Been Down So Long 

Reflections 

MINGUS THINGUS 

Been Down So Long Is dedIcated to Charles Mingus. The biggest badass to ever bang a bass. There's a Youtube video of Mingus' tune Moanin’ on repeat for two hours.(1) I laughed when I saw the description. There are plenty of videos like this such as ‘10 hours of the Super Mario Theme’. Ordinarily I would never click a link like that but this was Mingus! I hit play and I listened for what seemed like an eternity. 

It is truly amazing and possibly the most human piece of music ever conceived. A careening ride full of peaks and troughs, overwhelmed at times by moments of cold unifying clarity. Inlaid with depth and nuance in every measure, it speaks to the power of will like no other piece of music. 

Moanin’ has a relentless propulsion to it. From the opening riffs where Charles and the band exhort the saxophone player to greater heights, shouting in encouragement and surprise as if they're hearing it for the first time, the chaotic lay- ers distill together and come apart again in ways that are pure magic. It sounds tough. It's dynamic and reactive. It's going somewhere in a hurry and it reminds me of big cities and their monstrous din—relentless and random but with an inherent sense of purpose and resolve. 

With each subsequent listen, I started to see deeper into it. There's a framework and landmarks—but these are vague guardrails. The players swerve and duck around each other as they jostle for position. All running their own race and f***ing nailing it. 

It's a teetering edifice to structured chaos, like some bamboo scaffold swarming with manic figures, chattering and bouncing off each other as they climb higher and higher until it all comes crashing down...only to be built again in an endless cycle of creation and destruction. 

The competing players riot around each other, hypnotising with their intricate dance. 

I entered into a kind of turbulent trance. A wild fever dream pulling me in all directions at once, until it seemed dis- integration of all barriers was inevitable. A state of grace where all notes are perfect choices and all directions lead home. All possibilities lay ahead, and the only thing left to do was dive into the fray and brawl your way through the tangled roar to find your place in the sun. 

In short, a very human story. 

Now I'm no Charles Mingus, that's for sure! As I said, the guy was a badass! But I knew I wanted a taste of the frenetic energy he captured on Moanin’. I wanted a sniff of that honk- ing nastiness, the nervous crackle of imminent conflict; a knife fight soundtrack. Something with groove and bite, that pulls your head back by the hair and hits you down deep in your soul...Something like Been Down So Long.

***

Lyrics 

We got the venom and the steam 
We got permission to be mean 
You want a river of love 
You got the trickle to the stream 
We got the mark upon our soul 
The best kiss you ever stole 
We've been down so long, we can't see nothing but the hole 

We got the devil in a bind 
He made his mark upon the line 
You said, ‘I'll see you around’ 
But I'd rather go blind 
We are the manic and the bold 
The biggest lie you ever told 
We’ve been down so long, we can’t see nothing but the hole 

So it's whiskey in my water and that's ok Weren't enough to fill the hole anyway 
So jump for the lip like a toad in clay 
But it's back to the hole, and it's back to stay 

We got the fingers in the pie 
We got the what, the where, the why 
You say you wanna get down 
But I'd rather get high 
We are the dirty and the cold 
We hit the ground and broke the mould 
We've been down so long, we can't see nothing but the hole 

So it's whiskey in my water and that's ok Weren't enough to fill the hole anyway 
So jump for the lip like a toad in clay 
But it's back to the hole, and it's back to stay

Here come the thunder and the strife
Here comes the sharp end of the knife
If you're running away 
Please take my wife 

We got the stocking with the coal 
We got the snake eyes on the roll 
We’ve been down so long, we can’t see nothing but the hole

***

Pair with... 

PANDEMIC’S PUNCH 

A peppy panacea for perturbed people 

Sugar spice mix (raw sugar, cinnamon and clove in a 5:2:1 ratio) 
Squeeze of lime 
45ml spiced rum
60ml pineapple juice
Ginger beer
Sprig of mint

Sugar the rim of a tall glass. Add ice to the glass followed by a squeeze of lime. Add spiced rum and pineapple juice. Top off with ginger beer and garnish with the sprig go mint.

Serve with a chaise longue and a therapist.

***

Track Notes 

Drums – Jeff Asselin 
Bass – Mat Falvai 
Hammond organ – Rod Fotheringham 
Baritone saxophone – Ray Murray 
Percussion – Bruce Cawdron 
Guitar/vocals/slapstick – Greg Paul Stone 
Backing vocals – Anouk Michelle Grégoire/Bethan Nodwell Handclaps – Jason Jaknunas/Greg Paul Stone 

Ray Murray from Soul Jazz Orchestra is guesting on baritone sax here and he tore it up! I remember the session well. When it came time to put some solos on the song we let Ray blow through a few times to find a path and get warmed up. He sounded incredible. I remember asking him to try a pass that was more chaotic and less inside the harmony. I believe I asked for ‘more wrong notes’. Well, Ray tore the roof off on the next take and that is what you hear on the record. 

The same situation played out with Rod and the Hammond organ part that battles with Ray in the solo sections. Rod took several solid passes to get warmed up and then we started pushing for more chaos. More wrong notes! I remember that Rod was initially a little surprised at the direction we were going in but he took the challenge and ran with it and I love the result. The two players ducking and weaving around each other in a musical battle creates a foil to the simple vocal chant. ‘Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!’

1. youtu.be/aNMUObXGsw8

Leave a comment

Add comment