Friday, February 19, 2010

Charlie Beasley and the Eraserhead syndrome

Just taking a quick moment before getting ready for a Post Office run, an art opening and a birthday dinner.
Last night was the last time jazz musician and beloved local jazz scholar/teacher Charles Beasley will ever play in public, possibly at all.
The founder and leader of Beasley's Big Band, now in his early 80s, sat in for two numbers at the Wabasha Caves last night, then hung for one set and called it a night, leaving with one of his daughters and with all our love.
I've been going to see Beasley's Big Band on and off for 15 years now. Always a delight, like spending time with family and hearing some high-energy big band at the same time.
Now, his health an issue, Charlie wants to devote the rest of life to friends and family.
Thinking about Charlie stepping down reminded me of the film Eraserhead. You know, the offbeat freshman entry of David Lynch.
Eraserhead begins and ends with a man in a chair pulling a lever and silently screaming as sparks fly. In between these scenes, the story of a young man's life is told in surreal, disturbing and humorous imagery.
What some people, including me, think this film is about is simple. A man is killing himself by electrocution, and we are seeing his life flashing before his eyes, distorting by his frying brain cells.
So what Lynch is essentially saying in this movie is, "I did everything I was supposed to in life- a career, a love, a family- and it was all worthless."
A comment on what life is worth. According to Lynch in this film, not much. Might as well give up. Like the song in the film says, "in heaven, everything is fine." This implies that here on Earth, not so much so.
Mind, I still admire the film, but with this perspective in place, I can't find as much pleasure in it.
Charlie arrived at a different decision. I hope that when it gets really hard, we all find the strength to find something worthwhile in life.
Here's Charlie talking about his life, his love of music and the band. I have some other footage of them playing that needs to be digitized for download. Anybody else still have old VHS tapes to convert?


  1. After watching the documentary on the Eraserhead DVD, it sounds like the movie basically ended up being the dumping grounds for 5 years of angst in David Lynch's young life. Film school not measuring up to his expectations, fatherhood, all's haunting and beautiful but ultimately it's the rage and confusion of a young man. I bet he felt pretty worthless considering how much (maybe understandable) grief the AFI was giving him over Eraserhead. It definitely sounds like there was a lot of misunderstandings throughout production.

    Don't let it get you down! I like to think Straight Story is most in line with how David Lynch actually thinks, but that's the Disney movie so I may be being stubbornly optimistic here.

  2. Lynch is quite complex and I like his work a great deal. I just wanted to use the subtext of this specific film to contrast with Charlie's joyous attitude on life in the face of what I see as much greater adversity.
    This post was more about my love and admiration for Charlie Beasley than it was about Lynch, but your point is well taken.
    FWIW, I think Lynch makes many more positive statements in his other works, especially The Straight Story and The Elephant Man.
    And bear in mind that Lynch is a meditator. No simple man, David Lynch!