Dedicated to classics and hits.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wake Up Little Susie by The Everly Brothers Was A Number One Hit



Wake Up Little Susie (CADENCE 1337)
Writers: Felice Bryant/Boudleaux Bryant
Producer: Archie Bleyer
Was Number One on Octuber 14th, 1957 for one week.

    Wake Up Little Susie was a cross-over hit back in 1957, reaching Number one on the Pop, R&B and Country Charts in October of that year.  The Everly Brothers emerged out of proto-Nashville via Cadence Records, the New York City based record label of song publisher Wesley Rose, the scion of Acuff Rose Music, founded by his Dad and Roy Acuff.

    The most distinctive musical aspect of Wake Up Little Susie is the vocal harmonies of the two brothers.  Although they gained their success in the midst of the rock era, their singing style was firmly rooted in the "Family" style Country bands of the early and mid 1950s.  Wake Up Little Susie is a classic example of a rocknroll era indie sales success.  The Everly Brothers were initially signed by Columbia but dropped after one non-charting single, literally one year later they had a number one record.

    Wake Up Little Susie actually offers a still viable formula for an Artist today: partner a non-label music industry insider with a band that has been close to the flame.  Wake Up Little Susie is essentially a number one released by a music publisher, and while Cadence itself didn't survive the British invasion, (WIKI) they had a string of charting singles in the novelty and country fields prior to Wake Up Little Susie. Cadence Records had an earlier (country) number one in 1957 with Andy Williams cover version of Butterfly. It must have been nice to get a number one record on the Country chart with a cover.

   Wake Up Little Susie only  lasted a week at number one, but it was preceded by That'll Be The Day by The Crickets and followed by Jailhouse Rock/Treat Me Nice (Double A Side) by Elvis Presley. Elvis followed Jailhouse Rock with Love Me Tender- in 1957.  By comparison, 1958 was a relatively "slow" year for Rock songs on the Pop Chart and by 1959 rocknroll was basically over as a sales phenomenon on the pop chart.

  You certainly wouldn't say that Acuff Rose Music "failed" just because Cadence stopped having hits in the mid 1960s.  Acuff Rose Music was a founding partner of BMI, and BMI was started by Radio Broadcasters to basically end the ASCAP collecting monopoly and open those opportunities to Country and "R&B" Artists.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

IN SEARCH OF ZARATHURSTRA: ACROSS IRAN AND CENTRAL ASIA TO FIND THE WORLD'S FIRST PROPHET

BOOK REVIEW

In Search of Zarathustra: Across Iran and Central Asia To Find The World's First Prophet
by Paul Kriwaczek
p. 2002
by Vintage Press

        As I've said before, you have to look pretty hard to get good information on the part of the world we know as "IRAN."  Iran has a baaaad rap in the West right now AND it's not as "interesting" to Western intellectuals as your Soviet Union's and China's. Of course, any discussion of MODERN Iran has to begin and end with Islam, but such wasn't always the case. Historically, the area of Iranian SPEAKING people extended from the edge of Greece (Scythia), down through Central Asia (Samaritans) into modern Iran and Afghanistan (Persians.)  Like other linguistic groups in the Indo European family, the Iranians were horse riding nomads and small-time farmers with an upwardly mobile streak.  The Iranians, Turks, Arabs and Mongols are the Asian equivalent of the Greeks, Romans, Germans and Celts of Europe.  The Persian Empire of the Classic Period most resembles the Roman Empire of the same period.  And in fact, beginning with Alexander the Great and running through the Middle Ages, Persians and Romans (and their succesors) fought amongst themselves in the area of modern day Syria, Iraq and the Caucuses.

    Additionally, the more nomadic linguistic relatives of the Persians got swept up in the great wave of Turkish invaders, typified by Attila the Hun.  In these armies, Germans (Goths) and Iranians (Alans) served side-by-side, Alans specifically making it into Eastern Europe to settle during the transition between the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages.  The Iranian nomadic "style" was instrumental in influencing Germanic/Celtic tribesmen in the Early Middle Ages: Think knights in Armor, riding horses and using lances, think the aesthetic of stylized animal imagery in Medieval coats of arms and royal banners.  The "knight in shining armor" was probably a phrase in Samaritan four or five hundred years before you could say that in Gothic or Latin.

   Unfortunately, none of this influence is particularly well documented, leaving a reader literally grasping at straws where the over-lap is concerned.  Sure, you can get 200 dollar (German language) books from the nineteenth century that talk about these subjects, but they were probably written by Nazis.  Into the gap comes In Search of Zarathustra, a mass-market attempt to chart the influence of "The World's First Prophet." Most Western readers know of Zarathustra through one of two sources:

    Nietzsche or the sound track to the movie 2001.  Kriwaczek is either well aware of this himself, or has been told it by his Editors, so it's unsurprising that he starts from the Present and works backwards in time to discuss Zarathustra, the semi-mythical founder of Zoroastianism.  Zoroastianism is widely regarded as the first mono-theistic religion, and it was the state religion up until the conquering of the Persian Empire by Arab Muslims in the Middle Ages.

   Unfortunately, Islam has done a pretty decent job of supresing Zorastianism in the same way that Christianity has done a good job of stamping out pre-Christian believes.   After reading In Search of Zarathustra I was left with the following impressoin:

       Zoroaster was an actual person who lived in south central Asia in the bronze age (1600 BCish).  At this time, the linguistic ancestors of Indian and Iranian speaking peoples lived together and practiced a religion analogous to that of the Rig Veda.  Zoroaster was an old testament style prophet who basically presented a critique of the existing religion.  This critique caught on with the Iranian speaking group, but not so much with the Indian speaking group.  At first, Zorasatrianism caught on with isolated tribal (Iranian speaking) kingdoms in Central Asia, but was adopted by the Persian Empire as a state religion.  This initial period was brought to a close by the conquest of Alexander the Great, but after that tide receded, Zorastianism was revived as a state sponsored cult, with the Emperor figuring prominently in the practice of the religion.  Outside of it's heartland, Zorastianism became known via Roman Cult adoption (Mithraism) and the activities of New Testament era prophet Mani.  Mani himself came from a group of Jewish-Christians in the area of the Persian Gulf, but the dominant religion at the time was Zorastrianism,  and it was incorporated into his "Manichisism" the same way Judaism is incorporated into Christianity and Islam.

      It is unknown, though highly likely, that Zorastrian proselytizers were working in Central Asia during the time of the Huns.  It is unknown, though likely, that Zorastrians were included among the Iranian speaking soldiers who fought on behalf of the Huns, Romans and Byzantine Armies, eventually settling down in Europe.  It is unknown, though possible, that these soldiers influenced the development Bogomill church in Bosnia and the Cathar Heresy in Southern France: Two putatively  "Christian" Churches that were stamped out by the Pope for heresy and had Zorastrian sounding believes.  Similarly, it is likely that these same soldiers influenced the aesthetic of the European Middle Ages by their successful example of Knighthood.

    Finally, it is known that Zorastrianism was basically eradicated by Islam everywhere except among the "Parsees" of India who have occupied the role of talented minority in that part of the world in a manner similar to the role of the Jews in the West.

THE SPANISH INQUISITION

BOOK REVIEW

The Spanish Inquisition
by Cecil Roth
p.  1964
W.W. Norton
The Norton Library

   This is yet another book I have had kicking around for years, simply because I thought it looked like a good, durable treatment of an bona-fide interesting historical subject.  The Author is an English university Professor of Jewish descent, and the ghosts of Hitler haunt his account.   Despite the centuries long duration of the Inquisition, the numbers pale in comparison to the Holocaust.  It's a matter of 10s and 100s instead of ten thousands, hundred thousands and millions.  

      Something that the Holocaust and the Inquisition share in common is the use of genocide as a tool of state craft by nervous 20th century Dictators and 16th century Kings alike.  It just so happens that the Inquisition and Holocaust share a common victim, but it's not like Jews were the only victims of each event.  During the Inquisition, Muslims were co-sufferers, in the Holocaust, Gypsies suffered as well.   The fact is that a weak leader can strengthen his or her hand by targeting a vulnerable minority and taking all their property.   Also, Terror is useful for keeping a fractious, multi-ethnic population placid and compliant.   

   The tactic of obtaining Power by Terror extends beyond the Inquisition and the Holocaust, and beyond the West.  Your Assyrians, your Mongolians, your Turk.   The Inquisition itself was spurred by a Reconquest, of Spain, by Christian Kings against Muslim Caliphates. I was in Spain and Portugal in 2008, and as it turns out, I visited multiple locations that were used FOR CENTURIES to burn heretic Jews and Muslims. (not witches though- the Inquisition was cool about witches.)  Not that you would know it from visiting- I don't think I saw a single reference to the Inquisition in Spain or Portugal when I was there.   I would rank both those countries at somewhere in the middle of the table for "reconciling with their terrible national past."

    Ironically, the Inquisition didn't really get a bad rap until they started going after English and Dutch Protestant soldiers.  The Inquisition was also a victim of its own success, as people learned to keep their fucking mouth shut and heads down.   In fact, I think based both on my own experience there and what I've read in this and other books, the utter success of  Inquisition bears some responsibility for the mentalite of the Spanish today: haughty, close-minded, tightly-knit, orthodox.    Attempts to portray Spain as being "cool" and "forward thinking" are largely justifications put forward by 20th century Artists.

       The Inquisition had a unifying effect on the Spanish state and this method of unification had positive and negative effects.  A negative impact was killing off the smartest and most ambitious part of it's population.  A positive impact was taking all of their money and property.

   The Inquisition was not an "only in the Middle Ages" event- it lasted down to the 19th century.  As a general rule, I don't think you can judge living people based on the place where they're from, but you certainly don't get the feeling that Spain is "sorry" about the Inquisition in the same way the Germans are about the Holocaust. 

         Not to be macabre, but I think there is some interest in the role that Genocide plays in the mechanics of state craft and the emergence of the modern, legal-bureaucratic state.  The fact is that a lot of state effort goes in to legally murdering some small element of your population.  It's like the dark side of the emergence of the modern nation-state.  So, I'm not trying to justify the Spanish Inquisition or the Holocaust, but you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to the distinctive attributes of what it means to live in a modern nation-state.  

     It's not enough to just say "Oh this is terrible," you have to understand how these terrible events were successful from the perspective of the perpetrators.   It's like stopping crime, you can't stop crime without understanding the perspective of a criminal.   If you want to prevent events like the Holocaust and Inquisition, you have to understand why they happened. 

       Of course, the Holocaust didn't end well for the Nazis, but the Monarchs and Bishops who ran the Inquisition came out sparkling.   Total win from the perspective of the Inquisition itself.   But, I think the attribute that they share in common that can be avoided is an excessively legalistic approach to human life.  Perhaps a cautionary note where the application of the death penalty is concerned in America. 

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