Friday, January 23, 2009

Aphorism Thirty-One; (One of a Series; Collect the Whole Set!)

God is invisible to the ignorant, and can't be seen by the knowledgeable.

Aphorism Thirty; One of a Series (Collect the whole set!)

Marketing: Letting the right people know, so they can let the wrong people know too. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Aphorism Twenty-Nine; (One of a Series; Collect the Whole Set!)

"I don't know if I'll ever write another song again."

Paul Kelly to me, May 1997, in his "music room" in St.Kilda, Melbourne (the actual music room being the shed, of course). (Of course.)
From the interim dry spell, eight albums or so, with toss-offs, thrown-aways, and fake-outs like:
"Little Kings"; for sake of aphoristic brevity, allegedly, the only one I'll lyric-ize: ("I'm so afraid for my country/There's an ill wind blowing no good/So many lies in the name of history/They want to improve my neighbourhood/In the land of the Little Kings/There's a price on everything/And everywhere the Little Kings are getting away with murder/In the land of the Little Kings/Profit is the only thing/And everywhere the Little Kings/Are getting away with murder/I was born in a lucky country/Every day I hear the warning bells/They're so busy building palaces/They don't see the poison in the wells/In the land of the Little Kings/Profit is the only thing...")
"If I Could Start Today Again";
"The Oldest Story In The Book";
"Won't You Come Around?";
"Song of the Old Rake"'
"God Told Me To";
"I'll Be Your Lover Now";
"My Way Is To You";
"Nothing On My Mind";
"You Broke A Beautiful Thing";
"Words & Music";
and perhaps two or three others.

Aphorism Twenty-Eight; (One of a Series; Collect the Whole Set!)

"It's really quite large-ish, i'nnit?"

Quoth Ian Dury to me, of . . .well . . . of "Phoenix," and of "Arizona," and perhaps even of Apache Junction," but obviously, apparently, evidentially, tangibly, metaphorically, of America. (Though he'd no doubt've said "the States.")

Monday, January 5, 2009

Watch Your Step; Ted Hawkins & me (continued)

The record cover showed a big black man with a big grey beard playing a big dreadnought acoustic guitar. He had a pink short-sleeve shirt on, and the background was a powerful construction of planes of color, white walls and barred windows, bisected by dark shadows and sun, and a bright raw triangle of blue, of blue sky. It was artful and direct and pure.

There was a terrific story connected to the record too, and the liner notes by the distinguished Peter Guralnick sketched it in roughly. Ted Hawkins had been singing on the streets of Los Angeles in 1971 when a young blues fan named Bruce Bromberg heard him.  Bromberg had produced a few bluesmen in the past and so now he recorded Hawkins. But the problem was that these tunes weren't blues, and Bromberg didn't exactly know what to do with them, although one song, "Sweet Baby," even got played a few times on a local R&B station.

A dozen years later, 500 miles away, by sheer accident, I heard it on the radio too. I couldn't tell you if it ever got played again — I couldn't prove to you it ever got played in the first place. It begins: "Sha la la la lala la la . . ." in a blasting burst of joy so solid words won't stick to it. But then words gather:

"Sweet baby, you know
That no one can love you the way I do
And I just proved it . . . "

and then the words race across a mind exposed in love and fear and ferocious pride, bragging, begging for praise, flirting, flattering, starting a jealous argument just for the sweet sake of smoothing all those ruffled feathers, rolling and tumbling in a bed of laughter, swearing true strong love on a stack of Bibles, and then offering up one of the largest and purest lies a lover can ever deliver:

"Don't worry, darlin'
I'll do nothin' at all
That would cause your teardrops to fall . . ."

before raking it all back under again with another burst of "Sha la la la . . . " just to remind you what a pack of liars we all are.

[see the beginning of this piece, "Watch Your Step; Ted Hawkins and me," below somewhere, and other Ted Hawkins documents]

Ted Hawkins Tells His Own Tale; Another Nicely Handwritten Biography

Over time, Ted sent me a number of versions of his life-story. In the music business, you'd call it a "bio," but the fact is that Ted was only just barely in the music business when he wrote these, and nobody who's really in the music business ever writes their own bio. Generally, they just hire somebody like Robert Hilburn, the "Pop Music Critic for the LA Times," and he or one of his cub scouts writes it anonymously and then, later, they get the privilege of quoting from it when they write a feature or a review or something. It's really kind of a charming music business tradition in its way. And Ted, had he known, would loved to have participated. But he didn't know. Of course. He didn't know. He couldn't know. Did you?

Written, with pretty nice penmanship (far better, say, than mine), on lined yellow legal pad:
"I was born in Biloxi Miss 10/28/36 My Mother drank Any thing she could by or beg upon. I had three brothers of whom I haven't seen since 1957. It was hard times back then for me. My Mother was always drunk. There Was Never enough food or None at all in that one room shack that we all had to live in together. I didn't have any Clothes Or shoes to Wair. The only way I could eat was on the little Money My Mother would luck up on Prostituting. I was forced to eat out of garbage cans. Of course I could sometime earn a little change singing On the street I was about 8 years of age then. The Children of the Naborhood used to Call Me dirty Junior. I went without shoes winter and summer. I don't remember a Father. He left My Mother when I was born. My brothers and I all had different Fathers.

"So After My Mother died I grew up and Caught a fraight train and left home. I didn't know where I was going or what what would happend to Me after I got there. I Arrived in Florida got a dishwashing job worked for one day. Caugh the fraight train and arrived in Chicago in 1958 Because I was Not Only riding the fraight. but I was also On the road and it took Me a while to get to Chicago. The Winter was Cold in Chicago. The Coldest Place I've ever been. The 'Windy City.' That is why I was forced to leave. Because it Was in December. So once again I Caught the Fraight train and arrived in Buffalo NY It Was 1959. There I got Married and had a little girl Whose Name is Marchell Hawkins. And the Marriage Was Anauld. So I took to the road again, arriving in Philadelphia Pen. It was 1960 I Could Not find Work there. You see I have Never been to school.

"So I took to the road again arriving in Newark NJ It was the year 1961 I Met A woman there. She fell in love With Me. So I lived With her about four years But she Coulden't hold Me. I left Newark and Went to Genevia NY That was the year 1965 There I got Married again. But My Wife died of Cancer. We Were togather one year. I left Genevia And Went to Los Angeles Calif. I Arrived here in 1966 got Married agan to a Very select person Name Elizabeth Hawkins We have 5 Children and we are happy, And Verry Much in love.

"As I Write this, It is the Year 1981"

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ted Hawkins Touches Another Heart

Here's a little Ted Hawkins tale for you. We're in the visitors' room of Vacaville of a Saturday afternoon, with all the chaos and formality that takes place on Saturday visits to any decent prison. Amidst our talk, one of the things I want to know is whether he's got a guitar. Well, no, in fact. "But Charlie Manson used to lend me his. I think my songs really touched his heart."

Watch Your Step: Ted Hawkins & me

The story I have to tell here scares me. It's a long story because it has to be, and I'm in it because I've never been able to find a way out. I don't know if the ending is happy or not. Although it was for Ted. I do know that — for Ted it was. I know that for sure, for certain. And for me? Well, I don't yet know. I don't know yet. I don't know.

In the summer of 1982, I received Ted Hawkins' album Watch Your Step in the mail. I always got lots of albums in the mail. I can remember the day, the afternoon, the shape of the room and the color of the walls, what the weather was like outside when I played that record for the first time.

The first thing to hear on that record is Ted Hawkins shouting, hollering:

"Watch your step!
Before you stumble and fall..."

and even though I listened to that record over and over and over again, a thousand times, and then a thousand times more, I still managed to miss the warning.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Read 'em & Weep; My tarot, ala Jodorowsky

C'est vrai.

My new copain, compadre, comrade, Julian from Columbia, tauromaquier, polyoptician, brilliant illuminator of bordels et bordellos, acolyte of Jodo, laid it out in the Marseilles way. "I love painting," he told me, "but tarot is my passion." The array arrived entirely as major arcana, and none reversed, despite a thorough shuffling of the complete deck. If you know tarot, you might doubt that this is real. It's real. C'est vrai.

(oh, and feel free, preferrably privately, maybe, to offer your own interpretations)