Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Up late researching (that should really be in quotes) a project, listening to this Theme Time Radio Hour With Your Host Bob Dylan comp on Ace (as distinct from the one on Chrome Dreams I wrote about a bit back). On disc two, track five, is Roy Montrell's "(Every Time I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone," a crazed bit of nonsense from 1956 that sounds as if it's attempting to embody as many frightenend white folks' horrified perception of rock and roll as "jungle music" as possible. It's a wild record--so much so that its wildness seems premeditated. Anyway, listening, I realized that maybe this song has lasted so long because of Montrell's vocal similarities to Louis Prima. Except wasn't classiness, or whatever it was the lounge revival was supposed to retroactively bestow upon its inspirations, sort of the reason for Prima's bubble around the same time, too? You know, he wore suits, he played Vegas, he did onstage business in addition to singing. Saw himself as a showman, which was sort of funny to mid-'90s folks who'd come up on indie spleen, or was at first until they started wondering what exactly they might be missing from a non-showbiz world. Then I think, no, that's not quite right--you're treating a bubble you were on the periphery of for a few months there like it's just a bubble.

I think more about rockabilly revivalists than I have any real right or need to. They fascinate me: it's maybe the most unreconstructed cult in pop. (I'm sure there are others, but humor me for now.) I think to some degree, the '90s lounge revival's principal social function was to bump the recruits of Dusty 45s fans. Which, you know, fine--it just doesn't intersect anywhere near my neural points. But I guess I think about this stuff because I've known a few of these folks. I've usually met them through jobs. My first time in Seattle I worked with a woman--really nice, a little intense (she had a very loud crush on another coworker), a lot of fun to talk with. She lived with her boyfriend on Capitol Hill--not far from where I live (and am) right now. In 1996 they invited me over for Thanksgiving. She'd always mentioned how punk rock he was many times--punk, in this case, meaning Social Distortion. (I like Social Distortion and think their 2007 best-of was a minor event I was nevertheless waiting for my entire life.)

Oh hell, maybe all I'm really trying to do here is read too much into kind of liking Social Distortion, not to mention finally airing my long-simmering theory that (in America, at least) Mike Ness provided a working model of everyday punkdom that's probably more widely emulated than any other--not in the music so much, but in its fan base. (Who would you rather model your life on, Johnny "Antichrist" Rotten? G.G. "G.G. Allin" Allin? Or the gruff-yet-sensitive guy working on his '66 Thunderbird down the block? Which one would you prefer to date?) Anyway, to tie this all up in a big bow because I apparently can't stay on topic to save my life, I bet Mike Ness really likes "That Mellow Saxophone." Mike Ness is a man of honor and taste. The end.