Fred A Levy Haskell (fredcritter) wrote,
Fred A Levy Haskell

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DVD: History of Rock 'n' Roll -- #5 "Plugging In"

Watching, having fruitful night of thought fragments and quotes.


Thinking, especially when I got to this fifth segment, "Yeah, that's me—that's my biography." At formative stage in my life, popular music went from accessible to complex and took me with it.

Recently at work I was on break, listening to iPod & reading Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, which, at 1160 hardbound pages, looks rather like a book, and a coworker came by and started chatting. I paused the iPod and chatted a bit. After a few, he noticed the earplugs and said, "You were listening to music? And reading?" I mumbled my admission. "Wow. I couldn't possibly do that. I struggle with just reading." I kind of had to shrug, and didn't know what to say. To me, after a lifetime of it, music is air, music is the fishes' water. Oh, yeah, at some points that particular book had complexities such that if the current song had an especially present lyric I had to skip to another song, but … And then again, my wiring is such that I respond to music, even songs, even songs with lyrics, as music first and foremost. The only reason and extent to which I can say I know/understand the lyrics of any given song is that its music has sustained my interest in it enough times so I can finally start to piece together what its words are and what they might mean. Of course, there are times a particular phrase catches right away, but it's not in a context of the song's other lyrics so as to give it meaning to me. (I guess except for low-musical value, up-front & simplistically worded songs which I can more-or-less understand on first hearing [e.g., "When I Was a Boy," {some 50's song(s) as example? "Charlie Brown"? "Get a Job"?}]; but because of lack of lyrical & musical depth tend to wear thin on me fairly quickly. Can listen only so many times before it wears out on me.)


My life. Why not "successful" musician, photographer, artist, whatever? Fearful, personally conservative, not able to take risks. Maybe a bit too distractible as well. I just can't sustain balls-out going for it for any great length of time. On other hand, the successes, the if I might say it the brilliance that I sometimes show, have flashes of, in music, in photography, are from my sporadic ability to be totally there, totally "in the moment" as we now say, from time to time. I think my music is best when I'm channelling something else, whether it's my "deeper self" or the room's gestalt being or the cosmic All; not when the front-brain-me is "driving." I gotta be there enough to remember that the music will stop (for the moment) if my hands and voice and body don't continue to "do" it—to not drift totally into the space whence creative jizz—but that's about it. Doing photos too: best when I "set up" the camera and the situation and then "check out"—let … hmmm … my "greater being" take the pictures. I don't know. This all, both the negative and positive elements of my nature I'm talking about here, may well be a result of ADD and hyperfocus. Or maybe not. Maybe it's just how I am and there really isn't any need to apply clinical labels to the … root causes.

Heh. I'm good in spurts. One of my life's struggles is to come up with some way to sustain. (In particular cases, to practice guitar more often than once in a blue moon [my earlier recent picking' practice enthusiasm has now passed and I again haven't touched the guitar in far too long]. Or to follow-though once the photos have been taken. In the old days, getting around to processing the film … and then to making prints. Nowadays to scanning the negs or importing the store-bought scans, to throwing out the dross, selecting the good ones and refining them for presentation. And then presenting them somehow, somewhere. Heh. And finding/making occasions to make music. That doesn't happen much these days either. Follow-though, Fred. Sustain. *sigh*

Another of my great life struggles is to somehow develop a sense of sufficiency. Being a natchural-born perfectionist, my work is never good enough and rarely finished. I guess other people's rough edges are never as obvious to me as my own, so there are many times I can be enthralled by someone else's "product" and accept it as being "close enough to perfect" to suit me; but my own stuff? Heh.


Back to DVD. Noticed that Jimi Hendrix, while performing the most amazing music with "Like a Rolling Stone" at Monterey Pop, was, rather casually I thought, chewing gum. I got a strange cognitive dissonance; made me flash on that lately I've noticed in some porn loops the actors chewing gum while … performing … which always tends to … hmmm … destroy the mood for me. Like it was boredom/disconnect—insufficiently engaged in what they're doing. Disappointed me. But I don't chew gum, maybe I just don't understand. And seeing Hendrix chewing gum while engaged in the act of making … music … at that level … hmmm. I must rethink this….


"Like a Rolling Stone." Remembering being in the gym at Hamline years ago, I think because Michael Johnson reminded me of the show and I went with camera to take pics of him and Steve Goodman, in the gym listening to Goodman play "Door Number Three." For the first time, I rather think. Hearing the song start to go someplace different/strange/familiar; then the timing/shock of the "payoff"—realizing why it was at once both strange and familiar was exactly as the lyric proclaimed "Do you want to make a deal?" Electric. An electric moment. When I play the song I hope/try to communicate that excitement, that moment of realization, that rush.


Back to DVD.

John Phillips: "The Who and Jimi were determined to out-do each other; and I'm not sure who really won, you know, I mean … Jimi humped the amp … broke his guitar; burned it up in flames—The Who broke the entire stage…."

David Crosby: "We … didn't … know … that you could do that. You know … "He's lighting that thing on fire!" "How dare they break up a drumset?" They obviously had gotten a new sense of theatrics that nobody had, you know, even conceived of … previously."


Peter Townshend: "You know, what The Who were doing was transcendent in a lot of ways, but what … what Jimi was doing was sublimely … uhm … ep— It was an epiphany." Followed on the DVD by Hendrix's intro and "Like a Rolling Stone" from Monterey Pop. Amazing music from guitar, amazing playing the silence as well as the notes, amazing timing, combined it if you're watching with seemingly casual slides and swoops with his right hand (which for Hendrix was his fretting hand), changing his right arm's positioning from normal behind-the-neck positioning to swipes at the fretboard from the front and back again from moment to moment without missing a lick, a beat. Performing, by God. Music yes but also yes theater and … yeah … what Townshend said …


Fender stratocaster—the guitar Hendrix used—has a relatively small neck anyway—shorter than many, narrower fretboard—and Jimi had monster hands (as does Bobby [Weir], btw, and, was it Chopin?). Had a reach … he can play chords nobody else can, 'cause others can't reach. In addition, Jimi was a lefty playing a flipped right-handed guitar that wasn't restrung, which further affected his chord constructs—not to mention intonation and subtle things about the difference between how a string sounds when played on downstroke vs. upstroke. And he could fret and pluck with just his right hand, adding more dynamic to sting sounds. And one of the first, if not the first, experimenters with fuzz/feedback/sustain which allowed long held tone which could be fretted and changed and mutated as it went on.

He literally opened up entirely new guitar sounds and therefore entirely new ways of thinking about guitar music. Part of that of course was my old observation that he was "the first person to play electric guitar, not simply a guitar with amplification." Regardless of whether that theory fails to hold water …


Townshend: "There was something really important happening, which was that … this great music that we'd discovered—this great music which is still growing—this music which now you can write songs about what's really happening deep deep deep inside of you and what's happening around you in the world can also sound extraordinary."


A few people I wish I could, or could have, just sat somewhere and chatted with, 'cause they impress me as being interesting and articulate and having a good sense of humor and stuff. Not, you know, ooh-googily-woogily hero worship at all; just set a spell and have a pleasant chart. Those who spring to mind at the moment are:

David Crosby
Pete Townshend
Graham Nash
Dave van Ronk (I had that chance a number of times and punted it *sigh*)
Tom Petty
Judy Collins
Bruce Springsteen
Jim/Roger McGuinn
Jerry, of course …


Is it possible that anyone could listen to any of Judy Henske's first three albums and not fall totally in love with her? What a witty and charming and lovely woman.


Can anybody who was not then understand the feeling I got when hearing Hendrix introduce the "combined US and Britsh national anthems" and go into his remarkable and spectacular version of "Wild Thing" (on film of course—I wasn't actually at Monterey Pop)? How this/his version sounded to a person who'd heard the Troggs a lot on Top-40 radio?

Hmmm. Perhaps this is one of the contributing feelings to my love of "roots", both for my own experience and wanting others to hear it. Growth/progression/change/(sometimes even decay) of a song and derived songs over time and space and point-of-view. Good stuff. E.g.:

"Original Stack O' Lee Blues", Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hull—Down Home Boys, 1927
"Stack O' Lee Blues", Mississippi John Hurt, 1928
"Stack-O-Lee", The Fruit Jar Guzzlers, same era
"That Bad Man Stackolee", David "The Blind Soldier" Miller, same era
"Stagger Lee", Lloyd Price, 1959
"Stagger Lee", Sleepy LaBeef, 1994
and then Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia's "Stagger Lee", 1978.


I would like it if I could someday follow all or even many of the sparks and tangents these fragments evoke/engender …


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