“Bohemian Rhapsody”: A Rhapsody

The year is 1977–maybe late October or November. I’m eight years old, having dinner in a pizzeria with my immigrant family in Blairstown, New Jersey–Dominick’s, I think it was. Suddenly, the stereo system at Dominick’s pipes out the unforgettable bass-snare drum beat of the latest hit on the radio:

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise
Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got
Mud on yo’ face
Big disgrace
Kickin’ your can all over the place

Everyone in Dominick’s but us–maybe two dozen Warren County rednecks–starts stomping their feet and clapping their hands in time to the music. Somebody yells out, “Fuckin Yankees!” (The Yankees had won the World Series that year.) And then, two dozen voices in unison, between bites of Jersey Neapolitan pizza, sing in commemoration of the Yankees’ victory over the Dodgers, and anything else that comes to mind:

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Malcolm Young (1953-2017), RIP

“A real entertainer, a mischief maker, lover of no fixed abode…”

I never thought, at the age of twelve (when I first discovered AC/DC), that I’d be reading Malcolm Young’s obituaries in the mainstream press. And yet, here they are: Rolling Stone, NPR, The Los Angeles TimesCBS News, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Guitar World. Angus Young, on behalf of the band.

Never has one man done so much, so many times, with so few chords.  Continue reading

AC/WTF in Lisbon: A Requiem Mass

I don’t understand this. I will never understand this. I try to come to terms with it, but words fail me. In my grief, I can only call upon the words of others, wiser than me.

“Mysteries like these can no man penetrate…”
–Voltaire, from “Poeme sur le desastre de Lisbonne,” on the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755

“Oh Voltaire! Oh humanity! Oh idiocy!”
–Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, II.35

“You been…thunderstruck!”
–AC/DC

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. A long way down, too.

Postscript, May 9, 2016: OK, Axl/DC is starting to grow on me in a weird-ass musical Frankenstein’s monster guilty-pleasure sort of way. I mean, it could have been worse, but then, it could have been better (cf. Lizzy Hale).

Letter from a Chevalier to a Lady of No Quality

Dear Lady Who Was Sitting in the Middle of Row E at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra’s All-Beethoven Concert, Enlow Recital Hall, Kean University, Hillside, New Jersey, February 6, 2016, between 7:30 and 9:30 pm:

I think it’s really cool that you brought your three young children to an orchestral performance, I really do. Audiences for classical music are starting to dwindle nowadays, and if classical music is to survive, it needs the support of the younger generation–like your three delightful little children.

But still, I would like to point out to you that

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B.B King is Gone: RIP

Though I’ve been to B.B. King’s Bar & Grill maybe a half dozen times, I regret to say that I never managed to see B.B. King perform there. I don’t even own a single album of his (embarrassingly, I’ve spent years borrowing B.B. King CDs from the public library). But no one can pick up an electric guitar wanting to play the blues (or blues-oriented rock) without somehow doing so in B.B. King’s shadow. I think I can say from first-hand experience that his style was much imitated, but never quite equaled (or in my case, approximated).

He died last night in his sleep at the age of 89. I’ll put more obits in this space as I get the chance. Here’s a nice tribute, with links, via Chris Sciabarra’s “Notablog.”

Stop coughing, stop texting, and shut up: toward a new ethic of concert-going

I’ve got aesthetics on the brain, which is usually what happens when I’ve got a lot of grading to do. Also known as self-distraction

Anyway, here’s an article at the website of WQXR-FM on the violinist Kyung Wha Chung’s recent performance in London, with some ill-tempered comments by yours truly, weighing in on the much-discussed “coughing child controversy.” It’s really just an anti-concert-audiences-today rant, one of my favorite subjects, whether I’m discussing rock or classical audiences. My comment is posted at 4:25 pm, under “Irfan Khawaja from Lodi, New Jersey.”

Happily, the Decorum Martinets seem to be out-commenting the Narcissistic Entitlement Defenders in this conversation. Some of my favorite comments include those of LAP from New Jersey, Glenn, Peter from Rosedale (on Andres Segovia), ilyatrakht, Reindeer Games, CastaDiva from New York, Dariv, Prevum Cor from Mexico City, and Ramona Perez Finkelman from Nyack. But it’s heartening to see lots of others.

We shall overcome.