Scott Joplin: Solace

One for all the robots.

[addendum - Piano Roll version] Another one for the robots.


Cadet Electric Blues LPs

"Electric Mud" and "The Howlin' Wolf Album" were efforts by Chess Records to ride the wave of electric blues coming out of the UK, to ape the likes of Cream, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones. Marshall Chess, son of Leonard, was written a cheque by his dad, founded the sub-label Cadet and had had a successful experiment with Rotary Connection's debut. The motivation with these subsequent two LPs was teach the young British scoundrels how it was really done.

Curiously both artists used the same epithet "dog shit" to describe the LPs. Pretty much every critic ever has followed suit in describing them pejoratively. Truthfully the records, beyond being first rate curios (I was delighted to pick up a vinyl copy of "Electric Mud" at Permanent Records in Chicago, from its "home" so to speak), are not bad at all.

The band, playfully called "The Electric Niggers" in production, was headed by scorched-earth guitarist Pete Cosey who later went on to work with Miles Davis on his legendary electric double LPs "Agharta", "Pangea" and "Dark Magus". The pair fit squarely in rank with the Funkadelic and Hendrix LPs of the era and also have pre-echoes of the Black No-Wave of James Blood.


Reelin' In The Years

We're all of us getting older.

One friend's maxim is that the aim of life is stay in touch with that inchoate fury of one's teenage self - as though that's the only really true expression of a life. While for many years I agreed with that - I'm no longer sure it is true.

Carl Jung is particularly brilliant on growing old. Read if you can "Stages of Life" from his dazzling "Modern Man in Search of a Soul". I'm going to quote some big chunks of it:
"The nearer we approach to the middle of life, and the better we have succeeded in entrenching ourselves in our personal standpoints and social positions, the more as if it appears as if we had discovered the right course and the right ideals and principles of behavior. For this reason we suppose them to be eternally valid, and make a virtue of unchangeably clinging to them." 
"But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life's morning - for what was great in the morning will be little at the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie." 
"For a young person it is almost a a sin - and certainly a danger - to be too much occupied with himself; but for the ageing person it is a duty and a necessity to give serious attention to himself. After having lavished its light upon the world the sun withdraws its rays in order to illumine itself. Instead of doing likewise, many old people prefer to be hypochondriacs, niggards, doctrinaires, applauders of the past or eternal adolescents - all lamentable substitutes for the illumination of the self, but inevitable consequences of the delusion that the second half of life must be governed by the principles of the first." 
"For the most part our old people try to compete with the young. In the United States it is almost an ideal for the father to be the brother of his sons, and for the mother if possible to be the younger sister of her daughter."
The truth of this is driven home to me by articles like this one about the growth of Halloween on the festival calendar. Aimed at millennials refusing to abandon their childhood it's still an accusation which could be levelled broadly at the infantillisation of society.

As a pop music fan, an eternal adolescent, I'd have to conclude that these derogatory conclusions apply to me more than most. There is definitely something vampiric about clinging to pop music late into one's life. For many of us pop music was a "window in the sky", a way out of the impossible social and emotional situations we found ourselves incarnated within. But maybe, to paraphrase Jung, there comes a time when that ceases to be a viable approach to life.

What feels like an unusual thing is happening in our household. I've never pushed music on my children - but my eldest daughter, now 16, has found her own way into it. We have conversations about music. She gives me tips too. She's listening to The Clash a lot at the moment. The other day I wandered into her room and she had CAN on the stereo. She has a record player and I've been wondering recently if she'd like some of my old records? The dynamic is such that I feel a little like stepping back from music; as though it is a territory that someone else is moving into.

Another friend told me his tastes in music had changed as he had grown older. He mentioned appreciating things like Van De Graf Generator along the lines of a more mature enjoyment of bitter foods. And although I still regularly return to the same things I was listening to as a teenager, and by and large find their potency undiminished, I too have detected shifts in my inclinations.

Case in point being Steely Dan. OK, I've had Steely Dan records for years... I bought "Katy Lied" at the Woolworths in Windsor aged 16. But damn - there's something about the slick, jazzy polish of "Peg" (for instance) that really hits the spot in a way it can't have ever done before. I'm falling too for Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly" (must be some kind of shibboleth). As a band they were never the same as their innocent and foolish contemporaries in rock. They parlay cynicism, cool and weariness into something you can only truly appreciate as an older soul (plenty of young people with old souls it turns out). A little like Randy Newman in that respect, but less comic. And slick to boot.


The Warehouse

I couldn't get the opportunity to visit Chicago without a pilgrimage to the place where it all started. I'm talking about the birth of House music and its manger.

Located in the London equivalent of something like Moorgate, on the edge of the City of London, the building which once housed the Warehouse club can be found at 206 South Jefferson Street. This section of the street is now named Frankie Knuckles Way thanks in part to the efforts of Barack Obama whose residence in the Kenwood/Hyde Park area was just round the corner from where I was staying. Locals joked with me that Trump has suspended the Obama's security unit - but the truth seems to be that he isn't living there at the moment. Nice joint by the way Barack!

My ride to The Warehouse was a diamond of a lady called Maybelle who told me she was a long-standing friend of Kanye's mother and was at high-school with Minnie Ripperton and Chaka Khan. House music wasn't her thing but she said but her daughters had liked it. Maybelle told me that Farrakhan lived, and Mohammed Ali had lived, a block from the Obamas. Nice.

I should have probably taken a snapshot of the "Frankie Knuckles Way" road-sign - I only discovered this tidbit later after combing through these great articles about the Warehouse. What isn't made abundantly clear is that the same building was also where the Warehouse promoter Robert Williams installed Ron Hardy's "Muzik Box" after Knuckles graduated to more mainstream clubs. Yeah, I mean like WTF, the Warehouse and The Muzik Box were in the same building! Vibrations.

What's happening there now? Well your roving cub reporter can authoritatively reveal it is now the home of, on the left, The Law Services of Daniel Q Herbert Associates and, on the right, Benefit Services Plus, Inc.

Logan Hardware, Chicago

Bric-a-Brac, Chicago