.
Welcome back, my friends, to the "Battle" that never ends.
We're so glad you could attend. Come inside! Come inside!


This is
'BATTLE OF THE BANDS' ('BOTB') where you listen to different recordings of the same song and vote for the one you like best. Two "Battles" per month, on the 1st and 15th. Six days later (the 7th and 21st), I place my own vote, tally 'em all up and announce the winner.

Friend? Foe? Stranger? No matter, ALL are welcome. So pull up a chair, pour yourself 24 oz. of 'DOG BITE High Gravity Lager' (or the poison of your choice) and turn it up to Eleven!

[NOTE: Links to the first year of 'BOTB' (#1 - #24) can be found at the very bottom of this page.]

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A "NOVEL" ALLEGORY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF MID-CENTURY JAZZ


HiHelloHowdy! I am posting the following music-related review here on my BATTLE OF THE BANDS blog with the hope of "drumming" up a little interest in my new blog STEPHEN T. McCARTHY REVIEWS... 

If you enjoy reading this unique approach to reviewing Jack Kerouac's famous "Beat Generation" book ON THE ROAD, then you might want to take a look at all the other product reviews I am posting at my new digs. I have a new (old) review going up there every day or two.
.
.
ON THE ROAD
by Jack Kerouac
published: 1957 

We'll pick up Hazy Davy and Killer Joe
And I'll take you all out to where the gypsy angels go
They're built like light
And they dance like spirits in the night

(all night) in the night (all night)
Oh, you don't know what they can do to you
Spirits in the night

(all night) in the night (all night)
Stand right up now and let them shoot through you

~ 'Spirits In The Night'

by Bruce Springsteen

I happened to spend a night in Lowell, Massachusetts, while on a road trip some years ago. Being back in Jack Kerouac's hometown, I seized the opportunity to pick up a copy of his most famous book, ON THE ROAD, for a young co-worker. When I learned that he was only halfway through the book after 6 weeks of reading, I pulled my old copy from the shelf to see if it was more complex than I remembered it being -- I hadn't read it since the age of 19 or 20. (*No, it's predominantly high school level writing.) 

I intended to read but a page or two, but found myself sucked in, and I went through the entire book as fast as Dean Moriarty drives through "the fatal red afternoon of Illinois". (For those of you who have never read this cult classic, that translates to 110 mph.)

Ostensibly, the story is an existential look at America played out in the form of multiple cross-country road trips conducted by a variety of "beat" characters or "hipsters" from 1947 to 1950. Of course it also captures the hedonism of the original "Lost Generation."

But in a way it also illustrates the development of Jazz in that era -- something that escaped my notice when I first read it. When Sal Paradise (Kerouac's first-person narrative voice) undertakes his first trip to the West Coast, his plans are all mapped-out, nice and orderly: "I'd been poring over maps of the United States in Paterson for months ... on the roadmap was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles. I'll just stay on 6 all the way to Ely, I said to myself and confidently started." [pg. 10]

It is not long before Sal's plans get scrapped and he's forced to improvise his way West. This mirrors the movement of Jazz at the time. The rigidly structured musical charts (roadmaps) of the Big Bands were gradually giving way to more free-form Jazz, as musicians began to explore greater possibilites within the genre.

By the book's conclusion, Sal, Dean, and various hangers-on are blasting through the nights and days in a wild frenzy of (sometimes illogical) driving, drinking and womanizing with reckless abandon. Just as the Jazz musicians had gone to the outermost edge of melody and then abandoned all musical structure with wild flights of fancy -- the "Bebop" saxophonists and pianists whose musical aspirations were to create wholly personal, improvisational expressions which often became as self-indulgent as the road trips and misadventures of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. And throughout the story we find the two protagonists in smoke-filled Jazz clubs in the wee hours, nodding their heads, banging on tables and exhorting the players to Go cat, go! 

And "GOING" in the pursuit of the unnamed "IT" is another major component of the story: "We all realized we were ... performing our one and noble function of the time, MOVE. And we moved!" [pg. 134] "Sal, we gotta go and never stop going till we get there." / "Where we going, man?" / "I don't know but we gotta go." [pg. 240] "If you go like him all the time you'll finally get it." / "Get what?" / "IT! IT! I'll tell you -- now no time, we have no time now." [pg. 127] "Man, this will finally take us to IT!" said Dean with definite faith. [pg. 265]

But Dean Moriarty never does define "It" because he can't. I believe that Sal Paradise comes as close as they ever get to the object of their quest when on page 147 he relates that "as the river poured down from mid-America by starlight I knew, I knew like mad that everything I had ever known and would ever know was One." But then he gets distracted by illusory, mirage-like pleasures deceptively promising to lead him to "It", and he subsequently loses the scent in an alcohol haze.

It really doesn't surprise me that the first car I actually loved, I had named SAL, after Kerouac's character who was forever on the road. And many aspects of the story call to mind my own LIQUIDATED YOUTH when I cavorted with the spirits in the night (all night, every night) and friends known collectively as THE LEAGUE OF SOUL CRUSADERS, and individually as Napoleon, Cranium, Twinkie, and Pooh. Yours Truly was sometimes referred to as Mr. Intense. And then there was our red-headed unofficial leader, Yoey O'Dogherty, known by the nickname of Torch, who served as our "Dean Moriarty" with his contagious passion for life and his magnificent acts of magic behind the wheel of Tiburon, his 1963 Cadillac. There was virtually NOTHING that Torch couldn't get Tiburon to do (except obey the rules of the road).

I caught the essence of The League Of Soul Crusaders in a 1983 poem that concluded with the lines, TELLING JOKES AND HOWLING / TO NOWHERE. And that could just as easily describe the exploits of our boys in ON THE ROAD.

By no stretch of the imagination is ON THE ROAD truly great literature. It's one of those books that found its niche by coming along at just the right time with a new "language." What makes it interesting is its ability to convey the unharnessed energy of youth and to portray an exuberance for experience that resonates with primarily young readers (and old hippies).

While there are far better and more important books for you to spend your limited time with (and although I always preferred Kerouac's, 'The Dharma Bums'), ON THE ROAD is a somewhat worthwhile read and I can generally recommend the "trip", though I would caution you against emulating the immoral self-centeredness of its principal characters. (And I can tell you from many years of experience that you're never going to find "It" at insane parties and wild bars, nor while crossing the country at 110 miles per hour in a tequila or chemical-induced stupor.)

I'd sum it all up like this: 

They raced madly, wildly, chasing after IT. Looking here, looking there; tracking IT through the loud neon-painted nights and always seemingly one step behind IT. I've got IT now! I can feel IT -- the heat, and hear ITS breathing. I can sense ITS powerful presence here. And yet... IT is gone again; ever elusive, never materializing. And Sal and Dean never realized that IT dwelled within them. The one place they never thought to look. They toted IT with them in their crazy, frenzied and futile attempt to find IT. And with Kerouac's poor body utterly wasted from drugs and alcohol, he died a sad, bloated death in 1969 at the age of forty-seven, never having located IT. And IT died with him.
.

.
Again I say, if you enjoyed reading this unique approach to reviewing Jack Kerouac's famous "Beat Generation" book ON THE ROAD, then you might want to take a look at all the other product reviews I am posting at my new digs. I have a new (old) review going up there every day or two at (link:) STEPHEN T. McCARTHY REVIEWS... 

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
.

11 comments:

  1. 3-D. But did they crash a parade? Never read 'The Dharma Bums'. Is it as good as 'The Gingerbread Man', or 'My Little Red Story Book'?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, Sal and Dean did not crash a parade. But then WHO could realistically (or even surrealistically) match THE LEAGUE?

      They were pretty "cool" for their day. But in THE LEAGUE's realm, they were the guys that YOU would have thrown out the back kitchen door followed by pots and pans and anything else you could have gotten your hands on while we other 5 Soul Crusaders attempted to hold you back from pouncing on them like Tigger on a Rabbit. Ha!

      'THE DHARMA BUMS'... better than 'The Gingerbread Man' and 'My Little Red Story Book', but not as good as 'Winnie-The-Pooh' or 'Encyclopedia Brown Solves The Shit Outta The Dog-Poop-On-The-Lawn Mystery'.

      ~ Stephen

      Delete
    2. Right, right.

      Delete
  2. Wow, that was quite an intense read. Should I read this with Sax music in the background, lol. Sounds like a very long party.

    I'll be getting a store in Ely. A couple weeks ago I drove from Las Vegas to Ely. At night. Not a fun trip and I almost got a speeding ticket what this 45 MPH speed limit sign just popped up out of nowhere. Luckily the cop let me off with a warning - I told him I was slowing down but with all the snow and ice didn't want to hit the brakes too hard. He was more interested in what fast food was going into the Loves store than giving me a ticket. Lucky me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WILD THING ~
      Well, they didn't call me "Mr. Intense" for nuttin'.

      The best parties are those that go on so long that you forget it's a party and begin thinking of it as just normal day-to-day life. (My buddies and I, THE LEAGUE OF SOUL CRUSADERS, managed that very thing from 1981 to 1984 or '85. You missed one heckuva party!)

      So, Ely's coming, eh?

      Stay safe... and on the good side of pigs.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  3. Your mention of Lowell, MA brought back my own memories of when our children's theater company used to play the War Memorial Auditorium in that city. Great gig as we sold tons of coloring books and other souvenirs which meant mucho dinero for me and the company. It was a neat looking town, but since we never actually stayed there--it was just in to do the show and then out afterward to head back to base camp motel near Boston.

    I read On the Road a few years ago and I think your review nicely captured some of my own impressions of the book. Having lived a road life for so many years I'm a sucker for any kind of story about other experiences on the road.

    I'll probably have to reread this book someday. After I've read at least 100 other books on my shelf that I haven't read yet. It's definitely worth a reread, but one does have to read it the first time.

    The big takeaway for me from reading this novel was discovering the actual music of Dexter Gordon, a name that I'd known for years, but whose music I'd never immersed myself into. After reading Kerouac's excellent descriptions of Gordon's music I immediately bought some CD's by this artist and found them very enjoyable. Listening to Gordon's music now takes me back to the memory of reading the book and puts me right there in the pages.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, LEE.

      My introduction to Dexter Gordon came from the 1986 movie (and soundtrack) ROUND MIDNIGHT:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round_Midnight_(soundtrack)

      That was right at the time I was really starting to dig Jazz, having gone through a Blues phase of a few years.

      There were a lot of great sax players. My number 1 favorite though is Ben Webster -- especially on ballads. Hokey-Smoke! Ben will DEFINITELY be included in one of my BOTBs one of these days.

      I hope you're having a nice birthday!

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  4. I remember reading this book as a young teen and admiring the "free spirit" vibe. Kerouac died around the same time and it was literally a sobering lesson. Sounds like you were embracing your own free spirit back in the '80s, Stephen. Glad you survived! ☺ P.S. I'll be taking a break from BOTB, probably until May 15th, but will let you know for sure. For now, could you remove my name from the links? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK, Debbie, will do. Thanks for letting me know.

      I hope it's not because of the blowouts. If so, the Magic 8-Ball can always give you a good match-up guaranteed to be a nail-biter.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
    2. Oh no, I'm not bothered by the blowouts. It's a matter of time management and concentrating more on creative writing, plus getting ready for Lee's April A to Z Challenge. There's too much going on offline and something had to give.

      Delete
    3. Ahhh, OK, gotcha! Glad to hear it wasn't anything really related to BOTB. I'll look forward to your reappearance with us.

      ~ D-FensDogG

      Delete

>>... NOTE: COMMENT MODERATION IS ACTIVATED. ...<<
All submitted comments that do not transgress "Ye Olde Comment Policy" will be posted and responded to as soon as possible. Thanks for taking the time to comment.