“How Did This Happen to St. Louis?”

There’s probably something to be syllogistically derived from the fact that Chuck Berry’s overall musical feat was of such HERCULEAN individuality. But then, also, there might also be something to the idea that typically, by the time a musician dies, his or her music is of less value to the world at large than it was at the time of its genesis. This is something I see, and hear, with Chuck Berry, honestly, and would lend itself to how Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones are all still alive.
One thing’s for sure: rock and roll didn’t save the world. Or at least, it didn’t save St. Louis. I was first looking for information on Edwardsville, Illinois, since this is where Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar are from, and I wanted to ascertain that it indeed was a connected suburb of the Lou. There it was, and I found the most beautiful picture of a little local riverside vista called Leclaire Park. It was so beautiful that I wanted to share it to facebook, but it kept sharing as the overall google maps entity of Edwardsville, Illinois. So I google it and right away I get the story: “Man beaten to death in Leclaire Park,” from August 2016.
Anyway, so Chuck Berry died, and really his music sounds a tad dated, like I mentioned before, even more so now that America has become divided by such a political tragedy. So here’s a startling discovery, in light of all this: Duke Ellington’s “first charting single,” “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” [1] [2], might be the perfect piece of music. I won’t even describe it, I’ll just let you listen, but I will suffice it now to say that it seems that THIS is the proper way to comment on the condition of the city of St. Louis at all: non-verbally, and from a position that’s extremely allotted to the proverbial, and literal, “outside.”
St. Louis is a rough town. [3] So is Detroit. So why is there a musical CAMARADERIE in Detroit, whereas St. Louis was just the victim recently of the disparaging SF Weekly show promo, in which they say “St. Louis is an oft-overlooked dot on the country’s artistic landscape. Baseball, Budweiser, and the Gateway Arch don’t exactly add up to a world class cultural destination (although there’s always the ‘90s hip-hop group St. Lunatics)” [4]? Here’s another weird observation: all the music that comes out of the Lou is really MELODIC, from the white-jam-band-ready Chuck Berry, through the ‘90s reggae-eclectic The Urge (who had a black lead singer), through Nelly, Uncle Tupelo, through the 2000’s Living Things… whereas Detroit obviously has the atonal D12, Guilty Simpson and Royce da 5’ 9’’, to just name a couple. Is there a difference between laying down a brick-and-mortal musical blueprint of your maligned urban landscape, and simple lament about human nature itself?
Lemme tell you a story. And this isn’t a story I wanted to tell. But my Terre Haute apartment is filled with pests. Every day I find a different mouse, roach or beetle. Wait, that’s not the right story. Here’s the story I want to tell. Charles Manson is from Indiana, did time in a juvie in Terre Haute where creepy butt plowers did a bunch of weird sh** to him, then he went insane and killed a bunch of people. I have students now who are interested in this stuff and are doing research papers about it, otherwise I never eve would have known this happened, or where it happened.
Anyway, this should show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that communities often have the habit of concealing, or trying to conceal, their own identity. But why would St. Louis want to conceal its own musical identity like this (the SF Weekly guy certainly writes like somebody who doesn’t know that Chuck Berry is from the Lou)? Or is that even what happened, or is it right in concealing its own identity? Lemme put it another way. We know who controls history. It’s the white people. Part of what makes Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man so great is that he shows the soulful, black perspective of the absurdity of playing ball with the white man, giving that speech on “humility” when humility is obviously not in order. Not when we’ve got “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” saying more with a muted trumpet in three minutes about urban malaise than Upton Sinclair could do in 475 pages? It seems like all this “humility” was preached [5] to where we just don’t APPRECIATE achievement anymore, we latch on so hamhandedly to the notion of everybody being the same, and fitting into the SYSTEM — guys are supposed to play baseball, girls are supposed to wear skimpy clothing and be feminine and giggly. One individual is interchangeable with another. This is a phenomenon Indianapolis’ Kurt Vonnegut frequently explored. Motown, even, to me, was the “system,” because even if the musicians were treated well, the messages were still that it was GOOD being a black person in the United States, it involved “love” and “Mr. Postman,” and all these flowery topics… and as we now see, it ended in the ’68 riots, and Berry Gordy’s moving out to Cali.
But how, how, does St. Louis, a town that calls its hockey team the “Blues,” a town that’s the birthplace of the finest rock and roller of all time, relinquish ALL of its cultural validity and mire into blatant corporate subjugation? Well, rock and roll is corporate, I guess [6], and musical “scenes,” though typically involving some major label action, require activity on the organic level as well, whether it’s R.E.M.’s Peter Buck working in a local record store and selling live R.E.M. bootlegs even after the band’s success, or Nirvana doing a split single on the small-fry Touch & Go Records in 1993 with The Jesus Lizard. It’s entirely possible that this independent, human-based interaction is what’s been lacking in America’s heartland, and even in this town, which really blows my mind, because I’ve literally once thought of it as a music Mecca.
And I hate to write an entire relatively long post, by DD standards, that’s entirely negative, but I just can’t think of a single good thing to say, especially in light of the fact that I read an albeit well written Dave DiMartino yahoo blurb about all things Berry, and IT DOESN’T MENTION, ANYWHERE IN THERE, THAT HE WAS EVEN FROM ST. LOUIS, let alone any viable St. Louis COMMENTARY like, you know, any reason to live other than shoving Budweiser down your throat, watching baseball and raping people. Guess who else is from St. Louis? Um, this little dude named MILES FU**ING DAVIS, people. Famous quote from Davis, outlined in his biography: “I’d like to spend the last two minutes of my life choking a white man to death.”
[1] East St. Louis, for anyone know doesn’t know, is, like Edwardsville, a St. Louis suburb situated in Illinois.
[2] I’ve seen the spelling of this song butchered in various posts and webpages; this is the original, proper spelling.
[3] Or so I hear. I don’t actually have a scar on my face from a knife fight over a McChicken there or anything, but Terre Haute, Indiana where I live now is freakin’ rough enough (there’s like three cars on my block that still have all their windows), and I have walked through downtown Detroit on the middle of a Saturday before and not seen a single person.
[4] For what it’s worth, the St. Lunatics are a subsidiary of Nelly, and are from the early 2000’s, not the ‘90s.
[5] Another interesting story about this becomes St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Dexter Fowler and his statement against Trump’s travel ban to the press (his wife comes from some now off-limits country, or country he was trying to make off limits)… the St. Louis press and Cardinals’ organization and fan base were staunchly, unthinkably unsupportive of and insensitive to his situation, insisting that he “shut up and play ball.” I think there’s a definite lack of prized individuality wound up in St. Louis’ culture.
[6] Indeed, those Living Things albums are pretty da**ed clean sounding… they could have used Brendan O’Brien on the mix for some instrumental integrity and live gut-punch. Not a Steve Albini amount, mind you.

34 thoughts on ““How Did This Happen to St. Louis?”

    1. you tube is shit you have taken all the fun out of it now your just like everybody else BO!I!G!!!!N!!!R!!! you got lawyers so far up your arse's its unbeleivable

    1. I am asking you guys something which is beyond the scope of this forum..But we may never have a separate forum for this..Since we touched this topic of money.. What is the core ‘ Revenue ‘ for the meditation centres run globally.. Not sure membership fee alone will be sufficient . and that too when we try keep it as low as possible..Do donations form part the revenue in which case is that sustainable? ( I work in a corporate ..All the time we talk about running ornngizatioas efficiently ..so i was wondering about the above )

  1. Hm2m&#8m30;.You might like the song and video “Just Be”.by Kirsty Hawkshaw.Google it sometime. I can identify with your shyness and feel for you in social situations.They can become very uncomfortable.

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