Jonathan Gold is poetic in his writing about food, a talent so distinct he earned a Pulitzer Prize for his work. Few people know he got his start writing about music and the “classical music geek” in him, as well as his love for gangsta rap, emerged during his Guest DJ set. He chose a song he calls the “Stairway to Heaven of 1620” and a guitarist who mastered the endless melody, among others. Jonathan currently writes for LA Weekly and Gourmet magazine.
1.) John Dowland - Flow My Tears
2.) Louis Armstrong - Tight Like This
3.) Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
4.) The Germs - Forming
5.) Dr. Dre - Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang
Garth Trinidad - Hey! This is Garth Trinidad from KCRW and I am here with Pulitzer Prize-wining food critic and writer Jonathan Gold, who actually got his start writing about music. So we're going to be talking about some of his favorite songs as part of the KCRW Guest DJ Project. Jonathan! What did you bring in the goodie bag today?
Jonathan Gold - John Dowland, that doesn't show up on the show that much.
Garth Trinidad - Can we talk about this song you picked, "Flow My Tears," really quick?
Jonathan Gold - Sure. John Dowland was probably the hit composer of the Elizabethan era … a little bit afterwards. "Flow My Tears" was more or less the "Stairway to Heaven" of like 1620.
This recording is with Emma Kirkby, whose English soprano, early music specialist, who has the most beautiful, pure, plangent voice. The phrasing almost makes you want to stab yourself with grief. I was a classical music geek growing up; I was locked in a small room with my cello for most of my adolescence. I played viola da gamba. That's the way to get the chicks, I'm telling you.
Song: "Flow My Tears" John Dowland
Garth Trinidad - "Flow My Tears," music from John Dowland as selected by Jonathan Gold. It's KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Alright man, you brought some Louie Armstrong. We gotta talk about Louie. "Tight Like This" -- why did you choose this track?
Jonathan Gold- You gotta love Louie Armstrong. Yeah he's innovative, yeah he was probably the first great jazz man, yeah he was the father of everything that there is to love about American music. But he was so expressive.
This song I particularly love. It's almost like Hip Hop like in its repetition of the same basic pattern and he just starts to improvise. He blows, he goes in and out of it and on top of it, there's some cat calling in the middle of it. It's the kind of song you can just imagine that this would be the favorite song of the band. You know the one that would just crack everybody up when they're playing it. I think it's about the best driving music there is.
Song: Louie Armstrong’s "Tight Like This"
Garth Trinidad - Louie Armstrong: "Tight Like This." Jonathan Gold is my guest DJ as part of KCRW's guest DJ project. You got Maggot Brain, Funkadelic, Eddie Hazel. C’mon man, okay when did you first hear this track and why did you bring it in today?
Jonathan Gold - Do you remember the old days when you could actually buy soul records in liquor stores? I was thirteen or fourteen, when I was trying to buy beer on a false ID (laughs), and I picked up Maggot Brain because I loved the cover which was this big blown up fro with this woman buried up to the neck. Got home and put it on and the guitar solos, Eddie Hazel, is just amazing. It just keeps flowing it has the sort of majesty you expect from somebody like Wagner. The concept of the endless melody, the one that goes on forever. Almost all blues guitarists just peter out in the middle because they have nothing more to say so they do the wah wah. But Eddie Hazel doesn't. He always has something new to say. And the tune of the chord progression keeps folding in on itself and showing itself in all these wonderful miraculous ways.
Song "Maggot Brain" by Funkadelic with Eddie Hazel
Jonathan Gold - I think that probably the formative influence of my teenage years was going to see the concert at the coliseum in '77: The Mothership Connection tour. The version of it that day just blew the top of everybody's head off.
Garth Trinidad -That was Funkadelic with the classic Maggot Brain. Jonathan Gold is my guest. KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Garth Trinidad is in the house and Jonathan is playing the tunes. You brought a track from The Germs -- "Forming."
Jonathan Gold – “Forming.” “Forming” is the first punk rock single ever recorded in Los Angeles. Or the first LA punk single.
Garth Trinidad - It was on a two track machine. It was so basic that the vocals are on one track and the band sounds like something that was mastered with a rusty razor blade. There's The Germ of the entire, so to speak, of the entire punk rock movement contained within it.
Song "Forming" by The Germs
Jonathan Gold - Punk rock is sort of what got me out of my shell. As I said, I was a classical music nerd and somebody dragged me to, I think the Whiskey, to see a show of you know X and The Screamers. I was just, ‘You can do this? ‘It's possible to do this?’ And it was as transforming as anything I've ever done. I mean not that long before then I had gone to see both Bob Marley and the Grateful Dead within a couple weeks of each other thinking that one or the other was going to change my life and I'm sad to say that neither of them did. But -- The Germs. It's all about The Germs.
Garth Trinidad - "Forming" from The Germs. Jonathan Gold is my Guest DJ. Okay man so you brought some Los Angeles gangsta rap. You brought "G Thang" from Dr. Dre's Snoop Dogg. Now listen, the rumor is you were in the studio a lot of the time with them when they were actually recording Doggystyle and stuff like that.
Jonathan Gold - Yeah, yeah I was.
Garth Trinidad - This was when you were really writing a lot about that music during that time.
Jonathan Gold - Right, I wrote the first big piece on NWA back in ’89. I used to spend a lot of time going to Skateland in Compton to hear the jams, which is completely unlike anything I had ever heard. LA Hip Hop was great, but nobody ever heard it, everybody just heard the New York stuff. And Dre was the guy who figured out how to slow it down. LA Hip Hop had all been like very fast. Like pop pop pop pop. Stuff for the girl in the disco and he was the guy who like slowed it down and made it gangsta. “Chronic,” I think, was the total break through album. It crossed over to the bouncing cars to hanging out barbequing in the park. It was less about bang bang bang and it was more about ‘this is a neighborhood you live in and you're enjoying it and y'all are invited to the party.’ And there's something beautiful about that.
Song "G Thang" by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg
Jonathan Gold - Snoop Doggy Dog is kind of the Miles Davis of rap. He's a little ridiculous these days but he has his buttery voice and a way of just settling into the groove that's amazing, completely unparalleled. I just love the music. I don't let my kids listen to it because of the cussing, but I love the music. (both laugh)
When I was writing the cover story on Snoop and Dre for Rolling Stone, it was when they were recording Doggystyle, they kept blowing me off, so I kept showing up at the recording studio every day at noon waiting till they showed up about three and then they'd blow me off and blow me off -- but I got to talk to all the bodyguards, all the best friends, to the moms, to the preacher. There was at time when I spent more time with Snoop's family than I did with my own.
Garth Trinidad - Pulitzer Prize winning critic Jonathan Gold and I'm not necessarily a foodie but I love food and so does my wife so we read your stuff and it's like ‘I think we need to check this stuff out cause Jonathan says so’.
Jonathan Gold – Oh, thanks very much.
Garth Trinidad - Continued success and thanks for hanging out today and bringing some music. Appreciate it.
Jonathan Gold – Well, thank you.
[PLAYLIST GOES HERE]