Monday, November 26, 2007

The Return of Crimes on .45: "Spillane" by John Zorn

Like some particularly cranky elf I'm toiling away in preparation for the holidays. The Holiday Issue of The Thrilling Detective Web Site is slowly coming together --only continents move slower -- so once again this blog is being neglected.

All apologies and all that, and in the meantime here's a bone for you. A few years ago I started a column for Jon and Ruth Jordan's great Crime Spree mag that managed to combine two of my favourite passions -- crime AND music, and a few columns did make it in.

But it seems to have fallen by the wayside -- mostly my fault, I admit. I DID love writing that sucker, though. So I thought I'd give it another shot, this time as an occasional blog right here. I'll recycle some of the old mini-essays, both the ones that were published and some of those that never saw the light of day, and I'll try to do a few new ones every now and then, when the spirit moves me.

As always, for those of you with an overabundance of moral rectitude, please try not to get your panties all twisted. As the late, great Johnny Cash said, “(Here are some) songs of robbers, liars and murderers. These songs are just for listening and singing. Don't go out and do it."

And so, without any further ado, here's the first little ditty from the Thrilling Detective Web Site jukebox, number one in a series. Collect them all.

Written and performed by John Zorn
From the 1987 album Spillane

As Mike Hammer, the avenging angel of the Cold War, might have put it, "What is this stuff?" But trust me, this disjointed twenty-odd minute (some of it very odd) performance piece from jazzman and pop culture plunderer John Zorn grows on you. It’s a brain-spinning melange of musical outbursts, spoken dialogue (by actor John Lurie), sound bites and other aural debris (including wailing sirens and the blood-curdling woman’s scream that opens the piece) all evoking the late, great Mickey Spillane and his fifties pulp fiction world of hard-bitten detectives, dead-end bars and mean streets. Zorn scribbled assorted ideas on note cards which he then shuffled and cut-and-pasted together to form this piece. The brief musical excerpts swing from country-fried road house stomp to strip joint burlesque, weaving in and out of the piece as though somebody slipped Zorn a Mickey, with some tasty back alley sax and other musical notions occasionally wandering in, only to be interupted by some of the most over-boiled narration I’ve heard (“I felt like I’d smoked a whole deck and forgot to blow out the smoke”).  It doesn’t always make much narrative or musical sense, and some of the juxtapositions are jarring. Yet it has a fierce, almost surreal gravity all of its own, and ends up a fitting tribute to late author; a hard-boiled fever dream whose passion and drive can’t be denied – sort of like the work of Spillane himself.

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Blogger Sean Chercover said...

Agreed! Spillane has been one of my favorite John Zorn albums for years.

Also check out his 1990 album NAKED CITY. You won't be disappointed.

5:53 PM, November 26, 2007  

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