Sex Grits Rock & Roll 001
ex Grits Rock & Roll: a bi-weekly column about twang, funky butt, and the pursuit of succulent fatback. Animated by coeval guitar army and hominy fetishes, these fan's notes hail from a Dixie boogie wonderland whose anthems are "Water No Get Enemy" and "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed."
MY LOST ROCK CITY
Call me the Chocolate City cuckoo; I’m not Fitzgerald. However, in current ass-end of the Ozarks exile, this addled spirit can relate to the Jazz Age novelist’s lachrymose remembrances of Gotham at twilight as never before. Sure Karen O, Saul Williams and others have decamped for LA LA’s Manifest Destiny. Yet little rivals the ole body electric rush resulting from your self surfing the cacophonous and filthy asphalt wave that is the Hilly Island. Here, knee-deep in Wal-Mart culture and Red State “ethics,” I exist in peril of shuffling and shmiling into malaise akin to my homeboy Dave Chappelle’s. As Mizzou’s got the nation’s highest concentration of labs, I might could succumb to the “meth mouth” epidemic and echo Chappelle’s multi-million garnering catchphrase on Cops: “I’m Rick James, Bitch!”
“DON’T LET YOUR SON GO DOWN ON ME” vs. “GIVE US FREE!”
Okay, okay, the Corporation’s last triumph, Michael Jackson is free. Whoop-dee-doodle. Aren’t future generations of little white (or honorary white) boy child stars still picketing down some alternate Hollywood Boulevard? Crying, like Djimon Hounsou’s revolutionary Cinque in Amistad, “Give us free!” Make no mistake: Jackson’s acquittal was not a victory for The Race. But then I am a race traitor who’s ignored the trial and always believed he was guilty of these and other crimes, cultural ones among them.
Still, all the websites trumpeting the end of the King of Pop’s judicial ordeal served me in one way: a reconsideration of N.E.R.D.’s superb debut In Search Of… (Virgin). Pharrell’s gone on record touting his great love of Jacko and Steely Dan—both acts whose music frankly dominated my halcyon 70s youth in DC. Off The Wall was the official soundtrack of my initial move to West Africa; Fagen & Becker were the first white men to have consistent and enduring influence on me, enabling me twenty-odd years later to actually have an icon in common with fellow rock snobs. Even my Philly jazz ‘n soul-bred mother, the same age (and sign…shudders) as Bob Dylan, loves to crow that “Hey Nineteen” is her favorite rock song. It may not in fact rawk but I’d inchoately sussed the ways that tune and others in the catalog were animating such as “Run To The Sun,” even before Pharrell met the Press. If Jacko’s been dethroned it ain’t because N.E.R.D. didn’t try their best to synthesize his wonder and, more of a thriller, do much to renovate postmodern Bubba-ism via the classic trucker anthem “Provider.”
Truly: the Dan’s pseudo-funk made great inroads into the black psyche in the 70s and N.E.R.D.’s innovative pop moment—conflicting rumors of their demise aside—provided a great document of that covert cross-racial exchange, both flawed and masterful.
VERT MAH SKIRT
This site panned Catherine Hardwicke & Stacy Peralta’s Lords Of Dogtown. This was somewhat deserved. Yet I absolutely maintain that young actor Emile Hirsch, who played my anti-hero Jay Adams with infinite subtlety and skill, should be laden down come award season (if there’s any justice). And I hope that the Z-Boys story can still find a worthy dramatic vehicle (where the epic Jeff Ho will reinsert himself into the legend).
As the superior Dogtown & Z-Boys doc demonstrated even to me, disinterested in skateboarding per se, a phenomenal, fascinating story persists about the multiracial (and gendered) crew of dead-end kids who'd been written off by society and their overwhelming success at carving a revolutionary culture out of their ghetto-on-sea, LA's culture clash of La Raza and Watts funk, and metafizzik nada. Show ‘em some love!
KEITH ANDERSON / “Pickin’ Wildflowers” (Arista)
Reckon every era needs a reprise of such “gittin’ down wit’ de darkies” audio-visual classics as Betty Hutton’s brutal belting and “going native” in Annie Get Your Gun, John Mellencamp’s “Paper In Fire” clip (appropriately directed by a Jonathan Dark), and, my personal fave, Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It.”
Anderson seems to have become a CMT darling, current bluesy hit “Pickin’ Wildflowers” in heavy rotation possibly because, unlike most country videos, he (or more likely his director) seems to recollect that the twang is biracial and has always had a zebra audience. Unfortunate, yes, that the old blind black man by the door and assorted hot young brown thighs are fetishized—but I like the song and the vision (for better and worse) needs to become trendy if Big & Rich are ever to be augmented by some real color on Music Row.
JOHN DOE, SOUL MAN
Saw a John Doe buying guide at Amazon.com, by chance. Who knew he was such an Al Green fan? Certainly not I, turned on by John Doe, Thespian, and come lately fanatic of his two recent, sublime solo albums Dim Stars, Bright Sky and the new one on Yep Roc, Forever Hasn’t Happened Yet. Maybe I never saw X in their heyday like my best friend but I’d love to hear him tackle a project catalyzed by wartime…his beautiful croon tangling largely a cappella with Labelle as Laura Nyro bravely did on the genius Gonna Take A Miracle.
KENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS / BIG BOSS MAN (CbuJ)
They sho’nuff brought the country Soul last time out. Now, the Kentucky Headhunters have delivered far more (and some surprising) covers on their latest, genre-defying fusion of country and southern rock. Singer Doug Phelps burns down these fresh takes on composers as diverse as Buck Owens (“Made In Japan”) and Dylan (radical reconstruction of “Like A Rolling Stone”). Cojones and hillbilly hirsutism still very much in evidence.
BLACK MOUNTAIN REVUE
With a supporting gig on the upcoming Coldplay tour in their arsenal (bad move, Mr. Paltrow), the time is now to peep Black Mountain. This Vancouver collective’s reconstruction of the perfect Analog Bitch is something akin to the sloppy trash technique Pussy Galore applied to Exile On Main Street. “Druganaut” keenly reveals them referential to the altar of Cream, Zep & Co. and in-step with many major markets’ retreat from “modern” rock radio.
DEEP THROAT REDUX
Couldn’t resist: Last week porn star/erstwhile California gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey noshed with President Bush and myriad Republican hoo-hahs during "The 2005 President's Dinner and Salute to Freedom."
Sure, Neil Strauss was ahead of the curve in signifying on how porn has overtaken rock as youth quake craze but what’s the GOP’s excuse? Whither their family values now?
Of course, they could be more preoccupied with deflating former cabinet member Morgan Reynolds’ claims that the official story about the collapse of the WTC is "bogus."
Amazon.com actually had the nerve to place the White Stripes’ latest ode to Afro-Atlantic purity, Get Behind Me Satan (V2), in my new releases sidebar. Guess they missed my recent outbreaks of anti-minstrelsy logorrhea at NYU’s Sylvester conference, SXSW, and EMP. But don’t restrict your flame-ire to me: ask the undeserving rockcrit bête noire Amy Phillips about Jack White’s Mumbo Jumbo.
No doubt some readers believe I give southern rock (ole skool and post-Carter) a dubious pass. However, as I have explained in numerous Allmans paeans past, there is a distinction between genuine love of the kind nurtured at 3614 Jackson Highway and theft of the moldering bluesman’s badass essence. American Minor is one of the latest SR comers, along with the mysterious Rebel Devil. Channeling the era when Deep Purple and Molly Hatchet worked the circuit, the album art masks the CD as lost Almost Famous prop but the music poses them swerving between the Skynyrd standard and “modern” influences á la Kings Of Leon (who they’re sweating). The West Virginia five-piece’s riffage is rather pedestrian but Bubba Geography is always welcome. Here’s hoping Jive, home of Britney Federline, chances more forays away from plastic pop.
To end on a dark note: This summer marks the fifty-fifth since two white men abducted, tortured and killed a 14-year-old black youth from Chi-Town named Emmett Till, allegedly for whistling at a white woman store clerk while on a visit to the state of Mississippi. Ignoring the reign of terror conducted towards Till’s Delta-dwelling granduncle Mose Wright and other “colored” residents in that state’s dubiously-named Sunflower County—not to mention the grotesque photos of Till’s mutilated, Elephant Man-esque countenance in his open casket as published in the black press—an all-White jury acquitted the clerk's husband and half-brother in a state court trial. I don’t know about the Klan and armchair race muckrakers but many of us have always regarded these judicial proceedings as a gross miscarriage of justice.
Some prefer to keep their pop and politics separate (despite the great success of Jon Stewart and Bill Maher o’er the airwaves); the snide antipathy towards Bono on music biz message boards is case in point. Yet, in light of the Ying Yang “whisper song” flap, general moves afoot to address the rampant misogyny in Hip-Hop Nation (see The Source sex harassment suit etc.), (predominantly) Anglo white men again leading the charge for aid to Africa (instead of, say, Jigga and ‘nem), the Senate’s limp apology last week for (at least) a century of terrorism against blacks (a.k.a. lynching), and the not-so shocking outcome of the Michael Jackson trial, I am forced to emerge from my headphone cocoon of audiobliss and grapple with these issues…Like how the fabled “cool pose” of bloods across the Western Hemisphere but particularly this land mars the health of society by simultaneously masking the vulnerability of black male bodies (of course, Lawd knows these bruhs of da boom-bap never wish for their “hard” stance to be viewed as penetrable), inciting so-called brothers to endogamous violence, and contributing to the persistence of pernicious stereotypes.
I must strive for some clarity about the ways in which Emmett Till (eulogized not only by Dylan but by me, in the only successful (and award-winning) song I ever wrote) still haunts me, while I struggle yet again with the tightrope between a mandate to foreground racism and sexism as a critic and my debilitating love for cock-rock and country. The site of poor Emmett’s murder is, after all, where, in March 1968, Life displayed a full-page photo of Bobbie Gentry striding across the Tallahatchie Bridge, which figured in her hit, "Ode to Billie Joe."
As my mother—a contemporary of Till’s much affected by the case in real time who endured a similar North-South flux existence in childhood—put it: “…Such matters must be resolved for the victims to have some peace. On the other hand, the structural racism of the country must be overturned if we are ever to resolve the anomaly of the birth of the nation—slavery.” On a simpler level, I just have to wonder whether such cultural “provocateurs” and powers as Benzino, “21st century Sambo” Lil Jon plus cronies, and Jacko truly value their endless opportunities to either exploit Mandingo nightmares to lucrative effect or cry racism and play to the twisted sympathies of The Black Community when they fight the law. How far have we really come since the (official) decade of rock & roll’s birth when just the hint of “reckless eyeballing” was a terrifying kiss of death?
By: Kandia Crazy Horse
Published on: 2005-06-21