THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE ROLLING STONES

Aquarian Weekly
6/22/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE ROLLING STONES
In Praise of The Sun and the Moon and The Rolling Stones & A Candid Discussion with Author, Rich Cohen

There must be hundreds of books written about the Rolling Stones. Conservatively, I have read about twenty to twenty-five, half of which I would deem good, and less than a third great. Rich Cohen has managed to write a spectacular one. It is aptly titled; The Sun and the Moon and the Rolling Stones, taken from something Keith Richards told the author in 1994 when he was covering the band for Rolling Stone. You see, like me, Cohen, and a preponderance of humans inhabiting this spinning sphere, we don’t know a world without the Stones. What we’re talking about here is the abiogenesis of rock and roll; the subatomic atoms of modern pop and rock, the DNA of global youth culture.

rs_0622

Here is Cohen’s remarkable achievement; he explains this phenomenon in a most novelistic way; deconstructing the characters and framing the period dominated by the Stones with great care. His is a story of many Rolling Stones; the blues cover band, the British avant-garde, the neo-American hybrid, the faux-celebrity-junkie-chic marauders, a reinvented, reconfigured reflection of rebellion, and, of course, rock star excess. It is throughout all this explaining that Cohen dives into personal experiences with the band, as a kid, as a teen, as a reporter, as an historian. Each expression is a unique one, and some even deal in contradictions; like all great heroic literature.

It is a fascinating read; treading the difficult balance of appealing to the casual observer and a rabid fan.

How the hell did he do it?

“I had to basically pretend I was writing fifty years from now and everybody’s dead and worry about the consequences later,” Cohen explains over the phone from his Connecticut home, the enthusiasm in his voice quite evident in the pace in which he recalls the journey. “I thought, ‘It’s such a huge story and every book is right in the middle of it, but if you can sort of step back and write about it like you would write about World War II or Winston Churchill, then you can see what things meant and how things happened and see the whole picture.’”

To drive this point home, Cohen casually notes the inspiration of a Wallace Stevens poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. “If you can get a lot of different angles on something you can ultimately get something that’s alive and in-depth,” he continues. “So if you can see the Rolling Stones from the point of view of a kid, from the point of view of a rock journalist, from the point of view of an older guy, and then from the points of view of Maryanne Faithfull, from the point of view of reporters covering Altamont, and you can put all that together and you can get a complete picture of them.”

The Sun, the Moon and the Rolling Stones puts an epic into tidy perspective, another pretty impressive feat, all boiled down to the two figures at the eye of the storm, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards – childhood friends, confidants, combatants, and co-conspirators; growing up together in the cauldron of infamy. “To me, what’s interesting about Jagger and Richards is that it’s the completely typical friendship we’ve all had,” says Cohen. “You have these friends when you’re young and you want to be together all the time, you live together, and then at a certain point, you grow up and you’re not together anymore. And so much of their music came from them being together; hanging out for hours and hours and coming up with these songs, and once they grow up, they’re not together any more, and the music changes.”

Cohen captures two seemingly insignificant slices of life that act as lasting portraits of the two men; Richards playfully lecturing a business man on an airplane about life and Jagger chasing corrupt manager, Allen Klein, wanting to beat him up. I wondered if he had found these characteristics – Keith, the libertine braggart, and Mick, the myopic pragmatist – prevalent when he met them in the 1990s. “Absolutely! But exaggerated,” he says. “All of the trouble that they’ve had, it’s all there from when they first meet. It’s just two completely strong personalities that are complementary, but clash. It is calculating in a good way and necessary for the survival of that band.”

Pressed further, Cohen provides deeper insight into the gears that makes the colossal machinery rumble along mostly unimpeded for five decades: “If Mick was going to go in a swimming pool, he would go look at, figure out the depth, and then take off his bathing suit and jump in. Keith would just run and jump in without looking… in all of his clothes. It’s like two totally different kinds of guys. And right at the beginning, when I first met them, Keith’s got his doctor’s bag. He’s taking whatever he’s taking. He’s playing the guitar. He’s saying crazy, cryptic things. He’s laughing. He’s smoking. And Mick is sitting in the trailer on the phone talking business. And you need that guy. That’s why the Rolling Stones are still playing. And also I don’t think Jagger gets enough credit for insisting, right from the beginning when Brian Jones only wanted to hire him, “I don’t go in without Keith.” He’s always brought Keith along in that way.”

The book’s most poignant moments centers on a uniquely Stonesian trait; the absorption of people and places to fuel their music and enhance their image before blithely casting them asunder; the cold brilliance of which cannot be ignored when discussing the band’s lasting influence on the whole of Western culture for half a century. “They have to make this decision,” he says. “What are they willing to sacrifice for what they want, which is basically wealth, fame, and to be rock stars?”

This begins, according to Cohen, when the band decides early on to jettison original member Ian Stewart on the premise that “he doesn’t fit the image’, as put down by young hipster manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. It is a ruthless moment Cohen says causes the Stones to “lose their soul”, which happens again and again with such influences as original roommate, James Phelge, Jagger’s girlfriend, Maryanne Faithful, the band’s witchy matriarch, Anita Pallenberg, and the feeble but talented Graham Parsons. Eventually it would happen to Oldham, and tragically to founding member, Brian Jones, who would be kicked out of the band after years of deteriorating drug abuse and eventually drown in his pool at the age of twenty-seven.

“It’s very obvious what happened to Brian Jones,” Cohen recounts to me in a matter-of-fact tone. “He had this idea for a band and the band became more successful than he planned on and he lost control it. Not because of any evil thing, but because people identify with the singer. It’s just the way it works. You know, you go to a Frank Sinatra concert; you’re looking at Frank Sinatra. You’re not looking at the Count Basie Orchestra. So the singer becomes the star.

“Then Mick and Keith write ‘Satisfaction’ and that’s it. And Brian Jones is sort of now a second tier figure in his own band. And then you mix in all the other stuff, which are Anita Pallenberg and the LSD and his paranoia and his own probably pretty bad personality. Now you got a guy, who doesn’t actually kill himself, but he basically puts himself in a situation where he can easily die, over and over again, and then one night he does die. And what the Stones did was they realized at a certain point that they couldn’t hang onto him, they couldn’t save him, and he was just dragging them down… so they got rid of him.”

Once again, the fascinating aspect of The Sun, the Moon and the Rolling Stones is its intriguing compartmentalizing of the Stones career through its early incarnations of blues, psychedelia, country-rock, stadium rock, and on and on, that is broken up in two stages by one tragic event; Altamont. The chapter, which the author calls the book’s anchor, is riveting, and puts in motion Cohen’s perspective style; as it gets beneath the surface of the tragedy of a myopic counterculture disaster rife with drug-addled violence that ends in the fatal stabbing of a gun-wielding kid by the Hell’s Angels.

Stirring first-hand accounts from stage manager, Sam Cutler, doctor, Robert Hyde, who carried away the mutilated body of the twenty-two year-old, Meredith Hunter, the late Albert Maysles, whose film cameras imprinted the carnage forevermore in the seminal, Gimmie Shelter, and many others provide new insights into what is arguably the mythical epoch to not only the Stones story, but that of the 1960s and the latter half of the twentieth century. “After getting all these stories you wind up with what I saw as this kind of kaleidoscopic scene at the end of the 1960s that was so intensely covered at the time, and now when it’s written about it’s either written about too closely or not at all,” Cohen reasons. “It’s like there’s no stepping back and looking at it like, ‘What really happened?’ and what it really meant without getting emotional about it.”

The book’s most poignant moments centers on a uniquely Stonesian trait; the absorption of people and places to fuel their music and enhance their image before blithely casting them asunder

Another device Cohen uses wonderfully in the storytelling is his trips to the places that “created” the Stones, like the original, putrid Edith Grove apartment, where Mick, Keith and Brian dreamed up their destinies, and most notably the infamous Villa in the South of France called Nellcôte, where Richards convened the band in tax exile to record arguably the Stone’s, and the genre’s, finest statement; Exile on Main Street. The author describes his impetuous trespassing, as he jumps the fence and sets the haunting mood of this once mystical hub of rock debauchery, camaraderie, and creative discovery. It is something Cohen believes is ingrained in the entire Stones legacy.

“One of the great things that’s key to the Rolling Stones is they have great taste,” he says. “They started out copying really good music, and that’s what they did for everything. If you look at Mick Jagger, and the art that he would have around him, in his house, its great art. Like years before you’d hear of painters, he knows this guy’s a great. That means when they would go work, they’d do it in great places.”

Cohen knows about those kinds of places, as he, Jagger, and master director, Martin Scorsese hit it out of the park with the dynamic and spot-on depiction of New York City’s smoldering hot-bed of musical reinvention for HBO’s Vinyl. Just as in the series, the characters of The Sun, the Moon and the Rolling Stones are at once inspired and later possessed by their surroundings, coming to define them forever.

I pressed Cohen on whether he felt intimidated to give the Stones a pass on some of the wincing points of their careers, which he most certainly does not, in the glare of the friendships he had built with drummer, Charlie Watts or especially the working relationship with Jagger.

“You have to decide, are you loyal to Mick Jagger, or are you loyal to the reader?” he says. “I’m going for the big thing here. I can tell you everything I know. And the fact is if you really love these guys and love this music and get deep, deep into it, you just come across these things you have to struggle with. Not going to Brian Jones’ funeral; I just can’t understand that. Even if you hated him, how could you not go to his funeral? And there’s no way I can’t look at that and not comment on it. It’s like the Tom Wolfe line; ’A man in full.’”

This is what Rich Cohen has brought to the lexicon of the Rolling Stones; a uniquely first-hand account of fawning fandom and hard journalism, a place for the clamor to be silenced and the mass of gathered information to be digested.

“It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly,” he tells me in conclusion. “It’s not a portrait of a saint, and they wouldn’t say they’re saints. So you got a lot of sin in there too, and if you don’t write about the sin, then it just becomes bullshit. It becomes propaganda and then it’s not good.”

The Sun, the Moon and the Rolling Stones is not merely good; it is, again… spectacular.

Read More

MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

Aquarian Weekly
6/15/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

He is America’s greatest ego.
– Norman Mailer

Few lives are as epic as Muhammad Ali’s. It is an American epic, an African American epic, a religious epic, a boxing epic, a socio-political epic, a generational epic, and most of all, an inspirational epic. It is what the great Joseph Campbell coined the Mono-Myth, a composite philosophy of the “hero’s journey” in which all valiant stories, especially those entrenched in the Western culture, are the same – a character of common means ventures forth into a supernatural realm to defeat darker forces and emerges with a great victory. It, of course, stands to reason that Muhammad Ali is my hero in every possible way that the term may be defined. I have been and continue to be inspired by, in awe of, idolize, emulate, and use his seemingly indestructible force of will to empower me. In my youth, Ali was a towering, almost comic book figure. In my professional years, I wrote extensively about him in heroic terms whenever commissioned, and even sometimes for pure joy. His Mono-Myth has become my Mono-Myth; like the enduring myth of America, sport and life.

06-15-ali

Any understanding on the immensity that was Ali has to begin with his times. Confucius said, “May you live in interesting times”, and Ali did. Of course, it was he that made them eminently more interesting, but it is an indisputable fact that from the mid to late 1960s through the 1970s, Ali was quite simply the most famous human dead or alive. Everywhere. There are people in China who have no idea who Jesus Christ is or was, or Thomas Jefferson in Zimbabwe or Elvis Presley in Venezuela or Michael Jordan in Jordan. But everyone knew who Ali was. He was international in a singular way. He was Ali. Period. Ali was universal. Even if people had no idea why they knew him, that his name was Cassius Clay and he hailed from Louisville, Kentucky, or that he engineered one of the greatest upsets in boxing history at twenty-two, or that he took on the entire U.S. government for five years and won, or that he became the first boxer to lose and then win the world title three times. He was Ali, and Ali is universal. Ali is life.

But that is not what makes Ali epic; it is his flaws. It is his darker side, which I am sure will be ignored this week when the world mourns his passing. It is his raging narcissism and viciousness, his forays with racism, religious fanaticism, repeated adultery and misogyny. Like all heroes, he fell. And like all heroes, he rose again. This was due to his magnificent fearlessness. He owned fear. You had the feeling when you saw Ali or listened to him that he had known fear, like we all do, and then he took it down like he took Liston down when he was a seven-to-one underdog and a newly minted member of the Nation of Islam, which is to say he was the devil.

It took Joe Frazier, his greatest opponent and likely the second best heavy weight fighter in the latter half of the twentieth century, decades to get over Ali’s dehumanizing of him during pre-fight promotions; something Ali invented and did better than anyone ever. But it crossed the line. It became something else for a black man to call another “gorilla” on national television, repeatedly, in poetic and jocular form, to his face; to say he was the white man’s champion. Frazier, like all epic opponents brought the worst out of Ali, but it also brought the absolute best out of him too. He handed “the greatest” his first defeat in the real and only true “fight of the century”; Madison Square Garden, March 8, 1971 – the first time two undefeated titans would square off. It was the night the world stopped. It is the greatest, most covered, most mythologized sporting event of my lifetime. It was, in a word, epic. And when it was over, Ali nearly died. But, as the epic story goes, he rose again.

Ali emerged from this brutal beating to defeat Frazier in the rematch. But all of this pales in comparison to how Ali had seen him as an enemy first; an enemy of Allah, of the African experience, of his spiritual quest to be free of the forces of evil perpetuating a war that will stain our national soul forever. And before he could fight Frazier for the title, he had it stripped from him, because he refused to fight in Viet Nam, as all men should have rejected the immoral and useless sin that massacred 60,000 Americans, and hundreds of thousands more Vietnamese and Cambodians and severed a nation. Assassinations and riots and protests and a national spying ring that would bring down a president; there was a crack at the base of the system, and standing on the fault-line was Ali. Because Ali was not American, Muslim, Black, he was Ali. He is universal, epic.

I keep this Ali quote, with other inspiring musings about speaking truth to power in a drawer where I do most of my writing, to remind me of what we do here at The Desk, but it may be my favorite: “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. . . Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

Ali also famously said, “It ain’t bragging, if it’s true.” It was his calling card, and what made him both the most hated and beloved athlete in this country; changing his name, throwing his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River, taking on the government and winning a unanimous Supreme Court decision against the unconstitutional murder of thousands of American kids and wiping out any rational idea to the entire horror show. It was, even as a kid, what made knowing, watching, worshiping Ali a special thing. The sun came up, my mom loved me, my eyes are blue, and Ali is the champ.

Like all heroes, he fell. And like all heroes, he rose again. This was due to his magnificent fearlessness. He owned fear.

I remember part of my childhood went away the night a brutish dolt by the name of Leon Spinks took the articulate, brilliant, poetic, epic Ali down. He was no longer the champ – even when he wasn’t the champ, like when they stripped it, or temporarily when Frazier beat him into a bloody stump, but forever; like he was old and Spinks was not and boxing would go back to its primitive barbarism again with no charisma and no universal personality, a vacuum soon filled by the bestial visage of Mike Tyson, which would teach us all what missing Ali would mean.

Of course, Ali would step back in the ring again, and again, and again, until his mind would eventually go away and his body would shake and they would call it Parkinson’s Syndrome, but we knew it was a human tank called George Foreman beating on him for fifteen rounds in Zaire and those three wars with Frazier and Spinks taking him down ignominiously, and that asinine exhibition in suicide against Larry Holmes. He got back in the ring and took the title back one more time from Spinks, but there was something hollow and sad about it, and we knew we weren’t kids anymore, or at least I wasn’t; and all those things about “invincible” and being “the greatest” was finite, like life. But until that moment, for me, it was infinite, because Ali said it would be, and if he didn’t say it, he meant it anyway. He was, after all, finite, and so I was no longer a kid and soon would be an adult and am now 53 and mourning the passing of my hero.

My writing hero, Hunter S. Thompson, oddly or not oddly, also from Louisville, once wrote of Ali (in maybe the finest twenty-four words said about him), “Anybody who can sell his act for $5 million an hour all over the world is working a vein somewhere between magic and madness.”

And it is between those two poles in which the hero resides; where he thrives, where he captures our imagination beyond the terrible notion that life is just this series of beats and electrons and periods of joy and grief and that it is special in the way you want it to be.

Ali gave me that, and I am not alone.

Not by a long shot.

This is what you get from universal and epic.

You get Ali.

Read More

DEEP TANK JERSEY – 20th Anniversary Edition

Deep Tank Jersey

The classic underground sensation is back with a brand new cover and updated material on the wild summer days with DogVoices circa 1995!

Relive the magic and mayhem of those bygone days of summer along the legendary New Jersey Club Circuit with James Campion’s journal from edge.

20th Anniversary Edition Includes:


Brand new essay by the author
– James recounts the entire story behind the story; his memories of how it all began and his researching and writing one of the most compelling stories ever written about the New Jersey rock and roll club scene.

Brand new interviews with all the major participants – In-depth and revealing conversations between author James Campion and the members of the original DogVoices, their manager, Bo Blaze, and the mysterious, Nadine.

Three features,  two previously published and one never-published, on DogVoices by the author through the years:

FREAK DOMAIN REVISITED: THE SAD AND TERRIBLE TRUTH ABOUT DOGVOICES
A 1998 piece long out of print from the East Coast Rocker in which James goes in search of the members and DogVoices.

DEEP TANK TO WEIRD BLOOD Jersey Shore Music Icon Rob Monte Says Good-Bye (For Now)
A 2010 piece for the Aquarian Weekly by James on the final performing days of DogVoices’ wildman singer and master showman, Rob Monte.

PETER BLASEVICK CALLS IT QUITS
A hilarious “Faux Eulogy” written by James and read at Pete’s last professional gig in 2004.

TRUTH IN EXPERIENCE: NONFICTION ON THE RUN
A Discussion With Independent Author James Campion About Expose vs. Straight Storytelling – A 1996 interview with James on the writing of the book.

Get your copy now for $25!

Read More

WHY BERNIE SANDERS MATTERS

Aquarian Weekly
6/1/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WHY BERNIE SANDERS MATTERS

Everybody’s gone but me and you
And I can’t be the last to leave

– Bob Dylan

At this juncture it would take an act of God or the teamsters or something dreamed up by the ghost of Frank Kapra for 74 year-old Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to wrest the Democratic nomination away from Hillary Rodham Clinton. The former secretary of state is but a handful of delegates away from wrapping this up and she owns an impressive number of controversial “super delegates” – not to mention the unofficial two and half million more votes she has garnered in this process. It is also not stretching credibility to argue Clinton has dominated the primaries with traditional Democratic voters – women, African Americans, Hispanics, and the core of union support, etc, and has used her campaign to fund-raise for down-ballot Democrats.

However…

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,  speaks at the Alliance for Retired Americans 2015 National Legislative Conference in Washington, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

The 2016 presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders matters.

The fact that I am writing about Sanders on the cusp of June is one pretty good reason. A year ago he was a completely unknown senator from a tiny northeastern state, whose claim to fame was copping to being a socialist. He was supposed to be this platform-shifting “issues candidate” that before being fodder would maybe force Clinton to edge slightly to the left before she went on to crush whatever loon made it out of the Republican contest. In any other year Sanders would be… say, Dennis Kucinich. But this is the witchy season of 2016, a bizarre year where a TV star mogul gets to play and win. Madam Shoo-In should have made Sanders go away around early March. This is how things are usually done around here. Yet, he has not only failed to go away, he is surging to the finish; making a terrible noise, along with the millions that make up his mostly young, feisty and fed-up constituency.

This would make Sanders a Ted Kennedy circa 1980; chipping at the inevitable nominee from the left to the detriment of the general election. But he is more than that. Sanders represents to Democrats what Donald J. Trump accomplished on the Republican side; he is an insurgence candidate, an anti-Washington, anti-establishment figure that has captured this year’s zeitgeist; a must for any presidential candidates (ask the sixteen or so actual GOP politicians that are home wondering what the hell just happened). If anything, Bernie Sanders has been the only real news on the Democratic side since February. His rallies (larger and more raucous than even the Donald’s), his character, (parodied brilliantly by Larry David on SNL), his suddenly “man-for-his-times” stature has eclipsed Clinton from every angle.

Turns out that Sanders is the only true issues candidate; leading a progressive charge against a sitting Democratic president. And as much as it is fairly fabricated, Sanders at least appears pure, untainted by the evils of Washington D.C. Of course, he has spent decades in the same quagmire as his opponent, but Clinton, who reeks of establishment and been-there-done-that gives him rare breathing room on this count. Again, in this climate, he is appealing, which according to most Democratic and national polls matters more to voters now than ever.

But Sanders matters not for hanging in there, staying the course ideologically, and timing; he matters because he is shifting the direction of the coming general election dramatically and has already (as has Trump on the other side) put the system under the microscope – the democratic vagaries of caucuses, strange delegate proportions, antiquated and shady party rules. Both he and Trump like to use the word “rigged”, which of course is nonsense, but indeed the structure of party primaries is such that it promotes scrutiny solely on the general misunderstanding of them by the public. Reminds me of watching a baseball game with a friend, who was unaware of the rule that a catcher must secure a third strike in order for the batter to be out; so when the ball whizzed to the backstop and the batter sped to first, he was incredulous. “The guy’s out! Why is he on first?” Well, you see, according to the rules… “But he struck out!” Okay, it’s weird, but that’s the rules, right?

Beyond the inside baseball aspect of Sanders’ movement, allowing the electorate to see behind the curtains, his candidacy has done a masterful job of revealing the warts of Clinton’s. Without sinking to the level of most political campaigns, the mere presence of Sanders, has put the onus on Clinton to stand for something, which beyond the standard liberal talking points, is a flimsy notion at best. Sanders has exposed Clinton’s greatest weaknesses as a stump candidate, an orator, or even a likable, relatable character. Remember what “likable enough” got her in ’08? Her blandness, already baked in, would have seemed less egregious against the standard opponent. Against the flamboyantly disheveled New Yawk ethnicity of Sanders, she appears invisible.

He matters because he is shifting the direction of the coming general election dramatically and has already (as has Trump on the other side) put the system under the microscope.

Of course, the biggest complaint of Sandersnistas is the seeming wild popularity of their candidate; his winning so many states, but constantly trailing. This puts the rigged idea into the lap of the “rigger”, which would be Clinton, further enhancing her villain persona, something Trump has already begun to weave into his already incendiary rhetoric. The now official Republican nominee has smartly coalesced his anti-establishment movement on the right with Sanders egalitarian rants, prompting him to run as a true independent, effectively handing the election to Trump by default – not to mention feeding this narrative that has grown in the ensuing months that the young and impressionable newbies rallying to Sanders’ populist message will see a viable revolutionary option in Trump.

Sanders has never really had a chance here. There was a moment in mid-March or immediately after his stirring upset in Michigan when Sanders could have made a move. He did not. He was roundly defeated by Clinton when it mattered most and it has left him as this annoying afterthought for Madam Shoo-In, which she has wrongly ignored or condescended to as if this whole silly primary thing is merely a winding road to her coronation. But by hanging in there until his party’s convention, Sanders has pushed this to the limit. If he wins California in early June and rides into Philly with serious momentum and poll numbers that show him trouncing Trump, while Clinton, with her damaging untrustworthy numbers weighting her down, barely squeaks by, he will have a fairly good argument to sway the aforementioned “super delegates” his way and throw the whole shebang into chaos.

And with more troubling news coming from the state department investigation on Clinton’s private server this week, Sanders may come to matter as much as anyone in American politics in 2016, including Donald J. Trump.

Read More

DONALD J. TRUMP, REPUBLICAN NOMINEE – WTF?

Aquarian Weekly
5/11/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

DONALD J. TRUMP, REPUBLICAN NOMINEE – WTF?

The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.
– Mark Twain

Today, as you read this, the presumptive nominee of one of our republic’s two major political parties is a man who eleven months ago was a tabloid-addled, real estate mogul turned reality TV personality. How did this happen? Let’s dissect.

dt_0511

Never Underestimate the Power of Celebrity or the Grim Reality of Math

In the late 1980s I proposed the idea that if Clint Eastwood ran for president, he might not win but would garner about a third of the vote for merely being Clint Eastwood. This is long before a weight-lifter/movie star became governor of the nation’s largest state. Once Donald Trump, a well-known macho big mouth, descended his fancy escalator at the Trump Towers on Fifth Avenue, he owned one-third of the Republican electorate by simply being Donald Trump. This is the celebrity quotient seemingly lost on the political class that at any time may come calling and is ignored at its own peril.

This one-third quotient would have been nothing but an entertaining fart in the wind if Trump were opposed by a reasonable three or four candidates divvying up the remaining 65 percent. This did not happen in 2015. A record seventeen candidates emerged slicing up two, five, eight and ten percent of the pie between them, leading to a growing narrative to those who thought Trump a goof (myself included) having a legitimate shot (something I came to realize all-too clearly in late September). And since not one of the other sixteen candidates chose to confront this mathematical certainty, most stayed in the race, which made Trump’s 33 percent a solid bet.

Trump did not get a majority of the vote until his home state of New York, 34 states into the process. By then most of the field had winnowed and Trump had legs enough to break a record for the most GOP primary votes ever.

Shitty Field & the Republican Lie

Since 2009 the Republican Party, with the ardent assistance of talk radio and FOX News, rolled out the fantasy that President Barack Obama would plunge the nation into Hades. Not that he was a sub-par president, mind you, but Satan. When none of this actually happened, they decided to claim it did anyway. This narrative, wholly baseless, not unlike the left’s insane panic when Ronald Reagan became president, created a netherworld of fact-free political discourse that led to a TEA Party movement at first exploited and eventually reduced to a whole lot of nothing in Washington D.C., which predictably upset a whole lot of people.

Fast forward to the comically large Republican candidate field, which operated under another GOP lie that it would be the finest in a generation. It was not. It sucked, and people knew it, and thus “outsider” Donald Trump became the voice of the disenfranchised tired of the lie. His support was that of a defiantly powerful weapon against bullshit.

The actual shitty field was made up of wildly unpopular governors; Bobby Jindel and Chris Christie, unlikable sods with crappy records and no point to run for re-election, much less the presidency, and popular governors, Rick Perry, a dullard, who put glasses on to appear as if he were not a dullard, which made him look more like a dullard, Scott Walker, who campaigned as if he would rather have a three-way with the Clintons than run for president, and John Kasich, who never seemed to articulate what his actual point was. And finally two long-retired ex-governors, another goddamn Bush, who was merely fodder for Trump’s most effective coming out party; the burying of this pathetic era in American history, and for reasons only known to his shrink, George Pataki. Then there was Marco Rubio, a wildly unpopular senator that lived on the lie he was the Hispanic Obama, but turned out to be in way over his head, and the latest in the Paul family to be shoved aside as a libertarian kook. For fun there was Dr. Ben Carson, a mumbling neurosurgeon and religious loon, who had his fifteen minutes of fame for being “nice”, thrice-failed religious loons, Santorum/Huckabee. Senator Lindsey Graham, who polled as well as me at zero percent, which made abject business failure, Carly Fiorina look good, her eventually running mate, Ted Cruz, a man who looked like the guy you would cast in a slimy politician role for your movie about corruption, and some guy named Gilmore.

Not a Jefferson in the bunch.

The Social Media Pissed-Off Two-Step

This is the social media era and Donald Trump is its demigod. He lives for the short-attention span this opiate satiates and the outlandish quip in short spurts it demands, which translates well to Twitter and cable news, the Internet for old people. Trump dominated every medium mostly made up of two things – a narcissistic obsession with self-promoting the most mundane claptrap and expressing the kind of the hate-speak no one would dare say in any measure of polite society.

Anger, whether legitimate of not, is anger. You can’t tell people they’re not angry if they’re angry, and since the electorate has been repeatedly lied to by both parties for centuries, it came to a head in a very unusual but understandable way. On the left, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tapped into the anger of progressives that feel abandoned by Obama while Trump tapped into the general anger of the lies the right has fed its base.

When people are angry they like to say outlandish things to hopefully shock the system; a collective Lenny Bruce moment when merely uttering “cocksucker” in a lounge becomes social commentary. This is why when Donald Trump said things that would not only fell normal politicians but destroy careers and reputations, it elevated his stature. He was the living embodiment of anger; an avatar for the very core of ourselves; righteous indignation. He was like the birth of punk music; crude, raw, and defiant, a middle-aged Kurt Cobain character with disdain for decorum and a hard-on for disorder.

Trump is a man for his times, but he also represents our culture of flimsy factoids and fantasy narratives and that somehow being pissed-off is a solution to anything.

For the first time, those who spent their days sitting at home elbow-deep in the Costco-sized Cheetos tub firing off horrifyingly hilarious vitriol under the cover of cowardice could now have a voice and a place to get nuts. Trump and Sanders provided the rhetoric and rallies to take it to the streets, and the primary voting days to file their protest. Some of this frightened those who are afraid of things like free speech and expression, but for those of us who celebrate the ugly experiment that is democracy reflecting the terrors of human nature, it was glorious times.

Trump, and to a lesser extent but no less riotous, Sanders allowed America to bear its soul, and it got real…fast.

The Boring & Sacrilegious Christ Analogy & the Vote

Trump was never really a candidate, he was a symbol. Like the symbol of Jesus of Nazareth some two thousand years ago, the character rolling into Jerusalem and pronouncing his messianic priority, calling everything crap; the social system, the political system, the religious system, the entire thing crap. His declaration of one man replacing all of it is at once egalitarian (what we would call populist today) and fascist, (a nebulous accusation of a singular proposal to return all-things to not crap) resonates. Both guys were faced with a similar push-back from those who needed to survive on the status quo. And when Jesus was executed, his point grew into this other thing entirely. What we call Christianity today is just another fulcrum for the frightened to keep reality at bay.

You think I’m nuts? Ask Ted Cruz, who said as much in his concession speech once Trump made mincemeat of the entire field. He talked about his own march being halted, but the “idea” living on, or “resurrected” in some other larger movement. Problem for Cruz is he was not the Jesus in this analogy, which was borne out by his being bested in nearly every state with evangelicals by Trump. It is Citizen Trump, the human grenade, that calls everything crap and has all the answers to make it not crap; him, alone – not a system or an ideology or even a party, just Trump. Very Christ-like. Or Mussolini-like. But I find it hard to differentiate the symbolic nature of Mussolini and Christ, but that is for another column entirely.

But, again, none of this matters without “the vote”. It was “the vote” that crushed the system and the ideology and the party, none of which could handle or understand Trump. The voters did. The anger did. The timing sure did. Every step of the way the voting came his way and it was ignored by the other candidates and the party and mostly the media, who looked at this as it looks at all things, a shiny object in which to sell ad space. None of these entities understand Trump or the fear and anger people have about a changing world they are not part of, whether socially or economically. Not that Trump can do anything about it, like the Christ thing, but it is better than the crap that is currently happening or what they believe is the crap that is happening.

The voting, not all the other stuff, kept the Trump Train on the tracks. Trump did not hijack the party as the lazy right-wing pundits and the Wall St. Journal claim; he got the votes. This is how it works. And it worked for Trump this time.

In Conclusion

Nothing ever happens in a vacuum, whether Hitler or the Beatles. Trump is a man for his times, but he also represents our culture of flimsy factoids and fantasy narratives and that somehow being pissed-off is a solution to anything. Sometimes it is, like a bunch of British colonists unhappy about the tax/representation balance overseas, and for Trump, if he is to compete against the odds to actually be president, it had better be.

Read More

WHAT’S THE POINT OF TED CRUZ?

Aquarian Weekly
5/4/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WHAT’S THE POINT OF TED CRUZ?
(Or For That Matter John Kasich)

So why should a bunch of principles get in the way of tactics?
-Matt Bai

Maybe I’m mistaken. It would not be the first time and will hardly be the last. But someone please tell me that the point and purpose of the presidential candidacy for Texas Senator Ted Cruz is not just “Vote for me, because I’m not Donald Trump”. Granted, I don’t always expect a “New Frontier” or “Morning in America” or even “Yes We Can”; inspiring generational movements that rally around both an idea and an individual who transcends an era. I can live with the middling “I Like Ike” or “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”. I can wrap my mind around a flaccid “Compassionate Conservatism” routine or even the fifteen different versions of “Reformer” that come and go like mouthwash ads. But I’m not sure “If You Want To Stop Someone Else, I’m The Guy” is necessarily a goose-bump inducing rallying cry.

fc_0504

I never begrudge anyone who runs for office, and I am loathe to make any suggestions as to when a candidate should enter or exit a race, especially one of this magnitude; so if Ted Cruz wants to make victory speeches after getting his clocked cleaned in some 30 primaries or pick running mates when he is on death’s door, then I say more power to him. However, I think there should be a point to it. There seems to be none here; beyond one pathetic ploy after the other until the whole thing appears sad.

Lord knows I understand there are plenty of races wherein a candidate shows up to just stop a weakened opponent; the tried-and-true “lesser of two evils” jag. It is just damn rare for someone to articulate it as a campaign strategy. Hell, John Kerry and Mitt Romney ran on, “me or else”. Of course this worked out badly for them, but it’s not like they held press conferences talking like a tic-tac-toe X; “Play me to block!”

And just when you thought this nonsense couldn’t get more tragic, Cruz, now mathematically eliminated from a first-ballot contest, merely says, out loud (in campaign speeches, with people sitting in front of him, on television holding a microphone and everything), that “Sure, I can’t win, but neither can Trump if you vote for me. In fact, don’t even vote for me, vote for someone else in other states to prevent him from winning.”

It is so inspiring you can put music to it. The bumper sticker might be larger than normal, but it has a certain dramatic ring. Can’t you hear the women swooning and men fighting back the tears? I get chills writing this.

Okay, so Cruz is nuts, but I maintain he is not any crazier than your average politician. Granted, he may be a little crazier since he keep telling us he isn’t one. He’s like a salesman who begins his pitch by telling you he isn’t selling anything. Cruz is as political as they come. He will do or say anything to get elected. He reeks of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. For instance, early in the campaign his staff pulled a fast one on former sort-of candidate, Ben Carson by spreading false information to his voters during the Iowa caucuses that he had dropped out. When confronted about this at the following debate he had three ways to go; apologize, spin about false narratives, or lie. He chose lying. If you look at the campaigning and governing history of both Clinton and Nixon, they both had choices on several and varied occasions to handle their affairs, and in each case, they chose to lie.

But say what you want about the increasingly bizarre “I’m Not Him” strategy of Ted Cruz, what Ohio Governor John Kasich is running on is pure madness.

someone please tell me that the point and purpose of the presidential candidacy for Texas Senator Ted Cruz is not just “Vote for me, because I’m not Donald Trump”.

At least Cruz has managed to pull down a dozen states and a fair share of delegates, working his organization tirelessly within a hazy, backdoor system to gain the requisite votes to take this thing into an open convention come July. Kasich has won one state, his own, and gathered about ten delegates in the past six weeks. No one covers him. He never gets any traction. His argument from day-one has been, “I’m the adult, clear-thinking one.” I find this even less inspiring than the rousing “I’m No Him” scheme. Kasich doesn’t even care that he has less support than candidates who dropped out months ago. And he obviously doesn’t give a flying fart about his party, which will implode if somehow his fantasy of lying in the weeds to get the nomination on a sixth ballot comes true. No one really wants Cruz, but they really don’t want the damage John Kasich will inflict on the party now.

Kasich was the best candidate for the Republicans to defeat Hillary Clinton this past June. Now he looks like an establishment kook, who is just waiting for all this annoying surge voting to cease, so he and his cronies can get back to controlling the system. If Kasich is the nominee, Clinton could actually win southern states.

I’m not sure there was any point to Cruz or Kasich in the first place. Case in point: the goofy #NeverTrump alliance to join forces in their stirring “I’m Not Him” momentum. If either of them were truly principled or had a reason for anyone to vote for them, then how could they coalesce? Kasich is a centrist pro-government compromiser, everything Cruz claims to despise. And Kasich is actually running against the very concept of the agitator/non-compromising Cruz. It would seem by this move that these gentlemen would collude with the irrationally hated President Barrack Obama at this point if it meant there is the slimmest chance they could be in a position to be the nominee.

Apparently this nonsensical tactic backfired when neither campaign adhered to its incoherent messaging for more than a few hours; further illustrating all this pointlessness. Cruz could not stand abandoning futility completely, so he yanked poor Carly Fiorina into the fray in the hopes that Trump might once again blurt out another slice of misogynistic claptrap and scare people over to him.

This is what the year of Trump has wrought. Every campaign is about him, even the ones that claim to be alternatives. Before Trump, Cruz had it all planned. He was the “outsider” in a season of anger and resentment, and Kasich was the viable, electable candidate, who could stop the inevitability of corruptible Madam Shoo-In. Love him. Hate him. But Trump is real and his actual movement is happening. “Make America Great Again” is as vague and confusing as Trump himself, but at least it’s a slogan and an actual mission statement you can get behind or rail against. It’s not, “If I Can’t Play, I’m Making Up Another Game”.

If the Republican Party tries to stop this from happening, no matter what swinging dick is left to pick up the scraps, the whole mess will turn into #NeverGOP, making way for a Hillary Clinton landslide.

Read More

PRINCE ROGERS NELSON – 1958 – 2016

Aquarian Weekly
4/27/16

Cover Feature

James Campion

PRINCE ROGERS NELSON – 1958 – 2016

I do not want to write this shit.

Not now. Not ever.

This is personal.

But it’s either this or continue sitting around enduring this sick feeling of inertia on the edge of a loathsome face-off with mortality.

So…whew…here goes…

During the most prolific musical period of my life, my early twenties, when I wrote and played music for a living, more or less, there was only one artist that mattered; Prince Rogers Nelson.04-27_prince_cover

This was a dark time of transition for me from the late ‘70s Punk movement into New Wave and then a lot of stuff I did not relate to on any level beyond a strange imbalance of apathy and abhorrence. There was U2, the Violent Femmes, a little later, Jane’s Addiction, REM, the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, but mostly, I was lost. But one thing that could always be counted on was a new Prince album that would snap me back into coherence and make me love new music again, as I did when I was a kid and wore out all my 1960s to early 1970s stuff.

From 1980 to about 1998, Prince was a motherfucker. He wrote, produced and played on more songs than any living human. Period. In a time when major artists put out an album every three to four years, Prince dropped one, and in some cases, two annually. He once released The Black Album, pulled it, and replaced with another one (Lovesexy) in two months, then leaked the former on bootleg. He bootlegged himself! The 1996 album, Emancipation had thirty-six (36!!) really good, really interesting songs on it. In ’98, Crystal Ball had fifty-one incredibly disparate and engaging tracks. On the bulk of these seemingly endless and brilliantly devised discs, the majority of which were huge hits with even bigger hit singles on them, he played every instrument, frighteningly well, and sang all of the parts; some five-part harmonies worthy of the Temptations meets Brian Wilson on a funk jag.

Prince lived in the studio. Literally. He built the damn thing where he lived. Turns out, he died in it. He did not drink. He did not use drugs. He did not attend gala industry parties. He rarely did any interviews or appearances. Hell, he barely ate or slept. He wrote, played and recorded music. When he left the studio to tour the world, he would jam with locals and members of his band in clubs in every city. He played the bass, drums, guitar, piano, and sang back-up and lead, or whatever was needed. He played every kind of music expertly. He listened to and absorbed every kind of music copiously. He was a sponge and he was a spigot that poured forth inspiration.

Those who sessioned for him swore he would force the best from musicians, because he was better than any of them. For a mind-numbing spurt in the mid-to-late 80s, Prince wrote, performed, and produced major hits for many artists; The Time, Sheena Easton, Chaka Kahn, TLC, The Bangles, Sheila E., Stevie Nicks, to name a very few. He started “mask” bands like The Time, The Family, Mazarati, Vanity 6, so he could put out four or five albums a year. Two years running he put out jazz albums under the name Madhouse and created characters to sing and produce other works, Camille and Jamie Starr to name just two. Later he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol just so he could record anywhere and everywhere to escape the confines of a music business that could not handle him.

Every single he released during this time came with an adjoining twelve-inch extended version with completely fresh B-sides that were often superior to some of the tracks on the albums. Time and space precludes me from making a very strong argument that “Erotic City” is the best side of anything anyone put out in the 1980s, and it was the B-Side to “Let’s Go Crazy”, which is the fifth best song on his monster album/film, Purple Rain. And Purple Rain, which won Prince an Oscar, Grammy’s, et al, and has sold a stunning 22-million copies worldwide to date, is not nearly as good as 1987’s Sign ‘O’ The Times, which I still believe is by far the finest, most diverse and experimental pop record of the decade.

Here’s one for you; I maintain that the best song Prince ever wrote is one he never even recorded as Prince or the symbol-thing, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, which Sinead O’Connor’s gorgeously heartrending version turned into a smash hit. I first heard it performed by one of his aforementioned “mask” bands, The Family on its only album in 1985; no doubt with a backing-track played entirely by the composer. If there is a more painfully framed slice of love-loss than “All the flowers that you planted, mama, in the backyard…all died when you went away”, I’m waiting to hear it. The thing floors me every time. Every time.

That kind of freedom is power and it led him, and us, to some pretty cool places.

Prince songs are genre-less. It was Prince – everyone else. There was rock, funk, punk, pop, jazz, fusion, reggae, ska, rap, classical and a collection of aural oddities that brought a dynamic charge to each successive listen; songs about sex and love and race and sex and God and loss and sex and power and dreams and sex and pain and joy and…yeah, sex. Sex was Prince’s gateway to the spiritual (orgasm as transmogrification), the political (seduction as liberation), the revolutionary (transgender identification), with all those substitute word/symbols thrown in to give it all a literary spark. Listening to Prince back then was a lesson; sit up, take notice, learn the craft, be the music, dig the vibe. It was the experience you looked forward to, because you would not be disappointed.

Maybe it’s because he controlled everything; his image, his fashion, and of course his music. It led to the outstanding and the outlandish. No one was there to say no to Prince, from the first album when he was barely 20 years-old and somehow convinced Warner Bros to allow him to produce his own records. There was no Quincy Jones or George Martin for Prince Rogers Nelson. He was the one who decided to pull the bass out of “When Doves Cry” or create an entire alternative-concept album around a Batman movie or direct a black-and-white French film that bombed so badly it is hard to believe he wasn’t ruined (for the record I like Under a Cherry Moon better than Purple Rain, so there), and certainly no one counseled him to demand everyone stop calling him Prince and release instrumental jazz-rock fusion records after multi-artist compilations and then shun the entire record industry altogether. Nope. It was all Prince, for good or ill. That kind of freedom is power and it led him, and us, to some pretty cool places.

My favorite Prince musical memories, beyond the dozen or so times I saw him play live with some of the best musicians I have ever heard/seen anywhere, is all that wonderful first-time stuff. You know, first time I heard “Purple Rain” at three in the morning driving home from some gig; letting the opening chords and the first verse sink in, then turn it up a little for the second, and by the third, where he shreds his vocal chords and the goddamn fret board, let it blast away. The first time I cracked open the shipping box for Around The World In A Day, still sort of my favorite Prince album, two days before it was to be put on the shelf (I was working at Record World in Westchester at the time), and running home to play it; the weird Indian raga and the screeching wail of a guitar into vocal, then all that stuff afterwards that runs into “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life”, and that weird shit at the end where he is fucking and talking to God or whatever the hell is going on there. Hearing “Kiss’ for the first time; the bare, stark, air-sucking naked compression of everything that thump-kicks you in the face and the gut and the balls; ushering in that pinch-chirping falsetto; “You don’t hafta be beautiful…” My first listen to Sign ‘O’ The Times; his masterpiece; his Exile on Main St., his White Album, his Blonde on Blonde – Fuck it; go listen to Sign … right now…do it!

I remember the friends and lovers too. We were the special ones, the ones who dug Prince before he was the shit and after he stopped being the shit when the shit came down on him. You know who you are, but I have a special place in my soul for my dear friend and drummer, Anthony Misuraca. Shit, Anthony and I would listen to Prince everywhere; the car, the house, the studio, the roof, the basement, the street; morning, noon, night. We’d pick out chords and riffs and lilts in his voice; You hear that? No? Listen to this…man! We drove from Raleigh, North Carolina to Madison Square Garden on August 2, 1986 to see The Revolution ply its trade. I remember it because it’s my brother’s birthday, and because we did it. It was my first Prince gig. I chased down Prince concerts after that; every single one better than the next – although for my money the Lovesexy Tour 1988 beats all-hell; in the round, a tour de force. I caught it three times.

That was the thing about Prince; it was personal for those of us who dug him. We got our copy of Uptown magazine every month at Revolver Records on West 8th Street and argued about the alternative mixes and studio outtake/live bootlegs and after-hour show tapes and how each song referenced the other song and it coalesced into this other thing entirely. It was a 70s kid thing for a lot of us, who grew up, like Prince, on imagination, amalgamation, and organic clout in our music. We understood when Prince released a B-Side at 45 rpm, but if you slowed it down to 33 rpm it is a tribute to the third track on the fourth Sly and the Family Stone album. We knew when he referenced James Brown in “Get Off”; “Some like ‘em fat…” or rolled into Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” in the bridge of “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” or that odd Stones riff he hides in “Ronnie Talk To Russia” or the Hendrix feed-drenched guitar-screams in “All The Critics Love You In New York” or the Black Sabbath-esque foreboding intro to “1999”, or the blatantly obvious Marvin Gaye homage suite in “Do Me Baby”. We got it, man. We loved it. He understood what made us tick. He gave us a soundtrack to our soundtrack.

For the longest time, there was a Prince album and Woody Allen film every year. Like clockwork. And they were always challenging and engaging and inspiring. This was what I counted on. Like Christmas or birthdays for others. The other day I thought about a time when the 80 year-old Allen would no longer be able to tell his celluloid stories. This I get. It’s going to suck, but I get that. But Prince? He is 57. I am 53. We hail from the same post-Boomer/pre-X generation that produced a shitload of really cynical, wise-ass jerk-offs, who cannot believe there are still illogical, racist, sexually-repressed assholes running around using the same tired bullshit to tell us what we can listen to or eat or fuck or wear; that we thought we had somehow changed things by merely living on and making it to the future; it is what Prince meant when he wrote in the liner notes of every record, “May U Live To See The Dawn”.

Suddenly you wake up and the future is the past and your present is the dumb shit your parents and their parents had to deal with. You sleepwalked through all this proposed revolution. You expected something new and vibrant, because you imagined it. Maybe it was all just marketing. But you come to accept it. It’s fine. It’s life. And then with no warning and no reason Prince up and dies and dredges it all up. A wild, eccentric crazy man, whose art was life, is gone – who wore nothing but garters, silk-stockings and panties on stage and ass-less pants on Arsenio Hall and stuck the Lord’s Prayer in the middle of a funk song about interracial homosexuality and turned songs about Armageddon into a party-pop hit you could roll out on MTV with his interracial, cross-gender rock/funk/pop band, conflating images of Jesus, smack, slavery and cunninlingus into a song about flowers.

I was reminded today of that little nugget from Toure’s 2013 treatise on Prince, I Would Die For You – Why Prince Became An Icon, which I reviewed for this paper and truth be told, inspired my own foray into such an investigation on KISS in my last book, Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon. “Toure writes of “emerging adulthood” this way: “Sociologists say people fifteen to twenty-five are in active identity formulation mode, as opposed to thirty-somethings…part of why we like certain artists is that we like the other people who like them, we enjoy being associated with or attached to those people, we want to be in a tribe with them. After thirty that social transaction is less valuable.”

04-27_prince

Today, as I write this, those words ring true. I already knew all this, it’s obvious, but when that touchstone, the focal point of a tribe long gone dies, it can unsettle the odd illusion. I have to admit, it triggered something deeper in me than mere fandom. My friend, Anthony must have felt it too. I had not heard from him in about five or six years, yet he emailed me within minutes of the news of Prince dying. He just wrote, “Wow.” Yeah, wow. It is, I think, a real sense of something else dying; the youthful exuberance of discovery and a revolutionary spirit that always seems to be fading.

But that’s the nut. You see, Prince stopped becoming that interesting to me by the turn of the century. There were moments when I was pulled back by a random album or single, and I caught most of his tours through here, although I sadly missed the last one. It’s as though, over this past decade and a half, I’d been already mourning his passing as an influential artist in my life, but really that passing was that of time, this period of life when music could shift my entire being for more than an afternoon or evening, where it took me places, redefined me, set another course, a more dangerous one. It fueled me. It scared me. It soothed me.

Ahhh, but once that’s awakened in you, then you look for it everywhere. It’s a curse. And I think what became glaringly apparent with the passing of Prince is the curse can’t be lifted. Nope. It’s there. Always. And because Prince was visual and theatrical and worked on many thematic levels and played with perceptions and got Tipper Gore all hot and heavy over Darling Nikki “masturbating with a magazine”, it reminded me of it. It’s humor. It’s sedition. It’s exuberance to test parameters unseen. It reminded me that it makes all the rest of it worthwhile. I need to be reminded. We need to be reminded.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…”

Preach it, brutha

Read More

ACE FREHLEY LOOKS BACK IN PRIDE

Aquarian Weekly
4/6/16

BUZZ

James Campion


ACE FREHLEY LOOKS BACK IN PRIDE
Space Ace Hits the Road with New Album of Rock Classics and Talks Guitar Worship, Rock Star Team-ups, Imposters and a KISS Reunion?

Far from the noise of the rock star life; the clamoring fans, the roaring crowds, the constant bickering with ex-bandunnamed mates in the press, a recently minted Rock & Roll Hall of Famer lounges on a couch in his suite high above Manhattan. He sips tea while blithely glancing at a muted TV across the room. This is Ace Frehley at 64; the fret-blistering Space Ace of KISS; the dominant and iconic harlequin outfit of 1970s fame, dressed rather casually in a blue tee shirt and jeans. An ace-of-spades locket, a reminder of his persona, dangles from a silver chain around his neck. He bends an ear to hear my questions and squints to remember the details of his answers, mildly clearing his throat, as if to conjure the wild mystery of his past. This is a genuine rock rebel in repose, a man at peace, but still very much rocking. Big time.

His latest album, Origins Vol. 1, sounding fat, bold and heavy, is due out this week, and he is very proud of it; the songs he’s chosen, beloved covers from classic rock acts, and his guest stars, not the least of which is former brother-in KISSdom, Paul Stanley. He is proud of having conjured it in his private studio in San Diego, where he now calls home, and his engineering and editing of many of the solos and vocal tracks on it.

Mostly, he is proud of his legacy in the pantheon of rock; the lineage of which is profoundly presented on Origins. Perhaps the most influential guitarist of his generation, whose unique shoot-from-the-hip style is often imitated but never duplicated, now pays homage to his heroes; Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and many more.  And although it is difficult for him to wrap his mind around his impact in the wake of such musical giants, what does find its way through resonates. KISS was indeed a major rock spectacle. Its anthemic songs, burlesque imagery, and groundbreaking theatrical concerts turned the whole culture upside down. He was there; designed its logo and was the first to don its make-up – showing up at the annual New York Dolls New Year’s Eve bash in 1972 with silver hair and that striking Spaceman face-paint.

We spoke for nearly an hour about his music, his legacy and his love of the guitar, which took this fellow Bronx boy from a dead-end subsistence to the top of the world.

This is Paul Daniel “Ace” Frehley at 64, unplugged; honest, reflective and charmingly defiant.

 

jc: I’m going to start with something I’m sure you’re bored with talking about, but I have to ask you; why a covers record now?

 

AF: Well, actually it was the record company’s idea. To be honest with you initially I wasn’t that excited about the project, because I had just come off the high of the success of Space Invader, which is all originals except for a cover of “The Joker”. It was almost like, “Okay, I’m going to go through the motions and get this out of the way and then jump into the studio for my next real studio album.” But I gotta tell ya, man, once I started the process and started remembering the groups that influenced me, narrowing down which songs I thought were going to be best for the record, and then started the recording process; I really started getting more excited about it.

Then once I got Slash on “Emerald,” he was the first guest star that recorded, and Paul (Stanley) agreed to do it. I was trying to get a hold of Gene (Simmons) and for some reason Gene didn’t get back to me. But when Paul agreed to do it, I already had Slash in the can and I knew I could count on Lita Ford, because I already spoke to her about it last year, and John 5. I also spoke to Mike McCready a year or two ago and he said he was up for doing a track on my new record. So, all the ducks were in a row.

The last two weeks of the record I went up to L.A. I got John 5 and Lita Ford on the record the same day and that weekend Paul recorded the vocal for “Fire and Water”, while I was doing overdubs, and then he emailed the vocal back to us. I put a guitar solo on and we just mixed it. That was it. The whole process for “Fire and Water” was about four days from beginning to end.

 

How long did it take you to make the record?

 

Well, I started tracking last spring, but I went on tour last year to Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, and then came back and finished the record. Maybe the whole process took six months, leaving out the time I was on the road.

 

I understand you recorded some the tracks in your home studio in San Diego?3dedf7c2-a7ce-438d-917e-4e36d61dad10

 

My place isn’t big enough for drums. We have a two-story townhouse, and I have a really great room with preamps and mikes and stuff. I can do everything there but drums. There’s a studio in San Diego called Signature Sound and that’s where I did a lot of the basic tracks with drums. I tracked the drums and then I flew my engineer in from New York (Alex Salzman), who I like working with since Anomaly, and we did a lot of the overdubs, and then I went up to L.A. to do the remainder of the overdubs. A lot of the solos I engineered, like “Fire and Water”, the intro solo and a lot of the guitars on “Bring It On Home.” What else did I do? I did the solo for “Till The End Of The Day” in my studio alone. I’ve really gotten good at Pro Tools, where I can actually engineer myself. The only drawback is when you are engineering some of the creativity goes out the window, because you’ve got to stay focused on what you’re doing instead of just thinking about creating. I prefer working with an engineer, but when I don’t have one around I can do it myself.

 

The record sounds very heavy and fat. Is that something you guys were going for or you just stumbled on?

 

No, that’s what I was going for. Warren Huart, the guy who also mixed Space Invader, he’s got all that stuff; SSL-board, and he uses old preamps. On some of my vocals he’s actually using real tape delay.

 

So, you did a lot of analog recording then?

 

Well, a lot of it was recorded digitally, but in the mixing and overdubbing process, we used a lot of analog equipment to achieve more of a vintage sound.

 

One thing I’ve read about you over the years, specifically your first solo album when you were still in KISS in the 70s, which I love – it’s the only one I bought – is that you use many different guitars and various amps and effects. Did you do the same thing for this since you were covering different kinds of music from a variety of artists?

 

I use a lot of Les Pauls, but I like doubling Les Pauls with Fenders. I’ve got about a half a dozen Telecasters and a half a dozen Strats that I use, but in conjunction with different amps. I have a couple old Vox amps, a couple old Fender amps, and some old Marshalls. Last year I picked up a 50-watt Marshall I got in a pawnshop outside of Palm Springs. I picked up the head for $900 bucks. (laughs) I stole it! It was from the 70s, so, you know, it’s the combination of all that stuff. Vintage microphones. Vintage preamps. Everything tube. That’s how I achieved that fat sound. But layering Les Pauls and Fenders are really one of my trademarks that I’ve been using since the 70s.

 

When I saw that Mike McCready was joining you, because I know he’s is a big KISS fan, I was reminded of your solo on “She”, which is very reminiscent of Robbie Krieger’s solo on The Doors’ “Five to One,” and then McCready took that solo and used it in Pearl Jam’s “Alive”. It’s a great lineage. You guys ever talk about that?

 

Yeah, we’ve spoken about that. I met Mike several years ago, because my daughter was a big Pearl Jam fan when she was a kid. They took care of us at one of the concerts. Then I found out he was sober. I got sober. So we had that common bond. I ended up jamming with them at Madison Square Garden one night. We did…

 

“Black Diamond”.

 

“Black Diamond.” I jammed with them at Atlantic City at the Borgata Casino. I have a good rapport with him and Eddie (Vedder). I’ve wanted to get him on one of my records for a long time and finally it transpired.

 

I love the way the different vocalists change the style of each track, but you’re the constant throughout the whole record. With Paul, how difficult or how easy was that when you guys first got together? Tell me the whole process there.

 

We actually were never in the same room together. (laughs) Like I said, once me and Paul decided on which song to do, I was up in L.A .doing overdubs with John 5 and Lita and that same weekend Paul recorded the vocals at a different studio. We just emailed him the tracks. He did the vocals, engineered it, and emailed them back to us, and boom. Technology has changed the recording process so much.

In the 70s, we had to carry around these bulky, two-inch thick reels of tape that only held two or three songs depending upon the length of the song. Big tape machines. Every time you wanted to do an edit was with a razor blade. Now with digital editing, it’s a dream. I mean, the sequence of solos that me and Slash did on “Emerald,” we had a dozen passes or more of solos and I pretty much put that together piece by piece; picked the best ones from each performance.

 

I’m sure these are influential songs, but did you realize while recording them where your influences came from?

 

I didn’t connect the dots in that way. It’s just that I thought back to all the groups that influenced me. I really wanted to do a Who song on the record, I just couldn’t get that together.

 

Which one would you have done?

timthumb

I couldn’t decide. That was the problem! (laughs) Actually, towards the very end, prior to deciding on “Fire and Water,” Paul was kicking around the idea with me to do “My Generation.” I just wanted to do a song that was a little more obscure, like in the same way with the Hendrix song. I did “Spanish Castle Magic” instead of “Purple Haze” or “Manic Depression” or something off the first album, which everybody is more familiar with. So I kind of went down that road when it came to choice of certain songs, but I’m really happy with the end result. It always amazes me, because some of these songs, it was just so easy to do. It was effortless to me. I’m just amazed after the mixing process how strong they sounded, ‘cause I don’t really pay that much attention to detail when I’m recording. I just go for feel. But I work with some of the best musicians in the world, so that must be the secret. (laughs)

 

It sounds like you gave some real love to the songs, a respect to the origins of them. I’ll take “White Room” for an example. You achieved that signature wah-wah sound; that great (Eric) Clapton wah-wah sound throughout the song and then into the solo. Did you make a concerted effort to pay sonic homage to each song?

 

I had two wah-wahs in one of my boxes and me and my engineer plugged in both of them and they were way too noisy. They were old. The potentiometers were all dirty and it was making a lot of noise, so we ran out to Guitar Center and bought a brand new wah-wah, (laughs) a Vox wah-wah. I only did two or three passes of the solos, and out of those three passes, my engineer pieced together one solo. Everything kind of came together really… I’m still sitting here listening to… I still listen to the album almost every day. I keep hearing things that I didn’t hear from a prior listen.

I improvised all the solos on the record. I didn’t play the other people’s solos, note for note. I stayed pretty true to most of the arrangement. I ended up extending “Emerald” by redoing the second half of the second verse when I came out of the solo, which isn’t in the original arrangement. I actually like my arrangement better. (laughs) It kind of brings the whole song to an end nicely.

I had a lot of fun with the record. Sometimes when you have too many chefs in the kitchen it spoils the stew. I work very streamlined. In most cases, I’m recording with just me and one other person and an engineer. More than three people in a studio is a lot for me. I don’t like it that way. That’s how I did my very first, 1978 solo album with “New York Groove” and that form has always worked for me.

 

The thing I found researching my book (Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon – Backbeat Books, Oct. 2015) was that speaking to Bob Ezrin and a lot of people that worked on Destroyer, and reading your memoir, you’re used to coming in, hearing the track, playing your solo, and bingo! In fact, you used to say you used to figure out solos, get to the studio, and everyone would be saying, “Nah, it’s not really…” and then you’d wing it and that take would be better. It would seem that nothing has changed over all these years.

 

It’s been a long time since I sat down prior to doing a solo and tried to figure it out before I hit the record button. I just empty out my head. It’s a lot easier to do four or five passes and then pick the best parts. Like I said, with digital editing you can pick the front of one pass, the middle of another, and the tail end of a third and piece them together seamlessly, so you really can’t hear the edit.

 

But you have to learn that to play it live.

 

Well, I memorize all my solos once I play live, because a lot of them are pieced together. (laughs) For instance, I’ll tell you what happened with the solo in “Fire and Water.” I did about fifteen passes after I got the lead vocal from Paul. He did a tremendous vocal. I thought it was amazing, one of his best vocal performances, and I wanted to do a really outstanding solo. So I did about fifteen passes of solos and I started trying to piece them together and it just didn’t sound right. So I took a break. I went downstairs and had a snack, went back up in the studio, and I just did one last take from beginning to end and that’s the solo! And that’s a long solo.

Also, the stuff that me and John 5 did at the end of “Spanish Castle Magic” is pretty amazing. John did an amazing solo in the second half of “Parasite.” I doubled the length of the solo. I played the original solo like it is on the first record and John came up with a great solo for the second half.

 

Why did you choose “Parasite” and “Cold Gin?”AceFrehley

 

The record company thought I should do a couple of KISS songs and I figure, “Why not redo the songs that I’ve written but didn’t sing?”

 

Ahhh. That’s what I thought.

 

Gene sang on those. At the time, I didn’t consider myself a lead singer and was really insecure about my lead vocals. I said, “Gene you got to sing this.” And of course Peter sang a couple songs I had written over the years and in the beginning. But once “Shock Me” happened it was like the cat was out of the bag. I’ve been singing them in concert for years. I figure it’s about time I get them on the record.

 

Could you possibly pick a favorite song that you’ve written over the years? One you love to play live?

 

I don’t know. My favorite KISS song is definitely “Deuce.” It was the first KISS song I ever heard. It was before KISS was even KISS. When I went in to audition for the band they played “Deuce” for me and then I ended up playing a solo to it off the top of my head. Pretty much, I think those guys after that one song thought I was the guy. At least that’s what I’ve read in retrospect.

 

What about something you’ve written?

 

Something that I’ve written? I don’t know. So many songs to choose from. One of my favorite solos is the one in “Strange Ways.” I normally do my solos in the control room with the amp in another room, but “Strange Ways” was one of the few solos I stood in front of the stack. I stood in front of the Marshall stack with a tight set of headphones and that’s how I got that natural feedback. There is an intensity on that. The stack was on ten! (laughs) I almost couldn’t hear the track with headphones on, but it’s a pretty radical solo.

 

I have to say, now that I’m sitting across from you, the “100,000 Years” solo is one of the most melodic that you’ve written and you always seem to nail that, every time, even in the reunion tours. Have you played it since KISS? I love it. It’s so beautifully melodic.

 

Thank you so much. I forget about that song. I haven’t played that song in a long time. Maybe we should try doing that live. Maybe my drummer, Scoty should sing it. He sings “Love Gun” and “Detroit Rock City”.

 

Who’s in your touring band?

 

Scot Coogan on the drums. He plays on nine tracks on this record and the other three tracks are played by Matt Starr, who did the drumming on Space Invader. Chris Wyse on bass. I’m playing bass on about four tracks. Richie Scarlet is on rhythm guitar for the tour.

 

The obvious question is will there going be a Volume II?

 

Yeah, it was actually my idea to call it Volume I. (laughs) I just thought it was a great marketing ploy and everyone’s going, “Is there going to be a Volume II? I go, “Maybe.” I have a feeling this is going to be a very successful record, because I think it has mass appeal. You don’t have to be an Ace Frehley fan to get off on some of the songs on this record. If the record does as well as I think it will, I definitely think there is going to be a Volume II, but not before I do another studio record.

 

Originals?

 

All originals, yeah, and then maybe after that, maybe Volume II. That would make sense.

 

I recently read that you would consider playing with KISS again.

 

I’ve always said that. I’ve always said, “Never say never. Leave the door open.” It’s really their call. I think it could be great. It would be a nice way for KISS to go out with a bang. You know, right now it’s really only half of KISS.

 

Right.

 

And everybody knows it. But like I said, the ball is in Paul and Gene’s court, but I would be open to the idea if it was presented to me in the right way. Sure.

 

I’ve been promoting my book now since October, and I’ve done a ton of podcasts and interviews and radio, and you’ve been the one member of the band that everybody gravitates to, perhaps because of your rebellious nature and the fact that you didn’t always buy into some of the more materialist KISS stuff; that you’ve been your own man. Do you realize how much people really love you?Ace_James_1-250

 

I don’t. The other thing that people always say to me, “Do you realize the impact you’ve had on so many guitar players? The influence you’ve had?” It’s just not something I think about. I’m really flattered when people say that to me. But, yeah, I’m kind of like the cool guy. (laughs) Let’s be honest. That’s what everybody said.

But it was never about the money for me either. I always wanted to be respected by my peers and I didn’t want to give up my integrity as a musician in lieu of a show or merchandise or anything. To me it was always the music first, the show second. Invariably with KISS, a lot of times the reviews would talk more about the show than the music. It was frustrating at times, but I think at this juncture I’m respected by my peers. I don’t know if Paul and Gene really are all the time.

 

What are your feelings about two other guys wearing the makeup? I know they can legally do it, but to fans know that’s not Ace Frehley out there.

 

Prior to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction a lot of people thought it was me, believe it or not! (laughs)

 

No shit. I don’t believe that.

 

People that aren’t hardcore fans and people that don’t really pay attention to the inner workings of KISS, a lot of them weren’t even aware of it. They’ve always downplayed Tommy (Thayer). But I think with all the controversy that surrounded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that they decided not to play with me and Peter, a lot of people got hip to the fact that, “Hey that’s not Ace in the makeup!” I’m telling you, a lot of people didn’t know. I used to get phone calls when KISS played in certain areas and somebody would say, “Hey can you get me tickets? I want to go see you play.” I go, “That’s not me. What are you talking about?” I’m telling you. (laughs) The people that weren’t hardcore fans, casual fans, some of them didn’t know. They thought it might be Ace.

 

Well, does it bug you?

 

I still get checks. (laughs) Unlike Peter, I still do get checks.

 

Well, that’s good.

 

They pay me for the use of the makeup and I get checks for merchandise, but it bothers me. You know what bothers me more; the fact that the fans are upset about it. It’s gotten really silly over the last year or so when Paul or Gene make these ridiculous statements like, “Well, you know, once we can’t perform any more, even we’re going to be replaced.” They’re trying to legitimatize the fact that there are two fake guys in the band by making a statement like that. But let’s face it, those guys making that statement is like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards saying, “Yeah, once we’re gone The Stones are gonna continue with two guys that look like us.” Give me a break. They will try anything to pull the wool over some people’s eyes.

 

But like you said, the true fans know.

 

There is only one real Space Ace.

 

That’s right!

 

Whataya gonna do?

 

Whataya gonna do?” That’s classic Bronx.

 

Go feegya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

THE GREAT REPUBLICAN LIE ON ABORTION

Aquarian Weekly
4/6/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE GREAT REPUBLICAN LIE ON ABORTION

This week Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, in his usual wing-it fashion, told an MSNBC audience that if abortion was illegal than the woman getting the abortion is committing a crime and therefore should stand trial for said crime. This caused the predictable outcry from pro-choice advocates and Democrats, but unconscionably, it also drew the ire of conservative Republicans. This makes no sense and someone should point this out.

dt_0406

Pro-Life advocates conveniently want it both ways; they continue to woo the woman vote while also stating that abortion is murder and should be deemed such. Who exactly then is the murderer? The doctor? Does the doctor enter the woman’s room late at night and yank the fetus from her or does the woman make a difficult choice to terminate the pregnancy, then, in their ideological view, walk willingly and knowingly into the clinic and murder the fetus?

This is why I state emphatically that if I were a woman in no way, shape or form would I ever support a major political party that stands by the concept of allowing the government to manipulate my insides. Ever. Whatever side you fall on in this very difficult issue, you cannot support the government deciding what happens inside the body of a tax-paying citizen protected by the Bill of Rights. It is not only unconstitutional, it is insane. It leads to a world in which if there is over-population, then the government can decide who lives and who dies and could one day force women with “too many children” to get abortions.

But if you strongly believe that it is the right and moral foundation for the United States government to protect innocents – unless innocents happen to be gay, undocumented, the elderly with no money, or the random black kid gunned down by rogue cops; then fuck them – it stands to reason you deem abortion murder, and therefore that murder must have a perpetrator. Conservative phonies like Ted Cruz, who is now fully immersed in the establishment, despite his charade of stating he is anti-establishment whilst asking the party to coalesce behind him to stop the actual anti-establishment candidate, like to tell us that in this weirdly constructed reality, the woman is the victim of this “crime”.

Really?

Then why do we put drug offenders in jail or bust drunk drivers? They are merely victims of the terrible drug dealers and liquor stores and bars who serve them dope and libations. When someone hits you with their car, do they seek out the manufacturer? Is Ford responsible for the guy who hits you? So, I ask; in what crazed dystopian nightmare does a woman who gets an abortion somehow translate to victim?

I guess Ted Cruz is a bleeding heart liberal who believes somehow that society, the prison system, and the Beatles were guilty of ritualistic murder, and not poor, victimized Charles Manson.

If abortion is murder, then the woman should go to jail. Trump is correct and has continued to be the gift that keeps giving for the free thinkers among us who believe that the abject lies the Republican Party has been selling for decades about military build-ups and asinine wars, Wall Street, free-trade unregulated nonsense, and haughty attacks on social issues are stupid and antiquated and have become sad, fringe positions that have no place in an advancing world.

But that is politics, and we are not dealing with politics today, just like we are not dealing in morals here, ever; we are merely dealing with personal liberty and the law, which rightly gives a tax-paying citizen protected by the Bill of Rights control over her body. However, if that law should change, and abortion becomes illegal; then you explain to me how a woman who seeks an abortion does not break the law? And if you break the law, should you not pay for your crime? And if that crime is murder, then should you not be sentenced to life imprisonment, and in some states, face execution?

This is about taking Trump down, while simultaneously keeping the false notion of deeming abortion a crime against humanity while somehow absolving the architect, so women will vote Republican in the fall.

I believe Trump when he repeatedly says, “You either have a country or you don’t.”

So, where does this dribbling nonsense of staunchly defending the unborn while simultaneously absolving the woman killing this child come from?

Now, the cynic in me understands the campaign landscape of shock and dismay is wholly motivated by a #nevertrump effort. Trump, like Obama, could espouse the entire GOP platform and someone on the right will get in a tizzy and blame them for pissing on God’s head. This is about taking Trump down, while simultaneously keeping the false notion of deeming abortion a crime against humanity while somehow absolving the architect, so women will vote Republican in the fall. Period.

The main discussion about abortion really comes down to the idea that you must accept that you are indeed terminating a life when you have one. As a supporter of pro-choice, I also get tough with those who support same when they deny that this is not the case, that somehow this glob of tissue is not life or to make things cushy, some sub-life or pre-form of life. Technology and advanced science now prove with no doubt that life is being terminated. Whether this constitutes murder, as it is described in the annals of civilization or our current structure of law, is another argument I shall not make here. But I have been asking my pro-life friends now for decades; how exactly do you accept the premise that the government has a right to adjudicate what is inside a citizen’s body? The government has no right to burst into your apartment and begin rummaging around, but your body is open season?

And how do you police this matter?

Donald Trump says you arrest the murderer, and he is right.

But that is shocking to us, because we cannot imagine someone being arrested for such a thing. So, in abject panic that we can now see their draconian oligarchy correctly, the right-wing moral loons scramble to tell you Trump is nuts. Well, of course he’s nuts, but so is the notion that the government can arrest a woman for this. So, they make up some wild story about the woman merely being a victim.

Poor, unknowing, weak, and distressed female, whose only purpose is to plunk out babies on demand; you will not be held responsible for the thing you just did. But, of course, you will, and you should, and if you don’t think that is coming if Roe v Wade is overturned, which the Republican Party wants – including Ted Cruz and John Kasich, no matter how much they try and distance themselves from it – then you are not listening to the pro-life movement. This is what they want; to make abortion illegal, which means if you happen to have a vagina; it is time to watch your step.

If the premise introduced to Donald Trump on MSNBC this week is correct, and one day we are faced with abortion being illegal, than women will need to stand trial for murder.

Any other conclusion to this is a lie.

Read More

MADAM SHOO-IN – THE SEQUEL

Aquarian Weekly
3/23/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MADAM SHOO-IN – THE SEQUEL
The Clinton Machine Revs Up

Can you hear it?

Vrooooooooooom. Vrooooooooom.

It is an old model, early 1990s to be exact, and though it was idling a tad shaky this past summer – not surprisingly, it hadn’t been cranked up since 2008 – it is starting to hum. The pistons were rusty and the fuel lines were clogged. A few spark plugs were less than optimal, and the radiator leaked. It may not be a perfect machine, right off the line, like the 2008 Barack Obama model that ran it off the road on the first turn and never looked back. But even that model has a few laps on it now. It is ancient history around these parts, the Clinton parts; where the sense memory is long and deep and needs no motivation beyond a push on the pedal to get her going.

hc_03-23

Vrooooooooooom. Vrooooooooom.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is about to be the first woman to ever lead a major party’s ticket for the presidency in the 240-year history of this republic. It is only a matter of time before she gets the engine of The Machine at peak levels. It’s just about revving now; across the South and now through Midwest, with a few pit-stops for tuning up around New Hampshire and Michigan. But after the real Super Tuesday, where the delegate count started to look like something from Custer’s Last Stand, it is picking up steam. Even the Bernie Sanders supporters now begin talking about “changing the party” and “making our point” and “looking forward to marching into the Democratic Convention and pleading our ideological case.” Winning for them is out of the question now.

This is what happens when The Machine rolls over you. There are tire marks on your back and you wonder, what’s the point?

The late Paul Tsongas had a similar feeling in 1992. The Massachusetts senator entered Super Tuesday with momentum and was putting the screws to William Jefferson Clinton, an embattled and politically wounded Arkansas Governor. Clinton was a scandal working on another scandal while waiting for the last scandal to wrap up. Soon, without warning, Tsongas was headed back to Beantown not knowing what hit him. What hit him was The Machine.

I have seen The Machine up close. I felt its heat and heard its engines purr. They are a mother, let me tell you. In 2009, I went to Radio City Music Hall to listen to its main mechanic James Carville publically discuss how to build and maintain such a thing. He sat across from Karl Rove, a man I drank with more than once in early 2000, who ran an effective engine of his own. That tip-top bastard of an apparatus turned a garble-mouthed Texas bonus baby into Captain Shoo-In, who would become a Texas governor and later president of the United States. These are men who know how to put together a machine that instinctually warms up and finds the open road.

Right now that is where Hillary Clinton finds herself. There is no junior senator rock star in front of her now. The Bern has flamed out. Most it can do now to make news is have its youthfully exuberant charges bust up Donald Trump rallies, which is good for press but does nothing to stop whatever that maniac’s got going, which looks real and mean and unstoppable. But that is a problem for the Republican Party, which fears the real estate mogul’s dismal approval ratings might sink it and hand the senate back over the Democrats. Trump, they say, is even more untrustworthy and unpopular than Clinton, who has now approached Nixonian levels of icky. No one seems to know what the woman is capable of, but none of it matters. The Machine is on its way.

Vrooooooooooom. Vrooooooooom.

There is no junior senator rock star in front of her now.

For the record, this model has an easier ride than the ’92 model. That one was brand new but up against serious odds, and the Democratic Party didn’t give a shit who the hell lost to George Bush Sr. Eyes were already on 1996 when the whole Reagan Revolution finally died out and people could get on with things. But Big Bill had other ideas. He also had a madman Independent candidate called Ross Perot, sort of an antecedent to this Trump fellow, but crazier. Way crazier. The Texas billionaire garnered 18 percent of the vote, despite dropping out halfway through the summer haunted by delusions of CIA infiltrations of his daughter’s wedding and other weird shit he blurted out during odd moments on the Larry King Show. As a result of this mess, Clinton won the presidency with 43 percent of the popular vote. Only Richard Nixon in 1968, (43.4) Woodrow Wilson in 1912 (41.8) and Abraham Lincoln in 1860 (39.8) earned less. To fair, Honest Abe had three opponents and the entire South delivered zero votes.

The 2016 Clinton model could face a similar set-up, if anti-Trump Republicans decide to form a third party and siphon off 20 percent of the right-wing electorate.

Either way, you’d have to be a political novice to not see that The Machine has found its motor and is kicking up a storm now. It came alive somewhere along the southern rim of the contiguous United States in mid-to-late February, and it shows little sign of slowing down. Not until there is an opponent, and that looks malleable right now. For Bernie Sanders, as we have come to know and love him, is done; left by the roadside with his thumb out looking for a way back to the senate. It was a nice run, a short revolution, but one that had a mind-bending effect on Clinton. It may even hound her come late summer when the main laps for The Machine commence.

But know this: The Machine, the Clinton Machine, is back. And at some point all this fleeting hope for the FBI or some smoking gun to come out of any of these Clinton shenanigans to halt its momentum has got to cease. It will be time then for someone or something to stop it on the campaign trail, where is has shown at once a lethal effectiveness and an inability to get out of its own way. There is only one way to put The Machine down now; the ballot box, where all these things end up…eventually.

Vrooooooooooom. Vrooooooooom.

Read More
Page 4 of 73« First...«23456»102030...Last »