Rock ‘Em the Full Blast Early in the Morning

I’ve always been supersensitive to sounds, particularly to the sound of words. I especially enjoy attempting to marry sound and sense when I write poetry and prose.

Or as Alexander Pope[1] put it.

‘Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar.”[2]

Alexander Pope

What prompted these thoughts was a recent listen to Eddie Harris’s “Compared to What,” a song my college housemate Stan and I revenge-blasted one spring weekday around five a.m. circa 1974 in an old rotting subdivided house on leafy Henderson Street.

After numerous nights being kept up by ceiling-shaking music from the inarticulate longhairs downstairs (which meant they and their guests had to shout to be heard over the Black Sabbath/Deep Purple), one inebriated post-midnight wee hour Stan and I-and-I decided we had had it. We cranked up full blast “Compared to What,” and, brothers and sisters, in this case, anger is a beautiful thing. It’s one angry ass song.

Give it a listen.

[Verse 1]
I love the lie and lie the love
A-hangin’ on, we push and shove
Possession is the motivation
That is hangin’ up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (Everybody now!)
Tryin’ to make it real, compared to what? (C’mon baby!)

[Verse 2]
Slaughterhouse is killin’ hogs
Twisted children are killin’ frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin’ logs
Tired old lady kissin’ dogs
I hate the human, love that stinking mutt (I can’t use it!)
Try to make it real, compared to what? (C’mon baby now!)

The President, he’s got his war
Folks don’t know just what it’s for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We’re chicken-feathers, all without one nut. God damn it!
Tryin’ to make it real, compared to what? (Sock it to me)

[Verse 4]
Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin’ to duck the wrath of God
Preachers fillin’ us with fright
They all tryin’ to teach us what they think is right
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can’t use it!)
Tryin’ to make it real, compared to what?

[Verse 5]
Where’s that bee and where’s that honey?
Where’s my God and where’s my money?
Unreal values, crass distortion
Unwed mothers need abortion
Kind of brings to mind ol’ young King Tut (He did it now)
Tried to make it real, compared to what?

Tryin’ to make it real, compared to what?

[1] Four feet, six inches of gut-crunching, man-eating terror. You didn’t want to get on his bad side. He would immortalize your ass, but not in a good way.

[2] That last line of that verse was written in slow motion.

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