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Thursday, July 23, 2009


Joe Strummer said that to find a truly interesting & satisfying piece of ARTmusic, you must be sifting relentlessly through the underground. It’s when you find that gem, the elusive spark that you really know that you’ve got something vintage that connects you to the human race. Music reflects and lets you find a connection, you are less alone than if you were in a packed bar-room sitting on the edge of a stool, jostling for a beer and screaming to be heard. A low-fi tin can junk radio has more character than all the cleaned up producing techniques and digital re-mastering which only deflates a classic recording and destroys its character. Joe Strummer was right in his assertion that the underground is where the good stuff is happening – there isn’t a ton of pressure to be seen and to make money – there, people all follow the voice that is calling them down from the most inner part of their beings and where they look @ each other and know that the finesse of the sound and the searching endlessly around is the most solid food for the soul:

“Stay with it man!” roared a man with a foghorn voice, and let out a big groan that must have been heard clear to Sacramento, “Ah-haa” – “Whoo!” said Dean. He was rubbing his chest, his belly, his T-shirt was out, the sweat splashed from his face. Boom, kick, that drummer was kicking his drums down the cellar and rolling the beat upstairs with his murderous sticks, rattlety-boom! A big fat man was jumping on the platform making it sag and creak. “Yoo!” The pianist was only pounding the keys with spread-eagled fingers, chords only, at intervals when the great tenorman was drawing breath for another blast of phrase, Chinese chords, they shuddered the piano in every timber, chink and wire, boing! The tenorman jumped down from the platform and just stood buried in the crowd blowing around; his hat was over his eyes; somebody pushed it back for him. He just hauled back and stamped his foot and blew down a hoarse baughing blast, and drew breath, and raised the horn and blew high wide and screaming in the air. Dean was directly in front of him with his face glued to the bell of the horn, clapping his hands, pouring sweat on the man’s keys; and the man noticed and laughed in his horn a long quivering crazy mule’s hee-haw and everybody else laughed and they rocked and rocked; and finally the tenorman decided to blow his top and crouched down and held a note in high C for a long time as everything else crashed along skittely-boom and the cries increased and I thought the cops would come swarming from the nearest precinct. (From Jack Kerouac’s short essay; Jazz of the Beat Generation)

Here Jack Kerouac sketches in words the scene of a late 40’s Bob-Jazz experience. The underground scene of Bop Jazz in the late 40’s and early 50’s was a vibrant scene that would produce some of the most successful Jazz artists of all time. The key is that they all came from local interests; the best Jazz artists from the small-big cities of the United States—all converging to wreak mayhem on NYC. There were a small group of people who were creating something extraordinary under the radar of mainstream pop-culture.

The Clash had that same type of mojo. Their interest in the underground sounds of roots rock & reggae music helped them to forge a brand-new frontier of punky-reggae & dub that has to be one of the most overlooked fusions of musical worlds and still hasn’t been surpassed by another modern band since. The Clash accomplished what they did though an unquenchable thirst for new music which helped fuel their original ideas. Joe Strummer in particular knew that what gets pounded into people’s skulls on the daily radio broadcast is never the best way to go: A-go-go a-searching and you will find what binds yourself to the human existence.

Another great example to take note of is Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour, which is a tutorial in the roots of all kinds of music & rock ‘n’ roll. I have known for a long time that the roots of a musical style and the roots of an artist is what makes certain bands and recordings worth seeking out. What the Theme Time Radio Hour teaches is that you can’t simply go down to Newbury Comics or FYE or any CD store and find most of this stuff, you have to seek it out in a persistent fashion. Most of the time I have a pad of paper in my backpack where I scribble down notes while reading music or listening to the radio. There’s not a lot of interesting or satisfying stuff on the pop charts of most terrestrial radio stations, so you have to be persistent in taking notice when something catches your ear or sparks your interest.

Though this website is slanted towards musical interests, it isn’t limited to them. Any type of cultural interest can be the focus for an article on Roots. Rock. Boston. Submissions are welcome from anyone who wants to add to the cultural dialogue on this sight or spark an interest in local art, music, literature and events. Even rants, opinions & refutations to previous posts are acceptable. TAKE BACK OUR CITY.

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