Friday, February 10th, 2012 | booX, musiX, politiX | No Comments
Activist/musician/writer Pat Thomas has been busy the past five years compiling music, speeches and photos from the height of the Black Power movement, spending much of that time in Oakland, California, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. The result is Thomas’ forthcoming book, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 (out March 5 through Fantagraphics Books), which entrenches us in one of the most politically and culturally explosive times in America, and more specifically in the writings and music of black revolutionaries like Bobby Seale, Huey Newton and Elaine Brown.
The companion piece to Thomas’ book—Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power 1967-1974—is an intriguing and comprehensive collection, featuring speeches, spoken word and music from a diverse cross-section of artists from Bob Dylan and Gil Scott-Heron to British singer-songwriter Roy Harper and Black Panther house band The Lumpen (below). The book and its soundtrack (CD out Feb. 20, vinyl Feb. 28 on Light In the Attic Records) also get into the history of Motown Records and its Black Forum label, which from 1970 to 1973 put out spoken-word recordings by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael and Elaine Brown (Carmichael’s “Free Huey” and Brown’s “Until We’re Free” are both included in the collection).
Highlights are The Lumpen’s “Free Bobby Now,” which calls for the release of Bobby Seale, who spent four years behind bars for outbursts during the trial of a group accused of inciting a riot in 1968, and the jarring spoken word “Die Nigga!!!” from The Original Last Poets. It’s a gritty and important look at everything white folk feared during that tumultuous time in America. And definitely worth revisiting.
Pat Thomas does a special presentation of Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 Thurs., March 1 at Washington Hall in Seattle.
“Free Bobby Now” – The Lumpen
Monday, November 15th, 2010 | musiX, politiX | No Comments
I often wonder what inspires an artist—be it a painter, a writer, or a musician—to create. I kinda had my hunches about Jeremy Dodge, the fresh-faced musician who penned “I Am American.” As he explains on his website:
“One night while watching Glenn Beck on FOX News, I had a sudden urgency come on me to write a political song. I’ve never written a political song and actually had been planning to get into the studio to record a rather bold, in your face song about God. Yet, I knew I had to write this political song instead.”
You mean a bold, in-your-face song about God like this one? That’s good—rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have many rules, but separation of church and state is a rock commandment you cannot break.
He continues, no doubt with a straight face:
“I honestly feel there is a generation of young people growing up that are not investigating the things they believe in. Instead, they believe what music artists, the media, their friends and the internet say concerning important subjects like life, religion and politics. This must stop!”
… Right after you purchase my song on iTunes, watch my video on YouTube, and watch me on Fox News. Forget Glenn Beck … I’m more disturbed that this guy was influenced by Seven Mary Three.
“Is this real?” you ask.
“Yes, it’s real,” I reply. “And it sure is catchy.”
Fun fact: The song’s author, Trade Martin, is a Grammy award-winning producer who scored a Top 40 hit with “That Stranger Used to be My Girl” in 1962.
Likely endorsed by Sarah Palin:
Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 | interviewZ, musiX, pdX, politiX | No Comments
It was a few years ago while doing an article on Portland’s New Bloods that I stumbled upon Purple Rhinestone Eagle. The name was enough. And the music … sort of this doom-y Sabbath-meets-Love love-fest led by a lanky guitarist who channeled Hendrix and Blackmore provided the final blow. I was also intrigued by this tight-knit community of musicians made up of women who celebrated diversity and sexual freedom with the DIY spirit of punk rock in a city that, while liberal, is still 95 percent white.
Purple Rhinestone Eagle—guitarist/vocalist Andrea Genevieve, bassist Morgan Ray Denning and drummer Ashley Spungin—released its latest EP Amorum Tali in March on Eolian Records. It’s a psychedelic blast from another time and place, where black-light posters come to life. Where riffs rule (and rattle your ribcage). Where black leather and tie-dye go together and peace and love frolic on gloomy days.
It’s looking to be a busy year for the three-piece. PRE will hit the road for six weeks, but not before playing a fist-full of Portland shows, including an afternoon performance at the PDX Pop Now! fest on July 26. Then it’s back in the studio to record a full-length follow-up to Amorum Tali. I’ll just let them explain. The ladies of Purple Rhinestone Eagle took some time to talk to TDoL about music as a tool for social change, MJ vs. Prince, and giving their audiences “loin vibrations.”
TDoL: Purple Rhinestone Eagle is active in many causes for queer and women’s rights. What are your thoughts on rock ‘n’ roll as an avenue for bringing awareness?
Andrea: I feel that music can be a very good tool for social change. It doesn’t take place of the hard work that is done by activists/organizers, but music can be a great motivator. Also, it’s a great way to release all sorts of feelings and emotions. People really need that. It’s essential to feeling human.
Morgan: Also, sometimes it feels like causes can become exclusive or create divisions … music is a great connector. It brings people together to focus on the positive aspects of movements and people, rather than focusing on all the negative things that happen in the world.
You put out a zine as well …
Andrea: Well, we’re slowly working on a zine. It was mainly Ashley’s idea but we’re all going to write and contribute to it. It’s going to be an “etiquette” zine for how to respectfully approach/compliment female musicians. A lot of “compliments” we (and other female musician friends) receive actually don’t feel like compliments. For example comments like, “Wow, I didn’t expect that” or “That was great. You play like a dude,” feel really shitty because it makes you realize how many preconceived notions people have about you because you’re a lady.
Morgan: People just need to think a little bit before speaking sometimes, and we hope this zine will help with that, along with giving music-making ladies a place to share and vent about their experiences.
Ashley: We all got it pretty bad on tour, but I think I got it the most. I mean people started throwing things at me. “Hey i think you are a good drummer! Now I’m going to throw this empty beer can at you!” What? I wanted to make a PowerPoint presentation and show it after we play while we break down. The zine is a little more reasonable.
You started out in Philadelphia. What brought you to Portland?
Andrea: We went on tour with New Bloods a couple of springs ago. We were all having a tough time in Philly and we wanted a little mental health vacation. Also Portland is a great place for music so we decided to go for it and move 3,000 miles from everything we knew. Pretty romantic, I must say.
Morgan: Portland has been good to us … the scene here is incredibly friendly and supportive. We all decided playing music was one of the best things in all of our lives, so why not get serious about it? Here we can do that.
Tell me about the recording process for Amorum Tali.
Andrea: We recorded Amorum Tali in a full analog studio. The first recording we did in Portland was digital and although it sounded great, we really feel that for our sound we need to record the old-fashioned way—on tape. We recorded for about three and a half days and then mixed for about three days. It was a tedious process that turned out beautifully. We’re really excited to get in the studio again this fall. We’ve got all of these crazy ideas for this time around.
Where does the title come from?
Andrea: The title means “Talons of Love” in Latin. The “Talons of Love” concept is something that has been with us since the inception of this band. It’s kind of an inside joke that also holds great significance to us, if that makes any sense.
Aside from the more obscure music you listen to, what’s something you like that might surprise people?
Andrea: Yeah lots of weird, obscure music. But uh, I do enjoy a little Erasure from time to time. I guess that might be surprising. And despite what Ashley might say, I’m not into Journey.
Morgan: I’m actually kind of a pop punk freak … something I get picked on for, but I feel no shame …
Ashley: Late-’60s era Grateful Dead. People, give it a chance!
Andrea, what/who made you pick up a guitar?
Andrea: It wasn’t any one person that made me decide to take up the guitar although I do have some big heroes/sheroes. I just had this really strong desire to learn how to play it. I was about 15 when I started. It’s such a finicky instrument but so alluring! I’m still in the process of figuring out all its beautiful subtleties. Total life long student and super proud of it.
What influences your live performances?
Andrea: I love the way the MC5 handled the stage, James Brown, etc. Rock ‘n’ roll is this sex-love-apocalypse explosion. I love anyone who can channel that raw energy.
Morgan: I love Freddie Mercury and Iggy … they both just owned it. Our song “Loin Vibrations” is actually about the relationship between those on stage and those in the crowd … it is extremely sexual, whether you’re literally feeling the low end rumbling in your loins, or feeling the energy passing between the people involved … capturing some of that is our goal.
Ashley: Animal from the Muppets … and Ginger Baker.
And if you had to choose between …
Page or Blackmore?
Andrea: Oddly, I’d have to say Page.
Ashley: Same. I just can’t get behind Deep Purple. Rainbow on the other hand …
Zeppelin or Sabbath?
Andrea: The Edgar Winter Group. Just kidding, Sabbath for sure.
Morgan: No question: Sabbath.
Ashley: Sabbath. Every. Day.
Bonham or Moon?
Andrea: Bonham. But Moon is my homie, too.
Ashley: I could go on about this one but I will just answer. Bonzo!
MJ or Prince?
Andrea: Prince. What a god.
Morgan: Prince … what a tiny, amazing man!
Ashley: MJ … I’m still grieving.
You have a long tour ahead. What’s life on the road like?
Andrea: We’re the type of band that likes good food and yoga on the beach. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy partying it up and staying up late, but we like to stay pretty healthy, too. And we take really long to do anything (like getting up in the morning, deciding what snacks to pick out … ). All of our roadies attain the great patience of wise monks by the end of tour.
Ashley: Touring is like a quest to bring forth the music to the people. Each day we venture to a new location and with us we bring rock ‘n’ roll sorcery. It’s nonstop jokes, weird snacks (which, yes, sometimes take me a while to pick out), meeting great people, and getting inspired by the places we see. It’s very far out.
“Walk With the Wizard” – Purple Rhinestone Eagle
Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 | politiX | No Comments
If only Barack Obama could sport tights and fix everything. Whether you voted for Obama or not, this latest JibJab joint is funny—a satire of our president’s super-sized to-do list set to the tune of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and sung by someone trying to sound like Jack Black. So tell me, does this make Obama Batman to Dubya’s Two-Face?
Thursday, April 30th, 2009 | pdX, politiX | No Comments
It took Oregon what … two decades to finally ban smoking in bars? But the Beaver State is all about being ahead of the curve in making sure kids don’t mistake smokeless tobacco for bubblegum (I don’t recall bubblegum making me projectile vomit).
The Oregon House of Representatives voted April 22 to slap a $2.14 tax on all cans of smokeless tobacco weighing at least 1.2 ounces. The bill also bans smokeless tobacco companies from targeting youth through event sponsorships and billboards and cartoons.
It doesn’t seem that long ago when beer companies were making TV commercials with animated dancing animals. It was Tony the Tiger and the Hamm’s bear. Remember those Hamm’s commercials? The ones with the animated bear playing baseball and getting himself into zany predicaments? I do. “What is this land of sky-blue waters?” you ask. It’s a magical place where bears play sports and children develop drinking problems at the age of 9.
Hamm’s television commercial from 1979
[Note: The song "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" was playing while the following crime was being committed. For full effect, please click the play button below before reading.]
I was getting gas today—$1.89 a gallon in the quaint little town of Gresham—and as I sat there waiting for the attendant to fill ‘er up I noticed the truck parked in front of me. First I saw the Ruger sticker … no big deal, we all have the right to bear arms. I panned left, another sticker: “Palin 2012.” I threw up in my mouth, then panned further left. In the side rear-view mirror I could see the driver—a pink-faced, mustachioed man with a ball cap. He was looking off into the distance.
I looked down at my console. There so happened to be a black marker. I checked my surroundings. The attendant had gone off to help someone else. There was no one else around. And the man was still looking away. Calmly, casually, I grabbed the marker, opened my door and, slightly crouching, walked five feet to the rear of the truck. I acted quickly and bravely. With three adept strokes of my Magic Marker, “Palin” magically became “Stalin” and I was quickly back inside my vehicle.
[Note: The above act didn't actually take place. It did, however, run through my mind the entire time I sat there staring at that sticker ... and I was listening to the Ramones. Sub-note: I fully support people having their own varying political views. But a "Palin 2012" sticker reaches a whole different level of ridiculousness. Of course, this is coming from the grown man who just fantasized about vandalizing a Republican's truck.]
“I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement” – The Ramones