SINEAD MARIE BERNADETTE O’CONNOR (SHUHADA SADAQAT) 1966 – 2023

Aquarian Weekly
7/26/23
 
Feature
 
James Campion
 
SINEAD MARIE BERNADETTE O’CONNOR (SHUHADA SADAQAT)
1966 – 2023

Sinéad O’Connor was my hero.

Wait, I can’t leave my wife out of this. Eric D. Moore and I would not have sealed our bond, the one that has lasted twenty-six years, twenty-four in marriage with a gorgeous, strong fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlet (who briefly could have been named Sinéad) if not for Sinéad O’Connor’s voice, her music and the miniscule freak conclave of which we were and are and will forever be proud members. Had an extra ticket to see her play at the Beacon Theater in NYC. No one gave a shit about Sinéad O’Connor in August of 1997, except, apparently my bride-to-be and yours truly. Two years later “This is to Mother You” from her wonderful 1997 EP, Gospel Oak, the album O’Connor was touring when the two of us went to see her together for what turned out to be our first time alone together and the last time I would ever be alone again, was our wedding song.

Yeah, Sinéad was our hero.

She became mine much earlier. When I needed her – like I needed Warren Zevon when Zevon stepped in – she arrived like a gale force wind, horrifically refreshing.

Haunted by demons from her earliest sentient memories, defiant and reborn with a voice that coursed through your guts, Sinéad O’Connor pushed hard against what she thought was wrong and embraced with maternal aggression what she cherished. She was a holy mess, a furious angelic punk, and when you spoke to her, as I did, you can still hear the tremors of those battles in her throat, the almost whispered Gaelic pulse of words and breath that exploded into a thousand points of light when she sang. It was in her conversation that the spastic duality which fueled her art might be glimpsed.

She put it into the songs, on those albums, and when you saw her on stage – wholly present, like watching a reed dan le déluge – trying so damn hard to be the tough Irish lass but refusing to harden her heart. She needed that tool for the art. But as many of us know, it’s a painfully arduous balancing act. I could hear it in her voice, on stage, on record, over the phone. Sadly, today, she lost her balance.

When I wrote Prince Rogers Nelson’s eulogy for this paper in 2016, I spent a good part of it explaining what his music and times meant to the twenty-something me. Well, Sinéad owned a good deal of the latter part of my twenties into my thirties, from the opening notes of “Nothing Compares 2 U” – a song I adored in 1986 when Prince strangely handed it to one of his fringe bands, the Family instead of recording it himself – flooding out of the speakers of the shitty car I was driving towards dawn. It was revelatory, a shuddering tightrope declaration of pure adrenaline and hurt. Prince, no fan of O’Connor’s, understood the song belonged to her now. He said then, “Sometimes a song doesn’t find a home until it does, and this one has.” Because when she sings, “All the flowers that you planted, mama, in the backyard / All died when you went away,” Prince knew the score.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” went on to be a massive global #1 hit with a video in the how-nuts-can-we-get age that featured only her face. It is the first track on the second side of O’Connor’s second album. I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, one of the finest statements by a woman singer-songwriter ever, and when I was working on a pitch to the editors over at the 33 1/3 series three years ago to write about the record, I pointed out how pertinent it was to the woman’s movement of 90s power pop, rock, and indie expression, from Liz Phair to Ani DiFranco, P.J. Harvey to Alanis Morrisette, and bands like Bikini Kill and Hole.

And there would not have been that album or the Prince cover if not for the death of her mother, Johanna, who had suffered all her life from mental disorder, shoved aside in a patriarchal fascist state that was 1960s Ireland – no contraception or reproductive rights, no legal recourse against “marital rape”, laws against married women working, laws against battered women leaving their husbands, women disallowed from drinking in pubs. Sinéad watched her descend into madness and endured her ghastly mental and physical abuse, forcing her to a nunnery where she found her voice, learned guitar, and escaped to London at sixteen to make her way. When Johanna died it was as if the talons of a great predatory bird had lifted from her eighteen-year-old soul and allowed her once again to breathe and to grieve.

The songs on that album are as arresting as anything that had come from a male artist. Male artists cannot be this vulnerable, as much as they might try. Prince tried, and he wrote a damn fine song, arguably his best ballad, but it took Sinéad to see it was not a torch song, but a paean to past regret and the desperate need for a wayward kid to belong. Prince later admitted it was as much about his complicated relationship with his mother and the insular emotional cocoon he’d erected to survive a peripatetic childhood than a woman he was pining for.

Watch the video again. Sinéad begins to cry when she sings that line about flowers in her mother’s garden dying. The honesty of it is terrifying. In her infinite duality, Sinéad O’Connor sang “Nothing Compares 2 U” as she sang her own sad, pure, fierce songs, tenderly but so fucking strong.

This is what you got from Sinéad O’Connor from the very beginning to the bitter end. The balance was remarkable but unsustainable.

This is the same woman who refused to allow New Jersey’s Garden State Arts Center (now PNC Center) to play the national anthem before her show. I was there that night. We did not hear about this so-called fracas until the next day. What concert have you ever been to that played the national anthem? Anthems are stringent jingoism. Her music is infinite, borderless. O’Connor took the stage, bald and thin, inflamed by the rush of that music and put on a show for the ages, and when we all awoke, she was an instant pariah. Front page news. Outraged politicians. Frank Sinatra threatened to “kick her ass.” And in the swirl of that media frenzy, she proved her point: Violence, vengeance, patriarchal lunacy comes with all the “home of the brave” stuff just like pedophilia and systemic control over women in Northern Ireland came with the Catholic Church. And so, she appeared on Saturday Night Live two years later and ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II, the one that hung on her mother’s wall when she was a child, announcing “Fight the real enemy,” and officially tanked her career.

“I never wanted to be a celebrity, I’m a fucking protest singer,”

Sinéad O’Connor

It was as if she had killed the man. The backlash was brutal, and it came from everywhere. A few days later, she stood on stage and listened to twenty thousand New Yorkers, not KKK Alabamans, boo her mercilessly as she shouted Bob Marley’s “War” – the same furious acapella performance that presaged the torn photo – with unrepentant rage before falling into Kris Kristofferson’s arms. She was to sing at some Boomer celebrity thirtieth anniversary circle-jerk for Bob Dylan, who used to get the same shit from people for singing about the murder of Emmitt Till, a young Black kid massacred for purportedly looking at a white woman. In 1963, when honored at a Bill of Rights Dinner for his contributions to the Civil Rights movement, the twenty-one-year-old Dylan took to the dais and unleashed a drunken diatribe alerting the rich liberals before him to find another “voice of a generation.” He was out of that game. Too dangerous.

Sadly, but predictably, Dylan said nothing of the incident that overshadowed his stupid shindig, much to the consternation of many of his fans, including my friend, professor Tim Riley, who dedicated a chapter in his Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary to the glaring omission and its painful irony. The next week, actor Joe Pesci hosted SNL and ripped up a picture of O’Connor and threatened to “give her such a smack.” She needn’t say anymore.

But enough about that and enough about women speaking their minds against patriarchal madness, racism, pogroms on women’s rights, all of which Sinéad stood against even after she was declared a dead pop star. “I never wanted to be a celebrity, I’m a fucking protest singer,” she told Rolling Stone, when she simultaneously won Artist of the Year and Most Hated Artist in the same issue. It was in O’Connor’s ensuing work that she spoke the loudest – her constant battle with faith, be it Catholicism or Rastafarianism or Islam. She became a priest and a shaman, then changed her name, but she could have been a sixth Marx Brother or the fifth Beatle or submerged into X for all that mattered, because her truest spirit came from that uniquely quivering, impenetrable, irrepressible bottomless throat. And from that machine emerged multitudes; lyrics and melodies bursting with love and peace and heartbreak and independence.

She often sang about her children, she had four, the first one Jake, was born when she was only twenty-one. She was allegedly asked to abort the fetus by her management as her career was about to blow up; who wants to see an unmarried pregnant pop star? This was the same management who previously suggested she wear provocative clothing and do up her hair before she showed up with a shaved head in a dirty tee shirt. She was barely twenty then. Jake is thirty-one now. She lost her third, Shane, a seventeen-year-old troubled kid, haunted like her mother, like her mother’s mother. He hung himself last January. She never recovered. Soon after, she was on suicide watch. She went missing and ended up here in New Jersey last summer. We tried to reach out to her, find her. She came back, but barely. She’d recently popped up on Twitter under a pseudonym, her last tweet to the world was of Shane, “Been living as undead night creature since. He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul. We were one soul in two halves. He was the only person who ever loved me unconditionally. I am lost in the bardo without him.” Nine days later she was gone.

How delicate the balance.

And so, we are left with the songs and the memories of those incredible performances, and her marching for Black lives, Women’s lives, Irish lives, Human lives. Long after the shaved head and combat boots, long after her front-page stint as punk warrior, demon bitch she kept singing – and all those records are gems – and miraculously kept up the fight. Depression. Fear. Defeat. Resurrection. None of it silenced that astonishing singing voice. To this day, whenever I hear her hit those beatific notes on her stunningly gorgeous ballad. “Three Babies,” the feathered dance of falsetto on the sultry “Jerusalem,” the building sprint of “Thank You for Hearing Me,” the naked passion of “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance,” the gritty harangue of “No Man’s Woman,” the whispered gauntlet in “Petit Poulet,” the lilting grace of “Jealous,” or our wedding song, the sweet, compassionate, agonizingly expressive, “This is To Mother You,” I feel, we feel, as if I am, we are, in there with her.

There is too much to say, and I am shocked I got this out, because the first draft read like a man on the edge of a complete breakdown, but I need to share the last time I spoke directly with Sinéad.

It was 2014 for an AQ Weekly cover story on her last album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss. Erin and I had just gotten back from Ireland to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary, as we both share Irish blood, and we spoke about a mural outside Dublin’s Hard Rock Café, which had a stunning painting of her with the inscription: “Sinéad, you were right all along, we were wrong. So sorry.” Sinéad was so moved she stopped for a moment and took a long breath. “It’s very special to me,” she said. “I’d really love to know who did it.” I told her we all did it, and she laughed. I kept that part out of the piece. It was maudlin then, but it is so apt now.

I finally asked her about her disturbing “suicide” song on the album, “8 Good Reasons” in which she sings, “Don’t know if I should quite sing this song/Don’t know if it maybe might be wrong/But then again it maybe might be right/To tell you ‘bout the bullet and the red light.”

“Can you reveal the eight good reasons that are worth sticking around for?” I asked.

Without hesitation, she whispered, “My children’s eyes.”

She lost her balance, that’s all.

She is still my hero.

Our hero.

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BIDENOMICS

Aquarian Weekly
7/12/23
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
BIDENOMICS
The Dangers of Owning the Wild Beast 

Economics is not a science. It is certainly not a religion. To study it, parse it, analyze it points the way to madness. But owning it is a dangerous game. The Bengal tiger in the brush. Stay in the boat, the man said. And he was right. Because the thing in the dark has fangs and a passionate hunger. Taming it is a recipe for gouging and gnawing of flesh. To think about the results of you in the jungle with God’s perfect killing machine is not for me or you or the poor bastard running the Treasury Department to fathom. Some of this nation’s best and brightest have slunk slack-jawed in defeat from its considerable shadow. Boastful yuppies in power ties end up on the wrong end of a swinging rope. Lives and reputations end in tatters. Weeping the order of the day. Yeah, it’s best to let it be.

I have written very little about economics. There is a reason. I am afraid of it. There is this hoary thought in my head that once I finish this sentence most of the money I have in the bank and whatever ghostly form it takes in the stock market will go the way of the hoola-hoop and rock music. I will be left with fond memories and a cot in the poor house. And that is after one sentence. Given the choice of finishing this paragraph or going back to writing about politics or society or even sports and art is not a choice but a redeeming factor to my existence. And yours. We’re all in this together.

But having written all the above, I will attempt to report on the current economy here, which by all indications is showing two signs – fucking gangbusters and edge of disaster. Statistics, as stated already, are less than meaningless. Ask the guy sleeping on the street as your stepping over him. But statistically, all indicators are that we have roared back from the sinkhole of 2020. Even inflation has been halved. A year ago, we and world were at nine percent. Today we are at four, the world still at nine percent. That’s fucking amazing. America currently owns the most robust post-pandemic economy of any G7 nation. And with halving inflation, unemployment is at lows that you’d only have seen if you had a gig in 1969. I was six most of that year. My gig was electric football, the Jackson 5 cartoon, and choosing peanut butter and jelly for lunch. And we’re at some kind of record number of months of payroll increases and job growth as well. Consumer confidence is at a ten-year high. They tell me the GDP is crawling but doing so in the right direction.

In the economic jungle, we’re all stupid. Or tiger chow.

Of course, this brought our president out of his hermetically sealed chamber last week to tout it. And why not? He got the Inflation-Reduction Act through Congress, along with an era-defining Chips Act. A bi-partisan infrastructure bill was also done and done. He worked with the crazies in the Republican Party to avoid dogging on our bills a few months back. If his predecessor had done half of this, he’d be doing a victory lap while eating hamburgers, but not too strenuously, because he’s dangerously obese and mightn’t have lived otherwise. But there would be band-beating tweets aplenty to be sure.

But Joe Biden, with his paltry 40-percent approval rating absolutely should be reminding people that we’re in the midst of the third verse of “Happy Days are Here Again.” But I remind him, he is playing a scary game. Owning an economy that is precarious at best is mumblety peg with a hunting knife high on meth. The same indicators that ring the bells, and Wall St. hinted at it yesterday by shedding over 500-points, also toll the bad ones. If interest rates are jacked again, even with a booming housing market, there may be no stopping a late 2023 to early 2024 recession. How hard a recession matters to who is viewing it, whether you root for the fascists or the domestic socialists. The fascists dream of the nation to be plunged into darkness so Jesus can save us from the drag queens and the Mexicans. The domestic socialists want more money for more taxes to get us more government stuff, like college debt relief or free electric cars.

A rolling economy can bring confusing signs that come from the strangest places. And what emerges from those places is someone’s business, as Patti Smith once mused, but not mine.

For kicks, Biden used the moment to shat on Ronald Reagan’s most infamous boondoggle, Trickle Down Economics. A tale of fine yacht enthusiasts tossing their crumbs to the middle class to allow their parade of malfeasance and land rape. Thus, the president’s reference to the high times now as Bidenomics. In fact, he leaned into it as a way to prove that unfettered capitalism and hoping rich people and corporations pitch favors to Johnny Lunchpail, which for the record has NEVER happened in the history of humankind, was always a pile of elitist claptrap. Ground up economics, of which Biden also noted, though, is not a thing. There is no money down there. No one has or will ever care about the worker bees deep in debt and paying the piper for our share, whatever slice that is allowed.

But, again, I don’t know fuck-all about economics, and don’t want to know, but things are so sunny these days even the bleating corpse of Larry Kudlow was singing its praises. The very man who quit a cushy TV job lying about the economy to make up numbers for Donald Trump, so he could sell whatever clusterfuck was going on before January of 2021 as “the best economy is American history” while swearing they weren’t tea-bagging the rich’s ample testicles and leaving the rest of us to suck air is left to admit this baby is cruising.

I would normally apologize for such cheap and vulgar symbolism, but I’m writing about economics. This is my point in a nutshell. I once asked an assistant for celebrated economist and former chairman of the federal reserve Allen Greenspan for his thoughts on Quantitative Easing and he went on for twenty minutes about how to remove a cock ring from your molars.

Look, I am sure things are going swimmingly now, and if this was the summer of 2024, the politics of this would be a slam dunk. But we are so far removed from that we could have seventy shifts in the economic winds by the autumn of 2024 when the country decides to hand the operation over to either a domestic terrorist or a 100-year-old man. But the whole thing is a jinx. And I shan’t be touching this subject for another decade of so. It’s safer eviscerating the stupid.

In the economic jungle, we’re all stupid.

Or tiger chow.

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MARION GORDON “PAT” ROBERTSON – 1930 – 2023

Aquarian Weekly
6/21/23
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
MARION GORDON “PAT” ROBERTSON – 1930 – 2023

I could not let last week’s passing of Pat Robertson go by without comment. He was a monster, a gutless bigot and purveyor of dumbness. He lived on a razor’s edge of sinister clothed in the evilest of vocations, profiting off fear and delusion. This did not make him a monster per se, even though he represented the most grotesque forms of the Christian disease. No, con men and carnies are a dime a dozen. This is what makes America thrive – feeding off the weak and desperate. We have no economy without dupes and predators. Nope. Robertson is a monster because he will be remembered for being the gateway drug to anti-intellectualism under the guise of holy order, a war against reason, freedom, and individualism traded in for a cult. And not just his Christian Broadcasting Network, or the 700 Club, or the dead-eyed gaggle of the emotionally damaged sycophants that flocked to them, but the Cult of America – knee-jerk hate nurtured from an irrational intolerance against fellow humans under the auspices of God’s will. The philosophy of systemic persecution that leads courts and congress to strike down personal sovereignty by citing superstition and voodoo. Roberson was a voodoo master. One of the worst examples of the hazardous virus of humanity. And now he is dead, and that is a cause to celebrate, as if felling Hitler or smallpox.

Unfortunately, his fumes live on.

Marion Gordon “Pat” Robertson was a failure long before he ever shat upon the vox populi. Like most hucksters, he sucked at everything beside being a “preacher,” which is someone who blathers about things they cannot comprehend to fill voids in people frightened by life. Their weapon is conjecture. They take opaque reverences in the text of ancient cultures and interpret them to fulfill their agenda, then sell it as dime-store salvation. Preachers create a propagandized movement from random musings and once they see what sticks, they just slather on their own bullshit to complete the con. In a nutshell, this was Robertson’s schtick. He knew he was a serial liar, but the kick is he was happy to be so. Some people like to hump the darkness, they get off on the grift. It sustains them. The dung beetle is a content creature. Robertson lived in shit, his mind was a cesspool, his clogged with sewage. He drained them nightly on television. For money. And fame. Big cars. Fist-fucks. And worship. Every time he smiled into a camera, he endeavored to topple another pillar of America’s secure construct of secular democracy and replace it with his voodoo theology. Nice work if you can get it.

Things got real for the rest of us once Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States and let the wolf into the henhouse. Reagan’s trip jived with Robertson’s. These were men most comfortable cloaked in the myths of the White Man, the old Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism afforded to the few. Reagan hoped Robertson could bring in his evangelical flock to control the national narrative by suggesting that people stop evolving, stop reading, ignore AIDS, ignore Iran Contra, police brutality, immigrant hazing, pedophile priests and worship at the Cult of America. They worked together to normalize voodoo as a national treasure, close the collective mind and smile.

It was antiquated vengeance, an attempt to stop our cultural renaissance organically derived from generations of great artists and denizens of truth. An era of quite literal white-washing – the lie of the shining city on the hill with a mansion only inhabited by Christian gun-toting, Bible-thumping ignoramuses. They were Darwin’s runts. The last puppy to the teat. Miserable mange and black organs. A B-movie Roger Corman slaughter-fest of twentieth century thought burned at the stake and tossed back into the dark ages.

In order to complete this transition to the Cult, Reagan and Robertson needed for us to thrive in stupid – squash feminism as a threat to a theocratic order, suppress art as pornography and music as delinquency, sexual freedom as smut and free speech as dangerous. These are the forebearers of what we see today in the wrecked Republican Party of cultists and MAGA drones. Do not read, do not seek truth, do not live in reality. Hide your head, call the “other” out, save the nation from the hordes. Up is down. Wrong is right. When the myth is obliterated deny it and shout from the roof that the messiah has risen and storm the capitol and murder the infidels.

Well, Pat Robertson ain’t rising. There is no messiah for the anti-Christ, just the long black veil, the hooded reaper, and the tolling bells. Ring them loudly. Because although one disease has been eradicated there are more, and they are coming. We are infected with the preacher’s Cult and it is a growing virus, seducing our worst tendencies, idiosyncratic pestilence, a marching order of the perpetually ignorant.

Keep us stupid, buy the voodoo, vote against our interests, and live the myths.

This is the legacy of the monster. He’s not under your bed. He’s on your TV, bubba, he’s running for president, he runs Florida and Texas, he has giant flags on his pick-up truck and shames single moms and trans kids, bans books, and wants your money and your nation’s soul.

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John Lennon 1980: The Last Days in the Life – Kenneth Womack (2020)

On the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, noted Beatles’ historian and author, Kenneth Womack, accomplished again what he does best: provide us with every detail, nook, cranny, and movement of a Beatles-related story, making it come alive and matter as much as it did then.

I have admired Kenneth’s writing for years, reviewed his books in this space, and recently struck up a friendship through my work on the aforementioned Take a Sad Song. (He was kind enough to lend a blurb to its back cover.) Therefore, I was not surprised when I picked up a copy of his John Lennon 1980: The Last Days in the Life at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans – where we both spoke last summer – and could not put it down.

Womack covers the entire last year of Lennon’s life, expertly weaving a story that begins with a peaceful, hermit-like existence of a nearly 40-year-old Lennon doting on his new son, Sean, and traveling to family haunts with his wife, Yoko Ono. Soon, Lennon, as is his wont, becomes restless, takes up sailing, wherein he is plunged into a harrowing life-changing experience on the way to Bermuda and contemplates what he believes will be the rest of a long life ahead. It is this revelation along with being inspired once again by the new music of his old teenaged chum and fellow songwriting genius, Paul McCartney, that fuels Lennon’s to embark on what would be his final album, Double Fantasy.

What struck me the most about the book was the ultimately tragic but heartwarming plans Lennon had to visit his Aunt Mimi, the woman who raised him, for the first time since he and Yoko settled in the United States in the early 1970s, and how he had readied the musicians who worked on his album for a planned world tour. This, as we know, never happened.

Womack gets everyone on the record here: limo drivers, assistants, nannies, producers, studio cats, all of whom usher us through Lennon’s every move, even that fateful week and the terrible day of his murder on December 8, 1980.

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You’re with Stupid – kranky, Chicago, and the Reinvention of Indie Music – Bruce Adams (2022)

In the early 1990s, during the final years of rock and roll’s dominance on the cutting edge of music after over four decades of growth, expansion, breakdowns, and reinventions, the Indie music scene sprang up in small towns and big cities all around the USA. It was a time of DIY garage rock, electronic experimentation, ambient machinations, pseudo poetry, and a final, genuine return to roots. In the midst of this underground movement that would produce pop acts and perennials, the quick has-been to the never-was, there was kranky records. An independent label from Chicago, birthplace of genre breakthroughs, Smashing Pumpkins and its godmother, Liz Phair, it would join the fray to become part of a template that would reverberate down generations for those who wish to make it without corporate interference picking the pockets of talented dreamers.

The label’s co-founder, Bruce Adams (with fellow music geek Joel Leoschke), has a story to tell from the bleeding fringe of failure and triumph. You’re with Stupid is filled with weird and wonderful tales of a time when how to record, produce, market, and tour music had dramatically shifted away from giant arenas and bloated studios. It was a romantic period of youthful exuberance and carefree passion that Smith captures beautifully. Writing with wit and wisdom, the author brings us into the sights and sounds of promise – something that makes rock and roll still matter.

You’re with Stupid is a primer on how to and how not to go for the brass ring with one thing in mind – find and make music you love and that you wish to share with the world.

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Chuck Berry: An American Life – RJ Smith (2022)

Author RJ Smith has done a great service to the history of rock and roll by penning the most comprehensive and unflinching biography of its most celebrated founder, Charles Edward Anderson Berry. Capturing his import and influence, his experimental brilliance and relentless pursuit of bridging America’s generational and racial divides in his incredible canon, tells only half of Berry’s story. Smith uncovers the origins of the man, his upbringing in the racial and cultural hotbed of St. Louis, replete with mythical musical charms. We come to know the boy who became the man that made the music, built the social walls, and delved into the darkness of his obsessions of money, power-politics, and sexual deviance.

Aptly titled, Chuck Berry: An American Life is a study in American pop culture, it’s heroes and villains, zeitgeist, and fallout. Berry moves through its pages as he did through history as an avatar to our most ardent dreams and horrid nightmares. A deeply flawed and emotionally damaged man emerges from his triumphs and tragedies as a true victim and victor of our country’s agonizing duality. For it is in Berry’s songs, his amiable wit and twinkled eye mixed with his rough and sometimes predatory exterior that we find our national identity. As an artist in the spotlight of a movement, the book argues there may have been no one better or more ill-suited at the same time than Chuck Berry.

After finishing this book, I went and read my eulogy for Berry for this paper back in 2017. I was curious, after learning so much more than I ever did about him – some of it disturbing, some revelatory – if it shifted my final image of him. While it is hard to ignore his crimes, misogyny, or the truths laid bare by his behavior and defiance, it is also rewarding to continue to delve into the genius of Berry’s music, which has outlasted so much of his times and his flaws.

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Rock on Film: The Movies that Rocked the Big Screen – Fred Goodman (2022)

Curated by Turner Classic Movies, Rock on Film: The Movies that Rocked the Big Screen is a comprehensive overview of the entire music/film catalog from documentary to biopic to teen exploitation, concert film, and some of the more outstanding celluloid pieces of ephemera from the rock and roll era. Although handsomely compiled with tons of great photos, movie posters and behind-the-scenes shots, it is so much more. Adorned with essays from music writer Fred Goodman, Rock on Film provides unique perspectives to the most famous and the not-so well-known films featuring the most celebrated artists of the period.

An excellent perk of the book is Goodman’s “Make It a Double Feature” segment for each film, allowing similar titles to consider and provides further analyses of the styles and subjects that can be enjoyed by audiences. The key to Rock on Film is its function as a guide to digest the films while also offering fair but strong critiques of the work. Moreover, the chapter breakdowns of certain genres allow readers to discover their most striking attributes.

Also included are candid discussions with filmmakers, Cameron Crow, Jim Jarmusch, Penelope Spheeris, and Taylor Hackford – and a fine foreword by my friend, the inimitable director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg.

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This is What it Sounds Like: What The Music You Love Says About You – Sudan Rogers and Ogi Ogas (2022)

This is What it Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You is one of the most important books written for the layman on the intellectual and emotional effects of music. In a fun and digestible read, the research and experimentation of two learned minds bring us closer to the way we process rhythm, melody, timbre, and lyrics and what those processes say about our personalities, our history, and our humanity.

Author Dr. Susan Rogers, who owns a PhD in cognitive neuroscience and is currently a professor at the Berklee College of Music, and most famously, Prince’s longtime engineer during his most prolific period of the 1980s, and co-author Dr. Ogi Oga, writer and PhD in computational neuroscience, pool their experiences and resources to help us understand the most ethereal of art forms. Broken into different chapters using music from all genres and wonderfully crafted anecdotes and charts, This is What it Sounds Like, makes the work lively and accessible. Cleverly titled from Prince’s 1984 mega-hit, “When Doves Cry,” it never reads too heady or bogged down with professorial jargon.

For this reviewer, I discovered new aspects of my personality in the music that speaks to me the loudest. Rogers, who is mostly the narrator here, also adds crucial insight into how she as both listener and professional producer/engineer breaks music down and provides trades secrets on how our most admired musical artists use tried-and-true elements to create songs that get under our skin to last forever.

Having just had a book published on the effects of one song on society at large, as well as on personal levels, Take a Sad Song – The Emotional Currency of ‘Hey Jude’, I found This is What it Sounds Like a true revelation that reached beyond my research and is a riveting companion piece if you enjoy this exceptional level of analysis.

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Leon Russell: The Master of Space and Time’s Journey Through Rock & Roll History – Bill Janovitz (2023)

The tale of Leon Russell is an epic one. It is as exhaustive as it is an impassioned telling in Bill Janovitz’s Leon Russell: The Master of Space and Time’s Journey Through Rock & Roll History.

Beginning as a youngster in clubs backing local Oklahoma talent before becoming a master studio cat by playing piano with the famed Wrecking Crew, Russell developed his rollicking soulful style in the employ of Jerry Lee Lewis and Phil Spector. Eventually he became an inspired songwriter through working with 1960s pop sensation, Gary Lewis & the Playboys. He transitioned seamlessly into a kinetic solo performer and then into one of the most idiosyncratic and brilliant bandleaders and technology innovators of the golden age of rock.

Having reviewed Janovitz’s book on the Stones in this space a few years back, I was excited to read his take on this oft noted but barely remembered pioneer of popular music, and his work delivers a frankly overdue synopsis of an artist that spanned the early history of rock and roll and conquered so much of its original genres, like R&B, gospel, and country. It delves deeply into Russell’s psychological and physiological challenges since childhood, his penchant for sometimes life-altering communal living/working environments, and his dogged pursuit of perfection in live performance.

Janovitz goes beyond Russell’s halcyon days of leading Joe Cocker’s infamous Mad Dogs and Englishman Tour, his work with George Harrison on the Concert for Bangladesh, and his unusually close relationship with Bob Dylan to reveal family turmoil, broken marriages, and complicated professional partnerships that paint the most detailed picture of the man and his music.

Russell played, met, or befriended a bevy of influencers as he himself influenced such luminaries as Elton John, who swooped in at the end of this mercurial life to rescue Russell from obscurity and provide his productive life in music the proper landing it deserved before his death in 2016. A fitting end to a complicated but extraordinary career and life.

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THE UNITED STATES V. DONALD J. TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly
6/14/23
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
THE UNITED STATES V. DONALD J. TRUMP
 

Get used to this.

The former president of the United States and remarkably the leading Republican candidate for the job again is racking up quite a dark resume and it shows no signs of slowing down. A lifelong criminal with dozens of civil settlements for millions of dollars and convictions on dubious to outright felonious real estate scams, Donald Trump has now become the first ex-president to be officially indicted by the U.S. government. He is facing seven counts of federal crimes including obstruction of justice (his favorite) and running afoul of the Espionage Act. Details on the other counts have yet to be confirmed, but likely will by the time he turns himself in this coming Tuesday. This is the cherry (for now) on top of a shit parfait that has rendered him arguably the greatest enemy of the state since Osama bin laden.

And that is quite an achievement for a one-term presidential failure. We usually forget these people – Jimmy Carter’s malaise and George H. W. Bush’s cluelessness. Despite it being hardly shocking, considering his deeply checkered past, this is still a walking disaster worthy of top-shelf infamy, even for Trump, who I assured his supporters within minutes of his unlikely 2016 victory that it merely began the countdown to impeachment and arrest. Correct and correct. I’m good. Or I pay attention. There was little chance Trump wouldn’t have ended up two steps from jail the second he descended that escalator at Trump Tower.

I am still not sure why a man whose entire professional life has been continuous fraud backed up by a panoply of lies would open himself up to the rule of law and media scrutiny laid at the feet of presidents. He was so comfy in New York ripping off construction firms, bribing officials, assaulting women, evading taxes, and impersonating people defending him on talk radio. There was always a chance he might get fined, or his accountants and lawyers would go to prison (all of it has happened), but he wouldn’t be where he finds himself today – in the crosshairs of the United States.

But the man can’t help himself. And there is certainly no one around him who can step in. He is fat Elvis working his way to face-down on the toilet carpet, General Custer riding into Little Bighorn, Mike Tyson hitting the canvas in Japan against someone named Buster Douglas. Hubris doom. A ticking timebomb of stupid. A willing victim of his own vanity.

In entertainment there is the EGOT – winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Trump has that beat. He has committed treason, domestic terrorism, racketeering, all manner of fraud, and is now accused of essentially being a spy. Pretty soon Georgia will weigh in on his fake electors and trying to bully its officials and governor to “find me eleven-thousand votes” for his failed 2020 campaign, and the Department of Justice will come calling again for his inviting insurrectionists to the Capitol and openly inciting them to attempt to corrupt the electoral process, murder the speaker of the house and vice president, and kill police.

Donald Trump is becoming the Babe Ruth of political crime. He is the Meryl Streep of malfeasance. Call him the Mozart of scandal or the Jimi Hendrix of indignity.

But maybe he’s more like Michael Myers of Halloween, an unnatural demon that cannot be felled. Especially among the fascist Republican Party, many of whom are stinking up our congress and leapt to his defense yesterday. These include among many others current Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and all-time Trump butt-sniffer, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, as Trump predictably turned the home cameras on for his Truth Social to cry foul and whip off his greatest hits; “rigged” and “witch hunt.” These people are in for the long haul, which means Trump will be the Republican nominee (currently leading 53% to 21% over his closest rival) whether he is convicted or not.

Every one of these people coming to his aid knows he could have avoided this so easily. He is correct that both his former vice president Mike Pence (also now running for president) and Joe Biden (our current commander-in-chief), took classified documents out of the White House and escaped prosecution. That’s because they are not insane. Normally in these cases the benefit of doubt is applied if the suspect cooperates, which both men did. Trump instead decided to first deny he had documents of any kind. Then he ignored subpoenas to give over said documents, and when a Florida judge granted a warrant and dozens of these docs were uncovered by FBI agents, he claimed (and still claims) that he had a right to them. He does not. Hence seven counts.

He is the Meryl Streep of malfeasance.

This is what we call in the parlance of reality (unfamiliar territory to Trump and his cabal), self-inflicted wounds. All of it could have been avoided, if Trump wasn’t raised as a rich, spoiled brat who has been told his whole life and rubber-stamped by gullible and desperate voters six years ago that he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. He turned America into Trump Enterprises for four miserable years, and he is still wrecking shit, but this time it is Republican shit and his own shit, and he is going down for it.

Now, if I were to defend Trump politically, he has some runway. This is Biden’s justice department. Trump is likely going to run against him next year. Trump is still selling the “deep state” robbery of the 2020 election. He can say, and is already saying, this is a weaponized DOJ trying to oust him from his 2024 candidacy this time around. The current Attorney General Merrick Garland has this job because he was denied his vote to become a supreme court justice by hack Republicans, an appointment which would likely have saved women’s sovereign from the current politically damaged SCOTA, but now is using his backup gig to fuck Trump. He can say it is a personal anti-Republican agenda. Vengeance. Trump’s personal playbook. He can also say the trial is taking place in Florida. Who runs Florida? The next guy up if Trump goes bye-bye, Governor Ron DeSantis. You see, once Trump declared his candidacy, he slid into the guise of a candidate making everything political. That is a measly but justifiable defense in the vox populi but holds zero H2O in court.

Many on the right are buying much of the above and are currently being bilked for money as a fundraising ploy, another addiction Trump cannot break. But none of that matters once a jury convenes in Florida and he is on trial and must leave his fancy propaganda and political machinations behind. Soon he becomes one man versus the U.S.

The United States versus Donald J. Trump has been going on for six years now. It is officially going to play out in a court of law and not OAN.

Next!

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