Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bygone days...

VictrolaI have a real soft spot for the music of thirties -- and there was, of course, a great leap forward in technology between the scratchy records of hte twenties and the relatively good sounding records of the 30s. Also, the advent of affordable amplification tubes took record players from the all-acoustic stylus-to-cone system to something that could entertain a room full of people.

Who'll Stop Lorraine?
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But recording was still pretty documentary, at that point... multiple mics and mixers could spotlight instruments and help achieve creative blends and "moving" mixes (instead of having soloists literally move closer to the recording cone for solos during the earliest days of all-acoustic recording).

Now... some great recordings were done in the 50s (particularly in jazz and classical)... the fi was finally hi... toward the end of the decade, people started tracking with an eye toward stereo.

But -- and the fact that I came more or less of age during the decade undoubtedly is not coincidental -- for me, some of the most creative arrangements and recordings came out of the 60s.

Multitrack technology was still somewhat limited. Most pop was tracked to 3 or 4 tracks (and much of it was still recorded with little thought of stereo mixes)... but there was a burst of arrangement creativity that exploded across pop music... everywhere you turned, people were mixing it up, stylistically. Folkies snuck in electric guitars and keyboards or went the other way with (often quite creative) string and woodwind arrangements. Jazzers adopted some rock elements but also reached outside traditional ways of looking at jazz -- and even music itself -- adopting composition techniques from orchestral avant-gardists... and rock... rock/pop absorbed it all and mixed it up even crazier.

The creativity extended into the 70s, of course, but that was also the era when the suits started really getting scientific about how to coopt and manipulate musical and social trends... the early 70s "underground disco" scene which had seemed so cool, even subversive, all but died out but eventually was K-marted into the Saturday Night Disco Fever Era... Within a decade, the outrage and provocation that had been the original punk rock was being marketed in mall stores targetted to supplying off the rack punk wear to "disaffected" suburban youth. ("Disaffected" from any meaningful culture, I might say, cynically.)

There's been plenty of cool music since, of course, I've enjoyed a lot of hip hop over the years, I liked the electronica scene during the 90s, I liked the new blues movement where hip hop and other postmodern elements reinvigorated some beloved but shopworn forms, I appreciated the return of roots consciousness to the periphery of the country music scene.

But... you know... I was almost a teenager when I first heard the Beatles... I was an angry young man when I got into the political bands of the era like the (old) Jefferson Airplane or MC5... I was a questing outsider listening to Jimi Hendrix or Bitches Brew... I guess it's kind of predictable that I'd be drawn to the music of the era when I really came alive as a music listener and began to think that maybe I, too, might find some way to make music.

And now... completely unrelated... a song I wrote a few years ago...

Who'll Stop Lorraine?

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Internet Archive page for this recording
May 11, 2006 version
December 16, 2005 version

I've known Lorraine since we were kids
and I've always been amazed
Every time she went too damn far I thought
Who'll stop Lorraine?

I saw her hunt down Billy Jim
he was doomed from that first day
I saw her rip his heart in two and thought,
Who'll stop Lorraine?

From the hotel bar to the airport lounge
Everyone knows her name
Over and over I ask myself,
Who'll Stop Lorraine?

Finally one day I'd had enough
I sat her down looked her in the eye
Lorraine I love you, girl, but straighten up,
'cause, Lorraine, you're wreckin' people's lives

From the hotel bar to the airport lounge
Everyone knows your name
Over and over they ask themselves,
Who'll Stop Lorraine?

I never thought Id see a tear in her eye
I never thought I'd see into her soul
but since that day she's come so far
and God I've come to love her so

From the hotel bar to the airport lounge
Everyone knows her name
Over and over they ask themselves,
Whatever became of Lorraine?

Monday, December 25, 2006

This Christmas is different...

This Christmas is going to be different...

Christmas 1983 was stormy and wet. One storm would blow out and another would be on its heels. The occasional shaft of sunlight poking through the clouds seemed like a miraculous reassurance.

It was wet and I was soggy most of the time. In those days I had to use a cane because of complications subsequent to a very nasty motorcycle wreck. Walking, even standing, was often painful, especially in the rain -- but I was in school and working on a handful of school and realworld recording projects for other people. And I was young and determined to make the most of my forced time outside the 9-to-5 grind. (I don't mean to make that sound heroic in the slightest... except that I look back on that era and think, Damn, where's that guy now that I need him?)

I was between entanglements... uh, I mean I wasn't involved in a deep interpersonal relationship that Christmas. And Christmas wasn't my best time of year in the best of years.

So, I was bracing myself, with this song, for some proper yuletide melancholy and writing myself a pseudo-ritualized gameplan for dealing with the day. Like the lonely spinster secretary with her carefully planned holiday dinners for one, I knew avoiding unexpected decisions, second thoughts, or anything but carefully channeled contemplation was a risk not worth taking.

Now... in one of my few nods to preparation or research for my AYoS posts, I looked at last year's post that accompanied the then-new acoustic version of this song. And -- while I know it will only add to snowballing ambiguity regarding my credibility and the literal truthfulness of my scriblings -- I have to say that I do not now remember Christmas 1983 as I described it. I was drinking brandy in my coffee and I did put the Pistols' "God Save the Queen" on my stereo (as well as Brian Eno). I think I simply wasn't prepared, last year, to admit that I would purposefully -- if lightheartedly -- live out the scenario I'd just written.

Ah, but that was then. I'm so much younger than that now.
Merry Christmas!
This is my new kitty, Sophie. She's not mad; her ears just do that.

Happy holidays to you all!

This Christmas
(original Avant-Garage Holiday Songwriting Festival version, 1983)

Special note: you may need to use your tone/EQ controls on your media player to tame some high frequency nastiness in this nearly quarter century old 4 track recording.

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December 20, 2005 version

This Christmas (Is Going to Be Different)

by TK Major

There's rain in the streets, rain in the gutters of this city
Seems like it always rains at Christmastime here
There's rain in my heart, rain in my shoes and in my soul of souls
and if they have rain in heaven you can bet its raining up there

Now Santa Klaus is all around just like big brother
His twinkling eyes follow you wherever you go
People spending money buying fancy toys for themselves
Then give them to the kids and wonder why they feel so old

Ah, but this Christmas is going to be different
I'm going to have a happy holiday
This Christmas is going to be different
Cause I don't think I can take another blue Christmas day

Christmastime Nineteen Hundred 81
Driving up the coast with the wife in our beat up SAAB
It was raining all the way, we fought all the time, it was our last chance
we headed for 'Frisco, we made it to Reno, it was that kind of trip

The earth drifts from the sun, the days get cold, it's Christmas
if you're with someone you're warm, but alone is alone, on Christmas
The nights are long, more time for dreaming on Christmas
But when you wake up you find its all just a dream on Christmas

Ah, but this Christmas is going to be different ...

Sitting round the fire, watching the rain on Christmas
i got some brandy in my coffee, trying to crank up some cheer
I got the Pistols on the box, god save the queen, je suis l'anarchie
Well I'm trying real hard to make it turn out okay this year.

Ah, but this Christmas is going to be different
I'm going to have a happy holiday
This Christmas is going to be different
Cause I don't think I can take another blue Christmas day

(C)1984,TK Major