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This is what I do at three in the morning on a Saturday

Saturday 3/4/23

Hi Eric,

How are you? Middle of the night and working, as I always seem to be working, so you won't see this for a bit. Anyway, I wanted to try again here, if that is okay with you. I haven't heard from you in a long, long time. I'm not sure what that's about. If it's about anything.


I've put in a lot of time and effort, though. I know that you have people who tend to do one kind of thing for you. I understand that what I do, unless someone is well-versed in it, invokes a certain amount of incredulity. But if you were to search my name and any subject that I've proposed to you on Google, you'll find dozens of pieces and interviews about that subject by or from me in top-tier venues, one after another.


I keep a storehouse of Masterpiece ideas, but it's hard to rally to keep sending them along--which, admittedly, I've done less of as time has gone on, because it's dispiriting and I also am not a confrontational person. I don't want to inconvenience anyone or make them feel as if I'm importuning them for a response. It can be a fine line, and I'm also out here in the dark. That is, I don't know you personally. I respect your writing and seek it out, but that can still be different from knowing how someone "ticks" or just what's best to do. Some people want you to follow-up, others want to damn you to hell for doing so once.


I've done a lot of work for the paper. I've done nothing wrong to anyone. I publish constantly. I do that on my own. There are no friends in high places. For example, there will be a big jazz feature/cover story on Wes Montgomery out this week in JazzTimes; there was an op-ed on Dorothy L. Sayers in the NY Post the other day. An essay on Radiohead last week in The Smart Set. Fiction should be out soon in the spring issue of one of this country's leading literary magazines.


I'm just going to mention a few ideas for a Masterpiece piece with a quick synopsis, because it doesn't seem wise for me to go on and on about each, when we've not spoken in quite some time. I am, of course, more than happy--eager--to provide additional information, justification, to do any, some, or all of these pieces in time. I can turn anything around within a day, too. I write anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 words a week, and this is important to me, and I'd like to be someone in your roster, ready and willing to be pressed into service to give you what you need.


So here's what I have:


1. Orson Welles's The Trial (1962). The film was recently restored. It is the least discussed of all of Welles's films, and he didn't have many completed films at that. He remarked that it was his best, but he qualified that in a way people have always misinterpreted. It is, though, his most under-appreciated film. There are about 100 things I've done pertaining to Welles in my career, from features to reviews to podcasts to talks at Harvard to interviews on NPR.


2. 100 years ago, King Oliver made the first modern jazz records. He also so happened to cut these sides with his mentee in tow, who was no less than Louis Armstrong. I'd focus on a handful of sides made by Oliver's band in 1923 that changed the course of jazz and also all of popular music.


3. The Kinks' 1967 song "Waterloo Sunset," which I rate as the most beautiful popular song in the English language. It possesses more beauty than anything the Beatles ever wrote, or the Beach Boys. This is an opinion I've held from more than twenty years, though not one I haven't revisited. I've tested it again and again as I've gone along in life, and yet I never vitiate from this belief, the airing of which I think makes a compelling argument. It's a song that I think a lot of people love, but they don't speak of that love, and thus are out there loving it in silence. To write this piece is to cause those people to become vocal and effusive. Which, translated to our purposes, means share the piece voluminously. It strikes me as the kind of thing that people would want to readily agree with and find liberating in its way.


4. Little Willie John's "Need Your Love So Bad," from 1955, which may be the first soul song in history. John is the great lost artist of soul and rhythm and blues. He may be the finest soul artist. This is coming from someone who wrote a book on Sam Cooke. John had a star-crossed life, and died in prison, where he may have been murdered. James Brown--who idolized him--thought he was. John, as you'd expect, was diminutive, with a voice larger than the whole of the outdoors. This song is one of the most pain-wracked I've ever heard. There are ballads, and there is what this unique creation is.


5. The first take of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." On my site--which is woefully incomplete at the moment, as I need an archivist to get up the 1000 or links that need to be archived properly--there is a Beatles section. I was thinking today how it's remarkable--game-changing--how we're now able to listen to all of these works of musical art that we never were before. They're right there. If you had told me years ago that someday I could hear the first take of the Beatles' most supernal song, I'd be dumbfounded. It's not just hearing a song; it's hearing history. The genesis of a portion of history, and the genesis of a work of art, when no one--save perhaps its creator--had any idea what it was. People tend to be lazy, though. They have things like this available to them, but if it's not discussed within their hearing, they usually stay away. There is nothing like this first take of this song. No one has written about it. In my Beatles' book that I'm doing, there is a 15,000 word chapter on this performance. We deal in 800 word pieces, and there is also an 800 word piece to be written about it, why it's so special, why it should be sought out. The song begins with John Lennon replacing the traditional count-in of "one, two, three, four," with the words, "Sugar Plum Fairy, Sugar Plum Fairy," and we are away, into a world at some remove from our own, that nonetheless encapsulates our own. I think this piece would draw much commentary.


That's actually a little more information than I intended to go into with this letter from the witching hour, but I was also just reading some lines of Milton spoken by Satan, so perhaps I'm a bit loquacious as a result, or merely logy.


I'd really like to do something for you again, though, and I certainly appreciate you taking the time to read through all of this.


I hope everything is well with you.


Yours,

Colin



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