Friday, June 03, 2005

Fringe Too

Polls are closed. The votes are tallied. We have the second installment in the world renowned Big Rock Candy Mountain Fringe Hall of Fame. As voted by you, Comrades of the Revolution. Or something. Never did get a consensus number 5 pick, so I made an "executive" decision, and I'll add the rest to the next poll, which should post sometime next week.

Anyway, here you go. Drum roll, or knee slaps, please.

Dean Martin. Yep, you read that correctly. Dino's my choice for a Legacy award. Now how the hell does Martin count as fringe anything? Well, first I'd highly recommend checking out Nick Tosches' seminal take on Dean, Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams. Man, Dean did not give a fuck. Plain and simple. While Frank was in it for the fame (and the broads), and Sammy was in it as an entertainer (and for the broads), Dean was in it for the dough. And because he was lazy. And, of course, for the broads. Martin was punk rock. To him, it all was just a game , and if it fell apart, well so the fuck what. There's always another racket. You can hear it in his laconic singing delivery, in his tossed off asides, his boozy persona, even in his storied acting "career" (which won praise from no less than Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift). It was Dean who set the template, for better or for worse, for the modern "ironic" lounge singers. Dean was also obsessed with westerns and country music. He performed the definitive version of one of the Mountain's top 5 songs (Little Ole Wine Drinker Me). For sheer attitude alone, Dean makes the Hall. But his body of recorded work justifies his inclusion also. More varied than Frank or Sammy, he made lonely-heart music for the fuck you crowd. Come on in, Dean, and have a drink.

Dean Martin: Houston (mp3)

Townes Van Zandt. The top vote getter in the poll. I was a little surprised by this, as I wasn't sure if y'all would count ole Townes as Fringe or not (I received several e-mails and comments from folks who definitely felt he was most definitely not fringe). He falls into the Nick Drake category, as far as I can tell. Too well known to be obscure, too obscure (Volkswagen be damned) to be well known. I think Townes counts as Fringe. If you asked 20 random folks on the street if they knew who Van Zandt was, you'd be lucky to get one or two positive responses. If you asked they same 20 people if they knew versions of "Pancho and Lefty", "Rex's Blues", "If I Needed You", or "To Live's To Fly", you'd increase your yes's by a considerable amount. Townes is worshipped obsessively, and deified, by a very definite group of people. But, it's a very small group, consisting of musicians, songwriters, and music obsessives. There's good reason his songs are more popular in cover versions rather than his originals. Van Zandt's voice is too thin, his arrangements too spare, for broad popular consumption. His writing is difficult in it's simplicity, too direct and too far away. All of that, of course, is why he's one of my favorites, and apparently yours, too. His influence on Steve Earle, and the whole "alt country" movement is immeasurable (like Dean with the lounge singers...for good or ill). Until there's a sitcom entitled "Everybody Loves Townes", Van Zandt counts as fringe. I wish he was too popular to include here.

Townes Van Zandt: Greensboro Woman (mp3)

Andre Williams. We use the word greasy quite a bit here at the Mountain. We like greasy. Organs are greasy. Wah Wah pedals are greasy. A horn section can be greasy. And Andre Williams is a very greasy man. Southern fried soul via Detroit scuzz. One of the true (largely) unheralded geniuses of Rhythm and Blues, Andre was already a dirty old man by the time he was twenty. Williams was not so much an innovator, as he was a chameleon. He took the lexicon of popular soul, funk, and r&b and boiled it down to its barest, nastiest bones. He's more recognized now for his forays into garage and country (see tune below), than he is as the young(ish) producer and songwriter from the 60's that forms the origin of his reputation. We've posted about Andre numerous times here before, and will most likely do so again. Andre likes truckin' music too.

Andre Williams and the Sadies: Hey Truckers (mp3)

The Pogues. Well. The Mountain would like to thanks the voters for recognizing one of its favorite bands. But if you've visited here with any kind of regularity, you already knew that. Why are the Pogues fringe? Doesn't everybody know who they are? Well, mostly, that would be true. It's the band who wrote the greatest Christmas song since White Christmas. Their lead singer has a bit of a reputation. The thing is, nobody had ever sounded like the Pogues before. Sure, they had their obvious influences, but who the hell thought an accordion and a fiddle could be punk rock? Shane Macgowan wasn't one of those adoringly ugly frontmen, no, he was just plain butt ugly. And even at the start, his voice sounded as if he was pushing broken glass and bourbon through his nose. But it worked, and for the space of 3, arguably 4, albums, it was the most magnificent, beautiful, sad and fucked up music coming out of the British Isles. And their imitators still thrive on stages and Vans tours to this day. I'm relatively certain that the RnR Hall o' Fame aint gonna be calling their name anytime soon (not with really important artist like KISS, Van Halen and Bryan Adams on deck). So for now, let them live on, on record players, good movie soundtracks, and Blog pages. Thanks boys (and Cait 'n' Kirsty).

Pogues: Rake at the Gates of Hell (mp3)

Lee Hazlewood. Nancy Sinatra fans, and fans of great producers came out for Lee in the poll. Another oddball, whose legacy can be felt on almost everyone's record collection, but whose name leaves most scratching their heads. The list of folks he's produced(most notably Nancy Sinatra and Duane Eddy) is bogglin' large. Check out this link for a list. And for further example, check out the above Dean Martin download, Houston. Lee produced that too. His style modeled the Spector Wall of Sound, only with space and real kitchen sinks (not really, but it sounded good). His own albums are nothing short of fringe genius, cowboy operas, weird country funk, Anne Margaret duets, Swedish song cycles, etc. and etc. Another fella with a, how do you say, distinctive voice, Hazlewood is a rock icon, and long deserving of his due.

Lee Hazlewood: You Look Like a Lady (mp3)

Hasil Adkins. And in the beginning, god created the one man band, named it Hasil Adkins, and, lo, it was good. I'm going to quote from the above link for a moment: "Imagine Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Johnny Cash, ScreaminÂ’ Jay Hawkins, George Jones, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Dolemite, Thomas Edison, Uncle Jesse, Grandpa Munster, Groucho Marx, Johnny B. Goode, Casanova, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Sitting Bull in one body and you start to get the idea." Howling infernal racket, AM static country, blue blues, gutter mountain trash. Still just a start. Anyone with a yen for trash, it starts here. The lid came off with Adkins. And no one managed to get it back on. Hasil died recently. For fans of a certain kind of music, it was the equivalent of Elvis, Lennon, and Kurt dying. Thanks for the rekkids Haze.

Hasil Adkins: Gone Gone Gone (mp3)

That wraps it up for this round. Guest post on Monday. Next round poll on Wednesday, filled with YOUR nominees, so if you haven't nominated anyone yet, get yr suggestions in. Shit, I'd be a fool, if i thought I knew every damn musician worthy of the Fringe Hall of Fame. Help me out.

If you've got some dough, get yr Fringe records from yr Fringe record store.


Reverend Frost said...

Nice, nice, nice !

countrygrrl said...

fandabbydozy...gr8t choice of tracks as usual...

IanB said...

Lovin' the blog .. Cheers for the link ...

IanB @ RetroBabe!