|Oil of Dog
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It is the Sunday before my birthday. Jeez. I will be 27. I have been thinking a lot about being cool. Lately. Last Friday night, I sat on a bed with an India print spread in a room lit by two candles with a number of people who had made themselves famous in town around 1970.* There was Artie Chevokee, an incredibly witty painter whose works were beginning to appear around town; a guy named Bill who had lived high and low, every-thing from a real estate agent in Palm Springs to a hippie bum to a professional gambler; Ron Ribee the lawyer who caused the government great embarrassment with his articulate defense of student radicals in the 1960’s and draft dodgers in more recent years; a girl who had transformed before my eyes from a granny-glassed squinty chick under a hooded shawl to a supernal beauty reaching and dancing in loose clothes, she was visiting from California and her name was Dawn; after a while she lay down on the bed next to Will, her ol’ man with her hand on his crotch, he was schlumpy and paunchy and bearded and straggly and talked in a slurry glazed-out voice; a pretty physical therapist with page-boy blonde hair, pushing forty who got so stoned and so drunk talka talka talka talka; her hubby with a trimmed mustache and parted brown hair in a blue button-down Sears sportswear type shirt, he spoke softly and they snorted snuff; and Andrew Matelsky, the famous English professor, who had rallied the student mobsters about him during the anti-war era and proclaimed his cause theirs, and who now lived with a perpetual daze in this very house with his wife and her lover; Gracie his wife was also in the room laughing wildly in a long India print gown, while Andrew in his white dashiki nodded his bald old head, grinned an occasional toothy baby smile, spoke sleepily, gazed at Dawn dancing, nodded out. We were listening to a tape brought from California by Dawn and Will of a rock group formerly known as High but now just a nameless jam. Most of the people in the room were friends of the musicians on the tape. Dope was smoked, snuff snorted, beer guzzled. The music pounded, two candles lit the room.
I sat on the bed against a pillow. I was totally out of it. Part of the problem was that the night before I attended a party at the Tralfamador Cafe for the group Spyro Gyra at the invitation of Amherst Records. At the expense of the record company, I consumed five Slow-Comfortable-Screws. I still wasn’t very drunk, so my friend Kerry the bartender created for me two or three drinks which she said were similar to Zombies. By 2:00 a.m., I had consumed at least twenty shots of a variety of liquors including sloe gin, Southern Comfort, several kinds of brandy, vodka, 151 rum, gin, lighter fluid, sterno, and god knows what else Kerry put in those drinks. I don’t usually get sick but this time I was dead. I was seeing double and got some girl to give me a ride to the station where I tried to do my show. To make matters worse, The Secrets were supposed to play live from Studio A and I had completely forgotten. Steve Rosenthall who was on before me helped the band get set up. He tells me that after I started the first record, I disappeared for 45 minutes. While I puked my intestines into the toilet, he found the record skipping in the last groove and flipped it. I found myself lying on the couch in the lobby of WBFO as The Secrets confounded my delirium. Finally, Steve turned off the transmitter, locked the station, and took me home. For the next twelve hours, I puked every single organ muscle and blood vessel into my toilet until there was nothing left to puke. Dry heaves. If it weren’t for Tom the guy upstairs I don’t know what I would have done. He bought me some magical stuff called Upsetrol that tasted like Slow-Comfortable-Screws but which made it possible for me to keep down a cup of bullion. By about 5:30, I was able to go to a movie with Artie and Bill and some others after which we went to a grill where I ate a timid dinner and we ended up in this room listening to the tape Dawn and Will brought from California.
And I sat in that space lit only by two candles and the rock music thundered. The woman singer wailed about Janis Joplin where have you gone, and the bass wove its rhythms around a chunky guitar and the music took me back. I watched the room of people all of whom were older than me grooving and saying oh this is great, listen to that, these are my old buddies, getting stoneder and drunker and I was sick to my stomach because the alcohol was still doing its thing so mean to me.
I thought: This is dangerous.
I should have known ten years ago how dangerous this is. I sat there with all these bright intelligent accomplished moral people who have worked to create a different kind of life. This house was more or less communal, these people were energy conscious, nutrition conscious, they engaged in worthwhile social efforts like the anti-nuke and the pro-ERA movements. But, in some archetypal way, it seemed no different than a bridge party or a barbecue with the Elks Club. This too was a life of escape. The music seemed so old-fashioned. How fresh and beautiful the punk groups I have been discovering seem, how preferable is the nihilism and the stupid lyrics and raunchy chords. I did not want the love and far-outness of these bright and wise people.
THIS IS NOT COOL. It is as that article I just read in The Village Voice about Legs McNeil says – the late sixties are not cool. This is a time of total emergency. Cool is always what is on the edge, whatever looks the shit straight in the eye, whatever is poised in fascination and defiance before total destruction, whatever is calm with the truth. It is the difference between studying environmental safety – so you can work for the government in some misconceived project to clean up the water – and waiting on the bank for Godzilla to come out and smash the world.I am thinking of cutting off my beard.
* All the names of the people in the room in this true story have been changed, and quite frankly, I no longer remember the real names of any of the characters.
Figure 25: Spyro Gyra and a host of local people in the music business at the original Tralfamador Cafe. Notice the free drink in my right hand. Later that night I had to shut down the station and be taken home. (Photo by Zowie.)
Talking to Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, and Clement Burke from the group Blondie, one of the first and finest of the new wave bands. This interview took place just before “Heart of Glass” became a hit and launched them into superstardom. They made no bones about calling themselves new wave. I was really nervous because I read weird stories about them and I expected Debbie Harry to be obnoxious but she was intelligent and articulate, and Chris and Clement lived rock’n’roll, and seemed to love talking about it. I felt that I was with fans rather than stars. They were all nice people. My friend Debbie Katz – a dancer and actress – was with me and she kept my feet on the ground.
Gary: Now, your reputation in the U.S. has been like on the radio basically pretty cool, huh?
Chris Stein: Well, it varies, but there-is thereis a certain resistance, there’s a political resistance to the new wave. Bob Fripp (from King Crimson) told me that he-he believes that Jimmy Carter has actually, y’know, put a conscious stop on the new wave. It is possible because, y’know, the government feels that it is politically dangerous, y’know.
G: Robert Fripp, he played on your new album.
Ch: Right. Well, he really believes that, he’s saying that in interviews, y’know, so if he can say it . . . . . . . . I mean, I sort of believe that too, there-is, there is ah . . . . . . . . .
G: It is really strange, because I’ve played the . . . . . . . .
Ch: . . . . . . and it’s easy to believe that they’re, things that, like, a perfect example is, like, “Rockaway Beach” (by The Ramones). Y’know, you go to California and, like, every other song on the radio is a Beach Boys song, like, and old Beach Boys songs and they all sound like “Rockaway Beach,” and why don’t they play “Rockaway Beach”? “Rockaway Beach” is not a punk song, it’s a . . . . . . . . . a song, y’know. There, it sounds like a surf song.
Clement Burke: It is a surf song.
Ch: Why don’t they play it, y’know, because of the stigma of the new wave and the, y’know . . . . . .
G: It is str . . . . . .
Ch: Why-does, why does Bruce Springsteen do so well, because he’s not new wave, y’know. All these-these cross-over groups, y’know, y’know Nick Gilder, Nick was here tonight, y’know, nice guy, y’know, but I mean . . . . . .
Debbie Harry: The Cars.
Ch: Cars. Those guys all have-have hits because they’re not associated with the new wave, y’know.
Debbie Katz: ‘Cause it’s political.
D. Harry: It’s not that they use . . . . . Well, they use the . . . . . sort of like the erratic ideas of the new wave music, y’know, but yet they’ve made it very slick and exploit it.
D. Katz: Yeah, they smooth it all out.
Ch: Yeah, well, there’s a lot of cross-over groups now, y’know.
My head is shouting. My ears ring very loud. It is unusually quiet outside and the house is totally still. I hear three continuous noises. One is the air rushing and hushing in the world outside. One is a very high ringing inside my ears. The other is a lower pulsing that seems to ebb with my heart. I am a little drunk. Are the last two noises the same reported by John Cage in that silent room at Harvard? The high noise would be the sound of the electric impulses in my nervous system. The lower one is my blood surging through my veins and arteries. I wonder. The higher pitch is like a thread-thin glitter of light, but it has a raspy edge, too. With my tuning fork, I have established it to be a B-sharp, or C-flat. A cricket outside chirrups the same note. The other sound is dry in my head. I imagine blood cells scraping and crashing through the walls of my veins and arteries.I just read an article about Legs McNeil. I met him in New York when I visited the office of Punk Magazine. The article in the Village Voice called Legs the new hipster, the new cool person who rejects the hippie and beat notions of cool. The seventies are not cool like the sixties. Legs is one who wants to be cool in an uncool time. I guess I would like to be cool too. Maybe I should form a rock band. Being a DJ for a non-commercial radio station does not seem to be the road to cool. Those two tones are incredibly loud. The article made me want to cut my hair so I don’t look like a hippie. Maybe I’ll just shave off my beard and surprise my friends.
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Ssshhh ssshhh ssshhh ssshhh ssshhh ssshhh ssshhh whispering crickets ssshhh ssshhh faint voices ssshhh ssshhh ssshhh ssshhh ssshhhssshhh ssshhh ssshhh whisper whisper ssshhh ssshhh ssshhhssshhh ssshhh POWWWW!!!!!!! POWER CHORDS!!!!!! WHAM!!!!!!!! AND BOTH MY NUTS FALL OFF!!!!!
Gets me every time, the beginning of this incredible song by WISHBONE ASH, “Runaway.”
WGRQ is the Abrams station in Buffalo. They always get very high Arbitrons.
“The thing about quote-unquote New Wave,” the Program Director of WGRQ tells me, “is that American’s don’t give a fuck. They just don’t give a fuck. They’ve been through it all before. They’ve had the anger already in 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969. They’ve already been through it. Americans have been through the political bulishit, they’ve had enough of it. Now all they want to do is have a good time and paarr-teeee. In England maybe all the social anger means something, but here it has nothing to do with what people want.”
I guess he’s right. It is 1979 and this guy’s instincts about what Americans want have made Q-FM a highly-rated station in this market. There are so many things to be angry about, more than ever before. But nobody wants a grouchy progressive DJ constantly hitting them with revolution. “It’s a standard joke of mine,” says the Program Director, “I’m not here to play good music, we only want the hits.”
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This morning, I woke up and cut off my beard. People say I have an okay face. I don’t know. In the past nine years, I have seen it only five or six times. I hate those razors. They slice up my face. That’s why I don’t shave. For a while, it looked like I had made a beard of blood to replace my beard of hair.
I listened to some records, putzed around, took a shower and napped. Then Jeff and his wife Julie came over. Julie is a professional hair designer and she set about shaping my head. Jeff is a vinyl junkie and he shaped my head a long time ago.
Now for the first time in nine years, my brain forest has been significantly altered. I want to be dazzlingly good looking. I want blow-jobs at first sight. This doesn’t seem like such a radical change, though. It is long overdue. I have not been happy lately. I am a bit changed now. It is a good ritual.
When he saw me, Tom from upstairs went WWWWWWOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW!!!!!!! It will be nice to get all this attention. But it hardly matters. I am going bald.
HOW TO LOVE JAZZ; ROBERT CREELEY
Those nights flying with poets. Buffalo has for many years been a poet’s town. All the great poets of America habitually pass through and many like inscrutable Charles Olson, melodious John Logan, prissy Carl Dennis, and morose James Wright have lived and taught here. When I first arrived in Buffalo I was not a drinker, but the poets, the poets would consume vast unbelievable quantities of booze, laughing all night from bar to bar, smashing glasses, speeding down Main Street like death was on the taillight, sitting nodding in the kitchen, neon light over the sink, dope and Coltrane interweaving the talk. I was uncomfortable, intimidated, afraid to let go, to undress my soul in any way, lonely and these ramblings with poets made me feel lonelier. Taverns to readings to bars with the great poets of Buffalo. It was a time like no other. If a group of lions is called a pride of lions, and a group of larks is called an exultation of larks, then I would call a group of poets a wandering. A wandering of poets. These memories I have are so humiliating and hard and I realize they were meant for poems, waiting for poems to tear at the guts.
Sometime that first year in Buffalo, I met Robert Creeley. Creeley is one of the most prominent of America’s living poets. Half of the year he is a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He spends much of the rest of the year near Albuquerque in my home state. I met him after I had been doing Oil of Dog for quite a while and I was surprised he had heard me. It was then that we discussed the possibility of his appearing on my show and I said Oh that would be great anything that you want to do it will be your show.
Some poets are fat. Some are thin. I don’t think there are many in between. Creeley is lanky and tall, squinting a missing eye, beaming the other, greying goatee. Many of his admirers can be seen wearing his characteristic garb: an army-green fisherman-type hat, an army jacket, faded jeans, hiking boots, and a satchel over one shoulder. He is a one-man mode of cool. It is no wonder that people so admire him. Because he is so raging and so kind, his voice is soft and thoughtful, breaking off in midsentence, trailing into a mumble (I am reluctant to say “What? I didn’t hear you.”), beginning midsentence because he seems to have a million things in his mind at once, thoughts that seem to need several simultaneous sentences. Historically, he is associated with the beat poets of the fifties and his words are often those of the hipster and his manner that of the space cadet. But he seems so fascinated with what is going on now, broadly accepting of life, interested in all people, even moms and dads and squeaky college kids, even fruit pickers and stu-bums and floozies. I am a great admirer of Robert Creeley. Not because of his poems. His poems are important because he can infuse the page with his marvelous personality.
That night when we pre-recorded the four hour show. Ah! A blizzard buried the state and I was having trouble with my girl friend and I listened to Creeley warm that night with his love of jazz. He spoke of musicians and particular songs and legendary solos with great affection:
Art Blakey – “One of the most extraordinary, certainly the loudest, drummer in the business.”
The song, “Nice Work if You Can Get It” with Stan Getz, sax; Bob Brookmeyer, trombone; Steve Kuhn, piano; Roy Haynes, drums; John Neves, bass – “A kind of funky, late forties, almost like a Beach Boys sound of that time and place.”
John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Steve Davis, Elvin Jones doing “Body and Soul” – “This is where it’s at, friends and neighbors, if you can get these two together, you’ve got it made.”
I did not grow up listening to jazz, I did not know how to experience it. I had no idea what to listen for in a solo. But after these few hours with Creeley I began to understand. If there is any way to keep jazz musicians from needing to play disco and jazzak – to reach those who do not understand jazz – it is to have people like Robert Creeley talk about music, make fond presentations like those heard that night on Oil of Dog.
After listening to a tune by Fats Navarro – “dear old trumpet” says Creeley – featuring Allan Eager on tenor sax:
Robert Creeley: Yeah, I’d like to find out whatever happened to him. I was in New York once, this was like twenty years ago. And very sad, as usual. And, uh, the two great clubs were The Open Door and The Five Spot. They used to have, like, classic Sunday evenings, or Sunday afternoons and evenings, and you’d go around and sit around for very little money and hear some extraordinary jazz. This particular night nothing at all had happened, so I was leaving in ultimate loneliness and walking down the street and I see these – yeah – five people getting into a car. And I just, ah, on impulse got in line with them and hahaha got into the car.
C: And, ah, I remember sitting down and they said, y’know, “Who the he-Who are you?” and I said haha well, you know, “What are you guys doing?” and they said “Well, ah . . . .” Then they st-I guess they broke up and started laughing ‘cause it was so weird. And then they introduced themselves and one of these guys said, ah, y’know, “I’m Allan Eager.”
C: I said, “You’re Allan Eager??” And then all the other guys say “What’s the interest . . . . . . ?” ah, y’know, “Who’s Allan Eager?” And I said, “Well, he’s one of the great, y’know, tenor players ever, man!” Haha, but no one in the group knew he was that! It was sort of, this was, yeah, ‘56. That, yeah . . . .
G: Is he still alive?
C: Hopefully. He was a very bright and articulate man, he got sort of sadly involved with other things for a time, but, ah . . . . What’s interesting to remember, the extraordinary, ah, tenor players just at that point, um yeah, black and white, extraordinary.
BIBLIOGRAPHY NUMBER FIVE
Mark Jacobson’s article in The Village Voice turned me on to the granddaddy of all writings about cool: Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster.” (In Advertisements for Myself. New York: G.P. Putnam’s/Berkeley Medallion Books, 1966, page 311 ff.) This essay laid the foundations of speculation about cool for both Jacobson and me.
There is a media professor at Medaille College who each semester devotes an entire lecture to my show. His “Oil of Dog Theory” is that I am the Miss Lonelyhearts of Buffalo and that one day I will be murdered by one of my listeners.
AN ESSAY ON COOL
So we have fallen. And we fell into The Modern World.
Back in Medieval days, Saint Augustine outlined Man’s relationship to God. He named two aspects: First was the doctrine of Original Sin which explained why we are fallen; we deliberately ditched God by eating the Apple, insulted Him right in the Face, which is why things are so rotten now. But the second part of the story is the idea of grace; even though we viciously betrayed God and don’t deserve the morning light from Him, He has granted us grace; even though it is one hundred percent our fault, He has permitted us a way of saving ourselves from this Hell.
To Augustine, the grace of God came in the form of Christ. But that is another story.
The word grace is still around today but it has other meanings. Grace is not only a state of salvation. It is also unity of body and soul, harmony of all aspects of life as one strides through the awesome forces of creation and destruction. Grace is lack of self-consciousness, peace with one’s self. It is elegance of movement and speech, of bearing and style. BUT THE MODERN WORLD IS A DENIAL OF GRACE. PEOPLE ARE TOO BUSY TRYING TO SURVIVE TO BE GRACEFUL. Food, clothing and shelter are the only concerns for which most people have time. All the energy of their lives is spent sustaining home and family. They are at the mercy of the gigantic forces of The Modern World. It is all but impossible to keep body and soul together, to be totally alive and clear-eyed in a murderous unjust insane world.
IT NEED NOT BE THIS WAY. IT NEED NOT BE THIS WAY. IT NEED NOT BE THIS WAY.
There are those who do it. There are people with grace who survive. That is what it means to be cool. Cool is survival with grace. Cool is what carries us above the tiny humiliations of the high school gym and bad grades and no prom date. And cool carries us through the wasteland of middle class life and the inconceivable fear of global annihilation. To be human beings we must achieve more than mere survival.
For the inmates of The Modern World there are two deaths: The quick death of The Fear, of The End of the World. And the slow death of conforrnmity, of the middle class lifestyle, of the bourgeoisie dream. Cool is a repudiation of these two deaths.
Why am I so obsessed with cool? I will tell you. I am lonely. I cannot stand it. Coolness is a mode of conduct in a situation of terror and loneliness. I am not the only one.
The sunless world – the night – is the world of cool.
Rock’n’roll and jazz are the frantic search for cool.
When you are cool, you walk that walk. That walk that is the claim of invulnerability, speed and grace and agility and confidence through a collapsing world. You talk that talk. It is a secret language spoken by others like yourself, a terse language because you never show too much, you never let down your mask of invulnerability, you don’t blow your cool. Dead people – as far as they go – are cool. They are also cold. Schizoid people are cool. They have frozen the pain and fear until they are numb to the world.
Coolness is a cure for loneliness. If you are cool, people come up to you. They want you. Boys and girls who will cling and follow. They are your crowd, they mark the territory where you are safe, they speak your language. But the great irony is that you don’t need them. Only uncool people are lonely, only uncool people need others. They need you, but you do not need them.
Jim Jones was cool. Charles Manson was cool. Jesus was cool. Hitler was cool. Ghandi was cool. Ayatollah Khomeini is cool. Oral Roberts is cool. Abraham Lincoln was cool. No matter how you cut it, whether you like it or not, anyone who can influence people in this way has renounced The Fear. They possess real power. Anyone filled with The Fear is vulnerable. People come up to those who are cool. They want to be free of The Fear. They will do anything. Anything.
The Fear – quick death – entered the middle class American home with the news of the concentration camps and the atom bomb. In the fifties, and early sixties, there was a clear model for cool: the beatniks and hipsters. They developed a mode of conduct which seemed to respond to The Fear. People listened to jazz and smoked reefer, some wore leather and rode motorcycles, some sat in coffee houses and dug poetry and rapped philosophy. Maynard G. Krebs and Marlon Brando and Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley are mythical images of the fifties cool.
In the late sixties, another model of cool emerged: the hippie. For three or four months in 1966, people really believed in love and peace and higher levels of consciousness and drugs and that the world could be changed. The hippie cool became a fashionable industry. Everyone knew how to act, how to look, how to defy, how to rejoice in the face of The Fear. But when cool becomes fashionable, it is no longer cool. The hipsters and the beats and the hippies all became part of the middle class American culture.
First is the quick death of The Fear. Second is the slow death of middle class life. There is little security from The Modern World in a paying job, a nice family, a pleasant house. The Modern World will sneak in and get you no matter how comfortable your home. But more than that, the moms and dads of America have left something out of the home. They have killed something that was both beautiful and horrible. The jealousy that is called morality, the insecurity that is called law, the regret that is called health – all the calmness of middle class life disguises hidden terrors, silent curses, certain doom.
Cool is at war with calmness. It wants no peace. It does not even want security. Cool is more than just being alive. It is life that is furious and feral and full, it is life without a moment’s wasted time. THIS IS THE NEW SENSE OF GRACE. It is life in the vibrant eternal present. No boredom, no regret, no doom, no past or future. Constant perpetual orgasm. The logical and sensible response to mindless methodical peace is the grasping of absolute pleasure, to come and come and come and come and come because it is the sweetest of all human pleasures.
As Norman Mailer says, cool lives in the present. It engages death by recognizing only what is going on now. Cool lives for kicks, the neon colored world of the night, the trebly sound of all-night radio through car speakers, the flashing blast of hot music, dancing and dancing all night –this is the world of cool. Cool explores the insane the drugged the drunk the psychotic the brutal the infantile the childish immature babyish the suicidal the evil the sinful the profane the howling the pounding the physical aching sweating bleeding pissing shitting body the bod the rocking the rolling the jissom and the jazz the rock and the shattered bottle and the howl and the heave the staggering the falling the holding the loving and loving and loving OF LIFE. Because it is the sane and sober and peaceful and mature and good and sacred and quiet and soft and mellow and mental and intelligent and intellectual and lawful and temperate and civil and proper which stands for death and death and death. TO LIVE AGAINST DEATH. Living cool is either bad or good, it is success or failure, it makes you happy or sad, you are right or wrong, you destroy or you create but you are here and you are alive now. You are an asshole, you are a fool, you are a blockhead, you are a stupid fucking idiot BUT YOU ARE NOT AT PEACE WITH DEATH. It does not matter what you engage in as long as it is with intensity, on the side of life against death. This is the second aspect of cool. It is now. It is alive. It is the search for absolute sweet pleasure. It is orgasm.
The Village Voice article about punks by Mark Jacobson brought to consciousness these vague thoughts about cool I had tucked away for so many years. The article was about Legs McNeil, the Punk in Residence for Punk Magazine. Legs was an original, he was not an imitator. Like me, he hit teenage too late to be a genuine hippie or beatnik. Unlike me, he invented his own standard of coolness for the 70’s.
“What do you love?” he demanded. “Pot, long guitar solos, battling the government, wearing bright colors, being mellow? . . . . . Well, I hate all that. All that sucks and is uncool.”
“And what do you hate?” Legs went on. Television, burgers, drinking, violent behavior? . . . . . Well, I love all of that. I declare these things to be mine. I appoint liking Hogan’s Heroes and McDonald’s to be cool. I love long freeways, the whole bit. Any country that produced Eddie Haskell has to be cool.”*
I have said many times that The Modern World drives us to need cool. The punks as depicted in Jacobson’s article embrace The Modern World with all its electric dirt and mindless terror and calm death. All the nihilism associated with punk, the renunciation of classical values, the hatred of hipsters and hippies, the violence, the refusal to be articulate or get trapped in intellectualizing, the ennui, groveling and retching in boredom, embracing putrid dead incessant dullness, the names of the groups: Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, The Jam, The Damned; the song titles: “Orgasm Addict”, “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” “White Riot,” “Blank Generation;” the record labels: Stiff, Raw, Illegal, Dangerhouse; faster and louder all the time faster and louder, embracing the end of the world, singing its anthems, longing for chaos – all this was perfectly sensible for the late 70’s.* Mark Jacobson. “Teenage Hipster in the Modern World,” Village Voice, August 7, 1978, Vol. XXIII, No. 32, page 20.
Figure 26: John Holmstrom draws himself in Punk Magazine trying to get an interview from Allen Lanier of Blue Oyster Cult. (from John Holmstron. “Blue Oyster Cult,” Punk Magazine, February 1977, Vol. I. No. 7, page 13.) (Photo of cartoon by Zowie.)
|ESSAY ON COOL CONTINUED . . . . .
I was never a real punk, I never adopted the lifestyle or the fashion. Punk was never for me an ideology or way of life. It was the music. It conveyed a mood, it tapped something that many people were searching for. I could not listen to The Ramones or Clash without being dragged off in the anger, without applauding the nausea. After three quarters of a decade of popular music that had nothing to do with real life, this was exactly what I needed. Though punk was never a big commercial success like hippiedom, it was an absolutely logical relevant response to the real actual Modern World that most people seemed to pretend did not exist. It was the cool, the orgasm of the late seventies.
The editor of Punk Magazine was a genius cartoonist named John Holmstrom. He made some insightful comments about punk in an interview he did for a punk art exhibition presented by the Washington Project for the Arts.
Marion Brando from “The Wild One” sums it up . . . . “What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” “What have you got?” . . . . . that’s perfect . . . . . did you hear what Nico said? Nico used to be in the Velvet Underground . . . . . there was an interview with her in the latest Search and Destroy . . . . . she said one of the best things I heard yet about this whole thing . . . . . “Nico: We are both fans of war . . . . . war? Nico: Because it’s always the least boring of times. We think that Punk Rock is the result of today’s youth having missed out on a war.” I agree with that.
BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO A WAR, DO YOU?
When you look back at books written at the time of WWII weren’t people getting really excited about going to war? Did you ever see “All Quiet On the Western Front?” At the beginning everybody’s going nuts. Remember we didn’t see it. All we saw were the books and movies. The movies look great. When I was a kid, I played Army all the time. And being a Punk is like avoiding growing old. You don’t want to be old so you play Army all the time.*
I do not know if John Holmstrom would really advocate war to the point of going to fight Russians in Afganistan, for example. There are certainly enough wars going on in the world if he wants to fight. But this belies one of the many contradictions of cool and of punk cool in particular. It is the scientific rational murderous quick death of The Fear that causes cool to hate war. And it is the rational calm slow death of boredom which causes it to embrace violence. Cool is a rejection of comfort, of putrid rationality, of peace. War is a horrible orgasm. But it is orgasm. War is real. War is exciting. War destroys houses and lawns and schools and supermarkets. It engages death directly. Moreover, if you love war, you will automatically alienate all the old hippies and beatniks. To hell with the world. Blow it to hell.
Cool is always on the move. It is chasing the edge of life. It is self-indulgent, it is self-glory, it is masturbatory, a great puking of self into a tottering world, an endless living roaring orgasm. Madness and death and drugged and drunken stupors are preferable to the peace which hides the true nature of The Modern World.
Such ideas are exciting. I like thinking about them. They make me feel dramatic. I am, of course, too chicken to quite go overboard in this way. I am obviously not ready to bag rationality for the orgasm, or I wouldn’t even be writing this. But there is something of this orgasm, this cool in being a night person, in being the voice of the night. There is at least the image. Am I really so tormented? Am I really lost and lonely? Or am I just horny?
It would seem that cool is an attitude or mood or lifestyle of despair. That it is a raging violent ecstatic rejection of hope in the human race. A resignation to The Fall of Man. But I do not think this is right. Only those who believe that science and government and religion and education can save the world, only those who overlook the sadness and destruction, only those who feel the world is going in the right direction – would ever believe cool is without hope. As Norman Mailer says:
[T]he nihilism of Hip proposes as its final tendency that every social restraint and category be removed, and the affirmation implicit in the proposal is that man would then prove to be more creative than murderous and so would not destroy himself. Which is exactly what separates Hip from the authoritarian philosophies which now appeal to the conservative and liberal temper – what haunts the middle of the twentieth century is that faith in man has been lost, and the appeal of authority has been that it would restrain us from ourselves. Hip, which would return us to ourselves, at no matter what price in individual violence, is the affirmation of the barbarian, for it requires a primitive passion about human nature to believe that individual acts of violence are always to be preferred to the collective violence of the State.**
Cool says No to The Fall. It says What I am is a walker and talker, I have no fear, I am not lonely, I want no peace, I see what is real, I am drugged and drunk, I am infantile, I am violent, I am insane, I am the only one with the courage to admit what is, I am not fallen. I am free. You are death. You are methodical destruction. You are The Modern World. You are The End of the World. You are boredom. You are despair. I am none of these things. I am alive. I am cool.
* Miller and Ringma. Catalog for Punk Art Exhibition, May 15 – June 10, 1979. Washington, D.C.: Washington Project for the Arts, 1978, page. 18.
** Norman Mailer. “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster,” in Advertisements for Myself. New York: G.P. Putnam’s/Berkeley Medallion Books, 1966, page 328.
|Image under construction.||
SPOOKY TOOTH’s version of “I Am The Walrus.” All those Beatles purists make fun of this. (I tell you, those silly Beatle People are as fanatical and obnoxious as any Dead Head, Heavy Metal Kid, Jazz Idiot, or Classical Music snob!) Oh but I think this is fifty times as tough as the Beatles. They make the song scary and heavy. And I think Mike Harrison’s singing is some of the best rock wailing ever recorded.
I just played all of Live Dead by the Grateful Dead for my Truly Classic Album. Live Dead is a perfect unity that can only be understood in the context of its entirety. Other such albums, that I try to play once each year, are Tales from Topographic Oceans by Yes, Tommy by the Who, Quadrophenia by the Who, Consequences by Godly and Creme, and the Joe’s Garage Parts I, II, and III, by Frank Zappa.
If rock is fuck then Live Dead is some further state of sublimity. It is an album for making love.
Grateful Dead fans are weird. They are the most fanatic uncompromising fans in the music world. The Dead of the 70’s and 80’s seem to have lost that incredible magic they had back in the days of Live Dead. The Dead Head will say Yeah man, that new album is a real piece of shit, Garcia is just a burn-out now, nothing was the same after Pigpen died, and Donna with her shitty voice, man, after she joined them they were completely fucked, she ruined them. But whenever a new Grateful Dead album receives its inevitable putdown by a record reviewer, the Dead Head will cry THAT ASSHOLE OUGHTA BE KILLED, THE DEAD ARE THE GREATEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED, THAT GUY DOESN’T KNOW MUSIC FROM THE FARTS IN HIS OWN BUTT.
Dead Heads are mellow. They stand – or hang out – in some kind of opposition to punks. The Dead embody everything the punks can’t stand, long guitar solos, long songs, hippie nostalgia, cosmic consciousness, down-home clannishness, peace and love, mellowness. And the Dead Heads can’t see where the punks are coming from at all. Their snarling urban madness makes no sense to the chubby hippie who dreams of lying in endless fields of marajuana on Mars listening to the only really great band.
There is something almost non-sexual about the music of the Dead and their fans. There are no frantic sexual glitters, no sweaty leather and skin tights and ripped t-shirts, no lean muscular musicians, no lithe glittery fans prancing in a mating dance. Everything is longer and slower and rounder in the Dead scene. In concert, the Dead Heads will be jubilant, they will be hooting and wild, they will be drunk and high and full of boogie, but it is all soft as if in a dream. The punk throbs with a stiff hard thrust; the Dead Head relaxes into the scene. The music of the Grateful Dead is very much a “head” music, it depicts and traces head trips, it puts you in a mellow head.
Dead Heads will travel thousands of miles to see their band. Everyone knows the story of the guy who sold his van so he could see them in Egypt. And if you’ve never seen them one of their followers will pay for your ticket and drive you there and tell endless stories about ten hour concerts, man, and the whole audience was like grooving together and Garcia just blew out those lines and I couldn’t believe it they played “Cosmic Charlie” it seemed like for hours and I was so fried on this fantastic blotter acid someone gave me and then someone handed me this ice cold orange it came from like a hand in the sky and at the end man the whole sky they just filled the whole sky with these fantastic fireworks man it was so unbelievable it was the ninth time I saw them. They have posters of paintings by Phillip Garris, and t-shirts that say GRATEFUL FUCKIN’ DEAD, and a four fingered hand print on their wall.But back at the time of Live Dead the band was at the far reaches of rock. They were angry and highly experimental. Tom Constantin, the keyboardist, eventually left to explore music on his own and in fact studied “new music” here at the University of Buffalo for a while. In the late sixties, the Grateful Dead were the avant garde of progressive rock. The bass and guitar lines from the Live Dead album – each note and nuance – are textbooks for aspiring rock musicians.
forgot the name of the guy I was talking to and where the conversation
took place, but he said: It’s too bad. I
wouldn’t trust most of the people I hear on public radio in
Buffalo to be radio dispatchers for a taxi company. They just
don’t have any imagination. I mean public radio should be IT.
It should be the thing, the ideal. It should be the greatest
possible radio anybody could ever do. I mean, it has no
commercials, they don’t have to pander to get a big
audience. They can afford to be the alternative, to do things no
one else would ever do. I mean public radio is supposed
to do that. That’s the whole point. The purpose of
public radio to present culture that cannot be heard any where else,
especially on the commercial airwaves. But the people who run
local public radio are the most unimaginative dull-witted cowardly
elitist psuedo-cultural patronizing humorless nurds you’ll ever
hear. Most of their programming is syndicated from PBS and
NPR. Even though some of it is good radio, it is not locally
produced and owes no allegiance to the local audience. Some of
the syndicated stuff is truly offensive, especially the cowardly news
“magazines” that avoid asking hard questions and are
fearful of being critical of the status quo. When the locals do
produce their own shows they pollute the airwaves with condescending
Top 40 classical shows, milquetoast jazz shows, and dry dusty
presentations folk culture. And they segregate all the musical
forms from one another like they will get each other dirty.
Public radio could give the world to the world. It need hide
nothing. It could be crazy and free. But the people who run
public radio stations hate freedom. The people in public radio
hate the public. They have no more commitment to truth or freedom
or beauty than do the wierdos who control commercial radio.
The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is signed. The Palestinians change their constitution recognizing the right of Israel to exist. Israel in turn opens talks with the PLO. Boundary lines are drawn. Treaties are signed. The other Arab nations attack Israel in an all-out war. The United States is bound by treaty to defend. The draft is re-instated. Thousands go to war. Gary’s rock’n’roll dreams dry up and blow away.
|A REAL DREAM
I DREAMED I WAS A DISC JOCKEY and I played for quasars and aquariums and quarks and crackers and I sent my song to all reaches and times and things. This is my dream: I spun records and with each song a sadness a monstrosity a nuisance would vanish – my songs changed the world. Millions of smash hits with a bullet of love topping the charts, at my reach, commanding the world. With my song I could fill the pockets of the poor and I pulled the song of sad beggars and the ground shook and the radio station roared and the lights flashed all colors. The record of sad beggars spun its course and millions of faces smiled. The song of bathtub rings filled the airwaves, then the song of shrinking candy bars, and the song of police brutality, and everywhere people felt clean and sweet and put down their clubs. And as I spun my songs the world about me chanted and shrieked, an enormous booming chorus cursing and howling the names of sages and causes and religions, chanting the names of Christ, Nietzsche, Einstein, Democrats, Tai Chi, Ballet, Freud, demons and the billions of names of God roaring about me. I played my songs, the song of lost toys, the song of blackheads, the song of lover’s lies, the song of undeclared wars. AND I SCREAM INTO THE MICROPHONE OKAY BABYCAKES I’M GONNA LAY IT ON YA IT’S A HEAVY ONE AND THERE’S NOTHING WRONG ANYMORE MAKIN’ YOU HIGH MAKIN’ YOU FREE RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW it’s me it’s me I’m dancing and dancing and making music and now the music comes not from records but from my hands and I’m holding the guitar and if I play that note they will all smile, I rip that lick and they burst into flames, I pound that riff and they all come and come, I strike that chord and they burst into blood at my finger’s touch. A pane of light shoots from my hand and they take off their arms and wave and they take off their clothes and I am in this heat and my amplifiers are like bombs and I’m telling the story THIS IS ROCK I SING FOR GOD THAT CAIN AND QUETZALCOATL AND KING ARTHUR AND JESUS CAN COME HOME AND I SING THE ONLY MANTRA I HAVE STOLEN THE HOLY VOICE AND I TELL ALL EVILS TO STEP DOWN AND THIS IS THE FLESH OF ROCK AND IT’S ALL ONE MAN AND IT’S ALL ONE BABYCAKES AND IT’S ALL ONE.
|I JUST HAVE TO SAY THIS
The Rolling Stones are not the greatest rock and roll band in the world.
“Little Brown Jug” by a songwriter who called himself EASTBURN was a smash hit with a bullet back in 1869. It has never since left the charts. Another fine cut on the New World Record label, this is a sloshy giggly rendition by a tenor from the Cincinnati University Singers named RICHARD PERRY.
Ummm, now I’m not . . . . . It is a total mystery to me how
songs are chosen for-for this station. It is a it-it really is a
mystery because ah . . . . . well, let me ask you this, start
here: Do you think you could take any arbitrary song and make it
Sandy Beach, Program Director, WKBW: No. We can’t make it a hit at all. All we can do is expose it. The-th-the reason why WKBW – let me give you a little bit of background on-on our music. WKBW is considered a-an extremely important station to the music industry for promoting records. Ah, and the reason is this: We have a long track record of ah, well, we’ve been at this thing since about 1957, right around there, ah, we have an excellent signal, and we have an absolute cut-in-stone reputation for being pretty, ah, pretty much on track with hits. Ah, we far out-perform our market. Ah, the market is, ah, is, eh, generally about 29 in the country, and according to a survey taken by the record companies themselves, WKBW is considered to be one of the top five most influential stations in music in the country. Top five! Now that includes New York, Philadelphia, L.A., whatever you want to name. So there’s a great deal of pressure on us to play songs by the various labels that they want us to play, alright? Because the WKBW call letters mean a great deal. And if you were a promotion man and you were new in this town and you came to my office and said, “What are the guidelines?”, I’ll give you a general idea of what the guidelines are. The record industry and the radio industry are engaged. We can never be married. Never ever. Because our objectives are different. A record company’s idea of a hit is how much it sells. “Okay, it sells, hey look, we sold fifty thousand copies, it’s a hit!” Alright? Our idea of a hit is that, plus how it sounds. That sounds pretty fundamental, but it isn’t. Because a record company, most of the time, will get pretty uptight if you say to them, “Well, look, I know the thing is selling well, but it does not fit our sound.” Now that drives them crazy because, ah, they want every record they have out to be on your radio station. And they can accept the fact that it it only sold three copies nobody’s really interested in it. But if it sold a few copies and it’s starting to move and you’re not interested in the record they get very uptight about it. So the first thing we look at is how does the record sound. Does it fit our sound? If it does, okay, we can go on to the next step. Who’s playing it locally, who’s playing it nationally, how’s it doing nationally, how’s it doing locally? Then we-we’ll make a judgment on it.
G: I brought some records. Why don’t we listen to one and you can tell me why it does or doesn’t fit the sound.
G: (Talking to the engineer.) Wh-what do you have cued up?
S: Well, we’ll find out.
G: Oh. Al-alright.
S: We’ll just play something and we’ll listen to it.
(We listen to “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones.)
Chewing out a rhythm on my bubblegum
The sun is out and I want some.
It’s not hard, not far to reach
We can hitch a ride
To Rockaway Beach . . . . . . . .
Rock Rock Rockaway Beach
Rock Rock Rockaway Beach . . . . .*
S: Okay!! Haha!
S: My feet were flying during that. Alright, what would you like to know? You’d like to know our opinion on it?
G: Yeah. Yeah.
S: Alright. First of all, ahh, I would certainly say it’s a happy sounding song. It’s the kind of song that if we added we would probably day-part to start with. Alright, you know what that means. But for those of you out there who don’t know what day-parting is, and that is fitting certain music to certain audiences. For instance, you’re probably not going to play anything too heavy in the morning. People get up, they’re having orange juice, they’re not into heavy stuff. Ahh, mid-day, y-st-, y’know, you still don’t get too heavy. And in the afternoon, evening and all-night, fine. Any, just about anything goes, but you wouldn’t get too soft. For instance, Anne Murray wouldn’t sound very appropriate, perhaps, ahh, seven to midnight. Alright? I would say that that song, ahh, would certainly be a c-a-a candidate if you were a promotion man, but, ah, it would have to start out day-parted.
G: Mm hmm.
S: But there’s nothing wrong with the song at all. Sounds like a good old-fashioned rock tune.
Norm Schrutt, General Manager, WKBW: I thought Jan and Dean came back.
S: Yeah, hahaha.
G: Yes, tha-that was the song that a lot of people had their hopes on as the one that would break punk rock into-a, into-the, into the big market, ah, last-they thought it would be the song of the summer of ‘77 and it just never did.
S: Well, there’s a lot, ahh, y’know, Robert Gordon is another example, I think, of that kind of sound. A-and you know what’s funny, Gary, is-is this: I think one of the real differences between, we were talking about the differences between public and commercial radio, is that I don’t have the luxury – and I wish I did – of programming music that I necessarily like myself.
G: Mmm hmm.
S: I program what I think the people that we’re aiming to like. Okay?
G: So you don’t always like the songs you pick.
S: No. Obviously. Ahh, whereas in your situation, you might be able to get on and, hey, you pl-ev-everythjng you play, you like. Obviously. I mean, that’s great. Because if given a choice, a person will always play his favorites. It’s like oldies, y’know.
G: Mm hmm.
S :It’s always funny because somebody will always say, “Well, don’t they play the oldies in perfect rotation?” Not if you don’t schedule them that way, because if given, ah, if there’s three oldies on the shelf to play that haven’t been played yet, you’re gonna play the one you like. Obviously.
S: That’s common sense. Ahh, but so I have to listen with an ear for what I think – and it’s an educated guess is what it is – ah, what I think the public would like. Alright. Now I think that’s a great song. I-I thought it was a super song.
G: How would the public like it, do you think?
S: Aahh, I think if given enough exposure, that kind of music, if given enough exposure, would have a good shot, like, for instance, “Red Hot” (by Robert Gordon) wasn’t that big a record. Really wasn’t nationally or locally, but yet I loved it. But I also loved John Prine and I couldn’t schedule John Prine either. So, I mean, you have to look at what you think the people would like.
G: I see.
S: What did you think of that?
G: I love it.
S: It’s a great record. It’s fun.
G: I love it. I love The Ramones.
S :It’s happy.
G: The Rarnones are one of my favorite groups.
G: Um . . . . .
S: Well, okay! Now this is a good point:
S: Alright, we’re talking . . . . .
N: Look out, Gary.
G: Uh oh.
S: We’re talking . . . . .
N: When he gets that look in his eye, look out!
S: We’re talking about The Ramones and we’re talking about the pressure . . . . .
S: . . . . . of, a, of trying to get music on this radio station – there’s no ego involved at all, this-is this is fact – when The Ramones were in town there was an article, ah, written in the local press about their tour. Th-they did a tour of a few radio stations in town . . . . .
G: Mm hmm.
S: . . . . . and did some interviews and things like that. As their van passed WKBW, we were on Main Street at the time, there’s a sign right out on the street that says “WKBW,” ahh, one of the group pointed up and said, “Now that’s where we have to get our music played!”
G: Mm hrnm.
S: That’s the key. But the point is that everybody thinks like that. So you’ve got, you’ve got the spectrum of music from punk rock to Anne Murray wanting to get on this same radio station, so you can see the problems.
G: And how many slots?
S: Well, generally thirty plus seven. If you’re talking about thirty-seven records, you’re talking about, ah, they’d better be hits.
G: Hahahaha. I hear hundreds of records and there really are more than 37 good ones.
S: I agree! I agree. And y’know, to bring the point home, when I was i-in Erie [working at another radio station] we did a thing, ah, where I said, “Tomorrow everybody that goes to this certain record store – which will remain nameless ‘cause we’re doing an in-store appearance there with some of our jocks – we’re gonna give away all the junk records that we’ve accumulated in the last three months.” In other words, what I meant was anything that just never got played. Alright? And-we, and-we we were mobbed. People were just all over the place, they got the albums. Later on, we started getting letters and calls from people saying, “How can you call that album junk?!? It’s great!” And they’re probably right. Ah, I guarantee you that if I have a hundred albums in my office now, there maybe will be three or four that will get played. Out of the remaining, out of the other 97, 95 of them will be great albums. Well, what are you going to do? I mean, physically you can play only so many records.
G: Mm hmm.
S: There’s only so many slots.
* The Ramones. “Rockaway Beach.” © 1977, Bleu Disque Music Co./Taco Tunes (ASCAP), from Rocket to Russia, Sire, SR 6042.
|Image under construction.||Now, if you want to win a copy of the Gilly Smith album, Mother, you have to give the correct answer to the following question. This is a Yes or No question. Now, if you know the answer, call 831-5393 and the first person with the correct – I mean, the first two people with the correct answer will win a copy of this fantastic album by Gilly Smith. Here’s the question: Are you ready? Okay. Is it possible to be more brainless and out-of-it than Energy Secretary Schlesinger and still be alive? Now, if you know the correct answer, call 831-5393 and – oops, they’re calling already.|
TRANSMISSION OF RF WAVES LEAVES NO TRACES – EXCEPT SOME
HALF-SUSPECTED ONES IN THE MINDS OF THE PURPORTED
“LISTENER.” RADIO IS THUS A GHOST.”
– Lorenzo W. Milam
Mean old Death. How perturbing it is that death is always hanging around. Sooner or later we have to croak. And wise people say this simple fact is the primary motivating force behind all culture. Behind every glorious cathedral, every distillery, every tome of wisdom, every biomass converter, every hit record, every scribbled sign, wild incantation, uttered word, swift gesture – there is old death lurking. Like the ant hill at the picnic of life, like the meltdown in the reactor of happiness, like the dog turd around the corner of tomorrow, like the warp on the record of time. And all the churches and fine wines and methane pipelines and songs and cave paintings and prayers and raps and dances say NO DEATH LOOK AT WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND WE WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR ALL GENERATIONS TO COME. And death says, Have you forgotten The End of the World?
But there is another kind of art that renounces all traditions and ancient glories and immortal masterpieces and milestones of culture. More than a new art form, this may be an utter departure from classical modes of thought, an entirely new conception of reality. In the gone jazz improvisations, in the aleatory music of the Dadaists and Stockhausen and Cage, in the free rockin’ guitar solos roaring through amps, in the improvised music of Africa and India, in folk songs everywhere – there is the art of the moment, experienced by performer and audience and gone forever like leafy dead thoughts. Works of art become uncaptured performances rather than stationary momentos of our death-defying culture. Some works of art destroy themselves, some works of art are destruction, some artists destroy themselves for art. Works of literature are composed by random methods, words from a hat, loose pages to be read in any order. Thousands of people gather together to rock on and you will never convince me they are there to see their favorite rock group, no it is the roaring and the hits and the heat and all the bodies breathing and moving and flying at once. The audience becomes as much a creator of the artistic event as does the artist. It is mutual, free-form, boundless, ephemeral, gone before the end.
Clearly, this is the music and art of cool. This is the art of the eternal present. It engages death, it renounces death by existing only in the living now. Creating something that dies forever gives us life. Creating something we can experience only once is an act of loving life.
Being a free-form progressive disc jockey is art of this kind. I can put songs together in such a way as to make people fall in love, perhaps I will even change the weather, or settle a fight. But no matter how I have touched the world, it is only a lost moment shot through the transmitter. I rarely tape my show, I lost the notebook which listed all the songs, and I don’t remember anything I said or played. It is gone. I have tried taking sets of songs that worked particularly well one night and doing them in exactly the same order another night. But it is not the same, the magic is not there the second time, some mysterious conjunction between my songs and the electronic equipment, and my mood, and the stars and barometric pressure and humidity, and the position of Skylab, and the vibes sent from my audience, something subtle has changed, the moment is gone forever. Crying to the End of the World, give me my beauty NOW.
Every night some kid requests highly esoteric new wave music: The Subway Sect, rare cuts by The Damned, The Scruffs, B-sides by 999, old cuts by Iggy Pop, Eater, Half Japanese.
Usually I have to say, “That’s my own record but give me a
ring tomorrow night and I’ll play it.” He sends me
clippings about The Clash and The Sex Pistols
and song lyrics and photos. I learn he is a freshman in high
school. He falls asleep in class sometimes because he listens to
“Oil of Dog.” I tell him once he gets his rock band
off the ground, I’ll put them on the air.
The fiercely funny FRANKLIN AJAYE from his album I’m a Comedian, Seriously:
is a noted artist and film maker from New York City. On November
3, 1978, he appears on my show in Conjunction with his exhibition at
the Hallwalls Art Gallery.
For five hours on Oil of Dog, he shares his sound effect records.
These are a series of carefully edited selections from a Sound library
pressed on many colors and sizes of vinyl. For example, there is
a seven-inch green vinyl disc called “Three Felled Trees”
which is exactly that: the sound of an axe chopping and felling three
trees in a row. A twelve-inch cement-colored disc with rough
edges has the sound of buildings falling on the “A” (top)
side and people screaming on the “B” (bottom) side; called
“The Earthquake”, this is an art object depicting buildings
falling on top of people. A red vinyl disc called “A German
Shepard” is simply a dog’s barking repeated at carefully
timed intervals. Jack discusses the ideas behind these records.
Gary: Now Jack, tell us wha-what you’re doing and wha-wha what you’re showing us. And stuff.
Jack Goldstein: Well, I’d like to open it up by reading this statement, um. “I am either my body or my mind. And there is that duality in perceiving the world.” And really what I’m talking about with my work and especially with the records is the fact that I can perceive the world and participate in the world from a distance through my mind, through a record. The fact that I can, um, in other words, if-if there was a fight on the street and you were viewing that fight from let’s say three or four hundred yards away, you would have some control over that because you could deal with it in terms of your mind.
G: In other wor–
J: But if you were like five or six feet away from it, you’d have to deal with it in terms of your body. And what I’m basically dealing with is that I’m involved in media, but I’m involved in media to give me distance on the world. Because through a sense of distance, I can have control over it.
G: Um, so-so for example, the crying that we just heard arouses images in our minds of things th-we’ve experienced in life but gives us sort of a-a-a a mental distance on it? Is that it?
J: Yes, because it’s-it’s a picture that has to be created in your head and you have to participate in that in some way. Um, it becomes like an active way of seeing or an active way of participating. Um, y-y-you are not passive when you listen to that or, I mean, you would have to turn it off or you would have to participate in it, participate in it in some way where you would just have to listen to it.
G: Um hrnm.
It is interesting, in this context, to note that Jack Goldstein is also a painter. But, at least with one of his bodies of work, he never touched the canvas. Rather, he used contractors, some of whom worked in Buffalo (which is how I learned about this methodology), who would take templates he provided as guides for applying paint to enormous canvases.
I am playing MC for an outside concert on Hertel Avenue featuring a dozen or so local underground bands. They have shut off the street and there is a small carnival, a theatre company performing a musical, vendors selling hot pretzels and Texas redhots – they call it The Hertel Happening. Fliers all over the city read “Fantasy World Presents a Block Party and FREE CONCERT! hosted by WBFO’s Gary Storm.” The weather is unseasonably cold and the crowds are sparse.But for once being MC isn’t so bad. I introduce the local bands in quick succession – Electroman, George, The Factor, Dwarf Star, The Indians, Plastics, Billy Piranha and The Enemies – most of whom do their own material. A group of high school kids gawgle in amazement, they have never seen bands like these having been suckled on Kiss and Foreigner and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Hey, this is great. I get up there and say What is the name of that band?!?! GEORGE!!! they all cheer. They have never heard of me. They take it on authority that I am cool.
Figure 27: Photo of poster by Zowie.
One of the most popular disc jockeys in all of Buffalo is B-- on W--, an AM station. B-- was a friend of George Hamburger which is how I learned about the Wednesday night wet T-shirt contests they used to hold at the 747 Club. B-- hosted these righteous events which were the biggest and bounciest of their genre in Buffalo.
This was my big chance to meet the most important disc jockey in town. I went with Steve Rosenthall, the intellectual sax player and wild jazz announcer from WBFO, who unlike me owned a car, and like me had never seen a wet T-shirt contest. Since I knew Hamburger, we were able to forego the five dollar cover. What dreamy creamy visions I had, beautiful breasty girls all shining and streaming with water, nipples high with the shock of desire, laughing and vulnerable, pressing wet warm flesh into the loving hands of strangers, oh it would be beautiful!
The 747 is a disco, the closest Buffalo ever comes to Las Vegas. It is decked out like a real 747 jet with passenger seats and waitresses in stewardess costumes. The place was packed with lots of middle-aged men and women and pretty soon B-- sauntered on stage and with his slippery deep voice declared The women here better be ready for action because there are a lot of men here who wanna see some tits. He held a couple of small glasses in his hand and said See these two glasses here? I’ve got a hundred dollars that says I know a trick no woman can do. The crowd cooed. I’ll bet two hundred dollars no woman can do a trick with these glasses. Three hundred dollars. Four hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars if you can do this trick.
A young lady in a very modest brown secretarial dress with long sleeves and a little ruffle around the neck was pushed up onto the stage by a friend. What’s your name, honey? L--, honey, I’ll bet you five hundred dollars you can’t pick up these drinking glasses without using your hands. Six hundred dollars. You know what I mean, don’t you? – pick them up with your tits. Seven hundred dollars. Eight hundred dollars. That’s my final offer.
She said “Okay.” L-- rolled her eyes and looked so helpless. The crowd shined. She was pretty and unzipped her dress and peeled it down to her waist and kind of folded her arms over her bare breasts. She seemed on the verge of tears. B-- said Okay, honey, the eight hundred is yours if you can pick these up with those nice lookin’ tits of yours. Now the rules are you get only three tries with each glass.
The glasses were too small. They got bigger ones. For twenty minutes while the crowd jeered and crowed, B-- and L-- stuffed her tits into the glasses. She leaned forward into the audience over a tray upon which the glasses sat, hovering a tit into a glass, pressing, trying to pick it up, here try again, Ooops, here I’ll turn it, let’s try a little water on them. Okay try again, bending over, stuffing, pressing, there now, slowly, slowly and the glass dangled from her dug, then the other tit and they worked it over and finally that one too gently swung a glass for all the world to see, and B--, the biggest DJ in town, said Baby, you don’t know how happy I am you did it, and L-- gave him a big kiss when he handed her eight hundred-dollar bills.Steve had left a while ago to play the pinball machines, but I stayed for the somewhat anti-climactic wet T-shirt contest. The most successful DJ in Buffalo officiated as water was poured over the chests of four dumpy bouncy ladies (one of whom had to be well over forty), and as the shirts turned transparent, the ladies waggled and flounced to disco tunes, teased the crowd with varying degrees of skill, turned their backs, lifting the shirt higher and higher. Two of the ladies were too shy to take off their shirts, but the other two did. This was not beautiful, it was not sweating and sexy. It did not turn me on. It was just a dull amateur strip show. And as T-shirts were twirled in the air, the most successful DJ urged them on and roused the crowd and I thought Please save me from success.
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BONNIE KOLOC – “Lucky Suite.”
She has one of the purest voices in the world. Can you imagine her leaning there in some alley, so pretty, full of her passionate songs, talking to Lucky, this Chicago street drunk?
He slurs, “They tell me I’m a drunk. Well, maybe I am.” She sings an out’n’out blues song of her own in a warm crystaline voice – “Children’s Blues.” And so these songs are mingled with Lucky’s raps on life.
What kind of person is this Bonnie? She seems strong. She seems soft. Acapella songs like this incredible version of “Jazzman” echoing in an empty hall. She claims she’s comin’ off of one way juice but her voice is still clear and perfect. What is she like?
“God ain’t that stupid, I’ll tell you that,” says Lucky. She wails so high you can hear the echo before the voice.
I need more
She sways in a sequined gown, moving in on tables full of sailors, torching the flame, voice big and black, a mama, the earth. There is distance and clarity and lily sweetness in her voice, lithe white thighs of her voice. Who is she really?
* © No Date, Monona Music (BMI), from Wild and Recluse, Epic, 35254.
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