January 25, 2009

Sonata for Crazy Ass Traffic

The TBW! posse was rolling up to Chicago (from Bloomington, late 80's) for a show at Club Dreamerz. Tony was living there at the time, the rest of us were in Bton. We ran up 65 (natch), stopping at a gas station just north of Lafayette to fill up & grab the $2.99 gas station cassette that would be our talisman for the trip.

Quick aside here . . . is this something y'all do when you're on the road? I know that the posse would often partially rely on kismet for road trip soundtracks, be it Art Bell or gas station cassettes & CDs. The rules on the gas station cassette/CD talisman were: it couldn't be something you owned but didn't bring with you, and preferably something you hadn't heard before . . . or else that GREAT album which somehow always eluded you. Also, it had to cost substantially less than you would have paid for it in a real record store, and ideally, would have been something that you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else, like one of those Johnny Paycheck trucker's special editions. Tony's biggest score was an Abbey Lincoln cassette he got on one of his many AZ trips (or maybe that was Matt; they were both on the trip). My three most memorable: the copy of Alex Chilton's Set that I grabbed just before Tony, James Barber, and I headed out to Arizona for the annual Easter pilgrimage (though I obtained that on a hasty run through Ear-X-tacy right before I hit the road . . . does that count, since it's a real record store?); a Leadbelly cassette I found on the way down to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival with Brian Kearney and a vanload of paintings; and the cassette I grabbed on this trip.

If memory serves, Whitaker had most of the band in his 'stang (a late 70's model, moderately under appreciated by aficionados), and he found a Byrds cassette . . . which, I must admit, until recently, I sneered at - I have lately come to a greater appreciation of the Byrds. On the other hand, I was rolling with G__, and my tape for the trip was Black Sabbath's Paranoid.

I had, of course, heard Black Sabbath all the way through high school, and I had an 8 track mix that I had made from a friend's LPs . . . but after living with an Ozzy freak for a couple years in South Bend, I had let Sabbath recede into the background. But here, with G__ riding shotgun in the S-15 and the bed full of ramshackle rock band equipment, Sabbath seemed more appropriate. The S-15 in question had the infamous "treble kicker" stereo setup,
(Me & Cosby & Whitaker used to cruise up and down Kirkwood, in the early days of the boomin' auto system craze, with the treble kicker up full to some white noise punk rock, usually early Husker Du, and it was so fucking loud . . . all the heads could feel their stereos [low end], but they could only hear mine [high end], and it was really fucking with them)
which was a cheap cassette stereo run through a cheap but powerful booster amp which was in turn fed to decent but trebly Kenwood speakers, all wired together with hand-twisted joints covered in black vinyl electrical tape. The Sabbath was searing on the treble kicker.

We hit the Dan Ryan around rush hour and, as is the road trip code for TBW!, we ran in tandem. Whitaker was in the lead, and I was the trailer. When he wanted to go, he signaled, and it was my job to jump in the lane before him and let him jump in front of me . . . sort of a rolling pick, if you will. It always worked well for us: Matt paid attention to where we needed to go, and I paid attention to traffic. Now, traffic on the Dan Ryan rolls hard, but we were rolling harder - 75-80 mph bumper to bumper, and some of the moves were beatific. The whole time, we were blowing Paranoid, and G__ was sparking a joint (though I was, by this time, eschewing the sacrament). Every so often, I would hear a "Whoa-ahh" from the shotgun seat after a particularly splendid bit of traffic management - if you know G__, you can picture the scene . . .

Paranoid became the first significant sonata for crazy ass traffic.

After dropping down off the freeway, we made the radical switch from Black Sabbath to Hank Williams. Somehow we lost Whitaker and ended up in Chicago's barrio. I sometimes imagine the scene through the eyes of the pachucos on the street that day . . . two big ugly white guys in truck with Indiana plates and a bunch of cheap guitars, drums and amps in the back, windows down on a cold day, blaring old school C & W at a ridiculous volume . . . We ended up finding Dreamerz without too much more delay, and that ends up being another story.

* * * * *

I roll out of the house 'round about 7 am these days. I have to do the square-around to get down the one way streets from Butchertown to 65 South (again, I-65), negotiate the early rush hour in the 'Ville, and run down through the hills to make it to Elizabethtown at 8 am. I've got the hard left merge from Story onto 64 then immediately onto 65, but since I'm heading south, I have one less hard merge than I had before. At this time of day, things are thick running down to the Watterson, and past that to the UPS depot, and to the Ford plants on Fern Valley Road. Beyond Fern Valley, things thin out, and past the Gene Snyder, it's the rural run down to Etown. A few days ago, during my maiden week of runs down south, the intensity of the traffic mirrored (a slightly diminished version of) the run all those years ago on the Dan Ryan. The song playing at the time? Blue Oyster Cult's "The Red and the Black".

"The Red and the Black" became a significant sonata for crazy ass traffic.

What is it with those seventies bands and crazy ass traffic? I had a whole fistfull of CDs in the back, and there were plenty of options to roll with, but BOC just seemed to get the job done . . . not that I rely on it as a morning soundtrack, but the groove, drive, and aggression seemed just perfect for the job (unlike most of the jazz I had - too diffuse - or the classical - too abstract - or the nu-metal - too fucking fast).

There is, apparently, a rhythm in 70's hard rock/metal that lives somewhere between 70 and 90 mph.

* * * * *

So, here's the most recent playlist:

Blue Oyster Cult - Super Hits
Alice Cooper - Greatest Hits (the Seventies compilation)
Charles Ives - The Holidays Symphony
John Coltrane - Ascension
Sun Ra - "Stars Fell on Alabama"
Duke Ellington - Black, Brown, and Beige
Eric Dolphy - Live at the Five Spot, Vol. 1
Pig Destroyer - Terrorizer
Suspected Terrorists - s/t
Deep Purple - The Very Best Of
Arto Lindsay - Aggregates 1-26
Ornette Coleman - Live at the Golden Circle Vol. 1
MX-80 Sound - Out of the Tunnel/Crowd Control
Boris - Akuma No Uta
The Scientists - Absolute

Until next time, stay beautiful.

3 comments:

mwhybark said...

mott the hoople, all the young dudes, me and uhlmann chicago bound, '92, $2.99, chevron north outta bton.

great piece. 'wooah-ahh,' shit yeah.

Bill Zink said...

That's perfect! All the Young Dudes is something that you & Uhlman most likely wouldn't have sought out on your own, but it's there in the cheapo cassette rack, winking at you . . .

. . . and, on top of that, it's a pretty decent album.

Rich said...

I had the shorter commute to Shepherdsville on that same route for a few years. I probably only got stuck in traffic once every other month or so. Fast food tip: the Shep McDonald's is one of the fastest drive-throughs I've ever visited.