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Sunday Soul – Normal Extraordinaire
Year 11 – Playlist 36/52 – Art, Essay and music for the week of December 21st 2014
When beloved American sitcom The Brady Bunch was cancelled in March of 1974 half of the United States was shocked. The shock didn’t last long, because it went into what we used to call syndication in 1975 and then television viewers could watch the program every night of the week. The other half of the United States breathed a huge, deep sigh of relief. By 1974 the long haired movement of the 1960’s had been completely coopted by main stream culture. The ideas born out of anti-capitalism, individualism, civil rights, and rebellion against the establishment, religion, politics, police, racism, sexism, and convention which had first magnetized the great American city, then pushed the rebels out into farms and collectives, and eventually over the edge into communes, cults, and back into the arms of institutions, religions, and rehabilitation programs had been distilled into a vinyl wall applique for the dance sequence of Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh In” and Marsha Brady’s “groovy” new mini dress. Cynically ignored as candy-pants and socially irrelevant, Sherwood Schwartz’ sitcom introduced the idea of divorce, remarriage, step children, step brothers and sisters and a modern idea of family to the living rooms of otherwise completely closed minded working class and middle class people who had no other opportunity to be exposed to these crazy ideas. In the late sixties and early seventies a child would be sent to college to better themselves by working class parents who sacrificed a lot to give their kids the chance to do better than they had been able to do. When that child comes home from their first semester at school with hair over their collar, wearing flower print pants, and a headband furious with their parents for being fascist slaves of a system which has failed it’s own people there may be a lot of yelling and screaming in the house, but you can bet there isn’t any honest or vulnerable communication going on. So the revolutionaries of the 60’s and 70’s pointed to the Brady Bunch as a phony idealism that was actually emblematic of what was wrong with America. They didn’t see the good the program had done. They didn’t see that despite it’s trite and slapstick lightheartedness the show was, in it’s way, speaking truth to the establishment and bringing modernity, honesty, and converting it all into everyday things, in places it had never been welcome before.
In 1963 when The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was cancelled by CBS executives half of Americans were heartbroken. Dobie and his beatnik sidekick Maynard G Krebs had introduced Rodin, existentialism, the soulstache, sweatshirts for boys with the collar cut out, friendship without advantage, and the search for life’s meaning beyond sports and girls to middle class and working class homes who had previously been entirely unconcerned with such things. The other half of Americans were quietly delighted that this televised, lowbrow insult to the intelligence of writers, readers, and the beat generation was at last no longer their cross to bare. I’m not sure anyone considered that the vehicle which carried America from a completely misunderstood generation of tea smoking, espresso drinking runaways who wanted to learn to play the banjo and write an endless novel was for the most part moderated by Dobie Gillis. Again, this trite and banal situation comedy was the bridge which all modern people had to cross in order to start saying “man” at the end of their sentences instead of shaking their fists and declaring that “kids today haven’t got any respect for language!” That’s cute, because today when I watch kids mouths move, and listen to the illiterate rising and falling of their broken sentences, and defiant little mouths I wonder not only how we have managed to fall so far from communication, truth and love, but also what in the hell they are trying to say. It’s sort of like attempting to accept that tagging is an art form. The unintelligible words are scrawled out on walls, dumpsters, doorways, and sidewalks by people aching to find a voice and be understood. It’s as ironic as “punks” are when they dress up like it’s 1978 and then get really mad when you look at them like they’re silly. Look at me – don’t look at me. I love it.
These are cultural bridges which must be crossed, and will be crossed. Just as same sex marriage is right, and racism of any kind, by anyone, for any reason is wrong, and sexism of any kind, by anyone, for any reason is wrong. These are bridges we will cross, and in many cases are crossing as I write this. Every artist must find their way. Every writer must find their voice. Every musician must find their instrument. And we all must find our audience. It is inevitable. To fight it is actually good – your resistance and opposition is fuel for our fires. We need a little friction to get started, and in many cases to manage to continue. Thus the idea of the renegade tagger leaping over fences and hiding under parked cars to get away from the cops is a romantic figure. It’s not as romantic when it was your building they were writing on, but it’s still an artist finding his voice. So even if they are selfish and inconsiderate by not returning to lend a hand painting over it when the building gets cited with a potential $2,500 graffiti notice, the value of the artist finding their voice needs no defense.
I remember the line that punk rock crossed in October of 1979 when CBS news aired a special report on punk rock. Their thesis was essentially that punk was a valid civil protest from impoverished young people in the UK, and that in the USA it was little more than spoiled middle class kids trying to be fashionable. The music they presented as American punk was Devo and the B-52’s. They didn’t mention that punk rock was born on the lower east side of New York City, or that artists like Patty Smith, Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine, Jonathan Richman, The Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, and The Ramones were the American parents of the UK working class movement which had risen up and been fearless champions of a valid new art form which invited absolutely anyone to start a band, play a gig and totally rule. You didn’t have to be beautiful – in fact the uglier the better please – and your only mission was to never flinch. Just play, say whatever you want, do whatever you need to do, and make it count. That’s all well and good, but the very next day the people who had been terrified of any punk rocker they happened to encounter walking down the street were now greeted with a heckling, or a nod of acknowledgment. The mainstream television viewers now felt that they knew what the punks were all about. Humiliating to anyone devoted to the ethics and politics or art of punk rock, it’s true, but again this was a bridge which needed to be crossed. It was inevitable. Later that year the Clash became a pop band, and this made way for New Wave, Patti LaBelle’s new attitude, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno’s career as a producer, and made greatness like Nirvana possible.
It’s sour grapes for those who paved these roads and didn’t keep on moving. It’s tough luck for those of us who stayed down with the underground. Think about your rave experiences – doesn’t matter when you came aboard – 1988 off the M25 watching Orbital’s first show ever, or if you showed up last year at burning man and flubbed your schwub for the first time to some post-dubstep madness. The edm festival movement is huge corporate business, it’s far more cumbersome and alienating than the pizza box flyer rave of the early 90’s ever was. The point, for sweaty, filthy, basement lovers like me, is long gone. My heart was shattered into irretrievable pieces by the summer of 1995, and yet all my best productions were yet to come. I look at free thinkers like Pete Tong and marvel that the man who started FFRR Records, and lost what looked like all of his luster at the first hurdle as not only having turned out to be an exquisite curator of what’s actually fucking happening right this minute, but as more popular as an artist than he has ever been, and making far more money than he ever has. So staying down seems to be more of a fear of getting up than any evidence of purity or virtue than anything else.
Normal is having a revolution at the moment. If you haven’t noticed the concept of “normcore” promised to wage a mad comeback last year, brand names plastered on ugly sweaters, and the average Joe in a
baseball hat look made a play for the spotlight. I thought it was hysterical, but the idea failed because the fashion set didn’t understand that when the world just sort of gave up on trying to look handsome or beautiful they slipped into sweats, mom jeans and baseball hats and for a second all seemed lost. But when Gucci started making sweats and baseball hats in the late 80’s they discovered that they’d stumbled onto a stroke of genius. People who have given up can’t buy Gucci any sooner than they can fit into any of the clothes, but they most certainly will pay $300 for a pair of authentic Gucci sweats. Score for the corporate profits, and another aspiring customer is satisfied at “low expectations.”
Normal is having a revolution. It’s wearing a fur vest, and it’s got tickets to 2015 Burning Man already budgeted. Normal is wearing a floppy sun hat from 1972 and it’s seriously considering changing it’s name from Britney to Sage, or Flower. Normal is wearing Frye boots that come up to her knees. She’s working for a startup and instead of working from an office or home, she is bottoming out on workaholism in a cafe somewhere without power outlets and can’t understand why the baristia won’t just let her plug it in behind the counter for a second. Normal has moved into a previously poor neighborhood and calls the police when people who look differently than he does stop to hang out, or sit down on his front steps. Normal has the internet. Normal is on face-page. Normal doesn’t read anymore either. Normal is beside you in your yoga class. Normal is behind you in traffic. Normal is looking at you suspiciously wondering if you are the ass hole who moved here last week and bumped rents up even higher.
These are bridges we must cross. The number of rivers we must build these bridges for are endless. I am loyal to love, and I love house music. I love music. I love people just about as much as I hate them, but I’m not afraid of anyone. So sell all your vinyl and buy a control surface. Do it. It’ll do you good to see how the future works. And for that matter, sell your laptop and your control surface and go spend a year in a record store. Buy two 1200’s and learn to ride the pitch fader on un syncopated tracks you just have to play because you love the song so much you’ll die if you don’t. Give your guitar to someone who wouldn’t know what to do with it if you smacked them, and finally sit down and figure out how to use Ableton Live. Shave all that hair on your head off. Grow your hair out. Shave your mustache, grow a beard. Go to lightning in a bottle and freak out for a weekend, stay home tonight and cook dinner yourself. Build every muscle in your heart, your head, and your soul. You’re gonna need them all. Every last one of them. We have a lot of building ahead of us. Let’s get to it.
Thank you for listening. See you next week.
Here is the track listing for Sunday Soul: Normal Extraordinaire
1. Adventure – Trulz & Robin
2. Take Me 2 – Moodprint
3. Debonair – Pittsburgh Track Authority
4. Garde Le Pour Toi – Paradis
5. White Sands – Micha Mischer Remix – Leach & Lezizmo
6. Groove With You – Debonair Remix – Fantastic Man
7. I’m a Dancer – Pittsburgh Track Authority Edit – Pittsburgh Track Authority
8. I Feel I’m Going Down – Sixfingerz
9. Sneak – Tapesh & Kevin Over
10. Don’t Get In My Way – Linx
11. Storyboard – Moodprint
12. Looped – Kiasmos
13. Sunday Soul – Program ID
14. Movin’ On Up – Primal Scream
15. Sunday Soul – Program ID
Year 11 – Playlist 36|52
21 December 2014
Total Running Time: 01 Hours 13 Minutes
May the stars above you shimmer and shine, guiding your heart always, all of the time. May they guide you sweetly, all the way home. And may all your sundays have soul.