I’m not sure I’ll ever play it again. I’m pretty sure I never heard it before tonight.
It’s from 2008. It hit No. 17 on the US Billboard charts, but even though I had a nine year old in the house it didn’t make an impression on me. But what’s striking is the speed (fast), the strings (aggressive), and the guitars (really aggressive).
Couple it with some plain talking lyrics and an oddly effective chorus and I’m not sure why it didn’t make it to No. 3. Maybe because it’s from Australia.
In any case, this post isn’t a recommendation exactly, but a nod to the idea that the pieces of great songs and great ideas can also end up in pieces of commercial product that might actually have some personality to it.
I was cooking on Mardi Gras, shrimp etoufee by the way, and had a playlist of Mardi Gras songs on. Lots of good stuff I knew, but then this song came on. It’s not in any way obscure. It was written by Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint and I gather it was used in a grocery store commercial at some point. It’s been covered quite a bit, too. But it was new to me.
As Tom posted, Chick Correa died this week. We’re of a similar age, so we’re both wowed (I suspect) about how big an audience jazz music had at some shows in the mid 70s. When in the mid 70s we were going to shows featuring Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in arenas, not clubs.
And Chick Correa’s life story is mixed in with that cultural moment.
I don’t know the details of the way jazz embraced rock in the 70s, or maybe rock embraced jazz. I do have all the records. Chick Correa was a piano player then who played on the big jazz albums of that time and made his own albums, which got into a lot of Scientology stuff (which isn’t totally disqualifying) but makes you look more closely.
But let’s get back to the music. This is a track Correa plays electric piano on, one of his first with Miles, in which Miles adulates his second wife, a giant soul performer and personality, Betty Davis. I didn’t know this one (there is a lot of music out there).
I found a story about the photoshoot that led to the album cover and a bunch of other shots. The story irritated me. It claimed that the topless photos the Slits generated out of the shoot were subverting the male gaze because of their intentions, which may well have been pure, but based on the quotes everyone involved knew that topless images, even those slathered in mud, are going to read as more sexualized than clothed pictures. To claim otherwise doesn’t pass the smell test. That story was a dead end.
But the site, Proxy Music, is apparently about the intersection of visuals and music and I quickly found this excellent story about William Eggleston’s photos being used for album covers. I have to say that I knew some of these covers, didn’t know many, and didn’t connect those I knew to Eggleston, one of the masters of photography in the second half of the 20th century.
It was just a few years ago that I regularly ran into Sylvain’s Rampage of Songs, a night of youtube clips on Facebook. They were the delightful mashup of rock, old rock, rnb, and great stuff you’d expect. His energy in that enterprise was so so Syl!
We’re on first person terms because I lived in an apartment on Mott Street near Prince back in the 70s that had some carvings in the window sill that convinced me that the previous tenant was Syl Sylvain.
It may not have been true, but the carvings were real (they said Syl Sylvain if I remember correctly) and there were plenty of musicians in that building. In those days when I walked through the village I was often mistaken for Lenny Kaye. Why wouldn’t we live in Syl’s bathtub in kitchen tenement apartment?
I hadn’t seen the Dolls back then. I was in high school when they broke up. I did see them when they got back together in the late aughts with Earl Slick playing Johnny, at Bowery Ballroom. Earlier that day I was at the dentist, and the radio was promoting an REO Speedwagon show at the Garden, an oldies show. I went to see the remainders of the Dolls and they were very fine, most notable because Syl was so committed to bringing back all they had before with them to the now. Old but not oldies.
And it worked, mostly. David is great, first name though I don’t think I’ve lived in one of his places, but Syl seemed to believe that that night mattered completely. Like a Phil Spector production.
Which doesn’t say that much about the magnificence of the Dolls who I championed in high school over the logorrheic Bruce Springsteen. But the music says all about Syl.