Entries in Charles M. Young (1)


Charles M. Young's Last List of the O-Os.

By Charles M. Young

So...uh...my friend Vic asked me to write a “Best of the 0-0s” list a couple months ago, and I said, “I hate lists.”

And he said, “They’re easy. Just write your favorite songs from the past decade.”

And I said, “I hate everything in the past decade.”

And he said, “Just write everything you’ve been listening to.”

And I said, “I don’t listen to music from this decade.”

And he said, “It doesn’t matter. Just say what you’ve been listening to. It can be recorded at any time. It doesn’t even have to be music. It could be a movie. A book. A TV show. Anything you liked in the past decade, whenever it was produced.” 

And I said, “I have 0-0 anhedonia, a complete inability to experience pleasure for the past decade.”

And he said, “Just write something. Didn’t I send you on the road with Van Halen in 1984 when they were the number one party band in the world? You didn’t have anhedonia on that one, did you? You owe me.”

So...uh...I thought about that for a couple months, and this is my attempt at a list of stuff would have given me pleasure if I was still capable of experiencing it. 


1. ERNIE HAWKINS:  Rags and Bones - Solo acoustic guitar, mostly steel string, has become a thriving subculture among middle aged guys who love to hack out old blues and ragtime tunes. If you dig around on Youtube, you can find them playing songs by Leadbelly or Skip James or John Fahey. They are all self-consciously inauthentic, and they almost always wear hats to hide their receding hairlines, but they obviously love the music and that’s the next best thing if you’re not authentic. I know, because I love hacking out old blues and ragtime tunes and I’m completely inauthentic. One of the best DVD teachers of this music is Ernie Hawkins, who fell in love with the blues as a teenager in Pittsburgh and moved to New York after graduating from high school to study with the Reverend Gary Davis, one of America’s underappreciated musical geniuses. Hawkins plays Davis’ intricate compositions about as well as any mortal can (often better than Davis himself) and in the past decade has demonstrated a gift for teaching the guitar on DVD. For those who listen but don’t play, check out his album Rags & Bones. If you do play, go to Stephan’s Grossman’s Guitar Workshop online and investigate his many DVDs on the music of Davis, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. Also recommended is his 3-DVD set on the “C-A-G-E-D” system of figuring out the guitar neck, available at Homespun.



2. LEFT LANE CRUISER: "Wash it" - Bring Yo Ass To The Table - I was on tour with Richard Lloyd last spring when I heard an incredibly raucous, invigorating slide guitar song come on the juke box in a little club in South Carolina. “Who is that?” I asked. “Left Lane Cruiser” said the proprietor, and I immediately dialed them up on iTunes and Youtube. The song was “Wash It” and I’ve been playing it ever since whenever I want a blast of energy. The guitarist, Freddy J IV, sits down, and the drummer/washboardist Brenn “Sausage Paw” Beck, stands up, which should tell you that they’re obtuse, don’t give a shit what anyone else is doing, and will explode someday, so appreciate them now while you can. I have no idea what Freddy J is singing about on their three albums (All You Can Eat!, Bring Yo’ Ass to the Table, Gettin’ Down On It) but I suspect he has strong opinions about his lower chakras. I know he’s got killer guitar tone, and a great drummer, without which your band isn’t great.


3. CRUSHED BUTLER: "It's My Life" - Uncrushed - Post-hippie and pre-punk, they recorded six tracks preserved on Uncrushed (issued or reissued in 1998, I’m not sure which). Record companies could not understand them while they were ripping up clubs in London from 1969-71, and they finally gave up. The Genius program on iTunes sent their name my way one afternoon while I was on a hunting and gathering expedition, and I was blown away, especially by the song “It’s My Life,” which has nothing to do with the Animals’ song of the same name. Crushed Butler’s “It’s My LIfe” is one of the those garage band miracles of concision and testosterone in search of freedom, perfectly blending Bo Diddly and the Stooges.



4. AVATAR: A fairy tale movie that could have been written by Noam Chomsky, if he decided to immerse himself in Tolkien, the first two Alien movies and Dances With Wolves. Once in a great while, Hollywood gets something right, and this is one of those onces. I saw it twice, not for the special effects but to listen to the audience cheer when the American imperialist army is defeated and sent home in chains. When was the last time you saw that in a Hollywood movie?



5. ALELA DIANE: "White As Diamonds" - To Be Still - Another discovery while I was roaming iTunes. She lives in a cave someplace and writes dreamy, hypnotic, weird tunes for other introverts who live in a cave and suffer from anhedonia of the O-Os. If you are not moved by “White As Diamonds,” skip everything else. Me, I like everything else on The Pirate’s Gospel and To Be Still. They call this “psych folk,” short for psychedelic folk, which I suppose is a declaration of transcendent possibility for cave dwelling introverts. Is that what art is supposed to do or something?



6. BLIND BLAKE, BLIND BOY FULLER, BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON, BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON, BLIND WILLIE MCTELL: On my iPod I’ve got 212 songs by guys who are officially Blind. And that’s not counting 116 by the Rev. Gary Davis, who was only.... blind.



 7. VASHTI BUNYAN: "Train Song" - Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind - She recorded two commercially unsuccessful albums in the 60s, drifted off into complete obscurity until the O-Os when she got reissued (Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind, Just Another Diamond Day) and discovered she had a fan base among cave dwelling introverts. “Train Song,” whether her original or the cover by Ben Gibbard and Feist, has been my favorite song by someone who isn’t Blind for awhile. Her breathy, gossamer voice and unique sense of melody remain intact on 2005’s Lookaftering.


8. MY IPOD: When I travel, my bag overfloweth with gadgets and all the crap I need to sustain the gadgets. Forget socks and underwear. Couldn’t we just toss all the gadgets in a hole somewhere? Especially cellphones. But not my iPod. Everything thing else that’s digital, into the hole. I’m keeping my iPod, because when I put it on shuffle, it makes juxtapositions so spectacularly weird that I forget I have anhedonia.





9. THE CANCER STAGE OF CAPITALISM BY JOHN MCMURTRY: Canadian philosopher makes the case that cancer and capitalism grow until they kill the host. It must be pleasant to be proved right by history, even as the tumor relentlessly metastasizes.




 10. JACK ROSE: "Sunflower River Blues" - Kensington Blues - Jack died of heart attack on December 5, 2009, at the age of 38--one final tragedy in a decade of unrelieved political and ecological horror. Of all the guitarists who have said they were influenced by the late great John Fahey, my favorite guitarist of all time, Rose was one of a tiny number who shared Fahey's sense of tone, drone and bone chilling melody. Start with the album Kensington Blues. His version of "Sunflower River Blues" covers Fahey as well as he can be covered, and his original stuff sounds just as good.