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October 06, 1989 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-10-06
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Hooker: Often
imitated, but
never equalled

Luminous: A sinster world of youth

By Brian Jarvinen
You may not own his records but
if you enjoy Classic Schlock - errr,
Rock - you've probably heard John
Lee Hooker at some point. When
Percy Plant starts babbling about
"boogie-woogie" during "Whole
Lotta Stolen Riffs" in the Song,
that's the Hook. (Lately he's taken
to playing John Lee's "Dimples"
live.) When George Thorogood com-
miserates with his probably wealthy
bartender about his rent, that's the
Hook. (Actually, I doubt if there are
any Thorogood albums without a
Hooker cover.)
And everyone has seen The Blues
Brothers, so everyone has seen the
man himself jamming outside of
Aretha Franklin's soul food restau-
rant, easily the highlight of the
flick. When Jake & Elwood backroad
to Bob's Country Bunker, the
Hook's "Boogie Chillun" is blasting
away in the background.
John Lee Hooker plays and sings
the blues. It is tempting to say he
has lived the blues, but no one has a
monopoly on them; and I don't
know him. He has certainly done
enough living to sing about them
with authority.
Hooker got his start over in the
Motor City during the '40s, playing
the Mississippi blues for loud au-

toworkers. He soon tired of not be-
ing heard too well, so he began am-
plifying his guitar with an electric
speaker. Guitar playing has never
been the same since.
What makes the Hook stand out
is the raw power present in his sim-
ple stylings. Some of his most elec-
trifying songs feature only hand-
clap-and-a-bass rhythm, his unmis-
takable grating, open-tuned guitar,
and his formidable voice and lyrics.
Metallica can get pretty damn in-
tense these days but take away their
velocity and yelping and you
wouldn't have anything nearly as at-
tention-grabbing as Hooker declaring
"This is hip pretty baby."
Hooker went on to enjoy a clas-
sic blues career. The worshipful
bands of the British Invasion
brought him gobs of attention. He
continued cutting records through the
'70s, recording plenty of still-avail-
able material on Chicago's legendary
Chess label.
But all along, John Lee Hooker
has been busy playing the blues
live, lately with his Coast-to-Coast
Blues Band. This outfit stopped at
the Power Center a few years ago,
headlining a four-act bill. After
Pinetop Perkins, Elvin Bishop, and
John Hammond played their blues
skillfully but without much spark,


John Lee Hooker
Hooker appeared onstage. He came
out and sat in a chair, front and cen-
ter. He looked tired and every bit of
his 60-plus years. The band behind
him launched into a generic back-up
shuffle. Hooker gripped the six-
string on his lap. Finally, he let
loose with his trademark slashing
The hairs on the back of my neck
rose: the electricity in the air was
that palpable. The power he wielded
just sitting still was incredible.
When he declared "Let's Boogie!"
and launched himself across the
stage, no one could resist joining
him. To this day I don't know which
songs he played that night, but it

don't matter. He just played the gui-
tar; he owns it.
Recently Hooker has been active
in the recording studio. He sings two
tracks as the the title character in
Pete Townshend's latest laughable
attempt to shotgun-marry opera and
rock, The Iron Man. He also fin-
ished his own studio album featuring
guest stars such as Bonnie Raitt and
members of Los Lobos. If a little
sibling ever asks you what the boo-
gie-man looks like, show them this
album cover. Better yet, grab a copy
of "Boogie Chillun," wait 'til it gets
dark, and turn it way up.
People often speak of a blues re-
vival, as if it died or something after

the '60s. From time to time, a
Robert Cray may cross over and
briefly shine on the rock charts, or a
Lee Atwater might bring some me-
dia attention to the music, but blues
musicians have been around since
before music was recorded. The size
of the crowds may change somewhat
and the records may wax and wane
on the charts, but the blues will be
around as long as people can tap out
a rhythm and the human race under-
stands the capabilities of a vibrating
string. U
John Lee Hooker will be per-
forming at the Michigan Theater
tomorrow night. Tickets are $15 and

The History of Lumin-
ous Motion
By Scott Bradfield
Knopf hardback $17.95;
In The History of Luminousi
Motion , Phillip, our narrator, leads
us through a dark and warped
suburban world where pre-teens drink
Jack Daniels, smoke dope, steal
television sets from neighbors after
school, delve into Satanism and have
no qualms about committing
This world, created by Scott
Bradfield in his first novel, is one so
black and absurd that it is as.
humorous as it is evil. But more
importantly, it ultimately points out
the gap between parents and children
that is responsible for this
disintegration and corruption.
At the outset of the novel,
Phillip is raised on the road byhis
mother who travels from motel to
motel, picking up men and stealing
their credit cards. He educates
himself in the backseat of their car,
reading anything he can get his
hands on- from out-of-date grade
school ,science books to nursing
textbooks. His mother is continually
apologizing for this vagabond life
she's given him, always promising
him something more, something
But when she does finally settle
down with a hardware store owner
named Pedro, Phillip realizes an
attraction to his mother's spirit, as
well as his sinister Oedipal urges.
Phillip is dislocated and unable to
adjust. He fights against and
undermines the suburban lifestyle
where Pedro has succeeded in
pinning down his mother.
For example, when Pedro
suggests that Phillip's spirits could
be lifted by getting the boy a puppy,
Phillip feels nauseous and thinks
critically of Pedro's idea:
"They always love you, no matter
what. No matter how you feel about
yourself, dogs think you're the
greatest. No matter how harsh and
insincere the world is, dogs aren't.
Dogs love you even when you kick
them, even when you don't feed
them. Dogs love you even when
your hands clench their throats.
Dogs love love love you even when
they can't breathe, even when their
tiny soulful eyes grow more
bloodshot and confused with actual
terror, even when they give that final
galvanic kick and their breath stops.
When they grow rigid. When their
eyes turn glassy and reflective. When
you bury them in the garden with a
tiny wooden cross and pray for God
to forgive them all their sins."
When Phillip finally opens up to
Pedro, as a friend or a family
member, he does terrible things to
his stepfather with sharp objects
from Pedro's heavy tool box. And
it's time for the mother and son to

move on. They settle again in a new
neighborhood, where Phillip lives
unattended and unwatched.
While Phillip and friend Rodney
get drunk and rob houses, Phillip's
mother isolates herself in her room
watching daytime talk and
gameshows, until finally the world
is interrupted by the arrival of
Phillip's father.
This man is even more horrifying
to Phillip, dressed in a navy blue
Brooks Brothers suit and toting a
laptop computer. He tries to gain
Phillip's love by giving him
freedom and mountains of useless
junk. Both mother and father are so
out of touch with the child that
Phillip lives a hyper-rebellious life,
becoming more and more absorbed
by his independence and his rekindled
Oedipal urges.
In the end, while it is Phillip
who has committed these heinous
acts, Bradfield fixes the blame on the
careless and distanced parents.
Phillip is a sort of Holden Caulfield-
becomes-a-droog from A Clockwork
Orange, except that he is only eight
years old.


"Men do things. They get things
done. That's what men do. Women
on the other hand talk about
The History of Luminous Motion
creates a fascinating and darkly
comic world of unreal, self-absorbed
characters. It is a well-written, well-


organized novel of an alienated, pre-
mature pre-adolescent who cannot
conform to a "normal" childhood
where his "addled, utterly inefficient
classmates run their races and enact
their imaginary dramas of pirates,
cowboys and tycoons."
-Bob Belknap






A simple, neo-traditionalist Peter Case and his guitar

By Mark Swartz
Many years ago, long before
anybody had even heard of compact
discs, there lived a young, tough
punk guy named Pete who wrote
fast, intense, young punk songs and
sang them with a group called the
Plimsouls. Late one night after a
gig, Pete stumbled out into an alley
behind the club, ears ringing and
fingers bleeding, and nearly put his
combat boot through something on
the ground. Pete looked down, and
found a perfectly battered six-string
acoustic guitar.
Well the next thing you know,
Peter Case is out on his own, record-
ing story-songs about the heart-
breaks, dreams and failures that have
been the staple of American music
ever since Mr. Woody Guthrie
hopped his first freight train. Songs
like "A Walk in the Woods," about a
young couple in love who go for a
stroll and never comes back. Or
"Entella Hotel," about a gathering of
fringe types that would even evoke
Tom Waits' pity.
"Entella Hotel" fits right into the

'Peter Case records story-songs about the heartbreaks,
dreams and failures that have been the staple of Amer-
ican music ever since Mr. Woody Guthrie hopped his
first freight train.'

7 am.
9 am,

grander narrative of Case's most re-
cent effort, The Man with the Blue
Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Tra-
ditionalist Guitar. The record over-
flows with sympathetic, but never
patronizing, affection for society's
more interesting elements. For ex-
ample, "Poor Old Tom," a veteran
and a victim of an unwarranted jail
sentence and lobotomy, sidles up to
you at the bar and tells you about
the whole stinking business, crack-
ing jokes all the while and bumming
hits from your cigarette. Blue Gui-
tar tells everyone's story: It ain't
The "Neo-traditionalist" tag in
the album's title is a much too con-
venient description of the sounds in-

side. But these songs are, in fact, in-
formed by folk and blues, as well as
gospel and country. Most often, a
simple guitar line punctuated with
harmonica blasts and fiddle runs
makes up the dusty, rusty back-
ground for Case's well-worn deliv-
In concert, Peter Case is the
whole show. But one guy, especially
an ex-young punk like Pete, can
make a whole lot of noise if you let

The parents leniency is scary.
Phillip's mother says early on that
he is free: "You can go to medical
school. You can be a rock star or a
vice president. You can shoot drugs
or hire hookers. You can become a
homosexual or a hired assassin. It's
your life, baby, and you live it
anyway you choose."
The metaphysical musings of the
book (what is the history of
luminous motion anyway?) are quite
beyond me, beyond Phillip and
possibly beyond Bradfield himself.
The philosophical abstractions are
convoluted and interesting, but they
just don't compare with the comic
aspects, such as the babbling,
chainsmoking, annoyingly liberal
and intellectual Beatrice, or the
orange-Mohawked devil-worshipping
(In one particularly comic scene,
Philip and Rodney carry the sinister
tool box over to Phillip's house to
do in Phillip's father, and discuss the
difference between men and women:

Let him.


Peter Case is opening for Johnny
Lee Hooker at the Michigan The-
ater tomorrow night. Tickets are
$15 and $12.50.


Peter Case


I"1e WekndOcobr , 98

Page 4

Weekend/October 6,1989

Weekend/October 6,1989

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