Published July 2nd, 2016
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Well whoopee, whoopee, whoopee! Lock the door and shine the knocker, sister, it’s me, mjp, and THIS IS NOT A TEST. Now how much would you pay? That’s what I thought. Good lord now, good lord, we’re in the throes of a heat wave here. The “throes.” I wonder what the history of that word is. The derivation and dark source. Throes. Well, any way you describe it, it’s been hot up in here. 117.9 at work the other day. In the foothills of the lovely San Gabriel mountains. That’s pretty hot. I’ve been in 118 weather before, but it was out in the desert, in Joshua Tree. You expect it there. And once when I was roasting my balls off in Tunisia they told me it was 45 degrees, and I don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit, but it was damn hot too. But again, you expect it there. What with it being in the Sahara desert and all. You don’t expect it in god damn Monrovia. You know when you look up the weather on one of those web sites and it says, “81 degrees, feels like 79” or whatever? Well on that 117.9 day I looked it up on weather underground and it said, “Feels like 127 degrees.” So, yeah. Hot.
Speaking of heat, I’ve been waiting for a new soldering iron to arrive from Japan, and it finally got here, so now I can finish putting the Vixen back together. No, I don’t mean a female fox or an all girl rock band, I mean my 2006 Gibson Vixen guitar. The Vixen is kind of a rare model. Gibson wrongheadedly marketed it as “a guitar for women,” and no one really responded too well to that, women or men, so the model fizzled and they discontinued it after two years. It’s a Les Paul shape, but the body is not as thick as a Les Paul, and the fingerboard is slightly more narrow than a Les Paul. You know, to make it easier for those little lady fingers to play. Anyway, a thinner Les Paul always intrigued me, but the Vixens usually sell for more than I wanted to pay, since it’s an unusual and short-lived model. But one day I say one on eBay for a decent price, then low balled the guy with an insulting offer, which, to my surprise he accepted, and then – I had a Vixen.
But the reason it was selling for less than usual was because some C-list actors had signed and “decorated” it with sharpies for a charity auction, so it looked like hell. I figured that was okay, but after a while it started to bug me so I tried to remove the markings. But old sharpie on thin paint – it doesn’t remove. Not with anything. And I tried everything. Well, I did remove some of one of the signatures, but I also removed the paint along with it, so I was kind of forced to either strip the whole guitar and leave it raw wood or try to repaint it. I’m a terrible painter of things, so naturally I decided to paint it. And the paint job isn’t bad, if I do say so myself. The color isn’t an exact match, but then you can’t really buy pink guitar paint, no one makes it, so I settled for something called “coral,” that’s close enough for rock and roll. But of course to paint a guitar you have to rip all the electronics and hardware off of it and out of it, so that’s why I’m putting it back together. Hey, you asked. Okay, you didn’t ask, but here we are.
And speaking of guitars, I’m reading a great book called, “Follow the Music: The Life And High Times Of Elektra Records In The Great Years Of American Pop Culture.” It’s about – can you guess? – correct! Elektra records, and its founder Jac Holzman. That’s Jac without a ‘k.’ I guess he needed to use the ‘k’ for the name of his company. It’s an oral history, which is my favorite kind of history. Or my favorite kind of music biography anyway, because you get closer to the truth when you hear multiple people’s version of the truth. But the book reminds me that things really were different in the 60s and 70s, and that popular music really exploded during that time because a lot of people truly cared about art and put it before business. The business part was almost accidental. Almost. Though Jac liked making money, don’t misunderstand.
But Elektra started out as a pure folk music label, like jug band and banjo folk. And field recordings – very typical late 50s, early 60s Greenwich Village beatnik kind of stuff. But Jac was an open minded kind of dude, so Elektra went from jug bands to Arthur Lee and Love, then the Doors, and ultimately – ultimately for me, anyway – The Stooges. Yes, the greatest rock and roll record ever made, Funhouse, was made for a label that started out recording folk music. Jac didn’t understand them. He said they were “like an odd piece of art that someone strongarms you into buying, and years later it turns out to be of lasting importance.” Anyway, that picture of the Stooges in the gatefold of Funhouse, where they’re lounging on a fancy carpet – that’s the floor of the Electra studio on La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood. From banjos to Funhouse in less than a decade. Jesus man, things were crazy back then. But that’s why I think that the 60s and 70s were a unique time, and the fact that we have such nostalgia for it now isn’t just nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, or some kind of sad longing for our youth. I think it’s because those were really times worth looking back on, and maybe even learning from.
But I don’t know what we’d learn, really. It isn’t like we can go back and become innocent again, or discover 60s and 70s rock again. That pirate ship has sailed. Thanks Internet. I wonder if we’ve seen the end of new kinds of popular music being created? Not because it’s all been done, but because the Internet has made isolation obsolete. Like real isolation. The kind that spawned things like Appalachian music, or to a less-isolated degree, Nigerian High Life and Jamaican Reggae. Those kinds of music, and a lot of other kinds of music, were regional, and they were born of the particular way of life of particular regions. What they had access to, or maybe more importantly didn’t have access to, and how their creativity formed something free from a lot of outside influence.
Well, that’s a big subject, and not something I can do any justice to. Not right now, anyway. So instead I’ll tell you a story. Or should I say, read you a story. A short story I wrote called, “Good evening St. Louis!” Okay, ready?
I’m not going to include the text of the story here, you’ll have to listen to the episode.
So there you go. That’s that. Let’s cut it short now and say adios. It’s a holiday weekend anyway, no one is listening to this. You’re all out barbecuing penguins or blowing shit up to celebrate the independence of the America. We aren’t really celebrating that anymore, are we. We just like to blow shit up and annoy the neighbors. We always have. ISIS and Al Qaeda think they invented that, blowing shit up, but they didn’t. We did. Well, us and the Chinese. And the French and the Germans and Las Vegas. Las Vegas loves to blow up buildings. It’s like their football or baseball, since they don’t have any professional sports teams. Okay, I better wrap it up before I say something stupid. What’s that? Too late? Okay, bye.
Oh, wait. I should also let you know that THIS IS NOT A TEST will be coming to you on the first Saturday of every month from now on. It isn’t that I don’t love you, or don’t have anything to talk about, but weekly was too much for most people, and popping up every two weeks got a better response, but it’s still too much for some people. So let’s try making it a monthly party. It’ll be more special that way, right? Right. See you in August.