Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Hole in the Ace

< Johhny Ace, Memorial Album, Duke DLP-71 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Billboard magazine, Jan. 8 1955 >

First let me apologize for the sarcasm in the title of this post.

This post is about the 1950's R&B-hype around Johnny Ace who killed himself by shooting himself in the head, alledgedly during a game of Russian Roulette.

John Marshall Alexender Jr. was from Memphis Tennessee, son of a respected preacher. After serving the navy in the Korean War he was pianist in the Beale Street Blues Boys with BB King on guitar and Bobby Blue Bland doing the vocals. When both departed Memphis Johhny took over the band renaming it The Beale Streeters.

In the early fifties Johnny Ace and The Beale Streeters struck surpisingly gold with some massive R&B-hits. In a smooth romantic style hits like 'My Song', 'Cross My Heart' and 'Never Let Me Go' in their innocence seemed to target a teenage audience rather then the adult audience accustomed to the much rawer and rauncier Rhythm and Blues of the time. In this respect Johnny Ace was a harbinger of the upcoming teenage craze called Rock & Roll.

The Russian Roulette saga has been disproved by witnesses of the incident. Both Big Mama 'Hound Dog' Thornton - whom Johnny Ace was heavily touring with - and her bass player stated that he accidently shot himself through the head trying to prove the gun he was waving around to be unloaded. Bandleader Johnny 'Handjive' Otis claimed he was always clowning around with the gun and doing a controlled version of Russian Roulette as a joke. Johnny died Christmas 1954.

Whatever the story, Johnny Ace truly hit a straight flush after his death with 'Pledging My Love', one of the biggest posthumous hits in the history of popular music.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Le Fantôme de la Liberté

Last week I went to a viewing of Luis Bunuel's 'Le Fantôme de la Liberté' (1974) at Rotabs and hosted by exhibiting artist Marc Müller.

Bunuel's movie couldn't be more fitting to be included in the list of art on this blog. The movie, a free-form script of seemingly unconnected surrealist scenes, is an absurd portrayal (or criticism) of (reversed) bourgeois conventions.

Most notably: Monks boozing and playing poker, lavatories as dinner table seats, picture postcards regarded as pornographic, etc.