- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


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Panama and the Live Sex Show

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For some reason, maybe it's preoccupation with and depression about Bush's War, or maybe it's due to an uptick in cerebral oxygenation since he quit smoking, Ol Panama hasn't been spinning it out as is his accustomed wont. Here's some archival stuff while we're waiting for the RedMan to get his groove thing back. When we asked if there wasn't something he wanted to communicate, he just said,


(January 2001)

Most people would not stop to think about it but all this stuff, blues, rhythm&blues, country, western swing, latin, name it, are very formal musics. Which is to say they have form. And strict form at that.

I write, or attempt to write anyway, in a lot of different styles...I've often wished I could restrict myself to just one as it would make it easier to market the stuff I do, but I can't help it...so I've learned to just go with it, and write what comes down the pipe. But in doing that one of the things I've noticed is this: quite often in the process of becoming a hit, a tune will be in a genre, but will deviate just enough from the form to be outstanding in that style. A couple of country examples can be based on the fact that country music rarely can utilize a major seventh and still be country. The exceptions that come to mind immediately are Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues, and Lookin for Love (in All the Wrong Places), both of which were country hits (and crossovers as well) even though they use the formally-forbidden major seventh.

You can make the argument and be quite correct that, because these tunes used the dreaded major seventh, they were therefore not real country tunes at all. Still, based just on the usual listening habits of the people influenced by the genre in which they found popularity, they have caused the major seventh to be a little less daring when used in that milieu. Blahblah.

Or The Thrill is Gone, in which BB struggles manfully to force that major scale onto that minor feel. A great deal of the pathos (if you will) of that
recording results from just that struggle. There is a dissonance generated that has somehow a profound heart-pulling effect. But in the hindsight that we call Music Theory, it's just a major scale overlaid onto a minor feel, and maybe it's because BB just doesn't ever play a minor scale. Felix Pappalardi once said to me that success consists of making the right mistakes.

Someone on one of my groups was talking about not 'getting' Southern Rock. You had to be there, I guess. But the fact of the matter is that all of those Allman Brothers/et al tunes have been absorbed into the lexicon of rocknroll and other pop musics in general, so that now the licks derived from Southern Rock are not in themselves identifiable and separable as being 'southern', but have added their water to the vast reservoir that characterizes what is acceptable in rocknroll.
And this is not to deny that those licks were not themselves derivative.

Hendrix is a prime example of this absorption process. When the dude first came out, there was an amazing amount of scramble on the part of guitar players to figure out what he was doing, where his head was. And
within a couple of years of his death, or even before, Jimi licks were turning up in all kinds of LA stuff; Doobie Brothers comes to mind (ohohoh listen to the music), that bar chord hammered onto the minor above. But
Jimi also got this stuff from somewhere himself, a lot of it country. Maybe Floyd Cramer.

So what I'm saying is perhaps obvious, but still for all that a little fascinating: that what we like about a tune may not always be its faithfulness to its nominal genre. What we like about it may be the places where it deviates from the accepted norm. Sort of like love.