Thursday, April 17, 2008

When Cultures Collide

Many years ago, on New Year's Eve in San Francisco, I had received a phone call from an ex from high school. When I say ex, I mean that in the loosest term of the word. He and some friends were in town and wanted to stop by. I hadn't talked to him in a few years but I figured, what the hell. In two years since moving to San Francisco, I had gone from heavy metal girl to punk rock girl. I had short hair, a retro sweater, and most likely skinny jeans. These guys showed up with all their long flowing hair, platform boots and elephant-sized bell-bottoms intact. They greeted me with devil signs.

Then one of them asked to borrow my roommate's 60s-era hollow-body bass for a few moments. "Do you mind if I play?" he asked politely. I said, sure, go ahead, expecting a nice musical interlude. He crouched on the floor in the hallway and proceeded to speed-metal his way through the gnarliest solo ever attempted on an unplugged imitation Hofner bass. It sounded like this: DUH DUHNUH DUH! DUH DUNUH DUH! DUNNUH duh DUNNUH duh DUNNUH DUH DUH!!! at machine-gun pace.

"Well, what are you boys up to tonight?" I managed to stammer. They were all headed to the beach with a case of cold Budweiser. There were a bunch of girls waiting in the car. Would I like to come along? I excused myself with a headache and watched them decend to places beyond. Then I headed to the Hotel Utah and saw The Mutants play Twisted Thing, New Drug, Insect Lounge, and Opposite World to a tiny room stuffed full of freaks. Oh, and I was on acid at the time.

This is a fine example of When Cultures Collide. Lucio recently inspired this idea when he sent me this video of the Finnish band, The Leningrad Cowboys, playing alongside the Soviet Red Army Choir. The song: Sweet Home Alabama. This is but one example (there are more below). It's kind of like the Star Wars cantina bar scene concept of artistic collaboration. Everyone's coming from different directions, but once the music starts, we're all in it together.

Luciano Pavarotti and Grace Jones sing a duet at his fundraiser for Angola in 2002. When Grace Jones steps on a stage, reality goes on a bender.

Pavarotti liked to experiment. He once sang It's A Man's Man's Man's World with James Brown and it's actually quite moving. When cultures coincide.

Andy Gibb sings Thank Heaven For Little Girls on "Punky Brewster." This is the only episode of this show I ever watched and it still depresses me. There are definitely limits to what innate charm can accomplish.

The Standells perform Do The Ringo and I Want To Hold Your Hand in The Munster's living room. This is the only episode of "The Munsters" I ever watched from start to finish. I was really sensitive to canned laughter, even as a kid, especially when a show wasn't very funny. But I was enchanted by the disparate parts of this world all coming together on our television screen.

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