01.30.09

Hearing Jimi Hendrix

            In the universe of memorable movie quotes that you hear over and over again, it is one of the most curious to me. “ You can hear Jimi, but you can’t hear Jimi.” It is a quote from the film White Men Can’t Jump, a sentiment from Wesley Snipes to Woody Harrelson commenting on Harrelson’s whiteness retarding his ability to jump. Perhaps it is only a funny line from a movie, but a curious sentiment in my opinion. It seems to me that Hendrix actually does speak directly to white people. At least he spoke to me and many other fifteen-year-old unlikeable white kids in suburbs across America. Jimi Hendrix shirts still hang carelessly off of college students who have not yet become contrary about or given up on rock n’ roll. Furthermore, I have never heard an African-American lay claim to Jimi Hendrix. He doesn’t appear in Afro-centric movie soundtracks. There are no iconic pictures of Hendrix hanging out with the Reverend Al Sharpton, or leaving a restaurant with Marion Barry. Spike Lee will probably never make The Jimi Hendrix Story (although he would be my first choice), and there is nothing wrong with that. Hendrix was a bit of a conduit between soul and rock and roll, and whitey needed the education at the time. And he was a bit freaky looking: an attribute that, with the exception of George Clinton, always goes over better in the white community. 

            But I agree that people don’t “hear Jimi,” but for more obvious reasons. Hendrix bleeds through the walls if you turn off the radio. He has become part of the white noise of rock and roll: his songs endlessly repeating on the radio. Who wants to hear “Foxy Lady” or “Purple Haze” ever again? When the rare occasion arises to thin my record collection, my thumb will inevitable slow in the H section. I consider the plausibility of ever pulling out a Jimi Hendrix album. But I am unable to get rid of any Hendrix records from my youth. Although I can never imagine taking one out, it just doesn’t seem right to have them out of my collection.

            So tonight, I pulled them all out. I decided I was determined to “hear Jimi” once again. I got my tape deck in gear and made a mix tape of songs from the Hendrix library that are not completely worn out. I filled a 90-minute tape of performances that exemplify his inimitable connection with blues guitar playing and the strange, acid-eating portion of his style that keeps him in the imagination of suburban youth. I don’t know if I heard him, but it was fun to try. 

Side One:

Stone Free- Smash Hits 

In From the Storm- Cry of Love

Rock Me Baby- Soundtrack

Little Miss Lover- Axis: Bold as Love

House Burning Down- Electric Ladyland

Third Stone from the Sun- Are You Experienced?

Remember- Smash Hits

Hear My Train a Comin’- Soundtrack

EXP/Up from the Skies- Axis: Bold as Love

Red House- The Jimi Hendrix Concerts

Side Two:

Johnny B. Goode- Johnny B. Goode: The Berkeley Concert

Wild Thing- Jimi Plays Monterey

Freedom: Isle of Wight

Machine Gun- Midnight Lightning

Spanish Castle Magic- Axis: Bold as Love

And the Gods Made Love/Have You Ever Been to Electric Ladyland- Electric Ladyland

My Friend- Cry of Love

We Gotta Live Together- Band of Gypsies One

Blue Suede Shoes- Midnight Lightning

1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)- Electric Ladyland

I might do The Rolling Stones next…

Jimi posted in: Writing | Comments (1)
01.27.09

CHANTS, THE: R & B: LP 1966 was a good year for warbling soul and rock and roll covers. The Charts could be looked at as just another regional band from the time period. But these recordings, which include an obligatory version of “Gloria,” are extra magical in their execution. Overdriven is the theme for this half studio/half live document of New Zealand’s version of the Yardbirds. The first side includes their studio sessions, which are tight and fuzzy and exemplify good pop writing of the era. The live side provides a document in mono complete with distorting vocals. Loaded with energy, The Charts sail through a set list that contains a good mix of soul and rock standards. Sometimes the live side of an album can come off as filler, but in this case the live side is relevant. Pete Townsend once said that he was uncertain about the connection between The Who and mod culture. There is no confusion here. This is mod R & B all the way through, and an excellent party record. At least, my kind of party.

-Billups Allen (Norton)

01.25.09

 

 

MIDDLE CLASS, THE: Out of Vogue- The Early Material

One of my favorite things about hardcore is when old codgers who have been into it for too long will get bored with life and begin extolling the virtues of some unknown band. I particularly love it when the hype begins to raise eBay prices and, before long, a mediocre retrospective record is produced. Then eBay process fall and everything goes back to normal. This is one case, however, where the community has been served properly. Out of Vogue- The Early Material is an essential document of that magical time in history where punk rock picked up speed. The song “Out of Vogue” is a classic smoker that has gotten around a bit. Loud, fast and out of control, it is the song that they are known for. But this record is not a one hit wonder. Vogue contains the band’s first two 7”s plus some demos that are actually worth listening to. From session to session, their style wobbles between early Bad Brains recordings and Adolescents sounding beach punk. The negligible variation in style and raw recording quality gives the record as a complete listen the feel of putting on Discord’s Year One. The Middle Class originate from the late ‘70s when punks were unsure if the music could handle the speed. This document of their output is angry and sloppy and there is not a weak spot on the record. Am I an old codger extolling the virtues of a virtually unknown hardcore band? Maybe. But don’t let that stop you. This is essential listening. An absolute keeper.-Billups Allen (Frontier)

01.24.09

T.S.O.L.

I saw T.S.O.L. on thier reunion tour in the late 90s and they were good then. They stood out among what I think of as the explosion of “reunion fever” that swept the 90s after the mainstream acceptance of punk rock. T.S.O.L played well and seemed to be enjoying themselves without the pretense to having something to prove that seemed problematic in some reunion bands at that time. Since then, T.S.O.L. seem to be continuing full time as a band. They have put out several albums in this decade. Most recently, they have released Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Free Downloads which, as the title suggests, is available for free download. With the music buying process in such chaos, I think it is interesting that they have chosen to hurl their new album in to the void without a direct mode of compensation. I definitely don’t have answers for the quagmire of how to be a band nowadays, but I do think that people are too concerned with their “intellectual property”  and I admire T.S.O.L. for trying new things. I am generally for anything that promotes record shops, but free downloads might be the honorable alternative. I am sure that, realistically, T.S.O.L. have little chance of getting a lot of attention from a mass release in stores. Music was meant to be heard, and T.S.O.L. are getting out there and playing and sharing their album. They are a great band worth supporting anyway. They are responsible for Dance With Me, Beneath the Shadows, and Change Today? which are all classics. There are many reference to them as predecessors of Goth. It is a reasonable statement, but I like to think they were experimenting with surf guitar sounds, pushing them into darker arenas. They also had an occasional horror soaked theme. T.S.O.L. were at the forefront of the Southern California punk rock sound at the time existing in conjunction with bands such as The Adolescents. I don’t necessarily have an attitude about Goth, but I think T.S.O.L.’s sound is more relevant to the history of punk rock and far from what I would consider to be appealing to the average goth kid. If you have not thought of them in a while, T.S.O.L. are due for a rediscovering.T.S.O.L. are a great band and are worth supporting, particularly in Tucson where punk shows are few and far between. They will be at Vaudeville on Sunday, January 25th, 2009. 

Maybe a good segue in the “how the hell do you share music?” discussion. I have heard (and of course I am ranting with my usual amount of research; i.e. none) that bars are being hassled to pay money to ASCAP for having DJs in. Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole “DJing” phenomenon is another dumbing down of the industry, but there are people who genuinely care about eclectic music that drag their records into bars week after week without compensation just so dead voices a chance to be heard among beer swilling chowderheads that would rather be listening to the horror that is Fall Out Boy. I have heard recently that a DJ Butta Fly whom I know to have an eclectic ear for soul music was recently shut down in a small bar for playing music. I understand that there is a need for artists to get paid, but i doubt very much that much money is being lost when Gloria Jones is heard on a bar. And frankly, I am against ANYTHING that turns music off or promotes mainstream music to be inserted in place of real music played by fans. If ASCAP did find a way to wrench a nickel out of someone’s pocket on the rare occasion that Gloria Jones is accidentally played in a small bar in Tucson Arizona, that nickel would probably go into the $150 jeans of a member of Fall Out Boy anyway.

But I’ll say it again, I don’t have the answers. Still, we have to find a way back to the notion that a fan could get excited about something and try to share it with the world. Nowadays, it seems that if John Cusack held a boombox over his head in front of a girl’s house, he would owe Peter Gabriel money. 

T.S.O.L’s website: http://www.truesoundsofliberty.com/ 

01.22.09

My Oscar Picks

About this time every year, Oscar fever hits and everyone in the world floods the internet with their oscar pics.  So why do you want to read mine? Because I have a unique perspective on the Oscars. I have not seen one of the movies that are up high on the list. Not one. I saw Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. That’s it. So here are my Oscar picks based on trailers, newspaper advertisements and my personal feelings about the people involved. 

Best Picture: I am going to go with Milk because I like things that relate to gay issues.

Best Actor: Frank Langella because he is old and he looks like Christopher Lee.

Best Actress: Meryl Streep because I never heard of any of the others except for Kate Winslet and I will never, ever, ever watch Titanic.  Winslet was good in Extras.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger because he won’t get another chance.  

Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei should win, then have the one for My Cousin Vinnie taken back. Was she really good in that movie? If reenforcing stereotypes is Oscar worthy acting, then the industry needs an overhaul. Besides that, The Wrestler is one of the few movies on this dreadful list that I intend to see.

Best Director: Gus Van Sant because he is the best director on the list. Although I will never forgive him for Good Will Hunting. Danny Boyle has not made a terrible movie yet, so he is up there. 

Best Foregn Film: The German one. Germans are just better than everybody at certain things.

Best Original Screenplay: I actually saw In Bruges, so In Bruges. 

Best Animated Feature Film: ALL ANIMATED FEATURE FILMS SUCK GIGANTIC HAIRY WHALE BALLS. Whoever is responsible for Persepolis losing last year should be sodomized by every animal at the zoo with Gus Van Sant filming. 

Best Art Direction: I don’t know what that is. Anyone who says that they know is lying.

Best Cinematography:

This gets down to the part where nobody is watching anyway. All the rest of the awards should go to Milk and Slumdog Millionaire because they are worthy and so they can put “Winner of blah Academy Awards” on the DVD box so people will rent the movies unaware that the movies won academy awards for “Best Catering” and “Most Efficient Light Bulbs” and things like that. I will take for granted that Milk, Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler were good. The Oscar list reads like roll call at a leper colony. There should be a little less self-congratulation on the part of the movie industry this year. 

01.20.09

I have recently been thinking about reliable disappointments. The first one that comes to mind is M&Ms in cookies. M&Ms look like they would be good in cookies. But they really aren’t, are they. They get all hard and lose the property that makes them M&Ms in the first place. Not only that, but the cookie crumbles around them. They really don’t bring anything to the table. Little colored rocks embedded in the dough. It seems like a good idea, but it isn’t.

MM posted in: Writing | Comments (2)
01.18.09

I feel pretty lame writing about mainstream shit like this, but I have had a lifelong obsession with Saturday Night Live. Also, it is a sad testimony to my dying youth that I have been home enough recently on Saturday nights to even notice, but three SNL people are really cracking me up. Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Keenan Thompson are three of the funniest people on television right now and make Saturday Night Live almost watchable. They have been turning in awesome performances. Bill Hader won me with his frustrated take on Vincent Price. Kristen Wiig got to me rolling on the floor as a nervous woman trying to contain the fact that she knew about an impending marriage proposal. Keenan Thompson’s scared straight prisoner who’s anecdotes trail off into unrelated movie plots was a winner with me as well. These three appear to be bringing back old school character acting to late night television. They shine in some of the weakest of sketches and are worth keeping an eye on. I haven’t cared about SNL actors in a long time. I am a Molly Shannon and a Phil Hartman fan. I was also way into Maya Rudolph. I miss her. I wish someone would give her a job. I think she was way overlooked. I like Tina Fey, but it is pretty obvious she is casting a shadow over her days at SNL. All late night humor these days seems to be about bad racial stereotypes and being uncomfortable in homo-erotic situations.

By the way, do you all know that Conan is still doing that “in the year 2000…” sketch? I am kinda into that.

I guess it is apparent that my schedule has changed recently. I went from getting up at 5:00 AM to go to work to going to school at 2:00 PM. Let us all give thanks for the education system. Still, I am bothered that the University of Arizona is planning more budget cuts. Many have noticed that the art department has already been cut to the bone. If you ever ride through the Campbell road entrance you’ll notice a plethora of panel trucks every Friday loading rented folding tables into U of A buildings. That coupled with the university building five new swimming pools leads me to wonder if we could ask the swim team to share three swimming pools and have some of the faculty eat with their plates in their laps once or twice a month. It would be a small price to pay for a few art teachers. I have chosen to speak up now because I know the English department will be next.

They came for the art department, and I did not protest. Then they came for the English department, and there was no one left to protest. Except for the Philosophy department. But I am convinced the Philosophy department could go on unnoticed for many years. Most college faculties are unaware of the existence of their Philosophy departments. If you ever have a chance, ask an elevated faculty member to help you locate the Philosophy department. Most faculty will become confused, and if they are in charge of any money, will ignore you by breaking ground on a tennis court. I have heard many Philosophy students are already denying their own existence, partially out of self-preservation and partially in hopes of obtaining a grant. Still, eventually someone will catch wind of the existence of the Philosophy department, and they will be disbanded. The model for getting rid of Art English and Philosophy is already in play at many state schools across the country. I would like to see U of A students unite. I encourage members of the Art, English, and Philosophy departments to join hands and jump in the five pools at one time to protest this threat to our resources that enable to amass useless information and making it difficult for us to pursue our lazy, banal lifestyles.

 

SNL posted in: Writing | Comments (0)
01.06.09

We are sorry to hear about the death of Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton. Asheton was a founding member of the Stooges, playing guitar on the Self-titled and Funhouse records before moving to bass guitar on Raw Power. He played in a string of bands in the wake of the Stooges including the band Destroy All Monsters who are best known for the song “You’re Gonna Die.” Asheton was a force in rock music and hopefully the success of recent Stooges reunion tours made him aware of our appreciation. Asheton was 60 years old.

01.04.09

This year for new years eve, I watched Seinfed at 11:30, had a vodka at midnight and fell asleep. Is it a far cry from wilder times? Perhaps. I don’t know much else what I would want to do. I don’t remember if I ever got too wild, but I think I used to go to parties. I was going to step outside, but I am pretty sure there was shooting in my neighborhood.  I have pretty much been in full on work mode during this break. It is nice to know that I could work at home if I ever had a chance to write for a living, but I can feel the cabin fever setting in. Going a bit stir crazy drawing and writing all the time.Still, Cramhole #3 is bulking up in pages and I have some other projects getting done.Hope you are all well…billups 


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