by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Sam Cooke - "Cupid [live at the Harlem Square Club]". The second of my two sons is named Intensity O'Clock, and every night he sneaks out to go to the Harlem Square Club. At first I had no idea. While me and the missus dozed, Intensity would tiptoe past our doorway, lift the window, and spring out into the night. As we dreamed, he would be shimmying down the poplar and going out into the street, running in his tomato-red sneakers. A friend would pull up in an old car - and they'd be off, smiling in the dark.

One night a few weeks ago, I happened to get up for a drink. I noticed the window open but thought simply that the wife must have wanted a breeze, an airing-out of the upper floor. Downstairs I poured myself a glass of water and stood in the dark by the front window. And there I saw Intensity O'Clock, all flying hair and shining eyes and red shoes, dashing through the garden and into a waiting Buick.

I set down my glass of water and folded my arms. When the car had driven away I went upstairs to make sure I had not dreamed the sight. There was Intensity's bed, neat but empty. I went through, kissed the missus on the cheek and then took the newspaper and went back into Intensity's room. I rubbed my eyes and I read the paper and I awaited his return.

Intensity didn't get back until close to 5 am. I admit I had fallen asleep but I heard the slam of the car door, heard a laugh, then soon enough heard the creak of the window shutting. Intensity came into his room and he saw me in the old wicker chair. His face suddenly went very grey.

"Dad," he said.

I stood up. "Good morning," I said. "Where were you?"

Intensity was still breathing heavily from the climb up the tree. "The Harlem," he said. "The Harlem Square Club."

"Girls?" I said.

Intensity shrugged. "Music," he said.

There was a look to Intensity's face that I wasn't use to seeing. There was a red in his cheeks and a lightness in the skin around his eyes. He looked at once very young and very old, dressed in black and white and red. I could feel the dawn rising behind me.

"Who?" I asked, and he knew what I meant.

"Sam Cooke," he said quietly. He took off his jacket. "And boy did he ever."

I let Intensity go to sleep. I went back into my room and sat up watching the windows lighten, lighten. I thought about my son's face, his breath, the tenderness with which he had said Mr Cooke's name.

The next morning I called into the office and told them I wouldn't be coming in. I explained everything to the missus and she nodded, amused with me. She was meeting Gloria and the girls for the day, so we shared breakfast and then she left. The kids were at school.

I went up to Intensity's room. He kept his records on one of the lower shelves of his bookshelf, where the fairytales had used to reside. I flipped through them. So many names I didn't know. And there: Sam Cooke.

I took the record downstairs and I put it on. I sat in my deep, familiar easychair and I listened. The house was big and still and soft.

Cooke's voice rattled me. It flew out of the hi-fi like a group of birds, like a flock of them. There was something in his voice that shook all over - in the feet, the hands, the head, the chest. It was almost too loose in his throat. It rattled and shook and went free through the house, bright as teeth, bright as laughter, like bracelets swinging on wrists. I wouldn't dance, alone in my house, but I sat there and saw clear as day Intensity in his red shoes and leather jacket, twisting on the carpet. His hair flew and his eyes lit up and there was a bliss there that was better than anything I had seen in him before. It wasn't a safe sort of happiness, not quite, but the recklessness was young and sure and I trusted my son in it. He was brave enough to come home, stars tucked into his pockets, music in the soles of his feet.

So when Intensity O'Clock arrived back from school that day I was again waiting for him in his room. I had put the Sam Cooke record away. I sat with a mug of coffee and a copy of the Times-Sentinel, as a father ought to. He went stiff when he came in and saw me but I told him to sit down and said "It's all right". I told him he could keep going out. I told him to be sensible and not to let school suffer. But I said it was all right, he could go, and that he should enjoy himself.


Typhoon - "So Passes Away the Glory of the World". I spent the past week in the isles of Orkney, with sea-birds and sea-waves and sky. And as I walked in the tufted hills one of the things I listened to was this, Typhoon's self-titled LP. A record drawn from the stuff of Okkervil River, Mogwai and A Silver Mt. Zion -- a record that's got sea-birds and sea-waves and sky. And also twilight, desolation, shipwrecks. It's really fine. "So Passes Away the Glory of the World" is I think the first song we have ever posted that is in Latin. But that's okay - don't worry. I've provided a translation of the lyrics. The track has monastery vocals, kettle drums, staccato strings. It has a cut off at the end which is to convince you to buy the whole thing. It has size, my friends, size - like glimpsing a mountain through the fog, like a tall ship coming out of the mist, like cresting a hill and seeing a field laid out in front of you, black with bracken. There's death here, but also the first sparks of life - the baby blinking, gasping for air; lifted into hands.

[buy for a mere $8!]


The new Contrast Podcast is up, without any contributions by me, but with lots of good things.

Unpop is a new mp3blog, careful and gutsy at the same time, based out of Brighton's "pop gone wrong" DJ night of the same name.

And this is a series of comics drawn on the same sheet of paper, then rubbed out. Until things get a little desperate near the end, there are moments that are really frightfully funny. For fans of Pokey the Penguin and Buttercup Festival.


Finally, not two weeks after paying (thanks to you) for a whole year of mp3 filehosting with Apple, they've gone and changed their terms & conditions, drastically reducing the amount of traffic their accounts allow. There is thus a distinct possibility that our songs may be knocked offline some time... If this happens, please leave a note in the comments. We will (sigh) be looking into other solutions. Thanks.

Posted by Sean at April 17, 2006 6:03 AM

Thank you for the birthday wishes, must be nice to know you, fluxblog, and oliver wang spawned an entire movement of sorts.

Posted by nofrontin at April 17, 2006 8:30 AM

I'm all fanboy at this post... such a bizarre and evocative story. It helps that the second side of this record spends weeks at a time on my turntable; a great, great album. Sean, you know 'Nightbeat', yes? That other killer Sam Cooke record, plus a singles collection, is about as deep as my listening has gone. If anyone else knows other original albums that are can't-misses, I'm all ears.

Posted by Dave at April 17, 2006 8:36 AM

Welcome back from the Orkneys Sean! I have absolutely LOVED Sam Cooke for years - I first heard of him in my early 20s and appreciate him to this day. Thanks for sharing that track. I am still trying to get my head around the other track you shared!!! LOL!

Posted by (Aunty) Debbie at April 17, 2006 8:49 AM

I love the story and the Sam Cooke. Thanks for both.

Posted by Anca at April 17, 2006 10:48 AM

Sean -- we at music for robots just had to switch from our .mac account this week. We had been using it for about six months or so w/out complaint, but after they changed their terms we ran through our bandwidth on the first day. So, that sucked.

just an fyi.


Posted by robot mark at April 17, 2006 1:03 PM

The version of "Bring It On Home to Me" on that Harlem album saves lives and break hearts, and I think that might be the exact same thing sometimes.

Posted by JJerm at April 17, 2006 1:52 PM

Well, Apple's gone and screwed it all up. Sam Cooke mp3 link is dead. But I'll have myself a look for it on the web.

Posted by Chris at April 17, 2006 2:07 PM

That was beautiful. Your words were magnetic poles extracting every metallic particle from my body, and after the story ended, and all the shrapnel had fled my body, there, right in front of me- a steel statue of a god, of god, of Sam Cooke, and there was a motion in his hips, unsurpassable: lovely and gripping, and everything superfluous thought ran flooded out of my porous skin. It took everything, everything! Except soul.

Posted by Milton at April 17, 2006 11:54 PM

I don't know how you come up with this kind of post. It is so unexpected and perfect. I would have never thought of describing his voice as "too loose in his throat" but that is exactly what it sounds like. It seems impossible that you guys make so many posts that just turn me upside-down, shake my head around a little, and then put me back right realizing how many different ways there are to see (actually...hear) things in this world.

Posted by Karin S. at April 18, 2006 1:57 AM

that story. wow. just wow.

Posted by Anonymous at April 18, 2006 4:20 AM

I just want to second all the wows. That story might be your best post ever, Sean - not only great music writing but sage fathering advice too. It's interesting to have pop writing approach a tale of adolescent experience from the parental point of view, and yet it wasn't without a nostalgic frisson, that experience of sneaking out of the house into a new forbidden social world vividly embedded there. Thank you.

Posted by zoilus at April 18, 2006 2:36 PM

i want to name my child *intensity*.

Posted by musicisart at April 20, 2006 4:32 PM

Thank you for posting the Sam Cooke piece. Keep up the great (and unique) work.

Posted by Charles at April 21, 2006 6:41 PM

I've been pondering this post for a week, wondering if I should pipe up. Great writing, per usual. But the Sam Cooke performance, I just wonder if I'm the only one that feels that it isn't really as tops as you make it out to be? Some soul singers growl, but Sam Cooke was never one of them. He's growling here, or straining a bit at the very least. Or maybe his voice is just tired from touring, who knows. Either way, he's squarely in Otis territory, which is only problematic for someone whose voice is as definitive as SC's.

Yes, it's awesome that he was that into it, feeling it so much (the band is really pushing him, it's interesting to hear the song played so hard and fast). But is it really as good as the studio Sam Cooke, the blessedly gifted and wholly singular Sam Cooke? The one who most of us were probably conceived to?

Personally, I don't think so.

Then again, a ragged Sam Cooke is better than 99.9% of all singers anywhere, ever. So I'll be quiet now.


Posted by Andy at April 23, 2006 11:10 AM

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Andy.

You're totally right that Sam Cooke is not the most, I don't know, -raucous- of soul singers. At least the first half of this particular recording is a testament to that - while the band's sizzling along, Cooke's still singing in a fairly calm, serious way.

Towards the end, though, I feel something changes - note when he forgets the words or whatever, or in those final cries.

It's funny, though, relistening again now (I was listening to this song for DAYS before writing that post, but I'm not sure I've listened since), it sounds so different than I remembered it! I came into this comment box to disprove you, but yeah, now, it does sound pretty smooth... Haha. But then again, maybe that says something about the mindset, the place, the time of a listening (which is what this post was about too). The way the same song can sound so different, with different clouds overhead.

Posted by Sean at April 23, 2006 11:18 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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