26 July 2006


Dumb All Over

It's a Zappa trifecta here at Son of Timatollah tonight. Forgive me this ramble. I had intended to write about what near perfection Stevie Wonder's "Innervisions" is -- No, this ramble: There are almost no missteps on the whole album. Its use of synth bass was groundbreaking, at least for mass market acceptance, and when the first bass notes of "Higher Ground" hit, you know you are in for something thick, deep, gooey, funky. Wonder played almost everything on the record. The production values are superior. The sequencing, how one song just flows into another with crossfades made in Heaven, is divine. "Higher Ground" to "Visions; "Visions" to "Living for the City"; "Living for the City" to "Golden Lady" to "Too High" (which ended side one of the vinyl). The words are outstanding, and the way the words and music fit together is amazing. I still remember the first time I heard "Living for the City," in my mom's car with a friend out riding around near Christmastime in 1973, during the days of "Album Oriented Rock" when the DJs would play anything and everything, including long versions of songs, like "City," complete with black country boy gets his butt arrested, then sentenced, then "get in the cell nigger, gawd" for running drugs after only moments in NYC. When the song kicks back in after the audio theater segment, the growl in Stevie's voice shows the changes the song's character has been through: "If we don't change // pretty soon the world'll be over." "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" is magic -- Stevie was all over the Iraq, Iran thing way back then. "Jesus Children of America" is spiritual: "You'd better tell your story." Someday, I'll get back to truth and freedom, I promise, but that song always makes me think about 'em. How describing reality as it is as best we can is just about the only true freedom, a freedom that can exist under all but the most extreme physical duress. The freedom of the mind. The freedom of love. The kind of freedom that kept Nelson Mandela going for years in jail. The "The truth shall set you free" free. And then,... "All In Love Is Fair." I'm in a happy long-term relationship, but the heartbreak of that song brings tears to my eyes nonetheless. The loss is real, the loss is tragic. The only track that stands out as not being quite the same caliber is "He's Mistra Know It All," which runs a little long and pointlessly. Or maybe it's just that the sheer intensity of quality of the rest of the album is exhausting so that by the time you get to the end, it's like, whoa, I'm cooked. "Innervisions": an N best album, N < 50 -- but then first ran across the Crossfire episode, which made me think of the WARNING / GUARANTEE, which brings me back to "Dumb All Over" from 1981's "You Are What You Is."

Appropriate for the times. Has been for a while.

From St. Alphonzo's Pancake Homepage (please, no margarine stealing):

Whoever we are
Wherever we're from
We shoulda noticed by now
Our behavior is dumb
And if our chances
Expect to improve
It's gonna take a lot more
Than tryin' to remove
The other race
Or the other whatever
From the face
Of the planet altogether

They call it THE EARTH
Which is a dumb kinda name
But they named it right
'Cause we behave the same...
We are dumb all over
Dumb all over,
Yes we are
Dumb all over,
Near 'n far
Dumb all over,
Black 'n white
People, we is not wrapped tight

Nurds on the left
Nurds on the right
Religous fanatics
On the air every night
Sayin' the Bible
Tells the story
Makes the details
Sound real gory
'Bout what to do
If the geeks over there
Don't believe in the book
We got over here

You can't run a race
Without no feet
'N pretty soon
There won't be no street
For dummies to jog on
Or doggies to dog on
Religous fanatics
Can make it be all gone
(I mean it won't blow up
'N disappear
It'll just look ugly
For a thousand years...)

You can't run a country
By a book of religion
Not by a heap
Or a lump or a smidgeon
Of foolish rules
Of ancient date
Designed to make
You all feel great
While you fold, spindle
And mutilate
Those unbelievers
From a neighboring state

Hooray! That's great
Two legs ain't bad
Unless there's a crate
They ship the parts
To mama in
For souvenirs: two ears (Get Down!)
Not his, not hers, (but what the hey?)
The Good Book says:
("It gotta be that way!")
But their book says:
With whips 'n chains
'N hand grenades..."

Have another and another
Our God says:
"There ain't no other!"
Our God says
"It's all okay!"
Our God says
"This is the way!"

It says in the book:
"Burn 'n destroy...
'N repent, 'n redeem
'N revenge, 'n deploy
'N rumble thee forth
To the land of the unbelieving scum on the other side
'Cause they don't go for what's in the book
'N that makes 'em BAD
So verily we must choppeth them up
And stompeth them down
Or rent a nice French bomb
To poof them out of existance
While leaving their real estate just where we need it
To use again
For temples in which to praise OUR GOD
("Cause he can really take care of business!")

And when his humble TV servant
With humble white hair
And humble glasses
And a nice brown suit
And maybe a blond wife who takes phone calls
Tells us our God says
It's okay to do this stuff
Then we gotta do it,
'Cause if we don't do it,
We ain't gwine up to hebbin!
(Depending on which book you're using at the
time...Can't use theirs... it don't work
...it's all lies...Gotta use mine...)
Ain't that right?
That's what they say
Every night...
Every day...
Hey, we can't really be dumb
If we're just following God's Orders
Hey, let's get serious...
God knows what he's doin'
He wrote this book here
An' the book says:
He made us all to be just like Him,"

If we're dumb...
Then God is dumb...
(An' maybe even a little ugly on the side)

Again, real freedom comes from describing things, to oneself first and then to others, as they are, as best one can. No rented French bomb can guarantee that.

While I was certainly impressed by the ugly truth laid bare, this was also my first recognition of a very slow modulation rate on the flanged vocal...so slow you don't fully notice it.

On Zappa's rant, yes.

I was trying to place that in the Stevie. :-)
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