LEFT OF THE "LEFT"
News from the Undead
The Rude-imentary Truth
Published in the United States of Mohawkia,
a subsidiary of the Republican States of Nightmarica
and PNOC: the Project for a New Orwellian Century.
One Critic’s Journal of Fact & Opinion.
Telling Truth via First Person Politics in
a Culture of Lies; the Gadfly in
Everyone's Ointment and the
Home of Befouled Belles Lettres.
ISSUE #865 OCTOBER 2013
by Mark S. Tucker,
provocateur, hector, meta-anarchist
“Have brain, will use; have pen, will poison.”
ASKING THE UNASKABLE, SAYING THE UNSAYABLE, REMOVING THE "LEFT'S" ARTIFACTS.
…a harrowing look at the human psyche and the darkness that hides behind the routine politeness and meaningless kindness of civilized society. - ad byte for Beautiful Darkness
THE V.V. MISSION STATEMENT!!!: Fuck mission statements.
Slice, dice, saute, braise, cook over high heat, serve with toxic garni, shake vigorously, then throw in the trash. (The V.V. recipe for consuming conservative and "Left" radio.)
One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up. — Arthur Koestler
While it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people...it is true that most stupid people are conservative. - John Stuart Mill
You can lead a liberal to knowledge, but you can't make him think.
Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change. - Robert F. Kennedy
Social-lites receive awards from groups because of their activism; Socialists get expelled from groups because of their activism. - Mike Alewitz
Up yours. Up mine. But, up everybody's? That takes time! - 10CC
The German Conservative Party is to the left of the American Democratic Party. - Steven Hill
Truth offends worse than falsehood. - Jack Vance
I'm on the right side with the wrong people. - Ian Masters
All I have is a voice / To undo the folded lie. - W.H. Auden
Everyone lies. - Gregory House
Je pense donc je suis…dangereux. - Descartes / The MiSFiT (updated - you knew it as 'Cogito ergo sum')
In journalism, reactionary and liberal alike, the function of "slanting" is to permit reader and writer to ooze virtue without paying for it. - Eric Bentley
First they fight you, then they backstab you, then they just gripe, then they sit sullenly, and finally they call you prophetic. They're wrong in all cases. - The MiSFiT
The search for Reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings, for it destroys the world in which you live. - Nisargadatta Maharaj
If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you. If you really make them think, they'll hate you. - P.T. Barnum
You read 100 good reviews and 1 bad one, and the bad one always seems to make more sense. - Johnny of Radiohead
History is on our side but not time. - Malik Sekou Osei
Never underestimate the power of ridicule.
Veritas Vampirus' patron saints: Sarasvati & Ikkyu
Politics is violence. - CTraffik
...I guess I'm just an annoying guy. - Bill Hicks
For in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Ecclesiastes 1:18
THE HOLY TRINITY OF DOCTRINE:
With the intestines of the last priest, let us strangle the last businessman.
When you see the mouth of a conservative, Republican, businessman, priest, or politician open, what you're hearing are lies.
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups; in fact, never underestimate the stupidity of any group.
The two irreducible basics of Leftism: 1) No religion, 2) No capitalism. Lacking conviction in those, you can't possibly be a Leftie. End of story. Sorry.
THIS ISSUE: I've put off the "Responsible" series for the moment...and may do so again next issue in order to address Michael Parenti and Stephen Lendman. Too much is happening for me to keep up.
LOU REED, RAY PARKER, & THE PERPLEXITIES OF ART & SOCIETY
Beyond Aesthetics: Luck, Personality, and the Industry
by Mark S. Tucker
Allow me, if you will, to burnish up my reputation as a bastard by singing the praises of Lou Reed in the most off-key way possible, thus properly tributizing the man rather than playing into the corporate lie factory that is rock and roll "journalism" and "criticism". From what I've been able to glean from other than carefully sanitized reports of the guy in real life, Reed was more than just somewhat an asshole, he was a walking, talking, living, breathing, full-on, predatory asshole…but not without his odd charms. There may have been very good reason for the downside, by the way, so I'll reveal what few are willing to divulge in several respects of Reed's life, 'cause the man was a very interesting enigma.
Before anything, we must look at what's now almost completely censored: when a teenager, Reed displayed bisexual tendencies and was forced to undergo electro-convulsive "therapy" at Rockland State Hospital to "cure" the homosexual side of that equation. Apparently, his Jewish parents weren't about to have a fegelah in the family and so sonny-boy was trotted off to be tortured. I think the Bible recommends that, though I could be mistaken. In his own words, "[t]he effect is that you lose your memory and become a vegetable", and one must ponder what that savage psychiatric practice, which couldn't help but damage victims' brain, actually induced in Reed. One thing we do know is that, while platoon leader of his ROTC squad, though this is equally downplayed, Lou put an unloaded gun to his superior's cranium and was promptly 86ed. He went on to graduate with honors from college and host a radio music show, "Excursions on a Wobbly Rail", title taken from a Cecil Taylor song.
Despite what's bandied about now, Reed's career did not start with the famed Velvet Underground. In '64, working for Pickwick Records as an in-house songwriter, Lou wrote "The Ostrich", which the company saw as a potential novelty dance hit and assigned John Cale and Tony Conrad, then studying with noted avant-garde figure LaMonte Young, to sit in (I have a one-note "history" with Mr. Young, a strange, brief, interesting interlude that I'll relate another time, as here is not the place - I'll people hanging with this tidbit, though: didja know he was a Scientologist?). Cale was intrigued by Reed's detuning of his guitar to create a drone effect, by the tousle-haired individual's attitude, and by what was expressed in the song's lyrics. The single went nowhere, but Reed picked up on what would be the key event in his life: meeting John Cale, the real main man behind the Velvs.
Cale & Reed recruited fellow collegians Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker, also vastly better musicians than Reed (the proof lying in the killer Japanese box set Final V.U. 1971 - 1973), and the Underground was formed. If any group could be called 'unstable', it was pretty much the prototype and began falling apart almost as soon as it was forged…the fact of Reed being a junkie (something completely ignored, by the way, by Wikipedia in its usual sanitized fashion) helping not at all, though here we must pause and look back a moment, my contention being that his addiction was likely as much attributable to electroshock as any alienation arising from bisexuality.
VU's debut sold a miserable 30,000 copies, provoking Brian Eno to much later famously quip that everyone who bought a copy started a band…but, um, also to stop short of further noting that the listener mindset seemed to be one of "Hell, if this Lou Reed guy, who can't sing or play guitar f'shit, can do it, then so can I!", a sentiment that would arise again and again in regard of other groups: The Stooges, Ramones, etc., punk laying in the not-too-distant horizon. Too, Vaclev Havel was inspired to become president of Czechoslovakia based on that now highly influential release.
On the other hand, the LP was signatory of what was to come. VU was taken in hand by Andy Warhol who forced singer/model/actress Nico on the outfit, to everyone's objections (except Nico's, of course). The title The Velvet Underground & Nico was meant to imply distance between she and they but actually backfired, as giving the newbie such titular prominence read, in consumer minds, as, among other things, an alliance of someone verging on the famous with an unknown group. This, of course, irked Reed no end. Ironically, he and Nico soon became lovers, as did she and Cale afterwards, and then she and Jim Morrison, and then she and James Osterberg (Iggy Stooge), and in fact she and just about anyone who wore pants.
By the sophomore release, she'd quit, Warhol'd been fired against Cale's much better judgement, and Reed brought in the reptilian Steve Sesnick to manage the band. Sesnick immediately urged the firing of Cale, to Sterlng's and Tucker's protests, but…well, Reed was an asshole, and assholes do as assholes do. He turned the group more in a pop direction, which saw the "Rock and Roll" and "Sweet Jane" compositions erupt, the closest the group would ever get to success - which is to say: not very - and then Reed himself deserted the very group he'd co-founded and then solely foundered through heavy-handed, heartless, butthole tactics.
There was karma present, however: Lou then went to work for his father as an accountant making, heh!, $40/wk. Somehow, though, he came to wangle a contract for a solo LP with Atlantic Records and recruited Steve Howe & Rick Wakeman (both incredibly talented players with Yes) to accompany a set of smooth-rock versions of unrecorded VU songs. The album went straight into the shitter, but Reed was to prove ever a man whom luck tended to favor, at least in the musical domain, and David Bowie, also a bisexual and fascinated by Reed, and Mick Ronson produced Reed's sophomore Transformer, the record that really made him, but…
…in a typically assholian move, Reed argued heatedly and prolongedly with Bowie over some subject still unknown, and The Thin White Duke severed the connection. Reed would never again see such artistic acclaim, though the sales record of the remarkable 1974 Rock 'n Roll Animal (the later Lou Reed Live['75] extended the coverage of that show), Reed's best selling LP ever, eclipsed its predecessor. Transformer, though, was basically Bowie's LP, and Reed resented it's success for the rest of his life, never coming to grips with the fact that his talents were extremely limited, confined mostly to an outsider mode of thinking but not musical prowess. Animal proved it 'cause it, like Transformer, was actually the work of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, a famed guitar team who also boosted Alice Cooper, post-Glen Buxton and Michael Smith, and others through the roof. Reed himself had feeble musical talent, as LPs would continue to show thereafter, too many of them virtually unlistenable except that…
…there was an undeniable squalid charisma to the man, and even crits like myself, who couldn't stand the guy as a human being, couldn't help but pick up his work. The answer to that lay in Reed's original objective: he was actually a writer, perhaps even a lower-case poet, and wanted to meld The Great American Novel, rather: a seamy Nelson Algren / Charles Bukowski version of it, into music. He never did, never even came close, but his failures were pretty spectacular aesthetically, and one couldn't help but be drawn to them, as hideously wanting as they were.
Much is made of Reed's godfatherhood to punk, but that's typical industry bullmez; in fact, he hated punk - and who could blame him? - publicly distancing himself from it as, among other things, illiterate, though that objectification was suppressed in order to keep commercial ties somewhat alive. Lou was twice nominated to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame but rejected both times. Whether that was deserving or not depends on how one looks at rock 'n roll: as music or social phenomenon. If the latter, Reed most definitely deserves enshrinement; if the former, forget it. However, his influence on musicians has been undeniable, so perhaps the guy, as atypically as everything else in his fucked-up-save-for-luck life, occupies a third bridging category. I, for one, would breath no objection were he to finally posthumously be ushered into that highly questionable venue. As a unique figure, he deserves it as much as almost anyone already captured.
Lou Reed was definitely one of rock's prime tormented individuals. I have to, especially after readings in Alice Miller's work in trauma and its effects on brain and personality, travel back to the electro-shock therapy as affective in that regard. Whether Reed was an a-hole anyway is at the moment unknown, as far as I can tell, but, regardless, he achieved a hell of a lot and only a fool would deny him his due as a very large figure in the American arts. If that's a tribute, then that's my tribute of him.
I came to Bobby Parker late in life, when I laid hold of the 2006-issued Carlos Santana-curated Blues at Montreux 2004 DVD featuring, in order, Buddy Guy, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Bobby Parker (whom I've mis-cited as "Ray Parker" once or twice, mixing up the name with that of Ray Parker Jr. ...yeesh!). I bought the set for the first two guys but was completely floored by the third. I'd never heard of him, despite two and a half decades as a critic, yet here he was, on fire, playing like a motherfucker and actually eclipsing the far more famous gents before him. I mean, this was some of the most affecting blues playing I'd ever heard, not just rip-roaring but also drenched in soul and meaning. To best Buddy Guy, you'd best come to court with your best game on, which Parker did and then some.
Nor was he new on the scene. John Lennon referred to him by saying "The best stuff I ever heard is by a bloke called Bobby Parker". John, like many, was knocked out by the man's one true hit "Watch Your Step", using the lead riff for two Beatles songs. Led Zeppelin created "Moby Dick" from the same signature, and Robert Plant, my vote for the best singing voice in rock and roll ever (mostly because of the 1st Zep LP), credited Parker's debut record, Blues Get Off My Shoulder, as the one that inspired him to sing. Carlos made his decision to pick up the guitar after seeing Parker live, terming it as "devastating". The list goes on and on.
Running away from home at 14, Bobby began his career with Otis Williams and the Charms, then landed a gig in the Apollo Theater house band, a group led by Paul 'Hucklebuck' Williams. That found him soon playing for Bo Diddley and Fats Domino, He recorded for Vee-Jay in 1958, and, in 1961, released "Watch Your Step" for the V-Tone label.
In the late '60s, he recorded for the English Blue Horizon label, which included Fleetwod Mac and Chickenshack, among impressive others, in its catalogue, but he inexplicably settled into Washington DC and pretty much avoided fame and success after all that. Jimmy Page wanted to sign him with Swan Song, offering a $2000 advance to underwite a demo tape, but Bobby never completed the recording, losing his last chance for true and deserved success. Why?
Was he one of those "hard to work with" guys? Did he possess spiritual objections to a music world he knew quite well? As a black man, did he, like Miles Davis and Chuck Berry and Ike Turner, hold the same disdain for the oft hypocritical acclaim of the White world for Black musics? What on Earth would promote such a galactically talented guitar player to turn down the sure thing Page was offering? I've looked to the Net to discover the reason, but there's precious little heralding this gentleman, and so all I can do is note his slim catalogue of recordings and recommend that Montreux DVD set as witness to a top-notch musician who never really saw his work properly rewarded.
Of course, Lou Reed, who passed just a week before Parker, will be celebrated and lionized for the rest of time, not entirely undeservedly, as Bobby Parker likely will have to be content to slip into oblivion before too many years pass, yet he was a monster talent who deserved much much more and should stand critically with ALL the greats, a guy almost no one paid attention to, save for a very small cult fame.
I can do no more to memorialize the guy beyond that, as I've nothing more to work with, yet his passing must cause us to consider exactly what this 'fame' shit is and how it works; what the music industry accomplishes, who it decides to screw and who it doesn't, and why or why not; and, last but not least, what the bridging effect is between any industry and the culture. When clown acts like Kiss can attain to great riches while incandescent virtuosity languishes, what really are the mechanisms hobbling society, rewarding what diminishes it while crushing what would most advance it?
Mine is not much of an elegy, I know this only too well, but the very medium that should allow for better has sabotaged itself, and few figures more stand in deficit because of that than Bobby Parker. He ranks with Nick Drake and a few others as vastly deserving of so much more than what came to him in life. I hope to God he sees the same posthumous awareness that Nick enjoyed, but I fear this will not be. It's a damn shame.