Friday, January 28, 2022


Pete Townshend on Discogs
The worst offenders are the truly repellent likes of Yes, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, those bands with wind-up toy time signatures, castrati vocalists and reams of wretchedly vacant philosophizing that was so steeped in skull-fuckingly dull clich├ęs that I suspect even  Edgar Guest would call these guys grunting , formless worms choking down their own fecal trails. Still, there is some of this ambitious stuff that I think works, on their own terms--King Crimson, The Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. The lyrics from all three bands were idiosyncratic and free of pud wilting platitudes, and the music for the three of them was, overall, unique and entirely original blends of marginal influences that, when stirred the right way, created something just as original. Peter Townsend had been called an intellectual so often by both the rock and the mainstream press that I suspect he came to believe and sought to live up the image of the Thinking Artist. The irony was that he already was doing Art, a special and original kind of music; his sagging jock strap of an ego trip with Quadrophenia robbed him of that talent,which is to say his wit, which is to say again, his mojo, saying finally, his pretensions made him hand his balls over to the Muse , who was done playing with him. He never got his groove back. I do think good rock and pop musicians and songwriters can be taken seriously to a degree, but there is always the danger of pomposity and self-congratulating bombast, the inflated sense of importance, that nearly always saps the music of real inspiration and vitality. Yes, even the best of our generation's singer-songwriters have been maudlin, precious and bordering on hard-edged baloney-mongering. But they have a knack, in general, to recover from their worst work and give us something actually inspired, focused, full of conviction. Still, others have not regrouped from their worst efforts. Sting, post-Police, is an auto-didactic tourist in other culture's music; he is lost in his pretensions, lost to us. Joni Mitchell decided she wanted to be a composer and a poet of an extremely diffuse, Eliot ilk and tried to merge meandering imagery with badly conceived, Mingus inspired impressionism; she has been minor league ever since. Peter Gabriel, in turn, has been largely quiet on the solo front and involved himself instead in other projects; this keeps our memory of his music a fond one.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

 Robert Christgau said it back in 1969, reviewing his album “OUTRAGEOUS”:

 “…. Fowley is such a gargantuan shuck that he ought to be preserved in a time capsule. …” 

That line has stuck with me and characterized Fowley for decades, and now it comes full circle where we have an opportunity to examine how the Sixties counter culture produced marginal sorts who were happy to have a niche somewhere in the music greatness of others, and those like Charlie Manson who wanted to change the world into a larger version of their insane selves. It was a crap shoot either way, and lucky for us, Fowley wasn't as crazy as he pretended to be. It's always been my impression that Kim Fowley, who died January 15, 2015, preferred you spoke about him in the past tense when you were in his presence. One imagines he would have relished the chance to eaves drop on what was said at his own funeral.

Only a fool too fast of tongue of slow to truth would argue that Fowley didn't have some kind of observable genius in the happenstance of his life. He was an Ezra Pond sort his era, someone with a smattering of talent themselves who had a more acute instinct for the large talent of others . It can be a tedious thing to hash through again, but it bears repeating that Fowley's greatest masterpiece was creating a series of performance oriented personas, all the extreme, gaudy, tacky, neurotic and, rather, desperate in their attempts to equal the art being produced by artists he was attracted too. Fowley was someone who, like thousands of others at the time, were trying to berserk themselves into genius who, despite hard work and an unblinking commitment to the mask he was wearing, never convinced anyone that there was anything there but an egocentricity that was oddly ingratiating Fowley , I suspect, knew that we were onto his game from the get go and let it remain as such. Fowley was someone who wanted to leave his mark on history and didn't quite much care what damage to his reputation he suffered in doing so. It wasn't damage at, I think he'd have explained to us, since this was a reputation he was reputation he was creating in place of one that didn't exist in the first place. What he wanted was to be known, to be creative, to be a part  of the throng at the higher creative plain. He wanted to leave his mark on history, not change it, not destroy it, not change to course of things to come. He desired to be in the perennial now of whatever was intense at the musical time and space, and to have a sufficient version of his cover story to accompany. He was man who lived his life in the present tense. 

What is remarkable is that he remained in the game as long as he did. Fowley was a fake, which was the source of authenticity. He decided to "act as if..." and never stopped acting.I regard Fowley's whole life as being something like Kafka's Hunger Artist; the man who refuses to eat draws a crowed around him, and it's that artist's job to keep the crowd distracted while maintaining his cover. Fowley kept the mask on but remained an approachable anomaly . No easy thing to do.