How Bizarre

 

      • Paul McCartney wrote “Lovely Rita” after getting a parking ticket
      • The Bee-Gees got the beat for “Jive Talkin'” from the sound of driving on a causeway
      • After being refused entry to Studio 54, Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards wrote “Le Freak”

Let me stop here and ask: do any of the above excessively tax your capacity to identify cause and effect? OK, the “Le Freak” one makes more sense if you know its working title, but still … am I going too fast for anybody?

I thought not. Weeks after reading this, though, from Brett Anderson’s Coal Black Mornings, I’m still scratching my head:

[Bernard Butler, Suede guitarist] once told me that, bizarrely, he was inspired by the rhythm of Cher’s “The Shoop Shoop Song” after hearing it on the radio and came up with the thrilling, primitive, pounding groove of what was to become “Metal Mickey.”

 

 

***

I read a few rock bios this summer, including Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock by Sammy Hagar. I was not expecting this:

I’ve always been a bit of a mathematician. I started reading and it tripped me out that if you add numbers up, you always come down to one number. You can take, say, 137. 7+3 is 10, plus 1, that’s 11 and that’s 2.

He goes on for a bit, too. He lost me completely with his riff on how 9s disappear. I had no trouble, however, connecting how a speeding ticket inspired him to write “I Can’t Drive 55.”

 

PS did you know that, after leaving Van Halen, David Lee Roth trained and then worked as an EMT? No joke.

 

Handel With Care

 

 

He was stubborn, astute, determined, cunning, art-loving, gregarious, solitary, humorous and wonderfully compassionate and generous in his dealings with the Foundling Hospital, the Fund for Decayed Musicians and the Lock Hospital for women in distress.

-Review, Handel in London: The Making of a Genius, Financial Times, September 29/30, 2018

 

Fund for Decayed Musicians? I had to look that up. Turns out it’s legit, and has a much nicer name now.

You’ll have to look up the hospital on your own, though.

 

Scaling Up

 

 

This week’s Science class got me thinking about Frank Zappa. All I knew about him was that he was a good musician and that he’d given his children names that, uh, never made my shortlist. So I watched a documentary on him.

An interesting cat, to be sure, but I’m afraid music based on the chromatic scale is not my thing. A guy in the film decried how it’s dismissed as “wrong note music,” but that sounds (tee hee!) right to me.

I was impressed that, for his fifteenth birthday, Zappa asked to make a telephone call to Edgar Varèse (no, I’d never heard of him either). I think for my fifteenth birthday I asked for the “Armageddon It” cassingle.

 

Image result for frank zappa

 

There was mention in the documentary of Eric Dolphy, which always reminds me of this passage in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Not only does it capture how I feel about the chromatic scale, it will sound right to those who’ve ever tried to chat with me:

It was as though we were speaking in different languages. If the Dalai Lama were on his deathbed and the jazz musician Eric Dolphy were to try to explain to him the importance of choosing one’s engine oil in accordance with changes in the sound of the bass clarinet, that exchange might have been more worthwhile and effective than my conversations with Noboru Wataya.

 

 

Reading Comprehension

 

Image result for rod stewart

Last summer Rod Stewart came through Boston for a private concert. The newspaper mentioned he’d dined someplace downtown. I was surprised because I’d been there once myself, for a fundraiser. It’s one of those shiny Irish pub simulacra.

The thing was, the article said he dined there twice. I remember thinking: Huh? I’d have figured Rod Stewart tours fine restaurants via champagne swilling sediari.

All of this is not to express concern for his standard of living, but rather to illustrate my default state of incomprehension. It’s not just politics or etc that baffles me, I can’t even read the About Town section without scratching my head.

Being, into the bargain, an ESL teacher – a job where incomprehension is not wholly absent – and dad to two four-year-olds, which… well, the other day Twin 2 pointed at a picture of the Eiffel Tower and said it looked like a cowboy hat. You get the idea.

So I trust you will indulge me when I say how proud I am to have read and understood this sentence:

One of Mexico’s favorite ways to express anger is from a viral 2010 commercial by an Egyptian dairy company called Panda Cheese that features a panda wreaking havoc on an office.

 

 

PS listen to this gem, from a half-century ago. Those horns! PP Arnold! What happened, Sir Rod? I don’t understand.

 

G.I. Blues


 

Concerned about the prospect of a third world war now that China has invaded Vietnam, Maurice, 29, expresses the fear that he could be eligible for an emergency draft call since he is a U.S. resident.

– “The Bee Gees Are Earthly Angels,” Rolling Stone, May 17, 1979

 

It was sixty years ago today that Elvis Presley entered the Army. I knew he’d been drafted, but didn’t know he’d manned a machine gun on the East German border. Turns out he was a very good soldier, as this BBC program recounts.

Now, I say this as a genuine fan of the Gibbous brotherhood, and I don’t wish to impugn the man. But had he been inducted, I’m not sure we’d have seen Maurice serving, à la King, in a scout platoon.

 

 

About that event that preoccupied Maurice:

The Chinese invasion turned out to be a disaster for Beijing, however. Over the course of a month of fighting, China lost almost half as many soldiers as the United States did in all of its war in Vietnam. There is little doubt that if Deng had not decided that the “lesson” for Vietnam was complete, the Chinese losses would have increased even further.

– The Cold War, Odd Arne Westad

 

The lesson may have been complete, but evidently not learned:

“We should go in and give them a bloody nose like Deng Xiaoping did to Vietnam in 1979,” the source said, referring to China’s brief invasion of Vietnam to punish Hanoi for forcing Beijing’s ally the Khmer Rouge from power in Cambodia.

– “‘Give them a bloody nose’: Xi pressed for stronger South China Sea response,” Reuters, July 31, 2016

And the new National Security Advisor is also, alas, an advocate of rhinointervention:

Last month, Bolton made a similar case for launching an attack, known as a “Bloody Nose” strike, against North Korea.

 

Just say no(se).

 

Ill Communication

 

I get ill all the time, but no one wants to hear about that.

– Paul Theroux

 

I was in Dick’s Sporting Goods recently and found myself laughing in the aisle. Twin 2, who has begun to suspect her father is unusual, asked what was so funny.

“They’re playing a silly song,” I told her.

For on the PA system was Run-DMC’s “You Be Illin’,” which contains one of balladry’s more lamentable parables:

Dinner, you ate it, there is none left
It was salty – with butter – and it was def.
You proceeded to eat it ’cause you was in the mood
But homes you did not read: it was a can of dog food!

Image result for can opener

 

This in turn was the Alpo madeleine of a memory from college. I had gone to a department office to drop off a paper. How I laughed at the sign on the door:

Closed Due to Illness

 

***

 

Now then. Your help, if I may: would you please let me know what’s your favorite idiom?

One of my resolutions is to teach my students an idiom a week.

My favorite is “barking up the wrong tree.” That combination of ardor and error – I do believe it captures something essential about la condition humaine. (Don’t worry, I just tell the kids it means you’re mistaken.)

NB a previous colleague left a book filled with pages of idioms, more than I can teach, so I don’t need suggestions – rather, I want your favorite one.

 

PS it does not go without saying – there are scoundrels among you – that I request your favorite idiom appropriate for children.

 

The Nimrod Variations

 

Image result for nimrod

 

Jules, if you give that… nimrod fifteen hundred dollars, I’m going to shoot him on general principle.

-Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction

 

Listening to Radio Free Amazon the other day I was all: But soft, this is my jam! But the thing was I didn’t know what it was. So I lifted myself off the couch to investigate. Such are my sacrifices to Apollo.

It was “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

Nimrod was once Merriam-Webster’s word of the day. Check out the accompanying brief podcast. Maybe I’ve spent too much of my life in middle school, but I defy you not to crack up when the guy says “the legendary nimrod.”

Anyway, this documentary on the legendary Elgar is aces. Success did not come easy for E, but he had that Growth Mindset.

 

 

Sic Transit

 

Image result for chicago transit authority crash

 

I watched a documentary on Chicago the other night. Quite a career, transforming from a rather terrific horn band – with Hendrix-approved guitarist – to earnest power ballad millers.

I did spill my bedtime tea when I saw Peter Cetera wearing, in this video, a Bauhaus t-shirt. It’s got the artwork from their “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” single:

 

 

Admittedly, not as shocking as learning Serge Gainsbourg once autographed a copy of “Je t’aime… moi non plus” for Albert Speer, but still.

Here are some other melon-twisting musical facts I have of late accumulated:

  • The guitarist for the Police is 75
  • Pete Townshend was an editor at Faber & Faber
  • The drummer for Culture Club auditioned for the Clash

Well, that’s enough to lay on you for now. Until next time, Gentle Reader, know this: you’re the meaning in my life.