By Michael Simmons

I phoned [Hammond Guthrie] the editor of The 3rd Page to ask if he'd save space for me to blather on his website and he slurred thusly: "Do what thou wilt is the whole under the law." I thought I heard the sounds of ice cubes tinkling and a small animal being tortured, but I ignored them and pointed out that he was quoting Aleister Crowley, which he denied: "I made it up just now. Never heard of this Crowley fella."

Nonetheless he's green lit this missive, which may just become a regular column. Among the many chapeaus I don, I'm a critic for several publications, the biggest perk being the piles of free books and CDs I get every week. The nervy press reps who send me this stuff actually expect me to write about them occasionally; as if I don't deserve them merely for being an utterly cool human.

As reality becomes increasingly alienated, community has become increasingly virtual. While it's a chicken/egg argument, alienation had a head start on cyberspace. But alienation and virtual existence are the same beast, feeding off each other like an insatiable oroboros. I'm more apt to find like-minded souls on the internet as I am to meet them on the street. I just turned 50 — turned like a worm — and my contemporaries are home with the kids, working 25 hour days, or spending quality time with their significant other. Having no other, I spend most of my time by myself. I rather enjoy my own company as I argue less with myself than I do with others. I abhor television, so I read a lot — about 5 books a week. And listen to lots of music. In my solitude, this music and their creators are my community and they keep damn good company .

----- Pat Thomas is the A&R Director of Water Records in Oakland, California. Rumor has it he operates out of a waterfront warehouse and hosts wanton huffing orgies with Estonian girls wearing nothing but pheromones, while releasing uber-hip platters from the 1960s & `70s that either missed the media radar or have never seen the light of day. For an old freak like moi, stranded in Britneyville, Thomas has brought Water to the desert. Dreams Come True is a 2-disc set of unreleased recordings by the late Judee Sill, a legendary but little-known songsinger/singwriter. Despite being a junkie, an ex-con, and a depressive, Sill conjured the sweetest odes to manifest faith since those guys who wrote the, um, er, uh, the... .Bible! (I always forget the name of that darn book.) She deserves a place in the pantheon of Hippie Chick Folksingers Whose Names Start With A "J" — Joan, Judy, Joni, Judee. Other sublime Water discs include You Thrill Me by avant-jazz goddess Patty Waters and The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick by acoustic guitar god John Fahey (so many gods, so little time).
Peruse the Water site.

----- One of my other fave record execs is Tim Livingston at Sundazed. He's been reissuing my entire teenage record collection for years now. The United States of America were the greatest overlooked psychedelic rockers of the late `60s. Their eponymous album, originally on Columbia, has been revamped by Sundazed. It's a Pepper-esque mélange of electronic squeal & squall and killer chick singer Dorothy Moskowitz. "Love Song For The Dead Che" is — without a smidgen of hyperbole — the most haunting love song of all time. I once listened to it 397 times in a row and cried every time. Sundazed also JUST released a live album by the Youngbloods called Beautiful! Live In San Francisco, 1971. Led by angel-voiced Jesse Colin Young, the Youngbloods were the house band for us hirsute youngsters back then. Today, they're shamefully forgotten `cept for their Summer of Love anthem "Get Together." But in their hairy eclecticism lay the inclusionary socio-politics of hippiedom.

----- Shout Factory is a label started by former Rhino Records honchos. Besides putting out last year's 6-CD Lenny Bruce box Let The Buyer Beware (speak about yer Bible...), they've just released I Have Always Been Here Before, a 2-CD set of Roky Erickson, a man who has never worshipped the Time God. Roky lives on his own planet, located in the sphere of Texas. From his early lysergicized garage rock with the 13th Floor Elevators to his post-psycho ward solo sides, Roky can make any bad trip seem good and vice-versa.

------ One of Roky's champions was the King of Texas Rock, the late Doug Sahm. He first charted with the Sir Douglas Quintet ("She's About A Mover" & "Mendocino") and became the favorite of Bob Dylan and many others. Sir Doug was the greatest white blues singer ever, but was also hard country, hard rock, & hard conjunto. Longhaired when (and where) you could get shot, knifed and/or generally hurt really badly for such subversion, Doug was the original Headneck — a joint in one hand and a Lone Star beer in the other. Hip-O Select, yet another company of saintly hipsters, has collected five CDs of early Doug in The Complete Mercury Recordings. I've determined that the Sahm set is THE BEST BOX SET OF THE 21st CENTURY. The human race has 95 years to disprove me.

----- The late Dave Van Ronk was dubbed "The Mayor Of MacDougal Street" (which is in Greenwich Village, NYC, for those who don't leave the house, read a book or have internet access). Back in the late 1950s, early `60s, folk music was the rage and Dave was The Mother-Folker. Unlike the mediated image of the overly-earnest honky dilettante singing Negro chain gang songs, Van Ronk was a gritty & irreverent genius who took American musical history and Van Ronked it. The result was grungy and rhythmic -- call it Ronk & Roll. The Mayor Of MacDougal Street is both the title of his posthumous autobiography (written with Elijah Wald and pubbed by Da Capo) AND never-released recordings (courtesy of Rootstock Records). Both are big recommends. His many attributes included a ferocious wit. Dig his anecdote of Bob Dylan learning for the first time that Ramblin' Jack Elliott's real name was Elliott Adnopoz and that he was a Jew from Brooklyn. HA!

----- You Ain't Talkin' To Me: Charlie Poole And The Roots Of Country Music (Columbia/Legacy) is THE BEST BOX SET OF THE 21st CENTURY NOT BY DOUG SAHM. Charlie Poole was a hard-nippin' scalawag of the early 20th Century who recorded before fellow white Southerners Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. He was a kicky 5-string banjo player and suffer-no-fools singer who blended blues, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley, string band & old American weirdness. That Robert Crumb drew the cover for this set sez it all. Listen up and you'll hear a world that you'll only find in back alleys and ungentrified red brick city blocks and someone's grandmother's attic and Bob Dylan's dark eyes. It has a musty and comforting air, especially for those of us who are horrified by "progress. "


Having been a member of the Pepsi Generation and lived through the Generation Gap and all that YOUNG vs. OLD horse pucky, I now see that time cares not for these micro-follies. Whole epochs can be cool (The Enlightenment, The Renaissance) or uncool (The Dark Ages, The 1950s or Bush America). Time cares not if you are in step. History gives critical raves to those who are out-of-step. The only reason Bob Dylan gets on 60 Minutes is that there's only one Bob Dylan. The same is true for the artists above, however famous or not. For shelter from the storm, heed these sounds.

© 2005 Michael Simmons

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