by Greil Marcus
THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC opens at theaters in New York, Los Angeles and around the country during September and October.
Everyone who has encountered Chris Strachwitz knows his generosity of spirit, his quiet eagerness to share sounds he’s long treasured or just discovered, and his easy sense of humor, which is mostly present in a grin.
But I was completely disarmed, one day in 1977, when he asked me what I thought of George Thorogood. I’d just had a conversation with my seven-year-old daughter on the subject. “Is that a white man or a black man singing?” she asked when a track from Thorogood’s first album came on the radio—let’s say it was “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer.” “It’s a white man trying to sound like a black man,” I said. “He’s doing a really good job,” she said, and that pretty much summed up the attitude of those who could see through Thorogood’s blackface vocals, dismissing him as no more than a more energetic version of John Hammond, Jr. I started to say something hemming and hawing to Chris—I loved Thorogood, marveled at the way his guitar playing was so everywhere-at-once he made his own band redundant—and figured Chris would find him an outrage, a thief, a poseur, a step away from a race criminal. But you never know with Chris Strachwitz. There’s no ideology in his taste, or for that matter his knowledge. His eyes glowed. “I think he’s great,” he said, “and I can’t figure out why,” and he said it as if it wasn’t that important to try.
Greil Marcus lives in Oakland, CA. His books include Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ’n’ Roll Music, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century and The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs. With Werner Sollors he is co-editor of A New Literary History of America.
One of the great places in the world to buy recorded music is at Chris Strachwitz’ store Down Home Music Store. If you are in the San Francisco area you owe it to yourself to visit. If not you can order CDs and vinyl online where you can also watch videos of in-store performances and read Chris’ blog.
Strachwitz’ incredible record label, Arhoolie is truly unique and looking through the catalog will have you discovering music you didn’t know existed but probably want to hear. Check it out http://www.arhoolie.com/
Here are some recent and classic releases: