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15 > Page 15 of Blue-Tail Fly, October 15, 1969

Part of Blue-Tail Fly

music: The Band i sill", by JACK LYNE Gosh whiz, it used to be so easy to be a far-out, heavy, outtasite, rock-a-rock-a star. Hie rules of rock were flaccid for awhile and some terribly mediocre musicians scaled the hype-strewn path to the rock pantheon. The unholy hype that surrounded such groups as the ear shattering atrocity calling themselves the MG5 called for a standard set-up including an amp army, foreboding stage presence, and a pervasive group mystique (Now the Doors are just one big collective mass of Califomiaism, mysticism, dadaism, and fetishism, right? Right, and Eldridge Cleaver is a CIA front). In fact, the brown-paper cover edition of Webster's Wock and Woll Stage Wules advises the rising young star upon reaching the stage of the Filmore East to do as follows: "Step 1: Look very stoned. Wander around the stage aimlessly. If you forget the lyrics, give the peace sign. Step 2: Turn up your amps full blast, stomp the wah-wah pedal and grab off all the feedback possible. This way no one can really hear you. Step 3: For a finale, imagine your cheapest amp is the proverbial white underbelly of, say, Grace Slcik and (that your own heavy, heavy guitar is, [in McLuhanesque terms, an extension of your own magic twanger. Step 4: Get it on." Good fun for all, that's what it was. Good fun, yes, but often sickeningly 'pedestrian music. Part of the hype problem lies in the slow development of rock, the nerve center of the alternative life-style, as a para-country club cult. With large segments of the rock audience the emphasis has shifted from listening and enjoying to Making the Scene. Countless young consumers succumbed to the exploitation of rock (Woodstock promo man and former heavy dealer Mike Lang is the archetypal hype-man) and placidly accepted seeing groups with crowds from 20,000 to 300,000 in the midst of unbelievable conditions and non-acoustics. But never mind if you couldn't hear, much less see, rock groups in such situa- :ontinued from page 14 tation that threatens to spoil the picture [in its early stages. Yet, despite these and other numerous i faults, "Easy Rider" does manage to get its thing together, man. It soon becomes obvious that this allegorical bit of cinema verite has a lot of unpleasant things to say about what is happening to this country. Fonda's identity as "Captain America" is no accident. Likewise, the names Wyatt land Billy are torn from the pages of American folk mythology. And "Easy [Rider" is an old southern slang term for a man living off the earnings of a prostitute, taking, in essence, the easy ride. [As Fonda himself put it, "We're all {taking that easy ride, man. Liberty's [become a whore". [ The excellent "Rider" sound track is [taken from various cuts from contemporary artists like The Band and Jimi Hendrix. I (Interestingly enough, Bob Dylan refused to allow his version of "It's All Blight Ma, I'm Only Bleeding" to be utilized as the final cut, saying that the picture would have to be changed to "give the kids hope". Fonda finally decided to have Byrd Roger McGuinn sing it as a finale. Bob Dylan now has four children.) | But perhaps the greatest value of "Easy Rider" is its honest portrayal of the icrimony pervading this country and the sickening nature of the violence it pro-luces. Though overt violence only breaks put twice, its representation is both superb and nauseating. \. In fact, the confrontations are so accurately portrayed that perceptive Newsweek critic Joseph Morgenstern, in writing about the hostile confrontation between Fonda, Hopper, and Nicholson and local red-necks in a cafe, noted the scene "bore the unmistakable earmarks of Ferry Southern's writing. I On the contrary, the scene bears the earmarks only of America. No one wrote it. Instead, as revealed in an interview in [The New York Times, Hopper merely walked into a for-real small town restaurant with for-real people and asked [the locals to simply say and do what they [ordinarily would if three such hirsute characters walked in and tried to get a sal. October 15, 1969 tions. You could recognize a couple of cuts from the album, and people up front could later describe what actually happened on stage and, I mean, well, it was The Place To Be And You Were There. In the sales section groups with terribly limited repetoires became, via the marketing mania, groupie meat: The Iron Butterfly (Minnie Mouse on a belladonna jag). Three Dog Night (Wow, what a clever name, and man, three lead singers, all bad.), and the Doors (the brilliant promise of the 1967's "The End" has been methodically debauched. The current "Soft Parade" will likely be the group's artistic epitath.) In the midst of the piles of such shallow promo droppings, THE BAND stands like Albert Camus surrounded by the entire staff of Sixteen Magazine. Yet, it would be a lie to shake the words awake and spin a non-linear word web around this, the second album by THE BAND, for their music is first and foremost honest. Descriptions of The Band's product wilt inevitably fail, as verbalizations of all good things (sex, sleep, laughter) always fail. If labels must be grafted on tb the five-man band, they are perhaps best described as country-oriented. Their normal musical line-up features Garth Hudson on organ, Richard Manuel on piano, Levon Helm on drums, Rick Danko on bass and Jaime Robbie Robertson on guitar. Manuel, Helm and Danko share the vocals. The Band's material is home-grown and uniquely their own. This album was recorded in a rented home in Los Angeles, much in the fashion of the CatskiUs-produced "Music from Big Pink." All twelve songs were written by band personnel (Robertson handles the bulk of the composing chores, assisted on occasion by Manuel and Helm), and Robertson and John Simon produced the album in the rented L. A. home without the extensive over-dubbing and 6 0 -piece orchestras that are so often used to cover the weaknesses of the other groups. The twelve cuts that make up "THE BAND" often resemble some oral tradi- Such smouldering violence earmarks the schism that divides this nation. It is becoming increasingly apparent that when an American hears the word "culture", he reaches for his revolver. This divisiveness is exactly what "Easy Rider" conveys so well. "Rider" also emphatically underlines the widespread rejection of the American Dream, as when Billy desperately whines, "We made lots of money, man, and that's what it's all about, isn't it?" and Captain America replies, "No, man, we blew it". It seems readily apparent that 'he rubric of that American dream (two cars, a house in suburbia, two children: one boy, one girl, and PTA and country club membership) will simply not supply enough meaning for the lives of a segment of population as divergent as Abbie Hoffman and Dr. Benjamin Spock. Yet, when individuals are either killed or persecuted for holding such beliefs, as are Wyatt and Billy, one can only scream WHY? The answer to such questions are desperately needed, for this country is fast revealing itself as a drunken ogre, onan-istically dry-humping as it dangles prepositions and tries desperately to conjugate itself. Without such answers we all may find that life in these United States, like Chicago's bad moon rising, Richard Daley, is indeed, nasty and brutish, and, very likely, short. The blue-tail fly needs help with circulation; we need people to help us distribute the paper to as many campuses as possible. It sells for 20y and the seller keeps a dime. Contact us at 210 W Third, Lexington, Ky. 40507 if you can help out. Hon handed down through the centuries by mountain-men. Yet, throughout the band's work there is an aura of authenticity and currency that give the music a gaping agelessness and placelessness. Despite their down-home sound, the music of the band is wonderfully obscure. With each listening the cryptic lyrics, like those of early Dylan, come to take on different meanings, unfolding new levels of human consciousness. The lead vocals of Helm, Danko, and Manuel occasionally rise like some stoned country choir, as in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", (a Civil War epic) and "Whispering Pines". There is also the wonderfully vague apocalypse of "Look Out Cleaveland", and the wry earthiness of "Jemima Surrender" and "Up On Cripple Creek" (the latter containing such lines as, "Me and my mate, we were back at the shack, we had Spike Jones on the box. She said, I can't take the way he sings, but I love to hear him talk." Throughout the album, their is seldom a superfluous line, seldom a wasted riff. Yet, in the midst of this very economical music there is very open humanism, an admission that we are not forever to be young psychedelic kings going out to hip the world to our heavy, far-out selves, but, instead the notion that we are, indeed, busy being born, busy laughing, crying and being, all hanged or hangable. Thankfully, the lowering of the decible range by groups such as The Band has not produced the saccharine thickness that doomed earlier exponents of rock's hard gone soft. For instance, Simon and Garfunkle fairly wallowed in syrupy self-pity and Richie Havens and Donovan, for all their talent, occasionally donned the clear plastic raincoat of the pollyanna. The newer crop of quieter musicians is made up of experienced, component musicians who have somehow wandered through all this hollow hype without losing their integrity. The Band, four Canadians and Arkansas boy Levon Helm, spent five years as "The Hawks" backing Ronnie Hawkins (soon back on the recording scene after signing a $200,000 pact with Atlantic), and one year backing wheel-on-fire Bob Dylan (the group also will reportedly back Dylan on his forthcoming American tour). Likewise, Crosby, Stills and Nash (now augmented by the immense presence of Neil Young) have been on the scene since the early sixties. Even such a long-time stalwart as John May all, England's grand old man of the blues, has eschewed the ego-freak, super-noise school and come across with a brilliant drummerless group and a solid album, "The Turning Point," Mayall's finest effort since his early 1965 recordings with Eric Clapton. The Mayall group utilizes acoustic guitars, very soft saxaphone and flute sty lings (done extremely well by Johnny Almond), bass and the harmonica, slide guitar and-vocals of Mayall. In concert all four performers are plugged into a single amplifier. Audiences simply have to listen to hear them. Surprisingly, they are doing exactly that. The result of the new directions of musicians such as The Band, Mayall, and Crosby, Stills, Nash (pause), and Young is an intricate, lis tenable, very human style of music. It became rather wearying to sit in shell-shocked subservience while one of the 8,243 self-proclaimed heaviest guitarists around hammered through bursts of intensity to inform all that they, like the American male prototype, have mountains of hair on their chests and sweat a lot. Of course, so does Lassie. However, we have not seen the end of rock's super-noise school and that is all to the good, for there are still some very vivid, very strong groups who play both well and loud (The Jeff Plane, the new rock's grand old family, is perhaps the best example). Hopefully, the more relaxed school of contemporary music men will eliminate some of the hype-created plastic men who have come to be objects of desperately offered adoration. Perhaps some rock fans will even drop back five and listen to the unhip, un-heavy, unfarout, but very real music of Fred Neil (listed in Webster's Wules under "miscellaneous"). HWUIIIIIUIIIIIIIIIIIIHIIIIIIIIIIIItllllllllUJIIIIIH Vote for| JACK REEVES The Only Independent Candidate for City Commissioner in Lexington He is for: | Adequate Housing for All A city open housing ordinance More adequate recreational facilities Equal employment opportunities Modernized control of downtown traffic Adequate system of expressways leading to suburbs paid for by Jack Reeves IUIHIIIIIIIIIIIIIUIIMIII.