". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Wanderers

The hours during which Vaquero is flying from one place to another are anxious ones for me now. This didn't used to be true, but these days with such terrible oversight of the aviation industry, and the crazy weather, I worry, until I learn he's actually taking off, and until I learn he's actually safely landed. In between I'm muchly unsettled.

To get through last night's flight, I watched my favorite gang movie, The Wanderers. The movie was released in 1979, it was based on Richard Price's novel from 1974, who based it on high school gang life in the Bronx in the early 1960's.

The movie is rather more, um, expressionistic, than the novel. It was much influenced by West Side Story. But as marvelous as West Side Story is choregraphically, musically, , in my opinion, the music for The Wanderers is the Very Best. It is the soundtrack of what was popular music that was played on the radio, at parties,in the car making out, for everyone in that audience: black, white, Asian.

It's also kinda autobiographical for Price.

Price is one of my favorite writers, as I've probably said before. I loved his first novel, The Wanderers, with which he scored so high, so young, and early in his career. His next two novels were -- um, not interesting; young man, trying to leave home, doesn't know what to do with his life and with love. We have lived that story ourselves and it has been written by every new writer so we don't want to read it any more, unless there is something really new here, but there wasn't -- just recycled so many times it was limp (the best part was description of winter in an upstate NY city). Lucky for Price Hollywood called, and Hollywood called because of The Wanderers. It even gave Price a small role in the movie. So the lesson here is -- every new writer -- write a gang novel. The critics and the movies never tire of them.

After Hollywood, Price found a voice again. Most of the time. (In The Wanderers, two of the principals take off for California at the end, having no idea what they were doing or going to do -- didn't even graduate from h.s. This was prior to Price going to Hollywood.)

Price got to write for The Wire. Which no women got to do, and no black people either, but oh dear, I love The Wire anyway, but I still think it could have been even better if there had been any episodes written by women and black people.

Highly recommend that anyone watch The Wanderers. Because, most of all, it points to how music back in those days bridged differences of all kinds and brought everyone together in some way. Which is not the situation these days, with the corporatists niching and thus dividing us. Remember when most radio stations played a lot of music, when the radio provided the common soundtrack to our lives? The Wanderers is from that era. So, as the corporatists got busy buying up our media, the first thing they did was replace our genuine musica popular -- a force that helped create common, public space, where all kinds of people came together -- with hate talk radio. Which has done more to divide us than anything else ever in this nation, except slavery. Music of all different kinds, that was the radio, that was our commonly heard sound track. It was replaced by hate talk radio, to divide us, so the corporatists can continue to screw us without our protest, like the bleed out of your i-pod makes me me annoyed at best and furious at worst, the beat box that I turn my car into enrages you, etc. Even cyberspace is just a bunch of separate ghettos. Divide and conquer. That's what music is about now. Propaganda, like the corporate garbage that does get on country radio -- The Dixie Chicks are the example of what will happen if you don't toe the corporate line. Used for torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. Etc.

Yes, this is part of what the presentation at EMP is about. He's going to do a presentation at one of the San Francisco venues that will be three times longer than the one in Seattle, because he's got more time. But this is the part he's going do. Unless he changes his mind and does one of the other parts instead.


K. said...

The Wanderers is a wonderful movie with a terrific soundtrack. It turned me on to The Shirelles and to Dion.

I have mixed opinions about Price. I liked The Wanderers and Clockers, Freedomland less so. He often seems to write more than he needs to. Price is one of those authors who would benefit from an aggressive editor with a strong personality.

Honestly, I think Laura Lippman covers much of the same ground with greater conciseness and better characters. She could have written for The Wire, although being Mrs. David Simon might have complicated matters more than it was worth.

Renegade Eye said...

"The Wanderers" is a great movie, with scenes that border on surreal.

The soundtrack doesn't belong, in the same sentence, as the Broadway WSS soundtrack.

Foxessa said...

Ren -- So what are you saying?

West Side Story is better, different, or in another category?

In my own opinion, WSS is great, at least choreographically -- and also socially, because -- well look what happened to Paul Simon's THE CAPEMAN, which was wonderful, and the theater establishment sneered and dismissed it because -- it was Puerto Rican. (I saw it several times.)

What is great about the soundtrack for The Wanderers is that it wasn't composed -- i.e. it was made of what the people of the time in the time of the movie heard every day all day, and it was that weird interregnum in U.S. música popular that wasn't Elvis and Buddy Holly, just before MoTown, before the Brit invasion, before the so-called Revolution, just when folk was starting.

Real music.

Broadway is always manufactured. Some is so superior to other that it becomes the soundtrack of that era's lives (though no longer) but certainly through WWII.

I just watched Goldiggers of 1933 ...

We can't have a soundtrack now.

It's all niche.

Well, I do have a soundtrack, and it's enormous in scope, and it is very latin, but it's filled with Dylan too -- and Hank Williams (going back to my infancy), etc.

But for people born in the post walkman MTV download era, it's a lot different.

Love, C.

Renegade Eye said...

It's over my head to compare the soundtrack of WSS, particularly the Broadway soundtrack, to The Wanderers. WSS will be around longer, I can say that much.

Foxessa said...

[ WSS will be around longer, I can say that much. ]

Ren -- You mean music theater is more enduring than movies?

Love, C.

K. said...

Both WSS and The Wanderers arise from the sidewalks of New York. Both concern what we now see as the relatively benign activities of street gangs. After that, I think we're talking apples and oranges here. WSS is a landmark musical that will be revived time and again. The Wanderers does not have an original score. An important part of its ambience was the extremely well-chosen popular music of the period, music representative of a specific time and place. That being said, just about every song on the soundtrack is a classic that you can expect to be constantly rereleased in anthologies and box sets. To my ears, "Baby, It's You" is as good a song as "Maria," and I'm going to leave it at that!

Foxessa said...

I just loved the guys driving in the car, and making an improv doo-wop, with harmonies and backup vocals. That's what I have on good authority the guys in this region did at that time -- just walking home from school, etc.

Love, C.

K. said...

I'm pretty sure that Dion and the Belmonts started out singing doo-wop on neighborhood street corners. Now 70, Dion still makes good music: His latest CD, "Son of Skip James" is a fine album.