Last week I had lunch with my friend Julie Rose; Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food in Santa Clara was the place, and yes, football was on our minds, as she’s as big of a 49ers fan as I am. After much commiserating, we left sport for authorial topics, which always warms my heart. There are many good things in this world, and chatting with another writer nears the top of the list.
I was thinking about this last night as my husband pulled out boxes of 45s, searching for one specific piece of vinyl, bought in the UK, where most of his singles were purchased. From completely obscure artists, like Southall Riot whom he was looking for, to collectible 45s, he had a heyday when we lived in Yorkshire, shipping so cheap from the continent. Mostly he picked up local bands, like Subaqwa, but The White Stripes was found via his hunts, alongside other groups that faded into the background. One was from Wales; Crak’s single was encased in black polka-dotted purple fur. They sang in Welsh, not sure what the song was about, but it certainly was intriguing. Of course this led me to considering indie musicians versus writers, one of the issues Julie and I mulled over last Friday. Within the traditional publishing culture little room remains if someone wanted to release their novel in purple polka-dotted fur. But it sure seems like a cool idea.
Now, a single isn’t the same as a novel; maybe 45s are equal to short stories or flash fiction. My husband has five trainer-sized shoe boxes full of singles, some in simple paper sleeves, some in elaborate packaging like that purple polka-dotted number. One single was a 5-inch, CD sized. It was on the Black Bean and Placenta label (no, I’m not making this up), out of Mission Hills, California. No band name, no song title, but that was okay, it wasn’t all that great. But it WAS. Someone wanted to release a 5-inch single, and they did so. Yeah for them!
I started thinking about relativity last night as unknown songs wafted through speakers. Maybe it was from one of the 45s that featured Einstein on its sleeve. Relative means, among other definitions, a thing having a relation to, or connection with, or necessary dependence on another thing. Writers, like musicians, harbor ideas. We corral mediums to express those ideas. Finally we connect with audiences, large or minuscule, to share those ideas.
Hence the indie theory of relativity.
It’s not a very big theory, no Nobel Prize in the works. Just that as indie musicians thrive, indie writers are too. Independent authors are a little newer on the scene, in the getting noticed sort of way, but writers have been publishing books without publishing houses far longer than vinyl records have even existed. Yet history’s grand weight has weighed down on authors, as if traditional methods of publication were the only ones acceptable. But that doesn’t seem to bother musicians all that much.
I believe, and this is just me, it’s to do with rock music’s youthful spirit, its alternative vibe. Parents in the 1950s were scared outta their skulls at Elvis; Ed Sullivan couldn’t even broadcast Presley’s whole form, filming him from the waist up. Publishing is assumed for intellectuals, rock and roll for kids. That’s a very broad generalization, but it’s mine, and I’m sticking to it, filing it under the indie theory of relativity. Ideas exist, are expressed via language, transmitted through paragraphs and chapters, ’nuff said.
Well, not quite enough; the other thing I thought about last night, listening to The Cramps, Mohave 3, Black Tambourine, Subaqwa, Crak, and a few others, was how these records are a part of this world in which I live. People wrote and played their songs, then turned them into 45s. Subaqwa made an album, EPs too. The Cramps had an illustrious career, only ended at the death of singer Lux Interior (may he rest in peace). None of those groups were The Beatles, but thousands of stories exist beyond bestsellers. Yesterday my husband was also listening to his Original Master Recordings of Beatles’ records. He’s had that box for ages, never plays those albums, but yesterday was a day to dust off memories. (Literally, as when he removed the singles box from under the stereo, a cloud was stirred.) We enjoyed the Fab Four in the morning, indie artists that evening, relativity floating through the room, along with dust particles.
Specks of those songs travel as well, from The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” to “What’s Inside A Girl” by The Cramps, a Welsh band in between. I’m gearing up for some writing in April, and by July, I’ll be celebrating two years as an indie author. Maybe it’s my rock ‘n roll sensibilities keeping me enthused, maybe it’s a never-quiet creative spirit. Maybe it’s music, well, I know it’s music; give me a song, I’ll tell you a story. It’s the indie theory of relativity, far easier to digest than Einstein’s theory of relativity, but part and parcel of this great and grand universe. Write your story, or make your music, and join the party!