JAIMIE VERNON – YOUR OWN PERSONAL JESUS

Promo Shot_Twilight Zone_thumbHappy Easter to everyone no matter how you celebrate it. If you’re a strictly by ‘The Book’ follower of the chronicles of Jesus than this is a weekend of mixed blessings (death, resurrection, Cadbury’s chocolate). If you’re a non-believer you too have a weekend of mixed blessings (in-laws, hockey playoffs, Cadbury’s chocolate).

JesusChrist_SuperstarI fall into the second category – though I actually love my in-laws – and don’t give this weekend much thought. Hey, I don’t even get a day off work…it’s a Friday and a Sunday of time and a half. So I can’t complain. Thanks, Christianity! I owe you a solid. What I do think about on occasion is that this Jesus fellow, who seemed like a pretty decent bloke and was way ahead of the humanitarian curve, may have been the first rock star.

No really. Work with me here. All the tell tale signs were there. He worked against authority. He was a rebel without suitable footwear. He sang the praises of peace, love and harmony. He lived in his Dad’s basement. He was assassinated in public. He has a global following that has weekly meetings inside halls of worship.  He is one of the most recognized pop icons of all time.

Boy GeorgeThat’s a hell of a marketing reach after 2,000 years. None have come close. His believers are true. They love him and adore him – and have even died FOR him. There’s two holidays in his honour. Elvis never gave us any of that. Nor the Beatles. And the others with a similar mass appeal turned out to be the anti-Jesuses. Napolean. Hitler. Kim Jung-Un. Boy George. But even the bad ones have fan clubs.

Fans. There is no limit to what people will identify with and gravitate to in an effort to validate their existence, feel ‘accepted’ or attempt to use as a means of power. By believing in Green Bay Fanssomething outside of ourselves we’re either living vicariously through others or covering up a deep seated insecurity about our own lives. Or at least, that’s how those who pillory and belittle fans paint them in broad black and white strokes. Apparently, making your body green and jumping about in a stadium with no clothes on screaming encouragement to 9 guys wearing spandex and playing with a dead pig is okay, but dressing like Superman and donating your time to making dying children in hospitals is weird.

Guess what? All fan bases are the same. From Harry Potter devotees to historical re-enactors to video game junkies to Deadheads (the Grateful kind) there is no difference. There is the object of attraction and there are the attractees. When you look online at fan clubs and fanbases – either on dedicated websites or Facebook – everyone believes that they are the most hardcore, dedicated and extremely knowledgeable of all fans…even when the object has multiple fanbases and sub-fanbases.

life-of-brianNo one wants to acknowledge that they are not unique. They share the same reasons everyone else does for diving into a set of real or imagined ‘needs’ for being a fan. The language is the same. The drama amongst the fans is the same. Just Google sports fans, reality TV fans, Star Trek fans, or Bruce Springsteen fans. You name it and it becomes quickly apparent that we’re all looking for something to attach our pop culture wagon to. We attempt to insert ourselves into another world – one usually different than the mundane world we currently inhabit. These worlds are often built by someone in advance (J.K. Rowling, George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, The Beatles) and the fans climb on board. In other instances, the worlds are built by the fans (Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Route 66 and even Jesus).  Usually, it involves an interaction with the object of their fan lust either passively by collecting souvenirs, dressing as them, or participating in communities or aggressively (stalking being the most overt). Monty Python satirized the extreme fanbase of following a Messiah in its on-point film ‘The Life of Brian. A place where worshipping footwear is as important as worshipping the person that wears it.

Bearded_LadySince time immemorial, however, fans have also become targets of scams and hucksterism and out-right rip-offs. Pop culture specifically represents a certain means of taking advantage of the emotionally needy and the financially gullible. P.T. Barnum mastered the art of selling ice cubes to Eskimos and bearded ladies to the morbidly curious. To that end I believe our innate fear and distrust of clowns comes from our ancestors ‘Spidey Sense’ that something wasn’t quite legit about worshipping false idols or buying the snake oil from same.

With the two decade long spiral of the music business it’s been getting harder to separate the chafe from the tweets. Every website and music event is run by P.T. Barnums. We’ve been played as music fans from the original overlords of music dissemination – the major labels (would you be interested in another Monkees or Hendrix re-issue?)  – to their successors on unscrupulous websites and Kijiji ads. And yet, fandom has somehow remained cynic proof through all of this. And it has allowed snakes to meander into this garden of geekdom. But the fans and the geeks have gotten smarter and are now running the very industries that used to marginalize them.

Whedon_AvengersWhen superhero, monster and horror movies are now out-selling comedies and dramas by the old guard – because they’re being produced by former fan boys – it goes without saying that being a fan is no longer something we’re expected to grow out of by our parents, but something to celebrate and embrace; Mainly because the hobby has now become a potential job opportunity. I know that sounds cynical, but there’s a shard of truth. A truth that has turned many fans off.

katebushTickets to see your favourite classic rock acts have become unattainable. Getting them is now a coveted prize. It’s a badge of honour. A weapon to use against other fans to stir jealousy and old rivalries. That’s not what it’s supposed to be about. Singer Kate Bush recently announced that she was finally going to sing live again after a 35 year absence from the stage. Adult men wept at the thought of hearing the object of their teenaged wet desires sing in angelic tones in concert again. Then the tickets went on sale. She sold out 22 shows in 15 minutes. Scalpers’ tickets are now going for over £1000 each. Needless to say, it has instantly created a situation between fans of the haves and the have nots. You can’t just be a fan anymore. You have to compete for that fandom.

Bon Jovi sweatSome of the artists themselves have created this scenario – either deliberately or unassumingly. You can pay $2000 to go back stage and have your photo taken with Jon Bon Jovi’s microphone stand and get your name on an official Bon Jovi chair. Or pay $5000 and you can sniff his hair and receive a vial of his post-show sweat. The ability to achieve these ‘goals’ has lead to people mortgaging houses, divorcing loved ones and abandoning their children in convention centre parking lots. To what end? Bragging rights? When you’re 80 and living in a nursing home is anyone going to care that Tom Jones was the recipient of 32 pairs of your panties from stage crashing his shows?

Nana MouskouriOr maybe, if you’re a Nana Mouskouri fan (called the Nana Nuts), you’ll spend your retirement years working your vacations around her touring schedule. There’s a fandom whose purpose has stayed true to itself. Mouskouri has responded with that loyalty in turn by giving fans access to her after shows and gladly signing autographs and chatting about life with those she shares many interests. And that’s certainly something Jesus could have gotten behind.

PTBarnumDon’t allow your own interests to be dismissed or have people condescend to you when you show an interest in something. My wife loves the Trews. That loyalty got her a singing spot on their new album.  Great things can be had by showing your love for and sharing your love for something outside of yourself. Just don’t let the Tom Parkers (Elvis’ manager) or P.T. Barnum of the world dilute the dream.

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

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