Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
1Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Field Recordings From The Inside

Field Recordings From The Inside

Ratings: (0)|Views: 79 |Likes:
Published by Joe Bonomo

The Normal School (V5 N2 2012)

The Normal School (V5 N2 2012)

More info:

Published by: Joe Bonomo on Oct 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

09/17/2013

pdf

text

original

 
12
|
the n
o
rmal school Fall 2012
feld recordings romthe inside
 Joe Bonomo
 
the n
o
rmal school fall 2012
|
13
I can’t claim largesse these many decades later, manfully acknowledging that I soothed my younger brother in his distress—once in a while I’dtorture him, quickly switching a record to the wrong speed to see his(predictable) reaction. Older Sibling Job Description, maybe, but anunkind responsibility not without its trails of remorse. Inside of me: that a record could be insidious, that music has an interior darkness I didn’t know about. Look what it can do.
I
n the spring and summer of 1975, “I’m Not In Love” by 10cc was inregular rotation in the Top 40, reigning for two weeks at number onein the UK charts and peaking at number two on
Billboard 
. Composed by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, the song is famous for its haunt-ing tones and otherworldly choral eect, studio-created by massing morethan 250 vocal harmonies, a mammoth, labor-intensive undertaking inthe era before digital sampling. Band members Stewart, Gouldman, KevinGodley, and Lol Creme each sang a single note in unison that was thenmixed, dubbed, and re-dubbed across sixteen tracks, looped, then playedin a heartbreaking descending/ascending melody via keyboards and faders. An airy construction, the song begins
in medias res 
, the instrumentationspare throughout: a Fender organ in the left channel mutters softly, a bassdrum thumps quietly in the center, a strummed acoustic guitar whispersin the right. e eect might be the closest a pop song has ever gotten toreproducing a dream, the loose ends of experience beyond language. “I’mNot In Love” is less a tune than a eld recording from the inside of yourbody, your heart chambers’
vérité 
.ere’s tension in the deceptively sweetly-sung lyric: self-absorbed,defensive sentiments threaten to pop the bubble of that ethereality, casualbut controlling barbs insisting that the singer’s detached, too uncaring tobe in love, that your photo’s only covering a stain on the wall, you’ll waita long time for me, and if I call you don’t make a fuss and don’t tell yourfriends. Is that 10cc’s game? Subverting the dream with cool indierence?Nothing so ghostly gorgeous can last long when, beneath it all, there’s aninsecure man threatening to destroy it. (When R.E.M. composed theirstriking quasi-homage to “I’m Not In Love”—“Star Me Kitten” on 1992’s
 Automatic For Te Peopl
—they morphed these tensions into post-punk lewdness, Stipe later revealing that the “star me” in the title was the equiva-lent to an asterisk demurely blotting out the phrase “fuck me.”)I knew what “I’m Not In Love” was about when I couldn’t possibly have known. More: I understood the tensions and psychologies among the callousness of the words, the icy distance in the vocals, the dreaminess
My younger brother Paul developed a phobia of listening torecords played at the wrong speeds. We’d be listening to a 45 oran LP, and if I moved the rpm knob one way or the other and thesong lurched into nasal, pinched hysteria or growled down toa menacing dirge, Paul would cover his ears, his eyes ashing.Sometimes he’d dash from the room; sometimes he’d cry.
 
14
|
the n
o
rmal school Fall 2012
of the melody and arrangement—before I couldunderstand such grown-up things. Is it possiblefor an epiphany to be scored? What is knowledgein a pop song? William Hazlitt: “You know moreof a road by having traveled it than by all theconjectures and descriptions in the world.” I’mnot so sure. (Why am I always quarreling withyou, Hazlitt?) I hadn’t yet journeyed down theroads of infatuation and heartbreak when I rstheard “I’m Not In Love,” far from it; I hadn’teven imagined them sentimentally from my bedroom window. I was puzzling over smiling teases from girls on the playground, my oldersister’s crushes, and countenances that hinted ata language beyond the one I spoke, stumbling  words that clearly failed as choral “ahhhs” fromthe radio transcended.
 A 
round the time that “I’m Not In Love” was on the radio entrancing and frighten-ing me, my parents purchased a double album,
Te Beatles 1962-1970 
. But this was an albumnot by the Beatles, sadly, but by Kings Road,and not on the cheery bright-green Apple labelbut on a label called Pickwick. What I didn’tknow then: Pickwick was a notorious budgetlabel born in the 1950s from the ashes of a children’s music label. By the late-1960s/ear-ly-1970s, president and owner Cy Leslie wasraking it in from issuing compilations mimick-ing the top hits of the year by bands like KingsRoad (other outts included Mirror Image andTop of the Pops).ese albums confound me now. Tacitly of the K-Tel/Ronco era, they ended upon the oors of basements and bedrooms,spun on the family stereo or in private by disenchanted kids who’d been stoked whileunwrapping the album to have a collectionof Top 40 hits. What did we kids know about licensing? About “cut-rate?” About thebottom line? Moments after the needle dropson the rst song—the latest smash by Carly Simon or Bread or Johnny Nash—you know that something’s not right. e timbre of thevoice, the atness of the playing, the squashedproduction conspire within moments to say to you,
You’ve been ripped of  
. Welcome toanother adolescent disappointment. What-ever satisfactions that barely-dressed, smiling hippy girl on the brightly-colored front jacketprovided, they were short-lived.
Tis sucks 
,I’d say to myself, dismayingly watching theturntable spin. Around this time, a group of kids at Saint Andrew’s the Apostle School during recesslinked their hands and danced in a circlecrying, “e witch is dead, the witch is dead!”ey were mocking the memory of an un-popular substitute teacher to whom we’d beenghastly. She’d moved to Florida and, we heard,died there. My friends’ glee made me nau-seous and gloomy, though I likely joined thechanting. I felt a similar nameless misery lis-tening to Kings Road: intuiting the sadness of vulnerable grown-ups, a weakness that all kids witness eventually in the movement betweenignorance and knowledge. Kings Road was a virtual band, comprised of session musicianscobbled together to knock o a stack of songs-per-session, on time, under-budget. As themusicians blued their way through “PleasePlease Me,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand,”“Michelle,” “Hey Jude” (which they dutifully,dreadfully aped for nearly six minutes), “eLong And Winding Road,” and solo tracks like“Junk,” “My Sweet Lord,” and, improbably,the emotionally raw “Mother,” my brothersand I guawed, breaking up at the lame sing-ing and playing, so obviously “
not 
the Beatles!” An earnest attempt at gaming consumersturned into a half-serious aural joke that soonmorphed into something beyond funny, intosurreal wretchedness. Listening to Kings Road,I felt unnamed pity for the musicians even as I was making fun of them.In particular I remember their soft renditionof “Revolution,” the amateur screeching, thecompressed, white fury of Lennon’s EpiphoneCasino guitar reduced to something that sound-ed like the anemic buzz of a malfunctioning electric razor. e ferocious drumming? Over-turned oatmeal canisters struck with pencils.(And out of time, at that.) e performances were hilariously inept, and now I wonderat the premise of such budget LPs: to whom were they marketed? Certainly Pickwick caredmore about moving units than disenchanting kids, but the executives in their boardroomdidn’t consider the eects such albums wouldhave on the gullible. What was meant to soundlike earnest tribute and celebration fell on my ears as desperate and embarrassing. is muchI understood as the album spun around andaround: Kings Road were the weary substituteteachers of pop music.
I
ntellect confuses intuition,” says Piet Mon-drian. On long afternoons when I wasn’tdown in the rec room puzzling over KingsRoad, I was listening to
Elvis: As Recorded at  Madison Square Garden
. At the time I wasn’t a big Elvis fan—no one in my family was, real-
I’M noT In LovE” IS LESS A TUnE THAn A FIELD RECoRDInG FRoM THEInSIDE oF YoUR BoDY, YoUR HEART CHAMBERS’
vérité 
.I HADn’T YET JoURnEYED DoWn THE RoADS oF InFATUATIon AnD HEARTBREAk WHEn I FIRST HEARD “I’M noT In LovE,”FAR FRoM IT; I HADn’T EvEn IMAGInED THEM SEnTIMEnTALLY FRoM MY BEDRooM WInDoW.BEFoRE InTELLECT ConFUSED THInGS, BEFoRE I LEARnED IRonY AnDCAMP, I LISTEnED To THE oPEnInG oF
ElviS: AS rEcorDED At MADiSon SquArE GArDEn 
AnD IMAGInED THE kInG In THE WInGS, WAITInG,ELEvATInG, TESTInG HIS JUMPSUIT WInGS, LARGER THAn LIFE AS STRAUSS’SoCTAvE-AMBITIoUS SCoRE FILLED THE vEnUE AnD MY HEAD WITH PoMP,MY CHEST THUMPInG WITH JoY, SUnRISE, PASSIon, GREAT LonGInG.

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->