WEIRDLAND: February 2019

Friday, February 22, 2019

Buddy Holly: the central conflict of the 1950s

Buddy Holly embodied, as much as James Dean or Marilyn Monroe, the central conflict of the 1950s: conformity with establishment values versus individuality/rebellion. While he sometimes wore leather and rode a motorcycle, he was a devout fundamentalist Christian, hounded by a puritanical conscience that condemned rock and roll as evil. Perhaps it was this innate contradiction that made him so great. Smart in the head is one thing, smart in the heart is another. With an artist possessed of both, it’s game over for all challengers, which is why, if there are 10 performers in rock history that matter more than all others, Buddy Holly is one of them. Holly did look slightly milksoppish—but in an earnest, quick-with-a-smile way. Buddy thought those high, squeaky voices of Alvin & the Chipmunks really were the coolest thing. This was not someone you’d expect to be a rock and roller, especially at a time when rock-and-roll badassery wasn’t just in vogue, but represented by some seriously tough-looking cats—Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, or Eddie Cochran. 

Buddy Holly was hardly the awkward geek that his amateurish, poorly lit promotional photos suggest. Duane Eddy, the twangy guitar rocker who collaborated with him in 1958, once described Buddy as a “well-built” six-footer who had “wavy hair” and was “very good looking.” And he could play the Fender Stratocaster the loudest too. Buddy Holly’s right hand was among the strongest in rock history. According to Bill Griggs of the Buddy Holly Memorial Society, Holly learned a unique way of picking: “Most people play down, up, down, up, when they're stroking the guitar. Buddy played basically downstrokes in a lot of his music. Therefore, he had to play twice as fast, but it also gave him what we call 'rhythm lead.' He kept hitting the bass chord on the guitar first. That's why he had that unique sound that people even today cannot duplicate, because you have to play the guitar 'wrong' to make it right.” The Beatles wrote “Can’t Buy Me Love” in a hotel, and Dylan recorded notable music in sleeping quarters (ditto Janis Joplin with her Typewriter Tape). But the ultimate grail is Holly’s tapes that he made just prior to his death in his Greenwich Village apartment. With his guitar and an Ampex tape machine, this is a very different Buddy Holly than his more "rockabilly garage" sound from two years prior. His enunciation is emphatic, as if he were a film director who’d recorded an intense emotional scene by overcranking the camera, playing it back so that it ran slower. You really hear it on the four versions of “Slippin’ and Slidin,” like Holly is decoding rock and roll for you. Source: www.thedailybeast.com


In rock critic Jonathan Cott’s words, “Holly’s deepest, wisest, and seemingly least complicated songs express the unadorned confrontation of beauty and love with time.” A letter seen in the Buddy Holly Museum in Lubbock was written by Holly's grieving father, Lawrence, to the editor of the New Musical Express two months after the plane crash, expressing his gratitude to his son's UK fans. "How has this loss of one so dear affected Buddy's beautiful wife?" asked Holley rhetorically. "She's been very brave and courageous but she, like us, will never get over such a great loss." Maria Elena's intense devotion to Holly's memory explains her antipathy towards the late Peggy Sue Gerron. The namesake of Buddy Holly's most memorable song was the girlfriend of Jerry Allison, drummer in Holly's band the Crickets. And even though Gerron died last year, aged 78, Maria Elena is still fuming about the claims she made about Holly in her memoir. "Oh my God, that book!" she exclaims. "But I stopped her. It was published, but she couldn't get much out of it. She went to London, then I called the journalists who were interviewing her and I said, 'That will be the last time you hear from me!' So they just stopped the interview. She claimed that Buddy was in love with her, and that Jerry knew about it. But Buddy hated her guts! When we were in his father and mother's house after the wedding, she came in and said: 'I don't know why Buddy would marry this woman because she's not from the same background. What? We were already married!" Source: www.afr.com

According to Peggy Sue's memoir, it seems that she never loved her first husband (and Buddy Holly's drummer) Jerry Allison—“Standing at the wedding ceremony: The biggest mistake of my life.” What do we learn about Buddy Holly? Always kind and understanding, like his parents, but he could erupt when pushed. We learn that Buddy helped “the Lubbock girl with the bad reputation” when she got pregnant—“Really, I loved her”, Holly reportedly said of her. Although Niki Sullivan hinted at Buddy going through a tragic romance with the wild girl of Lubbock that culminated in an unwanted pregnancy, Philip Norman dismantled that myth, proving that Holly was not the father. Norman was conceded a brief interview with Lubbock's mysterious woman: "On my first visit to his hometown in late 1994, I talked to Niki Sullivan, the Crickets’ rhythm guitarist, convinced that story was true. The story has just one flaw. The person named by several knowledgeable sources as the mother of Buddy’s illegitimate child (who supposedly, according to Sullivan, waited for Holly's visits and paychecks while living at a shelter for runaway unwed women) is adamant that she knew him only slightly and certainly never dated him. She got married in 1954, almost two years before Buddy allegedly made her pregnant, and her two children–by the same husband–were both girls. The trail stops here." Philip Norman also refuted Sullivan's allegations of an affair between Buddy and Norman Petty's wife Vi.

Travis Holley (Buddy's brother): "I met Maria when he brought her here to be married. I had only heard about it a week before. And when I met her I understood why he wanted to marry her. She was just a little raven beauty. She was just as cute as she could be. And charming. And she still is." Next day, the Lubbock Avalanche newspaper reported: "Married: Buddy Charles Holley (21), and Miss Maria Elena Santiago (25), both of Lubbock". Maria Elena of course was not from Lubbock, but in rural conservative Texas, interracial marriages were still considered taboo, and it was unusual for an older woman to marry a younger man. From the very beginning of their relationship, Buddy confided to Maria Elena about his growing dissatisfaction with Norman Petty: “I’m not happy with Norman, because he never wants to put money out to promote us.” Maria Elena understood Buddy’s discontent: “Norman didn’t want to spend a red cent. Everybody else was exposed out there, and Buddy always had to struggle to make sure that the people knew about him.” Petty, in fact, had done little to increase the Crickets’ public exposure. The only promotional pictures of the group were black and white shots taken by Petty’s loyal bookkeeper, Norma Jean Berry. The Crickets were sorely disappointed when Petty refused to allow them to appear alongside other rock and rollers in the movie Go, Johnny, Go! (1959).

As described by Philip Norman, Norman Petty's portrait is quite frightening: "The face is a blandly good-looking one, its cheekbones curving with the symmetry of a ventriloquist’s dummy’s, its complexion airbrush-smooth, its butterfly bow perfectly tied. The expansive smile is professional rather than humorous, and kindles no warmth in the eyes, which are narrow, opaque and calculating." Petty turned over all the correspondence and financial records relating to Buddy and the Crickets to his banker in Clovis, with instructions to retain them for the three years required by the US Internal Revenue Service, then destroy them. But the banker did not destroy the papers and, after Petty’s death in 1984, we can go through receipts for Buddy’s guitars and clothes, see the cashed cheques for his dental work and wedding-ring, even read the heartbreakingly polite last letter Buddy sent to Petty a couple of weeks before his death. To the self-seeking professional biographer, it is a wildly exhilarating experience. But to the one-time English schoolboy, whose adolescence Buddy both brightened and soothed, it is horribly sad. As so often with those who cloak themselves in ostentatious secrecy, there was little about Petty’s life that could be called exotic. His father, Sydney, had originally been a migrant from the Oklahoma oilfields, stricken with tuberculosis and seeking a cure in New Mexico’s high altitudes. His wife Vi had her mother institutionalized for schizophrenia and herself manifested all the symptoms of the disease in its ‘episodic’ form: insecurity, anxiety, squirrel-like acquisitiveness, and chaotic disorganization.

Norman Petty was technically brilliant but creatively mediocre; a visionary in some respects but in others a blinkered small-town wheeler-dealer; ostensibly a backroom-boy, yet with a ravening ego, watchful for any chance to use the talent of the young musicians who passed through his hands for his own profit and advancement. Dr Jerry Fisher, who worked as an engineer with Petty in later years, and got to know him well, believes Petty to have been a classic case of arrested development. That explains his sexlessness. He didn't even seem to understand the rock and roll genre, or Buddy Holly's passion for the opposite sex. Norman Petty could not face the fact that Buddy Holly had evolved beyond the Clovis/Tex-Mex ethos. In an interview with Skip Brooks and Bill Malcolm, Norman Petty still found it difficult to address why he hadn’t been more supportive of Buddy’s need to experiment as an artist; Petty admitted he had lacked vision. As John Beecher recalls: "Norman and Vi Petty sent us information, but mostly they obstructed us in our efforts to gain access to their photographs, recordings, and film - something I found really hard to understand until later, when I worked out that Norman was just waiting for an opportunity to make some money. I suspect that by the time Buddy (and later the Crickets) discovered what had been going on with their income that had been directed to Clovis, it was too late for Norman to regain trust and he knew this. Thus, he burned all his boats with Buddy and cold-shouldered his attempts to get his royalties. Soon, lawyers were involved in getting Buddy his money and the process would have taken years to resolve. When I visited Clovis, I saw the problem at first hand; it was not until MPL took over Nor Va Jak that writers received regular statements and payments." About Amburn's mean-spirited biography, of which Bill Griggs said "that book belongs to the trash can", John Beecher agrees: "I don't much dig what Albert Goldman has to say on Elvis. I knew that a lot of what he attributed to Lennon wasn't true; he tried to destroy Lennon's soul for commercial gain and I think that's unforgivable. A bit like the tales Ellis Amburn told on Holly - so many of his facts that were able to be checked were so out of line that it made one doubt his assertions on anything he wrote. Goldman again."

Amburn hinted about Maria Elena's suspect aunt Provi Garcia, Maria's lack of domesticity or her tempestuous personality, sexy yet brainy. According to Peggy Sue, "Whenever someone even mentioned Maria, Jerry would simply state, “That’s Buddy’s wife,” and put an end to the conversation." Peggy Sue insinuated Maria Elena was very demanding of Buddy and more experienced than she let on. On 5 January, 1958, Coral released ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ and ‘Raining In My Heart’. That same week, Buddy received some New Year tidings which all but wiped his anxiety over his new singles from his mind. Maria Elena told him she was pregnant. In her interview with Philip Norman in 1996, Maria Elena explained: "We had not been trying to have a baby. It was an accident; it just happened. I didn’t want to have a child because it was going to interfere with all the projects we had starting out. But Buddy was elated about it. I told him, “If I have a baby, that means I won’t be able to travel around with you like you want me to.” But he said, “No, that’ll be fine. The baby can come with us.” Maria Elena didn't pursue her own ambitions to be a dancer-actress. “After we got married, he said, 'No, you don’t need to do that.’ He wanted me to be around.” Knowing how much she loved flowers, Buddy brought her an extravagant bouquet of roses for her 26th birthday. Maria Elena persuaded Buddy to drink “a couple of glasses of champagne,” she later told Goldrosen and Beecher. He became seriously ill, due to being an ulcer sufferer (possibly, in part, from the stress of his career).

Buddy Holly was described by The Melbourne Herald during the Australian tour in February 1958 as ‘the perfect representation of the American person, ascetic, serious, dignified...’ Buddy’s stage persona was the very opposite of what they had expected—not cool, but friendly, funny and unpretentious. Holly didn't intend to change the world (like Lennon or other 60s rock icons) but he wasn't going to let the world change him either. Buddy Holly adopted his new songwriting mode to produce the most stylistically varied body of original recordings of any late fifties writer/performer. Some were sonically brash, others subdued. Some were paradigm examples of experimental rock and roll, by including celesta and harp. Holly’s creative arrangements sometimes combined electric guitar with jazz sax or instruments one might expect to find in a symphony orchestra. His vocal hiccups are the skipped beats that convey to us that we are not lost on the way out, but surging towards the irreducible. —"Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly" (2014) by Philip Norman

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe

Feminist film scholar Molly Haskell admits that Marilyn Monroe “was giving more to idiotic parts than they called for—more feeling, more warmth, more anguish; and, as a result, her films have a richer tone than they deserve” in that they “suggest the discrepancy between the woman and the sexpot, even as their directors exploit the image, through exaggeration, more than they have to.” I agree with Haskell, but attend in more detail to Monroe’s performances to demonstrate how she resisted the sexpot character. Molly Haskell and Marjorie Rosen published their reflectionist studies of women in film in the 1970s. In contrast, by thinking of film as a fantasy structure housing a number of shifting identificatory positions, theorists such as Elizabeth Cowie and Judith Mayne propose that viewers respond to stars in ways that are not driven by gender binaries. The work done toward disproving the hegemonic influence of the patriarchal gaze has resulted in a richer understanding of the ways female stars generate meaning for audiences. Professor of Film History Matthew Solomon calls attention to Monroe’s “metaperformances,” in which “she often plays two separate but not entirely distinct roles nested within one another.” Similarly, the analyses of Kristen Pullen (Female Performance in Classical Hollywood) and Ana Salzberg (Beyond the Looking Glass: Narcissism and Female Stardom in Studio-Era Hollywood) have challenged us to see Monroe as a more complex figure. 

Marilyn Monroe exerted considerable control over the outcome of her performances, a little-known fact that encourages careful attention to her films. Although her star persona was largely “manufactured” through her new name, new look, and extensive acting and diction lessons, Ty Burr asserts that “she became big enough to understand that she was bigger than her studio, and that someone that big should be the author of her fame rather than its victim.” In 1954’s River of No Return (Otto Preminger) she demanded Jack Cole as choreographer (after working with him on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and chose Robert Mitchum as her leading man. She also discussed script revisions with Preminger, thereby shaping her role in many ways. More importantly, Monroe was an actress who dictated her own performances. She improvised scenes and created her character as she saw fit for the first time in 1956’s Bus Stop. Director Josh Logan confirms that screenwriter George Axelrod considered Monroe’s “feeling about the whole story” when rewriting her scenes. “Only very rarely have actors had the opportunity to influence a film so directly,” insists Carl Rollyson, “and Logan’s supreme trust in Monroe, built on his belief that she was ‘one of the great talents of all time,’ has been occasionally matched by other directors but never surpassed.”

Because fans recognized more than the sexpot in Monroe’s offscreen persona, they were likely primed to read more than the sexpot for which she was scripted into her film roles. And these fans’ desire to protect Monroe from herself still resonates with audiences today. Monroe’s portrayal of the sexpot was not a parody (like Jayne Mansfield), nor was it an agonizing portrayal of the woman torn between desire for pleasure and desire for security (like Kim Novak). Neither was Monroe a sultry, femme fatale type like Lana Turner—Marilyn subverted the type of repressive ideology around postwar gender roles, marriage, and female sexuality. In Bus Stop (1956) Marilyn as Cherie says to Don Murray's character: “Bo, I just wanted to tell you something kinda personal and embarrassing, too. But, I ain’t the kind of girl you thought I was. I guess a lot of people’d say I led a real wicked life.” When Cherie says she’s had “quite a few” previous boyfriends, Bo admits, “I guess I just didn’t know anything about women, ’cause they’re different from men.” Cherie’s response, “Well, naturally,” shows us that Cherie knows about both women and men, making her an appropriate teacher of how men should respond to women. Through Cherie, and by extension, Monroe’s sexual but not wanton persona, Bus Stop bespeaks a cultural shift in which sexually active (unmarried) women deserved as much respect as virgins.

“Seeing as how you had all them other boyfriends before me,” Bo states, “and seeing as how I never had one single gal friend before you, well, between the two of us, it kinda averages out to things being proper, and right.” Bo’s stubborn desire to marry Cherie, despite her past, leads him to finally accept her. Cherie avoids making eye contact with Bo as she waits for him to explain if he feels the same, but an extended close-up two-shot illustrates, through the shot composition and editing, how they come to a mutual understanding. “I’ve been thinking about them other fellas, Cherie,” Bo says, his face dominating the frame such that only one of Cherie’s eyes is visible as she glances hopefully up at him. “I like you the way you are, so what do I care how you got that way?,” he continues, as the camera gradually tilts down to show her full face only when Bo has accepted her sexual experience. In this shared shot, “with Cherie’s upper body lying along the bottom of the frame and Bo leaning above her,” as Ana Salzberg points out, “the two merge in a body-landscape, a panorama of passionate recognition”.

After this, a series of shot/reverse-shot close-ups alternately isolates each of their faces as they realize their affection for each other, and signals how Bo’s acceptance of Cherie’s past enables her to “go anywhere in the world” with him. The series of close-ups in this sequence, rather than two-shots, indicates that Bo and Cherie are individuals before they are a couple, and, contrary to the advice of postwar marriage counselors, that their past experiences must be accepted before they can begin a successful relationship. But what does Cherie gain when she agrees to marry Bo? Most obviously, she gains a way out of the saloon circuit and a spouse, despite conventional warnings that men don’t marry loose women. As the couple stands outside the bus, Bo recognizes that Cherie must be “freezing” in the thin coat she has been wearing since he forced her onto the bus to Montana, and offers his heavy coat. The shot lingers on her as she wraps herself in its luxury. While Carl Rollyson reads Cherie’s enjoyment at this moment as “recognition of what she has won,” he doesn’t say what that is, but implies it is the security of marriage.

If we focus on Cherie as a sexpot, a more significant gain for her is reciprocity—both in terms of sexual pleasure and respect. The film’s final moments make clear that Cherie can expect more than the security of marriage in the form of the “deep freeze” Bo had promised, “or an electric washer, or any other major appliance you want.” As Cherie wraps herself in the coat, she turns her head from left to right, lingering in the sensation of the coat’s fur trim against her skin, displaying the closed eyes and open mouth associated with Monroe’s signature expression of sexual pleasure. Cherie’s visible pleasure indicates that Bo will work to satisfy her sexual needs, just as he does her more immediate physical needs. After this exchange, Cherie gives Bo her scarf, hinting at a reciprocal relationship, a gesture that makes him whoop as he considers her needs again and helps her board the bus ahead of him. In short, Bo finally makes Cherie “hot” for him by thinking of her needs, demonstrating that he has learned the lessons indicated by Kinsey’s findings regarding female sexual pleasure.

Marilyn Monroe’s offscreen life also informs the role of Cherie in Bus Stop, who is eager to find “respect” on Hollywood and Vine, but who instead finds respect for her sexual experience. Those of Monroe’s films that most blatantly capitalize on her sex appeal draw on the transgressive elements of her offscreen life. As The Girl in The Seven Year Itch, Monroe most clearly plays a version of herself—she has posed nude, she is single but not virginal, she is an actress. The Girl demonstrates how Monroe’s offscreen transgressions embodied the kinds of female sexual behavior that Kinsey reported, the validity of which many Americans were debating at the time.  Finally, in Some Like It Hot, Sugar has been “used” like a tube of toothpaste, much like Monroe herself, whose affairs were gossip fodder, but she aggressively pursues a man and wins him in the end. This series of films from Monroe’s canon demonstrates her unique contribution to the postwar moment. Although Monroe was a sexpot, she credibly combined compliance and independence, seeming submissive while making her right to self-satisfaction axiomatic.

When Marilyn as Roslyn in The Misfits (1961) dances aimlessly across the yard, self-absorbed, spinning and hugging herself, she demonstrates her unavailability. With her back to the camera, her straps fall from her shoulders, and she finally embraces a tree. Roslyn’s self-motivated dance acknowledges her sexpot appearance and subverts it by making it possible that her body exists for herself rather than for men: she controls her sexuality. As Richard Dyer notes, The Misfits breaks with the rest of Monroe’s oeuvre in that it “begins to hint at a for-itself female sexuality as formlessness. The men in the film look on, unable to comprehend her sensuality; grasping a tree she looks out at them/us with a hollow expression of beatitude, straining to express what is already defined as inexpressible.” J. M. Coetzee allegorizes Monroe’s “resistance to the highly focused and even regimented models of sexuality purveyed not only by Hollywood and the media but by academic sexology. Roslyn is dancing out a diffuse and—in the light of the rest of the film—forlorn sensuality to which neither Guido’s sexual predatoriness nor Gay’s old-fashioned courtliness is an adequate response.” Roslyn is a mercurial force—although she causes the men’s unraveling, they also look to her for healing. 

Marilyn Monroe’s delivery mode made it seem unlikely that she was consciously using her sex appeal to manipulate others. Monroe certainly was an imperfect wife and her offscreen life inflected the meanings of her films. Her imperfections, however, endeared her to postwar men and women, who were also struggling with the radically reconfigured social landscape of the postwar period. Onscreen, she played a pageant queen wife in We’re Not Married! (1952, dir. Edmund Goulding), a murderess in Niagara (1953, dir. Henry Hathaway), and gold digger in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. Monroe’s films reflected unacknowledged problems within a cultural discourse that encouraged women to be housewives. Her roles in The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, and Some Like It Hot attest to the changing understanding of female sexuality in the postwar period. By playing women more interested in pleasure than in marriage, Monroe reflected Kinsey’s findings in Sexual Behavior in the Human Female that about half of women engaged in sex outside of marriage. What’s more, while in these roles her desire for pleasure is apparent, the films received Production Code Administration approval. We use Marilyn Monroe in the present to remember and perhaps advocate for prior ways of being American. —"Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe" (2019) by Amanda Konkle

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

"Legends and Lipstick, My Stories of Hollywood's Golden Era" by Nancy Bacon

Nancy Bacon (1940-2018), pinup model and B-actress, started working as a cocktail-waitress at The Sands, and she became the darling of the local celebs. As she recalls in her memoir Legends and Lipstick, “After about a month of constant, adoring surveillance, I was finally invited back into the inner-sanctum where the Rat Pack drank, partied, and made love until dawn. But none of the boys dared lay a glove on me. Word had come down from The Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, that I was underage and could only be ogled from afar. So, I honed my drinking skills and picked up intel no young lady should ever hear!” She soon left Sin City and after a whirlwind tour through Europe, Nancy settled in Hollywood, CA.

She appeared in several films—cheesecake B-movies with names like Sex Kittens Go to College and The Private Lives of Adam and Eve—but she never took to acting because she hated having to be on set at the crack of dawn. She preferred late nights to early mornings. Her life took a hairpin turn when she met Don Wilson, co-founder and rhythm guitarist of the hit band The Ventures. Wearing a tight yellow sweater, lime green pedal-pushers, gold high-heels and a saucy smile, she graced the cover of their 1964 Walk, Don’t Run Vol 2, then tied the knot with Don shortly after. They had a daughter, Stacey Wilson.

Nancy Bacon was also the editor of the infamous Confidential magazine and worked as a gossip columnist. Throughout the swinging sixties, Nancy hobnobbed with heartthrobs ranging from Paul Newman to Jayne Mansfield, plus exciting friendships with the Rat Pack, Judy Garland, Bobby Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, and Marilyn Monroe. While undeniably strong-willed, she was addicted to cigarettes—even the trendy treatment at Schick Shadel failed—and took her last puff on December 16, 2018. Nancy passed away on her own terms, bringing to mind a song she loved: My Way. She adored Sinatra, but the Elvis version was closer to her heart because he was her favorite guy and the “one that got away”—of all the stars she knew, The King not only eluded her, he had the nerve to die on her birthday in 1977! 

"I was a freckle-faced farm girl, fresh off the bus and wide-eyed with awe at the splendor of the big city: Hollywood. I was the youngest of nine children, and grew up on a farm in bleak, cold, nowhere Ellensburg, Washington. My earliest memory was dreaming of escaping. As soon as I could formulate a clear thought it was to just run and never look back. In the blazing California sun I was struck dumb by the opulence, the lush, tropical gardens, the tables laden with exotic dishes, the gorgeous women. It was surreal. I have had a fantastic life. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been rich. I’ve lived among the famous. I’ve known beautiful people and I’ve been made to feel beautiful through them and by them. I know it would be more politically correct for me to confess and express guilt about the way I handled my life, but I honestly cannot do that. And at the time I never intended to hurt anyone. I’m sure that there is going to be a little fuss over what I have written about some of the people I have known—mainly Paul Newman—but everyone can be damn sure that as long as it lasted, everyone enjoyed themselves! 

The Sexual Revolution was in full swing. Jayne Mansfield was completely outrageous and I adored her. Those were sexually freer times, and while Women’s Lib was in vogue, we didn’t look at the dynamics between the genders in quite the same way as the generations to follow. I seldom felt coerced by anyone; if a man really bothered me, I laughed at him and moved on. For every prick I ever met, there were ten or twenty truly wonderful human beings who gave me a hell of a lot more than I gave them. I’ve been pretty lucky to have known all the flamboyant, beautiful and outrageous people with whom I spent my formative years. I have soared on drugs, booze, fright, love, excitement, on the edges of dangerous rides. If there is any message in all of this, it is simply that I have never soared so high as when I have been in love: cold sober, perfectly straight, and clear of eye." —"Legends and Lipstick: My Scandalous Stories of Hollywood's Golden Era" (2017) by Nancy Bacon


Duane Eddy & The Ventures: "I Fought The Law". Originally written by Sonny Curtis for Bobby Fuller (1965).


"He was a good ol' boy, and he had a good Christian soul. He never knocked nobody down in his life — He loved us all, and he treated us right." —"The Real Buddy Holly Story" (1979) by Sonny Curtis

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Myth of the Fifties, Dion, Buddy Holly

The Myth of the Fifties: In his book called The Permissive Society: America, 1941-1965, Alan Petigny—professor of history at the University of Florida—challenges the stereotypical ideas that the 1950s was such a conservative period and dives deep into the true radical changes taking place in American life at the time. Petigny argues persuasively that the 1950s were not truly conservative. Unlike other revisionist accounts that lean heavily on anecdotes, this study is firmly rooted in statistics and serious research. Petigny discusses a variety of topics from sex to rock ‘n’ roll, from psychology to religion, and gives the reader a true empathic picture of an emerging way of thinking he calls 'The Permissive Turn'. In contrast to those who see the 1950s as essentially a conservative period and the 1960s as a time of rapid moral change, The Permissive Society points to the emergence of a liberalizing impulse during the Truman and Eisenhower years. During the 1950s, a traditionalist moral framework was beginning to give way to a more relaxed style of child-rearing, the loosening of sexual attitudes, and the increasing influence of modern psychology.

The era usually denoted as “the Fifties” generated a remarkable set of social indicators. For the one hundred years prior to 1941, the American marriage rate was in decline. The proportion of the adult population that was married also fell steadily, while the divorce rate began a seemingly inexorable rise; by 1910 (thanks largely to Nevada), the United States was the divorce capital of the world. Fertility also showed relentless decline, falling more than 50 percent among the native-born population. A nation dominated by freehold farmers became a land of sharecroppers and urban tenants. In political terms, conservative values and free markets gave way to secularism, progressivism, and moral individualism. Then came the 1941–65 period, “the Fifties,” and the marriage rate soared; the average age of first marriage fell to twenty for women, twenty-two for men. 

By 1960, the proportion of adults, age forty, who were or had been married reached 96 percent, a record high. Even the divorce rate, after a postwar spike in 1946, declined for the next dozen years. Most notably, marital fertility climbed sharply, almost doubling by 1957 in the celebrated Baby Boom. At the same time, measures of income inequality (such as the Gini index) shrank as the numbers of the very rich and very poor fell while the great American middle class swelled. Undergirded by federal housing and mortgage insurance programs, a revolution in property ownership commenced. Between 1945 and 1960, the number of owner-occupied homes nearly doubled, restoring America as a land of property owners. Church membership soared, Sunday schools were bursting at the seams, and President Dwight Eisenhower beamed a comforting, genially conservative smile over the land. A budding youth culture was being fueled by rock ’n’ roll.

Petigny challenges in particular what he calls “the four great myths of the 1950s”: (1) the belief that religious piety was on the rise, seen in the popularity of Billy Graham and rising rates of church attendance; (2) the proposition that American sexual behavior was relatively stable during this time, with the sexual revolution arriving only in the 1960s; (3) the claim that the status of women was losing ground during this era of domesticity; and (4) the belief that the youth culture of this period represented a vigorous challenge to the values of the adult world. Instead, he argues that American values were going through a fundamental transition in these years, driven by the democratization of psychology, the “medicalization” of ailments such as alcoholism (formerly seen as moral sins), the emergence of a therapeutic theology in the churches, and the liberalization of child-rearing practices under the influence of Benjamin Spock and other sociologists.

In all this, Petigny sees “an inversion” of the Marxist understanding of the relation between ideas and the material world: “the ideological superstructure took precedence over the material base.” This change of values represented a permissive shift in American life, but one beginning in the 1940s, not the 1960s. He gives special emphasis to the human displacements that occurred during World War II: fifteen million young men into the military, and five million young women into the factories. This great mixing of young adults spawned massive changes in sexual relations, ranging from a rise in the proportion of premaritally conceived pregnancies among whites and blacks alike to the emergence of egalitarian “companionate” marriages.

Such an argument is not completely new. John Costello anticipated this dating of the start of the sexual revolution in his serious book, Virtue Under Fire (1985); so did Allan Sherman in his insightful Official History of the Sex Revolution (1972). In The Hearts of Men (1983), feminist author Barbara Ehrenreich also emphasized—as does Petigny—the significance of the founding of Playboy magazine in 1953 as a transformative challenge to traditional sexual ethics long before the first bra was burned in the 1960s. And Elaine Tyler May’s Homeward Bound (1988) showed the complexity of husband-wife relations during the postwar years. The author notes “the decline and fall of original sin,” evidenced at the theological level in Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) and also in the popular new psychology of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. By the mid-1950s, Petigny shows, Billy Graham was moving away from fundamentalism, moderating his message, and declaring his admiration for theological liberals such as Norman Peale and Reinhold Niebuhr. Meanwhile, both Protestant and Catholic clerics moved enthusiastically into a new form of pastoral counseling, shaped by Freudian psychoanalysis.

Petigny demonstrates keen insight into other contentious issues. He challenges, for instance, the common argument that the introduction of the birth control pill in the early 1960s launched the sexual revolution, showing evidence that the use of condoms and other forms of birth control was spreading well before the arrival of the Pill. Condoms and contraceptives began to fall under more scrutiny from the FDA, thus making them more readily available. Thus, the more liberal attitudes on sex were becoming more prevalent. As such, the 1950s closed out with the birth control pill, a stronger condom, and leading to cutting down STD rates. As a result, the US saw an uptick in single mothers. Petigny speaks of a “commoditization of sex” during the 1940s and 1950s, in the popular films and music of that era. 

Petigny asserts, “During the 1960s, Americans were simply more willing to acknowledge the extracurricular activities of their youth than they had been during the previous decade.” The prevalence of out of wedlock birth “between 1940 and 1960,” as Petigny proclaims, “increased by 2.5 fold.” Such evidence suggests there was an increase in premarital sex, making apparent the drastic liberalization of social norms–particularly those dealing with sexual promiscuity–taking place before the 1960s. The increase of premarital sex in the 1950s makes evident that a “permissive turn” took place before the 1960s. The Youth Culture and Sex chapter talks about how the teens practiced “going steady” because “the greater intimacy of going steady facilitated higher level of sexual intercourse amongst the young.”  Sexual promiscuity no longer branded a woman as undesirable wife material by a majority of the educated middle class, although these attitudes were not always reflected accurately by Hollywood (Splendor in the Grass). While the 1950’s is not credited for being a time of feminism it most definitely was. Petigny remarks: “Feminism in the 1950s was less a movement or ideology than a new sentiment or set of attitudes.”

In addition, Petigny mobilizes survey data to deny feminist complaints that American homes during this era rested on the systematic repression of women. Instead, most homes were based on “egalitarian” relationships. The number of working women climbed steadily during “the Fifties,” partly because of a Baby Boom–driven demand for teachers and nurses. Women made real political gains as well, with the proportion of women in Congress and the state legislatures climbing steadily. Petigny even makes a compelling case that the Boy Scouts of America actually lost ground in this era. Myths regarding the youth culture of the era also fall before Petigny’s analysis. While acknowledging the musical revolution implicit in rock ’n’ roll and the alienation portrayed in James Dean’s Rebel without a Cause (1955) and in J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (1951), the author notes the widespread support that this new music found among adults and youngsters alike. The problems shown in Catcher in the Rye were not about prevailing American values; it was Salinger's complaint about the failure of “phonies” and how to live up to personal expectations. An overturning of stylistic conventions ranged from Jackson Pollock’s paint-spattered canvases to the jazz improvisations of Charlie Parker.

The Social Conservative’s Dilemma: Adult acceptance of rock ’n’ roll also grew naturally out of the permissive child-rearing practices of the postwar era. That explains how a new celebration of spontaneity reshaped the arts during the 1940s and 1950s. The surge in fertility during the 1950s is particularly striking. It violated all the “laws” of sociology, including the general rule that the more education a woman has, the fewer children. While fertility rose for all American religious groups during the 1941–65 period, it rose far more impressively among Catholics. The total marital fertility rate for non-Catholics averaged 3.15 per woman in 1951–55 and 3.14 in 1961–65; for Catholics, the respective figures were 3.54 and 4.25. Only 10 percent of Catholics under age forty reported having four or more children in 1952–55, close to the Protestant figure of 9 percent. By 1957–59, the Protestant figure was unchanged, but the proportion for Catholics had more than doubled to 22 percent. 

At another level, however, Petigny’s analysis leaves social conservatives facing a fairly large dilemma. The Fifties seemed to be the one clear example in modern American history of social, cultural, and moral renewal. Families appeared to be growing stronger. Burgeoning church construction and swelling Sunday schools betokened a measurable form of religious revival. The suburban revolution seemed to restore America as a land of property owners, with adult consumption patterns focused on family life. In essence, Petigny’s argument is that these were all ephemeral developments, almost illusions, and the strongest evidence in support of his view is the rapidity with which these signs of social health evaporated in “the Sixties” (even “Catholic exceptionalism” on matters of family and fertility had vanished by 1970). The implication for twenty-first-century social conservatives is that there are no secular or easy paths back to social health. In this respect, The Permissive Society is not only a valuable work of history and a refreshing correction to the myths that surround the Fifties. It also indirectly summons a searching of a more difficult, yet real, form of social renewal for the future.

During the late 1940s and 1950s, there were two different points of view on how people looked at guilt. On one side, the Christians would naturally think of guilt as one of the main factors of mankind’s spiritual believes that would ultimately show them the difference between right and wrong. On the other side though, Freud and modern psychologists view guilt as one of the biggest problems that are facing mankind in modern times. The reason that it is being viewed as a problem is because that despite civilization developing, they will lose their happiness if they allow their sense of guilt to increase over time. The only thing that is confusing about Petigny's analysis is the guilt factor. This part of his study does not specifically say if everyone feels guilty for being happy or guilty for wanting to develop civilization. Source: home.isi.org

Buddy Holly fitted the nice guy archetype and the non-conformist archetype at once. His was a triumph of subver­sion. Buddy introduced Edwardian fashions to rock ’n’ roll, years before they became popular in the sixties. He wore an ascot and a greatcoat with a fur collar, displaying a style that was radical, even unthinkable, in an era of Brooks Brothers sack suits and buttondown collars. Tasteful and vaguely aristocratic, Buddy had repeatedly reinvented himself until finally achieving a sort of beauty. Duane Eddy, whose twangy guitar made him one of the top rock’s instrumentalists, saw Buddy at this time and described him, in Reminiscing magazine, as an impressive sight—tall, powerful, and strikingly handsome. As Rolling Stone’s Robert Palmer would write from the perspective of 1990, “It is a measure of fifties rock’s genuine revolutionary potential (as opposed to the revolution-as-corporate-marketing-ploy so characteristic of the sixties) that while sixties rock eventually calmed down, was co-opted or snuffed itself out in heedless excess, fifties rock ’n’ roll was stopped. Cold.” Buddy Holly only saw one good royalty check during his lifetime. He received his check on August 26, 1958 for $14,462.74. Holly was in the process of dissolving the Prism partnership right before embarking his last tour. Ray Rush was reimbursed and Buddy agreed to let Norman Petty take 2000 $ out of his Prism account for the Ampex. Whatever record label Holly was going to run, it would have been without Norman Petty. Manny Greenfield had booked the Crickets on the Dick Clark Show, the English tour, and other venues. In return, he and Buddy had had a word of mouth agreement that Greenfield would receive a 5% commission. These commissions were dutifully paid and there are receipts and checks as proof. Sometime around July or August of 1958, Manny Greenfield felt he was Buddy's manager and should be receiving a commission on all of Buddy's earnings. "Not so," said Buddy. So the assets were being held up by Greenfield. Buddy wanted Irvin Feld (the promoter of the Winter Dance Party tour) as his new manager after the break-up from Petty.


I wrote Runaround Sue about a real girl in the neighborhood, but we changed the name to protect the guilty. She was the kind of girl who loved to be worshipped and worked hard to get a guy’s attention; but as soon as she had him, she’d lose interest and start charming somebody else. We used the name Sue because it fit and because it lends itself to a lot of rhymes. Now, let me put you wise: Contrary to what has been reported everywhere, the song is not about my wife. It is not about Susan Butterfield. Susan has had to endure being introduced as “Runaround Sue” at least a thousand times since 1961. She smiles through it all. And she may one day be canonized for it. Even The New York Times (December 3, 2000) reported that she was the “iinspiration” for the song. The New York Times! The song hit number one in September 1961. 

I’ve written songs about Susan but never managed one that captures the wonder of it all. Her love is like God’s love, a mystery I’ll never fathom. You’ll notice something about the best rock and rollers: They tend to be outsiders. When they were kids they were loners. They didn’t fit in. They felt excluded. They made music to ease their pain. The great thing about writing a song is that it enables you to present a huge problem––loneliness, betrayal, fear, rejection––and then resolve it in three minutes. All it takes is a few verses, a chorus, and a guitar solo. The problem is that nothing’s really resolved at the end of the song.

The pain’s still there, inside––and that’s exactly what happens to the greatest rockers. The pain remains; and if you don’t find a way of dealing with it, you die. That’s the way it ended for too long a litany of rockers. They died from overdose, self-abuse, or reckless living. Others died inside. Some went crazy, or just burned out, or turned into misanthropes. But others grew up, which is, I think, the better way. At some point you need to grow up, even if you’re a rock star. Buddy Holly did change my life. I believe he founded the rock's avant-garde. For many people, he was the King of Rock and Roll, although Elvis kept the title. I got to know Buddy Holly pretty well. In New York I introduced him to Manny’s on 48th Street and a clothing shop on Third Avenue. He was 22 and very decisive and he impressed me because I was 19 and insecure. Buddy told me once, "Dion, I don’t know how to succeed, but I know how to fail: Try to please everybody." If he didn’t tell me that, I probably never would have done "Runaround Sue," or "The Wanderer."  I miss those guys (Buddy, Ritchie and The Big Bopper). I feel they are helping me out. I have three angels up there.


I think John Lennon's intentions were good, though he wasn’t the most informed participant on the scene, and the drugs got in the way of his clear thinking. Nowhere is the murk of his thought more evident than in the most popular song of his solo years. “Imagine” has become an anthem for internationalism––one-world government––and a favorite hymn for those who are “spiritual but not religious.” Imagine there’s no heaven... Lennon was talented, but this song represents a huge failure of imagination. In 1971 we didn’t need to imagine atheistic internationalism. Communism was living and active and it wasn’t producing peace. The Eastern Bloc was a repressive, unhappy place. China was sustaining its self-holocaust into Chairman Mao’s senility. What made it possible for so many leaders to issue the orders for atrocities over the course of a half-century and more? They feared neither heaven nor hell. Imagine that. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine polled a select group of recording-industry professionals, critics, and artists, and they ranked “Imagine” the third-greatest song of all time. In the video for the song, John plays a white grand piano in a white room. His wife, Yoko Ono, walks around the room, throwing open the curtains on all the windows, one by one. When I saw the video, I wanted to shout: No! She should be closing the curtains! The song isn’t enlightening anything. It’s a deepening darkness.

John Lennon wanted good things. “All you need is love,” “Give peace a chance.” The problem is that those things slip away like eels unless you have a clear idea of what they are. How could John preach love to the world when he had a hard enough time showing love to the people closest to him? What right did he have to preach world peace when he couldn’t even get along with the Beatles? Peace isn’t the chaos of liberty, anarchy, and license. It is, as St. Augustine said, “tranquility of order.” It’s the train on the track (“Slow Train Coming,” as Dylan put it). It’s good to want a revolution, and it’s good to give peace a chance, but the only true revolution that produces lasting peace is the one that Jesus started. The alternatives just make you pick sides among the warring factions. So John ended up throwing his support behind armed terrorists in the IRA and Black Panthers, even though they really weren’t interested in giving peace a chance. ––Dion: the Wanderer Talks Truth (2011) by Dion Dimucci

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Ryan Adams investigated by FBI, Chauvinist ways of old rockers (John Lennon, Jim Morrison)

Mandy Moore described her ex-husband Ryan Adams as “controlling,” “destructive” and “manic.” The F.B.I. is “looking into” whether singer-songwriter Ryan Adams’ sexually explicit communications with an underage fan were criminal behavior, according to a law enforcement official cited by The New York Times. The fan, identified only as “Ava,” was between the ages of 14 and 16 when the interactions, which included nudity, took place. Adams' first of his planned 2019 releases, “Big Colors,” which was to have come out April 19, has been “put on hold.” Retailers began reporting Thursday night that they’ve been notified the album has been yanked from the schedule by Universal Music Group. Adams’ Pax-Am label has deleted its own pages devoted to pre-orders for the CD and LP. On top of the album being put in limbo, three companies that manufacture gear for musicians have publicly severed ties with Adams and announced that the products bearing his name will be taken off the market or out of development. Source: variety.com

Some comments from ex-fans on Ryan Adams' Facebook page:

M.K: Ryan Adams, you suck. I will never listen to your music again. And you have been my favorite artist for 20 years. Maybe you can write a sensitive song about being a sexual predator... A.M: You suck! Just deleted all your shit and broke your records. Don’t want anyone listening to your shit again! Douchebag. Career over. P.S: 20 god damn years I have been listening to your music, going to your concerts (even the ones you walked out on) telling everyone within earshot that this man is our Dylan. I feel so sick today. If this is true you need to get some help, and as the father of a 19 month old daughter I am so ashamed that I have a wall full of your records. W.L: Narcissistic much, psycho?!? Don’t bother getting yourself help, you’re a lost cause and have no worth. There; all of your biggest fears confirmed. And yes, all women hate you and you always were undateable and will remain that way as no one wants what you offer, filth. Not one single person respects you. Buy a garbage can, that’s where you belong. No one cares if you’re dead or alive FYI. That’s confirmation of yet another one of your pathetic fears that you live your life in. V.M: Your actions in the past are absolutely horrifying and I am glad you have been exposed for what you truly are, a serial sexual abuser of young women. Your legacy has been destroyed. You are a disgrace to man kind. You bring shame on your nation and family. You have lost so many fans and I will thoroughly enjoy your downfall, you worthless pile of dog trash. Source: www.facebook.com

John Lennon met Cynthia Powell in 1957, when they were fellow students at the Liverpool College of Art. Although Powell was intimidated by Lennon's attitude and appearance, she heard that he was obsessed with the French actress Brigitte Bardot, so she dyed her hair blonde. Lennon asked her out, but when she said that she was engaged, he screamed out, "I didn't ask you to fuckin' marry me, did I?" She often accompanied him to The Quarrymen gigs and travelled to Hamburg with Paul McCartney's girlfriend. Lennon was jealous by nature and eventually grew possessive, often terrifying Cynthia with his anger and physical violence. Lennon later said that until he met Yoko Ono, he had never questioned his chauvinistic attitude toward women.


"I have to admit it's getting better Since you've been mine/Me used to be angry young man/Me hiding me head in the sand/You gave me the word, I finally heard/I'm doing the best that I can/I've got to admit it's getting better/It can't get no worse/I have to admit it's getting better/Since you've been mine/It's getting better all the time/I used to be cruel to my woman/I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved/Man, I was mean but I'm changing my scene/And I'm doing the best that I can/" -"Getting Getter" (1967) written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney/Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

A real womanizer, when he was sober, Jim Morrison was the epitome of the southern gentleman, considerate, extremely polite, generous, very romantic and higly respectful towards women. As John Densmore recalled: "Jim liked to treat women with great respect." Jim wrote passionate love letters and poems to these women, and many thought he really meant it, but Pam was the only one in his heart. Some claim Morrison got very angry with Pam over her use of heroin. A neighbor in Laurel Canyon recalls Pam describing a violent argument over the issue where she locked herself in the closet to get away from Jim's rage. Close friends of Morrison's doubt the validity of this story, however.  The more "beloved" and "respected" figures in rock music have a nice, revisionist-style in the re-telling of their life story. Keith Moon terrorized, controlled, psychologically abused his wife; his only child was terrified of him. But that get's "glossed over", and Moon is remembered as an adorable and "funny" drummer! Read excerpts from Mike Nesmith's Infinite Tuesday autobiography. The "smart" Monkee? A great visionary? Nothing more than an arrogant idiot, a nitwit who got very lucky. And from what I can gather little Davy Jones made Jim Morrison look like a prince. Oh, those adorable Monkees...

The problem with Jim Morrison was that he was thrown under the bus in the worst possible way by his own camp. Danny Sugerman's "No One Here Gets Out Alive" made for salacious reading but set the Jim Morrison 'scumbag' image in stone. Trash Jim Morrison and a deafening silence is the only response. Could Jim Morrison be a scumbag? Sometimes. But let's put every single rock figure from the 1960s on the witness stand and let's see how well they come across. David Bowie liked young girls as young as 14. A lot of them have sins that exceed Morrison's. All of them could be scumbags. Bruce Botnick describes a familiar scene: "So here were the two of them, Jim and Pam, completely out of their minds and crying. He started shaking her violently. I think he was putting a show on me. She was crying out of control, telling him he shouldn't drink any more. And I'm cleaning up, and I said, 'Hey, man, it's pretty late.' He looked up, stopped shaking her, said, 'Yeah, right,' and hugged her, and they walked out arm in arm. I felt he had done all that for effect. I'd seen him do that sort of thing before, because he'd always give you a funny look afterward, to see your reaction." —"Break On Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison" (2014) by James Riordan

Monday, February 11, 2019

Jeff Tweedy's superpower, Buddy Holly (Visionary Heart, Stay Close to Me), Days of Yore


“Why do you hate me?” I asked Jay again in our Belleville apartment. I was going to keep asking until I got an answer out of him. He didn’t deny it. If anything, he looked surprised that I didn’t already know the answer. 20 years later I was shocked to learn from a magazine interview with Jay Farrar that there was an “incident” that he saw as the last straw. Something that I’d completely forgotten about. Apparently still an “incident” he’d never forgiven me for. We had just finished a show in St. Louis, and this was back when I was still drinking so it was before our first record deal. I never made another record with alcohol in my bloodstream after No Depression. Jay’s girlfriend, Monica, had gotten tipsy during the show, and she fell asleep in the back of our van, waiting for us to load out. Jay was our designated driver for the night, so he was mostly sober. After we loaded out, I stumbled into the van and sat next to Monica. She woke up, and we started talking with incoherent babbling. We were leaning in to each other, and I was earnestly slurring, “I love you, Monica. I’ve always loved you.” Monica was sweetly slurring right back, not without pity, “Aw, I love you, too, Jeff.” Innocent stuff. Obnoxious, yes, but not anything with sinister motives. I was just a drunk having a bad case of loving everyone. Jay heard it all and watched our inebriated snuggling unfold from the van’s rearview mirror. He was upset, which he had every right to be. If some drunk started weepingly confessing his love for my girlfriend, I’d be pissed, too. Jay confronted me about it when we got back home. He thought I was hitting on her, or trying to seduce her. Even in my drunken stupor, that hadn’t been my intention. I was trying to tell a friend how much she meant to me, and because of the alcohol, I was doing it stupidly. There wasn’t any attempts at kissing, nothing even remotely sexual. It was just two drunks telling each other, “I love you.” As drunks do. That was still too much for Jay to bear. When we got back to Belleville, I apologized, he quit the band, and I’m pretty sure I cried. It was a big deal. I knew I’d fucked up, and it inspired me to quit drinking, which I somehow managed to do. Years later, when he was interviewed, he talked about that night in the van like it was the ultimate betrayal, the moment that killed Uncle Tupelo. His telling added details that were villainous, like that I’d been stroking Monica’s hair (that doesn’t sound like me). 


Even without alcohol I still have an impulse from time to time to mope and feel sorry for myself and want to be taken care of. The cure? My badass wife. She simply won’t have that shit. Not even a tiny bit. You know, “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll”? I always kind of looked down on championing anything but the rock and roll part. Anyone can do drugs or have sex or do sex-drugs or have drug-sex. To me, rock and roll required more awareness and commitment. My first sexual encounter was at the age of fourteen. The unfortunate truth of how I lost my virginity is the specific type of sexual initiation which is still romanticized as a “You hit the jackpot” kind of fantasy. The older woman taking a male virgin and teaching him carnality is a scenario still shockingly accepted as not just okay but ideal. Any naysaying to the contrary is casually shamed into silence by the pervasive and dominant masculinity of our collective mind-set. Well, the truth is, it was as wrong and damaging as would be easily accepted were the gender roles reversed. At fourteen, I wasn’t anywhere near being emotionally prepared to dive into that. I enjoyed hanging out with Leslie. She was twenty-five and loved great music. She was funny, and I thought of her as my friend. Toward the end of the summer before my sophomore year in high school, she informed me she was planning to leave Belleville (Illinois) and move back to her hometown. So we listened to music, and then she said we should leave because her roommate was coming home soon. She grabbed a bottle of champagne from her fridge, a blanket, and took me to a nearby park. It was dark and empty, we laid on the blanket and passed the champagne, and then she climbed on top of me. I didn’t fight it, but it felt very wrong. I don’t know what I was expecting to happen, but I swear a part of me was still waiting for her to give me an album or some token to remember her by. So that’s how it happened. Technically, I was consenting, but only so far as a fourteen-year-old can consent to anything. I told a few friends, trying to find a way to express the pain and confusion of the whole ordeal. Instead, because I was a guy, among my guy friends, my statutory victimhood was celebrated. Even to the point of jealousy at my good fortune. My mom knew something was wrong, but I was sickened by the thought of sharing any of it with her. I think my dad genuinely loved my mom. And she loved him, too, but maybe not as much. When I was a kid, I thought that she wasn’t getting what she needed emotionally from him. But in hindsight, it was probably the other way around. It was my dad who had no chance. She wasn’t going to trust a man with her happiness.

To exalt an artist’s suffering as being somehow unique or noble makes me cringe. When someone’s heart aches because a girl said she still loved him but really she was sleeping with somebody else and that made him sad, they’re plugged into something universal—if we all learn anything from being alive on this planet, it’s that people will lie to you for different motives. I love old records. I definitely love sad songs the most. It’s not about being able to write the perfect lyrics or a melody that will crawl up inside a listener’s head and never leave. It was realizing that I’m okay being vulnerable.  My comfort level with being vulnerable is probably my superpower. I wasn’t the cool kid. I wasn’t the strongest. I wasn’t the smartest person. I wasn’t the one you turned to if you had a question. I wasn’t ruggedly handsome or boyishly charming. I wasn’t the captain of the football team, or the kid everybody in school voted was the most likely to succeed. I was the guy who could burst into tears in front of his peers and not care what they thought. I had a bone-crushing earnestness, a weaponized sincerity, and I was learning how to put all of those feelings into songs. I was impervious to my peers’ shame. They couldn’t make me recoil with their snickering or judgmental sneers. I’d sung these same songs to my mother, in the quiet of our kitchen, and if I could open up to her and not be destroyed by a disapproving arch of an eyebrow, what could a crowd of strangers possibly do?

The way I feel about my wife Susie, the way she’s loved me and changed me, it can’t be in my songs. It’s too big for songs. Maybe, occasionally, I can get a part of it to fit. Sometimes it gets deep in the track where I can feel it but it’s never put into words. If you’ve ever been in a relationship that you took for granted, even when it was the one thing holding you together, and you somehow didn’t lose it despite acting like an idiot, then you know how difficult it is to convey that amount of gratitude, much less set it to music. I wouldn’t know where to begin. —Let’s go so we can get back / Jeff Tweedy. Source: www.rollingstone.com

Wilco was out in full force at the Val Air—one of those venerable Midwestern ballrooms where big bands once played, on the same circuit as Buddy Holly’s fatal tour. Behind the buoyant melodic simplicity of Tweedy’s acoustic guitar on the set-opening “Handshake Drugs”, guitarist Nels Cline raised a squall reminiscent of Neil Young with Crazy Horse, while drummer Glenn Kotche (who served as opening act and encore returnee on the solo tour) provided punctuation throughout the set that went well beyond typical rock propulsion. “Nobody suffers like that dude!” Tweedy said in the voice of a fan, both summarizing and satirizing what has seemed to be a large part of his appeal in recent years as Wilco’s brooding, mercurial frontman. Tweedy seemed almost borderline giddy that night. At least that was the impression reinforced during Wilco’s performance of the beatlesque “Hummingbird” to a decidedly older Des Moines crowd than the one at the university, where he exercised the dorkiest of rock star moves by running in place for extended mid-song calisthenics. Source: www.nodepression.com

“They don’t make music the way they used to,” the boomers and Gen Xers will mutter. And they’ll be right. Music today, at least most of it, is fundamentally different from what it was in the days of yore. For decades, musicians and engineers have employed dynamic range compression to make recordings sound fuller. Compression boosts the quieter parts and tamps down louder ones to create a narrower range. Historically, compression was usually applied during the mastering stage, the final steps through which a finished recording becomes a commercial release. The compression of dynamic range—the gap between the loud and quiet moments—of popular music has been used in recording studios for decades. The more aggressive use of compression in recent years is illustrated by these two song samples. In “This Is America,” the peak levels are clipped and the average loudness is less varied than in “What’s Going On.” The distance between the peaks and the average, a measure of how much the song’s range has been squeezed, is six decibels greater in Marvin Gaye’s song than it is in Childish Gambino’s track. In the predigital era, compression required a mastering engineer whose job is to create the physical master for the manufacturing process, to employ restraint and finesse. With digital audio, a few mouse clicks can compress the dynamic range with brute force. The result is music that sounds more aurally aggressive — like the television commercials. During the 1990s, as digital technology infiltrated the recording process, some mastering engineers wielded compression like a cudgel, competing to produce the loudest recordings. This recording industry “loudness war” was driven by linked aesthetic and economic imperatives. Maximum loudness, it was thought, was a prerequisite for commercial success. Over time, with listeners increasingly consuming music through earbuds and cheap computer speakers, engineers and producers found themselves working in a denuded sonic landscape, many of them longing for the rich and diverse audio ecosystems of old. Source: www.nytimes.com


Mike Berry's version of the song that Buddy Holly never recorded himself. In New York Buddy Holly also formed the 'Maria Music' publishing company with which "Stay Close To Me" was filed. Buddy Holly produced Lou Giordano's version of the song which was issued on Brunswick Records (55115) on January 27, 1959.


"I dreamed the girl I’d marry and the family we’d raise/In the mountains of New York City precious would be those days/But what my heart could not foresee thought these dreams would come through/My time remaining would be brief I give these dreams to you/You and me my brother in these guitars we trust/Our dreams might not mean much to the world but/They mean the world to us." —"Visionary Heart" (2016), a song written by Dion Dimucci dedicated to Buddy Holly

Some fans were often quick to sense that a veritable ‘Superman’ lurked beneath his ‘Clark Kentish’ exterior. Although Buddy Holly had composed the brilliant Reminiscing, he gave saxophonist King Curtis songwriter credits as part of his fees for flying to Clovis' recording studios. Detailing the woes of a jilted lover, Buddy’s characteristic hiccups and Curtis’ bawdy saxophone express a sense of longing for love without being maudlin. Murray Deutch, a Peer Southern executive who had received “some good songs” from Norman Petty in the past, never established a kinship with the Clovis producer: “Warmth wasn’t something you got with Norman Petty. He was the kind of guy who’d give you ice in the wintertime.” Going by legend, J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), who was battling flu like symptoms, approached Waylon Jennings about possibly taking his place on the plane. His hope was to get to the next venue early enough to get a shot from a doctor to battle his cold. Tommy Allsup has always maintained that he was approached by Ritchie Valens throughout the night about taking his place on board the airplane. However, Surf Ballroom's manager Carroll Anderson had a different recall about how Valens and Richardson wound up on that flight, and it differs dramatically from the memories of Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup. Carroll Anderson: “Buddy Holly got ahold of the Big Bopper, and the Big Bopper said, ‘Well, I’ll go with you if you split it.’ And then Holly said, ‘Let’s take Ritchie Valens along and it’ll only cost us thirty six dollars apiece.’”

Carroll Anderson’s memories of what went on that night in arranging the charter and the subsequent passengers that wound up on board a doomed Bonanza comes pretty damn close to substantiating Dion DiMucci’s story on what went on that evening when it came to who was to fly and who wasn’t. Dion DiMucci (“Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth”): “Buddy gathered up the headliners and told us he couldn’t take another night on the bus; he was going to try to charter a plane to take us to the next stop on the tour, Moorhead, Minnesota. He found a single―engine craft that could sit three in addition to the pilot. The problem was that there were four headliners―Buddy, Ritchie, the Big Bopper, and me. Someone would have to ride the bus. In a closed dressing room, we flipped a coin to see who was going to fly. The Big Bopper and I won the toss. Then Buddy told us what the flight would cost: $36. I couldn’t bring myself to spend a month’s rent on an hour’s flight to Minnesota. I said to Ritchie, ‘You go.’ Only the four of us knew who was getting on the plane when we left the dressing room that night. Of the four who were in that room, I’m the only one who survived beyond February 3, 1959.” Jennings’ comment about Holly, Richardson and Valens being “bugs for flying” denotes that there was much interest expressed prior to that tragic February 3rd plane ride by the three singers in flying. Much has been made over how Allsup stuck to the same story with little variation since the 1970s, yet little has been made over the consistency of Carroll Anderson’s memories of that night, even though his recollections changed little over the years, too, and seem to fly in direct contrast to Mr. Allsup’s own story. ―"In Flanders Field: Death and Rebirth of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson" (2017) by Ryan Vandergriff