Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, August 01, 2005


I never play my 45s by myself. Only if there are people around. Too simultaneously labor intensive and celebratory to waste on myself alone. Tonight it was just an after-dinner 45 Party with the wife & kid. Many months ago, as soon as the 2-year-old got into the repetition of the word, "No," I lucked on a way to laugh him out of it, and that is by singing the introduction to "I'm not a juvenile delinquent" by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, which begins, "No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no . . . I'm not a juvenile delinquent." I'll sing it and ask him if he's a juvenile delinquent and he usually smiles or laughs and says yes or no and then asks me if I'm a juvenile delinquent in his mangled 2-year-old diction, and I usually say in a falsetto bark, "No!"

As it happens, I have a re-issued 45 of it, and Nat had never heard it, so I broke it out tonight, and he listened with an expression of the most intent seriousness. After it was over I asked him if he liked it and he said yes.

Other songs in the 45 dance party tonight (very '70s heavy, no surprise):

Me and Mrs. Jones, making immorality sound dreamy and glamorous.

"Isrealites," Desmond Dekker

"Without You," Nilsson

"Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing," Stevie

* * *

I mentioned that our Canadian vacation took us to Alert Bay a couple weeks ago and that it is home to spectacularly moving totem poles. What I didn't mention is that it had the friendliest graffiti I've ever seen in my life. The first one I noticed was a smiling stick figure holding a hot dog, with the words, "This man has a hot dog." In the men's wash room at the campground, the only graffito was the word, "Onion." Keeping up the food motif, my wife pointed out 3 words on a telephone pole: "Enchalada Taco Burrito." (Spelled like that.) That was it -- all the graffit we saw.

* * *

We saw some happening musical acts at the Vancouver Folk Music Fest in addition to Mike Seeger:

The Jaipur Kawa Brass Band came to Canada as a 7-piece: 3 brass, 2 reeds, and 2 drummers, plus 2 dancers. Virtuoso ecstatic rhythms & wild celebratory riffs with happening improvisations from the trumpeter, total party marching band. Popular at weddings in its home town of Jaipur, India. Dancing around the grass at 10:20 AM on a Saturday morning in a beautiful park across the bay from Stanley Park -- exultant.

Oliver Schroer is a hot fiddler and a calmly ravenous musician with a seemingly bottomless appetite for freely improvising with people he's never met.

Veda Hille is an exceedingly impressively technically accomplished songwriter. Able to juggle meters from 5/4 to 7/4 to 11/4 to 3/4 to 4/4 with ease and beauty; able to weave beautifully together musical theme and counter-theme over the course of a lyrically united album-length suite; a quirky, complex rhythmatist and beautiful melodist and effective, dissonant harmonist and moving lyricist -- well, I wouldn't blame you if you say, "accomplished shmaccomplished" -- either way, her stuff just shines. The set we caught was with her new band, Duplex. My wife approached her after her set and asked her to pose for a picture with our son (who's a fan); Veda was totally sweet about it.

Lots of other nice music too, and a lot more stuff than ever before that neither my wife nor I nor our friends with whom we go every year liked at all. My wife and I even booed one guy who was singing sardonic "jokes" about mass murderers. It alarmed our son, who would suddenly ask for a couple days afterward, "Why did you and Mommoo say Boo?"

I was somewhat embarrassed to Boo. I really wanted to curse, loudly. Booing seemed more polite. The singer is one of those guys who likes being "provocative." I'm often the guy who's "provoked." "Congratulations! You've succeeded in being provocative! I think your stuff stinks!"

* * *

Moving description of his past life as an indie rocker from Franklin Bruno. Raising the specter of the professionalism I have never even pursued. I have my defenses, I have my rationalizations. Music is communion, whether you connect with 3 people or 30 million. Never having played in front of more than 700 people (and that only once, that I can recall, at a party in college), I can't know how connecting with lots of strangers would feel. It was a real thrill to receive in the mail a couple weeks ago a CD-R made from a live tape of a severely under-documented band I led for a year, from a fan who found this blog by googling another band I'd worked with. I didn't know the fan, but I do recall someone asking if it was OK to tape a show in a little club in Chicago in 1990 -- am I glad I said Sure! On the CD I hear friends laughing between songs. 14 originals that set plus 2 covers, one Disney and one Woody Guthrie. I hear songs I wrote and had completely forgotten, and notice how others have lyrics or arrangements that have drastically changed over the years. Heavy wistfulness too, of course, not only for my aging body, but for sweet absent friends who happened to be totally hot musicians devoted to playing my songs as long as they didn't have a better paying gig that night. Hard to describe how touched I was to get the CD.

Hey, this segment started off by talking about Franklin! Well, I was feeling his articulate, dignified, hot-consciousness discomfort in that post. Music, brother, music -- ain't nobody can take that away from you, no matter how many or few people have heard it.

Hoping to make some music available web-wise in the next couple months, especially my current band's CD, which we hope to finish soon, as well as maybe some older stuff. Will keep you updated, of course.

* * *

This stroll down memory lane wouldn't be complete without mentioning the most notorious performer I ever worked with, the woman who later became Miss Cleo. Back when she was "Ree Perris," she wrote a play; her girlfriend at the time was a friend of mine and putting together a band for the play and asked me; I said Yes and had a kick, playing in a percussion ensemble with my friend, her sister, and her mother, really nice people who would take up the first half hour of every rehearsal with great family gossip. My wife met Ree, who said, "You look familiar . . . " -- they went to high school together! Ree never paid me the money she promised (she produced as well as wrote and directed the play, the script of which I didn't particularly like, though I dug the music) -- I didn't care about the money, which wasn't much anyway -- 40 bucks or something. A few years later I saw her on a late-night TV ad, selling her phone-psychic services, pretending to be Jamaican, not the Southern Californian she was born and raised. I called my wife to the TV, "That's Ree!" Then she got busted for fraudulent TV-psychic-tude, and it looks like she could have afforded me to send me those Andrew Jacksons after all -- her company settled the complaint for $500 million!
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