Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Accordian to prophecy

Rob Zombie is just about the perfect music to work out to in my opinion. Now I am not a big heavy metal fan and I'm not even sure you could classify Zombie's work as heavy metal – like Ministry and Motorhead his driving almost techno beat stuff bears little resemblance to the big haired Ratt – Poison administered during the 80s. There is very little that goes with the testosterone infused grunts of lugging barbells about than the ear drum numbing intonations of Zombie's Dragula or Ministry's Jesus Built my Hotrod. Now if I'm running on a treadmill (and aren't we all in one way or another) I will mix in a podcast or two, my favorite right now is a series called Poetry off the Shelf, produced by the Lilly cash drunk Poetry magazine folks – you can find them here

But for bench pressing, squats and hammer curls give me Super Beast, Ace of Spades, maybe mix in some Social Distortion doing their rendition of Ring of Fire or… something with a little accordion.

I once saw a bumper sticker which read – Friends Do Not Let Friends Play Accordions – as humorous as I find this; I still believe I am genetically predisposed to music produced with a squeezebox. I myself have absolutely no innate musical talent, I can't tell a 4-4 from a 2-3 beat and my singing doesn't just scare my dogs it makes them inordinately angry so that they crawl around as if they were sneaking through high grass growling under their breath wishing that I would finally keel over from whatever spoiled food I have obviously ingested from the kitchen trash.

My paternal grandfather on the other hand – could play any instrument put into his hands. He was in a band, a Tamburitza band. Tamburitza is a gypsy inspired type of Eastern European music, a tambura being a long necked string instrument not too unlike a mandolin. There is a whole culture built up and around Tamburitza music within the Serbo-Croatian community and being a proud Croat (president of the Cleveland Croatian Fraternal Union) my grandfather was keeping it real back in the day. One of the first songs I remember is a version of Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, sung by him in Croatian accompanied with his superfast strumming of a Tambura.

There were accordions around too, little octagon squeezeboxes and giant things that looked like a sideways version of the electric Magnus toy organ we kids played with in the "other room" (On Top of Old Smokey pecked out by following numbered keys.) Thus I was incated during my formative years – "give me a child until seven…"

Now this predilection for gypsy music lay dormant in me like a cicada chrysalis while I discovered Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Pere Ubu and the Buzzcocks. I fed this bug literature, eastern bloc existential tropes of writers like Kafka, Dosteovsky, Chekov, Gorki and Gogol – then, that's what caught my eye. The recognition of a name, Gogol – of whom Dosteovsky said, "All Russian literature comes from beneath his overcoat" in the name of a band. Gogol Bordello, self proclaimed gypsy punks – the fusion of two types of music that were so much a part of me, the subconscious indoctrination of my grandpa knee bounced childhood and the anarchistic gyrations of pre fashionable punk I embraced as a young adult. All of a sudden – accordions were cool.

So, chances are – if you run into me at the gym with my ear buds trailing wires down to an Mp3 player, more than likely I will not be able to hear you talking to me due to the driving crash of power chords and bass kick – but, there is also a good possibility I am listening to an accordion. Friends don't admit to friends they like accordions.

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