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Wonderful World, Beautiful People. And Loads Of Accountants

Before you get all jiggy in the comments talkin’ about how white American people can’t clap along, I think I should warn you. That’s not an American audience. It’s not even an audience. Jimmy Cliff, like any wedding singer, needs work, and he’ll play at the Holiday Inn lounge if his agent tells him to, and eat chicken and shells on his break like the rest of us cover band shmucks did. That’s a convention. A trade show. More about that in a minute.

If you’ve ever gone to a Marriott and walked past a windowless room with plastic chandeliers depending from a drop ceiling painted black, seen fools milling around with name tags with Fletch quotes written under the illegibly scrawled Bobs, all dressed like they just raided Herb Tarlick’s wardrobe in the dark, then watched porcine women ululate over a chocolate fountain that has strawberries to dip in it, as if that’s not the most disgusting conflation of comestibles ever invented, then you know all about conventions. It’s a swinger’s party deboned for weak teeth. It’s a funeral without a corpse to liven things up. It’s Amway without even the soap, but plenty of perfume and aftershave.

What makes this trade show so interesting to me isn’t the fact that they’re immune to Jimmy Cliff in 1970. Jimmy Cliff in 1970 was earthshaking, or at least hipshaking, you must admit. He did his game best to pull fun like a molar out of them, but it wasn’t to be. The reason for that interests me. That’s MIDEM. The Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale. It’s a trade show, held every year since 1967. If you don’t speak French, can you guess the trade? Undertakers? Actuaries? Colostomy bag magnates? Who exactly would be that immune to Jimmy Cliff’s charms in 1970?

I’ll let Wikipedia deliver the punchline:

The tradeshow, which is billed as the leading international business event for the music ecosystem, has been held since 1967. Several thousand musicians, producers, agents, managers, lawyers, executives, entrepreneurs and journalists from around the globe regularly attend the event, which is usually held at the end of January, or early February. While delegates from recording, artist management, and publishers network, new artists showcase their material and live music is on show in the evenings.

If you’ve ever doubted just how little regard the music industry has for you, the customer, then watch that video again, and weep. If you think the music business has any more soul than pumping gas, you’re fooling yourself. That phalanx of suits is the music business. They wouldn’t know music if it bit them on the ass.

Samba de Uma Nota Só

My two sons, AKA Unorganized Hancock, are back with their version of One Note Samba.

One Note Samba is a part of a profoundly influential series of songs from the 1960s by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Bossa Nova doesn’t translate well into English, but it means new wave, more or less. It certainly was that. There have only been three BIG THINGS in music in my lifetime.

1.The Beatles making rock music important, then self-important, then self-absorbed, and then self-destructive, then atomized.
2. I remember the first time I heard Desmond Dekker very clearly. It was a revelation.
3. Bossa Nova.

As usual, the sixties get the credit for all three, but all of these things were born in 1950s culture. The fifties were supposed to be this sterile uptight time, but that’s a joke to anyone that can crack a book. If you know what a wandervogel was you know that being a hippie wasn’t anything new. Anyone that knows who Mies was knows that sixties modern was really twenties modern –the twenties being another maligned decade when everything happened while nothing was supposedly happening. No, it was the fifties that gave birth to those three things, and everyone just noticed in the sixties.

My children are homeschooled, but they receive very little musical instruction from me. For the little drummer, his lessons are an afterthought, the same as any extracurricular activity would be in a public school. If the public school had the slightest idea how to teach anyone anything, results like these would be possible with almost any kid who gave good effort. But more important than instruction is guidance, and with music, knowing what to avoid paying attention to is as important as any aspect of learning.

There isn’t a dime’s bit of difference between one rock group and another, more or less. Metallica sounds about like The Bay City Rollers if you look at it dispassionately. The format is banal, and easily understood. You have to be pretty sophisticated to play ol’ One Note, though, and know why it’s important.

[Update: Many thanks to Kathleen M. in Connecticut, whose constant support of my children’s efforts via our TipJar is remarkable]
[Further Up The Road Update: Many thanks to Sarah R. for her kind words and generous visit to the TipJar!]

Mind If My Little Brother Sits In?

Roadhouse Blues was where all the action was in the retail music business back in the early eighties. Stevie Ray Vaughan came out of it, and it was buried along with him. That’s his big brother’s band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, in their original iteration, I think. I recognize the left-handed junkie playing the bass, the one they had before they got a right handed junkie from Providence to play bass. I wasn’t a very good bass player, and I wasn’t any sort of junkie, so I never had a shot.

Bad players buy expensive guitars one after another because they figure a new guitar will make them better players. The entire music instrument industry is based on this concept. There’s Stevie Ray Vaughan, poised to be something more, but still a spare part on his more notable brother’s stage, with a borrowed Telecaster, a guitar as useful as a boat oar, putting the lie to that whole idea. People take drugs because they think it will make them as interesting as interesting people that take drugs. The entire drug industry is based on that concept. I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan drinking directly out of pitchers of beers while he played, and knew that sort of behavior is used to dial back whatever you had going on pharmaceutically, not get drunk; but I never dreamed he had dissolved his cocaine in the beer and was taking his yin with his yang as Cocaine Tang, but I gather he was. I just don’t have that kind of imagination, I guess. I once got invited by a mutual acquaintance to go backstage at one of their shows, after SRV had gotten notable, but I passed and just sat in the audience where I belonged. What could we have possibly talked about?

People think if they act like famous people they’ll get famous. I dunno about that. My experience has been that there are only two kinds of people in any room, and some face one way, and others face the other way, and that’s that. If the people on the stage try to sit in the audience, they implode, and if the people in the audience try facing the other way on the stage, they explode. I call it the Theory of Natural Self-Selection. Well, I just did, anyway.


There’s really nothing I can do but warn you. You’re bound to be blindsided. There’s no way you can see this coming. There you are, bumping along, listening to Adrien Moignard and Rocky Gresset lay waste to the Jazz standard Cherokee by Ray Noble, and you’re wondering exactly how inventive a person can get on the guitar, and then, like a turd in the fondue pot, THERE’S A BASS SOLO AT FOUR MINUTES, AND IT LAST FOR TWO, MIND-NUMBING, SOUL-DESTROYING MINUTES, WHILE ACTUAL MUSICIANS LOOK ON IN HORROR.

If The Folks Will Have Me, Then They’ll Have Me

But they won’t.

I live in a world of my own making, and always have. I have joined and tried and bent myself to the will of little men in order to get along, but I can’t do it anymore. I say nothing and nod but if you asked me a question, direct, I’d have to answer it truthfully — brutally, maybe; but you never ask me anything. You tell me things, and one in a million of them are of interest to me, but not the kind of interest I bet you’re looking for.

Everyone thinks they’re better than everyone else, and the worse a person is, the higher the regard they have for their own crabby worldview. I don’t have an opinion of myself any longer. I’m just a mirror I hold up to the world, and the world puts me in a closet rather than look upon itself.

But a mirror’s power doesn’t wane because you don’t look at it.

I’m Not Chiri Chiri Any More

My world’s out of joint. The sun is a rumor, the moon hangs on its hinges like a men’s room door in roadhouse. The leaves turned color right after the catkins left. The wind blows from the east when it’s not supposed to. The rain has turned my back yard into Pepperidge Farm Cambodia.

Today I read the saddest words in the world:

Activities of Chiri Chiri Sisters is the hiatus indefinitely with a live 12/14.
Everyone, thank you very much and who have supported until now.

The world grinds around on its axis still. I’m not sure why it bothers. The light has gone out on the earth’s porch. The Chiri Chiri sisters are no more.

Month: June 2014

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