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
Thursday, February 26th, 2009 | musiX, pdX | 3 Comments
That question came early on in the day, the day I worked with Glen. And from that point on, music was all we talked about. Glen is 41. Has a wife and a 3-year-old kid. Owns 1,500 CDs. Has seen the Ramones three times. Slayer twice. Alice In Chains is his favorite Seattle band. And he claims emphatically that 1970 was the greatest year for music.
Glen and I stock ice cream. It’s the first job I was able to get since moving to Portland five months ago. He’s been doing it for almost two years. We go from store to store slapping Eskimo Pies and Rocky Road (invented by Dreyer’s in 1929 and named with the Great Depression in mind) on to the shelves. No thinking involved, just talking about rock ‘n’ roll. When a song would come on over the intercom, he would call out the artist and the year it came out. “Julian Lennon (the less cool Lennon), 1984,” he said while “Too Late For Goodbyes” rang through the store’s tinny speaker system. “Foreigner, 1984,” when we heard “I Want To Know What Love Is.” One time I thought Glen was working a few doors down the aisle, when I heard out of nowhere: “Bob Seger, 1976.” It was “Still the Same.” And it was awesome.
Later that day we had to drive a ways to get to some of stores located in these podunks outside of Portland, so we carpooled. Wet gloves lined Glen’s dashboard, drying over the heater vents, which smelled like a mixture of wet dog, dirty socks, dreadlocks and cookies ‘n’ cream. There was music, of course. He’d made a mix that pulled one song from each of his Top 30 albums … no easy feat. The rest of the afternoon we listened to Bob Dylan and The Doors, the Dead Kennedys and the Ramones, Neil Young and The Who, from albums like Highway 61Revisited, Leave Home and Live at Leeds, which Glen proclaimed as the greatest live album ever. I couldn’t argue. I was glad to discover that Glen was a smart person, even if he looked at me funny when I told him I didn’t own Live at Leeds. “I should make you walk!” he threatened.
Glen told me that he asks everyone he meets what they listen to. And when they give the stock reply, “I listen to everything” he’ll follow up with “Do you listen to Slayer? Do you listen to the Carpenters?” I probably redeemed myself by answering yes to both. Of all the songs I heard that day it was “Ramble Tamble” from Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s Cosmo’s Factory record that slayed me … released, of course, in 1970. Here’s to Glen, a true music freak. Here’s to the underrated CCR, who’s influenced every band worth a damn. And here’s to the fact that I didn’t have to sit in a (slightly) smelly car listening to stinky FM radio.
“Ramble Tamble” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Thursday, December 18th, 2008 | musiX | 4 Comments
I’m one of those few fools who likes Bob Dylan‘s Nashville Skyline record over most of his other recordings. Am I a fool? Or aren’t I? Well, I’m definitely one of those poor saps who can’t afford to bid on an original master recording of “Lay Lady Lay.” But it can be yours …
The one-inch, 8-track analog tape, which includes five outtakes of the song as well as a never-released jam of “Going Back to Chicago,” is currently sitting on eBay at a current bid of $9,000, as of 9:38 a.m. (it jumped a cool six grand overnight). [Update: Sold! For $30,000, Dec. 23.] The reel has been stored in its original box, in a warehouse, in New Jersey for almost two decades. Listen to a few snippets by hitting the play button.
[Note: If you listen closely, Mr. Record Label incorrectly refers the album as Nashville Skyline Rag, but that's just me being nit-picky.]
Of course, Nashville Skyline was Dylan’s country album, recorded in 1969 much to the chagrin of Columbia Records. He did it anyway, and ended up with one of his highest charting songs in “Lay Lady Lay.” The album also includes “Girl From the North Country,” recorded with Johnny Cash, and one my favorites, “One More Night.” I can’t afford to bid on the tape, but I did purchase the CD a decade ago for a measly 10 bucks. Maybe I’m not such a fool after all.
“One More Night” – Bob Dylan
Joe the Plumber meet “Wilco the Song.” Jeff Silky … err … Tweedy braved Stephen Colbert‘s relentless grilling on Oct. 30, and Wilco debuted a new tune. It’s a shame the song was a one-time deal for the show … it’s pretty gosh-darned good. And in the spirit of voting the band is offering a free download of its performance of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” with the Fleet Foxes to those who pledge to hit the polling booth. As Colbert put it, sounds like socialist behavior.