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RockNotes: Toxic Fuse vs. American Graffiti

1. Just thought you'd like to know: Victoria, Texas, is getting an indie record shop. People there hope Victoria is ready for it. I don't really know too much about Victoria . . . just what I can Google. And according to that, it's a city of 60,000 known as the "South Texas Crossroads" and a "cultural hub" for the "Golden Crescent" part of the state down by Corpus Christi.

I'm wondering what kind of culture they have down there, though, because the article about it in The Victoria Advocate kind of makes it sound like an indie record shop is about as foreign to the good people of the Coastal Bend as an arctic yak. It's called the Rock 'n' Roll Candy Store, and, "ready or not," here it comes.

victoria_TX.jpgAccording to the story, "'Is Victoria ready for a place like this? Well, we won't know until we try,' owner Chris Ordonez, who goes by the name Toxic Fuse, said. 'But I do know that Victoria needs more culture that's not mainstream.'"

You have to admire someone in South Texas named Toxic Fuse who isn't talking about blowing up a federal building. And, really, kudos to Fuse for trying to sell records by the Clash and Sex Pistols in Victoria, probably best known as a Catholic Church hotbed and the home town of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Fuse says it's more about hooking up with the half-dozen like-minded indie punks in town, rather than making money. That's probably a good thing for him.

2. When Americans go to Britain, they flock to stuffy, ancient places like Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. But when Brits come here, do they waste their time at the Washington Monument or Mount Rushmore? Nope. Because they're way cooler than us, most of them go to Memphis.

As in Graceland, rock 'n' roll, Sun Studios Memphis. Apparently, they call Memphis the Liverpool of America because of its place in music history. When the city hosted the Beale Street Music Festival last weekend, more than 2,000 Britons attended, says the Times of London, and 100,000 of the rock-obsessed Limeys are expected to make their way there over the course of this year. It really says something about us that our closest allies think Elvis is one of the few things that really matter about our culture.

The Times says there's a big resurgence in the U.K. for '50s and '60s nostalgia. Isn't this about the fifth time that's happened since 1974? Let's face it, this keeps happening because everything since then has sucked. The '50s and '60s were the last time anyone ever thought life was getting better, and we still long for that feeling.

Anyway, the Brits see big parallels between Memphis and Liverpool:

"Baby boomers provide the bulk of the British visitors to Memphis as they explore the well-spring of their youth in a city that is not only the home of rock 'n' roll," says the Times, "but is central to the development of blues and soul, with its Stax and Sun record labels nurturing hitmakers such as Muddy Waters, BB King, Otis Redding and Booker T and the MG's."

Brits always dug the blues, the paper says, because they are "a naturally downbeat nation."

wild_one.jpg3. When did rock 'n' roll's depiction in the movies really begin to bottom out? It was American Graffiti, says an article in the Montreal Gazette, which I have to say, I totally agree with. Up until then, rock mostly was a feature-length documentary thing, signifying its currency. But when George Lucas used it as a symbol for lost innocence in 1973, the game was up and rock officially became quaint.

"Some even contend that the alliance between rock and film began to show worrying signs of morbid nostalgia ages ago," says the Gazette. "American Graffiti longed prematurely for a bygone era with its soundtrack of wall-to-wall '50s hits."

Graffiti was followed five years later by Grease and then The Big Chill, which "were really a kind of obituary for rock and film." (Uhh, what about Robert Stigwood's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? Still the worst.) All the authenticity and danger of rock 'n' roll in movies were obliterated by those ultra-mainstream American films, and, in my opinion, has only been somewhat rectified by an occasional British/Irish film like Once and perhaps The Commitments.

According to Haidee Wasson, a film professor at Concordia University in Montreal, the standard for dangerous rock 'n' roll attitude in the movies was established very early by Marlon Brando's brooding biker Johnny Strabler in The Wild One and never really equaled. The only really good Elvis movie, Jailhouse Rock, came close, especially the King's retort to a society dame asking him his opinion of atonality in jazz: "Lady, I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

Touche, rock man.


Comment from Robert Pruter:

The Times of London goofed. Muddy Waters never recorded for Stax or Sun, or recorded singles for them that were leased to Chess; nor did he record in their studios, so there is no way that Muddy Waters was nurtured by those labels.

Funny, how reporters just throw out names and hope they are correct.


Send Don your comments. Please use a real, full name to be considered for publication.


Catch up with all the RockNotes you need to keep you tuned in, man.


Posted on May 5, 2008

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