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RE: [fearnwhiskey] autoclip: one-man bands

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  • Carl Abraham Zimring
    ... Which sells, at least to a point. Anyone remember Life, Sex & Death? The rock band that fraudelently passed off their front man as a homeless guy in
    Message 1 of 4 , May 2, 2003
      Carl W., making me think about one-man bands more than I ever have, wrote:

      >> > Nearby, there lurks the question of 1MB's ties to the
      >> troubled category of "outsider music," ...
      > and Carl A.Z. wrote:
      >> Would this be equating Adkins with, say, Daniel Johnston or
      >> Wesley Willis?
      > I don't mean that I am, but that a lot of the appreciation of him and
      > other 1MBs, as represented in the film, seems to come from the same
      > human-oddity perspective. The maddening Irwin Chusid, for instance,
      > generally lumps 1MBs in with his head cases and/or misunderstood geniuses
      > in Songs in the Key of Z... I wonder if that guy was some kind of bully
      > as a kid or whether this is just reverse projection.
      > Anyway, personally, I'd argue the reverse case -- that what makes both
      > Johnston and Adkins interesting is a genuine musical strength, to which
      > their eccentricities are as secondary as any other musician's biography is
      > (though likewise not entirely separate), and that there's something smug,
      > condescending and anti-artistic in reversing those terms, regarding the
      > music as a kind of pathological epiphenomenon.

      Which sells, at least to a point. Anyone remember Life, Sex & Death? The
      rock band that fraudelently passed off their front man as a homeless guy in
      order to get signed to Warner Brothers? Elements of their marketing
      reminded me a little of the promotion around both Johnston and Willis.

      > In cases where it's hard to take it any other way, like Willis's or some
      > of the more talentless 1MBs, it's worth wondering what we're doing
      > staring at the car wreck or sneaking into the sideshow tent.
      >>> And finally, who and what and why is a 1MB in a time of
      >>> sound effects, multitracking and digital sampling? <snip>... Hell, what
      > about Aphex Twin, Moby or Dr. Dre?
      >> Or *any* hip-hop DJ? Or does there have to be a novelty
      >> aspect to the live performance of the music?
      > That's exactly my point: I don't think the one-man band as a musical genre
      > should get folded entirely into the "novelty" category, because there's
      > more legitimacy to it than that. The film's interest seems to be mostly
      > in the novelty (I didn't even mention the obnoxious Asthmatic Avenger
      > from France, who does goofy shtick in the latter half of the movie,
      > because he's too stupid to mention). They try to be respectful of the
      > artists, and the directors seem genuinely impressed and adoring of them,
      > but they don't look at it as music nearly as much as spectacle. That's
      > why they miss the whole electronics and studio angle, which in music
      > history seems to render moot most of the previous legitimate reasons for
      > old-style one-man-band music (such as, as many of the blues guys used to
      > say, that it was better to go solo because bands were too often full of
      > undependable drunks and gamblers -- just the reverse of the
      > too-weird-to-collaborate image that the movie presents).

      And a lot of blues singers played on street corners, where perhaps space
      and revenue issues might combine to give incentive to go it alone. Jimmy
      Lee Robinson, for instance, played guitar and used spurs on his boots to
      supply percussion to his songs as his accompaniment up until his death last

      > Although turntablism of course has its own novelty factor, so it's not
      > even outside the tent in those terms -- not to mention human beat boxes,
      > who seem to go at it with a similar lone-inventor spirit. Rather than
      > spend 20 minutes on each of a few overlapping subjects, I wish the film
      > got into some of those interconnections.

      Though turntablism also have a large popular community, which runs counter
      to the outsider image that -- from your review -- would seem necessary to
      the one-man-band-as-spectacle slant of the film. Would a popular (writ
      large, beyond the cult level of the artists we're discussing here) act fit
      the aesthetic the filmmakers are defining?

      >> (By the way, is the Carney record the one on Black Beauty I
      >> asked about a few weeks ago?)
      > I was away when you asked about it, Carl, but yes, it is. I thought it
      > was a reissue when I spotted it - it's in seventies-style jazz-album
      > design style - but it seems to be a new recording, and it's really
      > delightful. (I found out on AMG that he has a couple of previous solo
      > recordings, at least one of which looks worth having too.) I don't know
      > anything about Black Beauty itself, though.

      The only other release of theirs I have heard of (but haven't heard) is a
      Gary Floyd & Mushroom (the old Sister Double Happiness vocalist and the San
      Francisco prog group) album of covers. Looks like an interesting label.

      [Peter Jefferies's pianodrum]
      > That description you quoted was great, and I wish I'd known about it when
      > I was writing, because the likes of Jeffries seems to be too subtle for
      > them. The Lonesome Organist, who I think is impressive technically but
      > mostly sucks musically, is the closest they get to performers with any
      > sophistication. They seem to have done all their research on the Internet
      > - they've got some well-informed commentators on Adkins and a couple of
      > other subjects, but otherwise don't seem to have gone beyond novelty acts
      > (in whom their tastes are decidedly retro).
      > Which is really too bad, as the film's quite enjoyable otherwise and their
      > hearts seem to be in the right place - or at least a well-meaning wrong
      > place. I'd still recommend seeing it. I just wished I'd had more space to
      > consider all this stuff, rather than firing off a list of issues and
      > questions in the second half, because after a day of research I found the
      > one-man-band's place in music a pretty fascinating subject. The movie did
      > that for me, and maybe it'll lead to a bigger project on the subject
      > someday.

      I have to say, I had never thought much about the topic, but there's some
      meat to pick off these bones. Thanks for sharing the autoclip, Carl.

      Carl Z.
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