Jon Spencer: Fuck these squares!

Jon SpencerJon Spencer rules. Eye Weekly recently asked the Blues Explosion man if he regrets wearing “rubber pants” in the 100-degree Chicago heat at the Pitchfork Festival. His response his classic Spencer:

No! I don’t know what the fuck is up with these squares today. I’m in a rock ‘n’ roll band and I was there to play rock ‘n’ roll. I didn’t go there to work on my tan or play hacky-sack. Jesus Christ, what’s this world coming to? Everybody gets so upset about me trying to look good! I’m getting to be an old man, but I’ve got a job, and I’m going to do it the best I can. Fuck these squares.

Awesome. Spencer also points ramps up his feud with Chicago critic Jim DeRogatis (“this fucking asshole”), and I gotta say: I tend to get a kick out of DeRo’s vitriol but in this case the dude is way off. To simply dismiss the Blues Explosion as “blackface parody” and “making fun of black music” is to virtually ignore the entire history of rock and roll. Spencer’s oversized self-aggrandizement has certainly always been tongue-in-cheek, but to question his sincere love for the foundation of this music is preposterous and shameful.

Jon Spencer fucking is rock and roll, man! How can you fail to see that? Dang!

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Photo by Jolie. See AMP’s JSBX photos, too.

20 thoughts on “Jon Spencer: Fuck these squares!”

  1. Great JSBX photos by Jolie! You guys must have been right up front? Sounds like DeRogatis is projecting his white guilt onto Spencer to me (he says without reading the DeRogatis article). I don’t see the “blackface parody” angle, anyway. That’s a pretty huge leap.

  2. Dero is way off this time – thats a total insult. Would he say the same thing about say…Eminem or the Beastie Boys? (maybe he has, i try not to read his dickish columns anymore, he just gets me pissed off).

    I just get the feeling when I read Dero’s stuff, that he’s the bitter dork from high school where the rock and roll kids beat him up and took his lunch money – and he’s still not over it (no insult to dorks by the way…i was one and i got over it…) He’s just not enjoyable to read – he comes off sounding like a condenscending prick (a good bit of the time).

    How can anyone say that is ‘blackface parody?’ Shameful indeed!

    The question remainds then…who is more rock and roll? the guy with the leather pants on screaming the blues into a mic or the guy who looks like he works in the Simpson’s comic book store? I think we all know who we would rather hang out with…

  3. DeRo has been trying to get in Courtney Love’s pants for 15 years, take anything he says about rock and roll with a grain of salt.

    Dang!

  4. I respect DeRo and agree with him a lot of the time. I think he’s wrong this time, but he does bring up some interesting points re: appropriation.

    In his original 1997 Penthouse article (re-printed in the link above), which is worth reading even if you disagree with his conclusions, DeRo’s main beef seems to be that Spencer isn’t revealing his real emotions and that he “over-thinks every note he plays.” That seems like straight bullshit to me. Conjecture based on…what? Who knows?

    I think JSBX absolutely conveys real emotion. And that emotion is DESIRE: the desire to fuck, the desire to move, the desire to just get down and ROCK, the desire to fuck shit up. Spencer’s asides are funny and over the top, but that doesn’t take away from the very real feeling coming through the speakers. Humor doesn’t negate emotion.

    By the way, I always thought of them as a punk rock band, not a blues band. I always kinda thought “Blues Explosion” was just the name, not the mission statement. It’s just loud, crazy, fun rock and roll. Not attempting to be “authentic” blues. But then again, what better definition of “rock and roll” is there than taking the blues and blowing it up!? Sounds about right to me, historically.

  5. I have trouble giving respect to anyone as grossly overweight as DeRogatis is. That guy is a blimp! His face looks swollen he’s so fat. Dude should shed some of that extra weight before he criticizes others. I’m just being mean, aren’t I? Oh well. Fuck him.

  6. I have not read DeRogatis piece, but then again why would I or anyone. He’s a rock journalist, the more controversial, the more attention.

    I prefer listening to Jon Spencer and other great rock n roll. If you think Jon Spencer sucks, well just go and listen to his work with RL Burnside on Ass Pocket Of Whiskey. If you don’t like that, well I don’t like you.

  7. Here’s the deal: right or wrong, DeRo made claims about JSBX’s music. If he disparaged Spencer for wearing rubber pants then he’s KINDA opened himself up for criticism of his own appearance. (Seeing Spencer is part of the live experience, whereas we don’t need to visualize DeRo writing his column, now, do we?)

    But if DeRo is being ragged on for being fat just because he criticized Spencer and/or JSBX on musical terms, who’s being the dick here?

  8. Fair enough, Kiko. Probably not the most mature thing I’ve ever done, but I wasn’t making any claims to not being a dick, either. :-) I stand by my disdain for fat critics of any kind, though. Obesity is an avoidable condition, and if you can’t take better care of yourself than that, I’m not sure I’m interested in your opinion of anything. Obesity is an epidemic in this country, and is a huge burden on the health care system, and it’s avoidable. So I think criticizing someone for being fat is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s like criticizing someone for not bathing for years. Take better care of yourself, man!

    With regard to the vitriol around at least my response to what DeRogatis said – that Jon Spencer and the JBSX are a “blackface parody” – I think what he said is a lot more offensive. He’s implicitly accusing Spencer of being a modern day Al Jolson. Accusing a man who has made a career of honoring and innovating the blues – in a way that brings more interest to it among modern music audiences – of doing blackface in 2010 is a pretty serious charge. A professional writer should know better than to use a term like that. It’s pretty explosive. Personally, I’d rather be accused of being overweight than being a racist. And that guy is big! You can’t deny it. But as I said, you’re probably right, Kiko. Not the best approach to responding to the bizarro comments DeRogatis made.

  9. a man who has made a career of honoring and innovating the blues

    Well, that’s the nut right there. Is Spencer honoring the blues or just goofing on it? Or simply using the name and ignoring the form/tradition altogether? Or maybe using it as a launchpad to go off in some crazy new direction?

    I love JSBX but I would never claim that they’re honoring the blues.

  10. Well, I would argue that anyone who plays rock n roll is honoring the blues whether they know it or not. It’s the foundation of everything rock n roll, after all. With JSBX, it’s part of the story of the band, isn’t it? It is a blues explosion – and I think calling it “a launchpad to go off in some crazy new direction” is spot on. Isn’t that honoring it (the blues)?

  11. I think so. But I can see how others would find it disrespectful. And even exploitative. I think they’re wrong. But it’s still worth a little serious pondering. Which is, of course, why I linked to DeRogatis’ piece in the first place. It’s worth reading and thinking about…regardless of the author’s waistline.

    Ultimately, John Spencer makes great, fun music and that’s really what matters. But he’d be the first to admit he’s one controversial negro

  12. You really have to be clueless to think for a second that Jon Spencer hasn’t been honoring the blues all along. The whole genre of blues has been so bastardized and dishonored by guys like DeRogatis (I mean fat and white) that we’ve all gotten pretty confused by what it actually is. If you step back and look at the primitive, raw approach of early electric blues, clearly Jon Spencer pays far more respect to that form of music than do 99% of the so-called blues artists of the last forty years…white or black. You really have to be an idiot to say what DeRogatis said about Spencer. I’ve really come to think that DeRogatis is just a complete tool. I’ve been reading and listening to him for long enough to come to the conclusion that he’s just clueless much of the time. I made a snotty comment above in reaction to the fat reference, because I thought it was a funny line, and also true. I don’t really care that the guy is kind of a slob, I wish him good health even if I don’t like most of his opinions. But he does shamelessly gush over every fart produced by Nick Cave…an artist way more phony and prone to parody than Spencer, in my opinion. Jon Spencer has way more of a sense of humor too.

  13. I can’t see how anyone would find Spencer disrespectful or exploitive. Not even a little bit.

    I mean one could argue that Jack White does the same thing (but who would do that?), or like I said above… pick any white artist who raps (say Eminem). Oviously Elvis has always been accused of the same thing. Jimmy Page? The arguement could be applied to just about any artist who was influenced by African American bluesmen.

    So the question is when is it “borderline blackface parody” and then when is it “authentic”?

    Can anyone think of an artist that would fit the blackface parody/exploitive description?

  14. Obesity is an avoidable condition, and if you can’t take better care of yourself than that, I’m not sure I’m interested in your opinion of anything. Obesity is an epidemic in this country, and is a huge burden on the health care system, and it’s avoidable. So I think criticizing someone for being fat is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s like criticizing someone for not bathing for years. Take better care of yourself, man!

    Um, you can choose to bathe or not. I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure some people are genetically predisposed to certain conditions, obesity being one of ’em. Dunno if that’s DeRo’s case but, regardless, that’s a pretty broad statement, Mike V. And has no bearing on whether someone is knowledgeable about an unrelated subject. When DeRo starts offering dieting tips, then, OK, have at him. But were we to take your position, I’m sure many respected thinkers in all fields would be banished into irrelevance on a whim.

  15. Oh, man! I thought my follow up comment would at least mollify you a bit, Kiko! :-) Listen, I promise I won’t talk about DeRogatis’ weight anymore. I would like to know who some of the great obese thinkers are, though. I do think Chris Farley and John Candy were pretty funny guys. I’m at a loss after that.

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