Mad Monk of the Midlands

Name: Mad Monk of the Midlands

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

If you only had two albums

Okay, we’ve all fantasized about being stranded on a desert island. Which two books would you take? Is it cheating to say The Bible? Since that’s a collection of lots of books. Maybe “War and Peace,” since I’ve never read it, and on that island, I’d have the time. I think I could read Ron Hansen’s Mariette in Ecstasy, over and over and not get tired of it. Maybe Walden would be an appropriate book to have on an island, and certainly Shakespeare’s sonnets.

But I am not trying to mislead. I promised to talk about two albums. Of course, we’d have to premise this on also having a big supply of batteries for our boom box, since it’s assumed there’d be no electricity. I could cop out and say Album One would be Emmylou Harris’s Elite Hotel. Out of all of her brilliant albums, her second might be the best. Or would Angel Band, the gospel album, be more appropriate for a stranded person? I could also cop out and say Album Two should be Alison Krauss’s Lonely Runs Both Ways.

But Milo’s not copping today, and besides, he promised a “surprise.” So are you ready, with pencil and paper, or your Blackberry stylus?

Numero Uno would be the 1974 album I pull out and listen to at least ONCE every November-- I mean, it is not truly November unless I listen to, in its entirety, Norman Blake’s classic, The Fields of November, on Flying Fish records. From the sepia-toned cover of the original LP, to the lyrics and melodies of “Greycoat Soldiers” and “Southern Railroad Blues,” this album captures the universal essence of November, and, I suspect, although I’m less expert about this, of the South. And of course, any acoustic guitarist worth his or her salt really can’t be called a virtuoso until they’ve mastered Blake’s tour de force, The Old Brown Case.

Album numero dos comes from the fecund creative depths of Bruce Springsteen. That’s right; the legendary rocker took a hiatus to produce the stark and stunning, Nebraska, a true folk classic. If you’ve never listened, it’s not for the faint of heart, and be sure to take your Prozac before you listen. But the album is so brilliantly conceived and realized that it’s always breath-taking to put it on again. And it also contains one of the quintessential lines that explains all of human existence. Before I end these thoughts by quoting that line, here’s a refresher on the other QUINTESSENTIAL LINES. If you memorize all four of them, you will know all you need to know about this puzzling quandary that we have come to know as conscious being on Earth:

From Bob Dylan: “You know something’s happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

From Jack Nicholson in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown: (wondering why
Justice is so elusive) “Jake, it’s Chinatown!”

From Dorothy in “Wizard of Oz,”: “Toto, we’re not in Kansas, anymore!”

Okay, now are you ready for the Springsteen line that belongs with these? It comes from the title cut, “Nebraska,” contemplating the persistence of Evil: “I guess there’s just meanness in this world.”

Harsh, yes, but true. But hopefully you and I can try to spread more kindness and compassion. Good sailing to your island of strandedness!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Santa and His Ho! Ho! Ho!

By now, if you’ve checked the website, you probably know you can get the newest Milo Bobbins and the Budget Boys’ tune for free. Hey, it’s about Santa, and Santa’s all about GIVING!

The idea for the song came during Christmastime of 2007. I heard a radio report that some folks, I believe in Australia, were worried it would send the wrong message if Santa kept laughing with his trademark “Ho-ho-ho!” Remarkably, it seems they believed that somehow a connection would be made between Santa and hip-hop performers who often refer to women as “ho’s”— ­ of course, a slang abbreviation for “whore.”

I was stunned that political correctness could go this far. Then again, any movement that tends toward hysteria: ­ witch-burning, “The Final Solution”, “Obama is a Muslim”—eventually goes off the deep end.

So the idea kept rolling around in my mind, as I imagined pot-bellied-Santa’s elves morphing into red-bikini-clad hotties. Eventually I worked out the lyrics, and my brother, Harmonica-Billy, and Keyboard-Wiz-Putter and I gathered at the Wine Café to record it on a Saturday afternoon in October. We got some really good takes, but unfortunately, Milo tends to take liberties with the rhythm, and we had to redo and re-mix it. So five days later, we gathered at Putter’s Tea House at the edge of the Ravine and did the final take. Putter mixed it down, and we hope you enjoy.

Money is always short for Milo, as it is for the majority of us, but we’re hoping to do a video of the song next summer and load it up to You Tube.

The Red-Man has already agreed to play Santa. That should be a tough part, havin’ to hang with the Ho’s. We might even have some sort of party to film it live. Who knows how it’ll work out?

I don’t know why I’m drawn to quirky Christmas themes. I love the feeling of Christmas, but I think I’m overwhelmed by the commercialism of it, the Marketing Vehicle it’s become for just about everything except peace and forgiveness and love. I don’t think Jesus would be happy that a guy got trampled at Wal-Mart by Christmas shoppers stampeding for bargains.

Anyway, Milo’s next album project is likely to be a Christmas-New Year’s-themed jobbie. Got some songs stashed, and half-gestated on some legal pads strewn around the Disaster Room where I create. In the meantime, Happy Holidays, and do some Random Acts of Kindness.