Thursday, September 09, 2010

Let's Burn Down the Cornfield - Alex Taylor, The Seatsniffers

On September 7th, a bunch of superstitious natives in Belize burned down the animal sanctuary built by two Americans. Why? As CNN's Arthur Brice reported, "the indigenous Maya villagers were acting on the advice of a psychic," who spread the gossip that the Americans "had fed two missing children to the 17 crocodiles at the sanctuary."

"We're in shock. We're totally devastated," said Cherie Rose, 44 years old, a woman with a biology degree and a passionate interest in preserving wildlife. Her husband Vince, 48, said "What we created was absolutely beautiful," and hopes to remain in the country and rebuild the sanctuary. As if the natives who torched it would suddenly get enough education and civility to leave it alone?

Sorry, Vince, but it's not your country. It's theirs…and they'll always find a reason to resent the White Man who comes in to bring them into the 21st Century, and find some reason to view the intrusion as nothing but evil. And they'd rather remain cannibals, Druids, female circumcisionists, rapists, murderers and most certainly ritual animal killers. Sorry Vince, it's perilous bringing civilization, knowledge and sanity to people who'd rather believe in the God of violence and intolerance.

All over the world, the clock is ticking backward as if this isn't the 21st Century. In the Middle East, they still believe in stoning women to death. The Far East is filled with barking mad maniacs who eat the brains out of living animals and don't care if they destroy the last rhino or whale. Africa is well known for regions that are totally lawless, and just to add new atrocities, reports arrived a few months ago of albino Africans being killed or mutilated because of superstitions about their skin color.

Take a look at any major city in the United States, England or France. Vince, it's enough of a battle right now to keep the savages from invading civilization and bringing with them their violence or their insane lifestyles of filth and selfishness. Killing animals? Authorities look the other way and shrug that killing goats (or most any other animal) is just part of some immigrant's religion and nobody can interfere. If you and your wife were home at the time of the fire, you would've been killed with a blow gun, or beaten to death, or simply thrown on top of the pyre that was once your animal sanctuary.

Mr. and Mrs. Rose were trying to maintain wildlife and the broken planet's ecosystem. Had they represented a big corporation willing to buy land to strip-mine it of minerals or chop down trees, and offered ten cents to every native, the natives would've been cheering, and more than willing to grind up a few of their children for hamburger meat and serve it when the contracts were signed.

The natives burned down the animal sanctuary because of superstition. Well, some 38 years ago, Randy Newman wrote a song called "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield," which if you read between the sparse lines, is a meditation on the kind of selfish, stupid "humans" who place their sadistic pleasures above all else. Pyromania is, after all, pretty sexy. Or don't you remember the lyrics:

"Let's burn down the cornfield, let's burn down the cornfield. And we can listen to it burn…oh it's so good, on a cold night, to have a fire burnin' warm and bright…let's burn down the cornfield. Let's burn down the cornfield. And I'll make love to you while it's burning."

You get both a moody and uptempo version.

Alex Taylor, oldest brother of James and Livingston, recorded Newman's song on his prime 1972 album "Dinnertime." Taylor's career stalled shortly after, but he still had a desire to make music. 21 years after his shot at stardom (at a time when every Taylor sibling seemed to be making records) Alex went back into the studio to try again. By then, he was well known to have a drinking problem, and after a bit too much vodka at the recording studio, Alex suffered a heart attack, lingered unconscious for nearly a week, only to die on brother James' 45th birthday, March 12, 1993.

The rockabilly version, betraying the cheerful villainy one associates with Southern empty-skulls, is actually the work of a Belgian group. The Seatsniffers, with Walter Broes on lead vocals and the De Houwer brothers (Dirk and Piet) on bass and drums, arrived on the scene in 1997, making albums and opening for Euro-traveling 50's faves such as Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Buddy Guy. The band's name made them especially popular in Holland, where a lot of guys get off on sneaky ways of self-pleasure. The band did manage to play a "Rockabilly Rave" in England. "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield" was released in 2004 via the Dutch label Sonic Rendez-Vous.



Andy 7 said...

With all due respect to Alex, of all the Taylor clan (Livingston, Kate & Alex) that were being signed up like crazy in the early Seventies he was the most reluctant to cash in on brother James' popularity.

Ill Folks said...

Interesting point. He was the least commercial. "Sister Kate" was ear-friendly and sweetly slick (as was her later Columbia album) and Livingston wasn't too far away from James stylistically.

Liv's the only one that I met. I spent an hour with him, interview and photographs. A very intimidating guy at first, very intense -- within 30 seconds he was laying down a ground rule that pretty much said NO mention of James or Kate. But ultimately I enjoyed my time with him.

Tommy said...

You're absolutely correct! The clock is ticking backwards.

Now they're telling me there's a red under my bed and the President is some kind of martian or something and 1.5 billion mecca facing terrorists want me dead for reasons I don't understand.

The new pope is a failed disc jockey, and the popette is a cute, vindictive, proud ignoramus.

That sorry Earl Grey crew may have won, who'd of thunk it?

I'm glad I'm not in this crappy movie (yet).

Ill Folks said...

The new pope is a failed disc jockey?

In that case, I will have to say, "Pontiff...your mother was a hamster, and your father smells of elderberries!"

As for facing mecca, I'm more likely to face Decca.

Although it's now part of MCA/Universal.

Although, Gene Pitney singing:

"Each morning I face her window and pray that our love can be
'cause that brownstone house where my baby lives
Is Mecca! Mecca! MECCA TO ME!"

uhclem said...

And with respect to the fine versions you cite, I'll stand with the original, which features a searing Ry Cooder on lead guitar: