Wesley Willis was .. well, if you don’t know, here. I met him once, in Milwaukee at a Rocket From The Crypt show. I’d been hearing about him for years from my friends in Chicago, and he did not disappoint – he walked straight up to me and bellowed ” BUY MY CDS! ” .. which he carried around in a pouch around his neck. I’d heard that he wrote songs ( actually, the same song over and over ) about bands he saw or knew about, and when I saw the title of this one I thought to myself, ” Oh my God, could it be? “. As if headlining the Aragon Ballroom wasn’t enough – I saw many shows there, including Metallica on the Ride The Lightning tour, Ramones, Venom, the list goes on.. – here’s a commemoration of the event.
I’ve done a few posts now regarding Hyde Park ( here and here ), which is the neighborhood on the south side of Chicago where I was born and raised. Nowadays, it’s a much more bustling, well-traveled, on-the-map place than it was when I was a kid – after all, this was where President Obama taught law for 12 years and then represented as Senator for 4 – but it’s still an oddball community, full of intellectuals, artists and beautiful Victorian houses. It was, and is, one of the very few truly integrated areas in America. I never realized how different it was until I left.
Here’s a fun, self-pressed 45 from Hyde Park that I found years ago in a thrift store about a block away from the address on the label ( did they record this in a church? Could be. ) which tries for epic song-story-dom and doesn’t do a bad job of it. The thing I like here is how of its time this is : there’s the intro ( a sort of 20th century modern take on monk singing – I can imagine the recording session, the producer saying, ” okay, fellas, I want this take to sound extra religious ” ) , and then at 0:58 the song turns ominous in a way that’s very Jesus Christ Superstar. Then at 1:47 they change again, into some street-boppin’ soul-jazz which is quite cinematic — you can imagine John Shaft or Popeye Doyle on a grainy, available-light NYC corner popping a collar against the cold to this. There’s even a righteous little fuzz-guitar solo at 2:42 !
” Heal the broken nation “. Indeed.
Woodlawn Walk is a much more secular affair, a cheerful jazz workout in 7/4 time that sounds like something by Herbie Mann. Sorry about the condition of the vinyl, it is what it is. If you adjust the tracking on your turntable’s tonearm to the heaviest weight, you can sometimes sort of get ” beneath ” the scratches on a record, but not this one. Just imagine somebody’s frying some chicken while you’re listening to it. On a personal note, I’ve walked down Woodlawn Avenue many, many times. On an even more personal one, The Center For Contemporary Celebration, at 1400 E.53rd Street, is where my parents got married.
I don’t usually feel very strongly about graffiti either way ( except for the Grey Ghost; I hate that fucker with a passion ), but I am quite fond of this piece – the jaunty font, the cute skull, and the black-and-yellow color scheme. Corner of Harmony & Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans.
It’s so good. This really reminds me of the goofy sense of humor I had at these boys’ age, although I wasn’t a natural performer like the fat kid is – I would have been the other kid, who’s going to grow up to be the lead guitarist in this band. Oh, and hey, 1-5-6-4!