Thursday, April 02, 2009


Guardian, Gaye

A little bit of April Fools' mirth can go a long, long way. Still, I was tickled by the Guardian's bogus announcement of yet another technological watershed: "Consolidating its position at the cutting edge of new media technology, the Guardian today announces that it will become the first newspaper in the world to be published exclusively via Twitter, the sensationally popular social networking service that has transformed online communication." The piece includes just enough blather about democratization to sound legit, if you happened to be glancing at it on the treadmill. But the antic spirit soon rears its head again:
"[Celebrated Guardian editor] CP Scott would have warmly endorsed this--his well-known observation 'Comment is free but facts are sacred' is only 36 characters long," a spokesman said in a tweet that was itself only 135 characters long.

A mammoth project is also under way to rewrite the whole of the newspaper's archive, stretching back to 1821, in the form of tweets. Major stories already completed include "1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!"; "OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see for more"; and "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?"
Sigh. I set up a Twitter account myself the other day. I had no followers--isn't that the saddest statement you've ever heard?--and contented myself with a few brief bulletins about my mood, bathrobe, impending shave and shower, etc.

Elsewhere, Obit has posted a solid piece by Gigi Anders about the late, great Marvin Gaye, 25 years to the day after he was shot through the heart by his own father. She recounts his ascent at Motown--where he functioned as a kind of crown prince, having married Berry Gordy's sister, Anna--and his druggy, depressing splashdown in the early 1980s. Gaye did enjoy an interval of glory before the end. "Sexual Healing," which united the singer's erotic vocalise with some churchy harmonies, put him back on the charts. And when I saw him on his final tour, on July 9, 1983, he seemed to be relishing his return to the stage. Granted, he was performing at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, a vast steel-and-concrete shed with ringing, wretched acoustics. (The opening act, Ashford & Simpson, sounded like they were performing in an oil drum.) But his voice was in excellent shape, he obligingly dropped his drawers to moon the audience during "Sexual Healing," and when he pulled up a stool to sing a couple of hushed ballads, even that aircraft hangar of a venue took on a sweet intimacy. Anders includes a suave video of Gaye singing "What's Going On." I'll opt for this sweatier item from the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1980, with the singer pleading, crooning, shouting, and wheedling his way through "Let's Get It On." It doesn't get any better than this. Extra points for the Cholly-Atkins-style choreography by the background singers:

Hey, I'm following you. If you follow me too we'll go round in circles.
I thought that was the whole point--a convivial blur.
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