Saturday, September 6, 2008

An American Moment

· I sat in my truck in the parking lot of a shopping mall in El Paso; the lights were going out at 9pm. Closing time. The Heart of America. My wife was in there exchanging something - or maybe she and her mom were robbing a jewelry store. I waited for gunfire. Sirens. Cops. I sat watching the dark glow of the mountains and conjuring up my next "rant." Maybe one more parting swipe at the whining shipwreck music biz. Enjoyable. Maybe tell how there are no more music cats like John Hammond senior who signed Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Bruce Springsteen and dozens of others, and stuck to his guns and let them develop. The Godfather. Music thrived. Creativity thrived. It used to be called "A & R."And then I thought I'd point to Nashville as the prime template for the ruination of The Song. I was thinking all you had to do was print out the Billboard Top Ten Country Charts for the past fifty years and you'd see that in 1988, or so, about the time Garth Brooks flew in on his wire, the whole thing went into the shit house. You won't recognize most of the songs after that. Disposable. And then I thought I'd dredge up a metaphor from William S. Burroughs' book: "Naked Lunch" and contend Nashville is a great example of the old carnie routine: "The Man Who Taught His Asshole to Talk." (Pardon my French.) It's a sideshow routine…except pretty soon the asshole begins to talk on its own accord and the man's head and brain and heart atrophy. Ya know? Like Nashville. Like when they told Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones and the boys they were now "credibility artists," not wanted on the air waves. But then, in that parking lot in the heart of America, I made the mistake of turning on the public radio station, and Sarah Palin was railing forth. John McCain's VP running mate? Most of you know I do not enter into political debates…but the drivel coming out of this person's mouth was on par with a white high school senior running for student body president in small town Mississippi circa 1962. Holy shit, John McCain, I use to respect you. Alaska? Governor? Credibility? Cool place, but they'd elect Old Dan Tucker governor, because "he washed his face in a fryin' pan." The dull, red neck, clichéd and infantile right wing banter emanating from this woman!…Lordy, Lordy!'s desperate times out there. Mighty desperate. Go ahead, folks, and vote with your fear in your belly. Order up your fear with your double burger with American cheese and ketchup. Kiss my ass, por favor. I'm gonna register to vote. I shook John Kennedy's hand once and I was on the Letterman show with John McCain and respected him…but…got to register…Holy God. Got to, if I'm ever gonna tour Europe again, with this passport, and expect any amount of respect, I reckon we need a change out there. Bob Dylan's candidate is good enough for me. I don’t abide the fear routine. I don’t abide the faux John Wayne swaggering. Don’t buy it. The breath of the elephant stinks of old shoes, fear, and piss water. The Republicans have wet the bed. It's time to change the sheets.
· My fellow Americans, I thank you for your time.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tom,
McCain and Palin have taken up the self serving mantra of "reformers". Just who do you think they suppose has been running the country the past 8 years? Though I live in New Zealand I still take my right to vote very seriously, and it ain't going to the right. Cheers.

Tom Russell said...

Holy shit. If McCain won...then died. Can you imagine her anywhere near the big red button? Time to look at property in Patagonia South America.

Saddle Tramp said...

Politics, business (music or otherwise) and truth . . . there's no way out. Reading through Burroughs selected essays in his " The Adding Machine " he offers some great political thoughts along with goring several sacred cows in the literature world along the way. He also recounts The Johnson Family from the book that put a rudder on his ass when he was 14. The book was titled " You Can't Win " by Jack Black. An underground classic. A Johnson is good people. Others are shits. Seems to be the predicament we're in now. What is scary is that someone actually thinks it might work. There is a lotta shit out there. Now take Salt Chunk Mary. There was a woman to be reckoned with. Or Boxcar Bertha as told by Dr. Ben L. Reitman. Train whistles across a distant sky. Folks, were are in deep shit. Tom cautioned us about not stepping in the dog shit. I would add that it is a dogma eat dogma world out there. They will try to steal your soul . . . at gunpoint. The fear game. Noam Chomsky delineates this in his greatest hits. Very few true mavericks out there and being a politician beats that by default. It's a deadly game.

" What truth? " says Picasso. " Truth cannot exist " . . .

-ST Hood River, Oregon

editor said...

Just remember folks: We always get the leaders we deserve.

Rosalie Sorrells at Sisters Folk Festival yesterday. Songs and stories of U. (for Underwear) Utah Phillips. God Bless America. I'm voting for her.

She thinks the world of you, TR.

Neil Crabtree said...

I thought Sarah Palin was a character portrayed by Tina Fey. You mean she's real?

The way McCain rambled in his acceptance speech scared everyone. The Republicans stood around stupified as McCain went on a rant that sounded like the Democrats had written his speech for him. It's a shame he did not win in 2000, when Karl Rove and Dubbyah slandered him in primary after primary. He was definitely the better man. Now, as Elvis Costello says to him, "you bowed down."

Saddle Tramp said...

Yes Neil . . . The Senator has bowed and therefore sold out and we are asked to bend over, but not backwards.

Regarding music and everything else:

" T'is gone, t'is gone " . . . Romeo and Juliet

" For I have lived enough to know / The things we never had remain / It is the things we have that go . . . Sara Teasedale, St. Louis poetess who drowned herself in 1933.
The above quoted by William S. Burroughs in his " Paris Please Stay the Same. " where he also recalls hearing Edith Piaf singing " You can hear my goodbye . . . In the whistle of the train . . . "

-ST Pomona, CA

MFAC said...

I really enjoy this blog, not least because you actually write it. So many artists and performers have pages on the internet that are updated solely by their PR departments. The PR departments don't want to lose record sales to anyone – whether they vote Republican or not. I think we need a bit of grit and bite from the people who make our records.
I came to your music a few years ago. Your name kept coming up – so I listened. I think that Hotwalker is fantastic.
I write from Glasgow, Scotland (where I note, you won't reach on your tour later this year – maybe I'll sail away to Belfast) where your ballad for gone America is really a ballad for a dream we never shared. We only saw that America through films and music and literature. Even now – with economy flights and TV – America holds a fascination for me. To live in a country where Jambalaya was more than a song! Where a man can tell your hometown from your boots and you can see things that Bob Dylan wrote about.
Glasgow is a long way from Hollywood, El Paso, Cleveland and Greenwich Village.
But even here in Glasgow we have lost some of our charm. Brightly coloured sweets are now muted with natural colourings and – in most people's opinions – don't taste as good. The young kids don't like music that will last and you can't pick up and drop a casual job without handing over National Insurance numbers and bank account details. We're being ground down like elephant teeth and most of us don't notice.
But that's not why I write to you here. I wanted to say that should McCain win Americans will still be welcome here. The majority of the ones who take the time to leave America and to travel to our small country are obviously not the ones voting against Bob Dylan's wishes.
Incidentally, if you do happen to swing by Glasgow and have room for it I'd love to stow away in your luggage and be unpacked on the train you'll be riding in October.

KCS said...

From the boarder line between the Dakotas to the borderland of Tom Russell's heart.. I send my concurrence with his views on both of these issues. Music missed the mark and thank god for the singer/songwriters like Tom and John and Billy Joe and Jimmy Dale and a bunch of others.... now we deal with the evolution of the unconscious product of our mass marketing and we have Mrs. Palin. As if eight years of Bush did not inflict enough pain on our tortured souls... we have to deal with the possibility of this.. life is not fair but maybe out of the ashes we will rise and recapture the moral high ground and live the life we as citizens of the world should be demanding...

Saddle Tramp said...

Free Speech [ Not ]

Circa 1912 - San Diego

Dr. Ben L Reitman ; Hobo King , whorehouse physician and anarchist who lived in the world of fire and spirit.
During a free speech fight he was escorted by vigilantes twenty miles into the desert, stripped, beaten, tarred, and in absence of feathers, sagebrushed. They burned him with lighted cigarettes, forced him to kiss the American flag and sing the Star Spangled Banner. This did not stop him. He continued on. This was real radical politics. This was gleaned from Roger A. Bruns afterward to " Boxcar Bertha " who told her story to Reitman. The America you won't read in the history books in High School. Too real. Too real for conventions.

Listening to Junior Wells singing " Help The Poor "on the
" Live at Theresa's Hole " album. Theresa's was on the
South Side of Chicago. He sings it and he means it. Still, Junior always carried help that he kept in a Velvet Crown
Royal bag inside his tight pants. Concealed carry. Tom . . .
a thought.


CWL said...

I like your music but can't say I agree with your political views. America is not headed to the shit house like everything you here on NPR tells you. Thanks for continuing to write great music.