1. Introduction (music: Shuggie Otis – “Pling!”)
“Privacy Please” is many things at the moment; this mixtape series, my blog platform for longform writing about music and recording equipment, records, and other thoughts, and a record label of sorts that I’m in the process of starting in order to release physical versions of my music projects. Far beyond “losing my edge,” I’ve drawn inward in regards to music and culture over the past few years. It seems like there’s more noise and chaff than ever in our conversation; voices louder and louder clambering for attention in the echo chamber of instant culture without any opportunity cost or buy-in. I aspire instead to a private music, small batch experiences that don’t aspire to buzz, memetic success, or attention. This mixtape/podcast/radio show is focused on micro-themed mixes that are procedurally born out of my life – where trends and themes appear, I submit myself to them and explore the synchronicities and hunt for clues in the emergent message. Cool.
“Haunted Soul” is the first episode, fixated on various facets of older black music – pre-war blues, jump blues, acid casualty psychedelic soul, and more – music and messages of haunting, searching, loss, and regret. I found myself listening to much of this material late at night while struggling through the hardest year of my life. It all just came together.
2. Buster Poindexter – “Bad Boy”
I’ve been digging into David Johansen’s post-New York Dolls solo career a bunch lately, but the first Buster Poindexter album has really stuck with me. It’s a hilarious, ridiculous, yet astonishingly sincere and adept record in spite of its “hot hot hot” reputation. This song totally kills me, the swagger, the pomp, the ridiculousness. It’s hard not to remember Johansen as the cab driver in Scrooged, that mania and plastic face. There’s something decadent and wonderfully combustive in this self-scorching shrug of a tune.
3. The Cosmic Rays (ft. Sun Ra) – “Daddy’s Gonna Tell You No Lie”
Sun Ra made his living as a gun for hire on “normal” tunes like this early on. This is one of my favorites. I recently read the Sun Ra biography Space is the Place and find myself listening to a lot of his earliest works; I don’t think I ever gave them their due, writing them off as juvenilia or just work for hire.
4. Sly & the Family Stone – “Just Like a Baby”
I listened to Sly’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On in bed every night for a few months straight this summer. I’d lay there just kind of feeling between life and death, soaking in self-excoriation and listening to the record. The room would get heavy but by the time I got halfway through side two I’d be asleep. Funny, then, that later reading up on the album’s circumstances revealed “The Record Plant studio included a bed and a wireless microphone system, and Stone would often simply lay down in the bed and record his vocals while in repose.” I guess it’s just one of those records.
5. The Ink Spots – “Address Unknown”
I love the damn Ink Spots – really any of that classic vocal group stuff, Four Vagabonds, Mills Brothers, anyone on Bluebird records. That spoken interlude! Misery and searching are timeless.
6. Bessie Smith – “Haunted House Blues”
Like many people, I first heard this as the lead-in on the Mountain Goats’ amazing The Coroner’s Gambit. There was actually a kind of campy horror vogue in a lot of the Okeh and Columbia blues stuff – not the serious and dark stuff, but a bit of minstrelsy and fun. Check it out! This one always wins people over if they’re not sure about “all that old stuff.”
7. Geeshie Wiley – “Last Kind Words Blues”
This song makes the damned hair on the back of my neck stand up every single time I hear it. It’s legendary among the R. Crumb/Terry Zwigoff/”Ghost World” set, and with good reason – it makes Skip James sound like freaking Buddy Guy by comparison. John Fahey reportedly loved this song. It’s one of the most truly haunted pieces of music I’ve ever heard in my life.
8. Mink DeVille – “A’ Train Lady”
Along with the Buster Poindexter stuff, I’ve been really interested in this sort of uber-trad alternate/secret history of the classic NYC/CBGB’s scene. It wasn’t all Arto Lindsay clanging away or the Talking Heads/Blondie/Television Seymour Stein trifecta, there was actually a rich vein of ridiculously traditional American Songbook type stuff going on. Willie DeVille was a Tom Waits of sorts (shorthand, you know what I mean) and his Mink DeVille was the house band at CBGB, if you can believe it. Don’t forget that Alex Chilton was around there at this time doing psychobilly stuff with Tav Falco + Panther Burns, and then half of the other guys couldn’t jump ship from punk fast enough in favor of this sort of thing. That missing element between New York Dolls’ “Trash” and “hot hot hot” – suddenly it all makes sense, the tetris piece falls into place. Man, I’m getting old.
9. James Booker – “Black Night”
James Booker was the best thing ever. I could (and started to) write a book about the guy. His hands are everything; it sounds like he has four of them most of the time. He absolutely slays me in the spirit when I listen to him play. His “blues rhapsody” destroys and remakes the world every time I hear it. This one is a bit of a slow burner.