Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The King of the Chicago Feedback


Lately I've heard Elmore James anew. He could fix on a single note, but make it ring. Shame he died at 45, his heart exploded, with little mention. But he was in approach to music acutely aware somehow of a universal harmonics, a chord Elysium. And no one had it better. One extended chord that came up from Afrik to Greece by way of Hawaii and Mississippi. Circled the globe, Jack. No one dug more into the musical values of electric signals though they still be trying.

Always felt: ''It was Elmore James invented musical electricity.'' But the one-note-ness of Elmore I'd kind of come to take for granted as a limitation. The note bloomed, expanded, of late. Who knows why? There is a ringing wood chime at my neighbors where I park my car, and all of music can be spawned from it essential sound. Dust my Blues too is inevitable.

Fleetwood Mac you know I've been listening too, I mean what they now call the Original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green. I was under-astounded when I first heard Fleetwood Mac in 1969 -- that was because I'd already heard Elmore James. I dont think any group has more dedicatedly attached its star to one source artist. Now I love Fleetwood Mac, who were not too proud to do a dozen to two dozen Elmo songs on their first four or five records, Cream be damned. Listening to Peter Green, Mic Fleetwood, John McVie and friends - their stuff was hard to find -- set the table for my return to Elmore. [Too: I kind of rediscovered Elmore descendant Hound Dog Taylor again in years recent. And would footnote this discussion with the note that I did closely encounter disciple J.B. Hutto in the couple of years [circa 1978] before J.B. died.]
Classical distortion, that is what Elmore found. That is an intrinsic quality of blues music, where the note is bent and beautifully hurts, and the blues approach to life. And electronics provided a means.

Reading recently Jas Obrecht edited 'Rollin' and Tumblin': The Postwar Blues Guitarists,' [gift of Peter Bochner], I found it remarkable to learn that Elmore worked in his brother's Radio repair shop after getting out of the Navy. I can only guess that nonlinearity in amplitude response and non-uniform phase response caught his fancy. In harmonic electronic distortion, output tends to hold not only the fundamental frequency but integer multiplies thereof. The note that ripples like wavelets upon water. Call and response. Touch was key as well. But note: ELmore's select choice of slide implement was A METALLIC VACCUUM TUBE HEAT COVER SHEATHE!

If you trace It Hurts Me Too from Tampa Red through Elmore James to Hound Dog Taylor you see the abstraction unwinding and the resonance abounding. With Elmore scholar Hound Dog, the hum of his overpowered amp became the fourth band member.

Besides his cosmic control of feedback, Elmore had instrumental style. Plucked strings with bowing Hawaiian [sacred steel-like] chord shimmering - augmented intervals indefinite pitch, glide - portamento - sliding for purpose to blend notse - glissando... smooth in a gliding manner.
I remember hearing ''Dust My Blues'' -- one more riff on his epic trademark flagship ''Dust My Blues'' -- on the grey Kent 45 thanks to Norman, who would select my free 45 to accompany an LP I'd buy at Soulville Records next to the Rialto theatre on Main Street in Racine in 1967. I've put a lot of miles on, and seen many ramifications and enhancements and extrapolations. But I've come back to that chord.

No comments:

Featured Post

Backporch Poesy June 2016

Reading from three favorite poetry anthologies on the back porch on June 17 (anniversary of Watergate breakin!) The three tomes are 1-Th...