THAT METAL SHOW ON THE RUN

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Aquarian Weekly
3/16/16

THAT METAL SHOW ON THE RUN
Eddie Trunk on The Fate & Fortune of His Beloved Cable Show

There is little debate among fans of That Metal Show. It is great. It is fun. It is geeky and loose and relatable and the hosts, Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine are like buddies hanging at the bar arguing about the best thrash metal band or what guitar solo is the better or what live version of a song outdoes the studio version; important, life-affirming stuff. The interviews with the rock stars are intimate and disarming and have the air of same; hanging out talking hard rock and metal with the passion it deserves.three

This is why when a few months back, June to be exact, it was silenced, there was a hue and cry across the land. Its channel, VH1 Classic, owned by MTV Networks, did not renew its option, due in part to upheaval in upper management and the usual boardroom financial quarrels. The ratings were good. In fact, it far exceeded anything the network aired. It’s frugal, low-tech production, the only original content produced by the network, never wavered.  Yet, after 14 seasons, That Metal Show is no more and fans want to know why and what’s next?

The show’s brainchild and founder, Eddie Trunk comes clean in this exclusive interview with the Aquarian, and since Eddie was kind enough to read, rave about, my new book, Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon and interview me for his Sirius XM coast-to-coast radio show this past October, I have drawn the assignment to get the scoop.

What happened? What’s happening?

Here are the highlights of our discussion on the matter and the latest from the That Metal Show front lines.

 

james campion: First off, how did this all go down?

 

Eddie Trunk: For fourteen seasons, every time we’d finish one the network has about ninety days to let us know if they plan to pick up the option to do another season. The ninety days lapsed in April and they said that there were some changes going on at the network, at many levels; executives that were big champions of the show and were responsible for getting them on the air were either dismissed or quit.

We were told that the show initially was going to be moved to another network with the same company. There were a lot of things we were originally told and then each time another phone call came it was basically, “We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to do that.” And then they basically just released us completely from our deals. It’s just restructuring. It’s nothing personal.

 

jc: Do you, Don, and Jim have your own production company? How did you work all that with VH1 Classic and how are you guys moving forward?

 

ET: VH1 produced and owns every episode of That Metal Show including the name.

 

However, what happened is our producer, Jeff Baumgardner, who produced every episode and worked for VH1, as part of his exit out of the network he was able to make a deal to get the name of the show. So he now actually controls the name of the show and it’s under his world now. So we have the ability, because Jeff is in our corner, very much wanting to continue to do the show, we have the ability to continue doing the show exactly how it was and use the name and all the same features. It’s just that when that’s done the network that decides to pick it up would have to make a deal with VH1 for it. But there is a deal in place, so it’s very easy to do. So we can continue the show. We can continue it under the name That Metal Show. It’s just some paper work that needs to be done for that to happen, but VH1 has given us their blessings to continue to look for a new home for the show and to allow it to still be called That Metal Show.

 

jc: So where are we now with all this?

 

ET: Well, my agent, Adam Leibner is representing me and also helping to place the show. He was a huge fan of the show for many years long before he represented me and he is in the process now of talking to various parties to see what the options are. And at this point we don’t know. It’s a very slow moving process and I understand that’s frustrating for the fans. Frustrating for us as well. I would love to bounce right back and be right back on, but it’s not that simple. And the TV landscape is extremely convoluted right now, because you have all the over the air networks but then you also have the emergence of Netflix and Amazon and all these streaming services, apps, and all these different things in the media world today. So every single avenue is being explored and weighed and discussed to see what’s out there and what makes the most sense.

 

jc: Is there something you would prefer that would allow you to do the things you didn’t have the budget to do or you would even attempt to do to expand the show, to have bands play or have more production value or whatever?

 

ET: Absolutely. How realistic it is, I don’t know, but I always have lofty goals and I always am looking to make everything I’m doing bigger and better and have more opportunities at every level no matter what I do. I would certainly love to record more episodes a year than we have. I’d love to include band performances. And I would certainly love to broaden it out. People may find this pretty hard to believe, but I never ever, ever, wanted the name “metal” in the name of the show. And that’s not because of the fact that, I mean, God my whole reputation is in that genre, so it’s nothing to do with that. It’s just that I wanted it to be a little broader based. I thought it would be important to lure in other sort of acts that might be alienated by that name and still keep it a rock show.getty

So we would like to take some chances and do some different things. We’d like to make it bigger and better. It’s just a question of finding a dance partner that’s up for that and wants to do it. And listen, the flipside of that could very well be where we have to go a little leaner and meaner.  We have to even strip some things away maybe depending on what the opportunity presented to us is. So, again, we are listening to everything and everybody and taking it all in. It’s being digested and I’ve got a guy that I trust to process all this and go through it and see what’s going to make the most sense. We just simply don’t know right now. Truly anything can happen. We just have to let the process play out.

 

jc: What’s your preference for how this plays out?

 

ET: My dream would be to be on HBO. The reason why I say that is because I would also love to be uncensored. I think that dealing with the people that we talk to, the stories and stuff that we could get that we wouldn’t have to censor would be incredible. Or obviously my dream would be to be on a network, but that’s a pretty lofty thing. But again I don’t rule out anything. Nobody does. It’s just a question of where is there traction? Where is there interest? It’s funny, James, because, and I get this from a fan’s standpoint because they’ve lived with this show for so long and they love it and it’s ingrained in them, and I greatly appreciate that; but the huge amount of fans that I hear from, they all say the same thing, “Well, just take it here.” “Just take it there.” “Just put it on there.” Like I can do that! (Laughs)

There’s going to be a very sizable audience that when we do announce a new home is going to immediately come there. And we hope that that’s a powerful enough thing to get some interest from a network, but I gotta be honest with you, man, I’ve always been a guy that I never get too high and I never get too low. So nothing would surprise me that could happen here. And, of course, I hope for all the best stuff, but I’m prepared for anything and I’m hoping it all works out. If it doesn’t, I’ll do something else. I’ll do something new. I developed this. I’ll develop something new hopefully.

 

jc: So you guys are keeping all options open.

 

ET: Sure. There’s a ton of those networks that are merging. And somebody just told me the other day there’s a channel called Esquire, which I didn’t even know I had that’s on my cable system. And there’s a bunch of these channels that people honestly don’t even know about that are out there. And it’s kind of like, “Ok wow. That could actually work. That could be a fit. What’s involved in making that happen?” And again there’s so many of them. A lot of people have said, “Access TV!” Well, sure. That would be a logical place, but they have to want to do the show. And listen, doing That Metal Show is not cheap. It’s cheap by big network standards, but the way we were doing it, it’s an investment. They have to feel that it works for them. We’re going to explore everything. Also, the other thing I run into is people yell out networks that they get on their cable systems. For everybody that’s yelling at me, “Access TV!” there is just everybody else, the next person that says, “Well I don’t get that channel, so don’t go there.” (Laughs)

jc: So, what can fans do that read this? Also, I’m sure a lot of the guys, the acts and some of the rock stars you’ve gotten to know that have been on the show probably want to be in your corner and write emails and make phone calls and back you. What do fans do en masse to get That Metal Show back on the air?

 

ET: Well, there really isn’t one at the moment. There is a couple of fan ones that have been set up. I know, Tim Louie at the Aquarian had one going for a while. I don’t know how many signatures at last count, which is all wonderful and really very flattering and really very nice. And it is certainly, certainly appreciated, but I’d be lying, and I just don’t want to waste anybody’s time to tell them that there is something we can do like that now. There isn’t really anything like that to do just yet that is really going to mean something in the big picture here. There may very well come a time that we do need that and I’ll be the first to let everybody know when, where, and how to help. But as it stands right now we really are still just in this exploring phase and I’ve seen a lot people email networks and I know that Netflix in particularly, Access TV, because those are two that come up all the time, have been tagged on tweets and what have you. That’s all great! And it’s appreciated. I don’t know how much it means to the networks. I don’t know what it means. I don’t know if it gets to anybody there. But it certainly can’t hurt, as long as it’s done in a respectful way.

 

jc: I’ve come to learn since my KISS book came out, that these bands have a strong cult following, as does your show.  Metal Heads do not fool around.

 

ET: Well, thanks, man. And you know we appreciate that and we’ve heard that from a lot of people, and again, I can’t stress enough; our one-hundred percent goal is to absolutely get it back on. And there is nobody anywhere that’s deviating right now from the plan of saying “Ok. What’s out there? How can we do this? What’s the best home? Where can we bring it?” It’s just going to take a little time. I know that everybody expected and wanted a quick answer and a quick bounce back, but we don’t have that just yet. It’s a process and it has all got to play out. And again I hope that it truly does. In the meantime, I would tell everybody that for fun, I mean, the show is still on VH1 Classic. They repeat episodes constantly throughout the week.

 

jc: You guys still do road shows and appearances, right?group

 

ET: Yeah. It’s very important for people to know what we do on the road is certainly not a taping of the TV show. But for years now we have been going out together, the three of us, and we go out to clubs and we tell stories, behind the scenes stories, and Don and Jim do standup, and I do some Q & A, and we do some live “Stump the Trunk.” And we just have fun with the audience in a bar setting. People come out, obviously they have some drinks, we give away prizes, and we have a good time. There are no cameras. Sometimes there are no guests. It’s just really us.

Another thing, people have said, “Hey just go do the show on the road.” That’s a little more involved then you would think. Again, it comes down to money. You’re talking crews and sets and hiring guests and musicians. That’s a big operation that again we don’t have that sort of funding available.

So we do kind of a lean and mean road show. We get out there, we have fun, we thank the people that have supported the show and it’s something that we’ll keep doing with or without the show on a new network. The three of us are all still great friends. We have a good time out there together. We’ll see where it goes. But I can’t stress enough my thanks to everybody for their support through this whole thing. And also, of course, that we hear ya’ and it isn’t as easy as saying, “Go here.”

 

jc: It’s an exciting time. Something will come of it. I just have a good feeling about it.

 

ET: You never know. And again; I don’t get too high, I don’t get too low. I just kind of let the process play out and nothing usually ever surprises me. So we’ll hope for the best and who knows, maybe somewhere in the not too distant future we’ll be doing an interview talking about a bigger, better new home.

 

 

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SIR GEORGE HENRY MARTIN – 1926 -2016

Aquarian Weekly
3/16/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SIR GEORGE HENRY MARTIN – 1926 -2016

The Beatles: the cultural axis for a generation, whose music, style, language, and political impact was seismic, fueled by a hypnotic influence unrivaled in the pantheon of art. The Beatles invented a paradigm and then shifted it, over and over and over again. It is impossible to imagine there being a thing called rock and roll, arguably the most lasting global movement of the twentieth century, without it. Beside the four men who made up The Beatles; John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, there stand two others most responsible for this; Brain Epstein and George Martin. As manager and mentor, Epstein created the visual revolution that charmed a planet while Martin, as producer and creative Sherpa, did the heaviest lifting of all; he cajoled, conducted, re-imagined and realized the music that shook the very foundation of human spirit. He made songs, glorious songs; perhaps the best and most revered music of the modern age.

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You want to begin to comprehend George Martin’s genius and immense contribution too all this? Simply listen to the music. Do it now. Go ahead. You have heard it a million times, but do it with fresh ears and a pure heart. Deny it is not nostalgic and fresh, bold and endearing, an eruption of joy. I dare you. It is Mozart meets Chuck Berry meets Jackson Pollack meets Abby Hoffman meets vaudeville, theater, sock-hop and cathedral.

Then do yourself a huge favor and read Martin’s 1979 memoir, All You Need Is Ears, Here, There and Everywhere by Geoff Emerick, one of his partners in studio magic, and Mark Lewisohn’s brilliant and seminal, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.

I can write ten thousand words about George Martin. I may still do it. But for now I’ve asked some very talented friends from all ends of the music business to weigh in on his passing this week. But most of all, I needed to hear their musings on his wide-ranging influence. It is in the following words that the resonance of the man remains, as in every note he arranged, produced and then captured for posterity.

George Martin is the legacy of now. His lasting gift has no time or era; it continues, and will continue, as long as people can make the music wink.

Bob Ezrin, legendary producer of Alice Cooper, KISS, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Taylor Swift, Rod Stewart, Deep Purple and much more is a direct descendent of Martin’s elaborate studio creativity. Classically trained, as was Martin, Ezrin’s “thematic” and aural storytelling continues to expand the scope of rock music’s oeuvre.

“He is the father of the entire modern recorded music industry. It is his genius and imagination that changed the recording studio from a place for the rigid and faithful reproduction of live performance to an instrument of sublime creativity and endless possibility. He saw in recording the ability to tell stories and create worlds through music and sound using techniques created for radio drama – many by him personally. He extended the “stage” of recorded music past the four walls of the studio out into a whole new universe of sonic imagery. Though it all seems almost commonplace now, this was truly revolutionary stuff in his time. And all of us who tell stories in sound and music owe our craft mostly to him and the Beatles.

At the same time, he was the archetypal refined English Gentleman; a soft and well spoken, brilliant man of profound principle and respect for the world in which he lived. He was warm, humble, impish and imposing all at the same time. And he was, above all, ethical and totally genuine in his dealings with others. He earned his title in every way and I’m sure many called him “sir” even before he was knighted.

I have a funny George Martin story. So many of us do. But right now, as I head to the studio in the same way I have for decades, I can only think of him and his wonderful story, and of my profound gratitude for his historical life and work – and for the wonderful life and career that he (and the late, great Jack Richardson) made possible for me.

And the answer to your question about the making of KISS’s Destroyer without Martin’s influence: Absolutely not. We used the studio as an instrument during the making of Destroyer, trying hard to create a ‘cinematic’ experience for each song. No one even knew that was possible before we heard Beatles records.”

Jay Messina, legendary engineer/producer of Aerosmith, Patti Smith, Miles Davis, Peter Frampton, Krishna Das, Supertramp, Cheap Trick, Ravi Shankar, and more not only worked with ex-Beatles, but many of the artists directly impacted by Martin’s talents. Messina has and still works today with the bedrock laid down by the innovations of the Abby Road edict.

“I can only recall one time I had the honor to meet and work with him. It was to record Aerosmith, doing “Come Together” for the Sgt. Pepper’s movie. The thing that impressed me the most about him, besides his calm and peaceful aura, was that he really didn’t give Jack Douglas (producer/engineer of John Lennon, Aerosmith, New York Dolls, The Who, and more) or myself any particular direction other than to do what we usually do. I was impressed with the confidence he displayed, in himself, by just being able to sit back and observe the session as it unfolded. I miss him.”

Robert “Corky” Stasiak, legendary engineer/producer of Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, The Raspberries, Jim Croce, KISS, The Clash, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, and more came as close as anyone to a Lennon/McCartney reunion before it was curtailed by happenstance that led to Elton John recording the #1 hit, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” for Lennon’s 1974 album, Walls and Bridges. Stasiak’s love and honor as the consummate sound engineer put to the test much of Martin’s best-loved techniques during the classic era of rock.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to George and his family. I am gutted by the news of his passing. We did three albums together (Neil Sedaka, Jimmy Webb) and I was lucky to have worked at his studio in Montserrat (Air). He was a great inspiration to me, and the music universe. It’s hard to imagine a world without this Gentleman, musical Genius among us any longer. Anyone who has ever met him knows exactly what I mean. Our loss is Heavens gain. Rest in peace, Sir George.”

“He is the father of the entire modern recorded music industry.”

David Thoener, multiple Grammy winner and legendary producer/engineer of Carlos Santana, John Mellencamp, Heart, Meatloaf, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Willie Nelson, J. Geils Band, and more works the world over continuing to spread the international musical flavor of Martin’s work with the Beatles that introduced several and varied styles to the world.

“2016 has brought us the unfortunate passing of such amazing music talent. As a Baby Boomer I guess we can expect more reading that our heroes have died, but the passing of George Martin was a tremendous loss for all of us in the music industry. His contributions have touched millions and many who don’t even know how they were indirectly affected by his genius. My direction in life changed the day I heard The Beatles “Love Me Do”. It sounded like nothing I had heard before. I was instantly not only a fan of the Beatles but was curious how they created such an amazing sound. I was 12.

Moving forward to “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields” was transforming. At 15, I had decided my future; I was going to become a recording engineer and all, because George Martin changed my life forever. I had the opportunity to work with John Lennon in 1974, a memory I will never forget. 42 years later I am still making records, over 400 at this point. I have had a very satisfying journey through life and I owe it all to George Martin.
RIP, Mr. Martin.”

Rod O’Brien, engineer for Grand Funk Railroad, Edgar Winter, Blood Sweat & Tears, Talking Heads, Cindy Lauper, Patti Smith, Ozzy Osbourne has plied his trade in studios everywhere with every style of music, all of which has some connection to George Martin’s incredible body of work.

“I never met the man but like everyone in music I felt his influence and have the highest regard for all his work.”

Dan Bern, singer/songwriter/artist/author (albums include New American Language, Fleeting Days, Drifter, Breathe, among others, and books, World Cup, Quitting Science, 10,000 Crappy Songs) was and still is an avid Beatles freak. He speaks and writes adoringly about his time as a youth being awakened to the beauty and majesty of song through the recorded tapestry commandeered by George Martin. Dan’s hilarious tribute, “The Fifth Beatle” is one of his most beloved songs.

“George Martin did a great job producing Peter Sellers. And some other guys too. It’s hard to imagine The Beatles without George Martin. The Dave Clark 5 comes to mind. OK, that’s not fair. But the Beatles and George Martin went together like Muhammad Ali and Angelo Dundee, the Michael Jordan Bulls and Phil Jackson, Thomas Wolfe and Maxwell Perkins. OK, you get the idea. Three Beatles are gone and two are left. RIP, tall stodgy English man who talked like a schoolteacher and rocked like Amadeus.”

Eric Hutchinson, singer/songwriter/deejay (albums include Sounds Like This, Moving Up Living Down, Pure Fiction, Eric Hutchinson is Pretty Good, among others) is a songsmith and music nerd above all else. In the dozens of lunches and interviews we have had over the years not one failed to include some mention, deconstruction and celebration of Beatles music. We are still trying to formulate an increasingly difficult “Worst Beatles Songs Ever” list. How can we do it?

“Calling George Martin the 5th Beatle always felt a little too easy for me. To me, he was the father figure, the moral compass and the sophisticated class that made The Beatles come to life. Without a doubt his musical vernacular and knowledge enabled the group to grow and grow so quickly. Growing up, George Martin’s name was spoken in my house with the same reference as the president’s. He was that important.”

Nick Howard, singer/songwriter (albums include Something to Talk About, When the Lights Go Up, Stay Who You Are) and proud New Yorker by way of Britain, has carried on the Beatles tradition of pop sensibilities and a unifying message playfulness sometimes lost in today’s music environment.

“George Martin probably had a greater impact on popular music than any producer in history. Less we forget too that he SIGNED the Beatles when everyone else turned them down (something I remind myself of daily in my own quest for success)! In an age when bands and artists were signed on talent and not Instagram followers, he signed the best one of them all and allowed them to grow as men and musicians (to great effect!). To me he is a Beatle, and therefore has helped shaped my life in ways unimaginable.”

Eddie Trunk, radio and television personality, Megaforce Records executive, and author; (Trunk Nation, Sirius XM, That Metal Show, VH1 Classic – Books: Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Volumes I and II) has seen the music business from every angle and as a learned and well-traveled music historian, his voice heralds the many ages of rock music which begins in earnest with the dedication to growth exhibited by George Martin throughout his decades-long career.

“As someone who works in the world of hard rock the influence of George Martin may seem like a stretch. But consider this; almost every single rock and metal artist I’ve ever interviewed sites The Beatles as their primary influence and clearly George Martin had a huge role in that. Let’s also not forget he also produced some great albums for bands like UFO, Cheap Trick and others. The man was simply a giant in the landscape of music in so many ways.”

Scott Shannon, legendary record promoter and radio personality and member of the National Radio Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, watched the world turn upside down by the Beatles phenomenon and then turned its machinations into gold records for dozens of artists, not the least of which earning one of his own from Ringo Starr by breaking his 1974 hit, “No, No Song”.

“I really don’t have much to say that hasn’t been said by more important people than me. He was a genius and a gentleman.”

Ken Eustace, songwriter/producer; whose work with me as a recording artist lo those many years ago, had us scrambling to steal all of George Martin’s tricks with then modern equipment that dwarfed what the Beatles created masterpieces on. Hey, we tried.

“He was the context that gave meaning to Lennon/McCartney’s content.”

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CIVIL WAR!

Aquarian Weekly
3/9/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

CIVIL WAR!
The Republican Party Vs Citizen Trump

For the first time since 1964, the Republican Party is engaged in an open and hostile coup de tat against its overwhelming frontrunner for the nomination. This space has it solid from deep insiders within the national party that the “motherload” is coming down on Citizen Donald Trump, who currently leads the field in delegates (represented by the affluent to the working class) and states won (from New England to the Bible Belt) with what these sources are calling a “carpet bombing” of television ads and a legal plan to wrest the nomination from him come July at its national convention.

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The key word here that follows this is “if” – which entails Trump not reaching the requisite 1,237 delegates needed for a majority, and not a plurality of the vote, something most assuredly to happen now with three other candidates splitting the remaining tallies. If Trump fails to reach this crucial plateau, the increasingly apoplectic party leaders and establishment clan will pounce. These same sources describe a “brokered” convention as a very probable “shit show” that would see Trump march his 35 percent support out of the building and with them any chance of defeating a strengthened Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Yet, despite repeated calls, follow-ups and a lengthy discussion with several prominent voices in the GOP over the last couple of days that resulted in statements like “Trump is using the Republican Party as a tool he will later abandon to create a lane to the presidency”, I could not pin them down to a specific number: What if Trump gets to 800 or 900 and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, now in second in the delegate count, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a distant third, are a few hundred behind? No one would commit. However, the general consensus is without equivocation, if Trump is not at least at 1,000 pledged delegates by July 18, all bets are off.

And most of this is not back-room, off-the-record chatter; sitting senators, congressmen and governors have already gone on record throwing out all modes of legal shenanigans that could use party rules to simply deny a vast majority of millions of Republican voters their preferred candidate – on national television, cable news networks, and all over the Internet.

As stated in this space for months now, the neo-cons, buried by Trump along with the Bush Myth in South Carolina, the phony evangelical nationalists, buried by Trump on the Super Tuesday SEC Primaries, the international free trade elites, and Wall Street barons are in full panic mode – and although it is at the very edge of “too late”, are fully committed (monetarily or otherwise) to bring down the human hand grenade that is Donald Trump.

In a move that resembles the Mullahs of Iran defiantly robbing the voice of the people from a purported democratic system, the Republican Party, the very institution that forced Trump to sign a pledge of allegiance to not run against it as an independent in the general election, is floating rumors of running some bastardized Constitutional Party if he is close to the nomination. Crazies on the radio are calling for an illegal two-man anti-Trump combined ticket with Rubio/Cruz, which was dismissed as simple fantasy by my sources who cite that delegate must be appropriated by individual candidates, not magically shared in some half-baked cabal. The other more outlandish “plan” dismissed as “lunacy” involves the RNC systematically fusing its remaining Trump alternatives as a “three-headed majority” to claim their combined delegates that would add up to…whatever, my brain hurts.

if Trump is not at least at 1,000 pledged delegates by July 18, all bets are off.

Beating Trump with viable candidates and strong, defendable ideologies in an open primary season has thus far turned out to be a monumental bust. In fact, Trump is rocking it everywhere in every part of the country with every type of voter; while the party that for the past six years has welcomed a rousing anti-government fervor and piggybacked an alarmingly ill-suited mob of TEA Party non-politicians to gain control of both houses of congress, now works like mad to save its brand from Donald Trump. The party clearly absorbed what was a wholly grassroots movement into a political tool and then ignored it, creating Trump as its vengeance. Illustrating how out of touch with its electorate the party is they ironically now prop up two of its most opportunistic and fabricated TEA Party interlopers, Cruz and Rubio, as alternatives to the very system they exploited.

Whoops.

Thus, the sudden and pathetic re-entrance of two time presidential loser, Willard Mitt Romney, who began to frame the establishment narrative last week by announcing with no evidence at all that Trump had a “bomb shell” in his tax returns, something the flaccid campaigns of Cruz and Rubio vainly tried to use as a cudgel. This time, however, the once and rejected Massachusetts governor, with all the credibility of a man recently fleeced at a black jack table giving you tips on when to take a hit, stood on a stage in his home state of Utah and called his party’s nearly presumptive nominee a “fraud”, “bully”, and deemed him “disqualified”.

The man who blew an election that before he announced a doomed candidacy in 2012 had any Republican with a pulse with a seven to ten point advantage over a vulnerable incumbent by stating that 47 percent of the American electorate was filled with freeloaders is now calling people voting for Trump during record-turn-out primaries as “played for suckers”. The man who four years ago had to be dragged kicking and screaming to release his tainted tax returns now demands Trump release his. And in a spectacular example of utter lack of self-awareness, (the perfect foil for the party elites) Romney labeled Trump a flip-flopper; a term invented to describe his neck-wrenching shifts in policy over a very spotty political career.

There is only one cure to stop the GOP machine from taking to the convention in July and pulling a Democratic re-dux of the 1952 presidential nomination of Adlai Stevenson, who competed in zero primaries and yet received his party’s nomination to eventually be trounced by Dwight D. Eisenhower; Trump has to get to at least 1,000 delegates.

Or bring on the “shit show”!

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MUSIC FROM THE ELDER: Explaining the KISS Album Everyone Hates

ROCK Magazine
2/18/16
James Campion

MUSIC FROM THE ELDER: Explaining the KISS Album Everyone Hates

KISS hates it. The fans hate it. The band’s late manager and its label hated it. Everyone hates Music from The Elder.

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Time, almost 34 years now, has healed some of the wounds. You can find a loyal geeky contingent online and in the darker regions of KISS-dom that sing its praises. It even received nostalgic cheers from fans a decade after its release when the band would deign to play a song or two from it at KISS Conventions. There is even a British film-maker who is attempting to decipher its concept for a movie and an upcoming book from Tim McPhate and KISS historian non-parallel, Julian Gill called Odyssey, which will dissect every corner of it. But the general consensus is that KISS’s 1981 concept album was a monumental disaster and by far the band’s worst.

Guitarist and founder, Paul Stanley has called it “the biggest misstep of our careers” while his partner Gene Simmons described it as “pompous.” Former founding member, Ace Frehley, who thought it “offensive”, once threw a tape of it out of the window of his car while speeding down the Major Deegan Expressway. “It’s an abomination,” says its producer and mastermind, Bob Ezrin.

So why did KISS conceive, record, and release an album that was originally part of a trilogy, conjure a major theatrical tour, and consider an accompanying feature film for a project almost no one had much faith in and almost immediately disowned as if the entire episode was some kind of sophistic mirage?

Many a rock act has suffered the “whoops” moment, starting with a bevy of crappy Elvis movies to the mighty Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour television show fiasco to U2’s almost inconceivable Pop Mart Tour and, of course, Madonna’s Sex book, Garth Brooks becoming someone else, and a Bob Dylan Christmas album. But none could seriously compare with the story of Music from The Elder, which confuses the hell out of just about anyone coming in contact with it to this day.

This is an attempt – try and stick with me here – to explain it, not excuse or defend it, necessarily, just explain it. And for that we must go back to the final dark days of KISSmania, when the walls were closing in on our heroes…

THE END IS NIGH?KISS79b

It is March of 1981 and KISS is fading. Fast. The theatrical, image-driven, merchandising colossal band that once ruled the better part of the 1970s has endured faltering record sales, dwindling concert attendance, especially in the U.S., and depending on which party is consulted, the expulsion or defection of a founding member, drummer Peter Criss. The band’s original label, Casablanca Records, which had bet broadly and benefitted spectacularly on KISS’s success, came apart at the seams with the death of disco, a fad that it had wagered its considerable funds would last. It would be absorbed by Polygram Records, which boots its founder, Neil Bogart and negotiates a lavish contract with the band that it would hardly recoup in record sales. Aucoin Management, led by innovative marketing genius, Bill Aucoin, who guided KISS into the rock stratosphere, was also in dire straits. He had failed at every turn to duplicate his band’s once-in-a-lifetime meteoric rise with another act – he famously passed up one of the biggest bands on the planet, Van Halen for something called Piper in 1977.

Fading…

All around pop culture, signs of shifting fortunes are closing in. For perhaps the first time since the late 1960s’ hard rock is disappearing from the charts. The concussive rise of Punk, and its kinder and gentler cousin, New Wave in the late ‘70s has reset the agenda, torching the recent past. The latter is still going strong with hit albums by the Cars, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, the Pretenders, all competing mightily with the English New Romantic sound as it sweeps across America in the form of Duran Duran, Adam and the Ants, and Spandau Ballet. With the advent of MTV the following summer these acts and many more will usher in a new age.

Fading…

KISS is becoming a dinosaur; the make-up, costumes, theatrics, and the relentless merchandising that had attracted fans of all ages, now mostly children, has rendered the band somewhat of a joke. It didn’t help matters when in May of 1980 KISS releases Unmasked with its comic book self-mockery of the more infantile side of the band’s image on its cover – there is actually a frame of a kid announcing “I still say they stink!” – to its unbelievably soft single, “Shandi” accompanied by a video of what looks like a middling imposter of the once mighty KISS vamping poorly through a foggy lens.

Fading…

KISS is lost. Its image has taken all the hits it could withstand. Its music was never particularly experimental or groundbreaking, but is now failing to at least be fun. And when a band makes no bones from its outset that its only aim is fame and riches and suddenly both are rapidly going down the tubes, then what?

KISS is unsure of what that answer could be, but the band, its management and its label know one thing; this has happened before. Sort of. And when it did, in that fateful spring of 1975 with the band at a creative, financial and career-defining crossroad, KISS turned to Robert Alan Ezrin to pull them from the abyss.

THE MASTER IS IN17_Kiss176_2-32a_1976_Gruen

Long before selling out stadiums, seducing millions of dollars from merchandising, earning several platinum albums, and even starring in a hit television show and a popular Marvel comic book, KISS was a struggling rock oddity looking for footing in a rock world that had mostly ignored it. Paul Stanley (Star Child), Gene Simmons (Demon), Ace Frehley (Spaceman) and Peter Criss (Cat Man) had recorded three less than stellar efforts (KISS, Hotter Than Hell, Dressed To Kill) with little to no recognition or sales. The label and management were at odds on royalty payments and touring costs, and beneath a torrent of lawsuits the desperate result was to record a live album to salvage what was left of the record contract and regroup.

That regrouping included the recruiting of Bob Ezrin, who was riding high as the 26 years-old wunderkind who “created” the Alice Cooper group’s signature cinematic sound; producing, co-writing and conceiving the themes for each outlandish Cooper show and managing to also top the charts slowly but surely with Love It To Death, Killer, School’s Out and Billion Dollar Babies, the final one cresting at #1 in the U.S and U.K. Soon Alice would go solo and Ezrin would work his magic to unleash the innovative album, film, and tour, Welcome to My Nightmare.

Always one to grab onto talent with a definably odd charm, Ezrin was intrigued by KISS as early as 1974, something he shared with David McGee of Rolling Stone in 1976; “I could hear a rumble from the street, and I’ve always had a very good sense of that. I knew KISS was having a profound effect on people already and they weren’t even home yet. No airplay. No singles. No real big headlining tours.”

Ezrin met with the band in the spring of 1975 and broke down its issues; “I told them, ‘You’re super heroes of rock with a singular power and that’s it. There’s no depth to you!’ I just wanted there to be layers. I didn’t want to peel off the make-up and costume and find that there was nothing there.”

With the band yearning for direction and a legitimate producer, Paul, Gene, Ace and Peter willingly sublimated themselves to the will of Master Ezrin, who pushed them through a “boot camp” for weeks of music theory, song structure, signature composing, and relentless rehearsing. “We absolutely pulled out a blackboard and started introducing them to the very basics of music theory, just enough so we were speaking the same language,” recalls Ezrin.

Stanley concurs in his 2014 memoir, Face The Music, “For a bunch of guys who thought they were hot shit, it was initially jarring to go into a studio with somebody who treated us like children.”

Heading to New York City’s famed Record Plant, then the state of the art recording facility on the planet, the band spent a month cutting what would become its sonic manifesto, Destroyer, with its booming drum sounds, wall of guitars, backwards tracks, choirs, orchestra, calliope, and a one-minute and twenty-eight second radio-drama opening. It spawned one of the first ever power-ballads with the band’s biggest hit “Beth” and, with the ensuing unexpected popularity of Alive! that autumn, would catapult KISS into a world-wide phenomenon; crossing cultural and economic barriers rarely traversed by mere rock bands.

I spent hours speaking with the now legendary Bob Ezrin for my new book, Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon, and throughout our many discussions, we always returned to how much Bob had “altered” KISS’s “sound” with Destroyer. However, Bob would have none of it: “KISS have proven that there’s no such thing as a KISS sound. They’re an incredibly versatile group with a KISS attitude and a KISS style of lyric writing since the band is comprised of characters.

Ezrin never accepted KISS as being a two-dimensional act, appealing only to those “15 year-old pimply boys”, as he described them. With Destroyer, Ezrin added a pathos to the KISS ethos, and a third dimension of vulnerability, teen angst and critical character development that assisted in taking the band into new audience territories, expanding the act into something transcending rock into pop culture and transforming them into icons. This was the mission of KISS from the band’s origins, but it took a few months with Bob Ezrin to realize it five years earlier, and there appeared no better time than to hand themselves over to him once more.

Turns out when Ezrin is chosen to lead the new project, he has not seen anyone inside the KISS camp since the release of Destroyer, when Bill Aucoin, taking a lead from his panicked charges that the album was too much a departure and began hearing from the press and fans that the “experiment” had eradicated the band’s hard rock credibility, sent the young producer a letter officially stating that he had missed the mark in getting the elusive “KISS sound”. Ezrin was shocked, dismayed and pissed off, telling his protégé, Jack Douglas, whom the band had already contacted to perhaps remix Destroyer and quickly record a back-up without him, to tell everyone associated with KISS to “…go fuck themselves!”

KISS indeed would follow up Destroyer by going in the completely opposite direction and rode the crest of Destroyer’s massive success with Rock and Roll Over, Love Gun, Alive II, Double Platinum, and Dynasty without him. And even though none of them hinted at the amazing aural imagery of Destroyer or the musical vastness provided by a classical trained and professionally astute artist like Bob Ezrin, there looked to be no end to this gravy train, until, of course, there was.

The way the KISS inner sanctum figure it now there are two ways the band could go at this crucial juncture; the same old route back to the cock rock, floor-on-the-floor assault of the early days, which is quite obviously out-of-touch with a ravaged rock landscape, or completely torch the thing and pass the smoldering ruins over to Ezrin for another “experiment” that could provide the band an end-around to all of its troubles.

Music from The Elder is the result.

Released in early November of 1981, the new KISS album was not only a complete departure from whatever the band had attempted before, including Destroyer, it appeared to many in the business, and more pressingly fans, despite the recognizable KISS logo, to not even be a KISS album. There were no photos of their famous painted faces on the cover, only a single hand reaching for an ancient knocker on a giant door. The gatefold image opened to a medieval setting of candles and a long wooden table. The music was also a curious mélange that separated the band from its glorious past; Paul Stanley singing falsetto, Gene Simmons crooning, an orchestra, wonderfully overwrought as a backdrop on Destroyer, now dominated the sound. Even the album’s title whispered bewilderment; if this is music from…, then what exactly is The Elder?

LET’S GET SERIOUS568A7D0F-kiss-new-odyssey-book-to-offer-definitive-examination-of-1981s-music-from-the-elder-album-video-trailer-image

Gene Simmons, a huge fan of comic books, horror films and sci-fi, had whipped off a short story/screenplay for a concept he developed around a single line scribbled in his notebook; “When the earth was young, they were already old.” It was to be a classic tale of good versus evil told over several worlds, not unlike the wildly popular Star Wars, which had just released a box office record-smashing sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. There is a council of elders called the Order of the Rose in search of a “chosen one”, ala Luke Skywalker and the Jedi Knights, trained by a mentor, Morpheus, ala Obi Wan Kenobi, to fight the evil villain, Mr. Blackwell ala Darth Vader, evoking a medieval to futuristic mash up of myth and mystery. It was anything but fleshed out, but evokes something in the cinematically motivated Ezrin, who puts the kibosh on a series of demos KISS had recently been working on to return the band to its harder edge.

In fact, earlier in the year the KISS newsletter had informed the disillusioned fan base that the band’s new material was “hard and heavy from start to finish” with “straight ahead rock and roll that will knock your socks off.” And so they were. Demos from the period with new drummer, Eric Carr, with his massive double-bass kit and tank-division style, had begun to breathe life back into the band. Although pictured on the cover of Unmasked, original drummer, Peter Criss had not played a single lick, as he had only played on one song, his own, “Dirty Livin’” on Dynasty. Session drummers filled in, as did players for Simmons on bass and Frehley on guitar for a few songs on Unmasked, which helps to explain the record’s poor attempt at flimsy pop and New Wave rip-offs. The new KISS demos sounded more like KISS, because members of the band were actually performing them.

But manager Bill Aucoin believed strongly that doing the same old thing was no tonic to the band’s decreasing popularity and had other ideas. He told KISS biographers, David Leaf and Ken Sharp in 1996, “I had a meeting with Bob (Ezrin) and said, ‘How about some sort of album that can tell a story?’ Bob’s very bright and we got into this mythological thing and it got way out of line.”

This one statement subtly encapsulates the aura surrounding KISS that Aucoin himself had built from day-one; against all odds and against all reason, this is the biggest band in the world and it will do whatever it wants without consequence. As much as Ezrin was a strong and lasting musical influence on KISS, Aucoin was its father figure. It was he who had developed a grab-bag glam rock outfit into a roaring image and stage machine. His word was sacrosanct in the KISS inner sanctum.

This singular notion of invincibility manifested in several ways, not the least of which was the notoriously wild spending on shows and costumes, and with greater fame and fortune it expanded to cars, houses, drugs, women, and the usual rock excesses; by 1980 they were all far from dealing in anything close to reality. “We were delusional,” Paul Stanley recalls. “We were at a point, individually and as a band when we were becoming complacent and very comfortable in our success. I think we got caught up in the Emperor’s new clothes.” Gene Simmons, a man armed with a monstrous ego even when he was a pauper, had gone completely Hollywood, dating Diana Ross (after a stint with Cher on his arm), and flirting with the movie business. “I blame me,” said Simmons in the same account. “I really believed in the vision. ‘Yeah, I am great!’ I take full responsibility for pushing it (The Elder). I wanted credibility, which is really stupid if you think about it. If you’ve got everything else, who cares?” Ace Frehely, a party animal from the day he joined the band in ’73, was now a full blown addict; coke, pills, and a spectacular run of uninterrupted alcohol abuse. His only ally in the band, Peter Criss, was gone, so he was outvoted routinely by Stanley and Simmons, and although he loved Eric Carr as a drummer, he knew he was merely nothing more than a hired musician and could offer no real fulcrum against the tide of the band he now decided was losing its edge.

Bob Ezrin, as is his wont, ignores the wining and over analysis and enthusiastically runs with the idea of a KISS concept album filled with fantasy. He is coming off the massive critical and commercial success of Pink Floyd’s conceptual opus, The Wall, in which he went deep into the terrifying psyche of its composer, Roger Waters; coming to grips with his past, his disassociation with stardom, and his constant battles within his band. Throughout the sessions that trudged on for months, Pink Floyd was splintering – original keyboardist Richard Wright was summarily sacked by Waters during its recording – and it is something of a miracle that such a seminal piece of rock art could emerge from this swirling turmoil. Ezrin takes charge of KISS in the same manner and forges ahead undaunted.

And so KISS, now summoned to Ezrin’s home country of Canada, abandons all of its earlier “returning to hard rock” ideas and in May of 1981 begin to embrace Simmons’s fantastical story of youth overcoming the evils of the universe one song at a time.

Well, at least half of KISS embraces it.

Ace Frehley is certain that this is not the band he signed up for and quickly rekindles his well-practiced “I’m out of here!” routine he had begun as early as 1976. As with the Destroyer sessions when he was replaced on several tunes by brilliant studio guitarist, Dick Wagner, Frehley rarely shows up. As Ezrin works out songs with Stanley in his home studio and fleshes out snippets of song ideas with Simmons, Frehley decides that he would hole up in his Connecticut home in his newly erected basement studio, Ace in the Hole, to work on his tracks separately.

For his part, Eric Carr is merely a bystander. Barely in the band a year, Carr started out powering the KISS sound back to its ‘70s rock roots, but with the fits and starts of trying to transition into the 1980s’ with struggles to keep up appearances as one of the top bands in the world, he is cast adrift in the “new concept project’ shuffle and is ordered to play in styles that he has hardly considered, much less conquered. Ezrin, who had driven former drummer, Peter Criss to near madness meticulously pushing him to play exact parts to click tracks during the making of Destroyer quickly tires of Carr’s inability to master the new material and eventually replaces him with studio drummer, Alan Schwartzberg.

Still Stanley, Simmons and Ezrin press on with vigor. It’s this triumvirate that poured their hearts and souls into Destroyer five years earlier when Frehley and Criss wilted under the pressure. Ezrin believes this was something of a cultural, almost familial connection he parlayed into this new challenge.

“You cannot diminish the kind of kindred sense of connection between Paul, Gene, had myself” Ezrin told me in 2013. “The three of us growing up in Jewish households with that same sort of Eastern European ethic of trying to push the kid to be great and putting an emphasis on education and the arts; having to take piano lessons, learn to dance, doing all this stuff we had to do as kids, we had kind of a common ground. So when we all got together we felt like long-lost cousins in a way.”

The “cousins” start the painstaking process of creating The Elder story by taking segments of songs already fleshed out, along with newly penned pieces, and attaching them to Simmons’s vague plotline. These include an old pre-KISS Gene Simmons tune from a 1970 demo tape called “Eskimo Sun”, reworked as “Only You”, a character back-story for the theme’s protagonist. A new Stanley/Ezrin composition, “Just A Boy” describes the young man’s reticence to take up the mantle of champion. Stanley’s “Every Little Bit of Your Heart” or in some bootleg circles titled “I Want You Only” slowly becomes, with embellishments from Simmons and Ezrin, the central ballad of the piece, “A World Without Heroes”, which provides the youthful hero to imagine an apathetic future with nothing to fight for and no one in which to fight.

Years later, Ezrin told reporter Chris Alexander; “At the time we were all looking for bigger and better things… we thought it would be the beginning of many projects to come out under the name Elder. Paul and Gene were very into it, and put everything in it. They both had to step out of their personas, and was really daring for them to do that. They were attracted to the classic rock, almost Beatle-esque style of the album – they were seduced by that.”

And as he did with Destroyer in January of 1976, Ezrin once again brings in outside material and writers. A key song to the plot ends up being a souring ballad called “Odyssey” written by a music-business veteran of nearly thirty years, Tony Powers. The New York based singer-songwriter-actor had pioneered the short-form video storyline later used by Michael Jackson to great effect during the height of music videos with a 1981 trilogy that included the song. It caught the eye and ear of Paul Stanley, who cornered Powers in an Upper West Side café in NYC and asked him if KISS could use it as a key theme for the piece. Another veteran of the New York music scene, Lou Reed, with whom Ezrin had worked in 1973, producing his dark concept album, Berlin, is brought in to add lyrical and theatrical flourishes (it is Reed who scribbles the title “World Without Heroes” on a pad in the studio, which prompts Simmons to move the song in that direction). These include the villain theme, “Mr. Blackwell” in which Reed wields his now famous use of tense-shifting/first-person to third-person storytelling to unveil a truly demonic presence.

However much fleshing-out the story of The Elder would thematically and musically take KISS outside its bubble, there is something strange happening that had not occurred since the Destroyer sessions of late 1975, early ’76; the members of KISS are indeed writing together. There would even be time for Eric Carr to contribute, as he did with a riff for the rocking “Under The Rose”, which introduces the listeners to the world of council and “Escape From The Island”, a thunderous instrumental conceived from a Carr/Frehley jam with Ezrin on bass, marking the first time since “Beth” that neither Stanley nor Simmons appear on a KISS track. And for the first time since Destroyer’s Stax-laden “Shout It Out Loud”, an attempt to recapture the verse-trading that worked to perfection on the band’s signature tune, “Rock and Roll All Nite”, Simmons and Stanley contributed the penultimate track of the album with “I”.

LET’S GET PRETENTIOUSelder-outtake

All of this “creative output” took an insane amount of time to get down; seven months all-told, of which most of it was to everyone’s memory spent jacking around and messing with sound effects and over-orchestrating in four different studios (Ace in The Whole, A & R, Record Plant, Ezrin Farm Studio & Sounds Interchange) in four cities and two countries, with a co-producer (Brian Christiansen) and seven documented engineers. Ezrin, the master of ceremonies, now comes clean about his serious drug problem throughout, which prevented him ceasing the over-indulgence, which pleased Simmons, since this was his story they were telling. He had designs on a feature film and a sequel to accompany the massively planned tour and all of it stemming from this simple tried-and-true idea of the power of good triumphing over evil; Biblical, Grecian, Shakespearean. But it is ultimately the power of these two men’s intimidating egos that looms large over the proceedings and lends another air of fantasy to what is being created; in their rather skewed estimation, a masterpiece.

“They wanted to make a record to combat the criticism of the last couple of records,” Ezrin recalled. “I had just done The Wall, so The Elder was a victim of The Wall and our mutual desire was to do something ‘different’.” The key ingredient to connecting the storytelling in The Wall and The Elder was a series of sessions adding extended narration to the music, furthering the album’s cinematic grandeur. “The idea of the narration was supposed to bridge some of the songs together, with some orchestral and choir underscoring,” recalled engineer Kevin Doyle to KISS FAQ’s Tim McPhate. “In keeping with the idea of The Elder as a goal of being a seamless concept idea, almost kind of like Dark Side of the Moon where side A is not really a bunch of songs, it’s one continuous play with no ending.” Canadian-based actors Robert Christie, Chris Makepeace and Antony Parr, (Makepeace and Parr having made it on the album as the final voices of the Council Elder and Morpheus) are brought in, as well as the services of the American Symphony Orchestra and the St. Roberts Choir. “It was antithetical to what KISS was about,” Ezrin continues. KISS was never pretentious or precious, and never took themselves seriously. They were always about fun, sex and power, and always were, in effect, horror cartoon characters, so to suddenly make a concept album, which had something of ‘consequence’, was an idea anti-KISS. It was a flawed concept from the beginning.”

“You should never go for respect,” Simmons told his biographers in retrospect. “On the day that critics and your mom like the same music that you do, it’s over.”

Although not a motivating factor at its origins, perhaps beyond the illusions of manager, Bill Aucoin, who is also battling his own mounting drug issues, building the mystique that Music From The Elder is a conceptual masterpiece seems to grow with the months sunken deep in the project. The band, specifically Simmons and Stanley, fueled by Ezrin’s Herculean creativity, believe that if they had lost credibility by selling out to merchandizing and appealing to children with the KISS Meets The Phantom TV movie produced by children’s cartoon mavens, Hanna-Barbara and being turned into superheroes by Marvel Comics, then it is time to seduce the critics, who had not only ignored KISS for most of its existence, but had been openly hostile.

Thus, the first ten minutes of the original track listing of Music from The Elder is filled with Broadway-style, sing-song tomfoolery and an opening instrumental, “Fanfare”, written and arranged by Ezrin and Stanley and played with medieval-period instruments, followed by the flowery falsetto of “Just a Boy” (originally adorned with Bach-style “Toccata & Fuge” organ), and the epic piano-drenched Powers’ ballad, “Odyssey”. This ethereal beginning gives way to Simmons’s psychedelic phrasing of “Only You”, the lyrical changes from the 1970 demo of “Eskimo Sun” hardly echoing hard rock or KISS, nor does “Under The Rose”, replete with Genesis-esque keyboards and a chorus of monk chants. Not until Frehley’s only full contribution at the end of side one, “Dark Light” does this represent anything close to a KISS album.

Upon hearing the mixes, which also take an extended time to complete, Polygram freaks; completely dismissing it as trippy claptrap and begins hacking up the track list with no attention paid to the oddly formed storyline, slapping “The Oath” the heaviest number by far, but the eighth in the plotline, at the beginning of the record, followed quizzically by “Fanfare”, clearly an overture, then “Just a Boy” with “Dark Light” shoved in to keep up hard-rock appearances.

None of this deters the KISS camp from bringing to Polygram the curious but intriguing gatefold cover designed by their trusty Art/Creative Director Dennis Woloch, who had put together every KISS album after and including the breakthrough, Alive!. “The whole visual concept came out of my head,” Woloch says today. “I didn’t even listen to the album to tell you the truth. I don’t know what they were singing about.”

Woloch commissions New York photographer, David Spindel to photograph a pre-teen boy reaching for the ancient knocker in the middle of a prop-door he builds, but the band rejects it. Strangely, they believe this is too eclectic and confusing. Paul Stanley volunteers his hand for a reshoot. “I hated the whole idea,” concludes Woloch. “Not a concept album, per se, this concept; it just seemed so cliché and over done; wizards and ‘seeking the truth’. But they’re still doin’ it; The Hobbit and Star Wars, all that stuff.”

To complete the transformation, all the members of KISS shear their hair and reveal new, streamlined consumes with 80s pastel colors, then appear on the ABC Saturday Night Live rip-off, Fridays to perform “World Without Heroes”, “The Oath” and “I”, but with the album getting lambasted by confused and outraged fans, summarily bag the entire thing and return to rock form the following year with Creatures of the Night. Just like that, the entire enterprise, months of work and planning, disappears without a trace. It is almost as if The Elder or for that matter, the Music from…never existed. No tour. No film. No sequel. Nothing.

A side note of some irony is that Rolling Stone magazine, which had mocked KISS for a decade, gives Music from The Elder a rousing review. Go figure.

IN RETROSPECT…download

It was the KISS album that should not have happened, well…

Looking back, Gene Simmons has said more than once that Music from The Elder is a good album, just not a good KISS album. And maybe he has a point there. Maybe after years of being KISS, the band needed to be something else – hell, the Beatles did it with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Perhaps KISS just needed to blow off steam and dive completely into the self-indulgent deep end and swim in the conceptual waters with Bob Ezrin in order to reach the other side with a renewed spirit.

“Without all the ups and downs and following trends and taking chances, KISS would not have as interesting a career,” Michigan DJ, Steve Ponchaud told me recently. “All their albums would sound the same like AC/DC.”

Perhaps it was simply hubris that created Music from The Elder, but that would be an unfair final analysis, for wasn’t it a sense of unremitting pride that lifted KISS from queer notoriety to one of the biggest bands in the world?

“Regardless of its lack of commercial success or the artistic validation they had sought, Music from The Elder remains a critical part in the band’s recorded output and should never be shunned,” says Julian Gil. “Its failure set the stage for wholesale change and reinvention that would drive the band for the rest of the decade; and only through that abject failure could the passion continue to be discovered.”

After all, KISS survived the album everyone hates to literally reinvent itself without the iconic make-up, ingratiating its image into the 1980s hair-band craze, then later in the ‘90s when reuniting the original members and breaking concert attendance records all over the world. This “return” to the tried-and-true rock roots that bore them may have finally been the correct business, if not artistic, move, but truth be told none of it would be this interesting again.

“Believe me, I understand when it’s your career on the line and you do something very brave and very different and put your nuts on the line you hope that the world accepts and appreciates what you do,” says Bob Ezrin today about his work with KISS on both Destroyer and Music From The Elder. “But then there’s always that little voice in the back of your head that says, (sings) ‘Do you love me?’”

In the end, the album everyone hates may indeed be the last KISS album of merit.

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MYTH BUSTER IN CHIEF

Aquarian Weekly
3/2/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MYTH BUSTER IN CHIEF
Donald Trump Reshapes GOP Platform, Takes Down Bush Era Nonsense & Rolls On

Truth hurts.
– Lord Byron

Here’s all you need to know about the Trump juggernaut that dominated both the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries back-to-back, not to mention a blow-out in the Nevada caucuses, which has effectively put the entire system on alert: The fantasy notion that the Bush Administration, which slept-walked through the first ten months of its time in power leading up to the most horrific attack on the U.S. mainland since 1812, was somehow magically free from responsibility, is now over. Donald Trump obliterated this nonsense once and for all by standing on a Republican debate stage with the former president’s brother three feet from him and not only blamed him for 9/11, but called George W. Bush a liar, a war monger, and even went so far as suggesting he might have better been impeached. Then, instead of being ruined, the electorate in a mostly conservative southern state with 50% military vote and a miraculous 88% approval rating for Bush, agreed in a big way.

dt_0302

Imagine, if you can, a Democratic debate in Illinois eight years from now wherein a leading candidate of the party stands next to Barack Obama’s kin and calls him a Muslim Communist, who should have been thrown in jail for repeated executive actions, and then wins overwhelmingly.

Now, once and for all, we can stop ignoring history and repeating the falderal that George Bush and Dick Cheney and the rest of that useless cabal kept anyone safe.

As far as Trump’s sound victory, it is hard to argue it is anything but historic and impressive by every conceivable measure.

A private citizen less than eight months ago has now managed to effectively burn down the entire idea, purpose and foundation of Republican politics. On the same debate stage that Trump unloaded unprecedented vitriol on the last GOP two-term president, he derided further intervention in unwinnable foreign conflicts, defended the irrationally maligned Planned Parenthood, talked up single-payer health care, heralded eminent domain, stood firm against open free trade, and attacked Wall Street so vociferously the Wall St. Journal rushed two bogus polls showing him behind nationally and only five points ahead in S.C. days before the primary, despite composite polls giving him a 12-point national bulge and a two-digit lead in the state.

If Rick Santorum turned RNC Chairman Reince Priebus into a staggering lush four years ago, these developments have sent him into the kind of spastic paroxysms of fear that no narcotic invented by man could abate.

But Priebus’s manic substance abuse in the wake of this political and ideological grenade is nothing compared to what kind of abject panic, hate and rage is exploding from all ends at the Koch Brothers headquarters. Having purchased nine out of every ten Republican candidates for the past dozen years, the billionaire duo is hemorrhaging money trying to halt this march towards a nomination that would unthinkably leave their influence out of the White House bid. The much-celebrated right-wing Citizens United ruling a few years ago that has the Bernie Sanders bunch (and quite frankly Trump) in a tizzy has thus far gone belly up.

The latest casualty in money-pissed-away-on-a whole-lotta-nothin’ is W’s brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whose dead-on-arrival campaign spent $177 million to collect three delegates before ignominiously quitting in utter defeat. His little buddy, Florida Senator Marco Rubio also chucked a ton of cash away to gain, along with the millions spent by Wall St. puppet, Ted Cruz zero delegates in South Carolina. This in Cruz’s case despite its hearty chunk of glassy-eyed evangelicals who completely ignored his “blood of Jesus” rambling and ran to Trump in droves.

I want you to digest this for a moment; Rubio, Cruz and three other candidates got as many delegates as me and you in South Carolina. Congrats, you’re in the game – because both Rubio and Cruz called this spectacular ass-whup a victory. This is the kind of “everyone gets a trophy that participates” reasoning that has the Carolina Panthers as Super Bowl champs.

It also needs to be noted that the wide and highly qualified field of Republican candidates we were told were primed and ready for the White House, a daunting seven of which were sitting or former governors, are now down to a doctor, a real estate mogul, and two junior senators. Only Ohio Governor John Kasich, ironically the only traditionally electable candidate (whatever the hell that means now), stands – and he does so barely. Each one hardly got a foothold on this thing, as Trump dominated media coverage at every turn.

A private citizen less than eight months ago has now managed to effectively burn down the entire idea, purpose and foundation of Republican politics.

Pundits from all over the place are so flummoxed by all this there is now a cottage industry for coming up with magic math in which if everyone dropped out but, say, Rubio, then the field would take a candidate still only pulling in a third of the Republican electorate. This works at the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Wonderland, but where the rest of us hang out it is craziness.

If Ben Carson, who is merely selling books and getting his jollies speaking like a faith healer at a car show finally comes to what little senses he posses and drops out, where is his “we don’t want a politician” votes going; to establishment central-casting male model, Marco Rubio? I think not. So now Trump goes from 35% to around 42 to 45, which, by the way he surpassed in a rousing Nevada victory. Then, once Cruz is toast, which will not be for awhile, because his only reason for breathing is to do this; he has as much point in the senate as a Vegan at a pig roast; where does his “insurgent against the system” votes go; to centrist nice guy Kasich? I think not.

I am not ready to hand the Republican nomination over to Donald J. Trump, as I am on the Democratic side to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who pretty much ended Bernie Sanders’ 2016 bid in Nevada, but it is time to come to grips with this. If the Republican Party thinks it’s going to back-door this at the convention in Cleveland this summer and wrest the lion’s share of delegates from the Trump camp quietly and not cause a complete revolt and then exit of his supporters, subsequently handing the general election to Madam Shoo-In with less than 50% of the vote, as her husband did twice, then it is sadly mistaken.

The toothpaste is already out of the tube, jack; something I think Lord Byron would have said, and would have been right to say it.

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THE SCALIA BOMB

Aquarian Weekly
2/24/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE SCALIA BOMB

Once the death of ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was announced late on February 13, the wheels of political discourse, the fluidity of the 2016 presidential campaign, and the very core of the United States Constitution was put into play. No matter how this is handled, and chances are very good they will be handled poorly by the current members of the senate and our sitting president, his name, legacy and his vast and prominent ideological shadow will nonetheless hover.

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Elections have consequences.

We have all heard that spouted over and over throughout our lives come campaign time – whether a battle for municipal comptroller, dogcatcher or president of the United States. To the winner goes the spoils – the will of the people is paramount.

To wit: In 2012, Barack Obama, the duly re-elected president of United States, was given the right and responsibility by a majority of the electorate to appoint a Supreme Court judge in the event of retirement, which he has already done twice (Sonia Maria Sotomayor – 2009, Elena Kagan – 2010), and certainly if one is suddenly vacant. This is clearly framed in the Constitution. The idea put forth by Republican members of the senate or political rhetoric by GOP candidates that they will not consider his nominee or to refuse to even vote on said nominee is patently unconstitutional.

Now, of course, no one argues that it is the role of the senate to set parameters and hold hearings and even (wink, wink) stall or filibuster this process, but to arbitrarily state the chief executive, with an entire eleven months remaining in his presidency, cannot appoint a nominee for an empty seat on the Supreme Court is to ignore the will of the people to its elected president, and therefore I argue, treasonous.

If Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell had just merely said, “We’ll see” and let the process play out in the predictably obstructionist environment largely conducted by the congress over the past five years into January of 2017, then all is fair. But he did not. Like his bluster about “making Obama a first term president” and leading the charge to obstruct the agenda voted on by the majority of the American public twice in the past seven years, this reeks of partisan pettiness and ideological gridlock; the very reasons why an Independent socialist and a TV star businessman are the currently leading candidates for both major political parties.

Having stated the obvious, President Obama needs to be careful here. Back in 2006, then Senator Obama joined 24 Democrats to filibuster George W. Bush’s nominee, Samuel Alito. Obviously, Alito became a justice, but it did not come “smoothly”, as the president has challenged the senate this week. And so must the Republicans, in and out of the senate, tread lightly, as this false notion that not in 80 years has a president gotten a justice confirmed for the Supreme Court as Texas Senator erroneously blurted out during presidential debate in South Carolina. It happened six times in the twentieth century alone, the latest, Ronald Reagan’s 1987 appointment of Anthony Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson nominated two people in 1968, after announcing he would not seek re-election – Justice Abe Fortas to the Chief Justice position vacated by Earl Warren. But, of course, you could pack Yankee Stadium with what Cruz doesn’t know about constitutional history.

One thing Cruz, the president, and every Republican, Democrat and Independent on this continent understand is how monumental the Supreme Court has been over the past thirty years deciding on the most pressing social, economic and domestic issues of our day. It is the looming third branch of government, as laid out by the framers of this republic. Its decisions, however controversial, have shaped our history and solidified our Bill of Rights against the tide of painfully slow-moving progress.

However much they hold this fight dear, this is a huge gamble for Republicans, who are underdogs in any general election which gives any Democrat at least 244 very likely electoral votes before a single poll opens. Not to mention it fires up a Democratic electorate that is half as jacked as Republicans, who have only achieved the popular vote once (2004, G.W. Bush) since 1988 (H.W. Bush).

The idea put forth by Republican members of the senate or political rhetoric by GOP candidates that they will not consider his nominee or to refuse to even vote on said nominee is patently unconstitutional.

At least Obama will be forced to send a moderate to the senate, unless he decides to make this political, which he could very well do, which again, will embolden the left and the growing majority of independents with more progressive social concerns. And should the victor be Hillary Clinton or (gulp!) Bernie Sanders the nominee would in no way, shape or form resemble a moderate. It will be as liberal as Scalia was conservative, and that choice will have post-election political capital not available to a lame duck president. Say what you wish about Barack Obama, but listening to these stump speeches and watching the Democratic debates, he is a country mile farther to the center than either Sanders or Clinton.

This election also includes the “swing” factor – the amount of Republican seats up for grabs (24) dwarfs the ten the Democrats have to defend. There is only a four-seat majority that Republicans are likely to lose and thus hand the senate back to the Democrats.

But beyond a very risky and potentially gut-wrenching political gamble, it is the duty of the senate must hold hearings on an Obama nominee. Cease this childish and unconstitutional whining and do your job.

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MISTAH CHRISTIE – HE DEAD

Aquarian Weekly
2/17/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MISTAH CHRISTIE – HE DEAD

Our mostly absentee governor has returned home utterly and completely defeated. His over one-year, suicidal presidential campaign, beginning in scandal with the so-called “Bridge-Gate”, which will go to trial this spring, ended with barely whimper on February 10, 2016, when the usually blustery and confrontational blowhard meekly announced the suspension of his campaign on Facebook, like the sagging, middle-aged dink he turned out to be on the big stage.

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Chris Christie’s career of garnering votes to continue culling a paycheck are no more. He will likely spend more absentee weeks and months brokering a deal with the Republican Party’s presidential frontrunner to try and get a cabinet position or a cushy federal government gig he so brazenly dismisses as some sort of welfare, because, as a serious candidate for anything going forward or certainly the final lame-duck years of his governance here in the Garden State, he is done and done.

Five years ago Christie was the darling of the national political scene. He was a mostly moderate, hard-talking, straight-shooting Republican governor of a heavy blue state and seemed to have the ear of the national party donation-class. He was begged by the party to head up a challenge to the increasingly shaky prospect of a Barack Obama second term. The Republican National Committee was certain that Obama was ripe to be taken down, and you know what – they were right. A strong candidate that could appeal to the TEA party anger of the base and help pull in moderates while bridging the gap to the all-important general election was paramount. Christie had all of these attributes in spades.

Christie, to his credit, recognized, that he had barely gotten things going here – and by that I mean fucking them up – so he declined several times citing that he was just not ready, or more dramatically, “It’s not my time.” Republican elites turned to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. He was summarily hounded through a long and mostly pointless primary season by also-rans and nut cases before being roundly defeated by Obama, a stunning victory for a man with the highest unemployment rate and lowest re-election approval ratings for a sitting president in two generations.

Around this time, Hurricane Sandy devastated the state and Christie committed the sin of all sins; welcoming the “despised” president of the United States warmly. He was photographed surveying the carnage with him while petitioning the federal government (gulp!) for aid. This was seen among the thug-class as being some kind of anathema, and Christie began to see backlash. Nonetheless he was reelected in 2013 and seemed poised for a 2016 run.

However, my covering of the ensuing months into this primary year, I could not find a single soul who considered Christie’s run for president realistic. It appeared as if he just joined the gaggle of other mediocre governors and some crazies to muck up the lanes. It did not help in the least that another north-eastern big mouth bully completely upstaged him at every turn. Donald Trump, as he has done to most everything that people hold dear in the political realm, eviscerated the Christie purpose for running. He was bold. He was confrontational. He was politically incorrect. Christie looked liked a sad Jersey fat man screaming at a woman to shut up on CSPAN whilst in some incredible half-baked karma Trump appeared as a polished professional wrestling version of Don Rickles with money.

Turns out Christie’s finest moment was his final one on the stump. For ten crucial minutes on Saturday, February 6, he mentally broke Florida Senator Marco Rubio. During the ABC nationally televised debate, Christie took the young candidate apart; no small feat, since he was surging as the only establishment alternative to Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz only days before. Rubio had finished strong in Iowa and looked like he might make big noise and get big bucks heading into the New Hampshire vote. In classic Christie fashion, he laid into Rubio’s robotic responses to everything and for some odd reason that no one can still explain with any clarity Rubio provided ample and staggeringly stark examples of this. Christie pressed harder, himself looking like a Terminator machine, but an obviously damaged Rubio kept saying the same thing over and over and over until he was buried in the voting a few days later and remains on life support.

But this did not help Christie, who has no money and no support and was mostly a drive-by candidate – not quite the pathetic visage of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, but pretty awful. But like Jindal, Christie is a shitty governor with shitty approval ratings, hovering around 29 percent with a state fiscally downgraded seven times in the past year and half for being broke and incapable of paying bills. My property taxes here go up exponentially on the hour and our unemployment rate is a point higher than the national average, which while being far better than when the economy was struggling, still blows when you consider the state’s geographical proximity to New York, (unemployment rate there is one point better under a Democratic governor).

Now, if I have to deal with a Republican lecturing me on austerity and having the social issue flexibility of a 1950’s Alabaman statesman, I expect my taxes to go down.

If Christie is not taking the federal Medicaid expansion as part of the ACA because he is trying to win the GOP nomination, then why am I paying to supplement Ohio’s medical costs, as that state’s republican governor – incidentally still in the race – John Kasich takes his? Why do I have to hear this jack ass herald state’s rights and then blather on about how if he were president he would use the FBI to enforce federal law over states who have legalized marijuana? Why is it that a man born one day before me and lived through my generation goes hard-line against marriage equality after the Supreme Court deemed it legal, or say he abolished Common Core when my kid is still dong math conceived by a cyber-metric shut-in? If I have to deal with a governor who defunds Planned Parenthood and extends bear hunts in our beautiful part of the state to double the massacre of these spectacular creatures, I do not want to get raped on school taxes.

not quite the pathetic visage of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, but pretty awful

Fuck Chris Christie.

He is as useless as a titted bull and twice as stupid on Sunday.

We can only hope whoever wins this Republican nomination gets brain damage and puts him on the ticket so he can spend his days cutting ribbons and get the fuck out of my state.

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EXPLAINING BERNIE SANDERS

Aquarian Weekly
2/10/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

EXPLAINING BERNIE SANDERS

Like the Donald Trump phenomenon, there was a time, not long ago, that it seemed complete madness to consider a 74 year-old, Jewish, self-described Democratic Socialist, who is not even a member of the Democratic Party, as a serious candidate for president of the United States. But we are through the looking glass now, people. Somewhere between the 99% drum-circle and the tri-corner-hat-sporting TEA Party rancor we’ve got some wild cards here. And if I have learned one thing about the early weeks of presidential primaries, you do not ignore the zeitgeist. It is best to observe it from as far as you possibly can without completely detaching yourself. Study its habits. Understand its vagaries. Come to grips. Do not dismiss. Engage. This is how one approaches the 2016 candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

Democratic Presidential Candidates Speak At DNC Summer Meeting In Minneapolis

Let’s face it, the little-known eight-year Vermont senator stumbled onto the scene this past summer in front of a gaggle of reporters and a couple of supporters to announce he would be a left-wing alternative to the otherwise centrist/moderate massive favorite, Hillary Clinton. This is despite the narrative (one I have been willing to subscribe to) that after the unexpected humiliation of 2008 and a stint as Secretary of State, the former first lady and New York Senator would once again take her mantle as Madam Shoo-In and this time, absent a rock star against her, coast to the Democratic nomination and await whatever Republican fodder was left standing for her to demolish.

But not even Sanders, an over 50-year veteran of action politics, both in and out of the system, could have imagined the type of ire from progressives the Barack Obama presidency has wrought. While the president has been taking heavy fire from the right all these years, a growing contention to his secret wars, the failure to close Gitmo, the slow “evolution” on marriage equality, the utter lack of legal action against the perpetrators of the worst economic collapse in generations, an anti-working class, anti-union trade deal with China, and a half-hearted attempt to address the messy immigration issue (not to mention record deportations) was brewing on his left. But that is only half of what put Sanders in the game.

Young people love socialism. I did. Loved it. From 1983 to the almost the end of the decade I was indeed a socialist. I registered as such. It got so bad that I was still receiving literature from socialist groups way into the 1990s. Then I started to get published regularly. And it is difficult to explain the kind of pure, almost religious fervor socialists exude when you do not write like a socialist. It gets ugly. Not exactly like leaving the mafia or the CIA, but ideologically it’s close. Nonetheless, I was openly an intellectual, pragmatic socialist, primarily because I was, or fancied myself an artist. I would have loved free education, and free health care, and a safety net to write my poetry and play my songs in my rock and roll band, and ignore all this “working for the man” nonsense. Then I got to Arthur Koestler and what I called the holy trilogy; The Ghost in the Machine (Thanks, Sting), The Act of Creation and Suicide of a Nation. I dare anyone under the age of 25 to absorb that stuff and not decry capitalism.

Be that as it may, kids love socialism. It is getting so now that young people at Sanders’ packed-to the-rafters rallies have openly told reporters they are socialist, not “democrat socialist”, as Sanders likes to frame it, but socialist. And I doubt a single one of them have heard of Arthur Koestler, or maybe even listened to The Police. But, you see, young people start movements. This is what they do. They look like they are coming and you are going and that is the cool thing about being young, where ideology is attached to you like a tattoo and means something more than just watching your wallet or a fear of change or a fear of national implosion, which is all the rage for the Trump “movement”.

But make no mistake; while Barack Obama’s historical campaign was instilled with a generational, cultural and certainly racial shift, this is pure “against’ campaigning that Sanders had tapped into. He is against the greed of pure capitalism, the idea that it has winners and losers and the losers, of which there is an overwhelming majority, eat shit. And why should it eat shit when it is nine-tenths of the electorate? Why don’t the pharmaceutical companies eat shit, or the oil cartel, or the Wall Street speculators, or the silver-spoon, yuppie assholes?

Here is Sanders’ opening statement at a New Hampshire Debate on January 4:

“Millions of Americans are giving up on the political process. And they’re giving up on the political process because they understand the economy is rigged.

They are working longer hours for low wages. They’re worried about the future of their kids, and yet almost all new income and wealth is going to the top one percent. Not what America is supposed to be about. Not the fairness that we grew up believing that America was about. And then sustaining that rigged economy is a corrupt campaign finance system undermining American democracy, where billionaire, Wall Street, corporate America can contribute unlimited sums of money into super PACs and into candidates.

Our job, together, is to end a rigged economy, create an economy that works for all, and absolutely overturn Citizens United. One person, one vote. That’s what American democracy is about.”

if, like in youth, a campaign in the chilly winds of February cannot dream, then there is simply no point to democracy.

That sounds pretty good. Sure. The economy is in fact rigged. Fairness is a joke. (But to be fair, unless Sanders is from Planet Ork, it has always kind of been a joke). All this free college and free health care and taxing Wall Street is pie-in-the-sky and it is starting to irk the Democratic Party and their frontrunner, like Trump, and to a lesser extent, Senator Ted Cruz is bugging the Republican Party establishment. But just like building a wall that Mexico is going to pay for or abolishing the IRS are pipe dreams for the right, Sanders taps into something visceral now. And if, like in youth, a campaign in the chilly winds of February cannot dream, then there is simply no point to democracy.

Alas, it is all but a dream. Once this thing moves down the road, candidates like Sanders and Trump and Cruz take their medicine at one point or another in the trek. Once in a blue moon a Barry Goldwater or a George McGovern emerges in a fractured time to make their stand and then gets crushed in the general election.

There is certainly something weird and binding about these “anti” candidates, especially Bernie Sanders. There is something lying dormant in the political psyche that has been awoken. What that is exactly, or what it proves ultimately, escapes me. I have, if you have followed this space lo these past 18 years, long since abandoned absolute political fervor. No one is sending me literature. I mostly like Koestler’s fiction now. So I shall stand at my post and observe from a safe distance, take notes, and comment verily on the fallout.

There is always fallout.

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THE NAKED EMPEROR VS THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN

Aquarian Weekly
2/3/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE NAKED EMPEROR VS THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN
How Donald Trump’s Political Farce Uncovered Political Farce

It is extremely rare that we are treated to true political theater. So much of it is fabricated, which is the entire point of political theater, really. However, every once and awhile comes an unexpected series of events that transpires, as they did over the past 72 hours, which defies the gravity of our system. And if you are lucky, these series of events reveal much about what is phony and pathetic. Such a thing has occurred and it forced me to trash what I was writing and write something else. Not quite stop-the-presses, but annoying just the same.

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Citizen Donald J. Trump, the presidential nominee front-runner of the over 150 year-old Republican Party saw fit to boycott his party’s final “debate” in a state holding the first voting for the 2016 campaign five days hence. He did so in protest over who would be moderating said “debate” and embroiled himself in combat with easily the most important media outlet in the Republican field. In protest, Trump held a competing event merely five miles away, covered by any and all remaining networks, which he thrashed together in a day. The “debate”, more a showcase (as noted in this column previously several times) in it does not allow for true point-counter-point argument of ideas to be presented as alternatives to each other, was hosted by the most powerful media voice of the right wing, FOX NEWS, a conglomerate so effective at propaganda it has shifted the very concept of television news irreparably for the rest of existence.

It is important to understand the gravity of this battle. Both FOX NEWS and Donald Trump live in the same fantasy stratosphere. In fact, they thrive in it. And when annoying things like factoids become an inconvenience to your mission statement, then it is nearly catastrophic when a similar, completely delusional force pushes back.

Trump, a man who lives by his own moral structure that is first and foremost arbitrated by him, accused a network whose promotional tagline is “Fair & Balanced” of unfairness. This shook its very foundation. Just think of every Twilight Zone you’ve ever seen. For 28 of the 30 minutes you think, along with the character, that you are somewhere or having an entirely different experience than the one that is actually transpiring, which sends shock waves through both and then cut to the credits. This was FOX NEWS last week. “What? Agenda? Fixed? Conflating news with ham-fisted talking points? Using actual events to generate an already decided-upon, self-serving narrative?”

Please try and grasp the horrifying beauty of this: the Republican front-runner, who leads in every poll imaginable over at least a dozen states, has made FOX NEWS stand trial for the very thing it was created to achieve.

For its part, FOX NEWS rightly defended its “journalist”, Megyn Kelly against Trump’s insistence that she was unfair to him in a previous showcase and could not be one of the moderators. However, Kelly is no longer a journalist. She gave up that title when she became a talk-show host. In a way, Trump uncovered one of my pet-peeves, which is why are talk show hosts dolled up and put in front of presidential candidates as if this were American Idol (three of them sitting at a table before the stage, get it?), when there are capable campaign trail reporters that know the candidates and the issues being pushed on the stump? Because it is a show, that’s why. Big name talk-show hosts of every cable network get their time in the spotlight to promote the network while the network pushes the personalities that drive said network. After the first debate, FOX NEWS crowed about record ratings like something straight out of Paddy Chayefsky’s Network. The reason for the big ratings – as if this is some kind of reality show and not a chance for voters to choose a presidential candidate – was Donald Trump. Trump knew this and took his basketball home. The first thing out of the candidate’s mouth was, “Watch their commercial ad rates drop now!”

And one very important abomination was unwittingly uncovered during this whole wonderful fiasco. Trump ostensibly held his event as a fundraiser for veterans. Interestingly, many veterans’ charity groups boycotted Trump by stating he was grandstanding by using veterans as a political tool. This argument, while it is most likely true, makes no sense on the face of it. Why would an organization created to get contributions ignore someone holding an event to do just that unless you were against them ideologically and/or politically and therefore you are in reverse also using veterans as tools?

when annoying things like factoids become an inconvenience to your mission statement, then it is nearly catastrophic when a similar, completely delusional force pushes back.

But that is not the kicker; where our little stripping bare of the disgusting nature of our collective fantasyland gets real is the mere fact that we, a nation obsessed with war, leave our veterans to need charity groups to care for them. We always seem to find the tax money to “bomb them back to the stones age” or “make the sand glow” or “shock and awe” and “boots on the ground” all over the place, but we have nothing in the budget to deal with the fallout?

This is the ugly truth of this country, which is always quick to go into war and yell about war and defense and supporting our troops, but the veterans of these national sins are left to beg for supper? How do we call this the greatest country on earth in the face of it? How do we brag on our exceptional nature and wave our flags with so much gusto while this goes on? All that money spent on making war and apparently none of it left to face its gory results?

In the rarest of times political theater provides us much needed clarity.

This one sure as hell did.

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WHY DONALD TRUMP MUST BE THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE

Aquarian Weekly
1/27/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WHY DONALD TRUMP MUST BE THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE

For the first time in my lifetime, which has settled into its fifty-third year now, no new candidate running for president of the United States has dominated the media landscape, the rhetorical space, and, most importantly, the polls the way citizen Donald J. Trump has done, consistently and without waver. However, this is not why he needs to be the Republican nominee to run for the highest office in the land. It is because he embodies the emotional core of the anti-establishment bent that has gripped the GOP since the summer of 2010, when the TEA Party emerged out of the grassroots and was co-opted by the Republican establishment to win elections and take back the congress. Only this movement did little to curtail the “despised” Barack Obama agenda and still appears to be a flaccid sub-committee of goofballs screaming into a vacuum; mostly powerless and annoying. Trump, like no other GOP candidate in this race, can actually do what these people want, throw a grenade into the establishment and crack the concept of modern American governance.

Donald Trump

Like many of the TEA Party candidates ushered through the system like little revolutionaries in 2010 and 2012, Trump is not a politician. And to hear him speak for two minutes on the subject, you realize he has no idea how anything works to this end. Yet, Trump defies the very real argument that these types of candidates are mostly the result of redistricting and gerrymandering and merely work on local levels and once you expand the message nationally it is weak and ineffectual, as Obama proved in 2012 by getting re-elected with the largest margin for a Democrat since FDR in 1944. Trump is national, as the polls have reflected for half a year now.

Until September of this past year, the whole Trump thing was mainly a product of media fascination, as the candidate appeared on every television and radio show imaginable and said anything that popped into his skull, tweeting at a record pace, even for a high school kid, and capturing the imagination and good humor of the news class. But the skepticism that this is somehow a passing fad should now be put to bed, yet somehow it is not. There is still a very large segment of the media, both left and right, as well as the electorate that believe it is only a matter of time when everyone wakes up and realizes Trump is a rich, spoiled reality television star, whose actual record in real estate is not as nifty as the image, and his overtly combative language will sink him.

his has not happened. In fact, it has emboldened him and his supporters, and spiked his poll numbers at every turn. Thus, Trump has already thrown a grenade into the system. There is not one part of the political machine that normally pervades our discourse that Trump has not obliterated. He is the ultimate outlier. No one, and I mean no one, not even the candidate has a fucking clue what he is about or capable of or what may happen as a result. This all portends that he has the will and the legs to do the same should he be cast upon the general election or by weird happenstance be elected. Below all the bluster and grandstanding and half-assed malapropos, this is as independent a candidate as anyone has ever gotten. He is a monstrous construct of Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and John Anderson, all men I have voted for as independents. You get the feeling if this were 2008 and the country was lined up against a sitting two-term Republican administration yearning for change, then Trump would have declared as a Democrat. Trump is not about ideology or party politics, he is about Trump. His cult of personality knows no bounds or origin, it just is.

Without much argument, Trump is the only non-political candidate, save for religious loon, Dr. Ben Carson, and abject business failure, Carly Fiorina in the bunch. Calling Ted Cruz, a political hack who has spent his entire professional life in the public sector or phony TEA Party champion, Marco Rubio, nurtured at the teat of dynastic poltico, Jeb Bush outsiders is akin to Al Gore’s claim in 2000 that he was a reformer, despite being the sitting vice president for two terms. These are men who do whatever the political winds hint within their right-leaning sphere. Cruz is supposed to be a strict constitutional constructionist or as he puts it, an “originalist”, but when confronted with his in-eligibility to run for the office based on the 1788 construct of “natural born citizen” he cites a 1934 Supreme Court decision, while at the same time challenging the legitimacy of the Supreme Court in interpreting the ACA or marriage equality. He is a dyed-in-the-wool politician – sounds, looks, and smells like one. He is currently in the senate, which is located in Washington and bankrolls the government. Please.

Trump also dwarfs the rest of the field in this “grenade throwing” edict. Chris Christie is about as awful a governor as one could possibly have; a social conservative who cannot control his fiscal house. We are taxed to death while being lectured on morality. You want a competent governor, vote for John Kasich, but he’s been in government since the 1980s, so he’s out.

As a free-thinking, libertine independent, who mainly believes that politics is some kind of merry fuck-around for my own amusement and does little to affect my mainly sub-outlaw existence, there is no contest in the realm of a completely wild card candidate like Trump. On the far left you have Bernie Sanders, who espouses a failed government-controlled economic restructuring of wealth based on this illusion of fairness. The man has been in the United States congress in one form or another since Madonna was hip. On the far right you have the aforementioned political recidivists, who clamor for the same failed laissez faire/trickle-down nonsense.

Trump, like no other GOP candidate in this race, can actually do what these people want, throw a grenade into the establishment and crack the concept of modern American governance.

Trump has no failed ideological albatross. He is Trump. No one has a fucking clue what or who that is.

Grenade.

If independents and Republicans and even those of us curious to see the system broken into pieces for a lark are truly serious, then Donald Trump has to be a candidate for president.

It is going to be Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. Regardless of this Sanders daydream the leftist media has cooked up of his “surge” and the even more outlandish indictment jones the right media clings to. Write it down. Hillary Clinton is your other choice. No more an entrenched politician exists in this whole mess.

This is the contrast this republic was created to witness.

And this only happens if Trump is the Republican nominee.

Let’s see how serious we are about tossing a grenade into this thing.

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