I have spent part of my time in the van lately listening to Alice Cooper. Many people already know that the early Alice Cooper albums, the band ones up through his first few solo albums, are fantastic pieces of work. But for those of you that don’t, do you know that John Lennon was a friend and fan, Bob Dylan spoke highly of Alice Cooper’s songwriting, and Frank Sinatra covered one of his songs? The Alice Cooper band, which is all the Alice Cooper albums up through Muscle of Love, was a really great rock n roll band. If you are a fan of bass, drums, two guitars, you have to hear these records. (The albums got technically more complex as they went along. However, that core lineup, aside from when they would hire an extra guitar player in the studio at times, is often at the core of these recordings. They sound like a band playing with just a couple extra overdubs for the most part.) My favorite of these records is probably Billion Dollar Babies, though Killer and Love it to Death are front to back great as well. These albums are just the sounds of one of the best rock bands ever firing on all cylinders. As a bass player, I find the work of their bass player, Dennis Dunaway, particularly inventive. He often played nontraditional melodic lines that still hold down the bottom, while doing very little of what a bass player typically does. There are many great hard rock songs here that feature big pop choruses. There are many excellent singles and album tracks. Somehow lyrically Alice Cooper was able to provide a lot of entertaining horror fun, reflect how adolescents felt, and satirize American culture all at the same time. The above song, No More Mr. Nice Guy, is one of my favorite tracks of theirs, one that I have liked since I was a teenager myself. The music and the melody are just fantastic. Listen to all of the cool little guitar bits going on. The lyrics are humorous, without being cute, which is a harder trick to do than one would think.
Spoilers for Mad Men Season 7 Episode 10
I’m a week behind on Mad Men. The above recap is actually to last weeks show. I will catch up today. But the recap from last week had me thinking about how much this show has to offer, when even a recap in Entertainment Weekly features paragraphs like this:
The Forecast” is an episode about children turning into grown-ups, and grown-ups acting like children. In some ways, it’s about grown-ups living the way a child might imagine that adults live. Don eats donuts and vending-machine candy for lunch and never cleans up the drinks he spills on the carpet. Lou dreams of turning his comic strip into a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Mathis might have to wash his mouth out with soap for saying a dirty word. Meanwhile, Sally is signing checks. Glenn is drinking beer. Sally’s friend is flirting with Don, who’s old enough to be her dad. All of them, young or old, are children pretending to be grown-ups. But, as we’ve learned from the agency’s new client, Peter Pan, it’s different when you know you’re pretending. That’s what separates the adults from the kids.
“Adolescence, it strikes me, shares some of the generic qualities of divorce,” (Rachel) Cusk wrote. “The central shock of divorce lies in its bifurcation of the agreed-upon version of life: There are now two versions, mutually hostile, each of whose narrative aim is to discredit the other. Until adolescence, parents by and large control the family story. The children are the subject of this story, sure enough, the generators of its interest or charm, but they remain, as it were, characters, creatures derived from life who nonetheless have their being in the author’s head… But it is perhaps unwise to treasure this story too closely or believe in it too much, for at some point the growing child will pick it up and turn it over in his hands like some dispassionate reviewer composing a coldhearted analysis of an overhyped novel… I wonder how much of what we call conflict is in fact our own deserved punishment for telling the story wrong, for twisting it with our own vanity or wishful thinking, for failing to honor the truth.”
Rarely does a show make me think as much as this one, while simultaneously being entertaining. It is a show that is pregnant with meaning.
This is a deeply strange country. Sometimes it too closely resembles the movie Blue Velvet, where a seemingly normal veneer masks a darker underbelly. The other night on tour I found myself with the rare solo hotel room. It was late, but since I don’t have cable, I decided to see if there was anything interesting on that I would normally not get to watch. I was in Oklahoma. What I found was perverse mixture of religion and crime.
The first thing that I stumbled upon was the televangelist Mike Murdock. He looked like he should have been hosting a Vegas magic show with a black sequined shirt on, hair that was so black it was almost blue, and a black goatee. He was giving a strange mixture of religious and finical advice. He wanted viewers to “sow” the “seeds” of their future for just $83 a month. He was hoping that 120 souls would send him a thousand dollars a piece. He was shamefully asking for money like a late-night infomercial host while holding a Bible. Televangelists have been around a long time, but the sheer look of this guy was creepy, like if he tried to sell you a used car you would be suspicious. However, he clearly has enough money to appear on not one, but two channels at the same time. Someone out there in the American night was buying into his insane schtick, long after Jimmy Swaggart’s deal went south.
The strange thing was, he wasn’t even the only televangelist on. In flipping the channel I again not only found him again, but another one on at the same time in the same state. Between these I saw the equally strange infomercials that so dominate late night television. Bad ideas for those that just might be in a state to believe anything. Some guy that looked like an albino was trying to sell personal generators incase U.S. power grid going down. I understand that in someplace like Oklahoma, where tornados are a reality, there may occasionally be a need for such a thing, but this was beyond that. This was trying to strike fear into the average person to make them think that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was right around the corner.
Even weirder still, every channel that I turned on that did not feature religious or business hucksters of some kind, featured crime and punishment. These were, for the most part, true crime shows, that let one know what kind of savagery was waiting outside their door. i finally settled on a show that was about Arizona’s famous tent city prison, where inmates sleep under tents in the stifling Arizona heat and do hard labor by day. The part of the show that I watched was about someone that was a new inmate serving six months for meth. Apparently if he did his time in tent city he could avoid a lengthier sentence in a “real” prison. If he broke the rules in tent city his sentence would be extended and he would again be sent to that “real” prison. However, like prison in general, the inmates formed gangs by race. If they broker the rules of the gangs, which often were the opposite of the rules of the prison, they would get the living fuck beaten out of them. This didn’t have to put the fear into people. This actually resembled Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
So here in Oklahoma, people were being preyed upon by religious hucksters and slimy sale men. Meanwhile they are constantly receiving messages of fear: Fear that they are going to go broke, fear that hell awaits, fear that criminals await, and fear that if they break any rules they will go to a prison that animals aren’t fit to live in. No wonder so many people in this country are crazy!
Strangely enough, I have been trying to finish Dante’s Inferno the last couple of days. In Dante’s version of hell, those that use God to commit fraud are worse than those that actually steal. However, in our country we give those people TV programs and tax breaks while those that commit non-violent crimes are put in a living version of hell. Someone might go to jail for theft that, while still wrong, pales in comparison to what these religious con-artists are doing. Someone that robs people of thousands of dollars by prettying upon their fears and religious beliefs becomes a rich celebrity in America. Now there is a lot of absurdity in The Divine Comedy, but I can’t help but feel that our own moral code is often absurd as well.
I went to sleep deeply troubled that night. I try not to be under any illusions as to what is out there. I’ve been well aware of all of the above for quite some time. However, it was jarring seeing it all back to back, channel after channel. Images of unrelenting insanity are being pumped into millions of homes on a daily basis. I’ve read enough to know that over the long game of history that progress is real. I know that change is possible. But for a brief moment I couldn’t help but feel that we were just monkeys with machine guns, gathered around televisions instead of campfires, telling superstitious stories, under the influence of a skull white moon.
Heading out on the road today. Posting has a slow due to constant travel. I brought my computer with me this time. We will be up in Tulsa tonight at Fassler Hall if any of you live in that area.
I mentioned I have been rewatching Breaking Bad. It’s unbelievable how good it is. Even knowing the outcome, the writing is good enough that it keeps you pulled into the narrative completely.
I played a festival yesterday. The people were nice to us and the festival was fun. I had to laugh though. There were several flags in the crowd with firearms on them that said, “Come and take it.” Do these people not know that if the government really wanted to do away with them at this point they could just send a smart bomb through their window? They could just fly a drone overhead and reduce them to dust with the push of a button. In some ways firearms are as outdated as swords. You might as well have a knight on your flag. Sure, you could kill some people, but probably only your fellow citizens and a couple unlucky pawns.
That’s all for now. In the future when all’s well…
I’ve been watching Breaking Bad again lately. I couldn’t help but think of Walter White as a tragic hero in the way that the term is used in classic tragedies. My favorite tragedy is MacBeth. I googled the two together and found the above article, that is a pretty convincing comparison between the two and how Walter White fits the tragic hero mold.
Geoff Barrow from Portishead reveals how much money he makes off of streaming services in this Consequence of Sound article. Streaming has not yet provided artists with a living. At some point it may. However, in the meantime, if you value music, you should really buy an artists music until streaming services treat artists more fairly.
This movie looks really interesting. It’s about the Washington Music scene in the 80’s. I’ve listened to music from this scene throughout my whole life. Minor Threat’s Out of Step and then Complete Discography were especially important to me when I was really young. I was soon onto Fugazi and other bands. It looks like they have all the players involved, so there is a good chance that the film will be decent.