It’s just so cool to see Chris Stein (of the legendary Saccharine Trust and so many other aggregations) getting such a jazz man’s send off on Facebook, people talking about what a great guy he was and such a solid, inspired ensemble player. The grief is there, low and blue, but I think there’s no greater way to pay tribute to a musician who fought so hard against the inevitable than to talk about what a great guy he was and such a good player. He’ll certainly be missed in our crazy underground. He’ll certainly be missed on inspired nights at Cafe NELA. Bassists like him are a rare thing. People probably even rarer. A shame he’s gone but a treasure he was.
Great. Put It Where You Want it again. It’s been days now. I deliberately left a big stack of LPs of all kinds right in front of the turntable and what do I do? Just drop the tone arm on the record already on there. You try to take it off again after hearing those first descending chords on that way groovy electric piano. Then in comes the way funky guitar picking out the single noted melody at a mellow strut. This has been in my head since it was a hit on an AM station in funky town Anaheim during Richard Nixon’s first term. I lived in funkier town Brea but the station was in Anaheim. KEZY. They spun the tune on the hour for a week or two and it dug itself in so deep in my brain it even survived all the seizures later. And I’m gonna take it off now? I’m reliving my virgin youth. I was so young I didn’t even know the title was a double entendre. Irony is one of the last things to develop in the human brain, you know. At some point maybe 40 thousand years ago metaphors happened and with them the capacity for irony and Homo sapiens became insufferable. No wonder Neanderthals became extinct. Imagine sharing a cave with us, let alone DNA. That’s some brow ridge you got there honey. You could recite Shakespeare from that thing. Forty millennia later I’m thirteen and digging Put It Where You Want It like a clueless Neanderthal, wiggling my little white butt and humming along. The deejay comes on and says something filthy. I can’t tell. This is how civilization began. Cue the Also Sprach Zarathustra. Or maybe just flip the Crusaders album over to the B side. Or D side. Whatever. It’s a double album, and those were confusing times.
I gotta say Chain of Fools still gives me the chills. Aretha’s delivery over that swamp blues groove, you treated me mean, she says, you treated me cruel, then the break, Aretha telling us her doctor says take it easy over a rhythmic hand clapped chant that goes all the way back to the roots, then back to the swamp groove, Aretha hurting even more, how one of these mornings the chain is gonna break, but until then she’s gonna take all that she can take, a hard whacked roll on the snare leading her back into the incredibly simple chorus, chain chain chain, the drummer dancing crazily off the cymbals, leading the way, and Aretha and the chanting chorus and the swamp groove and those crazy tinging cymbals fade off the end of the record, trapped forever in a chain of fools. The juke box clicks and whirs, you better think Aretha says, and the dance floor whirls and struts and gets down.
(2012 mostly but abandoned; found buried in my drafts and cleaned up in 2018)
Had the Animals’ We Gotta Get Out of This Place running through my head lately (which is a major improvement on Margaritaville). I’ve always loved the Animals but don’t have anything by them, not one record. Considering that Eric Burdon might be my favorite English singer ever, that makes no sense at all. Oh well. But Youtube has the song in spades. I could never figure out why people put up tunes that are already up a hundred times already but then most people don’t make any sense at all either.
The point is that I found out there are two versions of We Gotta Get Out of This Place, an American and an English version. Somehow the American was the wrong take. That was the version that we heard on the radio throughout the vinyl years here in the States. I think it’s on their Animal Tracks LP, too, and the greatest hits everyone stateside used to have. Then came CDs, and MGM made dead sure that it was the correct English version that got on all future CD releases. English band, English version, everything’s logical again. (Well almost, it was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and originally intended for the Righteous Brothers, but wound up in England instead.)
Watch my Daddy in bed a dyin’, Eric tells us in the first verse, see his hair been turning grey. He’s been workin’ and slavin’ his life away. Newcastle was a beat up, used up city by the time the Animals came together, as the Empire fell it fell too, coal pits closing, ship yards shutting down, ancient factories empty. London was far away. When the band played the blues you get the feeling it felt them for real, not like art school kids but the more like way they felt the blues in the tough bars in Chicago. Maybe the South side and Newcastle weren’t that far apart in a lot of ways, poor, cold, scuffling for money. Ignored. That is certainly the sound in Eric Burdon’s voice. It’s almost like he’s channeling some long dead singer in Chicago, someone struck down in a knife fight, maybe, or died, lingering, of consumption. The windows let in a sticky breeze. I can almost smell those TB sheets.
So with all those We Gotta Get Out of This Places to pick from, I selected one that was taken directly off a seven inch. You can tell because the guy picks up the single, shows it to us, both sides, and pulls the record from the sleeve and puts in on the turntable. The magic of digital cameras. He whisks the tone arm into position and then drops the needle into the grooves with perfect timing and the song begins on a bass note. Dum-da-dum-da-da-da-da Dum-da-dum-da-da-da-da Ting! then there’s a beat and another ting! and the drummer shifts the stick a couple inches back from the edge of the ride for the next ting!, less resonant, fainter, higher pitched and in comes Eric, over three more tings, In this gritty ol’ part of the city, where the sun refuse to shine…. and he owns you, he does, he’s got you, you’re listening. People are telling him there ain’t no use in trying, and there’s the rhyme, the shine, tryin’, dyin’, and it’s all downhill from there but listen to the edge in his vocal here. The anger. The girl, doomed, the Daddy, dying, his hair turning gray, working and slaving his life away. Eric knows. Working and working, work, work, the band chants, it’s a road gang work song, all rhythm, work, work work and suddenly Alan Price carries them into the chorus, we gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do….. Entire pubfulls of voices ring that out when the jukebox spins it, girl there’s a better life for me and you. Not that they believe there is. You look in the mirror back of the bar as you sing and doubt that there’s anything better at all. Just this. This is it.
Watch my daddy in bed a-dying, Eric demands again in the second verse, his voice now cracking with pent up rage, watch his hair been turning grey. He been working and slaving his life away. He then slips out of the melody to say–not sing–yeah I know he been working too hard, a bit of jazz phrasing that startles, almost dissonant, then back into the melody again, you know I been working too babe, the band pushing behind him, I been working so hard….and then from the deepest depths of everything that was Eric Burdon in 1965 emenates this Chicago blues banshee wail utterly untranscribable, a sound the likes of which I’m sure had never been heard on a rock’n’roll record before then, and it roars above the band for several extraordinary seconds and must have scared the bejesus out of everybody.
The song finishes up in a catchy afterthought. Girl, there’s a better place for me and you, Eric sings. I found a live version from some goofy pop music show, the band dead serious performing a dead serious song, and as the second verse builds to its cataclysmic finale the idiot director gives us a close up shot of the guitar player. Eric’s bloodcurdling howl is unseen by everyone except the mash potatoing kids. I never found another televised version that did the American take. But no matter, by next year everyone was dropping acid and loving everyone and a primal scream would have just bummed a thousand trips. Heaven’s above, it’s a street called Love, Eric explained, when will they ever learn? Though I like that song too, and Sky Pilot, and Monterey, and his psychedelic freak out River Deep, Mountain High too. But none contain that bone chilling howl heard on the American release of We Gotta Get Out of This Place. I guess they’d finally gotten out of that place after all.
A Yawning Man cd from 2010. Nomadic Pursuits. Been seeing these guys forever, but where the first time I can’t remember, or if it was in LA or out in the desert. I remember a show once at a transmission shop in Cathedral City a long time ago. I’d never seen such a clean transmission shop, even the grease pit sparkled. You could eat off the floor. We probably did. Yawning Man played, and Fatso Jetson, and the desert rock vibes were loud and heavy and stoned and pulsating, hypnotic even, the melodies blowing over the creosote, drifting on the prevailing groove. Herb, thick and resinous, permeated everything, and we drank beer from twelve packs and stayed way too late and then drove home, past the turbines and the dinosaurs and the inky black mountains till the lights of the San Bernardino Valley spilled out before us, with the ocean only an hour away.
Watched an old Dick Cavett show from August 1969 and the Jefferson Airplane, fresh from Woodstock, were fierce. The discombobulation of going from a festival bigger than Buffalo and back to Manhattan by helicopter as they came off the acid was noticeable only for a few minutes and by the time Grace sang motherfucker on national television all was well again. David Crosby and Stephen Stills showed up mudspattered and David talked and talked (coming up on the crowd by helicopter, he said, was like viewing the Macedonian army, the acid in his brain turning the vast throng of hippies into invincible hoplites and horsemen of Alexander the Great….) Stills was mostly mute, as if still overwhelmed but when handed a guitar played brilliantly and I remembered it was he and not Mike Bloomfield on Super Session’s Season of The Witch (another of those free form FM standard long since purged from Classic Rock radio). Joni Mitchell, clean and windblown from the canyon and kicking herself for not going (her manager said go on Cavett instead….amazing how many idiot managers kept their bands off the bill, booking them elsewhere) sounded great but sang too many songs, but then I’ve never been a fan. (It’s a minority opinion, I know….) The Airplane hit the studio stage again with a very tough Somebody To Love, Jorma’s lead stinging and psychedelically hostile, followed by a hard jamming Other Side Of This Life, and as the studio audience began breaking out in frantically groovy dancing Cavett waved the camera off and the credits rolled and the Airplane just got fiercer and fiercer and who knows how long they played past the commercials.
Peace by the Rotary Connection is still my fave Christmas LP, a psychedelic hippie stoner funky soul celebration of my fave holiday, complete with groovy Hendrix inspired guitar and Santa so stoned he can’t find the door and comes down the chimney. Minnie Ripperton sounds great on it too. Recommended. I found my unopened copy for a dollar.