Ain't it just like the night to play tricks when you're tryin' to be so quiet? We sit here stranded, though we're all doin' our best to deny it And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin' you to defy it Lights flicker from the opposite loft In this room the heat pipes just cough The country music station plays soft But there's nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind
In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman's bluff with the key chain And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the "D" train We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight Ask himself if it's him or them that's really insane Louise, she's all right, she's just near She's delicate and seems like the mirror But she just makes it all too concise and too clear That Johanna's not here
The ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place
Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously And when bringing her name up He speaks of a farewell kiss to me He's sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all Muttering small talk at the wall while I'm in the hall
Oh, how can I explain? It's so hard to get on And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn
Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues You can tell by the way she smiles See the primitive wallflower freeze When the jelly-faced women all sneeze Hear the one with the mustache say, "Jeeze I can't find my knees"
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel
The peddler now speaks to the countess who's pretending to care for him Sayin', "Name me someone that's not a parasite and I'll go out and say a prayer for him" But like Louise always says "Ya can't look at much, can ya man?" As she, herself, prepares for him And Madonna, she still has not showed We see this empty cage now corrode Where her cape of the stage once had flowed The fiddler, he now steps to the road He writes ev'rything's been returned which was owed On the back of the fish truck that loads While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain
From wikipedia: Lennon told producer [George] Martin that he wanted to sound like a hundred chanting Tibetan monks, which left Martin the difficult task of trying to find the effect by using the basic equipment they had. Lennon's suggestion was that he be suspended from a rope and—after being given a good push—he would sing as he spun around the microphone. This idea was rejected by Martin, but when asked by Lennon about it, he would only reply with, "We're looking into it."
Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream, It is not dying, it is not dying
Lay down all thought, surrender to the void, Is it shining? Is it shining?
That you may see the meaning of within It is being, it is being
Love is all and love is everyone Is it knowing? Is it knowing?
That ignorance and hate may mourn the dead It is believing, it is believing
But listen to the colour of your dreams Is it not living, is it not living
Or play the game "Existence" to the end Of the beginning, of the beginning
And here's a recording of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison doing a cover of the song:
Finn in discussion with Greg Wilson on “Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” by The Temptations (1970).
What is your personal history with this particular song and why did you choose it?
I suppose if I was put on the spot and asked to name my favourite all-time singles, this would be one of those that would immediately spring to mind.
My older brother and sister, like many teenagers growing up in the 60’s, regularly bought singles (7″ only in those days of course). They were both into Soul, with Tamla Motown, Stax and Atlantic releases making up the majority of what they owned. These singles gradually fell into my possession and became the foundation of my record collection.
This was one of those records, and the moment I heard it I was awestruck! From the count-in at the start, which I now know was the producer, Norman Whitfield, and the bass line intro, which I now know was a Funk Brother, Bob Babbit, it’s clear that you’re boarding an aural rollercoaster. And then the vocals come in, and what an opening salvo:
“People moving out, people moving in,
Why? Because of the color of their skin,
Run, run, run, but you sure can’t hide…”
We’ve barely started, yet the picture already painted leaves you in no doubt that we’re dealing in harsh realities here. The track is a snapshot of a point in time – with the 60’s moving into the 70’s it reflects the plight of black Americans, disillusioned by the slowness of change when it comes to their personal freedoms, whilst inhabiting a world that’s been changing at breakneck pace. As they try to make sense of the situation they find themselves in, things only become ever more bewildering, the title of the song perfectly capturing the mood of the moment.
Everything about this record is on a higher plane – the song, the vocals, the musicians, the production, it’s a whole crew of people right at the top of their game.
Having made such a strong impression on me, a white boy, I couldn’t begin to imagine how someone who was black would feel listening to this record. Years later I got my answer when interviewing Les Spaine, one of the DJs who inspired me back when I was starting out. This is what he told me:
“The Temptations were God. You waited religiously for any new Temptations record and I think we grew with them, you know. Afros were growing, political awareness was growing. Norman Whitfield, for me, timed it so well because I was reading Eldridge Cleaver, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davies, all those people. I wasn’t a militant, it was just, you know, people were frightened of certain things in America, but what they didn’t realise is that all of a sudden you got an understanding and, hang on, there’s some brothers and sisters here that can do a bit more than running and singing and boxing, which is not degrading. Not putting down any of those three things – that’s what we’re supposed to be good at. All of a sudden, here’s some academics here and the music evolved from just ‘scooby-dooby-do-wah-wah’ to like some of the stuff the Temps were singing. Whitfield got a bit long-winded with seventeen-and-a-half minute tracks with two minutes of vocals but, as a young man, I was really into all that underground… To the majority of the black race, the Temptations were our Beatles. A new Temptations album came out, you bought it and then you listened to it. You didn’t go and sit in the box, because you used to have listening booths then, you just bought it. I always remember, it was really funny, I remember buying ‘Ball Of Confusion’ and I put it on and I left the arm off the machine so that it would go back to it and go back to it, and my dad, who was really one of the most laid back blokes I know, after about two-and-a-half hours of this, must have got fed up of hearing ‘and the band played on’ and just walked into my room, took it off, snapped it and walked off!”
How did you experience the political, social and cultural climate the song reflects?
I was just a kid, aged 10 when this was released, fresh out of primary school, but, despite my obvious naïveté, tracks like this, along with others including Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, Marvin Gaye’s recording of ‘Abraham, Martin And John’, Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ (another Norman Whitfield / Barrett Strong composition, originally recorded by The Temptations, Starr’s version also produced by Whitfield) and even stuff like ‘Love Child’ by The Supremes and Clarence Carter’s ‘Patches’, really struck a chord with me at the time and got me thinking about deeper issues. This is a perfect illustration of the power of music to inform, although the main connection was on an emotional rather than an intellectual level – Soul music, even when the lyrics weren’t really saying anything poignant, could still affect me in a profound way.
I remember thinking ‘how can these people be treated so badly when they make such wonderful music’. I was certainly aware of the racist (or racialist as they said back then) attitude that black people were somehow lesser than whites – Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers Of Blood’ speech had taken place a few years earlier and I’d no doubt picked up on the race / immigration debate via the TV, newspapers and overhearing peoples’ conversations on the subject, it was certainly a hot potato of an issue back then.
Although I didn’t know any black people at the time, unlike many others of my age I fortunately wasn’t burdened with the ignorance and prejudice of the previous generation. I never heard any racist remarks from my family, to the contrary, my father was a big boxing fan and his hero was Mohammed Ali (going back to when he was still Cassius Clay), so my own first impression of a black man was totally positive.
I think it was my sister who explained racism to me, and the whole thing crystallized via these remarkable records, which connected with me on a deeper level than the music by white Pop artists (which I was also very much into) because I realized, at a very young age, that this Soul music was tied into a greater struggle.
“Ball Of Confusion” was a part of black music taking its own stance on protest songs. Did it succeed in the attempts to take part in 60’s/70’s protest culture?
Not just the ‘protest songs’, but music in general played a major role in breaking down the barriers, causing young people to question their inherited prejudices. It was a big part of shaping peoples’ views and leading them away from the bigotry of their parents’ generation, whose values were often completely different, and increasingly outdated.
Would you say that protest is valid for all kinds of music, or do you think such content works better with certain styles and contexts than with others?
It’s a fine line, but when an artist tackles a contentious subject with real conviction it can result in a powerful message, no matter what style of music. It’s the substance that counts.
Are there other protest songs of this or any other genre that were important to you?
The tracks previously mentioned, especially ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, which took on a new level of poignancy when Obama was elected president last year, symbolising that very change Sam Cooke prophesised.
Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ is arguably the greatest album ever made, and its message is still relevant today – a truly remarkable work. I’m a big Beatles fan, so Lennon’s work obviously. Then, of course, there’s Dylan – it was ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ that inspired Sam Cooke to write ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ and he, in turn, was influenced by the ‘protest songs’ of the folk tradition.
Going back to 1939 you have perhaps the greatest of all ‘protest songs’, Billie Holliday’s recording of Lewis Allan’s anti-lynching poem, ‘Strange Fruit’, which, 60 years later, in 1999, Time Magazine named as its ‘song of the century’. You can still feel the weight of that song watching old footage of her performing it – its impact at the time was enormous, saying more in the few minutes she took to sing it than someone could put into the many pages of a thick book.
It is impossible to keep this song apart from the production of Norman Whitfield, who played an integral part in Motown’s transitional period from their early hit factory days to sounds like these. How would you describe his style and merits in music history?
Norman Whitfield was one of the greatest producers in my opinion – the way he revolutionized the sound of The Temptations was musical alchemy of the highest order. He helped bring black music into the psychedelic era. What other works of Whitfield do you rate?
His overall body of work is hugely impressive, with the jewel in the crown being one of the quintessential singles, a classic in the truest sense of the term, Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’. Gaye’s version of ‘Abraham, Martin And John’ has always been a big personal favourite, whilst ‘Too Busy Thinking About My Baby’ has a great feelgood vibe. Apart from ‘Ball Of Confusion’ there were so many brilliant records with The Temptations, including ‘Cloud Nine’, ‘I Can’t Get Next To You’, ‘Psychedelic Shack’, ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You’, ‘Law Of The Land, ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’ and, of course, the gargantuan ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’.
Moving into the 70’s I thought he did some really groundbreaking work with Undisputed Truth before unleashing a whole string of Rose Royce hits. There are two 12” releases I particularly revere, epic dance mixes that show him for the Disco maestro he was – ‘You + Me = Love’ by Undisputed Truth and ‘Do Your Dance’ by Rose Royce. I should also mention the incredible atmosphere he could bring to a ballad, Rose Royce recorded some massive club tracks, like ‘Car Wash’ and ‘Is It Love Your After’, but they could also take the tempo right down with the best of them – case in point, ‘I Wanna Get Next To You’, ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ and ‘Wishing On A Star’.
Whitfield is often viewed as a producer who helped to pave the way for Disco and its rich arrangements in the 70’s. Do you think this is true?
Absolutely – he’s given nothing like enough credit for this. Frank Wilson’s production of Eddie Kendricks’ ‘Girl You Need A Change Of Mind’ has been cited as being the template of the ‘disco mix’, but it should be remembered that Wilson was very much Whitfield’s protégé, whilst Kendricks, of course, was previously with The Temptations, working extensively with Whitfield until he left to pursue a solo career. When it comes to Disco, Norman Whitfield has to be viewed as one of the founding fathers, both for his own work and his undoubted influence on others.
Are there other producers who began their career similar to Whitfield, including their further steps towards Disco?
He’s pretty unique really, but I suppose Barry White is an example of someone who started out working with Soul artists in the 60’s, before going onto fame and fortune as a Disco pioneer with a highly orchestrated style.
Disco is often seen as a hedonistic and escapist reaction to the times described in “Ball Of Confusion”, in terms of the people growing tired of protest and wanting to party again. Do agree with this point of view or did Disco also carried the protest further, albeit in a different way?
In a sense, Disco was the party that followed the gains of the 60’s. Major ground had been made in civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights, and by the mid 70’s Nixon had resigned and the Vietnam War had ended. Disco celebrated a new culture and hard fought freedoms, things that most people wouldn’t have thought possible a decade earlier. It was a very hedonistic era, but its very existence, with blacks, whites and gays now exploring common ground, was a powerful statement in itself. It would eventually take a racist / homophobic backlash, culminating in the record burning frenzy at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1979, to curb Disco’s expansion into the very core of mainstream popular culture. However, despite this, although Disco was declared ‘dead’, it would give birth to subsequent dance movements and its spirit has definitely enjoyed a reawakening during recent times, the term now acquiring a credibility that has eluded it for the best part of 30 years.
You started out as a DJ five years after this song was released. Was this the kind of music you played back then? Would you still play it?
It’s more of a track I’d listen to rather than play out. With regards to The Temptations during that early 70’s period, ‘Law Of The Land’ would be best suited for the clubs (I still play it now from time to time), or one of the 60’s tracks like ‘Get Ready’. Having said that, the one I probably played the most was ‘Just My Imagination’ – back then DJ’s played ‘slowies’ at the end of the night so the guys could get up close with the girls, and ‘Just My Imagination’ was one of, if not the greatest ‘slowie’ in my book.
A cover version of this song also indirectly launched the huge comeback of Tina Turner in the 80’s. Do you know the story behind that?
Yeah, it was the one she recorded for the BEF compilation, ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction’ back in the early 80’s. The hook-up with Heaven 17 for that album resulted in another cover of an early 70’s Soul classic, ‘Let’s Stay Together’, which took her back into the chart and re-ignited her career, this time without the infamous Ike.
Are there any other versions of this song that you like?
When something’s so definitive I find it difficult to look beyond it – anything else is always going to be lacking. Duran Duran once did a version that substituted the line ‘the Beatles new record’s a gas’ for ‘killer gangs watch your ass’, for which they should hang their heads in shame.
Do you think political Hip Hop like Public Enemy is rooted in songs like “Ball Of Confusion”?
Certainly. If you didn’t know the track and read the lyrics you could be forgiven for thinking it was a rap, which it is in a sense – it’s mainly vocalized as opposed to sung and actually includes the words ‘rap on brother, rap on’. But for some of the lines, ‘hippies moving to the hills’, ‘shooting rockets to the moon’, ‘the Beatles new record’ etc, which nail down the period the track was written, the lyrics could be mistaken as being from the early 80’s, when rap came of age via socially conscious recordings like ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and, to a lesser degree, ‘Street Justice’ by The Rake. ‘Bad Times (I Can’t Stand It)’ by Capt Rapp and ‘Is This The Future?’ by Fatback.
Is there a song that describes the current state of worldwide issues as “Ball Of Confusion” did in 1970?
Not that I’ve heard, although I’m sure that someone somewhere, whatever their native tongue might be, will be telling it like it is.
Kick Ass is a movie directed by Matthew Vaughn that will be released on April 16. It's about a young boy (Aaron Johnson) who decides to take his comic book obsession as inspiration to become a real-life superhero. Calling himself Kick-Ass, he links up with a pair of crazed vigilantes - Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) and her father, Big Daddy (Nic Cage) - and also forges a friendship with another young, fledgling superhero named Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in order to fight a local mob boss.
Here's the newly released red band trailer featuring Hit Girl:
By way of Midtown Lunch, I just discovered a newly opened pizza joint in my hood. You can read the post here.
A few months ago, Golosi, a pizzeria that serves Sicilian style pizza by the inch, opened with much fanfare; however, in my opinion, it didn't live up to the hype.
Well, after reading about this new place, I went to go check out this new jammy jam. Called Previti Pizza, it delivers (not sure if they actually deliver yet). I only tried the regular slice this time around. It was really flavorful and I loved the crusty crust. Not too cheesy, and not overly-sauced...it's definitely one of, if not the best, pizza in the area.
Definitely looking foward to trying their other products.
Previti Pizza 122 East 41st (btw. Lex+Park) 212-557-4992
In anticipation of Greg Wilson's March 20 set in NYC, brought to us by Mister Saturday Night, I've been listening to a lot of his mixes.
Here's one that needs to be shared:
1.Bassheads - Is There Anybody Out There? (re-touched by GW) 2.Roxy Music - Love Is The Drug (GW re-edit) 3.Joubert Singers - Stand On The Word (Hot Coins remix) 4.Elektrons - Get Up (GW version) 5.Fatback Band - (Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop 6.Average White Band - Pick Up The Pieces 7.Ting Tings - Shut Up and Let Me Go (Blunt edit re-touched by GW) 8.Firefly - Love Is Gonna Be On Your Side 9.Atlantic Conveyor - We Are 10.Raw DMX - Do It To The Funk (GW mash) 11.Talking Heads - Slippery People (Comic Boogie edit) 12.Jean Carn - Was That All It Was 13.Telemusic - Baby’s Band (Leozero edit) 14.Electra / Candi Staton - Feels Good / You Got The Love (Cosmic Boogie mash) 15.Yazoo - Situation (FK dub / GW ruff edit) 16.A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray (GW edit) 17.Isaac Hayes - Theme From Shaft 18.The Originals - Down To Love Town (Dmitri From Paris edit re-touched by GW) 19.The Clash - Casbah Breakdown (Joey Negro edit) 20.Harry Thumann - Underwater
So, a Five Guys Burgers and Fries just opened up around the block from my office. I've generally read decent things about Five Guys...but you know there's only one way to assess a true opinion.
If you want to beat the lunchtime crowd, get there as close to noon as possible. I got there five minutes before noon, and it took about six minutes for me to get my food after ordering. I got a cheeseburger with grilled onions and an order of regular fries. Did I forget that a cheeseburger was actually two patties? Yes.
One thing that's very evident is the sheer number of people working the line. There were at least fifteen people behind the counter, with each person tasked with one specific job.
Well, onto the review of the burger. It was way too well done, which resulted in a severely dry patty. Also, there was a serious lack of seasoning. This led to a lack in crust around the patty, which I generally prefer in a burger this size. I'm going to chalk this up as an error on whoever's job it is was to season the patties on this day (obviously). I'd wager that on some days the patties are well seasoned, and other times it'll be over or under-seasoned...which adds a nice human element to the burger making process at Five Guys (I guess). As for the bun, it was almost too doughy which makes for it to be too chewy. And because the patty was dry, the bun wasn't an integral part in sopping up burger juice.
Here's what the burger looks like upon unwrapping the tinfoil:
Here's a picture after a few bites:
You can see how well done the burger is.
As for the fries, they're fresh cut, and on this day they were Shelley Idaho potatoes. The regular sized fries are put into a styrofoam cup, which I wish they didn't used...after which, they dump more fries into the bag containing your burger and cup of fries. Here's a pic of the bag after taking out the aforementioned burger and cup:
I think it's kind of unnecessary...but I'm sure a lot of people will think it adds better value to your french fry order.
I would probably return, but will definitely get a little cheeseburger next time. An added bonus at Five Guys is that they have a plethora of toppings, like jalapeno peppers, grilled mushrooms and grilled onions, that you can pile on for free. As it's so close to my office, I'm sure I'll be back. If I could only ask them to make my patties medium rare, I'd give it two enthusiastic thumbs up. As for now, it gets one.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries 690 Third Avenue (b/t 43rd and 44th St) New York, NY 10017 646-783-5060
Grammy-Award winning songwriter and musician Stevie Wonder of the United States was designated a United Nations Messenger of Peace with a special focus on persons with disabilities, who represent one in ten people in the world and 20 per cent of the poor in developing countries.
The Secretary-General presented Stevie Wonder with a symbolic dove-shaped pin during a ceremony at United Nations Headquarters on Thursday, 3 December.
In selecting Mr. Wonder for this designation, the Secretary-General said, "Our newest Messenger of Peace is someone who is admired by millions of people and has given back to millions of people." Stevie Wonder is a "true inspiration" and shows what "can be achieved despite physical limitations," he added.
Messengers of Peace are individuals who possess widely recognized talents in the fields of art, academia, literature, sports and entertainment, helping to raise worldwide awareness of the Organization’s ideals and activities.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated annually on 3 December, is also to be marked at Headquarters with a special event organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in collaboration with the World Bank in Conference Room 4, under the theme "Making the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Inclusive: Empowerment of persons with disabilities and their communities around the world."
The International Day will be opened by the Secretary-General followed by remarks by Mr. Wonder. Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Mr. Sha Zukang will host the opening [full remarks] and be joined by U.S. Ambassador H.E. Ms. Susan E. Rice, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navanethem Pillay. The World Bank will be connected via live videoconferencing.
According to Mr. Sha Zukang, “the world over, persons with disabilities are disproportionately poor, and more likely to be un-employed or under-employed. They do not have access to adequate education or healthcare. They face barriers, not only to basic opportunities and services, but to participation in society itself. They are estimated to make up more than 10 per cent of the world’s population. Yet, all too often, they are marginalized and excluded.”
The opening will be followed by a panel discussion on the theme of the Day. Panelists from Member States, UN organizations, the World Bank and civil society will address narrowing the gap between policy and practice in the area of disability in the implementation of the MDGs and ways to make development strategies, policies and programmes accessible to persons with disabilities so as to achieve the MDGs for all.
In the afternoon, a DESA Disability Film Festival will show the documentaries: 'I am one of you', a UNTV film on changing perceptions of persons with disabilities in Hong Kong SAR, China; 'Beyond the Light', a film by Ivy Goulart on the universe of six blind people in Brazil which pays homage to the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille; 'DEAF: Hear Me' a documentary by Wild Mango Films which explores what it is like growing up deaf in India; and finally 'Rudely Interrupted', a documentary about an internationally acclaimed Australian rock band made up of persons with disabilities.
UN Messengers of Peace
Mr. Wonder joins ten other United Nations Messengers of Peace who advocate on behalf of the Organization.
The other Messengers of Peace and their areas of focus are: conductor Daniel Barenboim (peace and tolerance); actor George Clooney (peacekeeping); author Paulo Coelho (poverty and intercultural dialogue); actor Michael Douglas (disarmament); primatologist Jane Goodall (conservation and environmental issues); violinist Midori Goto (Millennium Development Goals and youth); Princess Haya Bint al Hussein (Millennium Development Goals and hunger); cellist Yo-Yo Ma (youth); actor Charlize Theron (ending violence against women) and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel (human rights).
Stevie Wonder’s activism has been pivotal in U.S. and world events. In 1983, he spearheaded a campaign for "Martin Luther King Day" to become a national holiday in the United States. He also advocated ending apartheid in South Africa.
Mr. Wonder has been recognized for his philanthropic efforts which include the U.S. President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, Junior Blind of America and the creation of the Wonder Vision Awards Program.
His career as a recording artist has reflected his concern with humanitarian issues. He has written, produced and/or performed songs relative to charities in support of disabilities, aids, cancer, diabetes, hunger and homelessness, domestic abuse and many other causes on behalf of children and adults.