Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making fun

Frank Zappa once issued a CD called Does Humor Belong in Music?, and it's a question he was obsessed with throughout his life. And probably one of the records that's most interesting to consider in this light is Cruising with Ruben and the Jets, because it's regularly taken to be a parody of sweet rock and roll, or doo-wop, with the idea that if you do a parody of something, you hate what you're parodying, and you're only doing it to trash it. But you can listen to Ruben and the Jets in a completely different way. My friend Danny Huston told me that he had had a love affair that broke up, and he went home and played Ruben and the Jets, and wept all the way through, and took it completely literally.

That's Ben Watson, speaking in Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention: In the 1960s, about what Zappa called his "neo-classical" album, Ruben and the Jets.

Stumbled across this last night and thought it would make a nice addition to the Jarrett and Sardelli posts.

Is it possible to ridicule (or critique) something and to love it -- I mean really love it -- at the same time?

I think so. In fact, I would say that this is one of the more productive and useful dynamics in all of creativity -- it's one way of separating yourself from the things that have inspired you, so as to not merely reproduce what has gone before.

I would also suggest that the best human relationships are like this. No true love happens purely. Our honest disappointment in each other, our outsider's cold objectivity, makes our affection that much more meaningful.

[photo credit: gimpbully]


Anonymous said...

I agree with your assertion.

I’m a big fan of Tim Buckley (Jeff’s father). After two, ultra-experimental albums (Lorca and Starsailor – with members from Zappa’s band), he was given an ultimatum by the record company: make something that sells or be dropped from the label. As he had a family and drug habit to support, he opted for the former. The last, three albums of his career were a complete mystery. His true fans disparaged him and the critics were mixed in regard to accepting his new, R&B style.

Take a look at this video of him performing “Dolphins” by Fred Neil:

It was a song that he took with him through all phases of his career. He first began to sing it right after Jeff was born in 1967. The lyrics obviously meant something important to him. It breaks my heart to hear him sing it; knowing that he deeply regretted not being a constant presence in Jeff’s life.

Tim embraced every, musical style he explored. I think it would be fair to say that he hated as well as loved the folkie, the avant-gardist, and the soulster he played – all to the hilt.

If you’d like a good read, check out “Blue Melody” by Lee Underwood (his guitarist of many years).

Here’s a clip of Tim singing one of my personal favorites, “Sing a Song for You:”

Funny that Radiohead decided to cover it – perfect song for Thom Yorke.

I’ll stop because I’m starting to meander…


Andrew Durkin... said...

Thanks for this, Darren! I appreciate the input!

I'm only tangentially aware of Tim Buckley (I was aware of him before I ever heard of Jeff, but ironically, I know Jeff's music much better). Looks like I'm going to have to do some investigating!