Thanks to G for mentioning this album in the Nashville Teens comments, which got me to finally listen to it. If you haven’t heard it, it’s a smoker. Jerry Lee’s in top form, and the Nashville Teens are red-hot.
There’s something funny about Germans going apeshit over Jerry Lee Lewis.
Many Memphians have Jerry Lee stories. Mine might be unique, as it does not involve sex, drugs, or guns (maybe because I never encountered him personally). Anyway, back in the mid-80’s I dated a girl for a while who lived downtown at the Waterford, which overlooks the Mississippi. Her apartment was a couple of stories down from the penthouse, where JL was living at the time. I never saw him (although said girl claimed he hit on her in the elevator a couple of times–he was in his 50’s and she was 19 or 20), but sometimes we could hear him playing. On nice evenings we’d hang out on her balcony. He must have had his balcony door open to catch the river breeze, because we could very clearly hear him practicing and noodling around. So I have this sort of magical memory of our lounging on the balcony, drinking beer, watching the sunset over the river, enjoying the breeze, and eavesdropping on the great JL playing the piano. A good time for sure.
In his In The Midnight Hour episode, Andrew Hickey tells a great story about the recording of Mustang Sally. While the tape was rewinding after recording in one take, the capstan flew of the recorder, shredding the tape into fragments and sending them flying all over the room. The volatile Wilson Pickett was about to explode, when Tom Dowd told everyone to calm down and take a 30-minute break. Dowd then spliced the fragments, a total of 40 splices, an average of one every three or four seconds. Hickey plays a 30-second sample containing the only possible splice he can hear (it’s at 2:22) but thinks it’s more likely a drumming error. Nah, that’s a splice.
I’m sort of a theme & variations junkie. From Bach to Coltrane, they show just what a musician can do when taking a single melody and running with it. A while back I posted Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which didn’t really improvise the main melody but came up with new ones while repeating the bass line. Subsequent composers usually varied the melody by elaborating on bits of it, like in this Beethoven set. This set came about after the musician and (more importantly) publisher, Anton Diabelli, sent a waltz melody to the leading German composers of the time and requested each of them to write a variation on it. Beethoven thought the melody was garbage and ignored it at first. One story has him changing his mind when he learned that other respected composers (Czerny and Hummel, a sometimes rival) were doing it. Or maybe he decided that the melody was pliable enough to accomplish something. Most likely Diabelli simply offered Beethoven money to compose multiple variations; he knew they’d sell. Beethoven wrote 33 variations. Like Coltrane working a show tune, these 33 get pretty far out there, way ahead of their time. There’s everything from mockery of the melody (“this melody is shit”) to transcendance (“look what I can do with even a shitty melody”) and, well, who knows what to call it. There have been plenty of great theme and variation works since, but none have put a melody through the wringer quite like this.
Beethoven was a master of improvisation; he wrote other such sets, but also worked variations into his symphonies, piano sonatas, string quartets, etc. If you want a shorter example, try the second (and final) movement of his piano sonata #32, his last, where he twists a hymn-like melody all over the place before landing in long, brutal, and otherworldly trills that would cripple a normal hand. The second movement starts at 9:00 if you don’t want to hear the first.
In an effort to expose the lax standards for handling packages by Fed Ex, this artist had glass boxes shipped all over the world. He then displayed the damaged goods as art, and now they’re in a museum. Makerbot, I suggest that you bring this to management’s attention to address this serious