December 27, 2012 | by Brian Cullman
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
Just past Tandy Crafts, a dark, unlovely store on the corner of Thirteenth and Sixth Ave, there was a door that led to the shop’s basement and storage area. Down there, tucked between the boiler room and the janitor’s closet, you could find the editorial offices of Crawdaddy.
I was there because Rolling Stone was in California, because Hit Parader was no longer interesting, and because Downbeat was incomprehensible. Crawdaddy was the only other music magazine I’d heard of, and it had the advantage of being in New York. It also had the advantage of not having a listed phone number, so I couldn’t be turned away unseen. In my pocket I had two stories I’d written for my school paper. One was a review of John Fahey’s Days Have Gone By, the other was an appreciation of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Neither was more than a few hundred words, and I’d probably spent more time tracking down the address of Crawdaddy than I had in writing them. But there I was. It was the middle of April, in 1970, and all was right with the world.
December 17, 2012 | by Brian Cullman
I saw Ravi Shankar at Carnegie Hall in 1966 or 1967. Because of the Beatles, of course. And I learned so much about music from that one concert. Not that the lesson stayed with me; it wasn’t like that. But it set me up for hearing music in a different way than I was used to (that is, as pop songs on the radio, as 45s on my record player, as the songs we sang at camp about the cat coming back or your heart going where the wild goose goes, or, worse, much worse, as the moth-eaten songs from musicals on Broadway).
The first half of the concert was endless and dull, nothing but a couple of notes played over and over, like a foreign cuckoo clock gone mad. And then, an hour in, it all changed. And time stopped. The notes began to form a pattern, and the pattern grew more and more beautiful, like a house materializing from thin air, rising out of nothing into the most glorious vista, a home and a garden and hope and love and time, spread out before me. Read More »
November 5, 2012 | by Brian Cullman
Mostly, people were neighborly. Hudson Bagels handed out day-old bagels. Garber’s Hardware, who had a generator, put out power strips for people to charge their phones and offered Pepperidge Farm cookies and coffee (no two dollar donation required).
People shared candles and batteries and food and offered neighbors hot showers. (No, not in that way. Although ... well, maybe.)
October 23, 2012 | by Brian Cullman
There was a fascinating if incomplete musing on the New Yorker website this week regarding Neil Young’s insularity and on the incomprehensible idea that he never reads. It seemed strange that someone who doesn't read would decide to write a book, though it’s often true that writing and reading aren’t necessarily two sides of the same coin. They are often very different coins, operating in very different currencies. When you go to a bank to make change, the exchange rate is never in your favor.
I forwarded the piece to my friend Bill Flicker, out in Los Angeles, who wrote back that he never listens to Neil Young’s words, that they are simply placeholders or crumbs that are scattered on a walk through a musical forest. Actually, I do listen to his words. Not always. But when I listen, they’re remarkably visual and evocative:
Blue blue windows behind the stars.
Yellow moon on the rise.
Purple words on a grey background
To be a woman and to be turned down
How did those windows get behind the stars? I don’t know, but I can see them clearly. Sometimes as a child's drawing. Sometimes as a reflection on an airplane window. There may not be logic involved, but there is something deeper than that. Read More »
July 30, 2012 | by Brian Cullman
In that time, he has published books of his poetry, exhibited paintings and sculptures, produced albums of Madagascan guitar music, designed wine labels for a vineyard near his home in Saint Cyprien, in southwest France, and set up a small and cheerfully primitive recording studio in an old, abandoned schoolhouse outside of Belves.
Some years ago, when I wanted to record in the studio, he offered to let me work there for free if I agreed to dream only in French for the week preceding and the week following the sessions. The contract he presented me was very formal, fourteen pages long, and required multiple signatures.
“What about the week of the sessions?” I asked before signing.
“I don’t want to interfere with your process,” he shrugged. “Though, if you wish…”
It should be no surprise that Georges Alain’s endeavors have gained him more friends than money, although he received a remarkable number of donations when, in 1999, he waged a brief campaign to have coq au vin declared France’s national bird.