Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tricksters & the Blues

From the Deep-Thinking Pen (or Typewriter) of Ralph Ellison
A great bit of writing from Mr. Ellison's Shadow and Act, from the chapter "The Seer and the Seen/Change the Joke and Slip the Yoke," The Quality Paperback Book Club, 1994.

"From a proper distance all archetypes would appear to be tricksters and confidence men; part-God, part-man, no one seems to know he-she-its true name, because he-she-it is protean with changes of pace, location and identity. Further, the trickster is everywhere and anywhere at one and the same time, and, like the parts of some dismembered god, is likely to be found on stony as well as on fertile ground."

That is such a soothing passage to read. It comes from one of the now mostly forgotten writing innovators of the great American cultural evolutionary time right after WWII, that war giving a lot of these guys incentive to try and promote cultural change--like the acceptance of blacks and their bales of innovations they had brought to the culture out of being slaves to the white wealthy class that preemptively attacked this continent and began stealing all the land out from under the Native Americans's feet--just what the white wealthy class developers are currently trying to do all over the world (buying up world land) as I slave away typing at this burdening volunteer-slavery blog assignment. Check out the miraculous musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk for the musical definition of "volunteer slavery"--that's the title of one of his compositions--I also recommend a movie by Dick Fontaine called Sound?? that stars Rahsaan and John Cage (though they never meet in the movie)--it's full of unbelievable scenes of Rahsaan walking about London with his special blind-man's cane on wheels playing that conglomeration of sound-making devices that seemed to grow naturally around his neck, their mouthpieces specially stabilized so that they were right there at Rahsaan's circular-breathing mouth's immediate desire to play and hear whichever one Rahsaan's playing-ahead brain needed at any given moment in his walking around London and playing whatever comes to his mind--like a certain bird he hears and starts mimicking with his nose flute--or the great sequence of Rahsaan at the London Zoo with his young daughter--WOW, watch him tame these wild jungle beasts, the zoo's "inmates" as Rahsaan thinks of them and hears them as. Rahsaan was blind but not blind--he was antiblind--and in that sense he could see more purely than the sight given us by our regular eyes--sights that are so mundane and so commonly real, whereas Rahsaan's visual images were purely inventions of his mind, he as his own god creating his own images of the world in which he existed and heard and formed his images through those SOUNDS. This is why blind men and women are so sensitive to the meaning of music and rhythms--they sense the world in motion--they can feel it turning and spinning them around at a heartbeat rate--we who can see are too distracted by everyday sights and sounds to feel our "within" sensations, those only blind people know--think of being blind and making love for the first time--WOW, what wonderful dreamland images of what a woman or man naked feels like or looks like--Whooooo, what a sensation. I think that's why Shakespeare's Oedipus blinded himself after he found out he'd been banging his mom.... Archetypes are such tricksters from so far away. Just think how different Rahsaan Roland Kirk's archetypes must have looked from ours!!

The Blues
Right these final hours on eBay are being auctioned a whole set of blues innovator Robert Johnson's old 78 RPM records--except these are rare test pressings--the ones I know about were in a dude's collection he sold to the Smithsonian a few years back and were made by a recording engineer in the 1960s--these are one-sided test pressings of Johnson's original 78 rpm recordings (most of which were recorded in hotel rooms with Robert facing into a corner of the room and playing with his back to the recording guy--he was that shy it was legended); engineers are always making test pressings--I recently bought a test pressing made in the 90s by a famous upstate New York recording engineer of a Miles Davis 1950s Prestige LP--and I just recently bought an recording-company test pressing (made before the issue) of one of my childhood favs, Al Dexter, and his hit "Pistol Packin' Mama," a tune I still do in my retro act, the words I've known since I was five or so. My mother hated Al Dexter who lived and did his honky-tonking in Dallas, Texas, during WWII and a few years afterwards--Al's biggest hit ever, "Pistol Packin' Mama" horrified my mother and for that reason every time it came up on the radio I'd spin up the volume pot to loud and drive my mother momentarily insane--her TAZ was constantly being rifled by my rebellions. PPM starts out, "Drinkin' beer in a cabaret/And was I having fun/Till one night she caught me right/And now I'm on the run/CHORUS: Lay that pistol down, babe/ Lay that pistol down/ Pistol packin' mama/ Lay that pistol down." Al's other big hit was "I'm Sending Roses to My Lawyer" about how Al's lawyer had gotten him off clean in his last divorce and deserved some roses--I mean Al really loved the guy.

But anyway, here's "Cross Roads Blues" Robert Johnson test pressing as it sits now on eBay:

Note: Mr. Ed deleted the eBay link here--it revealed private info--an editorial repression on our distrustful part.

I'd love to own a couple but they're slowly moving out of my price range--there are at least 10 being offered--by a guy in Toronto--says he gets these from the US. Man, what you can find on eBay; amazin'--but we are not advertising for eBay--Fuck eBay--if you'd a bought their stupid stock...but you don't want to hear that, do you?

for The Daily Growler
Look in his eyes--that's where the feelin' comes from--Robert went down to the crossroads; all
the guys did; that's how you learned the blues, you met the devil down at the crossroads. An archetypical legend--it's in Stravinsky's Histoire du soldat and Tartini's The Devil's Trill--and one of the great and now forgotten bluesmen and songwriters of this time after WWII and one of the great influences on Ray Charles's life (Ray recorded Percy's last album on his Tangerine label), Mr. Percy Mayfield, sang "Dirty Work at the Crossroads" and told all about it. I think the crossroads was in Mississippi--about where the Yellow Dog Crossed the Southern Cross near the Yazoo.

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