Posts from — November 2010
The Post-Modern Deconstruction
of Double Fantasy …
(or, John Lennon Lives!)
By Jeff Katz
What to do about the new John Lennon remasters? Let’s be honest, Lennon’s solo work is a mixed bag. He may very well have the greatest individual work of any member of the erstwhile Fab Four (Plastic Ono Band). Imagine was a huge leap downward, though still excellent. (Here’s the sacrilege: “Imagine” is a puerile piece, perhaps the most overrated bit of pop utopianism ever recorded. Think how much Paul McCartney would have been skewered had he written the sophomoric sentiments of this bit of Lennon legend). There’s a sample of pleasant dreck (Mind Games and Walls and Bridges) and then a dollop of lifeless drivel (Sometime in New York City and Rock ’n’ Roll). After John was murdered, and sales of his catalog skyrocketed, a dorm resident from across the hall knocked on my door with fury.
“This album sucks!” he yelled at me accusatorily. I was, after all, the Beatle expert and therefore responsible.
“Just ‘cause he’s dead doesn’t make his albums great,” I responded.
I love John, have all his solo albums and enjoy them, but I have no interest in the remasters as a set of work.
When Double Fantasy was released in the fall of 1980, I was prepared for anything. What I got was an assortment of disappointment and surprise. The songs, split between John and Yoko, showed the latter to be the edgier and more rhythmically exciting member of the duo. “(Just Like) Starting Over,” the John track that began his first album in five years, was just awful, though I appreciated his tip of the cap to the heroes of his rock and roll youth. Many of Lennon’s tracks were mediocre, though he soared with “Watching the Wheels” and “Beautiful Boy.” Worst of all, the ultra-slick ’80s’ production left me cold. Where was the warmth and playfulness, the fervor of the John Lennon that I, and millions of others, waited half a decade to hear? The album was a solid seller that turned brisk after the horrible news less than a month after it hit the stores.
Turns out John was there all along, and the new “Stripped Down” remix of Double Fantasy, shows the Johnny Boy we always knew. The instrumentation is spare, the production value zero and the vocals boosted to the forefront. John’s songs come across as polished demos, complete with background murmurings and intro and outro commentary a la Let It Be. The Lennon humor is front and center and that voice, oh that voice, is a game changer.
I’m still not a fan of “Starting Over,” but its stark form, including a direct tribute to Lennon’s own four angels, takes a bad song and makes it better. Every song lays bare the soul of the man in a way the original version glossed over. “Watching the Wheels,” still my favorite and, since my own departure from “the big time” financial world at age 40 my self-appointed theme song, is heartbreakingly real. “Beautiful Boy” is less grand in its Spartan incarnation, but the punched up vocals more than make up for it. Over time I’ve grown to appreciate John’s songs on Double Fantasy more, but never more than in these renditions. Yoko’s vocals don’t come across any worse in the naked versions, though her climactic, well, uh, “climax,” to “Kiss Kiss Kiss” is submerged in the new mix. (We do live in more conservative times after all). Overall, the overproduction of the initial release added to the propulsion of her tracks and that’s lost here; “Give Me Something” is a towering exception. The final two tracks, “Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him” and “Hard Times Are Over,” are reworked as solid duets. The latter, a churchy pastiche, has Lennon at his most knee-slapping funny.
The passionate, meaningful voice that we think of when we think of John Lennon, not the softened edition prepackaged for a return to 1980 Top 40 radio, has been reclaimed on Double Fantasy Stripped Down. Hearing that voice now makes you realize how much was lost on December 8, 1980.
November 1, 2010 Comments Off on Music: What’s right about Stripped Down
I’m still prisoner to the same room whose age I have changed the last two years
Doing loneliness yet not alone
My mother still comes to my dream to inspect my dreams
And the house I left alone
falls down on my tenant
whenever it feels heart stricken
so I come back
I had gotten away with betraying
my mother father friends and all who are human at once
Day after day runs out of my hands
Again I am squandering being human
I’m in immense need of an adequate poet
to go calamitously free in my imagination
even though sorrow laid down with me as my face grew long
but I have not stretched long
I still am more Ali Abdolrezaei than when I was Ali Abdolrezaei
but I don’t know where along this ‘I don’t know’ to begin
and with the next I don’t know to begin and again… next…
How would I know where is next?
I always wanted if there is anywhere, to be somewhere it was not to be!
at the end of their lives can park with peace of mind in parks at the edge of the world
The sea too is a delightful cruelty
giving only wooden wrecks to the shore in order not to give
everyone’s committing their own calmly exclusive suicides so I don’t live
what can I do?
The great teacher doesn’t eat more than the shit we talked about
I am still the spelling mistake of this same kid who’s doing his homework
they don’t rub it out strike it through so I won’t drop a line
If I wanted St Mark’s Basilica with its golden domes to come to my side hailing Jesus
Venice that is my most beautiful wandering jewess
would mount her Bridge of Sighs to drink from my Rio and put the Thames forever to shame
Florence that is a fit flaxen hair damsel
has always been in love with me
is in love with me
You don’t believe me take a trip to Ravenna
and follow the trail of Amsterdam’s tears in Sicily
which emptied these lines in empty line breaks
most enjoyable these lips you’re eating
be careful you don’t get a fat belly
up the crutch of these words golly!!
no matter how much I try
I don’t get a life
It’s a pity that only lepers swim in the waters of this Gulf
otherwise if the Caspian could get on the plane
it certainly would land in the middle of Paris so we swimmingly mix and return as frogs
A river came to my room
with a slender tree on its banks which only wanted me
to pick of its large apples
I had no appetite
what a pity it was
what a lonely birthplace it had become.
so well … under the rain…. to stand up?
The pomegranate that’s hanging
why should someone squeeze …. who knows nothing?
on a page that spent a life in ‘I don’t know’
the poem … that I’ll never write?
I’m sure….London’s blood group
which most likely is O or
doesn’t match mine
because I keep hitting the rain…keep getting wet
thought that’s in my mind
I wish someone came
to stop this Dervish that keeps twirling in my head
the rain that keeps raining no longer comes to my poem
has brought tears to all eyes
who drags so much out of the clouds over London
or is it true
that it’s still raining?
so nothing ends
what a shame
I dusted and tidied the house.
2:00 p.m. I showered and shaved.
two wine glasses ready placed
I switched off Lorca’s voice.
Maria’s coming first time over
I should have a pick-me-up to take a sip to get me going.
I should water the flowers
before Maria arrives.
I should call my friend Michael
tell him my loneliness I’m now done with.
she must have come out of the station up the road and flirting
with the florist near my house to wrap a more scarlet bouquet.
with glee. I should wear some aftershave
to entice her.
like a red bull on the beach inside my chest
my heart’s beating such Bandari beat.
up I should get moving What if she has
matched her bra with her white slip?
I should go get into my black boxers now.
I know she will.
Maria’s brought up at her father’s table
she’s always on time
she should be anytime
now that only two ticks
left to appointed time
this phone keeps ringing. Bugger.
I’m sure it’s the girl I left like a skunk.
but why the buzzer won’t let me go
she’s chasing my mobile now.
she must be at the door. Hello.
Bang on three and I’m rolling the floor.
o’clock third class to all o’clocks
three o’clock in a dark guardian age
I lose my faith in second coming
Sushiant, Jesus Mary and Mahdi.
Maria wouldn’t have rung bang at three
to say she’s not coming.
November 1, 2010 Comments Off on Ali Abdolrezaei: Poetry
What a nite, staring at a big New Mexico sky with more stars than can be counted; a single tear in one eye (that never drops), watching shooting stars go by. Gordon Lightfoot reminding me of lost loves and Great Lake dangers. Care free highways and new days. My favorite cigar and best pal Ramone, high up on the mesa. What a nite.
November 1, 2010 1 Comment
There is a place beyond this place
The world has
extended its carpet
so you may walk upon it,
it’s warm arms reach
out to embrace you,
lure you toward
the floating island,
the outback of cloud.
With your foot extending
from your rolled-up pants,
you touch the edge
of the known.
Water and sky.
Feet and sand.Cloud and hill.
Hand and rock.
In the end
everything is one.
In some small way
you meet this fact each day.
when you breathe the air
rotating from India,
taste rain imported
from the Andaman Sea,
and look out over
the tempting beautiful
nothing of everything
in that place beyond.
The Introduction of If and Then
When Black met White, there was a definite|
moment of tension, and Black lit a cigarette
and strutted around the courtyard several times
until it realized how much better White
made it feel about itself, how it helped with self esteem.
Either was asked what it thought about Or
and it took awhile, almost a week,
but Either finally admitted it needed Or
when it came to a fork in the road
or when the first snows came rushing in
breathlessly, bleaching the lawn
and there were decisions to be made about the cattle.
If was tentative when it first encountered Then
but If finally realized it needed Then
to answer those big dark questions that come in the night,
to lie beside it, to make the biggest promises,
and, of course, for science projects.
The Purpose of Money
So much of the time it is like pollen
floating into, out of a life,
away from a city,
toward the coast,
back to the mountains,
up to the moon,
planting a flag there and leaving behind
And the thing is
it doesn’t care, money,
where it lands or evacuates,
it has no pulse,
no four chambered heart.
There are those who have wondered
if it is mammalian or reptilian.
To them we must point out:
It does not bear its young live.
Once, in a small city in Spain,
a woman wanted to help her brother.
He needed work,
to get it he would need boots
and to get boots for him
she would need a maid’s uniform,
pink and aproned and starched clean.
To get that she would need
twenty seven pesetas.
She had nobody to go to for them
but that same brother,
the one who needed work.
The world has broken open for the lack of it,
it has collapsed and peeled back
and then, attaining it, empired and colonialized
gone war mongering, invented new diseases.
Despite this clear pattern, the begging
and brutalizing, we continue
to wrap our days in it,
then regurgitate at the end,
we swallow it and spit
and repeat cycle,
our wallets filling and emptying
like the womb of an orthodox woman,
as many times as is humanly possible
until the yearning,
becomes a fabric we sleep in,
it becomes flannel,
or it becomes silk,
so much a part of us we can no longer tell
where our skin ends and our money begins.
A man who won the lottery last week
decided to give it all to a library
near his home so they could buy
computers that the people there
could use to search for work.
He was interviewed by a newspaper reporter
whom he told he knew it, instinctively,
what he would do,
it was like it had been stitched
onto his bones at birth:
the purpose of money.
Supply and Demand
When you are tired
of the vagaries of highways,
the vanities of buildings,
jetstreams that criss-cross
the cerulean sky
When you weary
of the politics of hurricanes,
the beached whale’s
The waltzing of the presidents,
the parry of governments,
the closed gates
of the shoelace factory
it is just a matter of give and take,
yearn and satisfy, want and have.
It is simple, really, the world.
There is a rule.
The patter of rain desires the sea.
The smallest wave
desires the beach.
Northerners want bananas,
Southerners want steel.
And all of us want larger hard drives
to hold the names of all things.
This is the message of the economist.
Something as clever
as Velcro, or bubble wrap or a new kind of tea
strainer can bring the world
and its minions right to your door.
In the country of potatoes
there are no leeks:
In the country of leeks
there are no potatoes.
Nobody in either country
can make soup.
The economist explains
to his daughter.
He has a smoker’s cough,
it sounds like a sputtering tractor,
his skin has grown tallow
and he often belches.
But he still knows the truth
about things: the two countries,
of potato and leek.
There is need
and there is have.
“Value is determined only by need.”
“You could own a diamond mine
and starve,” he explains,
“You could own an oil well
and die of thirst.”
“But what,” asks the daughter,
“if you own a small carrot and chicken farm
next to a lake, an apple orchard
and a field of wild strawberries
and then some horses come
and they carry you to the top of a hill
nearby where there are orange trees
and peanut bushes?
You would have
everything you need and want.”
finally clears his throat,
nodding, looking into
the placid fresh brown eyes
of the girl. She is the supply truck
of his heart. The answer to
And he, the answer of hers.
About the poet:
Elizabeth Cohen is the author of two books of poetry – Impossible Furniture and Mother Love– and a memoir, The Family on Beartown Road. She teaches poetry at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh.
About the Photographer:
Steve Bromberg is a freelance photographer on one of the greatest adventures of his life. He is currently working in China. Home base for the next few months is Wuxi in Jiangsu Provence — a stone’s throw from the north to Shanghai.
The photo-inspired poem is one of several collaborative efforts under way between Cohen and Bromberg.
November 1, 2010 Comments Off on Elizabeth Cohen: Poetry