I knew I’d have to take extra blows against sadness during this GOP convention. So as a type of exorcism, I will list the most heartless turnarounds I can recall from my life:
“He was really callow in high school but he’s developed sensitivity and insight I admire. I bet we’ll be a new kind of friends in later years.” (Killed in a car smash when he was 20.)
“Everything is going his way now. Brilliant writing being rewarded, assured future.” (Died from AIDS.)
“He’s too smart to drink himself to death. We’ll remain best buddies into old age.” (Liver failure when he was 57.)
“He’s a rock of sanity in a secure position. Probably my favorite editor.” (Committed suicide.)
“She’s a beloved pal and she’ll be fine. She’s beaten cancer.” (But she hadn’t.)
These were all outstanding, talented people. I miss each of them at least every week. It is a merciless world.
Now playing: Suicide (The Basement Records vinyl version from I don’t know when)
Yeah, the problem is Martin Rev. “Unimaginative ” is a kind description. “Unimaginative on purpose because of theoretical constraints” gets closer to it.
And so we confront the mystery of “Frankie Teardrop.”
I still don’t think it’s a solid-stone piece of music. But it’s a breakthrough in subject matter and attitude from rockabilly and country fatalism. Whether it’s mere “rhetoric” or not, it got smart performers and songwriters to grapple with tabloid violence in the context that stuff was created. The way folks consumed it. With a progressive political edge added. Which was improved later, I say.
From today’s NY Times. I think the guy was an absolute genius.
I loathed the era when business fat cats were touted as heroic and genius and role models when it was obvious what a mass suck-up it all was — the “heroes” didn’t have to be good for society, generous, or offer persuasive evidence they were decent human beings. A serious turn in the path toward confusing leadership and entertainment.
“Charlie Manson is whoever he’s allowed to be.”
“I’m not black, I’m O.J.”
For me, the most unfortunate turn for Vega and Rev’s band Suicide was that I did not hear their debut until after I was infatuated with the first wave of pure punks. If it had come out in, oh, ’72-’73 (when they had been performing for years, anyway) I know I would have Embraced The Weird. As it was, Suicide sounded like the wrong shock wave to me — overdone, anti-pleasure, an arty project meant to be red hot that felt cold.
Even so, boosters like Bruce Springsteen and Ric Ocasek had damned astute ears, so there must be something going on I couldn’t discern. Whap! Here comes Alan Vega in 1980 (still have the promo LP on PVC/Ze complete with bio and track-by-track explanation and misspellings) and everything fell into place. Vega was around 10 years older than most of the punks and was a lot more shaped by rockabilly and roots rock in general rather than girl groups, surf or even garage. Ah-ha! Heard this afternoon, that solo debut holds up all the way (even “Bye Bye Bayou” seems more Iggy-crazy and not too long). The surprise is that the stark, experimental edge of it glowers in the sunshine. Nailing your own voice is always an avant move.
The other Vega vinyl I saved was his Boston album, Saturn Strip, produced by Ocasek with contributions by him and Greg Hawkes. After this record, I thought both Vega’s sound and songwriting went down the slope. And sure, it’s his “commercial” gesture. Suicide loyalists will carp that this is too much like a Cars record with Vega on vocals.
I still like it. Not going anywhere.
PS: Knew how to pose and strike a stance. Ideal for the Interview age.