Omni on the World Trade Center

Thee Maximalists
by S.J.Russell

1. I Led The Blind  October 2001
2. Historic Heatwaves  November 2001
3. Chicks with Bricks  December 2001
4. Two Become None  December 2001


Two Become None

The city so nice they named it twice. Logical host for a double-daring deja vu-ing disaster squared. But isn't there a limit? I mean there's twice and then there's just too twice. New York New York had seen bodies fall and planes crash sure, but this looked double strength. Could New York be twice as absorbent? Not only a fire but an aviation disaster, a civil-engineering horror show, an emergency response calamity, an atrocious act of murder, all double dutch in New Amsterdam. Towers falling like castles made of sand. Couldn't they lean on each other? What kind of Samson could push like that? (Fuck-man-wotta-sucka-punch huh?) As if in the words of Andrew Dice Clay someone had "ripped off your arms and clubbed you to death with them"! If that's faux-Brooklyneese so be it. It still has a way of telling it like it was.
                    Two blooms of fire, two snakes of smoke. No wonder a contrarian like Stockhausen said it looked like art by Lucifer. Although he may not have 'said' "art". Anyway a cane came out and hooked his pencil neck and egressed him through the black velvet to the backstage beyond. Soon the observation itself was retracted or clarified online in a rambling on a fansite (!). Persecution: irrational by definition, but an effective distraction in times of fear. So while poor old Stock was getting kicked around some people with some big boots were pretty shook-up. It's all understandable. But I'll say it now. It did look like art by Lucifer. There most certainly was a shocking transformation from almost zen-like still life to terrible movement. A disgusting, evolving skyline, grasping and clawing for life, aging and dying, years and centuries in minutes and seconds. As if, like Dorian Grey, we'd stayed beautiful by some heinous bargain. Had we?
                    Ada Louise Huxtable got in the same yet opposite trouble when she called them the world's biggest tombstones when they were still standing in 1978. The tombstone reference is on the job. And it's not a pejorative really, though intended as one I'm sure. Tombstones are fine. Tombstones are beautiful and peaceful. From afar the Twin Towers were that. And although many despised the towers as out-of-scale interlopers, they were also generally beloved in the way the landscape usually is, by residents who have the loyalty and familiarity of a spouse, and by tourists, captivated and seduced.
                    Let's say the towers were beloved in a 'Frampton Comes Alive' way. 'Frampton Comes Alive' that formerly greatest-selling rock album of all time circa 1977. It was around. It made an impression. Multiply by the population of US bicentennial teenagers and you have an icon. It was an album. It was a double album. It was a double live album. A double live album in the mid-seventies would be released upon record company demand by an artist who had peaked and could deliver a reliable 'nostalgia product' even if the nostalgia was for last year. So how could it not be as it had to be: a 'double liver' was an eternal --or less than eternal-- document of decline. Obviously overlong and prone to fatal reinterpretation, they were ...indulgences. I hesitate to use the word overindulgence. We're talking about rock music here. Overindulge me and I'll overindulge you. There are many more fatal flaws. It does seem ironic that rarely did the live performance supersede the vitality of the studio version, committed repetitively to tape in a stale-aired haze. But 'Frampton' is an exception, several of it's tracks spinning into the popular ear in their live version, its whole demeanor setting a new tone. But not entirely. It is still bloated, lumbering, too big to stay healthy, yet it uses its girth to an advantage. And let's be clear: it has merit, even today, quite unlike certain 'greatest grossing films of all time' from the same era, like dire low-budget revenge pic "Walking Tall". 'The Twin Towers' and 'Frampton Comes Alive' had hulking doppelgangerness in spades, an opinion I share with Omni's Adam Sobolak. Yet I am positive we'll say it in different ways.
                    The monumentality, the excess, the 'accomplishment' (noted by skyscraper nerds and guitar nerds alike) are common to both. The masquerade of grandeur. The zip-lock zeitgeist flavour is inescapable, never to be unfrozen. Size and redundancy were part of a new code for a new reality -- which then (predictably) didn't happen. Larger than life --not particularly even related to life. Of course the critics lined up behind Huxtable and in front of her to hate the World Trade Center and Frampton too.
                    But the reason we're discussing them is because they outlived the criticism. Not in a "oh now we love La Defense/the Plasmatics" way. It's not their fate to be rehabilitated darlings of any age. Year by year it was obvious that they had capped-off some impulse, just by existing, and that now we were sliding down "the other side" and the real thought sensibly went into wondering what was ahead. For sure for sure they wouldn't have fared as well under the more omnivalent scrutiny of even the fanzine age which was right around the corner, let alone cyberspace. "Cyberspace" (almost totally quaint) the instant, frozen artifact of this day -- wherein transience is the new permanence. Taken for granted just like back in '75 when redundancy was briefly the new permanence. And so two have become none, strung out between Gnutella and everyoneeverywherelovesthetowers.org, yet still permanent --living (a half life? a double life?) in a well-lit window on your desk.

Here are 222 double live albums:
Harry Belafonte Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (1959)

Harry Belafonte Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall (1960)

Jimmy Reed Live at Carnegie Hall (1961)

Jose Feliciano Alive Alive O (1969) -- Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper (1969) -- The Grateful Dead Live/Dead (1969)

Miles Davis Black Beauty: Miles Davis at Fillmore West (1970) -- Grand Funk Railroad Live Album (1970) -- Rod McKuen At Carnegie Hall (1970) -- The Incredible String Band U (1970) -- Miles Davis Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East (1970) -- Steppenwolf Steppenwolf Live (1970) -- Everly Brothers Show (1970) -- Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishmen (1970) -- The Doors Absolutely Live (1970)

Colosseum Live (1971) -- The Allman Brothers Band Live at Fillmore East (1971) -- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Four Way Street (1971) -- Humble Pie Performance: Rockin' the Fillmore (1971) -- Curtis Mayfield Curtis/Live! (1971) -- Butterfield Blues Band Live (1971) -- Merle Haggard & the Strangers Land of Many Churches (1971) -- Rare Earth Rare Earth Live (1971)

Weather Report Live in Tokyo (1972) -- Lighthouse Lighthouse Live (1972) -- Taj Mahal The Real Thing (1972) -- Janis Joplin In Concert (1972) -- Neil Diamond Hot August Night (1972) -- Edgar Winter & White Trash Roadwork (1972) -- The Osmonds Live (1972) -- Bloodrock Bloodrock Live (1972) -- The Band Rock Of Ages (1972) -- Miles Davis In Concert: Live at Philharmonic Hall (1972)-- Deep Purple Made In Japan (1972) -- Chuck Mangione Together (1972) -- Smokey Robinson & the Miracles 1957 -1972 (1972)

Traffic On The Road (1973) -- Derek & The Dominos In Concert (1973) -- Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall (1973) -- Three Dog Night Around the World With Three Dog Night (1973) -- Ten Years After Recorded Live (1973) -- Leon Russell Leon Russell Live (1973) -- Climax Blues Band FM/Live (1973) -- Creedence Clearwater Revival Live In Europe (1973) -- Isaac Hayes Live at the Sahara Tahoe (1973) -- Uriah Heep Uriah Heep Live (1973) -- Melanie At Carnegie Hall (1973) -- Ike And Tina Turner Live! The World Of Ike And Tina Turner (1973) -- Hawkwind Space Ritual (1973) -- The Beach Boys The Beach Boys in Concert (1973) -- Ray Charles Ray Charles Live (1973) -- Wishbone Ash Live Dates (1973) -- War War Live (1973)

Van Morrison It's Too Late to Stop Now (1974) -- Barclay James Harvest Barclay James Harvest Live (1974) -- Mountain Twin Peaks (1974) -- The Pointer Sisters Live at the Opera House (1974) -- Rory Gallagher Irish Tour '74... (1974) -- John Stewart Phoenix Concert (1974) -- Miles Davis Dark Magus (1974) -- Gregg Allman The Gregg Allman Tour (1974) -- Loggins & Messina On Stage (1974) -- Bob Dylan and The Band Before the Flood (1974) -- Argent Encore: Live in Concert (1974) -- Alvin Lee In Flight (1974) -- Beck Bogert & Appice Live In Japan (1974) -- David Bowie David Live (1974) -- Sonny and Cher Live in Las Vegas, Vol. 2 (1974) -- Frank Zappa & the Mothers Roxy & Elsewhere (1974) -- Joni Mitchell Miles of Aisles (1974)

Spirit Spirit Of '76 (1975) -- John Denver An Evening With John Denver (1975) -- The Osmonds Around the World: Live in Concert (1975) -- Blue Oyster Cult On Your Feet Or On Your Knees (1975) -- Grand Funk Railroad Caught in the Act (1975) -- Kiss Alive (1975) -- Tom Waits Nighthawks at the Diner (1975) -- Miles Davis Pangaea (1975) -- Earth, Wind and Fire Gratitude (1975) -- Miles Davis Agharta  (1975)

Peter Frampton Frampton Comes Alive! (Jan. 6th 1976) -- Bob Segar & The Silver Bullet Band Live Bullet (1976) -- Harry Chapin Greatest Stories Live (1976) -- Horslips Horslips Live (1976) -- The Grateful Dead Steal Your Face (1976) -- Joan Baez From Every Stage (1976) -- Allman Brothers Band Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas (1976) -- Commander Cody & The Lost Planet Airmen We've Got a Live One Here (1976) -- Renaissance Live at Carnegie Hall (1976) -- Elton John Here and There (1976) -- Led Zepplin The Song Remains the Same (1976) -- J. Geils Band Blow Your Face Out (1976) -- Lynyrd Skynyrd One More From The Road (1976) -- Dave Mason Certified Live (1976)

Diana Ross An Evening with Diana Ross (1977) -- Neil Diamond Love at the Greek (1977) -- The Bee Gees Here at Last... Bee Gees... Live (1977) -- Nils Lofgren Night After Night (1977) -- Ted Nugent Double Live Gonzo (1977) -- Bruce Cockburn Circles in the Stream (1977) -- Golden Earring Live (1977) -- Al Jarreau Look to the Rainbow (1977) -- Marvin Gaye Live at the London Palladium (1977) -- Gong Live Etc. (1977) -- Parliament Live: P-Funk Earth Tour (1977) -- Pure Prarie League Takin' the Stage (1977) -- 10CC Live And Let Live (1977) -- Barry Manilow Barry Manilow Live (1977) -- Bebop Deluxe Live in the Air Age (1977) -- Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel Face To Face (1977) -- Bette Midler Live At Last (1977) -- The Commodores Live! (1977) -- Elvin Bishop Raisin' Hell (1977) -- Santana Moonflower (1977) -- Loggins & Messina Finale (1977) -- Rainbow On Stage (1977) -- Status Quo Live (1977) -- The Michael Stanley Band Stagepass (1977) -- The Rolling Stones Love You Live (1977) -- Kiss Alive II (1977) -- Average White Band Person To Person (1977) -- Streetwalkers Streetwalkers Live (1977) -- Genesis Seconds Out (1977) -- George Benson Weekend in L.A. (1977)

Camel A Live Record (1978) -- Scorpions Tokyo Tapes (1978) -- Ted Nugent Double Live Gonzo (1978) -- Ozark Mountain Daredevils It's Alive! (1978) -- Natalie Cole Natalie Live (1978) -- Glenn Campbell Live at Royal Festival Hall (1978) -- Lou Rawls Lou Rawls Live (1978) -- Lindisfarne Magic in the Air (1978) -- The Tubes What Do You Want from Live (1978) -- Van Der Graaf Generator Vital Live (1978) -- Frank Zappa Zappa In New York (1978) -- Donna Summer Live and More (1978) -- Jethro Tull Bursting Out: Jethro Tull Live (1978) -- The Outlaws Bringing It Back Alive (1978) -- REO Speedwagon Live: You Get What You Play For (1978) -- Jimmy Buffet You Had to Be There (1978) -- Thin Lizzy Live and Dangerous (1978) -- Chuck Mangione An Evening of Magic, Live at the Hollywood Bowl(1978) -- David Bowie Stages (1978) -- Hot Tuna Double Dose (1978) -- Helen Reddy Live in London (1978) -- Willie Nelson Willie and Family Live (1978) -- Lou Reed Take No Prisoners (1978) -- Kansas Two For The Show (1978) -- Bob Marley & The Wailers Babylon By Bus (1978) -- Aerosmith Live Bootleg (1978) -- Little Feat Waiting for Columbus (1978) -- Todd Rundgren Back To The Bars (1978)

Ramones It's Alive (1979) -- Queen Live Killers (1979) -- Head East Live (1979) -- Sylvester Living Proof (1979) -- The Spinners Live (1979) -- Millie Jackson Live and Uncensored (1979) -- Willie Nelson and Leon Russell One for the Road (1979) -- Mike Oldfield Exposed (1979) -- Atlanta Rhythm Section Are You Ready? (1979) -- The Village People Live & Sleazy (1979) -- UFO Strangers In The Night (1979) -- Bob Dylan Live at Budokan (1979) -- Richard Pryor Wanted: Richard Pryor, Live in Concert (1979) -- Neil Young Live Rust (1979) -- Weather Report 8:30 (1979)

Ian Hunter Welcome To The Club (1980) -- Goddo Best Seat In The House Lighve (1980) -- The Eagles Eagles Live (1980) -- Angel Live Without A Net (1980) -- Eric Clapton Just One Night (1980) -- The Kinks One For The Road (1980) -- Kenny Loggins Kenny Loggins Alive (1980) -- The Good Brothers Live (1980) -- Supertramp Paris (1980) -- Little River Band Backstage Pass (1980) -- Teddy Pendergrass Live Coast to Coast (1980) -- Joni Mitchell Shadows and Light (1980) -- Yes Yesshows (1980) -- Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac Live (1980)

Nazareth 'Snaz (1981) -- Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons Reunited Live (1981) -- Gillan Double Trouble (1981) -- John Renbourn Group Live in America (1981) -- Billy Joel Songs in the Attic (1981) -- Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Reach Up & Touch the Sky: Live (1981) -- Frank Zappa Tinseltown Rebellion (1981) -- Bob Segar & The Silver Bullet Band Nine Tonight (1981) -- Gary Numan Living Ornaments (1981) -- Amazing Rhythm Aces Full House (1981) -- Rush Exit Stage Left (1981) -- Miles Davis We Want Miles (1981) -- Journey Captured (1981)

Simon and Garfunkel The Concert In Central Park (1982) -- Talking Heads The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads (1982) -- Michael Schenker Group One Night at Budokan (1982) -- Rod Stewart Absolutely Live (1982) -- Jean-Michel Jarre Concert in China (1982) -- Blue Oyster Cult Extraterrastrial Live (1982) -- The Jacksons Live (1982) -- Ozzy Osbourne Speak Of The Devil (1982) -- Black Sabbath Live Evil (1982)

Streetheart Live After Dark (1983) -- Thin Lizzy Life (1983) -- Peter Gabriel Plays Live (1983) -- Public Image Limited Live in Tokyo (1983) -- Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour (1983)

Styx Caught in the Act (1984) -- Dire Straits Alchemy (1984) -- Everly Brothers Reunion Concert (1984) -- The Who Who's Last (1984)

Triumph Stages (1985) -- Tom Petty Pack up the Plantantion Live (1985) -- Scorpions World Wide Live (1985) -- Iron Maiden Live After Death (1985) -- Molly Hatchet Double Trouble Live (1985)

Stevie Ray Vaughan Live Alive (1986) -- Flipper Public Flipper Limited (1986) -- Sting Bring on the Night (1986)

Dokken Beast from the East (1988) -- X Live at the Whiskey a Go-Go (1988) -- Frank Zappa Broadway the Hard Way (1988) -- Frank Zappa Guitar (1988) -- Pink Floyd Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988) -- Tina Turner Live In Europe (1988)

Rush Show Of Hands (1989)

Bruce Cockburn Live (1990)

(I've left off those albums with 3 sides of live, one of studio stuff (or two and two) from those musicians too unfocused, too anaemic or just too smart to summon full 'double liveness' (rule waived for 'Kiss Alive II' & 'Moonflower'). Also omitted: the fully anthematic but unthematic 'triple lives'. Should be included: 'Metal Machine Music' where the absence of audience is balanced by the absence of a performer, and Joy Division's 'Still' for which an audience is present for half of the album God bless them. Another (!) tangential observation that speaks for itself: 100% of the albums in the final two vinyl years are Canadian, as are 4/25 (almost 20%) of the quickly declining final seven years.
In that list above (the sole original research of my essays) you can feel the momentum of the 'double live' phenomenon peter out just before Frampton comes alive on the sixth day of 1976... by then, between the Osmonds and Blue Oyster Cult, the whole proposition was clearly a parody. Some artists dodged their fate. Where are E.L.O. or Z.Z. Top for goodness' sake? Prince and Madonna? Abba and The Bay City Rollers? Roxy Music and King Crimson? Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack? Sly Stone? The Carpenters? Mellencamp? Whitesnake? The Who put their eggs conspicuously in other baskets. AC/DC unplugged. Van Halen shrugged. The Pretenders, Costello, XTC, Clash, Cars and Blondie were waiting for the punchline. The industry braintrusts noticed that the compulsory concert couples weren't so compulsory to the record-buying public after oh say 'the name of this band is...' and 'Speak of the Devil', the final of the terrible twosomes to carry any meat. What stands out today from the list is the unstoppable Marley, maybe Belafonte, and the full-stopped Frampton. I have a high tolerance for the heavy metal Kinks as well, but that's me. A couple of others for you maybe. The rest melt away, twist out of definition and fall down. 1% remains. Maybe you think that's the same proportion of good as to be found in music in general over the long run. I think it's worse, and out of such promise, with the involvement of so many, on such a large scale: it's cautionary.
                    'The Twin Towers', as the built 'double lives' do share other characteristics with other records of the time. Certainly as ubiquitous as 'Frampton'; repellent as 'Metal Machine Music'; brutal as Grand Funk's 'Live Album'; "gleaming" as 'Seconds Out'; as spent as 'Love you Live' (I'll resist any semi-serious 'Glimmer Twins' analogy); as "solid" as 'One for the Road'; and so on. And then they told two friends.
                    When it all started with the live albums, the artist might arrange the sides like so: side A&D on the first record and side B&C on the second. This would supposedly (I've read in more than one place) allow one copy of the album to be played in seamless chronological order --perhaps helpful for radio stations or clubs. Though Anubis help those who would want to flip all that stuff in order in one sitting. Nevertheless we are talking about a novelty that could entertain on its own merits in a way. Like a calculator might before its time. Actually I took that wisdom for granted up until the writing of this essay when I did a little calculating of my own and that arrangement of sides does not assist one in playing the albums chronologically. You'd need sides A&C opposing on one record and sides B&D on the other. Or maybe I'm crazy. Or both. However it doesn't dampen my desire to reassemble the floors of the WTC to have One World Trade Center run from 1 to 110 stories and then Two World Trade Center pick up and start at floor 111 and go up to 220 so the two could be an uninterrupted experience.

Behold the Constitution:
                              In order to present a true historical documentation of this group in person, editing of any nature has been avoided. The musical content of all selections has been left totally unchanged from the original tapes. There has been no technical assistance added to this recording such as echo and all events are presented here exactly as they occured.
                              This album is an actual live recording of Grand Funk Railroad in concert. It has been assembled to be played in sequence from Side One through Side Four without interruption.
                              Total playing time is one hour and twenty minutes.
                    These are the complete liner notes from 'Grand Funk Live Album', 1970. Hmmm... total playing time is one hour and twenty minutes? The time between the first plane and the first collapse was exactly one hour and twenty minutes: the total playing time of the WTC.

So dust your grooves and double your displeasure: visit 1970s New York New York, a spiritual home of 'twoness', a double live time in a double live place. Francis Ford Coppola lavishly tributed the town, and made cinematic history with a double shot of 'Godfathers' (1972 and 1974): the high concept sequel was born (and died). Wearing one high brow and one low brow New York pulse-taker Norman Lear created twice-named 'Mary Hartman Mary Hartman', a subversive send-up of soap operas and TV clichés. Actress Debralee Scott who played 'Cathy Shumway' on the show in 1976 (and appeared in 'Earthquake' as well as 'Police Academy') lost her fiancé in the World Trade Center collapse. The New York Islanders had their inaugural season in 1972-1973. That made two big hockey franchises to match the two big baseball teams. The upstart Islanders dealt a stunning defeat to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in the 1975 playoffs and a couple of months later Peter Frampton made his little record in San Francisco, at the Winterland, a disused ice rink. New York homeboys Kiss actually scooped Frampton by a couple of months when they released the definitive arena rock 'double live' album, 'Kiss Alive', in October 1975, featuring singalongs to "Firehouse" and "Hotter than Hell". Kiss was fronted by an Israeli Jew -- Gene Simmons -- who appropriated the stylized 'SS' of Hitler's notorious blackshirts and draped it wantonly off the end of the band's 'logo' like a kiss-off. But as potentially inappropriate logos go, the New York Fire Department itself can claim the "wha?" prize: It's a Maltese Cross, a reference to soldiers in the Crusades who, while attacking Saracens in the 'Holy Land' were obliged to extinguish and/or save their fellow Crusaders once they were all soaked in naphtha and set alight by the defending Arabs. For a profession whose credentials of valour have grown to be unimpeachble, this rancid reference is regretable and unworthy. And particularly mindetching in coincidence with the particulars of World Trade Center fires. Is a logo just a logo? Has it been redeemed after centuries of service? The problem is that it doesn't simply happen to be a Maltese Cross: it is a Maltese Cross because of it's Holy War glory. Ouch. Anyway 1975 saw the 'double live' fire trucks of New York City, the Mack Superpumper System in high use, though at ten years old they were showing their age. The rigs were immense articulated trailers, the tender delivering the push of ten ordinary pumpers to immense matching satellite hose rigs which delivered to it the firemen. Perfect for those blockbusting Bronx blazes of the early 1970s. In those days manufacturers stressed that the rigs and equipment were molotov cocktail proof. They were the best of 'double live' times, they were the worst of 'double live' times. There was only one city. But they named it twice.

 

 

 

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