As I continue to cryptically allude, it's been something of a tremendous bummer of a summer for my family for a variety of reasons. As it happens, we've been spending large swathes of it out on Long Island, basically mooching off my equally opinionated (but mercifully forgiving) mother at her place here in Quogue. That part of it has been nice. The other parts? Not so much.
In any case, while out here, we routinely commandeer my mom's crappy Ford Taurus. It's falling apart and is something of an eyesore, but it gets us where we need to go, and comes equipped with a compact disc deck, which essentially makes it indispensable for me. I mean, sure -- it's a piece-of-dung car, but I can get from here to there in it whilst cranking my favorite music -- what's not to like?
Anyway, whilst tear-assing around the well-appointed lanes of Quogue in my mom's endearingly shitty Taurus, I've been known to play a divisive selection of music -- from the impenetrable prog noodlery of King Crimson to the tear-stained melancholia of This Mortal Coil through the blunt-force-trauma-horror-punk of the Misfits. This year, I've been subjecting my kids to a zealous menu of my favorite music. Some of it they've loved ("New Life" by Depeche Mode, "California Sun" as covered by the Ramones" and ... oddly ... "Calling Dr. Love" by Kiss have all become favorites of theirs). There is, however, one unlikely disc that they've become especially fond of, and it's one that comes with a long history for me.
Disarmingly loyal readers may remember a post of mine from 2009 wherein I recounted my long-held love for an esoteric musician named Blind Blake. Not to be confused with a Chicago bluesman with the same moniker, this Blind Blake (a.k.a. Alfonso Higgs) hailed from the Bahamas, and played a goofy blend of folksy calypso (prefiguring cats like Harry Belafonte). I was only familiar with him as my grandparents used to routinely play a record of his for my sister and I as little children, and we thought it was so goddamn hilarious that we took it home with us one day and never returned it. You can read the rest of that particular saga here.
In any case, sometime I after I penned that post, I found a more authoritative compilation disc of Blind Blake's. I was over the moon about it, and thought I'd buy a copy for my mom, imagining that she too would remember this peculiarly charming music. I gave it to her the following Christmas. She laughed upon opening it, but I don't believe she ever played it more than once. I was a little bummed about that, but you can't expect everyone to cherish music the same way you do (and believe me, I've gotten into more than a couple of fights about that).
Anyway, after a few weeks of the Ramones, The Cult and seemingly endless airings of the afore-cited "New Life" by Depeche Mode this particualr summer, I was feeling that a new addition to the car's musical-menu was feverishly in order. I repaired to my mom's basement (her compact discs having long since been relegated there after newer technology had rendered them -- to her mind -- obsolete) and dug out that shamefully neglected Blind Blake compilation. Honestly not expecting anyone to really dig it beyond me, I shoved it into the disc player one morning on the way to the beach and started zealously singing along to "My Pigeon Gone Wild," much to the pronounced bemusement of my children in the backseat.
In exceptionally short order -- much as my own sister and I had done -- my little Charlotte and Oliver quickly warmed to Blind Blake's catchy, deceptively bawdy ditties, and I was amazed to hear them unsolicitedly singing them to each other -- notably the delightfully violent "Jones (Oh Jones)" and "J.P. Morgan" -- later that week. In no time, both kids were demanding to hear Blind Blake instead of Depeche Mode when we got in the car (although "New Life" does still hold "song of the summer" status).
So despite all the strife, sorrow and turmoil of this summer, my heart has been newly warmed by this weird little record that has now been passed down a few generations in my family. I can still hear my grandparents singing along to "J.P. Morgan" in their kitchen when I hear it today, now echoed out of the mouths of my own little ones.
Here's a little more of it. Please enjoy.