Vol. 1, Issue #3 March 3rd - March 16th, 2006

Tiger Beat From Hell
By: Wilhelm Murg

When Rock’n’Roll was Really, REALLY Important!!!!!!!!!!!

As we just passed the 26th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination - and I’m still not sure that we’re going to make it to our destination without him - I started wondering why I still feel a loss. I was 18 when it happened, so now I’ve spent more years without Lennon than I did sharing the same planet with him. My best guess is it’s the lack of “Heavyosity” (a term Woody Allen coined in “Annie Hall”) in our times; and make no mistake about it, Lennon out lived his usefulness to the record companies. His final album, “Double Fantasy,” was a modest hit, by Beatle standards, and was already on its way down the charts when his untimely death brought the platter back to the number one position. Now it’s proclaimed as a masterpiece, but back then it was being forgotten within weeks of its release. The self-important years of rock’n’roll were already behind us and Lennon, who was a big part of that importance, seemed to be old and in the way at the ripe old age of forty.

We’re really talking about 9 years, from 1966, when Lennon declared that The Beatles were more popular than the Christian messiah, to October 27th 1975 when “Time” and “Newsweek” both put the then-unknown Bruce Springsteen on their covers and declared him to be Rock’s messiah – never mind The Sex Pistols.

Despite these attempts at canonizing rock stars, as the smoke finally cleared it became obvious that the real messiah from the seventies was either Joey Ramone or Johnny Rotten/John Lydon, because in rock’n’roll the messiah can’t be born in a peaceful manger, or even the mean streets of New Jersey or Liverpool; he has to be a demon who finds the back entrance to paradise, or at least C.B.G.B.’s or The Cain’s Ballroom, and takes it over at gun point, like when Jerry Lee Lewis crashed into the Graceland gates in the middle of the night with a loaded weapon and called Elvis out (and all the King’s men simply called the police on the Killer).

I’ve just read “Barefoot in Babylon,” a book written in 1979 that details the chaos surrounding the creation of the original Woodstock. It reminded me of the awe I felt many years ago when I first started buying records, back when the dream was still alive, barely beating, but people still expected rock’n’roll to change the world and the new Aquarium age was upon us.

When I look back at that time of heavyosity it was all too much. You had the great rock festivals, from the sublime Monterey Pop Festival, to the crashing-under-its-own-weight madness called Woodstock – let’s not forget that it was declared a disaster area due to food, sanitation, and medical care concerns – to the nightmare of The Rolling Stones’ Altamont concert, where the Hell’s Angels were paid in LSD to be security guards and beat the hell out of everyone there, including the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane in the middle of their set, then they beat a guy to death. Pete Townsend perfected the rock opera, everyone from Dylan to Donovan, god help us, were considered profound, a new visual art was created in the San Francisco poster school, the underground comix and Peter Max’s Lichtenstein-on-mushrooms marketing campaign. Dennis Hopper lucked out when “Easy Rider” spoke to a generation of film fans; unfortunately his scrambled second release, “The Last Movie,” was actually a plea for help. Even the death of Buddy Holly got overblown in the long-winded ode to such days, “American Pie.” Reports came from all over the country about Ouija Boards infected by the spirits of Jimi, Janis, and Jim Morrison. By the 1970s people thought a cure for cancer could be found, if only The Beatles would have reformed and given a benefit concert.

The glitter dust of David Bowie and the glam movement was a cynical sign that it was all just a ratty circus, and cynicism gave way to nihilism in their children, and punk rock was born. Atlantis was covered in a sea of spit and we would never be able to get back to the garden.

Rock’n’roll was the greatest show on earth, but it always seemed that the artists envied the respect given to non-rock performers who fought for civil rights, like Harry Belafonte and Nina Simone. Vietnam was the perfect battleground for rock to prove itself – I’m sure when you look at the Vietnam War Memorial a good 70% of the names your face is reflected in belonged to rock fans. Rock became “less important” once the war was over, and of course, neither the army nor the anti-war protesters really won. It was the greatest draw in American culture.

Sadly, now when I think of rock’n’roll, it seems like a genre from the past, like ragtime, or talkin’ blues. Now it’s a behemoth that will destroy anyone who dares to illegally download a song, and the RIAA is the mob that runs the record industry. Rock is big business, which can all be financed on David Bowie Visa cards. Springsteen’s all right, but musically I’ve always felt like he was a well-groomed gift from the princes of rock. Bono might be up for a Nobel Prize – and maybe I’m sheltered, but I’ve only met one U2 fan in my life, and he was a mental basket case.

During the Reagan years I used to complain that I missed the cynicism of the Nixon Administration. In this time of war, I really miss the good fight over Vietnam; it’s like a war isn’t even happening, compared to the sixties. When I watch the many MTV channels in the middle of the night I see the Army recruitment commercials and realize we have an all-volunteer army fueled on bad heavy metal commercials that are made to look like video games. All the anti-war rhetoric of rock has become meaningless words, yet the music is being used as a marketing tool for the armed forces. Maybe heavyosity wasn’t such a bad thing; at least people paid attention to the words. These days rock is used like Wagner in the airborne Calvary scene from “Apocalypse Now”: “Play some Disturbed, it’ll scare the hell out of them!”

By the way the end of that Lennon quote says as much about rock’n’roll as it does Christianity: “Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” Amen, my atheist brother, Amen!

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©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.