The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Rolls Back

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.

Rock and Roll

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:

Via SecondHandSongs

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.


An Unfortunate Omission

I read Ronin Ro’s biography intently this year.

In fact, I read a lot of Prince-related books this year. In part because he died. In part because after he died, I knew I was going to be stupid enough to make Zappadan (mostly) about Prince somehow (and so here we are).

My recommendation is to start with “The Beat of My Own Drum: A Memoir” by Sheila E. Your jaw will drop at several of the revelations in this breezy read, and I will not spoil many of them for you. But Sheila does put to rest a hazy bit of data for us: Yes, they were an item and, in fact, they were once engaged. But this little book will break your heart a few times and give you a fascinating look at what I consider to be one of the hottest, most iconic music videos of the era, “The Glamorous Life.”

And you will never. See Carlos Santana. The same again.

But, back to “Inside the Music and the Masks.”

Here’s the thing. Ro’s book is excellent at documenting how Prince won us, then lost us, then won us back. But he ignores a lot.

For instance. Page 122. Ro writes:

February 26 at the Shrine Auditorium, Wendy’s father, Mike, onstage in a black tuxedo. Tonight, they’d celebrate the success of a very special performer, he announced.

This is the only thing mentioned in the entire book about Mike Melvoin. Who is not only Wendy Melvoin’s father, but the father also of Susannah Melvoin, Wendy’s twin sister and Prince lady friend and member of his Time spinoff band The Family, and also father of Jonathan Melvoin, also a player on many Prince tunes and touring keyboardist for a little combo called Smashing Pumpkins (sadly, Jonathan died of a heroin overdose in 1995).

Not only was Mike Melvoin the seed provider for those three accomplished musicians, he was an accomplished professional musician in his own right.

He was one of the most sought-after session keyboardists who ever walked. He recorded with with Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, The Jackson 5, Natalie Cole, and The Beach Boys and was considered a member of the not-so-famous group of session musicians who created 95 percent of most of the music you ever heard in the 1960s and 1970s known as The Wrecking Crew.

There is a documentary on Netflix right now called “Sample This,” the story of a song called “Apache” by a group of session musicians called The Incredible Bongo Band that provides a prominent break beat used widely in hip hop (though one might make an argument that the Amen Break is actually more prominent). This film has more Mike Melvoin in it than Ro’s bio.

“He wore a tux and said stuff” is all that Ronin Ro writes of Mike Melvoin. That’s a shame. Explaining the Melvoin kids’ musical pedigree might have offered some context.

But that’s not the worst of it. Ro completely fails to mention one of Prince’s most vital collaborators, Clare Fischer.

Thankfully, Matt Thorne, author of “Prince: The Man and His Music,” exists.

This is a book so thick and densely packed that it sometimes can read as a really crazy fan’s extensive tour log. As a Prince reference it may be valuable. A breezy read it’s not. But it is packed with data. And one of the nicest things it does is to document what I have come to think of as the sweet working relationship between Prince and Fischer.

Herbie Hancock said “I wouldn’t be me without Clare Fischer.” The quote could have just as well been attributed to Prince.

Prince never met Clare Fischer. He was supposed to have met Fischer when they first started working together. Prince was to have sat in as Fischer led his orchestra arrangements. But Prince was called away and could not attend. So Prince sent them a tape and some dots on paper. And Fischer and his son worked out arrangements to go with them and sent them back.

And Prince became terrified that if he had been there he would have micromanaged the process and thus ruined this perfect music he had received. Beautiful orchestra arrangements we first heard utilized on Parade.

Prince had the opportunity to meet Clare Fischer later in his career. He demurred. He had become downright superstitious about Clare Fischer. That’s how important Fischer was to the Belle. And * swapping him in the head one last time * Ronin Ro IGNORES HIM COMPLETELY.

That’s a horrible omission. Sorry, dude.

There’s a Bass Guitar in This

I was sitting in my dorm room at Ohio University pretending to study but probably secretly brooding about some broad or another or about my asshole roommates or my shitty living situation or whatever. It was late afternoon.

This kid on my floor, he was tall and pretty and denied to the ends of the Earth that he was gay. I hope he’s since been able to live it real. He walked in to my room and held the CD in front of my eyes.

It was Prince. As a sprite of some kind. Naked. On a flower.

I bought the tape days later and walked back down to the dorms. I remember clearly the first time I heard “Dance On.”

I don’t know why by now I wasn’t used to Prince blowing my mind up.

Ya know, you would think with the overtly religious themes on the album, you would think Mr. Nonbeliever here would hate the living gravity out of it. But I lived on it. Thrived on it all through a shitty freshman year which ended with me tossed back home missing my friends immensely and a lonesome summer in Lawrence Kansas.

Nonsense. This is a revival I would gladly attend.

What a world this man spun for us. Rain is wet. Sugar is sweet. Clap your hands and stomp your feet.

Everybody. Everybody knows.

When love calls, you gotta go.

If you own the Lovesexy album on CD, you know the annoying thing about it: It’s all one single track. So you don’t get to just skip ahead to “Alphabet Street.”

This used to annoy me a bit.

Not so much anymore.

That is how Lovesexy should be experienced.

As is so often true, it turns out the man was right.