Archive for December, 2011

Very Funny, NPR

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Someone somewhere must be playing a trick on me. I tried to listen to a story about atheist chaplains in the US Military, a topic I find interesting as this is one of the great fuzzy 1st Amendment lines left untouched. Religion is engrained in the culture of the military, it seems. Especially at the higher levels. And it seems no one has the political will to truly change this and make the service more inclusive.

However, when I first clicked on it, I discovered the link instead took me to 8 minutes of Greil Marcus talking about The Doors. This seems to me the type of lecture they might have in hell. A wonderful art critic extolling the virtues of one of “Classic Rock”‘s worst bands.

While it may just be my personal opinion, The Doors have always represented to me most of the worst aspects of 60’s rock. They were pretentious while being utterly vapid. They were in love with their own playing at the expense of the actual song. In fact, it seems like they rarely gave any sort of consideration to the people who had to actually listen to these songs. The music was self indulgent and the lyrics were at best trite, and at worst pseudo-profound garbage. About the only good things this band contributed to popular culture was Ray Manzarek (clearly the worst of the bunch) somehow discovering X, and Jim Morrison giving Iggy Pop the idea of whipping his dick out on stage.

Luckily, the glitch has been corrected. But in case you were wondering if someone as eloquent and thoughtful as Greil Marcus could possibly change my mind about The Doors, it turns out the answer is “No”.

Categories: Music

RIP Hubert Sumlin

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Hubert Sumlin was honestly one of my greatest influences as a guitar player. Before I even knew his name I had some Howlin Wolf best of that I had picked up out of a used CD bin that I listened to over and over again. I was in high school and still discovering the blues. At the time, I couldn’t have told you then what drew me to the Wolf’s music, but looking back I can tell you that a big part of it was Hubert Sumlin’s playing. He was never flashy. He didn’t play a lot of notes. He slid and stabbed at the guitar. He was always playing to the rhythm, even when he was holding down the “lead guitar” spot.

I was lucky enough to see him lives several times. The first time was in a tent on the edge of the Mississippi river in Memphis. I remember skipping out on Willie Nelson to go see him. It wasn’t just a museum piece. He was lively and raucous, and having a blast. Later on I skipped out on work early, pretending to be sick, to rush to New York to see him playing with David Johansen and Levon Helm. Unfortunately, he wasn’t feeling well and cancelled that night. A few years later he played a mile from my apartment, at the Brighton Bar. I got to stand right in front of the stage and watch him play. I saw him barley two months ago, brought on stage by Elvis Costello as a special guest, in what might have been his final performance. He was frail but seemed to be enjoying himself as much as ever. Rarely do you see someone taking such joy in music.

Hubert Sumlin’s playing was as primal and unadorned as Howlin Wolf’s singing, which might be why they made such a good pair. Like all my favorite guitar players, he was an example of feel and taste trumping technical expertise. He played the music he felt. No more no less. And the world is a darker place without him.

Categories: Uncategorized


December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

The “fish out of water” thing can be pretty heavy handed here, but still, what I wouldn’t give to spend a day hanging out at MIT with GZA.

Video here.

Categories: Science!