Sunday, July 16, 2017

SELECTED READINGS ~ JULY 16, 2017


The recent Salon.com article asking the rhetorical question What Exactly Lurks Within the Backward Grooves of Stairway to Heaven?--excerpted from Erik Davis' Led Zeppelin IV book from the 33&1/3 series-- makes for a fun read, particularly when the authors draw a nifty parallel between 80's televangelists laboring over turntables in their efforts to suss out Satanic messages by playing songs backwards and the then novel artistry of early DJ spin-masters:
Though one doubts that Minister Mills was chillin’ with Grandmaster Flash or DJ Kool Herc, rap musicians and Christian evangelicals both recognized that popular music is a material inscription, one that can be physically manipulated in order to open up new vectors of sense and expression. For both evangelicals and rap DJs, the vinyl LP was not a transparent vehicle of an originally live performance, but a source of musical meaning itself, a material site of potential codes, messages, and deformations of time. Alongside the more kinetic and rhythmic innovations introduced by scratch artists like DJ Grand Wizard Theodore, we must also speak of a “Christian turntablism”: slow, profoundly unfunky, obsessed with linguistic “messages.” Some evangelical TV broadcasts from the early 80s even include top-down shots of the minister’s DJ decks so that viewers can admire the technique of squeezing sense from sound. However, while rap and all the sampled music that follows it treats the vinyl LP as an open form capable of multiple meanings and uses, Christian turntablists remained literalists, convinced that they were revealing a single “fundamental” message intentionally implanted in the grooves by a diabolical author. Unfortunately, when it came to “Stairway to Heaven,” these DJs for Jesus could not agree on the exact wording of Led Zeppelin’s insidious messages. Once again, ambiguity trumps.
There's something for everyone--from the casual Zeppelin fan to the committed Thelema practicing Crowleyite--in this short article. If you're any kind of pal o' mine, you'll enjoy it. Remember to pass it on!
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Continuing with today's musical theme, Washington Post political reporter (and life-long prog rock head) Dave Weigel has just published a book about the much-reviled musical genre he and I both hold so dear, entitled The Show That Never Ends. Now, thanks to the Red Bull Music Academy, you can read an excerpt from said book: an entire chapter, in fact. And it's not just any old chapter... it's the chapter called "A Billion Times the Impact", and it's about progressive rock's deepest and darkest practitioners, King Fucking Crimson. Weigel goes deep for this one, folks. After a bunch of stuff about the birth of the business end of prog (Harvest, Pink Floyd, Van Der Graff Generator, etc), we get to the meat:
Crimson made its London debut on April 9, 1969, at the Speakeasy, gigging steadily through the spring and folding into the scene. They started talking to the Moody Blues about touring with them – an embryonic band backing up the country’s symphonic hit makers. It didn’t pan out. “I think they [the Moodies] were terrified,” said Michael Giles. “There was a power and an energy coming off Crimson that couldn’t be denied.” 
None of the musicians who popped up at the shows even attempted to deny it. King Crimson settled into a sound and image. Fripp, never comfortable standing up to play guitar, decided at the band’s May 14 gig that he would play seated on a stool. “You can’t sit down,” warned an exasperated Greg Lake. “You’ll look like a mushroom!” 
Fripp was unmoved. “My considered opinion,” he’d tell an audience at a later concert, “was that the mushroom is a fertility symbol in many cultures.” So the guitarist sat down, and he won immediate validation from one of the only people whose opinion mattered. Jimi Hendrix was at the show, “jumping up and down,” and pronouncing Crimson “the best group in the world.” 
After the show, Hendrix approached Fripp wearing a white suit with a matching sling on his right arm. “One of the most luminous people I’ve ever met,” remembered Fripp. “And he said to me: Shake my left hand, man, it’s closer to my heart.” 
The Rolling Stones were set to play an outdoor concert at Hyde Park on July 5. King Crimson, just six-odd months into its existence, was booked to support them. On July 3, the Stones’ multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones was discovered at the bottom of his pool. There was a moment of panic about whether the show would go forward. The panic subsided and nothing was canceled, as funereal portraits of Jones were placed at either side of the Hyde Park stage. King Crimson would have forty minutes to play to the largest audience they’d ever seen. 
“Here’s a band that’s going to go a long way,” promised the announcer. Seven seconds later the band crashed into the first chords of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” all majors and sharps in 4/4 time, the entire band swinging like a fist. ... King Crimson held the stage for forty minutes at Hyde Park, playing highly structured songs – “The Court of the Crimson King,” “Epitaph” – and songs that served to scaffold their incredibly quick solos. Lake didn’t even get vocal parts for the last thirteen minutes. The brief “Mantra” consisted largely of a tender McDonald flute melody. “Travel Weary Capricorn” was a showcase for Giles – a song so evocative of basement jazz that the impressions of “Schizoid Man” started to fade. 
But the jazz number ended with a strangled-cat solo from Fripp, as Lake and Giles laid down a thudding beat. This was “Mars,” a travel-sized cover of Gustav Holst’s piece from The Planets. A mellotron carried the melody as the band relentlessly bent the classical piece into a Satanic groove. It ended with air-raid sirens, played by the band’s management. And that was the show. “Standing ovation,” recorded Fripp in his diary. “Mammoth Success, of importance which will take time to appreciate. We’ll look back to see this day in years to come and fully realise its significance.”
That's the shit right there, man. And as the story behind Crimson gets more chaotic and complicated, Weigel's telling of it only gets better. At one point, during an interview with Gordon Haskel, the disgruntled former singer says: "The King Crimson weapon is musical fascism, made by fascists, designed by fascists to dehumanize, to strip mankind of his dignity and soul," he said later. "It’s pure Tavistock Institute material, financed by the Rothschild Zionists and promoted by two poncy public school boys with connections to the city of London." Because of course it is. Yer old pal Jerky can't wait to get his hands on Weigel's book

PS - Purchase it (or anything else) from that Amazon link and you'll be supporting yer old pal Jerky's blogging efforts!

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Those of you who've been riding along with yer old pal Jerky and friends over the last little while know that we consider the UK's Adam Curtis to be one of the best and most important documentarians currently producing work. We so respect his work, in fact, that we will soon be producing concordances (like these) to go along with some of his most important and relevant films and series, such as The Power of Nightmares, The Century of the Self, The Trap, and All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. But before we get to that, we suggest that you watch this early film of his, 1984's The Great British Housing Disaster, which all but predicts the Grenfell Tower disaster, which incinerated scores of innocent people alive in central London only a few short weeks ago.


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