March 8, 2004

Drop City ... Gloria. I drove in to work this morning listening to an NPR interview with T.C. Boyle, who talked about being really a rock star at heart, forced to be a writer for lack of musical talent. (Hey, that's the way I feel about being a law professor! At least there's a live audience.)
[I]n Drop City, the Van Morrison song "Mystic Eyes" is used to underscore the novel's central conflict between a hippie commune in Alaska and the locals they incense.

I'm going to read that. Me, I liked the early Van Morrison, before his name was known, and he was just Them. I bought the first Them single when it came out ("Here Comes the Night"). It wasn't quite the sort of thing I liked at the time, but it was close enough, and it was clearly good. "Gloria" was even better.

So let me say something about "Gloria," which relates to the single best moment of musical performance I ever witnessed live. It was the mid-1970s, in Greenwich Village, in a small music club that was called The Metropolitan (or something close to that). We had gone to see the folk duo Happy and Artie Traum, whom we liked a lot at the time--this is a good folky album--and were dismayed to see that there was an opening act, and it was just some poet who was going to do a reading. That didn't seem right, and I came close to leaving and coming back later so I wouldn't have some idiot's poetry inflicted on me. Well, the poet was Patti Smith, and there was a guitarist sitting in a chair behind her, sort of aimlessly, quietly noodling, while she recited her poetry in the singsongish way typical of beatnik poets. At some point, it became more like singing, and then, somewhere down the line, with the participation of the guitarist, it became "Gloria." That was the coolest thing ever. A version of her Gloria, appears on the album pictured here. I have that album in a frame on my living room wall.

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