|Oil of Dog
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My Truly Classic Classic Album this week is the first album by The New York Dolls. Funny that no other radio station in this area ever touched this group. Yet they have been variously praised as the next Rolling Stones, the harbingers of art rock, the first glitter rock band, and the muse of punk rock. I also feature a number of rare recordings of the offshoot groups formed after the break-up of The Dolls: The Heartbreakers, The Criminals, The Killer Kane Band, and, of course, David Johansen and his band. I play them all. I ain’t afraid of no rock’n’roll.
MANIFESTIVAL TALES: FRED FRITH
He looked a bit shy as he laid two prepared guitars on a table saying “First I’m going to make some noise for you, then we’ll play music.” This was Fred Frith, heroic innovative guitarist from Henry Cow and The Art Bears. Moaning pieces of string were pulled through the electric guitars, he clanged with thrumbing sticks, scraped the rasping strings, picked at shrieking clips. Loving applause! More! More! But it was getting late.
Later, Frith told me he wished Americans could have seen Henry Cow. I said I played their records on the radio. He stood in baggy pants and laughed, “It is not the same.” I pointed out that for ten years dazzling European musicians have been making this progressive rock, forming bands and spawning dozens of off-shoot groups, releasing many albums, melting rock jazz and classical modes; engendering new lifestyles; political ideologies, and all kinds of art; blowing minds, MAKING A SCENE – FOR TEN YEARS OR MORE THEY HAVE DONE THIS and the United States has been almost totally unaware. He sighed, “That’s pretty much right.”
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I enjoy your radio program so much because someone great like you is playing the music that I wana hear for once! I am just dying to see your group Extra Cheese. I think you guys are just terrific. Thanks again for the album. You can always remember by, that I am the person who always requests Heart on your program.
An Extra Cheese Fan
P.S. (I think your kinda cute.)
S(3)This is “Oyun havasi,” wedding dance music from an album of TURKISH VILLAGE MUSIC. Obsessive pounding of drums called duvals, they sound enormous, winding whining searing oboe sounds of the zurna. Dancers swirl and spin, clothes flying, bodies young and old soaked with sweat. This ain’t folk music, it’s meaty metal. Or heavy flesh.
I once tried to convince our jazz programmer to play this stuff. He wouldn’t hear it. But it seems obvious to me that Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman have been checking out music of this sort for ages.
I think back to the first time I heard Sgt. Pepper’s.
Figure 32: Publicity photo for my band Extra Cheese, by the brilliant Mike and Marylin at Zowie Photo.
I was six years old in 1957. That was the year my Mom and Dad bought their first new car and yes it was a turquoise Chevy Two-Ten. (To my recollection, the only other car that ever really existed in 1957 was the Thunderbird.) I remember hearing stories about radioactive fallout from atomic bomb tests, about not eating snow, about the bestial Russians. I was so afraid of the Third World War, I could not sleep at night. 1957 was also the year that Norman Mailer wrote an essay called “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipsters.” I discovered this work in 1979 in Jacobson’s Village Voice article about punk and it has greatly influenced this dissertation. Norman Mailer makes clear that The Fear of annihilation which made me toss and turn at night as a little boy was a deep-felt terror of grownups too. Me and the grownups wanted to be cool – we wanted a mode of conduct in a time of total terror. Those of us who found little consolation in our bomb shelters needed someone to tell us how to act.
One night I finally asked my mother “Is there going to be a war?” She said, “No, of course not” and hugged me. After that I was able to sleep. But this solution probably would not have helped older people. Teenagers found little comfort in their parents. Indeed, they viewed Mom and Dad as part of the problem. So the younger white Americans turned to the example of black Americans.
. . . . . no wonder that in certain cities of America . . . . . this particular part of a generation was attracted to what the Negro had to offer. In such places as Greenwich Village, a ménage-a-trois was completed – the Bohemian and the juvenile delinquent came face-to-face with the Negro, and the hipster was a fact in American life. If marijuana was the wedding ring, the child was the language of Hip for its argot gave expression to abstract states of feeling which all could share, at least all who were Hip. And in this wedding of the white and the black it was the Negro who brought the cultural dowry. Any Negro who wishes to live must live with danger from his first day, and no experience can ever be casual to him, no Negro can saunter down a street with any real certainty that violence will not visit him on his walk. The cameos of security for the average white: mother and the home, job and the family, are not even a mockery to millions of Negroes; they are impossible. The Negro has the simplest of alternatives: live a life of constant humility or ever-threatening danger. In such a pass where paranoia is as vital to survival as blood, the Negro has stayed alive and begun to grow by following the need of his body where he could. Knowing in the cells of his existence that life was war, nothing but war, the Negro (all exceptions admitted) could rarely afford the sophisticated inhibitions of civilization, and so he kept for his survival the art of the primitive, he lived in the enormous present, he subsisted for his Saturday night kicks, relinquishing the pleasures of the mind for the more obligatory pleasures of the body, and in his music he gave voice to the character and quality of his existence, to his rage and the infinite variations of joy, lust, languor, growl, cramp, pinch, scream and despair of his orgasm.*
(You can see how Mailer has influenced me.) So the hipster, the beatniks and later, to a lesser extent, the hippies – whites full of The Fear – adopted and co-opted the black language, music, drugs, dress, style. No one who listens to a lot of rock or jazz or blues or folk or disco can deny this influence. It is a fact of our culture. It all springs from the willies. The standard for cool in The Modern World, the model of conduct when dealing with The Fear, was a borrowing from black American culture.
(It seems pretty clear that much of what has been said about black Americans can also be said about gay Americans. It is apparent that the beat and hip and punk lifestyles borrowed also from homosexual culture.)
Mailer’s essay was quite revolutionary when it first appeared. It shocked and dismayed many white thinkers who did not want to believe black culture could have such a potential sexual impact on white culture. But after reading George Steiner’s more global and epochal essays, I have come to suspect that the White Negro did not first appear in the fifties. Just as the victims of The Fall after the Second World War looked to black culture for cool, centuries of fallen Europeans have been entranced by the myth of the Noble Savage. The pastoral wanderers of America, Asia, and Africa were viewed with a sweet nostalgia. The Savages were a measure of the grace from which we fell, a reproach for the deleterious effects of industrialization. Before the First World War, the need for cool was not so strong, the failures of civilization had not yet been drawn in clear bloody lines. The brown, black, yellow, and red primitives were viewed sentimentally as remnants of innocence and beauty that civilization had regretfully, but out of necessity, obliterated.
But with the War to End All Wars and The Great Depression it became apparent that the white man’s civilization was catastrophically misguided. Lost innocence was no longer the issue, the very survival of the race seemed to be at stake. In the decades of the twentieth century, with the liberation of Third World colonies and civil rights movements it became commonplace to call the white man the plague of the earth whose “civilization was a monstrous imposture or, at best, a cruel, cunning disguise for economic, military exploitation.”** A terrible guilt crept into the soul of American and European culture; perhaps these primitives knew something we had overlooked.
The charismatic appeal of “barbaric forms” on the plastic and musical imagination, as occurs in jazz, in Fauve art, in dance, in the new theatre of masque and ritual, drew on several complex strains. But it cannot be dissociated from the catastrophe of world war and the sudden void of classic values. The African masks which grimace out of post-Cubic art are borrowings of and for despair.***
The pursuit by Western people of alternative lifestyles – in Hinduism and Buddhism, in the cultures of the American Indians and Incas and Mayans and Aztecs, in the pristine life of Polynesian cultures, in the peoples of Africa, in oppressed cultures everywhere – is by no means recent. The search for some alternative to classical values is decades old, perhaps as old as Western civilization.
The notion that cool borrows from black American culture explains the style of beatniks and hipsters and, to some extent, the hippies. But it does not account for the style of punks. The punks were a violent reaction against all culture, classical and hip. By the seventies, it was agonizingly plain that hippies had nothing to offer The Modern World except wimpy fond memories. And as Jacobson explains at great length, the image of black Americans had changed in white minds. He describes the punk attitude that black culture no longer set an example for coolness. On TV we now saw black people eating and working at McDonald’s, taking out insurance policies, caring for their lawns, hunting down gangsters – things rarely seen in the fifties and sixties. We could laugh at Archie Bunker’s racism because we knew it was a dying attitude held mostly by older people. The soulful music we made our own called funk and blues and rhythm-and-blues and jazz evolved into the high-struttin’, fancy dressin’, multi-billion dollar industry called disco. As Jacobson says, blacks, as is the right of every American, had embraced middle class values; they had seemingly adopted the very life style that is death to cool. The lost and fearful punks did not consider black culture as a way of acting in the End of the World.
But this “new image” of black people in white minds is really a stereotype that disguises a virulent racism. The evidence seems to indicate that in many ways the social status of blacks is worse now than in the sixties and fifties. According to a 1979 Harris Poll released by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, blacks view their own situation differently than do whites: 11% of white Americans agreed that unemployment is the most pressing concern of black Americans, while 43% of blacks said it was their greatest worry; 70% of blacks said they encountered job discrimination while 93% of whites said “Blacks are getting a better break in getting jobs than they did 10 years ago.” Moreover, many of the old racist stereotypes still persist: 49% of the whites believed that “Blacks have less ambition than whites”; 36% believed “blacks want to live off the handout”; and a whopping 25% believed that “blacks have less native intelligence than whites.”
So much for white minds. Moreover, in 1968, black unemployment was at 6.7% and in 1969 it was 6.4%; but in November, 1978, it was 11.8% and in January , 1979, it was 11.2%. Will the election of 1980 reverse this trend? Not a chance.****
We would like to believe that black Americans are less frequently victims of lynchings and police shootings than in the past, but investigation might also reveal the invalidity of this image. And lately, the news tells stories of a resurgence of fascist and racist organizations like the John Birchers and the KKK and the American Nazi Party. While it seems that the image of blacks in white minds has changed to one of greater middle class prosperity, it also seems this image is not very accurate. Marc Jacobson’s claim in The Vi1lage Voice article is that, valid or not, these changes of image account for the change in what we call cool. But I believe he is wrong in his emphasis.
It is not that blacks are no longer a model of cool because they no longer are viewed as victims. The real reason is that there is no longer any model of cool that can cope with The Modern World. Everything has been tried. The punks were a frantic last attempt to insult everything that has preceded. George Steiner describes The Modern World as a “Post-Culture;” he says we now live in a time when all preceding culture is of no help. If we cannot blame all the scientific and humanitarian contributions of the past for our current Hell, we can neither find in them reprieve or even solace. No model of cool can deal with The Fear. There is no guide into the future. In The Modern World of technological savagery, global brutality, corporate and governmental satanism – the World in which the most advanced and civilized cultures are the most destructive and barbaric – in this World there is no system of thought, classical or revolutionary, which cannot be held accountable – no mode of conduct, be it straight or cool, which has not already proven a failure. As Steiner says, “. . . . . we stand at a point where models of previous culture and events are of little help.”*****
The future ain’t what it used to be. There are no lessons to learn from history because we suspect – not without reason – that there has never been a situation comparable to The Modern World. These are times of absolute emergency, absolute terror, we do not know how to be cool. The minds of inmates of The Modern World invite tragic comparison to the minds of those who occupy Dante’s Hell:
“We see like those for whom the light is dim,”
When they come near, or are, then avails not
Easily may’st thou understand, therefore,
The punishment of the damned in Dante's Hell is exquisitly distilled to unmitigated and unremitting torment: they have lost the right to even know why they are being tormented. Like the Damned, our torment is blind, we cannot see why we are here, how we got to be this way. We grope under the darkness of the Fear, without understanding why we can do nothing about our Fear. We are lost in the present. We cannot turn to the past for clues. We cannot know what will come. We howl and tear at the earth without knowledge. This is why we need cool.
It is now the eighties. What are we saying when we say blacks are no longer the model for cool? In fact, what kind of stupid rationalization is it to say anyone is a model for cool? What kind of idiotic claim is it that anyone or anything was ever cool? What is the point of all this talk about cool, all this striving for cool, what have I been thinking about every night hunched over the turntables? What is it about this stupid four letter word? I will tell you. In all this thinking and striving about cool I have never been talking about the real world. I have never referred to the true state of any group of people, black white afraid bored or lonely. I have been talking about MERE cool. That is to say, I have been talking about MERE IMAGE. The image in frightened minds, in thoughtful minds, in lonely minds, in many minds, many many many minds, maybe even all minds. BECAUSE THAT IS ALL THAT COOLNESS AMOUNTS TO: image. More than that – image is the only thing we have. We are without power without knowledge without understanding; and without image we are nothing. I feel strong as I watch the world die. I know how to dress and what songs to listen to. But the world still dies. There is nothing I can do. Even if I know how to walk that walk, my ass will still be blown off in the Armageddon.
* Norman Mailer. “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster.” Advertisements for Myself. New York: G.P. Putnam’s/Berkeley Medallion Books, 1966, page 314.
** George Steiner. In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture (New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1971), pages 61-62.
**** Carl T. Rowan, “Different World of White and Black,”Courier-Express, March 12, 1979, Vol. CXLIV, No. 235, page. 18.
***** Steiner, pages 141.****** Dante. The Divine Comedy, trans. Lawrence Binyon, from The Portable Dante, ed. Paolo Milano. New York: Viking Press, 1947.
A NEW REVISED SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD
a) The creation of everything
b) The destruction of everythingWhat a pissoff.
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I got nipples on my titties
LUCILLE BOGAN is her name, WALTER ROlAND on piano. Recorded March 5, 1935. Reissued on Stash Records, a label devoted exclusively to old songs about sex and drugs.
Now your nuts hang down like a damn bell papa
She laughs and laughs as she sings.
* Lucille Bogan. “Shave ‘Em Dry,” © no date, no pub., from Copulatin’ Blues, Vol. I, Stash Records, ST 101.
LOVING JAZZ WITH ROBERT CREELEY
Gary: Uh oh.
C: . . . . . ah, listening to a local station.
G: Uh huh.
C: Um, I heard this absolutely charming song and, um, we were coming home from Dan Montgomery’s [restaurant], which certainly has a great tradition . . . . .
G: Mm hmm.
C: . . . . . and we, y’know, suddenly hearing, hearing this song, Dizzy Gillespie.
C: In funny ways, Dizzy Gillespie is, uh, probably the most continuous person in terms of whatever I’ve known about jazz. I love his surv-I mean, ah, not just his survival in some awful sense, but I love the way he keeps coming on.
G: Mm hmm.
C: Just like I love that strength of Dexter Gordon, y’know, in every dimension. His person, when he was here. Or Milt Jackson equally, or truly all the people thus visiting of the so-called Older Generation. It’s not that they’re right or wrong, but they st-they just th-, yeah, they really hang out there. I think at times sadly the older company of my, y’know, generation as a poet, and I wish they’d stop, y’know, X-ing themselves, hahaha.
C: It’s like, “Stick around, it’s gonna get better!”
C: So, any case, the life in these-in these particular human beings is ab-solutely attractive to me. This, yeah, this is, ah, James Moody, for example, I’ve-I’ve known his work for years. I wish we could go on for days and days because there are so many many many people we haven’t even begun to mention. We’ve only been working in a spectrum of maybe five years . . . . . This is like . . . . .
G: Oh, there are many more Oils of Dog to come, y’know.
C: Okay, well, hahaha.
G: You’re welcome back any time.
C: Well, I’d sure like to come back. This . . . . .
C: This is, yeah, Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; James Moody, alto, tenor saxophones, and, well, he’s not going to do all of those, he didn’t do two of those on this (particular song), flute; Mike Longo, piano; Frank Schifano, electric bass . . . . . there’s a charming note apropos: [he reads the liner notes on the album.] “When Gillespie added the electric bass to his group over a year ago, he was afraid all the regular bass players would be mad at him and say he’d gone rock and roll . . . . .
G: Uh oh.
C: . . . . . on them. He said, ‘I don’t care. I just like it. I can hear it all the time!’” Hahaha. And on drums, Candy Finch. And this is one of the great songs of all time done again: “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac.”
G: Cadillac! This is a great song.C: Oh, lord, won’t you buy me . . . . . hahahaha.
I think of ships leaving lonely harbors,
These are the poems of Robert Bly from his beautiful book Silence in the Snowy Fields. The poems are stark and clear. When I read them, I am in the middle of an endless white field. It is silent. I am not cold.
A dream of moles with golden wings
The poems lead to Bach’s Sonatas for Unaccompanied Violin. God created ears so that these sonatas might be heard. Ears exist for no other reason. These sonatas are incredibly naked, a shining sound in an endless black field. If God were to suddenly appear, it would be simple and quiet and stark. The atomic blasts of Handel are not my God today.
It is Saturday afternoon.
Crowds are gathered
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This is my famous war set. The cuts come from a marvelous series of records called Fifty Years of Film which has snippets of scenes from old Warner Brothers movies; and from an anthology on New World Records of songs from World Wars I and II.There is an untrue tale that U.S. Navy Chaplain William McGuire exclaimed as the bombers zoomed in on Pearl Harbor, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” True or not, this was the story behind the song with that refrain made popular by KAY KAISER AND HIS ORCHESTRA in 1942. Kay Kaiser, by the way, was host of a radio quiz show called “The College of Musical Knowledge.”
|RING OF THE NIEBELUNG FOR PUNKS
Gary: Another idea that we’re going to watch out for in this opera is the idea of-th is of The Great Cycle.
G: . . . . . Cycle of History. This idea of a universal history. Like, it’s an idea that we all find familiar. For example, in the seasons, we have the seasons going around and around all the time; or we have a birth, a growth, and a death every year. And, ah, in fact, there’s a philosopher, or-a or a guy . . . . .
G: . . . . . who devoted himself – a guy, right? Haha. His name was Vico and I bring him up only because I know about him. I don’t think he kne- . . . . . He wrote a book called The New Science. Giambaptiste Vico -- he was an Italian guy. And he conceived of a universal history that starts with an Age of Gods where the gods rule everything. And then the Age of Heroes, and the heroes come up and take over the world from the gods. And then an Age of Men, and the men come up and take over the world from the heroes. We’re in an Age of Men now. And then finally what he called a Recorso, which means that everything falls apart and is reborn again starting with an Age of Gods. And in Wagner we have this kind of cyclical idea too. Ah, th-th-we-we certainly see this project-projection from a mythical age, an Age of Gods to an Age of Men. And we see everything go to hell at the end.
D: Haha! For sure.
G: So tha-that’s . . . . .
D: And the rebirth.
G: And then a rebirth. The rebirth.
MANIFESTIVAL TALES: THE END
It was about two a.m. and the staff of the Entermedia wanted to go home. But New York Gong descended to the stage. Daevid Allen explained his dream of creating a world of Gongs, wherever he went he would leave a Gong band behind. Daevid Allen is a seminal figure in the history of rock music. He was one of the first, as a founding member of Soft Machine, to expand the perimeters of rock into jazz and classical styles. But his next band – Gong – became as much visionary as musical. The music of the original Gong band and the many dozens of bands that it has spawned have become focal points of a total approach to life, a mode of conduct, with its own rituals and politics and laughing mythology. Daevid recently published a pamphlet which outlines the truth according to Gong:
You can see dis ain’ jus’ anudda rock’n’roll ban’!! So when Daevid Allen stepped on stage he was almost a spiritual persona, though much more human, humorous and approachable. He announced that tonight for the first time in history they would perform the entire Radio Gnome Trilogy, a long fairy-like tale about a hero named Zero who must undergo seven initiations before he can visit the Planet Gong. The music was a swirl of stars, throbbing explosions, prancing elves, floating mystic choruses, magic lights – while Daevid Allen hopped and sang and raised his eyebrows.
The managers of the theatre ran about yelling at one another. It was nearly 4:00 a.m. The band roared, Daevid smiled, the P.A. was cut dead. A man from the theatre told the crowd the police were closing the show. BOOS AND STOMPS AND MORE BOOOOOS!!!!!! The amps still worked, wild jamming as all the performers joined arms on stage. Pow! no lights, no sound, Chris Cutler and the Muffins drummer smashing and crashing, photographers strobe lights flashing, cops in the wings, managers yelling at photographers to turn those things off, shouts stomps chanting dancing singing smiling MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE Daevid Allen steps forth and says “Have a happy breakfast.”* Daevid Allen. “What’s Gong On? No place: Invisible Opera Company of Tibet, 1979, P.G.
Oh, my nose, my nose my fucking goddamned turd snorting nose. Fuck fuck fuck. Shit shit shit. I am reading Boccaccio. I have publicized my reading in print and on the air. Great hilarious bawdy stories. I have carefully consulted with a friend about the correct pronunciation of Italian names. I painstakingly selected pieces of Medieval music to frame readings. And here I am. A terrible allergy attack the first day I am to read. Fuck fuck fuck. Buggers actually hanging dripping out of my nose like a faucet as I read, itching, sneezing, streaming eyes blinding my vision. OH MY GOD MY NOSE HAS ATTACKED MY WHOLE BODY. MY BRAINS ARE LEAKING OUT OF MY NOSE. I HAVE FURRY CATERPILLARS CRAWLING IN MY SINUSES, AND SPIDERS SPINNING WEBS IN MY SKULL. OH MY NOSE BY DOSE.
Here begids dthuh book galld Degaberod, oderwize dowed as Prids Galahald, whereid . . . . .
Oh by poor dose! I cad stad it!
* Giovani Boccaccio. The Decameron, trans. G. H. McWilliam. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1972.
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God is My Co-Pilot (1945).
Col. Robert L. Scott – Dennis Morgan.
“Big Mike” Harrigan – Alan Hale.
(They are in the midst of an air battle and their plane just missed being shot down.)
BMH: Y’know, I knew another pilot, an R.A.F. down Burma way. He’d been through all the horrors of the blitz in England and that nightmare at Rangoon. He’s dead now, but before he checked out, Scotty, he put into words, simple beautiful words, [trembling violins behind the roar of the plane] something you and every man who flies should feel. Would you like to hear it?
CRLS: I would.
BMH: Well . . . . .*
* Screenplay by Peter Milne and Abe Finekl, from 50 Years of Film, Side 4, Warner 3XX2737, 540585.
A CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL MCCLURE
Many times in this book I return to the theme of the hero. One fine winter day in 1980, I found myself face-to-face with yet another hero. Michael McClure, the poet and playwright whose works – as I tell him – have become archetypal to my mind. Here I was talking with someone who had a direct part in making me who I am, and for once I was not going to pieces.
Unfortunately, science intervened in a most unpleasant way. I brought a Y-shaped cord so I could run two microphones at once into the cassette recorder. But the Y-adapter shorted out and many fine snatches of conversation – especially the ones about drugs – were forever lost. Therefore, in transcribing the conversation I was forced to interpolate the gist of the missing dialogue. This was a rather fascinating exercise. I felt like a scholar working over the crumbling fragments of an ancient text. Like the scholar, I have indicated the interpolated passages with [brackets]. Unlike the scholar, I was able to recover missing passages from memory as well as context.
Part of this interview was published in the White Pine Journal* (available from White Pine Press, P.O. Box 236, Niagara Square Station, Buffalo, New York 14201). It was very interesting to see how transcriptions by their people differ from my own. Most transcribers tend to alter the actual dialogue for the sake of readability. I have lifted a few of the published sections of the interview (by permission) though I have corrected a number of errors and included all the verbal garbage. I have also included here a couple of fragments which were not published in White Pine.
Michael McClure and I sat on double beds in the University Manor – the same motel in which Charles Olson lived while in Buffalo – and we were both exhausted. But we talked for a long time. He recited from memory his highly musical verse, we talked about the forms of liberation – in poetry, in rock’n’roll, in drugs. Much of the conversation was about Jim Morrison. We both expressed a fervent desire to try the new drugs which reputedly increase I.Q. and memory. Here we were – Gary the lispy squeaky DJ and Michael McClure one of the greatest poets of our time.
G: Um . . . . . alright, the way I was thinking of starting, I wanted to – this may be peculiar to you but I wanted to tell you a little bit about where [I’m coming from] towards you, because, ah, hahaha, well, as I was telling you before, the Michael McClure that I’m most familiar with is-is the-the younger Michael McClure, in fact, ah . . . . . you wrote an essay “Phi Upsilon Kappa”** about the word “fuck” that, ah, I read in 1969, and, ah, you wrote that when you were 28, which I am now. And that-this may be peculiar that you . . . . .
M: I wrote it in 1959, you got there ten years late!
G: I know, I know!
M: Actually, it wasn’t in the first edition of the book.
G: I know! I got there late anyway, but this may be really peculiar, haha, but that essay had a very powerful effect on me. I was a repressed kid from Los Alamos, New Mexico and it opened up to me all . . . . . a whole new world of-of ideas about language and about words and about freedom with words and-an-well, in the essay you talk about liberating the word “fuck” and at least for me personally it made me the horrible nasty person I am today, hahahaha, I guess. But it’s, ah . . . . . it . . . . . i-in a way, you’ve had a-a-a-a-a a very direct impact on my life personally. And that’s the Michael McClure that I-I found myself, ah, sort of preparing for when I, ah, when I, ah, prepared for this interview. And, of course, now you’re older and wiser and don’t have long hair and haha and shaved your beard from all the pictures and older pictures and, ah, you have a more . . . . .
M: Well, I, I like that, I say a lot, I did that, writing the essay did me a lot of good too. The essay was like an action painting. To actually talk about the word “fuck,” to actually talk about words that were blockading me, gave me the sense that I could help other people get through that. Um, it, the essay was written in ‘59. It was some time in the mid- or very early sixties that Lady Chatterly’s Lover was defended by Grove Press and sort of broke the Post Office’s back because the Post Office was the medium or-or the manner of censorship for the U.S. Government. Then after that, another important case was, ah, Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, and then I think another probably the most important case in the performing arts was the case of my play The Beard which was arrested for obscenity. The actors were arrested for obscene sexual doings which, of course, were not actual, I mean, they were part of the play.
G: Uh huh.
M: In San Francisco and then Berkeley and then nineteen nights in a row in Los Angeles by the police. So it became a . . . . . an important case in liberating, ah, th-the performing arts, that is everything – I think that my essays, ah, and The Beard have influenced everything from your corner pornographic book store, haha, to what you’re able to see i-in a really classy, ah, liberated film . . . . .
M: . . . . . i-in a theatre today.
G: Well, that’s very virtuous . . . . . ‘course from my standpoint.
M: Well, I think it, I still think it’s virtuous, too. Haha.
* Gary Storm. Interview with Michael McClure.” White Pine Journal, 1980, Issues 24-25, pp. 75 ff.
** Michael McClure. "Phi Upsilon Kappa." Meat Science Essays. San Francisc: City Lights Books (1966), pp. 7-23.
THE DIRTY WORD POLICY
One of Wizard Radio’s finest innovations was the drafting of a Dirty Word Policy. I wrote this policy and it was approved by the management of the station. It was then sent to our FCC attorney in Washington who called it an exemplary way of dealing with this delicate problem. The policy was included in our official FCC file. If anyone ever complained about the broadcasting of offensive language, we would have on file an explanation of our reasons for airing dirty words and the precautions taken to prevent anyone from being harmed by them. The FCC would be unlikely to take any negative action against a station which stayed within the guidelines of a sensible policy like the following.
WZIR POLICY CONCERNING THE BROADCASTING OF OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE
1.) Because of the youthful audience we are seeking, WZIR will occasionally be confronted with the problem of airing songs, poems, comedy routines, dramas and social commentary that contain offensive language. Many important works of popular art contain offensive words. The language can be justified for many reasons: it may be “artistically” or “aesthetically” valid; the work may be humorous because of the offensive words; the work may use these words in making a social statement; the work may make use of “street talk,” dialects which authentically employ such words. Many works of art are important because of their offensive language. Many are overwhelmingly worthwhile despite the offensive language.
2.) WZIR recognizes that certain popular songs contain offensive language and it is difficult, if not impossible, to absolutely prevent the airing of such songs. Therefore, a stringent policy limiting the airing of records with offensive language has been adopted.
3.) At the same time, it is generally accepted that children can be harmed by offensive language.
4.) As music director, my general policy will be to censor nothing, but to protect those who might be harmed with a system of day-parting. Offensive words will be aired only at times when children are unlikely to hear them.
5.) The following measures will be taken to prevent offensive language from being heard by children over the WZIR airwaves:
a.) Nothing with offensive words will be aired after 5:00 a.m. or before 9:00 p.m; between those hours (i.e., after 9:00 p.m. and before 5:00 a.m.), a more liberal policy concerning offensive language will be in effect, but caution should always be exercised.
b.) Records with such language will be marked on the spine with a strip of grey tape.
c.) A D.W. (dirty word) Label will be placed on the front of these records listing the questionable cuts. Some of these cuts may not actually contain offensive language, but deal instead with offensive subject matter.
d.) There are so many such records that the music director may occasionally miss a cut. DJ’s will immediately inform the Music Director of any records that are not properly labeled. (Please do not label them yourself.) Also, the Program Director should be immediately informed with a written note if any offensive words have been accidentally aired at the wrong time.
a.) I am still setting this system up, so when you run across D.W. cuts that are unmarked get them to me right away.
b.) These words should never come out of your own mouth. Always let the records do your D.W.’s for you. If a song has an offensive title, find a suitable euphemism when backselling.
Signed, Gary Storm
THE DAY THEY CUT OFF THE LAST HOUR OF OIL OF DOG
And so the program director calls me and says they are going to do it. I am not surprised. I have been trying for over a year to avert this. NPR is debuting a new news magazine show called “Morning Edition.” As of November 3, 1979, “Morning Edition” will pre-empt the last hour of my show.
This story is so upsetting for me I can’t stand writing about it. I have been unable to work on this book for almost two months now because I told myself “I will not write about anything else until I have written about the cutting of my hour.” This story is an emotional bog. It has probably cost me hundreds of hours of useless fretting, hundreds of pages of misdirected creativity, dozens of angry speeches shouted alone in my home, many aspirin bottles of headaches, dozens of sleepless days, and countless roentgens of bad vibes at the radio station. It’s not all that interesting.
WBFO is an affiliate of National Public Radio. One of the implications of this is that certain shows produced by the network are broadcast by almost all member stations including WBFO. For example, there is the evening news magazine, “All Things Considered,” and the wretched classical music show “Concert Spotlight,” and the inconsistent production of “Jazz Alive.” For almost two years rumors had circulated that the network would be adding a morning wake-up news magazine. I was told that if this project ever got off the ground, it would probably cut into my show. I replied that if my show were not moved back so as to retain its five hour length, I would hate and never forgive anyone involved.
So when the program director calls me, he says he asked a couple of people whether they would rather hear jazz or rock at night and of course they said jazz. Great. He asks a couple of jazz fans what kind of music they like. I wonder if he asks his dog whether it likes dog food or asparagus. “There is just no proven support for your show” he tells me. “You have never proven a need for your show, if you think it is important, you should explain why.” “You have never shown any interest in the success of my show,” I point out. “You have to come to me,” he says. “You have to show how your show is successful. I can’t keep track of all the programs. I’m just the Program Director.”
Where on earth have the dildos who run this station been for the past five years? Oh, the diatribes I could write. The speeches I could make. About the letters I’ve received, about the articles that have been written about me, about my productivity in dealing with record companies, about my profitability in raising money during membership weeks, about the ways in which my show is unique, and on and on and on. Maybe I’ll write a book about it all someday. I could tell you all of this, describe the personalities, outline the issues. But it would be boring. It is of no interest to you or me. Someday I will feel nothing about it.
So I go about proving what I thought had already been proved. That I have an audience and there is a need in this market for a free-form style allnight music show. I compile a portfolio. It consists of articles, letters, playlists, and early drafts of this book. I give it to the program director. During my remaining months at WBFO, he does not look at it once.
Toward the end of October, 1979, I explain to my listeners that the last hour of my show is going to be cut and if they wish to express an opinion about this, they should write to the program director of WBFO. “They do not believe you exist and if you send a letter, they may be convinced.” I make a similar request at the end of the of the same show.
The next night, I once again ask for letters at the beginning and end of Oil of Dog.
Two student papers at the University of Buffalo – The Spectrum and The Other One – run articles appealing for letters; “Save Gary Storm!” The citywide magazine Rockers makes brief mention of the situation.
I hang up a request for letters in the North Buffalo Food Co-op.
After November 3, 1979, when the hour is actually cut, I make two more appeals at the beginning and end of the show.
These are the only public announcements that were made about the cutting of my hour.
The program director receives more mail protesting the hour cut than they have ever received about any issue regarding any program at WBFO. Over sixty letters arrive within three weeks. For a 780 watt non-commercial station, this is a phenomenal response.Anachronistic Post Script from 2008:
I was right. NPR and “Morning Edition” should never have been trusted. They have betrayed their role in democracy by acting as propagandists rather than journalists; betrayed journalism by being “fair and balanced” rather than telling the truth; betrayed simple intelligence by allowing politicians to speak lies without questioning the veracity of any of their claims or asking any hard questions; betrayed their own claim to fairness by blackballing from their list of expert commentators truthtellers like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Robert Fisk, Greg Palast, and Arundhati Roy; betrayed the Constitution by vomiting White House press releases verbatim without providing any analysis or questioning any of the lies; and betrayed their audience by being shills and mouth pieces for the Republicans and Neocons. Like Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, the New York Times, and all other mainstream media, NPR is smeared with the shit and blood of this fascistic period of U.S. history.
Figure 33: Article from the SUNY at Buffalo Spectrum, October 19, 1979, p 22. (Photo of article by Zowie.)
|Letter from a listener:
I wish you would extend the Oil of Dog Radio show, and make it twenty four hours long.
1942 – DICK ROBERTSON recorded this hit “Goodbye Mama (I’m Off to Yokahama).” This is cartoon music, it is just like those old Bugs Bunny strips from World War II they sometimes show on television. Could such a silly, yet patriotic song have ever come out of the Vietnam War? Nope.
|Letter from a listener:
As you might have gathered from the return address I am an inmate in the Attica Prison – er, excuse me, Correction Facility (prison joke). Life here at the Mass Hotel is quite a trip. Incidentally, I am in here for making people smile (drugs) not for baby raping or anything like that.
We are not allowed radios here because the FM antennas interfere with the prison transmissions. Instead they have a 3 jack internal sound system thru which they pipe various local radio stations alternating between rock, disco/soul, country, latin, jazz, etc. You supply your own headphones. This music system is incredibly important to myself and all the inmates. Unfortunately, being a rock fan (I do the Rock!) I don’t always get a very good selection as far as diversity. We are forced to listen to WRGQ, a top-90 AM-FM style station. I assume you’ve heard it occasionally. The “Q” insists on playing the same tunes over and over and over and over . . . . . But it’s all we have, so . . . . . except early in the morning. Sometime over the night they switch to your station where they keep the dial until 8 a.m. At 8 a.m. they put on the audio from the Today Show – a syndicated news/magazine program.
Your morning jock is a refreshing change from the banality of the big “Q”. Where else can you hear music from a group like Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies? Or John Renbourn? Not even on my favorite station from home – WPLR in New Haven, Conn. “Rockin’ your way in quad” – have I heard of Joe Byrd. It is very different and very interesting. The texture of the program also changes drastically between 7 and 8 a.m. This is where “Oil of Dog” has its greatest listening audience and the music adapts nicely. Who wants to wake up to a Time/People magazine radio show? Certainly not I and I would think very little of your audience. But French folk singers and groups like Renaissance is beautiful in the morning.
I certainly hope you will reconsider your play to remove the last hour of the “Dog.” I speak for several other inmates who also catch the show occasionally when I say that if this proposed change is enacted, that portion of your programming will lose quite a few listeners. “Oil of Dog”, keep up the good music!
|Letter from a songwriting association:
Please keep Gary Storm’s show, “Oil of Dog”, in its entirety. Do not cut it shorter or move it to another time slot. I am speaking not only for myself but for a multitude of musicians that I come into contact with.
|Image under construction.|
MICHAEL MCCLURE – CONTINUED
I am always strangely moved by the ways in which the lives of great people converge. In all the million billion possible encounters between all the people of a generation, the cultural leaders always seem drawn together – even before they have accomplished anything of note. Anyone who reads On the Road can’t help but be amazed that in late night drunken staggers or freewheeling cross-country trips, Neil Cassidy and Jack Kerouac will at any time around any corner or on any bar stool encounter Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, and all the poet heroes of that era. And yet these tales come from a time before most of these writers had created their first significant works. Michael McClure is part of that saga.
M: Oh, the first time I ever read my poetry out loud was the first time Ginsberg read Howl out loud.
G: Wow! Hahaha. Historic day!M: Yeah. That was December . . . . . 1955. December something 1955. I’d known Allen for a couple of months. We’d met at a party for W.H. Auden. And six of us gave a poetry reading that night. Philip Lamantia, the surrealist poet, ah, Gary Snyder, whom I met for the first time that night; Phil Whalen, whom I met for the first time that night. Rexroth introduced us. Allen read Howl and I read for the first time in my life.
The Sea Wolf (1941).
HVW: You seem to find it necessary to justify yourself, don’t
you, Captain Larsen?
WL: (Long pause.) My strength justifies me, Mr. Van Weyden. The fact that I can kill you or let you live as I choose, the fact that I control the destinies of all on board this ship, the fact that it is my will and my will alone that rules here!! That’s justification enough.** Screenplay by Robert Rossen, from 50 Years of Film, Side 3, Warner 3XX2737, S 40584.
MUSIC IS MORE PASSIONATE THAN LIFE
I am not the only one. You are no different from me. Buddah felt it. Augustine knew it. Freud said it. The passion is there. Whether you see it or not, whether you admit it or not, whether you believe it or not, whether you express it or not, whether you repress it or not – it is there. I TRY AND I TRY AND I TRY. I am always looking and ready and full of screw ball pork sweat moan groan eat chew gobble ass suck gnaw bite tickle fire desire perspire retire gyrate undulate palpitate masturbate agitate concubate breathe scream heave drip ram cram pound writhe lather muck flux flex exude intrude ingest divest thrill spill tickle whirl rush gush squirt hurt elate lubricate celebrate ejaculate sate rub grin leak absorb exhalt cry cheer sigh romp stomp lick splash swash slosh plash stuff whimper frolic cackle chortle snicker snort lip lap gulp nibble vibrate wag hug hold clutch toss twirl twist bend hum gurgle rock lurch kiss stroke touch swallow rollick revel pulse beat throb pant pump fondle smooch goose juice induce osculate emancipate consecrate consume cuddle snuggle coze quiver bleed joggle twitch jerk dally toy dandle woo spark munch gorge clasp press squeeze squish come fold swing toss shake quake make paw thrill tingle tease knead churn curdle caress convulse jostle jounce bounce jump bump always always always always always UNFULFILLED ALWAYS UNFULFILLED.
Always this longing is there. In all people. BUT WE DO NOT ACT. EVEN WHEN IT IS RIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL WE DO NOT DARE BE FREE. There is no greater terror than the unleashing of these longings. We bury them in dreams and taboos and laws and codes and commandments and morals. Yet the desire does does not go away, it never stops even for a zillionth of a second thundering to be let loose.
Walking down the street I fall into the eyes of beauty and there is crackling heat in the air as we pass and there is terror in her eyes and terror in my eyes because it could happen it could happen right here on the street in a mutual unrestrained moment pummeling the pavement drenching it but the terror is too great and we pass and do not speak or look back. In the eyes is longing mingled with terror. I reach across endless space to her. I am terrified.
So instead I bury myself in music, in that beat pounding in my hidden soul, the screaming fiery jazz and the primeval string quartets and the forever throbbing rock. Music lets us feel all that we have no other opportunity to express. I am blind with sweat and we dance and we act out our fuck in public without ever touching and we look that look into the eyes across that space longing and terror sweating to the rock’n’roll acting out every fantasy releasing every fear swimming in that solo the jazzman belches from the depths and experiencing annihilation in the unrestrained rhythms of the symphony free in the music beaten by the music carried by the music BECAUSE THIS IS THE PASSION WE ARE NOT PERMITTED IN LIFE AND MUSIC IS SEX AND IT IS ONLY SEX AND IT IS NOTHING MORE THAN SEX AND IT IS SEX AND SEX AND EVEN AFTER THAT IT IS SEX AND IT IS ONE HUNDRED PERCENT SEX AND IT IS EXCLUSIVELY SEX.
Well, no. It is other things too. But sometimes it is all I have. If we were passionate in life then music would be something else. Would I love music as much as I do if I could live my fantasies?
I would rather love than sing.
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