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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work

What, you are asking right now, does that headline have to do with punk rock???
Everything and nothing... just like everything and nothing has everything and nothing to do with itself. Yes... I sound like Samuel Beckett voicing a character in his Waiting for Godot. But I started thinking about how culture reflects real life the other day when I read about a production of Waiting for Godot staged in New Orleans in the Lower Ninth Ward in a still-decrepit and un-rehabbed house... someone's home... someone who is living in a crappy FEMA trailer. I like that artists will not let anyone forget Katrina.

That's one reason I'm headed to New Orleans in February to be a part of Louie Fest. But there will be plenty of time to talk about King Louie and New Orleans and Katrina...

King Louie in the Poplar Lounge
King Louie in the Poplar Lounge, Memphis

Right now... I'm just shaking my head in one of those Elvis Costello I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused moments. If you know me, you know that I faithfully read the paper of record all day long and that I delight in watching the New York Times online update and refresh itself. So, when I read the headline, U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work the disgust set in and I rolled my eyes (and if he's reading this, NYC's MC Huge is laughing.. cuz he always asks me, "did you roll your eyes?"). I mean --- WHO DIDN'T KNOW THAT THE RHETORIC RELIED UPON TO ATTACK THE MIDDLE EAST WAS FALSE???? No one.

This news flash reminds me of the coincidence surrounding the 1979 movie, The China Syndrome. The movie was released less than 2 weeks before the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania had a meltdown that stands in history to date as the worst civilian nuclear accident in the USA. The China Syndrome was a story about newspaper reporters who uncover a cover-up at a nuclear power plant... and it was an eerie harbinger of Three Mile Island. That kind of stuff that is just too weird to make up.

This all went down in March, 1979. I was near the end of my undergraduate career at UCLA. My sister had just graduated high school and moved in with me (she didn't even ask if she could), so we were moving out of the Famous Lobotomy Apartment and to fabulous digs at 1140 North Clark Street, an address made famous by Motley Crue, who moved in after I did, and moved in directly downstairs from me. It was nice, for once, not to be the sole trouble-making loud rock n roll person in an apartment building. But I digress...

On March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island was in the throes of its meltdown. In Los Angeles, where I was, the so-called New Wave aspect of the punk rock was riding high... 20/20 had signed a major label record deal and were headlining a show at the Whisky, with support by Gary Valentine and the Know. Pretty awesome gig...

20 20 in air

I remember vividly how the timely topic of The China Syndrome and the incident of Three Mile Island was just about all Gary Valentine and bass player in his band, Richard D'Andrea could talk about. You see, punk rock people are not all a bunch of gutter-bound low-lives... a lot of them just like to be photographed that way.

Actually, so many of the people I met in punk rock days were pretty smart. Darby Crash was a street philosopher spouting off about existentialism to anyone who would listen.

darby crash 1977

The Stranglers had a pretty dark and misogynist streak, and the irony of ironies is that this woman voluntarily jumped on stage to complete the picture of the band's celebrated chauvinism. While one thinks of un-evolved men as members of the misogynist ranks... Hugh Cornwell was mighty articulate and his ability to turn a phrase rife with innuendo into catchy rock n roll proved that he pulled the wool over some women's eyes.

hugh cornwell topless girl

And while we're talking about English bands and of politics... let's not forget the major driving force behind so much of the powerful punk rock to come out of England was disdain for the politics and policies of the hegemony...

dave and ian 1

Sham 69 created the best anthem - If The Kids Are United. More than a footballer's chant... it is one of those fist-pumping slogans you can get behind and when they play it, you believe it. They may have attracted a huge fan base of hooligans and thugs, but the Sham boys were no intellectual slouches.

So I have faith that in the coming days - those that remain in 2007 and the ones leading up to November 4, 2008 - that we will kick out the jams by voting out the bastards.

Wayner Kramer Central Park
Wayne Kramer of the MC5 ready to kick out the jams

Before I sign off, I do leave you with this thought... about the juxtaposition of rock n roll and intellect. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows... Bob Dylan said that.

You just have to keep your eyes open. My closest friend, the late Stiv Bators was a conspiracy theorist beyond all conspiracy theorists... and he would simply make it one of his best known works: OPEN YOUR EYES.


1 comment:

orbro said...

Hugh Cornwell flirted heavily with my then-girlfriend backstage at the Roxy during the Feline tour. She said he was harmless and theorized that songs like "Peaches" and "Bring on the Nubiles" were calculated punk rock schtick. maybe we're both de(quaa)luded.