Sunday, June 22, 2008

Exotica - Dr. John the Night Tripper

From the 1999 book 'Exotica. Fabricated soundscapes in a real world' by David Toop:

"It was in (...) 1967 (...), that [Mac Rebennack] transformed, like the Loop Garou of legend who carried his head under his arm, into Dr. John, the Night Tripper. 'The original Dr. John claimed to be a West African prince,' wrote Jeff Hannusch in his notes to the Dr. John Anthology, 'and lived in New Orleans during the mid-1800s. He told fortunes, sold "gris-gris" potions, and held seances and voodoo ceremonies. Rebennack had long held a fascination for voodoo, especially as his sister gave him some books on Haitian voodoo she found at an antique store where she worked. Several musicians Rebennack hung out with (particularly Jessie Hill) shared his interest and occasionally he'd visit Cracker Jack's drug store on South Rampart Street, which sold candles, love potions, good-luck floor wash, and incense.

During the period of promoting his Dr. John persona to the rock press, Rebennack played up the voodoo, played down the R&B. 'I was afraid of voodoo, black magic,' he told Jacoba Atlas for Melody Maker in 1970, her transcription adding to the factionalisation, 'but when I got to the Temple of Innocent Blood dey's all dese people groovin' around happy, no race differences, no hates. Dey wuz all one! And I could feel it all aroun' me. I say, dus is fo' me.'


With its strange timbres, its deep studio echo, its loose-limbed percussive clatter and throb, its ominous tales of charms and spells and nocturnal rituals, [the music of Dr. John] conjured the secrets of African-American mythology and Louisiana magic, filtering them through phantasmagoric Hollywood and its technologies: old as the swamp, new as plastic, real and fake all at once."


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