I've been meaning to sit down and write Ace a letter to thank you for printing the work of our local treasures like Ed McClanahan [cover, Nov 29] and Gurney Norman and Wendell Berry in your newspaper.
It used to be that one had to pick up the New Yorker to even read what these gems were up to or had to say.
I'm always tickled to pick up my Ace and find something from one of them. It's a real treat.
And after the recent passing of Ken Kesey, I'm reminded more than ever that we should cherish our literary treasures while they're amongst us.
God bless you and yours this holiday,
Leo Samuels "another old hippie"
The General Assembly is making feel-good noises about curbing telemarketers, again. Nothing will happen, partly because the popular arguments are silly on both sides, again.
From the pro-regulators we hear again that phone hustlers take advantage of the elderly. As if by aging, we relapse into childish innocence and believe in Santa Claus incarnate.
The other side will counter with "free speech," which of course is nonsense in this new century. Modern phone-scamming is automated. Machines dial at random, or scour the phone directory in order. Pre-recorded shills kick on when the receiver is lifted, or when the answering machine beeps. You can come home to your message bank stuffed with garbage - at the expense of real business and personal calls. If this is "Freedom of Speech," then the franchise has been extended to robots. And the robots trump your right to privacy, and to private property such as the phone you pay for.
If other states can protect their taxpayers from this pestilence, so can Kentucky. If not, then the market can. And if it can't, then we're not dealing with a free market, but with monopoly.
On the internet, the equivalent of junk phone and junk mail is called "spam." If you get one in your e-mail, you can trace it and report it to the internet service provider (ISP) where it originated. Every reputable ISP forbids spamming and will disconnect an offender, sometimes charging a fine too. The ones who don't can be blocked by the others, and by you.
The difference between your ISP and "your" phone company is that there are lots of ISPs. If you don't like one, you can fire it and hire another. If one won't allow abuse of its facilities to annoy people, maybe another will. It may not be able to communicate with the others, but that's free enterprise.
If competition is the spur, the lack of it is why the phone company sits arse-bound in the matter of hustler vermin. So one of these days we will need pest control in the guise of legislation. My guess is that full citizenship and First-Amendment rights must be denied to robots. They're already exempt from filing tax returns and Census forms.
The Great Sideman
Paul McCartney is a hard act to follow when it comes to saying something fitting about George Harrison. After all, he and George were school mates before they were Beatles, and in Paul's own words, he looked on George as his "baby brother." So, when Paul, simply and eloquently, leaves us with his own memory of George as a "lovely guy," perhaps we should all just leave it at that. Such warm and gentle words they were.
But we are not able to do that - just leave it to Paul alone to memorialize George. George is, as Prime Minister Tony Blair observed, too much a part of our generation to do that.
So, humbly, I offer my own simple tribute to George Harrison, and my tribute is this: He was one of the greatest sidemen who ever lived.
While this may seem too modest a remembrance for one with the accomplishments of George Harrison, to a real musician, like George, there can be no higher praise.
Great sidemen share essential characteristics. First, they instinctively understand musical structure. They know the way songs are put together. They can smell the coming of an unusual chord change. They know how to spice up a C major by suspending the usual notes within that otherwise dull, uninteresting, white-bread chord.
If you are a great sideman who, like George, is a guitar player, you know how to select the best version of a particular chord. Take, for example, George's selections of his E seventh chords in "I Saw Her Standing There." Although he uses different E seventh chords in the song, the one that so stands out and defines the song is a simple three string chord that he plays on the three highest pitched strings of his guitar. With only those three strings in play, one note of the chord is missing. The result is a chord that is unrefined, hollow, tense and brittle, and, of course, that is utterly perfect for that spot in that song. Later in the same piece, George takes over to play the break, and this too is vintage, great sideman work. The break he plays is direct and understated and, again, utterly perfect. It also says: I can play a lot fancier than this but this isn't the place to show you. Great sidemen always leave you with that feeling.
Great sidemen also have an instinct for rhythmic structures and an impeccable sense of musical timing. They understand that Chuck Berry added in a couple of extra bars in "Roll Over Beethoven" and that Carl Perkins did the same in the intro to his recording of his classic, "Blue Suede Shoes." The great sideman also understands that Chuck's extra bars are repeated throughout the song but that Carl's are not. The songs would not make sense otherwise, at least to a great sideman.
But the great ones are more than raw musical ability. In today's sports jargon, they're the "go-to" guys. They're the ones that hold things together, the ones that Delbert McClinton describes in his song, "Why Me," as playing with their "head down, trying to keep the band alive."
Other musicians always turn to the great sidemen when they get lost, when there is some question about whether or not to go to the bridge, when the rhythmic structure takes an unusual turn. When the specter of chaos, or indeed, chaos itself rears its horrible head, the great sideman, if he's a guitar player, like George, simply turns up his volume just a little, rushes the tempo, perhaps, just a little, and assumes complete control of the performance until things settle down again.
The company in which I put George defines my admiration of him. Scotty Moore, of course is there. He was Elvis's original guitar player and was able to use both fingerpicking and flat picking techniques. He was strongly influenced by the cross currents of gospel, country and black southern music and provided much of the electricity for Elvis's early and best works.
Johnnie Johnson is also there. He was Chuck Berry's piano player and was able to complement Berry's own playing and provide the cement for those thinly orchestrated, early Chuck Berry pieces, recorded long before synthesizers and other modern electronic gadgetry allowed players with modest levels of talent to sound like a whole orchestra.
And, of course, Steve Cropper must be included in any group of great sidemen. His intro to "Soul Man" and his bass string riffs and "chinks" in "Green Onions" should, standing by themselves, put him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Check sometime on an old Otis Redding or Wilson Picket album to see how many of those tunes Cropper helped write. You'll be surprised.
Scotty Moore, Jimmy Jones and Steve Cropper. We can, George, pay you no higher compliment than to say that you deserve to be part of that group.
God bless the sidemen of this world. They seem to ask so little and give so much. They write for us such beautiful music. They force players to focus on what they're supposed to be about and hold together wild forces that seem intent in spinning out of control. And only when the circumstances require do they turn up their volume, increase the tempo, assume control and save the day.
We lost a great one when George died.
Rutheford B Campbell, Jr. is a professor at UK Law School and attended the Berklee School of Music in the 1960s.