Friday, March 1, 2019


So many titles, so little time, so I thought I would cheat and sling in a threefer, three for the price of one, choosing three heads of royalty of differing style and background. Of course, there are many Kings in music, even if we discount those with the surname King. So no Albert, Ben E. or B.B. And I thought I would stick to titles rather than honourifics, so no Kings of Pop, Delta Blues or even the.

King Curtis may be an unfamiliar name to many, albeit probably not here, but the diversity of his career and the broadness of his legacy surpasses many better known names. His given name, Curtis Ousley is even less well known. As a child in the sixties, and teen in the seventies, my first awareness of him was his raw honking on John Lennon's Imagine album, especially on 'It's So Hard'. Subtle it ain't, and though he became best known for his aggressive and rasping sound, it wasn't always so. His early influences were in jazz, with his joining Lionel Hampton's band instead of taking up a music scholarship, before branching into sessions. One early piece of work was with Buddy Holly, 'Reminiscin'', for which Holly gave him the songwriting credit. Mixing his own work, with several successful singles of his own, alongside working as a bandleader for, amongst others, Aretha Franklin, he continued still to find plenty of session work. Tragically he was killed in 1971, being stabbed in a fracas with a couple of dealers he heard arguing outside his front door. The song below, made before his death, gave him a grammy for best R&B instrumental, featuring also the late Duane Allman on guitar.

King Tubby is a name associated more as a producer and re-mixer, that being his metier. Unarguably one of the fathers of dub, that studio process of vast and sudden echoes and repeats clattering around a soundscape, entire instruments dropping randomly in and out, all underpinned by subterranean basslines. I bloody love it and, the older I get, so I can't get enough. (Plus it is the golden guarantee of getting a crying baby off to sleep, rocking in your arms to some of Kingston's finest.) Tubby or Neil Fraser as he was known to his mother, is seen largely the instigator of this style, working out of his studio from the late 50s, evolving the format over the next decade or so. Principally derived within and from reggae, in more recent times it has become a much loved tool of re-mixers, some of Tubby's disciples, notably the Mad Professor applying the same techniques to dance and electronica. Here, another of his acolytes, Scientist, explains the roots of dub. Sadly, and worryingly for my 3rd King, Tubby was also murdered, this time shot, and also on his front porch.

So we have had some gold and some frankincense. So it must be creosote time. Or King Creosote, aka Kenny Anderson, from the Kingdom of Fife, in Scotland. An astonishingly busy career has seen him start and run his own record label, produce and collaborate with any number of other artists and release over 40 recordings of his own, all by his half-century. Most has, however, been under any mainstream radar, however world famous in his own backyard.  Through his Fence Collective he was able to nurture local talent and one famous graduate of that scene is K.T. Tunstall. Other names such as James Yorkston and onetime business partner, Johnny Lynch, aka Pictish Trail, have also had some wider exposure. Creosote himself gradually has become more widely known, in part through his soundtrack work, notably 'From Scotland With Love', and through his work with electronica artist Jon Hopkins. More recently still, his last record, 'Astronaut Meets Appleman', in 2016, featured in many best of year lists, including my own, his mix of a whimsical and emphatically scottish folk sensibility with a motorik rhythm, effortlessly crossing many a barrier of genre. Here's my review of him live in 2017. Give him some eartime and spread his word wider. (Plus he is still alive!)


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Titles and Honorifics: Miss ...As in "Don't Want to Miss..."

purchase [ Aerosmith: Don't Want ....]

I'll go off on a tangent here ... A somewhat-warped tangent, but I think I still play by the rules: Miss ... Mister ... Dr ...

A number of my co-workers include their honorifics as part of their email signatures (PhD ...)

I once considered including mine: BA/English  ... and then it seemed ... I don't know... fake ... un-called for. But then I earned a CNA degree (That's Certified Network Administrator) from Novell [remember them?]  after 2 years of rather grueling courses and tests. Again, I thought to include it in my email signature, but opted against. (TWE) To What End?

In and between all this time, society went from monikers such as "Master so-and-so" - relegated to the dust-pile of history - and then we more or less trashed the use of "Miss so-and-so" in place of Ms...

Honorific titles (and such) appear to be in a state of transition. How about the standard business letter that used to start: "Dear Sir..."? How do you reformat that for this day and age? Is "Sir" an honorific of another past generation?

As I noted in my mail to the blog writers, in Europe, some of the honorifics get compounded/extended, such that we get Prof. Dr. so-and-so.

But I digress. Off on the tangent I mentioned ...
The word "miss" has more than one meaning (as do numerous other words in English). It can be one of the honorifics of the current theme. Or it can mean "to lack".

We'll work with the latter.

Aerosmith's "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" has little to do with honorifics (but it satisfies our theme in that it includes one of the honorifics key-words: miss).  It's about "treasuring every moment with another person" - a nice thought to take into tomorrow and beyond. The lyrics are sprinkled with "baby" throughout, but baby is not an honorific title. Maybe it should be. The word <God> shows up, too, but neither is that considered an honorific title.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Titles and Honorfics: Mr. Follow Follow

Fela & Afrika 70: Mr. Follow Follow

Last year, I mused about the general lack of protest music, in the vein of CSN&Y’s “Ohio,” despite the myriad reasons to be protesting. But one thing is for certain, these days, making protest music is, for the most part, not dangerous. (Although with a president who advocates violence against journalists and other opponents, vigilance is necessary.) Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” which protested issues including gun violence, racism and discrimination, won all sorts of awards, including the Grammys for Record and Song of the Year (yes, they are different), as well as Best Music Video. Gary Clark, Jr.’s new song, the searing “This Land,” protests racism and the president, and he got to perform the song on Saturday Night Live.

Things were very different, though, for Fela Kuti in his native Nigeria in the 1970s. Kuti, the Afrobeat pioneer, known by the honorific “Black President,” was also a political activist, and he paid significantly for this activism. In 1970, after returning to Nigeria after stints in Ghana and the United States, Fela created the “Kalakuta Republic,” a commune where he lived, recorded and provided refuge for many who opposed the oppressive military junta that ruled the country with an iron fist. He and his band, Afrika 70, released albums that protested the government, which the people loved, but, not surprisingly, the junta hated, leading to raids on the compound.

In 1977, Fela released Zombie, initially containing just two, 12 minute plus songs. “Zombie” called for the people to rise up and oppose the military zombies that oppressed them. It swept the nation, and has become one of his most famous songs, not only because of its message, but because of its incredibly infectious beat. The second song was “Mr. Follow Follow,” in which he warns about blindly following, and if following is necessary, to do so with eyes wide open. It is less catchy than “Zombie,” but is sinuous and foreboding.

In response to this album, the Nigerian government attacked the Kalakuta Republic. Fela was beaten, almost to death. His elderly mother was thrown from a window, and killed. His wives, and other women, were beaten, raped and mutilated. Men had their testicles beaten with rifle butts. The buildings were burned, and Kuti's studio, instruments, and master tapes were destroyed. The medical clinic run by Fela’s brother, Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti (who was severely beaten in the attack), was burned.

Journalists who arrived on the scene to report on the attack were themselves set upon by the troops, as were any inquisitive passers-by. In response, Fela delivered his mother’s coffin to the residence of the junta’s leader, and wrote two songs, both of which could theoretically fit this theme, too: “Coffin For Head Of State” and “Unknown Soldier,” mocking the government’s claim that the compound had been destroyed by an unknown soldier.

Ultimately, Fela tried to run for president, but was refused a spot on the ballot, was jailed on a pretext, continued to release music, continued to be politically active, was jailed on suspicion of murder, and died, in 1993, supposedly from complications relating to AIDS, which is disputed.

Like many Americans I was introduced to the music of Fela when the musical, Fela! was on Broadway. My family and I saw it, and it was amazing.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Titles and Honorifics: Doctor My Eyes

purchase [Jackson Browne: Doctor My Eyes ]

A number of my co-workers include their honorifics as part of their email signatures (PhD, MA English ...). De rigueur.

I once considered including mine: BA English  ... and then it seemed ... I don't know... fake ... un-called for. And then I earned a CNA "degree". (That's Certified Network Administrator) after 2 years of rather grueling courses and tests  - and it was no joke back then. Today ... Novell is on the junk pile of IT history (but the background knowledge I learned is not.). I thought to include it in my email signature, but opted against. (TWE) To What End?

In and between all this time, the world went from monikers such as "Master so-and-so", which was relegated to the dust-pile of history, and then we more or less trashed the use of "Miss so-and-so" in place of Ms... But it is location specific still. In Turkey, we still adhere to relatively formal appelations (with multiple honorifics, like the Germans (see below)

Honorific titles are in a state of transition. How about the business letter that used to start: "Dear Sir..."? How do you reformat that for this day and age? Is "Sir" an honorific of another past generation?

In Europe, some of the honorifics extend to several, back-to-back, such that we get both Prof.and  Dr. so-and-so: Prof. Dr. Jones.

Doctor. One of the most venerated honorifics you can achieve. So....Doctor My Eyes it is.

Lest it be forgotten: