Trump. I’m just getting past the paralysis. For maybe the first time in my life I’m experiencing fear in a macro sense. I mean, I’ve had my fair share of acute terror, but nothing like this ominous dulling crush. Jesus fucking Christ. I’ve seen enough to understand that wholesale bigotry has never stopped frothing under the American surface. Candidly, before I took Trump seriously as a candidate I was somewhat appreciative of him for dragging this filth out into the light, even if it was for all the wrong reasons. But God, I never realized how bad it would shake me to see it out in the open. To actually see people performing the Nazi salute and screaming “heil Trump!” To see just how emboldened people are, how aggressive they have become about indulging their poison. One of those open carry freaks is now hanging out at Indianola and Olentangy, claiming the existence of a “menacing” homeless person. Jesus fucking Christ.
Where to retreat, where to turn? Some of my friends have taken this twisted rising as a call to arms and action. I’m not ready for that – I will be, but it’s going to take time. Now I need to grieve, to mourn, to crawl up into a bottle and howl at myself for my own failings. But I can’t even get that settled.
It used to be that when I got really depressed, I would pour a glass of whiskey and read the musician classifieds on Craigslist. A demonstration of the indomitable nature of some dreams, however weird and pathetic. I can’t handle that now – the best I can do is sit down with a guitar and try to play the old folk songs, those grim turn-of-the-century ballads where everyone dies, usually gruesomely and at inconvenient times.
But there is no solace to be had there. No question how those people would have voted (assuming they made it to the polling place without being murdered by a former lover, which seems to have been a 50/50 proposition back then). They weren’t a solar energy crowd, more of a Comparative Merits of Segregation vibe.
So I ditch the guitar and conduct a frantic search through an impossibly large CD collection for some kind of antidote. And books – I want to read about it while I’m listening to it, if that makes any sense. Find the music and steal a second to read the liner notes while waiting at a red light.
Leonard Cohen? No, I miss him terribly and the wound is too raw. Cohen was a dire prophet, a voice of reason when things got too high, a voice to the sometime emptiness of achievements. Not what you want to hear when your face is already in the dirt.
50 years of the post-Beatles British Pop called “Rock Music?” That’s how Bob Dylan explains it anyway. It’s impossible to take any of that shit seriously right now, maybe not even Dylan himself. As John Lennon said, “don’t you think the joker laughs at you?” It’s certainly not for lack of trying.
Johnny Paycheck and his friends in 1970’s Nashville have never been particularly constructive. I love the outlaw myth and Johnny Cash as a Christ-like figure, but escapism takes a lot of energy that I don’t have that right now. Willie Nelson soothes, but Willie Nelson is also really high.
I was too lazy to learn much about jazz or anything about hip-hop. Oh yeah, I’ve got jazz on vinyl, and used to have a nice Coltrane poster in my college apartment, but I probably don’t understand either one. A character flaw that maybe I’m paying for now.
The Drifters. That’s what I wanted. “Under the Boardwalk,” “There Goes My Baby,” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.” The five piece vocal group that bridged doo wop and R&B in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Their songs were written by the legendary songwriting teams at the Brill Building, the last gasp of Tin Pan Alley: Lieber/Stoller, King/Goffin, Pomus/Shuman. Their sessions were produced by legendary producers Jerry Wexler, Lieber and Stoller, and Bert Berns.
They were brilliant, and they were treated like garbage. If Atlantic Records had paid any royalties (certainly not a sure thing when Wexler was there), they went to manager George Treadwell, who owned the name. The actual musicians who sang on those recordings were just low paid employees of Treadwell, interchangeable parts who were frequently slotted in and out. Sometimes he had several versions on the tour simultaneously.
When lead singer Rudy Lewis died of a suspected drug overdose in May of 1964, instead of rescheduling the recording session set for the next day the lead vocals on “Boardwalk” were just performed by a substitute.
And it cheers me up, because it’s beauty salvaged from stupid brutality and deceit.