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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Jack Bruce RIP

[Faithful reader Sam sent me a dead link of what I gather is Jack Bruce giving a bass lesson. A bass lesson from Jack Bruce is of dubious utility. I think it would be like a symposium from Lew Alcindor on how to be tall. Apparently Jack’s passed away, to be reunited with his liver in Rock n’ Roll heaven. RIP][Editor’s note: First offered in 2006. For all you young kids out there: That’s not George Lucas, Dumbledore, and Grandpa Simpson playing in a band together.]
[Author’s Note: Never mind that; I’m still trying to get over the fact that someone is still playing a sizzle ride cymbal. And there is no editor.]

Hydraulic License Rock

The quality of this Youtube feed is better than most. (It’s not all that high quality, but everything is pulled off of YouTube after five minutes now.)The quality of the music is too:

That’s Cream, re-united and performing “White Room,” probably their best-known song. I’ve watched it many times. It occurs to me that it explains a lot about rock music.

Those are old men. Eric Clapton, playing the black Stratocaster, has his hair mussed just so as a sop to youth, but they’re old farts. Old farts playing rock music are lame. Cream is not. Here’s why:

The term rock music has been twisted and stretched to cover just about any set of noises organized to sell discs. It’s as if forty or fifty years ago a religion was founded, and you had to get the A and R rabbis at the record companies and radio stations to announce you were kosher, ie: rock and roll, to be consumed.

If there’s anything lamer than old, bald men in spandex still yelping about the discontents of teenagers as if they were still in junior high, I haven’t seen it. “Hope I die before I get old,” only stirs the blood if the blood doesn’t require Geritol. You’re not allowed to pick that gauntlet back up and complain about your backache while doing so, too.

Performers used to acknowledge that their shelf life as young rebels fighting the man was short, and if they wanted to keep performing after it expired, they’d have to become part of the nostalgia industry. Listening to Peter Frampton in 1976 is excusable. Listening to Peter Frampton to remind you of 1976 is excusable. Listening to Peter Frampton as anything else is kinda silly.

Cream is a part of a tradition of adult music. They listened to music from America’s black musical tradition, where it is was plenty acceptable to be an adult, and to consider adult themes. When they were young, they were striving to be old. Now they are old, and need not strive.

I watched them, and knew that I had seen their like before — but not where you’d think. They were operating their machinery, and I had seen men operate familiar machinery before. I’ve known many men, skilled in the rough arts: masonry and concrete finishing and excavation and demolition and blasting–men past their physical prime, but still tough as nails, and wise, and able to leave any three youngsters in their dust.

They sit in the chair in the excavator, their knobby hands move the levers just so, and they move the bucket with the delicacy of the teaspoon. They wake up tired, and yet they never fade while working, because they husband their energies where the young and strong and dumb flail away and drop out. They stand in the shade whenever possible, and rest when it is offered, but do not flag; and they smile at one another at the end of the day’s work, exactly the same smile exchanged at the end of this song, a knowing smile among those who have earned the respect of a fellow adult man.

And the young men watch them and learn.

7 Responses

  1. An epic song, for certain.

    If by your analogy you mean that JB was a grand master of the bass guitar, I dig that. But, the analogy to Lew Alcindor is gold – solid gold. Almost too good.

    Peter Frampton in 1976. Dood! If any album ever was over-played, his gets my vote. It gets the medal for too much air. He gets the Oscar for don't play that song ever again if you know what's good for you.

    Carry on.

  2. I've known many men, skilled in the rough arts: masonry and concrete finishing and excavation and demolition and blasting–men past their physical prime, but still tough as nails, and wise, and able to leave any three youngsters in their dust.

    I once saw an old tool pusher- a.k.a. drilling rig foreman- take over the brake/lever and use it to dismantle a bit of the rig machinery. I marveled at his deft touch at using a lever which is usually used in brute operations- the control of 10,000 feet of drill pipe.

    I had never thought of it, but your description of Cream producing adult music is a good one. The mere title of this Cream song,"Tales of Brave Ulysses," does not imply a child's experience.

    I never tried to understand the lyrics of White Room. The song just put me in a contemplative state. Lyric analysis would have ruined the contemplation. Which may help explain why I never liked English classes, though I was always a voracious reader.

    Seeing Cream perform White Room reminded me of Eric Clapton's loss of his young son,who fell many stories down.

  3. I went through my Electrical apprenticeship with some old school journeymen:
    When they like you they stare at you with cold, mean, dead expressions. When they don't like you they just get up and leave without saying a word.

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