(Irma Thomas – It’s Too Soon To Know)
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.
(John Coltrane – India)
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.
(The Twistin’ Kings – Congo Twist Pt1)
Martin Luther King was quoted to have said
“No Victory without Sacrifice”
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
(Dee Clark – Raindrops)
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.
(John Lee Hooker – Boom Boom)
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
(Lavern Baker – Shake A Hand)
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.