William Brown (33)
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Six: Bloomington

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Just as his concert career began to soar, Pressler’s life took an unexpected detour. He received an invitation in October 1954 from Dean Wilfred C. Bain of Indiana University. “I said, ‘No, I can’t. I have concerts.’ “Bain wanted me to come to Bloomington, a great music school of course, and he had my name in his little black book because he had first invited Steuermann, my teacher. Steuermann had said, ‘No, I am a city man, but I have a young colleague,’ so Bain just wrote my name in his little black book, but didn’t invite me yet.”

Next Bain invited the pianist Willi Masselos to come to Bloomington. “Willi and I were part of a four-piano team and made recordings under assumed names playing things like Night on Bald Mountain just to earn some money. Willi believed in his stars. If the stars didn’t tell him to go, he wouldn’t go. And then one day, Masselos said, ‘Menahem, should I go or shouldn’t I?’ I said, ‘You must, of course.’ He said, ‘You wouldn’t, would you?’ In order to encourage him, I said I would, but I didn’t have the slightest idea what Indiana University was like.”

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Seven: General Aspects of Pressler’s Teaching

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Menahem Pressler has instructed hundreds of students over his fifty-year teaching career, most of whom have been enrolled in masters or doctoral degree programs at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Some have been undergraduates, and some have studied for their Artist Diplomas. In the earliest years of Pressler’s teaching, students were routinely assigned to his studio. As the numbers of interested students increased, students would contact Pressler by phone or letter, indicating their desire to study with him, and Pressler would schedule personal auditions, at which time he would hear students play for ten or fifteen minutes and talk with them about their plans for the future. Students came to consider admission into Pressler’s class as personal triumphs, affirmations of accomplishment, and guarantees of future success.

Pressler comments that what he looks for, first and foremost, in prospective students is their love for music and their desire to dedicate their lives to it “so that, whatever life brings, they will be happy. By that I mean, if they are in a certain place and they teach there, I want them to be happy they found an outlet for all they know, for their love of the works, and that they can transmit that love to others.”

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Thirteen: Pressler at the Met: Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 110

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A Lecture Recital Presented at the
Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York City, New York

On one specific occasion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pressler, ever the teacher, offered a lecture recital to the public, a setting in which he provided his audience with background about the piece he was to perform and the composer who wrote it. Then he worked through the piece, emphasizing areas that he especially wanted his audience to grasp. Pressler noted specific places that were of special significance and demonstrated how particular measures were to sound, explaining why they should be played and heard a certain way. In working through the piece, Pressler told the story behind or within the work, noted the mood(s) the composer was trying to convey, and then provided a brief analysis of the various musical, technical, practical, emotional, and often literary elements that worked organically to create the beauty and wonder of the music.

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Twenty-One: Joseph Haydn

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Haydn, I think, was the most original of his time, a gigantic figure in music, and is still a very much unexplored treasure, the master of the last movement. No one could write last movements like that; he always has a surprise for you. While the others—Brahms, Schumann, Beethoven included—were struggling with the last movement from the formal point of view, Haydn never did. I’m glad that the Trio learned the forty-three trios and recorded them all.

In Haydn you are very sparse with pedal, although you don’t think of the harpsichord when you play him. You think of what he sounds like to you, and of course you often have to adjust to the acoustics of a big hall. What you give when you play Haydn is his character—noble, grand, and more sophisticated than young Beethoven was at that time.

Mvt. 1. Allegro

M. 1. A special sound. The theme has inflection. Come down from the C.

M. 9. Left hand decrescendo with the first sixteenth notes. Then crescendo with the second group.

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Twenty-Four: Serge Prokofiev

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Fig. 24.1. Sonata No. 7, Op. 83, Complete Prokofi ev Sonatas © Kalmus Editions. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.

Prokofiev has had an enormous, enormous impact on me and on the piano repertoire. To begin with, by learning his works and playing his Third Piano Concerto, which I did a number of times, and playing all the sonatas, which I recorded for MGM, and editing the ninth for publication by Leeds Music, I thought he was an enormous composer, and now I think so even more so. His music has an excitement and the special colors of folk tunes and marches and many playful elements. His sonatas reflect his varied moods from romantic to rhythmic and percussive. I feel his music is incomparable.

Mvt. 1. Allegro inquieto

M. 1. Non- legato. Driving, intense.

Mm. 7–23. One large crescendo.

Mm. 12–20. Crescendo to each accented B.

Mm. 20–23. Crescendo to the fortissimo.

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Vince Bell (40)
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XXXVI The Bottom Line

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  XXXVI 

The Bottom Line

I

was asking for an adventure, and I got it.

Six days and five nights on a bus, 118 Americano dollars, Nashville to

New York. And back. Forty straight hours of bumping up and down, with 47 other completely miserable people in spaces smaller than coffins stacked next to one another, with a chemical toilet at the left rear back.

I got on at the Nashville Greyhound station at two o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday. I was truly was sad about Sarah not coming along. Very hard to say goodbye. But, let the dance begin. I was going to New York to play with Lyle Lovett in the Village for his album release. He had recorded a CD of Texas writers who had influenced his music, Step Inside This House. Including my song “I’ve Had Enough” was a cherishable and flattering tribute. He was playing at the Bottom

Line for two nights. My night included Lyle, Willis Alan Ramsey, Guy

Clark, and me. Good enough.

We had tried to make a reservation for the plane three weeks in advance, but that was going to cost a thousand bucks. Later efforts got that down to about 600. The “dog” was only $118. I was a writer

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XIII. Name Unknown

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56  �  One Man’s Music: The Life and Times of Texas Songwriter Vince Bell

ion. Lacerations were confined to the right lobe, particularly the dome, and along the falsiform ligament. The remainder of the abdomen including the stomach, pancreas, duodenum, small bowel, colon, retroperitoneal area were all normal.

Spleen was normal. Diaphragms were normal. Jackson Preatt drain and a Penrose drain were utilized, brought out through stab incisions of the right flank. Wound closed with running

L Proline, skin with staples; bilateral tube thorocostomies were performed, causing multiple rib fractures bilaterally because patient will be on ventilator.

6:15  Multiple trauma MVA admitted to ICU #9 from CT

Scan. DX SMI, Fx arm, Scalp lacerations, and post-op repair liver laceration. Left pupil larger than right. Both round and reactive to light and sluggishly beginning to move and shiver slightly. Does not open eyes to verbal or painful stimuli. Sterile touch wrap to head saturated and bloody drainage. Skin warm to cool and pale in color. Temp 97. Right arm casted, fingers bleeding slightly. Moving right fingers spontaneously.

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XXXIV. Texas Plates

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  XXXIV 

Texas Plates

T

wo months after moving to Nashville, we packed up the Jeep with the guitar, the border collie, and boxes of CDs and made a swing through the northwestern U.S., playing not only in

Washington and Oregon but also Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. In Portland, it was NXNW, the Pacific Northwest’s version of Austin’s SXSW. In Denver, it was a show with Bill Morrissey, during the worst snowstorm they’d seen that early in the year in decades.

Finally settled in the hollow in the Nashville woods, I began to record my second CD, Texas Plates, with producer Robin Eaton. Just as with

Phoenix, the basics were recorded live: me and my guitar, Mickey

Grimm on drums, percussion, and cajon. Over the next year outstanding players were added: Pat Bergeson, Lewis Brown, Pat Buchanon, Chris Carmichael, Dave Jacques, Brad Jones, Al Perkins, Ross

Rice, Aly Sujo. Kami Lyle, and Maura O’Connell sang harmonies. I thought it ironic that Maura, a woman from Ireland, sang some of the more ringing notes on “Second Street,” to help me typify what, a half a world away, is in the hearts of a truckload of Tejanos as we were all looking for work.

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Foreword by Kathleen Hudson

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Foreword

O

ther music autobiographies give us the culture and history surrounding the artist, the circumstances of his or her life. Vince Bell does this; he also invites us to enter his personal realm of suffering and to attempt to heal along with him, compelling us to look deeply at our own relationship to pain and struggle.

But this is more than a story about a tragic car accident that left

Vince in a coma for four weeks. A Foreword presents a few words before the body of the book, but it should also let us look forward to the book. Vince Bell’s story is ultimately uplifting and inspiring, a story of pain, suffering and also hope woven into one rich tapestry that is, indeed, one man’s music. We all have songs to sing and stories to tell;

Vince Bell invites us into his head to hear his songs and his stories.

Vince Bell is often mentioned along with Townes Van Zandt, Guy

Clark, Stevie Ray Vaughan (who was playing with him on his last session before the wreck), Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Eric Clapton, Neil

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X. The Songwriter

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  X 

The Songwriter

T

hroughout all the luck, good and bad, I wrote songs. I wrote them in the kitchen, in the car, in the evening, on holidays, but mostly when it was inconvenient. A lot of the work I put into a new tune was done when trying to sleep, before I would wake for the day and put my thoughts to the test. I have always had collections of ideas and tunes penned in an “idea cache” of Black Books. They were the enduring, final resting place for all kinds of recollections, reflections, and the thoughts that occurred day-to-day. By my observation, it took eight pages of cross-outs to be able to settle on three four-line verses and a refrain.

Writing is not writing at all. It’s editing windy cliché and dogtrot verse. It’s taking what you so loved the day before and, with a fastballthrowing motion, tossing the miserable piece of trash into the can in the corner. Sometimes songs take 60 minutes. Sometimes songs take six years. Further, when you finally get down to it, it’s not what you write, it’s what you don’t write. It’s as important to know what you don’t want as it is to know what you do. Lastly, when you learn to write the pause, the spaces between the words become as influential

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Vaughan Umi (8)
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3: Batá in the Revolution

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3

Batá in the Revolution

*  Umi  *

In 1959, Cuba began to reinvent itself under the direction of Fidel Castro's revolutionary socialist government. Historically in Cuba, poor people – especially Afro-Cubans – were marginalized. Now after centuries of colonial and neocolonial rule, poor people and blacks gained access to the delights of the nation. The debate has raged since Cuba's first independence struggle (from 1868 to 1878) about whether blacks are mere beneficiaries of white benevolence who should be thankful for their freedom, independence, education, opportunities, and so on, or co-authors/owners of all of Cuba's revolutionary history – as soldiers, thinkers, and perhaps the truest carriers of the spirit of freedom in Cuba. Carlos's grandfather was a mambí (rebel soldier in the Cuban War of Independence, 1895 to 1898) and his father was a founding member of the Cuban State Security after the revolution of 1959. Despite some improvement in conditions for black Cubans, the denigration and repression of Afro-Cuban religions has persisted even under the new Castro regime. The revolution has passed through several moments, each with its own consequences for Santería and batá.

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4: Diaspora

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4

Diaspora

* Umi *

Diaspora entails continuity and change, harmony and dissonance, familiarity and foreignness. When I think of my study with Carlos I am inspired by the possibility of reaching back into my own ancestral past through the drum-its transcendental musical beauty and its historical lineage. Our experiences together often evoke for me a deep feeling of unity within the African Diaspora. However, many of Carlos's experiences traveling the world reveal the limits of identification between diaspora groups and force us to acknowledge real conflicts. In this chapter Carlos tells of his adventures as a traveler and performer in Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. His most detailed stories are about his experiences as a batá drummer in the Bay Area of California.

Traveling in Africa, Carlos was fascinated that the Yoruba he learned in Cuba (the Yoruba brought by his ancestors a century earlier) was intelligible to contemporary Yoruba speakers in Africa. He greeted people, ordered food, and asked directions in Yoruba. He was surprised to learn that many Africans did not know about the trans-Atlantic slave trade that took millions of blacks to the Americas, to Cuba. In fact, they did not know where Cuba was. In other cases, the Africans knew about Cuba and identified the island with Fidel and revolution. Carlos delights in moments of recognition between Cubans and Africans, but these encounters do not translate into sustained, transformative cultural exchange for either group.

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Conclusion: The Drum Speaks Again

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CONCLUSION

The Drum Speaks Again

Ga dum, ga dum, dum…
And we rode the rhythms as one, from Nigeria to Mississippi, and back…

Etheridge Knight (from the poem “Oba Ilu, The Talking Drum”)

We began this book with the understanding that the batá drum is a vessel, a vehicle, and a teaching tool. The drum holds on to various kinds of information, including sonic patterns, stories, family and ritual lineages, herbal medicine, and magic. It keeps the beat to and through which humans live. At times we “imitate and repeat the timeless acts of the oricha, approaching and aligning [our]selves with the real world of aché.”1 At other times, drum beats salute various members of the community and acknowledge their various identities and relationships to one another as servants of this or that oricha. Sometimes the drums invite and incite trance possession, becoming “cables upon which man cross[es] that chasm” between the profane and the spirit worlds. To play is to “force open the door to the source.”2

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Introduction: The Drum Speaks

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INTRODUCTION

The Drum Speaks

*  Umi Vaughan  *

Añá unsoro, the drum speaks!
Tambó
The beat of life that always goes on
Percussive Spirit of Sound

All over the world
In joy and pain
People move,
People live, people love
To the beat

From Old Oyo to Old Havana
On to Brooklyn and Oakland
Where and what next?

There are meetings at crossroads
Beauty is born
Journeys come full circle
We celebrate the continuity of life
Trough the drum

Moforibale. I put my head to the floor in respect. I salute Changó by the altar, at the feet of Carlos Aldama (Oba Kwelu). Candles, coconut, and rum as an offering, to begin. “What do you want to learn? Do you want to learn to play a few rhythms for dance classes, or do you want to learn the lineage (la l í ne a), the way of the drum?” “I want to be one of those guys that eats drums” (de esos hombres que comen tambores).

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1: Fundamento

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1

Fundamento

*  Umi  *

Batá drumming is used to support Afro-Cuban Santería. Santería is a “danced religion” based on Yoruba religious concepts disguised under and influenced by Catholic ideology and symbols. The foundation of Santería was established during the colonial period; subsequent developments in Cuba and other reaches of the diaspora, like California, are evolutions from this base. The original development began with the increased importation of enslaved Africans after 1762, when the British briefly occupied the island and opened it to trade more than ever before. The development of Santería took of even more in the early decades of the nineteenth century, when Cuba moved to replace Haiti (whose economy was destroyed by the only slave revolt to establish a black nation in the Americas) as the world's largest sugar producer. To do so Spanish Cuban planters brought more African labor to work the cane fields and refining machinery. Concurrent civil strife among the several Yoruba groups of West Africa resulted in even more enslaved.

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Tim Smolko (13)
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1 Life is a Long Song: Providing a Context for Thick as a Brick and a Passion Play

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In the late 1960s and early 1970s, british progressive rock bands such as King Crimson; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Yes; Genesis; and Jethro Tull were imbuing their music with a broadened harmonic palette, large-scale forms, polyphonic textures, avant-garde sensibilities, virtuoso technique, and the use of the latest advances in instrument and studio technology. All of these ingredients are in evidence on Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick (1972) and A Passion Play (1973). Each of these albums is one continuous song – composed of numerous vocal sections interspersed with instrumental passages – lasting over forty minutes. Their complex yet accessible music, perplexing lyrics, and unique LP packaging place them among the most creative albums in the history of rock music. Although they are quite innovative, one would not expect such oddities to achieve success with the mainstream popular music audience. Amazingly, they did. “Jethro Tull’s back-to-back Number One albums, 1972’s Thick as a Brick and 1973’s A Passion Play, are arguably the most uncommercial and uncompromising albums ever to top the Billboard album chart.”1 So writes Craig Rosen, author of The Billboard Book of Number One Albums. Thick as a Brick reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 Album Chart in June 1972, where it remained for two weeks, and reached number five on the UK Albums Chart.2 A Passion Play hit number one for one week on Billboard in August 1973. How can these “uncommercial and uncompromising” albums have been so popular?

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7 The Music of a Passion Play

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Like thick as a brick, a passion play takes the listener on a spacious musical journey, although the journey is a bit gloomy because of the subject matter of the lyrics. Yet because of Anderson’s wry vocal delivery and the droll and inane “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles,” the gloominess is not overbearing. The music is rich, layered, and diverse, and a close look at some its features allows one to discover something new with every listen. I begin this chapter by analyzing A Passion Play’s overture, explaining how it encapsulates the work as a whole, introduces two of its primary musical motives (Motives 1 and 2), shows the influence of Baroque-era music, and resembles the Danse Macabre, the medieval dance of death. I then analyze the work’s form, thematic development, instrumental passages, and instrumentation. After this, I discuss the music of “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles,” and the chapter concludes with some observations on A Passion Play’s metrical and harmonic complexities.

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8 Monty Python, Reception, and Live Versions

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This final chapter discusses three aspects of thick as a Brick and A Passion Play that are important but have not yet been considered. The first section shows how the two albums were influenced by British humor of the 1960s and 1970s, especially the television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969–1974). The second section describes how the albums were received by fans, critics, and the musicians themselves, and the third explores the live versions of the two pieces, which Jethro Tull performed in their entirety during their 1972 and 1973 tours.

A new brand of satire became a cultural force in 1960s Britain with the BBC radio show The Goon Show (1951–1960), the West End and Broadway comedy revue Beyond the Fringe (1960–1964), and television shows such as That Was the Week That Was (1962–1963) and The Frost Report (1966–1967). This “satire boom” brought a surreal, absurdist edge to the music hall tradition that dominated British humor in the first half of the twentieth century. The comedy team Monty Python (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin) took elements of the “satire boom,” piled on even more surrealism and absurdity, and created Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969. Jethro Tull was directly influenced by the surreal and absurd elements in these shows. When asked by an interviewer, “What makes you laugh?” Anderson replied: “The absurd. I suppose what makes me laugh is something that seems on the surreal and absurd side and in that way I’m probably right in the mainstream of what makes most British people laugh. With the landmark eras of The Goons and The Pythons and the current brigade, like Eddie Izzard … it may seem like it is all improvisation but there’s a lot of structure and form underlying that illusion of randomness. But that’s the stuff that makes me laugh – the surreal and the absurd.”1

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Appendix 3. Analysis of the Instrumental Passages

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The following is a detailed description of all the primary musical events in the nineteen instrumental passages of Thick as a Brick.

INSTR. 1 (3:36–6:08 SIDE 1) SOLOING, TRANSITION, AND CONTRAST

3:36–4:05

Organ solo in C Dorian over ostinato
(Motive 2) on bass and electric guitar

4:05–4:20

Electric guitar solo over bass, which leaves the ostinato behind in favor of more melodic, sequential lines

4:20–4:30

Shift to meter and a short acoustic guitar interlude

4:30–5:01

Staccato rhythms by entire band in , ending on a diminished chord

5:01–5:12

Shift to meter and G Aeolian

5:12–6:08

Introduction to the harmonic and melodic material of Vocal 3

INSTR. 2 (7:15–9:20 SIDE 1) SOLOING

7:15–7:26

Electric guitar and flute play Motive 3

7:26–9:04

Electric guitar solo in the left channel and another in the right channel (starting at 7:45) playing related material

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3 Geared toward the Exceptional Rather than the Average: The Album Cover and Lyrics of Thick as a Brick

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Just as the music of thick as a brick was inspired by the broadened possibilities and creative atmosphere of rock music in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so was its album cover. The album cover became a wildly creative art form during this period, and browsing the stacks in the rock section of a used record store even today can be quite an adventure. One may find the psychedelic ambigram on the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty (1970), the working zipper of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers (1971), the rotating wheel of Led Zeppelin III (1970), or the stark, enigmatic whiteness of the Beatles’ White Album (1968). Some record covers were designed to be simulacra of physical objects and were “interactive,” almost like origami puzzles. Jefferson Airplane’s Long John Silver (1972) can be folded into a cigar box. Alice Cooper’s School’s Out (1972) folds out into a school desk. Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Catch a Fire (1973) resembles a Zippo lighter with a “lid” that flips open revealing the record. Isaac Hayes’s Black Moses (1971) folds out into the shape of a cross and shows the singer attired in robe and sandals. Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick not only looks like a newspaper, it actually is a newspaper, the St. Cleve Chronicle & Linwell Advertiser. Once you open the gatefold and unfold the bottom section, you realize you’re holding a full-size twelve-page newspaper filled with dozens of inane, preposterous stories and advertisements plus the lyrics (supposedly written by an eight-year-old boy genius), a mock review of the album, a crossword puzzle, and a naughty connect-the-dots puzzle. Although some of these album cover designs were nothing more than kitsch, they show how malleable and expressive the medium of the long-playing disc could be in terms of packaging.

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Sybil Rosen (5)
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Part 5: The Moon Shines On

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60

Numbers

N

ine months after Billy’s letter arrived in New York, I’ve finally come to a stop in Georgia. The Waller tradition of hospitality endures. At

Glyn’s invitation, I returned here from Texas, to live in the quarters for a time, collecting my thoughts.

Every morning now since the end of February, I’ve sat at this desk by a window, watching the green seep up out of the earth. By May, Georgia is spring-steeped, hot already. Leaves no longer shimmer with youth; like gardeners’ hands, they’ve darkened with the serious work of summer: gathering sunlight, making sugar. Against a wall of emerald woods, the flowering privets make a shield of white. The Chattahoochee has disappeared behind the trees again, save for the sound the water makes buckling past the cabin.

An armadillo forages in the floodplain, and turkey vultures fly low over the quarters, casting shadows on the ground. Glyn says there’s still blackberry winter to come, or maybe not this year; so much rain.

How I came to be at Waller writing about lost love is still a great, unsolicited surprise. One thing is certain: Blaze Foley’s legend got me here. So much of his true story unfolded in Georgia, and all of his life in the tree house. Our friends in Whitesburg still maintain they witnessed his happiest time, and everywhere is evidence of him.

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Part 3: Country Music Widow

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44

Scavengers

T

wenty-six years after I said good-bye to Depty Dawg in Chicago, I’m wandering around a deserted graveyard outside Austin looking for

Blaze Foley’s grave. No one here can tell me how to find it; you have to let him guide you, his friends all say.

The entrance to Live Oak Cemetery is marked by a sprawling grove of ancient oaks whose leathery leaves are evergreen; they don’t fall in autumn.

Live oaks can defy the seasons for hundreds of years, and here their sprawled branches cast a dense canopy over the sun-baked Texas plain. Under the great trees, gravestones—some of them dating back to the 1800s—are nestled comfortably, tilted with time, the etching on the rough granite almost worn away.

It’s the beginning of February, a few days after the fourteenth anniversary of Blaze’s death. The weather in Austin has been surprisingly warm; only yesterday it shifted, turning cold and raw. I’ve been walking under the old oaks searching for his gravesite for over an hour, and I’m starting to shiver. Beyond the massive grove, the burial grounds open onto a barren field where neat rows of young trees have been planted. I move into the sunshine, but the wind blows unhampered here and if anything, it’s colder. The gravestones beside the smaller oaks are more recent; exposed to sun and wind, they feel forlorn, less settled than the ones whose names are no longer recorded beneath the shaded stand.

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Part 2: Autumn Winds

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25

Miles to Go

T

wo months after my return from Georgia, I’m on my way to Texas and

Blaze Foley’s grave. It’s the end of January now, and the thermometers in New York have plunged to zero. The Catskills are white and unmoving, the air so cold it glitters with crystals.

The night before I leave, Yukon the monk helps me try to bury Larue’s ashes in the grove of pines behind the house. The ground is frozen, impossible to dig; no resting place there. It will be summer by the time we finally scatter her ashes in the percolating stream beside the cottage where she last lived.

For now, Yukon sends me off with his blessing. In our long friendship, good-byes have been frequent.

“My gypsy queen,” he breathes, passing a hand over the top of my head.

He wears a woolen cap pulled down to just above his eyelids. “It’s a love story through space and time.”

“There’s no such thing as time,” I grouse. “I’m convinced of that now.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Do you think I’m going crazy?” I ask him.

He peers at me and shrugs. “If something can heal you, let it.”

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Part 4: Small Town Hero

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56

True North

M

y weeks in Austin have left me with a few answers and still more questions. Like an onion, there are innumerable layers of Blaze to peel back; I realize now there will never be an end to them. Yet someday, anyway, I will have to let go.

Meanwhile I have one last stop in Texas. This morning I’m on a northbound bus to Athens, where Blaze’s younger sister, Marsha, lives. We haven’t seen each other since 1976 and frankly, I’m nervous about our visit. The botched attempt at mythmaking in the cemetery was a wry reminder. The fates may be free to pronounce me Blaze’s wife, but I’ve no idea what his evangelical Christian family would have to say about that.

The bus leaves Austin behind. Above the freeway, vultures wheel on tilted wings. Myself, I’m done with scavenging; I just want to go home, wherever that is. To find the past, I had to shed the present. I’ve given up the house in the Catskills, any means of income, and all certainty about the future. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been lucky. As I ricocheted between New York, Georgia, and Texas, family and friends have caught me every step of the way. In a world where war clamors, the earth sickens, and hunger abounds, I have had the luxury of dallying with a ghost.

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Part 1: Moonlight

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1

Things I Can’t Throw Away

T

he dead have a long reach. And they can be patient. They wait till you are ready, and then they seep back into your heart and crack it open.

They pour out of the tissue where you’ve hidden them away and insist on being known again.

Depty Dawg had come back without warning two months ago, in early

September 2002. In eight short weeks I’ve gone from being a menopausal skeptic about love, to a hormone-drenched teenager who believes in ghosts, who waits at night for one to visit her. Where once I prided myself on selfknowledge—a contradiction at best—now I stumble blind through memory and grief, astonished to find myself jealous of rivals I never knew, for the heart of a man who’s been dead thirteen years.

I can hardly remember who I was before. The one thing I’m certain of is that I was already mourning the latest dog in my life—a blond, sassy lab-andIrish setter mix named Larue. She had been felled by cancer of the snout, cruel karma for a being who always followed her nose. In long rambles through the woods Larue had revealed to me events I might not have otherwise noticed: beavers swimming in a moonlit embrace, bear cubs high in the pines. Her sturdy presence had made it possible for me to live on my own for more than a decade and write. Often I’d thought of dedicating every word to her, since she’d given up so many hours when she could have been out rolling on a dead skunk, to snooze beside me on the floor while I sat at my computer, wrestling with the muse. At the end of July I had put her to sleep for the last time, and now my bones still ached for her big-barreled body and undiluted affection, the warp and woof of our life together.

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