Author Topic: GEORGE AND JAMES (Project of the Week for 29th of May, 5th of June)  (Read 160 times)

moleshow

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SO HERE'S THE DEAL!

with the PotW being the American Composer Series, one may ask: all at once? to which the answer is nope.

this week is specifically about Side A of George and James. the George side. next week will be the James side. then, after that, we'll move to Stars and Hank Forever and do the same thing. hopefully that explains "Part 1 of 4".
« Last Edit: June 13, 2017, 03:29:14 pm by moleshow »
"All our lives we love illusion, neatly caught between confusion and the need to know we are alive."

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CheerfulHypocrite

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George Gershwin never really did appeal to me. Not because of anything other than other than the thin walls of the bedroom I was living in at the time. Next door there lived an elderly couple with a gramophone record player that must have had an earlier life as an air raid warning system. They played a lot of Classical Music. At volumes usually reserved for inflicting structural damage on buildings. It was summer.

The previous April I had watched Tommy Cooper die, literally, live on television. His assistant put on his red cloak. He collapse. The audience laughed. It was his style of comedic magic. Meanwhile, the Miners were on strike. Protesting at the politicised closure of Coal Mines. The closures were inevitable and expected. The speed of closure and the utterly bewildering dumping of people onto a social scrap heap was the core of the Miners' campaign. The government strategy was threefold: build coal stocks, to keep as many miners at work as possible, and to use police to break up pickets. The critical element was ensuring the National Union of Mineworkers failure to hold a strike ballot. Which kept other Trade Unionists from becoming involved.

It was all about transforming society. Destroying Trade Unions and making the world safe for capitalism. I would have rather had Tommy Cooper (1921-1984). Not that he was a favourite comedian or magician; but, because he was familiar. Part of a vanishing world.  As was my neigbour. He was a veteran of the Second World War, harboured resentment towards Americans for the very poor behaviour of certain airmen during the War. In the Second World War Americans were stationed all over Lancashire. In and around Liverpool there were black Airmen. There were also white Airmen. Both sets would go into Liverpool to Pubs, Clubs and Shebeens. Especially in Liverpool 8: Toxteth. There was always a tension between Locals and the American Military because these dashing folk were stealing local women. Apart from The Grafton Ballrooms there were a range of other places. Far away from the Burtonwood Military Police and White Boys with boots. On once occasion, there was a huge clash between American Black and White Airmen in The Grafton Ballrooms which my neigbour witnessed because he was a regular at The Grafton Ballrooms.

Which was where he would swap cough mixture for music. Which is where he became attached to American Music. Despite the profitable relationship, he could not stand Americans because they hit on his girl - later his wife. As time went on his hearing deteriorated and both of them took to listening to music - Generally Classical - at huge, expansive volumes. He reminded me of an African Tommy Cooper.

Which was how he came to hear The Residents Playing George and James. The James Side was less favoured than the George side. During a lull in his daily discipline of playing Petrushka and The Firebird Suite, I blasted out George at a volume more suited to Panamanian Dictators than good neigbourly relations. When the clattering at the door came I was completely unprepared for the conversation. I hyped myself up to confrontation and argument. Knowing the neighbour had a reputation. Yet, nothing came of it. Nothing.

He stood on the doorstep and simply asked, Were you playing Gershwin?. Which was utterly confusing. As I began to speak, he leant forwards and shouted, You really will need to speak up. I am stone deaf. Which really was the first I knew of it. Which was also where I began to learn that someone I had assumed to be merely a local petty gangster was possibly one of the most cultured people for miles. When I nodded, he simply walked in, plonked himself down and demanded the "gramophone record". After he had the sleeve handed to him and the record placed onto the platter to play, he played around with volume, bass and treble knobs for some time. Then he returned the needle to the start of the vinyl and started from Rhapsody In Blue.

He was rapt. Silent until the end of Summertime. Whereupon he announced that The Residents cannot play jazz. Gershwin he assured me, was a white boy riding the Harlem Renaissance and the Residents were white boys riding a white boy riding the Harlem Renaissance. Which made sense to him, if not to me. I offered the information that The Residents were anonymous and all that sort of thing. Which was treated with disdain. His theory was that they were not really anonymous: there would be signatures in their music - even if they interpreted others - that would give them away.

They were using machines - bloody machines - to hide themselves but they would leave fingerprints all over their work. Every musician does, apparently. The signature of the Residents is making you think. Apparently. Something he was largely adverse to in music. Music should stir passion and action. Sitting and thinking about it defeats the object. Which is a notion that threads through their music. Mister Wonderful manages to be deeply emotional and much of Wormwood is passionate. But, George and James, is lacking something. As though the music had been repeatedly bleached. As though there was some incredible technique of leeching out everything until a unique silence - the silence of George Gershwin - was all that was left.

Two years later, his wife had a stroke. He ceased playing music and faded. By that time we were friends and I got to call him Charlie. I witnessed his will. Unknown to me, he had six different versions of his will. In one, he left me a collection of books. Which, even if the Will had been enforceable, was gratifying but pointless. His son had sold them years ago. When Charlie died, his son came and put everything into a skip in less than a day. The house was sold within a week. Which is how people vanish. The last piece of music I ever heard him play was Trios Gymnopédies. His son got into a squabble with his daughter and his disowned sun about the property and that was the end of that.

To this day the only signature to the Residents music that I actually want there to be is that it makes you think. Not because that is true but because it suits me.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2017, 01:16:26 am by moleshow »
Not altogether reliable for facts.

moleshow

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since i'm not much into the originals, the covers that make up this side don't really do much at all for me. that being said, i enjoy the presence of this side of the album in the context of Bobuck's later, solo works. his experimentation with pre-existing music and his inclination towards utilizing present technology to execute ideas comes through loud and clear.

but, outside of that... i dunno. it's not something i'm super into.
"All our lives we love illusion, neatly caught between confusion and the need to know we are alive."

moleshow

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NOW.... we move on to the James side of George and James.

pretty simple stuff, i'd say.
"All our lives we love illusion, neatly caught between confusion and the need to know we are alive."

moleshow

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this side of the album is actually why i bought it on vinyl- to hear it at 45rpm.

at 33rpm, i was mildly amused at best by it. but for some reason, hearing it sped up made it click. their dedication to replication is clearer here, and the whole side is practically dripping with an undeniable respect and adoration for Live at The Apollo. there is clearly rough experimentation throughout, but i would consider the James side to be one that sets the tone for future works- specifically the Black Barry section of Cube-E.

the addition of crowd noises actually makes it pretty exciting to listen to. it is, of course, at a faster pace than what was "intended", but the manic energy of the start of Night Train consistently manages to make me want to get up and dance.

about the album as a whole- it lays down a few stones in the "reflection of American culture through music" path that they started with their first few albums (TRnR, Eskimo, Commercial Album, MotM, you get the idea). while the music on this album may seem underwhelming to some, its importance cannot be stressed enough in the context of their future works. it would seem to me that the roughness is due to the fact that the Mole Show really beat them up pretty badly financially and they may have been eager to step away from storytelling for a hot minute (a hot minute, in this case, is 5 years.)

but more on that after the Hank side of Stars and Hank Forever.
"All our lives we love illusion, neatly caught between confusion and the need to know we are alive."