Sunday 30 March 2008
This one I still love, though. Great title, and I love overlapping harmonies - not that they actually do on reflection - oh well.
And this, thanks to 'glo for locating the video for this one!
and to end with a bit of frippery x 2. One is amateur vid and one live, I'm afraid
Sunday 23 March 2008
Tuesday 18 March 2008
Thursday 13 March 2008
The opening lines of this song have been with me all my life - well, most of it. Guess my folks bought the album when I was a wee tacker. A friend of mine today said that young writers were clever with their style and content, whereas older writers had more depth of wisdom and feeling. I disagree. Young writers are so close to their emotions, and often the emotion is impossible to escape from, and it is strong enough to be truth for the writer, and to be everything to the writer, and perhaps it is truth and everything. Particularly if the writer has lyrical precision. Particularly in reference to poetry and song.
Some historical cases in point: Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 19 (18 according to Wikipedia). Robbie Burns died at 37, and he wasn't alone in passing so young. Rimbaud also died at 37 and finished his writing career by age 21. And there are many, many more. Wordsworth was a bit more unusual in living until he was eighty. Maybe within the last fifty years there haven't been so many examples within literature, but there definitely is within music.
Some get better with age - Anne Tyler, Delillo, I think improved, or got clearer. McCourt's Angela's Ashes and Teacher man are sweeps of exquisite crafting. Note, I have switched to the prose writers now. But many other artists of all hues have their moments of brilliance early, cliched as that notion is.
Maybe with their initial efforts they fulfil a task that was universally set for them, a purpose for being, or psychological demons are laid to rest, and what follows those first efforts is sometimes satisfying to the reader/listener and writer in another way, sometimes not at all. Is it that styles get used to so freshness is lacking, or is it that the urgency is lacking from the writer's end, and so too then is the immediacy and clarity of image, language and metaphor?
Simon and Garfunkel seemed to think they were on borrowed time and, though I have enjoyed later Simon, their songs of true beauty for me were written at this early juncture of their lives, even though I am not really at this juncture of my life any more. This is off the Sounds of Silence album which was released in 1965, so Simon was twenty-four at the time. Not the twenty-one of the song, but still plenty young and pretty enough.
Monday 10 March 2008
My interest in her probably stems from when I was 18 or 19 and I saw Absolute Beginners which made me then read the books, written by Colin MacInnes. I have the series, somewhere. They are not the greatest books, but they definitely have style. There was a lot about Billie Holiday in them. Swinging 60s in London, not that she was there.
My dad was always quite interested in jazz, too, though we didn't have a great lot of it in the house. I also remember about this time seeing a late at night repeat of Lady Sings the Blues , Diana Ross' version of Billie. It has gone on to be thoroughly panned, though you wouldn't think it from the Wikipedia entry. I was also a kid who read books about dramatic youngish stars who died tragic deaths, and Billie was one of them. I probably knew more about Rudolph Valentino than any 15 year old should (about the time I started reading such things) - not because of the death factor, but Valentino? Come on.
One hot Sunday afternoon, I took the at least an hour and a half journey (depending on the availability of the blink and they're gone buses) from our hills house to the city. Perth on a Sunday in the 80s was an absolute ghost town. But 78s used to stay open. I don't know what kind of permission they were granted. I was a curly headed goth wanna-be, so much so, that nobody could probably distinguish me from my very bogan roots . But hell, I loved the Smiths, the stuff coming underground from the UK, Oz and NZ. It was just that a weekend in the suburb I grew up in was usually not replete without some house booming out TNT while everyone washed their cars. And even though Bon Scott scared the hell out of me (reminded me of one of the boys at primary school who would fight the teachers) the people in 78s scared me too. Surely it was obvious that I wasn't wearing enough black, I was likely to poke my eye out with the mandatory black eyeliner, curly hair just doesn't like geometric stylings goddamn, and aren't ugg boots grafted to the soles of those brought up in suburbs like mine and Pamela Anderson's? I presumed a lot.
It was the mid-80s, so CDs and CD players weren't everywhere yet, and you have to take into account that everything comes to Perth a bit later than other places. We didn't get our first MacDonalds until the 80s, and that is the truth. And though MacDonald's is not the epitome of taste and distinction, it is ubiquitous. Perth, the city so boring that even MacDonald's couldn't be bothered. That is unfair to Perth, of course, but from my suburban perch I would just feel this heavy, drawn-out, pressing forgotteness which always seems somehow compounded in the incessant heat of the long summers. The reason I was in the city that day was that I just had to go to a bigger place to tell myself it existed and to prove to myself that it was possible to physically leave the hills. Tell myself I wasn't trapped there forever. I did that a lot in those days. It wasn't my intention to buy Billie Holiday, or to even go to 78s, but wandering down the empty streets led me there, and it was there where I riffled through the vinyls and found Lady Sings the Blues. My copy was a spin-off from the movie but it was definitely Lady Day singing the tunes, and only had 13 tracks or so, unlike Ross' 35 track number.
I loved that vinyl, and it is one of about ten vinyls that I have actually kept along with a George Michael Faith picture disc (how seriously do you take me now? huh?). It was fully scratchity and uncrisp, and it has versions of Billie songs that I haven't heard on the numerous compilations that group everything of hers together. Too much so.
I loved her voice. I loved the lyrics, though they were sad and helpless, yes indeed. I thought everyone of that era was light and floaty and bees and honey, even though I knew the social history to be different. I didn't see much different in the female vocalists of my generation, either. I wasn't too opened up musically at the time, but I was damn hungry and she was a true find for me.
I saw a series which had a soundbite from Wynton Marsalis. I can't remember the documentary, but he stated how Billie sang as if she were truly an instrument of jazz, blending and melding, dipping in and out, and how much he would have loved to have played with her (I think it was him, and not Branford). This is documented by others. And I can take or leave Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Lena Horne - my list is definitely exhaustive. But Billie doesn't exhaust me. Not this particular vinyl, anyway. A friend said of my indifference to Ella that, "She's not sad enough for you, is she?" A perceptive observation, and probably not a good reflection of my personality, but he was right. Billie was clever, too, though, or wilful. Imagine singing Strange Fruit in those times. 1939 is when she first sang it. She must have been an incredibly brave woman , or maybe just driven. She was definitely a tortured and lost soul. Maybe there was no other way to be - given the times, given her background. By the way, that song wasn't on the vinyl I bought that day, I found it later.
Because in many periods of history it is not prudent to write of hardship, or it is not encouraged, the generations to come after can think that the generations before them were all Doris Day and Rock Hudson (who had their own stories behind the facades, too, of course). When I read a poem that is centuries old, yet it reads like modern verse and I can digest it easily, I am surprised. When I get the wit and criticism evident in books such as Gulliver's Travels I am stupidly left thinking, Wow, they thought about that kind of stuff then? And they put it in print? As if discernment only came with my generation, and of course the generation after me, and possibly the one before me, will think this is not the case at all.
So people across the ages will always think and feel. Not all of the people, all of the time, but some of the time is better than none of the time. And this will manifest itself in words and songs and art and speeches, and day to day conversation. Even for a girl trapped in the outer suburbs, or maybe especially so, digging deep, and then digging a little more.
Monday 3 March 2008
For almost all of last year I was very caught up in my study. At PAN I have taken Wade's suggestion and expanded upon it, and decided to call it quantum procrastination, because quantum gives an air of gravity to everything (except amongst 'real' scientists), and because procrastination tends to get me results eventually - so even though the act of procrastinating, and the act of doing something should be complete opposites (and are in fact) having one foot in both camps helps me come to a whole. I learnt this wonderful new word today from a man who is more commonly known for his derring-do on the Simpsons than in the research arena. Who woulda thunk it. I wanted to apply it to the above paragraph, but procrastination and action are not really mirror images, so no chance to twist the metaphor this time around.
Anyway, during this study time the inside of my house saw far too much of me. This self-imposed exile extended through spring, summer, autumn and most of winter, with just a few little sojourns here and there. Well, it's all over for a time, and there is no school to prep for at the moment, and finally, after god knows how many weeks, I have a levity to match the gravity alluded to above. Also, it has pretty much stopped snowing in this part of town. So much so that today and yesterday I took a bike ride.
This is what the weather was like.
Doesn't look promising, huh? However, the air was biting and invigorating, and the sky hadn't started spitting rain and snow pellets before I left home, though one look out my window could have told me it was likely.
The city is warmer than the mountains I was heading towards. It stands to reason. So most of the path that was used by most of the city was cleared nicely and could fit four abreast, or so. Well...maybe two.
However, after about 4 or 5 kilometres, it narrowed to this:
By the time I got here
it had started to rain, and it looked as if there was going to be a bit of slush along that path. So I picked up my bike and turned around (the path was not wide enough to wheel it around).
Still, so much fun I had - and here's a view of some of the things I passed along the way there:
I think this is rice in the yard. There were bags of this banked up around the house, too. The rice would have been harvested in summer, or the end of summer, autumn - really, I don't know, but that sounds about right. This is just a wild guess, and I am not sure precisely what would be happening. The area is famous for its sake, so it could have something to do with that, or maybe it is a regular procedure, or maybe it isn't rice at all.
Blue tin and wooden storage sheds/ factories/ timber yards
cemeteries, or haka, in Japanese. They are more memorials as Japanese are usually cremated.
These operate as kind of greenhouses, nurseries in warmer weather. The last one is almost transparent because there was a lot of rain on the camera phone (and on me).
I didn't wear my down jacket today, and neither did I need it. I did have a jacket, however, just not the down one. I had my gloves off for part of the journey. True, my face was stinging with the rain and pellets on the way home, but the downpour stopped after about ten minutes. Enough time, of course, for my jeans (sans long johns - yaay) to get soaked through, and for my toes to somewhat lose feeling once I returned home. But making the effort to do something always makes me feel good, and being able to actually transform that effort into a tangible experience feels even better.
When I told the ladies at the swimming club that I had been bike riding, they asked "What about the snow?" But even with that, there was excitement and joy, relief, anticipation, in their voices as they declared that March had arrived and the weather was warmer, despite this rain, despite this wind, despite these snow pellets (not hail, not snow). And I think this year I will finally have the energy to implement my wishes. Finally I will be able to get to know this area better.