R.I.P. Porter Wagoner...
His music was propulsive, lurid, reflexively flash and suffused with unerring honky-tonk élan. The dissolute characters he embodied in song were mere shot glasses shy of Satan's furnace, adrift in doubt, often bereft of hope, up to their necks in melancholy...
He introduced us to Dolly Parton.
Ain't that life enough?
Wagoner was both roué and committed social activist, an artist equivalent in stature to Stravinsky, Calloway, Sherman, Rauschenberg, Polanski, and a goddamned hick, an outstanding composer, and the leader of a band (the brilliant Wagonmasters) as well-versed in the improvisational arts as AMM...
(And you thought Unknown Pleasures was iconic... Above, the sleeve for Omni's 2006 Rubber Room compilation. Above that, the presciently mimetic artwork for Wagoner's 1968 RCA Victor release The Bottom of the Bottle.)
Read the Times' obit here.
(Above, an astounding 1973 clip of "Run That by Me One More Time" from The Porter Wagoner Show. Everyone is simultaneously louche and nimble; they're locked-in like ravenous ticks! Dig the look in Dolly's eyes as she passes the vocal back to Porter after her high harmony "wine" ad-lib... If you quickly scan the audience insert shots you can spy gossiping sisters, over-enthusiastic husbands, disapproving wives, hard-boppin' toothless cousins, a woman in a white blouse picking her nose, the whole marvelous, bloody human comedy... Buck Trent's electric banjo solo is exhilarating, ditto Don Warden's pedal steel fills, especially those staccato stabs of hillbilly VCS3 roping the ensemble into position after the improvised bits in the second and third verses. [Why couldn't those guys have been hired to replace Eno in Roxy?] And Ms. Parton? Unbelievable. I love the moment when she gives Wagoner the "clock is wrong" line - she's all business. The pre-"Jolene" Dolly was too freakin' hot for words... As for the late Porter - perfect hair, sick threads, great voice, etc.)
Porter Wagoner's "Rubber Room," from the wonderful 1972 RCA Victor LP What Ain't to Be Just Might Happen:
In a buildin' tall with a stone wall around
There's a rubber room
When a man sees things and hears sounds that's not there
He's headed for the rubber room
Illusions in a twisted mind to save from self-destruction
It's the rubber room
Where a man can run into the wall
Till his strength makes him fall and lie still
And wait for help in the rubber room
From his blurry vision of doom
In the rubber room
The man in the room right next to mine
Screams a woman's name hits the wall in vain
He's in the rubber room
I hear footsteps poundin' on the floor
God I hope they don't stop at my door
I'm in the rubber room
Now they've come to get me but they find
I'm a-screamin' pretty words tryin' to make 'em rhyme
I'm in the rubber room
I'm in the rubber room...
Doom doom doom
Zoom run tomb
Zoom run boom plume
The rubber room...
* Given the vagaries of Texan pronunciation, this could either be "bomb" (reduced to "bum"), or "boom." I choose the latter, though we've faxed Mr. Wagoner's press agent in Purgatory for confirmation...