On Eminem and Late Style

Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack Newsletter:

Study, reader, before going further, this sonic document: a recording of Jerry Lee Lewis performing “Mean Woman Blues”, with the Nashville Teens (of Surrey) backing him up, at the Star Club of Hamburg, on the night of April 5, 1964. Not when Hendrix immolated his guitar in Monterey, not when Ozzy decapitated a bat in Des Moines: never did rock and roll more fully realize its evil potential.

Much could be said about the confluence of circumstances that made this possible. Lewis was already old at 29, a relic of the 1950s, playing a dated and proto-normie boogie-woogie routine in a city that had recently incubated and then delivered into the world his far more lovable successors — the “Liverpudlian mop-tops”, along with all the other diminutive epithets the press came up with for the Beatles, always more suited to newborn zoo animals than to men.

He was, moreover, still in de-facto exile. The scandal of a marriage (to the extent that we can call it that) in 1957 to his own thirteen-year-old cousin Myra Gale Brown led the American public to conclude that, because his moral person was beyond the pale, his music was therefore unlistenable. In Europe it is not that morality and aesthetics were decoupled, exactly, but rather that their intertwining led to the opposite conclusion: the Germans wanted to hear him not in spite of the fact that he was a psychotic hillbilly, but because of it, and Jerry Lee knew how to summon all the satanic energy of his life and of his nation to satisfy them.

More here.