Thursday, December 13, 2012

A collection of letters sent by Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger to his secret lover in the summer of 1969 sold for around $300,000 at a London auction on Wednesday, trumping their pre-sale estimate. Purchased by a private collector over the telephone, the letters sold for £187,250 (about $301,000 or 231,000 euros) at a Sotheby’s auction, trumping their pre-sale estimate of £70,000 to £100,000.  The letters were written to black American singer Marsha Hunt, aged 23 at the time, while Jagger was filming the movie “Ned Kelly” in Australia, and were presented as a window into a different side of the rock-and-roll legend.  “We are delighted with the result of today’s sale which reflects the great significance of these letters, written at such a vivid moment in social and musical history,” said Sotheby’s books specialist Gabriel Heaton. 
“There has been enormous international interest in the letters, which depict Mick Jagger, not as the global superstar he is today, but reveal him as a poetic and self-aware 25-year-old with wide-ranging intellectual and artistic interests.” Hunt, who starred in the original London cast of hit musical “Hair” and was the poster girl of the “Black is Beautiful” movement, had an initially clandestine affair with the rocker when interracial relationships were taboo.  “1969 saw the ebbing of a crucial, revolutionary era, highly influenced by such artists as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, James Brown and Bob Dylan,” Hunt said after the sale. “Their inner thoughts should not be the property of only their families, but the public at large, to reveal who these influential artists were — not as commercial images, but their private selves.” Written after the Stones’ historic Hyde Park gig, the letters illustrate Jagger’s musings on topics like the moon landing, his future relationship with Hunt, his impressions of the Outback and John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  Hunt said: “Despite his high profile and my own… our delicate love affair remains as much part of his secret history as his concerns over the death of Brian Jones and the suicide attempt of his girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull.”  Hunt is the inspiration behind the Stones’ 1971 hit “Brown Sugar” and became the mother of Jagger’s first child, Karis. (From Inquirer Entertainment)

Anthology of New Zealand Literature. Edited by Jane Stafford and Mark Williams (Auckland University Press, RRP $75).

The New Zealand Herald and others make a lot noise about this "Doorstop anthology of Kiwi writing", especially about what's being talked about - what's missing, not what's present. And, to be honest, I find that a stupid and immature debate. Who wants yet another facsimile of the "Oxford Companion to New Zealand's Well Trodden Path To Self Flagellation"?

I am bored to death with our literature of unease, our need to discover 'Self' and our scramble for 'Identity'. I'm also sick of the commercial implications. It's still happening. The Hobbit, for example, was hi-jacked to become a massive promotion for New Zealand Tourism. How did that happen? I thought it was a little quirky tale from a retiring English Professor!

Anyway - 'We', the people, know who we are. We don't need a film about magical faeries and frolicking gnomes in capes banging on about our wondrous landscape to highlight that once again. We know we are the greatest and we live in the best place in the world. Every Steinlager commercial on telly has affirmed that since the year 'dot'.

Commercialism and national identity have been racing away for decades. Yet it seems the academics are still puffing up the hill, sweating away in their brown cardigans, walk shorts and tweed jackets, trying to catch up! Ask any publisher today and they will tell you: New Zealand Literature is about us. Not looking in, not looking out - but looking 'at'. 'At' ourselves; 'at' what we do; 'at' what we say. And this is what this Anthology is all about - the business of getting to it.

We open up at Charles Heaphy, recording an interview with Te Horeta, who witnessed James Cook's arrival in 1769, and we close at Andrew Johnston in 2007 (his poem Sol). From just last year there is an extract from Hamish Clayton's 2011 debut novel "Wulf".

Despite some omissions, credited to difficult estates, unfinished contractual obligations and the like, the editors have still managed to tick off works by most of the big names of New Zealand literature. What is great is to see many of the earlier documents reprinted here - the 1835 Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi - but also whimsical flourishes - baking hints from the Edmonds Sure to Rise cookery book or an entry on soil from the Yates' 1897 Gardening Guide. For the historian in me I find his stuff to be much more interesting than Mulgan banging on about being alone n the bush or John A Lee picking fights with the early Tories and dispelling the myth that thre is no poverty in Godzone. I like the emphasis on the ordinary and the day-to-day, because this is the identity we know and we remember. And we want! It's where our real identity is at!

And credit should be given to Jane Stafford and Mark Williams (Victoria University English lecturers/husband and wife) for their decisions to stretch beyond the printed word, including five black-and-white illustrated pages from cartoonist Dylan Horrocks' Hicksville, for example. Coming across the strip is both a revelation and an acknowledgement that finally this is an accepted artform in the dusty halls of academia. We down here at street level have devoured Horrock's work for years. But up in the ivory towers, I wonder, what have they thought to do with this? It's good to see his acerbic, dry wit appear in the chapter drawn from the 1990s - a section the editors oddly call "playful" - "where the real and the fantastic collapse in on one another". Hmm. My memory of the 1990's was a turbulent time, where protest was high, thinking was radical and the electronic age was becoming part of our lives.

Through out this book you will find songs, book extracts, letters, journal entries, fiction, non-fiction and poetry - all laid out thematically, like the 1990's in decades, as if these were borders of intellectualism. Like a tourist bus travelling chugging around the greater and lesser known literal landmarks the sections provide a beacon for the gaze, and by their very subtitles define the thinking behind the curation of each. The 1950's, for example, is full of post-war identity, the labour struggles, the introduction of serious home baking, and the embrace of art and poetry.

What is missing in the Tiki tour is Janet Frame, Alan Duff and Vincent O'Sullivan. Duff declined - perhaps over exposed, or not wanting to be sampled, like a wine or a new yoghurt flavour. In Frame's case, her estate trust, which owns copyright and the AUP could not reach agreement on "how to represent Frame's work". That would make sense, and given that she's virtually every where, I don't miss her.

There are one or two omissions that were the editor's choice - and I have to quibble these, if only because their work is just as worthy. However space and time for permissions may have hindered this and they well could be included in a companion version down the line?

Poet Peter Bland, who I studied at Uni is a rare treat not to be savoured. He may fade to the obscurity of second hand book shops if someone doesn't collect him quickly. His observations on Wellington, in particular will be missed. I was also bemused to see Charlotte Grimshaw left out - is she not worthy, despite being a more commercial success. Do we still shun the populist writers in favour of the artists? And what of Dame Anne Salmond, Judith Binney and or Ngaio Marsh? Populist they are, too but their contribution to the New Zealand psyche is far beyond any others here. Still by focussing on some of the more obscure we get a nice mix, because these omissions have had plenty of time in the sun already - so in a way, they are overexposed.

I did find it odd that Michael King didn't make the cut, nor does Roderick Finlayson, who engaged with Maori issues 50 years before King wrote about a bicultural land. You would expect the selections have stirred vigorous discussion in literary and publishing circles, as much for the inclusions as the omissions.

It should be noted that the word "anthology" refers to 'a collection of songs or musical compositions issued in one album' (Oxford Dictionary). Not 'the definitive collection' - just a collection. So when we challenge the editorial choices, remember that it's just one collection, in the same way your collection on your book shelf is a 'collection'. And do we challenge you for not having Janey frame on Michael King on those shelves? Perhaps we should.

The other word revisiting is 'literature'. Oxford defines it as: " written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit" I wonder how much of this anthology is worthy of artistic merit? And who decides that. In this case it's to Jane Stafford and Mark Williams.

You may also be interested to know that it's origins emerge from late Middle English (in the sense 'knowledge of books'): via French from Latin literature, from littera (i.e. letter). That is, a description of leters, on a page, compiled to make sense, I guess. So literature is virtually anything. In this day and age, we should probably start to think about literature as also blogs, online articles, online poetry (of which there is plenty to find).

Finally the words "New Zealand". I started this review by challenging the sense of identity that traditional collections focus on. And I wonder how, in the future, such anthologies would work. With e-books, self published works, and the borderless world we are moving towards, how can we claim anything is actually a possession or product of New Zealand. Just as we argue that an actr who's made himself famous overseas belongs to New Zealand because he was born here, how can we claim our literature to be a possession or product on New Zealand? One has many times argued that Katherine Mansfield, who did her best stuff abroad, cannot be a New Zealand writer simply because she was born in Thorndon and lived in Karori! She may have written extensively about living here but she had to leave to trigger the inspirations. Modern Kiwis often leave and write about things that have nothing to do with New Zealand. Nicky Pelligrino, another omission (perhaps because she writes lo-brow romantic airport novels) never writes about home, always about her ancestral home Italy. If she were included what would the criteria be?

In other news, Dunedin-based Philip Temple (winner of the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement for non-fiction) has taken issue with this anthology's dust jacket claim that "for years to come this anthology will be our guide to what's worth reading and why". He feels it weighs too heavily towards graduates of Bill Manhire's Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University. Bill, whose retiring this year should be proud of that, though, as he's worked slavishly for 40 years to get literature, particularly poetry, to the rock'n'roll status it enjoys today. Take a walk around Wellington Harbour, those poems floating around the rocks could never have happened even 15 years ago. Now we look to our poets for comments on every aspect of life. The respect is growing. Bill needs his credit noted here at least.

Temple does have one point that there is plenty of terrific writing about mountaineering and sport that's been left out. I suspect this is not deliberate but simply that the editors' sphere of knowledge simply didn't extend that wide. Also thin on the ground is writing about music. Grant Smithies and Colin Hogg are absent, Simon Sweetman and other reviewers like Tom Cardy won't appear either. In fact anything journalistic is left off the table. Journalism is the populist vote and this rabble must be ignored in favour of the hight arts.

The AUP publishers have said, in their defence that this anthology will create a "conversation…Great anthologies offer just one path into a country's literature - they are 'a knife through time' as the editors say. Lose the knife, include all your friends, and you'll produce a handy doorstop but not a great book."

"At 1200 pages, this anthology is a big old waka with 'a multifarious collection of crew and passengers', as the editors write. But it's just one rather interesting, illuminating path through New Zealand writing. There are other paths and people should take them." That's the usual response when choices are challenged. Read another way, it says "if you don't like it - make your own book!." In the Ipod-Kindle world of tomorrow, where individual songs, poems and novels can be randomly picked'n'mixed with a door stop like this still hold its value. I wonder.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mick Jagger - Philip Norman

You can't always get what you want: Norman wanted a proper Interview with Jagger.  But Jagger hates talking about himself, so Norman was forced to piece together a life witnessed and recorded in the press, on the page, in the papers and on the net. 

As I advanced wearily through this book, I could have sworn I'd already read it. That's because most people over the age of 40 could recite the two-timing-table of Jagger's life without even having to think twice. A PE teacher dad; meets Kef on the train; starts singing in that funny voice as an imitation of an American black man of a certain age; Andrew Loog Oldham; Altamont; Bianca; Jerry Hall; lifelong penny-pincher, life long rock star - won't ever give up!  i recently go hold of GRRRRR the compilation of well played hits from 4 decades and was still surprised to find them enjoyable, there's a reason why dad dances around the living room on Xmas evening, after 4 sherries.  That ass cant stop shakin'! 

From what I can gather from slightly older friends, young people mainly dug the Stones initially because parents didn't care for them. They were the grunge to the Beatles Suave.  they were the devil, and eventually sung about him, too. Blues was cool, enduring, sexy.  Twee songs about holding hands was smultz.  But, i note most parents don't care for measles, mumps or chickenpox either – so that doesn't mean youngsters should embrace them as totems of lust. And surely Jagger is one of the most cold-blooded conservatives ever to pose as a red-blooded rebel. Sure, he had his 60s flirtations with Tom Driberg and Angela Davis but he was off to the south of France like a shot in the 70s when the chance to avoid paying tax raised its ugly head.  His attitude to money as much as his idiot-dancing which renders Jagger so unattractive but still you've gotta give him his dues!  His most frequent query whenever a tour is coming up is the peevish "Are we paying for that?". The Marsha Hunt episode sums up MJ's inherent slipperiness horribly.  He sees a photo of her and fancies her: she soon gets a phone call from the Stones office, which is looking to promote the forthcoming single Honky Tonk Women by asking her to pose in "tarty clothes" alongside the whole band. She declines, explaining that she prefers not to look as if she's "just been had by all the Rolling Stones". She was sleeping with the far prettier Marc Bolan at the time (so that's a bit of a have), and finds old Liver Lips easily resistible.  Still she was won over by "shyness and awkwardness", this seemingly intelligent woman is persuaded by the slimeball to have his baby.  He called her "Miss Fuzzy" and was still shacked up with Marianne Faithfull.  But in retun he writes the 'tender' love song entitled Black Pussy  ( later changed to Brown Sugar - i can't see that making it to AOR radio, or any radio for that matter!)  Later he meets Bianca, thinks better of it, denies paternity and claims he's broke!  – this superstar, already a millionaire many times over.  A decade later he is still griping about the events on the title track of the Some Girls album – "Some girls give me cheeld-run … Ah never asked them faw" (Always looks silly when you see the phonetic translation of Jagger's preposterous Delta-blues-bad-boy singing voice is one of the book's modest delights).

Also, in the Hunt episode, Jagger's stinginess and misogyny combine to reveal him as a truly unappetising creep. But as one who stole his vocal and his dancing style from others, this most tricky of shadow puppets seems insubstantial compared to the women in his life, whether it is Faithfull making him read books, Bianca making him talk French or Jerry Hall making him look like a Lothario.  And of course, casting the biggest shadow of all, like some epic scarecrow, is Keith Richards, a man whose glamour and charisma increase at the same rate as his wrinkles!
Large though this book is, it labours in the shadow of other tomes.  Nothing new here except the cover and the font.  But If you want to combine the others into one, then you can justify the price

Still this is all we have, for now.  Because the autobiography which Jagger himself (albeit with a ghostwriter) promised and failed to deliver in the early 80s on account of the interview tapes being too boring, never comes.  It must have hurt him to hand back a million pounds but he bore it bravely: "This isn't working, is it?" he concedes to the book's distraught editor before they even sit down. It is always admirable when someone admits that they do not have a book in them; let us hope that Mr Norman learns from his subject's example!

Who Am I - Pete Townshead. (Biography)

Townshend's world is complex, perhaps enough to turn the rock dream sour. His relationship with his fans is awkward; he has an inability or unwillingness to recreate the hits of one's heyday with the Who and there's a paranoid insecurity associated with that: sustaining a loving marriage is an overwhelming ordeal for him; His childhood in post war UK was unhinged by early interventions from his wayward grandmother. Plus there's the auto-destruction, far more effective than smashing guiitars - a sybolic point, a trademark and an albatross.

I think this is an important book. It's fearless. It's an account by an influential cultural figure from a period when rock music could still transform lives. Today rock has lost that. Rock gods live for thirty seconds. The X factor and the Voice have proven anyone can wail to a decent over produced backing track. Anyone can cry on stage and claim what it means to be adored, to be larger than life, to be a leader or thoughts and inspiration. But none of those people have the charisma created by the actions - not the way Led Zeap did. not the way the Stones did. not the way The Who did. No body became so big that it took the Sex Pistols and Punk to big big and ugly enough to tear them down. Today you can dismiss a rock star’s on facebook with just two characters - :( [ Rock'n'Roll is Dead - Long Live Rock'n'Roll! ]

The writer Nik Cohn was the first to nail the Who's significance, observing in 1971 that they had made themselves into both the epitome and the entirety of rock music. The best thing the who was that they were disaffected and they were loud - often with rock that's all you need. Sure we judge them as a template, a renewable rebellion that has led – via the Clash – to Nirvana and beyond. And Townshend's chords resonate still. With the greats, Keith Moon and John Entwistle gone, Townshead and Roger Daltrey still fly the flag defiantly at their rousing live shows. Townshend calls them the "celebration machine".

But despite being an ungainly and a coruscating performer on stage, his writing is mostly the reverse - well-behaved and ordered, a catalogue of uppers and downers. Does the book lack the fiery eloquence of Townshend's windmilling mind? Perhaps. but after Sten Tyler's anarchic literal vomit, that could be a good thing. Though I wonder that given all he's done there's still a sad lack of "hell-yeah!" enjoyment to his life. Occasionally, irony flashes around but too much straight-faced telling without showing, and an uncharacteristic lack of imagination in the architecture of the narrative can ake t a little boring at times. Also, as many rock stars are prone to do - Townshead refers to some incidents of debauchery, scandal or misbehaviour without decribing them or giving his point of view - leaving them to previously reported stories. i find that just lazy and annoying. If you are going to comment - give me context - I might not know the story. And if there was blood, alchohol, nudity, sex, telivisions and motel balconies then I want the whole unvarnished, not just a passing comment.

But I did find myself laughing at the excesses, something Townshend also now finds absurd. In 1967, for example, he was worried that the Who are no longer the loudest group on Earth, threatened by the auditory explosions of that Vanilla Fudge, of all people. "They had found a way of amplifying a Hammond organ up to rock guitar decibels," he writes. "We were actually upset by this."

Townshend's story is essentially one of searching. Who songs powerfully reference the act of seeking. He’s always been keen to engage his own followers with this spiritual quest. But it's a mission that has barely concluded at the volume's close. So we find insightful vignettes on the creative process in all its haphazard and accidental fumblings. Tommy only made sense to its creator once it was performed live. On vinyl, he found a collection of oddities, beheaded dreams awaiting a body of performance.

Overall it’s a worthwhile, comprehensive and culturally valuable account of a life. Yet it’s also a solidity, slightly enervating book, too. A bit miserable, here and there – no celebration machine.

Add this to the Xmas Book List: Rod: The Autobiography by Rod Stewart

He's a strange figure, Old Spiky hair.  Massively successful but, despite having been in the Faces and the Jeff Beck Group, never quite cool enough. He doesn't feel part of the the world of rock and pop – or at least never has in my lifetime – despite selling a staggering number of vinyl.

On paper he's the perfect rock star. The book even starts with a down to earth moment of a bird strike during the take off of his private jet, which his was wisked off to following a concert in Europe.  Very Rock'n'Roll - as was the life-reality check on his own life, position and the all emcompassing question: "How did I get Here?" 

It should be noted and praised that the best rock star memoirs steer clear of nonsense about personal journeys, formulaic expressions of regret over drug use and sexual highjinks, or emetic tributes to the love that saved their lives. This is not a Woman's Weekly anthology.  I don't want to hear about the anguish: I want somewhere for fantasy to flourish. The spirit should be: "How sad and bad and mad it was – / But then, how it was sweet!"

I wonder if a Ghost Writer was on board, did Stewart wriote all of Rod himself?  If he did he did he deserves respect and if he didn't I hope his spectre – rumoured to be journalist Giles Smith – gets a decent slice! The writing is a cut above the workmanlike "I was there" stuff!   The tone is pitched right, jokes good. Each chapter's got a whimsical 18th-century-style subheading, beginning with the dry: "In which our hero is born, just over six years of global conflict ending shortly thereafter ..."  Stewart clearly doesn't take it all too seriously.  I like.

Tossed around are digressions on various pet subjects like the subject of his hair.  He's had the same hairstyle for 45 years ("It's what I have in common with the Queen" Right!). He paints delightful portraits of early days: he and Ron Wood spending hours tenderly arranging each-other's barnets apparently.  MMMM.

The heart of the book is in the opening 100 or so pages: the fierce excitement of young manhood and the crossing-over from fandom to performance; the exhilaration of American folk, blues and soul; the buzz of that germinal Stones/Who/Yardbirds/Faces/Jeff Beck Group scene. All well encapsulated.  Actually this is the best part of Rod's life. If you care not for the Wives, the day-glo and the excesses of the 80's or the Sinatra impersionations and Xmas smultz (out now, apparently) then stop now.  If you NEED to know about the relationshps and his connection with our Rachael then read one.

Note there is plenty of sex. Blonde on blonde! they have more fun! Yeah, I know!  At one point he swanks about cheating on one Playboy model with another Playboy model; at another, about sneaking out for a first date with Kelly Emberg while still married to his first wife, then leaving that date (smitten, he tells us) to climb into bed with his mistress.

What is his secret? "Hello darlin' – what you got in that handbag?" is the chat-up line he swears by, apparently. During his relationship with Britt Ekland (she called him "Soddy" and he called her "Poopy", for reasons we are left to guess at) he sent her the following telegram in response to her request for a love-letter: "Tired of pulling me plonker. Please come home."  Yep, that'll do it!

"Romantic" though such details are, you find yourself souring a little at quite how badly he behaved: ending long-term relationships by publicly and humiliatingly flaunting his infidelity - "Less than gentlemanly – This, clearly, was the behaviour of an arsehole." Still, he's also kind of pleased with himself.

Nota : Rachel Hunter broke his heart. She was 21 when they met. They spent eight years together and she was the only woman to date he didn't betray: "I've put my last banana in the fruit bowl," he assured reporters. Sadly, that fruit bowl went off in search of fresher fruit.  Now, he assures us, he's found the love of his life (his third wife Penny Lancaster. Right.  Let's See how that goes, eh!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Take Five to think about Dave Brubeck - The Story of the song.

In 1961, Dave Brubeck told Ralph Gleason on the TV program Jazz Casual that jazz had lost some of its adventurous qualities. He said it wasn't challenging the public rhythmically the way it had in its early days.

"It's time that the jazz musicians take up their original role of leading the public into a more adventurous rhythm," he said.
Brubeck said it's a good idea to shake things up a bit, and that's exactly what he did with the song "Take Five."
"Take Five" was the third track on the album Time Out, recorded in 1959. That was the year Miles Davis and Gil Evans introduced the jazz audience to modal music with the landmark album Kind of Blue, John Coltrane released Giant Steps and Art Farmer and Benny Golson formed their first jazztet. A lot of new things were happening in jazz in those days, but rhythmically, the music was still being played mostly in four-four time. Brubeck had always been interested in polyrhythm and polytonality. The first theory is what drives African music; the second is tied closely to classical.
Brubeck had been playing in odd time signatures back in the late 1940s, but it wasn't until he returned from a trip to Turkey in 1958 that he thought about doing an entire album in different time signatures, like six-four, three-four, nine-eight and, in "Take Five," five-four. Brubeck's label at the time, Columbia, didn't know about his plans. When he finally let them in on what he was doing, the marketing department became nervous about releasing the album, and not just because of the strange meters.
"I had a painting on the cover, and that hadn't happened in jazz," Brubeck said. "It may have happened in classical, I don't know. And also, it was all originals, and they were against that. If you did all original compositions, you usually couldn't do that. You just weren't allowed to do that. They wanted you to do standard Broadway shows and standard tunes from the love songs of the day or the hits of the day."
Of course, it did get released in 1960, but only because then-label president Goddard Lieberson intervened. Lieberson really liked what Brubeck was doing.
"I remember him saying, 'We don't need another copy of "Stardust" or "Body and Soul." We've got so many. And it's about time somebody did something like this.'"
So instead of reworkings of jazz standards or tunes of the day, you got "Blue Rondo a la Turk," a song in nine-eight, as well as "Pick Up Sticks," "Strange Meadow Lark" and "Take Five."

Much of the album was close to being worked out when Brubeck decided to add a tune in five-four time.
"Dave used to feature me all the time for the drum solo," drummer Joe Morello says. "We'd close a concert with that because we'd get 'em standing and screaming and all of that. So I would go into five-four. The tune that I was working with Dave was 'Sounds of the Loop,' but on the drum-solo part, I'd just go into five-four and that's how that all started. So I kept asking Dave — I said, 'Why don't you write a song' — now he's the composer in the group, so finally Desmond said, 'I'll write something.'"
Morello was referring to alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who first played with Brubeck in the late 1940s before joining Brubeck's trio in 1951. Desmond is credited with composing "Take Five," but Brubeck says the tune was a group project with Desmond providing two main ideas.
"Paul came in with two themes unrelated, and I put it together as a tune and made a form out of it," Brubeck says. "He came in with two themes. He didn't know which was the first or the second. He didn't know they'd fit together. Dopa, depa, depa, dopa, lom, bom, bom, bom. That's one theme. I'm the one that put them together and said, 'We can make a tune out of this. We repeat the first theme, and then you'd go to what we call a bridge, and then go back to the first theme, and then improvise on the one E flat minor chord change.' And then have a drum solo. Joe said, 'Dave, don't ever quit playing that vamp under my solo or I'll get lost.'"

An Unlikely Best-Seller
The quartet recorded the tune in two takes, and when it was done, Paul Desmond thought the song was a throwaway — so much so that he once joked about using his entire share of royalties from the song to buy a new electric shaver. The title "Take Five" was Brubeck's idea; Desmond wasn't crazy about the title, but Brubeck persisted.
"So I said, 'Well, we got to have a title. Why don't you want to use it?' And he said, 'Nobody knows what it means.' And I said, 'Paul, you're the only person probably in the country that doesn't know what it means.'"
"Take Five" became the A side of a 45 record, Brubeck says, only because the other popular song "Blue Rondo a la Turk" was too long of a title for disc jockeys to say on the air. The album Time Out sold out almost immediately. Desmond once said the thing that made its title song work was the bridge.
And it almost wasn't used. Both Brubeck and Morello say they can't pinpoint what it is about "Take Five" that has made it the biggest-selling jazz single ever. Brubeck guesses it was the catchy repeated vamp. Morello says the whole thing just clicked.

"It just worked," he says. "You know, if anyone could ever predict what's going to be a big seller like that, my God, they'd be driving around in Rolls-Royces; you know, living in castles."
"Take Five" spawned a number of jazz compositions in five-four time from lots of musicians, but you'd probably be hard-pressed to name any as memorable as "Take Five." It's a jazz standard in its own right. It is now a requisite for Dave Brubeck anytime he plays live, as well as Joe Morello.
"Gene Krupa said to me one time — he said, 'That's your "Sing Sing Sing."' He said, 'That's the same thing.' He said, 'You're stuck with that one for the rest of your life,'" Morello says. "And I think he's right, but it's always a joy."