21 November 2012

"Money's Tight, Nothin's Free, Won't Somebody Come and Rescue Me; I am Stranded, Out in the Crossfire"

Stevie Ray Vaughn
(sings the title quote like he understands what it means)

Sullivan's Travels (1941; dir. Preston Sturges)
(film the Coen Bros. tipped their hat to with O Brother Where Art Thou)

[Written May 2012 through November 2012]
In the place where you are born and grow up, you begin to learn the things all men must know. Although they are the simplest things, it take a man's life to really know them. And if you are to be a writer, the stories you [tell] will be true in proportion to this knowledge of life that you have ... [of] the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, the people, the places, and how the weather was. (Except from narrative introduction in the 1963 film Ernest Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (dir., Martin Ritt) (Introduction by E. A. Hotchner -- 1968).
 When, despite your best efforts to keep things in balance, the money runs out and your Seven Spanish Angels are away for an audience with the Man with the thunder, changes simply must come.

My offline financial exile shattered my attempt to keep things fresh over the past five years of writing and editing Gold Coast Bluenote.

Here are of few of the treasures I've enjoyed during my break from the online life:
- Steve Earle Live From Austin TX (DVD of an Austin City Limits gig from 1986, New West Records, 2004) .... [with The Dukes]. Steve and his band turn in a crack performance that made one friend of mine wonder why he "didn't make it big." Whatever the answer to that question, the full Austin City Limits concert is first class -- what Gram Parsons would call "cosmic American music."
- The Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way (CD, 2006). I've written about this album here before, so I'm going to reprint part of one of two GCB posts on the record:
A friend of mine put on an album the other night, one I hadn't written about since it took home five Grammys and tore up the charts in 2006. The Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way still sounds great these five years later.
As an aging hippie, the idea that a band would stir up so much controversy by exercising an artist's right to criticize American foreign policy from overseas is more than a little disconcerting. I grew up at the height of the era where protest music and musicians speaking their minds were badges of honor. But judging on the first decade of this century, a band now puts its future on the line by stepping out of line. As I think about it, I guess its always been risky to oppose those in authority.
The Dixie Chicks are still thriving with a smaller fan base, having lost many of their more conservative, mainstream country fans. But they are still going strong, and their cathartic album Taking the Long Way stands as one of the decade's most important protest records.
- Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott in The Hustler (DVD, 1961; dir. Robert Rossen). You will find a full post on this film here.
- Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake in Sullivan's Travels (1941; dir. Preston Sturges)
- White Shadow by Ace Atkins (historical novel, 2006). It's a vast over-simplification to say that White Shadow is Tampa, Florida's The Godfather. This noir novel is drenched in local color and the Mafia-drenched world of Tampa and Havana, Cuba in the mid-1950s. 
I was born in '57. Nobody talks anymore about the history this book is filled with, from the Latin and Sicilian mobsters who ran the city's underworld to the task faced by honest Tampa cops of trying to chip away at a granite mountain of corruption and decadence. Atkins takes the Pulitzer Prize nominated research on an unsolved mob murder in the fifties and spins an accurate, engaging tale of the darker side of life in my hometown. It's one of the finest historical novels I've found since discovering Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Deadwood: The Complete Series (DVD set, copyright 2004, 2006, 2007; created by David Milch)
 As reader's of Gold Coast Bluenote would expect, there was a good deal of rock 'n' roll that matters on the home jukebox while I was offline. Let me mention a few of these classics that were in heavy rotation:
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Derek and the Dominoes (1970; produced by Tom Dowd)
Exile on Main St, The Rolling Stones (1972, produced by Jimmy Miller)
The Chess Box: Chuck Berry, (3 DVD compilation, 1988)
The Bootleg Series, Vol. IV, The Royal Albert Hall Concert, Bob Dylan (the acoustic side, 1966). Especially Dylan's live version of, arguably, one of the greatest songs ever written, Visions of Johanna.
 If these albums, DVDs, or books are gathering dust in your collection or you haven't acquired the more recently released archival material, well, double clutch your mojo back into gear and let the good times roll. A little time offline did me a world of good. To quote Chuck Berry:

"C'est la vie, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell."


whiteray said...

...[T]this is a great tour through stuff that helps keep me sane. (At least the stuff I know, which is most of it. I gotta get back to the Ace Atkins novel, and I need to take another look at "The Hustler" and a first look at "Sullivan's Travels.") In the late 1990s, the band I was in did a kick-ass version of "Crossfire." Thanks!

Paco Malo said...

I didn't know you were in a band. What instrument did you play? And thanks a million for your comment. I kinda figured we were on the same artistic pilgrimage; your comment confirms it. (I hope you get a kick out of "Sullivan's Travels" -- the theme is certainly eternal. Sturges has a set of films from the late '30s and early '40s. I haven't found one I didn't like.)

Whiteray said...

I played keyboards. In the late '90s, I had a friend who collected musicians and put together a play-for-fun group that got together at his house in the 'burbs. After a while, we began hosting two parties a year there and taking a few outside gigs. And three of us from the band got together with a couple other folks and put together a small band and did a few gigs as well. It was fun.

Paco Malo said...

I was thinking about what instrument you might play; my first thought was, whoever had the job of lead guitar player for "Crossfire" had his/her hands full, literally.

I bet that was fun. What was this wonderful garage ensemble called?

Whiteray said...

We just called ourselves Jake's, after the guy who owned the house. (His name was Jacques, but he pronounced it "Jake.") And I don't remember what we called the small band, though I would have voted for Brown Paper Bag. We had some hellacious guitar players, one of whom had been in some Twin City bands in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a second who was a precocious 17-year-old and another who was simply the best guitar player I've ever met, schooled by listening to (and playing along with and then growing from there) lots of Duane Allman, Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton.

Paco Malo said...

That would make "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs", referred to in the post we're discussing, a double album he was probably mainlining. I was a Carlito madman in my early teens. I bought everything they released, including the Dutch import "Lotus" on 3 LPs with the most amazing liner notes and art I've ever seen (f'in cosmic music, until, in 78 they released a disco song on an LP and Carlos and I were done until "Supernatural". Anyway, Skydog, Slowhand, Carlito (and Keef) are just about my favorite blues/rock guitarists. And then, of course, no guitar player list is complete without Gypsy Django.