An October Sunday Reflection

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The striving to inject beauty, truth and peace into the world is the noblest of ambitions, and deserving of our appreciation even of those who despite their best efforts in this regard fail miserably to achieve their lofty aims.

On the other hand, success in the ambition of gaining money wealth is no more worthy of admiration and praise than is the abject failure to do so worthy of condemnation. In general, you can make more money in screwing people over than in helping them. This does not speak well for the economics of our society, nor its politics, which both come out of our collective moral character.

We cheat ourselves of experiencing the the fullness of life if during the brief spans allotted to each of us we make an idol of material advantages, and our fear of being inadequate for lack of them, and call it God.

Success at being a life is an internal experience unseeable by the external world and thus despite the judgments it paints on you, and despite the disregard it dismisses you with. Thinking this way is how I see continuing with confidence and without apprehension about understanding some ultimate purpose. It is also a sense of solidarity with billions of anonymous souls, here and gone. For me, that is the actual experience of eternal life, and I would wish it for everyone.

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The Nature of Sadness

“All jealousy is lack of love.”
All envy is lack of self-worth.

“Everyone has damage,” she said. And from all I have seen these many years, I know that is true. It is the source of our self-absorption, and the cause of our judging.

Deep down, I think that all my politics and all my moralizing come out of one simple idea — really a feeling — that: no person should ever have to live with desperation.

I think that all my socialism and all my schemes of social engineering come out of an intuitive response to that realization, simply that: human civilization should be a network of person-to-person interactions of appreciation and mutual help, with everything else being incidental.

Each of us should have our quiet, comfortable refuges of solitude, without ever being shunned into lonely abandonment.

Our civilization is very incomplete and wounded. It remains an idea orphaned by neglect. And that is the nature of sadness in our world.

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BEST U.S. R&R BANDS

I was asked my opinion on “the best U.S. rock-and-roll bands.” My answer:

‘The Band’ was ‘built’ around Levon Helm, from Arkansas, and the mythology it plumbed was all country-blues, country-folk, Levon’s canon of music. By “best” I mean most connected to the spirit of the people, coupled with absolutely superb musicianship, lyrical insight, and ever captivating ‘listenability,’ all equaling pure songwriting and pure performance.

What I DO NOT mean by ‘best’ is flamboyant sonic showmanship — though I have enjoyed much of this as well, as with Hendrix and the Allman Brothers (with Duane). Sly and Santana were good, mainly for dancing. Dylan and Aretha were superb, each in their own idiom, but they were showcased acts fronting cherry-picked studio bands, though I’ll give Dylan credit for sometimes blending into the bands who backed him (The Band, with the ‘Basement Tapes’, and George Harrison’s ‘Traveling Wilburys’).

For me, ‘best’ is a musical ensemble that is a song-expressing integral unit that has achieved a timeless recorded body of work; and for ‘American’ that has really tapped into the spirit of its people both on its light and dark sides.

My three favorite (‘best’) American Rock and Roll bands are:

— The Doors (especially albums 1,2,4,5),
— The Band
(‘Music From Big Pink’, and ‘The Band’ being to me two halves of one double album), and
— the 1969 band in Memphis, TN, that recorded ‘The Memphis Tapes’ with Elvis Presley, his absolute best work ever.

*If the pure ‘American idiom’ were the #1 criterion, then ’The Memphis Tapes’ band+singer rates #1.

*The most underrated Doors album is #4: ‘Morrison Hotel’, which is their most unified (a favorite).
*The most avant-garde Doors album is #5: ‘L.A. Woman’.

*The ‘best’ (favorite) Band song is ‘King Harvest Has Surely Come.’
(Steinbeckian musical mythology).
*The most ethereal song of any Rock band: ‘Whispering Pines’ by The Band.

*Best stoner album: ‘Blonde on Blonde’ by Bob Dylan
(+ real musicians, one from The Band).
*Best Dylan albums: ‘Highway 61 Revisited,’ ‘Bringing It All Back Home,’ ‘Blood On The Tracks’.

*Best Hendrix song/track: ‘Little Wing’.

*Best Janis Joplin song/track: ‘Me and Bobby McGee’
(Kris Kristofferson song).

*Best Southern Rock band: The Allman Brothers
(with Duane Allman).
*Best Duane Allman + Dicky Betts track: ‘Little Martha’.
*Most popular Duane Allman solo: on ‘Blue Sky’
(Dicky Betts’s non-blues balladic song).

*Best ‘supergroup’ band: The Traveling Wilburys (1988)
(also, best ‘old man’ band).

*Best Dance Band: ‘B-52s’.
(most creative song: ‘Rock Lobster’).

*Best Beer-Drinking Night band: ‘Hoodoo Rhythm Devils’.
(their best ‘American mythology’ song: ‘Red Pacific’).

*Best ‘generation II southern rock band’: ‘The Doobie Brothers’.
(with Tom Johnson, and pre Michael McDonald).

*Best soul singer: Aretha Franklin (obviously).

*Best female rock-pop-country vocalist: Linda Ronstadt.

*Most idiosyncratic: ‘Captain Beefheart’, a Howling Wolf imitator
(considered a genius by his afficionados, an acquired taste, not mine).

*Most Puckish: Ry Cooder
(especially his ‘Paradise and Lunch’ album: his best?)
(a favorite, especially ‘Married Man’s a Fool’, delicious guitaring).

*Best band for wallowing in depression: ’The Velvet Underground’.

*Best frenetic unhung rock band: ‘The New York Dolls’.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

*Best album for spending the night with your girlfriend in the dormroom:
‘Crosby, Stills and Nash’.

*’The Rascals’ (or, ‘The Young Rascals’)
(‘Good Lovin’’ best cover ever).

‘Lovin’ Spoonful’
(‘Do You Believe In Magic?’, ’Summer In the City’)

*’Creedence Clearwater Revival.’
(their groove is all in their pacing).

*’Steppenwolf’ (best white trash stoner band)
(’Easy Rider’ soundtrack).

*Best Country-Pop: ’The Carpenters’
(sorry, Dolly)

*Most soporific on long roadtrips out West: ‘The Eagles’.

*Most ‘70s coke-hip cool: ‘Steely Dan’ (eh, for me).

Most amusing gen-II ‘Dolls’ style (with less chops): ‘The Ramones’.

Best Disco: an oxymoron.

CATEGORIES NOT INCLUDED HERE:
Blues, R&B, Soul, DooWop, ‘Detroit Sound’, JAZZ, Gospel, ‘50s R&R,
(Black music from which White R&R was sourced)

NON U.S. R&R Bands:

*Most appealing rock band ever, and best all-around: ‘The Beatles’
(and from the working class).

*Most pretentious rock ban ever: ‘The Rolling Stones’
(and most Tory-decadent rich hypocrite appropriators of American R&B)
(my favorite RS song: ’No Expectations’, last with Brian Jones).

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