LARB PRESENTS the December 2021 installment of “Real Life Rock Top 10”, a monthly column by cultural critic Greil Marcus.
Special song that you heard before the edition!
1. Paul McCartney, The lyrics: from 1956 to the present day (Liveright). Poet Paul Muldoon sat down with songwriter Paul McCartney to discuss his work, and in this nine-book, two-volume, over 900-page treasure chest containing photos, worksheets, holographs and printed lyrics, the result is so relentlessly mesmerizing – McCartney is relaxed, warm, humble, funny, thoughtful, quick word-for-word, and discursive on almost everything – that if you turn away from McCartney to listen to a song you may – be forgotten or never heard at all, say the 1983 “Average Person” of The peace pipes, this can be a terrible disappointment. But you will keep reading.
2. Cruel, directed by Craig Gillespie (Disney). “Oceans Eight, Project track, and The devil wears Prada all together – an origin story for Cruella de Vil, ”a friend said – and Emma Stone is playing the title role of 20 or so Estella with fabulous intelligence and joy, even though you continue to yearn for it. pure punk rage of Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as a 12-year-old schoolgirl. For a film about instinctive refusal and challenge – in the frame that the film creates for its soundtrack, the political theory of the Doors’ “Five to One” comic has never sounded so interesting, so think about it – you think about it. ask where are the punk songs. Until the end credits, where the punk iconography on the screen turns the film into a parable: an origin story for Vivienne Westwood.
3. Dave Simpson, “‘A nation’s fabric unravels’: stars on Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On at 50,” Guardian (December 2). During the re-release of the album on red vinyl, Simpson asked 20 musicians, from drummer Greg Errico of the original Family Stone to Booker T. Jones to Lee Tesche of Algiers what they had to say. They let you hear the record as a moment in time and as a presence mocking the idea of progress. Errico on Sly’s use of a drum machine after leaving sessions: “It was the kind of thing the guy in the Holiday Inn living room was using to make lame music, but Sly the used very creatively. Starting the rhythm of the machine on a hitch turned the rhythm upside down. Johnny Marr of the Smiths on Album Like $ 500,000 Cocaine Rock: “I don’t think such an important record was made by accident.” Howard Devoto of The Buzzcocks and Magazine and Luxuria, after explaining that it was only the Stooges Fun house which allowed him to hear Riot for what it was:
It fascinated me how Sly had taken an earlier song that had an upbeat sound – Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin – and turned it into Thank You For Talkin ‘to Me Africa, almost a relentless funeral song. We covered it in Magazine, renamed it with its original title, and performed it at the end of the shows as “Thank you but no thank you for making me suffer again”.
4. Neil Young Crazy Horse, “Human Race”, from barn (Reprise). The big noise of the number is Young, Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina, now starring Nils Lofgren, doing what they’ve been doing since “Cowgirl in the Sand” in 1969 – making a sound so personal and off-balance it can screech. About the world going to hell – “Who is going to tell the children of fate that we didn’t try to save the world for them?” “- at the charge of the light brigade. “The human race is active,” you can capture the crazy, jarring lines of the guitars, the only beat of the snare behind them. “We’re all lined up / At the cannon / The crowd rises.” It may make you want to lift yourself up, even though the image the song conjures up is the Boston Marathon in 2013, even though you know what happened to the Light Brigade.
5. Michel Lesy, Snapshots 1971-1977 (Explosive Books). In 1971, the historian of photography – which doesn’t do him justice: maybe the philosopher of photography is closer, with one more trickster – found many color photos in a dumpster at San Francisco, and therefore, inevitably, presumably to mark the 50th anniversary. of the discovery, published them and a few more in… book form? Yes, it’s a time capsule. Naive family shots, weddings and vacations. Haircuts from the early 70s. Hippie in geodesic dome. Guy with a new car. It’s not Americans – but page by page it slowly becomes more convincing, as if you are sure that if you continue, in the end there will be a porn photo or a corpse. The photo I keep coming back to shows two large black lounge chairs, the footrests formally stowed away, against a background of white curtains. It’s as full of death as anything in Lesy’s first book, 1973 Death’s Journey to Wisconsin, about the collapse of rural Wisconsin during the Depression of the 1890s, taken from the city photographer’s cache – and, for this photo at least, taken with the same eye.
6. The first rock and roll record (Famous Flames). I believe that before the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll records in the late 1940s, nothing like the sound they carried had been heard on earth – which is why singers and censors claimed he was from Mars. By including anything with the magic words in its lyrics, this three-CD, 95-track set, starting in 1916 with the five-inch 78 “The Camp Meeting Jubilee,” manages to cover 45 tracks before lighting up on which meant that somehow some people in different parts of the country were speaking a new language: here, “It’s Too Soon To Know” by the Baltimore Orioles in 1948 and “The Fat Man” by Fats Domino from the New Orleans in 1949 – which I heard on the radio a few days ago and almost drowned in the fun. New Language: This was about the country that lets out its breath after holding it during the Depression and the War – a great realization that the two were truly over. Suddenly, in all kinds of areas of American life, boundaries that had always been taken for granted began to dissolve. The boom in the economy meant people could take risks – in presidential politics, in the early days of the modern civil rights movement, in bebop, in painting, in film noir, in fiction and poetry. . You can hear it happen with these two songs – but the most suggestive thing about this package might be the image on the back, even obscured by the tracklists: WPA photographer Ben Shahn Doped singer, filmed in 1935 in West Virginia. It shows a handsome male movie star in his thirties or forties with short, neat hair and an open shirt playing guitar and singing – the song was written under the title “Keerless Love” – as a younger man with hat and suit and tie is not an inch away from him, like he’s thinking about the price of a night or writing it down. I would give a lot more than this set costs to hear that.
7. Chuck Berry, Living in Blueberry Hill (Dualtone). Recorded from July 2005 to January 2006, just before and after his 79th birthday at the St. Louis club, he played for years, with his daughter Ingrid Berry on harmonica and son Charles Berry Jr. on guitar, her voice is hoarse, her timing has gone, and the music is hot. The songs seem to open up, inviting the listener. , with festive versions of Bob Seger and the Rolling Stones: here, he mixes the verses and it explodes off the stage like the “train outside the program” that drives the story. You can hear his pride, his belief that he will never be forgotten: “Some people said rock ‘n’ roll would fade,” he says in “Rock and Roll Music”: “That’s forty. years since this remark was made.
8. Klaudia Schifferle, 152 paper dolls (Edition Patrick Frey, Zurich). Schifferle, who performed here last month in his band ONEWOTHREE, has always made a living as an artist. In this collection of women built from scraps of paper, with each piece of collage raised off the page to shine with light – advertisements, fashion items, photos: on a randomly opened page you see a top knot blonde hair, googly eyes of a toy, big red lips and white teeth holding a black pill, black high heels Jimmy Choo and a body made out of what looks like a red car door opener – almost every page can make you laugh out loud. And then you keep looking, and you see more. Hannah Höch must be smiling in her grave.
9. Billie Eilish as host and her own musical guest on Saturday Night Live (December 11). As a singer, she has the makings of a real comic book. The songs are worn out and predictable, sometimes a little cloying at which point they completely rely on arrangement stuff that was tired before he was born. But in the skits, she’s sneaky, like she doesn’t say half of what the lines she reads really say, which makes you want to watch her twice to see what you’ve been missing.
10. Neil Young Crazy Horse, “Welcome,” from barn (Reprise). “I’m going to sing you an old song right now,” he begins in that innocent sound, the sappy lyrics that follow, “The one you’ve heard before” – just the kind of thing that inspired “The Last Half. -hour of No Neil Young “from National Lampoon Music was brought to you by …” 50 years ago next year. “I’ve been singing this way for so long,” he continues, as if to thank him. The repeat of “welcome” – to me and to you – conjures up horrible buried memories of John Sebastian singing the theme of Welcome back, Kotter. But as guitar playing begins to wander the track, Young cut a quarter of a century ago for Jim Jarmusch’s Perfect Frame soundtrack. Dead man, the song is a fully sustained eight-and-a-half-minute meander, and the message is that whatever he says in “Human Race,” it’s all the time in the world.
Thanks to Cecily Marcus.
1994 by Greil Marcus Twirl interview with Neil Young was collected in Neil Young on Neil Young: interviews and meetings, edited by Arthur Lizzie (Chicago Review Press).