Monday, February 25, 2013

LORD BUCKLEY AND THE EVER-SO-HIP ART OF MINDFULNESS

‘Hipsters, flipsters and finger-poppin' daddies, knock me your lobes!’ That's 'Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,' in hip-speak.

Sadly, whole generations of people have never heard of this man Lord Buckley (pictured left as well as below), who, by the way, was not a real lord but he certainly sounded like a very aristocratic one when he wanted to. Why, in addition to his waxed moustache, he even wore a pith helmet at times along with his tuxedo. (Then, again, so did Groucho Marx on whose quiz show Buckley appeared in October 1956.)

His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley, who was one of the most influential figures in the American counterculture movement---he was a veritable 'Hip Messiah'---died over 50 years ago, and even in his own lifetime he never enjoyed more than a small jazz subculture cult following. Having said that, Buckley was a giant in what he did. ‘And what did he do?’, I hear you ask. Well, he was the ‘hippest cat of them all’ in the Beat era. I guess that doesn’t mean much to you either. No. Well, he had been a vaudevillian---ha, that’s been gone even longer----and a raconteur and monologist extraordinaire. No, he wasn’t a comedian as such, but he was very, very funny in a ‘black’ humour sort of way.

Perhaps the best way to describe Buckley is to say that he was a comic philosopher, actually a jazz philosopher. He was certainly a philosopher in the original sense of the word---a lover of truth. As for the jazz, well, he specialised in rhythmic hipster word-jazz---spoken jazz with scat---having taken onboard the slang and the rhythms of the black jazz musician along with the entire street language of black America. Yes, he was a strange mixture of pseudo-English toff, Sunday black preacher (no, he wasn’t an African-American), off-beat orator, storyteller, philosophy teacher, satirist, rapper (before its time), beatnik, 'flower child' (before there really were any), and, well, all-round hipster and 'personality.' What with his 'hip semantic' (that is, his own unique bop lingo ['bop talk']), Buckley's 'hipsomatic' retellings of Bible stories, Shakespeare and other literary works remain classics to behold to this very day. Yes, he was, in the words of one commentator, a 'white master of black patois.'

The hip-hopping, six times married Buckley, complete with his own 'royal court,' even founded his own 'church'---the first ever 'jazz religion'---known as the ‘Church of the Living Swing.’ To his undying credit, Buckley hated all forms of humbuggery including, most especially, organised religion, but he was very religious (‘spiritual’, we would say today) in his own way. Laughter, he said, is 'truly religious.' He also preached that only love could save the world, in the knowledge that if anything was divine, well, it had to do with people like you and me. 'I'm a people worshipper, myself,' he would say. 'I think that people should worship people. I really do.' And often he would utter these words to his audience---his acolytes---ever so respectfully and sincerely, and with a regal air: ‘M'Lords, M'Ladies ... beloveds, would it embarrass you very much if I were to tell you ... that I love you? It embarrasses you, doesn't it? Mmm.’ Buckley also said this: ‘The flowers, the gorgeous mystic, multi-coloured flowers are not the flowers of life, but people, yes people, are the true flowers of life.’ And this: 'Let me hip you to a little something brothers and sisters---When you make love – make it!' Beautiful stuff.


I first heard of Lord Buckley when I was in my late teens. That's about 40 years ago, counting daylight savings time. I heard this track on a comedy LP record, and I have dug Buckley ever since. Buckley had style---and class---and he had the knack of being able to capture and put into rhythmic words---yes, spoken jazz---the minutiae of life in all its glory and occasional decadence. Yes, he was an eccentric, but we need more of those people---not less. Clever people---truly talented people---are always eccentric. It’s the price you pay for genius. Mediocre people---that’s most of us---never understand. We’re too busy conforming and pretending to be normal.
 
Listening to Buckley is an exercise in mindfulness, requiring that you pay attention, and listen, yes, mindfully---that is, with choiceless awareness---to what unfolds from one moment to the next. Try that now. It’s not easy. For starters, it takes a while to learn the lingo and the idiom. It’s worth it, though.

Here, now, is the immortal Lord Buckley delivering his famous---and perhaps his greatest---hip language routine ‘The Naz.’ (The Naz [sometimes billed as the Nazz] is Jesus Christ, the 'carpenter kitty,' whom Buckley called ‘the hippest cat that ever stomped this green sphere,’ for he was ‘the kind of a cat that come on so cool and so groovy and so with-it that when he laid it down---it stayed there!’)

Now, that's what I call hip, man---you cool daddy-o.



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