We’re in the throes of our annual autumnal tease in New Orleans. Summer isn’t over yet but the lower humidity is a sign that the end is nigh. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to enjoy it since I’ve had a bug that left me woozy and congested all week. So it goes.
I’ve got nothing to complain about since Hurricane Irma is going to Florida. I always feel faintly ghoulish at this time of year. It’s not that I *want* a storm to hit Florida or Texas, I just don’t want one to visit Southeast Louisiana. I have friends in South Florida and my thoughts are with them whether they’re evacuating or hunkering. Be careful out there, y’all.
A quick note about the featured image. It comes from a 1973 coffee table book with art by Guy Peellaert and text by Nik Cohn. I chose it because it’s Hopperish: Edward, not Dennis. Rock Dreams was quite the rage when I was a young rock fan; so much so that somebody stole the book from me not long after I moved out of my parents house. Another Rock Dreams image will turn up later but not the one with the Rolling Stones as SS officers. Oy just oy.
We’re back in almost identical title/different song territory this week. Ray Davies and the Kinks and Paul Rodgers and Bad Company offer their own takes as to what a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy is. I love both songs but if I have to choose, my money is on Ray. Sorry, Paul.
The Kinks got there first so we begin with A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy from 1977’s Misfits album:
Bad Company’s less morose Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy comes from 1979’s Desolation Angels.
If you’re thinking that this week’s focus is music, you get a cookie. I’m not sure what kind but probably one with lots of nuts because Odds & Sods is a nutty feature. We’ll go from nuts to soup after the break.
Let’s kick off our second act with a segment about of my all-time fave raves, Steve Winwood.
The Genius Of Steve Winwood: Genius is a strong word but I think it fits. In baseball, they talk about 5-tool players. They’re very rare indeed: Willie Mays was one as were Ken Griffey Jr. and Roberto Clemente. When it comes to music, you can talk about 3-tools in which a musician can excel: instrumentally, vocally, and songwritingly (not a word but it scans.) Steve Winwood is a 3-tool rocker: he’s a great singer, an excellent guitarist/virtuoso keyboard player, and an outstanding songwriter. And the man is the king of one of my favorite instruments, the Hammond B-3 organ.
There’s a swell piece online by Gene Santoro wherein he posts “24 songs that prove Steve Winwood is a genius.” It’s a strong list but I think some songs from 2003’s About Time and 2008’s Dirty City should have been included. I will rectify that omission with Bully from About Time and the title track of Dirty City:
There are some omissions on the Santoro list from the Traffic era but you’re in luck, I’m not in the mood to cavil. I guess the cavalry arrived.
Let’s close this section with one of Winwood’s best-loved songs, Dear Mr. Fantasy. It also conveniently fits this week’s theme. There’s occasionally method in my madness. Eric Clapton is along for the ride.
Our next segment is about *another* musical genius and Sixties survivor:
Richard Thompson On Writing: Scott Timberg has a monthly series at the Los Angeles Review of Books, All The Poets: Musicians on Writing. August’s subject is the great Richard Thompson. Here’s a sample:
SCOTT TIMBERG: I expect a songwriter like you draws on a huge range of sources — your own life, the music you heard as a kid, Dylan, the Beatles, and Chuck Berry, artists in various genres. How important have literary writers been for your work?
RICHARD THOMPSON: I’d say pretty important. Poetry overlaps a lot with songwriting, as does storytelling in any form, and I’d probably throw in cinema as an influence as well for that reason. I suppose I feel close to some of the writers who were themselves influenced by the traditional music forms, like Yeats, Walter Scott, Burns, and Thomas Hardy. I also love Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, and a whole bunch of more minor writers from the 20th century, because that was what I was reading at a formative time.
Give us a sense of some of the authors who’ve been bedrock figures for you, with whom you’ve gotten in deep and to whom you’ve returned year after year.
I’d say Dickens, Jane Austen, Patrick O’Brian, Larkin, Ted Hughes … I’ve been fairly obsessed with Homer for the last few years. That might be the greatest stuff ever written.
As my father would say at this point, “Homer. He’s Greek. He’s doing very well, you know.”
Richard Thompson is known for his putdown songs. Let’s conclude this segment with a lesser known RT tune that’s nastier than a French Quarter gutter on Fat Tuesday.
If someone ever serenades you with this song, deck them, pal. I’ve been tempted to sing it at some ex-friends but that sounds fiendish and I don’t want to be an arch-fiend even though being a Dickensian villain sounds appealing. Why? I’ll never know. Put it there, pal.
Our next segment explores what happens when the future becomes the past.
Tomorrowland Never Comes: I have a lifelong fascination with writers, artists, and filmmakers who peer into the future. In addition to my Star Trek fandom, I read a lot of Jules Verne and HG Wells when I was young. And I got a kick out of a wide range of futuristic films, the best of which is Blade Runner. I , for one, am glad that there aren’t flying cars. Imagine thousands of Floridians in flying cars fleeing Irma. Holy plane crash, Batman.
We had family in Los Angeles (the older generation of which pronounced Angeles with a hard G) so I spent my share of time at Disneyland as a kid. I recall asking my father what happened if Tomorrowland became outdated. Lou shrugged and said: “It’s Walt Disney, son. He knows his stuff.”
Rachel Withers poses the same question in a Slate piece entitled, Yesterland: How did Walt Disney’s vision of a futuristic metropolis become a quaint symbol of a bygone era?
The problem with all things futuristic is that reality either outstrips it or falls short. I think Withers nails why Tomorrowland has lost its luster:
So why isn’t the Walt–Elon vision of the future to be found in today’s Tomorrowland? Perhaps it’s not the Disney Co. Perhaps it’s us. Tech doesn’t exactly wow us like it used to—after all, it’s now in our homes, in our cars, even in our pockets. Touristing in a technological wonderland would probably feel underwhelming, considering we’re basically already in one. And why would anyone want to immerse themselves in the future? Popular imagination holds that today’s future will be a dystopia, not a utopia. In this age of climate-change doom and job-killing automation, of “unplugging” and “logging off,” perhaps the future is no longer a place we want to go, no longer the land of exciting promise, of “hopes and dreams.” In the 1950s, the future was an inviting fantasy, something to gaze towards, to marvel at, to reach for. Now Walt’s tomorrow is here … and well, we’re drowning in it.
There’s a whole lotta good stuff in the Withers piece including vintage videos from Disney’s teevee show. Check it out. It’s what Steam Punk Tinkerbell would want.
Benign Earworm Of The Week: One would think it would be a Steely Dan song but it’s ripped from the Asia songbook. I hope that didn’t hurt. Wish I’d Known All Along is 4 minutes of pop-prog bliss that concludes with a sinister line “when the present destroys the past.”
Speaking of Steely Dan songs, it’s time for a malign earworm. Reelin’ In The Years was our theme song on Saturday 6/ 25/2017. Donny and Marie Osmond butchered it on 1/13/1978:
Becker and Fagen were never that perky.
It’s time to get slapsticky.
The Saturday GIF: This recurring segment has skewed towards male comedians. It’s time to rectify that with the rubbery beauty of Lucille Ball’s face.
Saturday Classic: If You Need Me is a contemporaneous compilation of Solomon Burke’s early singles. Sweet soul music doesn’t get much sweeter than this, y’all.
That’s it for this week. Here’s hoping that Irma takes that turn farther to the east. I am, however, not optimistic about that. Good luck, Florida. You’re going to need it.
I’m giving soulsters Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke the last word in this image from Rock Dreams.