Bill Clinton – An Appreciation – President’s mia culpa revisited by political satirist, James Campion

Reality Check Classics 8/19/98

BILL CLINTON – AN APPRECIATION

By my count Bill Clinton has now surpassed Ronald Reagan for most speeches filled with monumental dog crap. His address to the nation on August 17, although not quite as pathetic as Ronnie’s “I didn’t know anything about any Irna-Contra thing” babble or certainly no match for the all-time disingenuous pap of then vice president, Richard Nixon’s pathetic Checker’s Speech, was nonetheless an historical moment in the presidency. Officially, after 220 years this country has not produced a better liar than William Jefferson Clinton. For your dancing and listening pleasure here is that speech with defining comments parenthetically inserted.

Good evening. (hello suckers) This afternoon in this room, from this chair, I testified before the Office of Independent Counsel and the grand jury. (I’m shoveling the crap from here for three minutes so you won’t be needing to hear the nearly five hours of embarrassing and incriminating testimony I spewed under the guise of federal law) I answered their questions truthfully, (sort of) about my private life, (blow jobs from government employees) questions no American citizen would ever want to answer. (Of course no American citizen has a rent-free airplane, limos, and hundreds of armed guards)

Still, I must take full responsibility for all my actions, (7 months and $40 million of your dollars later) both public and private. (blow jobs in the rent-free White House) And that’s why I’m speaking to you tonight. (ran out of legal options) As you know, in a deposition in January (when I thought I could beat this rap) I was asked questions about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers were legally accurate. (legally O.J. Simpson is innocent) I did not volunteer information. (pretty much the definition of perjury)

Indeed I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was inappropriate. (inappropriate is an ambiguous term for kinky shit) In fact, it was wrong. (it was fine until I heard the word DNA) It constituted a critical lapse in judgment (fucked up) and a personal failure on my part (key words are “personal” and “my” – tell you why later) for which I am solely (key word) and completely (another key word) responsible. But I told the grand jury today, and I say to you now, that at no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action. (I’m using the words “personal”, “my”, “solely”, and “completely responsible” so you’ll buy this new and improved lie about obstruction of justice)

I know that my public comments (“Listen to me, I did not have sexual relations with that woman”) and my silence about this matter gave a false impression (more fancy verbiage for lied) I misled people, (politically correct way to say lied) including my wife (you know, what’s her name) I deeply regret that. (I’m pissed she found out) I can only tell you (because you buy most of my bullshit) I was motivated by many factors. First my desire to protect myself from embarrassment of my own conduct. (I’m out of control) I was also very concerned about protecting my family. (the sympathy props)

The fact that these questions were being asked in a politically inspired lawsuit (those bastards want to bring your beloved president down) which has been dismissed, (if it wasn’t for my damn penis I’d be scott free) was a consideration, too. In addition, I had real and serious concerns about an independent counsel investigation that began with private business dealing (illegal land scams) 20 years ago (I was young and stupid give me some slack), dealings (crimes) I might add, about which an independent federal agency (this Ken Starr guy you’ll be seeing trying to impeach your beloved president) found no evidence of any wrongdoing (guy couldn’t find Godzilla in a corn field) by me or my wife over two years ago. (its been awhile, give it up)

The independent counsel investigation (I’m off the blow job/lie thing and on the attack – follow me now) moved on to my staff and friends (more suckers I bilked) then into my private life (you know, the kinky in the rent-free federal office) And now the investigation itself is under investigation (they’re bad too – two wrongs equal innocence, use your imagination, like, my father beat me so I have to rape you stuff – you’re catching on!) This has gone on too long (if it weren’t for cum stains it would still be rolling) cost too much (my fault) and hurt too many people. (my fault again)

Now, this matter is between me, the two people I love most – my wife and our daughter – and our God. (those two can’t impeach me and I’ve got to throw God in here somewhere, don’t I?) I must put it right, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to do so. (I’ll be redefining that hyperbole later) Nothing is more important to me personally (are you getting my third grade attempt at telling you that I can handle this thing – there is no use in putting me on trial, I’ll handle this – me, the guy who lied) But it is private (get it?); and I intend to reclaim my family life for my family (redundant but slick) It’s nobody’s business but ours. (something I borrowed from Al Capone) Even presidents have private lives. (and cats have whiskers boys and girls)

It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and prying into private lives and get on with our national life. (national life? Made that up – like it?) Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long. (driving it home, baby) and I take responsibility for my part in all this (that’s what this charade is about) This is all I can do. (didn’t I just spew some garbage about doing whatever it takes, guess this three minute thing is “whatever it takes”)

Now it is time – in fact, it is past time – (driving it home mamma) to move on. (I admitted stealing the eraser, so no one should have to stay after class) We have important work to do (more chicks) real opportunities to seize (IRS investigations of all my enemies) real problems to solve (Paula Jones will be making a comeback after this) And so tonight, I ask you to turn away from the spectacle of the past seven months (I say its past and you will ignore it – damn it – you love me!) to repair the fabric of our national discourse (made that up too, dig my cryptic jive – yeah!) and return our attention to all the challenges and all the promise of the next American century. (how do I sleep at night?)

Thanking you for watching. And good night. (The brainwashing is done, go back to Jerry Springer and professional wrestling and leave me alone)

First published on 9/1/98 in The Aquarian Weekly. It is included with many others in jc’s new book, Fear No Art available now on jamescampion.com!

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NY Toll Madness – Pop Culture satirist and author, James Campion slams the EZ-Pass.

Reality Check Classics 11/18/97

NY TOLL MADNESS

A ’79 Mercury Cougar, a six pack of Bud cans, warm raspberry Margaritas, three $12 cigars, and an EZ-Pass; for two long hours it was all we had, my burly friend, Willie and myself. We were stuck in a major traffic jam on the approach to the Whitestone Bridge against a backdrop of snow flurries and an angry Mexican on our tail laying on his horn as if a battle ship were about to ram him. It was an education in patience and the art of the swerve. We did not surrender our wits, but sold the better part of our senses to the highest bidder, and it was not the Transit Police.

“Goddammit!” Willie yelled over the pumping radio noise. “What is the fucking point of this EZ-Pass if we have to sit here like trapped rats?!” He had conveniently forgotten he was the one who insisted on driving earlier that day. “You have no cassette deck,” was his reasoning. I did not argue.

“We might as well start on the beer,” I suggested, following closely the agitated tone in Willie’s voice and carefully placing it within the parameters of my own growing rancor.

Yes, of course, drink beer in a traffic jam. This seemed like the right thing to do at the time. It was just a bridge, and, after all, we were crawling. There was little we could do in the way of real damage.

Yes, of course, drink beer in a traffic jam. This seemed like the right thing to do at the time. It was just a bridge, and, after all, we were crawling. There was little we could do in the way of real damage. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The only problem, I was to learn, was that Willie did not handle pressure like the rest of us weary New York travelers.

That’s when we decided to hit the tepid Margaritas.

The Mexican was still leaning down on his horn. Willie rolled down his window. I can still hear its droning squeak. “How about I get out of this car and cram that fucking horn up your ass?!” Willie screamed. The Mexican could not hear him over the horn and the distortion blaring from the overworked speakers in our dashboard. Unfortunately, two sharply dressed black guys in the left lane heard him. They jerked back, immediately thinking the expletive-driven tirade was directed toward them. Down came their window.

By now a yellow-haired woman with thick glasses, driving a blood red Toyota of some kind, began waving her EZ-Pass at us, and started to edge her way in front of the Cougar. Willie did not see her. He had other concerns. “What did you say, fat boy?” the black guy in the passenger seat yelled as steam rose from his gritting teeth. “I’m not talking to you, asshole!” Willie yelled back, flailing his arms and causing his beer to spill about the front seat. I quietly sipped my Margarita, chased it with a cold shot of Bud, and sparked a cigar for us both. It was becoming painfully apparent we were not moving toward any bridge.

“Willie?” I called.

“What?” he blurted, refusing to take his eyes from the two angered black guys. “What do you think that woman’s doing up there?”

Eyeing the woman in the Toyota slipping ahead just inches from our bumper, Willie was incensed. Just as I asked the question, his head turned to watch the wave of her EZ-Pass in thanks for letting her in. It was then that events became hazy.

It took the Mexican 45 minutes to stop blowing his horn, but far less for one of the black guys to exit his car and start pounding on our roof. By now Willie’s bravado had peaked and appeared to take on the mellowing effect of mainlined Prozac. The two of them must have discussed the “asshole” thing and decided it needed physical restitution. But by the looks of the man’s face it would not be without the sacrifice of pain on someone’s part. My cigar was almost done, and through a slight afternoon buzz, I could not think of one solid reason for saving Willie from his own stupid anger. And, most importantly, I could not help but think why in hell we needed an EZ-Pass in the first place?

Willie offered the riled black guy a beer if he’d smack the Mexican, who was back to leaning on his horn.

He accepted.

Willie smiled.

It was time for another Margarita and one last drag on my $12 cigar. I didn’t know anything about an EZ-Pass, but there was nothing hard about this.

First published on 12/1/97 in The Aquarian Weekly. It is included with many others in jc’s new book, Fear No Art available now on jamescampion.com!

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Sinead O’Connor Live at the Beacon Theater – Concert Review by James Campion

 

Aquarian Weekly 9/13/97

REDEMPTION
Sinead O’Connor Beacon Theater 8/26/97

New York City

It is not particularly unusual to find the sheer raw talent of a singer stripped naked by the glare of the spotlight with her only weapon a wonderful voice piercing through a darkened hall like a siren of distinctionSinead O'Connor. It is only unusual if you consider Sinead O’Connor’s tempestuous career, filled with songs raging in blatant discourse, an appearance and demeanor of raucous rebellion, and questionable tactics budding from an unforgettable aura. Yet, on this night, an oblique, if not attractive woman; draped in an elegant white dress moving sinuously around the stage, served as a testament to a body of work as diverse and edgy as any hard-driving punk outfit.

Having seen O’Connor at the genesis of her bald-headed, black-army booted, in-yo-face run seven years ago, it was quite a change. Gone were her demonstrative movements declaring an inner rant which bore clarity to the ugly truth of her lyrics. Only the sting of the lyrics remained, buoyed by the beauty of the melodies and the incredible range and control of a voice that could raise goose bumps on a cadaver.

Sinead O'ConnorA six-piece band, including cello and accordion, enabled O’Connor to stand guitar-free, clutching her ever-present controls for an ear-monitor she uses as a crutch for perfection. The four-piece band known as The Screaming Orphans from Northern Ireland opened the show and more than ably slid into their roles as back-up singers for the evening. At key points their five-part harmonies lifted otherwise dreary dirges into sweet moments of orchestra, culminating in the vortex of an Irish folk revival.

Swerving through her entire, new six-song collection, Gospel Oak, and touching on choice numbers from her last two original studio works, O’Connor was visibly overwhelmed by the roof-raising ovations she received from the more than capacity crowd (both side aisles were jammed with people standing and applauding throughout). Responding with a wave, a giggle, and a brush of her hand through now a full head of brown locks, Sinead O’Connor put away the tantrums and overt displeasure her songs evoke, to merely sing them. And to those who recall her being mercilessly booed off the stage at the Bob Dylan tribute five years earlier, it was the best kind of redemption.

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Deep Tank Jersey Interview – Author, James Campion tells all about NJ Rock classic.

Press

The Independent Author Seminar 9/97

TRUTH IN EXPERIENCE : NONFICTION ON THE RUNA Discussion With Independent Author James Campion About Expose vs. Straight Storytelling

With his interesting depiction of musical road-life in Deep Tank Jersey, independent author, James Campion raises questions of truth in reporting, biographical material vs. baring all, and the use of personal stories as subplot. Published by Callaloo Press out of Brooklyn, NY in the summer of 1996, Campion’s first book has been praised in many entertainment and literary circles as a brutal, yet emotional look at the passion and pratfalls of maintaining celebrity by performers in the rock and roll age and a great snapshot of late twentieth century nightlife subculture.

IAS: Did you have an outlined agenda for Deep Tank Jersey when you began?

James Campion: Not at all. It was an inspiration from the start. The big joke between me and DogVoices, the band depicted in the book, was that I had no idea what I was doing. I went into it with the intention of being completely truthful at the moment of discovery. What I mean by that is I wrote what I perceived was their motivation or basic characteristics. Of course, later on I learned of traits that would belie my original depiction, but I did not change the descriptions or hunches from the earlier chapters.

IAS: So you had no preconceived notions about your subjects?

jc: Correct. I just knew that a story was there. I felt it unfair to the guys in the band or anyone I might encounter along the way to come in with any ideas. And that’s the reason why I wrote it, or tried for as long as I could, to write it as I went along. I made it a point not to change any of the content once it was down.

IAS: So you wrote it in chronological order?

jc: Well, I gave it the old college try, but when it came to the point of overload I took a great deal of notes and compiled most of the hard interviews and recorded the deeper discussions on tape. Then later on in the writing process I was able to jump around and formulate the story. It really wasn’t a book until about halfway through. Until that point it was more of a journal. I tried to discover, not report. This book has nothing to do with journalism. I may have used whatever skills I might have had available to me in that direction, but it was primarily a back-seat operation journalistically.

IAS: You used all the actual names of people you encountered?

jc: I did.

IAS: Were you confronted with the possibility of editing for protection of the subject or to keep the story in line?

jc: I did very little editing with the story. I’m sticking by the thing, because we all have to face the fact that it happened. If it didn’t happen I would’ve had some explaining to do. There are deeply personal and harrowing moments in there that for some bizarre reason people trusted I would get right. My only defense in case of argument is to plead ignorance. For instance, if something happened and I wasn’t there for all of it, my version becomes just hearsay translated. If I describe an event from the standpoint of only one view, my view, then that’s the way it appears in the book. It’s similar to walking into a dark basement with a flashlight and whatever my flashlight reveals I’m aware of. There could be a horrible creature lurking in the shadows, but unless my flashlight hits it, it ain’t nothing but conjecture or imagination. I tried to stay away from imagination. That’s for fiction.

IAS: Would you describe Deep Tank Jersey as an expose?

jc: No. I didn’t compile the information as a reporter and I certainly didn’t dissect the subject matter like a reporter. This is really a story about me being thrown into a world I once knew pretty well, but only years later, with people I hardly knew. I think an expose is more of a harsh depiction of events. Now, that doesn’t mean the book fails to be in-depth or edgy. I got plenty of shit for it.

IAS: But as a work of nonfiction, shouldn’t it be incumbent on the author to explain, and in the explaining, there is a level of judging?

jc: If I think someone is an asshole, then that is opinion. If I think someone is insane, then that’s an observation. Wildly bizarre activity gives me the right to describe the participant as insane. Assholes are subjective types.

IAS: Yes, but you are still presenting an image for the reader that could be construed as your opinion.

jc: Listen, there were drunks and drugged-up sex and violence going on all over the place. That isn’t opinion, that’s fact. If I agree or disagree with these activities; now that’s opinion. Music can be loud. I am describing the music. The music is too loud. That’s opinion. I don’t see that as a fine line. Pretty thick line.

IAS: Were there stories that you left out for space constraints, or because it didn’t fit into the way the main story was moving along?

jc: If you’re intimating that I wrote everything that happened to me, no. But that’s a main process of writing this type of book anyway. You have to know when something is worth reading. I’ve had people ask me why the hell a particular scene is in there, but I knew at the time it had to be there. The Simon & Schuster people were thinking about chopping the book up. Those last weeks when they came down to the shore to badger me, they brought proof editors that wanted to know what the fuck was I doing being so goddamn honest about what they deemed was insignificant personal shit. You try explaining that to these people. Once the book was out I received a great deal of feedback in the other direction. Many readers felt there was no story without that personal honesty. That’s where I was luckiest in writing my first book in a journal style. I had the balls to tell Simon & Schuster that I couldn’t touch the chapters once they left my head. So they stuck me in publishing limbo and I went in another direction. Nothing against them. Many people in the industry think that’s nuts. But it’s a great lesson to learn. You’ve got to trust your instincts at some point: good or bad. There’s always something missing.

IAS: Something missing?

jc: Most comments I get from those who know the scene revolve around me just stopping short of getting a story. Others think it too in-depth to the point of being painful. I’ve had people tell me they actually cringed at things I thought were commonplace, but that is the point of leading someone down a path. That’s the point of presenting a story.

IAS: The abuse of drugs, or mostly alcohol: do you think that by making light, or even not judging it, you are condoning it?

jc: A guy from some Jersey magazine called me for an interview and plainly told me that he thought I romanticized excessive drinking in the book. I don’t know how you can read the thing and tell me that. Drinking is in the culture. I wrote the entire book in the glare of neon beer signs. It’s a book about nightlife, and I’ve got news for people, nightlife equals drinking. It is a cottage industry in selling alcohol. Band sells it, club sells it, the summer sells it. That’s the story. That’s the dark underbelly of Deep Tank Jersey. I did not feel that judging anyone had merit in the book. And when you’re immersed in the shit, you cannot point fingers.

IAS: Doesn’t that lend itself to the cliché rather than the exception for your subject matter?

jc: Life is cliché. If you decide to delete that from your manuscript then you’re not doing your job as a writer. You’re selling the story short. You’re cheating your reader. They want to smell it, taste it, feel it. They want to be inside of it for that moment. That’s why I read. It’s not about fixing it. It’s about knowing it.

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Quadrophenia Show 1996 – Concert Review by James Campion

 

East Coast Rocker 7/30/97

RESURRECTION
Quadrophenia Madison Square Garden 7/16/96

New York City

For whom it may concern; Pete is God.

Of course that is the kind of statement that might have spewed forth from my days of raucous adolescence when passionate angst coursed through my burgeoning hormones. But for a few hours, during the opening night Pete Townshendperformance of The Who’s Quadrophenia last Tuesday, that is exactly where I returned.

Townshend, (the aforementioned Pete) songster, guitar-smasher, and part-time publisher, fresh from his success with the resurrection of Tommy on Broadway, and his last theatrical composition, Psychoderelic, took the time to relive arguably his finest work. And for six nights at the Garden last week he, the other to surviving members of Who–Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle–and a sixteen piece band, including four background singers, a full brass section, and percussionist, presented his magnificent musical story like never before.

When The Who released Quadrophenia in 1973, playing its intricate arrangements with four musicians turned out to be a Herculean task never quite conquered. The double album, (they had records in those days, as you may know) with its well-timed sound effects, tape loops, and involved orchestrations, had always been beloved and revered by Who fans and the rock community, but could never be properly performed.

However, from the opened notes of “The Real Me” amid the booming strains of an angry ocean and full screen of visuals, The Quadrophenia Show set the musical record straight.

Daltrey, dressed casually in a tank top and jeans, was in full voice and sounding better than even the distant past. Aided by a monitor earpiece, his vocals on such challenging numbers as “I’ve Had Enough” and “Love Reign O’er Me” were near perfection, and in some cases a newer and sharper voicing could be heard. Entwistle, still looming and stoic on stage left, lent interpretive bass lines long buried in the psyche of what Townshend himself has always said was “the last great Who album.”

The band, including Ringo Starr’s kid, Zak on drums and Pete’s brother Simon on rhythm guitar, did their homework. Culling every key lick and chop from this extensive collection of songs, they provided a meticulous backdrop for the emotional theatrics of the story.

Daltrey and TownshendThe sound, a stark separation of vocals and intricate instrumentation, was flawless; pumping at top volume without the loss of clarity needed in the dramatic renderings of such songs as “Dr. Jimmy”, “The Punk and the Godfather,” and the haunting “Is It in My Head?” Guest appearances by Garry Glitter as the gruff Rocker and Billy Idol as the pretentious, yet sad, Ace Face helped breathe renewed life into heretofore uncharted character development. And to move the plot along Townshend and co-producer/manager, Bill Curbishley recruited the acting talents of Phil Daniels, who played the protagonist, Jimmy in the 1979 movie, as narrator.

It was a show for the rabid fan as well as the interested observer, doing the haunting libretto and sonic orchestration proud. Due to the cohesive aspect of the work, and the consistent pace of the show, there were few specific highlights save for the explosion of audience and act during Quadrophenia’s cornerstone number, “5:15.” It was one of the rare times a rock show captures the essence of the material and translates it to perfection.

Townshend, who through the years has been known as a hard-ass perfectionist and whining pessimist when approaching his work, could be seen grinning during the band’s four encores, which combined sweet nostalgia with hard-edged force. With an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder, he was in fine voice and ecstatic temperament; singing and cavorting throughout the show with a fervor rarely seen in his more recent performances, solo or with the group.

For many fans of the genre, including myself, Townshend’s second and most endearing full-length “rock opera” is his greatest legacy as a composer. The universal story of a confused teenager railing against the hypocrisy of society, which helped many of us get through our similar quandary, has resonated for two decades. To see it revived as a road show could’ve been disappointing at best, but was brilliant and entertaining at the very least.

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Counting Crows and The WallFlowers Live at PNC Arts Center – Concert Review by James Campion

 

Aquarian Weekly 7/28/97

IN THEIR PRIME Counting Crows / The Wallflowers PNC Arts Center 7/14/97

Holmdel, New Jersey

Rarely do headlining rock acts take a step to the side to allow for shared equality in popularity. But with the rise of Bob Dylan’s kid and his nostalgic combo, The Wallflowers, Counting Crows leveled the playing field for one balmy night in New Jersey. Both bands received similar ovations, producing inspired encores, while slicing into the pocket of understated licks and subtle energy to pump out two sets of uneven intensity.

Duritz & DylanJakob Dylan led his five-piece band through an hour-plus set of their second CD, Bringing Down The Horse, which has sold over three million copies and has been pumped through modern rock and pop radio ad nauseum for close to a year. Almost forgettable in appearance and nearly devoid of any stage histrionics, the band was tight and extremely composed while sounding eerily like a 90s’s version of The Band, who ironically backed his dad’s initially maligned and eventually oft-celebrated first electric phase during the mid 60s’. This was made abundantly clear during a fine rendition of the classic group’s biggest single, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”,  which served as a highlight, along with a soulful reading of The Wallflower’s first hit, “6th Avenue Heartbreak” with accompaniment by Counting Crows’ lead singer, Adam Duritz.

Although looking frighteningly close to his father’s once imposing stage presence, Dylan, now considered the latest in a line of reluctant sex symbols, seemed a little embarrassed by the screams from the predominantly female audience; going as far as to playfully berating them for not standing and dancing.

The Counting Crows, also touring their second effort, Recovering The Satellites, which unlike The Wallflowers disc has been a commercial step back to its riveting predecessor, August And Everything After, eased slowly into the evening’s proceedings with broad and humble strokes. With wonderful texture and remarkable dynamics, the more energetic of the two bands looked to be in their prime; moving through a healthy catalog of lyrically packed musical vignettes.

No band outside of the 60s’ era, and certainly none in the cookie-cutter age of video, so consistently reinvents a song like Counting Crows. There was no better example than on this night. Beginning with many new songs including, “Daylight Fading” and “Catapult”, through emotionally dynamic renditions of fan favorites like “Anna Begins”, “Rain King” and the enigmatic, “Mr. Jones” the audience was treated to a band in constant creative motion, like an open jam or private rehearsal stripped bare and caressed with smooth melody. Unlike The Wallflowers set, which seemed to drag in the mire of mid-tempo, there were moments of spontaneous beauty as in the closing numbers, “Round Here” and “A Long December”, when singer and primary songwriter, Duritz pranced around poetry and overt longing to explode into pure adrenaline and purpose.

To his credit, Duritz effectively toes the line of pretension without sinking into helpless melodrama,thanks in no small part to a band made up of excellent musicians and even better interpreters of sense and style.

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Ani DiFranco Live at the Capitol Theater – Concert Review by James Campion

 

East Coast Rocker 4/5/97

A FIERCE GRACEAni DiFranco The Capitol Theater 3/21/97

Porchester, NY

It is the angry angel serenade; this fireball of female seduction with an Ani DiFranco acoustic guitar slung over a round shoulder below the spray of bright blue hair. She welcomes the bulging audience like a whimsical lover; crossed between reason and distraction. Ani DiFranco has spent the decade, seven albums, and a touring life proving she is arguably the finest singer/songwriter today. Her latest show is quite simply a gorgeous example of this.

With her usual passion and purpose she stalked the relatively empty stage of the small venue, save for the drums (Andy Stochansky) off to stage left, and bass (Jason Mercer) on the right. The ambiance of the classic theater, and the sparse accompaniment, lent a surreal intimacy to her signature jerky movements in and out of the multicolored spotlight which radiantly reflected her distant stare. No performer demands such total attention when winding through an impressive catalog of musical stories as when DiFranco is face first in the swirl of her talent. On this night, only the fifth date of a five-month tour through the U.S. and Europe, she slid effortlessly through her more recent numbers with a fierce grace. The highlights included a slithering version of “Shy”, a soulful rendering of “Untouchable Face”, and a riveting exhibition of her brilliant, “Dilate” which ended in an explosion of applause.

Ani DiFrancoDiFranco explored the many layers of her growth from a 19 year-old folkie to the original meld of punk, hip-hop, and lyrically driven rambles; resting easily in the various rhythmic changes. The aisles would eventually be filled with dancing kids caught in the rapture of sexually charged songs like “Shameless”, which drives off the pulse of DiFranco’s unique picking/strumming style. The woman wields the finest right hand since Pete Townshend jammed his wrist through the whammy bar of an abused Stratocaster. All the while her voice hovers, roaming her register for notes, and the noteworthy, scraping around a quirky shrill with an assault of phrasing.

Not since Dylan had a prime has one artist captured the displaced voice of the “other side” quite like Ani DiFranco. When she sings, “The butter melts out of habit, the bread isn’t even warm”, the irony induces a smile and a tear. When she sings, “I am a work in progress”, you anxiously await the next phase.

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DogVoices Book – Review of James Campion’s true life New Jersey Rock and Roll story.

Press

Steppin Out 1/29/97

ONE MAN’S JOURNEY INTO THE SOUL OF A NEW JERSEY CLUB BAND

by Dorian Marrone

Deep Tank JerseyA DogVoices book? Yes. And No. Author, James Campion spent an entire summer touring the New Jersey club circuit with the band. His experience is chronicled inthe book, Deep Tank Jersey. Campion dives right into the heart of the band. No subject is taboo, be it personal or professional. From Monte’s notorious–some say dangerous–stage antics to the band’s feelings on touring, fans, and each other.

The book shows how the blending of five very different personalities keeps the band in check. From reserved, business-minded Rich to crowd-pleaser, Monte, the spiritual mayor of Long Beach Island (read the book for the whole story.)

But the book is not just about DogVoices.

The whole New Jersey club scene is explored from the inside–perhaps for the first time. Bands, clubs, owners, managers, fans, crew. And, of course, women.

Sidenote: The book is especially of interest to anyone who ever asked one of the following questions: Why do I do this to myself? Where the hell am I? What’s in that? Why is everything blurry?

Books by James Campion are available on this web site or at Amazon & Barnes & Nobleclick to order

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Prince at the Roseland Ballroom – Concert Review by James Campion

East Coast Rocker 1/25/97

UNLEASHING BEINGS
The Artist Formerly Known As Prince
Roseland Ballroom 1/11/97

New York City

It was sometime around 10:30 PM huddled behind a sizable sound board amidst the screaming throng, when a bolt of memory crashed into the side of my skull with the sheer force of a gale wind. It was something Tori Amos had told The Chicago Tribune in response to a question about the source of creativity.

The words jumped off the page that day as clearly as they rammed a particularly tender side of my brain, which was being throttled by the second hour of another high-octane show by The Artist, the first musical event staged in New York City since the appellative death of Prince Rogers Nelson. ““This is what my life is”,” Amos said. ““These beings. They come in and out like fragments.””

My eyes were transfixed by the five-foot dynamo dressed in a black pinstripe outfit with tails and a high collar, who hadn’’t stopped moving to the push and pull of the rhythms pulsating from his five-piece band, as if he were willed by the music like a marionette dangling from invisible strings.

Surely The Artist had reinvented himself for the duration of his 17-year career, changing fashion and hairstyle with the same schizophrenic passion as David Bowie, but most of all he had continually transformed himself musically; crawling inside various genres and striking its muse like the second and third comings of Frank Zappa. These songs, hundreds a year, were pouring out of him like separate beings, many fragments of one man.

The other words which came to mind just then were the ones written in bold print on the press pass folded in the breast pocket of my winter coat: EMANCIPATION CELEBRATION. The show was in every sense an outpouring of freedom and intense expression from the opening note of “”Jam Of The Year”,” which by no coincidence is the overture to The Artist’’s latest collection of “beings.” The 36-song opus, arguably his finest and most consistent body of work since the brilliant, Sign ‘’O’ The Times nine years ago, marks the end of his epic battle with Warner Bros. and supposedly heralds the long-awaited DAWN; first promised on the inside jacket of his most popular record, Purple Rain.

“This is not a promotion for anything,” The Artist told the eclectic, sold-out crowd. “From now on this is all about love for one another.” This prompted even the most cynical among us, who might have raised an eyebrow or two when first hearing about the man’’s name becoming a self-styled symbol, to feel the effusive energy and burning spirit.

What was more of an impromptu show than his polished tours, it pulsated without the usual pretense. Unlike the stage epics I’’d seen in the past, dating back to the original Revolution, this was an isolated event, less contrived and vibrating with a looser array of songs and jams.

The latest incarnation of The Artist’’s New Power Generation band featured two keyboards, drums, and exceptional female guitar and bass players. Tight as a glove and responding to the slightest movement of The Artist’’s hip grind, or wave of his hand, this musical ensemble, like so many of his in the past, was akin to a collection of sonic pinball ornaments throwing around staccato breaks and flowing changes in key and tempo. Each song segued perfectly into another with The Artist as the disc-jockey; conjuring up an invisible conductor to some triumphant symphony in his head. He jumped onto piano, guitar, and bass, to initially spice up the musical soup, but would inevitably explode over the top as if the entire song was written for its purpose.

The unexpected treat of the relaxed atmosphere was the passionate rediscovery of older numbers like “”Purple Rain”,” and B-side rarities like “’17 Days”,” and “”How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”” The latter becoming an all-out gospel rendition complete with searing organ yelps and jazzy chords played by The Artist, who leaned purposely over a powder-blue baby grand piano while playfully camping with the audience. Having disdained his bulging catalog the last few years there seemed–on the night– to be also an emancipation of fan favorites like ““If I Was Your Girlfriend”,” ““The Cross”,” ““Sexy MF”,” “Take Me With You”,” and “”Raspberry Beret”,” to which he let the crowd sing the infectious chorus and asked genuinely surprised, “”You remember this?””

The highlight of the memory-lane portion of the show rested in a soulful and sexually charged medley of The Artist’’s finest romantic ballads, beginning with a 10-minute instrumental wherein every member of the band took a solo. The almost half-hour ride through songs like ““Do Me Baby”,” ““Adore”,” and ““Scandalous”” presented a side of The Artist which is often taken for granted, since these are the tunes he can seemingly pen during a lengthy yawn. But the joint truly imploded whenever one of his new songs would crash the party with a savage kick drum and an ungodly groove, illustrating some of The Artist’’s slickest and funkiest licks in years. Through each scorching number he looked reborn, not just as an artist, but as a person; removing the screen he’’d so carefully built between himself and the audience for so many years.

Songs like “”Get Yo Groove On”,” ““Right Back Here in Your Arms”,” and ““Mr. Happy”,” which recall the sounds of James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Earth Wind an Fire, still leaves his stamp in the equation; proving his exceptional songwriting prowess, while exhibiting why he is the perfect performer; an amalgamation of talent and gall enough to carry an abuse of boundaries to a new level.

Before the night was over he took a moment to address his new “Love 4 One Another” foundation, which will help the needy while imploring everyone to leave a better person. This may be commonplace at a Bruce Springsteen outing, but is downright shocking coming from a man who has had his share of positive messages draped with flash and metaphor.

There was a moment during the particularly scathing “”Face Down”” in which he rapped vitriol against the cold, bottom-line of the music business, but by leading the audience inside his fight for creative freedom of expression, the fragments became one. He was free, at least that’’s what he kept telling us; developing brand new counter melodies and rhythms by coaching us through sing-a-longs and chants. It was then, allowed to peer into the mind of one of pop music’’s true geniuses, those lucky enough to attend could clearly see all the fragments and beings forever binding the music with the composer.

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The Nerds, Dogvoices and the New Jersey Club Scene Revisited – Author of Deep Tank Jersey, James Campion Interview.

Press

Aquarian Weekly

8/14/96

DEEP TALK JERSEY

jcA conversation with James Campion, the author of the book, Deep Tank Jersey, about a summer on the New Jersey club circuit with the band DogVoices.

Aquarian – What exactly is Deep Tank Jersey about?

James Campion – It’s really a story about me, and in effect, the reader. Anyone caught up in a new society–a new world–where you’re the outsider trying like hell to grasp the manner in which these people you meet co-exist to create that world, is likely to find something out about themselves. I’m no psychologist, but it’s pretty obvious to me that if you throw divergent, young personalities into a sub-culture of sex, dance, violence, booze and fervent release you’re going to get interesting results. And the story of DogVoices runs right through this world. Amazingly enough, the band not only calls this world home, but its work place as well.

So this is not just a biography of the band.

Well, it’s that as well. I don’t know if you can spend that much time with people and not find out a great deal about their make-up, their past, what makes them tick, and what put them there in the first place. And I was extremely lucky to have met these particular guys, because to their credit they made the thing write itself. I’d never experienced the type of honesty I received from those guys and the people they worked with; honesty about their craft, each other, and the events that took place while I was on board. I was very lucky.

Do you think they were careful not to reveal too much of themselves because they knew you were writing about them, or in some cases, do you think they put on a little more of a show to spice up the story?

Only they could tell you that. From my vantage point all summer the band seemed to be feeling each other out as well as their audience and the clubs. Remember, this was the birth of a band from two separate competing units. The singer, Monte, was from a band called Who Brought the Dog, and the rest of the band made up a band called Voices. They were both successful acts in their own right. There was enough going on to worry about aside from me. But as far as holding back, no, because I have to admit there were things that were said and done that at times were probably not too flattering, but again, to their credit as artists they respected my intentions and after I got to know them better I think they trusted me with their stories. I know if someone was to follow me around with a running, objective diary of the events of my life, I would want the truth in there. I got the feeling that they didn’t quite see the point of what I was doing and just let life take its course.

And I imagine a wild course at that.

I’m not easily shocked, but I have to say that some things took me for a loop. All in all though, the reaction I received from the preliminary reads of the original manuscript were exciting, and the people who’ve read the book thus far, many of them never even had met the band at all, were incredulous over the lifestyle and the craziness. As a writer, when you delve into such a project you’re lucky if you find anything out of the ordinary, but this type of thing lends itself to the bizarre. Again, just imagine punching the clock in their factory for a week or two. It’s a nice place to visit, but … you know the rest.

What does the reader learn about the New Jersey club circuit; this collection of rock clubs that house millions of people a year to see all the local bands?

The business aspect of the way the wheels turn is only a subtle sub-plot. You see, the way I approached it was very much first person, and I could only write what my eyes picked up, and the experience that results from that vision. This is in no way an expose of the inner workings of these places or even the band as a rule. Although I’m ostensibly a journalist, and approach most things as such, the book is more like some fun ride in a carnival and I’m the seat with the rusty bar that lands at your waist. Whatever I’m experiencing, you will as well. There could be many things happening in the darkness, but if I don’t put a light on it, your imagination will have to take over. I expect my readers to have an active imagination, an extra eye that sees deeper than the author. When I was a kid I loved to read books and see films that lead you down an unknown path. I don’t want the artist to figure out for me what conclusions I’ll make. Believe me, there’s enough information going on out there, it’s time for people to start coming to their own conclusions.

So your saying the book puts the reader in the story rather that tells them one.

I would hope so, yes.

What about the self-discovery you mentioned before?

I was very much embroiled in the same problems and trials as these guys many years ago. It was on a smaller scale though, because it is important to note that we are talking about a certain level of fame and pressure here. This isn’t the Stones ’72 American tour or anything, but this is only a level or two below that. I mean, DogVoices is arguably the second biggest draw on one of the most lucrative and legendary rock n’ roll club circuits in the entire country. Aside from the powerful draw of The Nerds, who appear in the book as well, DogVoices is the next top act. And it’s funny, but ever since writing the book and getting to know the guys in the band as friends, I’ve learned that people outside of Jersey are shocked at the numbers of people who flock to these clubs to see bands play popular songs. Out in L.A. or even in New York, the club scene is dominated by the dance thing, or bands playing original music like my band did years ago. Agents and bands from other towns marvel at the money and crowds talked about in this book for what I label “The Human Jukebox.” But really, in the end, my self-discovery is the realization that music is a universal love and release. There is a constant stream of violence and animal-instinct explosion that rises in any good rock n’ roll audience. I think if there is one thing I learned during my days on the road, was that the more things change the more they really do stay the same in this country. I don’t see much difference between this generation’s explosion and the one’s prior. It’s how we recall these images and events that make for legend. The older we get, you know, the more interesting our past lives become. A story is only as good as the storyteller.

It’s almost like the experience of listening to music itself .

Yeah, and that’s why I didn’t include the titles of songs the band was doing at one time or another. I didn’t want to date the thing by putting it in a certain time-frame. I prefer letting whatever music the reader deems appropriate ring in their head. Music is, after all, the soundtrack of our lives. I would hope that the book– ironically about musicians and the people who feed off their music– is like a literary symphony. Because the fact is, I could listen to Beethoven’s Ninth or a Chuck Berry record and feel something completely different from you, even if we listen to it at the same, precise moment with all the outside factors being equal. The best and most honest feelings come from inside anyway. That’s the salvation of art for me. I hoped to feel the same in my writing. Doing this has helped me get closer to that.

This is your postcard from the edge.

Wish you were here.

I don’t suppose you’ll be telling anyone what The Deep Tank is?

I really couldn’t without you having read the book. It’s like trying to explain the impact of a home run in the bottom of the ninth in a game where you just turned on the tube. Not even Kerouac was that good. You gotta run the race to cross the finish line.

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