Commonplace
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Publick Occurrences 2.0

January 29, 2009

Rocking the Colonial Period, Songs 6-14

Filed under: Colonial Period,Music,Playlists,Popular culture — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 10:49 pm

Times are hard so it’s time for some music, early American history rock, that is.

[Continued from a previous post.] Here we move into the Spanish Conquest section, which theme has allowed rock musicians to smuggle in some Spanish guitar and brass along with their power chords and hippie pieties. First, however, we have two more Columbus-themed tunes, an old one that is really about the historical Columbus, by Todd Rundgren’s imitation British Invasion band Nazz, and a much more recent number by Vermont roots-rocker Grace Potter that uses CC metaphorically to denote having “found the edge of the world.” Unless she’s talking about living near Canada, I am not sure I could vouch for the straight-ahead Ms. Potter’s claim of edginess on an artistic level, but the song is not uncatchy.

6. Nazz – Christopher Columbus (3:23)

7. Grace Potter and The Nocturnals – Mr. Columbus (3:38)

Now we move on to the conquistadors proper. Interestingly, a common theme is the Spaniards’ confusion and defeat, which sadly did not happen often enough in real life, at least not to the ones who became famous. I have a feeling lot of the musicians were trying for that Aguirre, the Wrath of God feeling without actually remembering the name.

8. The Boo RadleysSpaniard (4:01) — rather excellent also-rans from the early 1990s alternative rock scene as it was becoming “commercial alternative. This is followed by two chestnuts of 1970s AOR radio.

9. Procol Harum – Conquistador (5:11) — the orchestral version featured on Procol’s Greatest Hits and in regular rotation on Kansas City radio back in the day, in this delightful clip someone has set it to scenes from Herzog’a Aguirre.

12. Neil Young – Cortez The Killer (7:30) — Of course, this had to be here, if only as a reminder of having my young music geek’s mind blown by Decade back in the day. A 3-record set in a package was like an inch thick, or so it seemed! The Collected Masterworks over a count ‘em 10-year career! Who but Neil could be so ambitious, so long-winded, and yet so shamblingly casual? (I realize writing this that Neil Young must be one of the secret influences on my whole aesthetic, and I do have one.)

Like many of old Neil’s forays into history, this epic is perhaps best approached without focusing too much on the lyrics. I am sorry to report that Neil has misled some of the rock-listening public into thinking that “The Aztecs were peaceful, representing sort of a utopian nonviolent society.” With human sacrifice! Oddly Neil does mention the Aztec penchant for human sacrifice while also claiming that “Hate was just a legend/And war was never known.” That would have been news to the many peoples chafing under Aztec rule, the ones who joined up with the Spaniards to overthrow the Aztecs. And yet Cortez was indeed a killer, so the facts on Mr. Young’s side there, anyhow.

13. Splitsville - Ponce de Leon (2:15) — Hard to believe, I know, but this is indeed a boppy little ditty about the conqueror of Puerto Rico and “discoverer” of Florida, who was not looking for the Fountain of Youth but did enjoy siccing his dog on the local Indians.

14. The High DialsThe Lost Explorer (5:25) — This is a nice bit of neo-psychedelia that I have here representing the French colonies, because the band is from Quebec and Neil Young has not recorded a tune called “Champlain the Negotiator.” I am going to dedicate it to Réné Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the French explorer of the Mississippi who got so lost with his broken compass and his jumping to geographic conclusions that his men had to kill him when they missed the mouth of the Mississippi and wandered into Texas instead. It could happen to the best of us.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Read ‘em and Weep

Filed under: Economy,Government,Media — Benjamin Carp @ 7:16 am

Following hot on the heels of my post yesterday, where I wondered how historians (and journalists) can get support for their best work and find an audience in today’s climate, today we receive news that the Washington Post‘s Book World will cease to exist as a separate print section.

So not that anyone’s counting, but: independent bookstores all over the country have closed.  Libraries are slashing budgets.  Academic presses have been hurting for quite some time, and now corporate publishing isn’t looking so hot, either.  Amazon’s Kindle may or may not herald the death of printed books.  The flourishing internet used-book market means that most people need never buy a book in the first place.  And even if you do manage to get a publisher to sell your book, how will anyone know about it if mainstream book review sections are also being closed off?

Here’s Douglas Brinkley, in the linked article:

Douglas Brinkley, the historian, suggested that the book industry and book reviews deserved some kind of public bailout. “I think that just like public television — I think book review sections almost need to get subsidized to keep the intellectual life in America alive,” Mr. Brinkley said. “So if we can do that for radio, and we could do it for television, why can’t we do it for the book industry, which is terribly suffering right now?”

I’m not sure government subsidy for books and book reviews is necessarily the right answer (and besides, the government’s got its own problems right now).  But things certainly do look grim, don’t they?

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