Sunday, November 20, 2016

S. O. B.: Abusing Ourselves While Singing

S.O.B. or son-of-a-bitch.

Have you heard it?  No not the expression. The song by Nathaniel Rateliff and "The Night

I'm gonna need someone to help me
I'm gonna need somebody's hand
I'm gonna need someone to hold me down
I'm gonna need someone to care
I'm gonna writhe and shake my body
I'll start pulling out my hair
I'm going to cover myself with
The ashes of you and nobody's gonna give a damn (c) words and music by Nathaniel David Rateliff
                                                                                    © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

That's the beginning of a song that's either full of happiness or its a horrifyingly long wail for help. Take your pick.

Son of a bitch
Give me a drink
One more night
This can't be me
Son of a bitch
If I can't get clean
I'm gonna drink my life away.

The first time I heard it was in my car, I had my Sirrius tuned to "Coffee House", a station featuring unplugged version of indie music or folk. A place for current singer/songwriters to strut their stuff. But also there are some of the old uncles an aunts (like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Indigo Girls etc.)

I almost jammed on the brakes and pulled off the road.

The song was a punch in the gut for me. I felt empathetic. I felt terror. I've been there.

My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me
My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me
My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, bugs are crawling all over me

We have, as a society, been singing songs of chemical abuse since the first time Og in the cave next door drank some grape juice that had been hanging around, becoming frothy and funny, for several weeks. Not Og. The grapes.

"Hey", said a weaving Og, smiling, laughing, hugging everybody and everything in sight. (Including a 200 pound skunk. He never made that mistake again.)
And then he passed out.

Several old drinking songs come to mind like "Show Me The Way To Go Home" or "I Want A Beer Just Like the Beer that Pickled Dear Old Dad" which is sung to the tune of "I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad." The Kingston Trio in the late 50's introduced us to "Three Jolly Coachmen".

One, two, and three jolly coachmen sat at an English tavern.
Three jolly coachmen sat at an English tavern,
And they decided, and they decided, and they decided to have another flagon.
Landlord, fill the flowing bowl until it doth run over.
Landlord, fill the flowing bowl until it doth run over.For tonight we merr-I be,
For tonight we merr-I be,
For tonight we merr-I be,
Tomorrow we'll be sober. (What!)

Songwriters: DAVE GUARD
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

And I'm sure, if we wished, we could go back even further. To wine besotted Greece, afloat in the wine-dark sea. Or Ancient Persia, where King Nebechunezer enjoyed imbibing with all his court until he spotted the writing on the wall.

We are just talking about booze. There is also those funny cigarettes filled with wacky tobbacy and other chemical altering gifts from nature. Lets hear it for our slightly buzzed ancestors.

I walked many a crooked mile while heaving under the burden of codeine addiction until my mother (God rest her soul) and my friends straightened me out. But all the while I'm coming down I hum Buffy Sainte Maries tune under my breath.

An' my belly is craving, I got shakin' in my head
I feel like I'm dyin' an' I wish I were dead
If I lived till tomorrow it's gonna be a long time
For I'll reel and I'll fall and rise on codine
An' it's real, an' it's real, one more time

When I was a young man I learned not to care
Wild whiskey, confronted I often did swear
My mother and father said whiskey is a curse
But the fate of their baby is many times worse
An' it's real, an' it's real, one more time

You'll forget your woman, you'll forget about man
Try it just once, an' you'll try it again
It's sometimes you wonder and it's sometimes you think
That I'm a-living my life with abandon to drink
An' it's real, an' it's real, one more time
"Codine" as written by Buffy Sainte Marie
Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Universal Music Publishing Group

And a song I used to do myself after hearing the Mayor of McDougal Street Dave VanRonk growling "Cocaine".

Cocaine, cocaine
Running round my heart and round my feeble brain
You old cocaine

Yes, the sixties gave us freedom. Gave us love. Gave us a New Age. But it also gave us drugs, pain and Vietnam.

We had no cameras
To shoot the landscape
We passed the hash pipe
And played our Doors tapes
And it was dark
So dark at night
And we held on to each other
Like brother to brother
We promised our mothers we'd write
And we would all go down together
We said we'd all go down together
Yes we would all go down together
(c) Billy Joel "Goodnight Saigon"  

And with this pain we as a world have produced thousands of wounded GI's addicted to morphine in just the same way as their fathers and grandfathers were when they stumbled home from the First and Second world war and Korea.

Now it has returned in desert camo from the wars of the Middle East.

Glorifying addiction, no matter how it is presented, seems to me personal affront to all those deep into self-destruction.

Another example would be George Thurgood and the Delaware Destroyers.

I drink alone, yeah with nobody else.
I drink alone, yeah with nobody else.
Yeah you know when I drink alone, I don't want nobody else.

The song about......well...drinking alone. He also does, "One Scotch, One Whiskey One Beer." Talk about chemical overload. Incidentally,  as I was fliping through the ubiquitous on-line addictive sites , I have found several expounding the joys of drinking to excess and overdoing opioids. You can look then up yourselves.

Look. I'm not preaching. I'm not pointing my arthritic bent finger. We do what we need to do sometimes to get us through the night. It may not be beneficial to our health, in fact it might kill us. But somewhere between, I've-been-doing-more-stuff-then-usual and shit-my-body-is-shutting-down,  we need to think about throwing out a life line.

Listen to the words and the way Nathaniel tears out his soul. while you're at it, listen to Johnny Cash's rendition of  Nine Inch Nails,  "I Hurt Myself Today".

There is an industry, a societal stance, a personal way of looking at self abusive behavior that seems to fall closer to "Whatever makes your boat float." then "Just say No".

I'm not sure what it is but we have music to march us along.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Cohen, Dylan and Trump: The Third Time's The Charm

The title of this blog kind of looks like the brass plate on the door of a prestigious law firm.
Anyway. I had planned early last week to write a rant about Bob Dylan and his copping this years' Noble prize for literature.

You see, although Bob was an early musical hero of mine, arriving as he did on the cusp of the folk music revival begun around 1958 in the wake of the Kingston Trios buttoned down approach to the collections of Alan Lomax, Pete Seeger and the rest of the early explorers of this depthless genre of American music, I sort of lost him in the buzz of an overloaded amp and a brand new Stratocaster.
Yeah, I was like the connoisseurs of Woody Alan movies. I liked his early stuff.

Plus the fact a lot of singer/songwriters had begun arriving on the folk scene, with many more to follow over the next fifty years or so.

So I was all hot and heavy into pulling down my granite statues and replacing them with others more, if not perhaps (dare I say it?) better then the "Unwashed Phenomena"?

And another reason I had for a what I thought would be a searing comment on the general ill-health of the world was that my brother (Gary) had written a piece for blogs. entitled Bob Dylan and the English Language. The piece is good and I will give you a link so you can peruse atg your leisure.

He's a much better writer then I am, but don't drive like him.

I had a whole bunch of names of living artists to rattle off who I felt deserved the ubiquitous award more then Bob;  people like Paul Simon, Joanie Mitchell, and (Ding-a-ling-a-ling) Leonard Cohen.
So I delete the first blog and start another one, focusing on he old Canadian. This is a guy I can write about.

And then almost the same day his gravelly voice was stilled, Mr. Trump cleared his throat, chopped down all the cherry trees, blew up Capitol Hill and became our next president.


Well, it's the will of the electoral college so I guess we'll go with what we have.

The late Mr. Cohen
So I backed up, deleted the thing about Dylan and Cohen and decided to add my tiny tinny voice to the ocean roar of all the wounded pundits pride, shattered dreams and the dreams fulfilled, the happiness, the sadness and grief. It's amazing how just one guy can cause all these emotions to convulse an entire people.  We, the Americans who believed in the system and found that it was not rigged....only directed by a constitutional law. And we're left like so much flotsam on the beach after a storm,  gasping for air.

To back up a bit, I believe Dylan is a fine poet, a lousy singer, an inflated egoist, a person able to self-invent himself over and over and somewhat of a twit not necessarily in that order.

Cohen, on the other hand, was not into self aggrandizement and recognized his own limitations as a singer, preferring to let others sing his songs.  Noel Harrison,"Suzanne", Judy Collins "Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye" and of course Rufus Wainwright, John Cale, k.d.lang, Jeff Buckley, Regina Spector and, yes, Mr. Dylan himself; along with fifty or sixty other performers  for their take on Leonard's 1984 masterpiece, "Halleluiah."

And then last night on SNL, Kate McKinnon as Hillary sang it. Poignant is too soft a word.

By the way, here is the link to my brothers piece. It's pretty good. but don't tell him that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need a little downtime just to absorb all that has taken place this week. Does it seem like a month?