Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The most fun you can have with your clothes on

The heading is a line below the blurb on Jonathan Richman's youtube above and I'm searching for a word, just as he was searching for words to describe what was going on during his time hanging around the Velvet Underground [see below] ... and somehow I think it's important ... hey, there's a blog here and these words are cybermatting around the world, so it would be nice to pull a few threads together and explain why I see a callow eternal kid, which he is, as a kindred spirit ... and yet nothing to do with me at the same time.  

I'm thinking Lord Somber too who is expressing himself so well in his idiosyncratic way [there's the word] ... plus our Toodles and it's criminal the way no one will see most of what she emits because it's real stream of consciousness stuff, highly detailed, it's a voyage.

Which also applies to the jazz we play and how it must have been in the 20s for those musicians, unrestrained, playing live, but when they tried to put it on acetate, much was lost ... but not always.  

JR describes, for example, the habit of putting mics close to amps and so on in the claustrophobia of studios [I used to DJ in a studio in the 70s] but on stage, the sound if you recorded at one end was going to be quite different to if recorded at the other.  

Plus it's much louder today, as it's plugged through central sound systems, tech has also moved on [backwards?] whereas then it was through their own amps they were able to afford. 
Best to just listen to it rather than me describe it.  Fascinating to someone like me because I was involved in a minor way with those things.

I've never lost the sense of wonder, just as JR has not, the highly idiosyncratic way of describing things and that's what what Toodles does but when she comes to commenting here, she becomes self-conscious and the raw energy does not always come through.  

Also, JR is direct - he was asked did he think such and such was the case, he answered, 'No,' and the interviewer said, 'Ah right, OK ...' which suggests to me a certain autism or Asperger's [have to be careful what I say here] but those are fashionable words for what I call idiosyncratic and able to pick up on minutiae.

For example, I'm writing this at 15:50 and thinking what to put with the broccoli and cauli soup.  Obviously capsicum, black pepper and herbs but what else?  Well, earlier, I stir fried some broccoli and onion and red capsicum, so that sounds good and if I thin strip the chicken as well, not too much and maybe blend some creme fraiche if I had any ... that's the sort of erratic thinking going on with your humble blogger.

JR had a word for it ... chaotic ... and I bring in Robert Baden-Powell here ... creating order out of chaos ... feeling something happening, seeing it, hearing it, and running with it because it sounds good, drawing the threads together somehow near the end. 

The idiosyncrats so often have very straight views on the world - look at the politics of this blog - and this chaos I mention does not sit well with the mind that wants law and order, so perhaps they might not appreciate these two youtubes and my witterings - Devil's Kitchen once mentioned how much he couldn't stand them.  You see, you can't get any more idiosincratic than him and I'd have thought he might recognise a fellow idiosyncrat.  We're both able to quickly and almost irrationally anger people at will ... and sometimes we don't even mean to.

But that's JR in the song above and the musicians do their thang too along the way.  It may well be one crazed dude up front but the engine room is kept going by others - JR says this about Sterling Morrison of the VU below.  It may have been Lou Reed up front but VU sure wasn't just him, no way.  

Maureen Tucker, for example, produced drumming idiosyncrasies which cannot be repeated and yet they made the whole sound, the whole feel, so did everyone - John Cale and so on.  

Lou Reed never just did his thang without the others also doing their thang, Maureen Tucker said everyone was watching everyone else.  JR fed off the band too.  Ian Dury would be nothing without the Blockheads.  Blondie was a band, not just Deborah Harry.  Joy Division was just as much Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.

And now to this 'make it up as you go along' thang.  I don't have to like their hard drug use and campness - it's already been mentioned here that I was briefly part of a gay scene in my 20s, without being gay.  Nor were some of those women there.  It was a scene, that was all.

What JR picked up on was that they were all exploring sounds and setting up a thin sound.  It blended in such a way that it created, itself, the dynamic of the group.  Again, Lou Reed didn't, not alone, nor did Debbie Harry, nor did Ian Curtis, alone, although it would be silly to suggest they were not a major part. JR liked that 'extruded' style, always experimenting, playing on and on, overlaying etc. - basso continuo.  

It was also the way Simenon wrote Maigret, especially the seedy subject matter.  

The band, for its part, just did its thang and the lead saw that and ran with it.  I adore such music - very 20s, 50s, 70s, early 90s.  The individuals could be heard and they blended as and when they so wished. 

But what of the idiosyncracy itself in the so-called leader [in his lyrics]?   They're not mine - I mean, I have my own observations of life, you do too, Toodles does, we're not in love with Massachusetts.  Still interesting though and JR is a nice guy.

I would suggest that this is dissident politics in a nutshell - not agreeing on this or that point - DR says he doesn't buy something ... and what?  It's the very nature of what we do.

What do I like about JR and the Modern Lovers?  The engine room, the groove, with him nattering over the top - very garage, very human, very proto [if there can be such a prefix]. 

JR uses the word 'intimate', meaning with the audience and band - I'd use the word 'immediate'.  'Alive?'  he used that word too.


  1. Always preferred multiple mics than a single one. For guitar, one close up plus a room mic, and pan them apart in the mix. Even with bass, one direct signal plus one mic on a woofer. A mix of the immediate and the ambient.

    JR's played here a million times, but never got the chance to check him out live.

    Tucker's son lives here in town. Quiet, unassuming bartender. Nice guy.

  2. All proper studio sessions had engineers (whom I needn't name-drop) with bands producing, unless you count the garage DIY sessions on 4-track done by the bands themselves.

    1. That’s what I was referring to. But any sort of size and there’d be a crew.

  3. Even in the largest studios a single decent engineer has been able to handle all tasks in a timely manner, and it's probably in his interest to know every setup detail without delegating it to someone else.