10 Dec

A little before 4am in the morning in the high summer of ’75 or thereabouts a lawyer got a call from an agent. Their client was in jail. It remains a mystery what the lawyer did exactly next, maybe went back to sleep. The agent did. 5.30am or thereabouts the agent gets another call, “Get me outta here. They’re treating me like a nigger!”

The client, a successful, instrumentalist, composer/arranger, had returned home with his lady and couldn’t get the door open. Known to be temperamental, he starts kicking the door in! Upstairs, someone calls the cops on assumption of burglary. No-one was going out to investigate, in New York 1971-1980 everyone was packing heat.

Packin’ heat! Packing heat? what a ’70s thing to say. These days it’s “strapped”. Efficient downsizing.

So the cops arrive and there’s an unlicensed .22 in the lady’s purse snuggled cozy with a voluptuous bag of coke. The idiot’d panicked, thrown it in the corner of the landing when the cops pulled up. It doesn’t fool the cops of course, in fact it makes ’em more suspicious, but it does give them a right to search they would not’ve had if she’d actually hung on to it. Or acknowledged ownership. The cops asked her, she “that ain’t mine.” Yeah right.

Busted! Weapons and possession.

What a palava, they hall ’em off. Weird outcome considering that the client, the famous and rich trompeteer, owned the bloody building!

Well it’s the next day and he still isn’t out. The lawyer gets stonewalled by the cops, see. They’ve been copping heaps, discourtesy of the African-American citizenry who thought they were gonna get some of the American Dream broken off for ’em finally – and it didn’t happen! So lots of dead cops and even more pissed-off ones still living. The guy’s guilty dead to rights, we got ’em. Who gives a fuck if he’s the great whoever. We won’t budge.

Well of course they budged and for how much who knows. Maybe it would’ve done the guy some good, jail. Lots of people think it. He’d been on top for years, strength to strength. But by the mid-70s his amazing trip across the sky was falling back to ground. His stuff was navel-gazing, drug-drenched self-indulgence based on ill-thought Black politics notions and muddled ethno-fascinations.

This was the New York of Serpico and Taxi Driver, of Shaft. A place where the hippie thing turned mean early and hung around like hash paste meshed into deep rug-pile with lashings of various party substances, food flakes and human secretions; wine, beer, whiskey, ash. This city was going broke, suffering the long goodbye of high inflation and rules-and-regulations about everything. Then it did go broke; the lights went out, garbage piled high on the streets.


And for Miles Davis by then the only major Jazz star left? The only one outside Los Vegas crooners who made a lot of money? He was lost in the same haze evoked by Exile On Main Street. and Pink Floyd albums post-Syd. But his superb way with brass tubing for making delicious sounds, his depth in music, were so well ingrained he could coast on ’em thru the disco fog, just having fun. He talked tough in interviews but got active mostly in discos. Waiting for the Revolution but until then “niggas will party and bullshit and party and bull-

Sometime in the 1980s he came back in outfits that make James Brown almost mute. He did Pop Music. Praised Lionel Ritchie and canned Wynton Marsalis. He played some music Prince sent him. Prince didn’t want it released. Shame. Shame about Hendrix and all that. Shame Bill Laswell didn’t get hold of it all. But mostly a shame that artists get so slovenly, still! and always in the same way for the same unreasons.



One Response to “THE LONG COME DOWN”

  1. John H. March 9, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    What is it with artists and drugs? I once saw in interview with Mark Knopfler where he was asked if there was a time he wasn’t stoned on pot. He replied, “well I have to sleep”. As Alan Watts once wrote: Who really listens to music these days except perhaps a few potheads. (Close to that, some paraphrasing on my part.)

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