photo by nacrowe
LIFE (LITTLE BROWN & CO, 2010), written by the iconic ROLLING STONES guitarist / songwriter KEITH RICHARDS is one of the most expansive memoirs by a musician i have come across in recent years. it is exceptionally well written and conceived and was an enthralling read mostly due to the scope of its narrative.
following his early life you really get a feel for how early ROCK & ROLL was transmitted abroad and reintroduced by a bevy of talented BRITISH musicians who were steeped and obsessed with forgotten and dismissed stateside BLUES traditions. in a very real sense, these BRITISH INVASION bands reintroduced AMERICA to her own musical traditions.
for me that early period is the most interesting section of the book. you get a sense for how hostile the club scene in LONDON was initially to bands exploring the BLUES in the early 60s, instead focused at the time on ROCKABILLY and early ROCK AND ROLL. THE ROLLING STONES initially were just a group of CHICAGO BLUES obsessives (i.e. the roster of CHESS RECORDS) that aspired to be the best cover band of that music in town. songwriting wasn't even in the picture for them. one interesting tidbit during this period was the fact that there was a loose underground collective of record collectors that would play newly imported hard to find vinyl singles at house gatherings. these obsessives would argue about the authenticity of the artists while RICHARDS and MICK JAGGER were there only to glean off ideas about how to deconstruct the actual compositions themselves. its hilarious to think that these BRITISH obsessives thought they knew about the BLUES enough to judge them. its sad that when these musicians (like MUDDY WATERS) came to play ENGLAND they were booed for not fitting the prescriptive view of what a BLUESMAN should look and sound like (i.e. ROBERT JOHNSON). typical BRITISH snobbery. but you get a sense of what RICHARDS was fighting against.
this book goes deep into various parts of his career and personal life, as well as his relationship with drugs. its funny because RICHARDS has a public persona for being a modern-day PIRATE or DRACULA figure who, much like LEMMY KILMISTER, has consumed in inordinate amount of pharmaceuticals and yet somehow has carried on into his elder years. in actual fact throughout his memoir RICHARDS makes repeated commentary about the mistakes made by others regarding drugs. he speaks of using in moderation and consuming a base amount to maintain a steady level alertness, something he did to stay up for days on end recording albums in the late 60s and early 70s. he never upped the dosage in search of a higher plateau. it was all about stability.
this concept regarding stability also seems to be how he navigates relationships both personal and business alike. despite his bacchanalian reputation for debauched depravity, i mean he is practically the poster child for ROCK AND ROLL excess, he speaks about things like groupie-culture as less about sex and more about companionship while on the road for years on end, especially in the earlier years. its counter-intuitive from your expectations going in, but THE DIRT this is not. he comes off practically like an ENGLISH gentleman.
but again, for me this book is less about the extracurriculars and more about his appreciation for music and the art of collaboration. in many ways his strength as a musician, aside from his songwriting prowess, is to seamlessly integrate himself into a rhythm section, maintaining the groove without showboating or drawing attention to himself. they had JAGGER for that, the ultimate peacock. JAGGER for himself is given praise throughout but also consternation for his betrayal of the band in the 1980s when seeking a solo deal with the same company on the back of a recently signed multi-album deal for the band. JAGGER collaborates when necessary but ultimately is made to look like a selfish opportunist of the first order, seeking glory for himself which very much goes against the ethos of the band.
i could go because this book is beyond expansive and well-worth the time of anyone interested in ROCK AND ROLL, BLUES, COUNTRY MUSIC or the historical progression of popular music in the 20th century. can't wait to read JAGGER's perspective if such ever comes out.
parodies by nacrowe
tonight's new episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 8PM EST on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is focused on the ENGLISH bands that were involved with the BRITISH INVASION during the mid-1960s. this playlist includes some well-known acts (THE KINKS, THE WHO, THE BEATLES, THE ANIMALS, SMALL FACES, THE ROLLING STONES) while also including the concurrent MERSEYBEAT scene which included several one-hit wonders.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
parodies by nacrowe
given that the next DEER GOD RADIO show on SUNDAY MAY 24TH at 8PM EST on MAKERARKRADIO.NYC will be celebrating the BRITISH INVASION, it seemed as good a time as ever to revisit a show six months back that was dedicated to the musical and cultural legacy of THE BEATLES.
really what can be added that hasn't already been said about them?
all i can come up with is that whenever i feel jaded about art or music, like everything has already been done before (and better!), i just go back and revisit the music of the FAB FOUR and i am taken aback anew by how fresh it still sounds more than half a century later. its still startling. any era of the band. still hard to believe they were only together 8 years.
reading books, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts over the years it seems i can never learn too much about the group. their personal failures, political naivety and even trend jumping only adds to their mystique since (as i've said before) they did everything better than everyone else.
anyway, enough of all that. enjoy THE BEATLES.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
italian director MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI has made several canonical films throughout his career, my favorite being L'AVENTURA (CINO DEL DUCA,1960), but his first english-speaking film BLOW-UP (Bridge Films, 1966) created at the height of the mi-60s BRITISH INVASION is a remarkable film on several levels.
as mentioned before it is a document of an all-too brief moment when there was a liberating sense of artistic, cultural and sexual possibility. at times it is hard for americans to understand british class politics as it is a bit foreign to our culture which is more underpinned by nefarious forces like structural racism and conservative, puritanical, often binary inherited constructions of sexual preference and gender identity. in england markers of identity such as clothing and regional accents gave you away as being of this or that class, which was often a permanent strike against an individual despite their success thereafter. once lower class you are always lower class. in america we may make fun of a unique accent (i'm looking at you LOUISIANA, BROOKYLN and the SAN FERNANDO VALLEY), but we won't let that stop someone from running a company or holding political office. for this reason i think american BLUES, R&B and ROCKABILLY provided british youth a foreign cloak to don and transcend whatever their class prescriptions were in england's rigid, almost caste-like social hierarchy.
this freedom can be viewed in a legendary scene where THE YARDBIRDS oerform. this scene is notable as it was shot during the brief moment that JEFF BECK and JIMMY PAGE where both sharing guitar duties (BECK would amicably depart shortly thereafter).
beyond the era that this film depicts and its influence on modern culture, this film also dives deep into the nature of reality as scene through technology. the film itself showcases a photographer who notices in his darkroom while processing film from a recent photoshoot in a park that he remarkably has evidence of a murder after magnifying, or blowing up, his film several magnitudes.
i think now ideas of HYPERREALITY in the digital age are common place as concepts such as DIGITAL DATA COLLECTION, VIDEO SURVEILLANCE, PAPARAZZI/TABLOID CULTURE and DEEP FAKES have provided means of both documenting and manipulating our belief that what our eyes relay to our brain cannot be relied upon. our reality can be dissected and cross-examined by a seemingly endless myriad of perspectives to the point now that TRUTH seems like a relative ideal, not based in actual fact.
science fiction has long toyed with this idea of authenticity and the limits of empricism (as seen in the the work of ISAAC ASIMOV, ARTHUR C. CLARKE), as have minds dating back to antiquity (SHIP OF THESEUS PARADOX, PLATO's ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE). i think were this film excels is that it asks us at what point do we stop trusting our senses and totally bow to the high reality brought on by technology. i think right now we are still dealing with this question as DIGITAL MARKETING and RESEARCH TECHNOLOGIES of such corporations like FACEBOOK and GOOGLE have already made us subservient to algorithms. its already happening.
this is a classic film that deserves to be watched repeatedly and i highly recommend it. also, it is worth paring this film with the later FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA effort THE CONVERSATION (PARAMOUNT PICTURES, 1974) as it is a similar premise, except this time dives into audio manipulation. in a world accustomed to AUTO-TUNE and the wizardry of PRO TOOLS, this film may also strike a chord, pun intended.