Friday, January 30, 2009


In my last blog I argued that bands such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) represented, within a rock context, the fundamental values of modernism: complexity, individuality (as exemplified by the naming of the band eponymously), virtuosity, and mastery. I think I’m correct in that observation, and I think the point is true of all bands one might consider exemplary of so-called “progressive rock.” Indeed, I think all the supposed masterpieces of progressive rock have been judged under the evaluative terms characteristic of modernism. Having continued to think about the issue over the past few days, I think the special value of ELP is that their career conveniently serves to trace the rise and fall of “progressive rock.” Using the band’s popularity curve as an example, it becomes clear that the so-called “heyday,” or widespread popularity, of progressive rock in fact lasted a brief time, peaking in 1974, thereafter subsumed by other movements, including “glam rock,” disco, and, of course, punk. Progressive rock was, by 1978, an anachronism, meaning that the sort of modernist values represented by the movement were no longer endorsed by the rock ‘n’ roll avant-garde, progressive rock being perceived, by then, as elitist. British bands such as Yes and King Crimson were irrelevant by 1978—in fact, by that date, King Crimson had been long disbanded (the first time). Simon Reynolds writes, “Punks were supposed to purge their collections of King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra albums, or at least hide them in the cupboard” (Rip It Up and Start Again, p. 20). As I mentioned last time, the pejorative British term for bands such as ELP, Yes, and King Crimson was muso. Musos were musicians who were considered overly preoccupied with technical virtuosity at the expense of authentic expression. Stated somewhat differently, by the late 1970s, progressive rock was considered inauthentic, while the sort of music that supplanted it—reggae, ska, and punk, for example—in contrast, was considered “authentic.”

Using, arbitrarily, the release date of King Crimson’s IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING as the starting point for so-called progressive rock (October 1969), then the period of progressive rock’s greatest popularity lasted about five years, peaking about mid-1973, the bookend at the other end being ELP’s WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS… LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER (August 1974). Although not released on CD until 1997, ELP’s EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL 1970, recorded during the band’s first formal appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival on August 29, 1970, should be considered that group’s first album. Including that album, a few selective examples of prog rock’s development can be seen here (all release dates UK):

King Crimson – In the Wake of Poseidon 5/70
Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) - Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970
Yes – The Yes Album [“Classic” Yes line-up; recorded 10-11/70]
ELP – Emerson, Lake & Palmer 11/70
King Crimson – Lizard 12/70
ELP – Tarkus 6/71
Yes – Fragile 11/71
King Crimson – Islands 12/71
ELP – Trilogy 7/72
Yes – Yessongs 5/73
ELP – Brain Salad Surgery 11/73
Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans 12/73
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black 3/74
ELP – Welcome Back My Friends... 8/74
King Crimson – Red 11/74

By 1974, however, as is well known, the movement began to fragment. Rick Wakeman left Yes, Robert Fripp disbanded King Crimson on 24 September 1974 (about six weeks or so before the release of RED, by which time King Crimson was a power trio), and in August ELP released the live album WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS…, subsequently taking a lengthy sabbatical. Shortly thereafter, in December 1974, Yes released RELAYER, and then it, too, took virtually a three-year hiatus.

In retrospect, the disbanding of King Crimson and the contemporaneous withdrawal of both Yes and ELP, was historically significant, but not for the standard reasons. The Sex Pistols emerged as a significant musical force in 1976, and in January 1977, The Clash was signed to CBS Records for a significant sum. What this musical shift represents is not so much a reaction against what came before (what rock historiography typically claims), but a paradigm shift. It is true that punk marked a new phase in rock music’s youthful insolence, as opposed to prog rock’s insolent iconoclasm in the form of “rocking the classics“ (but which actually represented the reproduction of ideology). In effect, progressive rock was to rock ‘n’ roll what bebop was to swing: the triumph of the muso. Punk rock was rock’s putative reclaiming of amateurism in the form of rhythm and sound, but it also effected an ideological transformation in music as well: when the famed progressive rock bands made their “comebacks,“ they had been transformed as well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thoughts On A Long Ago Exhibition

A few days ago, in a blog entry on the relationship between psychedelic and progressive rock, I discussed The Nice, the British band from which emerged Keith Emerson, later of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP). It has happened since the writing of that blog—primarily because I’ve been preoccupied by certain theoretical issues that emerged as a consequence of writing it—that I have made an effort to re-familiarize myself with the music of ELP, trying to get a better handle on what so-called progressive rock was (is) all about, at least in its ELP incarnation. It has been years since I listened seriously to ELP’s music, having given up on them long ago after the release of the appropriately titled 3-LP set, WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS… LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER (1974)—and they weren’t kidding. I can’t recall ever playing sides 5 and 6 of that ponderous set of records—still haven’t—although I’ve had the album now almost 35 years, frayed corners, ring wear, bulk and all. Like an old high school classmate, it’s an artifact of a time long gone, one with whom you have instant familiarity, but little communication. But having done some reading of critical assessments as well as a bit of checking on fan sites during the past several days, I’ve learned that the general consensus is that BRAIN SALAD SURGERY (1973), with its famous H. R. Giger cover, is the band’s finest album. I do not agree: after having given a focused listen to every album up until (but not including) WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS… the past couple of days, I doubt seriously I’ll ever return to blarney such as “Karn Evil 9,” a huge chunk of BRAIN SALAD SURGERY. However, having re-familiarized myself with the band’s first few albums, I think the best album is TRILOGY (1972), which has the best song written by Emerson and Lake, “From the Beginning.” But that’s neither here nor there.

I found myself returning to the band’s third album, PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION (1971 UK; 1972 USA), since it seems to me to epitomize everything the band was about—the objective correlative of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, as it were. I picked up a copy of the remastered CD (Shout! Factory, 2007) of the album in order to put it on my iPod, and while I was at the store I also found and purchased a used (“previously owned”) DVD by ELP that I didn’t know about but also happened to be titled PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION (Classic Pictures Entertainment, 2002). Mistakenly, I assumed the live performance on the DVD was the same performance as on the CD—not so. The performance on the CD (38:07) was recorded at Newcastle City Hall on March 26, 1971, while the one on the DVD (41m 50s—not the complete concert) took place a few months earlier, recorded at the Lyceum Theatre (London), on December 9, 1970. The DVD reveals why Keith Emerson, busily tickling the ivories (and fondling the knobs of his then avant-garde modular synthesizer) in his tight fitting, glittery pants and vest, must be considered the Liberace of rock. I was pleasantly astonished, however, by the sheer youthful exuberance of drummer Carl Palmer: at the time the concert was recorded, he was a mere twenty-one years old, but he looks about fifteen or sixteen years old in the film. Little did he know about what lay ahead, in the form of rock stardom.

Having watched the DVD of PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION twice now, and having walked many, many miles the past few days listening to the album on my iPod, I’ve concluded that Emerson, Lake & Palmer (and progressive bands like them, such as King Crimson, from which Greg Lake emerged) represent, in a rock context, the fundamental values of modernism: complexity, individuality (as exemplified by the naming of the band eponymously), virtuosity, and mastery. It is no accident that ELP, like all popular musicians in the modernist tradition since Louis Armstrong (the jazz trumpeter who enabled the transformation of the popular musician into artist) released albums with titles arguing for their status as artists: WORKS: VOLUME 1 (1977) and WORKS: VOLUME 2 (1977).

The consummate professionalism of progressive bands such as ELP is nowadays disparaged, of course, by the term (primarily British) muso, meaning a musician who is overly preoccupied with sheer technical virtuosity at the expense of authentic expression. It is no wonder that ELP’s last album (prior to re-forming as a tour band in the 1990s), LOVE BEACH (1978), flopped. (I remember the record hitting the cut-out bins faster than any album I’d ever seen.) While LOVE BEACH is not a good record by any standards (which the band, in interviews, has readily admitted), that’s not my point. By 1978, the sort of modernist values they represented were no longer endorsed by rock ‘n’ roll: Emerson, Lake & Palmer were, by the late 70s, pejoratively considered musos. Rock critic Simon Reynolds (author of BLISSED OUT and THE SEX REVOLTS) observed: “[Muso has] always been a derogatory term, criticizing the likes of Santana or big prog-rock bands obsessed with developing skills—chops. In the punk context, it had a lot to do with the idea that there was more to great rock ‘n’ roll than actual music.” For a critic such as Simon Reynolds, the ultimate muso is Robert Fripp. And if that term has any meaning whatsoever, he is right. But Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (considered as individuals, not as a band) were also musos, and perhaps that term designates a narrow but nonetheless deep rift in rock culture, between musos, on one side, and those who believe they represent the values of “authentic” (or “traditional”) rock ‘n’ roll on the other (the spirit of amateurism). The rift I speak of has been identified by Mick Jones, former leader of Big Audio Dynamite and former guitarist with the Clash, who wrote in the song, “I Turned Out a Punk”:

Better learn how to play guitar with a plink and a plunk
I didn’t like jazz I didn’t like funk
I turned out a punk
I turned out a punk

Meaning, if you didn’t become a muso, well, you became something else.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer still perform, of course (although not necessarily together as a band), but I think the band now invokes a set of values—modernist values—that have long since been replaced by the values of post-modernism. But post-modern values shall become the subject of a subsequent blog.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Worst Pop Singer?

My friend JIM FIELDS sent me the link to this article in Slate, posted this past Friday, on Billy Joel. The article, by Ron Rosenbaum, is titled, provocatively—no doubt intentionally so—“The Worst Pop Singer Ever,” and explores the question, “Why Is Billy Joel So Bad?” I urge anyone even mildly interested in popular music to read the article, whether you like Billy Joel or, like Rosenbaum, happen to think he is “the worst pop singer ever.” Actually, you should read it even if you don't care one way or the other. The article is worth reading because Rosenbaum, whether he consciously realizes it or not, is dancing around the foundational principle at the basis of all of rock criticism, the perception that determines all final determinations of value (and negotiations of value) of a particular expression of music—whether something is “good” or “bad”—and that is authenticity, those artistic creations that are perceived by listeners as especially “genuine” and “real.” To be “genuine” and/or “real” is to manipulate successfully the various codified gestures of passion in our culture: beads of sweat on the forehead, singing with your eyes closed, the proper (or tasteful) use of melisma, and so on, all without ever committing the unpardonable sin of hyper-emoting which, as Rosenbaum's analysis shows, has the unhappy effect of evoking both pity and scorn from listeners. Having read his article, I wonder whether he is on to something, namely that Billy Joel, as a white singer, is filled with self-loathing (the guilt caused by an awareness that one is both inauthentic and privileged) but also an insatiable desire for fame (the desire for power that comes with privilege).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thoughts On Pinkoyd Nicelp

There’s no question that the introduction of the 12-inch LP (“long-playing” record) by Columbia in 1948 profoundly transformed music consumption and reception. Without the LP, would jazz musicians such as John Coltrane have been compelled to improvise at such lengths? Without the LP, would the Beatles have ceased to perform live—or perhaps more importantly, would they have made SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND? Released in the United States on 2 June 1967, SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND not only altered the way rock bands approached recording, but also altered what they wanted to record: Nick Mason, in Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd (2004) confirms this claim.

As is well known, Pink Floyd was recording THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN (released two months after Sgt. Peppers) at Abbey Road’s Studio Three at the same time as the Beatles’ were recording the Sgt. Pepper’s album in Studio Two. The link between the two bands is Norman Smith, the EMI staff member who was the engineer on the all the Beatles albums up through RUBBER SOUL (1965), and was the producer of Pink Floyd’s first album. Nick Mason writes:

On the other, more structured songs, Norman was able to bring his production skills to bear, adding arrangements and harmonies and making use of the effects that could be engineered through the mixing desk and outboard equipment. He also helped to reveal all the possibilities contained in Abbey Road’s collection of instruments and sound effects. Once we realised their potential we quickly started introducing all kinds of extraneous elements, from the radio voice cutting into ‘Astronomy Domine’ to the clocks on the outro of ‘Bike’. This flirtation with ‘musique concrète’ was by no means unique—George ‘Shadow’ Morton had already used a motorbike on the Shangri-Las’ ‘The Lead Of The Pack’—but it was a relative novelty at the time, and from then on became a regular element in our creative process.

Since Norman had worked with the Beatles it was predictable that at some stage of the recording we would get an audience with their eminences…. We were ushered into Studio 2, where the Fab Four were busy recording ‘Lovely Rita’. The music sounded wonderful, and incredibly professional, but, in the same way we survived the worst of our gigs, we were enthused rather than completely broken by the experience. (2005 paperback edition, 83)

As an instance of so-called psychedelic rock—a term describing both a manner of recording as well as a particular use of non-linear amplification techniques such as distortion and reverb—THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN represents one reaction to changed recording practices exemplified by SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. But another reaction, or another direction, can be seen in a band that also represents the altered way bands were putting their ideas on record, as well as the very ideas themselves—The Nice, from which emerged Keith Emerson, later of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP).

The link between The Nice and Pink Floyd is guitarist David O’List, who stood in for Syd Barrett one time in 1967. Andrew Loog Oldham assembled the Nice in May 1967 to support the soul singer P. P. Arnold. The band performed with Arnold for the next few months, but by August the band’s first drummer, Ian Hague, was replaced by the jazz-influenced Brian Davison, and soon after The Nice split from Arnold, choosing to pursue a musical direction consisting of longer, extended arrangements such as “Rondo” (a version of Dave Brubeck’s 1959 “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” probably encouraged by Davison) and Leonard Bernstein’s “America” (probably encouraged by Keith Emerson; see the video here).

The Nice’s first album, THE THOUGHTS OF EMERLIST DAVJACK, was recorded the autumn of 1967 and released in the UK late that same year. David O’List bailed out during the recording of The Nice’s second album in 1968, and the band continued on as a trio. Keith Emerson, subsequently, redefined the role of keyboard instruments in rock music. He soon embraced the Moog synthesizer, helping popularize that particular technology to the audiences of the time.

What I’ve outlined are two divergent paths, two responses in the form of two contemporaneous albums, to the altered approach to recording initiated by the Beatles landmark album (I’m fully aware that the rock critical establishment is divided in its evaluation of the Beatles’ album—that’s not my point). The sound of neither album could be replicated for live audiences, a point that Mason acknowledges in his discussion of THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN that I cited above (see his discussion prior to the portion I quoted above, pp. 82-83). One album is an example of psychedelic rock, while the other is an example of so-called progressive rock.

The difference between them can be understood, I think, in how the different bands approached sonic space: psychedelia is an attempt to reproduce interior (“psychic”) space, while progressive rock attempts to expand exterior (concert hall) space—that is, the imaginary spaces where music takes place. The paradox, of course, is that both forms of music derive from medieval cathedrals, the sonic properties of which the members of both bands, The Nice and Pink Floyd, were fully aware. Psychedelic rock is a simulacrum, an attempt to recreate the echoes and reverberations of medieval cathedrals that encourage transcendent experience (which is why a certain subgenre of psychedelic rock is referred to as “space rock”). In contrast, progressive rock requires the arena or coliseum, an immense sonic space (also allowed by the medieval cathedral) that demands a band to play loud and hence discourages introspection and reflection, but rather encourages solidarity with the mass, in which one’s individuality is effaced. Perhaps this is why some rock critics associate certain forms of progressive rock with Fascism.

60x50 Honored By The Dardos Award

TIM LUCAS, editor of Video Watchdog and the authorial presence behind Videowatchblog, notified me a couple days ago that my blog had been picked as one of his five choices for the Dardos blogging Award. I’ll confess that I’m not sure where the Dardos Award originated, although it seems to have been circulating for awhile, but here is the reason behind its existence:

The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.

The rules are: 1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog. 2) Pass the award to another 5 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

I am humbled by Tim’s thoughtful consideration, and thank him for the recognition, as he has been a strong and avid supporter of 60x50. Having acknowledged that I’ve received the Award, the person who granted the award and provided a link to his blog, I must therefore fulfill the demands of Condition #2. I cannot guarantee that any of the following bloggers haven’t already been recognized by the Dardos Award, but the motive behind the Award is to help get the word out about people doing quality blogging, so I’m most certainly fulfilling purposes of the reward. With that in mind, I hereby bequeath the Dardos Award to:

David Del Valle’s Camp David. Having spent much of his life in Hollywood, he has a lot of stories to tell, and he tells them in a consistently engaging fashion. The reminiscences that comprise Camp David read at times like a personal diary, at others like an exposé, but are variously fascinating, sad, compelling, and hysterically funny—sometimes all at once. David is always worth reading and he seems to have an endless supply of Hollywood memories to draw from. One hopes that the Camp David posts will someday form the basis of a memoir.

David Gill’s Total Dick-Head. He said it first: David Gill is a total Dickhead, and I’m very, very glad he is. He has taken his passion for the life and work of SF author Philip K. Dick—whose work is as important as any author of the past century—and transformed it into an essential blog on all things Dickian, ranging from the latest news and rumors to the latest results of his original research. If you have even a slight interest in Philip K. Dick, or what Gill calls “Philip K Dick-Related Info Kipple,” his blog is essential reading.

Simon Reynolds’ Blissblog. Simon Reynolds is the author of an essential collection of essays on rock music, BLISSED OUT: THE RAPTURES OF ROCK (1990), and has authored many other important books on the subject of popular music in the years since. His singularity resides in his approach to popular music as a journalist informed with literary theory, and the results are always smart and fascinating. His Blissblog is essential reading for anyone interested in issues and trends in popular music.

Roger Wink’s Vintage Vinyl News. For me, there is no better or convenient source of news and information about pop music in one place than Roger Wink's Vintage Vinyl News. The blog’s stated mission is “To cover the latest news on artists who have had a lasting impact on popular music. All artists covered recorded at least one album prior to 1986.” Point your browser to Vintage Vinyl News at least once a day for the latest.

Matthew Dessem’s The Criterion Contraption. The motive behind Matthew Dessem’s blog is simple in conception but ambitious in scope: to watch every movie in the Criterion Collection and then blog about it. If you are as interested in the classic films gathered in The Criterion Collection as I am, then Matthew’s blog is essential. There are, of course, other such “completist” blogging projects on the web, but I’ve found The Criterion Contraption to be consistently smart and engaging with relevant and interesting insights in every post. Take a look at his recent post on Brian De Palma’s SISTERS and you’ll see what I mean.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Nudie Suit

Gram Parsons in Nudie suit © Jim McCrary 1969 All Rights Reserved.
Having spent the past couple of days reading Bob Proehl’s excellent new book—published just this month—on the Flying Burrito Brothers’ classic country album THE GILDED PALACE OF SIN (1969), my thoughts have turned to the enigma of the late Gram Parsons (1946-1973), who died at the painfully young age of twenty-six of a drug overdose. In his discussion of Parsons and the Burrito Brothers, Proehl devotes a chapter to Nudie Cohen (1902-1984) and the highly individualized costumes he designed for country & western entertainers, including the Burritos. Unique and highly distinctive—“individualized”—Nudie costumes frequently served as memory aides for audiences, helping them to identify particular performers: Porter Wagoner, for instance, had suits created with wagon wheels on them, a distinctive emblem obviously derived from a wordplay on his surname. Proehl rightly notes that Gram Parsons’ famous Nudie suit (pictured, modeled by Parsons, the suit he was wearing in the picture used as the album cover for The Gilded Palace of Sin) was made by Manuel Cuevas, the most gifted protégé of Nudie Cohen. Here’s Proehl’s detailed description of Parsons’ Nudie suit:

The white coat, cut high to show off a handtooled leather belt, had large multicolored pills along the sleeves: white-crossed amphetamines, red barbiturates, and green and blue capsules to symbolize some combination of the two. Kelly green cannabis leaves snaked up the front, and bright pink poppies stood out at each shoulder. The lapels bore carefully embroidered naked women, the cartoonish renderings recalling the cover girl from Sweetheart of the Rodeo, stripped bare. The pants flared out at the bottom with bright red inserts, and flames rose up from the flares, licking at the poppies that sat at the point of each low-cut hip. But the centerpiece was the jacket’s back, emblazoned with a red cross, rays of light streaming out of it like a massive prison tattoo, a cholo cross. (27-28)

Proehl, importantly, actually quotes Manuel Cuevas about the significance of Parsons’ suit. Cuevas made the observation many years later that Parsons’ costume “was actually a map for him to follow to his death” (28). There may be some truth to this claim. The question is, did Gram Parsons purposefully design his suit so as to announce both the manner of his death, as well as his subsequent cremation? While the omission doesn’t detract from his discussion, I’m not sure whether Bob Proehl was aware of the interview Michael Jarrett conducted with Manuel Cuevas (July 1997), in which the artist is even more explicit about the symbolic meaning of Parsons’ suit. Cuevas’ comments tend to support the uncanny speculation that Parsons was aware both of the manner of his death (drugs) and his subsequent cremation:

I never realized until way past his death that that’s what we were talking about. The fire on the cross—that’s the way he wanted to die. Although we have been friends forever, Phillip Kaufman [the Burritos’ former road manager who stole Parsons’ body from the Los Angeles airport and burned it in Joshua Tree Desert] and I hadn’t really talked about Gram, but Gram had talked to him. Phil had promised Gram that, if he died, he would burn his body. I was just making the outfit according to all the ideas that we put together: the nude girls, the pills and the marijuana plants, and the California poppies. The fire up the pants. The cross in the back. Although I captured the idea—we developed it into a great form—it wasn’t until a few years after his death that I really started thinking about it. “This boy was really telling me how he was going to die.” (63)

Despite the designer’s assertions, the question of whether Parsons inscribed the suit as a sort of unconscious death wish remains only an intriguing possibility--but it most certainly reveals the the manner in which myths are made.

A Few Album Covers Featuring Distinctive Nudie Suits:

Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace of Sin (A&M)
Dolly Parton-Linda Ronstadt-Emmylou Harris – Trio (Warner Bros.)
Elvis Presley – 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 2 (RCA)
Hank Snow – The Essential Hank Snow (RCA)
Porter Wagoner – Big Rock Candy Mountain (Gusto)
Hank Williams – 40 Greatest Hits (Polydor)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rock Of Ages

Last time, in the context of writing about Continuum Books’ 33 1/3 series of books on important rock albums of the past four decades, I briefly discussed Dave Marsh’s excellent recent book, THE BEATLES’ SECOND ALBUM, published by Rodale Books. What I neglected to mention is that Dave Marsh’s book is part of Rodale Books’ new “Rock of Ages” series, which to date has issued four books as part of that series. I was so impressed by Marsh’s book (reviewed here) that I was compelled to track down the other books available in the series, and I confess I am extremely impressed with the factual information contained in them, the quality of the analysis, and the sheer enthusiasm with which each author has approached his chosen album. Currently I’m reading Pete Fornatale’s book on Simon & Garfunkel’s BOOKENDS (1968). While I have no evidence to prove it, I suspect the Rock of Ages series emerged in response to Continuum Books’ series, which began about five years ago. Similar to the books in the 33 1/3 series, they are books of monograph size, of uniform dimensions (in this case, roughly 4 7/8” x 7 1/4”), each dedicated to a classic album of the rock era. But in contrast to the books in the 33 1/3 series, however, the books in the Rock of Ages series are issued in sturdy hardcover rather than paper; the price is slightly higher as a result. Since last I wrote, I ordered the three books of the series I did not have, and so far I have received two of them in the mail.

Apparently there was a fifth book in the series to have been published, but the best evidence indicates that it has been canceled—the book by Billy Altman on The Rolling Stones’ BEGGARS BANQUET (1968). The cover art of the book is still posted on, but an ISBN search indicates only that the book has been canceled by the publisher. I do not know whether this means Rodale Books has abandoned the Rock of Ages series, or if there are forthcoming volumes yet unannounced. If the series has been abandoned, too bad, because I very much like the books in the series: so far, the books have focused on albums issued during what I would call the classic rock era, which most interests me, frankly, and happily the quality is excellent. I encourage readers to pick up a volume in the series, assuming of course there is an album that you find compelling. Only one of the books in the Rock of Ages series duplicates an album discussed in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series—Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album, otherwise known as LED ZEPPELIN IV (1971). Rodale has issued four books during the past two years, while Continuum is publishing the 33 1/3 books at the rate of about one a month (ten or eleven a year). For those interested, here are the books published so far in the Rock of Ages series; again, I have found them quite good. Dates of issue are those dates currently indicated on

Barney Hoskyns – Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin (11/28/06)
Jan Reid - Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos (11/28/06)
Pete Fornatale – Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends (10/30/07)
Dave Marsh – The Beatles’ Second Album (10/30/07)
Billy Altman – Beggars Banquet by The Rolling Stones (originally scheduled 3/6/07)

If anyone has additional information about the series, please contact me.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

1 In 33 (And A Third)

This morning, David Barker, editor of Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of books on significant albums of the past forty years, posted the master list of proposals he received as a result of his latest call for books to be published in the series—all 597 of them. That’s 147 more than he received last time. Shows you what I know. I thought there would be fewer proposals this time, not more. Last time he received 450 proposals, and accepted about 20 of them: the odds of getting accepted were about 1 in 25. But his time, assuming about 20 or so are again accepted, the odds are . . . well, roughly 1 in 33.3. Perhaps that’s as it should be.

The list is remarkably diverse, which pleases the editor. And although they rescinded the “one book, one artist” rule for this round of proposals, he’s also pleased by the relatively few number of proposals on albums by artists already the subjects of books in the series. “I was really expecting a deluge of Dylan, Pink Floyd, Velvets, Smiths, Stones and Radiohead pitches,” Mr. Barker writes, but “Instead, we get Slint, Ween, and Britney….” This fact may suggest something about the demographic reading and hoping to write for the series, I'm not sure. But excluding the fifteen proposals for “Various Artists” compilations, the band with the greatest aggregate number of proposals is the Talking Heads (8), followed by Slint (7, all on 1991’s Spiderland), Liz Phair (5, all on 1993’s Exile in Guyville) and Ween (5). For my part, I was pleased to see this time around proposals on Van Morrison (Astral Weeks), the O’Jays (Back Stabbers), Phil Ochs, Public Image Ltd. (Metal Box), Scott Walker, The Specials, The Mekons, The Residents, Underworld, John Cale (Paris 1919) and The Zombies (Odessey & Oracle)—and someone, lo and behold, finally proposed a book on Elvis Presley! (The Moses figure to the 33 1/3 series—he enabled the series in the first place, but will never be a part of it.) There were some surprises: 10cc, Gene Clark, Dennis Wilson (Pacific Ocean Blue), the Electric Prunes (Mass in F Minor), and, of all things, Steppenwolf’s Steppenwolf Live. The choices for Bob Dylan albums were unusual as well, but there’s no way of knowing until you see the proposals, of course. And there were the usual number of obvious—too obvious—choices. The oddest proposal: Wilco, “Forthcoming 2009 album.” Isn't that a lot like calling dibs?

Unless the series turns itself over strictly to books about cult albums of the past two decades or so, the toughest nut to crack, in my opinion, is another book on The Beatles, although a few proposals were submitted this time (Beatles for Sale and The Beatles, aka “The White Album”). I say this not because a Beatles album is already the subject of a book in the series (Let It Be), and not because another book doesn’t need to be written about their albums. I say this because it will be hard to surpass Dave Marsh’s book, The Beatles’ Second Album (Rodale, 2007), a model text of how you go about writing about rock music. Not everyone shares my opinion about his book, of course (see the reader comments on Amazon’s website by clicking on the link), but for sheer passion about a subject, characterized by good writing based on solid research, it is hard to surpass. Essentially Marsh used the The Beatles’ Second Album as means to gauge the band’s immense impact not only on popular music, but American culture as well, and in that regard he succeeds admirably. He’s attempting something very difficult, which is, as he calls it, to bridge “a canyon of time,” attempting to invoke precisely what sort of musical and cultural revolution The Beatles’ initiated, using the band’s second American album to do it. I don’t think, as some have claimed, he’s trying to compete with the fine books on The Beatles by Bruce Spizer, but rather to attempt a colossal act of historical reconstruction. My memory of those times—and the significance of The Beatles—jibes with his. For instance, one insightful observation (out of many) Marsh makes is as follows:

One of the great discrepancies between living through Beatlemania and the way that Beatles history has been recorded is the small role that the rock ‘n’ roll haters play in the annals. As the tale is usually told, it’s as if there were a few days, maybe a couple months, during which general disapproval of the Beatles, individually and as a group, and of the music—theirs, what they drew upon, what they inspired—ran rampant. Then adults quite jovially saw the light and, with the release of “Michelle,” all became sweetness and a quick transformation took place to “All You Need Is Love.”

That’s not how it played out—not in my hometown, and not for anybody I’ve ever talked to who lived through it. (48)

It wasn’t like that in my hometown either, Dave. It wasn’t just about the music, as anyone who lived through those times perfectly well knows: it was cultural warfare: about politics, morals, race—it was about whether you were an American or not. Those four lads from Liverpool were perceived by some as a menace, out to corrupt American youth. Of course, it wasn’t just about The Beatles; I remember the days when buying a Dylan album was a transgressive act. But, I digress. My point is that some of the latest proposals have a tougher hill to climb than others, although I admire those who have chosen to take this more challenging and arduous route.

The editor of the 33 1/3 series, David Barker, is entertaining a plan to whittle the roughly six hundred proposals down to a final one hundred. While I hope my proposal is among those ultimately accepted, if it is not—as strange as it may sound—I hope it is cut in the initial round rather than remaining in limbo, as it were, among the final 100. Even if it were one of those final 100, it would, in fact, be no closer to the final goal, to be selected for publication, than it was at the beginning of the selection process.

Now the waiting starts. Whatever the result, I look forward to further books in the series, as the quality has been very high. Good luck to all.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dave Dee, 1943—2009

British pop star Dave Dee, born David Harman—who holds the distinction of having one of best whip cracks on record in pop music history—died early this morning at the age of 65 following a long battle with cancer, the BBC has reported. Originally a police officer before entering the music business (legend has it that he was one of the officers at the scene of the car accident that killed Eddie Cochran and injured Gene Vincent in April 1960, although he would have been a mere seventeen years old at the time), Dave Dee was the lead singer of the inimitable Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, a group named after the members’ nicknames. Incorrectly perceived as a bubblegum act, the music of DDDBMT (as the band is referred to in its acronym form), actually employed a number of musical styles, and while they didn’t shy away from the fuzzy, distorted guitar of early psychedelia, they might best be characterized as “power pop,” although that term didn’t gain currency until the early 70s, by which time DDDBMT had disbanded. The band learned its chops in the same Beat clubs in Hamburg in which the Beatles played, and during their career the group had a run of eight Top 10 hits in the UK, including a #1 single in early 1968, The Legend of Xanadu (click on the link for the video), in which Dave Dee, famously, cracks a whip, a la Zorro. Other hit singles included “Bend It!,” “Save Me,” “Zabadak”—and of course “Hold Tight!” (1966; check out the video), the song on the radio in Quentin Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE (2007) feature, Death Proof, during the brutal car crash scene.

According to the BBC report, in the 1970s Dave Dee “was a founding committee member of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy charity and was actively involved in fundraising and increasing the profile of the organisation for more than 30 years. He later worked as a magistrate in Cheshire,” although DDDBMT continued on as oldies act; they’d in fact recently performed dates in the UK and in Germany. No doubt, due in large part to Quentin Tarantino, a younger generation has discovered the music of DDDBMT, and that is a good thing. The band’s first album (1966) has been released on CD with a number of singles-only tracks, B-sides, and other rarities, and is well worth tracking down. Gotta love that whip!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Buffalo Springfield Again

A few days ago, in my post titled “Year One: Reflections,” I mentioned that my interpretations of pop songs such as “Judy In Disguise (With Glasses),” “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon,” and “Crimson and Clover” have consistently received hits through web searches over the past few months. I neglected to mention in that list my discussion (from last June) of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”—the entry is available here—which has also received a good number of hits over the past few months as well. Looking back on that post after the distance of a few months, however, left me dissatisfied with my discussion, not because I think I was especially “wrong” about the song, but because the discussion stopped short, leaving unstated the larger point I was trying to make.

While I think my essential point is correct—that the song, upon close inspection, really doesn’t express a coherent position about much of anything—in retrospect I think I was foolish, for one thing, to expect a pop song to express a coherent position about politics, much less complex social problems: pop songs are basically reactionary in nature. But more importantly, the larger, theoretical, point was left unstated. What I was trying to say is that the song is a sign without a referent: it means, but it doesn’t refer. The song doesn’t depict any “real” or actual event, despite being putatively inspired by the so-called “Sunset Strip Riot” in November 1966. (“Riot” was the word used by the media to represent the event, presumably instigated by discontented youth; whether it actually was an event of such proportion I have no idea.) Bertrand Russell illustrated the distinction between meaning and reference in his famous example, “The King of France is bald.” The sentence means, but it doesn’t refer—because there is no King of France.

Records, like movies, are signs without referents. As Robert Ray explains:

...behind Casablanca or “Fight the Power” lies no single, “real” event that has been transcribed and reproduced…. In 1967, situationist leader Guy Debord warned that in “societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.” (How A Film Theory Got Lost, 69)

Debord’s last sentence can be amended to say, “What was once directly lived has moved away into a construction”—whether that is a record titled “For What It’s Worth” or a movie called Riot on Sunset Strip (1967). Simon Reynolds observed, “The power of pop lies not in its meaning but its noise, not in its import but its force” (Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock, 10)—as this performance of “For What It’s Worth” from American television in 1967 should remind us. The television appearance occurred in 1967, the same year as Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle was initially published. Ironically, Neil Young explicitly acknowledged the replacement of the live by the recording during the TV appearance.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pop Aphorisms: XI

1. Keith Richards drinks and smokes, Madonna works out—while the display of the body is central to rock culture, their bodies reveal distinct obsessions: one with the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, the other with money and power.

2. Spandex is to flannel what Arena Rock is to grunge: each reveals the impact of commercial budget on musical form, but more importantly, how musical taste determines fashion.

3. There would have been no such thing as “Art Rock” or “Progressive Rock” had not the vinyl “Long Play” record—the LP—been embraced as the basic material artifact of rock ‘n’ roll.

4. Rock ‘n’ roll privileges the record, while jazz privileges the live performance: the unstated reason why rock music’s most successful acts always sound, in concert, like their records.

5. Mixing is to recording what editing is to the cinema: the assemblage of fragments into a simulacrum of live performance.

6. Alternative: Punk Rock that makes money.

7. Silver Threads and Golden Needles—poetic expression for an aging rock star with a drug habit.

8. The greatest recordings in rock history were a consequence of making all the right decisions about technical problems.

9. Cult Album: record made by an artist or artists who understood that high-minded political correctness equaled artistic death.

10. Rock stars, like movie stars, seldom grant interviews: the secret of their success is to make it impossible to determine the fictive from the real.

No Fun: Ron Asheton, 1948-2009

Ron Asheton, guitarist with The Stooges, has been found dead at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, according to this report; he was 60 years old. Police indicated the musician’s death appeared to be from natural causes. Ranked as the 29th greatest rock guitarist by Rolling Stone magazine in 2003, Asheton also acted in a few low-budget horror films beginning in the late 80s, most recently appearing in the horror comedy FROSTBITER: WRATH OF THE WENDIGO (1996). The Stooges, which included Asheton’s brother Scott on drums and the late Dave Alexander on bass, are among the nominees for the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class this April. One hopes that they will be inducted.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Year One: Reflections

Yesterday, January 4, represented the first anniversary of 60x50. I made my first post one year ago yesterday. As of yesterday, I have posted 222 entries on this blog, which averages out to about one post every forty hours over the past year. Not bad—considering that during that time I also completed an extensive essay on Ingmar Bergman’s THE SERPENT’S EGG (1977) for a forthcoming book on European horror films, continued to write reviews for VIDEO WATCHDOG (although the number was down from previous years, which doesn’t please me at all, as Tim and Donna Lucas are my friends as well as editors), completed two book proposals (one of which I mentioned on this blog just a few entries ago), presented one conference paper, and directed two plays for my University Theatre: Eugene Ionesco’s THE LESSON this past spring and Mary Chase’s classic comedy, HARVEY, this fall. Directing those two plays was a wonderful experience for me, as well as a privilege, and in that sense 2008 was a great and productive year. And I continue to work on POE PICTURES, to be published by Tomahawk Press (UK). I anticipate completing that book this summer, and I thank Bruce Sachs very much for his patience with me given my other commitments this past year—one of which has been this blog.

The task I set for myself with 60x50 (you can read the full explanation on the right)—to find a process that will bring about new things I would not have thought of if I had not started to say them—has, for the most part, been successful. I discovered things by writing for this blog, things I would not have learned had I not imposed this writing requirement upon myself. I cannot say that there weren’t some duds among my posts of the past year: if Sturgeon’s Law is correct, then 96% of them were duds—which means only about 4% (i.e., about nine of them) were any good. Some achieved more success than others: my interpretations of pop songs such as “Judy In Disguise (With Glasses),” “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon,” and “Crimson and Clover” consistently garner hits through web searches, and certain posts—such as the one on Bob Dylan and existential cool—did extremely well, as did my “pop aphorisms” series (a series I promise to return to very soon). My discussion of the relationship between psychedelia and bubblegum has also done very well. Are those the nine posts of quality that verify Sturgeon’s Law? A few kind souls, Tim Lucas and Bent Sørensen among them, have been generous enough to serve as blog rollers for me (providing a link to my blog on their respective blog sites), and all in all the experience has been a positive one.

There is, however, a downside, and it is the amount of work this blog requires given the number of page views it receives. I checked the page views a moment ago; subtracting those that have visited since midnight last night, I calculate a grand total of 24,119 views over the past year. (Just think if my friends weren’t blog rolling for me.) I’m quite sure there are sites that receive that number every day, other sites that receive that number every week, and others that receive that number every month. Subtract from this grand total the hits that can be attributed to roving web bots and such, then it becomes an even more paltry number. Foolishly, I neglected to attach a site meter until the end of February last year, meaning the figure above really reflects about a week plus ten months, but the fact is, the amount of work this blog has required hardly seems worth it given the number of visitors. Given that the first month’s visitors would have been negligible because I had just started up the blog, the total number above is reasonably accurate, I think. Make no mistake—I appreciate each and every visitor I have had over the past year, and I appreciate those who return to my blog on a regular basis. I am grateful for all the visits I’ve had over the past year. But as a wise old mentor of mine used to say, “Sam, always ask yourself whether the increment is worth the excrement.” If I were to apply that sage piece of advice to the question of whether to maintain this blog, then the answer would be very simple: NO.

My blog has a number of problems. For one thing, to employ the language of cyberspace, my site is “sticky”—it doesn’t consist of “news,” where readers come for current or up-to-date information, then move on. In other words, readers have to make a dedicated effort to get here (by web searches, mostly), and to get out. Moreover, it’s focus is not entirely clear. It has gravitated toward popular music (primarily the Sixties, as the blog title would suggest), but not the current scene (although I would hope that most if not all of the insights I’ve made are applicable in theory to the “current” music scene nonetheless—the pop aphorisms, for instance). Additionally, my posts are for the most part unusual in that they read more like essays than blog entries. I am not claiming that this is bad, since it’s a form I prefer. The topics I write about I have set as assignments or tasks for myself, in order to teach myself something. So when I look up information, and track down information, I pass those sources of information on to others, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t read like an academic essay—a form many readers, I’m sure, dislike. Lecturing for most people often is, as it is for myself, counter-productive. I think this is why my posts such as the pop aphorisms have been so successful, because they fit the sound bite form preferred in the cyberspace environment—the technology drives the form, in other words (nothing new there).

So, in reflecting upon the past year, I’ve concluded that 60x50, while not an utter failure, isn’t a success, either. It exists in that liminal space somewhere between (mediocrity?), which, rather like a visit to the “twilight zone,” isn’t an ideal place to be. I’m not quite ready to give it up, as I still have hopes for it (although don’t ask me to enumerate precisely what they are), but I don’t see myself continuing on at the rate I have—posting over two hundred times during the next year, for example. The research component for many posts is extensive, and while I hope readers have found my research valuable, I have done it for free. I will continue to assess this weblog’s personal importance to me as well (I have many other proverbial “irons in the fire” to which I can dedicate my time), and set out to determine the answer to that fundamental problem, a problem I’m quite sure other bloggers struggle with as well: whether the increment is worth the excrement.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Twitch And Shout

The death of a rock star is not without commercial potential. I was reminded of this truth by this afternoon’s programming on TV LAND, which has devoted several hours of its programming to Elvis Presley, whose birthday is fast approaching (January 8). While the deaths of Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, and Brian Jones antedated the 1970s, the sheer number of deaths of rock stars in the 1970s—Elvis’s among them—was significant, and the number of books published since serve as constant reminders that they are still dead (see the partial bibliography below).

Having recently submitted a book proposal on the subject of Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night (June 1975), the issue of those who “lived and died for rock and roll” has preoccupied me (even if that dedication is perhaps ironic). Young’s album is dedicated to his friends, guitarist Danny Whitten (died 1972) and roadie Bruce Berry (died 1973), but there were any number of other deaths that preceded the release of Young’s classic album:

Duane Allman (The Allman Brothers Band), 1971
Darrell Banks (“Open the Door to Your Heart”), 1970
Bobby Bloom (“Montego Bay”), 1974
Graham Bond (Graham Bond Organization), 1974
Bill Chase (Chase), 1974
Miss Chrissie (GTOs), 1972
Arlester Christian (Dyke & the Blazers), 1971
Brian Cole (The Association), 1972
Jim Croce, 1973
King Curtis (“Charlie Brown”), 1971
Bobby Darin (“Splish Splash”), 1974
Nick Drake, (Bryter Later), 1974
Don Drummond (The Skatalites), 1971
Cass Elliot (The Mamas & the Papas), 1974
Mary Ann Ganser (The Shangri-Las), 1971
Pete Ham (Badfinger), April 1975
Lee Harvey (Stone the Crows), 1972
Jimi Hendrix (The Jimi Hendrix Experience), 1970
Janis Joplin (Big Brother & the Holding Company), 1970
Jerry Lee Lewis, Jr. (son of Jerry Lee Lewis), 1973
Billy Marcus (New York Dolls), 1972
Clyde McPhatter (Dominoes; Drifters), 1972
Robby McIntosh (Average White Band), 1974
Jim Morrison (The Doors), 1971 (Parisian grave is pictured)
Barry Oakley (The Allman Brothers Band), 1972
Lowman Pauling (The “5” Royales), 1973
Rod “Pig Pen” McKernan, 1973
Gram Parsons (The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers), 1974
Steve Perron (The Children) 1973
Bobby Ramirez (White Trash), 1970
John Raynes (Monotones), 1972
James Sheppard (The Heartbeats; Shep & the Limelights), 1970
Billy Stewart (“Summertime”), 1970
Rory Storm (The Hurricanes), 1972
Vinnie Taylor (Sha Na Na), 1974
Tammi Terrell (duo partner with Marvin Gaye), 1970
Gene Vincent, 1971
Clarence White (The Byrds), 1973
Paul Williams (The Temptations), 1973
Al Wilson (Canned Heat), 1970
Harris Womack (Valentinos), 1974

Gary J. Katz, Death By Rock ‘n’ Roll. Citadel Press, 1995.

R. Gary Patterson, Take a Walk on the Dark Side: Rock and Roll Myths, Legends, and Curses. Fireside, 2004. Note: A revision and expansion of Hellhounds on Their Trail: Tales From the Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard. Dowling Press, 1998.

Jeff Pike, The Death of Rock 'N' Roll: Untimely Demises, Morbid Preoccupations, and Premature Forecasts of Doom in Pop Music. Faber & Faber, 1993.

Jeremy Simmonds, The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches. Updated Edition. Chicago Review Press, 2008.

Dave Thompson, Better to Burn Out: The Cult of Death in Rock ‘n’ Roll. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1998. Note: Dave Thompson is also the author of Never Fade Away: The Kurt Cobain Story.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Collecting—whether autographs, beer cans, baseball cards, comic books, stamps or records—is an activity that borders on the autistic. Autists, obsessed with the most obscure minutiae, are noted for their strange and unusual collections: birthdates of minor character actors of the silent film era, for instance, or even bus transfers. What distinguishes the autist collector from other collectors is the value of the collection: a collection of hundreds of bus transfers or obscure birth dates has little if any monetary value, while a record collection, in contrast, does, although the value of the latter may fluctuate wildly over the course of a decade.

Collecting of any kind is a parody of scientific endeavor. Like the scientist, the collector engages in empirical research, fieldwork, meticulous cataloguing, systematizing, and the diligent recording of exceptions, variations, and one-of-a-kind specimens. But like the stereotype of the exotic butterfly collector lost in the immensity of a vast and tangled rain forest, collectors are committed to a life of obsessive compulsion coupled with a willingness to engage without compunction in wasteful and extravagant expenditure: no sacrifice—typically of a financial kind—is too great. For the record collector, overwhelmed by the sheer amount of manufactured consumer goods (similar to the bewildering diversity of nature), dedicates himself or herself to the mastery and ownership of a discrete kind of material object. The activity borders on the autistic because its pleasure is derived from the illusion of mastery over what is essentially a vast, bewildering complexity, which is why collecting—in its excessively narrow focus—is a parody of the scientific enterprise. Record collectors gather pressings, editions, and variations with the single-mindedness of the most obsessive butterfly collector.

The goal of the collector—a mock profession in the sense that there is no income resulting from it, only a guarantee that the collection is, metaphorically, much like an investment—is the wunderkammerthe cabinet of wonders. The power of the wunderkammer is premised on being the biggest, the most complete, the strangest, the most outré—an assemblage premised on plenitude, extravagance, and—presumably because of its totality—beauty.

We ought to remember that collecting, as Theodor Adorno observed almost seventy years ago, is enabled because one can transform experience (for instance, the recognizing of a specific tune) into an object, thus making it capable of ownership.

Theodor Adorno with George Simpson, “On Popular Music,” in Studies in Philosophy and Social Science 9 (1941), pp. 17-48.
Dave Marsh and James Bernard, The New Book of Rock Lists. Fireside: 1994.
Rosamond Wolff Purcell and Stephen Jay Gould, Finders, Keepers: Eight Collectors. W. W. Norton, 1992.
Lewis Shiner, Glimpses. Avon, 1993.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day

I’d like to be able to say that the world is fundamentally different this morning from the way it was last night when I went to bed, but alas it is not. The daunting political and economic problems that existed last night still exist this morning; they didn’t vanish into thin air overnight. And so while change may be in the air in 2009, and holds the potential for positive change, on this New Year’s Day I can think only of these lyrics from U2’s “New Year’s Day”:

And so we are told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you,
To be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Years Day