Amoeblog

WHAT IF TRAVIS BICKLE CAME BACK TODAY?

Posted by Billyjam, March 9, 2008 05:34am | Post a Comment

You know that part in Taxi Driver when Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle character utters those lines about wishing that "Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets."  That eerily memorable bit from Martin Scorsese's landmark 1976 movie captured a totally different time in the history of New York City - a time when the city was bankrupt and grimy.  It was a time when the Bronx, which looked like bombed out Berlin (circa WWII), was visited by Ronald Reagan like a state leader visiting a war torn faraway land - except it was one of the five boroughs of America's main city.

It was a distant time that could be a hundred years ago, not just a few decades, considering just how very much New York City has transformed since then.  Today the midtown Times Square area of New York City (along & surrounding 42nd Street on Manhattan's West Side) is a radically different place than the one it was back in the mid-seventies; the area that was so effectively captured in Taxi Driver as Travis Bickle's cab crawled along in slo-mo, taking in every nuance of the rundown, scuzzy and scary area that was rampant with X-rated movie theaters, hookers, junkies, pimps, and street-wise con men lurking on every corner, ready to rip off gullible marks.

Today that same stretch of 42nd Street and Times Square is another world altogether, with the cheap eateries and strip clubs and X rated movie theaters replaced by back to back chain outlets like Starbucks, McDonalds, and of course the Disney stores -- hence the so-called Disneyfication of New York City that has slowly come about since the nineties -- a current trend in the US that is by no means limited to NYC.

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sulla strada, capitolo uno

Posted by Whitmore, January 27, 2008 05:57pm | Post a Comment

Bungled is a great word, its one of those words that even if you're not sure of  the definition, just the sound  -'bungled' - quickly gets you to the gist of  the situation. What Bungled is, is not a great situation.

Right now I'm in Italy on tour with the LA's own Listing Ship, and by no fault of our own... and I swear its wasn't our fault ( though historically there are two essential elements built into any band; incompetence and eventual obsolescences... these truths are perhaps not so written in stone if you play in the Rolling Stones or The Lawrence Welk Orchestra) ...  anyway, somewhere along the line all our luggage disappeared. Somewhere between the sunny palm tree lined dystopia we call home and the airport called the worst in Europe, Rome, all twelve pieces of our luggage vanished off the face of the earth.

Those of us who grew up on the west coast blamed it on our stop-over in New York's JKF airport, those of us who grew up on the east coast blamed it on the airport in Los Angeles ... our Italian friends blamed it on the airport in Rome. Ultimately it appears to have been yet another bungled moment for an airline we'll call "American Err-lines" ... All twelve pieces gone. Poof! We filled out the paperwork and were assured that somehow the heavens will open and our luggage will fall though a worm whole,  magically appearing on the front steps of our Managers apartment in Naples the next morning. But 24 hours later no record of our luggage - bags, guitars, drum gear-  existed anywhere, online or otherwise.

We played our first gig at the Cantina Mediterraneo in Frosinone... with borrowed gear, and I have to say incredibly nice gear! It doesn't get much better than this. Thanks to the excellent opening band, The Mosquitos, based in Naples, we played through gorgeous Fender amps and electric guitarist Lyman
was greeted with a vintage Gold Top Gibson Les Paul to play. When Lyman opened the guitar case a beautiful golden light filled the back wall of the stage, and I swear I heard a litany of cellos quietly filling the air ... and a voice, a deep resonating voice that said something profound in Italian, but I don't understand Italian. I'm not sure what was more inspiring for our first show in Italy, the great gear we were using or the 5 course meal the club provided for us. And the wine... the wine! Like the great river Euphrates, the purest waters from the river flowing from of the garden of Eden, the flowering of civilization, the flowering of sin, wine bringing us back back to life, yeah baby...wine wine wine!!!  we knew everything would be copacetic.

The late, great Cab Calloway on his 100th birthday,

Posted by Whitmore, December 29, 2007 01:21pm | Post a Comment

The legendary saint Cab Calloway, brought into existence on Christmas, was never off the cob, he was the heppest cat, the gasser on the scene, and scribe to the Dictionary of Hepology, not just any book of lingo like some hincty gate-mouth might cop to, emphatically no! This man’s a poet! Hey, Calloway was solid, a ready cat with serious chops, never capped, I mean never capped. Cabell Calloway III licks hit all the armstrongs every time with those "hi-de-hi's," and "ho-de ho's, singing in that blip beat key, swinging overcoats growling some hip and hot gammin’ grooves. Be it a gutbucket blues, the ready racket on the main kick or just some clambake where he’s got this cat riffing on the doghouse - hitting all the basso notes, cool Gabriel wigging on a boogie-woogie and some Jack on skins mugging heavy, Cab always crept out like the shadow, stylish threads togged to the bricks, walking hand made, custom to the thread mezz ground grippers … on each arm, a fine righteous queen he dug the last black, each dicty dutchess fresh off the dreamers and lily whites. 

At one point Cab was collaring 200 g’s a year, that’s one foxy stack of fins. Platter gravy coming on like a test pilot, cuts like "Minnie the Moocher", “Reefer Man” and "St. James Infirmary Blues" were everywhere man, chicks breakin’ it up, dropping a nickel or a dime note just to latch onto the hippest cat who could send the coolest riff riding high. Cab the man was the man; kids come again to the Cotton Club in the Apple, rug cutters Trucking, Pecking, or bugging to the Susie-Q, never no fraughty issue here. That’s the Bible baby! Cab and the cats digging a mess, one riff after another, and every hot killer jam taking off, that combo was always bustin’ conk, breaking up the joint like gangbusters. Zazu-zazu-zazu-zay! No room here for icky squares who can't collar the jive. The jitterbuggers at the Cotton Club always had a hummer of a ball. Yeah! Whipped up! Jumpin’ and mitt pounding till the chimes say its way past early bright. Ow!

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August 13th in music history

Posted by Whitmore, August 13, 2007 05:20pm | Post a Comment

In a senseless act, legendary saxophonist King Curtis, born Curtis Ousley, is stabbed to death in front of his New York City brownstone on Friday August 13, 1971, during one of New York City’s nastiest heat waves.  King Curtis was carrying an air conditioner into his apartment at 50 West 86th St. when he got into a scuffle with a group of men standing on the stoop doing drugs. He asked them to move, but during the subsequent argument one of them, Juan Montanez, pulled out a six-inch dagger and stabbed Curtis in the heart.


The attack was witnessed by Aretha Franklin and Sam Moore who were meeting Curtis to discuss a recording session he was to produce. Curtis was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, but was dead on arrival. Four days later the funeral was held, Jesse Jackson performed the service. Curtis' band, The Kingpins, played an hour long version of 'Soul Serenade' and Aretha sang the spiritual 'Never Grow Old.' Here are some of the hits he played sax on:

Hang up My Rock and Roll Shoes - CHUCK WILLIS - (highest charting) #24
The Stroll - DIAMONDS - #4-
What Am I Living For - CHUCK WILLIS - #9
Yakety Yak - COASTERS - #1
Along Came Jones - COASTERS - #9
Charlie Brown - COASTERS - #2
I Cried a Tear - LAVERN BAKER - #6
Little Egypt - COASTERS - #23
Tossin’ and Turnin’ - BOBBY LEWIS - #1
Peppermint twist - JOEY DEE  - #1
Respect - ARETHA FRANKLIN - #1
I Heard It Through The Grapevine - GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS - #2

Some of King Curtis’s solo singles:

Soul Twist - #17
Memphis Soul Stew - #33
Ode to Billy Joe - #28
 
In 1990 Curtis Mayfield, best known as the lead singer for The Impressions and for composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film “Superfly,” is paralyzed from the neck down in an onstage accident after high winds cause a 600 pound lighting rig to fall on him at a concert in Brooklyn, New York at the Martin Luther King Music Festival. Eyewitnesses described the moment as “A small twister of some sort tornado-like, just came out of nowhere.” He was 48 years of age at the time of the accident.

But one great earth shaking event did happen on this day, though it would go unnoticed for years and years, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton records the original version of  "Hound Dog" in 1952.

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GUERILLA ARTISTS CREATIVELY REDECORATE PUBLIC SPACES

Posted by Billyjam, May 25, 2007 08:08pm | Post a Comment
 
'I'm like the Rainman of the F train now because I now know every speck of that train,' laughed New York public space guerilla artist & recent subway prankster Ellen Moynihan. "Sixty seats, eight doors, and seven poles. And the overhead ads are exactly seventy inches by ten inches," said the ring leader of the spirited and highly creative four-woman House Of Malcontents crew, made up of Ellen and three other New York artists with a shared desire to reshape public spaces such as a subway car to make it more homey. This they accomplished last month when all four boarded an early morning F train in Brooklyn headed into Manhattan, and briskly and artistically made it over to look and feel more like ... home.

'No Train Like Home,' they dubbed the installation that took the four guerilla artists 40 minutes to carry out during early morning New York City commute hour. Carol Tessitore was one of the collaborators. The other two wish to remain anonymous because of the illegality of the maneuver. The idea for the 'No Train Like Home' came to Moynihan, who is also a writer (currently working on a book about Patti Smith), after checking out Mark Ecko's controversial graffiti on subway event in Chelsea a couple of years ago. Later, as she was riding the bland, drab, New York subway, she fantasized about how great it would be to make over the institutionalized-looking subway car into something warmer, to make it feel and look like your living room -- especially since so many New Yorkers spend so much time commuting by subway daily.

     

At first she thought, "How cool would it be to get a grant and get a lot of money and a subway car of my own to redecorate?" But soon after she gave up on the difficult task of trying to get a grant, and also on the idea of asking for permission. So she studied the subway to learn "every speck" -- taking photos and measuring in preparation for the perfectly plotted makeover morning (April 6th) when Ellen and her three fellow Malcontents went to work on the train. They put a runner rug down the center of the subway car and taped down 'welcome' mats near the sliding train doors, covered the windows with curtains, tied flowers to the poles, put pillows on the usually uncomfortable hard seats, scattered magazines around to read, and nice art to look at instead of the ads already there. "We made copies of family portraits or paintings you'd see at home," said photoshop expert Carol, who also 'stitched together' on computer photo images of books on a shelf and later printed them out on the long reams of paper they had purchased.

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