Jun 032012

This is my inaugural essay post under this auspice, and an extension of what I was trying to do with a blog I was running for 2 years. (R.I.P. “What Do We Have For Entertainment?”)

My wish, is to come crashing into RTH’s bedroom, shouting “You have to listen to this!”

I’d like to introduce drummer Jonathan Kane by way of 3 interwoven genres that appear in his music. I’ve laid out some notes on paper, in which drone, the blues, and New York No Wave funnel into each other, kinda like an upside down delta, in fact.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/02-I-Looked-At-The-Sun.mp3|titles=Jonathan Kane: I Looked At The Sun]

Which is appropriate, since Kane’s music (and I prefer to think of him as a bandleader, rather than the mere and often derogatory the drummer. Same way I think of Charles Mingus) draws so much from the delta blues perpetual motion boogie of John Lee Hooker, and the minimal chord structures and hypnotic vamp of Mississippi Fred McDowell. The latter’s blues, from the north hill country of his name-state, is marked particularly for sticking to the I chord rather than making the change to the IV or the V. Sometimes this blues will stick to dwelling on the IV chord. The harmonic shift gives a suspended sound, a minimalist drone.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/1-09-Wandering-Blues.mp3|titles=John Lee Hooker: Wandering Blues] [audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/15-I-Looked-At-the-Sun.mp3|titles=Mississippi Fred McDowell: I Looked At the Sun]

Perhaps the blues could be considered a minimalist form. Regional, rustic, but with close ties to the minimalist compositions of the downtown New York scene of the ’60s: La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich (see also: John Cale). The constant harmonies, steady drone, lock-groove, and gradual transformation are not a million miles away from the boogie of ZZ Top’s La Grange. Continue reading »

Feb 242012

Great Scotsman!

I fondly imagine that the homes of most Town Folk are filled with music for much of the time, and have been since childhood.

As I have mentioned previously, Mrs Happiness mistrusts as a matter of course any of the music I enjoy, having awoken once too often to the dulcet strains of Trout Mask Replica, Oar, a bootleg tape of Smile, or something by the Incredible String Band while dozing with our eldest still on board as I tested the theory that babies will respond positively once born to music they have heard in the womb.

Consequently, although music plays almost constantly in my head, almost all of my actual listening is through headphones, as is the (electric) piano practice of our first-born. I will occasionally pluck up the courage to strum an electric guitar unamplified as far away from where she sits reading as possible, but mostly we enjoy a house full of silence, punctuated only by the bickering of children and the happy screams of an over-stimulated 5 year old trying to use up the last of his energy before bedtime.

I am quite used to it, having grown up in an environment where music might as well not existed. Mrs H’s dislike of The Rock and All Of Its Doings is nothing compared to the pathological disdain exhibited by my Father towards any music other than the big bands of Glenn Miller or Joe Loss, whose records he still wouldn’t have in the house. It came as a real shock when I discovered a few years ago that he and my Mother met at a weekly dance: I had to go and listen to Trout Mask Replica, Oar, Smile, or something by the Incredible String Band to get over it.

When I was about 4 or 5, he brought home a Radiogram, comprising a high-end-of-the-market record player and a fantastic looking valve radio that lit up when it was switched on but which despite many Dad and Son hours trailing a long aerial made of pink plastic out of the back and through the house in a variety of directions we never actually succeeded in getting it to work. It was a great big piece of furniture as tall as me at the time and wide enough for myself and both of my younger sisters to lay behind end-to-end without any part of us sticking out, and speakers more than adequate to provide cover during games of hide and seek. I was not supposed to touch it, but eventually he gave up trying to stop me as I acquired records of my own and demonstrated vinyl-handling techniques to his satisfaction.

The coming of the Radiogram heralded the arrival of a box-set, or at least a large number of albums encased in an Apple Green vinyl sleeve with gold lettering. Dad would wake up on a Sunday morning, make a cup of tea, repair to the front room and the house would be full of the sound of these records, played at quite startling volume.

I can’t remember exactly how many records there were in the set, although the number 12 seems to have stuck in my memory.

Side one began with a rush of steam, the closing of doors and a whistle, then a slow clanking growing faster, as the Flying Scotsman – brought into service on the 24th February 1923 – set off on its record-breaking journey from London to Edinburgh, a journey of eight hours on the fastest steam train of them all.

Continue reading »

May 282011

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

Following last week’s possible farewell edition of Saturday Night Shut-In Mr. Moderator takes a run at the sun on this Memorial Weekend, Summer-Fun broadcast with a No-Muss, No-Fuss 30th Episode! Selections from the likes of Lou Reed, Amon Düül, and Snakefinger will have you reaching for the suntan lotion! And get this: as good as this episode promises to be it’s nothing more than a prelude to next weekend’s Sausages for Sammy Extravaganza and Classic Rock Psychic Rock Block Event!

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/RTH-Saturday-Night-Shut-In-30.mp3|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 30]

[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]

Apr 232011

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In Mr. Moderator can’t stop thinking about a recent act of heroism. Then, as the evening progresses, he drifts off into bagism, as he considers taking the episode through the wee hours. Unfortunately this week’s planned hockey talk segment has been postponed, but join us, won’t you?

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/RTH-Saturday-Night-Shut-In-25.mp3|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 25]

[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]

Nov 032010

Granted, the following video of Can is probably not considered representative of the band’s sound, but the revolutionary, political mumbo jumbo surrounding it is – I believe – a major factor in this band’s critical acclaim among rock snobs.

I can empathize with many of you who identify with the “socialist” stance of a Can or Henry Cow, with the “anarchist” stance of an MC5. It’s hard to give up on the belief that rock ‘n roll is important, and who better to uphold rock’s claims to social relevance than some avant-garde German hippies? If only these high-minded expressions were upheld in the grooves… Continue reading »


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