"There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another," Edouard Manet
|Purple Hearts, 1979|
Drunk all night and were falling asleep in our chairs, it was too late and hopeless to leave and go all that way from Avenue B, so Franz [Kline] put on pajamas and fell into bed. I too, beside him, as dawn broke.
I woke in terror, rigid in anxiety for his arm was around me, and he was murmuring. I shifted position and he mumbled in his sleep and turned away, yet muttering—but sadly, talking his sleeptalk to her.
He was sitting at the bar, gazing at his glass of beer. His set jaw dragged his eyes and lips down, in a bitterness. He didn’t move for a long time and I became a little: alarmed. I moved quietly beside him, and gently put my hand on his shoulder.
He turned and looked at me. His eyes were so deep they were without focus. His voice was distant and hollow, but the last phrase was terrible, bitter in disappointment.
“At first I thought it was a stalk. Then I saw it had a head on it, and then I saw it was alive.”
It was a bright afternoon. For some reason I wasn’t sitting at the bar, but in one of the small center booths, quite near the telephone. Franz was sitting a couple of stools down towards the door from the beer taps, at the bar, by himself, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette.
He was clean shaven. He had his black pin stripe suit on, and a1 clean white shirt open at the collar; his shoes were shined. He had his hat on, slightly to one side, front brim snapped down. He was dramatic and beautiful.
Now, [Willem] de Kooning, in his paint-splattered paint clothes, sat unnoticed by Franz, at the end of the bar near me, exactly in my line of vision, and of course I watched them both, Bill’s left elbow was on the bar, and right hand cupped his right knee—feet hooked over the rung of the barstool—his head was forward, arrowhead, profile. His blue eyes held a certain silvery glitter, perceiving Franz. Franz, there, glowing, de Kooning was looking into the glow.
But then he, Bill, began a change. I saw the start of a smile, and he looked so directly at Franz a personal beam of intense affection came out of his eyes and shone on Franz; almost religious, or a fullness with revealed torture. Bill stepped partly off the barstool and whispered.
Franz turned. "Bill!"
Bill picked up his drink and walked down, sat on a barstool beside Franz; after an instant of speaking I heard Bill say, softly, like someone telling a dear friend a piece of great news not everyone is allowed to hear, What about a little drink?
Franz laughed, and Bill said to Louie, "Let's have a couple of little drinks here. And this one's on me."
Quite a while later they were in the same place, but the were leaning on each other, heads together, like small stocky guys—no, tall buildings, tilting across avenues against each other—sky-scrapers, rather; having a little close conversation.
|Kline and de Kooning|
You might wake up some morning
To the sound of something moving past your window in the wind
And if you're quick enough to rise
You'll catch a fleeting glimpse of someone's fading shadow
Out on the new horizon
You may see the floating motion of a distant pair of wings
And if the sleep has left your ears
You might hear footsteps running through an open meadow
Don't be concerned, it will not harm youThe second verse has its share of clumsy lines ("You might have heard my footsteps / Echo softly in the distance through the canyons of your mind") and the image of the singer "running through the long-abandoned ruins of the dreams you left behind," is wincingly close to Poetry 101, but the overall effect is unnerving and strange enough to work, especially as the heartache is softened by the airy, lilting balm of Lind's melody. The verse ends with the singer gliding past his elusive love "followed close by heavy breathing." Indeed.
It's only me pursuing something I'm not sure of
Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love
I walk past and hear a song coming from their house that I’ve never heard before, and can’t place. In the few moments it takes to reach my front steps the music seems to have moved from sweet to ferocious to anthemic to desolate and back again. The singer’s great. The riffs are loud, but clean. “Who is that?” I yell from the street.
She smiles beatifically at me. “It’s Nirvana!”
When Nevermind was released in the fall of 1991 I was only vaguely aware of Kurt Cobain’s band. I’d looked the other way when their early Sub Pop records were issued, as I hadn’t been ready yet for their tuneful howl. What I heard my neighbor say was “nirvana” with a lower-case “n.” In the way we instantaneously make sense of a complex moment and its scope, it felt like what she had described for me was a feeling, a place, made of roar and stillness, to where she’d been transported, a spiritual instant. Not much later, when Nirvana took off commercially, I made the critical appellative correction, but the influential exchange on the street had imprinted itself in me. That was less music I heard walking by her porch on an ordinary sunny day in autumn than a state of being.
Grand Funk never disappoint, unless you happen to be looking for things that just aren’t there. They’re always square-shooters, on the level, up front and together. They believe wholeheartedly in their ‘brothers and sisters’, instinctively think of their audience in that light, and this in turn means that they will never treat their fans badly: never step on them or scorn them or take them by the heels and shake them until the last little bit of change falls out of their pockets. They realize that given another time and place, it might’ve been them down there rather than them up here; a sobering thought—for any musician. And if, in the end, it may come to mean that they'll never be more than the sum total of their audience, that Grand Funk will never be able to rise far above themselves that they levitate a crowd beyond any of its other awareness...well, what the hell, rock'n'roll is only rock'n'roll, and it ain't too many who get to find God in a I-IV-V progression.That's a pretty great definition and defense of bare-bones rock and roll, and, notwithstanding the Funk's often tedious, elongated boogieing, soloing, and we'regonnarocktonight exhortations, Kaye really nails the source of their earnest appeal in the early 70s.
But even with all this, they haven't hit their peak yet, and I’ll tell you why. They’ve saved the best for last, those sly l’il devils. You’ll see: one of these days, they’ll be finishing up a concert in some out-of-the-way place: Dekalb, Illinois, or something. The closing bars of "Inside Looking Out" will shudder to a close, and they’ll leave amid cries for more. After only a matter of seconds, though, they’ll be back in their places, excited and energized, like kids who are about to receive an unexpected surprise.I find it hilarious and awesome that Kaye would choose l'il DeKalb as the site of an imagined emotional moment onstage between Grand Funk and Knight. (DeKalb with a lower "k." That's alright, Lenny Kaye, or should I say kaye, it was probably the editor.) I don't know if Grand Funk ever played DeKalb; a few years later KISS did on their first tour, at Northern Illinois University's Field House, so I guess that could've been the place where Farner, Brewer, and Mel Schacher brought the Funk, another stop on a long journey for The American Band. Alas, the moment never happened, and DeKalb remains a what-if in 70s arena rock myth. Or something.