Prog Rock So White, So What?

me_josh_ian_procol_harumThe cultural apparatchiks can’t figure out if it’s worse for white people to “culturally appropriate” the styles, customs, and musics from various racial and ethnic groups or to avoid them. If you do the former, you’re diluting them with your lack of understanding and context, and thus you’re racist. If you do the latter, you’re showing in-group preference, and thus you’re racist.

So, when the very Anglo Saxon sounding James Parker writes for The Atlantic that “prog rock is the whitest music ever”, what is his point, other than he doesn’t like progressive rock very much? He begins by talking about a prog rock themed cruise that’s taking off from the port of Miami.

“We are the most uncool people in Miami.” So begins, promisingly enough, David Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock. Weigel, along with 3,000 fellow Yes-heads, Rush-oids, Tull freaks, and votaries of King Crimson—cultural underdogs all, twitching and grimacing with revenge-of-the-nerds excitement—is at the port of Miami, about to embark on a five-day progressive-rock-themed cruise: a floating orgy of some of the most despised music ever produced by long-haired white men.

Despised by who exactly? He goes on:

Do you like prog rock, the extravagantly conceptual and wildly technical post-psychedelic subgenre that ruled the world for about 30 seconds in the early 1970s before being torn to pieces by the starving street dogs of punk rock?

Absolutely. Blame Hawkwind, Can, and Van der Graaf Generator for that. I suppose you could also blame Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath if you think they scrape against the progressive rock genre; Sabbath DID hire Rick Wakeman to play keyboards on Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath, and the album has the weird sounding, Moog filled “Who Are You?” on it, while Alice Cooper blatantly said that he and his early band wrote the eight minute, multi-part epic “Halo of Flies” to impress the prog crowd. But you know who you should REALLY blame? Johnny Rotten. That’s right, the former Sex Pistol, who reverted back to John Lydon when he launched Public Image Ltd. in 1978, talked about how his favorite pre-1975 bands were all of the above mentioned. Hawkwind, the band Lemmy was in before he started Motörhead, was my gateway drug into all things nerdy and progressive. Their songs are long and jammy like progressive rock, but driving and aggressive like punk rock or metal; check out “Brainstorm” if you wanna hear thirteen straight minutes of spacey, Stooges-style, proto-punk aggression.

As anyone with a cursory knowledge of rock history knows, John Lydon was spotted in the Summer of 1975 walking down a London street wearing an “I Hate Pink Floyd” t-shirt, which lead to his landing the Pistols gig. But, if he HATED Pink Floyd (in actuality, he doesn’t), and Hawkwind COVERED Pink Floyd – “Cymbaline” – then that’s a bloody contradiction, innit? On top of THAT, Lydon openly and often talks about how he loves the very progressive Van der Graaf Generator. Listen to Peter Hamill’s singing, such as in the song “Killer”, and you know where post-Pistols John Lydon got his caterwauling vocal style from.

And so, I realized it wasn’t 1977 anymore, and my punk/prog tribalism was torpedoed FOREVER!!! There isn’t THAT big of a leap from Sabbath to the King Crimson track “21st Century Schizoid Man”, with its heavy metal riff and bonkers jam out section. And, although Crimson use a saxophone in “Schizoid Man”, Hawkwind, X-Ray Spex, and the Butthole Surfers incorporate saxophone into their sound as well. Pretty soon, I was aurally scarfing down the music of Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Gentle Giant, Gong, Nektar, Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come, Greenslade, Egg, Kayak, Fuzzy Duck, and Atomic Rooster, along with German progressive rock acts like Eloy and Birth Control – which shouldn’t be mistaken for kraut rock bands like Can, Kraftwerk, Neu!, Faust, Amon Duul 2, Cosmic Jokers and Tangerine Dream – Italian bands like Goblin, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, New Trolls, Area, Maxophone, and Premiata Forneria Marconi, and of course the extremely weird French band Magma. I also really dig the fantasy art of Roger Dean, which decorates the album sleeves of Yes, Uriah Heep, Budgie, and Osibisa. That’s right, James Parker, I listen to Osibisa, an all black group of African expatriates! How’s THAT for virtue signalling?!

So, to answer your original question, yes, I like prog rock. But go on…

Do you like the proggers, with their terrible pampered proficiency, their priestly robes, and their air—once they get behind their instruments—of an inverted, almost abscessed Englishness? I don’t.

You don’t say…

At least, I think I don’t. I like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which is a kind of wonderful satirical compression of prog rock, a fast-forward operetta with goofy existentialist trappings and a heavy-metal blowout in the middle; I like the bit of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells that became the theme music for The Exorcist.

Actually, Mr. Parker, the Jethro Tull album Thick as a Brick is a spoof of self-important progressive rock conceits; that’s the album with the newspaper sleeve, which features a phony story about a nine year old boy, who wrote a poem that the Jethro Tull members thought was so brilliant, they used it as the lyrics for their album. In case you couldn’t guess, that was a joke. But you ARE right; “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a very good song, if a bit overplayed, and I like Tubular Bells as well.

Hated, dated, sonically superannuated … One could enjoy prog ironically, I suppose—listen to it with a drooping and decadent ear, getting off on the fabulous obsolescence, etc.

“Hated, dated, sonically superannuated”? What, are you Bob Dylan now?

Prog as a wild chamber of experimentation, a sci-fi trespass across the limits of popular music, driving clear of fashion and orbiting the Earth forever. Awesome. The problem comes, for me, when I actually listen to the stuff. Is it not a form of aesthetic dissipation to praise something for its ambition and its bold idiosyncrasy when that something is, objectively speaking, crap?

Okay, so you don’t like it. Nobody’s forcing you to listen to it, but when exactly did musical taste become “objective”?

Gentle Giant, in 1972, took a poem from Knots, a book by the great heretic psychiatrist R. D. Laing, and turned it into an intricate, multivoice chant: It hurts him to think that she is / hurting her by him being hurt to think / that she thinks he is hurt by making her / feel guilty at hurting him by her thinking / she wants him to want her. The idea is great on paper. But listen to the song, to its scurrying, fidgety instrumentation, its fussy avoidance of anything like a melody. It is not enjoyable. At all. Magma, the French prog band, invented not only its own L. Ron Hubbard–style cosmic origin story but its own language (Kobaïan, which reads like a sequence of Gothic expletives: Nebëhr gudahttKöhntarkösz). Again, very creative. But run, oh run, from the music.

Blah, blah, blah… Gentle Giant is actually VERY enjoyable. In fact Sherman Hemsley LOVES ’em, and you’re not going to argue with George Jefferson, are you?! More on point; Magma IS a very weird band. But their weirdness is fun, jackass. I remember driving around with my friend in our little burg near Detroit, blasting Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh just to annoy people.

Eventually James “so Anglo Saxon it hurts” Parker attempts at cycling the piece away from his personal bias and back to what is allegedly the point of the article.

“We’re a European group,” declared the lead singer of proto-proggers The Nice in 1969, “so we’re improvising on European structures … We’re not American Negros, so we can’t really improvise and feel the way they can.” Indeed. Thus did prog divorce itself from the blues, take flight into the neoclassical, and become the whitest music ever.

Well, ACTUALLY, that’s not entirely true, and even if it was, who cares? Soft Machine (why didn’t I mention them above?) incorporated jazz into their sound, and if Jethro Tull, King Crimson, and Uriah Heep were as metal as they were progressive, then there’s no way in hell they abandoned blues. On top of that, Deep Purple, who I guess also straddles the fence between early heavy metal and progressive rock, started playing goddamn soul music on albums like Burn and Stormbringer. In fact, this musical change annoyed original Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore so much, he quit the band because of it and started Rainbow. Oh, and you have heard “Money” by Pink Floyd, haven’t you?

Parker goes on to complain about Procol Harum incorporating elements of Bach into “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and then spends the rest of the paragraph bitching about Keith Emerson making cool sounds with his Hammond organ before replacing it with the Moog synthesizer, as if that violates some sort of anti-Hammond/anti-Moog code of honor. To be fair, Keith Emerson’s playing in ELP gets a little dense, leaving little space in the music for my taste, and it turns out Vincent Crane, former keyboardist for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and band leader for the criminally underrated Atomic Rooster (how underrated, you ask? Check out the groovy ass “Break the Ice”, and see for yourself!), agreed. So, Parker, there IS a system of checks and balances in prog. On top of that, I don’t like how Emerson, Lake and Palmer couldn’t think of a better name for their band than just their last names separated by a comma and an “and”, but hey! At least H.R. Giger did the artwork for Brain Salad Surgery. And no, “brain salad surgery” isn’t an ethereal and philosophical concept; it’s slang for a blowjob.

Fiending for technology, vivid with turbulence, he went from the Hammond organ to the freshly developed Moog synthesizer. (The proper pronunciation of Moog, I recently discovered, is “Mogue,” like “vogue.” Perhaps prog should be pronounced “progue.”)

QUIT YOUR DAY JOB RIGHT NOW AND GET ONTO A COMEDY STAGE, YOU COMEDIC GENIUS!!!

Money rained down upon the proggers.

Horrible!

Bands went on tour with orchestras in tow; Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Greg Lake stood onstage on his own private patch of Persian rug. But prog’s doom was built in. It had to die. As a breed, the proggers were hook-averse, earworm-allergic; they disdained the tune, which is the infinitely precious sound of the universe rhyming with one’s own brain. What’s more, they showed no reverence before the sacred mystery of repetition, before its power as what the music critic Ben Ratliff called “the expansion of an idea.” Instead, like mad professors, they threw everything in there: the ideas, the complexity, the guitars with two necks, the groove-bedeviling tempo shifts. To all this, the relative crudity of punk rock was simply a biological corrective—a healing, if you like.

Bitch, bitch, bitch… I’m guessing Parker hasn’t heard “Roundabout” by Yes. It’s got plenty of that “sacred repetition”, which makes a song hooky, enjoyable, and memorable. On top of that, I wonder if Parker has heard prog/punk hybrid groups like Nomeansno or the Jesus Lizard, who combined “the groove-bedeviling tempo shifts” with “the relative crudity of punk rock.” Though, he’s got a point; neither of those bands ever used dual neck guitars.

Also, economics intervened. In 1979, as Weigel explains, record sales declined 20 percent in Britain and 11 percent in the United States, and there was a corresponding crash in the inclination of labels to indulge their progged-out artistes. No more disappearing into the countryside for two years to make an album. Now you had to compete in the singles market.

So, music has to sell a lot of records for you to like it? But, punk rock records NEVER sold as much as progressive rock albums… unless we’re talking about Nirvana, the Offspring, and Green Day, and I know we’re not, so what’s your point?

Some startling adaptations did occur. King Crimson’s Robert Fripp achieved a furious pop relevance by, as he described it, “spraying burning guitar all over David Bowie’s album”—the album in question being 1980’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).

Okay first all, Fripp had already played some fuzzed out licks on the Brian Eno album Here Come the Warm Jets, which, like a Bowie album, is full of succinct and catchy pop rock tunes, only better (yeah, Eno is better than Bowie, blow me.). But, if Parker wants to talk about “adaptations”, then he fails to mention the 1981 King Crimson album Discipline, in which Fripp and his group absorbed the neurotic, jittery, and deliberately stilted new wave influence of David Byrne, along with the Talking Heads’ synthetic businessman attire. Check out their Fridays performance of “Elephant Talk” if you don’t believe me! It’s AWESOME. Now, I’m no Fripp apologist; King Crimson have done their share of unlistenable, pretentious crap (Lizard, Islands), but when they nail it, hoo boy, do they nail it (In the Court of the Crimson King, Red, Larks’ Tongues in AspicDiscipline, The ConstruKtion of Light, The Power to Believe).

Yes hit big in 1983 with the genderless cocaine-frost of “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” And Genesis, having lost ultra-arty front man Peter Gabriel, turned out to have been incubating behind the drum kit an enormous pop star: the keening everyman Phil Collins.

Okay, yeah, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” IS a pretty catchy song, but is Parker actually praising the artless, easily listening muzak of Phil Collins OVER the weird and experimental Peter Gabriel?! Dude, if you want to LARP the 80s, coke-snorting yuppie lifestyle, there is FAR better music to do it to; for instance, Avalon by Roxy Music.

These, though, were the exceptions. The labels wanted punk, or punky pop, or new wave—anything but prog.

Except that, with the exception of a few noteworthy new wave or crossover acts like Devo, Blondie, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, the Stranglers, or the Police, punk rock never sold any records, and labels stopped wanting it after three years of watching it fail commercially. Sire only kept the Ramones on as a tax write-off.

“None of those genres,” grumbled Greg Lake, retrospectively, “had any musical or cultural or intellectual foundation … They were invented by music magazines and record companies talking together.” Fake news!

Parker can’t resist taking a swipe at Trump supporters with his “fake news” quip, as if Greg Lake said something that’s SO preposterous. EVERY genre or sub-genre is invented by the journalists and record labels, who group bands together into made-up tribes. For the journalists, it creates a sense of cultural or, I guess, sub-cultural cohesion, and for the labels, it helps sell records.

But the change was irreversible: The proggers were, at a stroke, outmoded. Which is how, to a remarkable degree, their music still sounds—noodling and time-bound, a failed mutation, an evolutionary red herring. (Bebop doesn’t sound like that. Speed metal doesn’t sound like that.)

Damn, dude… did you catch your girlfriend cheating on you while Close to the Edge was playing in the background? Speaking of Close to the Edge, have you heard the nutty first two minutes of “Close to the Edge”? If you don’t like THAT, then you know where you can stuff your “red herring.” By the way, if you’re using speed metal (or its close cousin thrash metal) as some sort of barometer with which to measure musical “evolution” by, then I’m guessing you’re not aware that most thrash kinda sounds the same. And this is coming from a fan of Motörhead, Venom, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Voivod, Exciter, Exodus, Overkill, Sodom, Kreator, Destruction, Sepultura, Onslaught, Possessed, Celtic Frost, Suicidal Tendencies, Corrosion of Conformity, and S.O.D. (but NOT Anthrax, sorry).

I feel you out there, prog-lovers, burning at my glibness. And who knows? If the great texts of prog had inscribed themselves, like The Lord of the Rings, upon my frontal lobes when they were teenage and putty-soft, I might be writing a different column altogether. But they didn’t, and I’m not. The proggers got away with murder, artistically speaking. And then, like justice, came the Ramones.

You do realize that the music of the Ramones is AS white, if not whiter, than virtually any prog band? According to Johnny Ramone’s obituary in the New York Times:

Mr. Ramone once described his guitar style as “pure, white rock ‘n’ roll, with no blues influence.”

Maybe Women Just Aren’t That Into Metal

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Nope, not thinking about how she looks at all!  Totally just admiring the playing of Alice Cooper’s guitarist, Ms. Nita Strauss!

What do comic books, science fiction, roll playing games, anime, video games and heavy metal all have in common?  Think really hard about it.  So, where most intelligent people, I would think accept the fact that men will outnumber women in all of these nerd intensive hobbies by default, there will still be that Social Justice parasite, that interloper that exists for the sole purpose of ruining the fun and joy that these things bring by accusing their practitioners of not being inclusive enough.

I stumbled upon this article titled “Metal’s Problem with Women Is Not Going Away Anytime Soon“, written by a Kristy Loye for the Houston Press.  With her obviously lazy research and her almost entirely complete lack of knowledge or insight, she levies some strong accusations against the metal genre and the people who listen to it.

In the article she concludes that:

Many bands either openly encourage violence against women or fail to support legitimate female fandom, but it certainly doesn’t end there. Female metal bands are rarely booked on national tours and practically ignored by the media — and worse, the ones who make it that far get ridiculed or sexualized.

In other words, as of November 11, 2015, according to the article, metal has their proverbial Jodi Fosters up against the pinball machines.  Now, how much does the article reflect reality?  Before one even gets to the actual article, there is a picture of a band called Halestrom, who feature three faggy looking guys with nice, swooping hair cuts and a hot broad with fantastic legs, wearing those hot patterned tights that do wonders for my libido.  Beneath the picture, the caption reads: “Question: how many metal bands featuring female members — besides Halestorm, shown above — can you name?”

Let’s see.  I can name Girlschool, Rock Goddess, Bitch, Bolt Thrower, White Zombie, Blood Ceremony, Kylesa, Electric Wizard, Acid King, Arch Enemy, Huntress, Demonic Christ, Triptykon, Nashville Pussy, Jucifer, Madam X, Lita Ford and, if we want to plumb the depths of shittyness, we can even dredge up nu-metal bands like Kittie and Otep just to prove this point.  But, what point are we trying to prove?  That metal music doesn’t have enough women participating in its creation?  That this in and of itself is some sort of indication that the metal genre, as a whole, is deliberately trying to keep women out?

She then continues with this “observation”:

Even metal fandom is exclusive. Women who are metal fans come under the constant scrutiny of male metal fans, and have their motives questioned. They’re either assumed to be a poser or a girlfriend, no more than a fan by association. Often they must prove their fandom to suspicious men who require authenticity. Ridiculous.

Is that how it is?  Because, this very weekend, I was at the mighty Detroit metal/hardcore/noise/whatever festival called Berserker fest, which a.) was run by Child Bite singer Shawn Knight and his wife Veronica, b.) had plenty of women at the gig, c.) had no instances that I recall where men accused women of not being “legit” and d.) involved me partying and drinking with two metal loving women, my friend Wendy and the mighty Dawnowar, former fan club operator for Manowar.  And if there’s one band a person can claim to be blatantly sexist, it’s them.  According to Dawnowar, her experience working with Manowar might have involved quite a bit of assholishness on the part of embarrassingly not-self aware bassist/spokesman Joey Demaio, but sexism and sexual harassment were not part of her experience.  And we’re talking about the band who wrote this song:

But, assuming that is the case, where women are scrutinized more heavily to see if they’re truly part of the club or not, that’s par for the course.  Metal – and we’re talking the more extreme side of metal, not mainstream hard rock bands like Def Leppard or Motley Crue – is an outsider form of music.  Outsider music, art and hobbies always attract more men than women.  Studies show this.  In fact, you’re more likely to find women who listen to extreme metal than who like the confusing, often messy sounding jazz-fusion noodlings of Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart.  Sure, you will find women who are into these things, but, if we’re going by the law of large numbers, it’s not as likely.

Then of course the author brings up the obligatory “objectification” argument:

For many years, metal’s message to women has been one of assignment: you can be a groupie, but not a fan or serious musician. It has failed to support women in any capacity besides as live props — objects, not subjects. It’s also guilty of encouraging a Hooters-like, bikini-model, stripper-girl atmosphere in general.

Maybe that attitude was more prevalent among glam metal musicians, so she’s not even really attacking her intended target, since anyone can attest that none of what she described happens at thrash, death, doom or black metal concerts (I wish it did, though!), but, if they did, there’s two things to say about this. 1.) When women decide to strip onstage or expose their breasts while perched atop their boyfriends’ shoulders in the audience, that is their decision; the band doesn’t make them do this.  In fact, a member of the Scorpions said that it is only in North America where this occurs.  On top of that, the groupie phenomenon is another example of the genetic differences between men and women.  Women who become groupies want to be groupies.  Popularity makes a man more desirable; or as Paul Stanley of Kiss once said, “we can do in one evening what several men spend weeks or months trying to accomplish.”  But, 2.) that “objectification” alone never prevented women from participating in music.  Lemmy, the biggest hornball of them all, still backed all girl band Girlschool simply because he liked them.  While, there aren’t many women in hard rock and heavy metal dating back to the 70s, except for maybe Heart, there has been considerably more involvement since then, and I still put the onus of becoming a musician and being in a band strictly on the women.

She continues with more tripe about female bands not headlining festivals and male fans not cheering for women.  Again, while the former is true; not many women headline metal festivals, it’s not out of some alleged discrimination; there just aren’t that many female musicians in metal and no festival promoter is going to top bill a band just to fill an affirmative action quota.  As for the second case, get over it; men cheer for bands they like regardless of the genitalia of the members.  If the members are attractive, then it’s a bonus.

And then comes the argument of the lyrics, which allegedly promote rape and violence towards women.  She makes some reasonable observations, siting some pretty damn violent lyrics by Cannibal Corpse.  But, does the band harbor an anti-woman agenda?  Are they trying to get their fans to rape and murder women?  Hardly.  I saw Cannibal Corpse once and singer George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher said onstage, “this one’s for all the ladies, it’s called ‘FUCKED… WITH… A… KNIFE!!!'”  Did the male audience members start fucking all of the women with knives?  No.  Did women feel that the male audience members would go and fuck them with knives in the parking lot?  No.  Has “Fucked with a Knife” by Cannibal Corpse led to a rise in husbands fucking all of their wives with knives?  No.  I maintain, that if you’re offended by what you hear, then don’t listen.

But, because the author of the article isn’t even good at cherry picking her “evidence” of a prevailing anti-female lyrical trend – I can find a few more examples of anti-female attitudes from metal bands, like the above Manowar song or just instances of violence towards women, such as in the rape themed, “Sex, Murder, Art” by Slayer – she sites the profanity free, PG-13 lyrics of Alice Cooper?!

The problem is nobody is taking offense to these violent lyrical themes. And if they are, they’re not speaking up about it. Alice Cooper was once quoted as saying, “There’s more blood in Macbeth than in my shows, and that’s required school reading.”

Yet there’s a stark contrast between the macabre theatrics of Cooper’s guillotine and lyrics that detail physically ripping open a woman through forced sexual contact and watching her die as a result. And even if Macbeth was bloody, it was a statement on the will to power and the attraction to corruption…and did Alice Cooper just compare himself to Shakespeare?

This last part about “forced sexual contact” is a lie.  The woman was dead for crying out loud!  And, on top of that, the theatrical piece was set to “Cold Ethyl”, a song about fucking a corpse.  So, if anything, her beef should be that Alice is promoting necrophilia!  But, on top of that, she has to throw in some slick, snarky condescension.  Alice indeed compared his show to Shakespeare, which was the popular entertainment of the Elizabethan era, and also featured some tasteless humor.  Alice has also been praised by Bob Dylan as an underrated songwriter, so you can take your “intellectual” credentials and shove ’em up yer arse!

Ah, but there’s hope after all!

Believe it or not, some bands do self-correct. Some men will stand up for women and understand that women can be equal partners in artistic expression, even in death metal. We love those men.

Speaking to Andy Marsh, guitarist for Thy Art Is Murder, he makes no attempts at backpedaling or defending the lyrical content of his band’s 2008 release, Infinite Death, which contains lyrics like, “I’m inflicting bloodshed upon bitches/ just because I hate the female race…women were born to be fucked.” In fact, he agrees they were abhorrent, and his level of discomfort with the band’s previous sexism was apparent.

Abhorrent?  How about just retarded?  But, feel free to “self-correct.”  Your lyrics will emancipate all of the women from this awful patriarchal society, in which women have their clits cut and are forced to wear burqas.

Even Whitechapel, due at Houston’s Scout Bar next Monday, has followed suit. The band responsible for such lyrics as “I ripped her fucking limb from limb,” from 2006 LP Somatic Defilement (“Vicer Exciser”), has now turned away from misogynistic lyrical content. It wasn’t easy move for a band named after the area of London where Jack the Ripper murdered at least five women, but the band felt it was a necessary move. (Right on.)

Right on!  Don’t ever sing about anything unless someone with a vagina approves of it.  You will be re-educated to think like them and they will arbitrate the correct things to sing about.

Metal is not alone in its ostracism of women — its close cousin, punk rock, was completely revamped 20 years ago. Back in the ’90s, female punk fans and musicians are credited for riding the third wave of feminism and forming their very own subgenre, Riot Grrrl, with bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and L7, a spirit that even surfaced in Russia a generation later with the rise of Pussy Riot. When those women wanted opportunities in the punk scene that didn’t already exist, they simply created them. Yet even that scene wasn’t created in a vacuum.

This paragraph is a complete lie and further exemplifies the ignorance of the author.  Punk rock NEVER ostracized women and, since the mid ’70s, had more women involved than metal on both of sides of the Atlantic; Siouxsie and the Banshees, X-Ray Spex, the Adverts, the Rezillos, the Slits, Vice Squad, Penetration, the Runaways, Blondie, Patti Smith, X, the Germs, the Avengers and the Bags are just a few examples; those don’t even count New York noise rockers like Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore or Boss Hog.  Hell, if she wants to find the roots of all this turbo-slut, sex-positive feminist nonsense, she would do well to look up Lydia Lunch, the adorable looking, yet repulsively acting singer for Teenage Jesus and the Jerks.  The fact that the author makes such an audacious claim, yet doesn’t even know some of the bands I mentioned, makes me wonder if she even listens to music or if she’s just trying to ruin things with her Social Justice agenda.

And, in the final section of the piece, she mentions… ugh, War on Women.

It’s not just women who need to fight misogyny in music. War On Women’s Shawna Potter encourages men to take up the battle as well.

“While women [with people of color and the LGBQT community] must fight for our rights and humanity, men must also fight,” she says. “They must [fight] against the insulting notion that they are animals have no self-control. But first, they must see it as insulting, I suppose.

So that’s the name of the hot singer for War on Women, whose gyrations made me tight in the pants.

 

 

 

Super Duper Alice Cooper (2014)

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I thought we’d gotten over this, but there seem to be people in this world who still want to throw Alice Cooper in the same pile of classic rock bands you’re not supposed to listen to if you’re hip.  David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed are cool.  Alice is not.  I know Alice didn’t do much to help his reputation when he released albums like Constrictor, Trash and Hey Stoopid, but let’s overlook those things.  After all why does Bowie get the pass with Let’s Dance???

Anyhoo, this is supposed to be a movie review and not a bitchy rant about how Alice needs to be reevaluated by cool, arty kids.  By the way, why was every early Bowie and Stooges album reissued, while two of rock’s masterpieces, Love It to Death and Killer, only have used vinyl and cheap, early Warner Bros. CDs to represent them?  And for that matter, why all the MC5 worship?  What did they do except preach a bunch of Maoist nonsense, get arrested a few times and release loud, but otherwise straight-forward, bluesy rock records?  Yeah, REAL revolutionary!

Okay, okay, rant is over.  I was being somewhat facetious and hyperbolic, and I love all of above mentioned artists.  I’m just bitter at the way some other blogs have talked about Alice Cooper as if he/they is/are just showy with little in the way of memorable songs outside of a few classic hits.  Let’s talk about the movie Super Duper Alice Cooper, which I dropped seven dollars to watch last night.

Honestly, as a hardcore fan, if the movie was three or four hours long, I’d probably have been more satisfied with it.  Filmmakers Sam Dunn, Reginald Harkema and Scott McFadyen do a serviceable job stuffing Alice Cooper’s 40 year career into 95 minutes… that is if you’re a merely casual fan or just have some passing interest.  However I can’t help but notice one, obvious, glaring, FUCKING OMISSION!!!  Where in all of this was MICHAEL BRUCE – ya know the guy who wrote or co-wrote “I’m Eighteen”, “Ballad of Dwight Fry”, “Under My Wheels”, “Billion Dollar Babies” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and played guitar AND keyboard on all of the band’s early recordings?!  He wasn’t mentioned once, yet you clearly see a fifth guy in all the early band photos!  That’s like doing a documentary on Iggy Pop and omitting Ron Asheton or talking about Ozzy Osbourne and forgetting to mention that band he was in for ten years.

But yes, the 95 minute film tells the Alice Cooper story from his childhood growing up in Detroit and his various illnesses, through his teen years in Phoenix, AZ, where he met best friend and bassist Dennis Dunaway and started the band that would be Alice Cooper along with local juvenile delinquent kid and lead guitarist Glen Buxton; their various names were Earwigs, Spiders and Nazz and the phases they went through were 60s garage, psychedelia and hard rock before becoming a household name.  After that band collapsed, Alice started a solo career, dealt with alcoholism, got married and later found God (which is implied, but not explicitly said) and redemption.  They don’t really talk about the earliest members of the group or how drummer Neal Smith joined either but I suppose only the hardcore fans give two shits about original rhythm guitarist John Tatum, who was replaced by Michael Bruce and original drummer John Spear, who was replaced by Neal Smith or their two singles as the Spiders and one single as the Nazz.

I’ll give the filmmakers their due; they make every attempt to keep the film interesting and move things at a very quick clip.   They use this new, 3-D still shot technique to give photographs a “living” quality.  It does help put you in the time frame since, I’m assuming, 60s performances of the Spiders or the Nazz don’t exist.  Alice’s story is also juxtaposed with shots from the 1920 adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to further illustrate his onstage/offstage personality and how the former began to take over the latter.  Newbies might be surprised to learn about Frank Zappa’s direct involvement with the group’s early history; from his discovering the group in L.A. and claiming that their flashy, trashy appearance made them the male equivalent of the GTOs to his signing them to his Straight label in 1968 just because they were so darn weird.  Also, what the fuuuu… Alice did coke and free based??!!  I thought he was just a drinker!!! Arrghghhg, my mind is blown!!!

Furthermore the early live footage is just amazing.  There’s copious amounts of early club and festival footage when the group used weird props to entertain confused crowds of stoned out hippies and I just couldn’t believe it when Alice got creamed in the face!

Hell, you won’t believe it either!  It happens at 9:18.

While the main narrator of the film is Alice Cooper, former members Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith, producer Bob Ezrin and manager Shep Gordon also help tell the story.  Furthermore we get very brief commentary from Elton John, Iggy Pop, John Lydon and Dee Snyder as well.  For some reason the film doesn’t use any talking heads, which is fine as far as I’m concerned.

The film glosses over a lot and omits some interesting tidbits because, as I said, to tell it all, you’d need three or four hours and I don’t know how interested the casual fan or curiosity seeker would be in Alice talking about his work on the Spanish horror film Monster Dog.  I almost wish this documentary was never made and that Alice did what Iron Maiden did; release for fans only DVD documentaries that cover specific eras of his/their career in thorough detail.  I personally would love a documentary or book strictly on the original band and then another one about his early 80s, new wavey period.  But that’s me.

Here are some fun facts that were omitted that even non-fans might find interesting:

1.  Alice Cooper opened for the Doors in 1968 and managed to empty out the entire venue except for Frank Zappa, Shep Gordon and a couple GTOs

2. The reason the group had to change its name from the Nazz to Alice Cooper was because Todd Rundgren had a band called the Nazz at the time.

3. By the way, the group got the name the Nazz from the Yardbirds song “The Nazz Are Blue.”

4. Groucho Marx attended an early Alice Cooper gig and called it good vaudeville.

5. Frank Zappa initially wanted Alice Cooper to change their name to Alice Cookies in order to further fit his stable of “weird” bands at Straight records (Alice Cookies and His Magic Band???).  Thank goodness they didn’t go for it!

6. Alice Cooper had the number one record in the States with Billion Dollar Babies yet had gigs cancelled and were banned in certain parts of the Bible Belt.

7. Donovan is the other voice on “Billion Dollar Babies.”

8. Liza Minelli and the Pointer Sisters sing on “Teenage Lament ’74” from the Muscle of Love album.

9. Alice appeared on Hollywood Squares in 1974.

10. Alice appeared on the Muppet Show in 1977.

11. Alice performed the Beatles song “Because” in the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band from 1978.

12. Alice sings on and appears in the video for the Twisted Sister song “Be Chrool to Your Scuel.”