Billie Eilish, A Poem

Me: Hey 2018 Aaron, guess what?

2018 Aaron: What?

Me: Your favorite thing in the world in 2020 is going to be an album by a teenage girl who recorded the entire thing in her bedroom with her brother.

2018 Aaron: Yeah okay.

Me: And much of the music is kind of slow and tad morose, but I love it. It’s really really great music!

2018 Aaron: Man, are you okay? STOP FIBBING

Me: I’m not making this up.

2018 Aaron: Sure. Next you’re going to tell me they have burgers not made of meat.

Me: Well…

Christmas 2019

Somebody on Twitter asked people what they’d learned in 2019. It made me review the pages here at good old 8WK Studios, and I didn’t really get the impression I’d learned much.

I’ll say the latest thing I’ve learned is a better way to season ground meat once one has browned it properly.

I do know I began 2019 with an intention to spend more time listening to new music and more time recording my results here. That’s why the first entries of the year held that focus. I don’t know why it got lost in the shuffle. I just got busy, I guess.

I will say, of all the upcoming releases, the one with the most promise would be Everything Else Has Gone Wrong from Bombay Bicycle Club. This is a band that consistently paints with the little brush. I dig this band and salivate over their new release, coming the week of Jan. 17. A few samples:

So perhaps we’ll do a bit more work here in 2020. But trust me on Bombay Bicycle Club.

Christmas was okay. I had stupidly volunteered to work the holiday. This meant a quick breakfast Christmas with family. Delicious pancakes. Good times. And, we can now scratch the new Prince memoir off the list. Check!

Bonus to checking out some new bands is finding others. BBC will apparently tour with The Big Moon this year. They are great.

Hundalasiliah!

It’s weird, but I always get a little excited this time of year, this day, as if I’m actually lighting the candles on Little Richard’s birthday cake.

It is a luxury that Little Richard’s birthday falls within the Zappa Solstice. Of course, if the information I read on the Facebook today is correct, so does Louis Cole’s birthday. But that’s another matter altogether. Hi, Louis Cole!

Little Richard, 87 today, penned a song that became one of my favorite Mothers performances ever caught on tape. Track two off of Weasels Ripped My Flesh, the song is called “Directly from my Heart,” and it features Don “Sugarcane” Harris in a blistering fiddle performance. But this thing would not be half what it is without the stellar source material, the song that drags its left foot so beautifully.

This is not going to be a long, drawn-out post. I have done that previously. I do recommend on this auspicious occasion that the average humble music listener might want to take a moment away from one’s gorging diet of Zappa, and Mothers, and Beefheart, and Geronimo Black, and listen to something by Little Richard. And, if you’re curious, settle down with author Richard Kirby’s masterpiece, Little Richard: The Birth of Rock and Roll. It will change your life.

Happy birthday, Georgia Peach. Health and comfort to you.

Bummernacht 2019

Today is Bummernacht 2019, a day signifying the last day that the great man himself, Frank Zappa, stopped refusing to die. Or, as they teach today in the finest classrooms:

“On this day ’93, we all stopped jivin’ with that cosmic debris”

So I often write up a buncha stuff for this blog space here in outer space for the occasion, and I do not know how much I will have to share here. As I am the Zappadan tumblr man and the Twitter Captain as well, plus as a person who has one of those “job” things, I hope the best I can do in this time is to listen to music, to reflect, and to maybe learn more things.

First, the boilerplate: Zappadan began as a blogswarm many years ago, I think in 1972 or so, back when people were still “blogging.” It is from Dec. 4, the day of Frank Zappa’s permanent discorporation, until Dec. 21, which is that day that my brother was born. And also Frank Zappa was born that day too, yes. Since then it has reached beyond the blogosphere, celebrated today with a modified maypole dance, some rye whiskey, and feats of strength.

And pigs and ponies.

And so today, as I ponder my first discussion of the Zappadan of 2019, I am listening to the svelte shasta sounds of Harry Wayne Casey, who is extorting an audience to “blow yo whistle” and to “let him hear it.” And I wonder what Frank Zappa thought of Casey, known better to all ya’ll as “KC,” of KC and the Sunshine band, if he ever really thought of them at all. I thought of them this evening when I came home and sat down on my toilet. And so I picked up the remote control I keep nearby, and I said into the remote, I says, ALEXA. PLAY KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND ON SPOTIFY. And it played a song by KC and the Sunshine band.

And I wondered what Frank thought of this musical marvel, built in the solid Caribbean musical tradition of Junkanoo, which will sit beside you all night at a party and swear it has nothing to do with the Indian tradition of New Orleans but holy crap you just keep squinting and thinking you canNOT tell the difference, maybe there’s more whistles or something. But knowing this, that this young man who worked at the time in a record store in Hialeah, Florida, witnessed this cultural touchstone centuries old, perhaps even grew up with it, and thought enough of it to want to try bringing some variant of it into the recording studio, and that that is how you got “I’m Your Boogie Man,” I can tell you that it has made me reach for this previously considered guilty pleasure with more gusto and insight than I had before. Seriously, put on the album “Do It Good” sometime and listen from gavel to gavel, and apply a truly critical ear. You may leave the experience gushing.

I only wish I knew if Frank ever gave ol’ KC and his Sunshine Band any thought. Like, perhaps, he’d named an album in parodied tribute, ever.

But hey, enough of my yakkin’. What do you say? Let’s boogie!

what a fool believes

He came from somewhere back in her long ago
The sentimental fool don’t see
Trying hard to recreate
What had yet to be created once in her life
She musters a smile
For his nostalgic tale
Never coming near what he wanted to say
Only to realize
It never really was
She had a place in his life
He never made her think twice
As he rises to her apology
Anybody else would surely know
He’s watching her go
But what a fool believes he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away
What seems to be
Is always better than nothing
And nothing at all keeps sending him
Somewhere back in her long ago
Where he can still believe there’s a place in her life
Someday, somewhere, she will return
But what a fool believes he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away
What seems to be
Is always better than nothing
There’s nothing at all
But what a fool believes he sees

Will You Accept My Tears To Pay The Fare?

I got my first copy of Prince’s 1999 album accidentally.

See, when I was a kid, they had this brilliant sales tactic called a “record club.” So you signed up, and then if you didn’t cancel an order, they sent you the record anyway. This was a brilliant selling tactic that probably should have been illegal. But as a result, one of the albums I ended up with was weird and purple and had a penis on it.

Face it. That “1” in 1999 is a phallus. It just is. Let’s move on.

I had a bias at the time, I have to admit. I mean I was what, 14? And I didn’t like this boom-boom music. So I accepted the record, but I didn’t listen to it, for a while. I just didn’t. Until, one day, I did. I think it’s because “Delirious” was on the radio. I got it out and listened to it.

And this song came on.

It was called “Lady Cab Driver.”

There is a drum beat, and Prince calling for a taxi. Funky guitar and bass. Then Prince regaling the “lady cab driver” and engaging her in light conversation but then begging her for relief via escape.

Then there are the clock-chimes and the water-blow noises. And the part where he’s f*ing that broad and giving her the what-for.

And what’s with that flute-synth sound ?

And then the traffic noises continue and we fade into “All The Critics Love You In New York”

and I

was instantly a Prince fan

and I always will be

U no what I’m talkin’ about.

*

The eighth performance in the film Sign O’ The Times is a drum solo by Sheila E. The “E” stands for “Escavedo.” Her father is Pete Escovedo, a renowned percussionist in his own right. Tito Puente was her godfather, and she is also auntie to a young lady you may have heard of called “Nicole Ritchie.” Sheila was romantically involved with Prince at one time and, I was stunned to learn, was also in a thing at one time with Carlos Santana. Yeah.

Her album, “In The Glamorous Life” was always one of my very favorite Prince albums.

But there is a moment in the middle of her drum solo I think about often, because it shows her to be one of the most terrifying drummers out there. During the solo, Sheila gets rid of her sticks and starts beating the cymbals with her hands.

I have never seen another drummer do this. To my knowledge, Mick Fleetwood never did this, nor did John Bonham, nor even Stumpy Joe Childs. This is a move it took a girl drummer to do. She is the fiercest drummer ever and don’t ever forget it.

*

Prince didn’t merely record albums. He forged worlds. And for a while, one could look forward to entering one of these worlds pretty much annually. I’ve spent a good amount of time at Paisley Park (it’s in your heart), and at Christopher Tracy’s Parade. I’ve been talking stuff in the Violent Room, and I have kept Vicky waiting. I was of the New Power Generation and wanted to change the world.

And, I have most certainly spent a lot of time experiencing a religious epiphany known as “Lovesexy.”

It was three years ago on a Thursday. I had taken April 22 off of work to drive to my Grandma’s house for her birthday with my Dad. I had taken a break to peek at my phone, and there were reports of a body found in Chanhassen. Later reports confirmed the body belonged to Prince. He had been found slumped over in an elevator, which I immediately found to have been horribly poetic.

Punch a higher floor.

Strangely, that weekend, I had to explain Prince to my 92-year-old grandmother. To explain to her how widely admired was the Dude Extraordinaire, I broke out the big comparison. What was it like, I asked her, when you lost Glenn Miller?

I watched Purple Rain every night for a week once I returned. I have since re-written it in my head because it is not a good movie. I have also since purchased and digested Art Official Age, PlectrumElectrum, and Hit and Run Phases One and Two. These, his last released works, would all sit comfortably next to anything he had ever done; they are that good, which I find to be the largest shame of his end. I think he was ready to unleash at least another decade’s worth of music on us.

Mary Don’t You Weep

With the litany of production credits that trails at the end of the “new” Aretha Franklin film Amazing Grace, it is an astonishing miracle that the film exists as it does, completely unadulterated. There is a brief text crawl that introduces the film, explaining why this rare and exceptional performance occurred, and then you are allowed to simply watch. There are no self-aggrandizing interviews, such as in The Last Waltz, for example. Nobody talks about what’s happening or attempts to shine light on the events. You just get to watch. And that is wonderful.

Franklin is brilliant as expected, but you’re also treated to one of the finest call-and-response partners there is, James Cleveland; not to mention the Southern California Community Choir. As Mr. Cleveland points out to the audience at one point, the project could have just been another studio effort by Franklin, but that the point of recording at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church is to get audience reaction on the record, as well.

And hey. Mick Jagger and his friend Charlie Watts are in the audience as well. Because of course they are.

The film, captured on 16 mm film by filmmaker Sydney Pollack, could not originally be released because of a technical screw-up that prevented audio synchronization. Later techniques fixed this problem, but, I was sad to learn, Franklin sued to keep it from being screened. That’s a shame because it’s a film that shows her as a mighty powerful presence.

Amazing Grace is a joy for a music nerd like me. The only problems I had with it are that it made me want so badly to be in the room and that made this non-believer want to find a black Baptist church and sign up. Have you ever been to one of those services? I have. One of those might make Bob Ingersoll a believer.

Seriously, though: Amazing Grace is one of those things you will regret not having seen in the theater. It is a beautiful document, treated carefully and honorably by its caretakers. What a wonderful thing to get to experience.