Thursday, April 26, 2012

Broken Spider

The small offering over Sonic's grave is known as the Spider. It was designed by Thomas Hutchison for RCA in the 1960s. It served as a converter for 45 RPM records, a format invented by RCA in 1949 to replace the cumbersome 78 RPM. Most fittingly, the Spider deposited in Sonic's grave is broken. The original triskelion has lost one of its legs making the object's secret biography even more perplexing. Pervasive in the listening habits of North Americans, the Spider has become iconic of the era of singles. Actually, I didn't appreciate the magnitude of this iconography until I opened today's Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era on p. A12 and saw Walt Handelsman's tribute to Dick Clark, who died last week. Handelsman is a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist. The original tribute was published in Newsday (Apr. 19, 2012).
Like the Spider at Elmwood Cemetery, Handelsman Spider is also funerary in nature. The Spider here becomes iconic of Dick Clark's era of American Bandstand that was syndicated on ABC from 1957 to 1987. Interestingly enough for my readers of Punk Archaeology, American Bandstand began in Philadelphia and was recorded in the studios of WFIL on 46th and Market. Designed in 1947, the original building still stands in all its modern glory with a huge satellite antenna on its roof.

Sonic's MC5 appears at the very til end of the Dick Clarke era. It's rock n' roll at its best but contains the seeds of the demise of rock n' roll's mainstream. Thus, in its truncated form, Sonic's offering becomes difficult to recognize, a fragment that allows entry into melancholy while also asserting a reflexive imbalance. If the Spider is the generational litmus test for 1960s rock n' roll Top 40s mainstream, one must wonder what may have been the pilgrim's intentions by depositing a 45 Spider on Sonic's grave. MC5 was clearly shut out of American Bandstand. Their first album (Kick Out the Jams) was released in 1969 as an LP not a 45. The original record was pulled from the stores because it had the word "Motherfucker" on the album cover. Detroit's major department store refused to sell the record and Elektra dropped the MC5 from their contract as a result.

1 comment:

Bill Caraher said...

But, the MC5 is intentionally nostalgic in their jams. They not only covered songs from the golden age of the single (Tutti Frutti or Baby Please Don't Go), but they also fashioned their music as a natural extension of that era.

So the spider represents continuity and it's broken condition perhaps hints at the failure of this particular strain and tradition of rock music to continue...

Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States

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