Let’s celebrate a few wholesome all-American pleasures: cars, arena rock, sax solos, football, the Italian mafia, late night talk shows, denim, HBO, New Jersey. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are emblematic of all those things and more. So forget your poverty and crippling depression for a while. Take a load off and do what Working Class Joe’s have done since time immemorial; go out drinking in your car on the weekend. Take the car downtown to go drinking. Go drinking and pick up girls downtown in your car. Cash your paycheck, pick up your baby and go downtown in your car. Drinking. Downtown. On the Weekend. In your car. With your girl. Or something. I have no idea, actually. I think Bruce Springsteen wants you to drink and drive. Nothing more wholesome and All-American than drinking and driving. You should go do that.
There’s a biography of Roxy Music called Unknown Pleasures. I haven’t read it, but I like the title. It sums up the Roxy Music mystique rather nicely. There’s the obvious snob appeal, of course; Roxy Music’s pleasures are not widely known, and that’s its own appeal. Once discovered, though, it’s a rich world of glamour and seduction. Everything about Bryan Ferry, from his bangs to his taste in graphic design, implies a worldliness beyond the ordinary. Perhaps he goes home and eats last week’s leftovers in front of the TV like a normal person, but there’s nothing about him that implies mundane living, and who wants a mundane star? Stars are cheap nowadays precisely because they’ve become so open about the sandwiches in their pantry. Mystique, on the other hand, is in short supply. There really aren’t very many stars who can be imagined living a life of haute couture, private back street cabarets, and Ming vases full of cocaine – and that includes the fashion professionals whose job is to upsell that exact fantasy. I, for one, want that fantasy.
I’m still waiting for the Tom Waits jukebox musical, or at least an extravagantly star-studded tribute album, but let’s face it, that won’t happen until he dies, and possibly not even then. There won’t be an all-star extravaganza selling out Madison Square Garden, there won’t special collector’s mini books published by Time magazine or Rolling Stone. Tom Waits isn’t the kind of an artist who attracts that kind of attention. If there’s to be Tom Waits musical it will have to take place in an abandoned warehouse down by the shipyards, with a cast and crew of hobos and hookers.
I’m an absolute sucker for songs about pets. Forget love songs about humans; human loves do nothing but let you down. Animals will never let you down. Every animal companion deserves to be immortalized in song. If that was the case, the world of music would be a lot cuter. Few groups injected as much undiluted silliness into the music world as The B-52’s, so it’s no surprise that they’re also responsible for one of the greatest all-time dog songs. I have no idea if Quiche La Poodle was a real dog or not, but I’d like to imagine so. A miniature poodle dyed neon colors sounds like a very Fred Schneider thing to have. Or maybe I’m mistaken and he secretly has very refined and somber tastes in real life, in which case it would be just a regular colored poodle. Anyhow, Quiche La Poodle is a great character, real or not. She should be in a children’s book. Then we’d finally find out what happened to her. Which, if you haven’t listened to the song very closely though, I have to break to you: in the second half, Quiche escapes and runs away and we never get to find out if she ever comes back. So it’s actually kind of more of a metaphor for a human relationship, from the delight of being in love to the resentment of being left alone. Some people do invest those kinds of feelings onto their pets, though, and some people, conversely, treat their loved ones like animals, so it works either way. And either way it’s hilarious.
This is for those of you who make the distinction between Irish, Scottish and English traditional folk music. I’m actually not one of those people; I wouldn’t know just from hearing something where in the UK it originated. But I’d like to. And I know that those in the know are quite feisty about making those regional distinctions. Unfortunately, I live in the United States, where most people don’t comprehend that strong cultural differences can exist within a country as geographically small and by-American-standards homogeneous as the UK. It’s all a bit exotic to me as well. Anyway, this is Silly Wizard, who represented Scotland in the great folk music revival of the 1970’s, and they’re paying tribute to an area of Scotland famed for its contributions to fashion.
Here’s a rare live Black Uhuru performance. Not dated, but appears to be sometime in the early 80’s, probably near the release of Sinsemilla. That album is one of Black Uhuru’s finest and an absolute must-have for Reggae fans. Or, really, just an across-the-board classic beyond the confines of genre. Reggae often gets shafted as some kind of ‘special interest’ music, either targeted to stoners or lost under the broad ‘world music’ umbrella. I’ve always tried to promote Reggae for its political relevance, rather than its better known fun side, and Black Uhuru has always been my prime example. Their music is undeniably fun, but the social consciousness of their writing is their real strength. What do they want you to push til you push it over? The racist slave-economy capitalist system of oppression, of course, though they wouldn’t phrase it quite that dry.
Prince at the height of his powers in the 80’s was something to behold. He was a major force, and let this be reminder of it. It’s unfortunate that eventually his personal weirdness began to be more interesting than his work. Growing up in the 90’s, my main impression of Prince was as a tabloid figure. He was mocked for changing his name and finding religion, and for fighting bitterly with record labels instead of making music. Although he never sank to the level of Michael Jackson, he was doing himself serious career damage. It was a long time before anyone cared if he made a new record. The good news is that his last few albums have been very good, and people were paying attention for the right reasons again. The bad news, of course, was the Great Rapture of 2016. But there’s nothing like an untimely death to remember what made someone great in the first place, and any embarrassing missteps will fall to the wayside in the public imagination.