“Alright, let’s do this.”
– Phil Oakey (vocals, Human League) and Marc Maron (comic humanist/podcaster)
So yes, it has been awhile, hasn’t it? It has been over nine months in fact since my last installment: talk about your pregnant pauses. All I can say in my defense is that life has its way of tripping you up, in my case both figuratively and literally.
Why, it was only last May that a vicious, foot-eating pothole lying in wait in the middle of the always dappling sunny Panhandle of San Francisco attempted to ensnare me, mostly successfully. A metatarsal fracture they called it, once I had limped to the ER; they gave me a large plastic boot, a pair of crutches and a prescription for Percoset and sent me on my less than merry way. At least one of those items did make me happy for awhile, I must admit.
Seriously though, having never broken or fractured anything on my body in my life thus far, it was quite a jolt and quite the new experience to be physically challenged like this. It is like a squeeze to the heart when total strangers see you gimping by and say, “Hey man, I had that on for six months! Good luck!”
And then, of course, you get the best seats on public transportation. Multiple props to those that I encountered on MUNI. Only one wench gave me attitude in the whole time I had the crutch and boot – wanting to get on the 38 Geary and me struggling off, out of the side of her mouth, “Get off already! Dayum!” May she invert forever.
Anyway: death and unrest and worry pervade these days, the latter two in my own mental circle. I swear to you Grotto followers, I will not make this an honor roll of such stuff, but jeez, Robin Williams?! Never a huge fan of a lot of his work in movies or TV, but the stuff in his standup work at its best and most frenetic got me, and got me hard.
Wait a minute: maybe that’s not the best turn of phrase.
It encouraged, and reinforced what off the grid thought and impulses were and are within myself as a creative human presence. There you go! Thank you! Tip your waitress, I‘ll be here all week! Try the veal!
At heart, though, RW was a serious student of the absurd, and could at his best moments, put it out there to make you laugh, but most importantly…think. Which is what the best of comedians of the cerebral bent accomplish, if they’re lucky.
Ultimately, to paraphrase a writer commenting after the passing of Alex Chilton, that stuff Robin did in a career of thirty-plus years isn’t going anywhere. Take some comfort in that immutable fact.
One more mort (not to be confused with Mork) comment: the guy who was Rolling Stone’s go-to dude to represent for the underground scene during the Punk/Wave era, Charles M. Young, has passed as well.
I always thought Young was a condescending jerk, and did more harm than good in the then creepingly conservative – though transparently still au courant – pages of RS.
You’d read his stuff in their pages, and after while if hip to the jive, one felt that closet case Jann Wenner and his minions said, ‘Oh, this Punk thing is getting attention; naturally we can’t relate, but let’s let this new guy Young be the resident punk booster slash mascot. Let him puke beer all he wants, but puhleeze keep him well away from the sugar bowls of Peruvian flake.’
Young’s most notorious RS contribution was his 1977 cover story on the Sex Pistols: entertaining enough, I guess, if you were attracted to the sensationalist aspect of the Pistols. But really, if one were to read congruent music journo from people actually embedded, even in the buildup to that Jubilee Summer – Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Caroline Coon (go to rocksbackpages.com for evidence) – it was as much about the music as the scandale.
And not to defend him or her, but Malcolm McLaren’s secretary Sophie Richmond nailed Young in her diary of those hot, high times (later published in Fred and Judy Vermorel‘s Pistols book): “this obnoxious reporter from Rolling Stone keeps creeping around”.
So yes, ‘Reverend’ Young (to use RS’s customary byline epithet) was plainly there to play up the destructive tabloid angle, not even acknowledging the power of the Pistols’ music until the conclusion of his piece. Read it for yourself, folks.
A kneejerk and ultimately manageable ‘I’m crazy, me’ type dog-leashed by Jann and his mob, in other words, Charles M. Young will ultimately be remembered for being to music journalism what Russell Brand is to comedy. And as the godfather of the jejune populist apologia of long-winded hacks like Chuck Klosterman. What a legacy, eh?
Beyond that though, come on: after the mid ’70s, were people really looking to RS for news from the street, from the pavement telegraph? Really? We in the new generation of inquisitive kids had fanzines, some of us even going so far as to put them out ourselves (your humble reporter included)…what the hell use was Rolling Stone to us?
I wrote Young a letter in the 1980s – at the time he was writing for the otherwise wonderfully informative Musician (Player and Listener), among other mags – in which I criticized his journalistic style.
He responded, in his return missive, with an invitation to (not in these words) masticate his posterior. I later framed it; the letter, that is.
Charles M. Young later fronted a crap Punk band called Iron Prostate.
So good riddance to him I say, and to yesterday’s papers in piles on the floor of San Francisco’s The Magazine store on Larkin Street now selling at three for a dollar, in the increasingly closed off to artists city where Jann Wenner’s now amnesiac and irrelevant empire all began. Let them, and him, rot.
Meantime: I have contributed to a new chapbook you can find here. And a piece about Southern California’s veteran classy and glassy surf/psych/Wave band The Insect Surfers, for the unfailingly awesome PERFECT SOUND FOREVER ezine site.
What!? I forgot the cool books I’ve been reading and movies too!?
All in the fullness of immediate time, cats and kitties.