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Out of the darkness, into the light

Out of the darkness, into the light

Are there such things as “generations,” and if there are, can they have a conscience? Can they have voices that represent those consciences?
I’m not sure about the first question, though I have my doubts. Far too many variables and feedback loops. But I’ll say yes for now and posit this: For the young at heart in the 1960s and 1970s, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young certainly qualified, as did Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Baez, Melanie, Cat Stevens and, of course, the Beatles.

The young, back then, actually looked to songwriters for inspiration, messages, a Way. They actually cared enough about what they said to act physically on the song’s behalf. On the word’s behalf. To make it their own or share it with friends, or both at the same time. And if they were really lucky, they got to see their prophets in concert, hopefully at their peak, and they could dance the song into being in still another sense, kinetically, and share that too.
Carry On sounds to me like a message of hope for the shipwrecked, a call to awaken from one’s slumbering drift, alone at sea, alone anywhere. Perhaps the way CSNY crafted the song — written by Stephen Stills to open the Deja Vu album — has something to do with that too. The way they jammed. Their improv methods. Dallas Taylor, in the liner notes (1991 box set release):

“The song was written in the middle of the Deja Vu sessions, when Nash told Stephen they still didn’t have an opener for the album. It was something of a message to the group, since it had become a real struggle to keep the band together at that point. Stephen combined two unfinished songs and stuck them onto a jam we’d had out in the studio a few nights before, me on drums and Stephen on a Hammond B-3 organ. As the track begins I’m playing bass drums and high hat, and Graham is playing congas. Then we go into a 6/8 groove, which is rather obscure – Stephen loved to change gears that way. The sessions would go on all night, sometimes 3 or 4 days non-stop. The thing I loved about the studio was you could never tell if it was day or night, and we hid all the clocks so no one knew what time it was.”

Who speaks for the young at heart today? Who is the voice for the rising generations? I have no idea. But I do know we likely need songs of peace, love and reconciliation now more than ever. And there’s always room for hope.

Enumerations: (On Listening to Hendrix) by Tony Jones

Enumerations: (On Listening to Hendrix) by Tony Jones



I am sitting in a wooden upholstered chair built in the nineteen fifties (I know because the table it came with had the original sales receipt from 1957) at my computer desk listening to Jimi Hendrix performing with the Band of Gypsies on New Years 1970 at the Filmore East almost two years before I was born.

My cat Sibyl is sleeping behind me. She is almost 13. Hard to believe. She looks five and has the most beautiful black/orange tortoise-shell fur I have ever seen. She also has an incredibly sweet and talkative disposition. (I have known many cats and by far she is the most gregarious)

I am 36. Time is spinning a web around my head. I am thinking that the chronometric parsing of our small gasps of life may be the death of us, machinelike, or at least make our oxygen scarcer and sleep consequently less pleasant, but would we know the difference? But not tonight, as the cd rips and my thoughts kick into a level of medium awareness, equanimity, this is where I like to be, lucid, but inspired.

Jimi is playing Machine Gun, this double cd is great because it actually has both versions he played on the two nights of his Filmore East shows. Non-sequitur, but Vernon Reid, guitarist for Living Color once mentioned in an interview that he had been certain Hendrix was a Vietnam vet because of the passion that infused not just the song, but every note of that specific performance of it. (The original Band of Gypsys album only had one of the two performances, I’m presuming that’s the one he meant…) But no, Jimi never went to war, though he was in the 101st Airborne and jumped out of airplanes many times, the experience no doubt influencing the scope, the spectrum, the vast sonic VISION that was core to Hendrix’s genius.

Hendrix knows how to squeeze every bit of feeling out of each note and he does it in technicolor. I am pulled into the walls of tonal smoke and chronic fire, the blaze of combating chords and screaming notes, whammy drops and pulses that he authoritatively energizes from massive fingers. When I think of my own finger-shredding struggles with the instrument over many years – I am a decent rhythm guitarist at best, comfortable with barre chords but don’t ask me to do any lightning work – and relatively small hands and fingers my own difficulties with the physicality of the rock thing make sense to me. It’s taken me almost thirty years to get a modicum of guitar technique when the Maestro was wowing them within a few years of picking up the instrument, although by all accounts even he had a learning curve. But what an apogee! how far he could take it and make it scream in ecstasy!

And here I am 38 years later grooving to the beat and the heat and the thought. The other anecdote that sticks out to me about the performance is something I think I heard from the 1972 Jimi Hendrix documentary which VHS tape I still sometimes throw in now and again. Hendrix began his New Years performance with the usual showmanship shenanigans – playing with his teeth, beyond his head, etc. – and Promoter Bill Graham, who wanted a solid recording, said something to him about it, not in the nicest way. Jimi was enraged but went back out and performed, well, standing stock still, but he put every iota of his being into the show, and that is the performance we have recorded (and the one I am listening to as I type this). One of the most incredible pieces of extended improvisation we have from a rock musician, and it speaks profoundly of the good in human beings placed there by the creator that we experience when we hear it. And as he says goodnight to everyone and the cd fades to silence I am left with more than I can even begin to know how to describe.


–Tony Jones


Tony Jones is a 36 year old poet who has been writing seriously for 21 years, and has been published in journals like Virginia Writing and Kronos. He lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and took a succession of dead-end jobs that were nonetheless very productive of creative inspiration, though generally in a negative way, before deciding to finish his Masters in Religion, which occupies him presently. He lives with a cat, Sibyl, and far too many books on history, philosophy, theology, science fiction and, well, you get the picture…


Copyright ©2008, Tony Jones and Spinozablue. All Rights Reserved.

Abbey Linfert: Day in the Life

Abbey Linfert: Day in the Life

There are days when I curse being a musician. I work long hours for a ridiculously small wage and often under crummy conditions. Think about the loudest, dirtiest, smokiest bar you have visited with your pals in the last 12 months. I have probably performed there, or at least some place exactly like it. In fact the word performed probably needs the qualifier of “tried to” before it, because like the fabled tree falling in the forest, if you are playing for an audience where no one is listening, are you really performing? I have performed during bar fights and public break ups straight out of a Hollywood movie. I have been knocked off stage by drunkards who then snatch up my microphone and start singing themselves. I have performed while patrons surf Internet porn with their computer screens facing all of us on stage. I have sung behind chicken wire and in front of turned on TVs bigger than my front door. All of this in the name of being a working musician.

Then, I have a day like today. Today was a day where I relish the fact that my job is music and that I love music. Today I played for old folks. Yup, you read right. I wasn’t the opening act for Indigo Girls at Wolf Trap (my number one folk fantasy!), or even headlining at the Black Cat in Washington D.C. Rounder Records didn’t call me and offer me a record deal that would make me a folk star where I could earn the big bucks like $40k a year. I played for old folks at the Staunton Senior Center.

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