Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wittgenstein, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

While the rest of the country, at least that part of it that pays attention to politics, has today been tweeting  about Judith Collin’s resignation from Cabinet, Paul Litterick and I have been on Facebook discussing the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Paul linked to this article by his (LW’s, not PL’s) biographer Ray Monk, about Wittgenstein’s views on scientism. Quote unquote: 
Scientism takes many forms. In the humanities, it takes the form of pretending that philosophy, literature, history, music and art can be studied as if they were sciences, with “researchers” compelled to spell out their “methodologies”—a pretence which has led to huge quantities of bad academic writing, characterised by bogus theorising, spurious specialisation and the development of pseudo-technical vocabularies. Wittgenstein would have looked upon these developments and wept.

Quite. And then to cheer himself up he would have gone to the movies. Wittgenstein was a fan of Westerns: 
In the two years whilst living in the Argentinian architectural work which was his family home, it was mainly the American Western movie star Tom Mix who made an impact on him. Once the place of a true craftsman’s discovery, the typical light-hearted American Western offered him enough material to share the wild, wild experiences of real men: the cowboys.

So here is “Cowboy Movie” from David Crosby’s 1971 album If I Could Only Remember My Name. It tells the story of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s implosion. Spoiler alert: it involves a woman. Key line: “They each wanted that Indian girl for their own”. I have been within a metre or so of the woman in question and am not surprised she caused problems for the men.  Decoding the lyrics: Fat Albert is Crosby, Eli is Stills, the Dynamiter is Nash and young Billy is Young.

Crosby performs the song live with the latter-day Allman Brothers Band, along with Graham Nash and  the Grateful Dead’s bassist Phil Lesh, both of whom played on the original recording. Weird combo, but it works. Three drummers! Warren Haynes is the guitarist channelling Jerry Garcia who played on the original (did I mention it’s a great album? Basically the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Crosby multi-layering his vocals) and Derek Trucks is the kid guitarist who does a brief but brilliant solo.

It is not a stellar video but the performance is. I like the fact that the band don’t really know the song and so Nash has to be band-leader and show them where the stops and starts are. This is real live music without a net.

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