I was going through some of dannye's
old writeups (which I heartily recommend to those of you who are prone to dump votes automatically into daylogs
as the minutes tick down to zero and you're jonesing
for XP; check out sensei's
too; likewise ToasterLeavings's
around here who's earned their bullshit
and noded for the ages
; the place is full
of excellence: iDeath
. Lord Brawl
. Don't get me started on the long nights I've spent getting to know them
Anyway, as I drifted deeper and deeper into dannye's complex world, as he painted pictures for me that had never been painted before (and I've been to a lot of art galleries and donkey shows in my time), I was taken back to a wonderful period in my life when I just couldn't exist without great music. I mean Godhead Music. Stuff that's hard-wired into the Source, not exhibitionist pop, crap-rap or perennial pube-rock (which will never die, alas).
When the history of the rise and fall of America has been written, the 1960's and early 70's will be termed a Second Renaissance, a rebirth not of the art of the visual, but of sound and the word combined.
There's been plenty of Godhead orchestral music written since the Renaissance. This is the stuff on KUSC here in Los Angeles that my fourteen year-old won't listen to. Vivaldi, Beethoven, Brahams, Mozart and all those other acquired tastes take work to get into--as much work for him as Limp Bizkit and Slipknot are for me, maybe more. (Though Eminem qualifies as Godhead in my book; shoot me.)
Back when I was first getting my ears tuned up, Godhead Music, with lyrics, leapt out of the radio at you. Everyday. You didn't have to go searching through a sea of shit to find the Real Deal. The world was full of songs about love and loss and right and wrong, with great melodies and complex lyrics, and I think it's fair to say that the people who made that music—Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, The Beatles, The Stones, Tim Buckley, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen of course—were artists of compassion and commitment. And I do believe, as Thomas Pynchon might put it, there is nothing to compare them to now.
Oh, I know, I know. There's some heavyweight sounds out there. But geez, they only come around every couple of years, and it's impossible to get tickets. And there's thirty thousand people in the joint and the show is…ok…but it's not Godhead. Beck is not Bowie. Radiohead ain't the Rolling Stones (at least not yet).
Back when dannye was playing music for a living and I still thought film was the new American art form, I had a friend who produced a live television rock n roll show called The Midnight Special, after Leadbelly's song. It aired late on Friday night and I guess you could call it a kind of incubatory MTV, except the bands played live in the studio and there were maybe three hundred people in the audience who were all told (by my friend, as it were) to clap with their hands over their heads. That had never been done before, oh my brothers. It was so the TV audience could see that people were really enjoying the show. It was the virtual beginning of the televised LIE, because they'd EDIT these shows to fit the week's demographics, or for particular sponsors, even for different cities where, presumably, people had different tastes.
My wife and I went to dozens of tapings over a period of a couple years, but dannye's writeups reminded me of one in particular:
One night, not expecting so very much, since we'd become jaded members of the invited Midnight Special audience, we saw, in the small studio across from The Tonight Show at NBC in Burbank:
- Maria Muldaur, who of course sang Midnight at the Oasis, and looked gorgeous in a pink midriff top and long, flowered skirt, and who left a little puddle of excitement and exertion on her chair (we sat very close).
- Randy Newman, who sang Sail Away, with an orchestra behind his piano.
- Joan Baez, who sang Diamonds and Rust, her peon to her youth and Bob Dylan, in a low-cut red velvet evening gown (very strange, but wonderful).
- Ry Cooder, who sang Diddy Wah Diddy and broke no less than three guitar strings doing it.
- LaBelle, who sang their hit Lady Marmalade.
- Doctor John, who brought the house down with, among others Such a Night and had to do THREE takes for technical reasons ("Well, Mistah Pro DUCE Huh?! How many a these d'y'all think Ah GOT in me?")
- Earth, Wind and Fire, who made us all want to go home and ball.
All in one night. Till three o'clock in the morning. To get comparable acts today to appear on one bill like that you'd have to offer free virgins in perpetuity as well as a whole pile of money and backstage munchies. And then they'd be late.
I guess what I'm getting at--or what dannye's making me think about--is how much things have changed. We need music now, I guess, more than ever, in our own complicated worlds. But the Good Stuff, the Real Pure Deal, is getting harder to find and more expensive to keep.
And that's a shame.