Spread the Gospel

This has been the best month so far for this blog, with the last year seeing an almost constant increase in visitors.  Traffic has increased tenfold since a year ago.  I can’t thank all of you enough.  It is greatly and dearly appreciated.  

If you subscribe or visit on a regular basis please tell your friends about this site.  I have been lucky in that I have had time to update the site on a fairly regular basis.  Although this is a labor of love, and I write because I enjoy it, I have always set out to get some revanue for my work here.  In the upcoming year I would like to improve the site, which will take money.  I also would like to continue to be able to commit large amounts of time creating content.  I know that some sites eventually go to a model where some of the content is for paying subscribers only.  I want to avoid that route if at all possible.   This is not because I think sites that do that are unethical.  In fact I think writers should be paid for their work.  However, part of the reason I do this site is to bring attention to things I love, that I feel have been ignored by mainstream writers, critics, and publications.  

Thanks again for all of your support.  For once, words fail me…

Early 90’s Springsteen and the Duality of Human Nature

The cold wet air could best be described as a “shitmist”.  On the way from Oklahoma City to Dallas.   In the back of the van trying to unlock why, even in the midst of his supposed slump, the early 90’s,  Bruce Springsteen was still able to create works that have staying power.  Strip him of his band, bring in a bunch of session players that lack any discernable personality, record things in a way that is somewhat stiff, and there is still something there if you pay attention. 

With every wish there comes a curse

Listen to the song With Every Wish from his Human Touch album.  It has a dark seductive power to it as it examines someone whose dreams fall short.  In fact I think it is because Springsteen never shies away from the hard truths of reality that his songs are more than one dimensional.  

Any life when viewed from the inside, is simply a series of defeats.
     –  George Orwell

In the midst of life we are in death, etc.
     - Morrissey

This is not to say Springsteen’s music lacks hope or love or joy.  In fact his music is often quite life affirming despite how often darkly realistic his lyrics can be.  They often deal with a loss of innocence as someone grows older and comes to terms with the harsh realities of the world.  But even in spite of this, his characters often carry on.  Although there are characters of his that are on the long slide to oblivion, many also often find love or are determined to bear hardship. 

Springsteen is too smart to ignore complexity.  There are no easy fixes.  Love in and of itself will not solve all problems.  Things can be made better, but there is hard work to do if it is to be so.  Dreams can just as easily circle back to haunt you.  He never forgets the passion of the teenager, but he also never ignores the struggle of adulthood.  It is this duality that gives his work power. 

This duality, this complexity in outlook, means that even his lesser albums have moments that are worth recommending.   I think his most misunderstood album, Human Touch,  has many such moments.  Although it does suffer somewhat from the production and choice of musicians, and it is not a front to back masterpiece, there are a lot of songs where the writing is really sharp.  He also writes a lot of great melodies that bring the lyrics to life, whereas the slightly more critically accepted Lucky Town is slightly too sepia-toned for me, despite a couple great songs. 

I think if you are a fan of his, like I am, and you have ignored this period, it is worth revisiting.  There are also some stellar out takes from this period on the Tracks box set, especially Gave it a Name.  It is clear that Springsteen had read Flannery O’Connor by this point, as he adopts some of her haunted Biblical language to deal with these adulthood struggles. 

As one of our country’s greatest artists, Springsteen is often reduced to a caricature, like many larger than life figures.  (He did himself no favors in the propaganda films serving as music videos that accompanied Born in the U.S.A.)  But he has remained someone that constantly searches for meaning in a fallen world, always aware of the light and dark in our national character.  

the crunch

Too much
too little
or not enough

too fat
too thin
or nobody

laughter or
tears
or immaculate
non-concern

haters
lovers

armies running through streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking virgins

or an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of Marilyn Monroe

many old guys in cheap rooms without
any photographs at all

many old women rubbing rosaries
when they’d prefer to be rubbing cocks

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movements of
the hands of a clock

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it blinking in neon signs
in Vegas, in Baltimore, in Munich

there are people so tired
so strafed
so mutilated by love or no
love
that buying a bargain can of tuna
in a supermarket
is their greatest moment
their greatest victory

we don’t need new governments
new revolutions
we don’t need new men
new women
we don’t need new ways
wife-swaps
waterbeds
good Columbian
coke
water pipes
dildoes
rubbers with corkscrew stems
watches that give you the date

people are not good to each other
one on one.
Marx be damned
the sin is not the totality of certain systems.
Christianity be damned
the sin is not the killing of a God.

people are just not good to each other.

we are afraid
we think that hatred means strength
we think that New York City is the greatest
city in America.

what we need is less brilliance
what we need is less instruction

what we need are less poets
what we need are less Bukowskies
what we need are less Billy Grahams

what we need is more
beer
a typist
more finches
more green-eyed whores who don’t eat your heart
like a vitamin pill

we don’t think about the terror of one person
aching in one place

alone
untouched
unspoken to
watering a plant
being without a telephone that will never
ring
because there isn’t one.

more haters than lovers

slices of doom like taffeta

people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other

and the beads swing and the clouds cloud
and the dogs piss upon the roses
and the killer beheads the child like taking a bite
out of an ice cream cone
and the ocean comes in and out
in and out
under the direction of a senseless moon

and people are not good to each other.

By Charles Bukowski.  I used to read a lot of Bukowski the last few years I lived in Pennsylvania.  I wanted to post something of his here, so I started reading some of his poems tonight.  Even though I read many, I kept coming back to this one, which was actually the first one that I read.  The language is so visceral.  It’s beautiful and vulgar at the same time.  If you have ever watched the show Deadwood I believe you will understand that even vulgarity, taken far enough, used in the right way, with the right combination of words and meter, can become something truly beautiful.  At least I do…

The ’85 Bears and the Consequences of Football

Last weekend while in a hotel I caught a segment on HBO’s Real Sports about the ’85 Chicago Bears.  The segment was about how football injuries prematurely turned a group of strong and charismatic men into shells of their former selves.  Even coach Mike Ditka said he would no longer tell kids to play football knowing what he knows now.  (Which is strange given that Ditka still humps it for the NFL doing game analysis.)

I grew up playing football and have always been a football fan.  I also am aware that no matter what you do in life, it takes some kind of physical or mental toll.  Life eventually makes monkeys of us all.  If I know nothing else, I know that.  However, I think this segment,  better than anything else I have seen, demonstrates the moral uneasiness surrounding modern football.  Is it possibly more like a match held in the Roman Colosseum than we previously wanted to believe? 

As the Super Bowl approaches, I can’t help but wonder about this.  I have always know that football is absurd, and in fact that is partly what I love about it, especially at the professional level.  As George Carlin once observed,  “There is nothing better than watching 300 lb millionaires kick the shit out of each other.”  I think if nothing else though, having at least a conversation about the consequences of the game is probably a good idea. 

Stolen Car by Bruce Springsteen

Stolen car- Bruce Springsteen VINYL: http://youtu.be/UnHy_46DfiE

I met a little girl and I settled down
In a little house out on the edge of town
We got married, and swore we’d never part
Then little by little we drifted from each other’s heart
At first I thought it was just restlessness
That would fade as time went by and our love grew deep
In the end it was something more I guess
That tore us apart and made us weep

And I’m driving a stolen car
Down on Eldridge Avenue
Each night I wait to get caught
But I never do

She asked if I remembered the letters I wrote
When our love was young and bold
She said last night she read those letters
And they made her feel one hundred years old

And I’m driving a stolen car
On a pitch black night
And I’m telling myself I’m gonna be alright
But I ride by night and I travel in fear
That in this darkness I will disappear

I have always love the song by Bruce Springsteen.   Springsteen is somehow able to create a short story with a minimum amount of words.  A song of loneliness and desperation from someone on the margins.  I love the way this song and Drive All Night, both on The River’s second record, are used in the movie Cop Land.  Sylvester Stallone,  playing an uncharacteristically heavy and pathetic small town cop named Freddy Heflin in one of his best performances, listens to the songs with the realization that life has fallen far short of his expectations.  

More Scenes From Touring

If you want a good many laughs, and a view into temporary insanity, I can’t recommend Henry Rollins Get in the Van enough.  Although the early 80’s hardcore scene is far crazier than anything I have ever witnessed, there is something in the dark fatalistic humor of the book that captures touring better than anything I have ever seen or read.  I know I have mentioned it before, but I am thinking about it on my way to Oklahoma city. 

When you tour it is like living in dog years.  Time slows to a crawl.  I am not trying to romanticize touring, quite the opposite.   There may be some that love every moment of it, but to me my passion for music makes it something that I tolerate.  I am not saying that there aren’t great moments, nor am I complaining.  It simply is a mountain that needs to be climbed to reach the golden city of music.  It is mostly my ability to disconnect,  to float away into books and records, that allows me to keep climbing. 

I am an introvert by nature.  Being in a crowd, even if I am having a great time, diminishes my energy instead of restoring it.  I purposely need to retreat into an autistic cave of solitude at times to make it through the day.  (Hat pulled down over eyes and headphones on.)

But lord I love being creative, playing with great musicians, and diving into the world of music.  I can never hear enough of the stuff.  I live with headphones on.  I could play a two hour set and the first thing I want to do after is listen to a record.  I love the world of recorded sound.  I have ever since I was a kid.  While some friends obsessed over sports stats, I was up in my room reading music magazines and listening to albums. 

When some people tell me that I am bold to follow my dreams, I thank them, but I know the truth:  My passion for music borders on obsession, and I have no other choice.  It isn’t much different than an alcoholic slithering over to a bar as soon as it is open.  Reason and courage play no part.  I give into my addiction and follow it down the rabbit hole. 

Scenes From Before and After a Show

I just watched a documentary about Quiet Riot in the hotel.  It was like watching Spinal Tap, without the laughs.  People that had no clue doing things that had no point.  Watching it with a severe hangover made me think of razor blades and a tub.  “Should I even go to the gig tonight”, I thought,  “or should I do some angel dust and float away into a delusional dream?”  When they put a character in a straight jacket on their debut album, they probably didn’t realize they would be creating this kind of insanity in 2015. 

It did prompt me to read about other over-the-hill 80’s hair bands.  Drug addictions, colostomy bags, fading fortunes, and diminishing returns were all accounted for.  It was like a musical version of the movie The Wrestler

It is time to take the stage here in Fort Worth.  Let me play well, and dear Lord let me have some sense of things if the deal ever goes down.  Onward and upward, for awhile…

After

Young girls dance in an Indian summer.  Despite my brain feeling like a bleach soaked sponge from last night’s revelry, I play a flawless set.  Rock n roll doesn’t seem quite as absurd.  People tell me I am living the American dream, despite an extremely light wallet that I am all too aware of.  It was a good night all in all.  I am not the kind of person that feels validated by the applause of a crowd, though it beats crickets chirping.  I will sleep the sleep of the dead and arise like Jesus from the tomb tomorrow.  24 hours from now I will be on the tail end of a show in Oklahoma City.  Who knows what the future will bring.  I have learned to live a couple hours at a time.  In the moment pure mutant animalistic survival is achieved.  And in this world, to ask for anything more, would just be greedy…