1964 documentary This Is Ska has been viewable on YouTube in chopped up form, but now you can watch all 40 minutes of this wonderful slice of musical history without missing a single beat. Skank God.
Jamaican Ska - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
Sammy Dead-O - Eric ‘Monty’ Morris
One Eyed Jack - Jimmy Cliff
Wash Wash - Prince Buster
Treat Me Bad - The Maytals
She Will Never Let You Down - The Maytals
So Marie - The Charmers
Rough ‘N’ Tough - Stranger Cole
Two Roads Before Me - Roy & Yvonne
I Don’t Know - The Blues Busters
Sammy Dead-O - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
King Of Kings - Jimmy Cliff
I recently found myself wondering–as you do–what, exactly, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” was all about. Precluding, that is, getting high (Dylan: “I never have and never will write a drug song”). My curiosity led me to the following observation by Dylan scholar Clinton Heylin, who observed that the title seems to allude to the following beauty from the Book of Proverbs (chapter 27, verse 15): “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.” (Well if that ain’t the Old Testament’s lightest moment!?) Heylin suggests the title was meant to throw off the censors. Better yet, though: a continual dropping: stoning! “Everybody must get stoned”: Every man (the ones that shack up with women anyhow) must get nagged. The “They” being none other than (Rainy Day) “women.”
Well, they’ll stone you and say that it’s the end
Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again
They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car
and they’ll stone when you’re playing your guitar
It all comes into focus when you picture a henpecked hubby– even, I fancy, “sent down in your grave,” which suggests the dirt dropped on hubby’s coffin lid by the surviving widow.
While Heylin’s sourcing of the title in Proverbs arguably seals the deal, it turns out plenty of sharper-eared listeners have long held this interpretation of the song (fair enough: it’s hidden in plain sight), and I found it suggested online that the “#12 & 35” element coincides with a woman’s peak fertility. “A continual dropping in a rainy day…” The song’s about PMT!
Having finally sussed “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (it’ll do me!), I moved on to the similarly enigmatic Blonde on Blonde classic “Just Like Woman.” Immediately, of course, we find ourselves assailed by a further “continual dropping” (Bob’s standing “inside the rain,” no less), but – as I chewed again on the song’s famous words – light was shed in an unexpected and entirely different direction…
Does the following verse of “Just Like a Woman” remind you of another famous song at all?
That Baby’s got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls.
How about Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows”?
Everybody knows that you love me baby Everybody knows that you really do Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet Without your clothes
And everybody knows
And if you’re still not convinced that Cohen is here (Dylan’s “new clothes” suggesting “no clothes,” after all) paying subtle tribute to the source of his song’s indelible refrain, remind yourself of the following verse also…
And everybody knows that it’s now or never
Everybody knows that it’s me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when you’ve done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows
Which is a stunningly imaginative way to recycle Dylan’s rhyme. Those guys eh!
Finally, here’s Al “right place/time/riff” Kooper specifically reminiscing about recording Blonde on Blonde in Nashville, describing his role as a “human tape recorder” who would go learn Bob’s emerging songs and then go prepare the musicians (sketching the odd arrangement too, by the sound of it).
Cherubic Pat Smear of the Germs, and later Nirvana… he hit girls
I am as guilty as any young punk of romanticizing the youthful energy of scenes and eras that I was never a part of, so it’s nice to be smacked in the face with reality once in a while. Of course it’s important to cut these kids a lot of slack as they navigated particularly ugly aspects of adolescence, many times through a lot of adversity. However, dear sweet baby Jesus, I hope I was never that much of a sulky, self-righteous, little ass (I know, I know—I probably was) as the youngsters on display in first installment of Penelope Spheeris’ legendary LA punk/metal trilogy The Decline of Western Civilization.
Through thick, grating, under-bitten LA accents, we hear classics such as “I’m a total rebel—I rebel against everything,” and “Everyone shouldn’t be afraid to be as different as they wanna’ be,” followed almost immediately by the same girl saying, “Everyone’s hair should be blue.” And of course, there are the racial epithets, gratuitous use of “poseur,” and various affected attempts at portraying cynicism and apathy.
Regardless, the angst and alienation these kids felt is palpably legitimate; you can’t help but wish you could pinch their bratty little cheeks and tell them that someday they’ll escape, and that it isn’t always going to be this bad. Mainly, however, I’m just happy no one recorded me at sixteen years old, and that I’ll never have to be sixteen years old again.
Despite the perception of the USSR as a colorless model of utilitarianism, when we get a peek at some of the stuff it produced, we find all sorts of innovative artifacts. The Museum of Soviet Arcade Games resides in the basement of an engineering school in Moscow. Run by Maxim Pinigin and Alexander Stakhanov, it contains about 20 working machines, with 20 more under repair. The pair run the museum as a functioning arcade, open to the public, seven days a week.
The game above is called Morskoi Boy, literally “Sea Battle.” Of course, being Soviet, it was was government-produced, making use of national manufacturing. So, it was actually made in a submarine factory, and the periscope is an actual submarine periscope. While presumptuous American minds frequently ask if this was some sort of Cold War training machine, Pinigin and Stakhanov insist that the game was just for fun and entertainment.
In fact, like a lot of Soviet arcade games, Morskoi Boy is a direct knock-off of a (decadent) American console, (though with a heaping helping of Soviet charm). This is all the more surreal when you consider the omnipresence of The Cold War; the kids who played Sea Battle in the U.S. could have very well been imagining Russians manning the ships they torpedoed, all the while Russian kids were playing the exact same game, perhaps fantasizing Americans as their targets.
If you can’t make it out to Moscow, the video below shows the game in action, and the website has a fun (and addictive) flash facsimile. So go shoot some battleships! Just try not to think too hard about who you’re shooting at.
Very sad news: Underground comic pioneer Spain Rodriguez has died at the age of 72. Cause of death was cancer.
Along with R. Crumb and S. Clay Wilson, Spain Rodriguez was among the handful of comic artists that I gave a shit about. I didn’t read comics as a child, but in my teens I couldn’t get enough of Zap Comix and virtually anything published by the Print Mint in Berkeley. I remember discovering Rodriguez’s work in the East Village Other when I first visited NYC in 1968. His anti-fascist, Marxist super hero Trashman was the first counter-culture comic strip I recall reading. My 17-year-old brain was scrambled by the idea that comic books could be so overtly subversive and dangerous. This was pop culture for a new consciousness. The images and messages were as indelible as the ink they were printed with.
It’s close to impossible for me to find the words to express how important Crumb, Wilson, Rodriquez and Bill Griffith were in helping to alter the ways in which teenyboppers like myself viewed the world. To say they were “mind-opening” is an understatement. Zap, Snatch, Despair, Big Ass were an assault on every wall built up around every taboo that any young hipster might be grappling with. Honeybunch Kaminski, The Checkered Demon, The Furry Freak Brothers, Zippy and Trashman shattered the status quo and the societal hangups that oppressed us. One of the most disreputable art forms was actually pretty fucking profound.
Yeah, some of us were actually liberated by comic books and mad geniuses like Spain Rodriguez. Devouring a new issue of Zap while sitting on a bench in Golden Gate Park was like receiving an affirmation from the comic book Gods that all my twisted little thoughts weren’t so unnatural and uncommon. I was not alone. There were others out there like me who thought the unthinkable and wrote about it and drew pictures of it and sent it out into the world for no other reason than to declare that it was all okay. And by making it okay, we could all move on to the real shit of changing the fucking world.
Here’s Spain discussing his book Che: A Graphic Biography, which was published in 2008.