Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dark night, open road, Mellon Collie And The Infite Sadness: Or the night we met Lester Bangs

Picture it: Christmas; homestead, high school daughter, middle school son and elementary school son, the three and three only, apples of my eyes and lights of my heart. Gifts passed on, usually forgotten for the most part but many remain as Ultimate Bonding Moments. Bonding moments: the ever lasting effect of parent and child on both parties simultaneously; everybody grows in this moment.

My eldest was a bit of a Pumpkinhead. I guess that is what the Terminal Overload Fanatic Baseline would call themselves, like Deadheads to The Dead. Not a total over the cliff dive into Jonestown Kool-Aid level, but at least someone that picked up on something ephemeral, some vibrations that resonated deeper than others. I had that moment with the same band, the track Disarm from Siamese Dream. So, I was aware of them, but not as much as she was, but she was reared to understand that Goodness Abound Over Here, the passing of the sacred whisper amongst The Chosen Few, the Insiders With Backstage News, and mentioned them on occasions, with attention to some form of Allard Shorthand English that meant, high marks, interesting and you may find something you like.

ASH is the language we speak. All families have their own shorthand, brief comments that speak volumes about a shared experience allowing for a quantum leap in conversational logic and performance.

There was a rumble from the Pumpkinhead Underground of the soon to be leased follow up album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. I was aware of this. ASH speak daughter, "dad somethings coming." ASH speak father, "understood."

At the time, I was working for a small company involved in the design, production, manufacture and distribution for a series of products, of the primary components to make the stuff meant we worked in a warehouse full of nothing but chemicals. Wee tiny bottles for a literal pinch of this or fifty-five gallon drums for a metric fuckton of that. I did the shipping and receiving department, which being the sole employee guaranteed me with little to do and all day to do it during any slow down. So, being paid to be bored is not my style so I obsessively and compulsively made certain that it was spotless (easy than you'd think, mostly a sweep a week was enough) and as close to a huge Skinner Box Maze as possible. When three industrial strength shiny shelving arrived I was told to assemble it to be used exclusively for certain products. I got the dimensions and plotted out a place accessible, safe and simple that also fit into the Maze already in progress.

One never finishes building a maze, I found. Logistically it can be a nightmare unless you are of the mindset that then next factor must be in the original plans based on choices made. Something I learned in about a week: I was actually forced to sit down and re-read The Dramatic Imagination by Robert Edmond Jones.

About that book: it is the only book one needs to understand interior design.

Traffic patterns were the key. All I needed to redesign the maze was total of staff at maximum, and basic job title on occasion to fine tune something. Many of the staff used the company shipping for their own personal bulk mail; management knew about it, and for the most part made it understood it could be used for personal reasons by the staff with approval, which I never heard denied. Regardless: a shipment that needed to be in Chicago by 3:00 PM that day, and no one could make that same day delivery date, so off I went in the boss' Bronco, yippee ki yay, off to the south side of Chicago I went.

Radio. Heading into Chi, reading the signs, found a Rock 'n' Roll station, tuned in and added a soundtrack to a long drive DJ'd by a faceless voice somewhere out in the ether. Different era, different times: the DJ announced that while the Pumpkins next album was being prepared little or nothing was being discussed (including the title). There was, though, a single from that album, which I heard that moment and at least five more times before the end of the day.

Review: Bullet With Butterfly Wings by The Smashing Pumpkins.

I-80/90 east bound, into the sun I drove, the hour difference in time making a suicidal Gumball Rally race scene into a more comfortable into and out of the City Second To None. DJ announced, new single. ASH: daughter comment. Yeah, okay: does this thing go to 11? Check bass and treble levels during DJ babble, all okay, traffic low, crank this mutha up and do it like we did it back in the Motor City: Kick out the jams, muthafuggahs!!!

And nearly drove off the road.

Billy Corgan, vocalist, performer and bass player; pretty much front man. "The world is a vampire." Just naked, out there. Then, before the heart and mind can connect, entire the thunder of a thousand souls stomping in rhythm because Kiss My Big White Irish Ass, there is no reason, there is no issue or event; just naked. Imagine if someone were to use the useless Great Boondoggle Of South Bend for a performance of the best marching bands in the area to choreograph this piece, a military dance moment that will bring Glee and be Pitch Perfect.

Then Billy, after "The world is a vampire" then "set to drain. Secret destroyers hold you up to the flames." The band and Billy are entering the center stage of my brain here. The production is freaking genius. Here, the term "freaking" is meant in the 60's vein, as in freaking out, or Freak Out! which was an LP by Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention. Over here this band is saying got a message for you. Might want to pay attention. ASH daughter, here I am, paying attention.

"And what do I get, for my pain? Betrayed desires *Billy sneaking in a sneer, then back to the Mister Serious artist voice* and a piece of the game. " The band, not in the background, but behind, standing (from the sounds of it) as if they were tired of that guy out there and wanted a good hearty Here I Rock moment of their own... except this is not any moment of contention within the band (like Fleetwood Mac during Rumours), this was a collection of musicians that wanted to play their instruments as if failing to due so would cause (or maybe prevent) Armageddon. Then Billy doing the nasal thing he does to annoy my generation (seriously, Dude? Have a couple of your own!) but not annoying; no, no, this sounded like... could it be, could it be happening as I am listening??

Yep. Kiss My Big White Irish, by Jesus and Glory Halleluiah, it is the Second Coming Of Iggy And The Stooges. Chi is not Detroit, but never did we question the music from there. They knew us and we knew them and during the decade of the sixties, no other region inspired more people to pick up an instrument and just blast it out. I was all over in Detroit tri-county megalopolis, and we all knew that yeah, we created Punk, shipped it out as rock 'n' roll singles and then waited for the explosion. John Sinclair, where are you? I got questions, dammit!

Then: "Even though I know - I suppose I'll show
All my cool and cold - like old Job."

Holy Crap, he brought out the Old Testament! Seriously? I heard that Bible reference and sat the hell up all "YES SIR! NO MA'AM!" Throughout, the band is Right There, approaching full boil, maximum r 'n' b, is that ... is that The WHO? No, ah... but yes. Yes! YES! YES!!!!"

The Who instead of The Stooges with Iggy instead of Pete or Roger. Then they howled. At once, unison harmonic imbalance The Watusi The Twist and sonuvabitch, someone from my daughter's generation (if only via the media as collective soundtrack) the entire band decided to grab my balls and hammer crush while demanding that I listen and if I dare, join in.

"Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage."

Holy Mary Mother Of Jesus, tap the Elixir Keg and get out the Fatted Ambrosia, it is social orgasm time, the happy ecstatic release of collective instantaneous joy and rage and hate and pain and God Damn You Listen To Me I Am Pissed And I'm Mad As Hell And I'm Not Gonna Take It Anymore and fists in the arm and jumping.

Overall response for the TLDR pinheads: Wuz gud.

Flash forward. CD comes out, I buy it for my daughter. We go to Battle Creek for the Christensen (and other, unimportant social unworthies) Christmas Orgy.  This n that n tother thing, nothing film worthy for entertainment and torture. Wife gave me a wee CD player, two speakers and cigarette lighter plug. Cool, I like it, retro and current at the same time. Perfect to the vehicle, 1978 Dodge Aspen four door, maroon in color, standard 6 cylinder, dependable mostly as a reference for timelines. Barb got a present from her uncle Ralph, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, her second copy of the day. She glanced at me, we locked eyes, I made a bright smile and a nod. Non-verbal ASH; daughter smiled like she meant it and did, and thanked them because the album was on her wishlist for that year. She expressed what I perceived as an honest reenactment of her initial response. We both had to leave early, hopped into the Aspen and drove home. While I was plugging in the CD player for the first time, virgin use, she was getting out the CD. Asked: What do I do with the other copy? Answered: Keep it or this one, I'll take the other and I will buy you something else as well.

We played the discs.

When we got home, the second disc had finished. We were rather stunned at first, this was a massive, sprawling monster mess, gutbucket but slick production, no piece of the human condition unexamined in one form or another, a massive massive Grand Opus that vaulted past Masterpiece (conveying here the original sense, look, I am one of you... Yep, the kid fits!") into Moment Defining Entire Work Of An Album That Would Survive A Plane Crash! If the band had collectively died in a group masturbatory action that required the potential and eventual of death by asphyxiation, their place was secure. Here is one for the vaults, the Must Have, Must Share album that really needs more attention.

Oh. And the CD player just died. Stopped, shorted out, the magic grasshoppers chasing each other on a tiny wheel or however the hell these things work (a lot of the laser technology physics confused the hell of me!) but the damned thing just ceased to function. Blah. I said, as I recall, something like, Great, what do I tell your mom? It played a pair of discs one time and then failed.

Then my daughter said, "Rather poetic, though. Right?"

This is where we met Lester Bangs. Played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Almost Famous, some of the old legends returned to me. I read Circus because it was a studio rag promoting whoever was The Next Big Thing or the latest from The Reigning Kings. Bangs wrote for Creem: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine.

Boy Howdy. Okay? Boy Freaking HOWDY!

Bangs wrote with the mad passion of the lover possessed by a succubus, sweating and heaving in throes of ecstatic memory implant and forcing himself onward, ever onward, faster, harder, louder: "Detroit Michigan is the place to be!" Uncle Ted said that.

Bangs breathed fire, he ejaculated and he redefined the extant of how far someone can push their own boundaries, full on Man On A Soapbox Howling Into A Hurricane Holy Man, praise Jesus, glory, glory hallelujah.


Follow your bliss, if you seek balance. Move with gentle goodness, bring in all possible sources, never stopping for there is no end in this road if done properly.

If you are tired, weary and brokenhearted, though, broke down and heavy laden, well, that bliss is going to look different. That bliss has a requirement, to go, to seek and do, active in all ways, bringing forward the moment when all hearts beat as one, and the room is full of wild and happy souls, jumping and rejoicing in unison and harmony. And when you find this, this rock 'n' roll fantasy, and it removes the pain and brings its own gain then you must bring it to the table. Let everyone in on it, 'cuz when it is good it moves mountains!

March, if you feel the need. Gather and weep, laugh and heal. Whatever. Burst forth into song, find a way to make someone smile or laugh. Push aside the bounds enforced upon us all in the Global Skinner Box Corporation. Let it out, bring it out, and let the chips fall where they may.

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