Late on Saturday, the last night of SXSW, I somehow ended up having a pint with a mixed party of American and British band members, only one of whom I knew previously, when suddenly the subject of the British government’s support of the arts came up. Seems these four young lads, and their frontwomanone stunning fulfillment of my perky blonde English chick singer fantasy (oh my)hadn’t used their money to come all the way to Texas. No, the government had picked up the tab. The fact that they were vaguely ashamedbecause being on the dole is unhip and kind of the opposite of DIYtold me it was true.
Call it “Hollywood Alcoholism,” meaning it’s not Requiem for a Dream, that chilling and incredibly visceral film depiction of addiction, but the more common cut and dried varietyhe came, he drank, he fucked up, he had an epiphany and of course, he cleaned up after one neat and tidy trip to the Zen rehab clinic. Having seen Townes Van Zandt and more than a few other musical substance abusers when they were riding high (which is really riding low, if you know what I mean), things just ain’t this a way. Hollywood’s way is to show addiction without any of the struggle. Oh sure, he threw up, sort of, once or twice but hell, I remember seeing Townes fall off a stage that was four inches high, and then he couldn’t get up. When I pitched in to help, the man clearly had not showered in quite some time. He’d been bingeing and playing one nighters, which is where Crazy Heart starts out.
How great was it to hear all the music at the inaugural. Maybe music and the arts will once again be valued in the country. Maybe someone else than right wing country singers can get a tune in edgewise.
“Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
They sing "I'm in love. What's that song?
I'm in love with that song."
(from “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements)
My five month old cell phone fried itself dead. Traffic in downtown Austin crawled inch by inch. A friend, who called himself a “capitalist,” called long distance to tell me Obama’s health plan was going to bankrupt the country. But all of that paled in comparison to the strange news that on the first night of South By Southwest 2010, the great Alex Chilton had died just before leaving New Orleans to come to Austin to play a Big Star reunion. Or as the more cynical among us had it, another Big Star reunion.
Even better than the STAX museum in Memphis however, is the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. I had friends in Nashville give me the whole rap about… “You don’t have to even know the music to love the museum”…to which I rolled my eyes, but it’s actually true. The CMH integrates music so beautifully in the museum. It could be an utter disaster in there musically, with listening stations bleeding into each other until it’s just a cacophony of noise. But through the intelligent uses of curled Nautilus shell shaped listening booths that control the sound yet still allow the listener to hear what they’ve chosen, the CMH is a model of keeping the music nearby yet allowing folks to look at cases of artifacts and talk among themselves without being blown out by music playing.
The new Miles Davis On The Corner set, which Sony says is the last metal boxed chunk of Miles they're gonna release, ever, is also the most beautiful, ever. Like the LP which reached its finest, most completely perfected form just before CDs came in, the boxed set is reaching its zenith with this one. The funky characters from the original cover are now stamped into the metal casing into which the set, book and CDs combined slip into. It's the same setup that Sony’s been using since the beginning of what has proved to be colossal reissue program.
Now that O.J.'s come out with his TV interview and his book, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. The DVD/CD tie-in. How about a soundtrack album featuring OJ enthusing about he "may" have done it. Or a tribute record: "Song for OJ." Or possibly "OJ sings the hits of …" Don’t laugh (or gag). Anyone unbalanced enough to write this book, presumably for the money, no matter what it's doing to his children, is ego-blind enough to think he could make it in the music business. Hey, he's already been an actor.
Heard a fairly scary rumor this week that I'm trying to confirm. Supposedly, you now only need sales of 50,000 units to jump into the upper third of the Billboard album charts. Consider that number against the fact that the two largest selling albums ever, Thriller and the first edition of the Eagles Greatest Hits have sold something north of 25 million copies and you get some idea of how shocking this stat is if true.
Had the old boy lived past the ripe old age of 27 (thank you tequila and morphine), Gram Parsons would have turned 60 last week on November 5.