Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Django Reinhardt, 1934-1935

Django Reinhardt - Django Reinhardt, 1934-1935

Brandon Russell - I'll be your resident music blogger on behalf of the Huntington Beach Public Library. When I'm not doing this, you can find me searching through the library's music catalogue or shelving books on the adult floors.

Django Reinhardt.

In celebration of it being lover’s day (I know, I’m a week late), this choice was a no brainer.

Django Rei... Who? Doesn’t he play for the Red Wings?

What are you first thoughts? Confusion? Nostalgia? Sadness?

Try bringing that name up to the MTV generation and I’m sure you’ll receive plenty of bewildered looks. Flash, excess, robotic regurgitation. That’s what we know and love today. Heck, I’m sure 90% of successful pop artists today wouldn’t know who you were talking about.

How about this: Django Reinhardt was responsible for inventing an entirely new jazz guitar technique that is now synonymous with French gypsy culture. Further, he did it with only three functioning fingers on his left hand (thumb, index, middle). By the way, he received first and second degree burns over half his body, paralyzing his right leg and injuring his hand. Doctors gave him no hope he would ever play again. I can't even play guitar with two healthy hands. But with much dedication and practice, Django relearned his craft and made it his own. That is passionate, unadulterated love of music. You can hear it, feel it in every song.

We should be so lucky that the library offers up an artist like Django Reinhardt. His music was solely responsible for getting him through World War II unscathed, that’s how endearing his gift was to nazi soldiers. You think Lady Gag would have survived being carried around in a plastic egg? I implore you, don’t let him and his music go unnoticed.

Am I coming on too strong? Forgive me.

Snap your fingers, tap your knee, swing your sweetheart. Pass the hours in a smoke filled dive somewhere off a hidden Paris street. Hemingway, anyone? I think I can picture Brett now.

Un cafe s’il vous plait.

See? Nostalgia. And I’ve never even been to France.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rockabilly Riot

Brandon Russell - I'll be your resident guest blogger on behalf of the Huntington Beach Public Library. When I'm not doing this, you can find me searching through the library's music catalogue or shelving books on the adult floors.

It's the 1950s, and the United States is on the mend, with memories of World War II fading slowly in the rearview. The Space Race is ongoing, television sets are in almost every household (à la the dinner scene in Back To The Future), and literature boundaries are being shredded by the Beat Generation. If ever there was a time where America was in an immense transitional period, it was the 50s.

Yet, the decade is known more as a period of conformity: obedient, stay at home wives, always hard at work husbands, kids who say the word "swell" and wear letterman jackets. It's the quintessential ideal of what suburban life was supposed to be.

But generational differences became an issue, and conflict soon arose, changing the sociopolitical landscape forever. Think of Jim Stark, James Dean's famous portrayal of a troubled, middle-class teenager in Rebel Without A Cause. Things aren't always what they seem.

Enter scapegoat: Music.

Even today we are hearing the same accusations. Rap music is responsible for making kids violent, hate their parents, etc. Rock & Roll and Rockabilly was met with much the same criticism.

These issues have been going on for decades, and will likely continue on in the future.

Just as Rockabilly Riot's title suggests, artists like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly were responsible for inspiring the 1950s youth. Suddenly they were acting without inhibitions, openly expressing their feelings and disobeying their parents, essentially rioting against America's Utopian vision.

Guitars bounce, twang, and propel shaking hips, while voices hiccup, snarl, and shout - all ingredients are causing enraged parents holler in anger. Rockabilly Riot's collection covers the scene's staple pioneers, from Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent, to Roy Orbison and Ritchie Valens. This music is perfect for dancing, and even if you hate to dance, I bet you wont be able to resist at least toe tapping by Rockabilly Riot's end. Not only that, but it's an instant mood booster.

What more do you want?

One of America's most genuine music genre's, the artists in Rockabilly Riot expressed to a generation the earnest, repressed emotions that ran through the veins of many 1950s youth. It's no wonder there is such an enduring and thriving subculture built around the Rockabilly image today: off-kilter, rebellious, uninhibited, and most of all, FUN.