the view from the bandstand
life among the poobahs or
"i love you eddie,
but so does betty,
'cause you're such a handsome guy...."
of course it had to happen, it really had to happen, it was the natural end to beethoven's ninth. everyone was getting sicker and looking like a wolverine while the people pushed colleges. dirty buildings with lawns for people to lie on blankets. well-groomed wasps or purposefully disheveled sensitives reading spengler. but meanwhile everything was dead. writing was dead, movies were dead. everybody sat like an unpeeled orange. but the music was so beautiful.
all the bastards that you were supposed to feel sorry for and fight wars for were screaming, "look at the freaks in central park with transistors up their heads." tom wolfe drew clever cartoons and people admired his vocabulary, forgetting he was dead and sucking blood. william b. williams, circa 1400, appeared on david susskind, benevolent, genial ("please don't hate me, i must play the devil's advocate") trying to put down phil spector, maker of the beautiful music with those beautiful drum tag endings, phillie's drummers reaching at the end of each chorus for the moment. and william b. wanted to tell phil about coloured music, with his slick parted hair and tie pins and nat king cole mumblings.
and through all those years were those beautiful rock groups, tweeting and chirping like mesmerized sparrows, and if you weren't dead, you psyched in now, because it was now and no one had made a good book, a good movie, just bullshit over and over. only the music, and now robert lowell, up for a poetry prize without a decent word ever written. the only decent poetry of this century was that recorded on rock-and-roll records. everybody knew that. who you going to rap with. little bobby lowell or richard penniman alias little richard, our thrice-retired preacher. the incomparable e. mcdaniels, otherwise known as bo diddley.
giving robert lowell any kind of poetry prize is obscene. ditto worrying about ezra pound. and the yale poetry series. the colleges are meant to kill. four years in which to kill you. and if you don't extend your stay, the draft, by and for old people, waits to kill you. kill your instincts, your love, the music. the music is the only live, living thing. draft only those over forty. it's their war, let them kill each other.
the music going on and on. when johnny ace died, everyone was sad. black arm bands in school. the early fifties, the first race music to make it to n. y. white station. alan freed, the great father, clipped, fast speech and table pounding. the jesters, diablos, coney island kids, elica and the rockaways. old people in hollywood rock-and-roll movies wearing their pants around their nipples.
"ooooooooooohhhh wwwwhhhheeeeeee oooohhh,
it's later for you baby."
"fred you can't go to n.y. and expect to live on $75 a week."
the dead way of doing it, it, the word it, no talking, titillation, but no coming across. and william b. williams knows coloured music. the only poetry of the last 20 years was and is in the music on the radio. the colleges have to be destroyed. they're dangerous. music appreciation courses.
metaphysical poetry. theology. playboy jazz polls. tests. papers. psychological tests. doctors trying to "cure" the freaks while they gulp pills. rushing with the music. it's the music that kept us all intact. it's the music that kept us from going crazy. folk music. that's music on the radio. you should have two radios. in case one gets broken. live music is bad these days because records are better. life in a speaker.
rock-and-roll gobbled up all influences. better blues musicians than the folk blues people. better electronic music than the electronic people (i.e. england's the who; n.y. 's velvet underground.) classical music's so simple. really, anyone can write it. anyone. it's a phase like teething. if you tie a contact mike to a new-born baby and spin it by the umbilical cord, think of the sound. the freaks are winning, there's no doubt about it, everyone better empty their pockets.
in the fifties there was the four chord school, c, am, f, g. if you knew these you could play 400 songs and the top 20 - "blanche," "why don't you write me," "in the still of the night." elvis was three chords, e, a, b. 7 billion groups, the music was inescapable, it sank into everyone's blood and fender was the guitar. then for awhile bullshit music. pat boone. pat boone imitating, covering every fats domino and little richard record, putting down the freaks. white bucks and columbia teachers college ("i'd rather see my children dead than live under communism"). balding pat.
"woke up this morning with a feeling of despair
looking for my baby and she wasn't there
heard someone knockin and much to my surprise
there stood my baby lookin in my eyes
crazy little momma come knock knock knockin
just like she did before
ya ya ya ya ya
ya ya ya ya ya yae yi yayayayayaya
how can they give robert lowell a poetry prize. richard wilbur. it's a joke. what about the excellents, martha end the vandellas (holland, dozier, holland; jeff barry, wile greenwich; bachrach and david; carol king and gerry goffin, the best song-writing teams in america.) will none of the powers that be realize what brian wilson did with the chords. phil spector being made out to be some kind of aberration when he put out the best record ever made, "you've lost that lovin feeling."
we all made love to the music. and the word love was used and used and used in all the music. over used, again and again, because that's where it was at. still lingering idiots over cole porter, cheap cocktail sentiment and wit, julie styne, irving berlin, rodgers and hammerstein.
"shake it up baby."
bo diddley, unheralded genius of our time, who developed guitar techniques and sounds that just now are being appropriated.
today you know music when you play. but there'd be nothing now without then. and there was a reaction against the broadway music, middle of the road radio cretin music. how sad richie valens died. give him a prize.
have you ever listened to "you've lost that lovin feeling," where the girls are saying oohhhh and suddenly, naturally, just right, come in with "baby," against bill medley's building vocal line. repetition. every head in america must know the last three drum choruses of "dawn" by the four seasons. paradiddles. repetition.
repetition is so fantastic, anti-glop. listening to a dial tone in bb, until american tel & tel messed and turned it into a mediocre whistle, was fine. short waves minus an antenna give off various noises, band wave pops and drones, hums, that can be tuned at will and which are very beautiful. eastern music is allowed to have repetition. that's ok for glops with strawhats and dulcimers between their blue legs... they don't listen to it, or see it, but they sanction it. andy warhol's movies are so repetitious sometimes, so so beautiful. probably the only interesting films made in the u. s. rock-and-roll films. over and over and over. reducing things to their final joke. which is so pretty.
"sally go 'round the roses
roses they won't hurt you"
the north american glop. the freaks are making it finally but they must unfortunately have glops around, it seems, to protect them. lawyer glops, accountant glops, publicity glops, recording glops. but they will be done away with.
"one monkey don't make no show"
the n. y. radio scene is so awful. a record won't be played unless it's already #.07 all over. all over has phenomenal records no one in n.y. gets to hear. there's great music in the hills.
hey, don't be afraid. the toy hippies generating excitement over things. junior groupies. future glops. but the music goes on and the ranks go, and they're converts, 47-year-old madame bouschelle, and the kids coming up are already three-year-old acid heads who need to be touched a long time to make it. flaming negroes in colorful african depression dresses bouncing to otis redding. electricity. why does a wall switch work. work. ohm. the power of the plastic people supplying their dacron music. but this is good. dacron is good, plastic is great and the music is all. people should die for it. people are dying for everything else so why not the music. it saves more lives. glops invent polio vaccines and solve kidney problems. they collect urine in bottles and analyze it, test it out for glop diseases. old wig women with varicose tongues plop from one foot to another dancing but the real people are coming up fast. real because they're here now alive, while the others are dead, and because they wouldn't give robert lowell a poetry prize either.
that kind of beauty was wrong, fake, and didn't exist. it was manufactured so it could be taught. it was a myth perpetrated by pedants seeking tenure. but the tradition's finally broken. the children are stroking their knees and wearing world war i jackets. "you've got to hide your love away." you've got to watch. the music is sex and drugs and happy. and happy is the joke the music understands best. you'd better take drugs and learn to love plastic. all different kinds of plastic, pliable, rigid, colored, colorful, nonattached plastic.
"sittin here la la
waiting for my ya ya
if if if if when she had come ba ba back anyone could have seen the color of her walls. ultra sonic sounds on records to cause frontal lobotomies. have our own record on network radio across the country and have the sound blow up the apparatus. a take over. n.b.c. is mine. general sarnoff demoted. page boy glop to the diablos. sunrise semester with the harptones ("i need a sunday kind of love, a love to last past saturday night.") sally passion in green flesh paint undulating, her earrings, arched hands, convalescing with my mind ("i'll be the rainbow when the sun is gone, wrap you in my colors to keep you warm").
"pa pa pa pa pa oooohhhh mow mow
pa pa ooohhhh mow mow"
california plastic people came up with california plastic chord changes. which meant sticking in a bb before your g, and after your c. jan and dean, the beachboys, as opposed to negro cooings in the east with shiny saxophones, california plastic concentrated on white twirps and falsetto chirps. (sidewalk surfin - the angel chorus- "shake your b. . .uns.") the cult of the celestial choir. there is no god and brian wilson is his son. brian wilson stirred up the chords. deftly taking from all sources, old rock, four freshman, he got in his later records a beautiful hybrid sound, ("let him run wild," "don't worry baby," "i get around," "fun, fun, fun -- and she had fun, fun, fun till her daddy took her t-bird away"). like demented unicorns the east went west, and, it, all, made, it. it wasn't really a long cry from such early classics as "peppermint stick" by the elchords (in n.y. there are stores which sell old rock records for as much as $500).
the old sound was alcoholic. spirit high. in the early 50's and early 60's pot high music. we're already past the a head, acid tripper stage. but plastic. you can hear it in the music. you can get high on the music, straight. music's never loud enough. taxi drivers listen to the news and worry about muggings. you should stick your head in a speaker. louder, louder, louder. do it frankie do it. oh, how, how. oh do it, do it. the glops are wearing your clothes now and listening. someone should paint them in azure stripes and mail them somewhere. it's like holding your arm rigid in a furry black sweater, with your hand bent so it seems amputated. when you straighten it out you get a present on two counts.
~originally published in the december 1966 edition of aspen magazine. reprinted without permission.~