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Take it on, baby

Tuesday 12/18/18

I feel like ass. I cannot be waylaid by illness right now. I am try to power-fix this, with lots of liquids, over-the-counter meds, and will power. Yesterday I gave an interview for a CBC piece on Scrooge. A journalist there learned I was writing a book on the film and reached out to me. I ended up talking to him for forty minutes, but I don't know what they will use. He also--and this is neat--reached out to the woman who played the maid at nephew Fred's house. She had a major hand in my very favorite scene in all of cinema. You know the scene--when Scrooge turns up on Christmas morning, and he's all sheepish, embarrassed, scared, in a way, and she helps give him the courage to do what he needs and wants to do. And now we'll be in the same article. My second favorite scene? In Out of the Past, when Mitchum realizes he is doomed, but he's still going to do the right thing, and he says, "Well build my gallows high, baby." Third favorite: When Ringo Starr shouts "We're out!" in A Hard Day's Night, and the camera shoots up through the grating of the fire escape and "Can't Buy Me Love" explodes from the speakers and you get that avalanche of Beatle boots coming down towards ground.


Yesterday I completed a Daily Beast piece on the Christmas friendship of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. At least five more pieces by me will run before this year is out. They will tally $1350. That's not enough. I need money. I always need more money these days. This is today's appearance on Downtown, discussing Christmas ghost stories. Despite not feeling well, I walked to Charlestown and climbed the Monument. Since October 2, I have climbed the Monument every day barring three (Thanksgiving, the day I took the train to Providence, and a day when I was a lazy slob).


My friends and family had found it hilarious that women called me ugly on dating apps. They didn't believe me. It happened a lot. Until these last few months. To them it was endlessly amusing. I didn't enjoy it. They'd say, "Of all the things for someone to say, that's just crazy." It's not happening now. Each week there are dozens of beautiful women. Doctors, lawyers, college freshmen, business owners, models, people who work in film, one who worked for HBO, PhD candidates--including one at Harvard who also danced at a strip club. There was this one model who was, I would say, more attractive than that person Brady is married to. I don't know her name. There was a woman who was married to an ex-NHL All-Star who once finished in the top ten in MVP voting. But I am finding nothing to sustain me mentally. I don't care how great looking someone is if they're not that much smarter than they are physically attractive. I don't need actual brilliance in relation to, like, Erasmus. But I need someone who would qualify as brilliant compared to just about anyone they'll ever meet. I wonder what happened, though, to make the charges of ugliness go away. I'm pretty sure I look the same as I've looked for at least two years now. I get that people hate themselves and they want to try to attack someone or something that makes them feel insecure, and what are you going to do with me, call me stupid? So I guess you pick the next best thing, and throw out some lie about my appearance. But now I'm like this heart throb, apparently. And I am completely uninterested in any of these people. Smart, brilliant woman with character: Can't you just read this and send me a note? Thanks.


I have been listening to a lot of Judy Garland lately. I have a bead on tracking down her live airshots from the 1930s and 1940s. I think my amazing friend Howard will be able to locate an mp3 copy, or else I have an Ebay back-up for $10. What an amazing singer. I love Billie Holiday for her emotion, but Judy Garland is a technically better singer. I really hope that I can get that Billie Holiday book commissioned soon, the premise being rediscovering her art--at its core meaning--and why we need it more than ever in a world gone wrong that no longer knows how to listen. The book will be conversational, but learned. I hate those pitches that say, "It's like such and such crossed with such and such," but I am thinking my version--which is radically different--of what you see Simon Callow or Peter Ackroyd sometimes to, in a book around 50,000 words, blending analysis, biography, my first person voice, her real life resonance, how she has been victimized as this symbol by people who don't actually listen to her or know what her art was about. I'll call it A Kiss Always Tasted: Listening to Billie Holiday in a World Gone Mad. There will be discussions of her key albums, overlooked records, airshots, club dates, outtakes, her interviews, her relationship with Lester Young, TV appearances. Right? Don't you want that? And I'll make it universal, as is my wont, always, not just this thing for jazz people. I'll make radical societal points, too, as I build the case for why you need to hear her and learn to hear her. I bet that book will eventually be big. But Judy Garland is a technically better singer. I'm not sure that Garland isn't also better than Ella Fitzgerald. Pitchfork should have me do a Sunday review of a Garland album. I bet not a lot of straight men, built like hockey players, listen to Judy Garland. I may be a club of one.


Speaking of a Garland: I love Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." It's also my mom's favorite song at Christmastime. But what a cranking band she had for that cut! She really belts it and I love her phrasing, but damn, does Hank Garland smoke or does he smoke on guitar? He sounds a lot like Jeff Beck would later on "Beck's Boogie" with the Yardbirds. Garland was awesome. He was awesome with Elvis, too. Elvis had some stunning musicians working with him.


Digging some Andrews Sisters Christmas numbers this year as well. And this Drifters cut. Damn, Mr. McPhatter. You, sir, are the Christmas bees knees. Love the backing vocals.


Let's put up some versions of "Merry Christmas Baby," yes? This is Charles Brown. Note how the piano and those slide guitar figures meld during the excordium portion. They are almost indistinguishable. This is some blues. The quote from "Jingle Bells" is akin to that executed by Charlie Parker on his 1948 version of "White Christmas."


More slide guitar, this time belonging to Chuck Berry, and pitted against Johnnie Johnson's piano. Johnson is one of the sonic architects of rock and roll. A central role, albeit an unheralded one. Again--there is a "White Christmas" quote in the lead-in to Berry's solo.



Totally different approach. Soul revue style. Warm, rubato tone on Steve Cropper's guitar.



My very favorite version. Elvis sounds like he is fucking Christmas itself. Doggy style. Slowly. Spreading everything open and looking down with relish, perhaps looking sidelong to survey the scene in a nearby mirror. That's James Burton on guitar. Bad fucking man with an ax. You will get coal in your stockings, gentlemen!