October 29, 2013

Farewell Rock 'n' Roll Animal

I was saddened to read this morning of the death of songwriter and singer Lou Reed, one of the great rock poets. He was 71. Reed was one of the most influential and important precursors of punk. As youngsters in the 70s we were great fans of his music, especially the Transformer and Rock 'n' Roll Animal records. Later, through my studies of punk history, I became quite familiar with his early work and the milieu from which it sprang.

The watershed Velvet Underground "banana" album in 1967 was a harbinger of the direction rock music would take in the coming decades. Reed was one of the first of his generation to frankly address in song subject matter such as drug addiction, gay culture, and sexual deviance, but he always did so shamelessly, directly, and with a wry smile. Although Andy Warhol backed the group initially, I particularly admire Reed's resistance to the cult of personality around Warhol and his refusal to submit to Warhol's attempts to play him as just another Factory puppet.

He was a complex, combative, and difficult man about whom many unflattering things have been said. But I don't think it's an exaggeration to call Reed one of the most important songwriters of his generation who probably will -- or should be -- remembered with the likes of Dylan, Lennon-McCartney, and Jagger-Richards. He was a singular artist.

Here's CBS's surprisingly flattering obit:

And another, perhaps more realistic, one from the Guardian UK:

September 26, 2013

Farewell to Kofi Awoonor

I was just just reading this sad story,

Ghana mourns loss of celebrated poet Kofi Awoonor slain in Kenya mall attack

about Ghanain poet, Kofi Awoonor, one of the unfortunates murdered in the latest round of senseless butchery in Nairobi, Kenya. I find it somehow life-affirming that Ghanaian heads of state actually made time to greet his casket at the airport. Americans persist in the comic delusion that we are some kind of "advanced" society. In Ghana they actually pay attention when a poet dies....

Across A New Dawn (excerpt from one of Awoonor's last poems)
But who says our time is up
that the box maker and the digger
are in conference
or that the preachers have aired their robes
and the choir and the drummers
are in rehearsal?

No; where the worm eats
a grain grows.
the consultant deities
have measured the time
with long winded
arguments of eternity

And death, when he comes
to the door with his own
inimitable calling card
shall find a homestead
resurrected with laughter and dance
and the festival of the meat
of the young lamb and the red porridge
of the new corn

Brings to mind the African proverb, "When death finds you, let it find you alive."

Read the full poem here.

January 21, 2013

Hopkins Marquis Update -- UPS Screws the Pooch

So, after UPS held my beautiful, handmade, one-of-a-kind, $8500 Hopkins Marquis guitar hostage for 12 days* and failed to deliver it on 3 occasions, I finally managed to pick it up from their Downtown LA facility (not without more strife of course). And guess what? It is severely damaged! Hooray for UPS!!!

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i9Yrhm-wwM

I will never do business of any kind again with UPS and I strongly caution anyone shipping anything from Canada to USE A DIFFERENT CARRIER. I have never experienced anything like the utterly idiotic, totally unnecessary contortions that they forced upon me. I only hope that I live long enough to see the demise of this useless institution.