Because mo’ Buster is mo’ better.
Peter Guralnick’s new biography, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, looks promising.
Phillips was ahead of his time. So-called race records were selling in the early 1950s, but not widely. The singles he recorded in Memphis weren’t moving. He was in danger of going out of business. When the mystery train that was Presley came around the bend, he was not too stupid to climb aboard.
It’s worth pausing, for a moment, to consider how lucky it was that Presley walked into Phillips’s studio and not someone else’s. Another producer (that term had not yet come into use in the record industry) might have put him to work singing country-pop ditties with string sections. He might have been another Eddy Arnold.
Phillips already had an aesthetic ethos. In some ways, he had prepared his whole life for Elvis’s arrival. Part of Phillips’s ethos, Mr. Guralnick writes, was his “sense that there were all these people of little education and even less social standing, both black and white, who had so much to say but were prohibited from saying it.”
And here’s Louis Menand in the New Yorker:
“We Record Anything—Anywhere—Anytime” was the slogan. This meant a lot of church services, weddings, and funerals, but Phillips’s dream, the reason that he set up the studio, was to have a place where any aspiring musician could come in and try out, no questions asked. Phillips would listen and offer suggestions and encouragement. If he liked what he heard, he would record it. For a fee, the performer could cut his or her own record.
Phillips was extremely good at this. He was patient with the musicians; he was adept with the technology; above all, he was supportive. He hated formulas. He thought that music was about self-expression, and he liked songs that were different. The pop sound in 1950 was smooth and harmonic. Phillips preferred imperfection. It made the music sound alive and authentic. Word got around, and musicians no one else would record started turning up at the Memphis Recording Service. Phillips got them to believe in him by getting them to believe in themselves.
I’ve been reading through Joy Ride, John Lahr’s recent anthology of theater criticism and personality profiles. In the introduction, he has this to say about his editor at The New Yorker, Deborah Treisman:
But, short or long, the mind-meld never lost its thrill. On the edited page, you are still you, but somehow brighter, clearer, smoother, almost glamorous. You words dip and swing with their proper music; your hard-won meanings land with their intended clout. No wonder the relationship feels so intimate and joyous. You are being given the greatest of gifts: to be your best self in print.
This is so true and when you’re lucky enough to work with an editor like this it is something to be savored. I love that Lahr was generous enough to point this out.
[Photo Credit: Graham Turner]
On Saturday afternoon I saw my neighbor Louie standing with another guy in front of our building. I asked the other guy if he was rooting for the Mets.
“I’m rooting for New York,” he said, “I’m a New Yorker. We need to win. It’s been so long.”
He meant it, too. Then: “We need a fuckin’ parade.”
There’ll be no parade this year but I like the sentiment.
It’s Matt Harvey, the so-called Dark Knight with the season on the line in Game 5 tonight in Queens.
The fans have been great at Citi Field. Last game home game of the season, be beautiful to end it on a high note.
Volquez on the hill for the Royals and it’s hard not to root for him after his father’s death. Whole lot on the table…
Let’s Go Base-ball!
Drawing by the great Frank Miller.