Dr. John

Photo by Bruce Weber

Ah, owning a record store on High Street--as if daily life isn't tough enough. You've got your one-legged drunken wheel-chair assailant enraged to the point of swinging because you don't want them interrupting a phone call (true story). You've got the infantile college boys who can't form a coherent question but just want you to be their motherly personal shopper--when they're not trying to shoplift. You've got your angry men from the 'hood who are absolutely sure you're a racist because you won't buy their decrepit Bing Crosby 78s found in a dumpster. Oh, I could go on. Strangers can be so strange.
  And then there are the people you know. Specifically, our High Street celebrity slob-gods. They can be a lot worse.
  Like, it's so nice when Ron House comes in the morning after your boyhood guitar hero Johnny Winter has just passed and makes a cruel joke insinuating you murdered him--and you didn't even know the ailing legend had passed. Thus you're immediately dealing with some very sad news plus realizing the shittiness of the messenger using it as an opportunity to express his renown passive-aggression. Funny? I almost vomited. Simultaneously appalled and deeply saddened, I quietly asked Ron to leave so I could just be alone and digest Johnny's passing--he'd just played here a couple months ago. The egomaniacal slob-god actually got sniffy, walking out the door kvetching like a middle-aged matron in menopause, offended by a booger in her salad. Ron's got some great songwriting behind him but he seldom has a thought he leaves unexpressed. Not a virtue. His last visit, I say.
  Which came shortly after an appearance by the ever-downward spiraling Dan Dougan, with his always sunny disposition. The first was right before Comfest. He was loudly--very loudly--bitching about being banned from stage emceeing for some juvenile sexual harassment stunt he pulled on another organizer, whom he described with booming venom, "who's a Zionist!"  with at least as much disgust as if he were describing a Nazi. But he went on and on, with voluminous volume, for minutes on end as if anyone cared. While there was a super-straight middle-class American family trying to shop. I tried to get him to tone it down but you know Dan--a born loudmouth.
  His second visit a few weeks ago was even louder and more boorish, if that's possible. He was being extremely combative about something, I don't know what, and it culminated in my having to chase him down High Street because he took a dvd from the store's sidewalk sale without paying. We exchanged verbal un-niceties. Middle fingers were flipped. I didn't feel liberated being down on his level. But at least there was no anti-Semitism. Just anti-Johnny Go-ism, which I get enough of from the assholes I don't know.
  But the most prime slob-god visit ever was from The Great Pretender Curt Schieber, who felt the need on the first Monday after The Other Paper folded to come in and verbally bash the paper--my employer of some 20 years. "It was a shitty newspaper," he spat, obviously relishing the chance to shit on a publication that, unlike anything he's been involved with, really made a difference in this crap-media town.
  He compared its being bought out by The Dispatch to how the Guardian lost the '90s circulation wars and had to throw the towel in to TOP, which won fairly and squarely. Not that he showed any concern for me having lost a terrific writing gig or that this sad little town lost a great host of voices. But what was funny was how he too segued into bashing Comfest over its rejecting his suggestion to book country loser Tom T. Hall years before. Why I'm the go-to guy for this crybaby bullshit, I don't know. But Massive Genius Schieber calling Comfest a "bunch of stupid old hippies" was rich indeed, god bless his pretentious beret.
  Now, the thing is with Nascar-hatin' Grand Prix lovin' Schieber over the years he verbally harassed me so many times when I shopped and ate at Barnes and Noble that I finally quit going there because of him. It was kind of funny a long time ago, him zeroing in on me like a rabid homing pigeon and then going into parakeet mode, quoting me. But it got old. I think it's ironic: a bookstore manager harassing a writer for things he's written. Sorta fascist, wouldn't you say?
  The last time The Great Fake Frenchman actually repeated word for word something I'd written which offended him. I realize not only was I not in the mood but I was never in the mood for his bullshit. I certainly couldn't tell you one single thing he's written other than his bi-line. Seeing how I faithfully spent at least fifteen bucks a month at B&N on food and haven't been there in three years because of His Prissy-ness, I'd say management should garnish his wages for at least half-a-grand. And that's not including the amount of books, magazines and newspapers I used to purchase and now don't. I shop at Acorn Books because it's nice to be respected. Or Amazon when Acorn doesn't have it. Way to go, Curty, you can be so discourteous.
  The point of this little venting is that my record store is not an off-the-record record store. It's a public space owned by a private individual. If you're cool, no problem. If your behavior passes into obnoxious arse territory, then that's your decision and you reap what you sow for I am karma, baby. Ape law. I mean, where I come from, you insult someone you get a knuckle sandwich. But with these slob-god liberals you can't do that because they love lawyers so much. Besides, they're really just panzies who think they can say anything they want without consequence. Whatever.
  The moral of my tale? You come in and act like a fucking asshole, well, why be surprised if you get to read about it? Passive-aggression is a learned behavior and the celebrity High Street slob-gods have taught me well. Trespass and transgress at your peril. Like Merle Haggard sang, 'from now on all my friends are gonna be strangers.' But you gotta be careful there, too.


  Dr. John July 25 at the Park Street Tavern--well, I've seen the man every decade since the '70s and yet this gig, this deceptively deep-end New Orleans night of music, was a revelation of reborn rhythms and grooves to familiar and obscure songs whose interiors were so subtly reworked I felt like I was hearing him for the first time. Like the Madonna song, The Night Tripper made me feel like a virgin--even if it was for just one night. And the most insanely wonderful thing is, nearly his entire band is from Columbus. Mr. Mayor, send a flunky down to Zipf Locks and have a handful of keys to the city made for trombonist Sarah Morrow, drummer Reggie Jackson, bassist Dwight Bailey and organist Bobby Floyd. We were the center of the musical universe that night, for sure.
  Ah, the grooves. Be they Iko Iko, Shoo Fly, Right Place Wrong Time, I Walk On Guilded Splinters or even the recent gritty rock/New Orleans soul hybrid produced by Black Key Dan Auerbach (Locked Down, get it if you ain't got it), almost nothing was the same as what they sounded like in the studio. Imagine a ship going up the Mississip. You've got what you see above the surface, especially the wake. And then you know because it's a ship it has a keel. Now imagine the energy of the water pushed away by the keel, imagine the currents and cross-currents. You can't see them but you know they're there. But if you're in the water, you know they're there.
  Well, that Friday night at the Park, Dr. John and his band of sub-geniuses were the ship, their music was the water. Therefore once you heard the music, you were in the water--no choice. Then one could tell there was something extra in the water and it sure wasn't floride, a Commie-liberal plot to steal our essence. The songs were recognizable but sometimes only just. Because at the bottom of these lovingly keel-hauled grooves comin' up the ol' Mississip there was that extra little bit of 10 percent indefinable something going on. Primordial, sensual, mysterious.
  How is it after all these years the 73-year-old John can take the multiple magics of a city that isn't really American as much as it is Caribbean and make his grooves carry an even further undertone of wordless musical meaning? How? And with a crew of Columbus musicians no less? I have pondered that last Friday in July the way I once pondered passages in Dante's Inferno, or the more transcendent Dylan lyrics or the otherworldly beauty of John Lennon's She Said, She Said or Al Green's "Green Is Blues" or the grace and fire of Keith Richards rhythm guitar playing. How do they do it?
  I don't mind driving myself crazy thinking about this. This a good crazy. I see Dr. John is still on tour. I must see them again. But just as the ol' Mississippi's black magic has it changing course practically at will, moody river that it is, who knows Dr. John's musical water will flow the same way twice. That, my friend, is art and art was we heard at the Park: American world music where slavery and Africa and Europe and Memphis meet and eat the catfish and make musical love in the most humid city on the North American continent.
  May as well blame the weather because nothing else makes sense. But there was no trickery, no slight of hand before our eyes. Through locally-grown musicianly witchcraft directed by the sorcerer with the uber-long dreadlocked ponytail, produced what was a beautiful new voodoo if at least for one night. I know. I was there. Still am.


  Who or what is an Iggy Azalea? An Iggy Pop strain of flower? No, honey. Iggy is a she from New Zealand who moved to Atlanta, eventually hooking up with rapper/producer T.I. and now, Lady Gaga, Rhiannon and Beyonce have some competition. Best part--she ain't ridiculous.
  Don't ask me why I went to Azalea's show at the LC Pavilion last month but I did. Well, I'll tell you why: I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I went because I can and something told me to. Little did I know, honestly, that it would be a couple thousand females from the age of 10 to 30 more excited about a show than anything I've seen in ages. The crowd was absolutely ecstatic--before Azalea came out.
  With no band equipment on the stage I was feeling deeply skeptical. I don't dig this Kid Cudi shit of some dope with a lap-tap mixing samples. And most 'track dates' suck, too. Nevertheless, her DJ came on, she came on, her handful of girl dancers and singers came on, and after a few songs, I started to warm up to this perhaps ephemeral pop phenomenon. She has something.
  Lyrically, we've heard it all before: "can't blame me I live in a material world/oh no, that love shit, i won't do it/fuck love, give me diamonds" (from Fuck Love). Except on the rap songs, where she spits a fiery flow a la Eminem or any of the other quality motor-mouths on the scene. Oddly, I liked it. And not because they were hot broads onstage but because it was so much better than GaGa's gay garbage pail kid show a couple years ago and nearly most rap shows I've ever had to suffer through. She's not obnoxious. Thus I moved down front to get a closer experience.
  So she bounced from one song to the next, not dancing superbly but moving to her album and e.p.'s worth of material in a fairly unforced if simply choreographed act with her four attractive dancing girls.
  Trigger warning time. Now, I must tell you feminist-types crazed over any man describing a woman's body, this could be a trigger point, OK?
  Iggy's got a huge and attractive ass, not unlike that of that Kilimanjaro broad or Kevorkian or, oh yeah, the Kardashian girl. In fact, it figures quite prominently in her stage show. She has but one stage prop (besides her ass) and they are steps to a platform so she can walk up with said ass in full audience view. And when she gets to the top, she does the low-down pole dance position of bumping her bottom up and down. Great.
  Early on, as I was scribbling notes, I heard a cheer go up: she was squatting, back turned, bumping up and down with her ass like a L.A. low-rider car. I looked up and then returned to my thought scribble. Then a gigantic cheer went up: she was doing an extreme version of the downward-upward booty bump (sounds like a yoga position, don't it?) in that her cheeks were gracing the stage itself. Quite Olympian.
  Not unlike a diseased dog scooting along on your rug because of gastro-intestinal problems.
  Still, she did it with taste and class, if that's possible.
  Up close, I have to admit, she's got some charisma and a Streisand profile. I hope she's Jewish, that's what the world needs: a big-assed rappin' white Jewess from down-under making it big in America. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.
  What really sealed the deal was she put on a fairly long show, despite her materialistic lyrics she didn't take the money and run. With only one album I was surprised how much song substance she had for the 80-some minutes she was onstage.
  So, Azalea has an ass you can do Shakespeare on and a sense of self-exploitation that leaves a little room for self-respect, believe it or not. No Gaga sexual grievance-mongering, no Beyonce perfectionism, just straight-up party girl with a little class.
  And a big, big ass.
  Iggy Azalea--you heard it hear first.

  You have born brothers and brothers you choose. I lost a chosen brother last month named Mike Ross. We went back to maybe '77 or '78 when he worked as a clerk at Schoolkids Records. I'd never met anybody like him. When he talked about music--blues, punk, roots--he spoke with such authority like I had never heard. Once I held up a Muddy Waters album, one you don't see much anymore, where Muddy's face is completely wet and he is very, very black and looking like he just got out of a swamp. "You NEED that album!," Mike practically screamed at me, so I bought it. And yes, it changed my life.
  We would go on to work together at the old Singin' Dog and I simply cannot overstate how much I owe this guy. He was one of the toughest, hardest, softest, funniest, most intelligent people I ever met. He could be abrasive as fuck (he once threw the Cars debut album in the trash in front of me because he was sick of me playing it), his normal speaking voice was often practically a rebel yell. But I loved him. More than a few people did. You knew his bark was often for affected appearances which made it funny as hell when you saw him talk to people like that who didn't know him. I always thought he looked like Ronnie Lane of the Small Faces. He certainly knew how to dress like a raggamuffin rock star. He had style. And he thought for himself. He was nobody's fool. I loved it when he chewed out the boss for not giving him a raise. Never heard that one before.
  Again, when it comes to music, and handling one's self in a record store, and as well as life thinking, I cannot tell you how much Mike was a part of me. He was a mentor. He was a pal. I've often written reviews with him in the back of my mind as the intended reader. Don't ask me why, but he was there for years and still resides. Now, eternally.
  So when I heard he died of a heart attack, I cried for three days. My brother in records is gone and my life will never be the same, he meant that much to me. Hell, my life was never the same after I met him to begin with. And it surely won't be the same now. Goddamit. I wish he could've lived long enough to read my take on the High Street triumvirate. He surely would've gotten a kick out of it. Mike, this column's for you. Ride easy, my brother, ride easy.  

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