davidbrucehaiku: hiding in plain sight

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HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

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Hiding in plain sight

Many local musicians

Are local legends

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David Bruce: Music Anecdotes

F• Some people who hear punk music think that it is created by no-talent musicians who can’t even tune their guitars. Sometimes, they are right. One of the punk singers with no discernible talent was a nutter named Jon the Postman because his name was Jon and he was a postman. According to punk critic Steven Wells, “He got on stage and screamed his way through whatever song came into his head. He had no discernable talent whatsoever, but he didn’t give a f**k. To many, Jon the Postman symbolized what punk was all about.” What does that mean? It means that punk is doing it—now. If you wait to get on stage until you’re good enough to get on stage, you might never get on stage. So get on stage. Mr. Wells writes, “Jon the Postman did it. He got on stage and he put out records. And everyone who ever saw him perform or listened to his music laughed like a drain. And then thought—“F**k! If hecan do it, so can I.’ Jon the Postman wasn’t anybody special. He was just a postman called Jon. But in 1976 and 1977 he lived his life as if he were a superstar. Jon the Postman WAS punk rock.”

• Duke Ellington did not have a lot of rules for his musicians. He did not even call them back to the bandstand after a break was over. Instead, he would go to the piano and play a few dissonant notes that were easy to hear through the noise of wherever the band was performing. A few of his musicians would come to the bandstand, and they would play something soft that Duke had written. More and more of his musicians would come to the bandstand, and they would play something soft that Duke had written. (Duke was always able to come up with something soft to play based on the musicians who were on the stage. In fact, he even wrote tunes that he could play with only a few musicians.) Eventually, everybody would be on the bandstand and then they would play one of Duke’s loudest tunes. Bassist Milt Hinton, who played with Cab Calloway’s band, says, “The contrast was unbelievable. The guys had gotten back on their own time. They were ready and wanted to be there. So when the full band hit, the earth shook.”

• Some music is created simply because the conditions are right. After the Harriott Quintet thought that they were finished recording one day, some of the musicians got ready to dismantle their equipment. However, Pat Smyth doodled at the piano, and Phil Seaman picked up his cowbell and hit it. It was pitched in A, and Mr. Smyth began playing in A. Shake Keane was having a drink, and he tapped the tumbler with a pencil—and the tumbler rang out with A. Coleridge Goode, the bassist, had a feeling that something good could come out of this, and he told the recording engineer, “Run the tape. Run the tape. We’ve got something here. We’re going to play something.” Joe Harriott came out of the control box, and everyone started playing, and the result was “Modal,” a slow and pretty piece that appeared on the album Abstract.

• Matt Groening, who is most famous for his long-running series of panel cartoons Life in Helland for TV’s Simpsons, is a music lover. As a young man, he loved some kinds of music that drove other people away. He says, “If my friends and I could drive people from the room when we put a record on, that was great.” Another favorite activity was attending punk concerts, sitting in the balcony, and watching the audience: “To this day, there’s nothing funnier than watching people being outraged by being bumped into while everybody else is slamming.” For a while, he worked as a music journalist. He would recommend albums that no one would buy, and eventually he started making up band names and reviewing non-existent albums. One of the band names he invented was Chatter­box Punch Gruffy.

• Steve Baker taught English and drama from 1997 to 2002 to Alex Turner, who became the lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys. After Mr. Baker discovered that Alex had a band, he went to the band’s website and wrote, “Well done, lads. I always thought you’d do something creative.” Mr. Turner wrote back, beginning his message with “Hello, sir.” Mr. Baker says, “Six weeks later, Alex got voted Coolest Man on the Planet by the NME[New Musical Express, a magazine about music], so ever since, I’ve started all my training sessions with the words, ‘The coolest man on the planet calls me sir.’”

• Photographer Jim Marshall was using strobe lights as he took photographs of T-Bone Walker, and he asked Mr. Walker if he minded the lights. Mr. Walker replied that the lights did not bother him. He used to play music behind a wall of chicken wire so he and his fellow musicians wouldn’t get hit with bottles and other debris. And one time a guy who had shot somebody came into the bar. The bar manager told them to keep playing, and they did until the shooter passed out and the police arrested him. So, Mr. Walker said, “[T]hem lights don’t bother me none.”

• Jill Sobule got a big break while she was busking in the street. A flute student had suggested that the two of them busk “for a goof.” A man passing by heard them — Jill was singing her songs in public for the first time — and asked if they would play in his nightclub. At first they didn’t believe him — “Yeah, right. What club?” — but the offer, and the nightclub, were real. Jill performed there for three months, dropped out of school, and became a professional musician. Her biggest hit — which is pre-Katy Perry — is “I Kissed a Girl.”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.