By Joe Carducci (Redoubt Press)
By Craig Regala
This is a massive thing for its size. Like Charles Shaar Murray’s Hendrix book, Crosstown Traffic, this takes a whack at defining what happened in the American musical/social culture from a particular person/point at a very specific time, contextualized by a lot of before and after. Thing is, everyone knows who Jimi was and generally cedes him a wing in the great guitar edifice in the sky. Not here. Like the stuff the films The Unheard Music and We Jam Econo documented, SST Records was under the commercial (read: actual) radar. Anyone who’s old enough to remember Viet Nam knows that the real war was fought waaaaaaaaay under the radar; in tunnels and underbrush, with search and destroy missions and occasional napalm fire works illuminating… nothing but more jungle. Joe Carducci was a part owner of and full-time all-the-time worker at SST Records. He needed a photographer willing to wade into that jungle, and he got Naomi Petersen, a kid whose art and focus moved through a lens, a biracial teenager launching herself at “the action.” You know the old saying “the truth will set you free”? When I read the book’s coda, I finally understood it: “but no-one said it was going to be good news.” Welcome to a great American story.
Mr. Carducci ponders “Maybe in the end, punk was the nihilistic phase of hippie.” In Enter Naomi, it’s the point where new people look forward from the end of the new horizon, amped up and ride the rocket Buck Henry style. A mother fucking death trip, but the only one that mattered. RE: Motörhead’s cogent take on Catholicism: “born to lose, play to win.” The key is ignoring it’s a death trip and giving it your all, not accepting a stylistic “cult” ghetto or reveling in “outsider” status. I picked up that bit of understanding from Joe’s rock history, Rock And The Pop Narcotic. (That one’s real good, too.) Here (and there), Joe writes about how the culture, SST Records, and the people who fueled it hammered at being the real full-on thing, not a negatively-defined counter-culture. That approach only plays at being a negative status quo, it gets jerked around by its mere reactionary status, its needs the straight world like Satanists needs Christians. Two to tango…
Naomi/SST were their own boss. Herein, he details the effect of the SST rock and roll vortex on his friend/coworker Naomi Petersen. She paid the price (as did countless unsung girls-women he hails) to cross the line and reject the status quo from both counter and regular cultures. It’s sewn throughout the tome, as is the enormous amount of work everyday-all-day they did toward something that mattered. I wasn’t there, and I didn’t know her, him, or the others he writes of. I’m amazed and often saddened by what happened, but mainly, I’m jealous I missed the wave, and feel guilty that maybe I didn’t have to. If only we all could live up to being part of something meaningful. How much did it matter to him? He’d do it all again if history wrinkled and allowed it: The no money, the rejection, the 70 hour weeks, the defeats, the thrilling victories, the knowledge you were doing right with the best people money couldn’t buy. R.I.P.