Paint by Numbers
I was confused as to why Phyllis Orrick insists the Examiner's circulation is 60,000 ("Merc Stages Shootout in Gulch," Unspun, May 7). In fact, our circulation last week was about 121,000 and has been holding at that level for the last five months or so. Additionally, our Sunday circulation, which is about 650,000 with 1.3 million in readership, is an Examiner-written newspaper. I think it's misleading not to give the complete circulation picture. I hope Orrick can in her next piece.
Cindy Myers, Director of Communications
San Francisco Examiner
Phyllis Orrick replies: As I stated in the column, the 60,000 figure describes the Ex's circulation in the city proper, the circulation area I was writing about.
That's Why They Call It the Blues
Blues is done??? Exhausted??? Musical tombstone??? ("Stalemate," Music, April 30).
As long as life is not perfect, and as long as things have a very deep downside, the blues will be alive.
The real blues may even be played when writer Michael Batty's time is up and his epitaph reads "He knew the news but never understood the blues." Batty's darts are sharp but he missed the board this time.
If Michael Batty is going to let the excesses of boring white guys ruin his appreciation for music, he is headed for one long, sad life ("Stalemate"). I did notice that his taste for the nostalgia of rock still keeps him playing "mediocre bass guitar." How quaint.
Smitty Ray Barlow
Michael Batty's anti-blues essay ("Stalemate") knocks British rockers for recycling blues cliches but overlooks the fact that what rock did was take blues beyond the limitations of the traditional three-chord format.
When blues-derived rock solos are played over non-blues chord changes, the different harmonic context makes them sound more interesting melodically and less monotonous.
Alternative rock (often consisting mainly of rudimentary guitar strumming) is ultimately even more banal than blues, if no soloing is included.
I usually am not moved to respond to talentless hacks like Michael Batty, but his two contributions to the April 30 SF Weekly ("Stalemate," Music; Jimi Hendrix reissues, Recordings) beg some criticism of their own.
Batty admits to his own "mediocre bass guitar," but does not seem to be able to recognize his literary pedestrianism. Apparently, despite his self-avowed musical inadequacies, Batty feels qualified to savage the artistry of Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Jimi Hendrix, on the grounds that they have been heard before, by many people, many times.
Batty puts his own ignorance of musical history and content on display by referring to "sources" for what is fairly common knowledge, and by his urge to explain to the readers what a riff is. Of course, Batty is writing for an imagined audience, where to admit knowledge of basic music theory or history is probably deemed uncool, but he does show some genuine stupidity by referring to the "brilliant" songwriters of the songs "Wild Thing," "Gloria," and "Louie Louie."
The truth is that "Louie Louie" was a hit in the Caribbean years before being covered in the States, and "Gloria" is not a I-IV-V progression, but I-bVII-IV. All three songs include the major third in their chordings, so it's hard to see why Batty uses these as examples of the power chord's ascension. Batty claims that we need some new cliches. So does he.
In both critiques, he uses the bland, overused buzzard/vulture/carrion bird metaphor to depict music's natural evolution, or, in the Hendrix piece, the desire for Jimi Hendrix's family to reap some benefit from Jimi's legacy of recorded material. Batty also exclaims, in both pieces, how the respective musical forms and recordings are "done."
So, it seems, is Batty.
I defy Batty to find a musical form or recording that has not been "done." I defy him to find musicians more worthy of their success and the respect of their fans than the bluesmen and -women he derides. If Batty has a problem with white, middle-class, middle-aged, Middle Americans loving the blues and not expressing their adoration in a way that a person of his race, class, age, and location would, why does he choose to disparage the objects of that adoration. Why does SF Weekly choose to put on its cover the words "Why the blues are dead"?
The truth is that musical talent and beauty are not dictated by the complexity or originality of a chord progression, but by the ability of an artist to use whatever musical structure as a means of expression. Perhaps this is the reason for your mediocrity, Mr. Batty. The truth is that I am a 26-year-old who loves the blues AND punk rock. It is hard for me to express my loathing of "journalists" like Batty via this forum. I would rather have him before me to lecture. However, it is easy for me to say that he seems like a cynical, frustrated man who really has no place espousing his putrid opinions in a place such as SF Weekly. In my opinion, writers like him do nothing but contribute to the Weekly's already lackluster reputation. As long as the Weekly decides to employ second-rate writers to spew out second-rate nonsense, it shall remain a second-rate paper.
Michael Batty replies: The "Gloria" chord progression is a I-IV-V variant, as you are probably well aware. It merely starts in a different place. It seemed more prudent to simplify than to assail the readers with another obtuse sequence of Roman numerals.
The Trigger's Happy
You're right! I completely forgot fencing, to keep the guns from just walking away under their own power ("What's Best -- Pistol or Pit Bull?" Bay View, April 9). Oh, and the neutering. Again, I completely forgot about the .44 getting the .38 pregnant, and having as a result a little .22 without serial numbers.
You really should have asked someone who has some idea what a gun is before writing that. The pit bull information is very good, and obviously well-researched. The rest is just fearmongering.