“What is your name?” A. “Forty-five houses.”—Andre Breton
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER EIGHT: PART EIGHT: THE FALL
Sooner or later all whores go batty, as I have good reason to know, having been reared up by Red Mary, the uncrowned Queen of the Redlamp District. You ever notice how lots of folks just live their lives along—snappish, maybe, and moody, and mulish, but generally on an even keel? Then disaster strikes, and that’s when you learn what they be truly made of.
How much is two plus two? You ask ‘em. And they’re so distracted they’ll answer How much are thirty one days in February?
Sooner or later, Yob, whores get goofy, and usually all on account of pimps like Beau Nash.
Mr. Beauregard Nash was a piece of God’s own handy-work; the lowest pimp as ever walked upright. Everybody knowed him as Beau Nasty, and he was a ghastly pock-marked ponce, his chalk white face twisted up with vice and low practices. He usually wore a white suit, a white boater with a rainbow band, and he sported a Malacca cane which he would whisk onto the rump of a recalcitrant whore, and right smart, too. If he was feelin’ formal he sometimes sported a powder-blue double-breasted suit and Borsalino hat to match. He looked like he had just crawled out of a band-box.
He was a real Dapper Dan—a spring Dandy, and also what you might call a vice lord and with powerful connections, too, as he took a cut from nearly every crib in town. Red Mary was one of the hold-outs. So he hated her with a passion that was white hot. I saw him once, standing outside her crib after she refused him entrance to her parlor. She knew he was up to no good—tryin’ to entice her girls away to join his stable. “I’ll rip out your parts for ye, twitchet,” says he. “And I says ye won’t,” says she, leveling a lady Derringer smack in his gob. “Ye only pick on girls whose hair on their cunny has not yet begun. So Skiboodley-boo to you, ye mucker.”
Beau Nasty was a master of the second oldest game on earth. One as pre-dates humanity. The gathering up of nuts. The first animal as got another animal to do his work for him and raked off the goodies was really the first ponce. It’s all about making someone else do what you want them to, and at no cost to you other than maintaining a front. Animals do it all the time, or do you think a mutt licks your face because he loves you? He does it because he wants to be fed. Every tart gets laid and every pimp gets paid. Goes back to Adam and Eve; it surely does. (Hope um not outta line.) Eve was the first harlot, I’ll warrant, and Adam was the first pimp. It’s human nature through and through—how to win. Don’t get burned, monkey—just use the cat’s paw to pull your chestnuts out’n the fire. You see it on Wall Street and you see it in jail.
I’m not havin’ much experience with the former, but I seen it play out countless times in stir. You need a favor from the turnkey? You don’t ask for it yourself—you get a fish, a greenie, to rattle the bars and ask for it. “Guard! Guard! This man is dyin’!” Et cetera. If the screw comes by and says yes you get what you want and you take all the credit, and if the screw gets mad and says ye Got Nothin’ Comin’ To Ye, Con, So Shut Yer Gob, then it’s the greenie as draws the heat.
It’s the technique of con men everywhere—you flatter the mark and he sticks his foot in the road where, usually, he gets it run over. It’s how you get a leg up in life, Yob—by making the other Yellof risk his own damn neck.
And Beauregard Nash was past master of that game. Former riverboat gambler, he made the switch to pimpin’; early on when he discovered that gambling was hard and dirty work and twin knuckleduster derringers weren’t cuttin’ it when all the sports up and down the Mississippi was totin’ Mr. Colt’s Single Action Army Revolvers. Not to mention Remingtons and Smith & Wessons.
Beau Nasty was the uncrowned King of the Redlamp district, just northwest of Downtown, and he often made the acquaintance of the fetching young ladies who worked the burley-Q clubs, dance halls, and even the ice-skating and roller-skating rinks. Or he’d meet some down-and-out Drab on the skids and put her to work recruiting fresh hot meat.
The Drab would meet some sobbing little gal out on her own in the big city for the very first time, and not makin’ it. Stealin’ rolls and other leftovers off the plates of restaurants. Sobbing her pretty little eyes out on a park bench. Starin’ around looking all bewildered at the train station down to Central Depot. Any fly cove or moll could spot these recruits from fifty paces. Threadbare clothes in the fashion of three years ago, but spotless. Fresh look, no face paint, slumped shoulders, pinched look about the eyes from worries and sleepless nights. Maybe she’s just been throwed out of her one-bedroom flat or maybe she’s about to be. But she’s down to her last dollar, and she’s already seen the wolf. She can’t go home for any number of silly or serious reasons. Back when I had only been on the road for a short time I would try to talk sense into these silly little Mollies—tell ‘em to go see the Sisters of Charity of they was knocked up, or try to convince them to sweet-talk the conductor for a free train ride home.
More fool me. Little Miss Damsel in Distress. Phooey. You just can’t help some people. Sometimes you be better off not to try to help nobody. That’s a lesson you learn early, and usually the hard way. “Oh, Mr. Donniker, you don’t understand—I CAN’T go home! My step-father’s a brute, and he—“ Flutter of the eyelash. Say No More My Fair Young Lady Fair. Now, if it was only foolish pride, then nine times out of ten you could get her to go back home, but it was almost never just a matter of going back to the town folk with tail dragging and a story of how you failed to make your own way. No, home is where they have to take you in, but some of these gals knew of no such place. And they would fall into the life. And I learned soon enough not to put my oar in. Couple of beatings soon made me very much inclined to look after my own Ps and Qs. Even though I have to this day enormous sympathy for whores—seein’ as how I was raised by one.
DON’T LOOK BACK
LITTLE FREE LIBRARY
BOOK CLUB BOOKS
BONZO DOG DOO DAH BAND
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
SIGNS YOU’RE AN EXTROVERT
6* DAILY UTILITY
TUSCAN TOMATO SALAD RECIPE
A FACE IN THE CROWD
DANNY THOMAS PILOT
RECOVER LOST TABS ON CHROME
7 TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR MAN
Mst3k: A DATE WITH YOUR FAMILY
SONGZA: CURATED MUSIC SITE
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
ROCKS OFF: 50 TRACKS THAT TELL THE STORY OF THE ROLLING STONES.
By Bill Janovitz. St. Martin’s Press; 413 pages; hardcover.
Boston-area musician Bill Janovitz is the author of the 33 1/3 series book “Exile on Main Street” (Continuum 2005), in which he discussed—some might even say dissected–every track on the album.
Janovitz’s latest book tells the story of “the world’s greatest rock and roll band.” But with a novel twist: their history is explored through a chronological commentary about fifty of the band’s most significant songs.
Even Rock and Roll fans who are detractors of the Rolling Stones (can there be many?) would have to concede that the band delivered up a trifecta of well-nigh perfect albums–not a commonplace event–with, respectively, Beggars Banquet (1968), Let It Bleed (1969) and Sticky Fingers (1971). Dylan, The Beach Boys, The Kinks and the Beatles all scored with similar feats. But in some camps it would be argued–quite passionately–that in terms of sheer rock and roll prowess, the Stones surpassed them all, then followed up their trifecta with Exile on Main Street (1972), an album so good, albeit patchy, that they were mining it for out-takes some ten and even thirty years later. Janovitz is particularly astute when discussing the songs of this era.
Janovitz spends little time playing the compare and contrast game. For instance, he refrains from pointing out the enervated and perfunctory nature of songs such as “Dance Little Sister” and “She’s So Cold.” (He does, however, compare “Get Off of My Cloud” to the markedly superior but somewhat obscure “I’m Free.” And he wittily characterizes “Coming Down Again” as “the anti-Happy”.) Instead, he makes a point of showcasing the surpassing merits of acknowledged classics like “Gimme Shelter,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and “Moonlight Mile.” What I presume to be some of the author’s own underrated favorites also make the cut: his discussion of the satiric b-side “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man,” is insightful and revealing, as are his dissections of songs such as the paranoiac Aftermath track “I Am Waiting,” and the last-gasp album track “All About You” from the “perfectly fine” but “haphazard” LP Emotional Rescue.
This book is also entertaining because Janovitz fills the narrative with knowing detail which will satisfy even the most die-hard Stones fan. We learn that “Wild Horses” came together with the help of Country-rock progenitor Gram Parsons–and recording engineer Jim Dickinson’s tack piano. We discover that Keith Richards regarded one of his musical rivals as “a freaky acid-head flute player.” Janovitz also peppers his account with keen insights: “Tumbling Dice” is a “real New Orleans style funeral instead of [Don] McLean’s uptight ‘oration’ for the death of an era.”
Janovitz admits that not all of these songs are his personal favorites; half the fun, I suppose, for an ardent fan is comparing his selection with one’s own putative picks. I don’t disagree with most of his selections, though I would have also liked to have read what he had to say about tracks like “High and Dry” “Back Street Girl,” “She Smiled Sweetly,” “Who’s Been Sleeping Here,” “Dandelion,” “Prodigal Son,” “Factory Girl,” “No Use in Crying,” and “Continental Drift.”
But examining more songs would have made the book too long. As it is, the sheer diversity and detailed length of the commentary sometimes threatens to make reading the entire book seem like a painful duty But the beginning of the book—let’s call it the Brian Jones section—is actually quite strong, and, better than nearly any other book has done, it will add to the ardent fan’s understanding of how the Stones developed from just another Blues cover band to becoming the powerhouse combo and veritable force of nature they later matured into.
In fact, if any section seems perfunctory, it’s the final third—when the Stones were in a critical decline and one had to scratch hard to uncover gems amid the comparative dross. The 1981 stopgap album Tattoo You is one which Janovitz (rightly) dismisses as “outtakes from their golden period,” and ‘[their] last gasp of artistic relevancy.”
But even when discussing the Stones in their decline, Janovitz is careful to hew to his original plan—to show the ongoing development of the band through the prism of their material. This he accomplishes, in an entertaining and intelligent series of linked essays. And yet, the fact that the first 43 songs discussed here were from the band’s first twenty years, and six of the last seven songs were from the band’s last twenty years is as a qualitative a statement of the Stones’ decline as one could wish. (#50, “Plundered My Soul,” was an outtake from “Exile”.)
In the opening salvo of his previous book “Exile on Main Street,” Janovitz refers to that album as “The single greatest rock and roll record of all time, okay?” It is safe to assume that he is passionate about the Rolling Stones and their music. Part of the charm of his latest book is that he manages to make us nearly as enthusiastic as he is about these fifty songs which span the arc of the band’s four-decade career.
11A BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED
1973 NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. KILLEN. ****
ALCOHOLICA ESOTERICA. LENDLER. ****
ANNA KARENINA. TOLSTOY. *****
THE ART OF THINKING CLEARLY. DOBELLI. ***1/2
BATMAN: JOKER’S ASYLUM 2. **1/2
THE CODE OF THE WOOSTERS. WODEHOUSE. ****
COLLISION 2012. BALZ. ***1/2
COMPELLING PEOPLE. NEFFINGER & KOHUT. ****
CRIME VICTIM STORIES. WACHS. ***1/2
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? OFFIT. ***1/2
THE ELEMENTS OF EXPRESSION. PLOTNIK. ****
FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH: INK. *1/2
THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. HENNESSEY & MCCONNELL. ****1/2
GHOSTS OF 42ND STREET. BIANCO. ***1/2
HIT GIRL. MILLAR. ****
HOLY TERROR. MILLER. ***1/2
I WANT YOU TO SHUT THE F#CK UP. HIGHLEY & MALICE. **
JEEVES & THE OLD SCHOOL CHUM. WODEHOUSE. ****
JEEVES TAKES CHARGE. WODEHOUSE. ****
JSA ALL-STARS. CONSTELLATIONS. ***1/2
LOS TEJANOS. JACKSON. ****
LOWDOWN. ALBANY. ***1/2
MANSON. GUINN. ****
MARVEL COMICS. HOWE. ***1/2
MASKS OF ANARCHY. DEMSON & MCCLINTON. ***1/2
MY LUNCHES WITH ORSON. BISKIND. ****
NIGHT OF THE REPUBLIC. SHAPIRO. ****
ON THE PAD. SCHECHTER & PHILLIPS. ****
SHIT NEW YORK. DALTON. **
THE SINATRA CLUB. POLISI. **1/2
SKIN FLUTES AND VELVET GLOVES. HAMILTON. ****
STAR COMICS VOL. 2. **
SUPERMAN. WELDON. ****
SUPERMAN CHRONICLES 7. **
SUPERMAN CHRONICLES 8. **
A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR LIFE. GRYLLS. **
TEAM RODENT. HIASSEN. ***1/2
ULTIMATE COMICS: AVENGERS: CRIME & OUNISHMENT. ***
UNDERCOVER COP. RUSSELL. ***1/2
WALLY WOOD: EERIE TALES OF CRIME & HORROR. ***
WHY MARX WAS RIGHT. EAGLETON. ****
THE WINGS OF THE DOVE. JAMES. ****1/2
YOU ARE NOT SO SMART. MCRANEY. ****
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE. 703.
MILITARY HISTORY TITLE GENERATOR
AN ARMY OF THE
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THE GLINT OF THE
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[With a tip o’ the Hatlo hat to RMS]