Skip to comments.The needle and the damage done
Posted on 08/28/2006 10:40:29 AM PDT by qam1
When Syd Barrett died earlier this summer, you would've thought I was a personal friend or relative. My wife called. Co-workers asked if it was going to inspire a column. Old friends sent e-mails. If you don't know - which is no crime, trust me - Barrett was a founder of the classic rock band Pink Floyd in the mid-1960s.
He only stuck around for one full album before a drug addiction made him an impossible creative partner for a group that went on to do tremendous things in his stead. Some of Pink Floyd's best work - songs like Wish You Were Here and Shine On You Crazy Diamond - were inspired by Barrett's purported deep psychosis spurred by excessive LSD use. All you have to do is hear the song See Emily Play to know Barrett had potential, but he sold himself - and many others - short.
They say he somehow influenced other rockers with musical gibberish released on a pair of hurried solo albums, but that's a major reach born out of the mystique of his unfulfilled potential. It's kind of like when a bunch of ersatz art experts go to see some modern art that stinks and everyone says it's great because they either feel compelled or don't want to break ranks and risk sounding dumb.
While I was flattered to have been the immediate classic-rock go-to guy when Barrett's tortured existence came to an end this July, I could barely manage a shoulder shrug. I try to pride myself on not being easily cast under unworthy spells. I see the undeserved mystique we attach to people who have not upheld their ends of the unspoken contract they sign with those who help put them in the driver's seat of life's Rolls Royce and, well, it makes me want to vomit.
Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the collective works of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Tim Hardin, Phil Ochs and countless others. But each loses points on my scorecard for depriving us of their magical skills for the long haul.
Another example for the generation more or less after mine would be Kurt Cobain, the front man for the grunge band Nirvana. Once upon a time, I had a good ear for emerging talent. The first time I heard U2, I knew they were special. Ditto for REM. I have obviously since lost my touch, as I can't understand why this Pete Yorn kid isn't a deity and why hip-hop is considered music, but I digress.
The first time I heard Nirvana, I heard great potential. Nothing more, nothing less. Greatness was years away. And that potential for greatness went through the 27-year-old Cobain's brain in the form of a self-inflicted gunshot in 1994. Calling Cobain a tortured artist is giving him too much credit. He was just a heroin addict who took his life, leaving behind a growing following starved for a lead voice that was not borrowed from the record collection of their older siblings or even their parents.
The reaction to Cobain's deadly action was for music critics and assorted others to attach a ridiculous mystique to his memory. He has been called the John Lennon of Generation X. If true, I truly pity that generation. Actually, I pity the dimwit who tagged him as such. Because it's not true.
He was, at best, the Syd Barrett of his generation. Some of you older folks - assuming you made it this far into a column strewn with names you don't know - are not immune.
The wife and I recently dialed up the movie about Johnny Cash, Walk The Line, on Pay-Per-View. It was a little too long, but a good flick. I give it three Stars of David out of a possible four. It included outstanding performances - particularly by the darling Reese Witherspoon, who deservedly won the Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter Cash.
But it only confirmed my belief that the myth and legend that swirls around Johnny Cash are largely unwarranted. Many ardent admirers of Cash may not realize that he didn't even write a lot of his most noteworthy songs and, considering how drugged up he was most of the time, it's no wonder.
But since he dressed in all-black outfits and played concerts at prisons - thus, adding to the overall mystique the falsehood that he was some hardened ex-con - there is a disproportionate aura. I'm not saying Johnny Cash was a bad guy. His heart was in the right place, but give me a break. A lot of younger people have oddly fallen under his spell, too.
There was a former editor here - an exceedingly bright young lady - who would go on and on about how Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young are old and tired and should never write or sing another word.
I may be blinded by the light when it comes to Springsteen, but he steered clear of drugs for the stated reason he didn't want to risk losing everything he had worked so hard to achieve. Guys who were in some of his early bands have recounted how they would be in one room partying while he'd be in another writing songs.
Young's song The Needle and the Damage Done is one of the best anti-drug anthems ever written and was inspired by the drug-induced deaths of a band member and a roadie. Young, whose lyrics were quoted in Cobain's suicide note, also eulogized Cobain in the song Sleeps With Angels. But Springsteen and Young should hang up their guitars and go home to their rocking chairs?
"OK, what about Johnny Cash?" I asked.
"Oh yeah, he's cool," she said.
I'm not saying we should start a bonfire with works of art from those who compromised their abilities through fatal addictions. But understand that they broke a bond with society because they could have and should have given us more.
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
Taking shots at The Man in Black? Blasphemy!
I caught you knockin' at my cellar door
I love you, baby, can I have some more
Ooh, ooh, the damage done.
I hit the city and I lost my band
I watched the needle take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done.
I sing the song because I love the man
I know that some of you don't understand
Milk-blood to keep from running out.
I've seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie's like a settin' sun.
This guy seems to judge artists (at least in part) on whether they used drugs. Hey, I'm anti-drug, and I never defend or rationalize their use. But the quality of someone's art should judged on it's own merits or lack thereof.
So, anyone over 40 is just a drain on a society that identifies itself by all the depth and excitement a single letter can conjure up?
You might want to pick up a bottle of O2 next time you're out, sounds like the air in that bubble you're living in is getting a little stale.
Kind of a rambling, jumbled mess of a column, but not too bad.
That said, Springsteen isn't worthy to be mentioned in the same paragraph with Cash.
But WTH, if we had to identify with the lyrics of every rock tune we listened to, we'd have to be all kinds of crazy.
Nowadays (that's a pre "gen X" colloquialism for the kiddies trolling here) we'd have to be both crazy AND satanic, so I'll be satisfied with just being crazy....after allllllll these years.....still crazy, after all these years :~)
Both Springsteen and Young have succumbed to the mental disorder known as liberalism, one of whose chief current manifestations is is Deranged Bush Syndrome. This has forever contaminated my perception of their music, even their superior early stuff that made their reputations. So maybe it is better that the immortals like Hendrix and Morrison died young -- otherwise they would be spouting the same leftist anti-Western BS today, and sabotaging their own musical legacy.
Kurt Cobain was one of the greats. I hope when I get older I don't lose my ability to appreciate a legitimate musical genius. It's symptomatic of every generation, though. Boomers' parents probably would have thought it blasphemy to consider Lennon and Hendrix "geniuses" or "legends."
Why the dig on Johnny Cash? The man was talented, entertaining, had a great voice and a unique persona. SO what of he didn't write all of his own material or if he wasn't a hardened criminal (that's a bad thing??).
Rock and Roll Ping
Like a friend of mine says, Spingsteen belongs in that class of musicians who had one or two good songs 20-30 years ago, and have been milking and stretching it out for all it`s worth ever since. 3 good songs and the rest are fillers.. It`s like blah blah blah...then he plays Born to run, then blah blah blah..then he plays 10th avenue freeze out...then blah blah blah..Thunder road (which I think sucks just as much as a filler song) .All the other songs are fillers for those 2 or 3 good ones, and in his mind that gives him the right and mental superiority above everyone to dictate national politics.
Kurt Cobain is the most overrated rock star ever. You couldn't even understand the guy's lyrics.
His bandmate, Dave Grohl has made much better music with the Foo Fighters, than Nirvana ever dreamed of.
Acid ruined Syd Barrett's career and altered John Lennon's brain to the point that he found Yoko Ono attractive. Very bad stuff!
I don't like Brucie. But just by chance I caught a 1975 concert of his on PBS during fundraising week. It was really good and a bit raw and ragged. The band was having great fun
LSD messed John's mind enough for him to be happy as Yoko's house-husband. John was an aggressive, masculine and nasty person prior to acid which zoned him out
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