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joan(s) of arc

hello! i love you! it has been forever.

we didn’t die yet and nobody ever made us grow up. what we did do is graduate from college, move to california, move to ohio, learn all sorts of things, have all sorts of conflicting feelings on neon, get long hair, chop it all off (x2), acquire a beautiful doggie (now we’re very much gittin’ along, thank you kindly), and sell our hearts not only to that wide yawpy expanse of american root-sy rock’n’roll-sy analog, but to that brave new thing: THE SYNTH.

here’s a story: i grew up hearing lots about the synthesizer. my mother was once in love with a gentleman who played the synth. his name was something like gary beedlecheese (would i shit you?), and my grandpa jack didn’t like him because he was catholic. (or maybe because he played the synth)? anyhow, my lil’ mama loved ol’ gary the synth man dearly — his musicianship had a special mystique all its own, which was, as you can imagine, DOUBLY, NAY, EVEN TRIPLY AMPLIFIED by what scientists and doctors might call The Lure of the Early Synth. anyway, gary broke her heart, or they otherwise parted ways, so my mama never much liked synthesizers. (she also woke up levitating once, no joke, in hawai’i, but this is a story for another genre.)

ANYHOW. you know what they say about baldness, horse-farming and passions: these things skip a generation and are expensive to feed! so here we are, in 2015. it would be dangerous and impossible to try to get this here blog up-to-date on the musical journeys we’ve taken since we began (born out of a fiery love for gram parsons which became ACTUAL FIERY LOVE, see, kids, what the rock and the roll can do for you?), but suffice it to say that yours truly has fallen into mad love for the synth pop. it started in 2011, when i was interning at an amazing little quaker high-school way out there in the high foothills of the sierra nevadas, and DJ’ing midnights at KVMR-FM, doin’ a little show on the 20s and 30srpm era and the craze for rural vernacular musics. in the spring, i started teaching a class on the history of american popular music to my little experimental seminar of two, and i quickly realized: CHILD. YOU CANNOT LIVE WILF CARTER AND BUDDY HOLLY FOREVER. culture, indeed, marches on beyond 1959!

(woe unto me. i had, truly, not known.)

anyhow, long story short: somehow i managed not to ramble on forever and ended up with a few extra weeks of class — which was supposed to end, y’know, right after the rise of real-deal (what’s that you say!) rock’n’roll. i wrote to jeff, and said HI JEFF I LOVE YOU and also HEY CAN YOU TELL ME THE HISTORY OF PUNK. with his amazing primer, i started staying on at the station after the end of my 4am shift, and spending the sunrise hours perusing the KVMR stacks in search of audible gold.

somewhere along the way, i started picking up things i’d never heard of. one of those things happened to be left of the dial — an incredible three-volume comp of early 80s new wave and synth pop that LITERALLY BLEW MY MIND. i have vivid memories of driving over the bay bridge to see my darling bestie in oakland, transfixed by the church or this-one-weird-song-called-“Enola-Gay”-pretty-sure-it-is-ACTUALLY-about-the-bombing-holy-shit-but-also-a-love-song-also-SYNTHS.

and that was it for me.

when i fell for Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark, i fell hard. i didn’t like the 80s. i didn’t like weird croony-breaky front-and-center male vocals. i certainly didn’t think — me, toting around my broke-ass banjo named grayhound abilene from columbus to the west coast — that i would like synths. but, a year later, i’d moved to columbus to work in an ice cream factory (kind of) and had two impeccably dressed wedding-cake groom statues in my office named PAUL and ANDY. the ways of love are mysterious.

these, by no means, are my favorite OMD songs, and the paean could go on and on. (one of these days, if i can get over my worship, i’ll send something in to ROOKIE, the best place, hands-down, for human beings feeling feelings and loving this crazy life on the whole internets). but, for now, since i’m skerrrrred to get back into this here blogging, i’m going to keep it simple, and just post BEAUTIFUL THINGS THAT’VE SEIZED MY SPIRIT and try to do it each day of the week.

today’s songs are OMD’s JOAN(S) OF ARC — both “Joan of Arc” and “Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)”, the first two songs on the B-side of Architecture in Morality, pretty much (SPOILER ALERT!!!) the best album of all timez of the world. these two are subtle. i’m featuring them first, because my real-deal favorites on this album usually take up all of my love and lust and wordcount; but i have one of those nifty Crosley “Stack-O-Matic” records, so today, i didn’t even have the option of gushing over the A-side: the B-side came down first, and i re-realized the simple splendor and beauty and just ferocious emotional soundscape also can i say, weirdness! of these two songs.

they’re both andy songs. (OMD has andy songs, and paul songs. they’re very different. andy songs are like — john and paul all rolled into one; paul’s more of a george + ringo. usually i’m a paul sort of gal — his have this ethereal, wistful quality that somehow gets me even deeper than andy’s ferocious driving melodic hooks; but today i’m paul, because these songs get at the best of both worlds.

without further ado, for your melting-wintry splendor:

1. “Joan of Arc” (Architecture & Morality, 1981)

CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT THE PART WHERE HE SAYS HE WANTS TO
BONE JOAN OF ARC AND THEN SHE BECOMES AN ALIEN. PLEASE. thank you.

2. “Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)” (Architecture & Morality, 1981)

here’s to you, gary beedlecheese! someone still loves you somewhere.

all love, from these many years,

jess

this used to be an americana blog.

(i’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean.)

but, this last rrradio show, workin’ our way thru the odd-odyssey of self-released out-of-time throw-backs and futurisms of the late-60s -t0-early-80s, something important clicked in me — something about the vital interconnection between the old-time and blues tunes and performance shenanigans of the 1920s and the raw rockabilly of the 1950s and this ultimate teen music of the mid-century. i guess i once thought of myself as a FOLKIE, and an OLD-TIME FOLKIE at that — not like all those baez-ites out here. rock’n’roll was a world apart, and i struggled and struggled to understand and express what i FELT about these early rockers and rock-a-billers and swamp-poppers, ’cause it was something ascendant.

anyhow — i feel it all wrapping together & comin’ right back. i’m in love with this stuff. i’m thrilled to be blogging again, and to have some of you — any of you? jeff? — onboard! i’m workin’ as a tutor for a course in the history of rock’n’roll at a local university here, and all of my rock’n’roll pennies are going into a RECORD FUND for more wild-and-adventurous listening. so look forward to seeing lots of it on here!

love, your endlessly american,

though now somehow more urban,

IT’S YER MISFORTUNE

xoxoxoxo

a show about dreams.

 

Continue Reading »

— or at least that’s what this one guy from pitchfork calls it. and i gotta say he’s right on the money.

i stumbled across these guys searching out, related-video-by-related-video, anything else that might sound remotely similar to lewis, and then got this:

HOLY CRUPUP, right, folks?! this is incredible!

today’s been quite the goldmine for historically-ignored-yet-still-totally-mindblowing-hits-from-unexpected-corners-of-the-world-that-seemingly-define-yet-brilliantly-sythesize-and-extend-all-contemporaneous-genres.  i spent the morning, for example, rediscovering Amanaz, who set the soundtrack to most of my sophomore year of college with their Africa [1975]:

(this, too, was supposed to get its own blogpost. i mean, when i said we were gonna bring this thing back this year, i really meant it! anyway, soon, next time: post-glam-rock velvet underground-sy futures in zambia!)

BUT: let’s march ourselves back to the subject at hand! apparently, this album is a pretty big deal. a big deal because it got released a couple of years back and caused quite a critical stink over on the blogs (apparently it is — appropriately! — beloved as the same dude from the Out of the Bubbling Dusk blog that championed our buddy Lewis!); but it’s a bigger deal because of the way these boys (aged 17 & 19 when the record was released) came to put it together.

in fruitland, washington.

these two kids apparently grew up on some sort of lumber plantation, and had a daddy with a dream that this little sprouts would grow up and become a rock band. he apparently built them a log-cabin-studio, mortgaged the farm to fund their self-styled vanity recording project, and also threw in a nice perk — a gigantic rock’n’roll arena/coliseum. all out in the great emerson-family woods!

although andy beta and folks around the internet make alot of the similarities between the emerson boys and the shaggs, and like to emphasize their apparent regional isolation, pieces on the emerson wonders also acknowledge that they were avid listeners to that great american mid-70s rrradio. although the disastrous commercial failure of their only recording makes a grand story in print (much like the stories of the mysteries of lewis!), i’d be curious to know more about the circumstances surrounding its production and attempts at chart success. it wasn’t, by any means, out of the picture — not with a song like this:

i think this might be the best new song i’ve heard all year. i mean — this is so clearly, undeniably, a rock’n’roll song. i’m listening to it for the fourth time in a row right now. i don’t think i can stop. i don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

i mean, come on!:

life was easy in the country/

country’s goin’ side-to-side (?)/

i could love you in the springtime/

that’s when my heart comes around — oh yeah!

*

take it! come and love me, anymore!

take it! come and love me — oh yeah!

pure rock glory if i’ve ever been bathed in it.

other cuts off the record run more soulful:

this is adorable:

— glad to see that these kids are finally getting the recognition they deserve. it’s incredible to think how much more stuff like this is out there; and we’re very lucky, i think, to live in an age that’s such a hotbed for incredible historic-y re-release labels who spend their time and lives diggin’ this stuff up, saving it from obscurity, and putting the stories together. more on them, too, later, because: without whom not.

but, for now, i’ll leave you with their biggest hit (apparently covered by lots of dub-steppers and rappers? or maybe i’m inventing that because all of the emerson bros. youtube videos have ‘KID CUDI SENT ME HERE’ scrawled in the comments), which lacks the clear-hearted rock’n’roll lou-reedy stomp-drive of “Good Time,” but is haunting in its own “Rainin’ In My Heart” sort of way:

(this just in from jeff & the New York Times — it wasn’t this album, but donnie’s solo project, that bankrupted the Family Emerson. also a great photo and some other amazing d.i.y. flops-turned-re-releases to check out here, at Bubbling Dusk!)

 

alright! no more for now ’cause i gotta go buy this record. pals, it’s good to be back. and remember:

 

“it’s alright to sit beside me/

’cause i’m gonna love you tonight — oh yeah!”

 

xo,

 

jess!

 

 

 

 

take this call!

so let me tell you that this just got about a million times better. this got a million times better because the strangest song from the strangest album in the world is on youtube set to a slideshow of grant wood paintings. yes, that grant wood. grant wood of 1940s pick-up-your-plow-of-patriotism masculo-democratic regionalism. i always thought this particular album matched — and only matched — the otherworldly landscape of the sonoran desert thrummed gently up against the sealed-tight windows inside an air-conditioned speeding car (a car about to crash, somewhere outside of chicago). but, who am i to argue with fate?

do your own arguing:

this here’s lewis. i got lewis from jeff, who got lewis from this crowd of brilliant but occasionally snotty hooligans, who in turn apparently tracked him down from rob sevier at numero. the dude’s name is lewis. the album is called l’amour. this simple fact alone confounds just about any google search seekin’ evidence. word on the street is that after the album was recorded, in l.a. sometime in ’83 by the R.A.W. label (their only recording credit), and dedicated to an equally-mysterious ‘christine brinkley’ — the ’79-’81 Sports Illustrated swimsuit-edition cover queen — and then disappeared to someplace like panama* or American Myth. also, weirdcanada.com notes that one of their editors once found five (5) copies of L’Amour at a flea market in calgary, leading us to the natural supposition that, like Neil Young, quality syrup, dogs-for-transportation, better-quality Philadelphia cream cheese, and  all of America’s Greatest Myths, “Lewis” is a product of Canada.

* according to jeff, this actually means ‘guam or hawaii’

here’s more:

popular discussion on the internet also includes guesses at the lyrics of Lewis’ slow heartbreakers. here’s one (L’Amour‘s opener) that i agree with the internet on:

” I love winter reading/ don’t you?” — now here’s something everybody can get behind!

and even if you can’t, i’m with the folks at Out of the Bubbling Dusk:

this record is, and i quote ’em: it’s ostensibly a really cheesy platform but everything is just so soaked in some kind of weightless transcendence and spooky subterfuge that it just totally destroys me! There’s something very very world weary about the LP but couched in this great faded mumbly croon that seems effortless, yet pushing at somewhere far out…

seriously. i’m grateful that l’amour and my first sighting of a saguaro cactus came so closely together in time, ’cause otherwise i wouldn’t have an apt reference for just how weird this music really is. it opens up whole new landscapes that i think most of us have been to, but that this strange dude alone has gained the powers to scribe. i’ll try to track down my notes from the first time jeff sent this to me. i think it was something about how i felt like i’d suddenly received the secret extended edition of the My Neighbor Totoro soundtrack, in which Totoro and his tiny-Totoro minions move to New Mexico and start weaving things and lifting their magic umbrellas to force succulents into bloom. (i’m sorry for harping on the desert thing! even OOTBD says it! there’s something unmistakeably southwestern about lewis’ brand of haunting. and deserts are pretty weird and post-life, too, if you think about it. think of the landscapes that haunted gram parsons in his search to synthesize all american music …)

perhaps it sounded like this:

the closest anything else comes to this is this little number from paul, of britain’s Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark — but that’s a story for another time:

 

FOR ALL TIMES!

LewisL’Amour — R.A.W. Records, Santa Monica (1983)

 

(also! a bonus archived post from summer!)

clearly (clearly!), it is the summer; & nothing makes summer feel more self-referentially itself than CULTURES OF THE BEACH! thusly, in honor of all things summer-on-summer (& inspired by kirse granat may’s cute little golden state, golden youth [UNCP 2002], which i’m devouring faster than pints of jeni’s these sweltering post-work afternoons!), i’m gonna try to do somethin’ i’ve never done before: GET TO THE BOTTOM OF SURF ROCK’n’ROLL! but first, since i’ll be the first to admit I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE BEACH BOYS, i’ll have to get JUST A LITTLE BIT INTO SURF ROCK’n’ROLL; and i’m sure there’s a surf-easy term for that!; & maybe i’ll get back to you after i’ve watched gidget for the 15th time, & then we’ll hot-dog it, easy.

uh, easy.

anyhow. explorations fueled by ms. allen, thoughts of california, the perennial smell of the ice-cream test kitchen next door a-burnin’ its sweet vision in my nostrils: WHENCE SURF ROCK! who listened to it! why! did kids in the middle of indiana really nail surfboards to the tops of their roadsters, ’cause if so that’s p. darn cool! what youth cultures & values did surf rock tap into! forces of subversion! forces of containment! what other rock’n’rolls were brushing up against/running from dear life away from/slammin’ their gross prepositions all up against, in the same american moment? how did a certain way of strummin’ that electric guitar become, forevermore, the sound of the CURL?!?

all this! and MORE! will either be answered, or entertainingly delayed, as per the force of american leisure, in the post(s) to follow!

ROCKIN’ INSTRUMENTALS! or: HOW ROCK’n’ROLL DROVE MY CAR ACROSS TEENAGE’d AMERICA

international spectre of ALL SURF!!!:

!!!:

next up: why did surf rock become hot-rod-auto-rock? and other permutations of TRAVELLING IN AMERICA! [this just in: hot rod rock is actually the name of a genre.]

next next: surf rock, space, and the next frontier? or: when jeff says there isn’t a logical connection, there probably isn’t one. or: how some sound directors made some decisions and then there was culture. or: HOW SPACE SOUNDS LIKE A BEACH.

as-complete-as-we-can-get expothesis (!) of early MTV videos and the visual culture of THE NEW WAVE,

cf.:

thank you Akron, Ohio. you could have just given us tires and Hart Crane, but you didn’t stop there !!!

check out the cat at 2:54!

also the first comment.

so every month that goes by & nobody posts in this thing my heart grows another heartworm. someday i’ll get to be in a jar in the veterinarian’s office! but for now i’m just sad. sad-sad-sad. regular ol’ american heartland-blue. ’cause my music-spelunkin’ life has gone in many directions since we left off! long-time late-night shows on KVMR coverin’ the deep-times early-history of country, old-time, hot jazz, r&b, blues & gospel, with a whole lotta rockabilly thrown in. a class! on the history of american popular music! that i had the great fortune to host with an incredible couple of kiddos — who ran a music history blog of their own — at the woolman semester school. researches into chart history, listening history, the roles of radios in automobiles! readin’ through a whole bunch of fascinating books on listening theory, race & vernacular music, radio, and the early recording industry to build the course syllabus! a season’s worth of 70s-80s-90s youth listenin’ & musical subculture show’s with IT’S YER MISFORTUNE’s own jeff n. on columbus’ WCRS lp-fm rrradio! a raging and hopelessly culturally misplaced summertime obsession with synth pop. and with ragtime blues progressions before that. did we mention the discovery of Lewis’ L’Amour. and a whole lot of weird listens in between.

anyhow: there’s lots to talk about! and, this NEW YEAR, i’m vowin’ not to be shy, and not to be afraid! big-time music learnin’, as we all know, comes in fits and bursts, and i’m ready to get my readier on and start to jump into a whole lot more of REGIONS. a whole lot more of RECORD LABELS, HOUSES, EMPIRES AND KINGDOMS. a whole lot more of RADIO NETWORKS. a whole lot more of AMERICA. a whole lot more of ROCK’n’ROLL. and a whole lot more of THE WORLD.

so you fine citizens are on the same page as us (’cause, yeah — i’m hopin’ to drag ol’ jeff back on board for this one, as well! otherwise, you can find him at his space history blog, which actually just became a bonafide freestanding website, congratulations jeff-o!, and should launch really soon!), i’m gonna state some-a my intentions for this spring’s searches. i hope to all heavens that you’ll jump in the fray and keep us, as ever, honest while we wrangle in these dogies!

ON THE LIST, IT’SYERMISFORTUNE SPRING 2013:

1. everything about garage rock — all garages, original garages, regional u.s. tours of garages, and THE INTERNATIONAL GARAGE AFTERMATH

2. some attempting-at-synoptic-type histories of surf rock!

3. a big, big focus on INTERNATIONAL ROCK’n’ROLLS, transatlantic listening habits, and genre-and-listening feedback loops!

4. a running and ongoing focus or spotlight series on some-a the major (and, of course, minor!) houses of rock’n’roll, rockabilly, c&w and r&b, all around the mid-century to british invasions mark! there were alot of fantastic labels out there, like excello, that ran on all sides of all sorts of genre lines, and we wanna be there to say we heard it when!

5. continuing explorations of the first era of commercial old-time/vernacular recordings! their travels! their destinies! the totally smart lives of their performers! radio play, reception, and regionality!

6. more explorations of rock’n’roll and fan culture, youth culture, consumption habits, and the social lives/meanings/cults constructed around rock’n’roll. basically ROCK CULTURE, why we love it. jeff also wants to look into the histories of POWER POP FANDOM from basically proto-big star on.

7. synth-pop and electronic music culture, and its lashbacks! i.e. a continuation of our TIPS FOR TEENS radio feature on WCRS basically titled DAVID BOWIE vs. THE HEARTLAND. you know: lookin’ at heartland rock and stadium rock as a product of the same times; and trying to understand the ongoing and baffling genius of folks like paul & andy of Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark …

8. a look at BIG CHART HITS during the ‘golden age of rock’n’roll,’ prolly culling from the eponymous reissue collections on amazon … what were folks listenin’ to then? what was it like; how did chart hits influence other chart hits; what happened to everything & everybody!?

 

— well gee. that should about do it for now! did i mention that i started applyin’ to grad school for this stuff? o cheap corrals where the heart gallops wild, what have i got myself into this time!

anyhow, pardners: stay tuned! from the blog that first told you about linda ronstadt and fleetwood mac! we can build you a stratocaster and make you good soup, too!

 

more soon,

and i promise this time!,

 

 

jess

 

ahoy! get ye-spelunkin’ those deep-low delta origins tonite!, on your’s truly’s one-and-only midnight-radio-research-show-in-the-foothills, the GREAT AMERICAN LULLABYE !!!

listen in for charley patton, tommy johnson, & the best of that early generation of so-called bluesmen. from stovall to will dockery’s to the pea vine in between, we’ll chart the landscape of the upper delta, and look at how the music got made, & where it got sent.

on KVMR 89.5fm on the dial, sierra foothills thru sacramento!

and on the web live-streaming at kvmr.org

MIDNITE – 4h00AM PACIFIC STANDARD BLUESTIME !!!

 

 

join me!

 

 

 

xo!,

 

 

 

jess!

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