RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Tuesday, October 27

Monday, October 26

Sunday, October 25

SONG OF THE DAY: El Puto (Chopped & Screwed)


Was staring at the leaves flaunting their autumn colours, which caused me to embrace Toxic Flamboyance philosophies, which includes using "ou" in place of "o" in words like colour, and also pulling out all the glittery iron on letters I can find, and customizing every blank shirt I have to read things like MASCULINE (silver glitter on hot pink shirt) or EXOTIC STREET PEOPLE in blue glitter letters on blaze orange shirt, which color coordinates with a Scottish GK jersey I have to wear overtop, because it's long sleeve, so I can actually rock autumnal fashion, but when it gets heated, bust off the GK top, and it's a fucked up EXOTIC STREET PEOPLE shirt underneath, in matching colours. Plus, I still got a pair of blaze orange socks with blue stripes from the Family Dollar like half a decade ago. (Sadly, I didn't have enough blue glitter letters, so I had to go with DIRECTOR EXOTICO instead, which is not really sad but an unexpected blessing I haven't realized fully just yet.)

TH3 K3Y T0 D1S4PP34R1NG...

the key to disappearing 
is to make sure you return 
somewhere eventually 

Saturday, October 24

SONG OF THE DAY: Foret


WALKING THRU THE ABANDONED FACTORIES OF THE DECLINING EMPIRE
CELL SERVICE AT ZERO BARS WHICH MEANS NO DIGITAL PRISON
THE CROWS IN THE TOWERING OAKS YELLING QUOTES FROM THE WIRE
"we used to make shit in this country cawww build shit cawww cawww cawww"
AND I LOOK UP THE HOTBALL IN THE SKY
WHICH FEELS LIKE IT GETS CLOSER EVERY YEAR
AND I FINISH THEIR STREAM OF THOUGHT, YELLING
"NOW WE JUST PUT OUR HANDS IN THE NEXT GUY'S POCKET!"
AND THE CROWS FLY AWAY
STARTLED AT MY INHUMANE HONESTY
BUT I'M SIMPLY QUOTING SOME POP CULTURE I CONSUMED
VOMITING IT BACK OUT AT THE NATURAL WORLD
AS IF IT WAS INTELLIGENCE

1 F1ND 1T 34SY T0 L1V3...

I find it easy to live 
out of a car for few days 
here or there, to disappear 

Friday, October 23

SONG OF THE DAY: Don't Take Her (She's All I Got)

Just a freestyle sonnet today, about love, love lost, inspired by Swamp Dogg's crazy ass and reading about walking poet Vachel Lindsay.

Tethers so tight, yet familiar, begin to feel 
like the comforts of paradise, loved with great zeal, 
until fault lines suddenly shift, which then reveal 
the routine you so loved was much more rut than real. 

Still left reeling, playing back memories in mind, 
of moments that felt floating, not fleeting, outlined 
in bliss - romantic ignorance while intertwined, 
yet once removed, you realize hindsight's less confined. 

When the fault lines shift, life feels like rubble to sort 
through, hoping to stack enough pieces to export 
peace of mind; ache of loss and fearful thoughts distort 
the horizon into darkness, lacking support. 

And yet, once detoxed of tether's caress, bright heart 
begins to impart hope for another love's start. 

S1TT1NG 1N 4 P4RK1NG L0T...

sitting in a parking lot, 
scribbling the simple words that 
come to mind on index cards 

Thursday, October 22

SONG OF THE DAY: Pop Soul Sega

I believe that life’s most important moments require my nicest track suits – ones that show a cohesive philosophy, and aren’t worn down by overuse in difficult physical situations. I don’t go tromping around abandoned factories in my finest track suits. They’ve got to be fresh for those most important times in life – meetings with benefactors or people fronting you some shit, talking about buying a customized truck cheaply, fostering zoo orangutans, ring announcing battle rap events, loan approvals… you know, important shit. I’ve got a couple track suits actually still folded up and unworn, waiting for events important enough to bust them out for the first time. I’m prepared for life’s most important events, in advance, knowing I have to be my freshest to step up for those events.
When you get down to less important events, the closet full of track suits still works. Some have lost their luster, aren’t as crispy as they once were, or you wore them for a couple too public important events. Maybe you tore a hole in the pants climbing through barbed wire, so you mix and match track suits that are mostly the same, or maybe even in different but complementary colors for less important events. I’ve even put giant back patches on some track jackets, to add new life to them for those higher level less important events, like sneaking through a large urban freight yard for the first time ever. But there’s a rough process involved here that understands what importance actually means, and respects that, and shows it understands and respects that through the philosophy of track suit application.
Somehow, folks are beating everybody over the head with the same old THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT AMERICAN ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIME, which frankly, has been said almost every time since 1988. And I mean, it certainly feels fairly fucked right now, and like it could be an important moment in American history. But I’m not entirely sure the system itself got it shit together to bust out the best track suits. This feels like a pair of raggedy track suits my uncle used to wear way too often, to every cookout, that he thought brought him good luck at Spades, even though nobody ever wanted to be partners with him.
One is absolutely fucked up, and not my style at all – one of those red fleece track suits with the white trim that old ass dudes walking through Costco buying up multivitamins and industrial sized packages of Italian meatballs swear looks good. That shit is so alien to my ideas of freshness, I couldn’t even contemplate wearing it, or what AARP catalog people still order it out of.
The other is not as garish, but pretty fucked too – dark blue windbreaker track suit, with white trim as well, looking all 1982 business-like, the type of shit worn by dudes who think they understand the plight of urban America because they’ve watched The Wire and listened to a couple podcasts about it, even though they also naively think there’s noble Lester Freamon’s in every police department, instead of accepting the fact it’s a giant army of Sgt. Herc’s just running around fucking up anything and everything they can. If I had to choose between the two track suits, obviously I’d go with the dark blue one, but honestly, I’ve got about nine whole track suits laying around right now that I’d wear before I ever thought about pulling that one out the bag. In fact, a sizable portion of my less important, well worn track suits are still far better than that dark blue piece of shit.
I think perhaps the problem is the limitations of material. The fabric of metaphorical American track suit is trapped in that small notion of dark blue, red, with as much white trim as possible. In fact, whiteness outlines any track suit cut from historical American fabric. Personally, I find this material too narrow, and not bold enough for my tastes. Where’s the neon green, or orange, or even just a good basic dark green – we don’t even have to be day-glo about it at first. And no purples or pinks anywhere to be found. Where the fuck is all the purple and pink? There’s not a lot going on here, when you consider the actual possibilities, beyond what we’re limited to.
So I can’t really see this as a super important moment, simply because they ain’t got shit ready in terms of the track suit we’re supposed to be wearing for this moment. A couple of stale old brands, uncomfortable on the one hand, or doesn’t really protect against the modern environmental elements on the other hand, and in those same played out tired useless colors that nobody wants to wear any more.
One of the track suits I’ve got that’s never been pulled out yet is a super dark green one, with black trim and stripes. It’s some eastern European club, that I got on clearance, and refuse to share what club for fear they have some fucked up history of hooligan supporters who back fucked up politics. All that’s visible of that would be the crest on the front, which has railroad shit on it, so I give it the benefit of the doubt. I also put a back patch on the jacket, even though I never wore it yet, of a baby goat standing on a Nazi helmet, chewing on grass, that says GREEN Anti-Fascist. There’s a skull in the helmet, though it’s hard to notice without looking closely. I’m probably gonna wear that track suit for the first time ever, on Election Day. I’m not voting in advance, and ain’t even sure if I’m voting the day of to be honest. But I’m gonna wear that track suit and at least walk up to the voting precinct, scope out the lines. My voting location’s only about three-quarters of a mile from where I live now, and it’s a nice little walk, over some hills and curves, past an old Mennonite church covered in ivy, past a cool guardrail where the kudzu has grown over the top of it, unrelenting, nature re-invading the allegedly settled world. And whether I vote or not, regardless of how I vote if I do, I know I’m gonna look fresh as fuck, and looking like my best self, as important moments are actually supposed to get.

TH3 P4TH 4LR34DY L41D L34V3S...

the path already laid leaves 
me lost in manufactured 
fogs of self-doubt, confusion 

Wednesday, October 21

Tuesday, October 20

Monday, October 19

Sunday, October 18

Saturday, October 17

R3ST 4SSVR3D, 4 N3W D4Y ST1LL...

 

rest assured, a new day still 
arrives - today's end coupled 
to tomorrow's beginning 

Friday, October 16

SVNS3T 0N 4M3R1C4...

sunset on America 
as we were taught to believe 
it was; seek refuge from dark 

Thursday, October 15

SONG OF THE DAY: Drunkard's Hiccups

I am the spiritual grandchild of the Mothman, though my parents saw him as the Bat Monster. He appeared from the woods as they procreated in a station wagon, and this was when I was conceived. 273 days later, my parents were playing poker, and my father always had my mother sit to his right, because it made it easier to cheat when he dealt. But on this particular night, he noticed the Jack of Diamonds flowing her way, nearly every hand, regardless of who dealt. He started calling jacks wild when he dealt, and it seemed the Jack of Diamonds ended up dealt to my mother every hand. She was not the greatest poker player at this point, having just turned 17, and not fully ingrained in the ways of the lost, doomed, and delinquent like my father.
The deal came round the table again, back to my father, and he dealt a seven-card no-peek, boldly calling “Jack of Diamonds wild” to the table. The table gawked at this shit apparently, both recognizing that my mom had kept getting that card, but also the folly in calling a singular card as wild, in a slow moving seven-card no-peek hand, with seven people around the table (as it was that night, according to my dad’s retelling of this). The high hand grew, and it got back to my mom, who flipped a pair of queens with her first two cards – the hearts and clubs. My dad busted, flipping all seven cards, unable to beat a pair of queens, with only the one wild card floating. More people busted out, but one guy – Wolfie – flipped the queen of spades, which my mom would’ve needed as a pair. Tip, who ended up being like a second father to me later in life, hit a pair of kings to take the lead. Then another guy – Bozo (who actually used to live not far from where I live now, and I need to look him up, although the last time I went by there he almost shot me accidentally because he’s paranoid as fuck) – he flipped a pair of aces and took the lead. It came back round to my mom. She flipped her third, fourth and fifth card… nothing worthwhile. Her sixth card was the queen of diamonds, a natural three-of-a-kind of face cards, the queens running together, giving her the upper hand. They were playing a one dollar limit, and she picked up a quarter to bid a quarter, which to be honest at the time was a pretty high bet. My dad tapped at a dollar bill, somewhat indiscreetly, encouraging her to bet big. She looked at him like he was stupid (which repeated often through the years), but also listened to him halfway and bet two quarters (this pattern of my dad’s influence also repeated).
Tip flipped an ace, which Bozo would’ve wanted, and then on his last card, hit a third king. “Dollar!” he said emphatically dropping a crumpled bill into the kitty in the middle of the table. Bozo had three cards left still, but also had seen Tip flip one of the two remaining aces. But also, with seven people playing, that’s 49 cards out of 52, and that last Ace of Spades was still hiding, either in the three cards left undealt, in one of his last three, or my mom’s final card. The Jack of Diamonds was still floating too. Bozo looked down at his small pile of money, contemplating the odds of having three out of seven remaining cards, with another ace and that wild card floating.
He stacked eight quarters. “I call you, and I bump you a dollar.”
My mom looked nervous. She was pregnant as fuck, looked at my dad. She only had three dollars left in her stack, quarters and dimes. He had a few dollars too, but she’d had the good hands that night, and hadn’t bet them as cocksure as my dad would’ve, even if he was losing. So though the cards had ran her way, their combined money stack was still light. She was thinking about babies on the way, shit like that. My dad was just thinking about the fact he knew that Jack of Diamonds had gone to her all night long, and that she needed to call. And he told her this in his look, “DON’T FOLD” screaming from his eyeballs. She called, reluctantly, counting out her remaining quarters, and then her remaining dimes. All she had left was a few more dimes and a small pile of nickels.
Tip figured this was it for the night, and he saw her on the ropes, and he didn’t really think Bozo was going to beat his three kings. “I call, and raise you another dollar.” The pile in the middle grew bigger than most of their broke ass rural Virginia eyeballs could believe.
“You motherfucker,” Bozo said, but he still had the advantage of three cards, so he called. Then he pulled out ten dimes. “And I’ll raise you back.” All eyes looked at my mom.
“Two dollars to you, Dot,” said Tip. She didn’t have enough to cover the bet. She looked at my dad. “I’ll give you the money. You’ve got to call, to see it out at this point,” and he slide his change over to her. She counted out two dollars in change and added it to the pile, which must’ve been well up over $25 at this point, in 1973 dollars. Tip called, and he looked at his change for a second, dramatically contemplating raising again.
“You motherfucker,” said Bozo, and Tip laughed and said, “Call.”
Bozo flipped his first card… a five. Then his second… a nine. No help. One card left, his two aces sitting there like a promising foundation early on, but followed by mismatched garbage. He popped the corner of his last facedown card, and flipped it. Ace of Spades. “Goddammit!” Tip said, and flipped his busted hand over.
Bozo counted out four quarters, and confidently said, “Dolla!” My mom counted out dimes and nickels to call the dollar bet. He used to love to tell me this part, because he’d say, “Son, we didn’t have shit left by a handful of nickels, and the gas tank on the car we drove there was empty too. But she looked at me, and I just shot ‘bet it all’ into her head.” So according to the story, my mom counted out my parents’ last seven nickels, and raised Bozo 35 cents. Everybody saw that was the end of the combined stack of money for my folks, and that this was the last hand, and there was one card left, and she was pregnant as fuck, about to have a baby any day now, and that they were teens – not just my parents but all of them, all doomed to one extent or another, but riding the high times of another oblivious night a wide walk outside the margins of responsibility. Bozo still had change enough to raise further, but everything had been laid out, no need to add more drama. He counted out his own 35 cents, and called.
My mom lacked the dramatic pop of a car that the men could do, especially in a moment like that, no queens left to be had. But she flipped her last card, and sure enough, it was that Jack of Diamonds. Four queens beat Bozo’s three aces. And then her water broke, and I was born right there, literally beneath a poker table full of nickels and dimes, Valentine’s Day, 1973.
I still feel that Jack of Diamonds energy, and that Bat Monster/Mothman energy in me, when I'm living right, walking the allegedly wrong ways off the responsible path, where the mushrooms grow and coal trains rumble. Yesterday was just such a day, when I was wandering through the woods, and a beautiful piece of rose quartz was popping up out the ground, like that last wild Jack of Diamonds. And I knew that even though I was nobody, nowhere, I was beating anybody else's aces.

W41T1NG F0R TH0S3 H0RNS T0 BL4ST...

waiting for those horns to blast, 
then "pack it up, pack it in…" 
and we stomp it all to dust 

 

Wednesday, October 14

SONG OF THE DAY: Ooh La La

I don’t get down with Run the Jewels like I once did. The internet loves them still, but each record’s felt less and less inspired, and to be honest, I got my fill on El-P verses by the end of the second one. I tried this last one but there wasn’t anything about it that really stuck out to me. I don’t listen to music as soon as it comes out necessarily, so it all gets inserted into a larger selection of music I tend to keep playing most hours of the day, so it doesn’t get that OMG NEW SHIT pop with me personally like it might for many folks. That’s some capitalistic bullshit though. Let the dust of the newness settle and see where shit stands for real. My shitty old iphone turned into an ipod is a true meritocracy, not a fake one built on mythologies which no longer apply.
All that being said, having Greg Nice on this popped my reminiscing heart, and had me thinking about how popular lemonade still is. So I did play the fuck outta this song at least. Can we get another solo Killer Mike project though? At this point, Run the Jewels is like a brightly painted and expensive organic taco truck at a mural festival in a neighborhood you used to buy weed in but can’t afford to even rent a one bedroom at anymore. El-P is the sound of gentrification during the Trump era. Sorry, that’s just how shit actually is.

SONG OF THE DAY: Cardigan

Fall is upon us… time to pull out the cardigans and pick up a few pumpkin pie spice blunt wrappers from the country store, and go for long walks along the short lines, past the abandoned factories rusting back into the Earth, tagging the vacant commercial spaces with paint stick prayers, and enjoying the autumnal changes in scenery. Summer’s green empire rusting as well, back to the orange reds and yellows of decay, which is never the end, but just transitions into hibernation period before a fresh green empire pokes its bright-headed dreams back out the ground some springtime.
There’s probably political metaphors to be extracted from all this, that you can’t have empire grow forever, that it’s not sustainable nor even present in nature, or the universe, but I don’t feel like extracting shit. I just wanna keep on walking. Fuck politics, find lessons in nature. I’d like a choice in politics that was more like nature, not academic environmentalism or industrial fallacies. An actual green party that goes dark in the winter time, but makes sure everybody has a tall enough woodpile.


41N'T N0 M0R3 L4DD3RS T0 CL1MB...

ain't no more ladders to climb; 
still trying to make stone soup 
in a world that's gone to shit 

Tuesday, October 13

SONG OF THE DAY: Drowning On Dry Land

Been listening to a lot of old blues music lately, because when it feels like the world is ending, it’s important to remember you’re not the first person to live under a bridge. You can still have good times, with wild sex by the burn barrel light as the stable world buzzes past overhead, oblivious to you. Perhaps it’s better to live in the margins, in oblivion, without the attachment of normal ass expectations, which always fail to come through. I mean, I had a what felt like the end of the world in the past few years, but here I am today, with more gibberish poetry in my heart than ever, and blood still pumping to most of my dick. It’s never the end of the world; it’s just a change you wasn’t necessarily prepared for. But you don’t have to prepare, you just gotta keep existing. Too much preparation might even get in the way sometimes. Anyways, none of us are the first, and we won’t be the last. We’re just another miniscule human blip on the universal consciousness.
This is all a fairly simplified way of feeling confident in my life not feeling absolutely fucked in this very moment. It’s easy to see the benefits of continuing to walk along the tracks when you’re not actively in the mood to lay down in front of the next empty coal train. But I’ve been there too. And I’m here now. And even though I might get there again, the point is the train’s not for you anyways. It’s for the coal to be scraped from inside the Earth. Life doesn’t necessarily have a point. So fuck it, you might as well keep walking along the tracks, wander off, and enjoy your goddamned self a little.

3MBR4C1NG WH4T'S L3FT0V3R...

embracing what's leftover's 
a good survival tactic - 
thrive on what nobody wants 

Monday, October 12

A Case of Country #1s - January 1944 through December 1945

[This is a project I'm undertaking as part of my Patreon, but posting here. Please support my Patreon if you dig ridiculous stuff like this, or me.]

When that Lil Nas X song about the Old Town Road blew up a few years back, and became a manufactured controversy about country music, and race, and music lists, it spiraled me down a mental rabbit hole of country music history, short term memory in pop culture – not just in the digital era but really all along, how the pop country music industry has always engineered consciousness. Of course, it then begins to reflect consciousness, and it becomes that chicken and egg thing where you no longer know if collective consciousness has been manipulated by pop culture, or pop culture just reflects how fucked up collective thinking is. This seems especially applicable in our current political climate, where nothing is real, and you just have competing forms of self-assured analysis, none of it based as entirely as factual sources of truth as it’d like to believe.
So I started going through the history of country music number one songs, which itself was a complicated story. Billboard Magazine has always been the source of truth for hit songs, and what’s considered their first country music hit singles chart was published in the January 8, 1944, issue. But at that time, it calculated the most played jukebox songs, without a clear methodology, other than “a selected group of juke box operators whose locations require folk records,” and entitled it the Most Played Juke Box Folk Records.
There’s a certain drunkenness that’s always been associated with country music – both real alcoholic indulgences, as well being drunk off patriotic fervor, and poisoned with working class mythologies that perhaps served earlier generations well, but don’t really do shit nowadays, impotent at impregnating success in life after the last forty years of whatever the fuck kind of economy this is. But I thought about how country music in the background of my childhood was inextricably linked to partying, and creating this notion of what it meant to be a real country boy. It helped enable me to follow in my genetic path of being a drunkard, there’s no doubt about it. So being I’m gonna hit my tenth anniversary of sobriety later this month, I figured I’d go through these country number ones in batches of 24, or a Case of Country #1s, just like I used to plow through a case of beer, easily, in a weekend. And although I often went through more than a case of beer, we’re gonna stick to 24 for each episode of this.
I wrestled with the idea of doing this as a podcast as well, thinking about having a woman co-host with me to add banter and input. But ultimately, these write-ups wouldn’t make sense without the songs themselves to refer to, and if I did such a podcast and it became known on the radar of the masses, every episode would get dragged down by copyright violations and DMCA notices. The country music industry is called an industry and not an art for a reason. It’s about squeezing money out the people.
This first case of country #1s begins with that first Juke Box Folk Records list in Billboard, in January of 1944, and stretches through to just before Christmas of 1945. This period was dominated by World War II, with Emperor Hirohito surrendering in September of 1945. My grandfather served in World War II, as a scout troop, sergeant first class (or whatever that one with the six stripes is – as high as you can get as an enlisted man). We even have a picture of Hirohito signing the papers that my grandfather got by trading some cigarettes with some dude that took it. I think my aunt has all that stuff now. Franklin Roosevelt was in his fourth term as President at the beginning of this case, but died in April of 1945. Vice President Harry Truman took over at that point. So that’s a pretty big pair of events – the end of World War II, and the only four-term President ever dying – that took place in this period. It feels like forever ago. And it sounds like it too.

#1: “Pistol Packin’ Mama” by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters

“Pistol Packin’ Mama” was a song that Al Dexter wrote the lyrics to, to the traditional “Boil Them Cabbage Down” song. At one point in my marriage, my wife briefly took fiddle lessons, and our second kid was still a baby, so she’d always be in the back yard, often in overalls, practicing “Boil Them Cabbage Down” on a violin. You know the difference between fiddle and violin? How much money you have. It’s strictly a class difference based on what you’re playing with it, and technically my ex-wife was using a violin, because that’s what it was to her parents. Of course, playing in a rural Virginia back yard in overalls suggests she had made the class transition downward to fiddle. When we were dating still, I was working at one point on a warehouse renovation in Farmville, Virginia, after having moved back to live in a trailer at the edge of a trailer park owned by a dude named Lindy Hamlett. Everybody I worked with was on work release from the private regional jail, including a dude I went to high school with, named Finchum, but called Monster in jail because he looked like the Cryptkeeper a little bit. My ex-wife came to visit me one time, driving a Jeep Cherokee, which was a few years old, but even the existence of her in a Jeep Cherokee meant Monster said to me, as we saw her pull up outside the third-story warehouse window, “Damn Raven, she rich.” NOT FOR LONG, MONSTER; NOT FOR LONG!
Not sure how much open class awareness there was in America in 1944, though I guess my grandfather’s military history is relevant, with that distinction between enlisted and wealthier men who enrolled in officers’ schools like West Point or the Naval Academy. Both my grandfathers were enlisted men actually, with my mother’s father being a cook, and having lost a finger by accidentally cutting it off, but he always just said he lost it in the war. But Al Dexter used this traditional folk song melody, and wrote lyrics about an angry, crazy woman (who to be honest, sounds kinda hot), who “broke my windshield” and is toting around a gun. (In fact, it’s very fitting that we have the use of what’s called a colloquial apostrophe in the very first country number one, with “packing” changed to “packin’”, to further reach down to them common folk. You already have the single filter of that, and Al Dexter’s version of this (as well as versions by Don Baxter, Sid Peltyn, and even some guy named Freddie “Schnickelfritz” Fisher) song all made number one at the same period, from January 8 through March. But the grandest version was the super-group pairing of the time, where Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters cut a version together. Both were big stars at the time – far bigger than Dexter. This ends up being a theme in country music – a lesser-known artist writing a hit song, and then somebody more famous redoing it. In fact, this became so common that the industry ended up having up-and-coming artists who played shows on off-nights like Tuesday or Wednesday around Nashville, while working as songwriters for record labels, writing hits for established artists.
This version of this song though, is polished as fuck, and sounds as big bandy as it does country, which I guess is fitting for 75 years ago. There is a really great cowbell pop in the break at one spot though. That shit is crystal clear dope. I wanna sample it.

#2: “Ration Blues” by Louis Jordan

When the Juke Box Folk song list first started, it was not segregated by race, which is why we have a few black artists show up until February of 1945, when the list was split into a Juke Box Folk Records list and Juke Box Race Records list. White “Folk” and “Black” people were purposely split up. But in the very beginning, a guy like Louis Jordan could still make this list as the number one artist. In fact, Louis Jordan was so popular in these music industry days, he was known of The King of the Jukebox, and worked with superstars like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and even crossed the racial threshold and did some duets with Bing Crosby. Billboard had already ran a Harlem Hit Parade hits list for a few years, which was an informal poll of Harlem record store owners. And Louis Jordan had a previous number one hit on that list, and this was his second for the Harlem Hit Parade list, which historically morphed into the Hot R&B/Hip Hop songs list of today. But “Ration Blues” actually landed at number one at that as well as the Juke Box Folk Records list, so in a sense, it’s the rare example of a song that was the top hit in both Rhythm & Blues as well as Country & Western. This particular song is more instrumental than not, and when Jordan is singing, it’s way different than Crosby’s well-ironed crooning. The horn is this song has an extremely fat ass, and it’s always good to remember that the banjo was originally an African instrument.

#3: “Rosalita” by Al Dexter

Al Dexter was a Texas bar owner who put the term “honky tonk” into usage, recording “Honky Tonk Blues” way the fuck back in the day. He wrote “Pistol Packin’ Mama” which was used as stadium theme music for the ’43 New York Yankees. Then a movie came out by the same name, where Dexter got a quarter million royalty payment off that alone. The song was just an overwhelming hit at the time, considering it was still making number one with multiple versions through the first part of 1944. “Rosalita” is actually the B-side to Dexter’s version of the song, recorded with his band called The Troopers. But B-side won again, and got Dexter another hit song.
This also is our first straight up cowboy song we come across, and is sung with the narrator’s perspective pining for a brown-skinned woman in the Rio Grande Valley. Obviously, there’s a time-relevant patriarchal condescension to it, with Dexter singing he’d “come back to you”. But let’s be honest here – Dexter would’ve ultimately been happier if he’d abandoned the world of whiteness and respectability and ran off with Rosalita, joining the tri-racial mulatto culture that defines all of the Americas except these United States.

#4: “They Took the Stars Out of Heaven” by Floyd Tillman

This was Floyd Tillman’s one and only number one hit, recorded with his backing band His Playboys, and it’s string heavy, but nice to have a strong attention to instrumentality still. Not much to it other than ol’ Floyd’s singing about some woman who got made out of celestial lights.
Tillman himself was the son of a Texas sharecropper, who went to San Antonio to play lead guitar with Adolph Hofner western swing band. He learned singing and songwriting while part of that band, and was a popular backing band member around Texas, before breaking out his own front, as the featured vocalist for Pappy Selph’s Blue Ridge Playboys in the late ‘30s. He wrote a hit song then, which led to his own Decca Records contract, and this was the only number one song he had.

#5: “So Long Pal” by Al Dexter

Fuckin’ Al Dexter again, with this follow-up single to the “Pistol Packin’ Mama” hysteria of the time. By this point, he sounds like a condescending shithead, which is understandable I guess because dude was living fat as fuck off royalties, in 1940s dollars. “So Long Pal” actually moved in and out of the top Juke Box Folk Records number one slot for thirteen weeks, from March 25 through September 23 of 1944. I honestly had never even heard of Al Dexter before this shit, but he obviously was the Drake of back then.

#6: “Too Late to Worry” by Al Dexter

“Too Late to Worry” is the B-side to “So Long Pal”, but also clocked the top spot on the list for three weeks, back and forthing with the A-side, which leads one to believe if this was truly a jukebox listing, people were just sitting there playing both sides of this record all the goddamned time. For me personally, more fun than thinking further about Al Dexter is to imagine the mechanisms of various jukeboxes, who load up a 45 rpm 7-inch single, and play it, according to what selections customers have made. Then to play the other side, it has to remove the single, load it back up in the main collection of slots, retrieve it again, and lay it out for the B-side to play.
I bought a jukebox one time, which had a broken motherboard on it, but was in great shape otherwise, which I had wanted to fix. The inside mechanism looked like an old school box fan basically, with a hundred slots for 45s. I used to joke that it was gonna be my ipod, which held 200 songs maximum. Actually the hope of getting that jukebox fixed was what led me to start buying old 45s off ebay, in anticipation of it being functional. I called an old dude who worked on shit like that, but it never got fixed, and my ex-wife got sick of it being in the front room, so I put it on the front porch. Then she got sick of it being on the front porch, so I put it in the field, where it slowly rotted. Those old jukeboxes were made solid, because it took forever to open its insides to the elements, and it still is mostly standing there out in the field, underneath the red maple where I built a giant pile of rocks too. All told, even though I never got the jukebox fixed, it might be the best $10 I ever spent in my entire life (non-LSD category).
Both “Pistol Packin’ Mama”/”Rosalita” and “So Long Pal”/”Too Late to Worry” are the rare record industry examples of what was called a two-sided hit, as well, where both sides of a release made number one.

#7: “Straighten Up and Fly Right” by The King Cole Trio

We all know Nat King Cole now, but back in the early days, he was still part of what was called the King Cole Trio, which was built around his piano playing with bassist Wesley Prince and guitarist Oscar Moore. This particular song was written by Cole, with Irving Mills, and built off stories Cole had heard as a kid, where his preacher father had used black folk tales of a buzzard giving different animals rides, and a classic trickster monkey almost choking the buzzard to death. The song was one of Cole’s first breakout vocal performances, and spent ten weeks at number one on the Harlem Hit Parade list, as well as six weeks on the Juke Box Folks Records list. The piano solo is sick as shit too. I knew Nat King Cole had that smooth as voice but I guess I’d never been exposed to how ill he was on the keys too.
Strangely, The Andrews Sisters released a version of this song as well, which has got to sound insane, with this story and these lyrics, but I’m not bothering to seek it out to hear. I’ve got eight decades of country music to work through already.

#8: “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” by Louis Jordan

Jordan gets his second country number one with “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”, which sat in the top spot for five weeks in the summer of 1944. It’s similar in title and melody to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson singing “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t” in the 1932 film Harlem is Heaven, but the lyrics are different, and the melody – though similar – veers far enough away, Louis Jordan and Billy Austin got the writing credits for it. Jordan’s backing band at the time was called His Tympany Five. This particular song is probably most famous in our modern consciousness as being sung by Tom the cat in a Tom & Jerry short cartoon. It’s also the last song performed by a black artist before Billboard broke the Juke Box Folk Records list into separate versions for black folks and hillbillies, in February of the following year. There’s a brief guitar pop at the beginning of this song that was decades ahead of schedule, sounding like a 1960s rock blast. Between this and the Nat King Cole piano solo, it’s no wonder the list was segregated, so that vanilla shit like Al Dexter wasn’t made irrelevant.
“Women are creatures” is a lyric in this song, which is a good time to lay out Jordan’s marital history. His first wife was a woman named Julia, who gave birth to a daughter shortly after their wedding, which turned out to not be Louis’s child. He then married a woman named Ida, who he stayed with for almost ten years, until she sued him for bigamy in 1943. Jordan claimed she knew he was already married though, but Jordan had to pay her $30,000. She started billing herself as a performer as Mrs. Louis Jordan, but Jordan put a stop to that by putting a stop to her payments on that court settlement. His third wife was a childhood sweetheart named Fleecie (about as true-sounding Arkadelphia, Arkansas, name as one could have). Fleecie figured out Louis was having an affair with a dancer named Vicky, so attacked him with a knife. He married Vicky in 1951, but they separated in 1960. His last wife Martha, another dancer, was sealed in 1966. He had a shitload of tax problems, and didn’t have writing credits for many of his biggest songs, with Fleecie, the wife who stabbed him, having writing credits on a lot of them, to avoid a previous publishing deal Jordan had signed. Fleecie kept ownership of the songs after the divorce. And on the other side of that is Bill Doggett, former Tympany Five pianist, who says he wrote one of Jordan’s biggest pre-hot singles list songs, “Saturday Night Fish Fry”, but Jordan took writing credits. The record industry has always been shady as fuck. But all these women problems and relationships are probably best summed up by this fact, for Louis Jordan, the Arkadelphia, Arkansas, country boy musician who traveled the country off his musical talents. He died in Los Angeles, but was buried in St. Louis, Missouri, because that was where the family of his last wife Martha was from. I’m sure if ol’ Louis got buried too close to anyone who could shimmy their bone hips, he’s probably done talked enough shit to get a sixth wife in the Mt. Olive Cemetery by now.

#9: “Soldier’s Last Letter” by Ernest Tubb

Ernest Tubb, aka The Texas Troubadour, was a longtime music star, and pioneer of the country music sound. This particular song is a story about a mother who lost her son in the war – highly relevant as World War II had been raging for years by this point. The mom just wants all the sons protected, and “God keep America free”. This is our first example of the jingoistic effect of country music, supporting the war causes of the nation. It’s weird to hear to my 21st Century ears, having been radicalized against this empire by the greed and avarice of the wealthy, but not surprising that a music industry heavyweight who was well-established by 1944 would drop such a song. It gets worse though.

#10: “Smoke on the Water” by Red Foley

Red Foley was just another Kentucky country boy, born in Blue Lick, who won a talent contest, and stumbled into hosting old radio “barn dance” style shows. He made the transition into TV as well, as that format developed, and actually has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – one for his music career, and one for his television career. But this song, which was considered a patriotic anthem of the time, with 13 weeks at number one, is just a scorched Earth ode to destroying all enemies. Foley’s voice has swagger, which makes lyrics about killing off the rising sun, with “nothing left for the buzzards” creepily enjoyable as music, not as content. The song itself was written by Zeke Clements, a western musician known as The Dixie Yodeler. But Foley’s version was a smash hit, solidifying Foley’s career. In fact, off the strength of this military might jingle, Foley actually became the first person to record in Nashville, at WSM-AM’s Studio B. By 1946, he had moved to Nashville, and was hosting Grand Ole Opry segments on the radio.
I can’t even begin to explain how fucked this song is though, in retrospect. I mean, I guess we had clearly delineated good guys and bad guys at that point, but fuck, lovingly singing about the complete annihilation of other people is a bit jarring.

#11: “I’m Wastin’ My Tears on You” by Tex Ritter

What could knock a war anthem off the top spot in late 1944? How about Jack Tripper’s dad complaining about being in love with a woman who just don’t give a fuck? Tex Ritter had long been a radio and movie star, but this was his first actual country number one single. Years later, in the same Billboard magazine that compiled these lists, he said this song was where he reached his sound that locked him as a star. The song itself is post-colonial pop cultural romanticizing of the settler-colonial pioneer spirit – lots of guns and being out on the range. But Tex fell in love with a wild woman who won’t reciprocate those feelings no more. So he’s being a rhythmic sad sack of shit about it.

#12: “I’m Losing My Mind Over You” by Al Dexter

Well, lookie-here, it’s fucking Al Dexter again. This was his third single, and technically fifth release, since both those other ones were double-sided hits. “I’m Losing My Mind Over You” repeated that feat, sitting in the number one spot for six weeks, after Ritter’s previous number one had done the same. It’s actually interesting to hear this right after the Tex Ritter song, because it’s basically the exact same song, except Dexter’s is a shittier version of the same story, and he’s too refined to use a colloquial apostrophe. The break is formulaic as fuck, but I guess it works, because other than “Pistol Packin’ Mama”, this is probably the most personally palatable of Dexter tracks I heard. The B-side of this, “I’ll Wait For You Dear”, only made it two number two, breaking that string of double-sided hits, and hopefully putting an end to me listening to Al Dexter songs, forever.

#13: “There’s a New Moon Over My Shoulder” by Jimmie Davis

Jimmie Davis wrote this song, with two others, and it was the B-side to Tex Ritter’s “I’m Wastin’ My Tears On You”. Somehow it was Davis’s version that cracked the number one slot in March of 1945. The Davis version has awkward pacing, but does drop some serious new moon knowledge. I’m not sure how often I’ve heard dudes talking about new moons in real life in recent memory. There’s a wonderfully jaunty piano solo, followed by a touch of sad steel guitar, and then some of that whiny horn that always makes you think of a dude moving a toilet plunger on the end of it. But ultimately, Davis is still counting the moons since a woman left him, sleeping in a lonely house, and the dumbass needs to move on. He needs some 1945 Tinder.

#14: “Shame on You” by Spade Cooley

Spade Cooley was a Cherokee/white mixed man born in Oklahoma, but schooled at an Indian school in Oregon. His family was part of the Okie migration to California during the Dust Bowl in the ‘30s, and Cooley found his way into big bands there, developing a western swing style, while working under Jimmy Wakely as part of His Western Band. “Shame On You” is a song of a condemnation for an unfaithful girlfriend, written by Cooley, recorded in December of 1944, and Cooley’s first time taking over Wakely’s band. The song bounced on and off the number one spot from March through July of 1944, I guess with so many men being off at the war against their own free will, the idea of a cheating ass woman being chastised horribly a popular theme in the moment.
Interesting side note – this was the first song whose rights were owned by Hill & Range publishing, which ended up being a dominant force in country music, including owning most all of Elvis Presley’s country music recordings. Cooley himself ended up starring in a large number of western movies, having a ruggedly handsome look that translated well to the screen. He ended up marrying a singer in his band named Ella Mae Evans. Both had had their own affairs over the years, always distrusting the other. In March of 1961, Ella Mae admitted to a friend that she’d had an ongoing affair with Roy Rogers almost a decade earlier, but still while married to Cooley. She asked Spade for a divorce, and they filed for it, with Spade filing for custody of their three children. About a week later though, in front of their oldest child, Melody, Spade beat Ella Mae’s head against the floor, stomped on her, and then crushed a lit cigarette against her skin to confirm she was dead. He told the cops she fell in the shower, but he was charged with murder, and his career was ended. He was scheduled to be paroled in February of 1970, and because of that (and probably as part of it as well), he got a 72-hour furlough in November of 1969, around Thanksgiving, to play a sheriffs association benefit in Oakland. During the intermission, he had a heart attack and died backstage. At least he died outside of prison though. Maybe he planned it that way all along. I kinda hate Spade Cooley though, because this song is judgmental as fuck, and even more so when you realize the singer ended up murdering his wife 16 years later.

#15: “Smoke on the Water” by Bob Wills

I guess Red Foley’s raw version wasn’t good enough for America’s end of war efforts, so the music industry pulled out all the polished guns, to get Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, to drop a super-produced, smiley-faced version of the scorched Earth anthem, to really rally everybody around the flag, and hydrogen bomb, and TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF ALL OUR ENEMIES ON THIS EARTH. So this became a number one song in April of 1945, complete with a woman background singer who drops these weird ad-lib hype syllables here and there. The song doesn’t sound as completely fucked as Foley’s version, because it’s so goddamned happy sounding. And boy does Bob Wills really ramp it up on that last verse.

#16: “At Mail Call Today” by Gene Autry

Gene Autry’s peak was before the music industry rolled out, but his role as a cowboy movie star helped create the country music industry. “At Mail Call Today” was his lone number one on the Juke Box Folk list, and is a sad ass song about a soldier getting a Dear John letter from his cheating ass partner back home. By this point, Autry was in autopilot though, and as my girlfriend pointed out, the song rides that “On Top of Old Smoky” melody, to a painfully slow pace. Like this song made me want to die it was so slow. Pop music is only about three minutes long, but this felt eternal. My girlfriend’s hound dog was sleeping on the floor, and appeared to be running in his dreams. Initially we thought this was a sign of endorsement, but by the end of the forever-and-a-half three minutes, we realized Hank the hound dog was probably just trying to get away from the sounds sneaking into his peaceful subconscious state.

#17: “Stars and Stripes of Iwo Jima” by Bob Wills

I think I forgot to mention previously about Bob Wills how he looks like Phil Hartman and Troy McClure combined. His face is about as manufactured as a black-and-white face can get. This song shot to the top of the charts for a single week, not even two months after the actual Battle of Iwo Jima took place, and about a month before Emperor Hirohito signed the surrender papers. It’s interesting how the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima is the visual legacy of ending World War II, not the rubble of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (also about a month away when this was number one). The mythology of the first helped justify the literal scorched Earth of the second. So of course Bob Wills was singing this one.
It’s also weird to think of America in the context of world geopolitics now, because there are no outright good or bad guys anymore – just these blurred lines. I guess as Howard Zinn said, history is told by the winners, so if there was another world conflict, whoever won would have their own version of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. But it’s also interesting in the context of how everybody was like “what the fuck?” when Toby Keith turned into the knucklehead war anthem guy after 9/11. There was a historical precedent for that in country music – we just hadn’t had any cause that seemed as outright justified since World War II really. Korea and Vietnam had unclear justifications, and ended up being quagmires to one extent or another.
Also strangely, this song slid into number one, but was preceded and followed by Autry’s “At Mail Call Today”, which means folks (lol, literally) had this pro-American anthem slide up in the middle of thinking about some woman giving up on her man who was off fighting the war. But also of note is the weird howling woman background singer in Bob Wills’ band, who has even more of a weird role in this song. With Wills being as polished and produced as music could get at that time, this crazy woman with weird ad-lib hype howls is very intriguing to me. To be honest, I am wondering about her vagina hairs.

#18: “Oklahoma Hills” by Jack Guthrie

“Oklahoma Hills” bounced in and out of number one for six weeks total, and was proclaimed Oklahoma’s official Folk Song at one point. Writing credits are complicated, because both the famous Woody Guthrie, as well as this singer, Jack, who was Woody’s cousin, have writing credits. The two of them moved with their family to California during the Dust Bowl, and had a radio show called Oke & Woody Show. “Oke” was Jack’s nickname, a highly unoriginal one for an Okie moved to California. This particular song, in our current woke politics state, is obviously problematic, with a cowboy riding his pony around the Indian reservation, “a cowboy’s life is my occupation” which could be seen as meaning an actual occupation, like Palestine. Nonetheless, Woody became well-known as more of a folk singer, with a certain anti-establishment bent. Jack, however, reworked the lyrics to this one, and made a western swing track out of it, which became the most famous version of the song. Perhaps because of this,  even though the story is Woody actually wrote the song, Jack has been given co-writing credits because his version of it became the most popular and known.
The song itself, though dated, and weird politically knowing what we know about indigenous history in American, isn’t that bad. Jack Guthrie has an honest-sounding twang, and is going all in on the song, not sounding mailed in like Bing Crosby or Al Dexter would, most likely because he has personal history with the song, both in its composition as well as actually being a cowboy from Oklahoma. As this song became a hit though, Jack was actually in the army and stationed in the Pacific. Once he got out of the service, he came back and tried to live off the fame of this, recording more music and touring the west coast, but he died in 1948 from tuberculosis.

#19: “You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often” by Tex Ritter

Tex Ritter hits the top spot again, with another song about having a cheating partner, and having to “turn you loose” because of that, with the nice double entendre of looseness. This feels like a shittier version of his earlier cheating ass number one from this list. The lyrics have a really great flow to them, but his delivery feels horrible, far too slow and dragging. This song was actually the first number one country hit written by a woman though – Jenny Lou Carson – who off the strength of this song hitting number one, became one of country music’s most prolific songwriters in the decade after. Very interesting to realize, as women performers didn’t really breakaway into their own stardom at this point, that this type of song – about the unfaithful partner – would be written by a woman, but repackaged with a male performer. The song spent a total of 11 weeks at number one, from late summer through Thanksgiving, 1945.

#20: “With Tears in My Eyes” by Wesley Tuttle

“With Tears in My Eyes” was Wesley Tuttle’s one and only number one song, with a switch on the cheating woman story. This time, the singer was the cheater, and the woman up and left him because she found out. So ol’ Wesley is laying there, crying, because he lost his love.
Tuttle was born and raised in California, and was most famous for being one of the dudes that did the yodeling for the dwarfs in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He’d learned music early on in life, but when he was six, while helping his dad in a California butcher shop, he got his right hand stuck in a meat grinder. The accident took all but his thumb and pinkie on his right hand, so had to learn how to play left-handed. He was only the third country musician to be signed to Capitol Records, after Jack Guthrie and Tex Ritter, and he got himself a $300 prosthetic hand for a publicity photo at the time. “But I never did use it again. I still have it, but my dog has chewed on it pretty bad,” he said years later. If that ain’t country, you can kiss my ass.
Fittingly, this song actually sounds almost suicidal, except there’s an extra jaunty piano solo in there, which switches it from “I’m going to kill myself” to “fuck it, let’s have another beer.” This song, and the tradition it is part of, is why America is so drunk.

#21: “Shame on You” by Red Foley and the Lawrence Welk Orchestra

Spade Cooley’s “Shame on You” made a one-week second stint at number one, this time with the full polish and production of country music superstar Red Foley being backed by the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. That pairing of early music luminaries also did a version of “At Mail Call Today” on the B-side. The extreme judgmental overuse of the word “shame” is even more noticeable in this blanched re-working of the violence-prone Spade Cooley’s original. But it also makes me wish there was a Lawrence Welk-style orchestra to rework today’s big obscene hits, although I guess that’s what Disney Radio does. Does Disney Radio even still exist?

#22: “Sioux City Sue” by Dick Thomas

A strange country song about a dude driving cattle from Nebraska, but gets involved with a woman called “Sioux City Sue”, which seems odd because she actually lives in Sioux City, Iowa, which is not all that small a place. Why would you refer to yourself as the place you live in, when you are still there? I could understand being Sioux City Sue if you were in like Chicago, or St. Paul. But she’s still in Sioux City, Iowa, calling herself Sioux City Sue. Or maybe the singer is just stupid. But she also had red hair and blue eyes, which is a combination I fear in people to be honest. Even weirder to me is, I guess the cattle all got slaughtered, but this dude is just hanging around Sioux City still, roping and branding Sue instead. Doesn’t he have to go back to work again? How’s he gonna provide for this woman he’s treating like uncooperative cattle? But then Dick Thomas just starts yodeling like a madman, leaving all these questions unanswered.

Thomas wrote the music, and a guy named Ray Freedman wrote the lyrics. It was Thomas’s only number one, and Gene Autry sang it in his first movie he made after the war. Bing Crosby even dropped a version of it by the end of the year, which hit number three on the pop charts. The song became a country music standard, but leaves a lot of unanswered logistical questions to this day.

#23: “It’s Been So Long Darling” by Ernest Tubb

Ernest Tubb is back with his second number one song, another painfully slow ditty. The highlight of the song for me is when Tubb goes “do it pretty, Jimmy” and whoever Jimmy is comes in with a nice woeful steel guitar solo that briefly relieves the listener of the misery of Tubb’s screwed but not chopped vocals that drag the life out of the song. I wanted the rest to just be one long ass period of Jimmy doing it pretty, but nope, we get more Ernest Tubb, over and over, like three verses too many. Somehow it spent four weeks as the top Juke Box Folk Song of America. I am burned the fuck out on this old ass country music too.

#24: “Silver Dew on the Blue Grass Tonight” by Bob Wills

Bob Wills’ third number one was actually the B-side to an instrumental release called “Texas Playboy Rag”. It spent three weeks at number one at the end of 1945/beginning of 1946. This song has a pretty great musical structure, leading me to believe The Texas Playboys were probably a pretty great group, as Bob Wills seemed to have an unlimited budget back then. I kinda wanna look up the “Texas Playboys Rag” but I’m not going to. No need to further indoctrinate myself with American mythologies through ancient country folk musics. The weird backing woman singer does an extra Jerry Clower-esque “ahhh haa” yell that every rural American with an Appalachian background in their sperm or ovarian genetic history knows how to do. And the guitar part with the hook is actually good too. The whole thing worked so well I didn’t even realize it was another war anthem until too late.

A fitting ending to our first case of country number ones – accidentally being indoctrinated with reverence for America’s might. It’s also somewhat fitting that the actual country music industry, as measured in a hot singles chart, was born as the last World War ended, conditioning us collectively through popular culture. I’ve got 75 years left to get to the present day, and hard to say how fast I can tolerate doing these cases of number ones. Definitely suffering a hangover after this first case.

F34RS 0F CR1M1N0L0GY...

 

fears of criminology 
not as real as getting left 
behind in abandoned towns 

Sunday, October 11

SONG OF THE DAY: Sunday Afternoon (Slowed & Dro'ed)


No comment. God knows there's far too many comments on this digital earth.

CH3CK-T0-CH3CK M4TH 34S1LY...

 

check-to-check math easily 
ignored by exploring 
your local microcosms 

Saturday, October 10

SC4TT3R1NG D1RTG0D TH0VGHT S33DS...

 

scattering dirtgod thought seeds 
along my weekly routine's 
wandering indirect path 

Friday, October 9

TH3 W4Y 1T 0NC3 W4S 41N'T H0W...

the way it once was ain't how 
it's always gonna be; can't 
do shit but adjust, let go 

Thursday, October 8

SONG OF THE DAY: Tevez


People are complaining about “these linebackers” and shit like that on my timelines again, and it’s an annual seasonal reminder of how thankful I am I gave up the American football for the world’s football. 45 dudes mostly standing around, running head first into each for about 11 minutes over an almost four hour commercial-heavy mind-numbing suck at a screen? Like they hardly do shit the whole time, and yet somehow still obliterate their own brains. Is there anything more American? Extract all physical usefulness out of these young men in a small window of their prime physical years and leave the empty physical remnants walking around the Earth afterwards, broke more often than wealthy off the whole deal, like human slag piles from mining operations.
You know how much fucking money good soccer players get paid? And that there’s literally a slew of domestic markets around the world, with a variety of clubs within each of those markets, that would play for your services if you were good? And that you don’t give yourself CTE? I think America’s development of soccer should be based around that shit more, with youth from more marginal backgrounds, because there’s a fucking HUGE opportunity to actually get paid, with far less destruction of your own body.
Look at Carlos Tevez. Born in Buenos Aires, with a giant burn scar on his neck from getting scalded with boiling water as a kid. Shit his whole story is wild, because he was born Carlos Martinez, but ended up taking on his adopted father’s surname in some sort of dispute between his original childhood club, All Boys, and the infamous Boca Juniors, whom his family signed him with when he was 13. At Boca Juniors, he became a star. This is one of Argentina’s biggest two clubs, along with River Plate. River is sort of the club of the bourgeoisie, while Juniors is the club of the people, and was where the legend of Diego Maradona was born in the decades past. Tevez was featuring for Boca Juniors senior club at the age of 17, and it wasn’t long before he was sold to a wealthier Brazilian club for a season, then off to the deep coffers of the English Premier League, where he spent a single season with West Ham before moving onto stints at both major Manchester clubs, with two seasons at United before making the rare jump to heated rivals and playing four for Manchester City. He absolutely lit up the Premier League his first two season with them, with 52 goals over all competitions those first two seasons in the powder blue. All told, he got over a hundred goals in Manchester, at both clubs, before transferring for a couple of seasons to Italy’s premier club, Juventus, and another high profile gig.
All this time, he remained a wild spirit from Buenos Aires, never having to hide his feral side too much, and refusing to ever get cosmetic surgery to cover that burn scar. For the most part since 2015, he’s played back in Argentina for Boca Juniors, one of the highest paid players in South America. You can’t even say it was past his prime, because he got 29 goals in Italian and continental competition for Juventus his last season for them, strong numbers for a striker entering his 30s. And though he did play for a huge paycheck for part of 2017 in China, he’s been back at Boca Juniors since then, and is key to their Copa Libertadores efforts this season. They’d looked like they might not make the knockout stages, due to Covid wracking the club roster, and their aging manager actually even managing matches virtually, believe it or not, due to his high risk status to the virus. But Boca still looks to be moving forward, and that’s in no small part due to Carlos Tevez’s 36-year-old ass straight up stalking the pitch, as fierce as ever.
And while Tevez is certainly not a political figure, at least not in any respectable sort of way, it’s hard not to compare that life trajectory of person through sport to Colin Kaepernick, for the sake of argument between American football and world football. Tevez was 3 when Kaep was born. As Tevez made his name known as a young star in South America for Boca Juniors and Corinthians, Kaepernick became a multi-sport athlete of some exception in California. From 2006-2010, Tevez moved onto England, to bigger contracts from West Ham to Man United, from Man United to Man City. Kaepernick, by American football’s design, spent five years as a student-athlete, with the diminutive financial benefits that come with that system, at University of Nevada.
From 2011-2016, Tevez continued to get paid as one a league superstar, in England, then Italy, and then returned home to Argentina as that nation’s domestic league’s biggest star in a number of years. A hero returned home. This same period saw Kaepernick battle his way to being the starter for the San Francisco 49ers, be condemned as not an elite QB, despite favorable statistics in two playoff runs in 2012 and 2013, and then get cast aside after a couple of rough seasons as star player on a team of 45 human beings, which also involved some high profile acts of protest which the NFL didn’t appreciate at all. There was no other league to go to though, no other country to go be a star in, no right to work anywhere else. So while Tevez has soaked in the adulation of his native Argentina, and become an absolute all-time legend at Boca Juniors, and even mixed in a well-compensated vacation to Shanghai, China, Kaepernick has been on ice, unable to get anything more than a performative NFL tryout after American police killed so many black men, the league felt guilty enough to capitalize on woke marketing to stage a Kaepernick workout.
So on one hand you have a sport that’s incredibly destructive, with a limited market for making money for yourself if you get good at it, where if you piss the bosses off, you’re locked out forever. On the other hand, you have a worldwide sport with literally layers and layers of pyramids where so long as you can still play to a certain level, and once you have made your name, you can find somewhere to get paid. And it’s physically demanding, like any sport is going to be, but you’re not obliterating your own ability to think, at least not with the sport itself. Why the fuck would you want to choose that shit for your kids? Why the fuck would you want to keep supporting it by watching it?
I guess mostly, it’s tradition. People in America grew up watching American football, so we continue to throw good brains after bad. But I understand. Why do anything less self-destructive and better for you if nobody did it before you? It’s better to run straight into that wall of seasonal anger and alcohol-fueled madness, because that’s all you know, yelling at TV screens during endless commercial breaks, where the last two minutes lasts for half an hour. All for nothing. Meanwhile, I’m feeling good on my wild lettuce tincture, enjoying high quality Copa Libertadores matches on a Thursday night, where that shit is signed, sealed, and delivered well within two hours. And usually, when it gets to South American club football knockout stages, you get a couple good fights in those last added minutes too, to get you hyped up as it ends. America is fucking cancelled in my opinion. We can’t even do toxic machismo in an enjoyable way.