RANDOM RAMBLINGS OF THE MUSICAL MIND

A peak into the mind of John Hampton

Jack’s Record Store

I started this all off verbalizing about the Hell Days of Disco music that society barfed up in the late ’70’s and how the advent of a drum machine altered our pop culture almost as much as Sgt. Pepper (well …  a different altered).

In both applications, pop culture made a HARD turn.

But in the bigger picture, you can see that the longer line of pop culture over the last 50 years or so also has a soft bent toward the left. And, as always, the bent is due to technology. The Internet,  the personal computer, iPhone, uPhone, wePhone,  Vodafone, global communications … all of these are bending not just pop culture but Culture culture in a really profound way. Go to any “Made in China” wholesale site and take a look at what’s heading our way. TV watches with TWO cell phones built in, one for home, one for business.!  I remember hearing Ray Kurzweil, one of our most brilliant inventor/philosophers, tell it all once. In Ray’s words, ‘Society has become accustomed to a linear rate of technological change. That has been the norm. BUT technology doesn’t play by the rules. In the world today, where we used to have a man designing a computer or software … just about everything, we instead have computers and robotics doing the designing and the manufacturing. And when number crunching systems are designing and making more number crunching systems, suddenly we have a technological growth that has taken on a more exponential rate of change. In other words, we are no longer changing along a straight line. The line is changing faster every day, taking it from a line to a curve that is going up.’

And he points his finger away from the host and points it up more and more until he is pointing at the ceiling!

WOW! Technology is growing faster than man can keep up with it! One day, 8 bit is the thing. A year later it’s 16 bit. the next MONTH its 32 bit and now, a WEEK later, its headed toward 64 bit! How do we slow this thing down? Or do we?

We can’t. We either hang on for the wild ride or drop off where the landscape looks friendly. I’m getting off, and I notice I have LOTS of company. One person who got off one stop before me is that wacky Jack White. I think Jack, like me, has an almost romantic vision of the whole music buying experience. What fun is a download? CD Artwork … why is that so NOT stimulating? You used to go to a store that sold records, and just hang out, look at a 12 inch by 12 inch cover of a record and by just looking up close at the artwork and the artist, and maybe even reading a few of her/his words, you might walk out with a record you never even meant to buy; the artist sold her/himself with just the cover. You could cruise aisles and rows of bins and bins of various genres and stop, pick one up, look it over, and walk off to look at another one. The record store enabled the buyer to become more intimate with the artist. A truly unique experience that I want to continue, and I think Jack does, too.

At his recent Dead Weather performance, I found him and the totally understated Jack Lawrence (see Raconteurs) out in the hall with Dean (Fertita  … The sexy singer Alison Mosshart was in the dressing room … RATS!) At their show the band was so exciting to watch as well as hear.

But as I meandered the venue, I saw the merchandising “event” from a hundred feet! A beautiful yet tough looking wall of tees and caps and buckles, yada yada, and an extraordinarily fabulous looking table of Jack’s Third Man Records. It was all vinyl, BIG records including White Stripes records and Karen’s records (his wife) and Dead Weather coming soon posters, and then his “Blue Series” records. These looked like the exploratory side of the label, all an identical muted blue cover, with one exception, a green one for BP Fallon. It was a record store on the road!

For myself, and many others, Third Man has re-invented the record store at a fun, in-depth level that is the closest thing I’ve found yet to an actual store. As they build their artist roster, and I’m sure that they’ll start taking other product and bringing it on-board, It will catch on in a big way. And I must also say that working with Jack and his bands has been a reviving high point in my life and I just can’t wait for the call to do another Third Man Record. Jack’s a gas. And his label/store are just what we need.

Next Question ….. ?

It WILL Get Loud

A straight up movie… and a sideways review of It MIGHT Get Loud with Jack White, Jimmy Page, and The Edge (and his fab tech Dallas Schoo!)

“Hamptone! I just got a call from Miracle Management. A guy named Jack White wants four days with you in studio A for mixing. They’re sending a video of him to give you a heads up on his band and their live show. Pretty wild.” My manager had just prepared me to what could very well be the GREAT HOPE I had seen coming years back. Someone to push he envelope HARD.

Last time I dealt with Miracle Management, it was an LA wanna-be with wwwwaaaayyyy too much money. Their motto was “If it works, it’s a Miracle”. Hah! They were only beginning to see what they had by signing Jack White. And I was still in the dark.

The first light was a video: Live at Blackpool – The White Stripes. My girlfriend and I sat and watched it, every now and then glancing at each other as if to say, “What the hell have these kids done now?” The audience was completely out of control … singing every word, dancing like a single minded, unified school of epileptics. Jack was… singing? Screaming? Let’s just say much sound was coming from his mouth. Blackpool was packed.

At the same time, he was generating an energy from the stage, the electricity from which powered the crowd. Flashes of lightning left the stage and struck randomly onto the floor, causing them to jump even higher as if to avoid shock. Every now and then, an unfortunatele soul took a direct hit. He or she would then broadcast the spark into those around him. It was a giant pool of flashes and movement and energy that resembled a power plant on the verge of melt down. All from 2 humans: a guitarist – and Jack’s sister Meg supplying the heartbeat that pounded the blood through 1000 united, hard driven, overheated and sparking electrical substations.

How did he do it? He played with a fair technique, but an attitude of an angry, stirred up wasp nest. His voice was that of random anarchy, morphing the crowd into a formidable, fired-up, HUNGRY animal. Virginia yelled, “Is this … music?” She was in the dark. It was so much more, she may never see it. I replied, “Yes dear, it really, finally, IS music … AGAIN!” It ended with me wanting more. Much more.

I reminded her, as if to add some validity, “Jack was one of the three minstrels on that Cold Mountain movie we saw.” NOW she was smitten. She countered, ” You know offstage he ….” no Virginia. We’re not going there.

He showed at the studio with Patrick Keeler, a Vespa dealer from Cincy, and, as I soon learned , a helluva drummer. We mixed the record Broken Boy Soldier …The Raconteurs (French for storytellers, telling in an amusing way, as in minstrels) And as they were leaving, Jack said “I’ll book some time to mix MY record.” Good. A new source.

The record he brought in a few weeks, Get Behind Me Satan, ultimately garnered Jack his millionth Grammy. And to my total surprise, I got one, too! Thanks Jack! I’ll put it beside my bowling trophy.

A charmed life. Since then, so many things have dropped out of the sky and landed in his lap, I begin to wonder if he has sold his soul for these opportunities: Coke ad, James Bond Theme w/Alicia Keys, hanging and playing with The Stones, Dead Weather, movies …on and on and on. That was when I realised the man was afraid of nothing. He would , if challenged, DIVE off of a ten meter board into an empty pool. And come out in better shape for it. And he was constantly re-inventing himself, moving at the speed of light. He was everywhere. Even my kids were awed with the guy. Now THAT is a good sign.

Jimmy Page was a god since I was fourteen years old. I had seen Zeppelin 2 times in ’69 and ’70. Houston was so progressive; I had seen the Merry Pranksters and the school bus near my house, (from The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Thomas Wolfe,) Jefferson Airplane, Hendrix, The Doors, Bowie, Mott the Hoople, … stuff that rarely if ever came to Memphis due to demographics.

So I had musically bonded with Mr. Page from the millisecond I heard the first 2 chords of Good Times -Bad Times, their first American single. He was another who wasn’t Mr. Guitar Techniqo Supremo, but between his creative musical musings and his ethereal re-tunings of his instruments, has given us so many unreal, masterful, unique guitar performances that put him in a league of his own. And he, too was a total wild man in his day. Just look at the wear and tear on his partner Bob! Having evolved musically by listening to American blues music, an element he so desperately wanted running through his veins, and the wild, wanton of the forever anarchist London scene ala Yardbirds, the black driven rock of Chuck Berry,Little Richard, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, he hated his role of studio musician playing milk-toast, spiritless “garbage” and finally quit when his employer proudly announced in an excited, emphatic voice that they were going to begin the challenge of a lifetime. Recording Muzak immediately!! (That’s elevator, shopping mall music for you kids.) WOW!! Really? He walked out … and joined the Yardbirds.

Finally, the one guitar player who, through his token sound; his totally original guitar/delay compositions, The Edge can always bring that Walton’s lump to my throat when I think of his being raised in the middle of war-torn Belfast during the peak of the IRA wars that took out so many of his friends and relations. He started playing as a voice meant to plow it’s way through the bones and blood, and scream STOP KILLING FATHERS and CHILDREN and MOTHERS JUST BECAUSE THEY THINK DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU! WE WOULD RATHER DIE THAN BECOME A PART OF YOUR MONARCHIST MACHINE !! So here is a third wild man who had grown into the musical garden with yet a third perspective on the art.

What in the world ties these three opposite ends if a triangular rainbow together? The music. An artform. Painting is an art. In Paris, purse-snatching is an art. The art in addition to the chaotic development of it in each of their lives is what ties it all together. As a kid, Jack was so wrapped and enthralled with it that he completely filled his 7′ by 7′ bedroom with drums (2 sets), guitars, amplifiers, recording equipment, sonic generating “stuff” … so much that when he got tired, he pulled a rolled up foam mat from behind the drums, laid it out and collapsed. Jimmy used the art early on to proclaim his breaking free of the shackles of “organized” music. The Edge used it and still does as an instrument to color the messages of peace and calm with a warming etherea, or as a driving underscore to the ravings of hate, war, and violence. It is his bulldozer that gets a message to activists everywhere that life is to fragile. Yet war doesn’t see fathers, children, and relations of love, but rather a collective of a single thing standing in their way. His musical message painfully cries out for an end to the insanity.

The movie ends with these three electrifying elements coming together as artists, with a thing that’s creative yet alien to each other, and demonstrates that through that ever common language and sound, that they are able to speak a common language which both exalts the artform and demonstrates that there are common elements from around the world that prove to all that we are all one body and can learn so much from each other if we just drop the egos and the arms and use the spirit of music as the unifying translator that is a voice within us all.

Next question …