When Morrissey Ruined Bill Cosby’s Tonight Show

When Morrissey Ruined Bill Cosby’s Appearance On the Tonight Show

A great read on many levels, and definitely so if you are a Morrissey fan.  Just reading about Cosby, Johnny Carson, and Ed McMahon bewildered by an audience they weren’t expecting has its own charms.

However, another part of the article deals with Morrissey’s highly successful tour during almost complete neglect by MTV and radio:

Two weeks prior to his scheduled Tonight Show appearance, Morrissey touched down in the United States to embark on the six-week leg of a worldwide tour to promote his third solo release, Kill Uncle, after having just wrapped up a successful 11-show run of Europe. The Kill Uncle Tour kicked off in California, where there were six dates lined up: San Diego, Costa Mesa, Inglewood, Santa Barbara, Berkeley, and Sacramento. The shows sold out fast. The entire tour sold out fast, but the West Coast stretch sold out faster. Much of Morrissey’s popularity in the area could be attributed to heavy rotation from the area’s influential radio station, KROQ, one of the few outlets to lend support. 20,000 tickets to the show at the San Diego Sports Arena went in a flash, gone in less than an hour, faster than any predecessor, including Madonna and Michael Jackson. Tickets for The Forum in Inglewood went even quicker18,000 in just 15 minutes.

Aside from the Tonight Show appearance and KROQ airplay, Morrissey was almost never played on MTV, and not at all during normal hours, and barely played on mainstream radio. (Despite selling out venues faster than the biggest pop stars of the day.)  There may be reasons for this that are specific to Morrissey, but I must wonder about the bigger picture.  (Morrissey is a highly subversive artist that has always threatened many mainstream forces.)  After the 1996 Telecommunications Act corporations, such as Clear Channel at the time, consolidated their control of radio playlists.  One can remember songs such as John Lennon’s Imagine being banned after September 11th on radio stations owned by Clear Channel, now known as iHeartMedia Inc.

So here are the questions:  What large forces shaped musical culture before that act?  How is music of today shaped by forces outside of consumer demand?  One thing that is a no-brainer is that people, unless one is an obsessive seeking things out, can only like what they are exposed to.  Why is it that so many pieces of pop music today sound so similar and are so often completely devoid of any substance or ideas?   Aside from substance and ideas, which have been lacking at other times during popular music, why is pop music that is readily available for the general public delivered by performers lacking strong personalities?

Questions, as always, questions…

Why is This Happening Again?

Where are we going?  Who are we as a people?  Why are we here?  Why is this happening again?  The man that shot so many, I won’t even type his name, was evil and deserves to be dead.  It is a hard thing to admit, but the world is better off without certain people in it.  But even one so focused and disturbed could not have carried out this act on his own.  Politicians, radio hosts, arms manufactures, and citizens who traffic in fear are also partially to blame.  If you are so afraid of the world that you need an assault rifle to face it, know that no gun owned by a citizen has stopped a mass shooting since 1982.  (And even then people were killed first.)

There is no reason that assault rifles should be sold to the general public.  There are only two uses for them:  Killing and profit.

There are some that might say firing them at target ranges is their hobby.  A hobby should be given up if it leads to the death of 50 plus, let alone all the shootings that have happened before it.  No, not all people that have these guns are partially responsible, but going forward anyone that fights for the right to sell more of these weapons is.

Do you really think that as many politicians would support our current gun laws if they weren’t receiving campaign money from the NRA or gun manufacturers?  If they are selling out for those who profit off such weapons, then they are partially to blame.

If a radio host goes on the air and helps to create a climate of fear so that more people believe these weapons are needed, they are partially to blame.

Those who sell these weapons to the public are partially to blame.  They are partially to blame as merchants of death.

I have come along way.  I used to not care about gun laws as they aren’t, and still aren’t, the most pressing problem in our society.  But when one person is given the power to hurt and kill that many people things need to change.  When mass killings become the new norm things need to change.

None of this means that sects of Islam aren’t insane and dangerous.  They must be dealt with too.  None of this means that there aren’t real problems with our mental health system.  This too must be looked at.   None of this means that the shooter isn’t more to blame than anyone else.  Thankfully he has already been dealt with.  I don’t know what happens when we die, but I can assure you he isn’t with 72 virgins.  If somehow he was then the universe has no meaning and should just collapse upon itself now and get it over with.

I’m not against someone having a pistol at home for personal protection.  I know someone whose home was broken into just this week.  I’m not against owning a hunting rifle.  Although I am not a hunter, I know that for some these kind of weapons have practical purposes.  But an assault rifle is not a practical tool by anyone’s standards unless you are in the armed forces.  If an instrument allows one person to do that much harm then it needs to be done away with, same as the people that would try to use them for such harm.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people is a completely asinine argument.  If the shooter, however evil and crazy he was, could not buy such a weapon legally, then more people would be alive.

How many lives have been affected by this shooting?  I’m not talking just about the people that were killed or injured, but their friends and family?  Look how many friends you have on Facebook and then multiply that times the number of people killed and wounded.  That will at least give you some idea. (And yes not everyone on Facebook is our real friend, but we also have people in our lives that have smartly declined to join such a thing.)  Think of that many people being completely devastated today.  Now think of the people that are devastated by past shootings and people who have yet to be devastated.  Wouldn’t you gladly ban a weapon, a weapon that wasn’t even around when our founding fathers wrote the Constitution, to make the pain for all those people go away?  If you can say no to that, then I simply don’t understand your point of view.

But to those of you that would say no, that view gun restrictions as some form of tyranny, let me speak directly to you:  I don’t want there to be more cops on the streets.  I don’t want the government to have more of a say in our private lives.  But these weapons do not prevent violence, but merely create it.  A more violent world will become a world where freedom is restricted.  Death on this level cannot be allowed to go on.  To give up selling a weapon that didn’t even use to exist will erode far less freedom than allowing violence to continue on this scale.  Do you really think this kind of weapon would protect you from tyranny anyhow, if it really were a threat?  To some degree guns are primitive next to the kind of weapons that the US government uses all the time.  If the government really wanted to come for you in your house they could simply fly a drone over it and make a giant crater where you and everything you hold dear used to be.  We’ve already said that these kinds of weapons don’t prevent any mass shootings.  So not only are you not protecting yourself from any threats real or imagined, but you helping to create a world where there will actually be more restrictions on our freedom.  If this kind of thing keeps happening, how long do you really think it will be before clubs, schools, and other places of mass gatherings have stricter safety measures?

I apologize if I am rambling a bit.  I am angry.  But I am also tired.  I’m not only tired for real, as the hour is late, but I’m tired of living in a country where reason is so often shown the door over tribal allegiances, profit margins, and a fake morality driven by primitive notions.  I’ve said all that I have to say.  Think of those poor souls that cannot sleep tonight due to grief over recent events.  Goodnight…

 

 

Marah On Tour

One of the best American rock bands, Marah, is going on tour this weekend.  They will first be in Fort Wayne on the 9th, Indiana, and next be in Chicago for two shows.  (10th, 11th)  If you are in either one of those areas I highly recommend going.  I will be very jealous of you.

I will admit that I am making a record with Dave and Christine of Marah right now, but I assure you that I am not biased in any way.  I had all of the Marah records long before any kind of friendship was established.

Drop whatever plans you had and go.  You won’t regret it.  Here are the details:

Marah Shows Page

My New Band, The Savage Poor, at the Saxon Pub Tomorrow Night

Savage Poor Saxon

My new band The Savage Poor will be playing the Saxon Pub tomorrow night, June 5th, in Austin, Texas at 10pm.  The band consists of myself, my brother Ben Brown, drummer Alex Moralez, and bassist Roger Wuthrich.  This is without question a rock n roll band, but like the Clash rock n roll is more the attitude in which we approach a stylistically diverse set of songs.

Sunday night is a tough sell, but feeling good on Monday morning is overrated.  Join us and take joy in the fact that you will be able to freak out your coworkers Monday morning when you look like you have been to space and back.

We will not “just shut up and sing”.  We will make you think and question all while shaking your hips.  So many forget, but rock n roll is meant to be a subversive cultural force.  It just happens it is one that you can party, celebrate, and sweat during as you have your mind expanded.

Listen to our latest single and B-side here to get two of the many shades of our color palette:

Everyday American Thoughts – New Single Release

Lou Reed’s ‘New Sensations’

An album that never ceases to raise my spirits is Lou Reed’s New Sensations.  Reed faired much better than most 60’s artists in the 80’s. The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, Live in Italy, and New York are all extremely well regarded records.  Only Mistrial falls flat due to extremely dated production.  I personally think New Sensations belongs with his other gems from the decade, but it’s a different kind of work than the others.  While the other records are stripped down fairs, highlighting a four piece rock band with limited overdubs, New Sensations utilizes pop production, some of it of its time.  However, instead of marring the record, the more commercial production only seems to play a perfect foil for Lou’s literary and often darkly funny lyrics here.  Sometimes they heighten the absurdity that Reed is commenting on, and sometimes they simply help bring the melodies of Reed’s lyrics to life.  On the song Turn to Me, Reed sings:

When your teeth are ground down to the bone
and there’s nothing between your legs
And some friend died of something
that you can’t pronounce, ah
Remember, I’m the one who loves you
hey baby, you can always give me a call
Turn to me, turn to me
Turn to me

The over the top gospel backing vocals make that song seems as if it is being delivered by a late night TV preacher, preying on the desperation and insecurities of those all too alone at night.  Reed never lets the song lose its rock n roll power, but the extra element helps to create a theater of the mind.

………………………………….

One of my favorite songs on the album is the song Doin’ the Things That We Want To.  In it Reed pays tribute to other artists, specifically Martin Scorsese and Sam Shepard, that try to infuse their work with deep meaning.  Reed created music that had literary ambition, that was cinematic in scope.  He was aiming for the moon when so many other songwriters just aim for spring break.  If only more would try to follow in his footsteps, perhaps our culture wouldn’t feel so empty…

There’s not much you hear on the radio today
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
But you could still see a movie or a play
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
Here’s to Travis Bickle and here’s Johnny Boy
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
Growing up in the mean streets of New York
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
I wrote this song ’cause I’d like to shake your hand
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
In a way you guys are the best friends I ever had
(Doin’ the things that we want to)

The Clown that Destroyed Creation

I’ve walked catacombs in Austria and seen rooms full of nothing but human bones from the black plague.   I’ve seen ruins in Italy where Saints were martyred.  It doesn’t take a brilliant leap of the imagination, on a rainy day especially, to imagine what ruins we’ll leave behind.  There will certainly be a lot of plastic nonsense.  Certainly a lot of the plastic I have used will long outlast me.  Alas, I took a wrong turn on the road to perfection.  As a society, is this the kind of thing we wish to be remembered for?

Suppose at the bottom of a plastic trash mountain future inhabitants of earth find a Donald Trump poster.  I saw a particularly garish, clownish one recently.  Will these future citizens of the planet see it as just one more memento of a careless and indulgent culture, or will it represent something darker?  Or will they see it as the moment when the most powerful country of our time, the Roman Empire of the now, decided to completely stop giving a shit about not only its own future, but mother nature in general?

There will some of you that will find all this absurd.  The truth is, I hope those of you that feel this way are right.  But Trump, having just released his energy policy, isn’t thinking about life on earth more than a couple years out.  Trump  more fossil fuels, less renewable energy, wants to build a new pipeline, and wants to cancel the Paris climate agreement.  (The climate agreement, as good as it was, actually should have gone further.  We’ll take what we can get.)

Now truth be told, Trump changes his opinions about as often as the weather changes in Texas.  (When I first moved here people often said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait awhile, it will change.)  Trump is an entertainer more than a politician, willing to say or do anything in the moment for the applause of the crowd.  He knows his audience and he knows what schtick they like.  But do we really want an ethical and moral black hole in the Oval Office, a man that will simply do whatever will get him the most power?

Kurt Vonnegut, in his novel Mother Night, once said that, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”  If Trump is empowering racists and climate deniers, is he not of them, no matter what he might think privately in his own bedroom every night?

Trump is appealing to the very worst in our culture, and therefore is amongst the very worst of our culture.  (I’ve learned recently to never utter the phrase, “Things can’t possibly get any worse.”)  How we meet the challenge of this election will depend upon how we are remembered by future generations.  Do we really want to be remembered as the people who elected the clown that destroyed creation?

 

 

How Game of Thrones is About Climate Change

How Game of Thrones is About Climate Change

Game of Thrones is a piece of fiction and therefore interpretive.  I have been thinking about how the story could be used to discuss the challenge of facing climate change for awhile.  However, Vox got there first, which is probably just as well, because they did a better job than I could have done.  There is even a video for those of you not familiar with the show.  Click on the link above to see how “Winter is Coming” could just as easily be “Summer is Coming”.

The show is one of those shows that just seems to get better and better every season.  It is one of those rare shows that allows you to escape while watching it, while at the same time giving you plenty to chew on after.

Anohni “Drone Bomb Me”

The new album Helplessness by Anohni, formerly Antony of Antony and the Johnsons, has caught my attention.  It is an album of glistening, beautiful, disturbing protest songs.  I don’t know the album enough to give it a proper review.  However, I have heard the song Drone Bomb Me several times.  (The video starring Naomi Campbell is worth tracking down.)  The narrator of the song is a girl from Afghanistan whose family has been killed by a drone, and who now begs for a drone to grant her a similar fate.  I have a super high threshold for artistic things that a lot of people won’t go near.  This song even made me uncomfortable for a brief moment.  But that is exactly why it’s a brilliant piece of political music, even if I haven’t decided what to make of it in a larger sense.  In an era of repetition and cliche, there is something new and interesting going on here.

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.  There are as many ideas in it as are in an entire semester of many college courses.  Yet it is relatively accessible and definitely entertaining if you are looking for a film with intelligence.  Cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek uses movies to talk about ideology.  I’ve mentioned this film before, but just told a friend about it and thought it was worth mentioning again.  If you haven’t seen it and are looking for something to spark an interesting conversation, I highly recommend it.