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Re: (TV) Arthur Lee
Joe that is so artfully put. Myself growing up in the 70's, in a culture of
substance abuse (mainly alcohol and "soft" drugs, but addicts aplenty), I
had a visceral response against that type of indulgence for myself,
especially after I did some experimenting and witnessed some people close to
me get burned out, a few died way too young. Sure I dug the aesthetic of
dissoluteness, that's probably why I hacked down so many cigarettes and
spent hours with my hair in front of a mirror during adolescence, but what
really attracted me to punk, to Hell and the Ramones, Iggy, the Dolls et al.
was it's nihilism towards mainstream culture, but particularly mainstream
COUNTER-culture. "Blank Generation" and "Chinese Rocks", even, spoke miles
about rejection and dissatisfaction with suburban, American norms, where
everyone was told to "Take It Easy". For most of my music-loving friends at
the time, punk's rejection of "chops" was anathema. This was, after all, the
age of Yes and Jethro Tull. Television and the best of that music, Pere Ubu,
the Clash, Costello, really changed everyone's sensibilities. And most of
the music from that punk scene has held up remarkably well, because it has
vitality and risk, space and angularity. My mentor, an eighty-four year old
abstract painter here in NY, described to me once his reaction to seeing
Cezanne for the first time as being total shock, all he saw was primitive
blotches of color, it took him a long time to see the image. That seems
inconcievable to me, especially considering a century of art that sprang
from his work. From it came new histories, like African sculpture and
Persian painting. Likewise in rock and roll in the mid to late seventies,
new histories were formed in people's collective subconscious through the
influence of punk. Suddenly, the predominance of the Doors, Zeppelin,
Hendrix, the Beatles and the Stones were cast aside and antecedents to the
new music were found in weird American "Nuggets" garage groups, like Love
and the Seeds, or in the Kinks and the Yardbirds, or in rockabilly.
As far as making value judgements about whether these artists/performers
should be disregarded because of their personal habits, I think that's
preposterous, and speaks to the puritan streak in our culture. How easy it
is to feel disdain for addicts, how difficult it is to say "there but for
the grace of God go I".
>From: Joe Hartley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: Re: (TV) Arthur Lee
>Date: Wed, Feb 23, 2000, 2:33 PM
> Jeffrey Germaine wrote:
>> Be honest now. You mean to tell me that drugs,etc. have little or no bearing
>> on the "craft" of such folks as Thunders & Hell? Gimme a break!!
>> Those two were nothing but a walkin' talkin' drugstore!!
> It has a *lot* to do with their music. How many other songs capture the
> sheer angst and desperation of youth as well as "Blank Generation?" In
> order to capture that feeling, Hell must have felt it. If he'd been a happy,
> well-adjusted lad, we'd never have had that song. Is it not worth listening
> to because it was written by a junky? Should I not read any WSBurroughs
> because of his addictions?
> These pieces of art are compelling to me because they convey the horror
> of feeling helpless, unable to control their own lives. I couldn't possibly
> write something like that because I've never been that close to the edge
> I don't "love the addiction," as you seem to think I do. It's with horror
> that I see people constantly flirt with that edge, ready to tumble into the
> abyss at any moment. Of the emotions that come into play, there's sorrow,
> pity and a bit of revulsion at some primal level. Scorn and contempt
> aren't among them.
> I cannot separate the work of someone like WSB or Arthur Lee from their
> addictions. It is a part of them, for better or worse. Of course one
> hopes that anyone can overcome an addiction, but no one can do that
> except the addict. Many succeed, many fail. It's generally none of my
> business unless the addict has asked me to become involved, or has coerced
> me into involvement. (I have a looong Jaco Pastorius story that illustrates
> how people get sucked into an addict's orbit. Some other time.)
> The terse "Fuckin' junkie" response we've seen repeatedly focuses on
> one aspect of an artist - that inability to control the addiction - and
> leaves no room for discussion of the artist or the work. It's a sordid,
> dirty part of the whole, but only part.
> Joe Hartley - UNIX/network Consultant - email@example.com
> 12 Emma G Lane, Narragansett, RI 02882 - vox 401.782.9042
> Without deviation from the norm, "progress" is not possible. - FZappa
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