It used to be, before the internet, that if you had heard a song somewhere, or a friend made you a mix tape with no papers, you might go years without knowing whose song it was. You would memorize the lyrics. I used to tape off the warping records (steam heat in the media room of the Morris County Public Library) and then not write down the names of the tracks. I'm not a musician, (or a hipster.) But I like spaces, corners, spatial relations. I'm a photographer of buildings. One of my major goals is to take a really great photograph of a corner someday. And I often think about the pictures as either poems, or songs.
You can stop gagging now.
I simply mean that what would satisfy, what would count as a good day's work for creative output- I want it to have the qualities that I find in, say, a Kevin Young poem's near rhymes, or the haunting quality of a live recording, by Champion Jack Dupree, of Frankie and Johnny. I didn't know who had sung this version, not for years. I just knew I liked it, how the sounds of a room were in the track, the sound of glasses or bottles, the way someone, probably a woman, yells towards the end. It makes me think of echolation, in water.
The room is in the track.
If you can put aside larger cultural debate on Robert Johnson for a moment, you have to admit that all the craziness with figuring out whether his tracks were sped up is amazing nerdery- they are remaking the room, inhabited by ordinary mortal breath.
I love cheap wordplay and I love covers. Forget Lord of the Rings, give me "Dempsy," which reads to me as a pastiche of Jersey City and the South Bronx, created by Richard Prince. I love the scene where high school kids make their own version of Spoon River Anthology but set in Dempsy, where they live.
Back to Robert Johnson.
E, who had a trust fund and thus was always coming up with criminal schemes (the edge is safer with a cushion) out of warner brothers, used to play a wonderful cover of Come on in my kitchen. He was very shy about playing in front of people, like it was obscene. He stole from us later, but that's another story.
Anyway, R., his friend, would say, "accidents happen", as he skinned rats from the apartment building. He was from the country originally. I have two pelts, the little feet are articulated so well. He would say that, but that was before he fell multiple stories onto his head, went to Bellevue, and now is a different person. When I first met him, we were listening the Ramones, I sometimes think of him when I hear Cretin Hop, though in some ways that isn't funny anymore. But really, that was the song that was playing, I swear. For some reason I always remember what song was playing when I meet people. Cretin Hop makes me think of summer, and Coney Island. Where it isn't snowing, because it's a memory and I can have it any way I want.