When I go downtown
I always wear a corduroy suit
cause it’s made of a hundred gutters
that the rain can run right through
but a lonely man can’t make a move
if he can’t even bring himself to choose
between a pair of black and a pair of brown shoes.
black and brown blues – Silver Jews
Lou Reed’s passing got me thinking about the songs that shape us all in one way or another. at my age, there’s thoughts of 45 rpm records, greatest hits albums, crappy K-Tel compilations, am radio jams and that occasional hum and crackle of “oldies” being played on Friday nights. which brings me to The Shangri-las. the all-girl teenage group from new york that had a #1 hit with Leader of the Pack in the mid-60s. every boy my age remembers the goosing of the motorcycle throttle in that song. but there other “big” single was “Remember (walking in the sand).” something about the hauntingly melodramatic, almost weepy doo wopping is one of those songs that sticks with you, in the same way a kick to the groin does. in stark contrast to sunny beach songs about sand, surf and fun, this one is about heartbreak, memory and that feeling of an inability to move on. all of that wrapped up with a nice bow, brought to you with teenage voices from a songwriting factory in NYC. doesn’t sound too punk rock does it? nonetheless, this one is a downbeat classic in my eyes and the vocals from lead Shangri-La, Mary Weiss are soul scorching. hindsight is 20/20, Mary is credited to inspiring the Runaways, the Go-Gos, Blondie (Debbie Harry has always tried to ape the vocal style), Hole, L7, the Donnas to more modern acts like The Vivian Girls and the Dum Dum Girls. of course the Shangri-Las have been covered by everyone from the Beach Boys to Aerosmith to the Chipmunks to the Carpenters. here’s to Mary and the Shangri-Las. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy8_38U3xLU
i think i once heard this line attributed to Lou Reed, it went something like, “my bullshit is worth more than other people’s diamonds.” without wasting a bunch of time googling the phrase, i will guess it was during one of his contentious back and forths with Lester Bangs. this sort of sums up the Lou Reed I love. self-important, self-effacing and selfish in his music. selfish in the sense that it is overindulgent, off-putting, and at times pure noise. wonderful, nasty, pure noise. that noise that splattered the paint that formed picture that his words described. to some weird kid from Kentucky, his work exemplified everything i ever attributed to New York City. before the Ramones, before Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground had me longingly wondering about the filth of the city, it’s alleyways of junkies, cocksuckers, cookers, lovers, artists and mainliners. that city sounded like the most frighteningly fantastic place on the earth. i knew it was hard being a man, living in a garbage pail. Lou told me that, but if some girl would just show up, Shelly, Candy, Stephanie, Jane, Jackie or Sister Ray, hell, it’d be alright.
the city, at some point, mainly due to pukes like Rudy Giuliani deciding that it needed scrubbing and sanitizing and turned into Disney world, changed shape from the wild decades of the 60s, 70s, 80s and lost some of that sleaze that the V.U. seemed to not-so-subtly hint at. but that being said when i step foot on the sidewalk there, in my head, it’s always contrasty black and white, i’m wearing wrap-around black shades, my collar is turned up and i searching for something, anything somewhere between white light and white heat. Lou Reed is New York City, his words, doo wop riffs and feedback are the haze that hangs over the island. everyone should have an Elvis and i’ve had more than one, including Elvis, i guess, Lou Reed you are one. now, i’m gonna do something that i do at least once every week, i am going to put on Foggy Notion and when I hear Lou chuckle, i am going to smile, ‘cept this time i will swallow the lump in my throat as i do it.
i have to tell you, big festivals are really no way to enjoy bands, music, beer, food, soil, water or casual sex. maybe i am just old but i find myself staring at the damn video screens instead of the stage, i just cannot connect to the bands. spoiled by a youth of booking bands, playing in a band, eating with bands, and generally being bored with bands before being blown away by bands who were literally sharing my sweat, spit and spite the whole festival thing ultimately leaves me a little cold. not that i don’t appreciate the whole overpriced flea market appeal of it all but $10 Sierra Nevada’s and taco truck lines sure ain’t for old punks. give me a draft, a chair and a band i’ve never heard of within throwing distance, in a room of a couple dozen enthusiastic know-it-alls and i’d be more tickled…you know, just how we used to see The Black Keys. i’m guessing, inside, the boys in the band feel the same way.
Patrick Carney @patrickcarney of The Black Keys on a video screen at Forecastle Festival.
Seeing the unseeable
Filling down the void,
We’re not what we used to be
We’re not really boys.
–Unconsciously Screamin’, In a Priest-Driven Ambulance, the Flaming Lips
somehow 25 years has passed and things have changed, and things have samed. there’s always been music that mattered, hidden in the cracks of existence, in the lowest, in the best and the most mundane moments that i have been. if you took all of it, shook it out, there would be bands and musicians who probably meant the most, who were the pieces in the soundtrack in the made-for-TV movie that is my little life. the Lips would be there.
hey, i just heard that the US got beat by Mexico. no, not talking about in the Gold Cup or any of that. i am talking about for the title of fattest, most obese, most likely to belch then fall over dead. ironic how poverty now leads to obesity instead of starvation. explain to me again how fresh food is too expensive for normal humans to eat yet factories can pump out completely processed shit for much less than we can get it from a farmer? job creators to human cremators. makes little sense. sigh.