04 September 2008

Gone up North for a while

1. Juno to Juneau
Sometimes the obvious headline is the best one, until it gets over used. That’s already happened with J2J: the director of Juno, Jason Reitman, doesn’t even want to talk about it.
But he did admit this much: “You’ve got a 17-year-old pregnant teenager, and Juneau is the capital of Alaska. The coincidence is cute.”

2. Northern exposure
The Juneau connection made me think of the first time I’d heard of the place: Jonathan Raban’s 1999 book Passage to Juneau, in which he takes a solo sea voyage through the Northwest Passage from Seattle, Washington, to Juneau, Alaska. As with his first sea voyage, Coasting, it was the personal journey that resonated most. But it reminded me that in the 1992 election Raban wrote a brilliant piece in the Los Angeles Times Magazine analysing the change in Bill Clinton’s use of language as that year
s campaign progressed. He started out with complex, intellectual, vocab-challenging verbosities. He finished using Good Ol’ Boy aphorisms. Earlier this year Raban considered how the language Rev Jeremiah Wright – the bogey man of black evangelism – had influenced that of his most famous parishoner, Barack Obama. Raban’s occasional journalism is available on-line. He has lived in Seattle since 1990, and this Englishman abroad is always good on US politics. I’d love to hear his take on what’s going on in Juneau.

3. When You’re Hot, You’re Hot
Jerry Reed, who died this week in Nashville,
had a breakthrough when Chet Atkins told him to put more of his own personality in his songwriting. ‘US Male’ and ‘Guitar Man’ quickly followed and they were instant hits for Elvis in his allegedly moribund post-army period. The songs were autobiographical of both men: ‘Guitar Man’ is a redneck road-song to match Chuck Berry’s ‘Promised Land’. Reed’s picker quits his job at the carwash, writes his mama a goodbye note and leaves town by sundown, his guitar hidden under his coat. He drifts South, bums a ride to Macon, Georgia, and finds a job as a swingin’ guitar man in Mobile. It was perfect for the big finale of Elvis’s comeback special, but here’s a leather-clad version from elsewhere in the 1968 show. Reed was no fool; he courageously told the Colonel he was keeping the publishing on his two songs. But he didn’t rest on his laurels collecting royalties. Like Roger Miller, he just had fun following his instincts. He starred in the Smokey and the Bandit series, had other hits like ‘When You’re Hot, You’re Hot’ and the great swamp-rocker, ‘Amos Moses’. One of his last hits was ‘She’s Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)’. Which brings me to …

4. When You’re Not, You’re Not

A high-profile broadcasting personality. A stoush with the missus. Warrants for an arrest. A career in tatters. Andy Kershaw, this is your life.

5. Yellow Man

Okay, last connection to Elvis. What will Rodney Hide’s next unwise fashion statement be: wearing his Y-fronts outside his trousers? With his obsessive blitzing of Winston recently, trying every which way to tie the man they call Luigi in knots, Rockin’ Rod may feel he is now dancing with the stars. But I don’t think he’s quite pulled this one off yet: here is how a man in a yellow jacket dances with a star.

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