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Mississippi Charles Bevel
Picked up this album from 1973 in the back room at Rockaway probably twenty some years ago. Sale day and everything in that room was 75% off and nothing had been over three bucks anyway. This was the nadir of vinyl, everyone was buying CDs and most records weren’t worth much of anything anymore. Those were good days. I’d go full nerd in there, walk out with a stack of records for less than $50. Jazz to die for, nearly all of it mint or unopened. Rock albums people now pay ridiculous money for. Country they couldn’t give away (I remember getting a whole stack of classic Buck Owens in flawless condition for less than a buck a piece). And all kinds of music from all over the world. When records are under a buck you really can’t lose buying whatever. This was one of those. Probably paid six bits for it, unopened. I had never heard it, and his name was only vaguely and very distantly a memory and I had no idea from when or where or how. Later at home I put it on the turntable. This tune caught my ear. Listened to it again. Again. The liner notes gave an interesting backstory, how he’d lived in Liberia for a couple years and this was a conversation he’d heard on the local bus, hence “Overheard”. I put it aside and played some other records, then later went back and played the tune again. And again. And again again. I bet I listened to it—just this song—a dozen times in a couple days. And I just now listened to it now three times in a quick row. Weird how some songs get into your ear and under your skin like that, and you find’ll yourself hearing it from memory at odd times forever after, and have no idea why.
Just love this, Terry Reid—I so dig his voice and guitar playing, both unique as hell—performing ”Dean” at Glastonbury Fayre in 1971. He’s got David Lindley (Kaleidoscope had called it a day in 1970), and that’s Alan White laying down an incredibly loose unYes groove on the traps, and just as the tune is ending a thoroughly psychedelicized Linda Lewis wanders up on stage and carries it along tripping another four minutes (of which she remembers nothing, she confessed later, but she did remember dancing with a tree.) I never did understand why Terry Reid never made it, I suppose his thing was just a little too off center, his groove a little too serpentine and scratchy, even for those days. Oh well, rock’n’roll. This is from the Glastonbury Fayre documentary, which if not Nicholas Roeg’s finest moment is one of those incredibly hippie things with lots of naked muddy way out people way out on acid, and lots of way out great music. Even extremely way out music. Apparently they never got round to tell us who’s playing what, not even band names, which will drive you slightly nuts, but subtities are for squares anyway.
Alas, in the year since writing this, the clip from Glastonbury Fayre has been removed from YouTube, and hence I never posted this. It seemed a shame to throw out such a nice little piece, though, and now someone has posted the audio recording from the Glastonbury documentary so here that clip is. The still is from the film. I heartily recommend purchasing a copy of the film, though. It’s no Woodstock as far as production quality goes, but it still a pretty amazing document.
An unquote by Friedrich Nietzsche
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Damn, that’s a beautiful line. A little romantic maybe, but beautiful. Very much the Europe of la Belle Epoque. Vast wars are still in the future, ancient empires intact, and even weirdos were harmlessly dancing. Sweet. Nostalgic. Flowers in the rain.
Of course, Nietzsche wound up completely insane. Utterly mad. Which led me to wonder about his quote. It didn’t sound like Nietzsche. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Now that was Nietzsche. And it didn’t sound like German, either. “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” That sounded German, with the verb sitting there solidly at the end. “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” lilted. It’s musical. In rolls off the tongue in English and English has rolled off the tongue like that since the Normans dressed up our west Germanic language in layers of French finery. English and German deep underneath are quite the same. But we’ve moved a few things around, softened a lot of consonants and dipthonged every vowel we could get our hands on, and eventually our language developed a bit of a lilt–not a swish, certainly, but definitely a lilt–that pries it free from the German so far that you have to hit bedrock before you realize it’s a Germanic tongue you are speaking. But I’m digressing from my point that “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” just didn’t ring German to me.
So I googled it. I found the same quote and same Nietzsche attribution everywhere, on site after site. Dozens and dozens, all the same. It’s one of those things that makes romantics swoon. Then, several Google pages in, I stumbled onto a site called Quote Investigator, whose quote investigator wrote a long and magnificent account of his elaborate investigation that established that it was definitely not Nietzsche, nor any of the myriad other people to whom it was attributed, including Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, John Stewart (not Jon Stewart), a science fiction fan, Angela Monet, the great Sufi philosopher Rumi, some more science fiction fans, George Carlin, or Megan Fox, who had it tattooed on her back which would give her away instantly should she be the victim of a celebrity sex tape. My favorite choice was a mysterious someone named Norman Flint. I love that name–Norman Flint. No lilt there.
The thing has been attributed to everyone, even just an unknown (“anon.”) . In fact now someone will attribute it to me if they are high enough and only look at the first two sentences of anything they see online, which is what stoned people do. Then they babble knowingly to their friends and urban myths are born.
Anyway, it turns out that back in 2005 a newspaper in Florida said it was Nietzsche. They probably found that on the internet which has since collectively settled on Nietzsche, so it must be true. Alas, it ain’t, and our dogged quote detective finally throws up his hands and admits he has no idea who said it. He even added a mess of footnotes to show how he tried. Several commenters chimed in with their theories of their own (none, alas, Norman Flint.) Then came this:
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” is a translation from one of the lines in a French play called The Madwoman of Chaillot. It’s a fabulous play about living a life free from the pollution of money and all the dark, needless things that cause life to become dreary.
That rather nails it. The Madwoman of Chaillot (La Folle de Chaillot) written by French playwright Jean Giraudoux in 1943, first performed after the Liberation in Paris in 1945, though Giradoux himself died (no word on how) in 1944. Apparently it’s a satire, so I’m not sure if those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music was as overtly romantic as it appears to be all over the Internet. I suspect a subtlety or layered meaning but I can’t tell without reading the original (or the English translation, anyway). Alas, after some dogged googling myself it seems the play does not seem to be online, nor a script of the movie (starring Katharine Hepburn, Paul Henreid, Oskar Homolka, Richard Chamberlain, Donald Pleasance, Danny Kaye and Charles Boyer) that came out in 1969. That’s a powerhouse cast–and besides Boyer there’s dozens more French cast members as well–for a film that no one seems to have heard of anymore. Weird how that happens. But maybe Turner Classic Movies will show it. Or maybe they already have. So is the line in the movie’s script? I found a site that contained an online version of the screenplay…but it was gone. Poof. Funny how sites disappear like that, and right at critical moments. Makes you wonder about conspiracies, or bad luck, or meaningless chance. Something. Or maybe someone, who wants us not to know. There’s a danger in being a man who knows too much. Que sera sera. But Doris Day is not in The Mad Woman of Chaillot. You can look that up for yourself on the International Movie Database. IMDB don’t lie, baby. You can set your watches by that. Plus IMDB lets you look for crazy credits, those wacky, zany things. There are no crazy credits for The Mad Woman of Chaillot. The French are very serious about these things. A lady probably takes her top off, though. You can’t make a French movie without a lady taking her top off. It’s the law.
You can watch the flick online. If you watch it you might hear the line in question. Katharine Hepburn would say and those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. Unless it was Richard Chamberlain, who would say it in a perfect monotone that sounded so grave and sexy that all the ladies would want to make mad love to him right there on the spot. That’s what I think. Someone check with Robert Osborne. Though maybe if you had the right English translation of the play itself it’d be there, just like the commenter said.That would nail the answer in a heartbeat. That’s what I think.
But this is not quite good enough for our dogged Quote Investigator. He wasn’t so sure. Do you know the specific part of the play that you believe contains the statement? he asks. Do you know which character makes the statement, or what phrase was used in the original French? A good quote investigator is always suspicious. False flags and prevarications lay across the internet like mine fields.
Of course, he could have found out for himself by going to the library, or even calling a library information desk. My friend Linda works at the library. You could call her, she’d research around, and if they have the book she’s hold it aside for you. You wouldn’t even have to check it out but sit there quietly and read till you found the quote and shout Voila! Then Linda would bop you on the head. No shouting in the library. But you would have found your answer and set civilization at ease. Which is a good thing. That’s what I would have done. Called the library and then gone down there and found the quote. I wouldn’t shout Voila! though. Linda would bop me twice as hard and then tell everybody we know. Imagine my shame
But our dogged quote investigator would probably not even bother. No one goes to libraries anymore, he seems to hint. No one reads books, let along plays. What’s the point? If it’s not on the internet, it can’t be true.
Which is why I still think it’s by Norman Flint.
The Monster That Challenged the World
The Monster That Challenged the World is a 1957 film that MGM must have offered a big wad of cash to Tim Holt to come out of retirement for. They got their money’s worth, he does that Tim Holt thing like it’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre but instead of battling Bogie’s Fred C. Dobbs it’s some dude in a man eating snail get-up. “He was a quiet, nice man”, one of the cast said of Tim Holt, “the most unactor actor I ever met.”
The title of the flick might be a tad overwrought, the world so challenged is actually the Salton Sea (the plot never takes it further than it’s shores), and the monster is a giant killer mollusk. Of course, the huge octopus that Ray Harryhausen had destroy the Golden Gate bridge in It Came From Beneath the Sea was also a giant killer mollusk, but the monster in the Salton Sea in our flick here was some sort of huge mondo gnarly shellfish, apparently, and shellfish are only so scary. So you suspend your disbelief just a little more than usual. I liked the flick even better the second time than the the first time I saw it, several years ago. Not as good as, say, the Monolith Monsters (again with the necessary extra suspension of disbelief for that one) but it’s still one of the cooler weird shit in the desert 1950s movies.
David Duncan wrote the thing, he’d just written the surprisingly creepy Black Scorpion (with the giant scorpions created by Willis O’Brien, who had probably kicked off the whole giant monster thing with King Kong), after this he did a much better money gig penning The Time Machine and then did the story or treatment or whatever for Fantastic Voyage, where those weird squirmy things wrap themselves around Raquel Welch. Perhaps you remember.
Did I mention Hans Conried? He’s the scientist, in a rare non-comic part, and I kept expecting him to be funny. You totally age yourself if the first thing you thought of was Fractured Flickers. You’ll age yourself a little less if you thought of Snidely Whiplash. Joel McCrae’s kid Jody, who you didn’t recognize, plays a sailor and gets et by the critter. He gets to swim around and look quite fit, though, which probably landed him a role in those idiotic beach movies. And Max Showalter you’ll recognize from everything.
Some people never do outgrow old monster movies.
Nothing in this lobby poster has anything to do with the actual story of The Monster That Challenged the World, it never destroys a city. It doesn’t even flatten Bombay Beach.
Steve McQueen smoking a cigarette through Suzanne Pleshette’s toes.
We have her dog dishes. Went to a yard sale in Los Feliz and the guy had a mess of stuff from her garage he’d gotten in an estate sale. He’d had some connection to her, I can’t remember what it was. Anyway, there were these two ceramic bowls still wrapped in plastic. Of course I had to have them, I’d adored Emily Hartley since my impressionable adolescence. We bought them to fill with dips for parties. It wasn’t till I was washing the bowl after a party that I saw the face of a puppy in the bottom of the dish. We’d been serving people onion dip and salsa out of Suzanne Pleshette’s doggie dishes. Still do. It’s a tradition.
The 400,000 people at Woodstock were still antsy, high and loud after Santana’s starmaking performance, but the crew didn’t dare put another electric band on stage till the weather settled down. That upstate New York weather. John Sebastian was hanging around back stage just tripping on the acid he’d dosed somehow, when Chip Monck—that’s his voice, introducing him—told him he needed to play. John, way too buzzed, said no. He hadn’t even brought a guitar with him. Not even an autoharp. Someone handed him Tim Hardin’s guitar. (Tim didn’t make the cut for the movie so his guitar is as close as he got to Woodstock movie stardom that day.) Darling Be Home Soon is one of Lovin’ Spoonful’s classics, a hit you don’t hear on the classic rock stations, one of those earnest folkie things, like a Simon and Garfunkel tune, overly arranged, a loud horn section, perfect grammar and sweet melody, rhyming dawdled with toddled and with an unforgettable hook in the melody. He begins the song and the crowd cheers, like they’d been hoping that he’d sing it, and within a few seconds the vast throng is hushed, swaying slightly with the rhythm, quiet as a church, listening to the words, just John Sebastian and a guitar and a melody and the 400,000 people not making a sound. Go, he sings, and beat your crazy head against the sky, the melody somehow soaring like a big rock band, try and see beyond the houses and your eyes, it’s OK to shoot the moon, which a half century later sounds a little clumsy, but in the summer of 1969 in a sea of 400,000 heads and hippies it must’ve sounded like pure poetry, and it wasn’t until he sang the last few words that you can hear the sounds of 400,000 stoned people again, their cheers like waves rolling in from the deep to inundate the stage.
Present at the creation
Present at the creation. Well, slightly after the creation, but still way early. Dig all the long hair, the band’s and the audience. Tommy’s is the hippiest. Johnny takes care of his. And everyone looks so nice. Rock’n’roll was still very nice in 1976. It had probably never been nicer. Nice people, nice music. I don’t think anyone had a clue about what was to erupt in a year. Punk rock—were we even calling it that yet?—was still a college kid thing. Not a drop out thing or a fuck up thing or a this close to being put away psycho thing. And it looks like somebody was recording the show on the state of the art portable recording machines (I’d say recorders instead of recording machines but recorders were still those inexpensive little woodwinds that hippies drove us up the wall with). The cassette he recorded would have sounded like he’d recorded inside a blender. Unlistenable. He probably still has it somewhere, Ramones scrawled across it in ball point pen, the venue and the date. Sometimes he finds it in a junk drawer and remembers.
An epileptic watching Laura
Watching Laura for the zillionth time and Waldo Lydecker just had his seizure. I hope, says a recovered Clifton Webb to a radiantly overbit Gene Tierney, you’ll forgive my wee touch of epilepsy, my dear. Clifton Webb could sure say a my dear. He drops to a near whisper. It’s an old family custom he apologizes, but not really. There’s a touch of a boast to it. I grin. It’s my favorite line. Well, second favorite. You can’t top his I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. An opener, no less. And there’s a naked skinny epileptic Waldo typing in the bathtub. An epileptic in a bathtub. If he’d had his seizure then there’d have been no movie.
Ronnie Hawkins, RIP. How he made it to 87 the Lord only knows. An genuwine Arkansas rockabilly cat who moved to Canada figuring rightly they were dying up there for the real stomping thing, his fiercely rockin’ 1963 take on the Bo Diddley classic Who Do You Love was one of the very last rockabilly hits. Listening now, though, you can hear how his raw Arkansas sound (played by his crack Canadian bands) was heading well into the tough bluesier rock’n’roll starting to bubble and boil in roadhouses and bars in the States and Britain in the sixties. That nasty guitar here I think was Roy Buchanan, who, like Robbie Robertson afterward, had a sound much shaped by hard years playing in Ronnie’s gritty fired up bands. This wasn’t art, this was rock’n’roll. Just play yer asses off and give the people a show.
Just to age myself even more, I got that Spirit box set which includes the first four albums plus another album and a soundtracks and singles, outtakes and whatever else they could squeeze on five discs. Hot damn this shit is good. Always loved these guys. Poor bastards were not big enough to be really popular but too big to be considered a cult band. Spirit were the band whose manager cancelled their Woodstock appearance so they could play a high school auditorium in nearby Binghamton. Well, they got paid for playing Binghamton, there was that. But imagine playing a set to a few hundred people when you were could have been playing for hundreds of thousands a helicopter flight away. It shall be.