Sunday, December 14, 2014
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
There are times I'm pretty sure this is the greatest rock 'n' roll song ever made. There are other times when it only seems overplayed and trite—the penalty for loving a song too much and too well perhaps, though to date it remains resilient enough to stage occasional pulsating comebacks every few years. Part of the reason I like it so well I'm sure is that it came of the Beggars Banquet sessions, an album that takes regular turns for me as favorite Rolling Stones album (trading off generally with Sticky Fingers and Out of Our Heads, though others butt in as well now and then). Why "Jumpin' Jack Flash" was not released on the album is anybody's guess, as far as I know. I'm willing to take the mythologizing route at this point and make the extravagant claims: It's too big to be contained on an album. It is an album. It rewired our brains and forced us to redefine the very concept of what an album is, etc. Yes, I know. But there is a tremendous amount packed into this three and a half minutes. It's the kind of song with the power to inspire one to sweeping statements. That impossible trebly crashing guitar, that stomping back beat, the way it finds a space that logically belongs to somebody else a long time ago and puts its stamp all over it, Grade AAA prime rock 'n' roll. It glides, it soars, it struts and preens. Can't take your eyes off it. Older than rock 'n' roll. Older than the 20th century. But work the focus and there it is again: the Stones, Mick Jagger a-leaping about the place, cranking out the mocking, jeering, irresistible sounds of bitter envy and revelry. For better and for worse. And in sickness and health too, for that matter. In other words, and to get right to the point, "Jumpin' Jack Flash is a gas gas gas."
Sunday, December 07, 2014
In case it's not at the library.
Friday, December 05, 2014
Director/writer/editor: Takeshi Kitano
Photography: Katsumi Yanagijima
Music: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Aya Kokumai, Tetsu Watanabe, Masanobu Katsumura, Susumu Terajima, Ren Osugi, Tonbo Zushi, Ken'ichi Yajima, Eiji Minakata
There are at least two other movies named Sonatine. One is a 1984 Canadian feature described on IMDb.com as "Two teenaged friends have separate difficult experiences that make the girls seriously consider suicide." The other is a French short described on its Facebook page as "A once successful actress has taken refuge at her sister's home. Her presence triggers deep-seated feelings that lead to a tragic outcome." It is also the name of a piece for piano by classical composer Maurice Ravel. Try looking up the word and you soon arrive at "sonatina," defined as follows: "As a musical term, sonatina has no single strict definition; it is rather a title applied by the composer to a piece that is in basic sonata form, but is shorter, lighter in character, or more elementary technically than a typical sonata."
Pursuing: Sonata, according to Wikipedia, "literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata, a piece sung." And so, as best I can tell, we have arrived at the fiction writer's shibboleth, "show, don't tell," with some overlying implication of insubstantiality, in terms of what the intriguing title is intended to convey. As much as anything Sonatine works like a musical piece—not to mention that it also contains wonderful music. Director, writer, and editor Takeshi "Beat" Kitano has created a befuddling movie that sits quietly and observes—observes contemporary (for 1993) Japanese yakuza gangster life, and more particularly observes the existential crisis of one specific mid-level chief, Aniki Murakawa (played by Kitano, which makes him a four-tools moviemaker at least).
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Eric Burdon & the Animals had to go to the back of a long line in terms of getting their bite at this song, written by Ma Rainey in 1924 and recorded over the decades by LaVern Baker, Wee Bea Booze, Big Bill Broonzy, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly, Peggy Lee, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, Sonny Til & the Orioles, and Chuck Willis (who had a #12 pop hit with it in 1957 as "C.C. Rider"). It is so old it has sprouted a garden of alternative titles: "See See Rider Blues," "Easy Rider," "C.C. Rider." The theme is old too: look out for the faithless sexual wanton woman, aka "easy rider," 'cos she's wrecking marriages. Everything else is a play on that—the "C.C.," for example, is said to stand for "country circuit" preachers, who carried the good word and that old time religion on horseback from town to town. Nevertheless, not understanding any of that, I liked the Animals version so much that for many years I kept reflexively including it on short lists of my favorite songs, remembering the giddy heights it sent me to whenever it came leaping out of the radio, too infrequently. I love the surging, high-stepping thrust of it, the headlong tempo, the ballsy confidence. The band is in great form. The Animals were initially my favorite of the British Invasion bands of the time (after the Beatles, always after the Beatles). "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" was my first exposure, but it wasn't long before I caught up with the shivery-good "House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." "See See Rider" is a strong point in a strong run, which also included "It's My Life," "Don't Bring Me Down," "When I Was Young," and I stuck around even for the San Francisco-addled period, which I still enjoy too, and beyond.