Easter, a beautiful sinful sunny day: I was forced to listen to a lot of Christian music this weekend...you know, it's Easter, a big important holy day for the most pious of Christians (Protestants and their Catholic buddies)--like Herr von Pope on Easter is at his holy best, traipsing about his Vatican Empire today wearing his best dress and big KKK-looking hat and in broken English, babbling some prelate-prattle in praise of his own glory with that Achtung! accent that is so glorifying, probably the way the Big Cheese speaks English, do you think?
In ancient history, Easter has always been a great heathen holy day--all history leading back to Africa and told in terms of the point on that road out of Africa you're on when you first begin to read histories. Easter celebrates a new chance at survival; it has to happen in the spring to be Easter. In ancient history it's when the good folks of the community went out into their fields and screwed, putting phallic symbols all over the fields. It's where the missionary position comes from. The woman is the earth; the man is the lightning bolt--always thought of as the symbol of the dominating Big Daddy's penis.
I am a Growler general living in a world that makes a wild animal out of you especially if you have an outlandishly totally unreal imagination. During your drinking of the waters from the deepest waters of your narrative well, you grow abnormal measures of hair all over your body, your teeth grow longer and more canine, you salivate more than the average bear, and you have a deep-seated urge to let loose a deafening yowl at the huge full moon that dominates your waking hours and provides the strobe-light brilliance seen in your dark dreams.
In such a Krazy Kat world, the story of a baby being born immaculately to a young Judean woman back in the heydays of medieval Nazareth is totally believable. [See how wolfishly driven I am? I'm sidetracked from the "real" Easter fable and off on the immaculate conception.] I love it that this young Judean babe could get away with explaining this amazing immaculate conception so charmingly to her old-codger husband, Joe. The story was that she had been overwhelmed by Big Daddy himself when returning home one night from a Nazareth backstreet bar, successful because it was mostly attended by Roman soldiers [see Ernest Hemingway's reporting of the joint in his wonderfully heretical Good Friday short story in his Collected Short Stories]. I could easily believe her story had I been old Joe the Carpenter. I mean, come on, a young girl got pregnant and she blamed God [Elohim in this case--Jehovah to the Christophers] and when her husband got a little hot under his garb, he wanted to know, perhaps shaking her a bit--though Joe was 75 years old so I don't know how much shakin' was really goin' on--as he demanded to know how the hell she got pregnant since he hadn't screwed her since she was 12 and now she was 17 and he damned sure hadn't screwed her recently. Even if he was maybe sauced on mustang wine, she was always tryin' to get him drunk knowing how much he loved his mustang wine. Even if she maybe could've have pumped a load out of his old prostate when he was in so inebriated a slumber--he was sure, pump as methodically as she might, she wasn't getting anything even crazily related to a spermatozoa out of his old testicular works.
"But, honey," she squeaked, "don't make light of this. Big Daddy told me he'd talk to you about it one night when I get you really sauced on something better than that damn mustang wine," she was thinking of a wine one of the centurians had given her a taste of at Abe's, from Roma. "Let's see, baby, let's see, he wrote it down for me," she was digging about in her purse, "here it is! 'Gallo Thunderbird' that's what it's called, Gallo Thunderbird wine, what's the price, thirty twice." "A bullshit story if I ever heard one, woman," Old Joe bitched, shaking his dusty old head until his migraine started up again. "You bitch, where's my Aleve? I'd divorce your young sweet ass if your dowry hadn't'a been so damn rewarding--I love my carpentry lean-to, it's the cat's meow, but dammit, woman..." "Calm down, papa, don't blow your top over this. You gotta believe me, daddy, check it out. Here, pops, check out this young body...it's still the hottest thing you've ever drooled over--I'd like to talk to you about that--some new teeth maybe, but anyway, you've got to believe me or Big Daddy will be pissed. You gonna get to father Big Daddy's only son. And one thing's for sure, while we're on the drooling, old dude, God doesn't drool, nor does he go soft in the middle of a hell of a ride." "Damn you, woman. I was cursed the day I accepted your dad's offering to me to take you off his trembling hands." "Saved your old ass from the Nazareth poor house." "OK, so give me this story again."
She continued, "I'd been down to Abe's Toss 'Em Back Shop, you know, on the old Canaan Road..." "Holy Christ, Marie, I can't believe you go into that part of foul Nazareth; it's like Sodom and Gommorah over there." "Aw, screw that, Joe. I wait tables there every weekend 'cause your carpentry business ain't bringin' in dick shit; I didn't tell you because you are such an old fuddy-duddy and besides you know I want to be an actress, but, back to my tale. So, I finished at Abe's about the time the moon was straight overhead--in fact, I thought I heard a mad wolf growling out around Old Caleb's compost heap--and I left and came down the Caesarian Alley when just as I got alongside Sol of Gilead's 'Little Acre' place, suddenly a huge shadow fell over me, had my burlap up and me knickers down and was doin' me in the family way...and, I must admit, it was the best ploughing I've ever had done in my fertile valley." "How the hell you know it was the Holy Dad?" "'Cause I kept moanin' 'Oh God, God, son of a devildog, plough away, oh God' and he kept sayin' "Yes, my child, you god-damn right I'm God, god of your little valley, ohhh god-damn I'm comin'..." "Yeah, that sounds like God alright. His messiah talk." "Then when it was over and I was still in a swoon, he told me he'd talk to you about it in your sleep some night." And they named the little b_st_rd, Joshua ben Joe.
A lot of Amerikan music, I know, I know, please don't asked me to define anything, catagorize it, please, I know--What is Amerikan music? Jesus, what an assignment. Let me put it in gear and try to move it forward a bit: a lot of popular music has its origins in the Christian church, whatever kind of Christian church it is, whatever the sign says outside the church, which is how you identify churches when you're looking for one to dig. Dig their sign; it tells you everything about them. [As you read this, keep in mind that even so pathetic a droopy-drawer musician (what jazz purists used to call music that just flat did not swing no matter from what angle you approached it) as Pat Boone came out of the musically nonexistent and totally a cappela music of the Church of Christ (headquartered in Tennessee and Texas).]
Most of the most delicious of Amerikan music came out of the black versions of these churches--Methodists, Baptists, Churches of God in Christ, Assemblies of God, Four Square Gospel (Amy Semple McPherson's creation; Jimmy Swaggart, the man who masturbated to prostitutes in cheesy New Orleans motels, was a Four Square (for the City Four Square, or Heaven), the Nazarenes] and the collection of "hymns" I associate with such churches, i.e., "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand," "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder," "Old Ship of Zion," "Oh, Beulah Land," "The City Four Square." The controversy in the white or black versions of these churches was did instrumentally accompanied music insert a secular aspect into what the most pious of the priesthood (those that call themselves Elder, Bishop, The Very Reverend) mulled over whether church music should swoon you quietly into the trance--more like the swooning that comes from heavy praying--or whether God's music should free your soul into a wild, flinging free, holy dancing and shouting and turning your praise into song and whipping that song into the highest form of liberty.
The most snobbishly pious prelates, the white elders and bishops surely, argued that instrumental music would lead to sinful movements of the body. A good lot of white Christians are bitterly opposed to dancing of any kind. Especially that that shakes or rotates the pelvic area, which the god-damn best of Amurikan music that came out of the churches forced on you, man. You couldn't not shake your ass or jitterbug your feet to Brother Joe Mays, the Thunderbolt of the Midwest, when he was singing, "On Jordan's stormy banks I stand and cast a wistful eye...oh who will come and go with me, I am bound for the promised land..." in front of the Sallie Martin Singers, or when the Bishop S.C. Johnson of the Church of the Apostalic Faith in Philadelphia used to come out of a hell of a great prayer or sermon with his own "One Way to God, the Bishop S.C. Johnson Way."
In the white churches, it was the Holy Rollers who shook their asses in praise of God. The first Assembly of God Church I went to as a kid was a huge ampitheater-shaped auditorium with a great balcony that hung out over the stage, the whole joint packed to the gills with white trash, yep, trailer house trash, all in their Sunday best Mickey Mouse teeshirts and clean blue jeans or polyester pants, mostly heavy set sisters down in the Amen Corner, with tall well-dressed young men standing ready to keep them from injuring themselves when the Holy Spirit swooped down and grabbed their motors. The Holy Ghost to the Christian pious is a real person, equal to God and Joshua his only son (does that imply God had daughters maybe?), and the Holy Ghost likes to boogie, to swing, to dance for joy, and I was scared almost shitless by the far-out shennanigans going on, the holy rolling up and down the red velvet aisles, the babbling in "tongues" [from languages only God understands--actually you can just go: "Elo he im om bu la shababah," and you're pretty much speaking in tongues], the cries and feintings going on all around me, reminding me of the epileptic kids at school, there were two of them, Charles and Darla, both great kids until the fits him them--so cruel we are to epileptics. You'd be surprised who's epileptic these days. A modern-day miracle...maybe.
I growl like Hell when I hear these superHoly Roller churches and Hardshell Baptist recreations and the music that comes out of them, shit, I get pissed; they're using the good Devil's music as their own now. Shit. Gospel music as we know it today came out of the conversion of one (Georgia Tom) of our great blues singers and pianist, Professor Thomas Dorsey, who also played the piano behind some of the great women blues singers of his sinning day. Now, oh shit, white or black Christian musicians are so slick and cool and they take the great Amerikan forms that, yes, that developed out of gospel, a lot of it, but most of it coming from men and women who sold their souls to the Devil down at the crossroads in order to learn the blues--listen to Percy Mayfield's great "Dirty Work at the Cross Roads." My hero, Robert Johnson, sold his soul to the Devil down at a crossroads in the Mississippi Delta--I mean this man was alleged to drink canned heat as his stimulation--the man who invented the term "rock and roll," meaning "once down the middle and then from side to side," which alludes to sexuality, music being very sexual (spiritual) and very compatible to good rockin' (which is "good fuckin'," you prudes), the musician wanting to charm the audience to get them into the rhythm and swinging of the life, the rocking and rolling of love, the beat of the heart, the natural beat of all men and women, black, white, or what. John Lee Hooker sung that "My father was a jockey [a good fuckin' man] and he taught me how to ride [fuck], he said, once down the middle and then from side to side." Any good jockey will tell you that's exactly the right way to ride a race horse, which is like screwing a woman; also women love to ride horses because of horses's galloping movements reaching right up and grabbing their vaginas in sweet softly seducing rides for all their worth. John Lee's father was teaching him the art of good fucking or riding a horse a certain rhythmical way to win a race (all the "see my pony run" songs in the blues idiom). This music came out of the sexual innuendoes that were symbolic ways of telling how evil life was and how relieving being loved and loving someone was (even the bop and scat lines were basically sexual innuendoes--"Oop Shoo Be Dooby, Oop, Oop" has a lot of sexual innuendo in it--a part of it, too, means "I love you"). These blues worked to express a musician's desire to not conform to those overpious standards but conform only to what the beat of your heart is forcing out of your solar plexus in the form of music. It's escape music. That's what good Amerikan music is to me; escape. I don't care who makes it as long as they're innovative, unique, powerful, virtuosic, confident, and THEY SWING. "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing...[then comes the line that to me is the origin of be-bop], all per Edward Ellington (Google him if you don't know who he is).
for The Daily Growler
The Daily Growler a la Oprah Book Club:
1) L'Homme Foudroye (The Astonished Man) by Blaise Cendrars, US edition, Stein & Day, 1981; French edition: Editions Donoel, Paris, 1945. Powerful writer, bon vivant, filmmaker, poet, storyteller (bullshitter deluxe), the man who got Apollonaire into advertising as art or cut up pieces of ads rearranged into artistic impression of things. Henry Miller wrote of Cendrars (Frederic Louis Sauser), "What a writer learns from Cendrars is to follow his nose, to obey life's commands, to worship no other god but life." The Growler: In the Silence of the Night, part 1 of this collection is one of the best set of god-damn war dramas you'll ever want to read. Especially sections 7 & 8, two stories describing pure unadultrated FEAR. Great scary stories.
The Daily Growler recommends
http://languagehat.com -- this is an elegantly done and succinctly yet entertainingly written site dealing with linguistics. F..., Noam Chomsky in terms of linguistics. Viva, Noam Chomsky, in terms of politics.
Special Report from the Growler Newsroom: "president" Bush seems determined to start a Third World War--just a little rich boy privilege to him--with Iran. Just sit around and twiddle your thumbs or get off your ass and start an action against these ruthless privileged bums that are ruining an already pretty much ruined USA.