Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Three-and-a-half Minutes (times x) Is Enough For Me

"Outta Sight" by James Brown and the Famous Flames

I saw it for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and since then, I've watched it every day, on some days more than once, on some days more than more than once. You get -- you are the recipient of -- everything in this performance: the utmost control, precision, complexity, simplicity, passion (gusto, brio), artifice, kinetic grace (what a dancer he was!) . . . I know that's not everything, but it's enough for me. 
After my fifth or sixth viewing, I told myself that I'd watch the others on stage at least a little bit. But I couldn't. You can't take your eyes off James Brown here because you are afraid that if you do, you'll miss something: every note, every chord, every fraction of every beat surges through his body, which both controls and is controlled. Plus, he sings and screams, with flawless power, like a supreme being. 
He was just a man, of course, and by some accounts, not a very good one. As a musician, though, he's about as immortal as they come. It's the greatest performance of a great love song I've ever seen, and a joyous thing.

Monday, 18 August 2014


"634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)" by Wilson Pickett

Solitude and I seem made for each other, so what was I recently doing, making a phone call late one beery night to Soulsville, U.S.A? Isn't fooling around on the phone kid stuff? But since I had the number and all I had to do was look up Memphis's area code – why not? All I got for my trouble, though, was a recorded message about somebody not having set up his voice mailbox, which I surmised meant that the number itself was still active. Too bad, because I really wanted to talk to someone, and although I wasn't nearly drunk enough to believe that the person who had yet to set up his voice mailbox was Wilson Pickett himself (he was just sixty-five when he died too soon eight years ago), I was drunk enough to want to talk to him, and to imagine what I might say had I been speaking into his activated voice mailbox: “Mr. Pickett? Big fan. Just listened to ‘634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A)’ for the first time in years, and I gotta tell you, I think it’s gonna stay in my private rotation for a while. Since I've had a few beers I can’t at the moment remember how the Internet let me stumble on it (the Internet loves you, by the way) -- but Jesus, did you understand romantic love, or what? Lord have mercy, who knew all I had to do was pik-upp the tel-e-phone’? . . . Mr. Pickett, I think the kids today (not enough of them listen to you, but that's a whole other thing and I haven't got much time) -- the kids today might refer to what you’re proposing as a “booty call,” but maybe, in their zingy, callow cynicism, they’re missing your promise of ‘no more lonely nights.' I may be a touch or more beyond jaded myself, but I did pick up on the plural noun in that phrase. You’re making a promise, and, from what I understand, booty calls are not only not promises, they’re anti-promises. That’s how I know you understood romantic love – you got that it was nothing but promises. . . . Anyway, just wanted to let you know I love the song, still and forever. And kudos to the composers and all the players and other singers who helped you so sublimely sing this lovely, simple, cheerful number into the eternal airs of Planet Earth. Take care, and don’t let being dead get you down too much. I know it’s small consolation, but some of us can still hear you, and you still sound absolutely fucking great.” 
Then I listened to the song again (more than once). 
Before I went to bed, I thought about activating my own voice mailbox after all these lonely nights (gotta be closing in on a couple of thousand), but since I rarely receive any calls these days, booty or otherwise, there wouldn't have been much point.