HIGH FREQUENCIES: Now ain’t the time for your tears

Don’t look back, good days ahead for those who choose

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Photo credit: Courtesy Tony Paris Archives
BACK IN THE DAY, NOT BACK IN TIME: Blue TV (from left): Jeff Cohen, Doug Hamilton, and JD Dykes onstage at 688.

This Sunday, November 4, it’s time to “fall back,” to set our clocks back one hour to standard time from summer’s daylight savings time. With the midterm elections coming up on Tuesday, social media is filled with reminders for people to vote — and reminders that Republican wins this election could see the country itself fall back, erasing the decades of progress the United States has made in civil rights, human rights, and in  the rights of people of color, women, and LGBTQ people. It’s important to vote this Tuesday, now more than ever, to make your voice heard.

It’s especially true in our own state of Georgia, where Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate running for the office of governor is also the Secretary of State, and by being so, virtually runs the election. Not surprisingly, with the fox guarding the hen house, Kemp has been instrumental in purging voters from the state’s voter rolls and creating “can’t vote” lists, and even attempted to close voting locations in places with high African-American populations, so as to eliminate possible votes for Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, herself an African-American. Yes, the candidate too scared to face Abrams in the final gubernatorial debate has been attempting to steal the election right under constituents’ noses. Luckily, people have stood up to his egregious actions, and, in most cases, have kept the man who likes to point shotguns at children at bay. Tuesday, it’s up to you to vote. Remember the words of the late Vernon Dahmer, who died leading voter registration drives in Hattiesburg, MS, in the ’60s: “If you don’t vote, you don’t count.”

Turning the clocks back, the possibility of an election turning progress back, the fact that so many people want to reverse hard-won changes instead of embrace them — something I can’t understand — reminds me of “Back in Time,” a song by the Atlanta band Blue TV, with its refrain, “I don’t want to go back in time.”

Ld Music

Singer Doug Hamilton, who wrote the song in the early ’80s, after punk and new wave had made their musical impact and college radio was heralding “new music,” remembers it was not the zeitgeist of the Reagan years, when many Americans first started to look back socially and politically, but the then-nascent nostalgia for music of the ’60s that inspired it—though the music itself meant nothing to him. “At that age (late teens to early 20s), you always think the time you're living in is the coolest, and the early ’80s was a pretty cool time, musically at least. Politically, maybe not so much!”

“It definitely has more of a coherent theme than most other lyrics I wrote,” the singer acknowledges, “but I'm pretty sure the idea came about like they all did: I would listen to the music and a phrase would pop into my head — in this case, ‘I don't wanna go back in time’ — and then I'd build the rest of the song around that phrase. This process usually involved me replaying the practice cassette over and over and then pacing around my bedroom, muttering to myself!”

I mention to Hamilton — who now lives in England, a country plagued with Brexit, its own journey to the past — that three decades later, “Back in Time” is just as relevant now as it was when he wrote it, albeit for different reasons.

“I broadened the idea to include all nostalgia,” he admits. “We were seeing a lot about ‘the good old days’ in the media from Reagan and the Religious Right and stuff,” he recalls of the time when Blue TV — Hamilton on vocals with guitarist Jeff Cohen, bassist Jan Dykes, and a revolving cast of drummers — was a draw in Atlanta, “but I didn't set out to make a statement. The idea just came to me organically.”

Those of you registered to vote can make a statement Tuesday, November 6. It’s simple. Vote.

Hamilton and fans of Blue TV, as well as any nightly patron of 688 or the Bistro, may not have wanted anything to do with the nostalgia for music of the ’60s back then, but that’s hardly the case today. With the golden anniversary of 1968 as the rallying cry, record companies are pumping out 50th-anniversary editions of albums as fast as they can, capitalizing on some of the landmark records originally released that year. Out November 9 are 50th-anniversary editions of both Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and “The White Album” by the Beatles.

The deluxe version of the Hendrix masterwork — the first and only album where the guitarist had complete control over the direction and production of his recording process — comes in both 3-CD/1-Blu-ray and 6-LP/1-Blu-ray box sets. The first CD features a newly remastered version of the original Electric Ladyland release (the sound is noticeably better, with better distinction between instrumentation than on previous compact disc releases), along with a second disc of early demos and outtakes from the recording sessions (most of these have not been heard by the casual fan, and while many tracks will be familiar to the hardcore Hendrix collector, even the latter will be surprised at some of the material included). The third disc captures Hendrix in concert at the Hollywood Bowl September 14, 1968, only a month before Electric Ladyland’s original release on October 16. The performance is inspired, though the audio is marred by this not being a professional recording. Nonetheless, it offers a glimpse of the energy and determination with which Hendrix was operating at this point in his career.

The Blu-ray disc includes At Last… The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland, the Classic Albums documentary originally produced in 1997, but now with almost 40 minutes of previously-unseen footage. Perhaps the most exciting news here is that the Blu-ray includes the first 5.1 Surround Sound mix of a Hendrix album, with Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer at the helm.

Hendrix may not live today, but the music he created continues to inspire — and sell.

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