Not even death can stop comedian Andy Kaufman from releasing a new album. Also, Difficult Men and music from a "city on the grow."
Fight Night: Last week, Drag City released Andy and His Grandmother, an album of conversations comedian Andy Kaufman recorded with a micro-cassette recorder in the late 1970s. First response: Jeez, Andy Kaufman must have been tough to live with. His level of commitment to his comedy is likely unrivaled, but for the family and friends who didn't choose that path, being forced to be a part of his audio verité had to be exhausting. Second response: Or was it? How many of the arguments, harangues, and coercions on his tapes are real? How many reflect "real" life, and how many emerge from choices made to get tapeworthy reactions? Third response: His imagination almost automatically went to conflict, so much so that when he talks on the phone to animals, he gets in fights with them, as he does with almost everybody else on this album. My favorite piece: Kaufman's comedy of discomfort pre-dates Team Apatow, etc., and while it isn't always funny, Andy and His Grandmother is always impressive for Kaufman's willingness to sacrifice show biz's most prized attribute - likability - for a bit. (Alex Rawls)
Difficult Men: When I wanted to turn on the T.V. in our house I had to give a well-intentioned reason for wanting to watch a program, so I missed such touchstones of my mini-generation as Beverly Hills 90201, Saved by the Bell, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and My So-Called Life. As an adult, I have access to my own clicker, but I watched The Wire, The Sopranos, Friday Night Lights, Deadwood, and Mad Men online, well after they aired in real time. Like a teenager invited to a college party, I went on an Internet bender, totally incredulous that these things had been available all this time and I hadn't known.
Earlier this month, Brett Martin published a book titled Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution, in which he covers not just the characters I have come to know and dysfunctionally love, but the men who wrote, directed, and produced them. His book covers David Chase (The Sopranos), Matthew Weiner (Mad Men), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), David Milch (Deadwood), David Simon (The Wire, Treme), among others whose shows I have yet to voraciously consume. I haven't read it yet, but it's at the top of my stack, but it's there with some trepidation. There's nothing better to complicate a good literary crush like eavesdropping on writers talking about writing. (Amie Marvel)
My Home State: When I went to Shreveport earlier this year as part of the Louisiana Soundtrack Experience, Centenary College's Chris Brown gave me Shreveport, There's No Place Like This Town: Our City's Songs (1934-1986). It's a home-burned collection of blues, swing, gospel and R&B that Brown collected for his Shreveport Songs mp3 blog, much of which is ridiculously entertaining. The peeping Tom anthem "Knot Hole Blues" by The Sheldon Brothers (Bob and Joe) and the garage rock "Hook Nose and a Wooden Leg" by The Bad Habits will forever more live on my computer so I have them at my fingertips.
The most recent post spotlights Theodore Wilburn with the Wilburn Family's "Down in Dixie (Where They Say You All)," a hot Western swing number, and the blog is an excellent companion to Dan Phillips' Home of the Groove, which focuses on New Orleans R&B. Brown and Phillips are obsessive scroungers for information as well as music; a recent Home of the Groove post traces at length the career of "Professor Shorthair," Gerald Tillman. Abraham's "Funky Spider And" (from Shreveport) and Bobby Williams Group's "Boogaloo Mardi Gras Pt. 2" (from New Orleans) have been on every iPod or iTunes library I've had access to since I learned of their existence. Shreveport Songs and Home of the Groove do year around online what The Ponderosa Stomp does on stage one weekend a year. (Alex Rawls)
... finally, in other Ponderosa Stomp news, garage greats The Sonics have been added to the lineup. The schedule for its Music History Conference has been finalized, and it includes The Flamin' Groovies' Cyril Jordan in conversation with Chris "Let's Dance" Montez, a Los Angeles garage rock conversation with members of The Standells, The Sloths and Ty Wagner, and an interview with Swamp Dogg. Tickets to Ponderosa Stomp events are on sale now.