Addotto takes on Rock and Roll

For Janis 

An ugly little woman from Port Arthur, Texas

I don’t know where you were at the time
I know where I was though.
I was in a bar
when someone put the song on.
“Three songs for a quarter” it read in 
flashing florescent Day- Glo orange-red.
It really was that long ago that that was what it said)

Inside that god awful garish machine 
she reared back and with a voice as sharphurting 
as a first heart attack
flung out a nightmaring scream
that could have nothing to do with real human dreams
It was her as a song .

She cut loose----- splitting
all the carefully stitched temporary seams
holding all our wounds closed---
splattering us all with whisked blood, cocaine and speed
with all the hurt dammed up behind years of rejected needs
that one ugly little woman from Port Arthur could possibly feel.
All unleashed in one irresistible pyroplastic volcanic explosion, 
an insane fire tsunami of pain and gushed bleeding
rolling up from her vagina up through her belly
then lungs
and into her throat---- spewing it all over us.

She sang:

And each time I tell myself that I, well I think I’ve had enough,
But I’m gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough. 

I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby

All the useless pointless hurting
was there to be seen, felt;
we experienced the unbelievable cursing crushing weight of it 
outraging, manhandling us
taking us down a dark black East Texas backroad
only she could know 
showing us a part of herself only she could show
raping us with her pain.

She made us feel responsible for it,
protective of her--------
of ourselves.

(Janis Joplin was born January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas 
and died October 4, 1970, in Hollywood, California

Sexual Messiah

Think about it a little.
What was middle ,(and upper) class dealing with
with him?
just a young man,
from the South
----a place already noted for wet hot, humid, indecorous sweat. 
And yes, that horror of horrors- yes!
Thrust up hard against those prim, white, too tight 
Northern maiden-form cotton panties and bras.

A carpenter’s son----------- (the symbolism is just so neat here,
true or not), a working class boy
shaking up the hot restless 
Northern sweetmeats.

A white boy with a chocolate, dark, jungle love, 
“Negro’s heart”
white-washed and just barely 
acceptable to Northern tastes---
but not for a place on old Ed’s show,
until a forced compromise-------- No shots (God and Ed said) below the waist!

I know you remember this.
Old Ed just as tight as a psychotic’s fist
congratulating him on a “good performance”
patting him on the shoulder and shaking his hand 
like a real proper, heterosexual, Northern respectable kind of man
(which he probably was). 

Still……………….. did he feel it?
a primitive pelvic thrust of lust of his own?
that undeniable charisma that that boy exuded?
Come on, dead from the head down 
and truly dead now, Ed, 
‘fess up. 
A posssibility
a very unconservative, unpuitanical
above the Mason-Dickson (ha ha) line

After that night
That phenomenon that he became spread
like a shattering, impacting meteor’s shock waves, 
splattering the elder complacency
sending seismic tremors misbehaving through 
eager nubile hot thighs
all around the world.

Girls lusted,
boys imitated and trusted him,
playing his 45’s
with him as a surrogate seducer of the wet sweets.

Hate him-Love him, either was fine
but no denials or in-betweening
was possible at that time.

Short of death,
or being deaf, mute and blind-- all at the same time, (or possibly catatonic!) 
were the only options.

In that drenching driving Southern wild storm 
one way or another
Evvvvvva-bodeeeeeeee was gonna get Wet, honeychile

On shore leave with John, George, Ringo and the Walrus.

Nothing was the same
when I came out of the 
Lowe’s Movie Theater 
late in sixty-eight
depressurizing from the 
Yellow Submarine.

I mean it was and it wasn’t
the same.
The traffic was still insane.
there was the same feel of crazy about its pace.
The city buses still puffed black burnt diesel farts
into the ascending and descending rider’s faces.
I couldn’t tell with my buttered-popcorned nose
but I suppose the crap in the gutter had fermented a little more.
My city’s particular personalized body aroma hadn’t improved
since I went into the theatre two hours before. 
Near the corner of Canal and Rampart streets.
The big fat man selling hot dogs dispensed from 
the big beige/tan and red tin weenie on wheels
was still there. His greasy hair was still
sticking out from under his green flap-eared hunting cap 
pulled down low on his ears, wearing a plastic cutlass, buccaneer’s pants
with a scarf wrapped round his neck looking like an escapee from the “The Gay Blades of Penzance”
or the outrageously campy rendition of Jean Lafitte

An obvious transvestite (it was the five o’clock shadow
over most of his face 
sticking through his Max Factor make up base that gave him away)
in blindingly fluorescent pair of chartreuse stretch pants
and an exposed midriff floral print top
was madly gesticulating with fluttering butterfly hands, non-stop
to a man who looks strikingly like Sigmund Freud.
Both of them were arguing irately with the “weenie pirate”

Something that Sigmund or the drag queen must have said
caused the weird privateer to attack them, smacking them again and again 
all about the shoulders, bouffant hairdo and head 
and ears------- 
smacking them with his plastic machete 
forcefully and repeatedly.
He-she and Mr. Freud ran off wailing and in terrified tears 
yelping like scalded chihuahuas. 
Lafitte close behind still connecting swinging whacks solidly to their rears.

Stood there thinking a little while longer.
Somehow the idea sprouted up 
and grew stronger and stronger
that the fantasy had jumped down off of the screen
following me outside onto this street scene.

Yellow Submarine -- New Orleans

Hell, the names even rhymed

Wouldn’t have been the least surprised
to see a couple of Blue Meanies
or Green Apple Bonkers.

As a matter of fact…….. nah, couldn’t be!!!!!

Nat King Cole fans.


I’m not sure but
I must have been twelve…
maybe thirteen.
Papa brought an LP home.
(A vinyl record, remember them?)
And at the time
we had one of those big self-contained Hi-Fi’s
(Before stereos!) then.
It had cabinet damm near as big as a compact car
hidden speakers, 78, 45, and 33 rpm speeds,
record stacker spindle; treble bass and volume controls--
big, gold adjustment buttons spaced smartly
across the front face
with a sort of a storage place on the left side
under the sliding glass top for waiting “albums,”
an AM radio -- just everything
and yes, it was ……. A Magnavox (“The Very Best in Sound Engineering”)
no less.

Papa brought home records from time to time.
Perry Como, Patti Page, Mario Lanza, The Dukes of Dixieland
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass Band
Movie Soundtracks, Opera, (which he swore he understood and mimicked)
Papa was a very eclectic collector and everybody’s fan.
If he liked it he bought it.

That night he came home with one by Nat King Cole.
And as I said before I couldn’t have been more
then twelve or at the most thirteen years old.
Papa was a sucker for romance and took every chance he could
to impress Mama with his suave disarming manner and Italian charm.
(There got to be seven of us children eventually.)

Papa put the record unopened in the record storage space.
We went to bed a little early that night.
My room was directly above and to the right of the front hall
just as the living room was downstairs and below
The fireplace’s chimney ran up through the walls.

Papa had set a fire and the bricks in the wall began to warm
and the only sounds to tickle the night time calm
were the first soft croonings of Nat King Cole.

That voice, that beautiful velvet voice,

a blossom feel and very soon I saw you kissing someone new beneath the moon
I thought you loved me, you said you loved me
we planned together to dream forever……

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you
You're so like the lady with the mystic smile
Is it only 'cause you're lonely they have blamed you?
For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile?

Ramblinnnnnn Rose Ramblinnnnnn’ Rose why I love you heaven knows….
Wrapped up in my one of my grandmothers feather quilts
Nat king Cole’s nirvanic hypnogogic voice,
an occasional soft laugh from Mama
a rumbleword or two from Papa
a sort of holy contentment threw a warm loving arm
across my chest.

That night would never be repeated
but the ghost of it makes me smile

Unforgettable, that's what you are
Unforgettable though near or far
Like a song of love that clings to me……..


Ain't easy to be sooooooooo-wave and de-bone-yair
  The Doo-wop Casanova goes to the Academy of the Immaculate Conception’s Sadie Hawkins Day Dance.


Come on…tell them…. You remember:
You know you did it----
went into the master bedroom
when your family was away
leaving you behind
On that long autumn Labor day-----
All alone in the house for the very first time, remember?

Standing there in front of your mother’s full length dressing mirror
And practicing “The Stroll.”
While the “Doo- Wop” rolled so loud
Out of your parents phonograph
In the living room across the hall.

Time to practice.
God forbid you wouldn’t look ‘hip”, “cool,”
or do something fatally embarrassing and clumsy
at the “Sadie Hawkins Sock Hop” at school
just a frantic week away from yesterday.

you knew you already looked pretty good to the girls
with that Brylcreem spit curl
twirled strategically in an Elvis-style disguise
over that suggestive set of big brown Italian “bedroom eyes.”
when your whole (possible (?) future) sex life was on the line.
One foolish stumble and your chances would crumble
if not permanently, for damn sure---- for a long long time.

Thinking of the endless practicing as an investment
for a prospective “gropee-feelie” during a slow tune.
when Sister Bertrille’s chaperoning bladder
would take her out of the gymnasium’s main “rec.” room
And if as Paula Jean Hebert has already promised she won’t be wearing
too much underwear if you asked her to for a dance----
There sure as hell wasn’t any use taking even the slightest chance.
Every move had to be smooth, suave and debonair
(pronounced Soooooooooooo- waaaave and Deeeeeee- bone-yair)
as a combination of Gene Kelly and Fred Astair

Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Pretending that I’m doing well
My need is such I pretend too much……..

Dancing, dancing, dancing out of your parent’s room
and out into the hall
still in your baggy crotched drawers
down to the kitchen
with the Platters turned up window rattling loud
holding the head of
the pillow from the bed of a pretend Paula Jean so close
whispering “sweet nothings” to them
and kissing it even now and then
romantically “sweeping her off her feet”
while taking bites our of a sandwich of luncheon meat
and sliced tomato.

The sound front door opening was an easy thing to miss.
Mama and Papa and the sisters laughing uproariously wasn’t.

.we’ll have these moments to reeeeememmmmmmmmmmmmbeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrr.

All poems by Alan Addotto

Music: House of the Rising Sun by The Animals

Photographs are of the artists mentioned in the poems.

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