Next week we’ll mark the fiftieth anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s tragic death. The occasion has inspired much speculation about alternate histories, but of course we cannot change the past.
Just a couple months earlier, Kennedy faced the unfortunate task of informing the crowd at a campaign rally of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. His speech in Indianapolis on April 4th was unscripted and heartfelt, and is regarded as one of the high points of those turbulent years when America, like today, seemed irreparably damaged and divided.
This speech has appeared on many albums over the years, but it is all the more moving in the news footage.
The latest album by Superchunk, What A Time To Be Alive, is by far their best since they returned from a long hiatus. Old fans like ourselves have enjoyed it as much as the folks who are just discovering the band.
They also have a history of great music videos (we couldn’t even choose a favorite). This is one of the videos from the new album.
The 2000 movie High Fidelity still comes up in conversation around here, and for many it seems to be the definitive big screen portrayal of life in a record store. We enjoy the movie and its very nice soundtrack, and we certainly get some smiles from the “Beta Band Effect” from time to time (what’s this?) but its not our favorite movie set in a record store.
Fish Story is a 2009 movie directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. It begins in a record store five hours before a comet is to destroy the Earth. Two young men are doing what we do here every day, nerding out about records, when a man comes in and asks, incredulous, “Why are you open?”
They ignore him and continue to discuss music, as the clerk introduces his friend to an obscure band called Gekirin. Their final recording, “Fish Story,” pre-dates punk rock, although it sounds suspiciously like “New Rose” by the Damned.
We follow the song backwards through history — witnessing moments of heroism and terror, before finally meeting Gekirin in 1975 and learning how they came to record “Fish Story,” based on a mis-translated poem.
There is a scene in another movie, Almost Famous, when Jason Lee claims that rock and roll will save the world. It’s the kind of hyperbolic statement often associated with pop music’s need to justify itself, not so different from the way we feel about some of our favorite records. “This is important,” we tell ourselves, even though we know well that in the big picture our records are inconsequential at best.
Fish Story is about those dreams, and how one of our records might save the world.
The Feminine Complex was a short-lived garage band from Nashville. By the time their only album was released on the likewise soon-to-expire Athena Records, the band had broken up. Four of the five women in the group were high school basketball teammates, and they took the team’s name, the Pivots, for their first performance at a talent show.
Their album, Livin’ Love, clearly draws on Nashville’s stable of session musicians on some tracks, such as “Don’t Want Another Man,” below. Three singles were released from the album and sold well regionally. The band also became a regular at Nashville’s Skateland, which was probably as awesome as it sounds.
Demo recordings of the original band from 1968 were included in a 90s reissue of the album on Teenbeat Records, and a collection of more demos and live recordings followed. These are all believed by some to be a hoax, actually just a new band on the ‘lost tapes.’
Many all-female bands from the 60s have been re-discovered by various archival labels in this era of reissues. Last year Sundazed Records released an album of recordings by the Pleasure Seekers, a band best known as the starting point for Suzie Quatro and her sister Patti Quatro (later of Fanny). Their two singles are sought-after rarities because they’re considered some of the best female garage rock recordings of the era.
There were female garage bands all over the world! Argentina had Las Mosquitas and Japan’s Tokyo Happy Coats were said to play between them more than twenty instruments. Another Japanese band, Dorothy and the Vampires is the very definition of awesome even though we can’t understand a word of this single (here).
Dara Puspita from Indonesia suffered under the repressive Sukarno regime and ultimately relocated to Thailand. The band recorded four albums, the first of which you can hear through the magic of Youtube.
In Norway there was a trio called the Dandy Girls who recorded an instrumental jam called “To You,” and in New Zealand there was a quartet called the Fair Sect who released four singles. Their drummer Norma Stacy was also the lead singer. On their second single, a cover of “I Love How You Love Me,” she sang and a dude was brought in to play the drums, as well as his brother-in-law who added the track’s distinctive bagpipes.
The United States led the world in female bands, of course, as we do in all things rock and roll. From Fulda, Minnesota (that’s down in the southwest) there was the Continental Co-Ets. They released a single on the IGL label and have been the subject of stories on MRP and in the City Pages.
John Coltrane’s “Reverend King” was recorded in February 1966, just a few weeks after Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his family had moved into their 1550 South Hamlin Avenue apartment in Chicago, to begin working on the Open Housing campaign.
The recording was released posthumously in late January 1968 on Cosmic Music, one of the first two LPs his label, Impulse Records, pulled from unissued recordings after Coltrane’s death. Eventually there would eight albums in all — plus many live recordings — found in the archives. Fans have mixed reactions to some of these recordings, but “Reverend King” is surely an excellent example of Coltrane’s last group at work. This band featured his wife, Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Jimmy Garrison, Rashid Ali, and on “Reverend King” additional percussionists Ray Appleton and Ben Reilly.
At the time the recording was released on Cosmic Music, Reverend King had recently announced the Poor People’s Campaign, with a focus on pushing Congress to pass a economic bill of rights” for working people, as outlined in his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
The campaign’s broad agenda was not received well by many of The Reverend King’s dearest supporters, notably Bayard Rustin. Five years earlier Rustin had been the primary logistical organizer of the 1963 march in Washington DC at which Reverend King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
After Reverend King’s assassination on April 4th, thousands of demonstrators established a symbolic shanty town at the National Mall where he had delivered this famous address. The encampment was called “Resurrection City” and remained for nearly six weeks.
“Reverend King” was not the first piece of music in which Coltrane expressed the inspiration he felt for the Civil Rights leader. He modeled one of his most moving songs, “Alabama,” on Reverend King’s eulogy for the four victims of the September 15, 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church.
Reverend King’s eulogy for Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carol Denise McNair was delivered three days later, and is a deeply moving and spiritual address, which does not shy from the political situation which led to the terrible terrorist attack. A funeral for the fourth girl, Carole Robertson, was held on a different date.
(we posted an alternate version of Coltrane’s “Alabama” here). There is no account of John Coltrane having met the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. or having been present to hear him speak. His views on politics and the Civil Rights movement we know mostly through the universalist spiritual liner notes he wrote for A Love Supreme and Meditations.
Thank to all reading. We hope you take an interest in these recordings because the goals of racial and economic equality outlined by Reverend King in these speeches and in his last book are still within our reach, if a little further down the road than they were on this day last year.
We also hope you stay warm on this snowy day here in Minneapolis and do not forget those around us who struggle for safety and shelter in this weather.
Oh, and your friendly neighborhood record shop will be open from 1-6pm on this national holiday.
Before their exciting rise to television stardom, our friends The Cactus Blossoms held down Monday nights at the Turf Club with a residency that became the place for local fans of country music to connect. With a ‘who’s who’ band of top talent, honed a live set that they have since taken around the world.
They’re returning to their Turf Club Mondays, but only for this month. Charlie Parr and Andrew Broder are also taking on January residencies at the midway “remnant of the 40s.” They have special guests planned which includes ourselves, who will be back to DJ rockabilly and country singles on the 15th.
While their first two discs — including 2013’s Live at the Turf Club — are out of print and unlikely to return, fans can expect to hear some songs from them, as well as their debut LP for Red House Records, You’re Dreaming.
Here’s that performance of “Mississippi” from the new Twin Peaks series which won the duo countless new fans and accolades.