Today is In Heart of the Beast‘s annual May Day Parade down Bloomington Avenue, which ends with a wonderful festival in Powderhorn Park. It is one of our favorite days of the year here in South Minneapolis.
We forgot to find a good May Day song this year, so here’s a fun one about dancing.
For starters, the Baltimore riot. And for good measure recent events from North Charleston, Ferguson, and Tulsa, where after restrained suspect Eric Courtney Harris was shot ‘by accident’ and said he couldn’t breath, the last words he heard on this Earth were “fuck your breath” — its harrowing footage to watch, especially considering the savage choking death of Eric Garner in Staten Island last summer for the crime of selling loose cigarettes.
The media has offered a tragically narrow view of the Baltimore riots, completely ignoring the crowds who showed up to help repair damages during the aftermath. CNN’s own coverage sure seems like its set to promote the same stereotypes the media pushed after the 1989 LA riots. Meanwhile, the “Black Lives Matter” movement has misdirected is passion to punish unrelated people. Whether their protest at the Mall of America last year ‘raised awareness’ is negligible, but whether it cost thousands of workers much of a much-need Saturday’s income is certain. There appears to be no leadership on this issue which public officials address with trepidation. There are enormous systemic problems and no one has the courage to acknowledge them.
The fact that the US Justice Department doesn’t track police shootings of civilians at as alarming as any other fact unearthed by recent events. A recent Washington State University study suggests police actually shoot white suspects with less hesitation, but the cruelty of police killings of black suspects is nothing short of a national disgrace — especially considering footage of officers not providing CPR or other care in South Carolina, Oklahoma and elsewhere. What have we become?
Unfortunately, the Justice Department largely has no interest in the subject, since local police usually handle inquiries into claims of an officer’s use of force, and the officer is rarely disciplined. Look at a recent case right here in St. Paul, in which Chris Lollie was followed and harassed by police while waiting for his children outside their pre-school in a skyway seating area:
His ‘crime’? Refusing to provide identification, even though there was no probable cause he’d committed a crime and therefore no cause for officers to ask for his identification, let alone follow him for several blocks. He was undeniably harassed for his race and innocent of any crime (it was a public area where First National Bank had previously encouraged everyone to “enjoy a seat”) — the video is especially upsetting to us because it happened so close to home.
What discipline did the officers who harassed and assaulted Chris Lollie recieve? None. Even though all charges against Lollie were dropped (you cannot ‘trespass’ on public property), they were exonerated by the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Commission in a decision announced last November.
This is the militarization of police we’ve allowed. Lollie was in the right: innocent of any crime and honestly passing time while waiting to pick up his kids at pre-school before being harassed, followed and tazed (this hurts a lot, by the way) not merely for his race but also the additional ‘crime’ of asserting his rights.
This is also the extent to which we pretend to not see communities within our country. For years we were told we’d win the “hearts and minds” of a country we occupied, while at the same time denying the own concern to our own citizens.
“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
We thought the Smart Alex single was the most interesting Record Store Day release this year, even though it wasn’t recognized on the major label-leaning official RSD list. The folks at Modern Radio Record Label released the rare 1979 local single, and barely got them back from the plant in time to deliver copies to stores around town. They also posted a history of the band, who helped Hüsker Dü get their first gig at the Longhorn had had the Replacements as an opening act, to name a few of its claims to legendary status.
Smart Alex will be playing a proper release show for the reissue on May 22nd at the fabulous Turf Club. Modern Radio only pressed a hundred copies, but they’ve saved a few. We have couple left in stock, too. The show should be a pretty awesome event.
We’ve been producing videos on our stage in the shop for a few years with help from Pabst Twin Cities, and this most recent one is our favorite yet. Maximumrockandroll named Mystery Date’s New Noir as its record of the week back in March, and we couldn’t have agreed more. Their album is a exhilarating combination of power pop and punk rock, but the trio doesn’t take its craft too seriously. They’re one of the most fun live acts in town, and three really great guys as well.
Elton John may have declared Saturday the night for fightin’ and Link Wray may have been ready to “Rumble,” but sure as red, white and blue the soundtrack to a bar fight is honky tonk country. And like all good country music, there’s a story in all the best bar fight songs.
Honky tonks have been a primary setting for country music since Hank Williams crooned “Honky Tonkin'” in 1948, and ground zero in the battle of the sexes ever since Kitty Wells’ responded to a Hank Thompson tune with “It Wasn’t God Who Made the Honky Tonk Angels” four years later.
Other country standards carry an implicit rowdy brawl — there’s no doubt, for instance, that Garth Brooks got his ass kicked after taking the groom’s glass and toasting his “friends in low places,” or that any of several Loretta Lynn hits (“Sweet Thang,”“Fist City,” etc) ended in anything short of a cat fight. Through all those years we were warned rap music would corrupt the youth of America country singers have been treating the tavern like a playground. You’re already familiar with the setting, so let’s introduce you to the redneck mother who’s going to kick your ass…
“Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” by Jerry Jeff Walker
Oklahoma native Ray Wylie Hubbard wrote “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother,” and chose the tune to open his second album — but it what made it a country standard was a rendition on Jerry Jeff Walker’s live album, A Man Must Carry On. Hubbard’s own explanation of the song’s origin, at a birthday celebration for Walker, is just as funny:
Johnny Paycheck ran into the redneck mother in “Colorado Kool-Aid,” a tune from his hit album Take This Job and Shove It. It was on the flip side of the title track’s hit single, reaching #50 on Billboard’s country singles chart all by itself in 1977. Nearly a decade later, Paycheck walked into the North High Lodge in Hillsboro, Ohio and got into a similar disagreement. This very real bar fight ended with the country singer shooting a .22 at a fan, grazing his head. Paycheck, who was quoted as saying “Do you see me as some kind of country hick?” before firing the gun, eventually served a small portion of his nine-year sentence before being pardoned.
“Colorado Koolaid” by Johnny Paycheck
One of the very best outlaw country tunes of the seventies was Charlie Daniels’ “Uneasy Rider,” which tells the story of a ‘cosmic hippy’ as described by Hubbard getting into a fight with rednecks in a Jackson, Mississippi bar after his car breaks down.
Daniels himself drifted to the right so strongly that his 1988 remake of “Uneasy Rider” is just about the opposite of the original song: the counter-culture is then represented with the same disdain Daniel’s had reserved for the rednecks of the Dew Drop Inn in 1973.
“Uneasy Rider” by Charlie Daniels
Bobby Weir introduces a novelty number on the Grateful Dead’s Reckoning by saying, “From a song about tragedy impending we’re going to move swiftly to a song about tragedy narrowly averted,” and that’s a fine description for this next song. Lynyrd Skynyrd is, of course, more southern rock than country music, but there are shades of Nashville in all of our favorite of their songs, including “Every Mother’s Son,” “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” and of course “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“Gimme Three Steps” is a song about a bar fight we can presume doesn’t happen.
“Gimme Three Steps” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
“The Winner” by Bobby Bare
What better way to end a playlist of bar fight songs than with “The Winner” by Bobby Bare, a song written by prolific poet Shel Silverstein? Bare’s 1976 album The Winner and Other Losers is best remembered for producing one of the clumsiest country hits, “Dropkick Me Jesus,” but we think of “The Winner” as its best song. And to bring today’s post full-circle, the other side of the single was Bare’s version of “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.”