“I was a percussion major at Juilliard. I mean this was back in the times of dynasties in music. I thought that I would love it. And all of that derailed for me, it just crashed and burned, when I heard my first Frank Zappa concert. I just suddenly realized, I don’t want to be a timpanist in an orchestra. And I don’t want to be a triangle player in an orchestra, to have to sit in the back row onstage to play my three triangle notes. That was not anything that appealed to me from the moment I heard Frank’s music. And it’s not that I was inexperienced as a listener with other popular music, or music theater or any of that. Frank embodied everything, everything that showed me in that one concert that I wanted to do that. I would sit in my orchestration classes at Juilliard, in my baroch history, these classes taught by the greatest people on Earth. One day, I was in one of the piano practice rooms, and I was absolutely not even allowed to be there because that’s ‘just for the pianists.’ And there I would be trying to recall the melody or the melodic shape of ‘Oh No.’ Nobody was there, and on this fabulous grand piano, I played that piece to the best of my recollection. And I can tell you, probably within 30 seconds, an officer of the school came in, ‘what are you doing?’ I’m just playing this beautiful music. ‘It doesn’t sound like any music you are supposed to be playing here.’ And I said, it’s 20th century music, what are you talking about? It’s by a living composer. ‘Get out.’ And, if you want to hear that piece on the piano, it could live in a concert hall, it was that type of music that he could produce that was a product of everything that was in him, but you couldn’t really categorize it. You couldn’t say oh yeah, that’s rock and roll, because it wasn’t. It’s jazz, no, it really wasn’t. It’s pop music, no, not at all. Well, what the hell is it?
And I knew that it had changed my life. That’s the thing. I didn’t live my life and then look back on it and go yeah, that was the life-changing moment. I walked out of that theater and I was actually disoriented. My whole world had been shaken up.” (Ruth Underwood, in the beautiful documentary, Zappa)
Quentin Tarantino: A word, please.
I recently finally sat down to watch your film “The Hateful Eight.” I loved it of course. I don’t know how it is possible, sir, but your talent for broad storytelling only grows more powerful as you continue your craft.
Nor can I wait for the sequel, “The Hateful Eight 2: HOLY CRAP WHAT HAPPENED HERE, OH, THE HUMANITY!”
Now I am not calling you out on wrecking an irreplaceable antique guitar on set. Although, Quentin. Tsssk tsssk tsssk. What a shame.
No, dude, I am calling you out for missing an obvious music selection for you fine film: “The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Rolls Back” by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, found on the oft-ignored masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica.
This song, which features a crudely recorded Don Van Vliet, absolutely should have been included in your film’s soundtrack.
Imagine a broad shot of your travelers headed toward Minnie’s Haberdashery, crunching in the just pre-blizzard snow, and a gruff voice is heard, singing:
“There’s ole Gray with her dove-winged hat
There’s ole Green with her sewing machine
Where’s the bobbin at?
Tote an old grain in a printed sack
The dust blows forward and dust blows back”
This odd poem reflects a gruff naturalism and a cruel poverty. It brings to mind the exact time and place portrayed in your film. I’ll go even further in saying that this song IS your film.
“And the wind blows black through the sky
And the smokestack blows up in the sun’s eye
What am I gonna die?
A white flake riverboat just blew by
Bubbles popped big
And a lipstick Kleenex hug on a pointed forked twig
Reminds me of the bobby girls
Never was my hobby girls
Hand full o’worms and a pole fishin’
Cork bobbin’ like a hot red bulb
And a bluejay squeaks, his beak open an inch above a creek
Gone fishin’ for a week”
Or how about this: Have Michael Madsen sing “The Dust Blows Forward” to while away the time while they’re all holed up, just a haunting tune that helps to fortify the character.
“Well, I put down my bush
And I took off my pants and felt free
The breeze blowin’ up me and up the canyon
Far as I could see”
I mean, not even in the closing credits? Quentin. Dude. This song is begging to be in your movie.
“It’s night now and the moon looks like a dandelion
It’s black now and the blackbird’s feedin’ on rice
And his red wings look like diamonds and lice
I could hear the mice toes scamperin’
Gophers rumblin’ in pile crater rock holes
One red bean stuck in the bottom of a tin bowl
Hot coffee from a crimped-up can
Me and my girl named Bimbo Limbo Spam”
Go back, dude. Edit. It’s worth it.
On Dec. 5, 1932, Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Ga. And every Zappadan, I wish that man a happy, happy birthday and many, many more.
I know. Little Richard’s birthday falling on the second day of Zappadan is merely a happy accident. Some might stretch that out a bit and call it a Zappadan miracle. Because, as it happens, Little Richard wrote and originally performed a little song called “Directly From My Heart to You.”
Now, I think the best recording of Little Richard performing this tune was the first. It’s slower, bluesier, dragging that limp left foot so deftly as it does. And Richard’s voice here is especially powerful:
There are, of course, many covers of this wonderful song, including a new one for me this year, as performed by Holly Golightly:
But, of course, the reason I obsess over this song and this particular day is due to the sublime performance of it by Zappa and a fiddler known as “Sugarcane.”
So one of the great things that happened in 2017 was that Howard Stern had a gentleman in the studio named Robert Plant.
I often listen to Howard on Sirius XM 100/101 as white noise. Gary’s phlegm. Ronnie’s weird obscenities. Cocktober. Robert Plant’s appearance, however, was one that demands strictly attentive listening.
And, did he offer a lovely fact.
Let me explain. Some time ago, I came across a book, Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll by David Kirby. I have found the introduction in this book to be quite illuminating, in that it lays out the truth: That Little Richard’s work was vital and paradigm-shifting like no other person’s contribution to the genre known and loved as rock and roll.
Little Richard was the one who explained to every subsequent performer how the music would be performed. How it would be sung. What energy you should bring to it. Before him, they crooned. Afterwards, they wanted to make their voices sound like Richard. He was the first new bud in a huge tree. Without Little Richard, Jim Morrison does not scream like that in “Love Me Two Times.” John Lennon does not sing “Yer Blues.” Jimi Hendrix’s GUITAR would not have existed without Richard, something that Hendrix acknowledged. Lou Reed cribbed lyrics from Little Richard and gushed as a rabid fan. As I wrote in 2013: “The ones we revere most routinely, the ones most frequently rotated in our playlists, they revere Little Richard.”
That’s true. Testify. Little Richard is, truly, the originator. And Mr. Plant has given us yet another example.
Listen to the first six seconds of this:
and then listen to the first six seconds of this
Indeed. John Bonham’s apparent earworm of that day? “Keep a Knockin'” by Macon’s best. The revelations of the man’s greatness and evidences of his importance as a rock innovator continue.
Before him, rock and roll singers crooned.
After him, they howled.
Little Richard is the man who showed the rest of all rock vocalists the way. And today, on this, his birthday, we thank him for it.
Little Richard, you are the originator. Happy birthday as always.
WE APPRECIATE YOU.