Real Life Rock Top 10 (9/89)


1. Natural Spiritual Orchestra, incidental music composed and conducted by William J. E. Lee, in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (Univer­sal)
Sometimes sug­gesting Aaron Cope­land, sometimes Randy Newman—but more urgent, more confusing—Lee’s (Spike’s father) half-buried work is seemingly as foreign to its Brooklyn setting as modern African sounds would be; in a movie where every actor is immediately questioned by another, the music plays as the film’s second mind. It’s not on the soundtrack.

2. Hüsker Dü, “Diane,” on Metal Circus (SST, 1983)
Guy hits on a girl. He says he loves her. He proves it by pulling out his heart with his hands.

3. Lee Cotten, Shake Rattle & Roll—The Golden Age of American Rock ‘n Roll, Volume 1: 1952-1955 (Pieri­an Press/Popular Culture, Ink., P.O. Box 1839, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106, $29.50)
This big, day-by-day log of shows and record releases—”an intellectual feast,” to borrow Robert Bork’s phrase—exposes the anomaly of Living Colour’s “black rock” for the racist construction the last 20 years have made it, demon­strating that, once, “rock ‘n’ roll” was a black name, a black idea, embraced and pursued by black musicians and hustlers not as a compromise but on its own new terms, even if Cotten does cheat a bit: here, rockabilly is barely “rock n’ roll.” Call it affirmative action.

4. Fine Young Cannibals, “Don’t Look Back” (Sire)
Has this title ever been on a bad record?

5. David Fincher, video for Don Henley’s “The End of the Innocence” (Geffen)
From Walker Evans’s 1935-38 FSA pho­tos to Robert Franks’s 1959 The Americans (one of Fincher’s shots is an almost exact recreation of Franks’s “View from a hotel window—Butte, Montana”) to something more: a bride, turning in an empty room with her new husband, trying to hide a smile so shy and full of promise neither Evans nor Franks would have known what to do with it. Whether it’s the same woman who later appears as a prostitute, or as a mother whose eyes have given up their life wholly to a movie screen, is uncertain.

6. Link Wray, Rumble Man (Ace, UK)
Wray cut “Rumble,” a guitar instrumental described by its title, in 1957; he was in his middle or late twenties. Now, near 60, with undiminished flash and conviction, he becomes the oldest rocker to make a good record, lining out the who-cares stomp the Rolling Stones have pledged for their fifties since they were in their thirties. It’ll be a surprise if anything on Steel Wheels outlives Wray’s “Draggin ” or “Aces Wild.”
7. Louise Brooks, in Barry Paris’s Louise Brooks (Knopf)
The woman in G. W. Pabst’s 1929 silent film Pandora’s Box, more than 40 years later, to “one of her last lovers”: “If I ever bore you it’ll be with a knife.”

8. Julee Cruise, Floating Into the Night (Warner )
Ten variations on Blue Velvet‘s “Mysteries of Love,” all composed and produced by David Lynch, who would have known how to direct Louise Brooks (1906-85): a bore in the daytime, visionary at 3 a.m.

9. Monte Moore, comment during A’s-Yankees tele­cast, on spotting a man in an Elvis mask sitting in Yankee Stadium, August 28 (KICU, San Jose)
“The next manager.”

10. Sonic Youth, Henry Kaiser, Soul Asylum, and others, The Bridge—A Tribute to Neil Young (Caro­line)
Dedicated to “physically challenged children everywhere” (not a term Sonic Youth would use for a song—“Crips Galore” would be more like it), with “a portion of the proceeds” to the Bridge School, where Young’s two handicapped kids go, but lest we forget, the man himself, in 1984, endorsing Ronald Reagan: “You can’t always support the weak. You have to make the weak stand up on one leg, or half a leg, whatever they’ve got.”

Village Voice, November? 1989

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