The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

“Look! I don’t like to get pushed around! I don’t like people I like to be pushed around! I don’t like anybody to get pushed around!”

That was Sam Masterson, played by Van Heflin at his peak, in the noir classic The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946).

It’s a startling, electrifying line for a film noir, it rings out amid the corruption and murder and adultery and beatings and strong armed cops like something out of the Grapes of Wrath. You can hear Henry Fonda’s Tom Joad saying it, explaining why he has to brain the goons. You can’t here Bogie’s Rick saying it in Casablanca, not at all, not even after he shoots the Nazi. But then Heflin’s character is no hard boiled anti-hero, he’s the real thing, and he exposes the rotten heart of capitalism in Iverstown and brings it crashing down, if only because he doesn’t like anybody to get pushed around.

Paint It Black you devil.

Somewhere there is a man about seventy who considers the perfectly placed Hot Damn! he shouted at 5:40 on the live Midnight Rambler to be his great contribution to rock’n’roll, and he’s right. I always marveled at that guy’s hog calling skills. And you don’t worry about his fate like you do about the chick out of her mind on something who screams her brains out contrapuntally throughout. He was probably just a kid from New Jersey. She might have joined the Manson Family.

Was it the guy dead center that yelled Hot Damn? The Buddy Holly looking dude? Really?

Oeuvre

(2016)

Dude, oeuvre:

“I was so enraptured by the whole Ramones’ oeuvre that I never even questioned their comical self-mythologising.”

“A favorite leitmotiv in the Ramones’ oeuvre.”

“A testament to the uplifting power of rock, and a welcome addition to the Ramones’ oeuvre.”

“All of which are the least necessary entries in the Ramones’ oeuvre.”

“Worthy additions to the Ramones oeuvre.”

“As well as a near-obsessive devotion to the Ramones oeuvre.”

“Deliberate dumbness pretty much sums up the Ramones oeuvre.”

“But the end result is a great bit of variety in the Ramones oeuvre.”

“One of the most amusing quirks in the Ramones’ recorded legacy is their penchant for songs with war movie themes: indeed, their oeuvre is stuffed to the gills with songs with titles like Blitzkreig Bop.”

“Made the Ramones so blessedly unique in the entire punk oeuvre.”

“The whole Ramones oeuvre was one long ode to the individual.”

“And, like much of Joey Ramones’s oeuvre, it reflects his mentality throughout life: don’t worry, be happy.”

“With almost mathematical totality the Ramones oeuvre turns away mourners, the self-obsessed, the wallflowers already retiring to life’s sidelines.”

“The Ramones were trailblazers unconcerned with imitating and who worked solely to develop their own distinct oeuvre.”

Oeuvre, dude.

James Chance discussing Robert Christgau's oeuvre. James Chance discussing Robert Christgau’s oeuvre.

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Long, Long Time

Linda Ronstadt’s Long, Long Time must have been a huge hit in LA in 1970 because you’d hear it regularly on the local FM stations for years. All the teenage boys would freeze and listen and sigh. I hadn’t heard it in a while, and maybe the effect is accentuated on this iPhone, but why did producer Elliott Mazer bury her in the strings? Not right away. It’s all Linda Ronstadt for a minute, almost like Kitty Wells, and you’re hooked. But from then on Mazer starts piling strings on by the regiment full, and Linda’s battling to be heard over the arrangements. They’re everywhere, these charts full of lush baroque things growing like triffids, filling every available space. At one point the harpsichord is louder than she is. It’s almost like a Phil Spector thing, Tina Turner batting Phil’s Wagnerian demons on River Deep, Mountain High. Linda finally wins in the end, though, even if the strings and that strutting harpsichordist get to do their dirge thing for a bit too long after her vocal fades, though I suppose the logic of the arrangement demanded it. These things require patience. At last they’re done. That’s a wrap, Mazer said, and maybe someone went to chuck a few too many cellos and violas into the Cumberland. Anyway, a lovely tune.

An appallingly bad cover photo. Somebody should have been fired.

Chimera

Flipped on the radio and it’s Loan Me A Dime and talk about nostalgia, like a foggy Sunday morning in Isla Vista, or late night hippie sounds on KNAC out of Long Beach way back when. This was the ultimate long playing FM song for a while, Boz Scaggs before Low Down, still in boots and jeans and a beat up cowboy hat. It starts out slow, just this side of a dirge, but builds into a rollicking piano pumping blues, and Duane Allman laying down lick after lick of the meanest Muscle Shoals lead guitar you ever heard for several exuberant minutes. You hope it never ends. But it does, finally, after thirteen minutes, fading out with the band still rollicking and Duane Allman still on fire, and you can’t believe you were lucky enough to hear it again because almost nobody actually had the album. It was just this amazing thing you heard on the radio, and it was hippie long, long enough to smoke a whole joint to. A big bomber joint even. And if the deejay then spun Voodoo Chile or Low Spark or that long medley off Abbey Road you know he’d been out back smoking that joint. But that was nearly half a century ago. This deejay today segued (if you can call it that) into a coked out Eagles cut and ruined everything. The vibe was gone, poof, instantly. Life In the Fast Lane. What’s the opposite of nostalgia? Because that’s what this was. Memories of being stuck in the mid seventies and looking like I’d never get out.

Marriage Italian Style

[Belched up on Facebook from 2018 tho’ I don’t remember writing it all.]

Exhausted after watching Marriage Italian Style. I’d seen it once before and loved it but my eyes were so brutalized by the hurricane of subtitles I went blind for several weeks. For one thing, the actors never stop talking even when they’re not talking. When they do talk, they talk really fast, subtitles flying past like cars on a super highway. When they’re arguing, which is 90% of the time, the subtitles are a blur and you just stare in shock, involuntarily ducking the frantic gesturing that provides an untranslatable Italian visual subtext to us gesturally illiterate Americans. The 10% of the time spent not fighting is spent fucking, which we can’t see—this was 1964–but leads to the next argument. Finally, Sophia Loren marries Marcello Mastroianni and with nothing else to argue about the movie ends. Wonderful film, Sophia is radiant, Marcello manly, the acting terrific, cinematography gorgeous and it’s a helluva love story. One of my favorites, though I don’t think my eyeballs could take it again.

Agent Orange

At an Agent Orange show in Milwaukee, of all places, maybe twenty years ago. It was cold as fuck for our Southern California blood. We’d known bass player Sam since his days playing some terrific bass for the Lexington Devils in the ‘80’s, and known Mike Palm forever. Crazy venue too. It was near downtown on an ancient block of low brick buildings from the 19th century. You stepped down some stairs which opened into a basement, three basements really, with big holes bashed through the walls separating them to give the illusion of three adjoining rooms. There was a bar in one, while in the middle room Agent Orange played and it was a ball, especially Mike’s guitar playing that wonderful blend of punk riffs and surf chops and that stinging tone matched to his ebullient stage presence, and seeing them out there was just like seeing them out here except for the freezing temps. The Milwaukee kids were beside themselves, bands we take for granted living here are something thrilling and longed for in the Midwest where they live for rock’n’roll. And while I love visiting Milwaukee—it’s Fyl’s hometown—seeing a Southern California summer band on a frigid Milwaukee night was discombobulating. But it was a good discombobulating. Having your expectations jarred loose once in a while lets you know you’re alive, otherwise everything turns grey.

Anyway this piece needs some tightening up, but later, later.

Inside a punk rock bar in Milwaukee. Photo, if I remember right, is by Mike Palm.