Re: Amanda Knox

1

But there seem to be a ton of British people out there absolutely convinced that Foxy Knoxy is guilty as sin. Can I can ask our Knifecrime Island correspondents why that is?

Same reason you think she's innocent, I guess.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:08 AM
horizontal rule
2

Same reason you think she's innocent
UK people think she's guilty because there's a total lack of physical evidence connecting her to the crime? Funny justice system you got there.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:11 AM
horizontal rule
3

2: No, I would guess hardly anyone - me included - knows the details of the case, really cares to know, or would be competent to sort them out if they did know. The accused is an American in Europe, so many Americans think Knox is innocent. The victim is British and the accused is dopey and annoying, so many Brits think Knox is guilty.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:29 AM
horizontal rule
4

I remember several years ago hearing some Italian person railing against the American media for not reporting all the damning evidence that had been presented at the trial, but I can't remember who was saying this or what was said, so this is a pretty useless comment. I would guess a lot of the different viewpoints do come down to different media narratives.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:35 AM
horizontal rule
5

Well, if they wanted the American press to report it, they should have had the trial in American, shouldn't they? Cheeky foreigners.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:37 AM
horizontal rule
6

A primer on the case admittedly from a point of view that leads with the conclusion. But I'd say the fact that they already convicted someone for the murder is a good reason to question whether she's guilty.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:38 AM
horizontal rule
7

Yeah, I guess "media narratives", but I don't think there's been a ton of reporting in, say, the New York Times. Like, when you read a story about Knox in the Grauniad, Knifecrimers, do you come away feeling like there's a strong evidentiary chain linking Knox and Sollecito to the crime? Is there literally ambiguous evidence that British media sources are emphasizing that Americans are not hearing about?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:40 AM
horizontal rule
8

I'm trying to remember if 4 was the same person and conversation who was arguing that it was completely appropriate for Italy to put the scientists who failed to predict the L'Aquila earthquake in jail. I think it was.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:41 AM
horizontal rule
9

The OP was meant to read "the prosecutor is insane", for what it's worth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuliano_Mignini


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:49 AM
horizontal rule
10

I'm surprised by the UK response. Just because it's a common law country. Guilty or not, if she was acquitted (as opposed to sent back to a lower court for retrial), it violates double jeopardy. Of course, that doesn't apply in a civil law country. I think that's why it seems unjust to us. It certainly does to me.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:51 AM
horizontal rule
11

How about this detailed bit of reporting?

There really, truly is no evidence linking AK or RS to the crime. (The infamous bra clasp with MK's blood on it had been kicking around on the floor of the heavily trafficked crime scene for weeks before it was picked up).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:57 AM
horizontal rule
12

Does Italy not get reruns of Law & Order?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:02 AM
horizontal rule
13

From 9:

Mignini believed that the body was not decomposed enough to be Narducci's. A medical examination determined that the body was in fact Narducci's. Mignini then theorised that the body had been swapped twice. Mignini alleged that Narducci had been involved in a secret society and killed to keep quiet and that his father, Ugo Narducci, a member of a masonic lodge, had masterminded the cover up. Mignini's theory involved a complicated conspiracy of 20 people, including government officials and law enforcement officers. Mignini indicted 20 people and charged them with the concealment of Narducci's murder.

Wow. That is some intense crazy. Sounds like he should have been removed from his job a long time ago.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
14

I understand that, in Italy, the interwoven networks of obligation and indebtedness make it very difficult to fire people outright, but is there no tradition of finding a harmless sinecure for Crazy Cousin Sebastiano, rather than a powerful prosecutorial chair?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:08 AM
horizontal rule
15

I say this everywhere, but anyone interested in Mignini's crazy should read The Monster of Florence. The authors begin writing about a series of murders that began in Tuscany in the 60s and continued through the 80s, but once Mignini -- now in charge of the investigation -- crosses their paths, they end up variously arrested, investigated for the murders, deported etc.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:09 AM
horizontal rule
16

Amanda Knox must be so pissed at Ed Snowden.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:13 AM
horizontal rule
17

I had a horrible thought this morning: What if we've been pronouncing it wrong all this time, and the word is actually "fyook"?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:24 AM
horizontal rule
18

At this point there is absolutely no way that the facts of the Kercher case will ever emerge clearly, so Knox should, if retried, be found not guilty even if she has committed more murders than David Berkowitz. Most people in Britain would take that position.

The reason the case leaves a nasty taste for many people outside the United States is that the narrative there seems to have been controlled by an expensive PR flak employed by Knox's family, and whereas such flaks are almost as a matter of course regarded here as pathological liars for hire, over there nobody seems to have questioned their version for an instant.

There is a strong feeling that had she not been young, female and conventionally attractive, American public opinion might have taken a rather different course. British public opinion would concur that she is young, female and conventionally attractive, but would add that she seems deeply creepy and possibly too stupid to be true.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:52 AM
horizontal rule
19

That Rolling Stone article convinced me she's innocent. It's interesting seeing so many people assume that people who believe her innocence are relying on some kind of American exceptionalism.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:54 AM
horizontal rule
20

There is a strong feeling that had she not been young, female and conventionally attractive, American public opinion might have taken a rather different course. British public opinion would concur that she is young, female and conventionally attractive, but would add that she seems deeply creepy and possibly too stupid to be true.

Huh. Whereas the she's-innocent crowd here has the strong feeling that had she not been young, female, and unashamedly sexually active, the narrative of the case would have been shaped differently by the prosecution.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:56 AM
horizontal rule
21

20: Yes, this, exactly.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 9:00 AM
horizontal rule
22

It's sort of flattering that the UK thinks there is a level of stupidity in Americans that represents a floor on what can exist naturally.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 9:09 AM
horizontal rule
23

What if we've been pronouncing it wrong all this time, and the word is actually "fyook"?

I wouldn't care; the way my landsfrau Pamela Anderson pronounces it is good enough for me.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 9:23 AM
horizontal rule
24

This is interesting. Short version: there's no evidence that Knox and Sollecito were involved in the murder, but lots of evidence that they have lied a hell of a lot in the aftermath.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 9:29 AM
horizontal rule
25

There is a strong feeling that had she not been young, female and conventionally attractive, American public opinion might have taken a rather different course.

Indeed, Americans certainly fell in love with fellow young, female and conventionally attractive murder defendant Casey Anthony.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 9:34 AM
horizontal rule
26

24. Surely none of that is new?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 9:43 AM
horizontal rule
27

I haven't been following the case, so I should probably step aside.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 9:47 AM
horizontal rule
28

No, it's not new. All the stuff that was said during the bizarro however-many-hours-long interrogations is not new at all. (My favorite is when they take AK's blood, tell her she's HIV+ and must give them the names of all her sex partners.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 9:48 AM
horizontal rule
29

Usually in these cases where someone gets railroaded a big part of it is that they don't know who actually committed the crime and well someone has to pay. It's really weird here that they already have the murderer and still are intent on the railroading.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 9:56 AM
horizontal rule
30

What if we've been pronouncing it wrong all this time, and the word is actually "fyook"?

I didn't know anyone still used "gook" in the first place, but it's a big country, I suppose. Racist.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 10:26 AM
horizontal rule
31

9/13: yes, it's absolutely insane to postulate a conspiracy linked to politicians, murder, and Masonic lodges in postwar Italy.

I mean, maybe he is a nut, but weird stuff happens.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 10:28 AM
horizontal rule
32

I don't know enough about the case to have an opinion about her guilt or innocence. I thought this was interesting: an argument that she was better served by the Italian criminal-justice system than she would ahve been by the American system.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 10:28 AM
horizontal rule
33

32 is interesting. I had an Italian coworker who had an awful brush with the US legal system (involving very serious accusations made by an angry ex) and came away totally disgruntled (but mercifully not legally penalized, just out lawyer fees). I figured it was just a cultural norm thing, but maybe she was more right than I gave her credit for. We countered her criticism of the US system with the Knox case as an example of how things can go wrong for Americans in Italy as well as vice versa.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 11:52 AM
horizontal rule
34

I don't think there's a UK consensus she's guilty. The articles I read stressed the lack of physical evidence but also described various bits of odd or evasive behaviour by the accused. Personally, I didn't read anything and think. 'They did it!' Or even anything that gave a particularly plausible account in terms of motive and circumstantial evidence.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 12:19 PM
horizontal rule
35

The Italian legal system, as far as I can tell, works about as well as most civic institutions in Italy, which is to say that it's a joke.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 12:53 PM
horizontal rule
36

Amanda Knox and Philip Seymour Hoffman's death were mentioned in adjacent posts on an online forum. We need to investigate the connection.


Posted by: Opinionated Mignini | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 2:43 PM
horizontal rule
37

During various long boring shifts listening to a silent radio in a shed in the middle of a snow-covered wilderness, I read from cover to cover the only book available, an account of the Kercher case (Death in Perugia, by the Sunday Times' Italy correspondent), and came to the conclusion that there was zero reliable evidence of her guilt*. A confession that was written out by someone else, in a language Knox didn't speak, without tape or video corroboration, and signed by her after 24 hours of sleep deprivation and questioning? No physical evidence that would pass even basic tests? No motive? No eyewitnesses? No one placing the suspect at or even near the scene of the crime at the time of death?
The link in 32 argues that she's done better in Italy because they don't do as many plea bargains, and they allow appeals courts to decide on evidential matters, which is rarer in the US; but would a case this weak even have made it as far as a trial in the US?

*I appreciate this sounds like a cross between early John Le Carré and Josephine Tey's "The Daughter of Time". I can't help that.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 3:55 PM
horizontal rule
38

37 -- no, of course not, though I suppose with the always available but increasingly rare and even there these circumstances would be pretty extreme "black man in the Deep South" caveat. I generally am a big fan of civil law systems but when they get fucked up they can get really massively fucked up.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 4:06 PM
horizontal rule
39

Amanda Knox, Amanda Knox, the great big greedy nincompox.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 4:37 PM
horizontal rule
40

Is she the unflavored-gelatin heiress?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 4:48 PM
horizontal rule
41

I recommend the chapters on Italy in Magnus Enzensberger's Europe, Europe: Forays into a Continent. A lot of it is excerpted in the Amazon preview. The parable of the Italian Mint is priceless, after the story of the "minichecks." Sympathetic, imaginative, humane.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 8:29 PM
horizontal rule
42

I know nothing very little about this case, but living here and navigating basic details like residency or driver's license or filing expenses I could imagine getting caught on the wrong end of a bizarre political/personal/bureaucratic quagmire and getting completely screwed. That said, she strikes me as super creepy every time I see Knox speak publicly. But she's probably just anxious and awkward.


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 11:17 PM
horizontal rule
43

31: I was going to post exactly the same thing, in response to exactly the same comment.


Posted by: seeds | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:24 AM
horizontal rule
44

I'm a Knifecrimer and the press over there at the time were unanimously clear that Foxy Knoxy did it in the bedroom with a knife. The American media has been useful in presenting the other side of the story which meant 1) I stopped being convinced that she had done it and 2) it was, at the time, a useful lesson about how the circumstances can be written up to show definite guilt or definite innocence, depending on who you're reading (I know, I know - I was young at the time and had personal connections to the case). So pretty much what was said in 1 & 3.

18 I think is also spot-on: having been fed a long story by the press about all the weird stuff that went on, the new sanitised version of Amanda Know that's being pushed from the US sits uneasily with the perception that many Brits have of her. Plus, yeah, that obvious PR stuff rubs people up the wrong way the world over, surely?

Ultimately the Italian justice system has, unsurprisingly, been a shambles and - for AK at least if not RS - it happily doesn't matter what the verdict is any longer, as she'll never be extradited. Which is good - thanks to the Italian criminal justice system, we'll never know what happened and Blackstone's ratio etc. But I don't think that it should surprise you fellows in the states that people over here still find something fishy about the whole affair. There'll probably always be unanswered questions about how involved the two of them were.


Posted by: seeds | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:55 AM
horizontal rule
45

[Not to be mysterious: personal connections = knew international students studying in Perugia at the time, who were socially acquainted with those involved. The only person I ever met (very briefly) was Patrick Lumumba, who AK accused of the murder, quite possibly under duress.]


Posted by: seeds | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:05 AM
horizontal rule
46

I've never paid much attention to the Knox case or particularly cared about it, but I did happen to be passing through the Seattle airport on the day the appellate court released her, and it was striking how big a deal that was in the local media.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:06 AM
horizontal rule
47

Agree with 44. The book I mentioned reading was written by someone who fairly clearly believed that she was guilty. The tabloids - which includes the Times and Sunday Times - loved it; they had a pretty dead English student (whose father was a tabloid journalist!) and a pretty American suspect? Leaks about sexual elements to the crime, maybe drugs? GAME ON.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:22 AM
horizontal rule
48

It's basically the Daily Mail (which has been back at it this week rolling in its own vomit). IIRC the original case boiled down to a mass of racism and slut-shaming, and I'm unaware of anything that has happened to change that. Of course, the Mail is absolutely delighted by this, so much so that it forgot to be contemptuous of Italians for five minutes or thereabouts.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 3:02 AM
horizontal rule
49

The Italian legal system in a tweet: AK is guilty and Silvio Berlusconi is innocent.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 3:03 AM
horizontal rule
50

42: A friend of mine had an aunt who retired to Florence. He took care of her for several months while she was dying. He said that in Italy you had to have family with you during those times. You just did. (He's not the least bit Italian).

After she died, it would have taken forever to get her documents out of the safe deposit box if he'd done it the normal way. Luckily, one of her ex-lovers was the vice president of the bank and he got them quite easily--maybe too easily. A very difficult system to navigate without personal connections.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 6:37 AM
horizontal rule
51

49 is perfect.

And I do think that a huge amount of the British coverage was driven by the Mail's slut-shaming campaign, which was awesome. I went to see "Inside Llewyn Davies" last night - a completely heartless film - but Carey Mulligan has a monologue in it which approaches in intensity and unfairness the way that the Mail will go after its designated victims. And in Knox - the bad sexy pretty girl who supposedly murdered Kercher, the good sexy pretty girl, it had a story that played power chords all over its mythology. With pictures!



Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 6:46 AM
horizontal rule
52

Perhaps "Awesome" should have been "awful". I am parenthetically interested in whether "Awesome" is one of the very rare instances of a word excaping from the evangelical subculture ("Our gahd is awesome") into the wider popular culture. Because the only place it was at all common before the Nineties was in the Authorised Version of the bible.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 6:48 AM
horizontal rule
53

I would guess it as California hippie spirituality -- hippies to kids a half-generation or so younger, and then from the kids to the wider culture at large. But that's a guess, just because I think of early users of "awesome" as surfers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 6:57 AM
horizontal rule
54

Because the only place it was at all common before the Nineties was in the Authorised Version of the bible

Not over here; it carried its current meaning of "super good" from the early '80s on the east coast at least. I assume the novel meaning was originally a California surfer coinage.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 6:59 AM
horizontal rule
55

Sorta-pwned, but really just being confirmatory. Surfers do enjoy them some spiritual imagery.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:00 AM
horizontal rule
56

IIRC the original case boiled down to a mass of racism and slut-shaming

Interesting that this was unmentioned anywhere in the coverage: the victim was, at least by US standards, nonwhite. Her mother was Indian.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:06 AM
horizontal rule
57

Thanks to the etymologists. But where did the surfers get it from if not late night stoner sessions with the book of revelation?


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:08 AM
horizontal rule
58

A very difficult system to navigate without personal connections.

There is a quasi-religious belief in the value of personal connections to the extent that people will use them even when it might be to their detriment.

Actually, the chapter that Idp suggested mentions this - the rich dying in their private hospital beds waiting for the eminent professore - though the opening of the chapter was (self-admittedly) kind of unfair potshots about mysticism. The gift/obligation system it mentions is still present & totally opaque to me - I took my son to the doctor just after new years and everyone in the waiting room had a gift of some sort for her and she had an impressive array of gift prosecco/champagnes lined up on the floor next to her desk. She just shrugged when I pointed them out (she's German, actually, possibly the only German on the continent who doesn't speak much English).


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:12 AM
horizontal rule
59

Yeah, we used to say that something was really awesome. I remember the lessons from the English Anglo-Catholic priest in the mide-to-late eighties lecturing us about how we had to understand that "awesome" was only properly used to describe God, because it was He who could inspire awe. I think that he also ha something to say about why it was wrong to pluck eyebrows excessively. I don't know whether he was an intelligent design sort, but he seemed to be saying that eyebrows were meant to collect sweat, and if you took them away it would all drip down, so we needed to respect God's design. Or something like that.

By the way, speaking of English priests. I heard a Radio 4 program about the Church of England the other day. It wasn't bad.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:13 AM
horizontal rule
60

57: oh, I mean, there are no shortage of Christian surfers and/or Christian hippie surfers. I'm sure you're right about that part, especially since ground zero for the megachurch is within a couple of miles of some primo Cali breaks. The whole California hippie to jesus hippie to evangelical cultural history is a really fascinating one.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:17 AM
horizontal rule
61

Thanks, BG. Both anecdotes much appreciated. But your priest sounds illiterate as well as odd. I mean, wasn't the whole Romantic movement about getting your awe sublimely on?


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:19 AM
horizontal rule
62

This is Spicoli from 1982

The OED has the first uses as a trivial from of enthusiastic approval being from a Washington Post article on basketball in 1979 and the Preppy Handbook in 1980.

Americans were using it in non-religious contexts for 'overwhelming' as early as 1961. Their first citation is from McCall's


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:20 AM
horizontal rule
63

60: Especially the role of wossface, John Wimber, the drummer for the Righteous Brothers who founded the biggest and most successful post-denominational charismatic network, the Vineyard.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:21 AM
horizontal rule
64

58: I bought an Edible arrangements fruit basket for my parents' medical team, since they were switching to a different team when they moved to a better facility. I wanted the transfer to go smoothly, and my parents can be kind of difficult, and I have probably lost my temper too. They said it was unnecessary, but I know that the nurses appreciated it.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:29 AM
horizontal rule
65

61: Well, my memory may be muddled, but he was not the most theologically sophisticated priest ever. He had a great name: Ti/tus Oa/tes. It was really rather ironic.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:41 AM
horizontal rule
66

Additionally, the parish in Boston was called All Saints.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:43 AM
horizontal rule
67

oh, that is the absolute best name for an Anglo-Catholic priest since the rather earlier heyday of names like FleeFornication Bates


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:59 AM
horizontal rule
68

He had a great name: Ti/tus Oa/tes. It was really rather ironic.

Did he know who killed Edmund Berry Godfrey?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 8:06 AM
horizontal rule
69

At least in Southern California where I grew up, "awesome" has been pretty common since the early 80s.

Maybe that supports the surfer connection.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:11 AM
horizontal rule
70

Speaking if California accents, someone pointed out to me recently the completely correct point that the "valley girl" accent is specifically a Jewish accent. It was spawned at the Sherman Oaks galleria and is based on the intersection of an east coast NY Jewish accent and surfer talk.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:20 AM
horizontal rule
71

though the opening of the chapter was (self-admittedly) kind of unfair potshots about mysticism.

I always read that as assuming the character of the northerner for dramatic effect. He ends up respectful, and very contemptuous of middle-class teutonic romanticising of Italy.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:30 AM
horizontal rule
72

At Xmas, O's (Canadian) cousins, used "pro" where young oudemia would have used "awesome." "OMG! That is *so* pro!"


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:30 AM
horizontal rule
73

72: I blame neoliberalism.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:32 AM
horizontal rule
74

I remember Obama's code-talking, the re-Christianized "awesome God" reference in the famous 2004 keynote, put me off at first. I probably aired that atm. I got over it, and worked for him both elections.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:33 AM
horizontal rule
75

72: Short for "provincial" I'd bet.


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:36 AM
horizontal rule
76

72: my favorite will always be "gnar".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:37 AM
horizontal rule
77

Any takers for 'gallus', or 'braw'?

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gallus#Scots
http://literalbarrage.org/blog/2005/01/20/your-scottish-slang-word-o-the-day-gallus/

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=braw


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
78

I am parenthetically interested in whether "Awesome" is one of the very rare instances of a word excaping from the evangelical subculture ("Our gahd is awesome") into the wider popular culture.

Not only that -- if I remember my 80s stereotypical surfer/skater lingo, "awesome" was frequently accompanied by "righteous".

Also in preparation: a monograph that explains the derivation of "gnarly" from "gnosis".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:45 AM
horizontal rule
79

77: Huh. That said it's derived from "gallows," but surely it's just Latin? As in cock-y?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
80

76: I say gnar! -- stolen from Californian niece and nephew. I also say "mano" --may-no, like maniac, which is apparently what the Canadian kids said in the 70s for intense/insane. "That Habs game was mano!"


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 9:51 AM
horizontal rule
81

Since our culture is in permanent decline, I look forward to the day when teenagers say "That's *so* motherfucker."


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:00 AM
horizontal rule
82

Wizard cocksucker isn't good enough for you?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:13 AM
horizontal rule
83

I suppose I should point out the comma fault in 72 before neB does?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:19 AM
horizontal rule
84

70. Moon Unit Zappa is Jewish?????


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:20 AM
horizontal rule
85

||
Oh, god, I have one comic article and a review of a really second-rate book to write. Neither task appeals, so I ask the mineshaft whether anyone ever wrote an honest history of the Grateful Dead, with all the unfashionable and squalid drug habits laid out. I want to know which band member was on what and when, so that I can correlate this with the collapse of the music. Quite apart from the intake necessary to keep playing the same damn songs for thirty years without killing anyone except yourself
|>


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:40 AM
horizontal rule
86

84: I have no idea about her mom, but it was a put-on accent. The Valley is sort of NJ to LA's NY.

(Don't worry; I'm banning myself.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
87

I will bring up again the point that my cohort in 2nd grade used "devo" as an adjective to convey superlative appreciation. Haven't heard anyone before or since who said that.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
88

I can't even name more than one member of the band.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:42 AM
horizontal rule
89

88 to 85. I can't name any members of the band Devo. I just remember the hats.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:42 AM
horizontal rule
90

88 Just name a few drugs at random and you're bound to be right.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:44 AM
horizontal rule
91

Oooh. A test. I abominate the Dead, but let's see: Jerry Garcia (deceased, semi-recently), Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Pig Pen (deceased, in the 70s?), Donna something sometimes? Donna Godchaux???, um, someone named Mickey.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:48 AM
horizontal rule
92

Mickey Hart, lyricist John Perry Barlow of EFF fame.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:49 AM
horizontal rule
93

The Valley is sort of NJ to LA's NY.

(Don't worry; I'm banning myself.)

So banned!

And actually way, way less true than once it was.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:50 AM
horizontal rule
94

93: Right! -- but when the song came out? Also, the kids in Clueless don't have a lot good to say about it either!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:51 AM
horizontal rule
95

91: it's strange to reflect that Garcia died in 1995, which is not semi-recently by the standards of pop culture. And had essentially been a zombie for the preceding 20 years.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 10:53 AM
horizontal rule
96

91. And a ton of other keyboard players, mostly deceased. It was said that playing keyboards for the Grateful Dead was the most dangerous occupation in America.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:01 AM
horizontal rule
97

Charley Carp is our primary Deadhead, no?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:02 AM
horizontal rule
98

I couldn't have come up with the name "Godchaux", but now that you mention it, I'm sure that she and her husband were both in the band.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:03 AM
horizontal rule
99

I *think* that the only living keyboard player for the Dead is Bruce Hornsby who was never a member. But otherwise, Pigpen, Keith Godcheaux. Brent thingy. Vince Welnick - drink, car crash while drunk, OD, suicide ... that's a worse record than even the band which made Layla (bike crash, cirrhosis, life imprisonment for murdering mother and two survivors)


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:04 AM
horizontal rule
100

could have done with another comma in that last list.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
101

Is that three murders or an unspoken plea for the Oxford comma?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
102

D'oh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:06 AM
horizontal rule
103

99.last forgot stone-cold racism.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:08 AM
horizontal rule
104

103: hasn't he grown out of that? Genuine question.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:12 AM
horizontal rule
105

Yes, the "Valley" that produced "Vals" and the "Valley Girl" accent is basically no more as a culturally distinct entity.

I thought that the Dead had some kind of historian-in-residence rolling around with them who did a supposedly pretty good job of an objective history of the band. I don't hate the Dead at all (American Beauty and SOME of the live albums are stone cold good albums) but they clearly should have disbanded by about, I dunno, 1980, and also then murdered 40% their fanbase.* By the early 1990s they were the worst cultural force in the world.

*which would have made them way more metal.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:14 AM
horizontal rule
106

I *think* that the only living keyboard player for the Dead is Bruce Hornsby who was never a member.

Tom Constanten (Anthem of the Sun - Live Dead) is alive and well and was a formally member for a couple of years


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:15 AM
horizontal rule
107

104: my understanding was the he claimed to have grown out of it but lately has been sort of edging back into disavowing his previous disavowals. See the last paragraph here.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:16 AM
horizontal rule
108

"Workingman's Dead" is a great album. Also the story behind it that they were being paid in rifles by some club owner who also had a gunshop and had cash flow problems for awhile.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:19 AM
horizontal rule
109

85. I have soft spot for a lot of their music, hearing it unexpectedly is usually nice. this is a start, enumerates fatal overdoses

Since so much of the dead's music is live recordings, isn't a more fair comparison with blues musicians who had a revival rather than rock bands, or Jazz musicians known for live recordings? Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Billie Holiday, all had serious addictions and recorded for decades.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:28 AM
horizontal rule
110

106 - damn. Oh, yes. It's true. I have a rather lovely "album" of his. Halford's suggestion of murdering 40% of their fanbase is a fine one. I saw them and interviewed Lesh in Berlin in 1990, and the circus was unlovely. For obvious reasons, their followers then were the affluent kids slumming it.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:30 AM
horizontal rule
111

And I don't know whether or not they drank, but the rediscovered Pinetop Perkins or Furry Lewis are pale echoes of their former selves.

Or Buddy Guy, who also has been playing music that gets worse every year to a reasonably enthusiastic and uncritical audience, maybe that's the right analogy. Or Elvis-- many artists produce second-rate work playing for an uncritical audience that doesn't want change. Seems like an enjoyable retirement, though maybe one that doesn't need to be recorded over and over again.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:35 AM
horizontal rule
112

I don't hate the Dead at all

I have *issues* here people. Respect my pain! I knew the words to "Sugar Magnolia" before I knew the words to "Happy Birthday."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:37 AM
horizontal rule
113

Well it is the nature of fame that you turn into a karaoke act of yourself. But it's still sad.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:48 AM
horizontal rule
114

There are counterexamples as well-- Patti Smith, Gil-Scott Heron, Duke Ellington.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 11:54 AM
horizontal rule
115

Well, even Patti Smith's gone off a bit since I first heard her.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 12:48 PM
horizontal rule
116

I think it's more or less impossible to be a popular musician who is as fruitful late in life as you were in young life. Not only the calcifying effects of age, not only the buildup of old habits, but also economic pressures and changing tastes. A lot of the rock heroes of the '60s were still producing new, relatively fresh* music well into the '80s, but by the early '90s nobody cared, and the only way they could make a living** was to play the hits. The feedback loops get all screwed up: McCartney could write another "Yesterday", but it wouldn't get the popular response, and if he writes another "Give My Regards to Broad Street", at least some of his inner circle will tell him it's brilliant. And if he plays "Hey Jude" again, 80,000 people will stand up and sing along.

Some of the ones who've avoided that (e.g. Dylan) went through pretty fallow periods earlier that probably gave them a chance to start fresh. But no one - not even Johnny Cash - has the relevance at 60 that they had at 25. I suspect that a lot of these guys have put out at least some late stuff that is - literally - every bit as good as what made them famous, but nobody really knows about it but the diehards.

*that is, albums that weren't mere pretexts for touring, and that weren't pure retreads of earlier sounds. You can argue Clapton's albums of the '80s sucked, but they weren't just Cream or Layla redux, and they were fairly popular at the time

**in the manner to which they were accustomed, obvs.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:32 PM
horizontal rule
117

113: All walks of life: George Best, for example. Had it, lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:39 PM
horizontal rule
118

117.last: the karaoke version of Metal Machine Music is weird as shit.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:41 PM
horizontal rule
119

I think 116 is right.

Sometimes a great pop musician can make a statement, a gesture that isn't so much new music as a way of using his legend, who he is.

I'm thinking of Johnny Cash's cover of I Hurt Myself. Another possibility is Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World

But the impact depends on knowing them, who they are and what they mean. Someone who'd never heard of them wouldn't get it.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
120

118: No, it's not bad, but it's not great either. And in your heart you kind of know that although it sounds all right, it's actually just shite.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
121

The downside of blowing off work is I knew I would need to comment in threads again in a state of full consciousness.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:50 PM
horizontal rule
122

116: Neil Young:Greendale, Prairie Wind!, Living With War are as personal, autobiographical, lyrical and directly political as his early work. And he has an audience.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:54 PM
horizontal rule
123

115. She's always been unpredictable IMO. Her 2012 album Banga was, I think, really good. Before that, her cover of Smells Like Teen SPirit was fantastic.

I guess when I think of older musicians doing good work, I'm thinking less of celebrity performers like Tina Turner or Neil Young, but rather Ibrahim Ferrer or Ali Farka Toure, traditional musicians who get the spotlight when they're older. There are also lots of older musicians who manage collaborations very well when they're older-- Gil-Scott Heron, RL Burnside, John Lee Hooker.

I don't care for the Beatles or lots of 60s rockers, so I'm not the best person to assess whether they ever deserved the attention they had. McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" seems like it fits perfectly with his other pointless solo work, which millions apparently love.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 1:58 PM
horizontal rule
124

91-92:We are missing a drummer. And the lyricist.

Not at all a deadhead, just another band in my regular rotation, mostly 68-74

As far as history, they played music and got loaded. What's to tell?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:05 PM
horizontal rule
125

There was a book in the late 70s that was pretty explicit about who took what when. I'm trying to remember who wrote it. Might have used the words Book of the Dead in the title.

124.1 Kreutzman and Hunter.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:10 PM
horizontal rule
126

oh, wait - it was by Hank Harrison, Courtney Love's father. But it didn't take the story up much beyond 1970 and he didn't strike me as an entirely reliable narrator.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:17 PM
horizontal rule
127

Their greatest commercial success came in the 80s, I think. I see looking it up that In the Dark was released in 1987. Before that, you didn't much hear them on non-college radio, and you could pretty much always get a ticket if you wanted to go.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:18 PM
horizontal rule
128

126 -- That's the one I was thinking of, yes. I thought he covered death of pigpen in 1973 and retirement in 1974. There's that nitrous scene in the movie (shot in 74) but I guess that's mostly crew.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:21 PM
horizontal rule
129

I saw Further a couple of years ago, and it was more fun than I thought it would be. Yes, they played Hey Jude, and yes everyone sang along. And it was terrific. Like singing along with the carols at a Xmas service.

Entertainment is tough work, for sure. How many times did Carol Channing sing Hello Dolly? David Bromberg tells a story on his recording of Mr. Bojangles about how he toured with Jerry Jeff, and played it every night for 2 years. And after the clubs would close, they'd play parody versions. The point, though, is the audience experience. There's a reason new Xmas carols don't join the canon very often.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:41 PM
horizontal rule
130

Jerry Jeff Walker probably still sings Mr. Bojangles every night.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:48 PM
horizontal rule
131

There's a reason new Xmas carols don't join the canon very often.

Because old people are living longer.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 2:51 PM
horizontal rule
132

Problem? Solution.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 3:05 PM
horizontal rule
133

The last thing the world needs is more Christmas carols. There are already plenty and the few attempts I've encountered at coming up with new ones have been excruciatingly awful.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 3:25 PM
horizontal rule
134

traditional musicians who get the spotlight when they're older

Indeed, I was very much thinking of the BVSC as I wrote that comment. Thing is, it's a very different arc to simply be a working musician in a tradition throughout your life as opposed to being a pop* star when young and then having to figure out your second act.

For example, the generation just behind Hooker and Waters - the electric blues guys who didn't invent the sound, but were of the scene - have more or less spent their adult lives playing one sort of music, personalizing as they go, but with no audience expectation of new musical revelations, nor of slavish reproduction (the audience wants to hear certain songs, but you don't need to reproduce a recording the way that people pretty much wanted to hear Hooker play "Boogie Chillun'" as from the record). And the job at age 30 is roughly like the job at age 60, with probably a shifting blend of fire/professionalism.

*broadly defined


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 3:39 PM
horizontal rule
135

George Best, for example. Had it, lost it.

"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 3:52 PM
horizontal rule
136

re: 116

Yeah, I think much of that is right; in terms of the way the incentives work for older musicians. There is the whole Retromania type thesis, that audiences are much less interested in the 'new' than they once might have been, too.

I also wonder if there's a typical productive life-span. It's pretty easy to think of a lot of musicians who have, say, 20 years between their early attention-getting work and their good late stuff that continues to be interesting. The number that have 30+ years gets very small indeed.

Jazz and classical music seem different, as forms. It's possible to think of countless players who had 40+ year careers who were still making good music at the end of their careers.

re: 117

I'd argue that Bowie does still sort of have it. Or at least, has 'lost it' to a much less significant degree than almost any of his (chronological) peers.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 5:18 PM
horizontal rule
137

134 is very acute. Buddy Guy is exactly what you describe, a respected celebrity in Chicago, working in a tradition/style. He's in his 70s now. I'll always be glad I went to Junior Wells' club in 1970s, on an ordinary night, and experienced it.

And I endorse ttaM's statement about Bowie. He's the only figure from that time who keeps coming up in my estimation. I had no interest in him circa '71, some by '79, and so on. Was genuinely curious about the new album last year. To my kids he's always been big; I can remember when I didn't think so.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 3-14 7:54 PM
horizontal rule
138

I think it's more or less impossible to be a popular musician who is as fruitful late in life as you were in young life.

Unless you're Beethoven.

I also wonder if there's a typical productive life-span. It's pretty easy to think of a lot of musicians who have, say, 20 years between their early attention-getting work and their good late stuff that continues to be interesting. The number that have 30+ years gets very small indeed.

This is the "you get old and you can't hack it" thesis from Trainspotting again, isn't it?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 2:41 AM
horizontal rule
139

re: 138.1

I think jazz and classical music don't really have that difficulty. It seems like what largely truncates people's productive careers is death, or disability, much more than just getting old/stale.

re: 138.2

It's hard to think of many popular musicians who remain good and interesting for more than 20 - 25 years. It's not that there aren't any, but there aren't a lot.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 3:38 AM
horizontal rule
140

138.2 20 years is an eternity for popular musicians. I'm not sure I can think of anybody who's really lasted that long, as opposed to "You know, this is really quite listenable considering he or she has been around since my voice broke." Stevie Wonder, maybe?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 4:08 AM
horizontal rule
141

Thst was to 139, not 138.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 4:08 AM
horizontal rule
142

re: 140

I think Bowie, definitely. Tom Waits - 20 years or so from Closing Time to Bone Machine and The Black Rider. Nearly thirty to Bad as Me. Probably Springsteen. Not a personal favourite, but over 20 years from his debut album to The Ghost of Tom Joad, say, and I don't think his more recent stuff is bad.

I'm sure others can come up with examples. Maybe Robert Plant? Not a huge Zeppelin fan [although I like some of their stuff quite a bit], but from Zep 1 through to his album with Alison Krauss, that's about 30 years give or take.

Stevie Wonder, I'm not so sure. But that may just be me. For my own personal taste, I pretty much find everything he did from about 1974 onwards to be un-listenable pap.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 4:25 AM
horizontal rule
143

Some of the ones who've avoided that (e.g. Dylan) went through pretty fallow periods earlier that probably gave them a chance to start fresh. But no one - not even Johnny Cash - has the relevance at 60 that they had at 25. I suspect that a lot of these guys have put out at least some late stuff that is - literally - every bit as good as what made them famous, but nobody really knows about it but the diehards.

Maybe you're using a different definition of diehard than I am, but Dylan's Time-Out-Of-Mind-and-later albums were well received (in some cases more than they deserved) by a pretty broad audience, though to be fair his live performances are very much for the diehards. Similarly Bowie's last two albums, as noted above. And absolutely loads of people liked Johnny Cash's Hurt cover.

The relevance thing I'll grant you. Maybe Nick Cave is more relevant now (as in late 2000s, early 2010s) than he was at the start of his career.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 4:31 AM
horizontal rule
144

Gah.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 4:31 AM
horizontal rule
145

Bobby Womack? I know that his work with Gorillaz, and his Albarn/Russell produced album is a collaboration with younger artists, but it's still pretty good. And that's, er, 50+ years since his first stuff with the Valentinos.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 4:42 AM
horizontal rule
146

I think jazz and classical music don't really have that difficulty. It seems like what largely truncates people's productive careers is death, or disability, much more than just getting old/stale.

Which is odd, really. Why should it be so different for jazz and classical? And blues, for that matter.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 4:44 AM
horizontal rule
147

re: 146

I don't really know. I've been puzzling over that since reading the various comments above last night. And it has come up before here and elsewhere.

Perhaps it's something to do with the role that technique and depth of understanding plays in both jazz and classical? But that may be a stupid thought.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 4:46 AM
horizontal rule
148

One thought: because pop music, by definition, changes quickly? If it stops changing, it stops being pop. Frank Sinatra was pop back in 1951. If he had been still performing in the same style, with the same degree of expertise, in 1991, he might well still have been a success commercially, but he wouldn't have been pop any more.
Glenn Gould or Muddy Waters don't have that disadvantage; Bach stays Bach.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 5:06 AM
horizontal rule
149

I don't know. Pop can be fairly static. A lot of artists we think of as still contemporary and relevant aren't really doing much that's different from things people were doing in the mid 60s.

I don't know if you could really argue that pop music over any 10 or 20 year period changed much faster than jazz did through the first 50 or 60 years of its history as a musical form. You could argue that, as a form, it has ossified now, and much/most modern jazz isn't much different from music you could have heard in the mid 60s. But there was a long period where it changed rapidly.

Ditto classical music, although I suppose the movement is a bit slower. But, [picking random examples] from mid-century stuff like Shostakovich to, say, Steve Reich, or John Adams is only 20 or 25 years. Is there less difference between Shostakovich and Reich than there is between two random pop musicians chosen over a similar time scale?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 5:15 AM
horizontal rule
150

I think it may partly be a thing that popular music is intended as entertaining ephemera, and people who are good at producing such things eventually either start repeating themselves or try to do stuff that's beyond their competence in an effort not to repeat themselves. Early jazz (which was popular music) had a similar tendency, though the surviving musicians tended to wind up as respected celebrities (Armstrong, Bechet, Ory...) more than self parodies.

Later jazz and classical lets people avoid the repetition trap by their complexity, and they can afford the complexity because their not tied to a three week media cycle. Pop that lasts does so in spite of being pop, not because of it.

That said, I remember a conversation I had with my dad, wondering how the journeyman musicians of the late baroque would have reacted if they'd been told that their occasional toccatas would be regarded as timeless classics in three hundred years time.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 5:33 AM
horizontal rule
151

I remember a conversation I had with my dad, wondering how the journeyman musicians of the late baroque would have reacted if they'd been told that their occasional toccatas would be regarded as timeless classics in three hundred years time.

Reminds me of my favourite piece of information about the Toccata and Fugue in D, which is that Bach apparently wrote it because the Nikolaikirche had just got a new and expensive organ fitted and Bach wanted to be able to show off what it could do (presumably in front of the kapellmeisters of other lesser churches who would be suitably humbled).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 5:48 AM
horizontal rule
152

A lot of artists we think of as still contemporary and relevant aren't really doing much that's different from things people were doing in the mid 60s.

hmm. So the argument isn't that "playing like the Beatles was pop in 1965 and now isn't", it is that "playing like the Beatles was pop in 1965, and still is, but the Beatles probably wouldn't be able to hack it now"?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 5:49 AM
horizontal rule
153

Well, it's that, people who start off making interesting and entertaining music usually end up producing stale rehashes of their earlier stuff, or worse, by the time 20 years have passed.

And, let's face it, the Beatles [the ones who aren't dead] can't really hack it now, although McCartney occasionally gives it a go. When did the Stones last make an interesting record? Early 80s, maybe?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 5:55 AM
horizontal rule
154

The Beatles are a hundred a fuckety seven. The twenty years were up before I finished high school.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 6:00 AM
horizontal rule
155

Nah, the Stones stopped being interesting when Mick Taylor left. Not sure why, he wasn't writing the songs. It just happened that way.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 6:00 AM
horizontal rule
156

re: 155

Yeah, I was being charitable, and including some of their early 80s records which have singles on them that still get regular airplay. Which you couldn't say about anything they've done since. Personally I only really like their stuff with Taylor, and maybe a few things from the tail end of the Brian Jones period.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 6:08 AM
horizontal rule
157

That said, I remember a conversation I had with my dad, wondering how the journeyman musicians of the late baroque would have reacted if they'd been told that their occasional toccatas would be regarded as timeless classics in three hundred years time.

All those pieces by Carulli or Sor in the classical guitar book. Prolific!


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 6:16 AM
horizontal rule
158

Part of the answer has to be that pop fandom is as much about identity and tribal identification as about music, and you really only get one chance, early, to establish your brand, and then you have the tall task of riffing on that theme without descending into self-parody. It seems the sustainability of the act is as much about the character the band plays as the music they play. Tom Waits can keep being the cool guy who knows more about the part of town that's a little too seedy to visit for yourself, and Bruce Springsteen can keep being blue-collar sensitive, but when the Stones try to be bad boys into their seventies, you have karaoke.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 6:32 AM
horizontal rule
159

So, Miley Cyrus might have some troubles keeping her career going.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 6:36 AM
horizontal rule
160

It seems the sustainability of the act is as much about the character the band plays as the music they play.

That's interesting. There might be something in that. Someone like Waits has had several musical reinventions, but much of the 'character' he imbues the music with has remained the same.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 6:40 AM
horizontal rule
161

You know who has done a fairly astounding job of not turning into karaoke of himself? Bob Mould.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 7:35 AM
horizontal rule
162

I was unaware that Bob Mould had recorded music more recently than 1998.

Someone like Waits has had several musical reinventions, but much of the 'character' he imbues the music with has remained the same.

Also Mark E. Smith, for some definitions of 'character'.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 7:55 AM
horizontal rule
163

I've had the car radio on Alternative the last few months, and have changed my mind about pop music's development. Sure, I hear references, chords and timbres from the '60s, and the influences on any given song can be ticked off as you listen. But the combinations are new, and knowing, sophisticated. It's as if they expect you, the listener, to hear the influences, and the images they invoke, but also the comment on them, the new context. A good sign of this is how many musicians now perform in radically different styles from song to song. Time was you expected a signature sound from even the best. The history has begun to have depth, and a much bigger tool kit.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:26 AM
horizontal rule
164

Maybe you're using a different definition of diehard than I am, but Dylan's Time-Out-Of-Mind-and-later albums were well received (in some cases more than they deserved) by a pretty broad audience, though to be fair his live performances are very much for the diehards. Similarly Bowie's last two albums, as noted above. And absolutely loads of people liked Johnny Cash's Hurt cover.

I think I was unclear (rereading my comment, I tried to squeeze 8 thoughts into 3 sentences). My point about Dylan was that, although his post-Time stuff is widely- and well-received, it also came after literally 20 years during which it was hard to point to anything he was doing that was really substantial. So you can't point to him as a guy who's been making good, relevant, and popular(ish) music for 50 years, because he took a large detour into crap in the middle. And there are other artists who've done a similar thing (my sense was that Bowie was felt to have done this in the 90s, but maybe I'm wrong).

The diehard point was more about lesser acts, or ones that aren't reputed to still be doing good stuff. Apparently the Zombies put out their third (!) album a couple years back, and maybe it was truly good, but who would know? I can tell you that Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull had a run from about '99 through '05 when they put out 3 albums just as good as their primary run* from '69 through '79, but again, who knows that but me and a (relatively) few others?

And what I meant about Cash was that what he did in his Sun days was massively influential, in a way that inflected rock music going forward. "Hurt" was amazing and popular, but I'm not sure a lot of post-American Recordings bands will be influenced by it. Although, thinking about it, maybe I'm wrong about that. It's hard to tease out "influenced by Hurt" from "Hurt made me notice Cash, who is now an influence."

*not as good as their very best work from their prime, but probably better than a few of those albums, and plenty of individual songs that would slot in fairly high on a top 100 countdown


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:31 AM
horizontal rule
165

138.last, see 117.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:44 AM
horizontal rule
166

158 is a great point. And actually, following on what I said about Tull, I think part of the reason there was a renaissance (granted, not a popular one) was that Anderson came to terms with a new character. The band had always been "serious" music presented antically, but the antics grew staler and more ridiculous as he grew older. Letting go of that, and embracing the serious (without being self-important; one of his best recent songs is a sweet little thing about his cat who died), let him drop the rock cliches that no longer fit.

I suspect part of the trick for someone who starts as pure pop is to quickly transition into something a bit more substantial, so that there's something other than "fresh young thing" to fall back on once you pass 25. Madonna was no more substantial than Debbie Gibson or Britney Spears at first, but by her second or third album, she was starting to grow up a bit ("Papa Don't Preach", that sort of thing). Transitioned from sex kitten to sex goddess, and goddesses have gravitas.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:44 AM
horizontal rule
167

Madonna had the blasphemy inherent in her name to give her pop-trifles substance. So, songs such as "Like a Virgin" and "Papa Don't Preach" had an extra meaning when song by a sexy young woman named Madonna.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:51 AM
horizontal rule
168

163 is a really interesting observation. The first ~40-50 years of rock were pretty reliable cycles of revival and renewal, but fairly literal - the Stray Cats just kind of were rockabilly, '90s punks didn't do much that '70s punks didn't, etc. But, as you say, there's enough history now - and people listen to music in different ways now - that allow songwriters to really layer things in interesting ways.

Bono apparently once said something to the effect that most bands have 2 songs: the fast one and the slow one. If you could come up with a third one, you had it made (because that gave you longevity). I think the possibilities are growing.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:51 AM
horizontal rule
169

And of course "Lucky Star" was designed to inflame the passions of astrolastrist pagans who reject the virgin birth entirely.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:53 AM
horizontal rule
170

I still think Cyndi Lauper had a better voice.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:54 AM
horizontal rule
171

For singing, that is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:55 AM
horizontal rule
172

170: Of course, she did. A few better songs as well. But her name lacks resonance.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:56 AM
horizontal rule
173

But her name lacks resonance.

Except in Germany, where the reassurance that she was a lady led to a long career as a sort of surrogate royalty.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 8:57 AM
horizontal rule
174

I still think Cyndi Lauper had a better voice.

Madonna had a better film career.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:03 AM
horizontal rule
175

Talk about a low bar to fail to clear.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:04 AM
horizontal rule
176

Has Germany superseded, or taken its place alongside France as the place where people think otherwise? I'm thinking of a kind of they-think-Jerry-Lewis-is-brilliant effect, not clownishness like the Hasselhoff phenomenon. But it seems I've heard of other examples beside Cyndi Lauper.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:08 AM
horizontal rule
177

I think Chris Y nails it in 150. Consider the possibility that classical and jazz musicians *are just better musicians* than most rock artists, whose musical form is very often as much about bombast, style, and finding a nice hooky songwriting style as it is musicianship per se.

You can tell my thesis is correct because in the sub-branches of pop that did traditionally attract excellent musicians people's careers are longer. Good studio musicians regularly have 30-40 year careers. Country and metal, which generally have better musicianship than pop/rock, don't produce artists that are as productive in old age as jazz or classical musicians, but careers do tend to be longer than mainstream rock or pop.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
178

Bobby Womack?

I thought of him, and I liked his recent album, but wasn't it somewhat of a one-off? I don't think he's been recording regularly.

If you're willing to count people who only release occasional albums, the recent Jimmy Cliff album was good (though not as good as his best work), similarly the 2010 Laurie Anderson album.

Guy Clark is the best example of somebody who I think just gets better with age (actually I was recently reminded that Dave Von Ronk's later stuff is better than his early recordings, but I don't know he counts).

Nick Lowe started out in the 70s and has released several good albums post 2000.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
179

Blog-favorite Richard Thompson has, of course, been relevant for 40 years, and his new albums are quite good.

Warren Zevon had 27 years between his first album and The Wind (though the 90s weren't a good decade for him).

I'm sure there are more.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:14 AM
horizontal rule
180

I do think it helps for an artist to not be too closely attached to a specific fanbase so they have room to experiment.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:16 AM
horizontal rule
181

Last thought (for now) Los Lobos deserves mention as well.

I remember buying the 1993 collection Just Another Band From East LA which was packaged as a career retrospective at the time. They've made a dozen albums since then, which get good reviews and they seem to continue to be creatively energized.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:19 AM
horizontal rule
182

Do people, like, buy those albums? Or download them? Or listen to Los Lobos at all? News to me, but I'm not very plugged in to whatever world still knows about Los Lobos.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:27 AM
horizontal rule
183

I thought they were just a Ritchie Valens cover band.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:30 AM
horizontal rule
184

I go with the idea that non-pop musicians tend to be just better, and so more interesting over a long period. Richard Thompson would be a good data point. McGarrigles?

But, as a counter-example, the Stones at Glastonbury, of which there is a lot on youtube, are actually astonishingly good. I haven't bought any of their records since forever, and would agree with ttaM that they were really dull after Mick Taylor left (and so was he, unfortunately). But they can still play eg Gimmie Shelter quite wonderfully.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:33 AM
horizontal rule
185

re: 177

Country and metal, which generally have better musicianship than pop/rock

I know this is sort of a side issue, and I don't totally disagree with you general point, but, as someone who grew up going to metal gigs on a weekly basis, I was a bit surprised when I started going to see more indie and 'alternative' type gigs. Less guitar solos, yes, but as band performances, a lot of them were tighter and more proficient, and just better performers, than a lot of the big name metal bands I was seeing in the 80s.

I think:

Consider the possibility that classical and jazz musicians *are just better musicians* than most rock artists

Is certainly true, on some level. But [as I'm sure you aren't claiming anyway] pure musicianship isn't the be-all-and-end-all. I think lots of popular music matches anything produced in other genres, as pieces of creative work/art/whatever.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:34 AM
horizontal rule
186

The Jolly Boys formed in 1945 and didn't really hit it big until the '80s. And they just released an album in 2010. That ought to count for something.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:38 AM
horizontal rule
187

The interesting thing is that given LL's audience it's hard to figure out if 182 is racist or not racist. 183 is straight up racist though.

To 185.1, sure, for some pop metal bands in particular, but surely the average musicianship level is much higher. I agree totally that musicianship isn't everything, but it may explain a lot of the longer-career dynamic.

I saw a Stones concert in, Inthink, 2007. It was most definitely karaoke and ridiculous but it was also good and fun and showman-y and I was glad to see the Stones once in my lifetime.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:39 AM
horizontal rule
188

re: 187.2

I'm thinking of people like Metallica, and Guns'n'Roses, and others, who really were pretty shoddy live performers. Some of the best live performers I've seen have been 'indie' [with that term understood very broadly] bands.

I agree, on the longer-career dynamic, I think. It certainly allows for a career that unfolds and plays out in different kinds of ways than are usually possible for pop musicians.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
189

I think lots of popular music matches anything produced in other genres, as pieces of creative work/art/whatever.

No. popular music can be excellent in its own terms, but this is apples/oranges, or Nicholas Hillyard/Franz Hals or something. Category error anyway.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:44 AM
horizontal rule
190

I'm thinking of people like Metallica, and Guns'n'Roses, and others, who really were pretty shoddy live performers.

Guns'n'Roses are definitely not the sort of "metal band" with amazing musicianship. How about Iron Maiden?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:44 AM
horizontal rule
191

187.1: looking at their wikipedia page they have recently been touring as an opener for Neil Young so... I dunno, insufficiently respectful to aging former potheads? If you want to talk about an arist who has stayed relevant for decades in part through the continued support of residents of east LA, what about Morrissey?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:44 AM
horizontal rule
192

In 2009 they released an album of Disney covers, so, okay, super racist against I'm thinking small children and Mark Mothersbaugh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:46 AM
horizontal rule
193

re: 189.last

You're probably right on the apples/oranges thing, but, for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure that the best of, say, African American music of the mid 20th century -- the best soul, or RnB -- really does stand up there with much of the 'art' music of the Western tradition.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:47 AM
horizontal rule
194

I just went looking for sales figures and couldn't find much (not surprising, that tends to be heavily paywalled), but now I'm curious to see where this ST/Halford exchange ends up . . .


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:48 AM
horizontal rule
195

193: The Rest Is Noise has some really interesting stuff about the exchange between various big 20th century composer-types and Louis Armstrong.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
196

I was just kidding about LL. My impression is that most of their current audience either is at an LAUSD assembly or owns at least one bolo tie.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:52 AM
horizontal rule
197

or owns at least one bolo tie

The overlap with Barry Goldwater voters.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:53 AM
horizontal rule
198

I mean, I like LL. Though I don't think I've heard an album of theirs later than ... 1991?

On the metal thing, what CN said, and also Metallica used to have insanely variable shows based on how drunk they were; they're mostly a karaoke act at this point but at least they're usually a pretty tight and sober one.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:54 AM
horizontal rule
199

Armstrong, I firmly believe, never realised his full potential because he was more or less inventing the genre as he went along for the first half of his career. Much easier for the next generation.

The British music critic Constant Lambert, said that in the 30s Ellington was the only composer doing anything interesting at the time (which was a bit hard on Berg and Webern). But Duke only ever had one foot in the pop pond.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 9:59 AM
horizontal rule
200

199 > 195.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 10:00 AM
horizontal rule
201

re: 198.last

Yeah, I suppose. I saw them three times between '88 and 92 or 92, and they really weren't great.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 10:35 AM
horizontal rule
202

Having a hard time wrapping my mind around Armstrong not realizing his full potential.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 10:46 AM
horizontal rule
203

Having a hard time wrapping my mind around Armstrong not realizing his full potential.

Maybe if he'd taken even more performance-enhancing drugs?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 10:49 AM
horizontal rule
204

190: GNR was actually fairly innovative in their overlapping guitar sound -- the lead and rhythm trade places -- but only on their first album, and I suppose the acoustical stuff in Lies. Then came drugs and laziness. Slash and Izzy Stradlin were pretty decent musicians.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 10:58 AM
horizontal rule
205

Scrolling upwards to discover who is this LL of whom we speak, count me very disappointed to discover it's Los Lobos. Whuuattt? Not Lyle Lovett? The Lounge Lizards?


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 02- 6-14 3:26 AM
horizontal rule
206

Lydia Lunch.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 6-14 3:42 AM
horizontal rule
207

Cool J.


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 02- 6-14 4:27 AM
horizontal rule