GUATEMALAN HUIPILE – 1970’s
Quite a few years ago when we were living in LA We visited the LA county museum of Art on Wilshire Blvd, something we did fairly regularly on a Sunday afternoon; as I recall it was about the middle of December. Throughout my travels during my life I’d always been interested in folk textiles, I’d often buy pieces to bring home; in fact on one occasion in the the northern mountain villages of Guatemala one day I bought over $400 worth of hand woven textiles from a peasant Indian woman, a weaver, beautiful fabrics, all of traditional designs, and of course we still have them hanging in the bedroom. Her husband would earn $1 a day picking bananas in season.
I mention this only because the purpose of our visit to the museum was because there was an exhibition of traditional scarves from all over the world, some dating back many hundreds of years. They were from museums all over the world, all identified and dated.
Let me tell you a tale about Maxwell the Whippet. Back in the early 70’s I had a girlfriend, Joni, She had a dog called Maxwell, he was a beautiful brindled whippet, a wonderful dog. I had a friend, David who had the use of his uncles sailboat- a 30ft Cal 30, one day he asked if we’d like to go sailing with him that weekend, I said ‘Yeah, we’d love to’.
So on the Saturday he and I and Joni and Maxwell left the Long Beach Marina and headed out to sea, when we were about 3-4 miles offshore a stiff breeze sprang up and the water became very choppy, lots of whitecaps. We were cruising along at a steady clip when suddenly Maxwell, in one splendid leap sailed over the side of the boat! He must have felt very insecure there and needed to escape, the trouble was he didn’t know about water, he’d never been in it before. We were moving at such a brisk rate that all I could see was his little head bobbing above the waves and receding very quickly. Continue reading
by Randy Newman
Beat-up little seagull
On a marble stair
Tryin’ to find the ocean
Hard times in the city
In a hard town by the sea
Ain’t nowhere to run to
There ain’t nothin’ here for free
Hooker on the corner
Waitin’ for a train,
Drunk lyin’ on the sidewalk,
Sleepin’ in the rain,
And they hide their faces
And they hide their eyes
’cause the city’s dyin’
And they don’t know why
Man, it’s hard just to live,
, Man, it’s hard just to live, just to live
Get my sister sandy
And my little brother ray,
Buy a big old wagon,
Gonna haul us all away
Livin’ in the country,
Where the mountain’s high,
Never comin’ back here
’til the day I die
Man, it’s hard just to live
Man, it’s hard just to live, just to live
Funny thing is that when I had my radio show I never wanted to hear the air checks, as soon as they were done I labeled ’em and filed ’em and never gave them another thought. Now 20-30 years later I’m going through them and listening to every one and they’re wonderful, that is the music is wonderful and it brings back so many memories. I usually listen in the early hours and frequently I find myself thinking ‘This would be great for the Spill’ but often lethargy strikes and I wonder how many would listen to them anyway, I played lots of jazz and blues, Ah to hell with it.
A guy who was significant for me in my youth died last week, his name was Samuel Charters, he was a blues and jazz historian. There’s an interesting daily interview program on the radio here, it’s ‘Fresh Air’; a couple of days ago they played an interview with him from the archives.
He, along with Alan Lomax, was researching southern country blues in the ’40’s, recording totally unknown blues artists on primitive tape recorders long before Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and John Mayall et. al. were out of short pants. One memorable album was ‘Blues in the Mississippi Night’ by Lomax, used copies are now going for close to $100 at Amazon, it was my first blues album and it went the way of all the others come the divorce. I hope my ex wife is still computer illiterate.
During the interview he mentioned getting a contract with Folkways records, one of my early favorites, this prompted me to pull several early blues from my collection to see if his name was on any of them. One of them was ‘Big Bill Broonzy sings Country Blues’ on Folkways from 1957, he’s also interviewed on the record by Studs Terkel.
I’ve mentioned meeting Big Bill hereabouts and this LP relates directly to that.
I’ve mentioned my recent obsession with listening to the air checks of my 1990’s radio show, such an interesting new late night interest. But, I’ve just started a new obsession, I’m reviewing my VHS collection; I have close to 600 tapes recorded throughout my working life and mostly related to music. This week I’ve watched 2 one hour documentaries about Duke Ellington and two about Bob. Today I pulled one from 1982 titled ‘Black Wax’, a documentary and performance by and about Gil Scott Heron and as I sat watching it I kept thinking ”I must find a way to share this with the Spill”, but the process of transferring and digitizing the tape was very off-putting so I checked youtube on the off chance that they’d have it and sure enough they do. My suggestion is that if you know how to record from youtube you should, this never went to commercial DVD and it’s invaluable to anyone who appreciates Gil. It’s a great piece, well worth watching, you see Gil at his peak in many aspects, if you can’t watch the entire thing at least watch from 1.04.30 ’til the end credits, about 12 minutes. He’s great.
There’s a couple of extras after the credits and I was present at the last one, it’s shot at Sunsplash in Jamaica and I was right in front of the stage, I remember it well.
So here’s a special treat, Black Wax by Gil Scott Heron with the Midnight band, enjoy.
Soon after arriving in Calfornia in 1958 I bought a book on impulse, I’d never bought a book of poetry before but something attracted me to this book. It’s title was ‘Poets Choice’ and it was a collection of about 100 poems chosen by their authors as their favorites, one poem stood out and grabbed me, it was by someone I’d never heard of, Philip Levine, the poem was ‘For Fran’, dedicated to his wife. Here it is, I’ve had it on my wall or my desktop all my life. It almost brought me to tears.
This led me to Philip Levine’s poetry which I discovered was based in large part on his experiences working in the Ford plant in Detroit, Michigan and in Spain where he went to study the antifascist side of the Spanish Civil War and to write about it. He was perhaps the only American poet devoted to the industrial workers and their conditions. He became the poet laureate of the United States and NPR-TV devoted this piece to him. The second piece is a bit longer and he reads several of his poems. He will definitely be missed, thanks Phillip.