Sunday, January 4, 2009
life: it ain't real funky unless it's got that pop
John Zorn - The Crucible (no link) - One of the oddest brushes with famous people in this little career of mine was getting a phone call from John Zorn. A magazine has asked me to try to score an interview with him. While knowing his hostility toward the press, I figured I'd give it a shot anyway, so I left a message at the one number I could find tangentially related to him, two days later, I got a call in the morning that started "Hey, Alex? This is John Zorn. Where the hell is 225?" I was dumbstruck. To whom had I bragged of this opportunity that would prank call me on it? I gathered myself somehow and quickly realized this was the actual John Zorn and scrambled for a recorder, notebook, laptop whatever I could find. This turned out to be the first of three lengthy conversations with him about whether he was going to do this interview or not. He explained why he shuns the press, largely because they always get it wrong and he ends up feeling hurt personally and professionally by what was said. I gave him every option an interviewer could. I went out and bought $60 worth of his CD's that he recommended he'd like to talk about if this interview were to take place.
The third of these conversations took place on my lunch break while conducting a training class at an aluminum plant in Gramercy, where just that morning I had been listening to his Moonchilde record at full blast when I was suddenly stopped on the Gramercy off-ramp because a bald eagle was in the middle of the road, tearing some piece of roadkill off the asphalt. The metallic groans and explosions of that album were in time with the eagle's struggle when suddenly, the mess broke free and the giant bird lumbered into the sky right over the hood of my car. I considered telling John this story while on the phone, but decided to save it for the intro, should he be right now deciding to commit. I was also considering how to tell the class coming back from lunch to wait for at least an hour while I did this thing, but he politely informed me that he was really sorry, but he just couldn't do it, an it's-me-not-you brush off.
I was let down at first, especially after buying all these CDs (though I still like them and am glad I have them) but I did go into it knowing it is a long shot. I ended up interviewing Ian MacKaye for the magazine instead and all went fine. The Crucible is a continuation of the Moonchilde hard-rock project, this time with Zorn moving from the conductor role into co-performer, and the first track sounded all the world like the best nu-metal group playing against a Fire music solo from 1968 with a Ray Conniff Singers record playing in the background. For all I know, that might be exactly what is going on. Should the composer want to break it all down for me, he's got my number.
Fleetwood Mac - The Dance (lala) Zorn was a bit much info overload for grocery shopping, so I swapped over to Fleetwood Mac as I made it through my Wal-Mart list. I used to consider Fleetwood Mac to be grocery store music in my impetuous youth until a roommate sat me down and made me listen to this reunion album, the performers walking thr tightropes of multiple divorces with nervous chuckles. Such a great album. I didn't even mind spending the last three tracks in line behind a customer that somehow discovered a way to make Wal-Mart work even slower. A friend once told me a story of when their parents were invited to a party at the Mac compound at the height of their popularity. The main room where much of the cocaine was had a glass floor through which one could observe white tigers pacing in the room below.
I came to the realization in line that I might be more of a Christine McVie guy than I am a Lindsay Buckingham or Stevie Nicks guy. The latter two ego-talents are too much to not love, but when "Everywhere" kicked in, I was suddenly swept away from the dairy section, trying to look for trans-fat free stuff t accommodate our new resolutionary diet to glass floors and tigers. I hauled in the groceries humming "ahhh-WOOOOOOOOO" over and over.
Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground (lala) I love Ms. Badu, though this sprawling EP might be my least favorite of her oeuvre. I thought hearing her unformed and loose would release he muse, but no it really doesn't. Her tightly coiled New Amerykah album made my final top 10 list and I see this as the transition form there to here, but it doesn't really grab me for active listening. it did however provide an excellent balm to the frustrating installation of a new toilet paper holder though.
Prince - Around the World in a Day (lala) I feel I've been around the world in a day today, My daughter is at a sleepover continuing well into the next day which leaves us a lot more discretionary time than we normally have on a weekend. My real memory of this record is finding myself driving across Tennessee at 4am on a road trip. I was supposed to stay the night with a distant acquaintance on the Fourth of July, and I see now this was an offer made in politeness, with our communications crossed about my following through on it. The guy was pulling out of his driveway for a weekend at his inlaw's just as I arrived beleaguered at his house.
There was not a single available hotel room in all of Florence, AL, and I got a hold of my friend in Chattanooga (my second node on this trip) and she said to come on, so I ended up driving all night with this tape on repeat. I made rules for when I could have a cigarette - the temple bell in "Tambourine", "no curl" in "Pop Life." I ended up circling up Huntsville Mountain, sleeping in the backseat of my rented car in the parking lot of a campground up there because i was too delirious to figure out how to register for an actual spot.