This is highly irregular, isn’t it? Hopefully it won’t have to happen again. Perhaps it will. Nothing is certain in this newsletter, any more so than in life. As above, so below. This is a lot of high-minded talk to disguise the fact that I’m an idiot and rushed the July newsletter out without checking things over properly, and now I have to approach your inbox a second time in one month, cap in hand, with a couple of corrections.
The playlist for last month has, if you clicked through, a very different tracklist than was advertised. It should have read as it does below. For the most part I try hard to reflect the music I’ve been listening to in the month previous, whilst adhering to a rough “structure” that I internalised the first time I watched High Fidelity and have hardly ever wavered from in the decades since, from making actual mixtapes (on cassette!) using the family stereo through burnt CDs for penpals, playlists on 8tracks, etc. You start with a couple of stonkers, cool things off, then try and build to a satisfying conclusion.
With a scattered, indecisive and cluttered mind for most of the month, I was chopping and changing things up until the last minute, like Tom Hooper in the editing suite for Cats; hence the out-of-date tracklisting.
In my haste to get the newsletter out of the door, I also forgot to put links in to the Sleigh Bells song and the Funkadelic track it so obviously samples. Maggot Brain was a record I first encountered as a teenager, when “getting into music” meant studious engagement with the canon, ie reading back issues of MOJO in my secondary school library and taking them as gospel. The off-putting album name and weird cover spoke to my inner goth, in much the same way gory horror films and the abject side of American literature/comics did at that age. It had been years since I’d listened to it, until “Hit It and Quit It” somehow wormed its way back into my subconscious recently, and I got onto a seventies funk hype after seeing Summer of Soul, and a) realised the origin of that sample, and b) remembered how much I love that album.
Reading up on it, I’m surprised the record hasn’t attained the same “cursed” status that a lot of horror films have (the various deaths attributed to the deceased’s participation in The Omen or The Exorcist, for example): legend has it that the title track’s name came from George Clinton finding his brother’s “decomposed dead body, skull cracked, in a Chicago apartment”, and that Clinton (tripping on acid) directed guitarist Eddie Hazell “to play like his mother had died, to picture that day, what he would feel, how he would make sense of his life, how he would take a measure of everything that was inside him”; the liner notes included a text written by an obscure Satanist religious cult; and the line-up of Funkadelic that recorded the record collapsed when it was finished, most dramatically with rhythm guitarist Tawl Ross allegedly retiring from performing altogether for a quarter of a century after an acid-and-speed-induced breakdown.
Having aligned with by a sarcastic, cynical so-and-so from an early age, the legacy of the sixties counterculture and distaste for hippies is something I’ve only come to reckon with in the past couple of years. I’m drawn to the likes of Maggot Brain in much the same way as the documentary Gimme Shelter, to Nic Roeg’s Performance, to Inherent Vice: that hinge in history at which the idealism of the era flips to the disappointment and disenfranchisement of the seventies, Nixon ruling and the Vietnam War ending, heroes selling out and bad vibes reigning; an attraction to a left melancholia I didn’t actually live through, but access through media of/about the time. In recent years I’ve come to appreciate the utopian thinking of the counterculture, the importance of it, to not solely think of it as a failure or to align the hippies of the era to the feckless, ineffectual trustafarians of today. Maggot Brain is still a much better album than Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow, though.
Thought I’d make this a bit more substantial than just a corrections corner. Or at least, I started writing and then couldn’t stop. Can you tell I’m putting off doing actual work? See you in August, hopefully in a more timely and organised manner! Take care of yourselves, goodbye forever!