Ghost In Me: Thinking about dead ends, dead friends and the Furs in quarantine lockdown on the 4th of July
"I love rocknroll-all the people with nothing to show..." - Jesus And The Mary Chain
"I ain't lookin' for nothin' in someone else's eyes..." - Bob Dylan
"There's nothing I wanna see, nowhere I wanna go..." - Manic Street Preachers
"Don't take More Than You Need" - Paul K.
"I raise my glass to the ugly truth that you can't reveal to the ears of youth except to say it isn't worth a dime." - Leonard Cohen
"I don't want to go out, I want to stay in, get things done..." - David Bowie
"We drink the water and it tastes like medicine... wake up, wake up..." - Richard Butler
DRESSED IN YOUR SHINY CLOTHES
Some people believe I'm excluding them from some par-tay, but there really is no par-tay. Sometimes, I wonder if there was ever a par-tay. Mostly 'been a lot of changing urinal cakes, washing dishes, merchandising endcaps, ruining the knees with constant bending, and always being stressed from the constant threat of Ford truck hick ass ultra-violence. There might have been some nights of frivolous abandon and dressing up and boozy singing, but that was a long time ago .
We did a lot of running in the 80's. We were on foot and those Izod assholes who loved to terrorize us always had cars. Nice ones, too. Fuck. Luckily we didn't really smoke much, back then. Running, running, running, outta breath, past the park. Hyperventilating, heart racing. Whoo. We knew once we made it to Baxter Street, the preppies would not follow us for long. That was the black neighborhood where our friends lived. They were mostly music people, like us-the original rappers and dj's and mix-makers in our part of the country. One of my always supportive and sympathetic fellow artists was a real cool Kangol wearing cat who died of stage four lung cancer this year. I sent him cards but could not be by his side in real life. We were all so incessantly berated with those toxic standards of malehood growing up, men are expected to be stoic ATM machine "earners", at all times, that even when he was obviously very sick and feeble, he was insistently, still struggling, to prove his salt, as a paycheck generating, minimum wage earner, standup guy, at fecking Bob Evans.
One of the smartest guys you'd ever wanna meet, but even he had been so relentlessly programmed, punished, and peer pressured to believe he only had worth, when he was dutifully on the clock in a hairnet and polyester uniform. Even in many of his last most precious hours on earth, he still felt compelled to push that mop bucket for manhood. In this fucked up society, we are all told from a young age how only someone with a nametag and a "J-O-B", two finger snaps, is worthy of life or love. We must be "earners", earning. Lotta people remember him wisely mentoring and teaching and helping and encouraging youth. He was many things to many people-a real teacher, leader. He had nothing to prove, but he was trying to be brave by going back out into the low-wage workforce. It hurt me when he collapsed on the floor while on the job and had to be ambulanced to the hospital. It's a sad and tragic fact that if you fail to consolidate wealth and power in this country, if you have no title or degree or property or prestige, many will abandon you if you fall ill, or run into any hard times. He died in a hospice and I saw a video someone took of him with their phone, saying we have to do better, at caring for one another. He was always right.
That town we came from was a loveless rat-trap. If you were not one of the privileged athlete, "officer material" muscle head frat boys who terrorized us as kids, and you stayed there, it usually went bad for you. Another cherished old pal, my original record store guru, had two strokes and a heart attack, and no one has any updates about him, because the in-crowd all stopped going to see him when he was no longer useful. I've been thinking about this stuff a lot ever since my OMD/Depeche Mode/Atari Baby new wave friend took his own life, about two years ago. He never escaped, and I knew it was gonna end badly. Like me, he'd been loved and hated for his style and personality, but similarly endured childhood traumas, detention-hall bullshit, gang-assaults and maxi-aggressions from jerks who always came in numbers, to behavior modify him for his Duran Duran clothes and big bouffy Stray cats hairdo. One time behind the Doublemint twins house on the dirt trails at the end of Makely Drive, he had some unexpected success fighting off the fuckers, with his martial arts moves when he hadda fight a burly footballer, three or four years older and probably 150 lbs. heavier. In street scraps, he did a lot better than I did, I usually got my glasses broken again, that was their universal go-to, macho-man move, but it was senseless that these goons would always, always follow us past Walden books and Camelot Music into the mall parking lot wanting to humiliate us or beat us up.
The hostility and intimidation tactics directed at us was always irrationally over the top, just so disproportionate for our supposed transgressions. We weren't that much of a threat , we'd while away the hours cutting pictures of English popstars out of Smash-Hits magazine, making collages. The more the yokel Jerry Falwell arbiters of our behavior and appearance, Cagney & Lacey cop-show wannabe, tough talkin', cigarette smoke in your face blowin' juvie probation officers, and PMRC preachers slapped objectionable content warning labels on late night Showtime booby movies and corny music and made everything seem so secular and taboo and sacrilegious, the more intriguing and desirable it became to us rambunctious, dumbass, preteens with bad haircuts. Bring on the centerfolds and cigarettes and Little Kings behind the drive-in, ya know? It really seemed like some of the horrible moms and coaches were calling signals , actively encouraging their winning young ogres to hassle us . Forever insisting we had to get something, some kinda license to rock, authority-figures fixated on molding us into shit we were not, and never would be. They just could not let us be ourselves. Hell, they were even mad that Annie Lennox wore a gender-bender pinstriped suit, ya know?
Me and that kid, we had everything in common, same experiences, pretty similar coping mechanisms. He struggled all his life for acceptance, peer approval, legitimacy/respectability in that fucked up crack town. He took the hick-speed for the 60-hours-a-week factory jobs, he did the forklift operator, carpentry, roofer, leaky basement repair, fence building, slave plantation shit for years, unsuccessfully trying to buy some kinda love. He pinballed helplessly between probation, DUI busts, jail, weed, church, work harder, working. Harder work, malt liquor to come down after a long shift, he was born again, again. And again, and again and again, but historically at least some of the day time tv watching womenfolk he was involved with didn't want no scrubs, they all thought he should be working. Why aren't you at work? He never found someone to accept him, as he was-a wounded synth-pop kid, a shyly affectionate, quiet comedian, who probably should have been in a band, who suffered from depression all his life. I tried in vain to relocate him out of that shithole 3 times, but he always went back to the devil he knew-the hicktown punishment gauntlet. Now they gentrified the cities and got everybody broke and immobilized on pandemic lockdown and there ain't no place left to run to. He had a son who was raised to believe another man was his father. We always think we have time.
A big, beautiful bouncer I knew, who briefly sang for a much younger, very popular hard core band, he was always going to jail for child support, but he was just not making enough money to always pay the ex. He's another benevolent goner I will always miss. The whole bottom of capitalism bartering money for love sickness is bullshit. "At the end of the day, it's the price that we pay with our pieces of love, for our pieces of love."
ALL YOU DRUGGY MOTHERS
I've been listening to the Psychedelic Furs since I was oh, shit-11, 12, 13? that's a mighty long time, but I'm here to tell ya , their new tune, "Come All Ye Faithful" is like my own id, unleashed. He's still elegantly sayin' all the things I feel exactly, to my long gone, fractured and faded, old misfit and black sheep congregation. The Furs are one of the very few bands I might have ventured out and made the pilgrimage to see,before the death plague. What Morrissey means to his cult followers, that is approximately how I feel about Richard Butler. His words, especially, have always spoken to, and for, and about me and many of my former friends and lost loves. He's always helped me make sense of this horribly, irretrievably fucked up war world. You should play his new song-it's a perfect kiss, goin' out in the dark.
First, they chase you out of school with pitchforks and torches, and then, they reappear in middle age pretending to be surprised and befuddled about how you supposedly failed to inherit their indie lifestyles, and closets full of imported shoes, surfin' safaris, and ten thousand dollars of orange flower tattoos. Everybody's indie, nowadays.
Man, I hated grunge. it never meant anything to me, other than an invitation for floods of hockey jock bartenders, and vampire rich kids to squeeze us from our own turf so they could make a fast buck play acting as hipsters for three and a half years before resuming their true vocations as slumlords and shit havers. The only record, aside from Manic Street Preachers, that really stayed with me from the harrowing, dreadful '90s, was that first Love Spit Love CD - just beautiful playing, singing, music and poetry. "Superman" and "Seventeen" have been in my mind since I started thinking about the big Furs comeback, a few weeks ago. It evoked hazy daisy memories of more innocent hours with all my sweetest and dearest friends, kinda like the Pretenders "Birds of Paradise", or that Nick Cave song about childhood. That album was a sonic zen-garden you could sit quietly and reflect in and return to. "I can't believe it's been so long..."
Permanent lockdown and self isolation ain't nothin' new to New Order sulkin', old new wave scarecrows like me. I've been avoiding contact with the brutes and secretaries and nine to fivers since my adolescence. Rod Serling could not have predicted that 35 years later, what was left of the left would abhor Richard Pryor, and become the new temperance-league, pearl-clutching, scolding committees, finger wagging censor-shit Nancy Reagans and Tipper Gores-makin' a list and checkin' it twice. Some of us saw the steadily efficient dumbing down of our people when 6 companies took control of the mass-media and stopped allowing unique voices and working class punks and intelligent rappers with valid messages to be heard on the public airwaves. It all became a bozo buffoon celebrity circus sideshow for no talent lap dancers from wealth and say nothing capitalist rapper opportunists. They eradicated all the old gathering places for libertines and underground culture and replaced it all with trendoid yuppie shit and inaccessibly overpriced 10 dollar cups of Starbucks coffees for pay-to-play yuppie NPR listeners. 'Stationed armed goons all over, to unwelcome anyone who presents as insufficiently middleclass.
Expensive colleges promoted this mutated no fun, uptight, all is forbidden, fake identity program that has voters fixating on nonsense corporate figureheads and their 31 flavors of fascism, ("CHOOSE NOW!") as if, some token, tv host, speech reciter's gender or hue or dietary preference or astrological sign, magically makes mass-murder or mass-incarceration, or even human trafficking and torture, all downright wholesome and folksy okey-dokey, so long as they recruit a few willing participants from slightly varying backgrounds--people lost their critical thinking faculties, became consumerist robots and gentrification brunchers and shameless suckup followers : "They just wanna suck you in to being one of them..." It's far-out, to see so many old faces on social media resurface with pink hair as yoga instructors preaching gluten-free diversity and "police reform" when that very same town full of get mads and obeyers, hounded one so incessantly, for so long, eagerly complied with burnt witch group think. They know they all contentedly stood by while their business as usual status quo perpetuating, brothers, fathers, and celebrated sports coaches administered so many punishments, detentions, expulsions, suspension, exclusions, evictions, blue n yellow bruising beat downs, damage inflicting hate graffiti, and berserk Pink Floyd headmaster rituals upon sensitive weirdoes. All seemingly to the delight of their controlling country club mothers who strategically railroaded the much reviled bigmouthed book-reader out of school for challenging the violent maniac history teacher's white supremacist revisions, and wearing skull earrings in milky white golf shirt suburbia.
Everybody's "Alternative"TM now ,and nobody's sorry. I don't know how many times the future Klansmen and sons of local business owners jumped out of sports cars to knock my milkshake from my hand, or knock me off my girl's bicycle, or push me backwards down the dusty old middle school stairwells, but they broke more pairs of glasses than I could ever count, and the wine sipping power-wives agreed I had it comin', for disrupting the learning process with my chronic dress code violations and talking back to upper classmen. Everyone was a coarse, authoritarian, belligerently bigoted, bullying, blowhard Trump where I grew up, especially the social-maneuvering, drunk on the phone Pelosis.
Bored in lockdown, I saw some Woodstock documentary that made me wanna puke-a buncha mind bogglingly affluent yuppie assholes taking credit for recklessly spending their inheritance on a risky festival 50 years ago. That's the modern-day idea of D.I.Y., when you waste yo mama's money making CD's that no one will ever, ever listen to. Everybody wants us to vote harder for change, next time. Joe Biden has already lost to his fellow Republicans multiple times. He has always been willing to say anything to advance war, or divert the conversation away from income inequality, or to defend the honor of his beloved billionaires, at the top of the pyramid scheme, and their high-salaried, privatized, proxy army hit men. If that is what a "radical leftist" looks like, I know damn sure, that ain't me, babe.
My small town grand folks considered themselves conservatives-which to them, just meant conserving, not taking dumb risks, valuing what you have been blessed with. Hard work, Sunday School, proper manners, neat appearances, they were all rigidly boy scout handbook, and good orderly direction. They were well intentioned, law abiding, family oriented, frugal. He was a WW2 combat veteran who took immense pride in his immaculate lawn. They repurposed and fixed stuff. Grew and canned their own food. Tithed all the time. They thought they were bigtime, Diamond Jim, fancy, high rollers once they could afford steak on Saturday and a hometown golf club membership, but if you saw their house, it was a very humble, ranch style, fifties working class, standard American dreamer home. I inherited an awful lot of their values , but I don't see any of their compassion or character in the Republican party. Hard work, rugged bootstraps individuality, the golden rule, or the notion of not over consuming, or taking more than you need.
The golden rule is right-ON. "AS THYSELF". LOVE THY NEIGHBORS. YOU DIG??
Then, there were liberals-and I thought that was supposed to mean, no nukes and save the whales, right? Equality, peace, freedom, independent thinking, respect for differences, tolerance, inclusivity. Being, as Eddie Izzard says, "relaxed and groovy". LOVE American Style. Right? The Beatles, Jackson Browne, Lenny Bruce, Wavy Gravy's Hog farm. Janis and Jimi and Abbie Hoffman. I don't believe Libya bombing, primary rigging, Assange hunting Democrats stand for any of those traditional, liberal values . Most of them are pro drug-war forced labor prison profits, and want to invade Venezuela, steal their oil, drone more Muslims, grope your granny , read your e-mail, and tell you what to do. And they even try to guilt trip you into silence and consent by trotting out a gay warpig, or a black warpig, or a lady torturer, and telling you that is somehow, progressive. I don't like any text-book authoritarians, or uniform worshippers, so ya know...the cheese stands alone. You don't have to join no cult, or get hazed in to no fear based, safety in numbers, panic herd. I have no intention of being initiated into anybody's thank you sir, may I have another punishment frats.
The bitterly boxed-in robots will always "identify" you as some "other" , but you don't have to believe them. Press the block button, turn off the radio, quit the debate team , unsubscribe. You can believe in yourself , question all received data, bullshit government statistics , dismiss Simon Cowells and Karl Roves and any paid propaganda-whore on tv entirely. Read, ignore all alien orders, listen to your own conscience, make your own music, define your own standards of beauty , help when you can, just do the next right thing, you don't have to follow the rats . You don't need their confirmation, understanding, or a hall pass from the ruling-class . They never loved you, anyways. There was an 80's punk movie about discarded kids who called themselves The Rejected, if you are born into such a caste system, the best thing you can do is get the fuck outta dodge. No promotion or merit-raise is forthcoming and you will never earn their love, with that mop bucket , no years of service or sacrifice, or demeaning and inglorious court jestering, will result in you becoming an equal at their table. Get your own table and be sternly advised that you can not effectively organize resistance movements with management classers monopolizing the airtime with memorized establishment monologs, and you cannot expect slumming cultural tourists to stay in your life past 25. If you were born with too much light in your eyes, you probably ain't makin' the cut. No use in grovellin' or calling anybody on the phone. Go make your own world, according to your own conscience and shake the dust from your shoes. The sports bar people are trained from birth to sniff you out, you will never pass among the hut-twos. The Midwest is like a fanatical cult-you gotta get outta there. When they say class reunion, they really mean CLASS reunion. The voices in your head are calling.
People sometimes tell me I'm a "writer". Caity Johnstone, Glen Ford , Phil Rockstroh, Rich Ferguson are writers. There's demonstrations and demonstrations-listen to the weatherman . 'I'm just an old time punk rocknroller, who never found his punk rocknroll band . People will tell you all kinds of bad shit about yourself, especially, if you ain't got the money , or if you care what they say. Most always, negative, hideous, hateful, disempowering lies. You gotta turn up the jams and tune-in to another frequency. "But. but.. don't you wanna degrade yourself some more, standing outside of Studio 54, begging for their permission to come in?" Nah. I'm good on the stoop. Ya know a forty ounce is $1.59? When we were goofy, pink creeper street punks, all still hanging out on the corner or in the cemetery, it was alot of laughing, ya, know ? Like the Damned song, "Limit Club". The Man had not beaten the fun out of us. We'd grown up on all those 80's wildlife, surfer party comedies, and the Blues Brothers and the Time and Van Halen. If we were howlin' down the highway with a donut in my hand, and the backseat was on fire, we'd be laughing, laughing. I used to miss being in bars and seeing bands and making music and running around, but that was back when my friends were still alive, a phonebook of accidents, there was an audience for sweaty get down. Even some little labels that signed little bands. Now it's just rich kids throwing their parent's money around. It's been reduced to sports, competition, I got more shoes than you. Ain't nothin' out there for me . One of my boyhood protectors killed himself after serving in the military during the first Bush war. Another was brutally stabbed multiple times by Detroit drug dealers , he left behind two sons I've never met, who both look just like him. I got dozens of dead friends-most all the good uns. I kinda lost my sense of humor. I'm just gonna sit here and press play and listen to Echo & the Bunnymen again. And then probably, "Come All Ye Faithful", some more.
In the big cities, there used to be low income tenements and shoddy bed sits by the train tracks for eccentrics in the margins to live humbly and tend to their own little garden and play saxophones, and do their thing, but the bailout billionaires wanna kill us all off. They got the regular richer people "identifying" with them, not us. Pick your preferred billionaire authoritarian oppressor. Prohibiting free speech on college campuses, censoring the internet , labelling indigenous pipeline protestors as "terrorists", thanking cops for kicking us out of our own neighborhood some more, to make more safe spaces for Whole Foods and Target and Starbucks and Trader Joes and luxury hotels and John Varvatos and blocks of empty condos in every city owned by Saudi sheiks. They'd honestly much rather the entire historic downtown sits empty, than to have to ever see lower class unspecials in their PBS legal reefer zipcodes. Half the country is unemployed, teetering on evictions, about to become homeless , but nobody's concerned much about it. Every man for himself.
I didn't know my father until I was a young teenager but he sent me about 5 cool records in the mail for my 13th birthday, and somehow, I managed to hold on to that Furs record for decades before it was lost to one midnight move or breakup too many, some years back, but it's kinda always on heavy rotation inside my heart. I can go directly to it right now, it is part of me. You can't keep everything, but some of those songs and memories and our own intimate shared moments from a long time ago live forever in your heart and I can hear it on full blast, internally, even as I sit here with the fear, quietly listening to the birds and clouds, mumbling about the heat, yearning for relief, wishing I had something positive to look forward to, missing old dirty NYC when I was still young and energetic and filled with desire , and anything still seemed possible. You never cared about "the odds", or about making money. You never cared if you were a trained opera vocalist-Mariah Carey was a joke, nobody like me ever thought once about proper pitch and the big Broadway note-we were into singers like Johnny Rotten and Patti Smith, Texacala, Exene-real voices-people from streets - Gibby Haynes, Ian Curtis, Jim Carroll, Bryan Small, Pat Todd - you did not have to be an acrobatic note hitter to play dirty rocknroll in downtown after hours bars, white trash roadhouses, yeehaw bonfires or scuzzy punk 45's. It was another world. You were not required to wear a hamzat suit to go buy a hot dog, you did not have to show your papers to no brown shirt interrogators, although we were hassled by cops for hours in East Rutherford and Cambridge for dressin' funny and having a spray painted, tiger striped Oldsmobile.
No one groped your granny at the airport for freedom. It was $49 from Ohio to NJ on Piedmont or People's Express. You could smoke in bars. You could jump on a plane and be in motherfucking NYC just like that. The people who were cool, who liked Iggy and Lou Reed and shit, usually were cool. Before Spin magazine and Urban Outfitters sold our underground culture to the rich people in the nineties. I used to pull winos in off the street, you could be cool to people, share a bottle and a can of beans at the hobo jungle bonfire, without them burning your life down, or trying to eat your heart out and be you . I used to wash all the crusty punk street kids clothing for them remembering what a disadvantage it is trying to hustle up basic essentials while you smell badly. I hated being dirty on the street.
My, how things have changed. I can't even get involved, no more. Life's a weird trip man-only life lessons I might got for the kids are, almost all bad news, ya know? People should not be bought and sold like property-that's one thing I still believe. I think we better be appreciative of what we have and stay removed from the frothing hateful throngs. If you have any sentimental attachments in this life, and all their other associates have these really bad opinions of you, as if they've only heard about your alleged flaws, or defects, mistakes or teenage antics in the forbidden zone, that sentimental attachment is probably not really rooting for you, or willing to ever share space with you as an equal. Might not be their fault. They were all conditioned by this torturous, knife-stab culture to think there is some reward for knocking people over and being first in line at the Black Friday Sale, or to get their Special Microsoft Livestock Microchip. Watch 'em race to the redlight, Home-Depot and Hooters. There is no winning, just living. Kindness is still very important, but you can't really save nobody, and if you are pompous enough to believe it is somehow your double-special anointing to fix, or somehow rescue, other people, or change them, you are going to get hurt and waste your time and money. Me, personally I mainly love people from afar, who I know I will probably never see again in real life. My old family and friends. Even strangers like Richard Butler.
IMITATION OF CHRIST
If you ever met Richard Butler in real life, you'd probably want to thank him for all the music that was so ubiquitous in our youth. Furs songs played at the swimming pool, and your basement and at the big city night clubs and on the radio and MTV and in your head and at the indie record store you worked at, providing an excitingly modern and sensual atmospheric backdrop to all of your sweetest childhood romances. That sound was in your head while you looked for synthesizer players in long trench coats with cheap drum machines and took your first stabs at songwriting. He really is a one-off, everybody tried to imitate him. Along with the Go-Go's, Joan Jett, Billy Idol, and the Ramones, the Furs were among the first examples of punk many of us hicks had ever heard, before The Cure or Smiths or Duran or the Mary Chain. "Heartbreak Beat", "Angels Don't Cry", "Pretty In Pink", "Into You Like A Train", "I Wanna Sleep With You", "Ghost In You", "Mrs. Jones", and "Love My Way" made it to most every lovingly tailored cassette mix we ever crafted for our arty girlfriends. They were the great band of our teenage days.
My adolescence was marred by a lot of jealous squares, golf shirted dickheads, uptight Stepford Wives and Tipper Gore anti rock crusaders who perceived me to be some local ringleader of the 120 Minutes rebellion or whatever, because I wore makeup and styling goop when that was strictly forbidden in that county. Back then, anybody unusual, or who looked different, was called, "gay". If that didn't shut you out of their social spheres sufficiently, they'd escalate to accusations of occult practices and demon possession. All deviation from social norms was always considered both gay and devilish. Wild eyes church people would show up at the tattoo parlor we hid out at, trying to pray us into pro war heterosexuality. It was more than a bit loony.
They really knew nothing about me, except I wore makeup, tight pink pants, and frilly shirts. I loved Bowie and Alice, it was no secret. Girls who liked us, had moms who would call the school saying, we were ruining their daughters lives by liking the Cure and having no interest in sports. I was put on probation for drawing new wave logos in my racist whitewash history text-book: "malicious destruction of county property, felony four". You can't make this shit up. I was a depressed kid, a hated loner, unable to cope with the hyper competitive and mean spirited jock school in the hateful white suburbs, I'd been thrust into. I got beat up at least once a week for, years. Queerbashed more frequently than my friends who were actual queers. Didn't stop me from wearing purple and pink clothes though, ya know?
Eventually, after a lot of juvenile probation and behavior modification, I found myself in a ran down rehearsal space in NYC trying my best to please my older friends, an extremely, dauntingly hip couple, who were trying me out for their moody, downtown, black leather band. I was givin' 'em all my sophomoric Stiv, Billy, Butler moves and belting out what must have been really painfully Cult and Sisters Of Mercy derivative lyrics about that one girl, and forever fussing about the hardships of enduring all those unqualified detention hall counselors, superstitious evangelical crazies, sadistic sports coaches, wrestling team bullies, and juvenile court judges. I had to repeatedly keep making trips to the restroom, cupping my hands, and drinking tap water from the sink because I was singing and had no money to buy any bottled water at the corner bodega. My would be bandmates had not offered to buy me anything to drink during band rehearsal because I'd come to town without enough money and had already worn out my welcome on their floor. I'd been up all night with a famous guitar player friend, smoking and laughing and boozing on his free fame-drinks. In the little practice space lounge up there, I saw this dude rummaging around the coffee area, who was politely acknowledging me, kinda half smiling, but I was feelin' kinda surly about things. Upon returning to the stinky rehearsal room, I ranted to my collaborators about how that guy was totally ripping off Richard Butler's whole look and I was sick of all these retro posers in their leather gloves and "Valley Girl" clothes with all the flaps and zippers and snaps. Guitar player smiled at me and just said, "Oh. Yeah. That was Him. They practice here". I'd blown off the real Richard Butler.
A man in my shoes runs a light
And all the papers lied tonight
My first purple apartment burned down the other day, it was an all night riot-house of my own. Finally, after years of sleeping in unheated garages, graveyard bushes, tenement roofs and being forever smuggled into girl's basements in winter unbeknownst to their parents, one of my kindhearted older pals had helped me achieve my own spot, and the art-glass job to pay for it. My own little pad where I could play my own music, stay up late, do my own thing, shelter my death rock and heavy metal delinquent friends, traumatized old Viet Nam vet bikers, part time Par 3-Lounge strippers, aging record store workers, and dorky R.E.M. and Smiths kids. The gay teens, the peeps with disorders and disabilities, the thrash metal dudes with black eyes from abusive fathers, the old school hip-hop crew.
It was an endless procession of laughs, music, embarrassing songwriting experiments, singing, it was a clubhouse, a safehaven for everyone who had no place to go, or did not fit in. We were all avoiding the sportsbar assholes and speed demon muscle car engine gunners and daytime people, ya know? The mall mobs. I had a really sweet, shy, older friend, a hippie soul man, who had taught my generation about sixties garage and psychedelia, blues, punk, and reggae, even if he no longer gets enough credit for it. His folks died and his childhood house had been foreclosed on and the cops came, just like in that Dramarama song, and then his dog died. His ex wife took his kid. So I moved him in with me, and he always stunk up the whole building cooking frozen fish sticks. We spent hours watching old pro wrestling VHS videos and listening to John Lee Hooker. Talking all night about the MC5 and the Clash. He smoked the sweet leaf, I drank a lotta beer. All I ever put in the refrigerator was beer and cheese. He lived on frozen tv dinners and stinky fishsticks. We were poor. Sometimes, girls would come over with big bottles. We felt like moguls when nice chicks brought us pizzas home from work and fed all our really hungry friends. You got beer, pizza, cigs, bubblegum and a heavy metal magazine and a window to look out, you feel like David Lee Roth!
I'm in a mood for you
For running away
Stars come down in you
And love, you can't give it away
All my sacred spaces are being systemically paved over and erased. My little world keeps disappearing-the record stores, little old man dive bars, all the places where we forged my fondest memories. People don't talk about those days too much anymore, 'cause I guess all that puking out the window and running around naked in the bank parking lot below kinda don't go with their airbrushed and photo-shopped grownup professional self images, but if you ask me them was good times, even if my life's highlight reel ain't as glorious as anybody elses and summa the people who act like they were there, at our little punk rock ground zero, weren't even around, yet. Winners write history and one guy who is a high-profile business owner now kinda revises his own version of events, where he was the prime movin' catalyst but he did not start doing his thing until the loathsome rap-metal and grunge years.
That little two room apartment saw a lot of action. First time I ever heard Dogs D'Amour and Mother Love Bone were in that room. It's where I talked some of our more celebrated and successful associates into becoming musicians, in the first place. It's where I kissed that girl, who the Psychedelic Furs were the first thing I had in common with, and ceaselessly mooned over, like Duckie in, "Pretty In Pink". I spent many more years listening to New Order and the Furs, thinking about her than I ever did kissing her. She and the local INXS DJ guy were the ones who helped me paint it purple. Cold Duck champagne and "Talk, Talk, Talk, ". Ya know? Just MTV kids. Garden-variety teenybopper rebellion. In 1986, all these attractive girls in black lace dresses started showing up and expressing romantic interest in me, which was totally surprising and confusing, having been a much loathed Frankenstein for 16 years. All the black wearing Sisters Of Mercy/Siouxsie & The Banshees chicks with the poetry chapbooks and Clove cigarettes, who had zero reservations about bedding down with a drunk wild boy Bohemian in the kitchen pantry that I'd turned into my bedroom after the old hippie moved in. We did acid a lot, had a cheap speed connection, listened to all kinds of great music. Gun Club and Charlie Sexton, Generation X and the Cramps.
Somehow, I even talked four or five kids into playing NY Dolls style garage rock with me, for about five minutes. I was a sight back then, the vice principal had made the cosmetology teacher cut my hair and I was so ashamed of my appearance, I'd hidden in an attic over a friend's garage for about a year, waiting for it to grow back out. I was trying to look like Jagger in "Performance", but had yet to get contacts so I really looked like a goofy and awkward small town kid badly applying hideous makeup ala Kim Fowley and wearing dead old lady blouses from the junk shop. Everybody called me Boy George I still had glasses. Elbow length gloves. Glasses and green lipstick are not a good look. I understood it had something to do with MTV - Pete Burns and Sputnik had arrived, but suddenly, there were girls galore and I became pretty careless and vain and hedonistic and overconfident about my own artistic genius for a couple of years-fugly in pink.
"Who turned the lights out on all I wanted?"
If you were an '80s kid who wore garage sale Hanoi Rocks glam and drank beer underage, the Reaganite parents and PMRC administrators and fear preachers could easily stigmatize and stereotype you by phone tree word of mouth as a Ricky Kasso heavy metal Ozzy cult leader, when really, you're just trying not to get beat up, hoping to get a gang like the Dead Boys goin', and you spend most of your time thinking about Martin Gore and Paul Westerberg lyrics, where to get a 12 pack, and reading library books about Andy Warhol. The tragically unjust part is how the courts could declare you unruly and housewives could call your bosses at work to complain about you, and sportos could bloody your nose all the time, with no consequences-like cops. I had truancy people chasing me like dog catchers, curfews, bad haircuts, and beat downs and paddling's, but in these humdrum towns of the flyover states, the blonde white rich kids could do anything they want, and still be universally perceived as angelic, blameless babies by their country club parents who had to know they had kegs of beer in their sports garages, they were all drinking underage, too.
Whenever higher-borns behave in exactly the same manner, minus the artistic expression or dolls drag, it is universally accepted as campus hijinks and healthy rites of passage. They are not handcuffed or humiliated or strip searched or ganged upon by packs of boys. At some point, Guns N Roses hit and all these foxy bombshells started really throwing themselves at me, and my more androgynous guitar player, and all the jock suburban Bon Jovi dudes lost their minds. They would drive around looking for us, we had to stay indoors. Sports dumb ape-men go nuts whenever pretty girls prefer your company to theirs-even much older males-teachers and shit. Some of the relationships I enjoyed that these macho strangers envied were not really even based on surging hormones, but rather like-mindedness, shared worldviews, innocence and empathy. Books and records. Believe it or not, poetry and lyrics.
Even 40 years later, there are some who think it is unforgivably outrageous that any women might prefer a communicator, to a big truck owner, that is their most fervent religion-owning trucks equals owning women. One thing I never understood about the office casuals and empowered divorcees who kept the order intact, was how they sheepishly invest all their blind trust into whatever fat cat has the most stuff. That still goes on, today. If your own rich friends don't give a fuck about you, and deep-down, you know they don't, how much less do the blue-suited barons behind the drawbridges and moats, care about you? All the gloatingly wealthy one percent, blood-soaked, mass incarceration and war, disease and death profiteers? I had some older biker pals who had guns and the scary arsonist, cat killing, kung fu rich kids did not want to mess with them, so we started spending more time at their biker clubhouse and tattoo parlor for our own protection. Those dudes would drive in formation to see our dead end little band play bonfire shows in nowhere towns.
I started sleeping with a pretty party girl who all the metal-heads were in love with, and she hung out at the metal bar I could not go to, because all the older guys wanted to beat me up. One night she got in a drunken car accident and the parents got on the phones telling all their church friends how it was my fault but, I was not with her. She was probably at that bar with one of the dudes who didn't like me, but rather than ever holding their own kids responsible for their own poor choices, her folks whipped themselves into this hysterical frenzy that the car wreck was caused by another girl I hung out with, because she was the town's only real resident goth, who wore black velvet and liked Skinny Puppy and the Cocteau Twins, so that automatically meant she was a dangerous Diamanda-devil witch, stirring up invisible evil entities, with her black fingernail polish and Peter Murphy albums. They really had it out for me and my spooky girlfriend, the crazy Baptists. I was trying to be like Nick Marsh and Richard Butler, but the authorities and religious people thought I was Marilyn Manson. Years before Marilyn Manson. I spent my life fleeing those hypocrite hicktown power holders and irrationally grudgeful Judge Judies.
ALL THAT MONEY WANTS
She lives in the place in the side of our lives
Where nothing is ever put straight
The main message and recurring theme from all institutional loudspeakers where I grew up in the tank plant town was: poor people are bad and probably deserve to be tasered and billy clubbed, beaten and mocked or, perhaps outright just shot dead in the street, if they failed to become adequately prosperous and connected and Caucasian; or join the army for money to go to college-the only shining path to decency and virtue and home ownership, forever, Amen. As a freakish and geekish preteen, my future marine, Quiet Riot metal dude friend used to call me, "The Flower Power Popster".
From an unusually young age, I'd read library books and been outspoken in my opposition to cruelty, violence, racism, and war, but mostly, I "self-identified" as New Wave. Even as a pre-teen kid, I was regarded by the sports-bar suburbanites as a commie and a queer, but I saw myself as pro Bowie, Prince, the Furs and The Clash. All that McDonna material girl, winning is everything, greed is good , show me the money, Top Gun, 90210, Kardashian corporate programming steadily had it's way with the psyche of a nation, and I saw people flirting with meathead dumbfuckery, sucking up to bad powers, wanting to avoid being made an example of, gradually people were numbing out and joining in, becoming meaner, more opportunistic, out for themselves.
A couple other very beloved childhood friends died. The black one who was murdered at 16 was slandered by the dumb racists - blamed, even in death. I saw the textbook, firsthand-how believers in the system always perceived dead teenage bodies as guilty, suspicious threats, they also somehow had it comin', if their flesh was brown. Then, my best friend from Catholic school passed and all the jocks and preppies who had filled his poor head with all thet never good enough programming pretended to care about his mere cadaver for five minutes, mostly as an excuse to soak up attention from females, look to score some popularity points, or boogify the usual mysterious stranger scapegoat in the black hat. Priest told his mom that his soul was in purgatory but with sufficient donations to the church we might be able to rally up enough prayers to eventually upgrade him to first class preppie heaven. That's really when I started withdrawing my participation.
Good people die and the mad herd just wonders what they can get out of it . The shit hoarding got-mines are more than content to watch talented people die in the gutter so they can take their spot, steal their shit, take credit for their ideas, assume their personas. As Dee Dee Ramone sang, "I just wanna walk right out of this world , 'cause everybody has a poison heart..." The money people hated rocknrollers, or anyone different, or dropouts who refuse to submit to khaki panted conformity. It was like the fucking crusades. If you resist corrupt authority and win some and lose some, you can develop that Joan of Arc hero/martyr complex, for awhile, so be careful, the voyeurs and joiners will set you up. A thrash metal band memorably came to me complaining that the bouncers were being too rough with their young fans and could I perhaps intervene on their behalf, wield my influence, since the celebrity DJ at that particular douchebag bar was one of my close friends and travelling companions. So like a rube, I diplomatically approached the security staff, the boss of whom I'd known from the arcade in the mall, growing up. They splatted me hard on the cement after my briefest sound bite about how moshpits and pogoing really were harmless traditions in the underground music community, and how live bands were good for beer sales , and the thrash kids broke up after the guitarist lost his hand at a rubber factory, and they joined the local Journey covers band with the bouncer's brother. Journey cover bands will always have the last word, in the suburbs. We went our separate ways, after that.
One time a Damned record collecting black-haired goth kid I'd been eyeing as our perfect bassplayer was going through a tumultuous breakup with his angry pole-dancing girlfriend, seemingly over his unemployment and his job application was on my girlfriend's desk at the pizza place she owned, but her sister and her were outta town when he hung himself from a tree, rather than put pepperonis in circles along with me . Nowadays, there ain't much call for goth bassists or peopperoni circle makers . She is gone but the joke's the same. Every Edward Scissorhands big haired blame hound learns that the fleeting illusions of celebrity, joining, belonging, acceptance, all forms of popularity or conditional love are just fickle fools gold. Ya stop doin' stupid human tricks for best in show doggie treats and a pat on the head. Ya can't win em all ' Everybody got so distracted by gadgets and tv and the lust for acquisition no one noticed when they took away all the living wage jobs and affordable housing, and thrust millions on the pavement and all the democrats were in on it. No jobs, no low income housing, and bigger and bigger jails being built everyday. Families broken, separated, young men sent to wars based on lies. They come back here, kill people as cops, kill themselves, or get hated on while houseless in the Pacific Northwest rains, for panhandling near the gentrified hipster's sacred Trader Joe's. The election machines are hackable, the media is controlled. This ain't no party, this ain't no disco and I ain't on the guest-list. My only worldly consolation and continuity in this mascara smeared lifetime has been the PSYCHEDELIC FURS.