Ry Cooder “Better Not Shake It No Mo'”

Ry Cooder “Better Not Shake It No Mo'”

This is so right, yet so wrong.

Right in concept, wrong in execution, marketing that is.

You can’t get your message heard. All the traditional intermediaries are long in the tooth and near worthless. Talk to the acts that get their records reviewed in the newspaper, it has no effect. Radio is in the rearview mirror. What’s a poor boy to do?

Just what he wants to.

But you’ve got to give it a good shot. There should be a lyric video. Or at least some teenager should have put the lyrics on one half of the screen. It’s hard to understand exactly what Ry is singing. But the enthusiasm! The experience of seeing a legend at work!

And Ry has no YouTube channel, which flummoxes me, he’s a guy who could use one, demonstrating technique, doing covers, isn’t that what he’s famous for? But he’s another aged boomer out of touch with today’s technology, but not its mores.

Great art comes from inspiration. And talk to a great artist and they’ll tell you it’s elusive. But they know it when they feel it/get it, and they run straight to the studio, or get a pad and pencil or an iPhone and lay it on down, you’ve got to capture it right away or it drifts away. And you’ve got to be wary of mucking it up, trying to get it right. Sometimes the initial raw take is best. Kinda like James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here.” The original, now unavailable iteration, is solo acoustic, with an undeniable groove that has you contemplating the lyrics. The finished take has a different groove and it does not resonate and the effectiveness is diminished. Same deal here, if Ry went into the studio and polished “Better Not Shake It No Mo’,” he’d probably ruin it. But you can see Ry bouncing around his house, thinking about the news, how can one not, and then he gets a flash of inspiration and decides to write a song and lay it on down.

And the best part of this video is not the song, but Ry himself. Why in hell, during the hottest L.A. fall in memory, is he wearing a toque? And the white socks with the slippers… PRICELESS! Like a granddad puttering around the house. But the playing…

This Ry can do naturally, he needs no study, no tutoring, this is his wheelhouse as the kids say today. And he’s totally detached from modern reality, it’s a blast from the past, the way he shakes his head, illustrating how motivated and into it he is, this is the opposite of what we constantly confront, Ry seems GENUINE!

As for the song… It’s oblique and it’s humorous. The way art is supposed to be. The talking heads, the newspaper writers, they lay it all down explicitly, the artist has a skewed view, which resonates with the most people. Ry focuses on a relatively peripheral element of the Kavanaugh case, Ramirez’s contention that Brett swung his penis in front of her and…

But shaking it does not have to be literal. As Tom Wolfe so eloquently wrote, you can be a big swinging dick, and certainly Kavanaugh thinks he’s one, and “dick” has two meanings and…

There’s a break where Ry picks.

And then he shakes his banjo and at the very end you hear a little girl squeal, the granddaughter, the next generation, the one that’s gonna pay the price.

This is in the tradition that Ry grew up with, folk music, hootenanny, he started playing before the Beatles. And that sound percolated and grew to the point where the songs became staples at summer camps and became anthems for the peace movement.

You’ve got to start somewhere.

And it’s always best to go back to the garden.

Ry didn’t assemble twenty writers, didn’t add a manufactured beat, hell, his foot was enough, he did it the old-fashioned way, with humanity, and it resonated.

But nothing is gonna happen. Especially not in a world where the “Times” delineates Trump’s tax evasion and it’s already forgotten. But it’s a start.

And very modern, in that you don’t think about money, you don’t try to plan the game, you just focus on the art and see what happens.

But come on Ry, help us out. With the aforementioned lyrics. Using the internet to spread the word. I’m not saying you have to employ a PR person to carpet bomb the world to little effect. I’m just saying that you’ve got to reach the people who care, however small that group might be. Via the social feeds of like-minded musicians. You start with your friends and you spread the word there.

So this is really curious. At first I was intellectually stimulated but not emotionally. The track, unlike McMurtry’s, is not a hit, it’s not something that yearns to be played over and over again, ad infinitum. But trying to decipher the lyrics, I got hooked, and it really didn’t matter if anybody else did, I was locked on, and that’s what listening is all about.

And I loved the humor. Everybody’s taking themselves so seriously. In the last era of social protest they did not, Frank Zappa built a whole career on poking fun at his own generation. People get the joke, assuming you make one.

So let this stimulate you. The system has been broken down to nothing. Unless you’re a rapper, you’re positively cottage industry. Instead of being frustrated that you can’t dominate the world and make bank, fulfill yourself.

And you just might fulfill the rest of us.

P.S. I asked the manager, Robert Cappadona, for the words, since I couldn’t figure them all out, this is how he responded:

As a manager, I’ve spent a good deal of time transcribing lyrics.

This is the my best version, knowing Ry’s writing (not the gospel).

…Where I’m unsure I will put the word(s) I believe it to be in ( ), and the words I don’t know empty in ( ).

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Well better not shake it no mo’ no mo’
You better not shake it no mo’
Mitch McConnell told me son
You better not shake it no mo’

And you better not jump the girls no more
You better not jump no mo’
If you wanna be a Supreme Judge
You better not shake it no mo’

Well a pretty little gal come walking by
And had to shake it (that thang)
She went and told the FBI
But it ain’t no fault of mine

‘Cause I used to be a college boy
And just one thing I found
When they got their lipstick and their (boobs)
They really wanna shake it all down
Yes they do

Shake it on down
Shake it on down
Shake it on down

If the girls play hard to get
I will just play harder yet
and ( ) going to shake it all down

Play it for me

( ) a letter this morning ( ) I highly reckon it read
The words and salutations from the President
Saying those bitches at the White House
Just as fine as anything be
So come on over to my House
And shake it one time for me

Shake it on down
Shake it on down
We’ll use discretion
But it (will decline)
Tell ‘em court’s in session
Let’s shake it one more time

Shake it on down
Shake it on down
I’ll rock the majority opinion
And soon we’ll shake it all down

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One Response to Ry Cooder “Better Not Shake It No Mo'”


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  1. Pingback by Ry Cooder: Better Not Shake It No Mo | ARTS & FARCES LLC | 2018/10/07 at 19:06:14

    […] Best of all, Bob Lefsetz got Cooder’s man­ag­er — Robert Cappadona — to decode most of the lyric. […]

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  1. Pingback by Ry Cooder: Better Not Shake It No Mo | ARTS & FARCES LLC | 2018/10/07 at 19:06:14

    […] Best of all, Bob Lefsetz got Cooder’s man­ag­er — Robert Cappadona — to decode most of the lyric. […]

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