Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rock and Roll is Sometimes Quite Possibly Noise Pollution

So, the other day I'm driving to school and listening to this great '60s pop compilation that my friend Jeff Hart (Hi, Jeff!) let me borrow. First I'm breezing along to the "Theme from 'The Avengers'". Then the Kingsmen's raw, garage-y version of "Little Latin Lupe Lu" comes on and I'm digging that, too. So, when "Ridin' on the L & N" kicks in, I'm feeling giddy as all get-out. I'd never heard this one before. It's a gritty, rockin' little blues shuffle, sung by a guy who's doing a spot-on imitation of Mick Jagger. Think "Let It Bleed", but peppier and not as polished. When I get to the next stoplight, I check the track listing to be sure that I'm not listening to some great lost Stones' track.

"Bintangs?" says I. "Never heard of 'em."

At this point I'm about a third of the way through the song and realize I haven't been giving it my full attention. I bounce back to the beginning so I can wallow in the muddy rockin'ness without distraction.

It starts off strong with a couple of quick snare-and-cymbal crashes and some harmonica blasts over the top of it. Oh yeahhhh. In my mind's eye, my new Toyota Matrix has just morphed into a 1967 Pontiac GTO convertible. I slouch back in the driver's seat with one hand draped casually across the 12 o'clock position on the steering wheel. Then Pseudo Mick Jagger Guy starts a-snarlin':

Round the bend came the L & N
Loaded down with a lotta men . . .

Then there's a couple of lines that are more or less unintelligible except for the phrase "throw the switch", and now it's time for the chorus. . .

Ridin' . . . ridin' on the L & N
Hitchhikin' . . . I'll be ridin' on the L & N . . .

Aaaah! It's a tribute to the grand old hobo tradition of train-hopping. This song just keeps getting better and better. I'd been feeling a little uneasy about those lyrics I couldn't make out, but I can now assume that they related to highly technical aspects of the freight train's inner cogs that I'd never have been able to wrap my tiny pea brain around anyhow. I am relieved, and resume grooving to the rock and roll music with an unclouded brain. It is good.

Just then, someone cuts me off without signaling. "Ha-HA! Bully for you and your devil-may-care approach to driving!" I cry. "Carry on, my good fellow, and Godspeed!" This is how much the rock and roll music affects me.

I've missed a few lines, which (I will learn later) introduce Quinn, the train's engineer, whose ability to stretch his forename into a rhyme with "L & N" and "bend" obviously made him a shoe-in for the job. With that bit of exposition out of the way, it's back to the chorus. . .

Ridin' . . . ridin' on the L & N
Hitchhikin' . . . I'll be ridin' on the L & N . . .

We've reached the part of the song that's a natural breaking point for a solo. I have a two-handed white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel while the harp player pipes in for a couple of measures. He is no doubt warming up for what is about to be a crankin', testosterone-drenched, nut-busting, ass-shakin', balls-out thrill-ride of a --

flute solo? Christ on Acme springs.

My tires catch the outer edge of the asphalt. I drop into the shoulder and kick up gravel for about 30 feet, until I get a grip and yank the car (a Toyota Matrix once again) back onto the road.

Meanwhile, Flute Guy is still blowing on his friggin' pipe. You can hear the spit flying everywhere. He's gasping and wheezing like an asthmatic Trekkie after an extended swirlie. Through the smoky haze of my brain, I can just make out Flute Guy's band-mates behind him, jamming and chin-jutting to the blues groove. A hairy fellow with sweat rings under his man-boobs shoots them a confident thumbs-up through the sound-proof window of a mixing booth. Everyone is feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, thinking that the rock-and-roll flute solo is a pretty swell idea. Yeah. All riiight.

But it wasn't a good idea. It is never a good idea. You know that Ian Anderson guy from the Jethro Tull band? It wasn't a good idea when he did it either. It was a terrible idea, with the flute, and the tall boots, and the Pan stance, and those wretched plum smugglers. A terrible, terrible, awful idea.

Well, after the flute solo, the rest of the song is kind of a blur. There's some guy who's sleeping on a pile of clothes, and a doctor, and some more words that rhyme and blah-blah-blah. Whatever. I am numb. I sleepwalk through my classes. On the way home I turn to the right side of the FM radio dial for comfort. I sing along. "I've got a peacefuuuuul, easy feeeeelin'. . . ."

But that is a lie. I am tormented by the rock-and-roll flute solo. I feel compelled to learn more about The Bintangs, these men who lifted my spirits to staggering heights only to dump them onto a concrete slab and send a 500-lb. safe screaming down after.

I do a quick Internet search when I get home. The All-Music Guide is a dead end. I search Google and hit pay-dirt:

"The Bintangs Website. . . Bintangs, the leading Rhythm and blues band of the Netherlands."

I click on the link and prepare to learn all there is to know about The Bintangs, these men whose rock-and-roll flute stylings nearly ran me off the road. The next thing I see is this:

"Welkom op de Bintangs website

Ontdek de wereld van de Bintangs

Hartelijk welkom bij de Bintangs, we hebben meer dan 85 pagina's met informatie uit heden en verleden voor u samengesteld over Frank Kraaijeveld, Jan Wijte, Maarten Ibelings, Gerben Ibelings en Dagomar Jansen. En natuurlijk ook info over oud Bintangs. . . ."

Darned if these rock-and-roll flautists aren't crafty little buggers. It's in code! But in the bottom left-hand corner of the page is a photo of a fellow with his lips puckered over a flute. It appears as if he might once have been a young guy in the '60s. Oh, I'm on the right track all right.

So, I find a Bintangs page that is written in English. I learn that The Bintangs were very popular in the Netherlands in the '60s. The band had a revolving door of guitarists, drummers and keyboardists, all of whom were no doubt driven mad by the adjacent revolving door of rock-and-roll flautists. They recorded songs by Muddy Waters, Brownie McGhee, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and Bo Diddley.

Frankly, that's a lot more than I ever expected to learn about the Bintangs, but there's still one nagging question to be answered. Just how in the hell high do you have to be to take a classic blues song, stick a flute solo in it, and decide that it sounds pretty damn good to you?

As I ponder this question, I put in another disc of that '60s collection. It starts with a poppy little Kaleidoscope song. . .

Jenny Artichoke lived in a boat
Down by the sea with a baby
And she didn't know much about anything
But she was oh so nice to me . . .

Now that's a song. I'm feeling better already. . . .

Jenny Artichoke lived in a boat dressed like a queen
You should have seen
And she didn't care much about anyone
But she was oh so nice to me. . .

You know . . . maybe the Bintangs aren't such bad guys after all. Maybe the rock-and-roll flute is just a cultural thing I'll never understand, like mint sauce or ladies' armpit hair.

Jenny! Climbing up her flagpole!
Jenny! Looking through her porthole!

Yeah, that's probably it. I mean, who am I to get down on folks who are just trying to express their culture and originality through song? Man, I'm kind of an asshole. So, bully for you, Bintangs, and your devil-may-care approach to blues music! Carry on, my good fellows, and Godspeed!

Jenny! With her hair on fire!
How could anyone ever pass by her?


evenstar said...

Just how in the hell high do you have to be to take a classic blues song, stick a flute solo in it, and decide that it sounds pretty damn good to you?

"Bintang" Indonesian for "star", But I'm betting they named themselves after the Balinese beer of the same name. Few too many perhaps?

Like ya blog storchy! Hi from Oz...

david j said...

I'm going to go listen to my Focus records now.

extrastorchy said...

I feel that Focus recordings lose some of their punch if they're not on 8-track.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
extrastorchy said...

Thanks, Evenstar! I've been enjoying your photos.

Dave Pasternak said...

Wandered over here from Tom's blog - yours had my office mate concerned for my welfare (or possibly his own) because I was laughing so hard while reading it.

What is it with European rock bands and flutes? My wife still complains about being "kidnapped" by (former) friends to go see Jethro Tull. Thirty years later, she can still be heard mumbling derisively about "... some (#$*@ guy playing with himself with a flute" whenever the word "Tull" is uttered in her presence.

And we won't even start on the Moody Blues...

extrastorchy said...

Hey, Dave!

Glad you enjoyed. Nice to know that the blogs I write when I should be working are helping others to avoid work as well. It's like a public service that way.

Anonymous said...

Hey Storchy,

Just came over from Terry's.
'Bintangs' *is* Indonesian. Back in the 60's Indonesians were by far the largest immigrant group in The Netherlands (the country had just become independent from The Netherlands). The two founders have Indonesian roots. 'Indo-rock' was a genre of its own in Holland in the 60s. Later on they changed to bluesrock. And it lasted to 1970 until the flute was considered a cool rock and roll instrument. I fear the Dutch were very enthousiastic about that, I even dunno if maybe Focus (Dutch also) did it before Jethro Tull did. My deepest apologies for that, it puts me to shame for my country.

extrastorchy said...

Thanks for the info!

There are so many other things to love about your country that I wouldn't worry about the flute thing. Your people make lovely cheeses. On behalf of my country, I apologize for all those cement lawn ornaments we made of those little kissing Dutch kids.

cheated are the clouds said...

You are killing me here, my gut hurts from laughing so hard, this is funny stuff

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of Bintangs. Since I heard that same old song (Ridin'on the L&N) I became a fan and still am. Mainly because it's so special, so rough. The oldest member is 61 years of age! This year the band exists 45 years and released a cd named "DOC" and a DVD: "Document, 45 years of Rock & Roll". Still, during the rock concerts the flute is used - and still they play "Ridin'...". You don't have to listen to it if you don't like it... but I do. And I enjoyed your blog!!!

Henk (Holland).

extrastorchy said...


I'll let you in on a little secret. Despite the fact that I am no fan of the rock and roll flute solo, I actually very much enjoy that song and am curious to hear more Bintangs stuff. Those poor guys just had the misfortune of becoming my creative punching bag, and upon publishing that post I made a mental note to do them a good turn one day

Glad that you stumbled onto my blog!

Alfred said...

Hi Extrastorchy

Stumbled onto your Blog while "googling" the Bintangs for some lyrics. Must say I totally enjoyed your writing skills.

I've been a Bintangs fan since the early 60's when they played at my school dances. Although I now live in Winnipeg (Canada for the uninformed), I still keep track of them and buy all their records. Also have their one and only live concert DVD (cost me a new DVD player because it is only available in the European PAL format and only a Phillips North American DVD player can convert it). I can certainly recommend that concert DVD to you. And Yes - they still have the "flaut" player. Should you ever have the opportunity to watch the DVD - you might even agree that it actually fits.

Thanks for your delightful commentary. -- alfred

extrastorchy said...

Alfred --

It's heartening to hear that a Bintangs fan enjoyed that blog. Even though I meant the piece in fun, I harbor this irrational fear that one of those Bintangs guys (or a Bintangs fan) will stumble onto my blog someday take it the wrong way.

I suspect I would very much enjoy a live Bintangs show. If they ever make it down North Carolina way, the beer's on me.

Thanks for popping in, Alfred!

Henno de Jong said...

Hello Storchy,

Thanks to Alfred, who placed a link on the Bintangs website I found this Blog. Your story about Ridin' is great! I am a Bintangfan too, just like Alfred and many others who will visite this site in the coming weeks. Everybody has the right to like or dislike a song. I can imagine you don't expect a flute solo in a rocksong. The flute is one of the ingredients of the Bintangssound, also knows as Hoogovenssound ( hoogovens is a steelfactory in Holland). But as you mentioned yourself there's more music from the Bintangs, who played as a support act in a Kinks concert in Holland ( I saw you like the Kinks too :-) ) in the sixties. Good luck in your search for more songs!

Henno de Jong
Beverwijk, The Netherlands

extrastorchy said...

Henno --

RE:"Thanks to Alfred, who placed a link on the Bintangs website I found this Blog. Your story about Ridin' is great! I am a Bintangfan too, just like Alfred and many others who will visite this site in the coming weeks. . . ."

The Internet is a strange and wonderful place.

Which website is it, by the way?

Thanks for stopping by!

Jurgen said...

Hello Extrastorchy,

Nice story Storchy, is there in the USA stuff available from the Bintangs? I think the guys from the band like your story.
When you like the Beatles and Badfinger you must listen to the music of the band The Trembling Highburys. A freind of mine is the singer/songwriter of that band and also guitar player. Enjoy it!!!!!

With Kind Regards

Jurgen Kehl (Crew Bintangs)

extrastorchy said...

Hi, Jurgen --

I've been looking around and unfortunately haven't been able to find any Bintangs releases here in the U.S..

I just visited the Trembling Highbury's site, and it does sound like their music is right up my alley. I'll keep an eye out for them, too.


I'd rather be sailing said...

Hi Extrastorchy,

Hard to get rid of fanatical fans. In answer to a couple of your questions ... The Bintangs web is here: http://www.bintangs.nl/

One place you could obtain one of their best albums is here(sorry - no freebees): http://www.audiolunchbox.com/album?a=7524

(* note the comments do mention the "flaute" ...)

Signed: alfred (always have been and will be a fan - gonna see them Live in July this year - yahoo !! ).

Anonymous said...

Hey Storchkins,

How dare you talk bad about Jethro Tull! I'm shocked!!

'dillo, who has to admit that Ian Anderson looked a bit old for the plum smugglers at last years concert.

extrastorchy said...

IRBS -- I love fanatical fans! It's wonderful to see that the Bintangs are still going strong after all these years.

Thank you so much for the links, and have fun at that show in July!

extrastorchy said...

TAG, 'dillo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's been ages! What's going on, man? How's Deutschland life treating you? And how's the little 'dillo? Not so little anymore, I guess, huh? What're you planting this year? Geez, we miss you on the board. . . .

A. R. Madillo said...

Hey Storchkins,

Wie gehts mit Euch?

Life goes on here, I guess. I'm lookin' for another gig to exhibit my skulptures and stuff. The little 'dillo is taller than her Mom now and catchin' up on me fast, growing tits and zits and working on writing her first novel.

I'm planting lots of seeds this year, as a buddy of mine has started growing bio veggies and selling them on the farmers market, so I will supply him with seedlings this spring.

Sorry I ain't been around. Money is tight, as I more or less live off my art and music nowdays.

Last week, at a wake, I ran into a lady I had flirted with before the Sunflower bunch broke up. So now I'm trying to get something started with her, which means I have to check my email regularly, and as had paid for the internet time and didn't need it, I Googled you just for kicks.

Your blog rocks, Sweets. I wasn't so impressed with your old man's, but he does make pretty music. If he ever has a gig in Germany and needs a didge or percussion or 'ahem' flute, tell him to give me a holler.

Sorry to lay all this stuff on your blog that doesn't pertain to the subject, but I couldn't find an email address for you anywhere. Keeps down the spam and freaks, I guess.

Keep your ears stiff,

'dillo, who has never heard of Bintang but does go to Amsterdam a couple of times a year.

armadillo at gmx dot net

I'd rather be sailing said...

Hi Extrastorchy

Just a quick note to draw your attention to 3 videoclips of the Bintangs Live (including the song Ridin'). Not sure how long they'll be available - these tned to disappear quickly for copyright reasons: http://123video.nl/video.asp?q=bintangs&zoek=Zoek&familyFilter=ON

Regards - alfred

extrastorchy said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Alfred! I just went to the site and it's not allowing me to view the videos right now due to a problem with the server. I'll definitely keep checking back, though. I appreciate that you notified me about this!

I'd rather be sailing said...

Bintangs Fans are like a bad cold - you just can't shake them.

There are now several Bintangs tunes posted on YouTube - you might wanna take a peak at the Ridin' video - recorded 2006 - some 30 years after the original song was published. And - yes - the "flaut" is still there.

Footnote - the guy playing that Flaut has retired this September after 35 years of faithful Bintangs service. I - and many of their fans - will miss him. He is an awesome musician.

BTW - I did attend their live concert in July while visiting Holland. It was held in a smallish - 60 year old - pub. About 150 dedicated fans, standing room only - drinking beer and enjoying a live show that just would not quit. Rock-n-roll the way it was meant to be performed.

Enjoyed your feedback - alfred