"Foongauwi, ooga-booga, matsuwanna, soomboonga. Bwana, bwana, bwatsuwana ..."
"Apeman Hop," the Ramones, Animal Boy
The two best box sets of 2004 were both Austin born, the Faces' Five Guys Walk Into a Bar and Albert Ayler, Holy Ghost. In the year rock & roll was clocked at 50 via Elvis Presley's "That's All Right Mama," having a perennially glowing rock (star) from the British Invasion Big Bang assemble the Faces' storied musical swagger from his home here in Austin only glorified our Holy Land. Ian McLagan's own local release, Rise & Shine!, was a pub on that same road to Damascus.
Music is religion, after all, primordial. It's existed since the first drumbeat, and in that sense, the first heartbeat. Feel that same pulse in the beautiful chaos of Holy Ghost, one of jazz's dead sea scrolls uncoded through the sponsorship of Dean Blackwood and Austin preservationists Revenant Records. "[John Coltrane] was the father. Pharoah [Sanders] was the son. I was the holy ghost." So pronounced Cleveland sax specter Ayler, his tiered analogy ready-made for Johnny, Dee Dee, and Joey Ramone.
On Sept. 15, 2004, when Johnny became the third and last of the Ramones' holy trinity to die in just over a three-year span, rock & roll lost another Beatle. Comeback of the young millennium, the Pixies are forever credited with paving the way for Nirvana, contextualized as the crossroads of pop and punk, yet one pogo through the Ramones' "She's the One" and the Beatles' "She Loves You" never sounded so punk. End of the Century and Ramones Raw, halves of the same cinematic whole, document the band's (un)happy family while further slivering the digital line between CD and VH1.
A political cartoon from the Ramones' unreissued Animal Boy (1986), "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)," aimed at the second Reagan administration, is but one precedent for Green Day's '04 tour de force, American Idiot. From the socially lyric conscience of Berkeley's punk spawn to the protest songcraft of Austin's Eliza Gilkyson, from the retro metalisms of ATX's Young Heart Attack to Sweden's the Hellacopters, and not forgetting the Brooklyn/A-Town bridge between Antibalas' Afrofunky Who Is This America? and River City's Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada, El Niño y el Sol, musically, Austin mirrored most trends. The split: Euro rock (Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, U2) vs. honky-tonk (Dale Watson, Kevin Fowler, Willie Nelson). Fittingly, both continents of origin devour the other's indigenous delights just as Austin continues consuming West Texas root beer like Li'l Cap'n Travis.
Back to Austin we raced Labor Day Sunday morning, 2004, leaving Lubbock and Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, and Sonny Curtis for home Tommy Hancock, Joe Ely, Monte Warden. We were "Wild-eyed and Wound Up," flooring car and stereo to the ramrod tune of the True Believers. Alejandro Escovedo's words rang out por vida, like the marching guitars of his and brothers Javier Escovedo's and Jon Dee Graham's:
Wild-eyed and wound up,
looking for a way out,
I need a rock jet to leave this town.
Don't try and stop me,
you better have an army.
Can't you hear the drums a-beating
like a big red sun?
Sometimes it seems your breaks keep breaking.
And those who've got, they just keep taking.
They'll try to tell you, you just can't win.
Don't let 'em sway you, 'cause it's hard.
It's hard losing Johnny Ramone. Harder still, perhaps, losing Austin's holy ghost jazz trumpet Martin Banks, and Red River free spirit Wade Longenberger. Losing elections is no picnic either. To the salvation of many, that primal beat, music's holy spirit, lives on in every Green Day, Eliza Gilkyson, and Albert Ayler fan modeling a Ramones T-shirt.
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