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  1972-1973 Tonight At Noon - by Lawson Primm

1972-1973

Mainly, I felt lonely. As a graduating high school senior, the future seemed bright but like most of my peers, I was struggling to find my own identity and desperately seeking the emotional and of course, physical attachment to a girl that I could call my own. There was no internet, video DVD, MTV, ESPN, email, fax, cell phone, or wireless digital assistant,… only music and books to help guide me along the way. And boy, that was a time…

As a record store clerk, I remember manually doing the inventory after the night shift at Streetside on Delmar, listening almost obsessivly to Tom Wait’s Closing Time, his first official album on Asylum Records, then known as the show case label for the burgeoning singer-songwriter movement. Bob Dylan was the guiding light for this fertile period in which we witnessed the rise of the likes of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, JD Souther, James Taylor et al. (lesser known and brilliant song writers like the late great Fred Neil, Michael Dinner, Steve Ferguson and Ron Nagle) But it was Waits who sang as if he really spent those lonely hours in smoky bars, diners and condemned buildings commiserating with waitresses and people who were truly down on their luck. And, alone at The Side, I would listen to “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love With You”, Ol’55, “Ice Cream Man”, “Martha”, “Virginia Avenue” and would stare onto Delmar completely wrapped up in Waits’s world. And at this early stage in his career, you could understand his world-weary vocals that would cut straight to your core. (Of course future recordings would reveal the unique, theatrical, and brilliant Waits persona that featured almost unintelligible, smoke enhanced vocals).

Waits’s aura came to full flower the night I saw him perform at Graham Chapel, get drunk at BB’s Blues and finally pour catsup all over his fried chicken at 3 AM. at The Gateway Diner. He even lit a cigarette for his unknown counter companion that morning, muttering and nodding in compassion. As I observed him, I could only think of his street wise lyrics about a diner waitress, “She’s got marmalade thighs, bloodshot eyes, and scrambled yellow hair”.

I dug singer songwriters, especially Jackson Browne and the discovery of his first album, Saturate Before Using. He managed to create a new sensibility, merging the folk sound of Washington Square with the west coast sound of CS&N. The album was warm, homegrown, sparsely produced and immediate. David Crosby lent his magnificent harmony vocals to “Jamaica Say You Will” and the late guitarist Jesse Ed Davis stole the spotlight on the hit single “Doctor My Eyes” with a killer solo, probably the highlight of his brief, overlooked career. And “Song For Adam” a beautiful hymn-like reflection on the suicide of a friend with great unrealized potential made me stop and think that maybe I was not as indestructible as I felt. Many feel that Jackson personified the light over commercialized California sound that reached its nadir with Firefall, America and to some extent The Eagles. But few know that in the late 60s he was on the cutting edge of Andy Warhols world, working with and writing for Nico. And later, his politically charged songs like “Lives in The Balance” and “World in Motion” revealed a thoughtful, socially conscious writer of depth. Browne still walks the walk – I don’t recall that he has been hired for corporate sponsored concerts in recent years like many of his peers.

In those days, I was exposed to great music of all genres like the fledgling roots and bluegrass sound from Rounder and Flying Fish records; the high lonesome sounds of ace pickers like Norman Blake, Dobro greats Tut Taylor and Mike Auldridge, western swing from David Bromberg and fiddler Vasser Clements on the incredible album Hillbilly Jazz, and Woodstock folk music by Happy and Artie Traum on Mud Acres, Music Among Friends. Of course none of this stuff was played on the radio, but we sold lots of it to friends and customers who spread the word to others.

The sound that I really dug was western swing, especially Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, the aforementioned Hillbilly Jazz, and a new band out of Austin, Asleep at The Wheel. Vocalist and Bob Wills protégé Ray Benson lead the swinging group of cosmic cowboys that entranced me with their seamless mixture of jazz, swing, country, blues, and R &B that was the singular sensation that was known as western swing. These guys caused somewhat of a stir with their first record Comin Right at Ya on UA, and then were snapped up by Columbia records who were beginning their signing spree of hundreds of bands in hopes of hitting on the next platinum hit. Of course for every Boston, Boz Scaggs and Michael Jackson, there were great bands like Asleep at the Wheel that were lavishly promoted by the CBS coke machine to no avail. ASW was showcased one evening at Nick Nixon’s Downspout Lounge and The label said come on down, so indeed me and my friends did just that. I had met keyboardist Floyd Domino the previous year and he greeted us enthusiastically as the band dug into their first set. These guys swung like mad. Bob Dylan’s current bassist Tony Garnier was in the lineup and in between sets I invited Tony out to the parking lot to enjoy a hit of pure gold Columbian. He joined us and an hour later, he said oh shit, the third set. Sure enough the boys started without him and were well into it when we staggered back into the club. He got away with it and so did we.

I also discovered exotic Brazilian music at that time in the form of Vocalist Flora Purim’s Butterfly Dreams, and Wayne Shorter’s Native Dancer featuring the legendary Milton Nascimento. Jazz was merging with Brazil (in fact Stan Getz and seductive vocalist Astrud Gilberto had a huge pop hit with The Girl From Ipanema on 1963’s landmark Getz/Gilberto) and Flora Purim and husband/percussionist Airto enlisted Joe Henderson and George Duke to create overwhelmingly beautiful music, especially the title track, Stanley Clarke’s “Dr. Jive” and the mysterious, sensual Jobim ballad “Dindi”. Shorter, the brilliant tenor man who has recently achieved cult-hero status with his new touring quartet featuring Danillo Perez, Brian Blade, and John Patticcui ,blazed a new and beautiful trail when he introduced vocalist Nascimento to the world at large in 1973. A melodic, lyrical jewel, Native Dancer was a refreshing departure from Shorter’s electric fusion efforts with Weather Report. He made Brazilian music accessible to someone that missed the Getz/ Gilberto sound when it hit the scene in the early sixties. I imagine that Luaka Bop impresario, David Byrne was paying attention to Shorter’s explorations at the time.

Of course, I also discovered Jazz,through Duke Ellington and Miles, the soul genius of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye’s landmark What s Goin On, and was captivated by the sheer rock n roll majesty of the glimmer twins, Mick and Keith. Music was important to many of us and the media glut and corporate mentality that we live with today was not present, thank god.

I finally found the girl…ten years later. But in the meantime, I was more than sustained with the terrific music that I heard in the 70s. And I had a lot of fun in the process, and I still do absorbing as much as I can.

Listen up, kill your television.
   

 

 

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