Thursday, April 1, 2010


"People need to get tuned up. They're out of tune, out of tune with the universe, and that's why they get sick and all that, cause they're out of tune... Music is a language. And if I can get this planet to listen, they will change." - Sun Ra on Night Music

In the comments section of my last Sun Ra post someone named "Shane" mentioned the television program Sunday Night, also known as Night Music, also known as Michelob Presents Night Music. The show was a wonderful, sorely missed, Lorne Michaels produced program that ran on NBC for one season (1988) and syndication (1989-90). It was hosted by Jules Holland (founder of the band Squeeze) and Mr Smooth Jazz himself, saxophonist David Sanborne. The show was groundbreaking, presenting early portraits of several artists that today are considered amongst the most influential of their time. In addition to big names like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Sting and such, the show also gave much needed exposure to artists like John Zorn, John Lurie, Bongwater, Sonic Youth, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nick Cave, Phillip Glass (and, incidentally, The Pixies, who made their television debut on the program, performing songs from Dolittle, my favorite Pixies album). It was well regarded for it's eclectic array of artists from episode to episode. A famous episode included The Residents and Kronos Quartet. Their opening act? Ladies and gentlemen...

...Mr Conway Twitty.

Anyway, Sun Ra appeared on Sunday Night in it's second season. Below are two videos of that performance. The first performance is preceded by a short interview with Sunny by Sanborne. You'll notice that, unlike Ben Sidran from the VH1 interview, Sanborne is a bit more prepared for what Mr Ra might say. He begins with an intelligent question about Ra's idiosyncratic conducting techniques, but then succumbs to the stock interviewer question "Who are your influences?" Ra's response is both hilarious and poetic and Sanborne seems a little staggered. After the interview the Arkestra performs "Retrospekt", which some of you might recognize as the second track on Ra's Nuclear War release from my first post (which, incidentally, is the most downloaded album I've posted in this series).

The second video begins with the song "Face the Music" followed by a short piece in which Sun Ra discusses his planetary travels. Ra speaks of the the planets he has visited (Saturn and Jupiter), describes the aliens he met along the way and the things he learned while among them, such as the fact that:
"Sound can run things. Sound can wash clothes. Sound can do a lot of things."

After the interview the Arkestra launches into a raucous version of "Space is the Place" to close out the show.

I hope that this was the program that "Shane" was referring to, and I hope that it brings back memories of the time when his "suburban white trash brain" (his words, not mine) was first infected with Sun Ra.

1 comment:

Shane said...

Ah, that's the stuff.