On this election day, nobody’s waiting for the Hymie’s Record endorsement and besides we seem to be those few, rare undecided voters. Last week I worked with Pocahontas County to present the return of Theme Time (now at the fabulous Turf Club), a monthly revue celebrating one peculiar topic or another, and for our first theme we chose ELECTIONS. You can see a playlist on the offical Theme Time website (here). In my post on that new site I quoted from Steve Goodman’s silly 1976 single, “Election Year Rag”:
The winner’s always someone else and the loser’s always us.
(“Election Year Rag” by Steve Goodman)
The voter ID legislation implies there is a problem with voter fraud in our state and nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s protect the integrity of our well-earned reputation for fair elections – even during the senate race recount four years ago our officials – Democrats and Republicans – resolved the conflict with decency and decorum. There are many people who didn’t agree with the way it was handled, but few who would argue there was genuine corruption and dishonesty behind the actions of officials. We are a state where you can buy a firearm at a gun show without a background check and that seems more important than casting a vote (again, see quote above).
I am a person who often forgets my driver’s license and keys when I go out. I have never been upset when I am refused a drink in a bar because that is the law. I will feel the same when, inevitably, I am unable to vote for the same reason. It may well be that on that particular Tuesday I don’t have the time to go home, find my license (usually a chore) and get back to the polls. I resent the fact that I may, in some future election, be unable to cast my vote against a further expansion of government authority because of the outcome of this one. I vote NO.
On the subject of the second proposal I will make a similar conservative argument – it is an unnecessary expansion of government power. Same sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota. This vote will not change that. What it will do is unprecedented in American history: It will amend a Constitution in order to restrict the rights of the people, not of the government. The men who conceived our Constitution would find same sex marriage an abomination, but they would be all the more aghast at any restriction of the people’s rights being included in a state constitution. Consider the number of times you see the phrase “Congress may not” in the Constitution, while you don’t once see the phrase “the people may not.”
This abomination to the core principles of our Constitution will not make my own marriage stronger, nor prevent the staggering divorce rate or the heartbreaking statistics about children born out of wedlock. All I can see it doing is fuck up the lives of the same sex couples in my neighborhood by enormously expanding their already oppressive ostracism. And, in blurring the line between church and state to an unprecedented degree, the proposed amendment will set the stage for other laws that will, ironically, bite churches in the ass (as pointed out with precision in this essay in the Star Tribune last week).
It will also not deal with this nation’s mounting debt, it’s un-paid wars (and the coming veterans’ health crisis neither Presidential candidate has the courage to address), or our stagnant economy. I own a small business and restricting the peoples’ rights will not help us limp along for another year. It will not help my family keep our home in spite of still-falling values and the complete inability to refinance because every appraisal will compare our home to a bank-owned foreclosure sale. It won’t address the fact that we’re terrified to go to the doctor because we seldom understand what is covered and often are disappointed when we find it out. In fact, all of the problems we are facing as a nation will still be here regardless of the presence or absence of state-recognized same sex couples.
It won’t fix a goddamn thing. We vote no.
Sunday morning at 10am KFAI Radio (90.3 FM in Minneapolis, 106.7 FM in St. Paul) will air a program of Native American protest music produced by Hymie’s as part of it’s WAVE Project. The show will be on at 6pm, and will be stream-able online sometime after that (we’ll post a link when it’s up). We hope you’ll tune in for our program, and also support KFAI during their current pledge drive.
Last year I posted a series here on the Hymie’s blog that incorporated my interested in American history, which is what I studied at the Unversity, not record store-running or music blogging (those weren’t classes yet). The inspiration for the series was graffiti I saw on Columbus Day 1999 under the Highway 55 bridge over Franklin Avenue. Columbus was a murderer.
I guess I had never thought about our national observation of Columbus Day in the context of his actions, which was introduced to me as a teenager in Howard Zinn’s best selling A People’s History of the United States. Today it is less controversial to talk about the legendary mariner’s legacy of brutality towards the Arawaks and the other native people he met upon arriving in the New World than it was when Zinn published his controversial book in 1980. I had also read Dee Brown’s book, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, and been deeply moved by the native perspective on the “conquest” of the west. My militant views were only hardened after reading Vine Deloria Jr.’s “Indian manifesto,” Custer Died for your Sins, and the Peter Matthiesen history of the Leonard Peltier case, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.
But it was passing those words on Franklin Avenue that led me, for the first time, to ask why there is a national day of observance for Christopher Columbus and not one for the people who lived on this continent for centuries. It was just before six in the morning and I doubt I had even remembered it was Columbus Day until I saw those words on the wall: Columbus was a murderer.
A few years before that my father worked for the Mille Lacs Ojibwe, and in their government I saw people passionate to preserve their culture while preparing their children for the future, a duality that has challenged the identity of native people since the disastrous policies of our government attempted to terminate their culture during the cold war. My father eventually bought a home up there on the lake.
(I’d also like to point out that the Mille Lacs Band owns a bank, Woodlands National Bank, with branches all around the state including one here in Minneapolis on Franklin Avenue. When we set out to save Hymie’s Records from liquidation the bank we had been with for years – even buying a house and a truck through them – hardly gave our business proposal a moments thought. We were rejected without explanation. In all, seven banks, including one in our neighborhood that claims to be the nation’s #1 lender to small businesses, rejected the business plan, and it was clear in most interviews it had not even been read. The people at Woodland’s National Bank read our business plan and grilled us with an hour’s worth of very hard questions. We were sure it was the eighth and final failed interview, but they saw the potential in this business which has since grown exponentially, moving to a more secure, larger and far nicer location, and introducing all kinds of exciting events that support local music around the Cities – none of which would have been possible without their support in our vision!)
I wrote a series for the blog you’re reading, where we try to highlight music that deserves more attention than it’s received. Many of the songs were from records that are out of print, and none are likely to be played on the radio. I have always admired the generation of Native Americans whose protests, writing and hard work led to meaningful improvements in the lives of their people, notably the passage of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. When President Nixon proposed the latter in 1970 he refuted the forced integration of the failed cold war era “termination policy.” While much work was left to be done, the 1975 congressional act was exactly what Tom Bee had asked for in the song “End” by XIT:
There were many great Native American artists recording at this time, in all fields of music. Tom Bee, who later wrote and produced a track for Michael Jackson and recorded with Smokey Robinson, is one of my favorites. I also really enjoy the folk singer Peter LaFarge, whose songs are still often covered, and Redbone, best known for their #4 hit “Come Get Your Love.” They also recorded a song about the Alcatraz occupation, a song about Wovoka, the Paiute Indian who began the Ghost Dance movement in 1889, and “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee,” a song about the 7th US Cavalry’s savage massacre of the Lakota people at Wounded Knee in 1893.
I have received emails from readers all around the country who enjoyed hearing these songs again or were excited to have discovered them for the first time. I have met Native people who have told me stories of AIM’s history here in Minneapolis, and a Menominee Indian whose story of being bullied in public schools as a child broke my heart.
Here are the five post from the week of last year’s Columbus Day if you’d like to go back and read them:
Monday I intend to post some new songs I have recorded off records over this past year. As soon as KFAI provides streaming of the program I produced for the WAVE project I will share it here on the blog, too.
Thanks for reading. Tomorrow I will post a trashy metal record again.
#1 Rafiki is totally a mandrill, not a dumbass baboon. I looked it up. If Mustafa were here he’d kick your ass.
#2 Yes, taking your kids out for ice cream sucks. We’re not doing that again for a while. You know what’s awesome, taking your kids out for donuts. Trust me, everything works better in the morning.
#3 I finally found a copy of Joe South’s last album, Midnight Rainbow. In fact, a couple of them so there’s one in the shop right now if you’d like to buy it. Next week we’ll post some more Joe South songs.
Before I get into today’s tirade, I want to put out some unrelated news: This afternoon Pete Hoffmann and the Measured Doses will be playing here at the shop at 3pm. I think if you like classic new wave songwriters like Elvis Costello and Robyn Hitchcock you’re going to like Hoffmann’s songs, which I’ve added here courtesy of his Reverb Nation page, which you can click to on the link above. Even the Westerberg-ish ballad “She Balances” gives you a sense of the fun he has making music, and we’re glad to give you an opportunity to hear him perform this afternoon, even if it’s an introduction.
The whole idea behind offering free live music every Sunday afternoon is to explore the awesome range of the music scene here in the Twin Cities. Earlier this summer the Star Tribune ran an editorial by some bitter, mothballed Prairie Home Companion bitty about our indulgent pride in the local music scene (read it here). I couldn’t disagree more – in criticizing our enthusiasm, all she comes up with is a prevalence of stupid band names. The fact is there are so many awesome working bands in the Twin Cities that just here in an out-of-the-way record shop on the east side you could have heard a huge variety just in the past couple weeks, including rockin’ slide-guitar blues (Walker Fields), an awesome new collaboration between songwriter Tyler Haag and the New McCarthy, and traditional ragtime guitar by a master with decades of experience (Dakota Dave Hull).
So maybe this is the first time you’ve heard Pete Hoffmann and the Measured Doses. That’s okay because you probably like ‘em. They’re really good at what they do, and they’re playing a free set here in the shop this afternoon – don’t come out to support local music, come out to enjoy it.
And now a few minutes with Andy Rooney a few minutes with Dave
So we host the Hymie’s Record Roadshow at the fabulous Turf Club over in St. Paul – maybe you’ve been. One of our regular customers is invited to be the guest DJ and spin their favorite stuff from the shop, and we bring along a dozen crates of sweet albums picked from the month’s best recent arrivals. The Turf offers great drink specials and we take a 15% discount off anything you find or hear.
Last month I brought a copy of Dylan’s New Morning to play “The Man in Me”, one of my favorites. A few days later I stopped by the Turf for a beer and was talking to Felix (the Twin Cities’ best bartender) and he grumbled because every time I play that record people come up and order White Russians. Wait, what?
So there were two things I didn’t know. First is that a white Russian is a drink made with creme liquer and vodka. People actually drink it. The other is that a White Russian is the preferred drink of Jeff Bridges in the Coen Brothers’ movie The Big Lebowski. It’s a pretty good movie, but I guess not so memorable I would remember the Dude’s favorite drink.
Turns out another song I like to play at the Turf Club is also in that movie.
(“The Man in Me” by Bob Dylan)
(“Just Dropped In” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition)
People have asked me in the shop if “The Man in Me” is the new Dylan. I guess New Morning isn’t his most well-known or well-played album, even though it’s *my favorite*, but I’m still surprised. If you are interested in Dylan and you don’t have a copy of this one in your collection, I highly recommend it.
The thing about a song appearing in a movie soundtrack is that the movie kind of takes ownership of the song. It all starts with Easy Rider, in case you’re wondering. See, when they were editing it, Don Cambern, would rock out to his favorite albums to cut the boredom of watching clip after clip of guys riding around on stupid motorcycles. Eventually they figured that they couldn’t do better than Steppenwolf and the Band, and so plans to have Crosby, Stills and Nash record an original score were dropped. They spent more money on the licensing of the music than they did on the rest of the movie.
Check out a copy of the soundtrack next time you’re here in the shop (it’s way easier than sitting through the movie) – There’s tons of sweet songs, including Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher” (a Hoyt Axton cover, by the way) and Roger McGuinn’s sweet version of the Dylan song “It’s All Right Ma (I’m only Bleeding)”. Movie guys – oh, I’m sorry, film buffs – say that this is when pop music started to take over the movies, pushing the great composers of original scores like Elmer Bernstein and John Barry out of business. Rock & roll guys like me think this is when the movies start to take over pop music.
And so “The Man in Me” is The Big Lebowski song. “Tiny Dancer” is the Almost Famous song. And for all intents and purposes Matthew Broderick rocked a lean version of “Twist and Shout” ala Little Richard, not John Lennon. All this because the movies ruin rock and roll.
And no, the monster doesn’t stop there…
(Adagio for Strings with goddamn Charlie Sheen talking over it)
Arturo Toscanini’s 1938 recording of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is one of the only pieces of American classical music played in the Soviet Union during the cold war. It’s a deeply moving piece of music that was played at Albert Einstein’s funeral and broadcast over the radio when the passing of Franklin D. Roosevelt was announced to the nation – It was preserved by the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress in 2005, and is truly a national treasure. It’s also, to many people, the theme from stupid fucking Platoon.
It’s the Ludovico Technique in action. This is the fictional aversion therapy practiced in A Clockwork Orange. In that dumb movie Alex is unable to enjoy Beethoven’s 9th Symphony after being forced to watch violent films to which passages of the great masterpiece about the brotherhood of man have provided the soundtrack.
(The beginning of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony)
In a final celebration of aversion therapy the soundtrack album from A Clockwork Orange includes a couple tracks of Walter Carlos’ moog adaptations of Beethoven, music so nightmarishly awful as to turn even me away from Beethoven for months.
Director Stanley Kubrick is no stranger to taking ownership of a piece of music (just ask Vera Lynn) but his interpretation of the Ludovico effect from Anthony Burgess’ novel is particularly biting. Yeah, I don’t writhe in pain when I hear Beethoven’s 9th Symphony like Alex does later in the film, but I do lament the way movies re-purpose music rather than introduce new, original scores and songs. Sadly, Adagio for Strings makes me think of goddamn stupid boring Charlie Sheen, and people apparently crave White Russians when they hear “The Man in Me”.
And the last time a copy of Lust for Life passed through the record shop I dropped it right on the turntable (wouldn’t you?). It was a Saturday afternoon and TWO PEOPLE ASKED IF IT WAS THE SOUNDTRACK TO TRAINSPOTTING. No, it’s not. It’s just one of the awesome-est rock n’ roll records ever, that’s all.
(“Lust for Life” by Iggy Pop)
So here’s my message to all the great directors, even Stanley Kubrick (I don’t care if you’re dead – In fact I hope you’re sitting next to Andy Rooney): You know why Charlie Chaplin was the greatest movie director of all time? Because he didn’t just write, direct and star in his films, he also composed the scores. That’s right, he had talents beyond reading a book and then telling people where to point a camera.
So I’ve spent the past several days moving my kids’ preschool classroom from one floor of this church to another and I feel like fucking Hercules except that I’m afraid to plead to Hermes or Athena for some help because a bolt of lightning might strike me down (It’s in a church, after all). There’s this giant loft (10′x10′) that I’ve had to disassemble, move and reassemble, along with a goddamn giant ice cream truck!
I’m no stranger to hard work, but the worst part of it – and this is why I’m not going to tell you the name of the church – is how rude the people there have been to me. I can’t understand why a simple carpenter would be made to feel so unwelcome in the house of the Lord, but I guess I’m going to have to look somewhere else for an answer.
While working in the stifling church basement, I got to thinking about one of my favorite “story songs” – here it is:
(“The Outlaw’s Prayer” by Johnny Paycheck)
“Didn’t I see a picture of you with sandals and a beard – I believe you had long hair, too.”
Here’s a link to an essay on NPR’s music blog* by Emily White, who is proud of her 11,000 song iTunes library but admits she’s only purchased 15 CDs in her life. Out of the mouths of babes, I guess, for this essay by a a 20 year old college student (“avid music listener, concert goer and college radio DJ”) has sparked an enormous discussion over art and ownership, copyright law, and a generation’s relationship to the music it chooses.
(*Yes Virginia, there is something more boring than listening to NPR.)
Fittingly, one of the best things I have read to come out of the fray was by a musician, David Lowery (Camper van Beethoven, Cracker). His response (click here to read it), which was posted by The Trichordist, starts out saying he doesn’t want to shame White for her naive approach to the subject, but ultimately does just that through thoughtful arguments as well as personal recollections of the lives and deaths of struggling musicians Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt (White says she’s a college radio DJ at American University’s WVAU, so it’s probably a given she knows both of these artists only through covers or benefit albums). In the course of his lengthy but compelling response, Lowery offers what I believe will be a memorable indictment:
Many in your generation are willing to pay a little extra to buy “fair trade” coffee that insures the workers that harvested the coffee were paid fairly. Many in your generation will pay a little more to buy clothing and shoes from manufacturers that certify they don’t use sweatshops. Many in your generation pressured Apple to examine working conditions at Foxconn in China. Your generation is largely responsible for the recent cultural changes that has given more equality to same sex couples. On nearly every count your generation is much more ethical and fair than my generation. Except for one thing. Artist rights.
He does not, unfortunately, offer a solution. He suggests several ways White could make amends by donating to charities that support recording artists but what’s missing from his and many arguments is a framework that fairly compensates artists for their work and entices consumers to voluntarily participate. After conservatively estimating the cost of being an “avid music listener, concert goer and college radio DJ” Lowery lauds the convenience of iTunes:
Ultimately there are three “inconvenient” things that MUST happen for any legal service:
1.create an account and provide a payment method (once)
2.enter your password.
3. Pay for music.
So what you are really saying is that you won’t do these three things. This is too inconvenient. And I would guess that the most inconvenient part is….step 3.
But voluntary consumer participation in iTunes is far from universal, or even reliable, and artists make less on a sale of an mp3 than they would through a similar sale on a more direct site like Bandcamp. I’m a big fan of that site, and you’ll notice whenever possible I link to a local band’s Bandcamp page because it allows then to sell their music more directly in an accessible format. Check out, for instance, the Cactus Blossoms‘ great disc on their page, you can stream it all or buy a download for $10. Or the recent Walker Fields EP Double Down, which has been one of my favorite discs this year. You can stream that or buy a download for $5.
If you’re like me and you prefer physical media to digital files, you can buy CDs of both these here in the shop. I am not particularly pleased with the sound of mp3′s, even higher-quality ones like you get in downloads. I especially notice the quality in something like I’m going to play LOUD like Double Down.
Bandcamp is a nice format, but it’s far from universal – David Lowery, for instance, doesn’t have a Bandcamp page for the solo record he made a couple of years ago, nor is their one for the two groups he is known for leading, Camper van Beethoven and Cracker.
The City Pages’ Erik Thompson wrote a insightful piece on their blog, Gimme Noise, about White’s essay. He points out that we regularly pay for bottled water even though free water can be found all around us (and in Minneapolis the tap water is very good!). It’s been made convenient and accessible. I think the only extension of this analogy Lowery would add is that illegal downloading is the same as stealing a bottle of water from the store.
We run a record shop with a predominantly used stock, but have steadily increased our selection of new vinyl over the past several years. Hymie’s pays local artists cash for their releases and we keep our mark-up at a minimum. Obviously I’m going to have a bias in favor of record stores, owning and operating one, but I also feel that way because I’ve always loved going to a record store. I like looking at records, even of music I don’t really enjoy. I like listening stations and I like hearing new things.
I also recognize how totally obsolete we are becoming. Most people who come into the shop must have mp3 players or iPods or something and most of them must put a lot of work into transferring the vinyl they buy into digital media that works with those fancy whatnots. I still put things on tapes (we’ve got a sweet selection of new blank tapes in the shop, by the way).
Increasingly musicians are finding performing more lucrative than recording, turning five decades history on its ear. They are also facing the most saturated (and competitive) market in the history of popular music. Most of the musicians you love make less than you think – many could make a better living doing whatever it was they did while they built their careers, or whatever it is they’re doing weekdays right now.
(“Good Guys and Bad Guys” by Camper van Beethoven)
After an exhausting three year search, I believe I’ve finally found the worst record in the entire store. It is, in fact, the worst record I have ever myself played. It’s an affront to the dignity of your record player, an insult to your ears. It’s a disaster at 45 RPM.
(The worst record in the entire store, in case you’d like to hear it again or just hold it in your hands, is a 1989 parody of John Denver’s “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” by Pinkard and Bowden. It’s in the difficult listening section by the door – we put this stuff right by the door because we’re hoping someone will steal it.)
There’s not a lot of precedence for local politics in our little blog – I like to write about silly songs and stupid records, so if you get worked up getting worked up, this is not the place for inspiration (unless you’re worked up about John Maus, the guy who said, “I’m glad they all have little ‘closed’ signs on their doors now” at the end of his tirade against record stores).
Still, we’re passionate about our neighborhood and about the communities that support it – You can find a lot about our East Lake Street if you search through the Hymie’s blog archives, and if you’ve been coming to our Sunday afternoon in-store performances you’ve seen a lot of Longellow & Seward artists perform. We’re really proud of that – this is a safe place where you wave to neighbors and friends when you bike down the street, and where you can find a great many of the Twin Cities’ best businesses according to the City Pages‘ “Best of the Twin Cities” issue (including Merlin’s Rest Pub, Leviticus Tattoo, T’s Place, Gandhi Mahal and Miller Upholstery).
But it’s also the neighborhood where a transgender stabbed a bar patron after getting hit in the head with a bottle. I wouldn’t blame anyone for staying away after the media coverage of CeCe (Chrishaun) McDonald’s trial, but I’ve got to say my piece now that her sentence has been handed down.
Now I know I’m not the best CeCe McDonald supporter because last summer I led a neighborhood fight against the unlicensed nightclub located in the old Hymie’s building which happened to be an active supporter of her cause. I stand by anything I said or wrote, whether here or in the newspaper, because there are very good reasons that nightclubs are regulated and not located in residential neighborhoods. And I do not feel that the case of CeCe McDonald was or is being accurately reported by local media.
On June 5th, 2011 CeCe McDonald, a black transgender woman, and her friends were accosted by three patrons outside the Schooner Bar. After an exchange she did not start she was struck in the face with a beer bottle, and in defense she stabbed one of the assailants with a pair of scissors. He died at the scene. McDonald has been cooperative in custody – she flagged down the squad car that arrested her in front of Cub Foods – but has been portrayed as a criminal by the media. The Hennepin County Attorney has refused to address the assault of McDonald as a hate crime in spite of testimony that homophobia and transphobia were the motivation for the harassment that led to her self-defense.
On Monday McDonald was sentenced to three years for the crime of defending herself (Weirdly biased Star Tribune article here). It’s a travesty of justice because she didn’t start the argument that led to the conflict. She was a victim, harassed and struck with a bottle while walking to the grocery store. I live in this neighborhood and I have to walk by the Schooner every time I buy groceries – even I, a heterosexual white male, often walking with his children, am harassed an bothered, especially in the evening. I am often embarrassed in conversations about the case and about the Schooner when people say, “isn’t that your neighborhood?”
McDonald was smashed in the face with a bottle and had every right to defend herself. Isn’t that what the George Zimmerman people would say? She was not an instigator and has no past criminal record – CeCe McDonald does not deserve a prison sentence for defending herself.
While the nation has spent this past spring in discussion about the legitimacy of Florida’s reckless “stand your ground” law, Longfellow residents struggle with persistent problems. I wish I didn’t have to worry about my wife and children when they went out. As it is an ex-con with a swastika tattoo can threaten them or anyone else with hate-filled epithets and his friends can assault them. The only crime seems to be self-defense.
I don’t have a song that can go with this, which usually helps my more serious posts. I don’t have anything that can go with this. This is probably the worst post in Hymie’s blog history. I just believe that CeCe McDonald was targeted for violence because of who she was, and for the audacious crime of self-defense she will continue to suffer in a prison cell. The entire story makes me sick to my stomach.
I recognize we may lose some customers by supporting a transgender person of color, but I’m comfortable with that – we’re here regardless and going to a record store is always going to be fun, no matter who you are. Everyone should feel welcome coming here, just as everyone should feel welcome walking down the goddamn street.
In addition to her sentence, CeCe McDonald has been ordered to pay over $6000 in restitution – you can support her legal cause, if you feel so inclined, here.
You can contact the Hennepin County Attorney’s office at 612-348-5550. He might not hear the phone ring because his head is pretty far up his ass.