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27 Mar


It means nothin’ ‘less it swings somethin’.



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.



5 Dec


When you open it to speak, are you smart?


2 Dec


“I’m such a coward”. This was Neil talking. Good old reliable Neil. Reliable everywhere except in the workplace. His mind wanders, that’s what he’s like. What can you do? I’ve been his friend now almost ten years. That makes him a lifer from my point of view.

So anyway, Neil says he’s a coward. And I ask him why.

“There’s a chick, I want to tell her how I feel,” Neil shrugs, “but I don’t. Cowardly yeah?”

“I dunno, maybe.” says me. Always the fence-sitter.

“I’ve been faithful to her a whole year now and she doesn’t even know I exist.”

“She doesn’t know you?” I ask. Neil’s a romantic suck so it’s possible, but a year?

“Aww she knows me,” Neil shrugs a lot. “We’ve spoken, but just when I think we’ve connected just a bit she cold-shoulders me. ”

“Sounds like a bitch” I say, ready to jump down off the fence on the side of ‘forget it’. Josie walks past and I ask her real nice to deliver the next round even tho’ the place is bar service. She’s a good sport Josie. Neil grabs my fags and lights one. He never asks, doesn’t have to. We’re filling up the ashtray.

“Aww no she’s not,” Neil’s inevitible defense on que. “I’m not expressing myself correctly. She’s got things on her mind and she’s never given me reason to expect anything. I just can’t get her off the brain, yeah?”

“Yeah” says I, “I know that feeling.”

“Yeah.” It’s time for me to shut-up now.. “Yeah I got that feeling and I can’t shake it. I’ve tried you know. Truly. But she always there like a cello inside. Except when I see her then it’s all horns and string sections and wailing fucking guitars for a month. Then it cools down. It’s… not diluted. No, it never dilutes. It’s just that it’s like the volume goes down. But every fucking day I get up and she’s there and then I feel like shit ’cause she’s not actually there and I don’t know where she is or when I’ll see her again.”

Josie arrived with the Cooper’s Green looking stuff from some East Gippsland cottage brewery. The stuff’s cloudier with chunks of something that for some strange reason says ‘healthy and wholesome’ to us toxic waste dumps in Brunswick.

“So you got the double blues.”, I prompt.

“Double blues? Yeah.”, he laughs, “I’ve always got the first kind.”

The one thing that renders Neil inarticulate is his own feelings. You’ve got to be patient. So I upend the bottle a bit and check out the heads in the garden in these early days of the short hot summer. Neil starts up after a few minutes looking at the bottom of his glass for the cure that doesn’t exist.

“Double blues. Fuck! I dunno. I wake up, I think about her. When I go to sleep, same thing. Sometimes I’m high as a kite in a hurricane and twice as flakey. Off in La-di-da’s ville. Other times I’m a sorry dog kicking about lost in the bush and hungry. Most times I’m like that. So I stay out of her way and the volume goes down. I want it just to fade away and I don’t want it to fade away just as bad.”

“Yep that’s love,” I say. “The real deal.”

“You think?”

“Oh sure, love is when it hurts man. That’s how you tell.” I drink, a bit adding, “run a mile.”

“Such a hard-boiled dude,” Neil shakes his head at my cynicism. As always.

“Ever listen to Blood On The Tracks?” I ask, getting ready to be Socratic.

“Not sure.”

“Dylan’s ’70s comeback record. He split up with his wife. The album’s tough ramblin’ man music but underneath all that he’s shattered. He really thought she was the one, wakes up one day and she can’t follow him anymore. I mean the guy’s pretty hard to follow right? Everything he says or sings makes sense and doesn’t at the same time. Imagine living with it? Anyway so he’s broken up about his kaput marriage and still, all the fucking time, he’s full of this guff ’bout how it really is true love and that it will never die. He’s driving her out of the place. At the same time he doesn’t want her to go. Crazy man. That’s love. Run a mile.”

“What’s that got to do with the fact that you’re a heartless bastard?”

“I’m not a heartless bastard”, I jump right in. “I’m actually the opposite. Listen to Blood On The Tracks and you hear someone a lot more heartless than I ever could be. He goes thru all that what happens? He records his comeback, Dylan’s great again. The poet laureate of pothead bullshit. He goes right on with it. If I actually let true love in and it did that to me I’d be wrecked for the rest of my life. I’d spend it dribbling on my shirt.”

“And what’s that got to do with me?”

“Maybe nothing,” I’m the one shrugging now. “You’ve got feelings. They’re real and you can’t tell this chick how it is. Why not?”

“It doesn’t feel right. I get close and then she does something, she doesn’t even know she’s doing it. But it makes me feel like I’m hassling her.”

“She’s been fucked over?”

“Dunno. Maybe, I think so sometimes,” another pause while he looks for the cure over at a table full of girls. “I don’t ask to many personal questions. She doesn’t like it. It’s hard work getting to know her and I still don’t. I could still find out something that totally turns me off but every time it comes to that she says something that just too perfect and I sink deeper.”

“Faithful for a year?”

“Yeah! No shit. I’ve had these opportunities and I can’t do anything about them. I even get all determined to be unfaithful because, y’know, this chick and I aren’t even really friends. She has no hold on me. But when I get started to do that, something just says forget it. I can’t do it. I’m not interested in anyone else. I just have that..” He trails off and we finish the bottles off thru another long pause. “It goes around and around like a god damn rollercoaster up and down and down. And I swear off seeing her. And then I see her and I’m going up again.”

“No willpower.”

“It’s not that man. I do stay out of her way and then she runs right into me! Bang. It’s fucked to because it always happens in a way that’s accidental. She never actually specifically comes over to say hi or anything. I don’t even know if she likes me.”

“She must if she keeps talking to you.”

“Yeah I get that feeling and then the cold wind blows down from Mt Ambivalence and I feel like the title character in Creep: The Movie.”

“Maybe you should write her a letter.”

“I tried. Can’t find the words. The exact right words. I’m afraid of being misunderstood. I’ll probably write some kind of story putting my feelings into the mouth a phony character who’s me and not me.”

There’s a long pause and I smile as Josie comes past and wonder what my chances are tonight. I’m not faithful to anybody. Neil just smiles and smokes and after a while he sighs of course.

“I’m such a coward.”

Concludes next week


15 Oct

…is music? The manipulation of the frequencies of sound wave to achieve pitch; the use of the instinctive sense of time. Time. Time was… time will be.

Mixed with poetry, music can tell you the truth, the whole truth and more besides the truth. Music can gift you the lies you need to get thru the day. Most often: the lie that tells you love is returned by s/he that inspires it in you.  Also the lie that tell you you’re one of the lucky few whose life is not meaningless, mundane, brutal or even horrific. We in the modern world do not see brutal or horrific very often. You have to be unlucky. “Ahead of me ran Jackson, who took a bullet to the chest” unlucky. First thing Monday morning face-to-face with a post-modern Viking flogging a woman, unlucky.

Lucky, unlucky. Music inspires you to keep going.

Think of it? Four centuries of hard/nothing life; speaking your master’s tongue. Worshiping your master’s gods but singing your music so you can just keep going: the species, the family, the clan, the race, the horde, the tribe, the nation. It’s very strong in us – identity thru the group and always expressed in music. If there’s no music there’s no true group.

Listen to a people’s music and you will know if they’re happy or unhappy. Ready for war, making mad love or totally lost the plot. There’s an ironic counter-point sometimes:

To The Gaels of Ireland
The Men that God made mad
For all their wars are merry
And all their songs are sad

And now, in the age of digital reproduction, it’s anyone’s who wants it. In fact it’s everywhere:

We just don’t hear it ’cause we’ve heard it too often. And also apologies to anyone who hates the Bee Gees.


6 Oct


I can sit here in Melbourne, Australia and listen to the police scanner in San Francisco, Bartok Radio live from Hungary, Samurai.Fm Tokyo or Mix 94.5 classic FM in Perth. It’s 8am there and they’re crossing live to Delhi but first some corporate rock schlock with all the spirit and spontaneity of a Big Meal Deal 3.30, Saturday morning. That lasts about thirty seconds. Now it’s Jimmy Buffett’s Radio Margarettville from Louisiana. That’s the stuff. No programmed playlists, no crossing live somewhere. No songs that originate in a boardroom, recorded by people with a closet full of black turtleneck sweaters whose lives revolve around such existential dilemmas as: Sautéed Bronzino with Manila Clams at Mario Batali’s. Still a good look for lunch?

Europe is colonized by America, America is colonized by itself. For something different tune in to Radio Happy Hour 106.5 in Beijing. El Fonfografo 790 from Mexico City. Radio Horytna in Cairo. DeathMetal FM from everywhere. Cuba’s only got two stations. Try Radio Progreso, the other one’s just yakety yak. Embargoes and dictatorship haven’t prevented hip-hop from reaching that island. I have no idea what they’re saying. So?

At modulation frequency 94.5 in Louisiana listen to KRUF, the Big Dog Top 40. Eat at Hanks. In Greece, the same place on the dial gets you Radio Eprius, local music. Chat live. Turn it down a little in Tenerife, Spain and you get QFM 94.3: Blues and Jazz. Get the video-clip, get the album cover. Radio’s not dead, these days it comes with screens:



1 Oct


From Matt Deegan, check him out

The internet is sooooo cool man. Dig it. I’m plugged into Barcelona, live. It’s iCatlive, jazz supposedly. Well it ain’t jazz but it’s music, eclectic stuff. Right now: 50s rock n’ roll, before something Catalan that swung, before that contemporary country-rock. I’m not enthusiastic about the genre but whatever it was, it was fine. I’m bopping in my chair: Go, go-go-go. Jim Daddy!

Before that I was plugged into the FM Cheese, Houston, Texas. Mexican-American accents homogenized to Middle America’s tastes: smooth and bland with just a hint of Iberian lilt. I tried to get Iowa but no. Tried to 4ZZZ in Brizvegas, no. I remember my dad had a shortwave radio, he’d pick up the BBC in north-west Pakistan. The series of electronic bleeps announcing the BBC News is one of my core sounds. I wonder. Do they still use it? During monsoon season the radio conked out, I remember the hiss and whine of radio waves scrambled by furious nature. This wouldn’t happen now. No storm’s wild enough to destroy the ocean floor cables that beam me over to Barcelona.

Now they’re playing something I know: “Tom’s Diner” remixed by DNA. I’m not wild about Vega but I like this song and there’s some strange new comfort to be had in sharing the soft hip hop bop with people who live on the edge of the Mediterranean on the other side of the Earth. What time is it there?

Now Lily Allen? I’ve been listening half an hour and they’ve played two songs in Catalan? What gives? What about they’re own culture. Lily Allen? I reckon she’s… okay. The verses to “The Fear” were great but I guess when it came time for a chorus, well, the club was open and the cool DJs were on in a minute.

Ah Spanish again. Sounds like American Spanish. Mexico maybe but not Catalan. I’m beginning to tell the difference. Catalan is… well I’m not good enough to put it into words, I just got started. Now some Neo-Punk from America again. Arrrgggh. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good stuff. Better than the average Aussie playlist but really? I don’t know how many radio stations there are in Barcelona but the internet’s cheap. If ZZZ can afford to broadcast online anyone can. Almost anyone can. If you live in the modern world that is. A hundred million broadcasters available everywhere all the time. All this monkey chatter, but all the music.

I want to get into Barcelona’s underground. I want to find Barcelona’s Triple Z. I don’t care what they play: something local, international, traditional, electronic: hiphoprocktechnocountrysoul. None of the above? (I hope.) But I give’s not a shite laddie. I just want it. I’ve a feeling whatever it is, it’ll be good.