Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pushed It Over The End

I recently attended a wedding where I was a groomsman. I had to wear a tuxedo and stand up straight and pretend to have good posture. Like all weddings I've been to in recent times, this was sartorial and spiritual mashup. People had integrated two different cultures (Hinduism & Christianity) into a seamless, smart, postmodern version where everything made sense precisely because nothing did. It was a white wedding with saris, a secular wedding with prayers, and a sensible wedding that made no sense. I wish the wedded well. The groom is one of the funniest people I have met in my life. He has good Halloween parties.

In any case, as a mark of his gratitude, the groom gave me a gift, the insanely rare and expensive box set 1970: The Complete Funhouse Sessions by the Stooges. What this was, was 7 hours and 52 minutes of every note recorded in May 1970 by the Stooges while they were recording their second album, Fun House. I won't go into the magnificient supernova that is Fun House--I am consigning that description to my still-in-gestation coming-to-America-history-of-punk-rock memoir. Either you know Fun House or you don't. Fun House da motherfucking shit. Well, at least it used to be when I first heard it, which seems like a long time ago, maybe almost ten years ago. In any case, because I am a completist and because I continue to think that Fun House is crazyassgenius, it never occurred to me that actually listening to 142 tracks spread over 7 CDs, including, for example, 28 consecutive takes of "Loose," would be certifiably insane. That it would drive any normal human being insane. No, not me. I was fully prepared to do it.

Well, the thing is that I have not done it yet. It's been a coupla weeks since I got the box set. I have fondled it. I have treated it like an object of fetish, perfectly suitable in these hyper-object-iPod-gadget-ebay-instant-fetish times. And so, I have now convinced myself that it is more important to own it than to listen to it.

I am like this not only about CDs, but also about books too. I love to own books, to touch them, to flip through them, to read the back cover, to read the "about the author" blurb, but that is enough. How satisfying it is to know that I own Don Dellilo's White Noise, half of which I read when I was younger and thoroughly enjoyed and didn't finish, no doubt because I got too depressed to read because I was lonely or something like that. I started to re-read White Noise recently again. It's quite brilliant. I deeply empathized with the main character (and narrator) Jack Gladney, a professor of "Hitler Studies" at a small liberal arts college who knows no German. Dellilo writes:

My struggle with the German tongue began in mid-October and lasted nearly the full academic year. As the most prominent figure in Hitler studies in North America, I had long tried to conceal the fact that I did not know German. I could not speak or read it, could not understand the spoken word or begin to put the simplest sentence to paper. The least of my Hitler colleagues knew some German; others were either fluent in the language or reasonably conversant. No one could major in Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill without a minimum of one year of German. I was living, in short, on the edge of a landscape of vast shame.

This touched a nerve partly because it says something about the ways in which we put ourselves in positions that we are less than skilled to deal with---yet we continue with the charade that "everything's cool." There was a more literal reason why it appealed to me: I am in Russian history and my Russian proficiency can be best described as a skill that is almost totally lacking, but one that is wrapped in the public pretense of fluency.

In any case, in terms of the goal of this blog, having conceded that it is completely self-serving and sickeningly narcissistic to even maintain it--I like the idea of dedicating it to two topics:

1. Officially unreleased songs by musicians; or
2. Strange and/or obscure songs by mainstream musicians.

First song: Neil Young's "Pushed It Over the End," a strangely beautiful and oddly structured song, nearly 8 minutes long that is also (apparently) known as "Citizen Kane Jr. Blues." He played it in a band live version in 1974 and then, I guess, abandoned it. His guitar playing is pretty, understated, but incredibly communicative. You hear it, you almost feel like you're teetering on the edge of something, and then you tip over and make the long deep fall, all the way down. That's exactly how I felt hearing the song before I even knew the title of the song. Think of "Broken Arrow" but a little more loose and electric. Where can you get it? It's on the 5-CD set Archives Be Damned, a collection of 82 songs that Neil Young recorded but never officially released, from the early 1960s to the late 1990s.


Tim Kyger said...

I think of the "Archives Be Dammned" as Neil Young's "Challenge to Apollo."(grin)

Have you a copy of "Archives Be Dammned 2000?" If not, contact me; I will be more than happy to burn you a copy.

funhouse said...

I'm completely shocked that anyone would put together _Challenge to Apollo_ with this blog!

Thanks for the offer of "Archives Be Damned 2000." I've actually had a copy of the set for a couple of years but only recently started to appreciate the breadth of his genius. Amazing stuff.

I haven't picked up the live at Fillmore CD. I am dying to hear it but was disappointed that it's only one CD from a much longer concert. Any thoughts?

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