Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cypress Hill -- "Insane in the Brain" (1993)

Like Louie Armstrong
Played the trumpet
I'll hit dat bong and break ya off something soon
I got to get my props
Come and try to snatch my crops
These pigs wanna blow my house down
Insane in the membrane
Insane in the brain!

So how did you like part one of Linda's Limp Bizkit concert saga?  Quite a little surprise at the end, wasn't there?  But fortunately, everything came out all right, didn't it!  (Click here if you haven't read part one yet.)

We'll pick up the story where we left off.  With no further ado:

It's Fred Durst, dude!
Not long after we got back to our spot in line, the doors to the venue opened and the line started moving.  We made it inside, got our tickets and wristbands and headed back out to the van.  There was now a bus parked right outside.  We looked over at it and Fred Durst was standing at the open bus door, waving and smiling at all of us as we walked by.  Did that ever crank up the excitement level!
After a long nap and very little to drink -- I had learned my lesson -- we drove back to Memorial Hall that night for the show.  When I showed the guy at the door my ticket, he asked if I’d like some earplugs.  I remember rather haughtily informing him that I’d been to plenty of rock concerts and could handle it.  [Editor's note:  click here to read about one of the concerts "Linda" had attended many years earlier.]  Once I walked in and looked at the stage, I knew I’d probably made a big mistake in refusing the earplugs. 
There was literally a wall of Marshalls stacked to the ceiling across the entire width of the stage.  [Editor's note: Marshall is a famous British manufacturer of guitar amplifiers and speakers.  One of the company's early customers was the Who.  Pete Townshend said he used Marshalls so he could be heard over bassist John Entwhistle, who used Marshalls so he could be heard over drummer Keith Moon.] 

Stacked Marshall speaker cabinets
The front of the stage was screened off by a 20 foot chain-link fence.  I later read that Fred had stolen the fence idea from a Ministry show he’d attended.  He thought it was a cool way for the fans to get close to him without having to worry about being hurt by them.  
The floor seats had been removed to accommodate the mosh pit.  No, I did not head for the mosh pit, nor did I allow my son in there, either.  Instead, we found good seats at one side of the floor with a great view of the stage.
It's B-Real, dude!
Cypress Hill played first. I knew very little about them except that their main rapper was named B-Real.  Mr. B-Real proceeded to light up and smoke a joint the size of a rolled-up morning newspaper throughout their entire set. 
The mosh pit was full of thrashing bodies – not surprisingly, almost all teenage males.  I never felt threatened or even uneasy, but I was very happy to be sitting at the side of the floor area.  The kids in the pit did get more and more, shall we say, enthusiastic as the concert went on.  There were a few shoving matches but those were quickly squelched by the security personnel.
When Cyprus Hill finished their set, the lights came up and the curtain went down so the roadies could set up for Limp Bizkit.
A sweet-faced young man of about 18 was sitting on the other side of my son.  He proceeded to take out a joint, light it up and smoke it.  After a minute or two, it was if he suddenly remembered his manners and he graciously offered it to my son.  My son just shook his head.  I wanted to yell at this kid, “Excuse me, I know my son is 6 feet tall and wears a size 13 shoe, but he’s only 14!  And, oh, by the way, did you not notice that HIS MOTHER is sitting right beside him, YOU MORON?!?”
But there was no time to dwell on the den of depravity I had allowed my son to enter.  The lights went down, the curtain went up and there was Fred Durst, center-stage, in all his backward red baseball cap glory.  Music exploded from the Marshalls, Fred began to rap and, as they say, the crowd went wild.  The mass of bodies in the mosh pit collectively pushed toward the stage and I could see why the fence was there. 
That mosh pit is gnarly, dude!
Limp Bizkit’s music is, for the most part, aggressive and loud (very!) and that, combined with Fred’s swaggering, cocky stage presence, tended to incite their audiences to respond somewhat aggressively.  Every few minutes, someone would rush the stage and try to jump onto the fence.  The security people allowed this occasionally, but kept the crowd well under control.
About 15  seconds into the first song, I was completely regretting my decision to refuse the earplugs.  I had been to many, many concerts and feeling the beat of the music physically assault your body was always an integral part of the concert experience.  But this. . .this was eardrum-shattering, blood-pouring-out-of-your-head (figuratively, thank goodness!) LOUD.
By now, I was feeling extremely guilty about exposing my child to all the drug use, the profanity and the possible permanent hearing loss.  After all, parents are supposed to protect their children from the bad stuff in life and here I had willingly taken him right into this.
As it turned out, Limp Bizkit caused no undue harm to my son.  His exposure to Fred Durst and his music didn’t result in a life of drug addiction or depravity. 
On the other hand, I was nearly stone deaf for three days after the concert and to this day, still have a lingering fear of drinking too much coffee before getting into a car.

Thanks for a great post, Linda -- I'm looking forward to your next one.  And if you run out of good concert stories, just make up some more.  At least half my stuff is made up.  Like my hot (age-adjusted) French girlfriend, for example.  (You never know who's reading this thing, do you?)

Here's the official "Insane in the Brain" video, which was a #1 rap hit for Cypress Hill in 1993, and which crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it reached #19.  I find it an absolutely irresistible song:

Here's a link to use to buy the song from Amazon:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Limp Bizkit -- "Break Stuff" (2000)

It's just one of those days
When you don't wanna wake up
Everything is f*cked
Everybody sucks!
It's a very, VERY special "2 or 3 lines," boys and girls.  Our newly-appointed Chief Executive Senior Contributing Editor -- let's call her "Linda," since that is her name -- is back with another shocking tale about one of the many rock concerts she has attended.

As you may recall, "Linda" wrote previously about attending a Black Sabbath concert at the legendary Fillmore East in New York City in 1971.  (Click here if you haven't read this masterpiece.)  I am anointing her with this rather extravagant title because (1) she has provided me with more free content than my other guest writers, and (2) she is a girl, and "2 or 3 lines" likes girls better than boys.

Today's post is about a 2000 Limp Bizkit concert in Kansas City that "Linda" attended along with her 14-year-old son.  Many of you are no doubt muttering to yourselves that she deserved to have him taken away from her and put in foster care, but let's remember Matthew 7:1 -- "Judge not, that ye be not judged."   

Without further ado . . . take it away, new Chief Executive Senior Contributing Editor!
Limp Bizkit was a rap metal band formed in Jacksonville Florida in 1994 by vocalist Fred Durst and his friend, bassist Sam Rivers.  The band also included River’s cousin John Otto on drums, guitarist Wes Borland and DJ Lethal on turntables. 
Fred Durst
Fred’s day job was as a tattoo artist.  He once gave a tattoo to Fieldy, a member of Korn (an already well-established rap metal band in the mid-1990s) when they were playing a show in Jacksonville.  Fred gave his band’s demo tape to Fieldy who was initially unimpressed, but a second, significantly better demo was well liked by all of Korn, so they passed it on to their record label.
Limp Bizkit’s first album wasn’t particularly successful, but they toured constantly and eventually ended up playing on the Family Values Tour & Ozzfest in the late 1990's.  Their fan base grew rapidly and when their second album, Significant Other, was released in 1999, it debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.  It was nominated for and won several major awards and eventually sold 16 million copies worldwide.
With song titles like “Nookie” and “Break Stuff,” is it any wonder that Limp Bizkit grabbed the attention of teenage males everywhere? 
In spite of his sometimes doofus behavior, Fred Durst was actually a fairly astute businessman and most definitely a master of self-promotion.  He was named a vice-president at Interscope, his record label.
Fred became almost as well-known for his numerous headline-grabbing feuds with various other artists – including Eminem, Scott Stapp of Creed and pop princesses Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera – as he was for his band’s music.  Britney later admitted, though, to a short-lived and much-regretted liaison with Fred during a studio collaboration.  There’s just no accounting for taste.  (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether I’m referring to Fred or Britney.)

It was into this three-ring circus atmosphere that Fred dropped the idea of a free tour to take place in the summer of 2000.  [Editor's note: Fred announced this tour exactly 11 years ago today -- January 29, 2000.]  Fred was an outspoken proponent of Napster, the controversial music file-sharing company, which agreed to sponsor and foot the bill for the concerts.  Cypress Hill, a Latino hip-hop/rap group from Southern California, was asked to open the shows. 
Napster logo
Fred stated that the free shows were Limp Bizkit’s way of paying back their U.S. fans.  Of course, with a new album set to come out in the fall of 2000, what better way to stir up excitement and anticipation over its release?
The “Back To Basics Tour” free shows were announced only a couple of days before they would take place.  The venues were small and tickets were first-come, first-served.  So once the date and place for the next show was made public, throngs of Bizkit fans would descend on the venue the night before and stand in line to receive a ticket and wristband the next morning. 
When one of the free shows was (surprisingly, to me) announced for Kansas City, my 14 year-old son – a die-hard Bizkit fan—begged to go.  Caring, indulgent parent that I am, I said “okay, sure,” not having any idea what I was getting myself into.  I just knew that it was unbelievably important, at the time, to my son. 
On the morning that tickets were to be given out, I dragged myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 3:00 am and got in our minivan to drive my son and I to Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas.  I took along a huge insulated coffee mug, filled to the brim, and drank it on the way there to get myself fully awake.

Memorial Hall in Kansas City
Memorial Hall is a 3500-seat venue that was built in 1925.  Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, R.E.M. and U2 have all played there.  Patsy Cline's last concert was there on March 3, 1963 -- two days before her death. 
When we arrived, the grounds around Memorial Hall looked like a mini-Woodstock, except without the mud.  Hundreds of people had camped out overnight in tents in order to get a good spot in the line for tickets.

I parked the “Black Beauty” (my suburban soccer-mom 1993 Nissan Quest minivan that looked extremely out of place in such a setting) and we took a place in line.  There was a young man in line near us who was a dead ringer for Fred Durst, except without Fred’s ubiquitous red baseball cap.  

There was a lot of whispered discussion about whether Fred was actually in our midst.  He wasn’t, but the young man was certainly enjoying all the attention, especially from the girls.
I was one of only a handful of parents there, but I did have the presence of mind to know that I wasn’t going to turn my 14 year-old loose by himself at something like that.  The line continued to snake around the building and by sun-up there were thousands of people there.  There was definitely a party atmosphere, but for the most part, the crowd was orderly and pretty mellow (owing quite possibly to the pot that permeated the already hot, humid Midwestern summer air).  The concert promoters had thoughtfully provided bottles of cold water for everyone, so those helped to cool everyone off a little.
(You're lucky -- I could have used
a much worse picture than this one)
About now, the coffee and water I had consumed had unfortunately run their course and I desperately needed to find a “facility.”  The venue doors were locked, which left the set of of disgusting looking porta-potties right in the middle of the crowd.  No way!  But I couldn’t risk driving anywhere because the line might start moving at any moment.
Fred Durst’s doppelganger graciously agreed to hold our place in line for a few minutes, so we walked (actually, I was hobbling by now) back to the van and got in, trying to come up with any possible solution for my now extremely urgent problem.  

The big, empty coffee mug that I had tossed into the back seat when we arrived caught my eye.  Thankfully, the van's windows were deeply tinted and no one was anywhere close to the van.  My son got out of the van and stood guard, just in case someone walked nearby.  You’ll have to use your imagination for the rest of the details, although I’m sure that won’t be difficult!
I think this is a good place to take a break -- maybe you too need to visit the nearest  bathroom or go find a big coffee mug.  I promise you won't have to wait long for the rest of the story.

Here's the official music video for "Break Stuff," which was named "Best Rock Video of 2000" by MTV.  (As you'll probably notice, the lyrics have been thoroughly censored.)  The video includes cameos by Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Pauly Shore (one of the least funny comedians in history), and many others.

Here's a video of Limp Bizkit performing "Break Stuff" at Woodstock 1999.  This recording was definitely NOT censored.

Here's a link to use to buy "Break Stuff" (the explicit version OF COURSE) from Amazon:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lil Wayne -- "6 Foot 7 Foot" (2010)

Young Money, Cash Money,
Paper chasin', tell that paper,
"Look, I'm right behind ya"
Bitch, real G's move in silence 
Like lasagna

Lil Wayne
I recently received an e-mail from a loyal "2 or 3 lines" reader, who was concerned about her daughter's obsession with rapper Dwayne Carter -- who is better known by his stage name, "Lil Wayne."

Actually, I received the e-mail sometime ago, but I am a very busy man, what with my high-powered Washington legal career, and my many children (none of whom have moved out of my house for good, even though they are almost in their thirties), and my hot (age-adjusted) French girlfriend, and most of all the burgeoning "2 or 3 lines" family of wildly popular blogs, which require considerable attention from their creator.

So while I love all the little people who read my blogs -- I honestly, truly do! -- and wish I had the time to respond to all their many questions and requests for autographed pictures, I really don't.  But I'm making an exception here.

Here is the reader e-mail:
I checked out [which is "The Official Rap Lyrics Interpretation Website of 2 or 3 Lines"]. . . . I made the mistake of checking out the lyrics to one of Lil Wayne's songs (I use the term "song" very loosely, in his case).  What a misogynistic jerk.  It aggravates me that [my daughter] is a fan of his.  Maybe that's the point, but I was hoping she was past that.

I am fascinated by rap music (or hip-hop, if you prefer), and currently listen to little else on the radio.  I'm accumulating a lot of new and classic rap songs on iTunes (thanks to my local public library, which really shouldn't be spending its money on this kind of stuff, but as long as it does I figure I might as well take advantage of it), and trying to expand my knowledge of the genre, which I will freely admit is quite limited.

A young Pynchon
But one thing I am sure of is that Lil Wayne is a brilliant rapper whose lyrics are just as complex and multilayered and full of clever wordplay as anything James Joyce or Thomas Pynchon ever wrote, and just about as difficult to decipher.  That's why I regularly turn to for help.

As for the claim that Lil Wayne is a misogynist, OF COURSE HE IS.  (He uses bad language, too.  Imagine that.) 

Let's not forget that popular music has a long history of misogyny.

I happen to know that the author of the e-mail quoted above is a fan of "classic rock," which can be very misogynistic.  For example, consider the Rod Stewart classic, "Stay With Me":

In the morning 
Don't say you love me 
Cause I'll only kick you out of the door
Won't need too much persuading
I don't mean to sound degrading
But with a face like that 
You got nothing to laugh about

And then there's the Rolling Stones.  I could spend all day quoting misogynistic lyrics from Mick and Keith and the boys, but I'll limit myself to just two examples.

First, from "Stupid Girl":

I'm not talking about the kind of clothes she wears 
Look at that stupid girl 
I'm not talking about the way she combs her hair 
Look at that stupid girl 
The way she powders her nose 
Her vanity shows and it shows 
She's the worst thing in this world 
Well, look at that stupid girl 
I'm not talking about the way she digs for gold 
Look at that stupid girl, etc. etc.

Second, from "Under My Thumb":

Under my thumb 
The squirmin' dog who's just had her day 
Under my thumb 
A girl who has just changed her ways
It's down to me
The way she does just what she's told 
Down to me, the change has come 
She's under my thumb 
Under my thumb 
A Siamese cat of a girl 
Under my thumb 
She's the sweetest pet in the world 
It's down to me 
The way she talks when she's spoken to 
Down to me, the change has come, 
She's under my thumb 
If you compare Lil Wayne's lyrics to those, does he really look so bad?  Actually, he looks much worse -- he really lets women have it.

But I have a feeling the Rolling Stones of 30+ years ago would have been just as bad as the Lil Wayne of today if they could have gotten away with it.  (I remember when a lot of radio stations wouldn't play "Let's Spend the Night Together.") 

Lil Wayne's "6 Foot 7 Foot" was released only last month, and is the first single he recorded after his release from prison on a gun possession conviction.  That's a good example of a malum prohibitum rather than a malum in se.  (If you've been to law school, or even if you've just seen the new version of True Grit, you'll know what I mean.)   

The song samples from the old Harry Belafonte song, "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)," which is a good example of just how imaginative Lil Wayne is.  I would have never thought to build a hip-hop song around a sample from a crazy old song like that one -- would you?

Nicki Minaj!
This song is pretty remarkable, even though it does not feature Nicki Minaj.  (Don't worry, I'm planning to feature some prime Nicki Minaj material in future posts -- they'll be more Lil Wayne as well.)

I'm not going to go through all of the lyrics to "6 Foot 7 Foot" -- I suggest you consult "Rap Genius" for a detailed explanation of the entire song.  ("6 Foot 7 Foot" has about 80 lines, and essentially no repetition.  Compare that to most popular songs.  I doubt that "Going Down," the blues-rock song featured in my previous post, has 80 words.)  But I will touch on the few lines quoted above to illustrate how Lil Wayne's mind works.

First, Young Money and Cash Money are two record labels that Lil Wayne is associated with.  

Next, "paper" is a synonym for money, so "paper chasin'" means trying to make money, and Lil Wayne is so successful that he is "right behind" loads of money.  (I doubt that Lil Wayne was referring to the 1970 novel -- which later became a movie and a TV series -- "Paper Chase," which was about Harvard Law School students desperately chasing good grades.  Ultimately, maybe that novel/movie/TV series was about trying to make money, too.)

"G" is shorthand for a thousand dollars -- also for "gangsta."  But the "G's move in silence like lasagna" puzzled me, however, so I asked Mahbod Moghadam of "Rap Genius" (assalamu alaykum, my brother!) for a little help.  Here's what he had to say:

The G Heard Round The World: "Real G's Move In Silence Like Lasagna."
Lil Wayne's first single off the forthcoming Carter IV [album] is, without a doubt, a display of lyrical mastery.
But one line stumped even rhyme cognoscienti.
I bet when you first heard this you were like: “WTF is silent about lasagna? Wayne is a moron!” Or you felt like ?uestlove from The Roots and thought: "Is there some pop culture reference I'm not getting?  Am I getting old?" 
When you pronounce “lasagna”, the "G" is silent (in English phonology; in Italian, however, the “GN” sound is similar to the “ñ” in Spanish).
Mahbod's e-mail closed with a fabulous non sequitur:

Furthermore, Garfield the Cat’s favorite food is lasagna (he likes to sneak up on it due to his predatory instincts).
But back to the "silent G" issue.  Lil Wayne's line has engendered quite a bit of controversy.  (Just Google "Is the g in lasagna silent?" and you'll see what I mean.)  The "G" in lasagna does affect the pronunciation of the word, but it isn't pronounced as a "G."  So is the "G" silent?

It appears that most experts who have opined on the question agree with Lil Wayne, but opinion is far from unanimous.

What is clear is that Lil Wayne -- with his tattoos, and prison sentences, and misogynist lyrics -- could be cited as "Exhibit A" in support of something a critic recently said:  "The toughest, coolest, most dangerous-seeming MCs [i.e., rappers] are, at heart, basically just enormous language dorks."  

Here's "6 Foot 7 Foot," with lyrics superimposed on the screen.  (WARNING:  very explicit lyrics, so view at your own risk!)

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from iTunes:

6 Foot 7 Foot (feat. Cory Gunz) - 6 Foot 7 Foot (feat. Cory Gunz) - Single

Here's a link you can use to buy it from Amazon:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Freddie King -- "Going Down" (1971)

I'm goin' down
Down, down, down, down, down

"2 or 3 lines" doesn't have HBO.  What's the point of paying all that money when you can get the HBO shows on DVD at the library?  (Yes, maybe you have to wait a couple of years, but why is everybody in such a big hurry anyway?) 

So until very recently, I had never heard of the HBO series, Eastbound & Down -- which tells the story of Kenny powers, a loutish ex-major league pitcher who returns to his hometown to teach phys ed after his baseball career peters out.  (It seems he lost a few MPH off his fast ball when he had to stop using steroids.)

It is a jaw-droppingly tasteless show, exactly the kind of show that a 16-year-old boy should not be watching but will find absolutely fascinating if his irresponsible older brother gives him the first season of the show on DVD for Christmas and his irresponsible father doesn't do anything about it, which is sort of what happened at my house. 

The washed-up pitcher is played by Danny McBride, whom you may remember from Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder.  His character has a drinking problem, and an anger management problem, and very politically incorrect attitudes about women, and a truly magnificent mullet.  I have the feeling that the role was not exactly a stretch for McBride.

Here are a few highlights from the first season of Eastbound & Down:

When I heard the brief snippet of Freddie King's "Going Down" that is played during the opening sequence of each episode of Eastbound & Down, it sounded very familiar -- I instantly started singing "down, down, down, down, down."

I assumed the song was fairly recent -- something I had heard on the local hard-rock radio stations five or ten years ago.

But after doing a little research, I learned that it was performed by Freddie King -- a/k/a "The Texas Cannonball" -- an African-American blues guitarist and singer who had recorded it in 1971 (only five years before he died at the age of 42).

"Going Down" appears on King's Getting Ready album, his first album for Shelter Records, which was a record label that was started in 1969 by our old friend, Leon Russell.  The label flew King to Chicago so he could record the album at the legendary Chess Records studios.  (Chess was the label of blues and R&B legends like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and Memphis Slim.)  Leon himself played piano on the record. 

Freddie King
"Going Down" (or "Goin' Down") was written by Don Nix, a session musician, songwriter, and record producer who was a key figure in the history of Stax Records and Memphis-style soul music.  

George Harrison and Don Nix
King's style has been described as a combination of Texas-style blues and Chicago-style blues.  Throw in Don Nix and Leon Russell and you've added elements of Memphis soul and the "Tulsa Sound" to the mix.

It's possible I remembered "Going Down" from hearing it on the radio back in 1971.  It apparently got a fair amount of radio play when it was released, and would have been a natural for the AOR radio stations in Houston when I was in college.

On the other hand, the song has been covered by Jeff Beck, Deep Purple, J. J. Cale, and many others -- maybe I heard one of the covers.

King's version of the song has been described by one reviewer as "a stone-cold beast of a song that fits King’s stature: with hammering piano parts, two drummers, greasy guitar playing and roaring vocals, it’s the closest he ever got to hard rock and to white blues-rock. It is so goddamn powerful, so massive."

That is exactly right.  If I was at party 30 years and had been drinking, and someone had put this record on, I would have sung along at the top of my lungs and air-guitared myself half to death.

Here's Freddie King doing "Going Down":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song on iTunes:

Going Down - Getting Ready...

Here's a link you can use if you prefer Amazon:


Monday, January 17, 2011

Dead Kennedys -- "Holiday in Cambodia" (1980)

So you been to school
For a year or two
And you know you've seen it all . . .
Play ethnicky jazz
To parade your snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin' that you know
How the niggers feel cold
And the slums got so much soul . . .
Well you'll work harder
With a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers
Till you starve
Then your head is skewered on a stake . . .
It's a holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll do what you're told
A holiday in Cambodia
Where the slums got so much soul

Someone once said that the Dead Kennedys had only the 2nd-most tasteless punk band name -- that Sharon Tate's Baby (an Austin, Texas band that appears to still be performing) had outdone them.  I have to agree.

Jerry Brown in 1979
(with Linda Ronstadt)
The Dead Kennedys' first (and most successful) studio album was titled Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, which included not only this song but also "California Über Alles," which portrayed California governor Jerry Brown as a hippie neo-Hitler:

I am Governor Jerry Brown
My aura smiles
And never frowns
Soon I will be president . . .
Zen fascists will control you
100% natural
You will jog for the master race
And always wear the happy face . . . 
Now it is 1984
Knock knock at your front door
It's the suede/denim secret police
They have come for your uncool niece 
Die on organic poison gas
Serpent's egg's already hatched
You will croak, you little clown
When you mess with President Brown   

Jerry Brown in 2010
Brown was re-elected to the California governor's job last November, 36 years after he was first elected to that office in 1974.  (Truth is stranger than fiction, especially in California, boys and girls.)  He came fairly close to winning the Democratic nomination for President in 1976 (losing to Jimmy Carter) and again in 1992 (when he finished 2nd to Bill Clinton), despite being perceived as a grade-A weirdo by a lot of people.  (One newspaper columnist gave him the sobriquet "Governor Moonbeam.")   

Here's "California Über Alles":  

The Dead Kennedys' original frontman called himself Jello Biafra.  Biafra (born Eric Reed Boucher) ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979.  His campaign slogan: "There's always room for Jello," of course.

Jello Biafra, circa 1980
Among other things, candidate Biafra proposed requiring businessmen to wear clown suits when within the city limits.  There were nine mayoral candidates in the election, and Biafra finished third with about 6600 votes -- almost 4% of the votes cast.

Biafra has remained active in politics.  In 2000, he sought the Green Party's presidential nomination.  Biafra and another candidate finished tied for 2nd in delegate votes at the party's nominating convention, well behind nominee Ralph Nader.  Biafra actively supported Nader's 2000, 2004, and 2008 campaigns.

I lived in San Francisco from late 1980 to early 1982.  During that time, Biafra co-hosted a punk-rock show on the Pacifica radio station in Berkeley.  I used to record the show, and still have a few dozen cassettes of those shows that I really should get converted to computer files and listen to -- I imagine there are many obscure punk-rock gems on those tapes.

"Holiday In Cambodia," which is my favorite Dead Kennedys song, musically skewers naive and spoiled 1980's-era students and liberals.  Although such people were probably responsible for most of the Dead Kennedys' record sales, it sounds like Jello Biafra would have liked nothing better than to ship them all off to Pol Pot's Cambodia for a holiday.

A few of Pol Pot's two million-plus victims

Here's "Holiday In Cambodia."  (The music is preceded by a brief scene from Apocalypse Now.)

Here's a live version of "Holiday In Cambodia" performed by the Foo Fighters and Serj Tankian of System of a Down:

That's pretty good, but it doesn't beat Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys doing the song live:

Here's a link you can use to order "Holiday In Cambodia" from iTunes:

Holiday In Cambodia - Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

Here's a link you can use if you prefer Amazon:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Who -- "I Can See For Miles" (1967)

I can see for miles, 
And miles, 
And miles, 
And miles, 
And miles! 

James Wood is an English literary critic who now teaches at Harvard and writes for the New Yorker.  (He fancy, huh?)  He wrote an essay about The Who's original drummer, Keith Moon, for the November 29, 2010, issue of that magazine.

That essay is one of the best pieces of nonfiction writing I have ever read.  It is so good in so many different ways that I hardly know where to begin.

Keith Moon
Wood's essay is mostly about Keith Moon, but it is also about rock drumming technique generally, about the emotional essence of drumming, about adolescence, about what it means to be an artist or a performer, and a lot more -- all in roughly 2000 words.

I've always thought "I Can See For Miles" is one of the most original and interesting rock songs of all time.  I would put it in my all-time "top ten" list of rock songs, and it would be as good a choice for #1 on that list as any other. 

"I Can See For Miles" was the Who's biggest hit single in the U.S., and reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Pete Townshend called it "the ultimate Who record."  Paul McCartney wrote "Helter Skelter" in an attempt to top "I Can See For Miles."  (I don't think he succeeded, but both are great songs -- both sound like nothing else ever recorded.) 

The best thing about "I Can See For Miles" is Keith Moon's drumming.  Years ago, I had a realization that this song was the only one I had ever heard where the drums were really the lead instrument.  That may sound like an absurd statement -- but I stand by it.  

James Wood says that all other rock drummers -- even the best ones -- are essentially timekeepers.  They take advantage of the small interstices between a song's phrases to insert brief drum rolls or other "curlicues,"  but the beat is the most important thing for them.  Like the bass player, the drummer is a supporting player – not the star of the show. 

In Wood's words, "Keith Moon ripped all this up."  He believes that "[t]he first principle of Moon's drumming was that drummers do not exist to keep the beat.  He did keep the beat, and kept it very well, but he did it by every method except the traditional one."

Moon was not a supporting player, according to Wood.  Moon "saw himself as a soloist playing with an ensemble of other soloists."

Keith Moon's big-ass drum kit
Wood has hit the nail squarely on the head.  And calling Moon a soloist has nothing to do with drum solos – Moon didn't really do drum solos, which are almost always a waste of time. 

I was pleased to see that Wood managed to work "enjambment" into his essay.  In poetry, enjambment is when a thought doesn't stop when there's a metrical break at the end of a line, but carries over into the next line.  I wasn't really familiar with that concept until I was writing my post about Patricia Barber's "The New Year's Eve Song," which is built on enjambment. 

In "Behind Blue Eyes," Wood notes that Moon doesn't just insert a self-contained "fill" during the break that occurs between the end of one vocal line and the beginning of the next one, but rather "fails to stop at the obvious end of the musical phrase and continues with his rolling break, over the [dividing] line and into the start of the next phrase.  Moon is the drummer of enjambment."  

Click here to listen to "Behind Blue Eyes" -- there are no drums until about 2:20 into the song.

Click here for an isolated track of just the drums.

Wood believes that one reason Keith Moon was so appealing was that he was a drummer "who was the drums."  That's "not because he was the most technically accomplished of drummers but because his joyous, semaphoring lunacy suggested a man possessed by the antic spirit of drumming.  He was pure, irresponsible, restless childishness."

Like Wood, I had a fairly extensive classical music education.  And like him, I really wanted to be a rock drummer.

I was a pretty good student pianist, but sometimes I played the piano like I was playing the drums.  I remember one performance of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" by our high school jazz band where I was incredibly frustrated by the fact that the horns and drums were drowning me out.

I kept pounding out chords louder and louder, but it was to no avail -- even though I was playing on a big-ass Baldwin grand.  (Maybe the audience heard me, but I couldn't hear myself over all the effing trumpets and trombones and saxophones.)

Finally I just started ripping off glissando after glissando, which really tore up my fingers because I was digging into the keyboard so deeply.  

Wood actually taught himself to play on a friend's drum kit, and he knows a lot more about the specifics of drumming techniques than I do.  One of the great things about his article is how he describes in detail exactly what more traditional rock drummers (like Ringo Starr and John Bonham) do, but does so in such a way that almost any rock music fan can understand and appreciate even the finer points he makes.

All I know is that whenever I'm in the right mood – and let's not kid ourselves: alcohol is one of the best ways to create that mood – I become a drummer when I'm listening to rock music.  My thighs are usually my surrogate drums, although a car steering wheel works pretty well, too.  I don't really do air guitar.  I do drums.

James Wood
As I said, Wood's essay covers a lot more than just Keith Moon and rock drumming.  He describes Moon's playing as being "like an ideal sentence, a sentence I have always wanted to write and never quite had the confidence to do; a long, passionate onrush, formally controlled and joyously messy, propulsive but digressively self-interrupted, attired but dishevelled, careful and lawless, right and wrong.  Such a sentence would be a breaking out, an escape.  And drumming has always represented for me that dream of escape, when the body surrenders its awful self-consciousness."

Wood also says that while playing classical music, or writing poetry, or painting may result in "trancelike moments and even stages of wildness and excess, the pressure of creating lasting forms demands discipline and silence."  But rock music – and especially rock drumming – "is noise, improvisation, collaboration, theatre, showing off, truancy, pantomine, aggression, bliss, tranced collectivity.  It is not concentration so much as fission."

Perhaps the most well-known line from any Who song is "Hope I die before I get old."  Keith Moon did exactly that.  He was only 32 when he died of a massive overdose of a sedative that had been prescribed to alleviate his alcohol withdrawal symptoms.  (He was trying to dry out on his own.)

I would never say that it was a good thing for someone to die at age 32.  But I'm glad I didn't see Keith Moon performing at age 63 with Pete and Roger at last year's SuperBowl.

Click here to read the James Wood article in its entirety.

If you think it's too much work to read, you can click here to listen to a New Yorker podcast that features Wood talking about Moon.

Finally, you can click here to watch a video of the Who lip-synching "I Can See For Miles" on television.  Note that Keith Moon and his famous double bass drum kit have been positioned in front of the rest of the band:

Click below to order the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Drowning Pool -- "Bodies" (2001)

Nothing wrong with me
Nothing wrong with me
Nothing wrong with me
Nothing wrong with me

Something's got to give
Something's got to give
Something's got to give

Let the bodies hit the floor
Let the bodies hit the floor
Let the bodies hit the flooooor!
Drowning Pool is a metal band from Dallas.  "Bodies" was the first single from Sinner, the band's 2001 debut album, and reached #6 on the Billboard "Mainstream Rock" chart.

"Bodies" is supposedly a favorite of the Hell's Angels, and has been used as a theme song by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).  It and other Drowning Pool songs have been featured in a number of movies and used as entrance songs by professional athletes.

In 2003, "Bodies" was played repeatedly by Guantanamo Bay interrogators over a 10-day period to stress Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was alleged to have been an al Qaeda recruiter.

Also in 2003, 19-year-old Josh Cooke murdered his parents while listening to  "Bodies" through his headphones.  Cooke blamed The Matrix for his crime.  From the Boston Globe:

Josh Cooke doesn't remember what he was thinking at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 17, when he went up to his room after eating dinner with his parents.  He remembers what song he was listening to on his headphones -- "Bodies," by metal drones Drowning Pool -- and what he did.  "I just kinda looked over at my 'Matrix' poster," he says, "and then I looked over at my gun."
The 19-year-old donned combat boots and a black jacket -- like Neo, the hero of the 1999 movie and its sequels. He filled his pockets with shotgun shells. Then he picked up the 12-gauge he'd bought because it looked like the one in the poster of his favorite movie, and he marched downstairs. "I guess you know the rest," he says.
When the police arrived at the house on Adel Road in Oakton, Va., just south of D.C., they found Cooke's parents dead in the basement and Cooke waiting calmly in the driveway. And when Cooke was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder, he became the third killer in the United States since the release of the original movie to consider pleading not guilty by reason of "The Matrix." . . .
When Lee Boyd Malvo, teen half of the alleged D.C. sniper duo, goes on trial for murder in Chesapeake, Va., tomorrow, his attorney confirms that he too will weave "The Matrix" into his insanity defense. Malvo told FBI agents that they should "watch 'The Matrix"' if they wanted to understand him, and jailers found lines of dialogue from the film scribbled on paper in his cell. Even the Columbine killers were "Matrix" fans.
The "D.C. Snipers"
Note: the "D.C. sniper duo" killed 10 people and wounded three others over a three-week period in 2002.  Most of the victims were shot within a few miles of my home -- two were at gas stations I've visited, one was waiting for a bus at a shopping center where we buy groceries and Peruvian rotisserie chicken, another was at an arts-and-crafts store we've visited numerous times, and one was at a car dealership where my daughters and I have test-driven cars.

Finally, "Bodies" is featured in a YouTube video posted by Jared Loughner, who has been arrested for murdering six people in Tucson, Arizona, a few days ago.  The video shows Loughner burning an American flag:

Here's the text that accompanied Loughner's video.  I can't make heads or tails of it -- if you can, please let me know what it means.

If there's no flag in the constitution then the flag in the film is unknown. 
There's no flag in the constitution. 
Therefore, the flag in the film is unknown. 
Burn every new and old flag that you see. Burn your flag! 
I bet you can imagine this in your mind with a faster speed. 
Watch this protest in reverse! 
Ask the local police; "What's your illegal activity on duty?". 
If you protest the government then there's a new government from protesting.
There's not a new government from protesting. Thus, you aren't protesting the government. 
There's something important in this video: There's no communication to anyone in this location. 
You shouldn't be afraid of the stars. 
There's a new bird on my right shoulder. The beak is two feet and lime green. The rarest bird on earth, there's no feathers, but small grey scales all over the body. It's with one large red eye with a light blue iris. The bird feet are the same as a woodpecker. This new bird and there's only one, the gender is not female or male. The wings of this bird are beautiful; 3 feet wide with the shape of a bald eagle that you could die for. If you can see this bird then you will understand. You think this bird is able to chat about a government? 
I want you to imagine a comet or meteoroid coming through the atmosphere. 
On the other hand, welcome yourself to the desert: Maybe your ability to protest is from the brainwash of the current government structure.
Here's a link to Loughner's YouTube channel.  In addition to the "Bodies" video, he has uploaded five other videos that consist mostly of printed text.  He talks a lot about currency and "conscience dreaming."  (It appears that he means "conscious dreaming.")

Here's one of those videos:

Here is Drowning Pool's "Bodies":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from iTunes:

Bodies - Sinner

Here's a link you can use if you prefer Amazon: