Monday, September 16, 2013

unsung

what it is: unsung
where i found it: early tosches

Nick Tosches, one of our great literary dudes, musical and otherwise, is always worth reading. His Country and book on Jerry Lee Lewis should not be missed, nor should the Tosches Reader overview. He's an intelligent writer with a deep appreciation of Dean Martin, Milton Brown and George Jones, and that's enough for me. Only recently did I dig into his early Unsung Heroes of Rock 'N' Roll, which delivers as promised, though in a somewhat shallower and overtly jokey way than his later work.

His appetite for sexual and alcoholic precociousness is admirable, as is his taste for wildmen, wildwomen and dissonance nestled in the pop form. He cant' get enough of admissions like "I like to sing to women with meat on their bones that long green stuff in their pocketbooks" and "one day Beldon sees this dealer with a black eye and the guy tells him he's fucking Keely [Smith, wife of Louis Prima] in the dressing room when suddenly he feels someone licking his balls. He jumps up and Louis [Prima] punches him in the eye."

Beyond the novel and sordid tales, though, Tosches points one in the direction of some truly great musical territory such as early Nat King Cole, the extended Screamin' Jay Hawkins catalog, Wanda Jackson and Ming and Ling, pointing to the most unhinged particular songs as he goes. This book holds keys to very weird kingdoms.

While we're on the topic of Screamin' Jay Hawkins I always thought those flyers posted around looking for his kids were a weird street art joke, but apparently they were actually the efforts of a lady trying to fulfill his dying wish. You can and really should read more about that here.