I still can’t listen to him.
July 27, 2009
Exhuming Bob 21:
Will The Real Bob Dylan…?
Our friend Bob Dylan has given the impression that he knew nothing of Barry Obama, The Great Black Hope, until the summer of 2008 with just a few months left in the campaign when he gave the candidate his endorsement. Surely this isn’t so. Surely he not only knew of the Hope but knew him personally probably before 9/11/01.
In my essay Bill Ayers, Greil Marcus, Bob Dylan and Barry Obama on my Contemporary Notes blog, linked above, I posit that all four knew each other and of 9/11 before it happened. Impossible, huh? Stranger things have happened.
I hadn’t thought about it much after writing my piece but then a few days ago- 7/22/09- I came across a post by one Lark, The Times Are A Changing (Again): Bob Dylan On Obama. Lark quotes Dylan on Obama in the London Times. Let’s review it:
Dylan begins: “Well you know right now America is in a state of upheaval.”
True enough. Many sorts of upheaval. What sort of upheaval does Dylan refer to:
Poverty is demoralizing.
Can’t argue with that. Is he talking about coal miners, fruit pickers, the unemployed, or what?
You can’t expect people to have the virtue of purity when they’re poor.
More problematic here. Purity isn’t a virtue it’s a state or condition. Has nothing to do with poverty. Well, Dylan’s a poet, one of the enigmatic kind, so I presume he may mean honest by pure. But which people, is he talking about Blacks?
Well, I come from a long line of poor people and so far as I know we were the kind described as ‘poor but honest.’ In other words we didn’t steal or cheat. I’m not sure how scrupulous we were about lieing. Seems to be a much more common fault. I’ve been around the block a few times now and I’ve come to the conclusion that crime has nothing to do with poverty. Rich or poor a thief steals and is well able to justify his thefts. Need I point out the 50 billion dollar thief Bernie Madoff? Or about the raft of Rabbis just arrested in New Jersey for some very serious financial crimes. And then I read about this reasonably well off one guy who stole some records because he thought he could use them better than the rightful owner. So it may be common to think you have to be poor to be ‘impure’ or dishonest but mistaken nevertheless.
Bob makes himself a little more clear:
But we’ve got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up…Barack Obama.
Naive but sincere. Spoken like a true cheerleader. ‘This guy out there’ sounds like affection if not familiarity to me. So now, when and how did Dylan become aware of the Hope? As I conjecture it Greil Marcus is the key to the riddle. I’m guessing, but my guess is that Marcus’ curiosity led him to introduce himself or be introduced to Bill Ayers, the ole Mad Weatherman Bomber, probably in Chicago. Ayers and Marcus being of the school of Whiteness is a plague on the Earth probably quickly came into accord. And then the Hope was probably on the way under the sponsorship of Ayers so Marcus and the Hope were introduced when certain anti-American and anti-White plans were discussed probably among them a projected attack on America. Certainly one remembers that Ayers had already made several bomb attacks on America so why not the Big One…the Really Big One…the World Trade Center.
Dylan and Marcus are pretty close. Dylan is either a Lubavitcher or close to them. Lubavitchers hate Whites, especially of the Christian sort. That partially excludes me by the way, White but not of the Christian persuasion.
As it appears that Dylan was much more familiar with the Hope than he let on and his album Love And Theft seems to reflect a pre-knowledge of 9/11 coupled with Marcus’ Rolling Stone article as detailed in the link to my essay above, there is every reason to believe, or think, or fear that Dylan, Marcus, Ayers and Obama were privy to 9/11 well before it happened. Possibly if not probably in on the planning stages.
Dylan goes on: He’s redefining what a politician is, so we’ll have to see how things play out.
If the Hope is redefining what a politician is then the definition is toward that of an African chief. An African chief owned every bit of his territory personally. He owned every inhabitant as his slave to dispose of as he wished. He was free to do with all as he chose with or without their consent.
That seems to be how the Hope is playing things out. True, the Hope is somewhat hobbled by the remains of the old political system but with his Liberal allies he has so far met with no insuperable resistance. To oppose his plans is to be vile. So far the fear of being considered vile has prevailed.
Then Dylan: Am I hopeful? Yes. I’m hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to.
Well things have changed. Many of us believe the way things are changing is in a direction more destructive than beneficial. In short the Hope is already a complete failure. We’d all be pleased to have a detailed opinion from Dylan on whether his hopes have been realized.
Yep. Sure enough. I suppose the argument would break down over the issue of what’s best or worst and which has been left behind. There’s no doubt we’re headed into the future. Some kind of future at least.
November 26, 2008
You Really Turn Me On
Review by R.E. Prindle
Whitcomb, Ian: Rock Odyssey, 1973
I don’t suppose too many people today remember Ian Whitcomb. He surfaced in 1965 with his hit song
‘You Really Turn Me On. In 1965 I was a very old twenty-seven but getting younger every day. I saw Whitcomb once while visiting my wife’s relatives. Her young cousin was watching the Lloyd Thaxton show out of LA. I’d never heard of Lloyd Thaxton either but according to the cousin he was the hottest thing on TV. If I remember correctly the Kinks had just sung Dedicated Follower Of Fashion that I thought was very OK. The Ian came on and did his breathy falsetto androgynous song: You Really Turn Me On. At one point after suggestively fondling the microphone stand he shot down out of sight like a tower from the World Trade Center resurfacing moments later. Pretty startling stuff at a time when nearly every new group was an actual mind blower- The Rolling Stones, Animals, Dave Clark Five and this was just the beginning. More and even stranger and stronger stuff was to follow quickly only to begin a slow fizzle even as it peaked ending in the Rap and stuff that passes for music today. A very old Bob Dylan trying to bring light into the heart of his growing darkness. After the startling sixties came the sedentary seventies. But then Whitcomb disappeared like his fall from the microphone stand and I never saw or heard of him again. A true one hit wonder.
Years later I came across his LP Under A Ragtime Moon. Then I knew why he had disappeared. He was into that English music hall stuff. But then, I didn’t mind that. He sounded quite a bit like one of my personal favorites The Bonzo Dog Doo Wah Band. Of course they didn’t really get that far with that stuff either. You have to be a member of the cult to really dig it. In order to like the Bonzos you have to have a fairly eccentric side to your musical taste. A little out of the mainstream which is where I preferred to live my life. I thought the Bonzos were wonderful, still do. But I was pretty much all alone out there. I liked and like, Neil Innes and the late great Viv Stanshall, two of the Bonzo stalwarts. ‘Legs’ Larry Smith. Ragtime Moon lacked the modern rock foundation the Bonzos infused into their music but to this day I couldn’t tell you whose version of Jollity Farm I’m familiar with. Anyway I have a soft spot for this sort of thing so over the years I’ve played a side of the Bonzos fairly often and dusted off my copy of Ragtime Moon occasionally.
You Really Turn Me On always stuck in my mind, great song. Kinda struck my lost chord and made it gong into the distance. If you’re only going to have one hit you might as well make it a good one. And then for some reason, I don’t know, I googled Whitcomb and saw that he’d written a few books, including this autobiographical sketch cum pop history so, as it was cheap on alibris, I sent for a copy. I was delighted with the volume as I read it through. As biographies go this is one of the better ones, right up there with Wolfman Jack’s not to mention that of that phony Jean-Jacques Rousseau although I stop short at Casanova. Casanova is one hard one to top. As a history of the period it is more balanced and beats the hell out of that crap from the Boys Of ’64.
Ian took offense at being a one hit wonder; he really wanted to be up there with, say, Jim Morrison of the Doors, Mick Jagger, people of that ilk. I have to believe that stories Ian tells are true although some are stunningly improbable but then those things can and do happen that way, you know. It’s all in how you see what goes on around you. Toward the end of the book he’s pondering on where he went wrong, he’s sunk into a fair depression over this, he flees from his apartment in his pajamas one early morning to take a stool in a coffee shop. That’s depression. But, let Ian tell it in his own inimitable fashion. As improbable as it may seem he took a stool next to Jim Morrison who recognized him first.
When ‘Light My Fire’ had reached number one, Jim had gone out and bought a skintight leather outfit. At the Copper Skillet, it wasn’t so skintight anymore.
“How do you do it?” I asked.
“I never dug Jerry And The Pacemakers. How do I do what?”
I wanted to kick myself for bringing up my obsession with pop success, but I plowed on: “How do you stay intellectual and still be a hit with the kids, the masses?”
“You could have done it. You were into the theater of the absurd. I saw you on ‘Shindig’ and ‘Lloyd Thaxton’ goofing off and telling the audience that rock n’ roll was a big joke. That the whole of existence is a big bad joke. You were too comic. Tragedy’s the thing. Western civilization is ending and we don’t even need an earthquake; we’re performing crumble music for the final dance of death and you know what? Truth lies beyond the grave. I’ll pick up the tab.”
I couldn’t have put it better. Ian’s problem was that he was working from a different ethic. He didn’t understand that the singer and the song was the show, the whole show. Nothing else was needed. We were only there to see the singer sing his song. It’s nice to know that Jim and I were watching the same Thaxton show together. If I hadn’t seen Ian on Thaxton I wouldn’t have been as impressed because on that show singer and song were a single projection.
Due to the wonders of the internet I was recently able to catch several versions of Ian’s song but not the Thaxton one. One had him and a half dozen other guys charging around a series of pianos. Completely missed the point of the singer and his song. Not even good entertainment. Ian considered himself an entertainer bacause of a childhood encounter with a music hall comic named O. Stoppit. Fateful encounter. Because of it Ian wanted to be a comic, ended up a singer and as Morrison noted the two were too dissimilar to work.
Ian was probably headed for depression from the age of five or six or so as he came to terms with bombed out London in ’46 or ’47. His biographical sketch is a wonderful tale of a seemingly cheerful man’s descent into a deep depression. By book’s end Ian is nearly out of his mind.
He quotes a psychoanalyst for his definition of depression:
It was the great Serbian psychoanalyst Josef Vilya who concluded that chronic depression is the result of a head on collision between dream and reality. The patient dreams of becoming King but goes on to become a member of the tax paying public.
That’s probably what Morrison meant by tragedy. Life always fails to meet our expectations so that humanity responds by assuming at least a low grade depression that makes comedy an adjunct to tragedy. Thus in the Greek theatre there was a terrifically depressive tragic trilogy followed by some comic relief. The burlesque of an Aristophanes.
Ian’s problem was as Morrison noted that he saw the absurdity of the human condition but was too jokey about it. Absurdity is a serious thing and has to be so treated. O. Stoppit taught Ian a silliness unmixed with tragedy. A tragedy in itself. When silliness such as You Really Turn Me On met the tragedy of a one hit wonder Ian began his descent into depression as Vilya suggested.
I’ve never been depressed myself, never had the blues, but I have visited the lower depths as a tourist so I have some notion of what Ian’s talking about. Dirty Harry in drag. I just never got off the bus that’s all, except once, to walk through Haight-Ashbury where I saw first hand how horrible true depression could be. Boy, did Ian find out about that. Good thing he never found his Debbie.
In his narrative combining grim humor with his developing depression Ian gets off some rippers. I had a good many uproarious belly floppers. Try these few lines. Two good ones in succession. You do have to have the same sense of humor. The North and South are those of England.
These frightening stories of Southern travelers stranded in woebegone depressed cities and suffering under the rough natives. For example a well known Shakespearean actor, having missed the last train out of Crewe, knocked on the door of a hotel. “Er, do you have special terms for actors?” the traveler asked. “Yes- and here’s one: Fuck off!”
And if they weren’t being aggressive, the Northerners were acting daft. One heard of a Lancashire lad down in London demanding another helping of dressed crab (in the shell): “Give us another of them pies- and don’t make the crust so hard.”
Of course Ian can’t do that on every page but laughs are liberally sprinkled throughout the underlying depression.
Ian’s book opens with his youthful encounter with O. Stoppit and ends with another unifying his theme nicely.
In between Ian enters the world of rock almost serendipitously with his one hit song: You Really Turn Me On. After that his story is a search for a sequel that he can never find but which he pursues somewhat as Alice down the rabbit hole. He loved his one brush with fame so much that the clash between his cherished hopes of finding his sequel and the grim reality of not being able plunges him deeper and deeper into depression. Personally I would have gone out and found a songwriter. There were thousands in LA.
However his odyssey, as he calls it, Brave Ulysses ne Ian, led him through the heart and soul of the Golden Age of Rock And Roll from the Beach Boys and Beatles and Rolling Stones through Morrison and the Doors, Procol Harum, Cream, Pink Floyd, Donovan, you know, like that. After that crescendo followed the diminuendo ending in Rap and the current rather laughable music scene.
Ian has encounters with the aforementioned Morrison, Mick Jagger and others. His observations of the social scene are trenchant. He makes an acute observation do in place of a couple hundred pages of twaddle a la Todd Gitlin and Greil Marcus.
Along the way he sprinkles the little known odd fact:
Procol Harum is Latin for ‘beyond these things.’ Have no idea what that has to do with Procol Harum’s music.
…the name Pink Floyd was taken from a record by two Georgia bluesmen named Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Amaze your friends with that one.
And in conversation with Bobby Vee he confirmed a question about Bob Dylan that I needed confirming:
The afternoon I taped “Hollywood A Go Go” a syndicated TV rock n’ roll show that’s allegedly seen as far away as Rhodesia and Finland. The set was sparse- cameras, lights and a few rostrums. The empty spaces were filled with boys and girls who danced or gazed. All the acts had to lip synch their records. Chubby Checker (the Twist King) was on the set and, when he heard my record he pronounced it “bitching!” Bobby Vee was a special guest and looked every inch a star in his sheeny silk suit. He really had his hand movements and head turns down to an art. We chatted during a break and I brought up the subject of Bob Dylan and my concern about him. To my amazement, Vee told me that Dylan- before he got into the folk kick and when he was plain Bobby Zimmerman back in Minnesota- had played a few gigs with Vee’s band- as pianist! Vee said Dylan was very good, in the Jerry Lee Lewis sytle, but he could only play in C. He said he knew a lot about country music, too. As it was hard to find pianos at their gigs Dylan didn’t play with Vee very long. But as he has fond memories of him and said he was really well versed in current rock n’ roll at the time of their meeting. He had the impression that Dylan was very hip to whatever was happening. ;I wondered if the young Zimmerman had ever been a Bill Haley fan.
So, that would confirm that Dylan did play with Vee in the summer of ’59 after his graduation.
The book is a great read, a very good book, as Ian struggles and fails to find success. In a fit of depression he returns to the seaside pier on which he had seen O. Stoppit. An old poster is hanging that he secures then finding his model’s address he visits him to present him with the poster. O. Stoppit tells him bluntly to stop living in the past. A fine thing to tell a historian but Mr. Stoppit was apparently a blunt, unfeeling brute. Also well past the sunny side of life.
Has Ian ever adjusted to his being a one hit wonder? I’m afraid not. It still rankles. As late as December 1997 in an essay written for American Heritage Magazine Ian quotes a letter from fan Arlene:
Dear Mr. Whitcomb:
I have watched you several times now and I want to say that sure you have talent and you’re magnetic, but why, oh, why, do you screw it all up by horsing around, being coy, by camping, as if you’re embarrassed by show business? You could be great if you found your potential and saw it through, but that would take guts. Instead you mince, and treat it all as big joke. Come on now!
Well, that was the same thing Morrison told him thirty years earlier; the vaccination didn’t take then either.
I think Ian entered his depression early in life, as many of us do. Then one has to face it. Some become phony chipper optimists in their attempt to overcome the conflict between expectations and reality. Some become goofs and jokers. Something I fought for years. Some like Ian become silly. The most extreme type of this I ever saw was Red Skelton the ‘great’ clown who was painful for me to watch. In fact I couldn’t do it. I saw too much of myself in him and ended up hating the bastard.
If Ian wants that second hit and more he has to master his silliness. Weld the singer and the song like greats like Jagger and Morrison. Be to some extent what his fans want. A good sense of humor on songs done with respect for the song, himself and his audience. Scratch Red Skelton. People want to love Ian, just as Ian wants to be loved, but as the saying goes, he won’t let ‘em. I’m not criticizing or demeaning, I know where that’s at too. I am recommending the course of action however. I, Arlene, Jim of blessed memory and others want a sort of closure that has been left hanging.
The book is a great one through Ian’s struggles to come to terms with his times, himself and the future.
November 13, 2008
Conversations With Robin
Robin Mark and R.E. Prindle
Well, you know, the river just keeps right on a flowin’ and you have to stay afloat but the bozos in Washington just don’t seem to have a clue and they’re so cynically dishonest. Eighty percent were against the bailout but they said we had to have it or the world would end yesterday. Now the bailout has gone away. first there was a bailout, then there was no bailout.
I thought both Obama and McCain were genuninely crazy to want to step into Bush’s shoes and I hope Obama gets what he’s got coming.to him before I get mine. The Commies have to be stopped this time; twice was enough of that bull roar.
But to turn the radio back up. Have you read any of Miss Pamela’s latest: Let’s Spend The Night Together? she interviews twenty-four groupies mining their minds for golden memories.
As super Presley buff you’ll want to read the first chapter by someone called Tura Satana. Taught Elvis nearly every thing he knew. How to kiss, the whole works. Came to her as a country bumpkin and left as The Sheik. Funny I haven’t heard you vent on her before.
And then a Catherine James invents the most improbable story about Dylan you’ve ever heard.
Elvira makes her guest appearance with some more info on Elvis that sounds like it might be as true, at least, as a Hollywood movie.
It’s kind of a kiss and invent book but Miss Pamela is her usual charming self. Get’s a little gruesome after a while though, but, Hey, here it is 2008 and they’ve all survived. Even Miss Mercy. Carazy mama but she’s got a few more tidbits on Elvis. Did he ever have an interest in a Memphis area club called Hernando’s Hideaway?
Those girls did get around but the question is what can they actually remember? It makes you wonder how Jimmy Page ever had a spare moment to practice guitar.
Good luck with your school. We’re a long way from the bottom yet. It amazes me how few people understand how far its fallen and that it is absolutely impossible for it to bounce back. For crying out loud the Faller has barely gotten ‘Timber’ out his mouth already.
I pity those poor Liberals who’ve finally gotten their wish. Now what are they going to do with General Motors. There is no forgiveness in my heart for them.
August 4, 2008
Conquest Of A Continent
Review by R.E. Prindle
Grant, Madison, Conquest Of A Continent, Liberty Bell Publications, 2004. Reprint of 1933 Edition
Fischer, David Hackett, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways In America, Oxford, 1991
Higham, John, Strangers In The Land: Patterns Of American Nativism 1860-1925 Rutgers U. Press 1955
Myers, Gustavus, History Of Bigotry In The United States, Random House, 1943
Wittke, Carl, We Who Built America: The Saga Of The Immigrant, Case Western Reserve, 1939
In the immediacy of the moment one frequently overlooks or forgets the history leading up to the moment. One might think for instance that the current flap over Diversity and Multi-Culturalism is a recent occurrence. While the two terms are of recent provenance the argument under different names goes back much farther while the protagonists are essentially the same.
The story of immigration into America is almost always told from the point of view of the immigrant. Few books tell the tale from the Nativist point of view and they are universally and viciously derided as a tale told by bigoted idiots. While charity is demanded from the Nativists none is to be expected from the immigrationists.
Thus we get volumes like Strangers In The Land by John Higham and Carl Wittke’s We Who Built America that distort the issue in favor of immigrants while deprecating the Natives.
Qustavus Myers’ History Of Bigotry In The United States on the other hand appears to be a willful misunderstanding of the nature of the relative status between immigrant and native resulting in a slanderous approach like that of the contemporary Greil Marcus.
Conquest Of A Continent has been placed on the Jewish Index Of Anti-Semitic Books. Based on that I expected a detailed derogatory examination of the Jews from their entry into America perhaps being the conquerors referred to. The President of the American Jewish Committee sent a letter to every Jewish publisher in the United States demanding that they refrain from either reviewing the book or noticing it at all. Dynamic silence was to prevail.
After reading Conquest I can only conclude that the AJC was hyper sensitive to a degree. Since his 1916 Passing Of The Great Race Mr. Grant had learned that ‘You Don’t Mess With Rohan’ to quote Adam Sandler. Grant all but ignores the Jews in his volume. No, his offense, according to the AJC was even more egregious, he uses the world Nordic and dares to imply that they are ‘the Great Race’ rather than the AJC’s own Semites.
The other volumes mentioned and, indeed, all writing in this genre which is pretty extensive, defers to the Jews as ‘the Great Race’ probably genetically superior to all others.
So Madison Grant is interested in telling the story of how the Nordic race conquered the continent. This approach can only be considered as a sin by non-Nordics. Grant then tells the story of how the US and Canada were occupied by peoples other than the native Indians.
He begins early referring to twelfth century attempts to settle by Scandinavians. In the 1100s the firece native Indians were able to exterminate the invaders and may well have been able to exterminate the Puritan settlers but for the fact that a small pox epidemic shortly before the Puritan arrival had reduced the native population by as much as half while weakening them concomitantly. Such is the luck of the draw.
Grant thus traces immingration back to its origins colony by colony and then State by State as the Nordics moved Westward.
David Fischer in his excellent Albion’s Seed retraces the same ground fifty years after Grant with much addional detail concerning the places of origin and their activities once in the US.
Grant’s approach is in some ways superior to that of Fischer since as an unabashed Nordic advocate he is interested in detailing the exact racial content of the occupation of the various states and provinces. If you aren’t aware of the progress of settlement and by whom there are numerous surprises. My own notions were certainly vaguer before I read Grant.
I was surprised at the seeming numerical superiority of Southern migrants in the Westward movement. It seems that Whites did not like to live in the South where they were compelled to compete with slave labor while being despised by both the plantation owners and their slaves. Thus there was a constant stream of the best and brightest of the South moving into the North and West. As Grant notes, Virginia was the mother of States.
Then too some of Grant’s population statistics are of interest also. At the 1790 census before the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 there were less than a million Africans in the United States. Seventy years later as the Civil War began the number had increased to four and a half million. Thus natural increase was out of the question. It follows then that between 1800 and 1860 more Africans were brought to the US than there were before 1800. As a result the slave trade fluorished more than ever.
Prior to 1800 Alabama and Mississippi had no settlers so that in 1860 these two States were still rough frontier States still in a state of organization.
There is much good background here as to how the US came under settlement. The continent was accupied in its entirely when the truly major immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe began to accelerate in the 1870s and 1880s changing the basic Nordic institutions of the country. The change in Grant’s eyes was much for the worse.
Carl Wittke’s We Who Built America published in 1939 was undoubtedly in response to Grant’s Conquest Of A Continet. Wittke, was published by Case Western Reserve University. Grant explains the meaning of The Western Reserve which has always puzzled me. The Western Reserve was three million acres set aside as a concession to the State of Connecticut for giving up other territorial rights.
Wittke made a great impression with his his volume, his opinions being taken as overriding fact. I remember my sixth grade teacher in Michigan lauding the book to the skies. I finally read it a couple years ago. Not so much.
As is usual with books and writers of this type Wittke overstates his case and underproves his facts. A contribution to the dialogue at best.
Grant’s book should prove useful to any unbiased reader. If his attitude of Nordic superiority offends you, ignore it. His history as history is sound. For those of you reared on Myer’s History of Bigory attitude you will probably be surprised to find that there is another point of view. Bigotry is not a matter solely of American destestation of immigrants as the program of Diversity and Multi-Culturalism indicates, bigotry is a red herring and not the issue. The issue is who will be Top Race. The contestants for the Top Spot have turned out to be the Africans, Semites (both Jews and Arab Moslems) Hispanics, Chinese and Euro-Americans. (Grant’s Nordics) As you can see race has replaced nationalism.
The contest is real and ongoing. Peace is merely another form of war. The prize will go to who wants it the most. If you don’t see the contest in these terms I suggest you remove your rose colored glasses.
May 7, 2008
Exhuming Bob IX:
Chronicles Vol. I, Pensees 4
The gist of Chronicles is how Bob became a songwriter. As an auto-biography of his life he is telling us nothing but as to his intellectual development he is telling us a lot.
I find the Lost Land chapter the most interesting in the book. Bob goes back and constructs little dioramas to illustrate the changes he was going through. The chapter is kind of a literary version of Salvador Dali’s picture, The Persistence Of Memory. What is visible has to be reconstructed and interpreted. In the interpretation lies the interest.
Bob is interested in telling us how he became Bob Dylan while wanting to give his impression of people and events. He recalls a concert by Bobby Vee who was riding the crest of his popularity while Bob was a mere nothing waiting in line. He seems to want to prove to us that Vee really did know him from back in Dakota thus verifying the fact that he did play with Vee’s band. Bob sent in his name and Bobby Vee actually came out to talk to him. The situation is reversed now, Bob is something and Vee is a has ben but Bob still has a place in his heart for him. Touching story.
And then he tells his Ricky Nelson story. Bob seemed to think more highly of Rick as singer than I did. Time has softened my attitude to Rick as well as his song ‘Garden Party’ that I have always liked. As Bob said Ricky mentions him in his song- ‘there was Bob Dylan in his Howard Hughes disguise’- or words something like that.
Rick’s song, I think, gave Bob the idea for the story he tells of Camilla Adam’s party. It is actually two parties, the one at Comill’as and another at Alan Lomax’s that Bob loosely joins together around the persona of Mike Seeger. It’s interesting. Bob introduces the party thusly: p.62
…then something immediate happens and you’re in another world, you jump into the unknown, have an instinctive understanding of it- you’re set free. You don’t need to ask questions and you always know the score. It seems like when that happens, it happens fast, like magic, but it’s really not like that. It isn’t like some dull boom goes off and the moment has arrived- your eyes don’t spring open and suddenly you’re very quick and sure about something. It’s more deliberate. Its more like you’ve been working in the the light of day and then you see one day that its getting dark early, that it doesn’t matter where you are- it won’t do any good. It’s a reflective thing. Somebody holds the mirror up, unlocks the door- something jerks it open and you’re shoved in and your head has to go into a different place. Sometimes it takes a certain somebody to make you realize it.
Mike Seeger had that effect on me.
So the rambling account of the Bob’s next few pages is going to be a story of how Mike Seeger put Bob’s head in a different place. It’s going to happen at Camilla’s ‘Garden Party’ combined with Alan Lomax’s affair. Did this party really take place or is this a dream sequence Bob builds up to explain the change he’s going through? The population of the party strikes me as improbable but then I have attended very few celebrity parties and don’t feel I can put myself forward as a judge.
Bob doesn’t tell us when these two melded parties built around Mike Seeger too place but as most of the stories in this essay take place in the winter- baby, it was cold outside- it must have been before 1963. Bob arrived in NYC in the winter of 1960. In relation to Harry Belafonte he does say: ‘I’d be making my professional recording debut with Harry, playing harmonica on one of his albums called Midnight Special. That album was recorded in ’62 so if that was still in the future as Bob makes it sound the intellectual development he’s taking about probably took place in the winter of ’61-’62. He bagan dating Suze Rotolo in the summer of ’61 so the part-time girl friend he was with, Delores Dixon, must have been the part of the time he wasn’t with Suze.
There were a lot of Folk people there but Bob says they all gave him the cold shoulder except for Pete Seeger. p. 64
I saw a lot of people here that I’d meet again not too far off, a lot of the folk community hierarchy, who were all pretty indefferent to me at the time and showed very little enthusiasm. they could tell I wasn’t from the North Carolina mountains nor was I a very comercial, cosmopolitan singer either. I just didn’t fit it.
So if not outright rejection there was probably a feeling of you don’t have to pay attention to that guy, he ain’t goin’ nowhere. So here we have the nucleus of Positively Fourth Street. p. 64
They didn’t know what to make of me. Pete Seeger did, though, and he said hello.
So, who among the multitude had the prescience to recognize the genius of Bob Dylan and said: Hello. That was enough for the moment for the boy in the sheepskin coat and motorcycle boots.
An then Bob runs through a list of attendees: Harold Leventhal the famous Folk manager, Judith Dunne a choreographer, Ken Jacobs the filmmaker, Pete Schumann a puppeteer, Moe Asch from Folkways, Theodore Bikel, Harry Jackson the artist, Cisco Houston.
A whole slew of authentic labor agitators, not those phony bigwigs who went to Pureto Rico to party hearty. Irwin Silber of Sing Out!, There were a lot of Broadway and off-Broadway actors too, a lot of musicians and singers, Erik Darling, Lee Hayes, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Mike Seeger of course but also the creme de la creme Harry Belafonte. Quite a gathering which makes me believe that Bob is romancing a little.
Bob was knocked out by Belafonte. He eulogizes over Harry. For myself I never really cared for Belafonte. Harry was from New York City. born in ’27 so he’s about eighty now. Still kicking. He went to live with his grandmother in Jamaica for four years when he was from eight to twelve then returned to New York City. Studied to be an actor but first drifted into singing, picked up a folk repertory from Huddie Ledbettor who he apparently knew. He had a hit in 1953 with Matilda and in 1954 released his LP Mark Twain of which the title song became a hit. Harry also did a number of Leadbelly tunes like the slave songs Bring A Little Water, Silvie and Jump Down, Spin Around.
The lyrics in the latter baffled me for decades. In one of those classic mishearings I heard:
Jump down, spin around
Pick a bale of cotton.
Jump down, spin around,
Pick a bale of hay.
I could never figure out the connection between cotton and hay. Then one day I realized, or read the lyrics, I forget which and learned the last line was ‘pick a bale a day.’ Ah, made more sense.
I didn’t understand what it was about Belafonte I didn’t like until a while ago when I subjected myself to another hearing of the first double Carnegie Hall record of ’59. Then I knew why. Harry treated his vocal styling from an art song point of view. He sang Folk but through a glass darkly. (Finally got that old saw in. Thank you Harry.)
He was fighting the image of the Negro as an inarticulate lout so he over compensated. He actually mocked the English of the English on the LP, his hatred flowing out. So he sounds like he’s performing in Porgy and Bess or like John Raitt in Oklahoma or Carousel. Stilted.
If one compares the records of Belafonte to those of the Scotch Folk singer Lonnie Donegan, he began his ascent at the same time, the contrast is startling. Donegan sings as a man of the people giving the songs, same songs, a meaning and value that Belafonte fails to do. Compare both men’s rendition of Bring A Little Water Silvie. Belafonte sounds like he’s singing for a soundtrack of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers or something. Lonnie Donegan sounds like he’s out there in the fields asking Sylvie to bring him a little water as he picks his daily bale of cotton.
All the difference in the world- Lonnie Donegan is the greatest who ever rode the Rock Island Line.
It bothers me that Bob doesn’t seem to know Lonnie. He wasn’t that big in the US but he was huge in Britain. You might possibly know him from the song Does The Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight.
Of course Harry made it big when he made his sentimental Journey back to Jamaica to exhume a repertoir that really struck home. Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) made it for him. Then his acting career revived. He was billed as the Negro Presence which is what Bob seems to referring to here. Every effort was made to make Harry the Black Hero, before Poitier, transcending any Whiteness. As popular as he was he never really caught on. Carmen Jones, a Black takeoff on the opera Carmen was his big movie. He not only sang like but acted like John Raitt. The movie might have done alright at the box office, I don’t know, I didn’t think much of it and I knew it was my duty to like it too.
That would have been 1954, the year of Brown vs. the Board Of Education, just at the time Eartha Kitt, also born in 1927, burst on the scene singing the fabulous C’est Si Bon. Ran us right up the wall. I always couple Belafonte and Kitt in memory. Would have been a dream marriage, like Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor.
Having written a great eulogy for this major influence in his life, Bob compares Belafonte with Gorgeous George. He then gets to the crux of this story, the life changing event. He moves immediately on to Mike Seeger.
It was getting late and me and Delores were about to leave when I suddenly spotted Mike Seeger in the room. I hadn’t noticed him before and I watched him walk from the wall to the table. When I saw him my brain became wide awake and I was instantly in a good mood. I’d seen Mike play previously with The New Lost City Ramblers at a schoolhouse on East 10th Street. He was extraordinary, gave me an eerie feeling. Mike was unprecedented. He was like a duke, the knight errant. As for being a folk musician, he was the supreme archetype. He could push a stake through Dracula’s black heart…
Bob rambles on, he’s got enthusiasm for Mike. Bob’s eulogy of Mike Seeger exceeded that of Belafonte by a factor of 10, but he doesn’t say Mike could knock anybody out with one punch, his ultimate accolade that he uses for Harry.. Bob muses:
The thought occurred to me that maybe I’d have to write my own folk songs, ones that Mike didn’t know.
And so the epiphany. Bob knew he could never come close to equaling Mike Seeger as either a folk singer or instrumentalist.. He left the field of folksinger to Mike and apparently still feeling inferior having written some well received folk style songs he escaped Mike’s shadow by adding electricity. There was no way Mike could go there. And there Bob got bigger than any hundred or thousand Mike Seegers.