Tuesday, August 24, 2021

THE SEX PISTOLS ARE NOW ABOUT GETTING PAID.

According to The Guardian, two of the three surviving members of the  Sex Pistols (Steve Jones and PaulCook) have won a lawsuit they filed against SP singer Johnny Rotten (John Lydon). Lydon who was blocking their right to use Sex Pistol songs for a limited series that's being made about the band, maintaining that the other two needed his consent. The British court awarded Jones and Cook the right to use the iconic and anti-social tunes in what is termed a "majority rules" principle. Essentially, the other two surviving members did not require Lydon's consent to have access to the songs at issue.  We ought not to be surprised that a band famous for being young, angry, and contentious would eventually become quarrelsome in their waning years. Still, the dispute between the parties involved makes pondering about the glaring irony impossible to avoid. It was quite a thing when Gil Scott -Heron declared in 1971 that the revolution would not be televised. It gave us restless, agitated youth comfort to know that the Man would not win this fight. And now The Fucking Sex Pistols, the harbingers of the Judgement to Come against the soul-less corporate machine, have become merely another piece of intellectual property that is being made into a limited series for Disney, that anti-life capitalist Moloch that wears a Happy Face. If anyone ever wondered what Herbert Marcuse wrote about "repressive tolerance" was, this is it. Crudely put, the System tolerates to a degree those social forces that threaten it, assimilates their energy, and turns them into grist for the mill. Johnny Rotten complains about the perversion of the Sex Pistols legacy while Disney and other entities profit off his labors in brasher days. Rotten/Lydon still hasn't realized, it seems, that he sold out the second he signed a recording contract and a publishing deal. He was working for the Man all along. Young angry punk rockers who don't die young suffer the indignity of getting old, bloated, and cranky. This revolutionary contrarian has become the old man yelling, "get off my lawn."

Sunday, August 22, 2021

 Don Juan's Reckless Daughter - Joni Mitchell (Asylum)


Listeners have taken joy in Joni Mitchell's continual insistence on changing her musical approach, so it was not unusual that the release of Hissing of Summer Lawns was hailed, for the most part, a bold step towards personal and artistic growth. Nevertheless, while Hissing and her subsequent and less successful Hejira did indeed show Mitchell expanding herself to more adventurous motifs - broader song structures, an increasingly impressionistic lyric scan, jazz textures - the trend toward a more personalized voice has virtually walled her off from the majority of her fans. Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, her new double record effort, takes the ground gained from the last two albums and converts it into a meandering, amorphous culmination of half-formed concepts. Musically, the stylistic conceit is towards jazz modernism, with several songs exceeding ten minutes in length as they ramble over Mitchell's vaguely comprehensible piano chords. She reveals a tendency to hit a strident chord and let the notes resonate and fade as she vocally ruminates over the lyrics - while her sidemen, Jaco Pastorious and Wayne Shorter from Weather Report, and guitarist John Guerin, do their best to add definition. 

The lyrics, in kind, are an impressionistic hodgepodge, a string of images, indecipherable references, and gutless epiphanies that needed a good pruning. While the more hard-nosed defenders may defend the latest with the excuse that a poet may express themselves in any way they see fit, one still has to question the worth of any effort to dissect Reckless Daughter the way one used to mull over Dylan albums. Though any number of matters that Mitchell chooses to deal with may have value to her audience - spiritual lassitude, the responsibilities of freedom, sexuality into Middle Ages - she does not supply anything resembling hooks, catchphrases, or access points, of ' reference to steady the voluminous diffusion of the stanzas. Instead, she gives them art, whether they like it or not. The paradox in Mitchell's idea has thrown craft well outside the window while measuring up to "Art" in the upper case. She has gone from being an artful songwriter to being merely arty. What is remembered is the artifice and gloss used to make this double record enterprise seem a higher caliber of music. 


Sunday, August 1, 2021

JOHN CAGE STOOD THERE (a performance fiction)


 


John Cage stood there for an hour saying nothing while holding the mike. Then he dropped the mike to the stage floor. There was an echoing boom as the mike hit the floorboards. The spotlight on Cage went dark, as did the subdued aisle lights in the auditorium. The exit signs went dark.

Cage remained on the stage, a lank outline of pure shade that appeared to swell up through the floorboards. The audience made no move to leave their seats. Another hour went by. Slowly the house lights came back up and revealed Cage still standing there, again holding the microphone he dropped before.

"Thank you," he said, his voice a cracked, reedy squeak. There was a warm round of applause.

As the applause subsided, someone yelled from the back of the hall, "ONE MORE TIME."


Cage smiled and then dropped the mike to the stage floor. There was a loud boom. The spotlight on Cage went dark, and then the house lights were shut off. It was a dark, blackened space. No one moved.

DEAD MALL

 


In future years the younger folks might be nostalgic as they reminisce about the supposed fun and convenience of down San Diego's Horton Plaza Shopping Center before it eventually became a dead mall, now being repurposed as office space for tech companies. 

The truth of the matter is that even in its prime, it was an alienated space, full of architectural distractions, detours, and dead ends that seemed designed to magnify your unease and increase your desire to escape your sense of uselessness by exhausting your credit limit and begging creditors for an increase in your credit line.

 I  worked there for several years as a bookseller and made my number one spot to see new movies. Over time you couldn't help by note the waning numbers of people coming to the Plaza, the number of stores advertising off-Holiday Sales with things up to 70 percent off, the closing of stores, and the draping of butcher paper over the display windows with a sad sign promising a new retailer coming in soon, watching the calendar pages fly away and noting again the stores were still vacant and that more stores had joined them.

Horton Plaza had become an empty series of angular paths, walkways, bridges to more locked up storefronts, a structural case of architectural schizophrenia where all the eaves, overhangs, arches, and such unusual twists cast deep, despairing shadows over the dead concrete, few have reason to walk.