Frank Gutch Jr: Music and Politics: Where Have All the Flowers Gone (or Where Are All the Bodies Buried)?

FrankJr2The latest true-mor on the market:  Michelle Shocked reportedly stated at a SF concert that “God hates fags.”  Within minutes of seeing it posted on FB, the hate mail started rolling in.  The sentiments against such a statement I can understand.  What I cannot understand is so many people’s rush to jump aboard a bandwagon which might not even be warranted.

MichelleShockedI have always been leery of the Internet if just for the lack of vetting supposed truths.  Here was a “truth” possibly vetted in actuality (though at the time I read it, I was not convinced), though a quick visit to Snopes does not meet my qualifications.  And there are so many things to consider before passing such things along.  One:  Are the words accurate?  It could be Grandma’s comma all over again—- you know:  “Let’s eat, Grandma” versus “Let’s eat Grandma.”  Two:  If the actual words were accurate, in what context were they given?  If this past political year taught me nothing else it is that words mean nothing to people who have an ax to grind and are going to grind them at all costs.  They will take whatever words they can use and use them to their advantage, regardless of contextual truth.  Three:  Does the message serve any real purpose at all?  Or are people jumping on it because in their own minds it strengthens their worth as human beings.  My sense of perception is that people who need public platforms to make them worthy need a few lessons in self-worth.  Yet here we are— diving in to the latest conflict with both boots on, though the laces may be untied.  Show of hands, and be truthful:  How many of you who responded to the Shocked revelation spent any time digging for information or even thought to question the veracity of the claim?

That’s what I thought.

As if Shocked wasn’t news enough, the Steubenville rape case is blowing up big-time.  Not the case itself but how certain parts of the media have handled it.  CNN evidently spent time promoting the rapists as victims and of course that has the anti-rape people upset (and I ask myself how the hell there can be any other than the anti-rape stance) and Fox, not to be outdone (as hard as some try, they cannot seem to do it), decided to reveal the name of the rape victim.  And, again, everyone has an opinion.

socialmediaWhat the hell are we doing?  Does anyone know?  Does anyone care?  We have become the knee-jerk society we more than likely have always been except that now the jerk is immediate and once the stance is taken there is no real going back.  Don’t we know that there is more to everything than the immediate?  Don’t we care enough to want to wait for the real truth to surface?

Evidently not.  Look at music.  I love how people think they know something about music yet pick and choose their truths.  How the Summer of Love was amazingly wonderful and, boy, wasn’t Woodstock something else?  How Colonel Tom Parker was a leech on the back of Elvis and without Brian Epstein, The Beatles might have been footnote, at best.  Is sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll ever a good thing?  I suppose if you asked the many who have STDs or drug problems, you might get get a different answer than one from the record exec who spent a few packing his nose in bathrooms at bars and music venues.  The question I ask myself is just how important are answers to such questions.  Why do we think certain things so important that we must take a stand or, better yet, why do we think ourselves important enough to take one?

davidhenmanDavid Henman, one of the original members of April Wine, has been trying to figure this out too.  He is one of the most political musicians I read these days and is a huge supporter of various rights and is a hater of all things ignorant (which gives him plenty of fodder for his daily swipes at a world run amok).  Naturally, I went to his FB page when I heard about Shocked’s supposed ranting.  He had an opinion.  More importantly, he had been working on questions of a similar nature for some time.  One revolves around what is truth to each individual.  Here is what he wrote on one of his posts:  “…when i was young, i became very anti-commercial, anti-mainstream. to me, all commercial music was “bubblegum”. i looked down my nose at it and listened, instead, to zappa, beefheart, edgar varese, miles davis, the paul butterfield blues band. but, as a songwriter, i began to realize what an incredible, monstrous challenge it is to write a hit song and as a musician, what a gigantic challenge it is to record one. so, while i’m still unlikely to run out and buy a cd by gaga, beiber, nickelback or swift, i respect their success and their hard work. as does jeff beck, who performs lady gaga’s biggest hit as part of his grande finale to a hall filled with white-haired gaga haters. more to the point, however, i have come to realize that it’s not the music, or even the performers, that we are ridiculing and demeaning, but the fans of the music and the performers.”

dylanhelmThe key line:  “…the fans of the music and the performers.”  The key words:  “…the fans…”  I realized this years ago but it has taken those years to learn the lesson.  Around ’74 or ’75, I got a job at Licorice Pizza on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.  A new Dylan album was imminent but held up and as the days dragged on, customers began getting downright rude.  “You got the new Dylan yet?”  “No, it’s been delayed.”  “That’s what you fuckers said a week ago.  I’m going to Tower where they know what they’re doing.”  Yep, it was that bad.  Our manager, one Daryl R. Sartanowicz, saw the toll it was taking on me and, genius that he was, defused what could have been a nasty situation by making me wear an A-board until the album hit the streets.  It said something like “No, the new Dylan album has not yet been released, so don’t ask me.  Now, about that Cowboy album you have been so subtly ignoring…..”  People would walk up and say, “Excuse me,” but would stop dead when they saw and read the board.  Most just walked away, some chuckling and others just scratching their heads.  And, amazingly, I actually sold a copy of a Cowboy album.  Mostly what that did, though, was point out to me how absurd it was that I should get angry at such an insignificant thing.  It almost happened again, too.  The Rolling Stones had just released a new album and had mentioned in a Rolling Stone interview that they already had a couple of songs ready for the next one.  So what do the fans do?  Immediately start asking for the release date on that Stones album.  For a week or two, I honestly thought that I had been tied to the whipping post.

Thanks to the Shocked and Steubenville revelations, I am once again living in the dark.  This whole social media fray has somehow driven me deeper into my cave.  We humans are such an insensitive lot.

Don’t tell that to the people who are going to unite digitally for a 40-year celebration of the release of Dark Side of the Moon.  I know, I know.  I’m the one who keeps saying that we need to connect through music.  This umbilical cord, though, is fossilized.  No good music anymore?  If you’re too busy listening to forty-year-old music, no wonder you think that.  Hold that Bic lighter high, dinosaurs.  If they even make them anymore.

laskopunJay Pun (of Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun) has taken to publicizing his picks of musicians to listen to and watch.  Jay is in his own world, musically, and some of the things he has done with Morwenna have taken my breath away.  This week, he highlights Stephane Wrembel, backing it up with a topnotch video.  Jay has a good ear and really knows his stuff.  You might to plug in so that you don’t miss any of Jay’s future “picks.”  Watch Wrembel here.  And thanks, Jay!

And Now It’s Time For the Game We All Love— HOW FAR BEHIND AM I, ANYWAY?!!!

Let’s see.  Just three or so weeks ago, I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  CDs were stacked in proper order, websites for streaming marked in order of urgency, and headphones at the ready.  Then the world collapsed.  Or maybe it was lungs.  The struggle with a virus has kept me away from the player for a solid two weeks and that stack of CDs has grown.  The streaming was dammed at the outset of said virus, ears unable to handle any sounds outside the soft, and though I was being buried, at that point I just did not care.  Well, it’s time to care now and the list is long.  I mention the CDs here to hopefully shame myself into getting the reviews written, most of which should have been posted long ago.

Brand New Trash/Brand New Trash—  A few months ago I was raving about this band out of San Francisco calling themselves Buxter Hoot’n.  There was something about the way the voices blended which was rather unique and I found myself listening numerous times.  Not more than a cvouple of months after writing a review on Buxter, along comes this album by Brand New Trash featuring the Brothers Dewald (Vince & Jimmy) from said Buxter.  Whoa!  Gone so soon, I thought?  Not even.  Turns out that the Dewalds needed a different venue to get some songs out, thus the “new” band.  I have yet to hear a note.  That will be corrected.  I can say this much.  If the songs are anywhere near as good as those on Buxter’s EP, it will suffice.

CassieTaylorCassie Taylor/Blue  I was just starting to really listen to this CD when the bug hit.  I had expected hard-core blues because Cassie’s name is always seen next to some of the better blues players of today.  What it turned out to be is more R&B of the soul order.  Cassie has a light but enchanting voice, perfect for those soul ballads you need to hear now and again just to prove that not everyone is as base as Beyonce or Mariah Carey.  This will be getting an ace review.  I can’t wait to get back to it.

Tom Dyer—  No specific CD for this one.  I will be writing a piece about Dyer himself— or what I perceive of him.  Dyer is head of Green Monkey Records and fronts a band known as The Icons.  He is a crazy man in his own subtle ways and I have wanted to point it out for some time now.  He has wanted to point it out himself, as he stated on his Facebook page.  How about if I just write my own musical history, he hinted a few days ago.  How about if I just tell you what you need to know and then you’ll know it.  That rat bastard!  He somehow channeled my idea and there goes the whole article all blown to hell.  Screw it!  I’m going to do it anyway.  Whatever he thinks of himself isn’t even going to remotely compare to what I think of him.  Did I mention rat bastard?

Willie-Ames-Night-OwlWillie Ames/Night Owl—  Jesus!  Where does this stuff come from?  Dave Pyles over at the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange is hip on this cat and like I really need another one of those acoustic pluckers gumming up my works, right?  Actually, yeah, I do.  This guy is just far enough out there that he stands out.  Acoustic, yes, but you know how some people can make those acoustic guitars sound like, well, more?  He’s one of those.

The Life/Alone (Deluxe Edition)—  I like The Life.  I first heard Alone back in the late eighties, enjoying the band but not necessarily the tendency toward that eighties sound most bands (including them) had.  What I was not expecting when this “deluxe edition” made its way onto the market was a whole ‘nother disc recorded after Alone, identified in the package as Witness the Will.  It not only identifies Alone, it takes the band in a much needed different direction.  Talk about being behind.  I should have reviewed this over a year ago.

You Purple Virgin/Heart Like a Tiny Jewel—  You Purple Virgin is a project which involved a former member of a personal favorite, Maggi, Pierce & EJ, that member being E.J.  EJ was but one wheel of three during the MPE run but what an amazing tricycle they were, releasing a number of CDs over a number of years and never missing a beat.  Maggi & Pierce have gone on to form Hymn For Her, a little shit-kickin’ cigar box guitar/banjo madness of a band— call them heavy metal trailer trash (though their trailer be a classic Airstream).  E.J. just plain disappeared until Maggi and Pierce put the fear of bejeesus into him and he sent me this CD.  What’s it like?  Stay tuned…..

maxidunnedmundMaxi Dunn/Edmund & Leo—  Wouldn’t you know that this would float in the door just before the virus.  I was lucky enough to have been given to solid listens, front to back, when I landed flat on my back with neither desire nor capacity for music.  My appetite is returning, though, and I can tell you that much of it is for this little gem.  I don’t know what it is about Maxine Dunn which separates her from others in my head, but it is there.  This one I really look forward to reviewing.

Eric Lichter/Elks In Paris  I had three bad starts on the review for this album and tossed them all.  As frustrating as that is, it usually foretells a need for a deeper listen (or look, as it may be).  Lichter is a Green Pajama, for those who don’t know.  I am a huge Green Pajamas‘ fan.  You can see where this is going.

Elephant Revival/It’s Alive EP—  I swear to God that there is no harder working band out there than Colorado’s Elephant Revival.  They have been pounding the circuits for a few years, bending ears wherever they were allowed to play, and they are finally making inroads.  This EP is their latest but they have a few releases prior, every one a winner.  I wish I could categorize their music but it seems to depend on the song.  Definitely acoustic.  Definitely unique.

Myshkin’s Ruby Warblers/That Diamond Lust—  There must be something in that Colorado water because here is another outstanding acoustic band from that state.  After listening twice, I do believe that the Revival and Warblers may have had something to do with Colorado’s coming to their senses and voting in the Marijuana law.

thecynzThe Cynz/The Original Cynz—  I’m in love with Cyndi Dawson.  There.  I said it.  I see the videos of her fronting The Cynz and I dig the music and Dawson is one big reason.  I dig her voice.  I dig her moves.  And I dig her band.  Well, not her band, mind you, but the one she is in.  This one will be a fun listen.

New American Farmers/Brand New Day  I got to hear this one once.  I liked it, but that’s all I remember.  I’m sure it will come back to me.

AAIIEE/See You In Seattle—  What can I say?  It’s Seattle, fer chrissakes!

Jim of Seattle/We Are All Famous—  This guy is so out there that he has his tongue stuck through his cheek.  This ain’t Top Forty, friends.  Something tells me that with song titles like Welcome To Windows and The Martians Are Going To Eat Us, it might take some explaining to get it right.  Thank God for the Jims of the world.

Rich McCulley/The Grand Design—  I would call Rich a guilty pleasure except I don’t think he really is.  I like his sense of Pop and his attention to lyric.  He is quite unlike most musicians of the Pop persuasion.  Another one I really look forward to reviewing.

And that doesn’t even really scratch the surface.

No notes this week.  Still recovering.  For those of you who have an adventurous musical spirit, though, let me pass this along.  The UK’s Soundcarriers, while putting together their next release, has made an interim project available.  I’m not sure what it is, though I can tell you that Soundcarriers has yet to hit everything I’ve heard right on the nailhead.  You can download what they call Psychcast 38 by following this link and downloading…..  Very cool.


Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

3 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Music and Politics: Where Have All the Flowers Gone (or Where Are All the Bodies Buried)?”

  1. Deborah Frost Says:

    People who are commenting in various forums regarding Michelle Shocked’s “performance” at Yoshi’s are very well informed. You are the ignorant one. What readers-alerted by, for example, veteran journalist Michael Musto’s Village Voice column- as well as those who have actually consumed- as in bought and paid for Shocked’s music or shows in past- are responding to is the reversal of someone who, in a current “born again” phase, is turning on the gay community that literally fed and supported her. People who are responding to the inappropriate comments of CNN reporters have seen all of the literal evidence. You may be pleased with your seemingly contrarian position. But perhaps better to have a knee jerk, than be just a jerk. Period. Have a nice day.

    • What I wrote has little to do with Ms. Shocked’s actual stance or statements but the tendency we as individuals are developing to have opinions, the quicker the better, about everything. I simply ask the question, why do we think we’re that important. Perhaps you could answer that question, Deborah, along with why I am a jerk. I don’t think I am, but maybe I’m wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time.

  2. I saw Willie Ames when he was here in October. Great musician! wise words and lots of homework, it looks like you’re nearly back to your old self. feel better!

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