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Hey, Wanna Come Over My House And Listen To Chi-Lites Records?

That drum intro can’t ever mean anything to me other than Benny Benjamin opening up Ain’t Too Proud To Beg. I’ve made money singing that song. Please notice that I didn’t claim I earned money singing that song. I said I was paid money to sing that song. Different set of circumstances. Mayer Hawthorne is earning his money.

There really can’t be anything truly new in culture. The idea that you’re an artist so you have to constantly break new ground is silly. Humans have a trajectory as individuals, and as societies; humans start from scratch but their cultures don’t. Smart humans don’t reject everything that came before them out of hand. Winnowing through the dross to get the gloss.

After a while, the only way to do something truly new is to do something bad. After all the bad stuff is taken, you have to move on to malignant. The search for novelty over all things is a form of vivisection. You made a new animal, Dr. Moreau, it’s true, but it’s born dead. And ugly.

It’s hard enough to be entertaining, or interesting — hell, it’s hard to be plain competent. Holland-Dozier-Holland didn’t invent music. Mayer Hawthorne didn’t either, but being unafraid to plant a fresh crop in a fertile vineyard is a kind of bravery nowadays.  Go, man, go.

I’ve Seen Supreme Evil, And It’s As Cute As A Puppy

Ah, pop music. There’s serious money in unserious music. And wherever there’s money, people sense importance.

After a professional football game, which involves around one hundred illiterate and innumerate neanderthals, looped on steroids and ADHD medicine, shoving each other on a striped lawn over possession of a malformed basketball for a few hours, dozens of likewise illiterate and innumerate sportswriters and TV hair farmers push microphones into the players’ faces and ask them their opinions, more than occasionally about topics outside their field of expertise — said expertise solely consisting of fooling a piss test. Such is the end result of lots of money applied to trivial things.

People ask pop singers who should be president, which is much the same. And if a person has a million-seller, you can be sure some intellectual holding down a chair and a sinecure at a university or a magazine will invest that success with the veneer of seriousness. Lady Gaga’s meat dress means something, I can assure you. It wouldn’t mean something if she was playing Debbie Boone covers at the Ramada Inn, but a vapor trail of zeroes makes Goofy into Laika.

I have suffered from the syndrome myself, when I was much younger. I thought pop songs were important. You can get your fun out of taking all the fun out of things if you try. All-night arguments about whether the Dave Clark Five were superior to the Monkees can fill your life with meaning. It’s sad and pathetic meaning, like worrying over a State Senate election, or arguing on the Intertunnel, but it is meaning.

If you see it as just fun, you can make more fun out of it, without worrying overmuch. Mashing E.L.O. and The Supremes together isn’t going to cure cancer, but hey; it isn’t going to cause it, either. Enjoy. 

There’s Only Three Things For Sure

I come up hard, baby
But now I’m cool
I didn’t make it, sugar
Playin’ by the rules

I come up hard, baby
But now I’m fine
I’m checkin’ trouble, sugar
Movin’ down the line

I come up hard, baby
But that’s okay, cause
Trouble Man
Don’t get in the way

I come up hard, baby
I’m in for real, baby
Gonna keep movin’
Gonna go to town

I come up hard
I come up, gettin’ down
There’s only three things
That’s for sho’
Taxes, death and trouble

This I know
This I know
Girl, ain’t gonna let it sweat me, baby

Got me singin’
Yeah! Yeah!
Whoo

Come up hard, baby
I had to fight
Took care of my bidness
With all my might

I come up hard, awful hard
I had to win
Then start all over
And win again

I come up hard
But that’s okay, ’cause
Trouble Man
Don’t get in my way
Hey, hey!

I know some places
And I see some faces
I’ve got the connections
I dig my directions
What people say, that’s okay
They don’t bother me

I’m ready to make it
Don’t care what the weather
Don’t care ’bout no trouble
Got myself together
I feel the kind of protection
That’s all around me

I come up hard, baby
I’ve been for real, baby
With a trouble minds
Movin’, goin’ to town

I come up hard
I come up, gettin’ down
There’s only three things fo’ sho’
Taxes, death and trouble

Ooh, this I’ve known, baby, ooo!
This I’ve known, baby
Ain’t gone let it sweat me, baby
Woo!

Woo, I come up hard
But now I’m cool
I didn’t make it, baby
Playin’ by the rules

Come up hard, baby
Now, I’m fine, I’ve
Checkin’ trouble, sugar
Hey, movin’ down the line

Amplitude Modification (2007)



The naugahyde was cool against your cheek. I remember that.

Driving back from Roxbury. Rambling along the Charles on Storrow. The car pitched and yawed on its butt-sprung suspension and the spidered pavement . You could reach down and lift the floor mat and see the asphalt roll by through the rusty pinholes in the floor, where the road salt had done its work, and worked overtime, too.

Pop was operatin’. He was like a sub commander. Steering through shoals with vision obscured. Our moist breath clouded the windshield. The defroster exhaled on the windshield like the dying animal it was. Pop wiped the fog away with his hanky, and pressed on.

Little brother was already asleep on the seat next to you. Mom packed the blankets and pillow around him to hold him on the seat. I bivouacked on the rest, and tried to align my face on the part where the cushion wasn’t split from a thousand butts. The edge of the rip would cut your face and the foam would tickle you.

The scene was framed, imperfectly, through the lens of the side window. Left to right, the world ran past. The drops of condensation coalesced on the fogged window’s screen, ran down, and revealed the Cambridge shore through the mist. Low-watt Christmas everywhere. The enormous billboards shrunk by distance and time and poverty to faraway smears of luminous color with winking neon and the stink of death on their topics. FULLER OLDS. NECCO. KASANOF’S. The window made them into a kaleidoscope.

The useless wipers went scrreee-BAP, scrreee-BAP over and over, and Pop would fiddle with everything to no effect and keep going. Mom would look out the window and over her shoulder and her thoughts were her own. The Christmas presents from doting Aunts who asked you over and over “Which one are you?” would shift and tumble over in the trunk an inch behind my head when we got to the huge sign that said REVERSE CURVE — the one that caught Pop by surprise every time even though he was born a brisk walk from it.

There was sometimes a hand free to twist the huge, mostly useless dial on the radio. Snap, Crackle, Pop, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, came out of that thing. At night the big stations like BeeZee would bleed all over the place, and bizarre incursions of French from Canada would appear, unwonted, fight for primacy like radio chimeras, then disappear as Pop searched again for whatever you could catch and hold.

Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone…

We rolled on into the night.

Tag: Motown

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