Thursday, August 28, 2008

Big Black Dream

Soul Man
Mick Collins of The Dirtbombs, and previously Blacktop and The Gories - one of rock n roll's greatest performers however not the superstar he deserves to be - in my opinion, America at large is afraid to acknowledge his greatness... because he's Black

All the rage in America, and likely the world today is that Barack Obama will be accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for President... today, August 28, the anniversary of Martin Luther King's 1963 I Have A Dream speech.

Is America ready for Black president? The Democrats decided they weren't ready for a woman president, or at least didn't want to elect the one who was running... a former First Lady of maximum tenure, a Senator, someone who knows her way around the Beltway. Back in 1984, was the Democratic Presidential candidate Walter Mondale trounced by Reagan/Bush because of his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro? Have we become a more open-minded nation 45 years after King said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Will we be able to judge the candidates by the content of their character?

Let us hope so.

Even in rock n roll, the Black man has been given short shrift.

chuck berry 1979
Chuck Berry

EASILY - Chuck Berry if not the inventor of rock n roll, he is its foundation. Back when they started, rock n roll pioneers such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard might hear their songs on the radio... performed by white guys... like Pat Boone. It wasn't until artists like The Beach Boys, Beatles and Rolling Stones started paying respect to the Father of Rock n Roll by covering his songs that the hordes of white kid rock n roll fans actually knew where their latest sensation came from. Anyone born after the 70s might be completely unaware of the dues guys like Chuck Berry had to pay just for a little recognition for the awesome feat they accomplished (inventing rock n roll, that is).

In punk rock, apart from Bad Brains which we do recognize as being one of the most important, if not thee most important hardcore band of the punk era, you don't hear all that much about Black guys or ladies in punk rock. Well, let me name-check a few for ya:

Jean Beauvoir, the Plasmatics bass player. He even ghost played for Gene Simmons on a KISS album. The guy is way cool. We worked together for about a month on a little syndicated radio empire. Nothing that Jean Beauvoir has done is cooler than his gig in the Plasmatics, but what he has done is always make his living in music... whether as a punk rock bad ass, or as a mainstream guy. He's someone who got to live the dream.

Barry Adamson played bass in Magazine from 1979-1981. Howard Devoto of the Buzzcocks was the focal point of that band, but Adamson brought some funky influence. Adamson also played with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Barry's solo album, The Negro Inside Me released by Elektra in 1993 showcased his journeyman skill across various genres: Funk, Jazz, Hip Hop and Euro Pop.

Neon Leon was a NYC underground scenester who hung out with every kind of celebrity, from porn stars to the Rolling Stones, and it was rumored that when the Stones started signing bands to their label, it was a toss-up between Jim Carroll and Leon. Neon Leon was a Max's habituee, which in itself earns him a place at the historic punk rock table.

Carla Mad Dog was the drummer for The Controllers. Oh do I wish I was in California so I could rifle through my archives to show you a photo of this determined young woman. The Controllers were just another band until Carla joined. After the Controllers, Karla played in Sexsick, with Kira Roesller (Black Flag) and then journeyed to punk mecca - London, got involved in making music, breaking the law, getting deported and all that punk rock cred-and-character building trouble. She later joined up with Billy Bones of the Skulls in a mutation of their two bands called Skull Control.

pat smear

Pat Smear of The Germs (above) is about as Black as Barack Obama. Pat is the child of a German father (remember - Ruthenberg is his last name) and Black/Native American mother. Truly American, Pat Smear, pioneering LA punk rocker, like our Democratic candidate for President is a product of the great melting pot - or in Jesse Jackson's phrasebook - the Rainbow Coalition - a group of people disadvantaged by their membership in a class defined by their diverse races and creeds.

LYNOTT plims
Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) with the Plimsouls

Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott certainly did get his due, his stardom and chart hits. Still, it is rare in rock n roll that a Black man gets the accolades due him. I think it is appropriate that Dirtbombs founder, the great Mick Collins chose Lynott's Ode to a Black Man as one of the songs to include on the Dirtbombs all-covers album, Ultraglide in Black. Lynott fancied himself an expert on punk rock, so it wasn't a surprise or stretch that he found himself onstage with LA's Plimsouls. Mick Collins' early foray into rock n roll, The Gories sort of re-kick started the whole garage rock thing and were one of Detroit's earliest purveyors of the garage rock renaissance. Still, this man hasn't received the level of respect I think he deserves, although critics and fans dig him, and he keeps doing music, so probably the world is indeed treating him fine. But if I had my way, Mick's star would shine as brightly as Stevie Wonder's and his name would be as widely known as the guy I'm voting for come November: Barack Obama.

hey - you don't have to vote for him.... just DO vote, ok? If you don't vote, don't bother to complain...

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