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Living Record

by Amelia Whitcomb

I once heard someone on a radio program say that sound was “touch at a distance.” It made me think of the ritual of listening to a record, a ritual that is as much about touch and feeling as it is about what is heard. It is a sensual process far removed from the antiseptic scrolling of an iPod playlist.

There is a totemic idolatry involved in vinyl worship. The large, shiny black discs are captivating in their anachronism, possessing an unwieldiness that defies our techie zeal for the minuscule, earning collectors a degree of throwback, hipster cache. Gripping onto the taut cardboard square of the album or feeling the vinyl’s cool sheen gives a sense of ownership that escapes today’s era of ephemeral mp3’s. Sometimes the object itself becomes more valued than the music it contains: I’ve known a few record collectors who have purchased an album for the novelty of owning it rather than out of any love for the artist. The very process of listening to a record reinforces the fetishism, each step taking on the reverence and theatricality of a Japanese tea ceremony.

This ceremony begins with selection. Hands caress album covers in a musical séance, raising the spirits of memory. In one album, a boy and a girl lie tangled together on a bed of record jackets, clinging to each other to keep out the geographic distance that will soon divide them. Another contains the chill drizzle of a Vancouver morning, its grey melancholy brightened by colorful splashes of oil paint. A naked solo dance party erupts out of one, and ends with a sprained ankle and a lot of embarrassing explanation. A grandfather’s spontaneous off-key aria is lovingly tucked away in the folds of another, a dried flower pressed between liner notes.

Once the album has been selected, the record needs to be prepared for listening. The disc is pinched out of its crevice in the album jacket and extracted with care. If it’s a new album there is the added pleasure of peeling back its plastic wrap and undressing it with adolescent eagerness. If it’s an old record, the enjoyment comes from a fussy familiarity, eyes doting on vinyl skin in tender scrutiny of new scratches or imperfections, lips blowing dust gently out of grooves.

The record balances between thumbs and index fingers as it is placed on the turntable as an offering. Hooking the metal arm under a knuckle, the needle is craned over the spinning record and nestled into a groove. It’s important to be gentle but not hesitant. Too heavy or too cautious of a hand will cause it to skip, bump and scrape across the record’s surface, releasing a jarring jolt of discord. When the needle is gripped in revolution, the speakers fill with the crackling white noise anticipation of pre-song. Soon, a voice is scratched out from the shallow depths of the vinyl channel, coaxing out a croon or igniting an explosive fuse of noise depending on the album.

Records are finicky. Unlike a CD or mp3 playlist, which can be fast-forwarded, rewound, or played on endless repeat at the touch of a button or flip of a remote, the songs on a record have to be physically skipped by moving the turntable’s arm to the next musical groove. For an album to be heard in its entirety, it is necessary to flip it over by hand. This creates a symbiotic relationship between the album and its listener: in exchange for devoted attention and care, the record rewards its servant with music.

You can hear a record’s history. Time is embedded in its grooves like the rings of a tree. A brand new album has the crisp clarity of youth. As with any voice though, over time this freshness is lost, replaced with the gravelly timbre of age. You can easily tell a well-loved album from another: favored songs become overtaken by static, the pitted and worn surfaces causing them to skip or catch. Like a tattooer’s gun, the needle inscribes every listen onto the record, transforming, and degrading the sound little by little. This is what lies at the heart of the appeal of vinyl, an appeal that goes beyond simple nostalgia or antiquarianism. The appeal of listening to a record is in the recognition that the experience is very much a fleeting moment, and by participating in this moment you are slowly and incrementally destroying what you love simply through the act of loving it.

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Amelia Whitcomb welcomes your comments at a.luddite[at]gmail.com.

photo by kalleboo.

Where Are They Now?: The Lives of Rock Stars

by Kyle Hemmings

NO WAVE SCI-FI

Taylor Gritch and Betty DeMonica, members of the 90s grunge band, Rufus Puked Again. The two are married with one child. (B. NYC, 1956 and 1952, respectively.)

They live in a Connecticut townhouse with Caravaggio reproductions and a strange hum at night. (Behind the walls?) On weekends, they travel to NYC to record their long awaited reunion: The Angst of Trogg, a concept album about a teen age mutant with a spongy heart and other worldly sex drive. He dies in the arms of his girlfriend, an over dose of Red Lava, the newest club drug. His last words: Love me for what I can never become.

In Starbucks, they sign autographs and talk with college students who ask Taylor opinions about Hesse, The early Stones, the latest rumors about Iggy Pop. Betty is promoting her new line of chi chi dolls that can recite the lyrics to their songs in five languages. In a restaurant on Avenue B, he complains over a dish of sushi that he’s not getting enough, and this is zombifying his creativity. A two foot chi chi doll stands next to a bowl of avocado salad, flashing brown eyes staring at him. Betty sticks a chopstick through a mushroom and says Imagine if I pulled this from my vagina. He says he would like to live there, no need for shade. Turning his head, he now hears that strange hum again: the doll’s battery is running low. Your love, Trogg, is the shape of a beautiful freaky mushroom that grows under autistic glass, says the doll.

 

HUMBLE BIRD BEGINNINGS

 Benny C. Simms, Levitt Howls of The Cold War Jerks, part of the first wave British invasion but never got significant A.M. airplay. Broke the charts with 1969’s The Nuclear Grouse Kit, and again with 1972’s Nothing Ends Well. (B. Liverpool, England, 1946, 1948, respectively).

Winter, 1963, holed up in a three room flat without hot water, or phone service. They piss out windows and laugh when they don’t miss the heads of working women. In stained undies, Benny hums Howlin’ Wolf’s “Ain’t Superstitious”. Levitt, smoking last night’s stub, comments on the two queers next door, rolling on the floor.  Last week, he raped a girl from Bristol, but claimed it was the other way around. He never comes out on top is his defense. Because of a lack of female fan base at home, they give each other hand jobs at night, or hold each other in bed, imagining the skin of the other as softer. They draw crayon portraits of their parents on walls. They all have open mouths and deep beady eyes. A gig in Germany pays off. In three years, they hire a full-time songwriter, fire the bass player, a loose cannon who sells some badass speedballs and  whose body is never found. At the Helsinki Freedom Is Love Festival of 1973, girls throw their underwear at the stage. But Benny’s gastric varices are killing him from the Hepatitis C, and Levitt’s been acting erratic from an undiagnosed Clap. Back in their suite, across flower-themed walls, their shadows mime intricate and sordid love stories.

 

WHITE ACID SUN

Little Eddie Gainsville A.K.A The Singing Pumpkin. Ex-frontman for the 60s/early 70s underground psychedelic band: They Hung Zorro, Didn’t They?. Compared in songwriting genius to Arthur Lee and Brian Wilson. Institutionalized several times with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, attributed to daily LSD intake. Was found sitting in a elevator stuck on the 13th floor, with Gainsville, singing the words to Norwegian Wood. Between hospitalizations came out with 1986’s critically acclaimed solo album titled Blindman’s Bluff, which featured Gainsville playing steel-string acoustic guitar, supposedly produced by Neil Young under an assumed name. Gainsville credited with coining the term “fribble,” from the title of an early 60’s hit—Don’t Fribble Me, Mama (as in don’t play me for a fool). As of 2002, Gainsville’s younger sister, Chastity Case, an opera singer, was granted custody of the homeless musician. (B. 1949– Selena, Texas.)

I trawp intaglio. Five tempos at a time. Cunnilingus with jeepsters. She said she was from a farm in Arkansas. You saw What? Wolves in the night sound like hollow bodied guitars. Twang. Then she sang me my own words to Don’t Fribble Me. She walked frizzy-haired naked out of the motel into the holy wafer of the sun. She said, Jesus, Pump, you got a beau/ti/ful voice, the kind that sends skinny girls down the drain. We both took a hit of Heavy Weather. She left to live longer, probably balling space aliens without tear ducts. I swear it’s true, Texas. Whenever I think of groopies under my bed, like Rita, I walk on mini/moog. I trawp intaglio. I cry electrik undoing. My broken Spanish heart on my mother’s side.

But when Lu/cin/da goes glee, I will write a song that is and isn’t about her.

When we meet on the Road to San Pietro

You’ll be barefoot, words like poppy seed.

And I’ll be carrying the dumb weight

Of a man taken for dead, but could be me.

And although every time is the wrong time

We meet on a slip of time,

That incredible moment,

Young enough to believe

In the soft core of this world, you see.

 

It hates.

It hates.

It hates.

 

I trawp intaglio. Five tempos at a time. I cry memory goo. My ceramic swans have cracks. They never speak out of tempo.

 

COOL WHITE FENDER

Wendell Wasermann, rhythm guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. Played in many 60s Garage and 70s Pre-punk bands. Most famous hit was the instrumental “Yo-Yo Girl,” on which he experimented with electric sitar simulation,(actually before The Yardbirds did this). Some recorded jams with Jimmy Page and Peter Frampton, then, of Humble Pie. His fame faded in the 80s, but a 1996 reunion with some members of No Time for Charles, won back some of his old fan base as well as making new friends. (B. Dixel, North Carolina, 1946-2009).

In the 60s, you left wolves under the beds of women who couldn’t quite howl as loudly as your first hooker when you were 13 and some small change. On stage, you smashed your guitar, a white Fender, into the amps, to impress an Italian film director you knew was in the audience. Instead, he casted The Yardbirds and from then on, you had to beg for a cameo appearance in any glitter girl’s life. They say Ali McGraw turned you down. You were about to give up the guitar, actually, any electric instrument that could mimic the bottomless wail of the human voice.

In the 70s, you balled soul-eyed chicks, soft, ironic pout, for whom the world was a camera. One of them spread a rumor that Twiggy had gotten fat. You informed them that Twiggy went bankrupt.

And the only girl who ever loved you refused your offer of twin live-ins, unhitchable stars. She said she wanted someone more stable, someone whose life she could have partial control over. Like a volume knob, you said, and walked out.

This woman, married with two distant children, a younger husband who grew up on smooth peanut butter and Mork and Mindy reruns, still keeps tabs on you. She watched you, looking so silly at your age in pumps and Elvis-tight pants, croon along with a nervous contestant– an old Beatles tune in a surprise visit on Idol. The song was Nowhere Man. The audience loved you, applauded you for giving that girl, barely out of her braces, some very strong support.

And that night, the woman who would never live with you, quietly informs her husband that she will not shave her legs. “Pagan,” her husband mutters, as if the correct answer to a Jeopardy question: Name a five-letter word beginning with P and meaning to have no religion.

We’re out of peanut butter, she thinks.

She turns over, shuts off the light, entering some distant fog of past, where Nowhere Man and Never-Here Girl spread themselves thin, become the words to each other’s song.

 

BRIDGE OF SIGHS

Martha Taylor-Graves, former member of the Motown vocal trio, Tall, Dark, and Girl. (B. Detroit, MI. 1944).

At age 56, dropped by Motown, spurned as a solo act, the big shots, the club owners, said a carbon copy of three singers, all named Diana. A disastrous duet with Brian Wilson. “I never was a surfer chick,” she will later say in interview. Sitting in a club with some new polished guy, she’s recognized and asked, “Oh, are those real eyelashes, darling?”

So she’s standing on the footbridge arching over the river that separates her old school from her old house. She didn’t ring her momma that she was coming over for a visit. Imagine if mama looks out her window, even with one bad eye, and sees her child staring back at her. But Martha didn’t come here today to look through windows or to apologize for marrying a white man who turned out to be like any other man or at her mama’s request will sing 1964’s smash hit, “I Never Want What’s Good for Me.” No. She came here today to throw her life over a bridge.

But for now, she’s rehearsing the fall, head first, the ripples radiating towards the edge of all runny desire, the reflections of children playing hopscotch, running with Paper Mache airplanes, a man in tuxedo presenting her and the other two Tall, Dark and Girl members, the Best Music Award of the Year, then the plaque falling from her hands, sinking underwater. She wants this question answered: Can I start over? Can I come back as someone of my own choosing, a singer of sultry man-eating lyrics? Can I be reborn as someone better? Yes, what a condescending way to put it. Tell me this isn’t all there is.

Martha Taylor-Graves, who once had a voice of capable of spilling honey and weaving silk, a body lithe and affectionate and breakable, who once had the ear of the most thin-skinned and ethereal virgin from slum-slutted streets, this Martha Taylor-Graves, who was told by so many people on the way up that she would never make it if she didn’t sleep with the right people and didn’t take the dressing room at the far end of the hall, the one reserved for starlets on the rise, but always second bill to groups like Kissing Cousins or to comeback divas like Amanda “Baby Face” Drake, Martha Taylor-Graves can’t swim, she can’t swim to save her life, and whatever lies at the bottom of Iron-Bound River is something that hopefully will help make her rise with grace and float and float, higher than the stained glass windows of Jesus and His sheep, higher than her momma’s ricocheting Sunday School hymns, those long days of sticky fingers behind robes, bird-like voices that will later sing for Sweet Mary Janes.

Stable, someone whose life she could have partial control over. Like a volume knob, you said, and walked out.

This woman, married with two distant children, a younger husband who grew up on smooth peanut butter and Mork and Mindy reruns, still keeps tabs on you. She watched you, looking so silly at your age in pumps and Elvis-tight pants, croon along with a nervous contestant– an old Beatles tune in a surprise visit on Idol. The song was Nowhere Man. The audience loved you, applauded you for giving that girl, barely out of her braces, some very strong support.

And that night, the woman who would never live with you, quietly informs her husband that she will not shave her legs. “Pagan,” her husband mutters, as if the correct answer to a Jeopardy question: Name a five-letter word beginning with P and meaning to have no religion.

We’re out of peanut butter, she thinks.

She turns over, shuts off the light, entering some distant fog of past, where Nowhere Man and Never-Here Girl spread themselves thin, become the words to each other’s song.

 

SHAKE, SPIDER, SHAKE

Jason “Spider” Samuel-Wells, of the Gothic rock group, Barterwaithe, their album, Betrothed to Clarissa reached the top ten on English charts. Samuel-Wells remains a cult hero in certain parts of Europe, wrote the soundtrack to the movie Kiss Me While Still Twilight, was seen occasionally checking in at Keith Richard’s rehab clinic in Switzerland. (b. London, 1958?-2010).

After the flop at Glastonbury, he started to see things in doubles, blebs and blurbs, but still used black eyeliner in his MTV videos. One artist was courting the London scene, making posters of Spider looking ill, color splattered against a wall of faded Linear Notes to Silas Marner. “The tumor is getting larger,” said Dr. Wu, reading the Cat Scan results, tapping the left occipital part of his own head. Wu sometimes talked about his single mother, an opera singer from Hong Kong, who admitted being a lesbian by the time her son finished med school. Can words wheeze? Spider thought. “And lay off the smack!” said Wu, staring at an X-ray–lungs, white shadows, deep transparencies into nowhere.

Wu referred to the “crepitations” at the base of Spider’s lungs but last week he called them “crackles.” Wu hated rock n’ roll, said it was pretentious and disruptive of alpha brain waves and Spider refused the experimental surgery he mocked as beta not.

He changed his name, wandered around the country, taking odd menial jobs, a clerk, a vet’s assistant, a printer repairman. He met a girl from Northumberland, still hurting from a boy toy who took off like a prize goose. She recognized Spider without eye shadow. Much younger than he, energetic as the girls who danced topless at his concerts, she promised to take care of him after he said “I’m spent.” She had no concept of time, Spider thought, how things are promised then discarded. But he could see his whole life, beginning bar, start repeats, to the last measure. At night, in colored magic markers, he wrote the same sequence of numbers across the bedroom wall. It resembled a social security number.

“What is it?” asked Penny Ann, sitting up, breasts pressed to knees. “It’s my time signature, ” he said, “who I am. It reminds me how many whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighths and sixteenths, until there’s no time left at all.”

Unsteady on his feet, he struggled back to the bed, fell, and never woke up. It happened in no time at all. It happened in less than a 4 beat whole rest. A slip of time. It happened as if nothing ever happens at all. Really.

 

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Kyle Hemmings is the author of three chapbooks of poetry/prose: Avenue C (Scars Publications), Fuzzy Logic (Punkin Press), and Amsterdam & Other Broken Love Songs (Flutter Press). He blogs here.
photo by DrBachhus

Power of Words

 

"Power of Words" by Dvorah Carrasco


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Dvorah Carrasco is a mental health therapist in Washington State. She encourage the use of art in therapy and in life.

CELEBREX ® (Celecoxib)

by Paul David Adkins

 

When Three Dog Night wrote Celebrate!

they knew they’d sell the rights,

would dance to the music

dance to the music

down to the bank.

 

They couldn’t know

instead of Cadillac or Vizeo

their music would introduce the inhibition

of prostaglandin synthesis,

decreasing activity of cyclooxegenase-2.

 

Nice to hum that little ditty

on the road to Shambala

without a wince or limp.

 

To open, close your hand

easily as your father’s

when he cupped a new quarter

in his warm palm

just for you.

 

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Paul David Adkins grew up in South Florida and lives in New York, a rare species of reverse snowbird.

Photo by Rosemoo.

Blowing in the Wind

by Mike Berger

Vinyl discs spin out

scratchy melodies;

songs of a different era.

 

Songs of gloom and doom,

and songs of hope and peace.

Dreary songs of violence

and the human condition.

Melodies of the eleventh hour.

 

Lyrics laden with fear;

words about the bomb. Songs

of war, brutality, and anguish.

 

Softer words of unfulfilled desires

harsher words demanding the

end to war. Resurrecting the

dove of peace.

 

Looking back, what has changed

in the last fifty years?

Answers are blowing in the wind.

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Mike Berger is bright, articulate, handsome and humble.

photo by Sara. Nel

Bubble

by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

"Bubble" by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

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Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 15 year old photographer and artist who has won contests with National Geographic,The Woodland Trust, The World Photography Organisation, Winstons Wish, Papworth Trust, Mencap, Big Issue, Wrexham science , Fennel and Fern and and Nature’s Best Photography.She has had her photographs published in exhibitions and magazines across the world including the Guardian, RSPB Birds , RSPB Bird Life, Dot Dot Dash ,Alabama Coast , Alabama Seaport and NG Kids Magazine (the most popular kids magazine in the world). She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.Only visual artist published in the Taj Mahal Review June 2011. Youngest artist to be displayed in Charnwood Art’s Vision 09 Exhibition and New Mill’s Artlounge Dark Colours Exhibition.Youngest to be published in Grey Sparrow Press. Featured artist in Able Muse and the Taj Mahal Review.


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