Final slice of the Alternative Hustler Soundtrack and it’s come down to the faceoff between Eddie and Bert. Yesterday’s slice heard Fats declare that Eddie was the new king of pool and Bert showed his true colours. Not that he has done much to conceal them but he hints that maybe it was his boys that broke Eddie’s thumbs and if he, (Bert), commands it his heavies will do more than that this time. But our man has learnt some character and is prepared to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to ensure that Sarah’s brings about a Victory over Bert, (who in my opinion represents the establishment).
Bert on the other hand is only really interested in ownership and money, he has said it throughout the film but what he hasn’t said is how much he envies those capable of showing true feelings and who are not chained by the evils of power and money. Classic Capitalist mentality trying to show that it’s wealth, greed and power that makes the world go round and not happiness, love and integrity, (character). I make no bones about it money and power don’t motivate themusicologist and never will. I have bills to pay and, more importantly, mouths to feed and there are some who may, (and do), call that irresponsible and obviously they are entitled to their opinion but integrity/character don’t come cheap and as with most things there is always a price to pay, (for everyone concerned). Fantastic interchange of dialogue and ideology between the antagonist, (Bert), and protaganist, (Eddie), in this scene that deserves mention. How none of the main actors received oscars for their performances is beyond reason and therefore must have been in some sense political.
The director Robert Rosen had integrity/character but ultimately it was shipwrecked on the rocks of so called ‘Democracy’ and he lost it. Which is not a judgement or criticism, (of Robert Rosen), more of an observation. For more insight into the facts of life it’s worth taking another listen to a slice featured earlier on this theme; Memphis Slim’s ‘Mother Earth’ (musicology #352)
Tough call the final cut..couple of options but going with my gut feeling it has to be this one from Irma Thomas with a slice of pure unaldultarated heart wrenching Soul, (with a capital S), A cover of the song made popular first by the Orioles and then by the irrepressible Dinah Washington a singer who set the standards for every female singer that followed. Rare to find a Dinah song covered that even comes close to her version but for themusicologist this one does. Also as far as I’m concerned it’s fitting that the final call belongs to a female in tribute to the character played by Piper Laurie and the answer, (posthumously), is a resounding Yes. Recorded and released in 1961 for and on the Minit label. Produced, (I imagine), by Allen Toussaint.
Penultimate slice of the Hustler ‘alternative’ finds our man having finally reached the peak of his game. No alcohol or bravado..just one man and his craft. Have to give George C Scott a special mention for his contribution on this scene..full of menace and vitriol as he tries one more time to ‘boss’ the kid...
The cut is a second one from mind blowing virtuoso John Coltrane whose command of the language is out of this world. Again let me state that I’m not a big fan of the genre but more than once when the ‘Trane has spoke themusicologist listens. For me it’s like he’s reaching beyond the boundries of tonality to deliver authentic spirit and even though I’m trying, words can’t do the Cat justice.
Recorded for Impulse in 1961 at New York’s Village Vanguard..another live performance that I would ‘give me right arm’ to have been present at and ably supported by Eric Dolphy, Roy Haynes, Reggie Workman and Ahmed Abdul-Malik. What has it got to do with The Hustler and themusicologist? in a word..synchronicity.
Well Sarah has made the Ultimate sacrifice and took her life..I think it was the philosopher Schopenhauer who said/wrote that suicide was a cowardly act and not one of bravery and much as I check for some of his philosophy as far as this act was concerned he was wrong. Sarah took her life for more reasons than one…Eddie. She sacrificed her body to Bert and in the process her heart to Eddie. Some might call that selfish but again they would be wrong. If you know the film, (and if not I hope the dialogue has provided some insight), you may agree that Eddie’s salvation was uppermost in Sarah’s heart and mind. ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson wasn’t cut out for the world in which he found himself…he thought he was but in reality he wasn’t. As Bert said “You’ve got to be hard Eddie” where what we meant to say is “You’ve got to be heartless Eddie” and he is right. There’s no room for ‘weakhearts’ in an environment like that you’ve got to be a killer and grind your opponent into the dust and when they plead for mercy you have to twist the knife harder and further and take no prisoners…and as far as I have read it, Eddie isn’t that kind of person. He just loves to play Pool. A few scenes ago when Eddie asked Sarah whether she thought he was a loser, (as Bert never stopped telling him), Sarah answered that he was a Winner because of the love and passion and childlike joy he got out of playing Pool at the top of his game. He retained the child and that is what made him a winner. Bert on the other hand for all his money and material possesions was twisted, crippled and alone and Sarah knew that. She is the film’s hero not Eddie and in this scene we hear him clarify that. All too late. Remember “No Victory without Sacrifice . If you want something chances are you have to make sacrifices…and very few of us are genuinely willing/able to do that….anyway enough of the philosophy and back to the action.
Eddie’s back at Ames Pool room, the place where it all began to unravel and he’s looking to take Fats on again. But this time he has a lot more to say…
Today’s music is an early Motown, (1961?) instrumental cut by a collective known here as ‘The Twistin Kings’. Who were they? I can only hazard a guess that it’s the same band who backed almost all the Motown artists from 1959 right through. None other than what became known, (after The Soul Brothers), as The Funk Brothers. Far too many Cats were a part of this collective to namecheck here but if they are listening they know who they are so I won’t even begin to list them
As yesterday’s slice of musicology pronounced…themusicologist is ‘A Little Busy’ at the moment so i’ll keep it brief. The dialogue today says it all. Eddie’s done his conkers and still hasn’t learnt any ‘character’, Bert still hasn’t learnt any compassion and Sarah, (who comes down to the arena unnoticed), learns that maybe Eddie is not the man of her ‘dreams’. Heart wrenching….
The music is courtesy of the majestic Delectus ‘Dee’ Clark whose voice is how I have always imagined an angels would sound. Yet another BIG mod/ernist dancehall classic, (and eary musicologist memory) from the dawn of a new era, (1961), and yet another on the Vee Jay label which between the years 1960 – 1962 did as much as any label to direct the new sound. Unfortunately that wasn’t backed up by artist renumeration and even though the record sold TWO million copies and hit #2 on the ‘Pop’ charts it signalled the end rather than the beginning for Dee who never scored another hit and ended up absolutely ‘pot-less’ in a Welfare motel in the 1980’s….Tragic.
But his memory lives on and the music he made is as good as it gets…So even though he is no longer with us…Dee this one’s in honour of you..
(Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – A Little Busy)
Apologies for the eleventh hour post yesterday..out grafting and got back late but had to throw one down to try and stay on track for what’s turning out to be the Hustler marathon..best part of a month will be taken up by this theme from the sounds of it but as the French are known to say Ces’t la vie or, (for all us Anglo Saxon speakers), in the words of Lord Creator ‘Such Is Life’, (watch and listen out for this cut…soon come).
Anyway enough of the interlude and on with the marat … story.
The trio are at the party and the two men are enjoying themselves, especially Eddie who is being admired by the ladies. Bert is slinking around like a snake in the grass waiting to pounce on Sarah who is back on the bottle in response to his and Eddie’s behaviour. As previously mentioned for Sarah alcohol is for numbing the pain, sound and fury of reality so all she can do is abstain totally or get hammered..no middle ground. Sarah notices Eddie in conversation with a female and as she is already drunk goes off in search of more medicine. Bert sees this as his time to pounce and makes what must be a sexual proposition. Sarah is disgusted and gives him the least that he deserves, a drink in the face and collapses in tears stopping the party. Eddie rushes over and asks what’s happening and Bert, (the low dog), lies and palms it off on Sarah being drunk.
Eddie, (the fool), takes his word for it and escorts her upstairs to lie down and sleep it off. It’s a painful scene to watch and has almost no dialogue so you’ll have to watch the film to see what I mean…
Today’s slice of the Hustler dialogue follows on with Eddie, Bert and Findlay retiring to the Billiard table to begin ‘the dance’… we are in to the meat and bones of the underlying tensions and, for me, true meaning of the film now and there are some harsh words said here which strip the characters bare as it builds up to the final countdown..
The music is courtesy of one of the most important figures in Be-bop. Drum legend, band leader and inspirational figure Art Blakey, featuring the ground breaking collective known as the Jazz Messengers, (Bobby Timmons, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan and Jymie Merritt)..wicked slice of Modernist Jazz from 1960 recorded for Blue Note.
Words have been spoken and the action begins again..The trio ‘hit the track’ and meet Findlay, (Eddie’s next opponent). Some banter goes down and ‘Fast’ Eddie wastes no time and cuts to the chase and proposes to take Findlay on in game of ‘pocket billiards’. Bert manages to put Eddie down with another mention of him being a loser but this time Eddie, (almost), lets it go. Findlay takes the bait and invites them all to a party that he is throwing. Sarah doesn’t fancy it but Burt insists and finishes the dialogue with a dig at the two lovebirds.
The music today is one that had to be slipped in somewhere on this theme and this is as good a time as any to release it. Classic piece of Rhythm & Blues from Mr John Lee Hooker…yet another MASSIVE mod/ernist stomper that never fails to get the Cats off their arse and on the floor to ‘Block’. The second piece in as many days on this theme recorded and released on and for the Vee Jay label which seemed to have it’s finger well and truly on the pulse during the transition from Blues with Rhythm to Rhythm and Blues with a side order of Soul.
One of themusicologists earliest memories of this kind of sound that still sounds as good and fresh as it always has which is something for a slice nearly 50 years old
Today’s dialogue is unique in that it’s the first piece that doesn’t feature Paul Newman. The trio have arrived in Kentucky and Eddie has sloped off to join some old pool hustling aquaintances he meets in the foyer of the hotel they are staying at. Bert has aquired two adjoining rooms, (much to Sarah’s disaproval), and the two of them are left to ‘stake their claim’ on the kid. Bert finishes the scene with menace, (the first time we have seen this side of him), leaving an impression that he is not as cool, calm and collected as he prentends to be………
The music today is quite simply one of the best slices known to man, woman, child or beast from the mouth and hands of the majestic Memphis Slim whose career stretched over many decades. Starting out playing ‘Jukes’ in the 1930’s and later in the decade hooked up with Big Bill Broonzy whom he backed on many sessions. He was also a major influence during the 1940’s in the development of what became known later as Rhythm & Blues but at the time was known as ‘Jump’….Have to cut it short here as I’m off to earn a crust and need to get my skates on !!!
After the emotional plea yesterday from Sarah, Eddie asks her to join him on the Kentucky trip. They meet up with Bert who tries to belittle her, (but doesnt succeed), and the three of them board the train…
The music today is from one of the great female Rhythm & Blues singers, Lavern Baker whose recording career begun 1n the late 1940’s but had some big hits in the 50’s with cuts like Tweedle Dee and Jim Dandy. This one from 1960 was recorded for and released on the Atlantic label.
So Eddie has taken Bert up on his offer and is planning a trip to Kentucky to get back on the Hustling trail. He takes Sarah out to a fancy restuarant to break her the news that he’s going away for a few days and it doesn’t go down too well. We pick up this soul searching piece of quality dialogue after they have returned to the apartment.
Today’s cut must have been made for this scene. A 1961 cut again from the Chess Records vaults but this time a slice of the emerging sound that fused Rhythm, Blues and Soul. Featuring a little known female singer by the name of Betty James. Big early Mod/ernist cut that had London’s young, (and not so young), Cats throwing tight shapes at clubs like the ‘Whiskey’, The Scene, The ‘Disc’ and The Marquee, (to name but four), from late at night until the early hours.
Still a week to go for this theme such is the amount of quality dialogue..so wasting no time today’s section features our man ‘back in the saddle’ after having the casts removed. Not sure how long this period would have been…month or two? anyway, during this time there would have been no pool, no hustling, no sharks..just Eddie and Sarah. Back into the frame steps Bert who notices Eddie’s new ‘bridge’ but doesn’t make too much fuss about it…
Eddie, (after having time to think), accepts Bert’s previous offer to become his manager and the ‘action’ is about to begin again.
The music is another slice of Hammond organ but this time it’s courtesy of ‘Brother’ Jack McDuff with a cut from his 1960 album ‘Brother Jack’ released on the Prestige label.
Today’s dialogue is especially poignant in as much as it offers an insight into not only the two characters, (Eddie & Sarah), but also a fundamental difference in the sexes. Don’t forget that this is 1961 and the dawn of a new era in the dialogue between man and woman. Sarah makes it as clear as crystal how she feels about Eddie leaving no ambiguity and he, (in time honoured fashion), tries to sidestep the issue but she reiterates her feelings and lets him know in no uncertain terms what she wants to hear him say.
The music is a beautiful piece of Soul from two great singers both of whom have already featured on themusicologist, Etta James and, (her husband at the time), Harvey Fuqua with yet another slice of the Chess records pie, (as influential as any label in the development of what is now known as ‘Urban’ music). Recorded and released in, yep you guessed it, 1961 and featured on Etta’s fantastic album ‘At Last’. Arranged by musicologist Riley Hampton.
After taking an old school battering as well as having his thumbs broken by the roughnecks who didn’t take kindly to his hustle Eddie turns up back at Sarahs apartment looking like he’s been ten rounds with Cassius Clay. She takes pity on the kid and wants to take care of him. Some women are funny that way…or is it just the mothering instinct? ..all the bravado and ‘front’ has gone and we catch a glimpse of the boy behind the man. If youve been there you know how it feels.
The music today is yet another slice of the Chess Blues pie but this time from guitar virtuoso George ‘Buddy’ Guy whose influence has spread far and wide touching almost every guitar player that followed; Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton have all cited Guy as a major inspiration, (especially Hendrix who was known to cancel concerts to go and hear Guy play). His stage antics are legendary which according to the man himself were inspired by, (at the age of 13), seeing Guitar Slim perform in 1949.
Today’s dialogue is from the scene where ‘the kid’ hustles in the ‘wrong kind of place’ disregarding Bert’s ominous warning. If you’ve seen the film you may remember it as the bit where he comes unstuck. For me this is where the film really begins to deal with the human condition in post modern society.
The music is courtesy of one of the greatest Rhythm & Blues practitioners to have ever graced the Earth, stage and studio the inimitable Chester Burnett otherwise known as ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ with a 1961 cut released on the Chess Label. Also featuring Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Willie Dixon, (Producer and Songwriter), on bass, Memphis Slim?, piano and Sam ‘Shuffle Master’ Lay on drums…Rhythm and Blues at it’s finest.
On today’s piece of dialogue we hear the return of George C Scott, (Bert the Headhunter). Having stormed out of Sarah’s apartment Eddie finds and sits down at a poker table where he loses 20 bucks, he leaves and happens apoun ‘Bert’ in a local bar. The ‘Headhunter’ buys him a drink and proceeds to tell him in no uncertain terms where he went wrong the other night and offers Eddie a chance to take another shot at Minnesota Fats…. But this time with him as the backer. Eddie refuses due to Bert’s percentage demand and gets an ominous warning to be careful where he tries the Hustle…
The music is courtesy of Ernesto Antonio, ‘Tito’ Puente, Jr aka ‘El Ray’, (The King), prolific Latin Jazz/Mambo percussionist and extraordinary Timbales player who is credited with bringing the music of South America into the ‘mainstream’. This one is taken from his 1960 album Tamba and also features, (among others), Ray Barretto.
Today’s dialogue features Eddie and Sarah almost at each other’s throats. As mentioned yesterday the way Eddie spat Charlie out has left it’s mark on Sarah who has hit the bottle again to try and numb the pain. Alcohol is a problem for Eddie too but not in the same way. For him it’s ‘fuel’ but for Sarah it’s ‘medicine’. I don’t get the impression that he thinks of his consumption as a problem, (the film portrays their reliance on alcohol completely differently), but is all too quick to conclude that for her it is. Anyway in this scene Sarah’s drunk, (it was he who got her back on the bottle at the end of the previous scene), Eddie isn’t and words are spoken, culminating in Eddie giving her a hard slap. Sarah comes back with a scathing response, (one of the best lines of dialogue in the film for me), and Fast Eddie leaves.
Todays’ cut is from a Cat, (with a capital C), whose musical prescence and command of the language is as good as it gets. Must admit that ‘Jazz’ from this period is not generally one of my musical passions but on more than one occasion the ‘Trane has blown my mind with his melodic originality and ability to communicate the message…..The piece also features Eric Dolphy, Reggie Workman, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones.
Garvin Bushell, Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Jimmy Garrison were on the session which was recorded in 1961, (live), at New York’s famed ‘Vanguard Village’ but I don’t know enough about the players or the instruments to discern whether they were involved on this particular Jam. (Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder for Impulse).
On today’s slice of dialogue we hear the return of Eddie’s former partner Charlie who has tracked him down and wants to go back on the road hustling. Eddie doesn’t want to know and the truth comes out that he is planning on taking Minnesota Fats on again. Sarah is silent throughout the dialogue between them but sees a new, (to her at least), ruthless side to Eddie that hits her hard and during the conversation Eddie spits Charlie out showing a heart as cold as Ice which leads her to the painful conclusion that the ‘good times’ are over…
The musicology is courtesy of legendary Blues pianist and long time Muddy Waters cohort Otis Spann with a cut taken from a 1960 session featuring Robert Lockwood Jr on guitar and St Louis Jimmy on vocal duties.
Not even half way through the film yet so looks like themusicologist is in for the long haul. I promised myself after the 12AngryMen alternativesoundtrack that I would relax the rule of only throwing down music from the year the film was released but on reflection feel that the harmonies involved are too compelling so as a compromise for The Hustler I’m restricting the music to the year the film was released, (1961), and the year preceeding it…1960.
Today’s piece of dialogue features Eddie and Sarah after having spent the last few days together. Not sure whether our man has been hustling during this time but if he has there’s no mention of it. Maybe they have found what they have both been looking for…someone to share a life with? that’s the way I’m reading it anyway.
The music is a piece of ‘Rock and Roll’ from one of the great vocal groups The Coasters, (this line up features Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Cornell Gunter, Will “Dub” Jones and Albert “Sonny” Forriest), whose star, along with Rock and Roll’s was beginning to fade. Soul was stepping up to take it’s place because Rock and Roll was considered to have corrupted the nation’s youth !! but music is too powerful to control and what seemed at the time to be a more soothing sound was beginning to capture the attention of ‘the new breed’ who would take it on and use it to communicate a more powerful, (and popular), message of freedom and equality.
The G20 ‘conference’ has disrupted my plans making it impossible to go out to work today so I’m directing my energies in other directions.
Today’s slice of the Alternative Hustler pie finds Eddie and Sarah together after their first night of passion. Not, I hasten to add, following on from yesterday’s piece of the action where she knocks him back for being ‘too hungry’. That night didn’t end up the way Eddie planned it so the next day he trys to hustle and finds his reputation has already spread around town making it difficult. He manages to find a dive where no-one knows him and makes a few bucks, returns to the bus station, (without knowing exactly why), and after a while Sarah arrives. She looks at him and without speaking they head off, arms entwined to her apartment…
The cut is another Town Hall/Dancehall early mod classic but this time from original girl group The Shirelles. (Shirley Owens, Alston Reeves, Doris Coley Kenner Jackson, Addie Harris McPherson, and Beverly Lee). The song was written by Carol King and Gerry Goffin with Luther ‘Strings’ Dixon producing. Recorded and released on Florence Greenberg’s Scepter label in 1960 it was the first song by an all girl group that hit #1 ushering in a new musical era that came to be known as ‘Soul’.