Throwing Words Against the Wall (and Seeing What Doesn’t Stink)
by Jon Sarre
illustration by Ted Babcock
Don’t I hate it when this happens, deadline blindsided me like a paternity suit; not so good when I only gotta regurgitate somethin’ every three months or so (hey, I’ve been busy at what’s been increasingly an incredible waste of time, so sue me, it’d be a new experience, thus far I’ve only been threatened). Anyway, it was fairly recently that I came to the realization that I gotta turn in yet another “opportunity to express myself” (and trust me, I will someday). The big question I was askin’ myself (out loud if I happen to be in a public place, that way no one asks me for change) was “what to do about it?” Hah! You probably thought this was easy (ah, what the hell, I’m convinced everyone skips this page over, needless to say, hate mail is welcome, for no other reason other than so I know somebody looks at this. Are you out there? Hello? Hello?!?).
The first thing that came to mind, of course, was the quickly ditched concept of coming up with something hastily-conceived off-the-cuff (see the first paragraph’s parenthetical run-on sentences if ya wanna know why I ditched it). A scan through my tangled weave of foggy notions rendered that unfeasible, time was a-wastin’ here. A Plan B was required and luckily I have a standard fallback, submit something that’s already been written. A glance at the archives revealed two neglected works-in-progress, one an aborted novel loosely based on Don Knotts magnum opus, The Shakiest Gun in the West, the other consisted of a few introductory passages intended to be part of a larger, narrowly themed ripoff of Richard Meltzer’s Aesthetics of Rock. The second piece, provisionally titled Little Green Men, Troglodytes and Mummies: The Moronic Rock of Ages (or alternately, The Rock of Moronic Ages) was the clear winner. The thing had stalled out after a coupla weeks due to the scope required of such a work (no joke, if ya stop and think about it for a second, it’d make Ulysses look like the Cliff Notes version of uh, Ulysses). One of these days, or so I keep saying to anyone who asks, I’m gonna go back and narrow the deal, so keep buggin’ yer local non-pornographic bookstore for the rehashed, refreshed, rethought out, yet still lo-rent Aesthetics of Times That Don’t Have ‘Em. I’m sure it’ll be coming to a Buck-A-Book near you.
[Mo-ron-ic adj for mo-ron n 1: A feebleminded person or mental defective who has a potential mental age of between 8 and 12 years and is capable of doing routine work under supervision 2: A very stupid person]
-Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
Moronic. When you apply such a word to rock music it changes a bit from the above definition, it acquires a double edge, in fact. At base, it’s an insult, but after the late ’70s, it was turned upside-down to become a compliment in a highbrow-to-low sorta way. Think about it, lotsa people called the Ramones moronic and loads of those mudslingers were really fans. Same goes for Motörhead. Punk rock in general is/was moronic, what else are ya gonna call it when ya get down to it. Hell, the whole rock’n’roll shebang was moronic from day one, you moron!
For the purposes of this silly little study, I aim to deconnotize the negative usage (whether it’s a put down or a celebration of the lack of high-concept artistic what have you). Yeah, but I’m being intentionally vague here, mainly cuz there’s been enough high flautin stabs at “artistic stature” (whether those were clearly intended or not is conveniently also going to be left up to me), which in the hands of, say, The Stones on Their Satanic Majesty’s Request, the Godz – just pick the one you like better, or even very conscious low-brows like The Cheater Slicks (1997’s Forgive Me comes to mind) is, when push comes to shove, as dagblamed idiotic as The Angry Samoans or any one of the draft bait losers of Crypt’s Back From the Grave compilations. This makes moronic good, see?
It’s all about not caring about the recycled crap yer spouting off about. It’s about true, loud’n’stupid rock’n’roll based on teenage lust’n’dumbfuck pastimes like wantin’ to sniff some glue or drive yer grand theft auto into a cop car or guardrail. It’s about celebratin’ the basest joy available, sex or drugs or fallin’ down the stairs or even cuttin’ yerself with broken glass on a drunken whim or hatin’ yer jerk-off job/girlfriend/life.
Bein’ a “loser” is a big part of it, I figure. Face it, anyone who aspires to a “career in rock” is an idiot (tho’ not necessarily a moron). The morons don’t say things like that. Check out a “musicians wanted” classified sometime and stay clear of ’em. All too often the best stuff comes from a buncha slobs who don’t know where they’re gonna sleep that night, never mind where their “major label money and professional attitude” is comin’ from (tho’ those people are also often as hellish to deal with as some career-hounding geek). That’s why a certain naive intelligence is also required to raise oneself out of the muck that pure, unhomgenized ineptitude will draw ya into.
Obviously it takes a special set of personality quirks to negotiate the funhouse mirror where life and art meet. It takes both instinct and wary intelligence to take one’s fist to the glass and risk/blithely ignore the superstitious taboos that govern the alchemy which rules the spaces outside the workaday world. Animalistic urge, perhaps, The Sonics were all about that. The Dead Boys based their short, self-destructive career on ledge-dancing on the edge of the reflective surface, ditto (does it need to be said?) for Iggy, until the image in the mirror blinked back in maybe a moment of clarity. The Butthole Surfers, as well, albeit in an entire hall of mirrors, cavalierly blurring the existence of all reality.
Very rarely does the concept manifest itself though. Y’know, it’s more straight-forward temporal shit: “More Cigarettes,” “TV Party,” “No Feelings,” “Kill Yourself” (‘cept the authors of the last title, “Kill Yourself,” the one I have in mind, anyway, NYC via DC attitude inclined scuzz/art monsters Pussy Galore, don’t qualify as moronic cuz their stuff, as dumb as it often appears, was all conceptualization along the lines of Warhol’s Campbell Soup series, so they don’t count for these here purposes). Sticking with what you know and singing about it, no matter how trivial, that’s brilliant stupidity (tho’ goin’ out on a limb and tackling something you have no idea about and singing about it – take any teen romance ditty written, recorded, and performed by non-teens, or just about any rocker’s “political” number – can also be stupidly brilliant, although usually in a more subconscious way).
Supercharger, who, during their brief career, probably accomplished the highest level of smirking moronism when they proclaimed they were “okay cuz I read it in the Zodiac.” The Misfits, to use a similar example, put their faith in a number, “138,” for reasons they never really got around to explaining. The (Canadian) Godz put their faith in sheer numbers (of fans who never flocked out to purchase either of their major laughable “art” statements) when Eric Moore predicted on “Gotta Keep Runnin'” that armies of Godz-like machines would take over sooner or later. The Ramones, however, getting back to Earth, just wanted to be your boyfriend (and sniff Carbona, glue, do something, get shock treatment, a lobotomy, psycho therapy, and much more). Lemmy wanted you to “Love Me Like a Reptile” and Golden Earring developed new technology called “Radar Love.” Johnny Thunders sang about “Pirate Love” in the Heartbreakers, but the Mummies figuring love was for suckers, wanted only “Food, Sickles, Girls” and even to “Kill My Baby Tonight.” Similarly, Austin TX’s Bulemics want you to “Die Tonight” and Canada’s Von Zippers wanna “Kill that Guy.” Possibly best of all, on The Candy Snatchers‘ latest record, Human Zoo, they not only refer to “Killin’ My Buzz,” but also shout out to the world that “If You Can’t Have Fun, Then You Ain’t No Fun” and close with “Moronic Pleasures,” stupid, huh?