Dennis Wilson ghosted Charles Manson in 1968. Before the Beach Boy quietly moved to a new address without telling Charlie and his gang, he had let the group crash at his Laurel Canyon mansion 24/7. They used Dennis Wilson’s laid back attitude to invade his home and take advantage of his resources. The Manson Family ran up doctor bills treating the constant waves of STDs that rippled through the group (Dennis himself had to take more trips to the doctor during their time with him,) and ordered huge amounts of gourmet food and juice on his tab. They even crashed Wilson’s uninsured Mercedes. It was time for Dennis to move on.
Love & Mercy is a beautiful portrait of a tortured mind, and an insight into the genius that led to some of the most beautiful and innovative music ever made. It’s also the story of how mishandled psychiatric care can destroy a person.
Nina Simone’s music is trembling and alive. Her piano and vocal techniques are studied and intricate, but they are saturated with an emotional fire. She didn’t know how to not share her wild and dirty heart with us, and that’s why we can’t help but fall in love with her. Her feelings, these feelings that many in her audience relate to, can go deep and dangerous. When a singer or musician presents with such raw and real feeling, it is often indicative of a very difficult life. A song contains it, a song embodies the whole of reality while it is being played, but how are these feelings supposed to be managed when the music stops?
Amy Winehouse drank herself to death with vodka while watching videos of herself on Youtube. That fact, a fairly simple and sad demise labeled as a “misadventure” by the British coroner, came out two years after her death. Before the official report was released there was a lot of speculation about what transpired on Amy’s last night on Earth, and which drug, or drugs, was the one that took her away from us. Most of us, her parents included, didn’t want to believe that it was alcohol, the legal, highly marketed toxin most adults imbibe fairly regularly. We wanted it to be a “harder” drug, something more complicated and difficult to procure. Her parents seemed to want to deflect, to deny that it was anything at all, to say Amy had been doing well. Despite their will to believe otherwise, her public appearances shortly before her death seem to point to the fact that Amy was doing worse than ever. Her only drug at the time may have been alcohol via episodic binges, but that’s more than enough. If her parents couldn’t truly see her, how could she expect anyone to?
Whiplash an intense emotional experience, a rollarcoaster built on drumbeats, sweat, blood, and screams. It gets into your nervous system. It’s a myth-building movie, not only building the myth of these characters hurtling themselves towards a perception of greatness by sacrificing key parts of their flesh, emotional-well being, and humanity, but also rebuilding the myth of Charlie Parker into something far more soul-gouging that it already was. I saw too movies yesterday. One was the horror film The Babadook, but Whiplash is the one that will probably give me nightmares.
Voyager 1, which is moving away from Earth at a rate of almost a million miles a day, is carrying some precious cargo, at least from a human’s perspective. It’s currently 11 billion miles away from us and is transporting the most important messages we have to give: our sounds, our language, our music. It’s known as The Golden Record, and this mixtape will continue to travel long after we lose the capacity to track it.