a new low in topical enlightenment

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Issue #157 (April 20, 2020)

Carillon along the DuPage River, Naperville, Ill.
Photograph by Joe Carducci

Bon Scott - Prophet of Damnation
A Facebook Mobile Disquisition
B.C. Miller

I. (January 23) I'm gonna attempt to make sense of Bon Scott by looking at his lyrics. This is an ongoing project that I'll deal with on a song by song basis, but as a whole his lyrics deploy a dazzling array of techniques that make his badass self convincing and cathartic for his audience. We've gotten used to AC/DC so we overlook what provoked mass manias in concert, a moral panic, and bewilderment that their music could work so powerfully. They threw out the book and discovered volume and voodoo intensity could make them sound really exciting. At the time it left the old school in the dust and caused a lot of confusion over what the hell they were doing.
Bon Scott was a small-time rock singer best known for a pot bust. He had a long rap sheet for thefts, assaults, vandalism, "unlawful carnal knowledge", and was an alcoholic and in certain ways a sociopath. He looked scary, right off the bat. He stood on stage with a confidence that seemed threatening. Then he started singing, and the idea of Noddy Holder possessed by Satan crossed your mind. He got in front of this loud riotous band and punched notes in a blues cadence with a throat full of grit. His sneering tone, his bitter joking tone, and his lusty tone all built the songs into little stories. You've got to think back to realize how far from rock subject matter these songs were. Nobody since has posed as evil so convincingly. I'll outline his worldview below:
(1) Bon used to be poor but now he's a rock star with millions of dollars. Rock music is closest thing to holy because it shows Bon is superior to his fans, who are like S&W gimps.
(2) Bon has no interest in males unless he wants to beat somebody up. He doesn't want to hang out with his mates. Never does Bon celebrate hanging out with the guys, a rock staple. Love doesn't figure in his worldview. There's no trace of empathy or interest in humanity beyond:
(3) Girls. By rock standards, he is pro-female. "Touch Too Much" hints at some capacity for human connection. "Girls Got Rhythm" praises them for reasons like: he's seen a million and still wants them, they move like sin, they make him lose sleep, and they possess rhythm which is a high compliment. "Backseat rhythm" is erotic but tasteful. "Whole Lotta Rosie" recognizes women as individuals especially if you're chubby with huge boobs. "Shot Down In Flames" shows he appreciates something beyond sex appeal in women, as he is clearly amused after a woman turns him down at the bar. "Get It Hot" might be the closest he came to a love song. It's almost romantic. Bon doesn't want to drink and drive at high speed alone! He wants "A sweet young thing with nothing to lose". "Bend you like a G-string/Conduct you like a choir" is kinda hot.
(4) Hell. Bon doesn't care he's going there and figures it will be fine. Good doesn't really exist for Bon, beyond his own pleasure. He doesn't care about Satan but enjoys reminding fans that rock and roll leads to damnation. He doesn't put any theater into this stuff. Hell may be entirely secular to Bon. He enjoys the hard time his fans will have. Bon expects some status down there: he hopes to drive into it down the highway.
(5) Murder. Not many people admit to enjoying crimes on the world stage. He committed them on whims and felt no guilt over them. He usually dodged the cops, though he'd been kicked out of the army. Maybe he killed people for real? Maybe if his life wasn't cut short. This brings us to the closest he comes to a "justice" song, "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap". It's "aspirational" and shows a willingness to work. It's written as an advertisement he figures will have massive appeal, the only evidence he cared what people thought. Funnily enough this song is on the radio all the time and nobody thinks it's unusual. It's got one of the most menacing riffs in rock which makes the "hire me!" jingle format even stranger. Bon believes humans want a hit man who is always awake and provides a phone number. More important is price: we want our hit men to work cheap. He gives us a scenario he figures we'll support, as Bon kills a school principal to save a girl "who wants to graduate but not in his bed". In a twist, she rewards him with sex. So he'll kill for sex? Nice to have that option. Another murder he's hired for is caused by "double dealing with your best friend". If you still aren't sold, he says he'll kill women the same as men. "Nagging at you night and day" is one reason.
(6) Bon Scott. Bon's internal life is rarely hinted at. He was shallow and had no intellectual side beyond rock and planning crimes. He liked drinking and having sex for hours. It's not clear how he regarded AC/DC beyond being worthy of backing him. They were a generation younger but Bon was open to new musical ideas. Perhaps empathy was possible with Angus's guitar sound, giving Angus value? There is plenty of evidence Bon would talk about music like a normal person. He appreciated bands he wasn't in. He loved singing and put a lot of work into it.
Bon didn't bother with a "mask of sanity" persona and wanted to be "bad". He was aware some considered "bad" something else and his lyrics try to tell them "bad" is "bad". Trying to impress Bon by matching his chaotic, thrill-seeking lifestyle let him know you were a sucker. "Walk All Over You" isn't about overcoming an obstacle, it's a reminder: he will turn on you for the joy of dominating you. Your motorcycle means nothing. Women have sexy qualities he likes but love means nothing to him and dominating women sexually is "paradise".
"T.N.T." is the closest Bon comes to self-mythologizing. He begins saying: my life is so far from yours I'm like a cowboy on TV. He's not the good guy but he's the winner. His enormous greed justifies every crime he commits. He's public enemy #1, and public means the world. He's something beyond humanity that could explode anytime. It's fate.
(7) ROCK N ROLL. Bon Scott seems to have despised his audiences but considered it worthwhile to remind them he was superior. He might've hoped his songs wouldn't give millions the vicarious thrill of being badass. He considered humanity too weak to live by his code which includes "Bon always wins". Two especially striking things about Bon is his utter confidence on stage and his lack of restraint lyrically in front of the world. It takes some effort to make sense of his message and recognize the sociopathic nature of it all. "Rock N Roll Singer" SEEMS like a "society made me" account of his youth. This isn't a "lets be rebels buddy" tune like usual. It's about how Bon was born with the devil in his blood and earned his place doing the only respectable job. He hated anything boring and that was all of humanity. He doesn't hope we'll improve and wouldn't notice if we did. He'll do us the favor of separating himself from other singers. His hatred of us is like a law of physics. Enduring us before he willed himself to Rock N Roll Singerhood proves we need songs from what he hopes we understand are different than other songs. Bon liked to see himself as divine wrath in human form.
"Let There Be Rock" is interesting as Bon explains Rock as an unfathomable entity born and imitated and worshipped. Bon considered it a sign of our damnation and paired with his "truth" was the source of his power. He relates this in parody of a religious sermon which doubles the point: humanity are fools.
Bon's sense of humor is difficult to fathom. There are hints he's amused by songs he wrote but this is never clear. Sharing a joke? Not a priority. "The Jack" and "Big Balls" show what he figured his fans found funny.
II. (February 20)
I used to fantasize about running away to Australia. Not sure what I'd do there. I don't drink beer and I'm not very beachy. I don't like long drives through the desert. I guess the accent is cute, and if Bon Scott is to be believed the girls are dirty. What I really like about Australia is the culture, the rock music, and the crazy movies. They have a knack for rock'n'roll and craziness. I'm pretty well schooled on Aussie rock from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. HUSH were a glam band with 10 top 10 hits. Their management wanted them to do bubblegum and covers, but they wanted to play harder rock. "Get Rocked" is a killer early anthem that caused disturbances as kids sang along, "Get Fucked". Their 1975 album "Rough Tough 'n' Ready" has a whole side of cranked numbers.
III. (March 17 at 7:08 pm)
After the '70 pot bust that broke up The Valentines, Bon started getting hassled, especially by Aussie cops who hoped to trace him to Robert Trimbole, the Godfather of drugs down under. Bon moved to Adelaide and worked as a navvy while testing his potential in Fraternity. They played some hard boogies and some stately Procal Harum numbers, sometimes with flutes. Bon was happiest when they trekked the pre-glam, progressive/pub circuit popular with Australian longhairs at the time. That's when he met his legendary wife, the only woman to put a ring on Bon's finger. Fraternity made two albums which are damn hard to find and I hadn't heard them till recently. One highlight for them was playing with Geordie (Brian Johnson's band) and Status Quo. Bon joined a jam band with the future bassist for The Angels in '73, and soon would set eyes on AC/DC.
IV. (January 21)
Henry Vanda + George Young might be the greatest team of rock'n'roll songwriters in history, and the coolest people who ever existed, and being Australian gives them so much cred it's unreal, because that place is the closest we have to an off-world prison colony. Hang out with me, Australians, I'll hook you up proper. Your fights are my fights, cuz I'm a castaway too. Vanda + Young might've got slagged by the system in another country but Australians knew this pair could make a mongoloid truckee a star with their songs.
Listen to their first band, The Easybeats, and notice their guitars work magic together, and their songs are leagues above the usual beat band patter. English people have some gripe with Australia so instead of stars the Easybeats got in debt to their record company and Vanda + Young starting writing and producing over there. It took three years to get back to Australia and make their big move and their hard rocking vision took over the charts. (Usually 20-30 percent of the Aussie charts were their songs).
Even if you don't know Australian bands you know AC/DC. Angus and Malcolm Young are George's little brothers, and Angus was in a band called Marcus Hook Roll Band that sketched out where AC/DC would go. They'd written a song for Bon Scott in the '60s. They put Easybeats' singer Stevie Wright on the charts and produced Rose Tattoo and The Angels. They brought a Scottish singer from a band called Elm Tree they'd produced down under, because this guy really had something. John Paul Young they called him, and Vanda + Young put together a band called The All Stars of ex-La De Da's, Aztecs, and Daddy Cool players, and wrote a slew of songs. Platinum albums and sold out tours followed, and while not everything is my style, they did some awesome songs. "Yesterday's Hero" is one of the best glam numbers ever and back in Scotland The Bay City Rollers had a hit with it. John Paul Young's whisky voice is the true voice for this working class anthem and I'm happy to bring it to America.
V. (January 21)
This skinny little guy had a big smile and sang his heart out with The Easybeats. He wasn't faking it. He was feeling those songs and he wanted to make you happy. He could do backflips and invented dances and fans called him Little Stevie. They had a top 20 hit in America you probably know, and toured with The Stones and Small Faces, but their label considered them crude because they were Australian, and then as now labels are crime outfits who'll underpay and underpromote a band while letting them rack up debts. They'll even surround a band with drug pushers. These things killed The Easybeats and kept them in debt slavery for three years. Broke, Stevie took a part in Jesus Christ Superstar back home. Depressed, he started using heroin. Vanda + Young hadn't forgotten him, though. They put him in front of a crack hard rock band and gave him some of their best songs: "Hard Road", "Guitar Man", and "Black Eyed Bruiser". A long elaborate ballad called "Evie" hit the charts and kept Stevie from starving in the harrowing years to come. By '76 he was on methadone but while in hospital was given a combination of drug-induced coma and shock treatment by a quack doctor. Stevie suffered brain damage along as did many others and the doctor killed himself to avoid prison.
For decades he'd alternate between projects with Vanda + Young which would fail when his addiction and depression took over. For some years he worked as a janitor, other years he was homeless and in 1984 he went to prison after attempting to break into a house. Humiliated after two years locked up, his mates Vanda + Young reunited The Easybeats in '86 and Stevie was amazed by the young people who loved his band. Stevie suffered chronic heroin addiction and crippling depression for the rest of his life but never gave up his music. He died of pneumonia in 2015 at 68 and Rose Tattoo covered this song in his memory.
VI. (March 18 at 11:06 am)
Black Sabbath debuted in February 1970, on Friday the 13th. Despite sneering reviews and resembling nothing in rock history, deploying occultism and fear of divine judgement at a time when plastic paganism and ego cults had replaced LSD and Marxism as the hipster's hula hoop, this "counter-revolutionary" work of revolutionary art went top ten in the UK. It went to #23 in America and sold a million copies. October 1970 saw "Paranoid" top the UK charts. It went to #12 in America and sold four million. This was in spite of no radio play, corrupt management, and a panic over Satanism. They first toured here after "Master Of Reality" went top 10 internationally and became the anti-hippie weapon of choice.
A few years later and it might not have happened. A few years before The Velvet Underground had been buried by hippie vitriol and the entire mid-60s "Nuggets" scene was denied. The "Revolution" even pressed Greg Shaw (founder of Bomp!) to call for a boycott of Paul Revere And The Raiders for representing the suddenly "reactionary" American Revolution. Kowtowing to the plastic panther zeitgeist could be deadly too: The MC5 and many others to lesser degrees.
The clampdown began in 1974 but the American market was already guarded by several political and criminal cliques. Once even the poorest could succeed with a library card and some practicality. Sam Phillips grew up picking cotton with no "professional revolutionaries" to turn him against his country or our music. As a D.J. he played black and white artists together and he did likewise at Sun Records. He was a visionary, today we only have idealists.
AC/DC had seen their vision stranded in Australia with an unstable fan base -- the toughs didn't want to be seen at a kiddie glam show. Radio didn't want to play them but Vanda-Young got them on "Countdown". In '76 the sampler of their first two albums was panned and sold so little the American leg of their first tour was cancelled. "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" was rejected and would only be released after Bon's death.
1977 saw them broke and vengeful. They'd pushed their sound hard. Now they'd shake the bones of the Earth. "Let There Be Rock" was written and recorded in two weeks. Heavier than Stonehenge and just as eternal. "Dog Eat Dog" takes a common metaphor for human depravity and says it doesn't begin to cover the truth. "Well it's dog eat dog/Eat cat too/The French eat frog/And I eat you." He doesn't pander to us, this is an admission of universal depravity, and he is proud to admit he's a part of it. He's not bragging, because his band has just been a chew-toy, and this song is his only set of fangs. "Businessman, when you make a deal/Do you know who you can trust/Do you sign your life away/Do you write your name in dust." The Biblical phrases and acceptance of fate begin appearing on this album. It went to 154 on the U.S. charts, but Top 20 in Europe, and their tour is captured on video.
VII. (March 6 at 4:44 pm)
The jump in power between the Australian "High Voltage" and "TNT" albums is due to Bon's ability to re-focus them from a dinky glam band to an outlaw force. The rough version of "Soul Stripper" I've posted is an early show of his vision shaping a "jam song" into a potent killer. It's not as good as the hit version, but was sort of an audition for Bon, who was merely their limo driver before being accepted into the band. The misandry present in a minority of male sociopaths is something I've noted in my reviews of Bon's lyrics: other men are derided, but women have names, agency, and power. Due to their oppression women have sometimes benefited from such romantics though with Bon the misandry is so strong it works the opposite way: a song about falling in love is described with such imagery ("she pulled out a knife and flashed it before me") one can imagine it as a masochistic sex fantasy, unless one is familiar with Bon and his lyrics as a whole.
VIII. (March 18 at 6:44 am)
"Those concerned with the future of hard rock may take solace in knowing that with the release of the first U.S. album by these Australian gross-out champions, the genre has hit its all-time low. Lead singer Bon Scott spits out his vocals with a truly annoying aggression which, I suppose, is the only way to do it when all you seem to care about is being a star so that you can get laid every night. Stupidity bothers me. Calculated stupidity offends me." - BILLY ALTMAN, ROLLING STONE
Today we know AC/DC like we know our dicks and pussies. Sadly that wasn't the case while Bon was alive. Their first three albums only came out in Australia, and when a sampler of the first two appeared the reviews seemed done by a very cranky nursing home patient. Whether "stupidity" is a valid category in music criticism (the ancients thought balance of meter and harmony the mind's highest goal and AC/DC achieve that) or "calculated stupidity" a description of Bon's lyrics which possess an idiom, concern reality, and equal the ferocity of the music (Billy's first two sentences are grammatical disasters, fuzzy in logic, and like most RS criticism takes personal offense beyond whatever criticisms can be fished out: is "truly annoying aggression" worth supposing is "the only way to do it when all you seem to care about is being a star so that you can get laid every night".
Surely "truly romantic crooning" would work as well. I think someone like Sam Phillips would see the potential in this "all-time low". Musicians certainly did. Critics who claim "it's the same 3 chord hog hump" are thinking conceptually, like a museum patron mistaking boredom for sophistication. Critics who dismiss Bon's songwriting genius might consider the ancient literary virtues they display which journalists ought to be familiar with.
Billy perhaps believes as the Bolsheviks did: folk art is a feudal artifact that hinders collectivization. It is stupidity, and when put on record asserts individuality: "calculated stupidity". A natural tyrant, to think "offends me" is enough warrant for damnation.
I'll point out the themes of the songs Billy found stupid:
"High Voltage" opens with an awesome 1-2 punch deglamorizing the notion of stardom, putting it eternally in the future, then giving such a personal motivation for seeking it that the quest is noble and spiritual. VANITY is no part of it, and sex isn't mentioned. Sex is a theme used very differently: "The Jack" uses a card game as a metaphor for VD. "Live Wire" is a romantic fantasy about burning down the town. "T.N.T." makes female company a possible weapon or reward for a violent man.
"Can I Sit Next To You Girl?" shows the value of Bon's lyrics because the Young brothers wrote some dumb ones here. I wouldn't sing this is I was twelve.
"Little Lover" has some vivid erotic imagery that doesn't rely on the usual blues metaphors and leavens it with some self-parody.
"She's Got Balls" is about a woman with balls. I don't know where she got them but overall Bon's lyrics show a man at ease with women and unashamed of sexy lyrics.
As for "High Voltage": it was recorded during their first album sessions. Bon had just joined and they were using Vanda-Young's in-house rhythm section. The song is a fat T. Rex riff with some Angus soloing but not quite the full "T.N.T." assault. The lyrics are pretty stock glam style paying tribute to rock n roll. Bon likely had to write them fast, though maybe they were Dave Evans leftovers. He sings it in a cleaner anthem voice than usual and while not a favorite it was their third A-side. "Soul Stripper", their best early jam, was the B.
Billy likely considers AC/DC a spectacle designed by rich stars for a richer industry. Bon was a star in talent but -- in part thanks to enemies of the working class like Billy -- he was living hand to mouth. "High Voltage" was ignored and their management was afraid of losing money so cancelled their first American tour. Then "Dirty Deeds" was rejected. Another European tour got them angry and their loudest epic "Let There Be Rock" was written and recorded in 2 weeks. It didn't break the top 100 in America but their world tour was successful. Another tour and "Powerage" hit 133. Ditto and "If You Want Blood" hit 113. A new US manager and producer helped "Highway To Hell" get to 17.
Bon died during that tour, having never made much money. The women and the music meant more to him, since he'd never had money. His sudden death encouraged their label to reissue their earlier albums and that's when they started going platinum over and over. "Back In Black" peaked at 4 here but became the best selling hard rock album of all time.
IX. (January 25)
I'll explain what I mean so it seems real tidy. Then I'll let you know we're deep in the postmodern era.
"Cuts" (also known as "cues", "edits", "juxtapositions", "contradictions") is theater talk for stage directions. Bon Scott's "Riding down the highway, going to a show..." begins "It's A Long Way To The Top" with a "setting" and for two more lines it holds until "time" and "bitterness" mark a drastic change in subject... one might call the absence of "setting" in most of Bon's lyrics an "alienating effect" suggesting "The Top" really is a long way away. Bon's notes would have his own lingo for these things because he didn't live in Shakespeare's day. Still I could say "Blitzkrieg Bop" is a juxtaposition. As for Bon Scott's authorship of "Back In Black" I'd call "American thighs" unlike him cuz he never mentions a country. "Have A Drink On Me" is the one that's so unlike Bon it might be from his ghost down the highway.
X. (January 25)
This is a tight example of Bon's literary talents including one of the basics, tension and release. There are also dead stops and blood-curdling freezes. The visceral power is overwhelming as Bon stretches his words like a snake, calm, cosmically bemused.
Having invested us in our heroic murderer's freedom to the effect we are hypnotized with anxiety, Bon hits the rafters: "ALL IN THE NAME OF LIB-ER-TY!" This is crazy exciting and an almost singular line in Bon's sprawling epic. It uses a crowd-pleasing word, "liberty", and in reference to a non-Bon character. (Also unusual is him being "A friend of mine" but worth it to add "on murder".) Bon deploys a panoply of ALIENATING techniques and one reason is: he hated pandering "all you need is love" type lyrics.
Compare the music of 1976 with AC/DC and the Ramones and you'll feel ALIENATED already so you can appreciate them for writing such good lyrics. I won't hint how the song ends but I'll point out Bon puts some homoerotic swagger to hint at what you weren't allowed to say!
XI. (March 10 at 8:30 pm)
This is a great one to warm up with. After a flight check the eagles wings start beating and the runway appears. The song is in full flight when Bon presents his challenge: can you keep up with him? He's looking for ladies, so if you're afraid to ask one out, get ready to be left behind. Now, I'm a guy like Bon. I was a girl's guy long before I was a ladies' man and I know ladies get asked out all the time. You don't expect a yes or no, you expect that if you're polite. You want a reputation as a cool guy who's fun to talk to, who isn't a creep. What better way to show that then take "no" for an answer. Bon gives you some setups here: "I said baby what's the going price, she told me to go to hell." WRONG WAY, guys. What if another guy butts in? He's got a "chip on his shoulder", no secure man would have to guard his lady like she's Fort Knox.
XII. (January 23)
Here's a favorite one might guess is about rock n roll excess chock full of swagger. I had the impression it was about runaway kids from the line "living on the street you've got to practice what you preach". The awesome chorus has the line "ma's own whipping boy" so I thought the kids ran away because of that.
Clearly I was wrong as Bon Scott is probably the one songwriter whose take on child abuse would that there should be more, and when he found them on the street he would eat them.
So what's it really about? Well, it's a response to a rock critic. A lady rock critic. It starts by sassing her like she's a hooker, then it details how Bon knows the lady is a hooker who started as a runaway, and still is, and he knows because she's the dirtiest hooker he knows and she's always after him! Instead she's getting a "Rock N Roll Damnation", in other words a vile act of slander for a WOMAN who thinks she can cross BON SCOTT. Had he included her name is would mean he could commit a crime with his songwriting, a dream come true for the man.
I don't know what happened to the woman besides having this beloved party singalong in which her "secret" is revealed by the same rock star with the song advertising that he'll commit murder in exchange for sex.
Lest you imagine she'd written some outrageous hit piece on the band and deserved this, it seems Bon thought so, because he quotes her. They say that you play too loud (they were maybe the loudest band of their time), they say that you got too much (about the millions of dollars or millions of women Bon bragged he had on their first album?), they tell you that you look a fool (safe to assume he was wearing the one flannel shirt with his beer gut hanging out), and they say that your mind's diseased (probably the best known fact about Bon Scott, something not to suspect on sight, whose defining trait was his sociopathy, as one might guess from this number).
XIII. (January 23)
One of the things you'd expect a sociopath to sing about would be his life history, or rather the bizarre lies he wanted to tell about it. Bon Scott indeed lived a life full of unusual incidents, which likely hardened his outlook, but he doesn't draw upon them or his criminal escapades which he knew to keep secret.
I suppose Bon considered songs about his bad times something a sucker would write. Don't shed a tear for me, or think we've got something in common, because I'm a Rock N Roll Singer! I too would consider fronting AC/DC worth the scars it took to get there.
Bon does want us to know (1) he's got the blood of the devil and as a problem child realized schools taught shit, moral standards are a lie, and jobs are for suckers. His parents were suckers with jobs too. You're fools and I'm no fool. (2) he spent a long time getting to the top and touring was rough and we got ripped off, and also he plays bagpipes, check it out.
Sometimes Bon would try a genre he despised to make points not typically found in such songs, and these had elements of parody, audience-baiting, and one of his favorite tricks, pairing a setup with an emotionally dissonant payoff. A sad scene resulting in a joke, say.
"Down Payment Blues" begins as only he could: "I know that it's evil, I know that it's got to be!", before introducing his predicament: he's unemployed and while "doing nothing means a lot to me" he is unjustly short on cash. Asking for charity donations and going on welfare show his working-class credibility. As we'd expect from a blues, things get darker: he buys a Cadillac hoping a certain Suzy will get in with him, but she doesn't. "I'm living in a nightmare!" he concludes. "She's looking like a wet dream!" hammers home the injustice of it all.
His subsequent slide into poverty hurts those closest to him: "I can't even feed my cat!" so misery is his social security check. The darkest point comes when Bon ponders getting a job which warps reality so much that he's poor, then rich on a boat having sex with Suzy, then poor again. THE GODS ARE LAUGHING.
It was a brave choice to document such a blues and the emotional honesty is why people love Bon Scott. Clearly poverty is an issue he cares deeply about and the reason he bares his own pain urges us to donate to Ethiopia or something. The lesson here is universal: when Suzy doesn't have sex in your Cadillac, get a boat because that's the place Suzy likes to fuck.
XIV. (January 26)
The question of whether it is indeed possible to touch too much is answered by Bon. Seems like it. LOVE is a word Bon never uses cheaply and the word makes an earlier striking appearance in the chorus of "What's Next To The Moon?" which I'll talk about also. It's about Bon's ex-wife of many years who he loved very much indeed, in the way way long ago. COULD HE EVER LOVE AGAIN? One always hopes. He dreamed about HER, sensed she was out there: "It was one of those nights when you turn out the lights, and everything comes into view, she was taking her time, I was losing my mind, there was nothing that she wouldn't do!" A subtle cut put us further into his vision: "It wasn't the first, it wasn't the last, SHE KNEW WE WERE MAKIN' LOVE!" Listen to the soul he puts into the word "love". "I was so satisfied, deep down inside, like a hand in a velvet glove!" So are we, but in truth falling in love is a REALITY SHOCK so intense it feels a bit crazy: "Seems like a touch, a touch too much, too much for my body, too much for my mind, she's got a touch, a touch too much." He is awed by her divinity but finds courage and abandons himself to her storm: "She had the face of an angel, smiling with sin, the body of Venus with arms/Dealing with danger, stroking my skin, let the thunder and lighting begin."
XV. (January 25)
Back's broke. Thought I'd hang out with Bon Scott and learned a lot from him. "Black man's blues, white man's schmaltz" was how he said it. He had times like mine and lord they were bad. I don't like them coming back. Now I'm down. Lonely. Just cry at my cat. Started to rain. Room looks hellish and there won't be one around for a long time.

Pond along DuPage River, Naperville, Ill.
Photograph by Joe Carducci

Ten years ago on April 29 a friend and mentor of mine David Lightbourne died. He was born in 1942 so had a superior perspective on and experience with American culture and media. Aside from the shock it was also like losing my own personal google-wikipedia-Britannica device. Michael Hurley called David "The Informaton" and when Steve Weber heard that Dave had died he said, "Alot of people talk alot, but David always had something to say." Weber himself has recently died. All three of them made music in many places around the country but something special happened back in old Portland in the years before that city had a national audience. Many good burghers today tout the motto "Keep Portland Weird"; I suspect they have no idea. So I thought I'd re-post this piece on David's lives of crime and music there. His death prompted me to pitch to Goldenvoice that they put on a kind of Last Waltz Jr. in NYC with the Rounders, Michael Hurley, and the Freak Mountain Ramblers. I thought that might place them well for what remains of the national media and even offer Bob Dylan hisself an opportunity to reconcile with those psychedelic folkies who briefly showed him up back when he was still playing footsie with commies. Too late now I suppose. Thanks to Wade you can now listen to David's album at the link while reading. We finally got David recorded twenty years ago at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins.

David Lightbourne's Stop & Listen Boys - "Come Back, Corrinna" and the "Monkey Junk" album.

David Lightbourne - On the 10th Anniversary of His Demise (a re-edited repost of David Lightbourne and Outlaw Folk in Seventies’ Oregon from NV56 and the anthology, Life Against Dementia)
Joe Carducci

Portland was once a nice, unpretentious, not to say sleepy, port town on the Columbia River that had had its great big rock and roll moment when The Wailers, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Sonics and others jumped from the Northwest’s vibrant dancehall circuit to the national charts beginning in 1959 and lasting most of the sixties. That circuit started with Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver but for some bands included Spokane, Boise, and Reno. Important college towns included Eugene and Olympia. But as a whole the scene was isolated and often left off of national tours, which turned out an aesthetic advantage if a business handicap. The book that covers the fifties/sixties era in the Northwest in all its richness unknown to the Billboard charts or official oldies radio/Rolling Stone posterity is Dance Halls, Armories and Teen Fairs, by Don Rogers.

But whereas Portland and the Northwest helped lead the way post-Elvis/pre-Beatles, it began following the rest of the country, primarily San Francisco, by the end of the sixties, “In 1968... rumors spread that between 8,000 and 50,000 hippies were headed to the city” from suddenly drug-desiccated San Francisco, according to Valerie Brown (Oregon Historical Quarterly, Summer 2007). These thousands didn’t show but the city did generate and collect a music scene that featured all the influences of the period -- blues, folk, and psychedelia. Touring bands that had special impact in the late 1960s included The Grateful Dead, and Dan Hicks. It wouldn’t have been too unusual for these influences to be politely discrete in local bands such as The PH Phactor Jug Band, Melodious Funk, The Nazzare Blues Band, Portland Zoo, The Sodgimoli Jug Band and others. If so, that surely changed when a small invasion of musicians a couple years older than the hippies began to show up from points east.


David Lightbourne had performed with friends and classmates in Iowa while he attended Grinnell; these included Tom Newman, Clark Dimond, Ellis Simberloff, and Peter Cohon (later Coyote). An April 21, 1962 Grinnell Folk Club concert saw a double-album private release and features David performing two songs before an auditorium full of enthusiastic and knowledgeable music fans. That generation of student had followed rock and roll in junior high, and then found in 1958 that the record industry had tamed it and as David would say, “Dick Clark took it over.” The music obsessives in high school then discovered a truer folk music underneath the bogus pop-folk, or folkum as The Little Sandy Review might call The Kingston Trio, Brothers Four, Harry Belafonte, etc. David at 19 sounds influenced by Dave Van Ronk, and The New Lost City Ramblers; he was discovering the blues but hadn’t worked much of that into his sound yet, though he is already playing finger-pick style and doing a Memphis Minnie tune. And it’s clear by the audience reaction as David is introduced as “a performer of social import” that he is cutting a figure on campus where he also wrote a column in the paper. Clark Dimond, also on the album, wrote,

“We shared our knowledge and our repertoire at Uno’s coffeehouse, which was run by Zal Lefkowicz, later to become actor and producer Zalman King. Mescaline was available by mail from Texas. I remember the police doing an ashtray sweep looking for evidence of marijuana. David was playing onstage at the time they came in. Next to his foot was an open quart bottle of mescaline, and David just kept on playing and the cops left.” (CD, July 16, 2010)
David grew up in several places as a young child when his father was killed in WWII when David was one. David didn't think his father, Kermit Loe, had ever even seen him until he recieved some photographs from his mother later in life and it included one image of his father holding David as a baby. I figured Dave did have a memory of a brief idyll with his mother and her family before she remarried when he was about four. His sister Priscilla writes:

“My maternal grandparents, Isaac and Emma, were from southern Indiana and Kentucky. My mother
used to tell many stories of how much music there was in the house. They were tenant farmers, so incredibly poor, but each evening they would either sit on the porch or in the living room and sing, one harmonizing, one on lead. This was the house that David grew up in, at least until he was four, and then visited often after that. In someone else I might say they were too young to soak up the atmosphere, but I wouldn’t say that about David.” (PL, July 20, 2010)

David's new step-father, Kirk Lightbourne, had played trumpet for the Dorseys and Paul Whiteman on the east coast, primarily recording with them rather than as part of touring bands. Kirk left the east coast to sell instruments to kids and schools in Chicago. The new family moved near Elmhurst outside Chicago and David was preternaturally media-wise when it came to radio drama, comics, movies, and early television. The Lightbourne family’s daily radio program featured the parents Kirk and Jean, and the kids, David and his younger half-brother Michael -- his half-sister Priscilla was too young. David said they had radio equipment under their kitchen table and a big old ribbon microphone in the middle of the table with a special phone line to send the show live to the station (WTAQ AM); he was eight and playing accordion. The show ran in 1950-51. David saw Elvis Presley in 1957 at the International Amphitheater, a date on the first Presley tour of the North. David switched to guitar; he saw Mike Seeger in 1958, Rev. Gary Davis, Mike Bloomfield, and Elizabeth Cotton in 1961, Ramblin’ Jack in 1962, and in 1963 he worked for Bob Koester at Jazz Record Mart and roamed southside blues clubs with him to see J.B. Hutto, Junior Wells and others; he got to know Bloomfield and saw Skip James, Son House and Howlin’ Wolf, and was a charter subscriber to Minneapolis’ The Little Sandy Review. Here’s something David wrote for himself, setting the early scene for his high school cohort in 1958 with Elvis in the Army and rock and roll on the ropes:

“We had spent four full years up to ’61 largely listening to music, frequently driving distances to see it live, when no one our age did that. By 10th grade… I had started my lifelong ransacking of American roots music record catalogs and made no apologies for any lack of savvy. I knew that older hipsters knew more about political folk music, and bluegrass, and blues. But I prided myself in also keeping AM Top 40 in my cross-hairs as well, and older music freaks despised that stuff on principle to their loss. I’m trying to remember 10th grade now: Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Pete Seeger, Brownie & Sonny, Bob Gibson, Odetta, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Josh White….” (DL circa 2000s)

David was to record a folk album for Koester’s Delmark label but the British invaded, Dylan plugged in, and the folkies surrendered. He enjoyed Grinnell and talked about his music-minded classmates and friends often. He took over the column in the school newspaper from Walter Jacobson who graduated and became a long time WBBM TV journalist-anchor in Chicago and David occasionally mentioned the possibility of picking back up his alternate possible career arc in journalism under Van Gordon Sauter. Instead David took his third year off and spent it in Cedar Falls/Waterloo where he made some friends he’d revisit in 1967 when he had enough of his first job in the straight world at R.R. Donnelly in Chicago. He was on a white-collar career ladder and somewhere between his older uptight co-workers sniggering about co-eds or the blacks, he balked, returned to his Waterloo friends and drifted into their drug-smuggling enterprise, dubbed The Company. He writes,

“I was only twenty-four in 1967, but already like a lot of other people in America, somewhat desperate to cling to the visions of unfulfilled action that had been promised earlier in my life. Action, drama and incident… Accident and movement… In some weird way possible, yet in the civilization of depressed content -- the sublimation of sexuality sideways -- the opportunity to be aggressive, still something to snatch and grab…. The deal was to pay the expenses of the trip, a quickie, from a small town in the hinterlands of the remote Midwest, quickly to Chicago and thence to Mexico City. We were going to bring back as much as $500 would bring in the best available Acapulco Gold, which used to be available on the farm for prices around $6.00 a kilo…. The last time friends of mine had done it, their interpreter had taken along a pistol. This was sheer madness in the hallucinatory glitter of our truly psychedelic childhoods.” (DL, circa 1990s)

In this peripatetic pre-Portland period Lightbourne was trying to figure out how his interest in writing and music could be applied without winding up a hollow careerist who might as well be pulling down a salary at Donnelly for all the good it would do the culture. If he wrote he’d want to write as Miller or Genet wrote; if he played music he’d want it to be as true as Koerner Ray & Glover, or Mike Seeger. Dave spent a long week on the Strip in Los Angeles catching Albert King, Steppenwolf, Canned Heat, and others before settling into Cambridge, Mass. for a year. He doesn’t appear to have performed while in Boston though he followed the vital music there -- The Remains, Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band, Taj Mahal…. In Fall 1969 he moved to Eugene, Oregon. David lived with his Iowa friend Warren and their girlfriends while Warren ran what Tom Newman calls “a hippie hangout” called Alice’s Restaurant. Tom writes, “Wherever Warren lived was always the center of activity for everyone he knew.” In a fictionalized version of these days Dave describes a certain character as “being Pisces, active, restless, impatient with the stasis in things, with perpetual momentum for stirring up, shaking down, bilking the town in the only really effective way possible, the corruption of its youth however such may be accomplished.” Did I mention Dave said these instant “youth-culture food parlors” Warren set up wherever he went in Iowa and Oregon were inevitably crawling with runaway girls?


In Eugene they also found Al Malam, another former Iowan, who David thought had the best singing voice in a white boy. Still does, though he’s gone by the name Al Rivers for decades now. In early 1971 David and Warren moved to Portland. They and Tom Wood, also from Iowa and who’d been in Cambridge as well, now set up to run their Mexican loads up to the rather dry environs of rain city. In a cassette tape dated November 1972 that David made in a Cuernavaca hotel room, he, Colleen, Tom and Warren mostly swat cockroaches and laugh about David’s attempts at emergency Spanish when they were evicted the day before at gunpoint from another hotel.

Portland liberalized its restrictive licensing of bars for live music presentation in 1973 and Portland stages quickly filled up with acoustic country-blues specialists as scenes in Boston, Manhattan, Bucks County, Nevada, and Vermont emptied out of people like Steve Weber, Robin Remaily, Dave Reisch, Jeffrey Frederick, Jill Gross, Peter Langston, Fritz Richmond, Gary Sisco and others. They were liking what they were hearing and seeing in Portland. Bars like The Inferno, The Euphoria, The Earth Tavern, The White Eagle, The Leaky Roof, Key Largo, The Grog House, The Dandelion, and Sweet Revenge were soon showcasing The Holy Modal Rounders, The Clamtones, Michael Hurley, The Metropolitan Jug Band, The Fly By Night Jass Band, Puddle City Bluegrass Band, Al Rivers and others. Lightbourne was quoted in the Oregon Journal, “Portland is sort of a refuge for ’60s folk musicians” (2.4.1980), and he looked forward to luring Dave Van Ronk next.

These guys were just hitting their stride too. They’d been perhaps a bit too green in their first attempts to sound blue or old-timey. Now they were ten-plus years into their music-making. They had all manner of criminal sidelines (drug-use of course, but also smuggling, shoplifting, drug-store raiding, arson, and maybe even a crime or two against nature), they had hip young women to inspire them now whose own estate-sale obsessions guaranteed the apartments and houses where they lived or passed-out in were furnished with the finest in old-growth wood craftsmanship and twenties accoutrements. They really were off-the-rails and out-of-hand in formerly tidy, rain-scrubbed backwater Portland.

The Holy Modal Rounders came through Portland in 1971 and except for Peter Stampfel, they decided to stay. The were instantly a big attraction in their new town and though the lineup always did go through its changes the band was stabilized when Jeffrey Frederick’s Clamtones moved to town from Vermont in 1975. Lightbourne dashed off this bit about local color on a large pharmaceutical post-it pad:

“In those days, not quite the mid-70’s, high times came with seemingly no effort, a serendipity of sex, drugs, and rock and roll spurred by hip capitalism and an explosion in entertainment options. When the magnum rock quintet (version of the) Holy Modal Rounders hit Portland in 1973, we all rolled over onto our opposite hip, blinked groggily, and whispered, ‘No shit?’ excitedly. PDX already had a rich local rock band culture going back before ‘Louie Louie’ to the 50’s. Folk rock had seen a great new generation emerge, while Melodious Funk, (and the) PH Phactor Jug Band, had opened for the Dead in the early years in a nod to their own jug-nik origins. The Rounders conquered (like a Roman company).” (DL, circa 2000s)

The Seventies serendipity happened differently around the country. The common ingredients led usually to an egalitarian suburbanized arena rock FM youth culture which didn’t last too long, but which pushed its boomer elders into a politicized adulthood of singer-songwriters or bluegrass. It was different in Portland: smarter, more sophisticated, almost as if the promise of that most vital thread of the folk-roots movement had somehow survived there alone to incubate into its own rock and roll culmination -- one knowing but natural, deduced from music recorded in the twenties, re-discovered in the fifties, and here delivered in the seventies. The music took off locally on its own power. Nick Hill calls the Rounders of this period “the hottest touring dance band in the Northwest”. They regularly packed the Rainbow and the Central in Seattle as well. But the drugs came with the musicians. Warren stopped going to Mexico; David made one more trip. Tom Wood had left Portland when the high times spooked him, but he did not leave drug-smuggling; alone now Tom was killed outside Acapulco in fall 1977. The business of maintaining the high got big and got violent.


I was part of a punk recalibration which in its early years was often puritanical in its determination not to be drunk or stoned or wired like the rockers, the hippies, or the disco crowd. And as the punks were going to have to reinvent their own radio and record industries it was going to require a modicum of sobriety. And further, given that punk would be music with “whiter”, more forced rhythm, pot’s vaunted musicological aid was initially dispensable.

What is striking to me about Portland's jug-band psychedelic blues scene was how dance-oriented their rock and roll was, even when acoustic. In the sixties I was too young to do anything but listen to the radio, and later too disaffected to go to high school dances in the early seventies, and by then hard rock and punk rock weren’t for dancing, thanks largely to the influence of the British Invasion. The laid-back singer-songwriter bunk made sure that one of punk’s initial demands would be that you at least stand up in the presence of live music. But David always talked about dancing, its presence or its absence, and how in his ideal music, a band performance was responsive in the live moment to the best dancers on the floor. This certainty of David’s and Jeffrey Frederick’s especially, brought women into the Portland audience, whereas they were drifting away from commercial rock audiences elsewhere for disco.

Colorado writer Elliott Johnston interviewed Lightbourne in 2008 and asked him about his role in the mid-seventies Holy Modal Rounders:

“All I did was occasionally get onstage and sing the Stampfel parts when Weber would do a song and it desperately called for a higher voice. Then they’d just tell me to play lead electric guitar. The real relationship was, everybody in Portland could rent a Victorian mansion for $125 a month… The one I rented, I lived with Marcus and Weber. So in other words there were like seven people dividing $125 a month rent… But what Weber finally told me to do was, ‘Why don’t you start your own band?’ And I think he was tired of me getting onstage with him. ‘Why don’t you start your own fucking band?’ So I did.” (DL, Oct. 12, 2008)

I imagine The Metropolitan Jug Band would have come together anyway, despite the impression David leaves. In fact, unlike his friends, he managed to get out of a scrape with time-served in early 1978 so I’m guessing that forming The Stumptown Slickers, which evolved into the MJB, as well as his KBOO radio program which also began that year were part of his attempt to move himself past the harder, heavier drugging that had begun four years earlier. He was back in jail in fall 1979 while I was staying at his apt to save money for a November trip to London to meet the Rough Trade folks (we were moving Renaissance/Systematic Record Distribution down to Berkeley to help them set up in America). Christine, another Company turista was also staying in the place - her claim-to-fame included an appearance in an early 1970s issue of Playboy. David wrote from jail, “In this situation depression is too dangerous to cultivate, and discipline works quite well. Little things mean a lot: I’m doing exercises, taking showers, brushing after every meal -- it’s literally amazing!” It took the slammer to get Dave to brush his teeth. He also writes that his bandmates were a blessing and thanks me for doing his Fifties show for him. I remember KBOO’s blues host Tom Wendt being down there in case Dave hadn’t made any arrangements. Tom was another music-first Portland fixture; Dave told me Tom sold blood as often as allowed so he could buy blues records. Those were the days…

But as regards the Metropolitan Jug Band, you don’t get a Fritz Richmond joining your band unless it's his best option. Fritz was a star in the early 1960s Boston folk scene with Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band and a noted recording engineer as well as a friend of John Sebastian -- Fritz named The Lovin’ Spoonful. In the 1990s and thereafter he played in Sebastian’s The J Band, and was also in ex-Kweskin band-mate Geoff Muldaur’s Jug Band (as well as a last Portland outfit called Barbecue Orchestra). Fritz was the foremost jug and washtub bass player of the revival years. He’d been on the Vanguard and Reprise labels, and Fritz had engineered albums for Elektra’s Paul Rothchild and others in Los Angeles (The Doors, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Lonnie Mack, The Everly Brothers…). Tom Fitting describes the beginnings of the MJB as he and Kevin Robinson playing guitars together and Kevin bringing in Hugh Frederick on harp and Dan Lissy joining quickly, singing and blowing jug. “Hugh or Lissy introduced David Lightbourne to the trio in late 1978, and the foursome started playing as The Stumptown Slickers. It was clear that David was a powerful presence in the musical direction….” (TF, July 15, 2010)

Dan Lissy told the Blues Notes paper in 2004 that The Stumptown Slickers included Billy Hults as well and lasted a year with a regular gig at The Long Goodbye and opening slots for John Mayall and John Lee Hooker. Lissy left and David sang and they played as a trio for a bit in early 1979 as The New Stop & Listen Boys. Hugh brought in David Dearborn on washboard and they became The Metropolitan Jug Band by spring, playing Fridays at the Leaky Roof Tavern. Tom Fitting writes:

“From my tapes, it looks like Fritz Richmond approached the band on 7/13/79 and sat in then for the first time, and I recall he was there every time we played thereafter… [W]hen Fritz asked if he could sit in… Hugh was coy but let Fritz come on stage, although he told me later that he recognized Fritz… and was fully aware of Fritz's pedigree.” (TF)

The MJB represented David’s musical vision, but that’s not to say he lead the band otherwise. The Kweskin band often tilted away from blues and jug band styles toward vaudeville-style jazz and kitsch. There was zero kitsch in David’s bands. He knew the best songs, the best players, the best playing so he never shrank from hating or just ignoring lesser stuff. And he knew that rock and roll was acoustic music first, as it was as late as Elvis on Sun. And he further knew that if rock and roll was radical it was also of a tradition. It was not progressive, but rather regressive. Lightbourne wrote recently: “We regress to do battle, we regress to make love, we regress to dream.”

But none of this got the band recorded. Tom writes, “Fritz was very clear about recording. He insisted on professional recording using the record label’s support, nothing less, and we did not have a label. We had several different discussions about it, and he would not budge.” Dave never regretted that to my knowledge -- there’s loads of tapes and he could always pull out his guitar and go to work on anything he wanted to hear -- but once I thought about it after he joined me in Chicago in 1995 it annoyed me. I wasn’t having a good enough time at SST once we were solvent to have thought of recording the MJB for SST. I should’ve done it anyway. Fritz didn’t realize that the record business he had known was ending; the easy money and access was over. And maybe, with what he enjoyed about Portland life, he was lulled out of awareness that he was no longer in the record industry loop. What I think Fritz feared happening was the band recording itself with local resources and having some substandard product marketed on his reputation. Big mistake.


One of the great things about the early rock and roll era was that musicians were all coming from an organic folk culture that, though it took advantage of the electronic media, was not yet altered by that media. Musicians could sit in with players they did not know and find their way to sync up. So lineups were more fluid. Still it could take an hour to sync up; David often mentioned seeing Howlin’ Wolf in Chicago and being surprised at the shambling versions they were putting out until about forty minute in when it all came into a riveting focus. David often talked about the rhythmic sense of his generation of players versus some player who might be deep into the same blues canon but being younger couldn’t quite settle into the same wavelength; he even marveled that he and Steve Weber didn’t really have it together either. When I saw the Metropolitan Jug Band at the Leaky Roof in 1979 Billy Hults was subbing for Dearborn. Billy played with everyone sooner or later in the Portland scene. His bands (The Fly By Night Jass Band, and Billy Foodstamp & the Welfare Ranch Rodeo) had more fluid lineups than most but he got good results. This clip of Fly By Night doing The Memphis Jug Band’s “She Done Sold It Out” is the single best video representation of the Portland scene that I’m aware of. Let us pause now and watch…

"She Done Sold It Out"

This taping features:

John Ward - vocals, harp
Billy Hults - washboard
Kenneth Turtle Vandemar - guitar, kazoo
Stu Dodge - fiddle
John Dominegoni - bass
Robin Remaily - fiddle
Richard Tyler - piano
Peter Langston - mandolin

Nick Hill guesses this video is an outtake from sessions that yielded a six song EP around 1974, and he thinks he recognizes Mike Lastra and David Lightbourne on the floor towards the end; I can’t tell but I didn’t know David that early. Peter Langston who had been in Portland Zoo, writes, “I believe that was filmed at Rex Recording where we had just finished mixing some recordings of our bluegrass band, Puddle City. As we were leaving we ran into our Fly By Nite Jass Band friends rehearsing and they invited me to join in.” (PL, July 14, 2010)

Remaily and Tyler were then in The Holy Modal Rounders, though when the now Portland-based Rounders-Clamtones toured to the east coast to record the “Have Moicy!” album with Peter Stampfel and Michael Hurley, Weber dropped off the tour long enough to miss the recording session. Lightbourne thought “Have Moicy!”, credited to Michael Hurley/The Unholy Modal Rounders/Jeffrey Frederick & The Clamtones, was the masterpiece of their scene, though it was recorded on the east coast and Stampfel rather than Weber held down the Rounders franchise. It was recorded in two days in July 1975, mixed in three. Hurley told PopWatch, “You probably just don't have the software to know how good I feel about the ‘Have Moicy!’ release. So many people have told me that they love it, it changed their life, it turned them on to old-time asskickin' hillbilly, it lead them to a superior love life, it brought them much wealth and still remains a favorite after 20 years or 10. Everytime I listen to it, it sounds more together; it sounds like a bunch of loonies too.”

Thereafter, some of Hurley’s mob, David Reisch and Gary Sisco, threw in with the Portland crew and Michael himself was pulled inevitably to Oregon. One could find different combinations of all these players in any of a number of bands. Lightbourne and Richmond also played 1984 gigs as The Justin Other Jug Band with Mark Goldfarb on guitar and vocals and Randy Griffin on harp. And Earth Tavern fixture and music-writer Dan Lissy who’d been in The Stumptown Slickers continued to play with David and others.

Another one-page essay I found in David’s effects, tells of yet one more wayward folk musician on the scene in 1973 playing his own depressive low-key ballads:

“At the time we all lived, four or five of us, in a little one-bedroom house down by the freeway at the very edge of the black and hippie enclave in Portland called Dogpatch. Colleen, Weber’s girlfriend at the time, came calling at ten o’clock one morning, way too early, and I woke up in my loft in the utility room cursing the daylight. Somebody in the front room had taken down the little 1868 Martin parlor guitar, D-8 or something, with a great-looking dark spruce top, and the music sounded like jazzed folk, or folk swing or folk soul.

By the time I got up and down and out this geeky little guy with a Jimmy Durante hat and Ray Charles sunglasses had played a real sweet set and Colleen introduced me to Tansy Ragwort. (We got to the west coast in the late sixties, and one of the first topics they got your attention with in the regional media had to do with cattle dying all over eastern Oregon from eating Tansy Ragwort. At the time it sounded like this was the deep down hard-core uniquely Oregonesque local exotic lore.)

The real Tansy Ragwort wrote really pretty love songs with simple folkish tunes using jazz-substitution chords on acoustic guitar with classic 1930s changes. He’d been opening for the Holy Modal Rounders that week in Seattle at several venues and grabbed the ride south as a great chance to check Portland, Modal Rounder World Headquarters.” (DL)

Tansy’s actual name was Steven Bernstein as he was known later for his poetry; he died by his own hand in 1991.


There’s been revolutions in American music all along of course, but in Portland this backwater mix by postwar pop culture radicals seemed to start with fifties rock and roll and then retreat into the past. Often acoustic or half-acoustic, it was metaphysically, if not always musically, a blues-style revolution. It was not dreamy and righteous as in the former folk-style, or self-absorbed and mercenary as in the singer-songwriter mode then current. As Jane Stokes writes (NV 56) about her time with David in Cambridge, “From the different sixties’ themes -- political, music, black, drugs -- we were black and drugs.”

David printed out a post to the “Have Moicy group” by Nick, maybe the only member who insists on the importance of the west coast Rounders against the general indifference to all Weber was doing in his Portland years. Nick's post was about a Portland classmate, also a musician, just then deceased in 2005:

“I am reminded of a day I spent at Weber’s house in Portland when he was living with Colleen on SW 1st St. I was all of 15 at the time, and Craig would have been about 18. I had just stopped by to visit and was surprised to see Craig Mayther there, tripping out of his mind. Obviously he had taken heroic doses of acid, and maybe something more ferocious. He was large, and out of control, foaming at the mouth. Doctor Steven Weber was in. Attending to this LSD overdose with all the bedside manner of a saint. Administering B-12, and generous doses of gentle old guitar ballads to cool the huge man‘s disturbed sense of being.” (NH, June 6, 2005)

David may have performed similar ministrations but I remember most his story of his first heroin customer who received rather more cursory treatment when David found him turning blue on the floor of his bathroom. He managed to save the guy’s life and send him on his way, but that was how he learned that you never let a customer use your bathroom on the way out.

I found this short note, which by the looks of it was written by David in the five years or so before his 2010 death:

“I’m inclined to a totally apologetic attitude about the Great Portland Oregon Heroin Plague, roughly 1974-1994. Fucked up the very best and brightest, the talented and everyone else. Weber played his central flashpoint position to get the ball rolling. Ricardo, Dolores, Fat Freddy, Shade Tree, at one point Rube & Pam the Gorgeous. The listed would fill a damn data-base, and Oregon bureaucrats probably have a good one, hard to access. Start at the easy end with the clockwork thud of obituaries, Here an O.D., there an O.D., everywhere a-, not to mention a few suicides.

"One of my road buddies from Iowa, running to dodge the draft as well as to escape an FBI dragnet for a failed Florida Panama Red load, set up shop with a mixture tested at 80% opiates coming down from Vancouver. He cleared a hundred grand a month for a spell. We played our part, and probably a dozen younger kids did too much. Not a good way to begin, self-indulgent, spoiled and bored. Things were way better when Steve just hit me from his cotton for driving him to cop. I could take it or leave it.

"I personally don’t care for the shit. I quickly learned how a whole other kind of normal fellow, the ambulatory depressed, could and would soon commit any and every imaginable desperate act to assure the sustenance of life itself. I’m sure it beats all the anti-depressants by a mile, with the only downside lifelong constipation. Not at all like these pills that make you go postal. But I only liked it because I needed it. Getting it often proved an unbelievable adventure, and man did it feel wonderful suddenly getting well. I way prefer pot.

"The Greeks said everything in moderation and about the best time I ever had took place the afternoon Jeffrey and I went over to Danielle’s to do some good white. We had two guitars. That’s really all I remember. As soon as we realized how amazingly well we clicked we never looked back. The one day in my life I could never begrudge a tip of the top hat to King Dope, shit, smack, dog, do, H, beige, boy, etc.” (DL, circa 2000s)


I got to Portland from Hollywood in fall 1977 and got to know Dave because we both worked at the Cinema 21. I was the janitor and would clean the theater after the last show cleared out around midnight. Sometimes he’d hang around the theater but usually I’d do the job alone with a small radio turned on that filled the big empty theater space nicely. (One amazing night of mopping I was mesmerized by a piece of contemporary classical music and got a pencil to write down what the announcer said; it was the 1978 debut recording Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 and I never found a copy until a lesser British version came out twenty years later and went platinum.) I might get done at the theater about 3am and I’d check to see if the light was still on at Dave’s nearby apartment. It usually was and we’d talk in his place, or go to the QP diner a few blocks away. I didn’t know anything about drugs I didn’t hear from him. In his place he’d be dabbing the tracks on his arms with some skin restorative while we talked. He was off heroin then and had never liked cocaine, LSD, or alcohol. I met Weber once at Dave’s apartment but had no idea who he was. I left Portland when we moved Systematic to Berkeley at the end of 1979 and soon enough it was clear by his letters that he was back on it, plus he was starting to mention some of the Portland punks I’d known who were now crossing paths with the older scene.


I found a cassette in David’s collection that records a quiet late-night fifty minutes or so of Steve Weber in 1977 moving through one tune after another, singing and playing guitar for Dan Lissy, Pamela Boswell Marcus, and Christine Van Kamen. It begins with David reading discographical information about Frank Stokes and adding to that what he knows about how the metal masters were found near Grafton, Wisconsin nailed to chicken coops as roofing shingles. Then David is either unusually quiet or has left. Lissy is still recording and to prompt a version of “Cocaine Blues” out of Steve, he asks him what he knows about cocaine. Steve answers, “Well you take some cocaine you feel like a new man, and next thing you know the new man wants some too.” Steve plays it and another dozen songs, four of which he reprised the next year in New York with Peter Stampfel as part of the “Going Nowhere Fast” album. Weber sounds far less comfortable in the New York recordings and so the tunes are as a consequence not as delicate and beautiful, or in the case of “Junker’s Blues”, not as perverse as the Portland home recordings. And yet the album’s liner-notes by John Swenson are at pains to dismiss rumored Portland recordings of Peter and Steve and cheer on the abuse his co-producer lays on Steve, “working at a breakneck pace by haranguing him constantly during breaks until Weber retreated behind the microphone for solace.” New York for ya…

The women of the Portland scene shopped resale, wearing what twenties dresses could bear up under the crush in these bars and the wear-and-tear of the strange new sexual customs still then unfolding. The protest flyer nearby concerns Jeffrey Frederick’s apparently routine exclusive use of the women’s johns at bars. The flyer’s protest features already routine feminist attitudes with descriptions of behavior somewhat more in the true spirit of the times. Here’s David again, writing decades later about this flyer and that night. (A Warning: David wrote this for himself with perhaps no editor or reader in mind…)

“The flyer makes the big dustup unnecessarily complicated and confusing. It vanished overnight so this might be the only surviving copy. No one took it seriously just like no one took the cat fight seriously from the get go. Needless to say, anywhere Fat Freddy had a gig, he only pissed in the women’s shitter. Supposedly men’s cans turned his stomach. In truth, many women swear it’s the opposite -- Hey, gals, come on in!

"Either Jeffrey walked in on Hannah or she walked in on him. Probably told him to get the fuck out of there. But then she made the fatal, suicidal mistake of flinging his hat into a toilet bowl.

"The poor dumb cunt had no possible way of knowing that a bindle of heroin lay tucked inside the hat’s sweatband. She thought in all honesty she was just being a righteous bitch. No damn harm, No damn foul. Fuck the hat you fat fucking fuck! Dear sweet Jesus.

"A cross-cultural misunderstanding of tectonic proportions: Put a twenty dollar match-head of Persian beige inside a hundred dollar hat. The hat would maybe be the real deal in price for vanity stage drag. But Jeffrey would happily pawn a pair of Stetsons, even trade ’em, for one good hit.

"How in holy hell could poor Hannah possibly comprehend this alien universe she had stumbled into -- where the men all shit in the women’s, which sees no room, no rest.” (DL, circa 2000s)

I should explain here several of David’s unique circumlocutionary habits. He often paired the euphemism “freakin’” with the very word it was meant to take the edge off of, namely the F-word; hence, a likely sentence: “If he wants to go out of business I’d be glad to burn the freakin’ fuckin’ place to the ground for him.” Another strange tic of his involved how someone, anyone, might edit themselves in conversation by ending a sentence with “blah, blah, blah…”; but Dave was moving much to quickly to make do with just three “blahs” so he’d use freakin’ fuckin’ five of ’em! Dave was a great editor and proof reader, but I’d say his verbal editing needed editing.

David’s girlfriends were often buyers and sellers of vintage threads re-released on post-Carnaby Street, post-earth-mother fashion via former timber-baron estate-sales and auctions so these mogul’s dissolute scions could buy heroin from David. He was in the used records stores and his girlfriend was in the resale clothing shops. It was a division of postwar post-labor, an archeology of one postwar golden age so as to prolong the last bit of a second postwar golden age. One thing that bears mentioning is that the earliest of our postwar bohemia spun from homosexual men born between the wars. Bohemia after the Beats was generally hetero but at first shaped by the pre-birth-control Pill years when women, pairing up, children and/or marriage were the threat to their plans to avoid the straight work-a-day world. So those born during WWII were often misogynists going into the sixties sexual revolution, and they could be, lets guess, a handful during it. Their girlfriends were of necessity quite their match.


In Boston and Chicago and elsewhere acoustic/delta/Piedmont/blues/etc. was already being
presented as if behind glass in a museum for the progressive delectation of that element of the sixties generation which wished to retire into an epicurean lifestyle. But in Portland Oregon, these musician-criminals couldn’t help but make that music live again as twenties-style rock and roll in something like the manner of the great jug bands of Memphis. I mostly missed it as I wasn’t looking for that. Lightbourne’s fifties’ rock and roll knowledge seemed more relevant to me and the punk rock I was beginning to deal in. Thank God I did go and see his band a couple times, once at the Leaky Roof and once at a practice at either Hugh Frederick’s or David Dearborn’s house.

The hip tavern culture of Portland peaked in the eighties, probably with the election of bar-owner Bud Clark as mayor in 1984. He claimed his bar, the Goose Hollow Inn, was regularly crowded “butt-to-belly” and served 200 kegs of beer a month. The movie Drugstore Cowboy (1989) may be the nadir; it is based on events committed by friends of these musicians but subtracting all of their style and wit and taste. Lightbourne’s friends were co-stars in the actual nonfiction newspaper coverage; I found a set of clippings in his things of the arrests and the sentencings, and also a newspaper photo of a pharmacist with a framed photo of Matt Damon on the wall behind him. Dave would tell some insane Portland-era story and I’d again remind him that we needed to re-write that truth-never-told and make Danielle in that small house in the shade of the sheer back wall of Fred Meyer's the star of the show. Her front room was a Marx Brothers' state-room scene waiting to happen with all the human traffic, the antique bric-a-brac and David's complete run of Rolling Stones lining the walls floor-to-ceiling. The pitch would’ve been: Maisie in the crack-den, call it Superheroine.

In one of David’s many semi-filled journals-diaries-notebooks there is this, immediately following a short note dated Feb. 16, 1983 on basketball dynasties:

“It was all quite predictably freaky. I burst into Warren’s without knocking last Sunday, the 7th, and got three sawed-off shotguns pointed at me. Narcs as thugs; at first I thought ‘bikers’ before things slowed enough to notice the down vests and hiking shoes. They almost blew my ass out of the universe nose-first, perhaps to a parallel realm where mu-mesons reverse/implode in time. After holding me face down on the floor and kicking me a lot I talked my head off and they found a hundred dollar paper in a wallet next to where I’d been on the floor, pocketed the heroin, wallet and all, and said why don’t you split. So I did….” (DL, circa 1983)

David was then the star of the top tavern attraction in town, playing four nights a week.

It couldn’t last. They each on their own schedule stopped their drinking or drugging, or they died.
Some spent time in jail, Dave among them. He almost never drank anything other than Coca Cola but he gave up heroin a second time in the mid-eighties, though he continued to recommend it for depression; he considered all of Big Pharma’s search for the perfect anti-depressant utterly redundant and hypocritical. Until I read Sisco’s blog I didn’t appreciate what an a-hole I was drinking a beer in front of Michael Hurley, who does a manful job pretending to love his cup of tea while his Boone & Jocko cartoons tell you what’s really on his mind. David had a number of friends who disappeared late in life into relationships with women that seemed combination rehab-matrimonies. He referred to these lost souls in the past tense, and described them as having married dominatrices. Dave’s girlfriends over the years were all good-looking, hip and smart but his own troubled childhood meant that he was pitched mightily against fatherhood and so these women left him to pair off with more user-friendly men, though many stayed in touch with him and counted on him for occasional blasts of information from out beyond their new normal.


Dave left Portland gradually, spending the late eighties in Phoenix with his mother and stepfather, actually taking law classes to assure her that he’d be able to provide for himself. He then went on the road as the audio-video tech for his brother Michael who was conducting sales seminars in the Rentrak video rental system. During these tours Dave hit every used record store in the country and re-connected with everyone he ever knew and respected as he went, and he would tell you all kinds of stuff, like what he found when he went looking for the Augusta house where Blind Willie McTell was born.

David’s brother Michael, while here to move his brother's effects, told me two very interesting things about Michael and Priscilla’s father Kirk Lightbourne -- David’s step-father. Kirk played trumpet in big bands until he got his front teeth knocked out in a drunken brawl at a club. (Paul Whiteman Violence Must Stop!) Just before David went off to college in Iowa he had a big argument with Kirk who perhaps resented paying for it. Michael who was thirteen didn’t understand the argument except that it was scaring him because David was getting the better of his father until as Michael tells it Kirk picked David up and set him in the trash saying, “You are garbage.” David never went back home after that. In retirement in Phoenix, Kirk was an in-demand piano-tuner and he got to know Alice Cooper, Glen Campbell and other notable musicians in the area. Michael believes that his father began to soften on David as he recognized that what I’ll call the rockstar traits of Alice and Glen were the same things he’d been seeing in David since he barged in on young David’s idyll. But as a former big-band musician he had no respect for folk music per se, whether it was stepson David’s or his own son Michael’s, who on the face of it was quite successful himself in the pop end of early sixties folk music. As Michael puts it, his father though quite rowdy in his big band days, played ballrooms in tuxedos and “never saw the musical merit of this genre of music.”


In January 2007 Dave was at Jane’s in New York and The Holy Modal Rounders and Michael Hurley were in Portland doing gigs around the release of a documentary film called Bound to Lose. The film’s makers knew it was important to present in Portland, though the film does not cover the band’s Portland years. Dave wrote an email on the details of his impending return to Wyoming, and filled me in on what he heard about how things went back in his own stomping grounds:

“They took some good photos at the PDX bash, one in particular of Hurley & Reisch. Hurley looks like he's on a roll. Reisch had the sound-guy do digital 32 tracks off the board but noted that, often, one side of the stage had no idea what the other side was playing. His admonition: ‘Tapes don't lie’. Four fiddles, three washboards, two saxophones.... equals Tennessee Klezmer. Still being billed as Weber's one last chance to resurrect, apotheosize, or take petulance to the mountaintop. Nobody even remembers that he was virtually run out of town as corpses fell on every side. Nor do any of these morons remember Martin & Lewis, Laurel & Hardy.... or even Dan & Connie. Stampfel, meanwhile, has made a bigtime outback comeback.” (DL, Jan. 10, 2007)

David could be impatient with writers or filmmakers when they didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. He smiled when he told me the filmmakers had said they hoped to portray “the love between Peter and Steve”. Dave didn’t exactly mean to imply they hated each other, but he meant that the self-esteem generation might never figure out that once the focus had been on music first, and then drugs, girls, and life in America, and only after that maybe camaraderie, perhaps touched with something resembling love. The literature on bands like The Minutemen or Dinosaur Jr hinge on the ability of Music itself to bring together the nerds with the jocks -- nerds do not make good drummers and only genius-grade music can lure some happening high school dude to associate with his weirdest classmates -- it may be touching, but it isn’t love. How much more likely necessary was it in 1963 that music brought the two pathfinders of The Holy Modal Rounders together? (Peter began hearing horror-stories about Steve from Antonia as early as 1962; Steve was in Bucks County down the street from Hurley.)

To be fair Dave himself should have written these books and films on the blues, or Dylan, or The Rounders, or Mike Seeger, Mike Bloomfield, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marshall McLuhan, Elvis Presley…. It’s hardly their authors’ fault he didn’t. What is their fault is that they somehow didn’t locate him during their inadequate research phase. Dave was nothing if not the world’s premiere expert talking head. When Weber heard of David’s death I’m told he said, “There’s a lot of people who talk a lot, but David always had something to say.” Only a rank amateur filmmaker by the name of Elwood Snock ever knew enough to point a video-camera at David. (Take a look at Michael's film tribute.)


There aren’t too many gaps in my book Rock and the Pop Narcotic of a size sufficient to embarrass me but my missing that Oregon scene is surely the principle one. And I was so close to it! Dave might have recorded for Delmark in the early sixties when he worked for Bob Koester; he almost recorded for Adelphi in 1970. When I convinced David to move to Wyoming he actually first joined me in Chicago for a few months as I prepared to sell that building and pack up. While in Chicago he got a temp job and began to meet people around town. He played nights at Smokedaddy's on Division and got to know folks in Devil in the Woodpile and at the Specimen Guitar shop, and reintroduced himself to Koester at Jazz Record Mart. I recall that Bob was at first busy doing inventory but then he stopped and looked around and said, "Now where's that guy I was talking to?" Then they really commenced reminiscing. But no recordings of David's music panned out until Wyoming when we got The Stop & Listen Boys album together in 2000 for a label I put together with Bill Stevenson of The Descendents and Black Flag -- bands that were among the reasons I left Portland and Berkeley for Los Angeles.

Fortunately there is a ton of additional recordings of David and his bands from both the Wyoming era and the Portland era, and perhaps we’ll find material from the sixties as well in this crate of ancient reel-to-reel tapes he’d been toting around for years. Somehow I expect we will whittle the takes down to an album release spanning his decades; Byron Coley saw David perform at one of the Upland Breakdowns in Wyoming and I'm working with him over what a new record might include for his label, Feeding Tube.


I had a vague idea that aside from what Coca-Cola did to his teeth, that drinking it all day long might presage some kind of nightmare diabetic finger-failure that you hear about in the pages of blues history. But Dave got stronger on the guitar in his sixties. Laramie of all places offered him both weekly solo venues (at Provisional Café, Cowboy Coffee, The Fireside, Muddy Waters Coffeehouse, The Buckhorn Bar) and places to play with his band The Stop & Listen Boys (The Old Centennial Café-Beartree Tavern, The Trading Post, KUWR, KRFC, and many one-offs). We talked through each Upland Breakdown since 2000, trying to bring out the best players he and I had known around a loose idea of acoustic blues. He was most engaged and even a touch nervous when he could bring out to our centrally-located middle-of-nowhere another of his old music compatriots: Michael Hurley, Gary Sisco, Al Rivers, Jane Cohen-Pellouchoud…. Every few years I’d ask him if he thought there’d be any chance of bringing out Peter Stampfel & Steve Weber, or at least Weber. He was sure it couldn’t be done and I figured he must know. But that would’ve been something. Something for Wyoming to fear. Gary came out the once and looked around at the Beartree crowd in Centennial, Wyoming and said, "I'm glad there's still a scene somewhere!"

David’s theory on health issues was to avoid doctors and hospitals because they’d insure that you’d have a lengthy twilight of failing abilities and mobility. He didn’t want that and didn’t let on when he was in pain due to a childhood bout with rheumatic fever which meant that he had often had what he referred to in notes I found after his death as "phantom chest pains"; he apparently learned to just ignore it. I found stray references to insomnia due to such pain in diary entries as early as 1972 while he was on a run to Mexico. So I suspect he didn’t have any expectation that death was approaching though he'd lived as if expecting an early death. He was on the phone until about 11pm Mountain time to his old Portland pal Kevin Robinson the night of Thursday April 29th talking about a song lyric he was working on, and the coroner had his death come between 10pm and midnight. I found him at 9:30 the next morning sitting on the floor wrapped in his blanket, as if during the heart attack he tried to get up off the sofa. But this time it was more than just pain.

I don't often remember my dreams but I did have one fairly lucid one where I was back in my Laramie building where Dave and I lived on either side of a large warren of rooms above two shopfronts from 1996 to 2005. Much later, after I'd sold the building and he stayed in Laramie while I moved a bit west to Centennial, I dreamt I was back in the building doing something on his side some time after he'd died when he walked in from the back door like usual. I was surprised that he had somehow managed to slip out of the town morgue. I asked him in surprise, "How'd you get out of there?" He smiled and then I don't remember anything further because I woke up.

(illustrations:  D. Lightbourne, J. Carducci at Upland Breakdown by Jane Schuman; Jean & Kermit Loe with David circa 1942; WTAQ AM's "Breakfast with a Music Teacher" circa 1951; Metropolitan Jug Band, Portland Oct. 31 1981, photo by Liz Fitting; D. Lightbourne & S. Weber circa 1977; Jeffrey Frederick; Clamtones & Earth Tavern protest flyer; D. Lightbourne, Portland circa 1977)


“The Shortwave Stall”, Michael Hurley’s short film features David in his Wyoming non-dotage.

David Lightbourne's Stop & Listen Boys performing live on the Meredith Ochs show WFMU on June 6, 2001 -- their 2nd of 3 appearances; scroll down, click, and move to the one hour mark.

There are additional remembrances of David by others who knew him at The New Vulgate No. 56 and issues through The New Vulgate No. 44. There are also links to David's writing for the NV including his piece on seeing Elvis in 1957. Worth looking into if still homebound.

DuPage River, Naperville, Ill.
Photograph by Joe Carducci

From the London Desk: Steve Beeho:

John Gray in The New Statesman,Why This Crisis Is a Turning Point in History.
It is only by recognising the frailties of liberal societies that their most essential values can be preserved. Along with fairness they include individual liberty, which as well as being worthwhile in itself is a necessary check on government. But those who believe personal autonomy is the innermost human need betray an ignorance of psychology, not least their own. For practically everyone, security and belonging are as important, often more so. Liberalism was, in effect, a systematic denial of this fact.


Peter Hitchens in First Things on Wolfram Siemann's book, Metternich - Strategist and Visionary.
Metternich had become too repressive for his own countrymen, and so had to seek refuge in the least repressive country in Europe. The man who had once negotiated with Bonaparte and quarreled with the Emperor of All Russia found himself tottering along the Brighton seafront in the briny wind, pondering his vast journey through the decades of revolution and war. If he had loved constitutional monarchy, and the hurly-burly of a free press, he had shown little sign of it when he had the power to influence such things in his own country.


Tanya Gold at unherd.com on Woody Allen's book, Apropos of Nothing.
His work, then, was a brilliant deception on himself and others that, in the end, failed; when his audience realised they had practised the same deception on themselves, they ceased to believe anything he said. They stopped laughing. Perhaps this is right, and he is a greater artist for being known — and loathed — than he was when misunderstood. I certainly find the films more moving now. He has exposed comedy for what it is; you could call that generous, even revolutionary, but it was probably unconscious. The work remains a luminous study in post-war Jewish self-hatred, and it will endure, but he has not morally survived it. He could not. Perhaps he should have listened to his mother. He should have been a dentist.


Mathew Lyons at The Quietus on Mike Barnes' book, A New Day Yesterday - U.K. Progressive Rock and the 1970s.
A New Day Yesterday isn’t just about the music, it is about a moment in time, a brief
period when musicians were giddy with the possibilities of their music and accepted no limits on their ambitions – and when record labels were happy to invest in experimentation and fans in vast numbers willing to indulge it. On this reading, prog was swept away not just because it had run its course, but because what replaced it was more corporate-friendly: more marketable, more easily branded and more readily commoditised. Just another consumer good.


Richard Hell on Ork Records at Please Kill Me.
Ork did have an inspired idea for the few small ads he bought for the “Blank Generation” EP. We printed “Call Hell” along with a headshot of me from the cover of the record and my actual phone number. Some people have written that when you called the number, you got a recording of the song, but that’s incorrect. It was my home phone number and I answered the phone. I didn’t get very many calls, but Mike Watt (formerly of the Minutemen, latterly the Stooges revival tours, along with a stream of great projects) tells the story of calling the number but being afraid to talk when I answered. I actually remember that call. He’s a shy guy.


^ Paul Gorman treats The Word to Around Malcolm McLaren in 10 objects.


Sheila Rock's punk photos in The Guardian.


Sean O'Hagan in The Guardian on Paul Gorman's book, The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren.
It is unsurprising that McLaren struggled to find his niche after punk. Though punctuated
with moments of inspiration, his later career as, by turns, a film-maker, scriptwriter, curator, and pop-cultural zeitgeist surfer, was a protracted coda to the main event. In the end, Malcolm McLaren may have been his own worst enemy, the contradictions he embraced ultimately subverting his own credibility to a terminal degree.

From the DuPage Desk: Joe Carducci:

Nayan Chanda in TIMES OF INDIA, George Orwell Lives in The Heroic Recounting of China's Fight vs. "Devil" Coronavirus.
Chinese television is showing an endless loop of Chinese doctors and medical supplies being rushed to virus ravaged Italy and Iran, and receiving warm thanks from countries around the world. Welcome to the latest edition of Chinese propaganda blitz to claim the leadership role abandoned by “America First” president Donald Trump. A believer in the strategy ‘offence is the best defence’, China has employed its formidable propaganda machinery to rewrite history as it happens. Well established facts like the emergence of the coronavirus in Wuhan’s wet market or its claiming the first known casualty on November 17 last year – full 44 days before China informed WHO about an unidentified virus – have been erased. In the heroic recounting of China’s fight against the “devil” (that’s how Chinese leader Xi Jinping described the virus) it all began on January 23 when the leader took the draconian action of quarantining the entire Wuhan city of 11 million. No mention is made of the lost precious weeks when the government silenced whistleblowers, hid news of the outbreak allowing tens of thousands of Wuhan residents, many of them infected, to stream out to other parts of the country and to foreign destinations. The result of that lethal deception came days later in the explosion of the pandemic across the globe.


Anna Gross & Madhumita Murgia in FT, Chinese Push to Rewire the Internet Triggers Concern Over Human Rights.
China claims this will enable cutting-edge technologies such as holograms and self-driving cars, but critics say it will also bake authoritarianism into the architecture underpinning the web.Huawei, together with state-run companies China Unicom and China Telecom, and the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), have jointly proposed a new standard for core network technology, called “New IP”, at the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Western countries believe the system would splinter the global internet and give state-run internet service providers granular control over citizens’ internet use. It has gained the support of Russia, and potentially Saudi Arabia, according to western representatives at the ITU. “Below the surface, there is a huge battle going on over what the internet will look like,” said a UK delegate. “You’ve got these two competing visions: one which is very free and open and?.?.?.?government hands-off?.?.?.?and one which is much more controlled and regulated by governments.” Huawei and other co-developers are planning to push through the standardisation of New IP at a major ITU conference in India in November.


Sue-Lin Wong in FT, The UN's Partnership with China's Tencent Is at Odds With Its Push for Global Unity.
In recent weeks, the growing privacy woes surrounding the US videoconferencing platform Zoom have illustrated heightened concerns western countries have over the exposure of their data to China. In the same week that researchers at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab reavealed that Zoom was transmitting keys for encrypting and decrypting global meetings to servers in Beijing, groups including NASA, SpaceX, the Taiwanese government and the New York City public school system all banned the use of the service. The UN says that partnering with western platforms such as Google Hangouts or Facebook is not a viable option for its 75th anniversary, since the Communist Party blocks these services in China and the UN wants to reach as many people as possible.


Josh Rogin in WASHINGTON POST, State Department Cables Warned of Safety Issues at Wuhan Lab Studying Bat Coronaviruses.
In January 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing took the unusual step of repeatedly sending U.S. science diplomats to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which had in 2015 become China’s first laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bioresearch safety (known as BSL-4). WIV issued a news release in English about the last of these visits, which occurred on March 27, 2018. The U.S. delegation was led by Jamison Fouss, the consul general in Wuhan, and Rick Switzer, the embassy’s counselor of environment, science, technology and health. Last week, WIV erased that statement from its website, though it remains archived on the Internet. What the U.S. officials learned during their visits concerned them so much that they dispatched two diplomatic cables categorized as Sensitive But Unclassified back to Washington. The cables warned about safety and management weaknesses at the WIV lab and proposed more attention and help. The first cable, which I obtained, also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.


WSJ: World Health Disinformation.
This record is tragic but not surprising. Much of the blame for WHO’s failures lies with Dr. Tedros, who is a politician, not a medical doctor. As a member of the left-wing Tigray People’s Liberation Front, he rose through Ethiopia’s autocratic government as health and foreign minister. After taking the director-general job in 2017, he tried to install Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador. China inevitably gains more international clout as its economy grows. But why does WHO seem so much more afraid of Beijing’s ire than Washington’s? Only 12% of WHO’s assessed member-state contributions come from China. The U.S. contributes 22%. Americans at WHO generally are loyal to the institution, while Chinese appointees put Chinese interests first or they will suffer Beijing’s wrath. China’s influence over WHO has been organized and consistent, whereas the U.S. response has been haphazard. Washington needs a quarterback to lead the fight against Chinese dominance at WHO and other international organizations. Yet the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs lacks a political appointee.


Lanhee Chen in WSJ, Lost in Beijing: The Story of the WHO.
Under Mr. Tedros’s leadership, the WHO has accepted China’s falsehoods about the coronavirus and helped launder them into respectable-looking public-health assessments. On Jan. 14, before an official WHO delegation had even visited China, the group parroted Beijing’s claim that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” Two weeks later, after China had reported more than 4,500 cases of the virus and over 70 people in other countries were sick with it, Mr. Tedros visited China and heaped praise on its leaders for their “transparency.” Recall that China waited six weeks after patients first saw symptoms in Wuhan to institute a lockdown there. During this time Chinese authorities censored and punished physicians who tried to sound the alarm, repeatedly denied that the virus could be transmitted between humans, and held a public banquet in Wuhan for tens of thousands of families. In the meantime, more than five million people left or fled Wuhan, according to the city’s mayor. This included the patient with the first confirmed case of the virus in America. The WHO finally declared a public-health emergency on Jan. 30, after nearly 10,000 cases of the virus had been confirmed. China’s reported figures rose in early February to more than 17,000 infections and 361 deaths, yet Mr. Tedros rebuked Mr. Trump for restricting travel from China and urged other countries not to follow suit. He called the virus’s spread outside China “minimal and slow.” It took until March 11 for the WHO to declare a pandemic. By that point the official world-wide case count was 118,000 people in 114 countries. China’s influence is also apparent in the WHO’s exclusion of Taiwan. The WHO didn’t even bother replying to Taiwanese inquiries in December about whether the coronavirus could, contrary to Beijing’s claims, be transmitted between humans.


zerohedge.com: WHO Issues Statement on Taiwan After Rude Official Shills for China.
A journalist with Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK was rudely hung up on after asking WHO official Bruce Aylward -who led a mission to Wuhan - if the organization might give Taiwan a membership. First, Aylward said he couldn't hear the question - asking the reporter to move on. Then, he disconnected the line after she said she wanted to hear more about Taiwan. When they were reconnected, Aylward dodged another direct question about Taiwan - taking China's stance with his answer while complimenting Beijing and wishing Hong Kong good luck.


Mary Anastasia O'Grady in WSJ, Audit the WHO's Pan American Arm.
Havana boasts about sending medical personnel abroad as if it runs a charity. But governments pay Havana for Cuban health-care workers, who then receive a miserly stipend from the regime, which leaves them in poverty. The dictatorship profits by keeping the lion’s share of the income. This is human trafficking and it violates international law and the laws by which the WHO is governed. As I reported in January, Cuban medics who escaped the program are suing PAHO in U.S. federal court. They allege that when Brazilian law and congressional opposition got in the way of launching the scheme, PAHO stepped in as a financial intermediary to launder the illegal payments of a secret Cuba-Brazil agreement. On April 3 the venue for that suit was moved to Washington. The deal was exposed when Brazilian journalists won the release of Brazilian documents connected with the Cuban medical missions.


Hannah Beech & Muktita Suhartono in NYT, China Chases Indonesia's Fishing Fleets.
Backed by armed Chinese Coast Guard ships, Chinese fishing fleets have been raiding the rich waters of the South China Sea that are internationally recognized as exclusively Indonesia’s to fish. While Mr. Dedi catches the traditional way, with nets and lines, the steel Chinese trawlers scrape the bottom of the sea, destroying other marine life. So not only does the Chinese trawling breach maritime borders, it also leaves a lifeless seascape in its wake. “They come into our waters and kill everything,” said Mr. Dedi, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name. “I don’t understand why our government doesn’t protect us.” ...Chinese impunity was on full display in January when President Joko Widodo of Indonesia visited the Natunas. “There is no bargaining when it comes to our sovereignty,” Mr. Joko said. Earlier, Indonesian fighter jets buzzed the sky, while warships patrolled the seas. But the day after Mr. Joko left the Natunas, the Chinese showed up again. Its fishing fleet, backed by the Chinese Coast Guard, took days to leave the area, local officials and fishers said. The fisheries ministry denied that any such incident had taken place.


Hannah Beech in NYT, China Limited the Mekong's Flow. Other Countries Suffered a Drought.
But during last year’s wet season, the fortunes of the river’s two parts diverged in dramatic fashion. As China’s section of the Mekong welcomed an above average volume of water, downstream countries were stricken by a drought so crushing that parts of the river dried up entirely, leaving cracked riverbed exposed in a season when fishing should have been plentiful. At one gauge in Chiang Saen, in northern Thailand, such low water levels had never been recorded before. Overall, during the 28-year period they studied this gauge, Mr. Basist and his colleague calculated that dams in China had held back more than 410 feet of river height. While addressing regional foreign ministers in February, Mr. Wang, the Chinese foreign minister, contended that China, too, was suffering. He suggested that the Chinese leadership was being magnanimous by sending water downstream, especially at a time when Beijing was contending with a severe coronavirus outbreak. “Though China itself has also been afflicted by the drought and a serious shortage of precipitation in the upper reaches, it has overcome various difficulties to increase the water discharge,” he said. Mr. Basist disputed this take. “You look at our mapping, and it’s bright blue with plenty of water in China and bright red from an extreme lack of water in Thailand and Cambodia,” he said. “China can regulate this river’s flow through dams, and that appears to be exactly what it’s doing.”


David Pilling & Sue-Lin Wong in FT, China-Africa Ties Fray Over 'Racism' Towards Foreigners in Guangzhou.
African ambassadors in Beijing wrote a letter to China's foreign affairs ministry, seen by the Financial Times, condemning what they said was "the persistent harassment and humiliation of African nationals". Families with young children had been forced to sleep on the strets and passports had been confiscated, they said. "The singling out of Africans for compulsory testing and quarantine, in our view, has no scientific or logical basis and amounts to racism towards Africans in China," the letter said, flagging the possibility of a backlash against the Chinese diaspora on the African continent.


WSJ: As Africa Groans Under Debt, It's Wary of Beijing.
With Africa's most poverty-stricken economies pushing for debt relief as hey struggle with the fallout from the global coronovirus pandemic, a tussle is brewing between developed nations, private investors and the continent's largest creditor: China. Wealthy countries from the U.S. to Japan -- watching their own economies lurch toward recession -- are loath to forgive African debt if they think the money will indirectly support Chinese creditors, including the government, banks and contractors. At the same time, Beijing is worried about setting a precedent for widespread forgiveness.


Brian Spegele & Anna Isaac in WSJ, China's Secrecy Hides Risk to Nations in Its Debt.
China's rise as a trading and manufacturing power has been extensively sutdies over the past four decades, but its impact as a financial power is less understood. Exactly how much China has lent is kept under wraps by state-run banks such as China Development Bank and the countries receiving the loans. China's opaque lending can lead investors and organizations to underestimate the risk they are taking when they make loans to these countries or buy their bonds, leading them to lend at rates that might be too low given the potential losses. These include global investors and multilateral lenders such as the World Bank.


Mark Magnier at SCMP, Coronavirus Runs Roughshod Over Debt-Laden Belt and Road Projects.
“The Bar-Boljare motorway is not just a roadway, it is a path to the Western value system,” Prime Minister Dusko Markovi said last month in the capital of Podgorica, defending his pet project. A government statement added: “Markovi underlined that there was no talk of bankruptcy or ‘debt bondage’, as it has often been speculated.” BRI countries such as Montenegro, already deeply indebted to Beijing, face mounting difficulties related to the pandemic as commodity prices plunge, trade falters and exchange rates shift. “A debt crisis with Chinese characteristics?” warned Germany’s Kiel Institute for the World Economy in a report last year citing growing default risks. Adding to the challenge of managing mounting global indebtedness is Beijing’s characteristic lack of transparency. “The Chinese government considers the details of its overseas lending programme a state secret. No one really knows the numbers,” said Brad Parks, executive director of AidData, part of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and co-author of a study on Chinese lending practices released last month by the Centre for Global Development (CGD).


Steven Myers in NYT, China's Aggressive Diplomacy Weakens Xi Jinping's Global Standing.
The lasting effect on Mr. Xi’s global ambitions could be profound. China’s relationship with the United States has already cratered, despite a rhetorical truce reached between Mr. Xi and President Trump. Now there is evidence the pandemic is forcing other countries to rethink relations. Japan has pledged $2 billion to help companies move their production out of China because of concerns about the country’s reliability. President Emmanuel Macron of France questioned whether China’s response was a model for democracies to follow, disputing the narrative Mr. Xi’s acolytes have tried to spin. “Let’s not be so naïve as to say it’s been much better at handling this,” he said in an interview with The Financial Times. China’s state media portray Mr. Xi as a steady, forceful and yet benevolent leader who has guided the country through a “people’s war” against the pandemic. The increasingly combative, nationalist tone of his diplomats, though, has stirred hostility. China’s embassy in France posted a statement on its website accusing Western governments of failing to protect their most vulnerable, letting the residents of nursing homes die abandoned. "How they operate domestically spills over into how they operate internationally," said Susan L. Shirk, the chairwoman of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego.


Qiao Long on RADIO FREE ASIA: China Mourns Dead as Wuhan Families Deal with Mass Cremations.
A source close to the funeral industry surnamed Ma said some incinerators have stopped working after being run night and day, and that funeral homes are now cremating several bodies together to meet demand. "In the past, only one body would be cremated at a time, but now they are working 24/7," Ma said, adding that six out of the city's 30 furnaces were now no longer working. "This is certainly because they have been burning too many bodies at the same time," he said. "This blocked up the machine and it burned out." Ma said reports have emerged of people restrained and forced into body bags when they were still moving, citing videos circulating online. These included a video that went viral on social media in February in which a woman speaking in a Wuhan dialect of Chinese described seeing a male patient next to her in a city hospital forced into a body bag while his feet and hands were still moving. "One old lady was saying that they put one guy into ... a body bag when he wasn't even dead yet, and took him off to the crematorium because there was no way of saving him," he said, citing the particular video. Ma also cited information from other video clips, including "screaming sounds" emerging from crematorium furnaces, "which tells us that some people were taken to the funeral homes while they were still alive." RFA was unable to confirm these reports independently.


Catherine Yang in THE EPOCH TIMES, Documentary Explores the Origins of the CCP Virus.
Philipp’s investigation of the CCP virus in this documentary goes back to the outbreak of SARS nearly two decades ago. The CCP tried to cover up the SARS outbreak as well, and The Epoch Times was one of the few media outlets to expose this. There is precedent of the regime being untrustworthy in the event of an epidemic. Philipp has been researching the CCP since 2008, and gave an example of its military approach to shed light on how the CCP can profit off this pandemic that most consider a tragedy. “One important thing to understand is they talk about war without morals. They talk about ‘unrestricted warfare’: war that does not take into account any concept of human rights, human dignity, human life. It is victory by any means. There is nothing they will not do, and we see the same thing in many parts of their system, including the medical system where altering the human genome is not a big deal to them,” Philipp said. The documentary’s experts remind us: This is a nation that currently holds at least 1 million of its own people in concentration camps. “They don’t care about human life when it comes to this regime—we’ve seen that in their human rights abuses,” Philipp said.


Mark Leonard in NEW STATESMAN, Britain's Lonely Future in the Age of Clashing Empires.
Many in the West dismiss Trump as a self-defeating buffoon, but in Beijing he is considered a master strategist and tactician. “The trade wars are just the tip of the iceberg,” I was told by He Yafei, a former Chinese deputy foreign minister, who came to international prominence when he wagged his finger at Obama at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009. He is much less dismissive of Trump, whom he claims is challenging China economically, militarily and ideologically. The Chinese do not consider the policy of America First to be a retreat from the world but rather a recalibration of the US’s engagement. After the Iraq and Libya debacles, the US is trying to lessen its footprint on the ground and disentangle itself from the high cost of occupations that have sapped the relative advantages of American power and diminished public support for its foreign policy. Just as important is the rethink on globalisation. Trump’s goal, the Chinese believe, is to make use of American economic power and its unbalanced position in the international trade system to renegotiate the nature of its relationships with other players. It is, they claim, “a retreat to advance”.


Andrew Higgins in NYT, Quiet Border Embraces Selective Memories of a 1900 Massacre.
A museum of local history and culture in Blagoveshchensk, the capital of Russia’s Amur Region, makes no mention of the thousands of Chinese killed on the river, referring only gingerly to the “military events on the Amur, June-July 1900.” A big part of the museum’s display space is instead being turned over to exhibits recalling the suffering of Russians in the Great Patriotic War, otherwise known as World War II. It is part of a nationwide preparation for celebrations on May 9, marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over fascism in 1945. A Chinese museum on the other side of the river displays a huge painting that shows Russians driving Chinese into the river. But China takes pains not to rub Russians’ face in the episode: The museum is closed to foreigners. Victor Zatsepine, a historian of modern Chinese history at the University of Connecticut who has studied the incident, said “the massacre definitely happened.” But, he said, “there is a big difference in how things appear inside China and how they are presented to foreigners.”


William Broad in NYT, Putin's Long War Against American Science.
Within Russia, Mr. Putin has been a staunch proponent of vaccines. “I make sure I get my vaccinations in time, before the flu season starts,” he told listeners to a 2016 call-in show. At a televised meeting with doctors in St. Petersburg, in 2018, he scolded Russian parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids: “They endanger the lives of their own children.” Calling the issue “very important,” he warned of possible administrative steps to speed the pace of childhood immunizations. Last fall, Russia’s health authorities laid out expanded rules that require strict new adherence to protocols for childhood vaccination. At the same time, Mr. Putin has worked hard to encourage Americans to see vaccinations as dangerous and federal health officials as malevolent. The threat of autism is a regular theme of this anti-vaccine campaign. The C.D.C. has repeatedly ruled out the possibility that vaccinations lead to autism, as have many scientists and top journals. Nonetheless the false narrative has proliferated, spread by Russian trolls and media. Moreover, the disinformation has sought to implicate the C.D.C. in a cover-up. For years, tweets originating in St. Petersburg have claimed that the health agency muzzled a whistle-blower to hide evidence that vaccines cause autism, especially in male African-American infants. Medical experts have dismissed the allegation, but it reverberated.


Mark Glennon in CT, Pension Bailouts Are Not the Answer for Chicago and Illinois.
That idea is for state and local government to issue bonds to borrow money for pensions. They are called pension obligation bonds, or POBs, which we have criticized repeatedly at Wirepoints. And the proposal is to make those bonds tax-exempt, meaning federal taxpayers would subsidize them. First, POBs are inherently foolish. They represent nothing more than borrowing to cover debt — one credit card to another — replacing unfunded pension debt with unfunded bond debt. They are a can-kicking at its purest. Worse, they gamble that interest paid on the bond will be less than earnings made on the stocks a pension would buy with the borrowed money. Farmer says “a boost in assets now would likely produce a welcome return on investment over the next few years and ultimately help stabilize government pension bills.” That’s pure speculation, and nothing more than market timing, an investment strategy widely shunned as a suckers’ game by pension managers and all but a few experts who specialize in it. Basic market economics say that the likely return on stocks and bonds, if properly risk adjusted, should be equal. Who would buy those bonds from Illinois, Chicago and others that were in death spirals even before the current downturn? Therein lies the second wrong in Farmer’s proposal. She says the deal could be sweetened by making interest on the bonds exempt from federal income taxes. That would be a backdoor way to force all Americans to pay for a bailout, including those in responsible states that have managed their pensions sanely.


CST: State Senate President's Foolish Pitch to Washington Can Only Hurt Illinois.
Illinois' $138 billion unfunded pension liability has been years -- make that decades -- in the making. Springfield lawmakers since before the Beatles have been expanding employee retirement benefits without putting aside enough money to pay for them. At best Harmon's pension ask is politically clueless. At worst, it will serve to explode efforts at bipartisanship in Washington as our nation struggles to recover from the pandemic.


CT: Illinois' Shameless, Dishonest Ask for a Federal Bailout.
At the same time Illinois lawmakers were ignoring the growing crisis, they were adding benefits and beneficiaries, including union officials and teacher union lobbyists who substitute-taught for one day in order to "qualify" for the Teachers Retirement System. Those abuses, shockingly, were ruled constitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court. That's how un-seriously this state's leaders have dealt with state resources.


Cezary Podkul in WSJ, Calpers Exited Hedges Before Market Turmoil.
After suffering bit losses during the financial crisis, the $371 billion pension fund hedged against another dramatic downturn by investing in three funds designed to produce big payoffs when markets fall steeply. But the pension, also known Calpers, decided to sell out of these hedges last year, giving up what could have been a payday of more than $1 billion. Some members of Calpers board were caught by surprise. At a March 18 teleconference, board member Margaret Brown asked the pension fund's chief investment officer, Ben Meng, how these funds were doing. "They should perform well in this kind of a down market, as they were exactly designed to do," Mr. Meng answered, according to a call transcript. "And from what we know... most of these strategies are performing as anticipated." Mr. Meng didn't say that Calpers had mostly exited the three funds.


M.N. Gordon at economicprism.com, Boeing's Bean-Counter Culture and the Bailout of Mass Financialization.
William Boeing, the man responsible for the rise of Boeing during the first half of the 20th century, died in 1956. We don’t know much about the man. We’ve never read his biography. But we suspect the culture that William Boeing instilled in his company faded from its corporate principles by the turn of the new millennium. You see, William Boeing’s cohorts likely continued the company in the William Boeing way after his death. These associates likely passed on the culture of exacting engineering to the next generation of Boeing management. However, once management was three generations removed, they had little connection to what had made the company great. No current Boeing employee – management, engineer, or mailroom clerk – has ever met William Boeing. What’s more, it’s highly unlikely that any current Boeing employee has ever met someone who has met William Boeing. By all practical matters, the culture of William Boeing no longer exists at the Boeing Company. David Calhoun, the current CEO, the guy that doesn’t have a need for an equity stake, isn’t even an aviation engineer. He’s an accountant. He has no clue how airplanes fly or how jet engines work. But he does possess a special skill that’s inherent with his technical discipline… One of the chief skills of accountants who are granted the controls of corporate management is the unmatched aptitude for eroding industrial capital in favor of shareholders. When all business decisions are guided by bean counters a company’s reason to exist ceases.


Karen Ward in FT, Crisis Will Awaken Inflationary Forces Within a Year.
When stay-at-home restrictions are removed, demand will roar back. Families will flock to restaurants, shops, shows and mini-breaks. Households will, in many cases have built up savings to fund such a binge. In Europe, this is thanks in large part to the generosity of governments' employment subsidies, which should mean that the rise in unemployment is modest. In the US the fiscal stimulus is less about making sure people keep their job and more about boosting the social safety net. Average weekly unemployment benefits have been increased from roughly $385 per week on average to $985. Our judgment is that a lot of people who receive this benefit will actually be better off while out of work. The recovery in demand will be much swifter than the recovery in supply.


Brandon Specktor at livescience.com, World's Oldest Human DNA Found in 800,000-year-old Tooth of a Cannibal.
"I am happy that the protein study provides evidence that the Homo antecessor species may be closely related to the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovans," study co-author José María Bermúdez de Castro, scientific co-director of the excavations in Atapuerca, said in a statement. "The features shared by Homo antecessor with these hominins clearly appeared much earlier than previously thought." To reach these results, the researchers used a method called paleoproteomics — literally, the study of ancient proteins. Using mass spectrometry, which displays the masses of all the molecules in a sample, scientists can identify the specific proteins in a given fossil. Our cells build proteins according to instructions contained in our DNA, with three nucleotides, or letters, in a string of DNA coding for a specific amino acid. Strings of amino acids form a protein. So, the amino acid chains that form each person's unique protein sequence reveal the patterns of nucleotides that form that person's genetic code, lead study author Frido Welker, a molecular anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen, told Haaretz.com. Studying ancient proteins therefore opens a window into our genetic past in a way that DNA analysis cannot. DNA degrades relatively quickly, becoming unreadable within several hundred thousand years. To date, the oldest human DNA ever sequenced was about 430,000 years old (also discovered in Spain), according to a 2016 Nature study. Proteins, meanwhile, can survive in fossils for millions of years. Scientists have previously used similar protein sequencing methods to study the genetic code of a 1.77-million-year-old rhino found in Dmanisi, Georgia, and a 1.9-million-year-old extinct ape in China.


Jonathan Derbyshire in FT, Writers and Their Ringmasters.
It was with two of his colleagues from that journal [The Listener], Mary-Kay Wilmers and Susannah Clapp, that Miller would eventually launch the London Review of Books in 1979. The paper was the accidental child of an industrial dispute which meant that the TLS disappeared from newsstands for nearly a year. Writing in a handsome anniversary volume, which gathers "artifacts and ephemera" culled from the paper's archive, Wilmers, who put her own money into the venture and would take over as editor in 1992, recalls that the critic Frank Kermode wrote a beseeching newspaper article "on behalf of all the new books that [were not getting] reviewed, in the absence of the TLS. The LRB eventually emerged to fill the gap, first as an insert carried in UK copies of the New York Review of Books and then, from May 1980, sailing under its own steam.


Janan Ganesh in FT, The End of the 'Two Cultures'.
It is not just medicine and epidemiology that have become central to our thoughts in recent weeks, but quantitative science, too. Last month, the health academic Hugh Montgomery told a broadcaster that a flu victim, with an infection rate of 1.3, would cause 14 cases of flu after 10 "layers" of interaction. Someone with an infection rate of 3 would infect 59,000. Neither the interviewer nor I , nor probably you, had clocked how a seemingly small difference in contagiousness could ramify. And it is no longer cute or raffish to be so innumerate. The problem is playing out on our screens. Lots of Americans dread their president's press conferences, which, with his CEO-flattery, his unscientific itch to reopen businesses, could be situationist pranks on capitalism. But a subtler problem afflicts the equivalent briefings in Britain and elsewhere. Reporters trained in the humanities must hold governments to account on the specificities of science and mathematics. The ministers themselves are no less generalist. The misalignment of skills and duties makes for queasy viewing.


George Gilder in WSJ, We Need Politicians in a Pandemic.
Political leaders, elected to exercise judgment on our behalf must defer to doctors, because the viral threat is addressable only through medical expertise. Yet since many liken fighting the coronavirus to war, we should remember that in war admirals and generals defer to civilian authority -- to the president, as commander in chief, on matters of strategy and to Congress on matters of budget. This is not a design flaw but how a free people governs itself, even in a perilous crisis. It is how we bring the largest possible perspective to decision-making.


Steve Krakow in READER, Legendary Chicago Experimentalists ONO Confront Centuries of Race-Based Violence on the Transformative Red Summer..
I could write a novel about Ono. This Chicago avant-garde group are one of the great bands, and their story is endlessly fascinating. Few groups that had their heyday in the 80s have come back in the late aughts sounding completely rejuvenated and vital. Most important, they’ve continued to progress, honing their wild experimentation into incendiary, out-of-this-world performances and recordings. Like all great sonic art, their work isn’t just entertainment meant for toe-tapping. In fact, 74-year-old lead singer/whirlwind Travis will tell you he’s not much of a fan of mere “music” at all. Starting with the very first, 1983’s Machines That Kill People, Ono’s records have always been journeys with the power to transform the listener in real time. Such is the case with their latest album, the hyperdetailed Red Summer (American Dreams), which includes several pieces they’ve been performing live in recent years.


Richard Roeper in CST, Recalling Many Jock and Bull Stories.
My own amateur scouting report for the Sun-Times: “He’d be the best guy on your softball team. And the worst guy on the White Sox.” Of course, Jordan never made it to the big club. But on April 7, 1994, the 31-year-old wannabe rookie did play right field for the White Sox in an exhibition against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, with a crowd of nearly 38,000 buzzing like it was a playoff game. He was the one player to garner thunderous applause from fans of BOTH teams. In the sixth inning, Jordan drove in a run with a high hopper just out of the third baseman’s reach. Later, he tied the score with an RBI double and stood at second base beaming like a little kid as he tipped his helmet to the crowd. For all of Jordan’s electric moments in the old Stadium and the United Center, the largest Chicago crowd to see him play ball was actually at Wrigley Field.


Obituaries of the Issue...

Glenn Beckert (1940-2020)
He graduated from Allegheny College in 1962 and became the Cubs’ every-day second baseman in 1965, a role that needed filling after 22-year-old Ken Hubbs, the 1962 National League Rookie of the Year, died in a plane crash before the 1964 season. Joey Amalfitano was the Cubs’ primary second baseman in 1964 and remained with the team in a reserve role after Beckert arrived on the scene. Beckert, who also played for the Padres in 1974 and 1975, was a career .283 hitter. In 1968, he led the majors with 98 runs and won a Gold Glove. He was selected as an All-Star four consecutive seasons beginning in 1969. He led the NL five times in best strikeout-to-at-bat ratio and finished third in the league with a career-best .342 batting average in 1971. He was extraordinarily tough to strike out, being retired that way only 235 times in 5,020 at-bats with the Cubs. Usually batting second in the order ahead of Williams, he had multiple long hitting streaks, broke up a handful of no-hit bids and was known for his clutch hits to right field.
Ira Einhorn (1940-2020)
A big burly man with a full beard and electric blue eyes, he was an early avatar of the counterculture steeped in consciousness-raising, ecological awareness and illicit psychedelic drugs. He dropped acid as early as 1958 and later started a rescue service for people in the throes of bad trips. He also taught a series of free courses, including “Analogues to the LSD Experience.” The Village Voice called him “indisputably Philadelphia’s head hippie” and the city’s “number one freak.” He attracted a wide range of friends, from the Yippies Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman to corporate executives and civic do-gooders. “Ira waxed eloquent about what was happening in the world,” Sam Katz, a former mayoral candidate and Philadelphia entrepreneur, said in a phone interview. “It was the age of Aquarius and the Vietnam War and the generation gap, and he was articulate and dynamic and very approachable,” Mr. Katz said. Mr. Einhorn became a bridge between the anti-establishment and the establishment, he said, often speaking at civic events. But his darker side and a monumental ego were emerging, most noticeably during the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, when 20 million people across the country gathered to draw attention to environmental problems. As two environmental activists later wrote in an op-ed in The Inquirer, Mr. Einhorn had made himself unwelcome at organizational meetings in advance of Earth Day, and then, at the actual event, he “grabbed the microphone and refused to give up the podium for 30 minutes, thinking he would get some free television publicity.”


Thanks to Joseph Pope, Michael Carducci, Mark Carducci, Steve Beeho, aldaily.com, random friends on facebook...


  1. Very interesting that I randomly pulled the Stop & Listen Boys CD on Monday for a listen. Hmm.......

  2. Yawn! Just when I thought I've seen the last of your stupid blog, two more incredibly long and boring posts including a repost by the pathetic FrontPageMag. (Ugh!) Y'know I'm surprised you didn't follow the money and go the hate-radio route like Michael "Savage" Weiner did -- you both have much in common.

    That said though I'm glad to hear that ONO have a new album out. I still dig out my copy of Machines that Kill People occasionally and have played it on my radio show. Sure beats anything by Mountain anyways... Actually I have been listening to Jethro Tull's Stand Up album in the car. Now there's a good 70s rock band that doesn't (I assume) fit your fascistic idea of what 'rock' should conform to.

  3. Incidentally I think Mountain is the worst! "Mississippi Queen" has to be the worst pile of shit ever to be on an FM playlist, and you know it. The only good song on that stupid album Climbing is probably "Theme from an Imaginary Western", the rest of it was instantly forgettable. And you say U2 can't play! My current band pisses on any of that redneck shit you like.

    You sound just like a metalhead berating one of his friends as a "meat sneaker" for liking the band Queen. Which I'll bet is another band you hate. Go on, we all know what you hate. Of course I'd rather be stuck in a room with an endless loop of "Macarena" than to hear "Mississippi Queen" ever again!

  4. thank you for this article I really appreciate this.