Transatlantic flights wipe me out. Chalk it up to being an old man I guess. But after a connection through a dark deserted Heathrow, I arrived in Barcelona for the 41st Barcelona Jazz Festival and within a couple of days, semi-disaster had struck. Not to me mind you but to American jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano who fell, not once but twice and broke an arm and a shoulder. He had to cancel his show here in Barcelona, his European tour and then had surgery with the chief orthopedic surgeon of Barcelona’s much beloved soccer team, FCBarcelona, presiding. I saw Lovano this morning as he was leaving for a flight home. He had both arms strapped up in this elastic, soft cast contraption but was in good spirits and ready to head back to NYC. He says he’ll be able to play again in about 15 days, but he’ll have to lay off performing until after the first of the year. No word yet however on what caused his tumble, which is the bigger question.
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.
Still on the road in Memphis. At the center of any music trip to Memphis is the odd but very telling juxtaposition of Graceland and the relatively new Stax museum. Elvis was always very up front about where his influences came fromblack blues and R&B, along with gospel music, both white and black, and Tin Pan Alley’ most of which is honored in the Stax museum. And for the record let me say that I will never understand how Memphis, THE big city for all the delta blues pioneers, not to mention the town’s subsequent musical history, B.B. King, Elvis, Alex Chilton, Ardent Studios, etc. took their eye off the ball and lost the Rock Hall (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) to the mistake by the lake. Such a pity. It would have given this town a triple threat of music tourism. Whoever was Mayor then, not to mention the city council, the local state legislators and oh yes, the fine guntotin’, God Afearin’ folks of the Tennessee delegation to Congress ought to be beaten.
It’s that kind of place. Despite it’s economic distress, the empty streets, the halfassed Bourbon Street mess that Beale Street has become (goddamned is it bad!), and what seems to be a full on crime wave in certain parts of town, in Memphis you cannot keep the music out of your head. It may be the wash over that comes from being so close to the Delta, but I couldn’t keep, “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohen or the words to one of John Hiatt’s greatest songs, (and that my friends is truly saying something because John Hiatt has written a shitload, okay, like 25 genuinely great songs) “Memphis in the Meantime” out of my head.
“If we could just get off a that beat little girl
Maybe we could find the groove
At least we can get a decent meal
Down at the rendezvous”
Needless to say, I wasn’t in town half an hour and I was at the Rendezvous (www.hogsfly.com), down in the basement as it were, wolfing down chopped chicken, pickles, big hunks of cheddar cheese, cole slaw with vinegar and cumin, sweet tea, fries, red beans and rice (laced with sliced mushrooms?) and the best ribs I have ever tasted. The best. All covered in that secret shake mixture of spices that makes this place world famous. My God it was good. It’s so damned nice to find a “legendary” restaurant that actually lives up, or in this case exceeds its billing.
Show me a music writer who has no guilty pleasures and I’ll show you someone you don’t need to waste time reading. Anyone with passion for music, which is what drives you to try to put what you hear into words, has a brain studded with funny little weaknesses. Many is the music writer who has a Bobby Sherman record stashed somewhere. I have a friend, a blues nut extraordinaire, who one dark night admitted to me under the influence of single malt that he “had a few Beatles albums” hidden away under his bed like girly magazines. And then of course there’s always the issue of hipness overload. No one can be cutting edge all the time. There are times when you just want to hear Hall & Oates or Karen Carpenter’s dusky tones and you don’t care who knows. I like Grizzly Bear fine for example, but sometimes you just gotta give in, shed that uber skin and dive headlong into some accessibleashell Whiz.
So the big day, September 9, Beatles Day, has come and gone and after being away on a brief trip, I returned this morning to a number of voicemails that began, “Are the Beatles reissues worth the money?”
I know that every time someone dies, it’s now customary to intone about what a hero they were, how much they were always had a smile for everyone, how they were great family men, husbands, fathers, etc. etc. etc. Speak no ill of the dead, I get it.
They were quite a couple. Like a pair of Octopi in heat. First, he was grabbing her ass. Then he had his hands up the back of her shirt. Then, up the front. Then he had his hands down the back of her pants. Then, down the front. Both hands and about half of his forearms. Her only reaction was to smile, swoon and stick her tongue in his mouth. I'm damned impressed that she was able to keep her clothes on during this determined assault upon her New Jersey virtue. Best of all, during this entire spectacle, they were simultaneously kissing and falling down at the same time. Groping does not begin to get what was happening in my section on Thursday night at the Beacon Theatre.
If you like freak shows, then the current travails of the Republican Party are incredibly sweet. Marc Sanford’s “I’m gonna try and fall back in love with my wife” nonsense [need dental work? try repeating that one to your wife?], Palin’s rambling, basketballanddead fishladen resignation speech, and now the pride of Long Island, U. S. Rep. Peter King, calling Michael Jackson names on the day before he is buried. “Lowlife,” “pedophile,” “child molester,” oh yeah, King hit `em all. The run of bad news on Jackson is about to begin againhis toxicology report is gonna cause a circus, not to mention the end of several medical careersso I’m thinking King coulda waited a day or two before giving us another dose of some righteous Republican extolling the heroism of firefighters, cops and soldiers. The fact that all three of those professions are paying gigsno one is being drafted latelyis clearly beside the point for King. And okay, we all know Jackson had some unhealthy sides to his life, but couldn’t King have waited a day or so before becoming a new hero to the haters in the Republican Party. The appetites for hating and hypocrisy in the GOP are apparently insatiable. I loved it when one of King's colleagues questioned whether this outburst would help or hurt King by saying that it might help if has a lot of racists in his district.
It’s a sure thing that Michael Jackson’s life was not going to end pretty. In fact, it can be argued that this mode of death is not the worst thing that could have happened. Seeing him waste away from cancer or die in prison, or collapse and die onstage would have all been worse. You could feel that how ever it was going to occur, Michael stood a good chance of going out in spectacularly tragic fashion. If the rumors are true, it was a shot of Demerol and he stopped breathing. At least it was mercifully fast. Can you imagine the mad scramble that’s now going to occur for his assets being carried out while he was still breathing? And who gave him this alleged shot? I have a feeling that a number of Dr. Nicks are about to be uncovered. At least his poor tortured soul departed quickly for what I hope is a better life somewhere else.
Sad to hear of the death of guitarist/keyboard player/singer/songwriter/mad genius Jay Bennett at age 45. I don’t want to be a hater here but like many others, his portrayal in the Wilco film, I Am Trying To Break Your Hearthas always been very problematic for me.
Tribute records are only as good as the person being feted. Their success or failure is also directly linked to how much energy the performers put into the project. Most tributes operate via telephone and UPS, meaning everyone uses the telephone to figure out what song they want to cover, and then UPS (or if you’re really sexy and rich, Fedex) delivers the finished tape. Actually, in some really impersonal cases, the music might be sent via email. Gee, ain’t this `ol digital world great?