13 January, 2009

Aztec Two-Step and Jack Kerouac

A kind of creamy 1970s blend of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aztec Two-Step is playing at the Iron Horse on the 24th of January. I am not going to see this show, but I hope they play the song "The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On The Road)" which is a ballad to the man who makes Jack Kerouac's most famous book move.

Let me rephrase that, Dean Moriarty is the "white rabbit" of On the Road, while Sal Paradise is Kerouac himself and a post-WWII American Alice. The song is flat compared to the book itself, but it is an interesting history lesson for anyone who knows about Kerouac. Only free-jazz on par with Miles and Coltrane could ever hope to claim a handful of the spirit of On the Road, which has all the light and noise of a "flash in the pan", and the depth and layered quality of great poetry. The Aztec Two-Step ballad has the best intentions with no climax, no fabulous roman candles that pop and flash across the open night sky. If I had to attach songs to the characters in On the Road, I would have to say that Carlo Marx is John Coltrane's "Impressions", Dean Moriarty is Miles Davis' "Budo", and Sal Paradise is something at once old and new, possibly a careful mix of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" with a hint of "Django's Tiger", and a smooth finish with Coltrane's "India".

When it comes to songs that reference the book, I would always rather listen to The Hold Steady's recent Springsteen-esque "Stuck Between Stations," instead of singer-songwriter ballads. They don't have enough punch. "Stuck Between Stations" is a song that succeeds in calling up the connections between Sal Paradise and John Berryman, and every young man or woman looking for America. This is a magnificent feat when you think of how often a single literary allusion works in a song, not to mention two!

1 comment:

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Enjoyed your post.

Maybe you'd enjoy my Kerouac-obsessed blog at www.thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com.