Friday, November 30, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Anatomy of a Memory

From Deborah Tall's A Family Of Strangers:

And who is to say that, in some crucial sense, the life that we remembered is not the life we lived?
After all: what's remembered is all we know. Everything that has meaning gets it from the up-till-now, the long file drawer of experience.

Knowledge relies as much on memory as on invention, on accumulation and axiomatic shape.

How otherwise could we cross the street?

How could we imagine a future without the given forms, the replications, the reincarnations of the already?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"I'm So Thankful"

Girl when you found me
You made me feel alright
You really helped me to see
Now I see the light

Girl I'm so thankful
When you hold me tight
Girl I'm so thankful
Let me show you how much tonight

When you rescued me
I was a shell of a man
You lift me up
Now I'm on my feet again

I want you, I need you, oh baby I love you
You make me, completely, I don't want no one else but you

Reigning Sound, Break Up...Break Down (2001)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"This world is awfully big..."

When I was growing up, Saturday night was a very fun night for TV. My older siblings and I would watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show in succession. My parents went out to dinner virtually every Saturday night of my adolescence (and beyond), usually returning as The Carol Burnett Show was starting, smiling tipsily as they joined us in watching it. (Once in a while they'd come back early enough to watch The Bob Newhart Show, but, in adherence to some sort of suburban cosmic law, the episode would never be a particularly funny one.) In my memory, I slot episodes of M*A*S*H and All in the Family into these long nights of television enjoyment, but a quick perusal of the network television schedules of that era proves my memories suspect. As in, that usual suspect.

Reach for that future, Mary!
The Mary Tyler Moore Show went off the air in 1977, and around the time of its final episode (March 19) I was hanging out with one of my older brothers in our driveway. I loved the theme song to the show, especially the little drum fill in the opening bars before the proper melody begins. I used to hum the song to myself on the way to school and back, out playing in the yard or on my bike, dumm-dumm-ing that cool drum part out loud. It occurred to me that soon I was going to hear that drumming for the last time in my life. I told my brother that I couldn't wait for it and he told me, in suitably Older Sibling Unkindness, that he was going to talk out loud over that part so that I'd miss it.

The agony! (My brother knew what he was doing.) My last opportunity to hear that drum fill! I was despondent. (I can't remember whether or not my brother did what he so villainously promised; Dali: "The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant." This jewel, though, I've lost for good.) In retrospect, I was also silly because within months of The Mary Tyler Moore Show's final airing the show would begin its assault on our afternoons via syndication; at one point, channel 5, the local Washington D.C. NBC affiliate station, was airing up to three episodes in a row in daytime, under clustered themes such as "Lou's Lu-Lu's!" But at my age I didn't really understand reruns, where they came from, who was in charge of them, why they happened —if they'd happen—except that Get Smart! and My Three Sons were great and we were blessed when they were beamed into our rec rooms every afternoon, the broadcasts originating from far-away Baltimore caught, tenuously, by a movable antenna on our roof that we activated from a console atop our TV set.

What's striking about that boy on the driveway and the misery his older brother created is how utterly archaic the tableau has become. Even my childish waiting for the inevitable reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show involved, well, waiting, and for who knew how long I'd have to wait! I've written before about this blend of anguish and pleasure, and how that's lost in this century, or anyway so changed as to be unrecognizable. In Plutarch's "Consolation To His Wife," written in the first century, the philosopher and his wife have to stoically bear weeks and months as their missives to each other arrive, awash in their grief of losing their small child. Try and imagine such an interval as you and your loved one are forced to deal separately with a loss of that magnitude. Now, when something—virtually anything—happens in, say, the remote countryside of France, I can know about it within seconds. This is, of course, both a staggering and, by now, not terribly fresh development. We're all aware at the hyper speed by which we live our lives, but none of us can understand the implications of it. Waiting as a fact, as a condition of being alive, as a kind of simmering that allows desire and anticipation and fear and regret and imagination to steep as their maddening flavor profile matures, has virtually been eliminated from contemporary life. Will we ever come to regret this organic, inevitable leap into the narrowing gap between seconds, minutes?


The Internet would have allowed that pathetic kid in his driveway to listen to and love the theme song anytime he wanted, as many times as he wanted. And the web might've rendered impotent his older brother's teasing. This is what I had no access to in 1977:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dilemma, Ctd.

"It is the artist who is truthful and it is photography which lies, for in reality time does not stop...". Auguste Rodin

"Cameras that capture the moment are giving us the impression to own it." Vittorio Canta

Friday, November 16, 2012

Solve this dilemma:

"Photography helps people to see." Berenice Abbott

"Photography is truth." Jean-Luc Godard

"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know." Diane Arbus

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some A's to Q's

I was happy to virtually sit down with at Eric Banister at Music Tomes and Darren Robbins at Heartbreak Beat to talk about my books, writing about rock & roll, the state of music journalism, and my influences and prized music books. I also weigh in on my favorite Fleshtones stories, what didn't make it in to Sweat and why, Greil Marcus, my Top 5 AC/DC songs, and more:

@ Music Tomes: "Conversations with Joe Bonomo"

@ Heartbreak Beat: "Interview with Joe Bonomo, Author of Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones!"

Monday, November 5, 2012

Norton Records vs Hurricane Sandy

As many of you know, Brooklyn-based label Norton Records was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. The warehouse was decimated, much of the stock ruined. Miriam Linna and Billy Miller are still asking for volunteers to help with the cleanup-and restoration effort. Just a year ago the label celebrated its 25th anniversary. There's something poignant about a label zealously devoted to restoring and archiving a forgotten past faced with the task of saving its own stock. Help if you can.

Here's a video, with contact info:


A grim update from The Brooklyn College's Kingsman:
Not only were nearly a quarter of a million record titles soaked and scattered throughout the expansive warehouse space, but countless archival materials of American rock and roll history. Photos, original fanzines, rare paperbacks and memorabilia, all destroyed, all irreplaceable. In addition, Kicks Books, the neophyte paperback publishing division of Norton, lost nearly their entire stock of brand new books.

“You open the doors and can’t even begin to think of what happened there,” Linna claimed. “It was like an earthquake or a hurricane! We opened the door and saw all the records, then we were like, oh my god, the brand new printed books! Oh my god the paperbacks!”

“The thing that got whacked the most was our 45s,” Miller explained. “Because we had tons and tons of picture sleeves for every release… we were able to keep them in print because we had extra sleeves for them.”

“Last November at this time we were having a big festivity about having a great label and 30 years of struggle and success and hard work and happiness and here it is, one year later, and we’re looking a total destruction of the mind,” Linna added.