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September 2017 Issue
August 2017
JAZZIZ July Issue

Lu Olutosin

No Static At All

by Michael Fagien

Like his brother, Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World), Sir Julian Huxley was also a noted writer. He explored quirky topics, including a sci-fi piece, published almost 100 years ago, wherein he depicts a character who discovers that metal foil caps can be used to block external waves of influence and protection from “mind control beams.” Since then, tin foil hats (now made of aluminum foil) are occasionally referenced to mock people who indulge in paranoid behavior, supernatural and paranormal beliefs, and conspiracy theories.

If I sound too dismissive of this headgear, let me say that there is some real science here. The fundamentals to detect and block electromagnetic radiation were probably taught in your high school science class. Where it gets a bit sketchy, to say the least, like the notion that jet exhaust trails are behavior-controlling chemicals being sprayed down on us by a secret society, is the evangelizing that suggests we should be shielding ourselves from the frequency modulation (FM) of these invisible and static-free broadcasts from aliens, politicians and the Illuminati. If this sounds a bit like paraphrased lyrics from a Steely Dan song, you’re getting warm.

Few musicians rock the boat anymore for art’s sake; it’s all about the money. And once some have it, they’re not going to take any chances or make a statement that could alienate their fans and risk that gravy train drying up.

Which brings me to music. One of the reasons why I initially gravitated to jazz was due to my growing displeasure with trends I was seeing and hearing at the beginning of the end of the glorious FM radio days, when we listened to our favorite stations in real time to discover new music and headed to record stores to learn about other albums based on recommendations from their savvy staff. But the sun set on those days when people who knew little about music took over the music business. From there we saw the proliferation of clueless megastore cashiers and radio formats programmed by accountants. It’s no surprise that so much music today is written by ghosts, produced by a team, calling attention to the performer, often for reasons unrelated to music.

There’s rarely a song with a message that makes us think (unless sex is the only thing on your mind).  And the worst part is that we didn’t ask for this. It was crammed down our throats, and as it became the new norm, the masses drank the Kool-Aid and the record companies kept supplying the sugar fix.  No longer was it a good business for artists to spend years playing small clubs, crafting lyrics, tweaking and recording masterpieces in the studio. There’s an app for that now.

Few musicians rock the boat anymore for art’s sake; it’s all about the money. And once some have it, they’re not going to take any chances or make a statement that could alienate their fans and risk that gravy train drying up. How I long for that era when artists wanted to contribute art that was everlasting. When we heard, “You say you want a revolution” on the radio, we listened. Everyone listened, and it moved us. It still moves us today.

But even in the fast-paced, omni-connected world of artificial music that we now live in, there is that occasional pleasant surprise. So allow me to add some levity to your day with one of them and tell you about a song from one of these fearless artists, Todd Rundgren. It’s from his new album White Knight, and while it’s no “Strange Fruit,” the tune is a mix of today and yesterday featuring one of my favorite artists, Donald Fagen (on lead vocals), who co-wrote this political parody with Rundgren for these unprecedented times. The song is “Tin Foil Hat” and it’s humorous, snappy and was probably written and recorded in one of their homes while they drank “scotch whiskey all night long.” And regardless of your political ideologies—or that it sounds like a half-baked Steely Dan demo tape—I give Fagen and Rundgren credit for having fun and making their political statement through the medium they know best and for being unconcerned about the fallout.

Let me know what you think.

Tin Foil Hat” by Donald Fagen and Todd Rundgren:

He’s coming down the escalator

With a girl from east of here
He wants to make the country greater
We’ve got nothing left to fear

Because the man in the tin foil hat
Is sitting on the throne tonight
It kinda feels like coup de tat
But it’s gonna be great, tremendous, amazing and all that

‘Cause the man in the tin foil hat
Is tweeting like a teenage girl
He puts the Pluto in plutocrat
It’s gonna be a yuge yuge yuge new world

He hasn’t got the time for losers
Unless they do as he commands
He’s writing checks to his accusers
With those tiny little hands

Because the man in the tin foil hat
Is sitting on the throne tonight
It kinda feels like coup de tat
But it’s gonna be a yuge yuge yuge new world

‘Cause the man in the tin foil hat
Is gonna drain the swamp tonight
And fill it with up with alternative facts
It’s gonna be great, tremendous, amazing and all that

Cause the man in the tin foil hat

Is tweeting like a teenage girl
He puts the Pluto in plutocrat
It’s gonna be a yuge yuge yuge new world

Because the man in the tin foil hat
Is sitting on the throne tonight
It kinda feels like coup de tat

It’s gonna be great, tremendous, amazing and all that

© 2017 Cleopatra Records

© 2017 JAZZIZ Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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