Janis Ian

I have a fairly extensive Janis Ian collection as mp3’s one includes the early work: Society’s Child; A Song For All the Seasons of Your Mind; The Secret Life of J. Eddy Fink; Who Really Cares? The other includes her later works: Stars; Between The Lines; Aftertones; Night Rains. After her initial hit ‘Society’s Child’ written when she was 14! She disappeared to resurface decades later with the stunning Stars. 

Why did she fade so abruptly? Part of the answer comes from Wikipedia: “At the age of 16, Ian met comedian Bill Cosby backstage at a Smothers Brothers show where she was promoting Society’s Child. Since she was underage, she was accompanied by a chaperone while touring. After her set, Ian had been sleeping with her head on her chaperone’s lap (an older female family friend). According to Ian in a 2015 interview, she was told by her then manager that Cosby had interpreted their interaction as “lesbian” and as a result “had made it his business” to warn other television shows that Ian wasn’t “suitable family entertainment” and “shouldn’t be on television” because of her sexuality, thus attempting to blacklist her.” 

Re-read that & let it sink in. This story sums up the plight of many female singer/songwriters who did not roll over and play fem.

Her early work is at times folksy, at times jazzy but she never stepped into the traditional pop female mold. Her writing covered social issues, romantic ups & downs & self-discovery. J. Eddy Fink is an amazing album with expansive jazz arrangements & tender romantic observations. It didn’t fit the commercial categories like Laura Nyro; nor the hippy category like Joni Mitchell.


She changed labels for her return with Stars. These later albums are more deeply emotional, some social commentary & sweet unfulfilled romantic longing. They music is more what I call chamber pop – elegant with jazz & semi-classical touches. Sweet harmonies & understated performances. In fact some of it is a little depressing. On Night Rains she works with, of all people, Giorgio Moroder! 

Ian is a survivor who came out, got married, started her own record label for full creative control. She may have been slowed down by that ‘blacklist’ but remains an amazing writer. If you are unfamiliar I’d recommend The Secret Life of J. Eddy Fink as good starting point. Aftertones is emotionally discomforting – though any of these are excellent lps.

The Wings Of St. Martinia

Last night Hank Grebly did me the great honour & pleasure of taking me to the Maple Valley Rialto Cinema – it is a shame that this fine building is now only opened on weekends for our film going pleasures.

I can remember a time when it would be busy seven days a week, offering us the finest in Hollywood films and fresh roasted peaches or tasty caramel bark corn.

Every time I enter the Rialto I am taken back to a distant era – the mirror balls in the ceiling reflect the many spot lights around the floor. The zig-zag carpeting & lame seat coverings make me long for simpler times.

The film Hank took me to was “The Wings Of St. Martinia.” Many of you are familiar with the local tales of St. Martinia & the font at St. Sufferer’s. Those are her blood spattered wings holding the baptismal tub in the centre of the nave. Not her actual wings, but representations. Not many angels would have had five sets of wings.

Like the Rialto this film is also a relic of another time. Recently discovered in the vaults at College of Arts and Reconstructionist Designers, we were first treated to a lecture by Rudgar Quartz, the Professor of Cinema Studies there, who gave the history of both the film, St, Martinia and the Rialto itself. A very educational evening, leavened by the delightful film itself.

The story is a simple one of suffering and repentance through suffering. Martinia, born out of wed-lock to the daughter of silver smith and troupe of travelling carnival workers, had to face the disgrace of her family and neighbours all through her life.

She saved her fellow orphans from the rain of comets in 1879 by waking each and every child, and leading them to safety. Sadly she wasn’t able to get back to rescue any of her teachers. She comforted the children, as they heard the screams of the staff, who had been trapped in locked rooms in the upper quarters of the orphanage.

In leading the children through the swamps to safety she also rescued Button, a Labrador retriever and her recent litter of puppies. This is why the suckling Labrador retriever has become the representation for St Martinia. When they say, she of the many teats, they are referring to Button and not to St Martinia.

A fact that I was not aware of either.

The movie follows her travails in the garment trade, being abducted by pirates and finally her mission to Mongolia where she single handedly brought the word of good to those unhappy and dirty mountain people. Her attempts to show them the joys of washing brought tears of joy to my eyes.

If you have a chance to, get in to see this delightful movie. Tell them Dolly sent you, and you may get an extra dash of moose mustard on your red hots. 

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http://www.queerslam.com

returning every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Laura Nyro Genius

Let me state that I think Laura Nyro is a genius. Her story is amazing, tragic, uplifting & she deserves to be more than a top 40 footnote. Her songs are amazing, tragic, uplifting and often challenging. Things that a pop diva was not supposed to be and then she got buried. Oh, yes, she was lesbian, too – which may account for her premature burial.

greybooties

save the children’s booties

In my collection I have: Eli & The 13th Confession; Gonna Take A Miracle; New York Tendaberry; Smile; Nested. And a tribute album: Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro. Plus many of the hit covers by Fifth Dimension, Blood, Sweat & Tears (& others) of her songs: ‘Stone Soul Picnic,’ ‘Save The Children,’ ‘When I Die.’

Laura wrote soulful but pure pop music – her recordings are dynamic. Her vocals are astonishing, compelling & delightful. Like Janis Ian she started in her teens, made it big fast, then pulled back. Drugs, sex & rock’n’roll producers got in the way. Her early work is full of sweet horn work, almost gospel momentum, deep heart lyrics ‘Lonely Women’ & arraignments to weep for. She knew what she wanted & the men in industry didn’t like that, I guess. Those songs of her that were hits were almost note for note replications of her charts.

knitted

miracle of the scrunchie

Her best charting single was from “Miracle’ the lp she recorded with Labelle – it was Up On The Roof’ a Carol King song from this great set of covers. Her work was always challenging too – Tendaberry is raw, almost frighteningly direct at times. Her live album Lights is excellent.

She dropped out of sight for a few year & resurfaced mellower with Smile & Nested: two of most romantic, emotionally seductive albums I can think of. Her later Mother’s Spiritual & the posthumous Angel in The Dark show her matured musically, some covers of her favourites, originals with various approaches, her alone on piano, some horn & strings – very Steely Dan at times. Tori Amos owns her a deep debt. All of them are highly recommend.

blackbra

wet & black

The tribute album doesn’t really reimagine her as much as I would have expected. Sweetly jazz for the most part but too respectful & tasteful. But those songs are timeless. Her death in 1998 was too early.

sample

Sweet Smell of Success

‘Jill, did you do this?’

‘Why Mr. Nunn? Is there something wrong with it?’

Jill was never comfortable when confronted by her supervisor. Especially when the supervisor was holding the file she had worked on the day before. Jill became defensive, insecure.

‘It is good work. It looks like you are ready for something more complex.’

More complex! Jill felt her heart beat faster.

‘Well, yes after a year in this department you must be familiar with things around here. This basic stuff is for the newer staff to cut their teeth on.’

‘But … ’ Jill didn’t think her teeth were sharp enough yet to tackle anything more than she had been accustomed to these past several months. The work demanded just enough most of the time and for the first time since getting this job she began to feel she could handle it.

‘You don’t seem to have much confidence in your abilities.’ The supervisor put the folder down.

After years of being told she was stupid, lazy, fat, unattractive she never trusted people who told her the opposite. She immediately began to suspect their motivations. Men who told her she was attractive just to nudge her towards her purse moments later; men who would be gone if she had no money for more booze or cigarettes; men who would only seek to satisfy themselves and then leave her; men who she would hear snicker to their buddies when she entered Moe’s Tavern; men who would tell her they really weren’&t keen to be seen with a fat stupid bitch like her.

Now her boss, who smelt so clean and fresh, was telling her she did good work only to follow that up with what he was really after. To make her work harder, to demand more of her than she was ready to give, to demand more without giving her anything in return.

‘Thanks Mr. Nunn but I’m pretty happy doing this stuff.’ she smiled up at him.

‘Why? Your last job review said you were capable of much more. Don’t you want to get ahead in this company.’

Ha, she laughed to herself, get ahead by giving head. I know what you’re really after and I won’t put up with it or put out to get it.

‘I realize that Mr. Nunn but I’d like to stick with what I know till I think I’m ready. Can’t I make that decision for myself?’

Last year’s queer music blogs:

June 2 Billy Strayhorn http://wp.me/p1RtxU-L0

June 9 ‘Hangin’ On The Telephone’ http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Ll

June 16 Tea Room Tramps http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Mg

June 23 Ned Rorem http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Mx

 

 

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#Woyaya Aster Aweke

I miss going to Sam the Record Man to search through the various levels finding finds. There was an excellent World Music section on the second floor which is where I discovered Aster Aweke, an Ethiopian singer living in the USA. I was willing to take a chance on a $1.99 cassette of her first lp.

jacket ground cover

She’s been fairly compared to Aretha Franklin with her resonant soulful voice. Now I don’t speak or understand many other language beyond clumsy French and corazón roto Spanish, so I can’t tell you what she sings about but I like it. I’m open to letting the music function without the importance of the lyric – with English I can’t avoid sometimes feeling forced into an emotional response.

cloudy cloud cover

I have three of her recordings. Aster ( that cassette replaced & on a mp3 collection of Janis Ian), Kudu (a stand alone, as it were) and Sugar (a live recording on an mp3 collection of Buffy St. Marie). More about Janis and Buffy when I get to them on the shelf.

toilet uncovered

What grabbed me about her, besides the voice, was the horn section – it reminded me of Osibisa (an African band – more about them when I get to the ‘O’s.) In fact she does a few classic African folk songs that Osibisa also recorded. Woyaya for one. She’s available on iTunes.

sample

I, Robot Mother

 

“How many times do I have to tell you to turn that racket down?” Val’s mother shouted up the stairs.

“Sorry Mother.” Val cringed as she heard her mother come up to her room.

“Are you ready?” her mother asked.

“Yes.”

“Oh those shoes are sweet, but you know, I think with some little bows of them they’d be even sweeter. What do you think Val?”

“I’m sure you’re right.” Val slipped off her shoes and handed them to her mother.

Having a Martha Stewart android for a mother was every girl’s dream but if they knew what it was really like they would know it for the nightmare it really was. Val still shuddered at the memory of her mother covering her school binders with kindergarten drawings she had made. Just the thing every high school girl loves to be reminded of. She cursed the day her father brought home the android.

“I’ll just get Karen to do that, shall I? Karen!” Martha shouted down the stairs.

Karen was this week’s assistant. Val was glad she was no longer the one who had to carry out her robot mother’s minute directions. She had hoped it would mean she and her mother could just do mother daughter things that weren’t for some TV program or book but that hadn’t happened yet.

“Yes Madam Stewart.” Karen appeared. She had sequin stars stuck to her chin, a streak of red paint in her hair and gobs of white plaster all over her sweater.

“How are you coming with those baby jumper flower pots?”

“They’ll be ready for Val’s show and tell.”

“Good. Now get a hot glue gun and stick some of those old Christmas bows on these shoes. If they look okay don’t forget to tell me so we can put them in the school’s Christmas show.”

“Yes Madam Stewart.”

“Now Val I’d like you to try on this coat.”

“It looks like the living room carpet.”

“It is Val. We got rid of that old carpet but I thought it would make a darling coat.”

“I hope you vacuumed it first.”

“Of course I did. Didn’t we Karen?”

“Yes Madam Stewart, I steam cleaned it along with four dozen potatoes for the Thanksgiving salad.”

“Good. I do think we’ll have time to refinish the frames on your glasses now Val. Would you like a faux marble finish or perhaps something fun in polka dots.”

“Mother I like them the way they are.”

“Oh, don’t be so silly. I know you are just joking anyway. Now I hope you like these bracelets. I made them out of old milk bottles.”

“Yes, mother they are simply lovely. Now can I get my shoes on and get out of here.”

“What time is your young gentle man picking you up?”

Just then the door bell rang.

“Right now.” Val rushed down glad for the opportunity to escape from the house.

“Val here’s a forget-me-not ring I made from some old braces and teeth. It’s the prefect friendship ring. Don’t you think Brad will love it?”

shrug east end beautification

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Fiona Apple

In the mid-90’s Fiona Apple washed over the music world with Tidal – a critical darling, hot on Much Music and ready to be propelled into super-stardom and then sort of disappeared. Fame was too fast, she was too young, the same old story, and her follow up tanked.

boot02 boots at night

Tidal lives up to the hype. I bought it Jan 97 and played a dozen times in following month. Fiona has a strong, alto voice that gives her lyrics a strong emotional grounding. Her videos, as I remember, played up her bruised waif, Lolita image – sexually knowing but innocent at the same time.

boot01 booted off the curb

The music, to me, is adult pop – sometimes a bit over-arranged but with seductive jazz undertones that captivated me. The same resonance in her lyrics – romantic, teasing, verging on emo but the jazziness keeps it from going there.

boot03 free booting in daylight

She reminded me Laura Nyro in musical bravado, Janis Ian for the bare heart romanticism. I’ve had some of her other recordings but passed them on after a few listenings. Maybe it was the sound engineering but the sound quality didn’t grab my ears the way it did on that first release.

samples

Quel Dommage

 

some teacher

over heard me singing

Dominique Dominique

which was all I could remember of that song

it was an endlessly played

hit song in the 60’s

a sweet nun singing her way

to the top of the charts

trouncing the beatles and the stones

I would add

Michelle ma belle

when I got bored of Dominique Dominique

not knowing more than those scraps

the teacher said

something to the effect

that I had an ear for French

so when I got to high-school

and French was taught

because it was an official language

I quickly discovered

that my spelling

ortografe   orthographe  in French

was as bad as it was in English

how was I going to learn another language

when I had a struggle with my own

when you talk

no one cares wether you

can spell what you say

you don’t need commas in conversation

 

the French teachers

would often go

from school to school

one we reduced to tears

nearly every class

by we I mean

some guys in the class

who took a delight in being rowdy

while they o-o-ogled her boobs

‘les tits’ they snickered

so I blame my limited French

on those guys

who made impossible for the teacher

to teach what I didn’t want to learn

in the first place

quel dommage

green growing up green

this marks my 301st blog post & my 80th for this year.

‘waves of ceaseless alphabet’

The August Damned hosted by Lizzie Violet, was our farewell to Q Space, which is sadly closing at the end of the month.

legs akimbo
legs akimbo

First feature Brenda Clews – performed from her LyricalMyrical chapbook, ‘the luminist poems.’ Her first poem invoked a spirit of light that by the end of her set encompassed us all. She is a very physical performer and its hard to tell where language ends and her moment begins in each work to give shape to the verbal images she gathers from ‘waves of ceaseless alphabet.’ Her work is richly emotionally charged with dream logic as images are woven in the air around her. Sometimes abstract at other time deeply human: ‘the sky peeled back like a scroll,’ ‘have I forged a fortress of my insecurities.’

glove - a little run down
glove – a little run down

Second feature Adam Abbas, was visual counter balance to Brenda. After her animated performance he appeared nearly immobile as he gave a fine, ranging set that started with saucy limericks, a dense rhymed work and some polished villanelles.  His rhymed piece was a densely packed work where words sounds bounced one image into the next without stopping to make distinct connections in a dream logical surreal journey we were happy to be taken on. Moments that stayed with me include; ‘who wants to be the first to leave paradise,’ ‘pens running dry/scratch the outline of your dream/as it says good bye.’ His book ‘A State, A Statue, A Statute,’ will be published in September 2013 by the Steel Bananas Arts Collective.

tank tops for trees
tank tops for trees

Final & musical feature Andrea Matchett – has a warm, inviting voice that reminded me of Janis Ian, as did her lyrics ‘isn’t it a shame that the best words in the world are the words left unspoken,’ ‘one day I’ll stop thinking of you every day.’ She accompanied herself with accomplished guitar work that went smoothly from deceptively simple strumming to delicate plucking. It was also a treat have a guitar that wasn’t louder than the performer.

A fine line of open stagers opened each of the sets. It’s always great to see Don Cullen read – when he hits the open stage we are no degree of separation from the Bohemian Embassy days when Margret Atwood hit the open stages of shows he hosted. I did my standard three pieces, including Ghost Kiss.

 

writing sample
writing sample

one of the other pieces I read:

Blowing Shit Up

kill them   kill them all

bomb the shit out of them

teach them to be good world citizens

stumbling through the shopping mall

of our needs and wants

if they can’t satisfy those needs and wants

bomb their contaminated water supply

their understaffed hospitals

over flowing orphanages

bomb their rubble to rubble

kill them   kill them all

liberate the enslaved of all nations

from the despotic heels of dictators

religious fanatics

bring them into our refined gilded fold

of credit cards smart cars

that’s all we want to do or

we’ll let them die of hiv malnutrition

then bomb the shit out of them

kill them    kill them all

blasphemers who don’t have a seat at the world bank

we have to assimilate them

into the stream of human kindness

if they can’t be assimilated

smash destroy replace repatriate

then we’ll stick around

help rebuild those economies brick by byte

because what is good for them

is even better for our capital gains

so we’ll bomb the shit out of them

till they admit we are right

to kill them   kill them all

bomb their rubble to rubble

because   after all

who doesn’t like to see shit blow up

right

blowing shit up
blowing shit up

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