LIKE A ROCK, SORT OF

Despite his flair for Camaro-Rock, Bob Seger is still important to the legacy of Detroit music. Ever seen pictures of him from back in the Bob Seger System days? Long hair snaking down his back, Lucky Strike dangling from his sneering lips, Seger was definitely a nails-for-breakfast Detroit rocker. Smokin O.P.’s, his 1972 release, even cops the Lucky Strike logo for its cover art. Sure, he chopped the locks in favor of an Eddie Money-style layer job. (Which could be a Samson-esque metaphor for his music pussy-ing out…). And he can never be forgiven for tripe like “Mainstreet” or “Shakedown.” But forever-shirtless Iggy Pop looks more like The Oldest Chili Pepper these days; and Alice Cooper does indeed play a lot of golf (“I’m Eighteen” holes?). So Seger’s in good company when he disses his D-Town Rock and Roll roots.

But back in the day (1968), there was the Bob Seger System, rocking out the bars and VFW halls in the Detroit/Ann Arbor circuit. The System released an album, “Ramblin’ Gamblin Man,” and the title track built a nationwide following after solid Michigan-area support. Its opening half-time drum beat gives way to a funky Hammond B3, which builds the shambling melody of a song about a rambling and gambling fellow. Not ground-breaking lyrics, but I bet if you saw Seger and his long hair screaming them out in a dingy backroom Detroit bar, you’d have thrown your hands in the air. The track possesses a great mix of Detroit-style, messy rock with a funky organ that wouldn’t be out of place on a hard-edged soul album. Which, coming out of Motown, isn’t exactly surprising.

It’s odd how success will make a band trade in its best components for the shiny new model. After achieving widespread acclaim for the “Live Bullet” and “Night Moves” LPs, Seger and his Silver Bullet Band collective went on to record the poor-man’s Springsteen rockers that are featured prominently on today’s classic rock radio. Much of the grit of his early work was lost forever, only clawing its way back into the music briefly, like in the vaguely disconcerting herky-jerky backbeat of “Hollywood Nights.” Sure, “Night Moves” and “Like a Rock” are nice enough songs. But they’re about as Detroit as a Le Car.

But Seger’s later work as a professional pansy shouldn’t diminish his early, rip-roaring days. Even though he is a member of classic rock radio’s glitterati, a great song like “Ramblin’ Man” is rarely played, letting it keep its vitality. And in that song’s scorching, gospel-funk chorus, Seger puts the hood up and shows off his Detroit rock engine, even if he’s since downgraded to something a lot cheaper and less balls-y. But that’s okay, Bob: Rock and Roll (and D-Town) never forgets. Which in your case, can be a good OR a bad thing.

JTL

Smartass Motor City Punks

Check out this letter to the editor from the July 6, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone:

I can’t help but notice that nearly every time you mention Detroit, it’s some sort of put-down. I wish you wouldn’t pass judgment on an entire city. Not everyone around here holds John Sinclair as his savior, or spends his time grooving on the MC5, Alice Cooper, the Stooges and so on. […] Not all of us are smartass Motor City punks.

Jeff Stern

Southfield, Mich.

Isn’t that great! Associating “punks” with the MC5 and the Stooges (and Alice Cooper — huh?) back in 1972. How cool is that?

Posted another Lester Bangs review. This time it’s Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality.

Continue reading Smartass Motor City Punks

Wilco Sighting

Click this for a bigger pictureWilco Sighting…

By now we’ve all seen Apple’s new ad for their CD-RW-enabled iMac. “Rip. Mix. Burn.” But there’s an extended version of that ad on their website that features our very own Jeff Tweedy. How you like me now? Pretty good? The extended version also features Iggy Pop and Aimee Mann.

IT’S NOT EASY MAKING DEALS WITH THE DEVIL ANYMORE

There are too many nameless crossroads intersecting throughout the Information Delta. You can’t just hunker in a ditch, waiting for The Prince to show up. Sure, in the old days, you’d get some songs together, do some travelin’, and eventually The Man (or his boys) would contact you. You’d know where to go, and the deal would go down as such. The idea was, sell your soul to the devil, and you might not be saved from eternal damnation, but you’d at least avoid earthly poverty and sell a few records in the process. The electric mud flowed, the kids danced, and the parents were angry.

But the devil has diversified.

And we’ve already lost. Remember the song’s warning: “if you lose, the devil gets your soul.” If it’s a conscious decision, fine. Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Screamin’ Jay, Ritchie Valens; those guys dealt directly with The Man in The Horns. Sure, he still screwed ’em. But at least he bought them a drink first. Nowadays, The Prince has got himself a board of directors (a band of demons?). And poor you, waiting out by the crossroads, you don’t even know what’s coming at you out of that darkness down the road. And that’s the way he likes it.

Keep their heads ringin’.

If the funk of 40,000 media outlets just keeps on truckin’, pumping its high-octane mix of jury-rigged Claymore entertainment into the porous, inviting frontal lobes of the TRL nation, then The Man and his peeps’ll just keep on raking in the dirty cash. And it’ll get darker before it gets light. Because things just aren’t that simple anymore. It’s like that 50s futureworld of a tangled mass of cables and circuitry, all buzzing with bleeps and blips has finally manifested itself in the form of a 24/365 media T-1000 that never quits in its Quest to Sell. Everybody knows that the gun is loaded, but no one’s going to give a shit until Stone Phillips’ faceplate comes loose and he looks like Yul Brenner in “Westworld.”

I guess you could say that media killed the radio star, but that wouldn’t be true. If you’ve got talent, you can still make it to the top, baby. Just look at the skyrocketing careers of our baby popstars: Britney, Christina, and Justin all got their start as gleeful cherubs on Mickey Mouse Club. Somehow, their respective parents/managers dropped those kids off at the right crossroads, at the right time, and the little dynamos didn’t even scream when The Prince came looking for a soul to steal. Fast forward 10 years, and that shiny fiddle made of gold is still the holy grail. Unfortunately, Mr Daniels was wrong in that song: The Devil wouldn’t give you that fiddle even if you DID play “Fire on the Mountain” and “Run, Boys Run.” I mean, this is The Man we’re talking about. He’s going to keep that fiddle hanging just out of reach, and everyone – including the popstars, talking heads, newsmen, actors, actresses, and TV presenters themselves – are going to keep on dancing ’til their feet fall off. We can’t blame anyone, and we’re not innocent, either. Because Axl was right. That old Man, he’s a mean motherfucker, and he’s going kick us right down the line.

Old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be.

JTL

Style vs. Substance

Warning to all, I’m in a particularly bitter and cynical mood today. But what a great lead-in to my continued rant about the Fourth Estate: “I can’t imagine MTV with all their censorship…”

Remember back when MTV was subversive and anti-corporate, almost like The Stone at its genesis?

I wasn’t even allowed to watch it because it was full of sex, drugs and rock and roll. I used to race home from school as fast as possible for about an hour of view-time, hoping to catch a Twisted Sister video before my mom got home from work. But now that it’s full of corporate-approved sd&rnr: Watch on kids, become better consumers. Is there anything in our lifetime that better exemplifies the commercialization of pop culture and its resulting affect on the world we live in? You want to name names, MTV is the one, The Devil Made Me Do It.

And for all the bally-hooed Internet Revolution (revulsion), I don’t see much going on that’s at all subversive to the prevailing society, government, corporate music industry, or anything else. Oh, we all read the Web sites about Lisl and get our alt.news and then go back to farting around at work, making jack for The Man to buy our crap at Ikea so that we can sit around and bitch about the sorry state of the world in comfort. And don’t give me “Napster, dude,” which was only sort of subversive, because the Old White Men put a stop to that right quick. Besides, when you really think about it, was a bunch of stoners trading unpaidfor copies 70’s disco tunes and bootlegged versions of ICP’s “Slim Anus” really revolutionary?

No. Because the Real Rock Revolution, historically, was about telling The Man to go fuck himself. You had something better, more Real, more Alive, and more fun than anything that He could dream up. You were smarter than He was and you didn’t buy His Pat Boone records. Rock and roll was a lifestyle, a way of thinking, a belief system. “Rock and roll can change your life.”

Rolling Stone changed lives. MTV changed mine and most of my friends’. But to that I say, “Yeah, so what?” We all know that these days. It did change our lives but it didn’t change much else. We told The Man to Take This Job and Shove It and we went out and got another J-O-B. We even got one where we, under the guise of being cool, decided to sell off a part of what rock and roll stood for. “Hey, I can make money marketing cool!?!?”

So we just continue to draw finer lines of cool, to absolutely no end. I do it all the time: “Britney sucks because she’s a corporate drone.” But why can’t Britney “change your life” too? She can, and does. And since no one really ever threw the Man off his or her back, it don’t matter, just don’t mind. Think about it for a second, does it really make a difference if you listen to Public Enemy instead of Backstreet Boys? In this day and age, not in the least, because you’re still lining up at Starbucks regardless.

So what’s next?

The appeal of rock has always been rebellion, but who are we rebelling against when a guy like Ronald Reagan drapes his presidential campaign with a Springsteen song that’s not even about the patriotic furor that the Elephants thought it was? (Or maybe they were smart enough to know that the American public would buy it anyway. Who really cares as long as I can pump my fist and shout, just don’t spill my beer.) And this was over 15 years ago; people haven’t been getting much smarter since.

But we have been getting cooler. We’re all hip to the Rock ethos. We’ve substituted this phony rebellion for anything real in the world. There is no rock and roll left, just marketing campaigns. There is no truth, no honesty, no nothing: All style, cool, no substance.

But why?

Blame falls on only one set of shoulders here, and yes, it is this thing, formerly known as The Press, currently known as The Media. But let’s just call it what it is: the corporate infotainment industry. To bring this entire rant full circle, remember the Lester Bangs character’s statement in Almost Famous, the crucial thing that he tells Crowe on the phone about journalists? “We’re not cool,” he admits. Funny how, in a world where everything has to be cool, the media shouldn’t be. But it is. Increasingly more so, every day.

This is wrong, absolutely wrong. Our job as a member of the Fourth Estate isn’t to make friends with the world, it isn’t to be a nice guy. It’s to be suspicious, critical, and keep these mofo’s in line. To keep society from being ignorant and stupid and liking shit music, shit culture, shit politicians, shit everything. We’ve been doing a really fucking good job, haven’t we? We suck.

And that, my friends, is the great crime of the turn of the century, that the media has substituted Rock and Roll cool for honesty. And thus, rock, in its conquering and all-powerful moment has come to destroy itself. Or rather, we have destroyed it. Part of the bargain that we made with rock in the 60s was that we’d die before we get old, that we’d have sympathy for the devil, that we would teach the fucking world to sing. But we didn’t. We didn’t change the world, we didn’t even really change ourselves.

Except we all got cool. Great. Enjoy that new mass-produced single and your 60-hour-a-week job and your closet full of Gap crap and your boring life that’s only punctuated by a few fleeting moments of greatness in anything before it becomes recycled and corporatized. And we’re really sorry, but we’re too busy sucking down free cocktails to care. Party like a rock star, dude. Or if you’re a journalist, just party with one.

Dubious Inclusions Damage Credibility Of Entire Record Collection

From this week’s Onion:

Dubious Inclusions Damage Credibility Of Entire Record Collection

HAMMOND, IN— The credibility of 26-year-old Jeff Gaskill’s record collection is badly damaged by the inclusion of several albums of dubious artistic merit, friend Rob Appel reported Monday. “He’s got tons of awesome stuff, everything from [X-Ray Spex’s] Germ Free Adolescents to [Al Green’s] Call Me,” Appel said of the 750-plus CD library. “But then, smack-dab in between The Pogues’ Rum, Sodomy & The Lash and Portishead’s Dummy is Poison’s Greatest Hits.” Continued Appel: “Before I could ask him what the hell it was doing there, I spot Hell Freezes Over by The Eagles. That record alone negates the coolness of Brian Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets and The Flying Burrito Brothers’ The Gilded Palace Of Sin.”

Morton Downey, Jr. R.I.P.

So get this, Morton Downey Jr. is dead! Yep, lung cancer finally got him. I was a big fan of his in high school— proof that parents should regulate what their kids watch on TV. What I never knew about the Mouth was that he was the dude who wrote “Wipeout.” Freaking amazing. Remember the Fat Boys version?

***

Okay, I’m adding this little note because it has been confirmed that the people at Salon are freaking idiots. Morton Downey Jr. no more wrote “Wipeout” than I wrote “Burn Hollywood Burn”. But hey, their rumor-mongering got this piece of news into the mix here at GloNo, so what the hey. If you want more details on this one, read the comments.

Lester Bangs reviews Bark

Just added another Lester Bangs review to the Features page. This time it’s of the Jefferson Airplane album, Bark from the November 11, 1971 issue of the Stone (which happens to also contain the first installment of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by “Raoul Duke”).

The next one will be a review of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality from the November 25, 1971 issue.

Continue reading Lester Bangs reviews Bark

Rock and roll can change your life.