Zumwalt Poems Online

Archive for the ‘1970s’ Category

Fifty Year Friday: September 1970

Lot’s of great albums released during 1970 and September was one of several notable months. About this time in 1970, I started listening to music with headphones. Our small living room was such that the two stereo speakers were poorly situated for optimal stereo, and so the headphones revealed a common characteristic of many of these albums — this was not the Stereo of the mid 1960s anymore. Stereo was now creating sound stages, some realistic, particularly with classical music recordings, and some surreleastic as with so many rock albums. The pleasure of listening to albums like Black Sabbath’s Paranoid or Jesus Christ Superstar increased measurably when the room was dark: the sense of sound borrowed attention-resources from the sense of sight. To this day, whether it is Bartok’s Night Music, Debussy musical imagery, Billie Holiday’s Verve-era vocals, Charles Mingus’s Mingus Ah Um, the primal combination of Gezzer Butler bass and Toni Iomma’s guitar or a classic angular progressive rock album like Gentle Giant’s Free Hand, I remember the lesson from 1970, turn off the lights, extinguish all extraneous thoughts and make the music your entire and exclusive environment.

Andrew Webber and Tim Lloyd Rice:

Jesus Christ Superstar

Several months after The Who’s Tommy hit the FM radio stations, a more controversial album starting getting attention. It was also a rock opera, though more like a tradtional cast recording than Tommy, with different individuals on each part. My go-to radio station for new albums, KPPC-FM, announced that they would be playing the entire album from start to finish. I recorded the broadcast on reel to reel, with the broadcast’s less than perfect reception, and then repeatedly listened to the resultant recording on headphones through a wall of static. Thankfully, Christmas soon came and on Christmas day I received Superstar, as we colloquially referred to the album, as a Christmas present along with the complete Handel’s Messiah Oratorio, which I had also requested, and which my mom found it much harder to find than Superstar, now present at every record store. (I had also asked for the entire Tchaikovsky 1812, convinced that if there was an 1812 Overture, which I had, there must be a corresponding opera. Of course, no such gift could be purchased.)

I immediately transferred the two LPs of Superstar to tape, so as not to wear out the LPs, as I had done with the 1812 overture and my copy of Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote. The sound, recorded at the fastest speed available on my tape deck, on the highest quaility tape I had, was just indescribable, particuarly on relatively good headphones. I would sit on the floor close to my tape deck, following the lyrics initially, and then later abosorbing the compositional and instrumental richness of the album.

My grandmother, the more religious one, approved of my interest and commented that this was how music sounded back at the time of Christ, though I was old enough to realize this was way before her time. Yet, there seemed to be undeniable truth in this assertion, and part of this was the inclusion and incorporation of dissonance, and the use of the diminished chord, that standby of silent movie soundtracks to represent the bad guys — and hints of older modes and scales. This is Andrew Lloyd Weber’s masterpiece. That the composer of works like the earlier Joseph and the Amazon Technicolor Dreamcoat and the later Starlight Express, rose to this level of musical excellence may be challenging to explain, but it occured and this album was evidence.

Black Sabbath: Paranoid

That this larger than life work, the 20th century rock equivalent of a Wagner opera scene, was purchased for $2.99 at K-mart, took me a while to get over. I remember vividly, the first time I encountered the first Black Sabbath album being listened to on a cheap turntable plugged into a building outlet by some high school freshmen druggie-types, or at least academic poor-achievers (we won’t say failures as they had three more years of high school ahead) — and I remember being intrigued by the poorly reproduced but seemingly substantial music. And I vividly remember purchasing Paranoid at K-mart, taking it home and sitting in front of the stereo on a barstool borrowed from the kitchen counter. But what was most vivid about all encounters with Black Sabbath, even including seeing them up close and live at California Jam, was the first listening to Paranoid and the darkness, obscurity and obliqueness of the music.

Paranoid is often credited as the first true heavy metal album, though certainly all the elements in Paranoid are there to some degree in their first album. However, while the first album was basically a recording of a live set, the second album is of higher sonic and musical quality. Though all four band members are given songwriting credit, for the most part the music on this album was written by Tony Iomma, with lyrics provided by Geezer Butler. To classify this music as simply heavy metal ignores the unique musicl style of Iomma — a darkest violet, and yes, satanic-like sound, built on short basic and strongly diatonic phrases that fit together like lego blocks. The sound is readily identifiable, and works effectively at a slow tempo, as in the opening moments of War Pigs that start the ablum, or at a faster tempo as taken in the second track, Paranoid. I have never heard Black Sabbath labelled as a progressive rock band, and some of that may be due to the primal nature of thir muscianship and Iomma’s compositions, but for me, I see no reason why the music itself isn’t classified as progressive rock. It certainly was a progressive sound in 1970 and when I picked it up in 1971 when it hit record stores in the U.S. And today fifty years later, it still holds its own, tarnished slightly in terms of freshness by the subsequent Black Sabbath albums that sometimes recycled the building blocks that made this such a unique sound and the many less-distinctive and creative imitators that followed. There is nothing in the rock catalog that has both the somatic and metabolic magnetic impact as “Iron Man”, and excluding the very best canonical prog rock albums, there are few musical statements that show the boldness, consistency, and durability of “Paranoid.”

Atomic Rooster:

Death Walks Behind You

If the William Blake bestial  Nebuchadnezzar album cover didn’t entice you to immediately purchase the Atomic Rooster Death Walks Behind You, hearing that dark descending four note chromatic bass line that permeates the title track or the quirky, keyboard-bejewelled “Tomorrow Night” might have. Unfortunately, being on Elektra, there was slight chance of someone in the U.S. seeing this album stocked in most record stores in 1970, and unless you lived in the L.A. or the Bay area, it’s not likely you would have heard any portion of this album on FM radio, until the success of ELP prompted many to check the back catalog of Atomic Roster. Nonetheless, this ablum, with Carl Palmer now replaced with Paul Hammond on drums, and Vincent Crane and John Du Cann raising their level of creative partnership, this is not only the best Atomic Rooster album, but a fine, at times joyful and playful, at times dark and shadowy, heavy metal, progressive hard rock album. Whereas no band ever imitated Black Sabbath effectively, the style of hard rock exemplified in Death Walks Behind You, a style with its roots in earlier hard rock English pre-metal bands such as Cream, was successfully incorporated by a number of bands of the early seventies.

Caravan:

If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You

Another high quality progressive album, released in the UK on September 4, 1970, and also difficult to find in the U.S. until later in the seventies, was Caravan’s second album. Providing a diverse range of progressive rock, Canterbury scene rock and English Jazz rock (with its inclusion of saxophonist Jimmy Hastings), this is an album that endears itself upon repeated listenings.

Neil Young:

After the Gold Rush

Full of unerringly good music and lyrics that range from near-nonsense and obliquely obscure to shamelessly unaffected and nakedly transparent, Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, is one the finest if not the very best of his long, productive and meaningful career. Southern Man is a case in point where the music and lyrics are beyond any criticisms, or need for critique, but the rest of the original compositions are each worthy of special attention. Neil Young is a master at combining musical and lyrical simplicty to get through one’s superficial emotional barriers as exemplfied in “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” It is the Neil Young magic that turns a basically musically and poetically flimsy and somewhat monotonous song into exquisitely simple high art, something also accomplished with the less emotional “When You Dance I Can Really Love” and the entire contents of his subsequent album, “Harvest.” The most memorable song on After the Gold Rush, is the title track with its seemingly deeply profound, but if you believe later Neil Young interviews, somewhat meaningless, lyrics. I prefer to think that Young is being more modest than accurate, for even if there was no particularly deep intent in the lyrics they fit so well with the music that they deserve some praise. But the most incredible feature of this work, at least for me, is that with every listening it always seems to be of epic length, even though it only clocks in at only 3 3/4 minutes.

Santana: Abraxas

Released on September 23, 1970, Abraxas is another special album. Despite an initial lack of attention and acceptance from many in the music press, the attention the band garnered from the Woodstock film, the success of the “Evil Ways” single, and the striking cover soon propelled this album to number one on the album charts making the album a staple in many early 1970s record collections. This is another one of those albums you turn down (or off) the lights to listen to. The opening track is dramatic and provides an imposing and remarkable beginning to an amazing, whirlwind musical experience.

If: If

Though often labelled as jazz-rock, this first of several albums by If, released in September 1970 is as much British progressive rock as it is jazz-rock. Similar in some respects to early Jethro Tull and Genesis, the musicianship is solid and the music is engaging. I picked this album up when it came out after reading a postive review of it in the L.A Times, expecting that it might be similar to Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears, and didn’t fully appreciate if for what it was, mostly listening to it as background while studying or reading. Listening to it again, almost fifty years later, I much better appreciate it’s abundant qualities and strengths.

Jackson Five: Third &

Allman Brothers Band: Idlewild South

There are two other albums released in September of 1970 that require a brief mention. The first is the Jackson Five album, their third album, simply titled Third. As I was starting my sophemore year in school, the biggest slam one could throw (“dis” in modern parlance) at someone was either they were a freshman, or worse, they were a freshman and put on a Jackson Five album when they went home. Nothing was more uncool musically. And yet, when riding on the bus, one couldn’t avoid (and very embarrassing, and something I would never admit until now too old to care about being cool) liking the music. So it was with “I’ll Be There” which I heard over and over again. I never listened to any Jackson Five album until recently — but now listening to them as I go through the timeline of albums that are celebrating their fiftieth year of existence. Of course, it helps that I am married to someone that was a fan of Michael Jackson when growing up.

The other album I must mention is the Allman Brothers Band’s Idlewild South album, released September 23, 1970. Although often pigeonholed as an early Southern Rock album, or even as Southern Blues-Rock, it is so much more. The opening incorporates jazz elements and anticpates groups like Dixie Dregs. Yes, when the vocals start, the music becomes more conventional and less interesting — until the next instrumental excursion. And basically, that is the strength of this album: it’s instrumental passages.

as good as buried

as good as buried
so ball-drained
cause he has to have a chick
                             on the kick

a boomer today and a blow-out tomorrow
he thinks he’s a cool aviator
but it’s not so cool where he always ends up:

another piece of debris among floaters
and when he’s back on the ground
his gears are jammed

for the pleasure has turned to pain
and will remain
until another connection.

— Zumwalt (1974)

deleterious habitat

deleterious habitat

hot southern heat
  baking your alaska
the smog fills your
lungs like sand
                in a dersadrop humidifier

breathing is a function
  and we are approaching an asymptote

three toed sloths trek through the treptremanian soil

burning air and burning phylum
                    cough…
                                  cough…
                                                cough…

It is time to let me out.

— Zumwalt (1974)

might as well forget her

might as well forget her


she's
     dropped
            like a hot rock

pizza pipers peddling pieces of purposeful product
not at all like 
           lipstick, perfume, deodorants
                    and other such shallow items

cleatamenthate degarglycide throntine
it does me no good to say i miss her
                          i don't

and if I ever find myself missing her
              then something's missing in me

craters, black light, dew drops, frozen stages, 
         and a topping of dehydrated marshmallow sauce.

the world is full --
          it's full of fools

and common sense has vaporized
       like an ice cube on the sun.

— Zumwalt (1974)

40th Anniversary Post

US40_220

Not sure if it’s something to celebrate, though clearly an excuse to blog, 40 full years have passed since the first published Zumwalt poem, “Trilogy of the Oblique Carbide” appeared in the inaugural issue of GHLM, a low budget literary digest with a circulation of only slightly more than 500 copies.

In this deeply epistemological tribute to the bebop musicality of the beat generation poets, Zumwalt loads the existential bases with the three most essential questions: where does life come from, where does it go, and what is the meaning of life; hinting that the essence of life is eat, get eaten and reproduce.

In the next few months, it is our intent to cajole Zumwalt in releasing any unpublished poems from various dusty scrapbooks and coffee house napkins for initial presentation here at zumpoems.com. Until then here is a reprint of the first ever published Zumwalt poem.

TRILOGY OF THE OBLIQUE CARBIDE
 
I. Judge Crater Is No More 

Help!
There is a fandango up my nose;
   This is justice?
O ironic gods -- can they
Really repossess my pancreas?
And Black and Decker tread on the cosmic puddles
         URRRP!
 
II. Moira 

      My ravioli molded to day...
   The wispy green fuzz eating
Away the corrupted entrails of Alpha Beta 
         Ground sirloin.
Pathos.  Tragedy.  Tricanosis.
         Such is fate.
 
III.  Cry the beloved wingnut 

         Bladderwort lied.
Bigot!  And the hungry children cry 
   In their farina.  Would Rothschild give
Them Twinkies?  Ha!  Let them eat Spackling paste.
   Spush!  Time, the rain-bird, spews
Its indifference towards the continuum of OHM.

— Zumwalt (1973)

Solo

 Solo

Blinking away caffeine minutes
And hours
With the deli owls
Sparse and sporadic

Savoring the solitude
Of the urban predawn
I watch winter
Convoluted and crystal
Rush the window

The radio unloads
Heavy metal
High volume, howling
Then
Upturned chairs
           the busboy plays counterpoint
           on a Kirby

Purposeful sips
Premeditated
Prolong the leisure
Hunching over the cup
I feel my midnight independence hobbled
           by night’s loneliness
           yet, nonetheless,
Satisfying

— Zumwalt (19 Feb 1979, Washington, DC)

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche

February’s snow buried midnight
And swallowed one a.m. in subsequent flurries
Monday’s second hour
Like one of Ilium’s layers
Ruined
Awaits its inexorable interment
Atop the wrecks of its predecessors

— Zumwalt (19 February 1979,Washington, DC)

Decline and Fall

Decline and Fall

Chilled and solitary
I feel the Fall
A season flickering
A time cooling
Summer’s dissolute heat and aureate fury
Quenched
In long shadows
Darkly déjà vu
Gibbon scents the dusk
Crisp disquiet
Suddenly
October has pierced the city
Like Alaric’s Goths
Rude and barbarous
Yet
In its gusty fury
Lustral

— Zumwalt (15 October 1979)

Afternoon Off

Afternoon Off

Muscling for the right of way
With horn-blast exclamations
Traffic mutters its scat song score

The sun today
Like most days
Doesn’t shine postcard gold and honeyed
It glares
Through the inversion layer
A klieg light in a smoky cabaret
But
Just the same it warms
The square

Sprawled on the grass
Midtown midday characters in
Pershing’s street show
Young Chicanos scout for chicks
And advertise adolescence
Studied, casual, tough

Some shirtsleeve transient
Sporting scrimshaw arms
Scans a racing form
His shoe leather face focused more
On Santa Anita
Than the saints
Shouted, proclaimed
By an antique black
Whose white wisps of whiskers
Cling to his accusing chin
Clouds about a crag
That trembles with every thundered damnation
As the old man makes the park
His pulpit

Basking in my own insouciance
I consider
How best to consume the remainder of the day

Perhaps a saunter to the Biltmore
To grab a joe and watch for ghosts
Or a march upcountry to Bunker Hill
To glimpse the glass castles
Mercantile and magnificent
Then again
I might, like a rookie on the bench,
Sit attentive, listening
To the traffic
And the sermon
And see what happens
Next

— Zumwalt (ca. 1977)

Black with Sugar

Black with Sugar

Loam-dark
A mellow companion, rich
Whose waving vapors indicate
The only friendly warmth in this
Orange-and-yellow plastic always open Tabernacle

Silent on the Formica
Sweet Latin scents caress the senses
Softening
Blows from the nicotine grayness
And insipid ceiling-speak Muzak

Smooth and sepia
Spirals down the throat, wet, warm
For a moment attention drifts
From the bleary graveyard denizens
        the three-day growth denim jacket derelict
        the greasy ember of a cook
        the scrubbed behemoth cop
        A granite waitress

A quiet witness
To a melancholy 3:00 am solo
Outside
        the neon punches holes in the glacial black
        splaying stark pastels across the street’s lonely void
Inside
        Indifference frosts the electric décor
The mug is chipped
But its contents fight the chill and bring a
Welcome, wistful
Smile

— Zumwalt (1977)