musicology #359

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #26

(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.

musicology #358

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #25

(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.

musicology #357

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #24

(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

musicology #355

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #22

(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..

musicology #354

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #21

(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.

musicology #353

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #20

(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

musicology #351

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #18

(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.

musicology #350

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #17

(Betty James – I’m A Little Mixed Up)

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.

musicology #348

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #15

(Etta James & Harvey Fuqua – My Heart Cries)

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.

musicology #347

AlternativeSoundtrack #14

(Buddy Guy – First Time I Met The Blues)

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.

musicology #342

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #9

(The Coasters – Snake and The Bookworm)

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.

musicology #340

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #7

(John Lee Hooker – I’ll Know Tonight)

Our man Eddie wakes up from his short sleep at the bus station, sticks his bag in a locker there and heads back into NYC trying to decide what to do next..he hits a local bar and there in a booth, alone in an empty bar is the girl whose magnetism drew him to her at the Station..He buys her a drink and finds out that ‘Sarah’ is a ‘boozer’. Something about this lady intrigues and ‘attracts’ him but he only knows the “fast and loose” hustle so that’s the way he plays it..she clocks his small town play and initially declines his offer but as we are to find out later, birds with broken wings are a perfect match especially if they can help each other to become whole again.

The musicology is a 1960 slice borrowed from the LP ‘Travellin’ on Calvin and Vivian Carter’s Vee Jay label from the Inimitable John Lee Hooker, (featuring Lefty Bates, Sylvester Hickman and Jimmy Turner),with his unique combination of Delta and City blues perfected whilst drifting up from his birthplace near Clarksdale Missisippi through Memphis and eventually settling in Detroit.

musicology #339

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #6

(Sam Cooke – Cupid)

The Kid has been rolled over by Fats who showed him that not only does he who laugh last laughs longest but also that action speaks louder than words. Talent alone can get you ‘there’ but is not enough to keep you there, that takes character which comes only with experience. I doubt Eddie had been chewed up and spat out like that before…collapsing in a heap on the floor that a few hours ago he was parading around on like a king. That’s a long way to fall from “I’m the best there is” to begging Fats to play him for his last ‘bottle’…

One of the many things I like about this film is how it deals with some of the raw sides of human nature. There Isn’t a ‘nice’ character anywhere to be found, they are all Corrupt, Twisted and Crippled in some way, (like we all are), and when I watched it recently it was a touch painful to be honest..as I said at the start of the theme as a youngblood growing up on London’s mean streets themusicologist identified with the Fast Eddie character and although I was only young, still I saw and was involved in enough ‘experiences’ to gain some of the ‘Character’ that the film deals with. I was always in disagreement with the ‘respect your elders just because they are older than you’ ideology and found it hard, (especially with authority), to accept. I was young and foolish, (and happy..doo doo doo do do do do !!), and was brought up to value actions over words. The man to watch is the one who says nothing not the one who is shouting and gesticulating about what is going to be done at some future date. I was taught that by both the males and the environment that influenced my early life and it has often provided insight during some of my less salubrious moments. Anyway I’m rambling a bit so I’ll get back on the track..where was I…

Oh yeah, Eddie has taken a beating from Fats and after a short sleep in a hotel room abandons his partner Charlie and heads for the Bus Station. From across the room he spots a lone female and makes a move…Hustler style? I don’t know..I have always believed that people are like magnets and some we are drawn to while others repel us. Made more sense when a few years back I read a lot about Frequency and how every living entity has one. Naturally harmony would draw us to those who are ‘playing our tune’ so that together we could make sweet music. What draws the bee to the pollen, the horse to water and the man to the woman..frequency, so with that in mind, (as far as I’m concerned at least), ‘our man’ Eddie is drawn to this woman and he ‘makes a play’.

Sarah, played by Piper Laurie, (real name Rosetta Jacobs), sees it coming and makes it plain that she’s not interested in his advances. She answers him but doesn’t leave him any room in which to manoeuvre so he gets his ‘nut’ down, (sleeps), for a while and when he wakes she’s gone.

Todays cut is one of the great songs sung by one of the greatest singers of all time…Sam Cooke and even though we all know the tune inside out it still kicks arse..tough tune that I could never tire of. Make no mistake this piece epitomises Soul, a genre that wouldn’t have been the same without ‘The Lion’ blazing trails. I have been listening ALL day to music from 1960 and 1961 waiting for the right slice and as soon as I reached this one, (six hours later !!), it struck the right note..so here it is. Eddie doesn’t know it yet but ‘The arrow’ has flown straight into his heart.

musicology #337

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #4

(Jimmy Smith Trio – Jimmy’s Blues)

Fats has taken up the challenge from the young pretender and the battle hots up..first Fats on top and then for a while Eddie hits a winning streak which sees him reach his inital target of “Ten grand in one night” but rather than call it a night the kid fancies that “this table is mine” and in his naivite he gives his opponent the opportunity to carry on playing “Until Minnesota Fats says it’s over”.

I say naivite but in my experience ‘etiquette’ can and does play it’s part in ‘the game’ and offering the loser the chance to win his money back is, (or was in the games I played), accepted as an unwritten rule. Unless of course the Hustle is your business and then there are no unwritten rules.

During the contest George C. Scott enters the fray as Minnesota’s backer and we hear him ‘pipe up’ for the first time after watching Eddie and Fats going toe to toe for  hours but as we, (and Eddie) are soon to find out “the Race is not for the swift but for who can endure it”

The music is yet another slice of the 1961 pie but today it’s courtesy of Hammond Organ supremo ‘The Incredible’ Jimmy Smith and Trio freaturing Quentin Warren on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums…borrowed from a Blue Note session called ‘Straight Life’, (recorded by Rudy Van Gelder).

musicology #336

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #3

(The Triumphs – Burnt Biscuits)

It’s time to introduce the ‘Fat Man’ aka Minnesota Fats depicted in swaggering, nonchelant and fine style by Jackie Gleason.

Eddie has been ‘shooting stick’ in anticipation of Minnesota’s Arrival at 8 bells…Fat’s arrives and watches Eddie shoot, comments and ‘the game’ begins..

Just thought I would mention that Jackie Gleason shot pool regularly while growing up in New York and didnt need a stand-in so all his shots are his own…

The music is again from 1961, (trying as hard as I can to keep it tight), a Memphis Rhythm and Blues instrumental cut on the newly formed Volt label, a (subsidary of Stax), from a band called The Triumphs featuring Howard Grimes on drums, Marvell Thomas, (Rufus Thomas’s son), on the organ and piano, Lewis Steinberg on bass and the songs writer, original Stax engineer Chips Moman on guitar.