Four Typewritten Pages
by Jon Sarre
illustration by Ted Babcock
“Visual Accompaniment is almost analogous to the music-printed page of notes relationship. Well, notes are in sequence and a picture by itself doesn’t go anywhere –but, a picture being worth 1000 words (or 4 typewritten pages), you get something similar.”
The Aesthetics of Rock
Four Typewritten Pages. So I’m sitting here, squinting through the harsh light of the new year, gulping yesterday’s flat brut outta someone else’s discarded glass (drinking around the odd cigarette butt, natch), vainly attempting to stave off all tomorrow’s hangovers (at least until I get this thing done). Nah, I don’t wanna talk about the millennium and its witless sampler assortment of fears, hope, and consequences, and I’ve never been one to gawk in wonder at the renewal factor implicit in hangin’ the new Leonardo DiCaprio calendar (not like I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution, but fatalist that I am, I’ve always also half expected the world to end on 1/1).
One thing’s for sure, I hate Spring, if only cuz certain members of the tribe of man insist on showing off their flabby pasty whititude on the first sunny day of February by clomping ’round in shorts when the temperature doesn’t top 35. Ya ever notice bronchitis, pneumonia, and other nasty infections of the respiratory system seem only to strike alcoholic shut-ins who unwisely smoke outside, usually after being dragged out of winter’s hibernatory haze by some jerk posing as a friend cuz “it’s First Night, so let’s see the Klezmer band perform outside for a change.” “All the wrong people are dying” saieth Styrene Mike Hudson out-of-contexteth, but I’ll interpret poetry anyway I see fit, thank you.
Four Typewritten Pages. “Whaddayeh like that’s out now?” I hate that fuckin’ question, mainly cuz I can’t always answer it off the cuff. It takes thought, so there’s something wrong from the get-go, ‘kay? There once was a time when I could just ramble off a “bigblackflagdeadkennedysbuttholesurfers” and nobody knew what I was talking about anyway. Now it’s… uhhhh… I think for a minute and I can get off a few (which I don’t wanna name since I’m sick of namin’ names lately) (okay, Zen Guerrilla, The Gimmicks, Cheater Slicks, The Hellacopters, Fifty Tons Of Black Terror, The Makers (on record), Dave from the Monomen‘s new thing,Watts (live at least), The Lyres [if a: I’m goin’ full bore on my reactionary tendencies and b: if they’re still playin’ out in Boston or Europe or touring China or whatever], same with Dead Moon then) and so yeah, like, uh, where was I?
So what goes now? I mean, I open up The New York Times a coupla weeks ago and I see this review of an Offspring show where the writer pretty much writes off punk as so 1996 (or whateva, I fugget) and here’s the Offspring, last gag, er, gang in town (yeah, so the Times doesn’t exist for its up-to-the-minute rock’uh’roll muzak coverage, but, c’mon! Even in a cultural matrix sorta way that still ain’t “All the News that’s Fit to Distort”!). Then I heard the ‘Spring boys’ new single. Pretty punk for a pop band… sheeeessshhhh!
Four Typewritten Pages. Actually, now all the shit is cleared off the fan with little wire toothbrushes, ‘still remains that when the subject of music comes up in those drunk-too-much conversations the topics are more ‘long the lines of “Why I’m such a jerk for not liking The Buzzcocks a whole lot like everybody else” or “Hendrix is such a bore cuz, well, he just is.” That’s to say, revolving around stuff that occurred, at the latest, when I thought Zero Mostel narrating Dr. Seuss stories was the ultimate in HiFi (hell, maybe it still is, I lost my vinyl copy of Green Eggs and Ham). All this, dear fuckin’ reader, for the sake of fuckin’ clarity, alla that, is versus, “Boy what a great fuckin’ new soundtrack album to that new movie I have not and will not see.”
Frontal-lobe poverty aside, I’ll easily accept the aesthetic cop-out (i.e. predictably good) over the conscious trailblazer (i.e. Prince, sometimes, or anyone Bowie rips off). To wit, numbing as it may be, ten more Paul Revere s playing sludgy Kinks and goopy Yardbirds “homages” slightly more or less capably than any randomly selected draftbait glue-sniffing white dope high on punk’n’Nuggets zero-heroes hits higher on the cosmic breathalizer than a wouldbe John Cage with a Robert Stigwood-fixation and a sampler. Fuck, sources presumably more sage than I even pretend to posit that alla that base tendency towards repetition’s okay and maybe even the point (sorta). To again quote (steal) from Meltzer’s flunkouttagradschool (in flames, even) reputation-(de)baser (The Aesthetics of Rock is a fun read once ya reconcile the fact that the book’s author knows not/cares not what he writes about better than, I suspect, half the time):
“….the very notion of originality in art (that each work of art should break new ground or try to) is a rather late one in art history… Anyway such historic knowledge/ignorance provides (for rock) a convenient self-affirmation through negation”
(Da Capo, note on pp. 140, if yer following along at home)
So Meltzer writes off the artist’s presumed (cuz there’s lotsa hacks) strivings to challenge the status-quo through his work as some Johnny-Come-Lately post-Enlightenment development and, most importantly,not always necessary or even desirable. Nah, I don’t agree either, but it’s one swell rationalization ain’t it?
Four Typewritten Pages. The solution to the hypothetical question posed as a puzzle on page 36 is a simple one. Dylan, unless the circumstances which had to have been very specific, mitigated (i.e. an Act of God such as a fire, flood, or police bust), would not have asked Delbert McClinton to loan him his harmonica, especially the instrument in question being, as McClinton claimed, the same one once owned by Jimmy Reed and soaked nightly in denture cleanser and whiskey and – now this is possibly the key to the whole deal – it was Spring of ’62, the time period the gypsy cousin of Dr. John warned him to not leave the house between the hours of seven and ten pm Tuesday through Friday. Unless a reader can produce further, reasonable, empirically-provable evidence to the contrary, we will take the word of Big Joe Williams’ illegitimate third cousin Selma, taking into consideration that she is both blind, 120 years of age, and has never heard of any of the principals of this story, as the gospel truth. Obviously it was John Lennon who played harp on “Love Me Do” after all.