Happy New Year, folks! Mein elderly yiddishe mamaleh took ill over the holidays and I neglected to send out any Blue Journalism or Putos Posts while I lorded over her geezer-healing (yes, she's doing much better, and thanks to everyone who expressed well wishes via phone, email, get well cards and guestbook posts). So anyway, what you got yerselves here is a belated three weeks worth of my insensitive keyboardal bullshit. Enjoy, and I'll see y'all soon.
BLUE NOTES By Buddy Blue
Among the major bummers of the era: contemporary pop artists must resemble supermodels to get a record contract. Ahhh, yesteryear...from Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and Roy Orbison to Janis Joplin, Keith Moon and Bonzo (not to mention all the collective croakees from the Grateful Dead, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ramones), we lament the passing of the Golden Era Of The Fugly Rock Star.
But wait! There remains an elite assemblage of elderly musical monsters (and not all of them are current members of the Stones), plus a smattering of more tender trolls that somehow crept twixt the cracks.
This week, we examine the Top Ten Aggressively Hideous Pop Icons Who Are Not Dead Yet:
1.) MICHAEL JACKSON Think about it: if you'd somehow never been exposed to this creature and then encountered it on the street, you'd unquestionably flee in terror, convinced you'd come across a malevolent extraterrestrial preparing to kidnap you and administer a regimen of outer space anal probes - even if you were over the age of twelve.
2.) KEITH RICHARDS Keef's repulsiveness transcends the customary analogies to ossifying pirates, junkies and hoboes. In fact, Richards appears as a wholly unique, elemental primate; a sub-human species lassoed into captivity after leaping from a tree, flailing and gibbering in defense of its arboreal living quarters.
3.) BJORK I can't decide whether this woman more closely resembles an ant or a door wedge, nor have I been able to ascertain how someone could harbor so mutant a mug sans surgical modification.
4.) AARON NEVILLE Why Aaron never had the sleazy prison tats and throbbing purple tumor removed from his head remains a mystery for the ages; all I know is, I can't force down a meal for hours after seeing him on my television.
5.) ELTON JOHN Sir Elton once famously remarked that (I paraphrase here) the Rolling Stones were analogous to old monkeys with erections flitting about onstage. The irony of the fact that the commentator was a pudgy, 50-something drag queen sporting day-glo yellow hair plugs combed into absurd Beatle-bangs was apparently lost on the silly old twit.
6.) TOM PETTY I've been dealing with a recent infestation of rats feasting on the tangerine tree in my backyard. So far, I've trapped several of the little slimebags, and during each vermin disposal have found myself absent-
mindedly humming "Don't Come Around Here No More." Meanwhile, the image of Petty with a hunk of cheese imbedded in his fangs is now permanently etched into my brain.
7.) CLAY AIKEN I'm grateful to "American Idol" for supplying us with a steady stream of funny-looking pseudo-celebrities to gawk at, but Aiken is in a league all his own. If Johnny Rotten mated with Pee Wee Herman and they mercilessly beat the child with a portrait of Ichabod Crane....
8.) BRITNEY SPEARS One should not be able to determine what a person will look like in their sixties while that person is still in their teens. However, even prior to the development of her soft white underbelly, waggling jowls, cellulite-blossomed buttocks and Hillary-esque cankles, it was readily apparent that Britney was Aunt Bea waiting to happen.
9.) DERYCK WHIBLEY While the group's music is derivative as it comes, Sum 41 lead singer Whibley at least boasts a properly punk puss. With greasy, acne-kissed skin, a caterpillar unibrow setting off his potato nose and a snotty smirk perpetually etched into purple, bumpy lips, Deryck is the current Face of the genre.
10.) PAUL MCCARTNEY Forty years ago, none might have dreamt that froggish little Ringo would settle into a handsome, dignified maturity while "The Cute Beatle" would wither and melt revoltingly before our very eyes until he was rendered into an elderly English washerwoman from the squalid side of Sheffield.
ROBERT PLANT: Once the ultimate rock & roll pretty boy, Bobbo's sagging face now resembles half of a pair of unmentionable male reproductive glands.
LEMMY: Homeliness is part of Lemmy's undeniable charm, but with that floating eye, facial tumescence and putrid dentition, he could, nonetheless, stop a train in its tracks.
IGGY POP: A stick of beef jerky come to life.
LYLE LOVETT: Appears to have smoked four packs of Camels a day for several decades before that skunk crawled atop his head and expired.
BLUE NOTES By Buddy Blue
Another year gone by, another series of scandals, indignities, embarrassments, outrages, ego-trips and really, really bad music is blessedly behind us. This week, we look back at the lowlights of 2004, with hopes that the Paris Hilton Nation collapses under the weight of its own loathsome appetites in the coming year:
Janet Jackson set off an unprecedented moral/cultural war when her breast "accidentally" popped out during a Superbowl halftime performance with Justin Timberlake. Never one to be outdone for publicity, brother Jacko's nose "accidentally" slipped off his face during a NAMBLA fundraiser performance with the Vienna Boys Choir.
"The National Enquirer" published photos of Britney Spears walking barefoot into a public restroom, while "The Sun" reported that passengers on a flight from L.A. to New York bitterly complained of Britney's nauseating foot stench after she removed her shoes, resulting in a flight attendant demanding that Britney re-shod her offending pedal extremities. De-classified government documents later revealed covert plans by al-Quaeda operatives to abduct Ms. Spears in an endeavor to harness her bromhidrodal bouquet for use as a chemical weapon.
Troubled actor Robert Downey, Jr. released his debut pop album, "The Futurist." Copies of the CD inexplicably turned up in the bedrooms of several startled residents of Malibu, California.
Mandy Moore publicly apologized to fans who bought her first two albums, classifying them as "crap, crap crap." Sony Records, however, failed to apologize in advance to fans who plan on purchasing future Moore releases.
Rapper R. Kelly pitched a hissy fit over the lighting at a concert in St. Louis and bolted the building midway through the performance. Kelly later turned up at a local McDonalds, where he spent the rest of the night working the drive-through window, inadvertently prepping him for a looming post-celebrity career.
Vaguely impaired "American Idol" reject William Hung became a national sensation with his distressing rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." Capitalizing on this latest trend, reliably tasteful MTV announced the development of a new reality series tentatively entitled "Laughing At Retards."
A heroic bird of unidentified breed expressed its disapproval of lame '80s rock relics by defecating directly into the gaping piehole of Cyndi Lauper during a concert in Mansfield, Massachusetts. So far, attempts to track down, capture and turn loose the avian avenger at performances by fellow comebacking '80s hacks Duran Duran, Tears For Fears and Morrissey have proven unsuccessful.
In yet more amusing fecal rockstar news, a lawsuit was filed against the Dave Matthews Band, alleging it dumped the contents of its tour bus septic tank while crossing a bridge over the Chicago River, resulting in mega-gallons of stinky unpleasantness splattering passengers lounging on a ship below. Without assuming responsibility, vociferous "environmentalist" Matthews stated he wanted to "make amends" and donated $68,000 to the Chicago Park District. He stopped short, however, of promising to cease further ecological damage by releasing more aural sewage on CD.
"Me-so-punk" poser Avril Lavigne told "Maxim" magazine that she'd kicked a woman "in the [privates]" during a bar fight earlier in the year. Mike Tyson was subsequently seen hounding the diminutive singer for street combat tips.
Yusef Islam, the former Cat Stevens, was barred from entering the U.S. due to alleged terrorist connections. Islam expressed outrage and bewilderment at the expulsion despite his continuing refusal to repudiate Palestinian homicide bombers, his still unexplained ties to terrorist fundraising organizations and his past public endorsement of the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie. However, State Department officials asserted that the real reason behind Islam's exile was to protect a traumatized post-9/11 populace from further exposure to such excruciating Steven's oldies as "Peace Train," "Moonshadow" and "Morning Has Broken."
Courtney Love flashed her chesticles on "The Late Show with David Letterman," conked a fan with a microphone stand during a concert, was arrested for reckless endangerment and posed for photos while allowing an admirer to suckle her at a fast food restaurant. Love's publicist announced his client's plans to open a franchise of Charm Schools For Desperate Alcoholic Skanks in partnership with frequent Courtney consort Anna Nicole Smith.
Ashlee Simpson was busted lip-synching during an appearance on "Saturday Night Live." Simpson blamed her backing band for the faux pas; her father blamed a flare-up of acid reflux; sister Jessica blamed a popular canned tuna manufacturer; right wing commentator Bill O'Reilly blamed Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, Geffen Records revealed Simpson's upcoming CD would be a collection of duets with former Milli Vanilli member Fabrice Morvan.
A coalition of politically active musicians including Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne and the Dixie Chicks toured election battleground states as "Vote For Change," while by contrast, former "conscience of a generation" Bob Dylan appeared in a television commercial for lurid ladies underthings company, Victoria's Secret. Men throughout the world experienced a horrified inability to further peruse VS catalogs without the image of Dylan's pruny mug materializing in their minds and sullying matters, umm, at hand.
Ray Charles, Barney Kessell, Illinois Jacquet, Elvin Jones, Johnny Ramone, "Gatemouth" Moore, Skeeter Davis, Ellis Marsalis and Son Seals (see below) passed away; Kenny G, Kenny Loggins, Kenny Rogers and Kenny Chesney did not; the number of Americans expressing a profound disbelief in the existence of God soared to record proportions.
ANOTHER GREAT LEAVES THE BUILDING Intense, feral bluesman Son Seals died December 20 of complications from diabetes; he was 62. Seals was a ferocious, vehement guitarist whose malevolent tone and slashing riffs implied something approaching inner violence, and a gruff-voiced singer whose gravelly baritone proudly exclaimed, "I'm a MAN, y'all!" Although Seals' sound was firmly rooted in the tuff sensibility of such like-minded late bluesmen as Albert Collins, Albert King and Luther Allison, Seals seemed a gentle, thoughtful soul whenever I spoke with him - once, Seals even sent me an effusive thank you letter for a story I'd written about him. Acclaimed as one of the most exciting young talents to emerge from the blues scene when he first surfaced in the early '70s, Seals' career hit stonier roads in recent years -- his last album, "Lettin' Go," was released in 2000, six years removed from his prior studio effort. Fans will eulogize Seals as an uncompromising, old-school blues master whose unyielding refusal to homogenize his work resulted in a spotty but noble legacy.
BLUE NOTES By Buddy Blue
The music world remains home for the holidays, leaving your humble servant with no local concerts to pontificate upon this week. What's a poor boy to do? How about I recommend a few mind-blowing CDs by obscure old weirdoes you've never heard of who've been dead for decades, hmmmmm? Thanks, Buddy!
You're welcome, cherished readers.
DOCK BOGGS, COUNTRY BLUES: COMPLETE EARLY RECORDINGS, 1927-1929 (Revenant) Boggs was a Virginia-based, coal-mining hillbilly singer/banjoist whose murder ballads and death- obsessed sonnets are so bloodcurdling as to still induce chills 75 years after their original release. There's a haunting quality to all Boggs' work: a sensation of cobwebs across the face; the stench of quicklime and decomposing flesh; the clatter of rattling bones; an aura of impending violence and doom that's downright disturbing. He sings of lust-driven homicide, hard times behind bars and desperate homelessness with a nervous, hurried phrasing that bespeaks a man running from demonic apparitions. In many respects, Boggs is the spiritual godfather of everyone from psychobilly punk groups like the Cramps and the Misfits through such studiously morbid, atonal arteests as Tom Waits and Nick Cave. In Boggs' case, though, the insanity wasn't a prop or a pose, the man was apparently unhinged; he stands as the cracker counterpart to similarly troubled bluesman Robert Johnson.
FRANKIE "HALF-PINT" JAXON, COMPLETE RECORDED WORKS, VOL. 1: 1926-1929 (Document) You want oddball? Jaxon was a tiny (5'2"), gay, female-impersonating song-and-dance man/bandleader with a voice like a 12-year-old girl. Jaxon recorded a series of double-entendre blues/jazz records with titles like "You Got To Wet It," "It's Heated," "Chocolate To The Bone," "Spank It" and "Let Me Ride Your Train," often graphically homoerotic in nature and hallmarked by appallingly lewd grunting and panting to make Donna Summer seem like Shirley Temple by comparison. Although there's currently no single, definitive "Best Of"-type CD available, this one is a good place to start. Jaxon, mysterious to the end, disappeared without a trace in the '40s.
GOEBEL REEVES, HOBO'S LULLABY (Bear Family) Reeves was the real deal: a rail-riding hobo, seafaring roustabout and vagrant troubadour who wrote and sang of the wanderer's life with more poetic beauty, pathos, humor and authenticity than all his more celebrated cohorts combined. Reeves taught Jimmie Rodgers to yodel, he wrote and originally recorded the eloquent standard "Hobo's Lullaby" (often wrongly credited to Woody Guthrie) and claimed Harry McClintock's "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" as his own with a definitive version. Whether performing delightfully peculiar yodels, reciting spoken-word lyrics to spare but expressive guitar accompaniment or singing with tenderness to put a lump in your throat, Reeves was truly an unheralded American music pioneer. Although this collection purports to comprise Reeves' "complete studio recordings," in fact it only scratches the surface of his expansive catalog. Still, it will have to do until a more comprehensive set comes along.
CLIFF "UKULELE IKE" EDWARDS, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (Living Era) Among America's brightest recording and vaudeville stars of the 1920s, Edwards is remembered today (if at all) as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Disney's "Pinocchio" (yep, that's him singing "When You Wish
Upon A Star"). But prior to that, Edwards sold untold millions of discs, is credited by jazz critic Will Friedwald as having invented scat singing, he introduced the world to such standards as "Singin' In The Rain," "Fascinating Rhythm" and "It's Only A Paper Moon," and later branched out to become a familiar radio and film personality. Why has all this been forgotten? Well, for starters, Edwards was downright funny-looking, a balding little toad of a man. The nasty morphine and alcohol addictions he publicly endured might have had something to do with it. Then there's that scandalous series of financial and marital disasters that plagued Edwards throughout his lifetime. No matter: Pre-Jiminy, Edwards was a ukulele virtuoso and demented vocal stylist of unparalleled proportions, whose revolutionary efforts held sway over early jazz, pop and Broadway, and whose records still astound with their crazed, distinctive energy to this day. Predictably, Edward's massive discography also remains sadly under-mined on re- issue; this is the best collection currently available.
********************** By Buddy Blue
Bluesman James Cotton was once known as "Superharp" -- a rowdy, whirling dervish of a singer/harmonica wizard whose wailing lines, reedy but resonant vocals, vigorous showmanship and flashy stage costumes infused his concerts with an exciting, decidedly rock 'n' roll sensibility.
Today, at age 69, having survived throat cancer, Cotton's voice has been reduced to a raspy whisper, but that hasn't stopped him from continuing to sing when the mood strikes. If the results just ain't the same and the famous back-flips Cotton once executed onstage are a now a memory, well, his harp attack remains downright vicious; legend has it that Cotton still routinely sucks the reeds clear out of his instrument when playing with particular passion. Regale yourselves of some Cotton-rockin' when The Man performs Tuesday night at 4th & B with Mark Hummel's Blues Harmonica Blowout, also featuring Charlie Musselwhite and Kim Wilson.
Cotton continues to tour and record extensively. Maintaining the positive outlook of a young man, he refuses to allow advancing age or illness to slow him down. "That's because I like to see people dance and have a good time," he once told me. "I like to keep it up, keep it moving. I always liked people like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Santana. I don't sing much anymore but I don't let it bother me too much, I just concentrate on blowing harp more."
Back in his 1970s prime as a bandleader, Superharp released a series of burning albums with Matt "Guitar" Murphy at his side - Murphy later found greater fame as the Blues Brothers' lead guitarist. However, if rock fans are most familiar with Cotton through those '70s concerts and recordings, blues aficionados will forever link Cotton with the towering figure that was Muddy Waters.
Cotton was Waters' harpman from 1954 through '66, perhaps the most productive years of Waters' long and enormously influential career -- that's Cotton you hear coloring such essential sides as "Got My Mojo Working," "She's Nineteen Years Old," "Tiger In Your Tank" and "Five Long Years."
"Muddy was the man and I had fun every minute of every day for that 12 years we were together," Cotton recalled. "Muddy was a very nice guy to work for, and I learned a lot from him -- learned how to keep a band together and do the things you need to do to make it work."
Unfortunately, Cotton's studio time with Waters was limited due to Chess Records label honcho Leonard Chess' preference for the style of former Waters bandmate Little Walter. Cotton played all of Muddy's gigs, but Chess insisted on bringing Walter into the studio in lieu of Cotton -- until Superharp finally put his foot down.
"It was rough man, 'cause Walter made all the records and I had to play 'em at night," he recalled. "Me and Walter was two different people. I couldn't play like Walter, so I finally had to talk to Muddy about that."
Cotton's style was more old-school, more down-home than Walters' jazzy, saxophone-influenced approach. As a young man, Cotton had apprenticed at the feet of Sonny Boy Williamson II and toured with Howlin' Wolf, learning his trade from a pair of pioneers.
"Sonnyboy, I studied with him for six years," said Cotton, "and he was just as ornery as they say he was. He'd cut you with a pocket knife if you didn't do what he was telling you!"
Cotton struck out as a bandleader/frontman in 1966, although he'd periodically reunite with the old bossman for the rest of Waters' life, including sessions for Muddy's celebrated 1977 comeback album, "Hard Again."
Despite his respectable solo career, Cotton will probably be best-remembered for his association with Waters and company; the impact of that classic group will likely continue to overshadow anything else achieved by its principals. And, according to Cotton, none of the guys even dreamed they were making history during their time together.
"No, no, no, I don't think we knew that, man. We just did what we were doing the best that we knew how."
Harp Blowout, January 11 at 4th and B, 345 B Street in San Diego, 8:00 PM, $19.50 advance/$23 day of show, (619) 231-4343.