Saturday, January 5, 2013

Compared To Martha And The Vandellas The Beatles Were Nothing

I've been listening to some of my old albums and I'll say it again, compared with Martha and the Vandellas,  James Brown,  Little Stevie Wonder and a host of others, the Beatles were nothing.  A pale imitation for people who wanted white covers and European imitations.   The Band were better, The Guess Who were better.  

Or Stuff it Steve. 

Thought While Looking At a Pop Music Blog

You ever wonder if those New York guys will ever realize how tedious and boring those many things they write that are little more than lists of locations in New York City have long since become?    

I don't think Parisians are so full of themselves about being in the city they live in and Parisians are way too full of themselves on that point. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wayne LaPierre is the Harold Hill of Haters with Heaters

John Lennon Is Dead His Song is Stupid

New Years Eve was my night to stay with our very, very old mother who has all of her marbles but who has bad feet and legs and a bad back.   She wanted to watch the ball in Time Square fall for what she said might be the last time.  The Ball falling was never something I thought was worth opening an eyelid for so my new years tradition is to go to bed as early as I possibly can.   But, as I said, it was my turn to stay with our mother on New Years eve, so I saw the thing for the first time without Guy and the Royal Canadians.  Instead of their gooey rendition of Auld Lang Syne they had some recent post-adolescent in a band called "Train" intoning John Lennon's atheist anthem, "Imagine".  It must have been the lack of sleep but I listened to the words for the first time in a long time, and the truly uninspired melody and banal harmony and was struck at just how insipid the song is.   I can easily imagine it taking Lennon about five minutes to knock off, he having had enough song writing experience to crank something like that out while he was brushing his teeth.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one

The first thing to notice is how few of those who intone the thing or sway nostalgically to it have gotten on with that "no possessions" part of the deal.   Starting, of course, with the smart mop head, himself.  I don't really  know how big his estate was at the time of his untimely murder.  I've seen figures up to 800 million dollars as the size of the estate he left and have read speculations that his estate might be worth twice what it was then.   So I'm able to imagine he and Yoko had not sold all they had and given the money to the poor.   They lived in the Dakota, for a start.  You don't buy a condo there unless your possessions are quite a bit more than merely imaginary.  So, you can see why he would have to imagine no possessions.   He'd have had to imagine that mountain of cash away very, very hard.   That would be unlike the Jesus he clearly didn't much like who said "Sell all you have and give the money to the poor."   I can easily imagine how a vestigial memory of that scripture might have annoyed his early middle-aged materialist mellowness.   Or maybe it was the parable of Lazarus and the rich man who went to hell.  I can imagine anyone who suspected their wealth might turn out that way would welcome there being no hell.  I think it's such stuff that's really behind the Brit atheist hostility to Jesus, not stories about the Virgin Birth or the alleged violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics his resurrection is supposed to be.  I doubt one in a hundred of the sciency atheists could state the Second Law.

But it's definitely not the "no possessions" clause of the thing that makes it so popular with a certain type, I haven't noticed imagining no possessions being particularly popular with them.  It's the atheist lyrics to the rather dreary chant.  Imagining no religion is the big one.  Being a not all that adventuresome thinker of the Brit variety,  Lennon pushed the ahistorical, materialist line that religion was to blame for evils such as killing that it, unlike atheism, holds to be a sin that could damn the killer to that hell that Lennon wants us to disbelieve.  Along with the heaven which is the only possession that some of the most desperately poor people have*.    As cherished as any mountain of material possessions held by atheists is their monumental conceit and smug certainty in their superiority to any number of others.   John Lennon was definitely the most pretentious of the Beatles, the most inclined to present his fluff like "Imagine"  with 100% more seriousness than its content warranted.   It says nothing that you couldn't have found on a particularly banal poster of the period in music that was absolutely not challenging.   It is the atheist "Amazing Grace" only it isn't about anything, whereas that most oversung song** of the English Speaking Peoples at least has a back story based in actual events and moral transformation.   I can't imagine anyone being inspired to have a new experience from "Imagine".   Call me iconoclastic but I'd rather hear Yoko having the dry heaves, it at least elicits some startle response.

For the time it claims our attention, art should at least aspire to be transformative .  People settle for far too little from it, especially true in banal pop music.  Imagine if we stopped pretending that cheap commercial crap like Lennon's song was anything but cheap commercial crap with about as much sincerity as the inspirational song in a set performed in Branson or Las Vegas, people might feel like they had permission to look for more.

John Lennon is dead, his drippy, self-important song was never alive.  I'm not saying I'd go to the bother of looking for a copy, but I'm unaware of a single song George Harrison wrote that isn't better.   I got the feeling he really meant what he sang, which is the ground floor requirement of real quality in art.   Which is why people can't have a drippy, nostalgic non-feeling from it.   "Imagine" might be a fitting successor for Guy Lombardo's dreadful 13,473,457th annual rendition of Auld Lang Syne, but only because pop music has gotten so much less sophisticated than his stuff was.  He knew something about music.

* It's always so nice how ready the Brits are to kindly "enlighten" people who have nothing else out of their religious faith.   More on that later.

** For equal time, I am on record as having dissed Amazing Grace, which I cannot stand every time I hear it.  I have given permission that it can be played at my funeral only if I'm really dead and can't hear it and no one with musical taste is present.  Only,  "Imagine" isn't a strong enough song to cause that much of an emotional reaction against it.

UPDATE:  The pop music scribbler, Steve Simels, has apparently noticed I've once again dissed the mop heads and has reacted predictably as anyone familiar with him could have predicted.   I think I'll go on with this idea a bit in the near future. 

Thought For The Day

Any day when Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snowe are no longer in the Senate can't be all bad.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Accidental Guitarist

I had an accident recently that has made it (temporarily?) difficult to play piano.  It is, though, possible to do something I haven't done in more than thirty years, play guitar.  I studied classical guitar for four year, in high school and college,  dropping it when I needed the time for piano, my first love.   Looking into recent developments in technique, I've got to say I'm quite convinced that a lot of it is a vast improvement to the  Tarrega-Segovia dictatorship I was trained in.  I'm especially impressed with the far less dictatorial and insightful studies of Abel Carlevaro, as well as his compositions.

But even more  impressive is the recent practice of playing music of the early 19th century on guitars from the period or on guitars made in the quite different style of guitar used then.     Many of the same pieces I studied more than forty years ago, which sounded somewhat trivial on a modern guitar sound far more convincing on the instruments they were written for, played according to the states intentions of the composers.  Fernando Sor was very specific about how his music was to be played and it's quite different from what later teachers and editors indicated.

One composer I was not familiar with who was quite good and quite interesting is Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856), a Hungarian whose enormous number of fantasias on operas of the day are quite a few steps above most of those by better known composers for more mainstream instruments.   Here is his magnificent take-off of Verdi's Sicilian Vespers which Jerry Williard plays  brilliantly on a guitar by the fine French builder Francois Lacote.