or, photographs i wish i hadn’t taken.
yes, we actually did this
From the NY Times, July 18, 2007.
Don’t know the photographer, but I wish I did.
In the leadup to the new Rambo movie, I’ve gone back and watched the three original films. Almost anyone I’ve told this to thinks it’s an entirely ironic exercise. Yeah - I’m not saying it’s not. But it’s not solely that. I grew up with Rambo. Me and my best friend would suit up in our camouflage jackets, war paint daubed under our eyes, fake grenades strapped to our kiddie chests (bought in Chinatown - you could, probably still can, get anything there) and head up to Central Park to discover the days mission. The enemy was all around and, in fact, the enemy was often quite alarmed to spot two 9 year old mercenaries staking out positions on the rocky outcroppings behind them. At least once my mom had to intercede when a couple cops were alerted to our disconcerting presence. (more…)
On our last tour we were introduced to the wonderful Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa. One brisk morning in late October we woke up in our customary Super 8 and headed across the border into Rock Island, a town with a name awesome enough to host Daytrotter. Here’s a pic Ben took, a little Rock Island flavor for y’all:
Daytrotter records 2 or 3 bands every day, writes up the band, and posts the songs for free. It’s pretty amazing.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing that fateful day. (more…)
“Idiot Wind” is the most brutal song on Dylan’s famously rough “divorce record,” Blood On The Tracks. As an album, I’m not sure there’s a more concise example of the pathetic mourning, rose-tinted nostalgia and bitter anger that goes along with (per Pete Hamill’s liner notes) the “inevitable farewell.”
The “Idiot Wind” on Blood is paranoid, ugly, and unrelenting. On a relatively subdued and mournful album, it is a gigantic, neon exclamation point. Dylan’s voice sounds more pinched and nasal than usual - it shakes and cracks, often on the verge of shouting. (The live take on Hard Rain, befitting that records fever pitch, is even more hardcore.)
What I only learned last year, though, is that Dylan’s originally recording of the song (half of the album was re-recorded just before its release) was as a mournful, hushed ballad that virtually upends the songs received interpretation as the biggest fuck-off in history. A few lines were changed by the time of the louder recording, in a uniformly angrier direction, but otherwise it’s the exact same song, albeit rendered with as different an emotion as possible for a lyric which repeated envisions the bloody death of its female lead.
The songs famously harsh barbs sound provisional here, as if he’s trying them on for size but would take them back in an instant if given a reason. One key line jettisoned from the final version finds him surprised and oddly hurt that he’d “have to come up with some excuse” just to speak with the unnamed “idiot” anymore, a perfect encapsulation of the back and forth of romantic dissolution: I need you, I don’t need you, etc.
In great contrast to the toxic final version, here he sounds full of regret - angry as hell and probably ready to take it some more. By the final, louder version, vulnerability had been replaced by a seething, righteous anger (”I can’t feel you anymore / I can’t even touch the books you’ve read”). It’s a testament to the mighty B.D. that the song works just as well either way.
On account of being a bit of an idiot myself, I can’t figure out how to upload a song this big to our server, so check out one of the two “acoustic” versions here.
I like to spend time up in my attic.
In the Summer, it’s too hot.
In the Winter, It’s too cold.
But it’s my musical laboratory, and I go up there to listen, think, play, and create.
This series will talk about various toys and instruments that I’ve modified, circuit bent, and generally fucked with. Peter already posted a video of a great drum machine, the Yamaha RX-17, so I thought I’d start there.
Simple as hell.
Bruce Haack made some of the most insane music I’ve ever heard. Dense and buzzing with homemade drum machines and synths. Most people wouldn’t be able to take more than a few moments of the sounds from his twisted imagination. Unless most people are children.
What makes these electronic music pioneers to decide that the target audience for their swirling psychedelic music are people who can’t tie their shoes yet?
Raymond Scott has “Soothing Sound for Baby”, one of the least soothing albums I’ve ever heard. This electronic minimalist masterpiece would pummel a toddler quickly into insanity with its repetitive ultra-high frequency chirping sounds. In fact, the updated cover of the CD releases show a baby being skewered through the ear by a jagged sound wave. Being impaled through the head - very soothing.
Bruce Haack is another electronic genius who geared the bulk of his work towards kids. He studied at Juliard in the 60’s, then began teaching children’s dance classes in New York with a dance instructor named Esther Nelson. They started Dimension 5 Records and began to put out children’s records starting with “Dance, Sing, and Listen” in 1963.
Bruce’s interaction with the creative and open minds of children gave him the perfect arena to utilize his obsession with building electronic instruments, his eclectic blend of classical, folk, rock, klezmer, tin pan alley and soul music with highly evocative storytelling to create a body of truly unique music. Not to mention his funky homemade vocoders for that special “robot voice” flavor.
Bruce and Esther never talk down to children, but engage them intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. And they manage to keep the whole experience fun. Which is why their music is still so engaging for imaginative adults as well as kids.
Walking Eagle (mp3) from “Captain Entropy” (1973) - could you put out a kids record like this today? “Take a puff from a peace pipe and pass it . . . if you feel it, act out the scene ” Oh, to hear this through the ears of a child, though preferably not the bleeding, punctured ears of the child from “Soothing Sounds”
But Bruce didn’t feel content just jazzin’ up the kiddies. He recorded the amazing psychedelic rock/electronic records “Electric Lucifer”(1970) and “Electric Lucifer Book II” (1978-9?). Incredibly vague metaphysics, somewhat strange biblical references, definitely crazy lyrics . . . these albums have all the trappings of outsider music masterpiece. Throw in a healthy dose of homemade electronics and vocoder and this shit is right up my alley.
After a lifetime of being ignored by the mainstream music industry, Bruce’s mood turned more and more bitter. His last two records got darker and weirder. Increasingly filled with sexual imagery and frustrated yearnings for an acceptance he never found outside of the world of children. Musically, they are some of my favorites. “Haackula” (1978 - never released) and “Bite” (1981) are definitely for mature audiences only.
Track 4 - Haackula (mp3) - Here Bruce let’s the critics know what he thinks - hint, it’s not friendly.
The version of Haackula I have, contains a copy of his last known work, a hip-hop collaboration with Russell Simmons called “Party Machine”.
Party Machine (mp3) - pure old school funk bliss. “Can you just imagine, buttons for eyes, numbers for names, life with no lies?”
Check out the documentary “Haack:King of Techno”. This isn’t the greatest film, but its lots of fun with rare clips of a under appreciated genius, including a clip of him on a very early “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” episode.