|Tomorrow Is A Long Time|
Everything, including music and especially writing
about music seems kind of trivial at the moment. The recent turn of events in the U.S. is like a thousand gut punches to the stomach, actually it's much worse than that but that's the best similie I can muster at the moment. Either way, rest assured that the wind along with a hell of a lot else has been knocked out of millions that felt that this was THE most important election of the century. I've been in mourning, and also physically sick, which just reinforces the feelings of hopelessness and doom. About
a month ago I started to write a piece that I planned on calling Lamentable
Times that began this way:
It's increasingly clear to me that my own precarious mental state is simply a reflection of or at the very least a natural response to my surroundings. Vis a vis an outside world where a clear, etched in stone demonstration (during a supposed "debate" on national TV devised many would say specifically to go easy on the incumbent) that the leader of the U.S. is little more than a spoiled child, unable to either elucidate the most basic of his administrations plans (other than repeating phrases such as "it's hard work" and "the world's safer" ad nauseam) or handle in a competent, much less dignified way any criticism or questioning of said policies, which have so significantly altered, endangered and in many cases ended the lives of innocent people worldwide, can still be depicted by ALL major U.S. media as anything from a draw between the two "debaters" to a victory for the incumbent- even when the admittedly skewed (towards the voting base of the current administration) polls show that the general public believe overwhelmingly that the president LOST the "debate." Its enough to make you doubt your own and everyone else's' sanity. Good God! It was such a shameful public display of incompetence, ignorance and childishness, one so blatant, loathsome and unforgivable, particularly in light of the seemingly inexhaustible number of free passes Bush has gotten in these last four years from the American Media, that it is pure insanity that it was not reported as such. There's blood on your hands you cowardly bastards. It's enough to make you lose your nut! Who's afraid to say it? The president looked like the ignorant yet arrogant dipshit he so obviously is and forever shall be. Christ not even Christopher Hitchens (btw thanks a lot for him England) that toxic, slimy booze soaked Bush/Cheney shill who brings so much comfort to assorted ignoramuses who hold obfuscation as the highest of virtues, was able to put a spin on it.
Let's make it perfectly clear, this country is currently run by a group of war mongering and war profiteering robber barons willing to stoop lower than any level of hell envisioned by Dante, exploit any tragedy, violate any law, sacrifice any person in order to consolidate more, control, power and capital. And it's fucking with my peace of mind quite frankly. Listen, moving exclusively between two poles, namely over boiling anger/outrage to listless dull depression doesn't make it! So in times like these, beyond bending the ears of those you can, and getting involved with any grassroots group dedicated to removing this ass from office, you need something to help with the bring down, something to help balance your head, something to keep you above water. So what's been in rotation?
I then went on to talk about the reissue of London Calling from which I'll salvage this:
London Calling sounds like it was recorded under similar circumstances to our present situation or at least a similar national/international mood; a sense of impending doom, the big crackdown, a knuckling under for some god awful times ahead. But it also has the sound of a second-wind, some kind of desperate energy high, a resolution to fight. Comparisons to Exile on Main St. are quite understandable. It's also the Clash struggling with their love/hate relationship with the United States; how a country can hold so much beauty, and so much allure and yet so much ugliness at the same time.
But I never finished the piece and now - well now we know where things stand and I don't have the heart for it anymore. Every one I know is lost in the same funk at the moment. So on November 3rd I couldn't think of anything better to do than to make something, a mix c.d. of songs that fit the way I felt. Ineffectual? Sure, of course, yes, yes and yes etc. but I needed something and music is all I got.
So for what its worth here's a run down of that c.d. entitled Tomorrow is a Long Time.
1) I will not make any deals - A vocal snippet from one of the soundtrack c.d.'s to the great 1960's T.V. show The Prisoner "I will not make any deals with you I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. I am a free man". To which a menacing voice simply replies, "are you?"
2) Sad Day - The Rolling Stones - A relatively obscure B-side from their greatly underappreciated mid-60's pop period (try Between the Buttons!) 'Sad Day' is a boy/girl pop song but the refrain "it was a sad day, bad day" and the verses which speak of awakening with a bad dream in your head, felt too right to let little inconsistencies get in the way. Although a part of me recognizes that the song is kind of slight songwriting wise, it sounds so off the cuff and that I can't help but be pulled in by its irresistible Popness. They probably knocked it out quickly in an hour or two but its all the better for it.
3) The New World - X - "honest to goodness the tears of been falling all over this countries face, it was better before they voted for what's his name, this was supposed to be the new world". This is from X's fourth album More Fun in the New World, the first side of which is great. It took me a while to appreciate X's charms but I've been listening to them a lot lately. They do a nice job integrating punk, rockabilly and an updated lyrical take on Chandler's City of Angels. LA punk certainly wins hands down over the other contemporary American punk scenes of the time.
4) I Got the Blues - Chris Lucey - This is the one Rev-Ola reissue I value over all others and I just keep coming back to it. Definitely one of those rare occurrences where a sound you might have daydreamed or wished for in your head turns out to be a reality. Sounds sort of like a stripped down acoustic circa Da CapoLove with vibes, stand up bass and great hooks. And with the opening lines "I got a hole in my soul, a worn down heel, yeah babe that's how I feel" it captures the mood of the moment, or for fucks sake the next four years, and that's not counting the potentially irreversible damage that these fools are gonna bring down on us that will haunt this country for decades, at the very least.
5) Burned - Buffalo Springfield - This is how most everyone I know feels post election; ripped off, cheated, sold out and burned, "no use running away and there's no time left to stay" and torn between whether to just get out post haste or stay and fight.
6) I'm So Tired - The Beatles - A constant thorn in the side of this website! In this case I've used the acoustic demo version. The last couple of weeks before this election felt similar to, but much worse than, some edge of your seat sports match and the resultant anxiety made it difficult to function. Particularly losing one's mind while you watched the press basically lie, parrot republican talking points and divert attention from the real and important issues at hand while lobbing softball questions at Bush about faith and his relationship with his wife. And so yeah "you'd say I'm putting you on, but its no joke its doing me harm, you know I can't sleep, I can't stop my brain, you know its three weeks, I'm going insane, I'd give you everything I got for a little peace of my mind" fits rather nicely.
7) Range Life - Pavement - In their prime Pavement did this kind of abstract melancholy very nicely and probably never better than on 'Range Life.' The lines "after the glow, the scene, the stage, the set, talk becomes slow but there's some things you'll never forget" feels applicable to the kind of massive come down I feel after having all hopes for change dashed. This is an early version of 'Range Life' from the recently released two disc version of Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, which is every bit as good as the Slanted and Enchanted reissue from a couple years back. You can hear Malkmus developing and refining the lines and vocal inflections as he goes. Other key lines "run from the cops, the pigs, the fuzz, the heat, pass me the gloves, this crime is never complete, snort a line, shoot it up, but it will never make you feel free."
8) That's Life - James Brown - Trying to buck oneself up a bit with this track. Brown does a radical and awe inspiring reinterpretation of this Sinatra standard, totally remaking it in his own style. Nice violins in the mix and his band is as on point as ever. This is from the second live at Apollo album, recorded in 1967. Fine stuff and it almost makes me feel alright.
9) Let's Go Get Stoned - Ray Charles - first off just to clarify he's talking about drinking. It's a fighting with the woman song, but the general feeling of seeking solace in friends and drink in dark times is universal and appropriate. There's good advice in proper drinking etiquette for the young people here as well "ain't no harm in having a little taste, but don't lose your cool and start messing up the man's place, ain't no harm in taking a little nip, but don't you fall down and bust your lip." Ray was nothing if not pragmatic. You don't get that kind of practical and useful information in much of what passes for music these days.
10) The Old Man's Back Again - Scott Walker - Horror soundtrack backing vocals, propulsive, high in the mix bass and the return of the shadow to this land. It's all here. There are some radical Christian groups that believe George W. is the antichrist of the Revelations, if you tend toward the eschatological read up on the Beast and see if he doesn't fit the profile, especially the way he uses the guise of Christianity to cover his evil deeds.
11) Oliver's Army - Elvis Costello - "And I would rather be anywhere else than here today."
12) Make Me Sad - Vic Godard & the Subway Sect - One of my favorite Godard songs. I feel like I "slept for a while then played the activist part." But I don't like politics and I'd rather not think about it, but desperate circumstances call for desperate measures.
13) That's the Bag I'm In - Fred Neil - I think the last time I did one of these mix c.d.'s breakdowns for Tangents this one was also included, so I guess I like this song quite a bit. But surely anyone that has ever felt really sincerely and deeply that you can't win (to quote a great old Kink's song) could find solace in the sentiments here.
14) Oh No! - Camper Van Beethoven - These guys were great and are sadly underappreciated today, they definitely stand up better than the Pixies in my humble. "oh no here it comes again that funny feeling" is about that high anxiety marking time between the bad feelings by smoking and watching the rain. From their mad genre jumping debut Telephone Free Landslide Victory, 'Oh No' finds Camper in updated psychedelic garage rock mode.
15) Paid Vacation - Circle Jerks - Keith Morris is one of my favorite punk singers, as he possessed a great whiney aggressive voice and a great scream. The best thing that Black Flag ever did, the Nervous Breakdown 7 inch, was with Keith on vocals. The Circle Jerk's debut, Group Sex, is hard to beat as well, it's about 22 minutes long and every minute counts for something. Their drummer at the time, Lucky Lehrer, is the only person I've ever heard integrate Keith Moon's style effectively in another band. Prophetic lyrics on display, keeping in mind this was waxed in 81, "its not Vietnam, it's another oil company scam, salute the flag of Uncle Sam, get your money out, place your bets, it's Afghanistan!"
16) Mental Floss (live) - The Doors - Here we find Jimbo goofing in true beat form. A funny stream of consciousness improvisation that lampoons such sadly still au currant themes as an American imperialistic regimes that view themselves as above all law "I'm an American, you can't touch me!" - xenophobia "I didn't do a damn thing, I was just standing by the delicatessen, and a bunch of rabbis and Indians, and freaks and monsters ran up and just starting talking in all these weird languages" - bloodlust and a poorly planned and executed war "let's have some more wars, what a stinking shitty little war we have running over there, let's get a big one, a real big one, with lots of killing and bombs and blood." And to top it all off he signs off by crooning "school days, school days, good old fashioned rule days."
17) I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts - X - Another great song from the More Fun in the New World album. The title might mean a lot to many around the world but particularly those in the United States that were trying to keep themselves sane, trying to keep from completely losing it post Nov. 2nd 2004. "I'm guilty of murder of innocent men, innocent women, innocent children, thousands of them! My planes, my guns, my money, my soldiers, my blood on my hands".
18) My Favorite Things - Martha A. - Martha A. is one of my mother's friends. She taught school with my mom and is now retired and uses her computer to record herself playing ukulele and signing old pop songs. My parents don't quite know what to make of it, but it sounds like great, what I guess might fall under, outsider music, to me. The best thing is that like the minutemen Martha doesn't mess about, all her versions of these old standards and pop songs of the 1960's are under 2 minutes. She gives you the meat of the matter and gets on to the next one. If I ever find the time I would like to send her c.d. around to some appropriate labels. Anyway her version of 'My Favorite Things' was another attempt to inject some levity into the proceedings.
19) Theme >From the Conversation - David Shire - If you haven't seen Francis Ford Coppola's the Conversation I urge you to do so at once, preferably alone in a darkened room. It's easily the best movie Coppola ever made and one of Gene Hackman's best performances as well. The movie deals with surveillance and paranoia and how they can feed off of each other and lead one to madness. Although influenced by Antonioni's Blow Up, this is a far superior film. David Shire's solo piano score is as haunting and chilling as the movie. The final shot of Hackman playing saxophone in his apartment, which he has just ripped to pieces is on of the most powerful images I've ever witnessed on film.
20) I Get Lonesome - Beck w/ Calvin Johnson - Beck made two great albums Mutationsand One Foot in the Grave, which is the c.d. this song is on. It's here for its expression of utter disappointment and despair "well there ain't nobody left to impress and everyone's kissing their own hand, its 666 on the kitchen floor and there ain't no fire in the pan, I get lonesome". And I've always loved the line "I stomp on floor just to make a sound" as well. For that matter "getting fat on your own fear" is a pretty succinct description of a large portion of present day America.
21) The Big Country - Talking Heads - The older I get the more Talking Heads songs I find that touch me emotionally, which is surprising because Byrne specializes in a detached and for the most part ironic point of view, a fact which has made my appreciation of them for the longest time more coldly intellectual than gut level emotional. I guess it's a testament to the level he sometimes reached in his work that, at times, his detached and ironic point of view coalesced or even transcended itself to create a genuinely moving emotional impact. I'd place 'The Big Country' along with 'Heaven', 'Don't Worry About the Government', 'Once in a Lifetime' and 'This Must be the Place' on the list of songs where he achieves this effect in spades. The song surveys the American landscape from the distance of a plane flying over ahead, commenting ironically on the interconnections between urban and rural area. It's chorus "I couldn't live there if you paid me, I couldn't live like that no siree, I couldn't do the things the way those people do, I couldn't live there if you paid me" may very well be satirizing an elitist attitude but lets just say that at the moment it works on a couple of different levels. On a side note I recommend the DVD of Stop Making Sense as a good general cure for depression or whatever ails you.
22) Tomorrow is a Long Time - Elvis Presley - Ahhh, Elvis's only Dylan cover and it's a doozie. Elvis's singing just got better in the 1960's and his increasingly uninspired movie work aside the material he did in the studio was always top notch. Here he spends 5 minutes plus singing a soulful, stripped down version of a relatively obscure Dylan song (available on Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume 2). Elvis's vocal is quiet, understated and restrained, placing the focus squarely on the lyrics. It has a strange spiritual quality not unlike his Sun Records take on Blue Moon. It sounds like he is wringing every bit of meaning and regret out of each word. "If today was not an endless highway, if tonight was not an endless trail, if tomorrow wasn't such a long time, then lonesome would mean nothing to me at all". Elvis learned it from the Odetta sings Dylan album by the way. Say what you want about Elvis but music consumed every part of his soul and when he really got behind a song he could take it to a place that was magical. In the 60's he took this intuitive ability and honed it through developing his range and technical abilities as a singer.
23) Wasting Away - The Brianjonestown Massacre - "the kids today they got nothing to say, they got nothing to say because they taught them that way, they want to watch them grow old put them in their grave till their gone". And seeing footage of all those young people and black folks standing in line to vote for hours makes the lines "you seem them standing in line, you watch them going insane, cause their wasting their time, while their waiting in vain" all the more poignant.
24) And Also I Have Felt God - Billy Childish - a short poem worth quoting in its entirety.
Because I have stared down the infinity of the whiskey bottle
And seen children's hands waving and heard the empty voices of the lost.
Because I have named lovers on both fists
And kissed with my tongue the asses' of girls like the stars of God.
Because I have hated myself more than it is decent for any man to hate
And still I bite down.
Because I still feel for my father's hand gone these 27 years past
And the trees fall like heartbeats in the night.
Because misery drips like clocks and the sun shines with yellow fingers
And my heart bursts still with unknown fires.
Because I have stared down these bleak moments
I write this.
25) Aguas de Marco - Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto & Heloisa Buarque DeHollanda - Written by Antonio Carlos Jobim 'Aguas de Marco' is one of my all time favorite songs, for its lyrics and the way they blend perfectly with the beautiful melody of the song. The lyrics manage to get the whole of existence into one song with a striking breadth of images. I can't do it justice but Heloisa Buarque DeHollanda sings the English portion and delivers lines like "a stick, a stone, it's the end of the road, it's a rest of stump, it's a little alone, it's a sliver of glass, it is life, it's the sun, it is night, it is death, it's a trap, it's a gun" in a precise and beautifully clear manner. My personal favorite lines are
A spear, a spike, a point, a nail, a drip, a drop, the end of the deal
A truckload of bricks in the soft morning light
The shot of a gun in the dead of the night
A mile, a must, a trust, a bump, it's a girl, it's a rhyme, it's a goat, it's the mumps
The plan of the house, the body in bed, and the car that got stuck
It's the mud, it's the mud
A float, adrift, a flight, a wing, a hunk of quail, the promise of spring
And the riverbeds talk of the waters of March
It's the promise of spring, it's the joy in your heart.
Scratch what I said this is my favorite song of all time cause it feels like its got all time in it. And so in hopes of giving a broader perspective to the soul crushing nature of recent events we end with 'Aguas de Marco.'
© 2004 William Crain