NO, It Isn't John Lennon's Revolution--
John Lennon was a bright Brit, but to American musicians who were developing American music at the time (mid-1960s), he, and the other three fabs, too, was a traumatic diversion to our original stream of American improvised musical evolution. At the time of the Beatles, American musicians (I'm talking black & white here (there were one or two Brit jazz dudes who migrated over here during that time I could tolerate, like Victor Feldman, really cool pianist/vibraphonist)) were evolving out of blues into the early foundations of real gutsy rock 'n roll, that invented by American black musicians down south mainly, especially invented early on by Ike Turner down in Greenville, Mississippi, where Ike started taking "swing," "jump," "r and b," and using emphasis on the weak beats per his African heritage, emphasizing a rockin' and rollin' beat, yes, grounded on the shuffle, but, loosenin' up the feet and bringin' on the early black dances--those that evolved out of the much wilder (step- and movementwise) dances of the Swing Era--to explain true rock 'n roll in a descriptive way, think of it this way, if you men or if you women are screwing correctly, your motions are both rockin' and rollin' as you "jazz" your baby--and what a better solution to the man/woman situational conflicts than through some correct lovemaking?--dancing leads to lovemaking, so why not put the correct way to make love in the music itself?--and in the lyrics, too, but mostly in the rhythms, those E-Z rockin' rhythms that gave rise to The Glide, a modified Eagle Rock, or down south the Hulley Gulley, the Boogie Down, evolving on into the sexually ripe dances of the mid-to-late fifties, The Watusi, The Swim, The Push, the very erotic slow dancing--and on and on until James Brown put the beat on the one and changed rock 'n roll into a much more swinging-tight ensemble-banked experience, a bringing the Devil's and God's music into such an assstomping puredee mixture of the modern Euro-harmonies-melodies with the from-way-back African polyrhythms--James's horizontal melody lines backed by all those off-the-one riffs from the band, then the chordal progressions, taking everything higher, including the self--a music that when it was over you missed it--not that you were humming it and remembering it word for word necessarily but you were still FEELING it and feeling it still moving in you. Oh what a glorious thing could have come from this except suddenly American musicians had to pay attention to four rather droopy-drawer boyz from Liverpool--OK, they were poor--so what? They were boyz who loved American music--yes, the black aspect of it (the Beatles's first album covered all American blues hits--what a wreck they made of Texan Larry Williams's amazing "Slow Down" on that album), yes, but again, so what? And as far as I was concerned, at the time I was working my own jazz trio trying to do Mingus things and Monk copies though soon I was getting requests for Fab Four tunes--and dammit, though, like Ray Charles, I wasn't impressed with the Beatles's tunes, I suddenly had to learn some of them, which I did--"Yesterdays," "Eleanor Rigby," "Hey, Jude"--and I played them as instrumentals--I jazzed them up as best I could. My conclusion: what the Beatles did for rock 'n roll was turn it OLD-FASHIONED WHITE.
I despise the Beatles because the American recording companies and their lawyers went to England and found all these young Brits who were mad about American music, blues especially, and because of their mimicking aspects they signed 'em up and brought them over here where they could pay them chicken feed and then make millions off their records by promoting them as the "White-Christian" alternative to the Devil's seductive black rock 'n roll that different-hungry white kids were integratin' into by buying black artists's recordings (Chuck Berry, Little Richard (he discovered the Beatles remember), Jimmy Reed, Booker T. & the MGs, Otis Redding (oh how great a rock star was he!--he shook 'em up in London, too--the mighty "Shake" was recorded live in London))--and these horny-for-black-music and association-with-blacks white kids's parents and their teachers and their government and their churches declared black music and black musicians EVIL (add the "D" for DEVIL), declaring black music was the Devil's music--an immoral music that led to fornication, which then led to a drifting away from God and Jesus X. Christ. Black rock 'n roll stood for what to white parents and elders were the loose sexual attitudes blacks were "born and bred" with--jungle sex--why cracker whites called 'em jungle bunnies--and that rock and roll beat that Ike and Chuck and Little Richard had invented led to Devil dancing, voodoo dancing! And my God, look how that rock 'n roll made those girls's asses shake and those men's hips pushin' in and out! But, "Hey," the American white record producers said, "what if we offered these kids going heathen a clean-cut little bunch of cute Brit boyz, say with bangs haircuts, and cute little continental suits fittin' 'em snuggy--what if we gave white kids this alternative? Wouldn't white parents gladly say 'Hell yes, now you guys are talking and go ahead, yeah, and YES our kids are okayed to listen to and buy the records of these polite little white boys and the cute music they play--why that's almost white church music the way they play it!'" (the Brits stole all their culture from their wonderfully overripe-culturally rich colonies).
Ikey Renrut, inventor of rock 'n roll.
Brits got into the blues, too, and became kind of pompous with their blues playing since they believed they were better understanders of black music than were American white kids. They felt they could mimic (or mock) American black musicians and get away with it, which guys like John Mayal did--you know, alter their words so they seem to be speaking like they think a black man sounds (the Brit women were more taken by Joan Baez and that ilk and not by any black women blues or rock stars (think of the Beatles one day out selling the inimitable Aretha Franklin!), kind of easy for a little Brit boy to do since southern whites (poor whites) spoke a near-perfect Elizabethan English and that's the English the slaves heard, that's the English the slaves learned, speaking it with their different African dialects thus adding beautiful strange ways of speaking this English that really came alive in the early blues recordings--and those old white Elizabethan hillbillies sang those Brit laments and Irish ballads they remembered from their own past--they didn't have lutes but thanks to the African slaves they did have gourd guitars, gourd banjos, then they developed banjos and mandolins, and deer-gut upright basses, then came cat-gut-strung fiddles--and the string bands of Kentucky, West Virginia, the Carolinas, down the Piedmont to Georgia, and over into the Smokies and up into the Appalachians, and on the front porches of those hillbilly homes throughout those southern hills--and the blacks brought their African music forms and adjusted them to these hillbilly laments and Irish ballads and then the shitkicking dance music--gulley jumpin'--the squares all dancing--doing their rounds, their jigs, their step dances, their fiddlin' jams--all improvised--and this music already here was easily absorbed and extended in terms of rhythms and harmonies by the blacks (they were integrating in spite of old massuh's prohibitions and punishments against it--"mixing" it would later be called). African music had no harmonies like Euro music had--what harmony there was in African music was horizontal--found in the melodic line of the singers (the women of the tribes usually) that sat horizontally on top of the polyphonal and polyrhythmic layers of the drums and clappers and bell ringers, all built around the conducting of the master drummer, a very remarkable musician--Madame Zzaj's lover was The Drum in Duke Ellington's history of jazz suite. Remember, slaves couldn't practice their religions, which involved drums and so old massuh banned drums and drumming--also the slaves were either Christians or they were whipped on a regular basis until they either became Christians or were beaten to death, though slaves were valuable property to the old massuhs so they wouldn't usually beat a strong slave to death--maybe an old one they really were losing money on anyway (old people can't work as hard and as long as young people)--they were not allowed to speak their original languages--so they learned English the way I said above--you can easily still tell whether a black person is from the north or is from the deep south even today--I can distinguish differences in the speech of black people I know from Philadelphia and those I know from Chicago or California or even New York City. You can also tell what part of the south blacks are from by the way they speak. Like the Texas blacks I grew up with--segregated until I went to an integrated college--they had their own way of speaking English and their own way of making white musics swing and begin turning white music strongly black--though in terms of music I was already integrated having heard and so admired from inside out to grab it and bring it back inside my conciousness since I was 5 years old and got hold of my older brother's 78 rpm record collection a collection that was full of swing records (both black and white bands), and a part of his collection was devoted to Count Basie, and those early Count Basie Decca recordings, one which really grabbed my little ass was just Count and his All-American Rhythm Section (Walter Page ("Pagin' the Devil"), Freddie Greene (who Billie Holiday said was the best man in bed she'd ever had but he was impossible to live with he was so pretty), and Papa Jo Jones (who was zoot as hell back in those days)), and this album was all blues, from Leroy Carr's "How Long, How Long Blues" to Count's famous "Boogie Woogie," the best record of which ever made was when John Hammond took Count, the rhythm section, Tattie Smith, Prez, and Little Jimmy Rushing from Kansas City up to Chicago in 1936--"Boogie Woogie" so striking--along with a brilliant "Lady Be Good," a vehicle Count called "Shoe Shine Boy" (it was later politically corrected to "Shoe Shine Swing"), and "Boogie Woogie"--and Lester Young is simply at his sterling best on these recordings--made in as Smith-Jones Inc. on Columbia's (as in "Gem of the Ocean" and as in CBS, too) Vocalion label.
Here they are, the All-American Rhythm Section with the Count at the piano--this is the photo that was on the inside cover of the Decca recording of just Count playin' the blues I was mentioning above. From left to right is Freddie Greene, Jo Jones (wearing truly zoot clothes), Walter Page (who would get sick and die during the filming of the 1957 CBS Sound of Jazz television special), and the Count at the piano. I always dug Count's shirt he's wearing in this photo.
All of this to say, no, Nina Simone's "Revolution" is not John Lennon's in spite of them being similar, yes, and maybe it was Nina's song first, afterall, several of the Beatles were accused of song stealing--George Harrison having to pay a black group millions for stealing almost word-for-word and note-for-note their song "My Sweet Love." Besides, John's "Revolution," I'm sorry to say, wouldn't inspire me to revolt against much of anything except the Beatles being credited with ultimate peace and good White meanings and shit like that.
Listen to John's "Revolution" and then listen to Nina's--which one has you up and marching and dancing while you march quicker? If it's John's, then cool. If it's Nina's, then RIGHT ON!
There should be Revolution in the air here in New York City after yesterday's white judge's miscarriage of fair justice in the case of the NYPD (2 black cops/1 white cop) shooting and killing a young black man 50 times--16 bullets in the friend in the front seat with him--6 bullets in the guy in the back seat--one bullet going across the street into a motel room--but no, I don't feel any revolution in the air today. There's just not that many WHITE people in NYC who give a shit if the NYPD blows away an occasional innocent black man (is there such a thing?)--the cops's attorney in this case saying Sean Bell and his friends were a bunch of thugs and drunks and they were out looking for trouble! Yep, that's the way it is here in NYC today. Sure am glad I'm a white wolf--oh shit, but the white hunters are slaughtering the white wolves of Yellowstone as I type this...but, that's the story, folks.
I'm still listening to Nina's "Revolution"--it's revolving around the room now.
Praise the Lard and pass the ammunition and we'll all be free.
for The Daily Growler
Some Extraneous Notes From Out of The Daily Growler Garbage
--verse from a song being sung on Christian teevee, "Butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer...." Yee-O-da-Lady-Hoo! Doesn't that sound sort of pedophilic?
--in certain parts of Pakistan, a woman can be stoned to death for being seen talking to a white man.
--"I live a quiet contemplative life"--Walter Brennan's Doctor character in Bad Day at Black Rock.
--from an ad on teevee for a penis enlargement placebo: "It extends that special area of the male's body"--could it be his nose for lying?
--14,000 barrels of oil a day are pumped from under the Medina area of Los Angeles.
--Jesse Ventura was on the Tim McCarver Show on CBS this morning. Very interesting character this Jesse Ventura--ex-rassler--ex-wrestling fraud--ex-Vietnam vet, both his parents were WWII vets, and yet he now says his dad said the Vietnam War was a sham and he went over there and found out his dad was right and though right-wing Republican as hell, Jesse is against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--plus he's against corporate welfare--mentioning how the people of Minnesota are willing to pay higher taxes so the Minnesota Twins can have a new ball park; yet are unwilling to pay higher taxes to keep schools open around the state. Ah, the ironies. How we love the ironies of life. Strike while the ironies are hot, we say.