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1 Jun

Iran Rave

From: The Guardian, UK.

I sit here in a postmodern annex of a neoclassical building listening to a compilated playlist of the musical underground of a country that is, technically, the enemy of mine. The newspapers in my city tell me these people are all backward savages but they are heirs of once-great multiple market-place a culture of long standing. And they are young raised in the shadows of a theocratic revolution that brought back the rule of old men with beards.

They are so sick of it.

So behind closed doors they are modern people who listen to modern music, write it and play it. The styles are a dialectic blend of commercial pop music (European mostly) and the multifarious musical tradition of the Levant from a viewpoint centred on what we have long-called Persia. It’s quite… commercial.

What a piece of work is a human monkey, how noble in faculty and not quite infinite in reason. How quickly the spoilt, fat, lazy rat it becomes. How base and venal and sometimes gracefully sublime in the face of hardship. What folly in these craven beasts who remember and yet fail time and again to learn.

Today I am in love with my fellow species, what rare fun we are. The sky is blue and I feel like smiling.

But let’s be serious for five minutes. Last week the US President, a man that ‘liberals’ admire, ordered an elite group of his soldiers into the territory of another country. A nation that is technically an ally. Sorta. And without its permissision taken human life and retrieved information thereby. Yet it is the smaller nation that has been publically shamed in the discourse of geopolitical theatre. Well the human life taken was that of a man who has precipitated the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. He challenged the world’s hyper-power.

According to the law of the-way-things-are, he had it coming. Interesting finale, stranded in an Islamabad fortress, jaded and regretful. Yet another man who’s realized too late that he’ll never know his children. An isolated false Messiah, catching up on a lifetime’s worth of masturbation.

Never stop making you laugh these monkeys. Rare fun amidst the grim smoking corpses.

As usual, only the radical Left can call it like is: an explicit act that extends and consolidates the American Empire. And it was carried out by a man who stood against this expedition way back when it was most unpopular to do so. He had no choice. The true Machiavels amidst the dreaming neocon crew saw that. They understood that future ‘American interests’ (which Americans?) lay in securing certain territories and resources. They got the States into a war it could not extricate itself from. And somewhere today they are smiling to themselves. At the ranch maybe, sipping a tumbler o’ the Macallan perhaps, awaiting a phone conversation that will change lives. Smug in a truth that is never spoken aloud.

There’s a Punisher graphic novel by Garth Ennis. I won’t summarize but one of characters is a much-feared Russian general who commanded in the Afghanistan theatre. At one point we see him ordering his men to behead a ponytailed journalist on the tarmac of Khabul airport. The dude had written a book that wasn’t appreciated. Anyway, this guy has a bit where he philsophizes about the American Cold war victory. His take on their strategy was that they’d bomb places flat and build McDonalds amongst the rubble. Some over-simplification, but apt. Mostly America rains fire down on people by remote control. Domestic casualties have, since Vietnam, become increasingly unacceptable. Bombing Usama bin Laden’s house was an option available to Obama. He chose a helicopter drop instead. He sent in human individuals, an act that required personal courage (on the part of the soldiers) in a way that remote explosion does not.

This is the first time I’ve approved of Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

I knew he would not withdraw the troops. That to do so would be so detrimental to American interests – increased terrorism, oil price spikes and shortages – it would be electoral suicide. Considering the economic situation the States was in when he took office, considering the solutions he’s chosen, his second term is already far from assured. To withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan would create a Jihadist power base. Possibly Pakistan would fall and then we would be dealing with a nuclear-powered enemy that prefers the herafter to this life. Dig it, you boho free spirits o’ the world. When that happens the party is over. These are the facts. I don’t like ’em, but, like, so what?

I knew Obama was basically a highly skilled technocrat. I just hoped he wasn’t as much of a creep as Tony Blair. And no he ain’t. (Hard call that.) But when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize whatever skreck of ‘hope’ I may have harboured was dispensed with. Obama got the prize essentially for not being a Texas good ol’ crony-capitalist cracker. For actually knowing how to be internationally polite. He had done nothing to earn a peace prize (even the Nobel which, after Kissinger, is a joke). But if he hadn’t accepted, if he’d said thanks but no thanks, I don’t deserve it just now. Well then I would’ve been impressed. But he calculated: another paragraph on his WikiBio? Why not? He’s just another player just like the rest of them, go figure.

But, if he had to raid a Pakistani house without permission (and yes he did) then it was noble to send in American individuals to face their public enemy #1, to demonstrate personal, physical courage. He showed that he understood the military message of 9/11. A message that has been receieved with obtuse denial in Western public discourse. Point out that it takes physical courage to go wilfully go your death in furtherance of a cause, that furthermore such courage is in short supply domestically… do that and you get demonized by people who don’t understand why the Romans really fell.

If you’re going to do Empire you might as well get it right.

Ah! enough let us stop making sense. The song’s in Farsi but it’s a classic rock song. Funny when you realize that the rock song’s structure derives from the tradition music of the region. He really likes the Rolling Stones this guy.

Next an indigenous style, I wouldn’t know what it’s called. It’s like hip-hop, chants and beats, but it ain’t hip-hop. It’s derived from antiquity. And sure, there’s hip-hop on the disc, electronica too. And punk rock! The playlist veers East and West. It lurches into the past and back to the future. Some of it is MOR schlock that’d make fills you with the urge to find Celine Dion and vomit on her dress. But some it makes you move man. It’s funky, get you right down in your belly and balls. The lyrics are sometimes Farsi, sometimes English. Cultural imperialism o’ course. But the English songs decry the Military-Industrial complex bullshit in a form that’s straight outta Detroit! All you flag wavers out there, do you get that? All you post-structuralist pseudo-radical demonizers of the Evil socio-economic demographic, do you understand?

Arrghh! Again, forget about it! Be stupid, be a child. Persian metal is really beautiful, a style that really suits the Farsi tongue.

Now it’s Euro-Soul like Sade or Grace Jones. I’m warm again. There’s an empire, there’s a lot of them. And who knows what evil lies in the human heart. But, today, forget about it. The sun is shining and we should be making hay. I wanna party with these guys. Now!

What time is it in Tehran?



29 May


They are so too cool, Shut up! 🙂


26 Mar


My stomach is the ocean
And it swallows up the sun


My veins are the tracks
And the city is my brain


My head is the city
And it houses all the thoughts


My arms could be weapons
Or instruments of love


My heart is a muscle
And it pumps blood


Like a big old black steam train


10 Mar


Sometime around 1967 one of the multitude of gurus coming out of India, avatars of ‘Neo-Hinduism’, scored big. He met the Beatles, thru George Harrison’s wife, the model Patti Boyd. Here she is:


Pretty wasn’t she?

Famously the fab four trotted off to India with this guy in 1968, there to receive the answer. They were all in thrall to the guy. It didn’t bother them, his lush estate, his fine house, his private helicopter. They put up with the rules, no drinking, no drugs – well mostly, and they took up meditation. Versions vary as to what occurred but it’s a well established part of the lore of the 1960s that Lennon and Harrison confronted their guru over his advances to the women of the group. Mia Farrow recalls being grabbed by him in a cave, that sort of thing.

Afterwards McCartney issued a statement saying they’d all thought the guy was something more than human and he wasn’t. All four confirmed that the benefit that they’d had from the association was to the practice of meditation. They’d left drugs behind and were seeking a new way.

Needless to say they didn’t leave the drugs. Over ten years later McCartney came close to doing 8 years in a Tokyo jail after getting busted with an ounce at the airport. Being a Beatle he only did 9 days. This happened around the time Lennon got shot dead by one of those who the Me Decade decided weren’t Beautiful People after all. And in that long slow decade since those halcyon days with the Maharashi he’d faced addictions to alcohol and heroin. Ringo was never into it much, drugs or meditation. Maybe George got past it, but he came close to losing it on the I-see-the-Light trip. Goodbye the pretty girl upstairs.

But that was to come, in ’68 they spent some weeks in India. And then it finally dropped that the Maharashi was not immune to the sex and money traps of power. Maybe he wasn’t at all the gentle and great spirit he seemed. Lennon remember some look from the guy when they told him they were out of there. Something hostile, murderous. Amongst the explosion of songs written at the time came one of Lennon’s most aspic barbs. Originally it was called ‘Maharashi’. Fearing lawsuits and some kind of voodoo (Lennon seemed to be superstitious) they changed it to a girl’s name and thus to a story of destructive harlotry. How strangely Christian that a man’s transgressions are blamed on a woman. I recommend Rachel Unthank & The Winterset’s version on the Mojo White Album tribute.

There’s the revelation, the kernel of truth that persistently escapes neat definition. And then there’s always someone ready to make a buck out of it. When things were jake, the Maharashi was talking movie deals with someone in the Beatles camp. He jumped in right with a 2.5% of the gross profits bid. He knew how to hustle.

Religion it’s a bitch.


7 Mar

Been listening lots to Mojo’s fourth release of a Beatles album covered by people you never heard of. Well not quite true.

We’ve all heard of Beth Orton, right? She gets two tracks, the (imho) best on the record followed by the weirdest (dunnit look like they’re havin’ fun? Not!). John and Yoko’s contribution I shouldn’t wonder.

Fabulous! Orton’s version that is. They roll into each other with “Dig It” converted into an avant-experimental epilogue for Harrison’s tune. That’s the showcase. I wonder if she thinks it’s the album’s best song too. She does it as George wrote it, as she should. It’s her sound and she knows what the words really mean.
First the lonely crowd lugubrious lament on the selfishness of people (All thru your life, I-me-mine, I-me-mine, I-me-mine) followed by the unabashed egotistical strut (I! Me-me mine!). She’s better than the boys were. By far. She digs it, she lives for it, it comes from the heart and fuck you. And that’s today me too.

At the end of “Dig It” she has a dig at Yoko. Hah! Where Lester Bangs thought John Lennon was culture climbing marrying her, Orton knows full well ’twas the other way around. I guess she sees Yoko as a rich kid opportunist maybe. I don’t know. Don’t know her. And I don’t care about John and Yoko.

Why then all the bollocks viz the motherfucking sixties! Ahhhrrrggghh! Will we ever be rid of them.


My generation that is (1963-1979). The answer: no. Why’ve I been crapping on about rock stars and their stupid drug deaths, why have I been contemplating the erosion of talent that comes of overindulgence. The cracked marriages, the fall into apelike vulgarity and the will to slavery that so many seem to, just… prefer!

Have I been doing this?

Who knows. I think I’ll just drop it. The point’s made. Those songs were writ by the Magic Group, right? But they hated each other’s guts when they did ’em. It had gone sour. Go back and look at the clip from Let It Be. Look at Harrison’s face. And check out John Lennon trying to be Bob Marley or something.

Orton’s taken all that and made magic. Doesn’t that make you happy? What? You don’t know? You haven’t heard it? Oh…

I feel the sorriest for you.

Thru talking. Ciao.


6 Mar


Not a cheap dance show, class.


4 Mar


At the beginning of 1971 people still reeled from the Beatles break-up, latest in a line of bad news that included the deaths of Dr. M-L King and Robert Kennedy, the election of Richard Nixon, the fragmentation into ineffectiveness of the peace movement and the crushing of the Prague Spring. John Lennon sat down for an interview for Rolling Stone magazine to clear the air, set down his side of the story. He was asked if he thought he was a genius.

Lennon’s reply, “Yes, if there is such a thing as one, I am one.” Orson Welles recalled somewhere that the word was the first whispered into his cradle. His mother was such that she intended to use the Chicago money to home grow an artistic genius. And she did. But did it do him any favours dealing with a Hollywood studio under the assumption that they would recognize whatever he did as pure gold and leave it untouched? His biography says otherwise.

At the time he was interviewed John Lennon was on the verge of releasing the Mother album, his best work by his own reckoning. Many others agree. I see it more as an apex that began during The White Album with tracks like “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” and continued thru “Come Together” running out slowly after “Working Class Hero”. In ’71 he was top of his form. Genius is pain too, he says. Is he complaining?

He tells us he realized that he was a genius when he was twelve and the attendant obligatory artist bio of a child painting and writing poetry is evoked. What fly-by-night bit of human tinsel these days warbling away over some electronically concocted reassembly of Motown and Disco doesn’t regularly drag out the anecdotes of childhood creativity?

But Lennon has a claim. He’s distinctive. A bit of fuss frothed up in the western press about two weeks ago over a book by a Sino-American Harvard academic about the way she raised her daughters. The rules are unbelievably narrow by our standards. They were compelled to play the piano or the violin and only the piano or violin. Well, everyone said, this goes to show you why so Chinese kids top the SATs every year. It also goes to show why there’s an absence of Chinese genius. Such upbringing produces high standards and almost certainly eliminates any tendency to wilful originality.

Lennon wasn’t compelled to study Elvis, the guitar and the rest. He couldn’t possibly have studied them in the sense that you could study Bach. Where was the scholarship? Rather, he was free to follow his obsession; the English tradition of privacy and its attendant expectations of the pursuit of a hobby pertain. Naturally this interest was forged in the fire of discipline, playing ten-hour gigs in a bar-room full of violent crooks will do that for you. A certain standard of excellence must be reached but excellence by itself is not enough to earn one the mark of genius. Genius, in the artistic sense of the term denotes not excellence in skill but a something unique and hard to quanity. The closest to a word we have for it is ‘sublime’.

Lester Bangs wrote Lennon’s post-Beatles career off. It was, he argued, moving into the middle-of-the-road sentimental easy-listening territory embraced sincerely by Paul McCartney in the same period, becoming, as Bangs puts it, “spiritually piddling hackwork.” The Mother album, he writes, “for all its embarrassing infantilism and freelance spite, had a certain gauche and wretched majesty”. But Lennon’s more recent album, Walls and Bridges, Bangs puts down as “a schlocky parody of the tortured artist writhing in a sterile sanitarium of his own design.” Lennon may have agreed. He was about to enter five years of retirement. Was Lennon a genius? Perhaps not individually. Did the Beatles then collectively possess genius?

Socio-historically the Beatles were conduits for a certain force for change during the 60s. They were not instigators of that change. They did the soundtrack. Lennon, whose political activity was by far more significant than the other band members, was watched by the FBI and harassed by the US government over residency. In the end, however, his most significant political act was the song “Revolution” which belies a conservative caution more than anything else. The High Priest of Romantic Personality announced essentially the classic cop-out of everyone who decided to be apolitical ever since: I believe in a personal revolution. Sure his Bed-In with Yoko Ono caused a media wave, precipiated interviews and some mild hostility but did it stop one bomb landing on Cambodian peasants?

That said, claims to artistic genius do not rest on the influence of one’s work on historical events. If they did there would be no artistic geniuses. The Beatles lack of concrete effect doesn’t disprove their genius, but their place within the cultural context might explain why people might think they possessed the quality.

Elsewhere in the interview Lennon claims to’ve taken acid a thousand times from 1964 on. It’s a wonder he was still coherent. By 1971, he’d had his ups and downs in those years but fromThe White Album on he was flaring. Making love with his ego. The mystique of John Lennon is inextricably wrapped up in the work he did between The White Album and Imagine. The lead up to this period and the fall from grace afterwards are now a wearily familiar arc in the careers of musicians. Had it, lost it. He lost it. If he dropped acid that many times it’s a wonder he didn’t lose it completely.

By 1975, Bangs was arguing that “the death of the Beatles as a symbol or signification of anything can only be good”. Their music had faded, worse, it’d become irritating! Rubber Soul was playing while he wrote, but he took it off and the guy with him agreed. They were over the Beatles. The mood of their era had passed replaced by something grittier and so more real. It’s over, people felt, and sadly it never mattered that much anyway. It was all about context, it could’ve been anyone. Considering English-speaking youth’s general outlook in 1966 in comparison with that of the stagnant and decadent ‘me’ decade; considering the embarrassing drunk that Lennon was at the time turning into, considering stories of recording chaos complete with Phil Spector’s bulletholes, considering this cultural hero’s… decay – Bang’s attitude is easy to understand.

But time has proved him wrong. Their music has lasted, it appears to be enjoying a sub-vogue about now. It would, it’s good; after punk, after hip-hop and techno had s’posedly put rock to death. After those old discs have aged almost a half-century, the Lennon-McCartney tune still has clout. It’s come back. Genius? What is an artistic genius? Someone whose work bends the culture like a black hole bends the space-time continuum? Someone who, like Picasso, does something so simple and easy and right and yet no-one had ever done it quite like that before? What was it about Lennon’s peculiar lilt with a 12 bar rhythm-and-blues song that had thousands of girls scream their hearts out, drenching their seats in the ecstatic release of so much pent-up kundalini?

Picasso said it, every child is an artist. But most of them grow out of it. Genius; what a damage that word does to the living. Genius? The word shouldn’t be used really ’til someone’s been dead a while. Lennon’s been dead 3o years. Genius? Maybe it’s too soon to tell.