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

Friday, February 22, 2008

Period style: You’re soaking in it!

For example: The above line. The cheerfully ironic quote of a 1970s TV commercial: Quotes like that figure prominently in our period style.

Listening to the 1957 hard bop album Dakar, featuring John Coltrane, I hear fine hard-bop period style from all the players -- except Coltrane. He gets beyond the period style and plays: Coltrane. It’s a beautiful thing.

The CD reissues the 1963 LP, which reissued the original 1957 16-rpm double-length LP. This roughly 40-minute album fit on one side of the 16-rpm disc! The booklet notes (reproduced from the 1963 reissue) don’t say what was on the other side; nor do the notes name Dakar’s bandleader. Since 1963 it’s been a “John Coltrane” album, but he didn’t write any of the tunes, and the booklet says it didn’t originally come out under his name. He was a sideman.

Listening to the album now, though, it’s Coltrane’s. The other players are fine and more than fine, but only he foregrounds himself from the period.

* * *

The kid and I wrote 2 songs on Monday -- Presidents Day -- a day off for me. A five-year-old makes a delightful songwriting partner. When I would incorporate one of his suggestions he would bounce around the room ecstatically. None of my other songwriting partners over the years ever did that.

He wrote the chorus, the first line of the verse, and set the theme of the first song we did, so that was “his” song. I expressed an urge to write one, and he suggested Presidents Day as a theme. “And make it rockin’, like mine!”

I whipped out an old-style (pre-Dead-Kennedys) punk-ish riff, and sang:

What’s the holiday that no one cares about? Presidents Day!
If you have the day off then you can go out on Presidents Day!

If you wanted to you could learn all their names on Presidents Day!

“What’s a good rhyme word for ‘games’?”

“Babes!” he says.


And we haven’t yet elected any babes for Presidents Day!

I decide to recite all the presidents’ names for the bridge, the kid suggests including Obama -- great! Easy to rhyme with “electoral drama”!

I sing the Obama line, he starts chanting, in rhythm, Obama, Obama, Obama, Obama! That’ll work too, I keep it.

The next day, driving between work meetings, driving to and from the kid’s pre-school, I recite, over and over and over, all the presidents’ names.

there’s washington adams jefferson madison
monroe adams’s-son jackson van buren
harrison tyler polk taylor
filmore pierce buchanan lincoln johnson
grant hayes garfield arthur cleveland
harrison’s-grandson mckinley roosevelt
taft wilson harding coolidge hoover
roosevelt’s-cousin truman eisenhower
kennedy an-unrelated-johnson nixon
ford carter reagan bush clinton
and bush’s son
what have we done?

Because Tuesday night is open mike at a bookstore/cafe between pre-school and home, and we’ve been going, and I want to sing it. The kid ends up not singing with me, deciding not to, but it went over well. I stumbled like crazy over the list of presidents, but I hammed it up and people laughed. It’s a nice open mike -- really nice people. I’m 44 and below the median age of the performers. Wildly varying quality of musicians -- a lot of terrific ones, some unpolished ones, and everybody playing with nothing but love. Those 50-ish white guys nailing their guitar licks, how I love them. There’s something beautiful about people concentrating hard to do something they love, almost no matter what it is.

* * *

Lingering royalism in America: Only four people have gained the presidency after losing the election, and two of them were sons of presidents -- John Q. Adams and George W. Bush -- and a third was a grandson of one -- Benjamin Harrison.

The House of Representatives elected Adams when nobody won a majority of the electoral college (Andrew Jackson won a plurality of the popular vote and the electoral vote, but not a majority); Harrison won by fraud; a majority-Republican Supreme Court appointed Bush over the will of the voters.

The fourth winning loser was Rutherford Hayes, who lost the popular vote -- and probably the electoral vote -- to Samuel Tilden in 1876 and won anyway because his party had more members on the Supreme Court.

* * *

Getting around Blogville:

The poet John Latta has a blog -- quirky, insightful, independent.

Utah Phillips has been suffering from serious heart problems. He has retired from performing, and his son Duncan has started a blog where he updates Utah’s health.

The revolving group blog hosted by the Poetry Foundation features some terrific writing and some wide-ranging comment fests.

My fond acquaintance Devin McKinney, whose writing I heart, is now also writing at a Beatlemaniacal group blog, Hey Dullblog. For Beatle-nuts.

* * *

Early warning: My old friend Ross Lipman and I will have a show on Sunday, April 13, at 7:00 PM, at the Jewel Box Theater in the Rendezvous, in downtown Seattle. He will show films and perform a monologue-with-slide-show, and my band will play.

Details HERE (subject to change).

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