Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That Old Gang of Mine

Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs in New York 1945

1. Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine)- Gene Vincent- If sweet Gene Vincent ever put a bad performance down on tape I have yet to hear it, all of his records are amazing.  Vincent's version of this 1920's chestnut is top notch.  Below is a clip Vincent singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".  Gene Vincent suffered chronic pain from a leg injury for much of his life and this pain imbues his rendition of the song.

2. Lonely Planet Boy- The New York Dolls- Completely unlike any of the other songs on the Doll's debut album, "Lonely Planet Boy" has been a favorite since I first heard this record.  This was one of a handful of songs I played in my first group post high school, it was actually a duo, myself and a girl named Becky who was just learning to play guitar.  The other two songs I remember playing were "No Fun" and T. Rex's "Rip Off".

3. Blue Moon- Elvis Presley- A ghostly transmission from another dimension, one of Elvis's most transcendent performances.  

4. 9th & Hennepin- Tom Waits- Just one line of this song- "All the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes" is funnier than the entire output of celebrated "humorists" like David Sedaris.   "There's nothing wrong with her a hundred dollars won't fix" is another gem.  Fuck it, the whole song is a collection of great lines, take your pick.  "No one brings anything small into a bar around here, they all started out with bad directions".  Rag water, bitters and blue ruin.

5. Uncle Bob's Midnight Blues- Randy Newman- "Been up so long that it looks like down to me".

6. Old Western Movies- William Burroughs & tomdandy-  Burroughs reads a piece by Kerouac from a 90's tribute to Kerouac called Kicks, Joy and Darkness.  It's an amazing reading that reveals the largely neglected intersections of their prose styles.  These similarities, the way Kerouac's writing that developed out of sketching with words resembles Burroughs' cut ups can be partially explained through Gysin's observation that reality itself is a cut-up ie the cut up mimics the way we perceive our daily reality - various random input assaults our senses at all times, from all around.  And so Kerouac's prose in which he sketched the scene before him would naturally at times resemble Gysin/Burroughs cut-ups, arriving at similar points through different methods.  

Although Burroughs was reportedly excited and enthusiastic about Kerouac's ideas in his Belief and Technique for Modern Prose he generally avoided making public comments on Kerouac's actual writing other than to note its cultural influence on a generation and the fact that Jack was admirably committed to his vocation from an early age and encouraged Burroughs himself to become a writer.  I suspect that the sentimentality of much of Kerouac's work and its at times embarrassing naivety were both somewhat off putting to him - also its not unnatural to have difficulty appreciating a friend's work, especially a younger friend.  With all this in mind its quite nice, heartwarming even, to hear the inspired reading WSB gives to Jack's Old Western Movies, especially when he can't help but chuckle at Jack's line about "the courier, run by Steve, is a paper wearing a sunbonnet".  I imagine raising a chuckle out of the extra dry humored Burroughs was quite an accomplishment.  

WSB & JK goofing as hardboiled characters

7. Not You, Or I, My Dear- Stefan Grossman- "The sea remembers nothing, not you, or I, my dear".

8. If I Was With a Woman- Ian Dury and the Blockheads- "If I was with a woman I'd never ask her questions, but if she did not want me to I would".  heh.

9. Don't Give Me No Lip Child- Dave Berry- If you can't dance to this, you can't dance.

10. Crawdaddy Simone-The Syndicats- Joe Meek & Syndicats guitarist Ray Fenwick blow minds in 1965, holy shit those guitar breaks dropped in from a future that never came!

11. No Fun- The Sex Pistols- A bit of fuckology and maybe Lydon's most mesmerizing vocal- working himself into an ecstatic frenzy.  He takes the Stooges ode to suburban torpor in his teeth and shakes the fucking thing by the neck until its transformed into a razor edge raw existential anthem with the repetition of the lines "I'm alive, I'm alone, I'm alive, I'm alone".  Live at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas below (next week Merle Haggard!).

12. Jet Boy- New York Dolls- Someday I might have to do a mix chronicling the influence of West Side Story on pop music.   The clip below is from Old Grey Whistle Test with a bit of your boy Whispering Bob Harris at the end.

13. Sweet Gene Vincent- Ian Dury & the Blockheads- "I miss your sad Virginia whisper" sigh.

14.  Roadrunner Thrice (Live 1977)- Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers- Where the Stooges found boredom and frustration in the suburbs, Jonathan found the beauty of the modern world and companionship of the AM radio.  In this live version we get a guided tour by Jonathan as he and the Modern Lovers motor down in Massachusetts whilst expanding in length on the themes of Roadrunner.  "I'm in love with my own loneliness".  Below Jonathan plays Roadrunner with original Modern Lover Ernie Brooks in 1998 for Joey Ramone's birthday.

15. Tango Till They're Sore- Tom Waits- My Mom's family is all from New Orleans, this song makes me nostalgic for a past I never knew.  Last time I was in N.O. was late 1999 when we buried my grandmother.  "I'll tell you all my secrets but I lie about my past, so send me off to bed forevermore". The clip below of Waits performing the song on Letterman in 1986 is astonishing, nice that something like this could happen on network TV in the 1980's.  Had to post the rest, good stuff!

16. The Electrician-The Walker Brothers- "He's drilling through the spiritus sanctus tonight".

17. I Wish I Was Your Mother-Mott the Hoople- "Is there a happy ending? I don't think so".

18. Memo to My Son- Randy Newman- "Wait till you learn how to talk babe, I'll show you how smart I am".

19. Billy- Lou Reed-  It's a sad and beautiful world, mostly just sad.

20.  Don't Let the Sunshine Fool You- Townes Van Zandt

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