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.
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.