Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Unified Theory of Everything Awesome

I've been reading "The One: The Life and Music of James Brown." It got good reviews, but I probably would have checked it out regardless.

Something I learned: James Brown and the Flames' first paying gig was at a theater right after a showing of "House of Dracula." For those of you who don't know, "House of Dracula" was one of the mid '40s Universal movies where they just started throwing monsters together for maximum awesomeness. Like, Dracula would unthaw the Frankenstein monster to hang out with the Wolfman and they'd go around ...I dunno, terrorizing the town together until the Invisible Man would ride in on Mothra and fight them (I might have made up that last part). I caught "House of Dracula" when I was in second grade in Mississippi on "Friday Night Frights," and was hooked, like any reasonable person should be. Here, check it out:

So consider this. You've just watched Dracula and Frankenstein and the Wolfman monster it up for an hour or so. Things can't get much better than that. You're thinking about heading home, but decide to stick around and watch a song or two from this band.

Holy crap! You just saw James Brown! While he didn't yet have that fake passing out only to be revived by his magic cape move (the greatest stage move in music), and "Please, Please, Please" was about the only song they had up to that point, the book states that Brown was competitive and hungry during these early shows he would attack the stage, dancing, fake crying, whatever it took to enough that keep an audience's attention and steal the spotlight from other bands.

This brings up another awesome coincidence. On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to step on the moon. Some might argue that the space program was a waste of resources, that we spent millions just to walk around up there, pick up some rocks and hit some golf balls. But to quote the inspiring words of John F. Kennedy, "We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because THEY ARE TOTALLY KICK-ASS."

People looked at the moon for thousands of years and we get an opportunity to drive little golf carts on it and jump around on the surface? Hell yeah, we're gonna go to the damn moon.
On the same day fifteen years later, SST Records releases two double albums, Husker Du's "Zen Arcade" and "Double Nickels on the Dime" by the Minutemen.

As a discerning individual, you probably don't need me to tell you about these albums - two of punk/hardcore's finest moments, albums that could be both raging and searching, expanding the musical palate, and creating dynamic, ambitious works of art that, to quote President Kennedy again, were "totally kick-ass."

Neil Armstrong on the damn moon. He's proud, excited, and humbled, yet still a little pissed he has to wait 15 years to hear "Turn on the News" or "This Ain't No Picnic."

So what does all this mean? Simple. Usually the Gods of Awesome dole out the treats over time, so we mortals don't get too used to things being amazing all the time. They realize it would make us lazy, weak, and dependent, and possibly wreck several economies.

Sometimes, however, they go a little nuts, like the people behind "House of Dracula," and just start throwing the awesome around willy-nilly. Religious scholars tell us that this keeps us on our toes - we never know when the next James Brown/Frankenstein team up will happen or when two seminal albums will drop on the anniversary of one of the awesomest events in world history.

Because of this, we can't give up. There are always going to be new corners of the world to explore, new music, new art, new awesomeness just around the corner. Sometimes it might take a while to find, but sometimes it explodes in our faces like a monster battle royale. All we have to do is be receptive.

Man, James Brown and Dracula. That would be the greatest show ever.

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