Monday, February 11, 2008

"Grammy, You're Getting Very Old"

I didn't mean to watch the Grammys. I remember when Rudi Mussolini Guiliani ran them out of New York City, so they were still in L.A.--and, to me, nothing much has changed about the Grammys since their beginning in 1958, this being their 50th Anniversary. Meredith Wilson hosted the first one. Who remembers him? (Yeah, I know, "Who?")

I'm sorry but I can't get into these modern recording artists. I mean, except for Alicia Keyes, they don't seem to have much musical talent. Even Alicia Keyes songs are boring and her piano playing is very elementary, like all kids learn to play the piano when they learn to play the piano--knowledge of chords and passing notes that work to stretch those chords out through the various verses of her songs. Aretha Franklin played piano and sang, too, back in her reign as Queen of American music before the Beatles cut short her reign--the silly Beatles, who could only write baby music, but geezus X, that's all I heard last night, too, baby music, music for panting heated kids that are still in diapers some of them, rock-a-bye baby music. Aretha wrote lasting songs--"R-E-S-P-E-C-T" (might have been written with her sister)--how can you forget that--(Yeah, I know, "What's that?") or "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman"--whoa now--or "Doctor Feelgood" or even that song where she's on the Detroit freeway that cut the southside of Detroit, the black side, off from the lily whites (a job for a sociologist), ridin' in a pink Cadillac. And then, there was Stevie Wonder, one of the greatest songwriters of all time, and he was there working as a presenter. And then, what a hoot when Herbie Hancock won album of the year! And I had no idea Herbie Hancock had a new album out. I lost track of Herbie after he put that rocket in his pocket, though I have seen him since then playing very cool jazz with Billy Cobham and Ron Carter--but I lost track of his recordings when taking the advice of his mentor Miles Davis he went a step beyond jazz as I grew to know and love it--Bitches Brew is the one where Miles broke away from "mainstream" jazz--I'm sorry, but Miles's Bitches Brew is cool but it can't compare with some of Mingus's greatest compositions, which I wouldn't call "mainstream" at all--like that Tijuana album Mingus did on Columbia with "Ysabel's Table Dance" on it. But, hey, I respected Miles and his shifting and I respected the genius of Herbie Hancock (he was a boy wonder performer when as a teenager he played with the Chicago Symphony), and he is a genius as a piano player--and I swear then I saw Herbie playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in a two-piano version with an Asian dude who was full of body exaggerations and flinging back his hair and head while Herbie, cool dude that he is, simply played his part letting his playing be his showcase and not his antics as he played it--but, man, they whipped it and so did the Grammy band--it was the highlight of the evening for me. (By the bye, as a piano player, I learned early about showboating at the piano--and what I mean by that is whether you're playing well or not if you showboat, like jumping up and down off the piano bench, or doing fancy runs and sling your body up and down the keyboard as though you're flying high as hell outside our atmosphere when in fact you are simply embellishing your just-ordinary performance.)

People are so easily buffalo-ed (hey, L Hat, I'm using "to buffalo" in a sentence!). People can be "cowed," too. How about "to mule": meaning your bringing cocaine in from a foreign country with it in your gut--did you ever think that coke heads are sometimes snorting fecal matter when they're snorting up a line--that and kerosene or gasoline, whatever the South Americans use to cook their cocaine. I never liked coke. Yes, I've snorted lines like a mad dog, but I never got anything out of it. Pot, forget it; that's organic--except even pot is laced with molasses sometimes by the Jamaicans to make it weigh out more. I remember Nixon's destroying the two best pots ever developed, Colombian Red and Panama Red--remember the big paraquad scare during Tricky Dick's and Ronnie Raygun's stupid presidencies?

The others on the show I never heard of. I swear these newcomer stars come and go so fast I can't keep up with them, especially these hip-hop dudes, I mean one after another they came out wearing bling and bling clothing and acting out their hood attitudes and I didn't know one damn one of them except Khanye West--a one-hit wonder as far as I know--think of sending your mother to a plastic surgeon and him killing her?--surely that must not harbor well in Khanye's thoughts.

And this Amy Winehouse--whoo boy. First Brit to win it since the boring Sade won it in '86. Amy Winehouse I can get; the old heavy metalites and the punkers love her, she reminds me of Debbie Harry, except Debbie is a better singer--except, I don't get it--and I love the way these white singers are using tons of blacks behind them in their bands now--these white kids want so bad to be accepted by cool blacks--they're what Norman Mailer called Wiggers--and their back-up singers are all black--Amy has 3 black dudes who back-up sing and do those dances now all back-up people have to do. I predict, Amy will be a one-hit wonder--and will disappear over the next few years. I also don't get these tattoos--they call them body art. Bullshit. That's art? Tattoos haven't changed in their artistic quality since sailors started getting them when they visited those strange lands where tattoos were considered sacred. I had an uncle who had huge tattoos on both his big arms--one was a heart with a dagger stuck through it, with drops of blood coming off the knife tip as it stuck through the heart--under that was the word "Mother." I used to always bug him to see his tattoos. He reluctantly showed them to me, but he really wasn't proud of them and kept them hid most of the time. Kids today are just trying to be boldly different from their precious parents; Amy brought her mom on with her. Amy ain't no spring chicken--she's 25--and already on her way to being a has been. The reason why Amy couldn't come to L.A. to receive her reward? She couldn't get a visa, she's a druggie (most musicians have to deal with drugs at sometime in their careers) just out of rehab, the reason for her hit song (I don't think she wrote it, did she?), and her husband's on his way to the hoosegow for some strange Brit reason. Why do Americans love Brits so? I still can't figure that one out. Amy Weinstein, I'm sorry, Winehouse, is simply singing like she learned to sing from American gal singers like Debbie Harry and even Cher and remember Maria Muldaur?--a little wacky off. Back in the 40s there was an American chick singer named Dorothy Shay. She was called "The Park Avenue Hillbilly" and she sang just like Amy Winehouse, believe it or not. Shay, the Park Avenue Hillbilly

Carrie Underwood won. Seems like she's just so pure and hillbilly innocent, Texas gal, people can't seem to put her down. I can. But then who the hell am I? But she's so cheery and loveable and yet her music sucks. OK, I'm jealous, I'll admit it, though throughout my music career I never really wanted to be a Grammy-winning-type star. My dream as a musician was to get that one steady gig, like Bobby Short playing the end of his career at the Carlyle Hotel here in NYC. That's what I wanted, a steady gig. I had one here in NYC; a New Year's Eve gig at a famous downtown NYC nightspot; for seven years I had that gig and it was marvelous, good money, packed house, free steaks and booze, and wonderful fun--but I lost that gig to a bartender's galpal, a big-boned babe who played the violin and thought of herself as a rocker! The thing about it was, she came to our gigs when we played at other venues and told us how great we were. Musicians are very two-faced. They have to be.

Some of the other "stars" on the Grammys I honestly knew absolutely nothing about; yeah, of course, Mary J. Bilge (I'm sorry, Blige) was there doing her P-Diddy-taught shit. I like the chick, I do, but she isn't lasting with me; I much prefer Anita Baker. And Alicia Keyes singing a duet with Frank Sinatra; how techy tacky is that! Fuck old Blue Eyes--and besides, Natalie Cole whipped that shit to death back when she recorded with her father.

Duets are so big these days and they are ridiculous--did you see Keely Smith (about 100 years old now) singing with Kid Rock (who's he been kidding all these years?)? What a disgrace. Most of the showcased people who performed on the show were too loud, too much band over them, and their stuff came out like cacophony rather than listenable music.

And poor old prune-looking Paul McCartney, it was announced later on the evening news, is being taken to the cleaners by his one-legged honey. He offered her 50 mill, pocket change to Paul, and she laughed in his face. They said Paul may be worth a billion. Oh come on! That disgusts me that an ex-Beatle is worth a billion dollars. Does Paul look old as dried shit or not? Paul's what, 65; he looks like a white mummy.

Well, folks. droopy drawer music was rewarded last night (that's what John R-aaah on WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee, early fifties radio used to call songs that were "draggers," songs that just didn't swing, or move, of shuffle, or whatnot. Most white musicians in those days played "droopy drawer" music, like Pat Boone covering "Tutti Frutti."

American music did not go the way I thought it would when I was young and had all the confidence in the world. I thought jazz would become the new classical music, you know, integrating with like Charles Edward Ives's things--at least learning Charles's quartertone scale and introducing quartertone jazz. I wrote a piece one time based on Ives's quartertone scale and I called it "Ivesy Divey"--after Lester Young's use to the term "Ivy Divey."

I may be coming out of hiding next month. I've got an offer to put a show together for a dude who owns a cool Italian joint down on the Lower East Side (everything I talk so familarly about is in New York City)--thanks to a drummer friend of mine with whom I used to sing and who has a steady gig there once a month. I'm thinking of performing on the electric guitar for the first time ever in public--irony: I really like playing my garbage-found Robelli acoustic guitar (see a few posts back) better than my Silvertone (Kay) electric, which has a stiffer action--it's from 1957--and the Robelli is just easier to play due to its taut in-tune strings which I can simply touch with my fingertips and get a big sound whereas with the Silvertone, I have to develop callouses or they cut hell out of my fingers. I worked with a bass player once who after every gig would come off stage with his left hand fingers bleeding like stuck pigs--and hurting so bad he would have to tape his fingers the next night in order to play. Guitars don't hurt your fingers like a bass will, but they do cut and hurt if you don't develop callouses.

Keep on singin',

for The Daily (Grammy) Growler

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