Sparks 16 - March/April 1997 - volume 6 issue 2- published by The Orange Street Press
I am looking not at a sweater today and amy bought this sweater for 10¢
for me at a yard sale. as I sit in the yard, wearing the sweater, I also
decided not to look at a dog which could be neutered soon, amy tells me,
and perhaps will be. instead, I am looking at a lovely girl made of
stone kneeling in a bed of weeds near a dog eating canned dog food
before he gets neutered. it will cost about $40 tops to neuter him. he
is very playful today; very frisky. my heart is filled with sorrow: not
for the girl of stone, and perhaps only in part for the dog who is
eating with gusto. will afternoons always be as beautiful as this? I ask
myself. it's almost sunset. my gaze turns from the cold stone of girl to
the playful dog. he scoots his dish towards the grass, and then flips
the bowl over, licking his chops, jumping about hither and thither as if
to say: "in all likelihood: no."
I tried two things this week: to be silent for 24 hours, and to make up very long sentences.
the long sentences is because I have a first class obsession with similes. I have had this obsession for about two weeks. every day my sentences seem to get longer.
at first I start off very slowly. for example: "my love is like an apricot," after I write that, sometimes I will stop writing and look out into the night sky and have an apple as a snack and think to myself, "is my love really like an apricot?"
usually the answer is "no." of course at night I will often say, "since I am eating an apple while doing what I love best, perhaps my love is like an apple."
well, no, I will think eventually. my love is something that I think of while I am eating apples, and I like apples. apricots have pits in them, and are stone fruits. my love exists, I think to myself, when I am in the presence of an apple. my love also exists, I think to myself, at night.
of course, my love would probably exist in the daytime too, I think, if only I could eat something to keep up my strength. the problem is, I am so rarely hungry in the daytime and I like to eat apples as snacks, at night, though. there is nothing quite like a tuna fish sandwich in the daytime, though.
yesterday I woke up and uncharacterstically started to write in the morning as the first rays of light seemed to creep like a banana across the floor of my small apartment. "my love," I wrote, "makes me hungry in the morning before I eat a tuna fish sandwich."
"my love," I wrote, "is a tuna fish sandwich..." I looked over the words written in a deep, lustrous jet script and continued "when suddenly the idea of being is simply too much to consider; when it is not, I opt for sleeping late and having an apple in the early evening, confounded by decisions and the complexity of the modern world which I inhabit reluctantly if at all."
then, suddenly, I stop as my considerations have taken me from confession to invention. I realize that, of course, I inhabit the world, modern or not, emphatically and keenly; why do I choose not to say that, at least in the words that I choose? I suspect that there is something in the nature of writing that makes the truth a bitter substitute for considerations that lend themselves to greater flexibility.
but still I love apples, and by now, it is practically late in the afternoon. "Macintosh or Fuji are my favorites," I write, determined to write definitively, simply, and truthfully, "Yes, they are. If you were to ask me about what I value, at least at night, that would be my answer. Of course in the daytime," I confess, "I prefer to watch the sun creep across the floor in a way that is completely the opposite of an apple and in a way that makes me realize that there is something wonderful about inhabiting a world, albeit reluctantly."
of course by now it is night. The moon adorns my eating and pasttimes, and spanish music fills the air. "I love this," I say aloud, uncertain what I am eating, and when I consider what I am doing, I wonder if I am eating at all.
"of course I do."
I took my fingers out and moved them in a hundred different ways. At
last I had my grandfather in my hands. Turning my attention to my
thumbs, arduous work and concentration left me, after ten hours of
vigorous exercise, with the notion of a boy made perfect. Shortly
thereafter, and, with no uncertain assiduity, I made a duck quack, as
though I was born to do such a thing, which, truthfully, I wasn't. The
rest is simply a blurring collusion of time and space: a donkey that
brayed, a rabbit who, uncomplaining, ate his unsubstantial meal, and
then, near the end, Toby who, to my delight, wagged his tail.
That being done and all things being equal, I opened up the Bible to
how much time is like money! the old folks say. time really is like money, I agreed with them. I asked for some money and they all said: “I’m sorry, I don’t have the time.” When you are old, you don’t. what do you have? what do I have? I have nothing. I wrote a list of everything I had in a little beige book about the size of a quarter. some of the old folks remarked: “that book couldn’t be much bigger than two bits!” and I replied, “I have nothing.” then I wrote down: “I have nothing.” some of them then smiled and one of them said, “I could sure use two bits!” and I thought to myself, “I bet you could.” they were certainly getting on in age.
finally, then, I “got” what they were talking about. to one of them (who said: “I could certainly use two bits”) I gave my notebook. I bequeathed it. “here it is,” I said to him (all snarly and snagglepuss-ish, as he was) “here’s two bits!” he smiled and said, “thanks for nothing young fella!” and drank a quart of whiskey right in front of me, in despair and wonder, quoting from the scriptures. “no!” I said jejunely, “you mean: ‘thanks for the time!’”
time is all I can give to you, I could hear in the distant firmament, and so I said, “ok, suits me.” I felt as though I was experiencing a certain echo. some folks, even young folks, might call it “deja vu.” the old people smiled because they realized that it was sort of a spiritual/religious “in” joke. I couldn’t help but note that now I had nothing, now less one beige notebook. and that I didn’t get it. and, to make matters worse, I was surrounded by old people and they weren’t looking too neighborly.
“what I wouldn’t give at a time like this” I muttered under my breath, “for a bus, or an off-white chiffon wedding dress with a plunging neckline.”
or to be a bus! or a girl even!
I walked away: under a tunnel I went. and it made a slight echo sound. I went to my apartment. I was older, older. I closed the door to my apartment and it made a slight echo sound. I decided to get out. I got out and went oh, let’s just say to the movies and it didn’t make a sound. a lot of people died on the screen and they too didn’t make a sound (as far as I could tell although)...before I watched the movie I made a telephone call and said,
“don’t worry: I’ll be o.k.”... at the end of the receiver I could hear a slightly hollow sound.
as the room grew dark I reflected on all of it as much as I could. I thought about today. I thought about tomorrow.
yesterday, I ate cream filled cookies and looked at a corgi dog and said to myself: what an existence! and it was...
Safe on my screened-in condo deck,
Sipping a secret bourbon
And waiting for the girl by the pool
Not to call some more,
I spot a big, dancing color TV
Through a way-off window
Across the dark, palm-fronded yard.
Why is my first (or maybe second) thought
That with the right rifle
And a good scope
I could make a clean, silent kill?
Standing in the open garage doorway
Behind my office building,
Smoking my pipe and watching the street,
I can think of nowhere else I want to be,
No other place to go or thing to do.
Years ago this would not have been so.
I would have thought of all the paths not taken,
Doors still unopened,
Dreams still calling me.
But now in this morning moment
I am rapt and simply content
To stand and smoke and watch cars
And slow rain in small puddles by the curb.
Back below a summer sun of childhood
There is a hot green field,
Twittering with crickets,
Where I walk and run and walk again.
Far along a fence,
In a forgotten sacred corner of the field,
Is a welling spring, clear and cold,
Coming up right out of the ground forever.
I can kneel there
And feel the long grass under flowing water
And put my face into this purest of fountains
And drink till I gasp and wet my hair
And know the water comes from before there was a field
Or a fence or farmers or any thirsty animal.
Forty years later this spring still rests,
Quiet and green in my younger mind,
While the traffic chatters and busy bodies babble
Outside on the cement.
The reason I went out tonight was to go out.
The streets were still wet and a hazy half moon
Was high in the spring sky.
I played a losing numbers game
And spoke with a well-dressed man
Who had an accent and a system.
A black man looked hooked and we talked too
And lost together.
Walking back, I saw a lonely star and made the requisite wish.
Then, just before going up, I found a pink umbrella,
Still wet and folded,
And decided this was the reason I went out tonight.
Drinking soda and playing a numbers game,
I get up and navigate the rough seas of this Friday night dive
Toward the stinking toilet--
When there she hangs, clutching the jukebox, framed by its light,
Tapping her foot to one side and staring into the bright, time-tunnel memories
Blinking up at her. The cartoon-cat jazz is perfectly plaintive.
The aging, boozy music lover sways and taps her feet
Like a rag-clad stick puppet,
Eyes fixed and gazing into her warm, dance hall dream.
My night is made right again, and I hum the Halloween tune
All the way home.
A young lady in black vinyl,
So sedate and sadomasochistic,
Posing like a shining fetish by the bar.
Drunk at evening's end,
Swaying and smiling stupidly,
She seems a silly girl playing dress-up,
Way past her bedtime.
And my ballooning fantasy,
Once so full and desperate,
Quite early this morning,
Awakening from a dream of my grandmother
As a young and ticklish woman,
I saw my life, all lives, as drops of water
Trickling down a rough, stone wall.
Pulled by the gravity of death, they ran willy-nilly,
Some fast, some slow,
Never knowing, just as water cannot know,
Which way the bumps and grooves in the rock guided them.
And yet amid this random flow there is a pattern.
For the source, direction and destination are the same,
And though the drops cannot escape the wall,
Their endless play upon it shapes present paths
Into all possible futures.
I flicked a dried stalk out of a pot of geraniums left behind with a florist's card dated in faded ink 1992 and 'love from mom and dad'; my knees objected loudly when I stood again. I took a long look at the faux Victorian settee upholstered in copycat Laura Ashley and thought about staying, but changed my mind. I'd always only come when called. Now it was just my choice, to come, and go when I wanted. I was sensitive to the power; insinuating. His weakness was not at all my pleasure despite that I had once thought it might. Be careful what you wish for and all that. The marble face to the file drawer where, inside, there was room left for his parents was identical to the dining room table on the 28th floor overlooking the East River. He'd never found chairs to cluster the heavy piece that he liked enough and so we ate out.
It's 1988 and it must be love. At 9:10 P.M. I heard faintly the whir of the 924s struggling engine and then the ping of the doorbell which doesn't always choose to work. After seeing him perhaps once or twice this year, and only accidentally and never alone, I'd marked Halloween with an appropriately ghoulish card sent on a circuitous route and addressed with purposeful ambiguity to the corporate offices of his heavy-metal band's 'organization'. His shower of phone calls and rejuvenated amour since had enchanted me, as he'd counted it would, but did not so much surprise me. I had had maybe a half an hour to prepare for this, what should I call it?, date after giving in to Ricky's demands from a pay phone at the mouth of the Midtown Tunnel. I'd raced from a cramped bedroom to a cramped bathroom and back arguing with myself about what should be the level of effort exerted in preparation for this interlude with my torturer. In spite of my own machinations I'd felt baited and trapped while sobbing over the miles which separated me from my new beau. With whom however fleetingly, I had been shown that love was not the consummation of pasty pink liquid dispensed in a Styrofoam cup by my GYN--just in case--inevitably following the commencement of one of Ricky's world tours; was not being verbally cut apart or feelings of inadequacy; was not making an early exit from nightclubs, carried out like a sack of potatoes with my long hair dragging on the floor. But for the moment all I could believe in was my frailty; too weakened by circumstance to argue history and Destiny's insistence on Ricky's appointment to the vacant post. After a deep breath I moved to the door to expose his arrival.
Sliding into the leather folds of the German auto sealed my fate. While I waited for him to trip around the back of the car I became drugged by the heavy cloud of his cologne. I rested against the back of the seat and smiled weakly as he wiggled the gearshift and negotiated out of the drive. I remember his handing over his VISA to the bartender. The nightclub had been redesigned again, but the staff remembered us. We were hiding behind the browning fronds of a real palm but people found us anyway. I'd reached across the bar and armed him with a six-inch stack of paper napkins and rummaged in my bag for a throw-away pen. I remember Russell behind the bar enjoying his company more, goading him, making him point out all the ones he might consider fucking and under what circumstances. It was then that I mentioned with no ostensible intention who I'd been seeing. "Oh," Ricky said to me, "I wish you wouldn't have told me." Russell was busy at the other end of the bar pointing us out and then making a concerted effort to protect us. "You should hire him," I nodded into the murk. "You shouldn't have told me." Ricky echoed but then shrugged his shoulders as though his concentration were expendable. The bartender had slid again into a position of service. "How about some shots?" he urged simultaneously lighting a match for the cigarette I was not yet through looking for. I slowed my search and allowed the flame to touch his fingers; he lit another while offering Ricky a menu of choices. They settled on Jose Cuervo replete with salt and citrus which I readily declined to a cacophony of moans and groans. Three were poured anyway. Quickly, back shot their heads. They'd clicked glasses the same way girls kissed one another hello, all pomp no circumstance. "Watch this." Could I have heard him say? Ricky's serpentine fingers traced along the back of my neck; I felt them in the tangle of my hair, the underside was always silky smooth. I shrugged my shoulders in answer to his caress. When you want your dog to take a pill, you should put it on his tongue and blow gently on his nose; his reflex will make him swallow. Ricky wrapped enough of my hair in his wide hand to pull my head back enough to make a good show of it. I remember reaching toward the bar to catch myself from falling. He poured the shot into the chute of my surprise. I was resigned to his man-handling and now I would have no other refreshment.
When I woke the air was stale. I remember that I'd been face down and when I twisted my head against the cotton/poly pillowcase I was too dehydrated to leave a snail's trail of drool. I craned my neck and saw his nest of purple-black hair beside me. I turned onto my back and was introduced like falling Dominos to the parts that were sore and bruised. My hair hurt. My skin was stiff. He was lifeless. I was too wounded to try to leave on my own. The sun prodded at me with a long tendril, just one, through the crack where the two panels of drapery met unevenly. Like a laser beam it illuminated a path to the door, slicing across the bed, across Ricky's legs. I kicked him when I noticed the time and jumped off the bed in aggitation. My foot got caught in the only hospital corner left to the top sheet and I crashed on my side to the floor. "What's the matter?" Ricky mumbled. "It's one fucking thirty!" "Yeah? Did you have something to do?" "About five hours ago. Get up. I need you to drive me." I locked him out of the bathroom. In the shower I began to quake and as I peeled off the sodden wrapper on a feeble bar of Ivory I began to cry. I had to lean against the shower wall; it was either that or sit down. The Ivory bar rolled and rolled around in my hands never gaining enough lather to untangle my hair. I actually prayed that I wouldn't wind up on the bathroom floor in a swollen heap. "I thought you were late," Ricky shouted at the door. "What?" "You've been in there twenty minutes." "Are we far from the club?" "You flatter me. I guess you can't remember?" "Not to is the point." "Well, then wonder." "Fuck you!" I shouted and twisted off the water. The towels were thin and square, not enough to wrap around. I opened the door. Ricky, not entirely dressed, was leaning on the doorjamb with his arms and legs crossed. "Do you have a toothbrush with you." I held out my hand. "I noticed a Store 24 across the street." "Fine." "Here." He handed me a new Reach. Florescent orange.
* * *
I stood flat-backed against the stone to see what was his eternal view. There's a skylight. Its architecture cast shadows. I knocked on the stone; I have to look up at him now. On tip toes I kissed all the letters in his name. I unbuttoned an Italian suit jacket and flashed him. Requiescat in pace.
...get the celery and it'll make drumsticks
little hands pounding on the table
cheese, crackers, everywhere...
that chair you're sitting
made of wood...
curly hair like Shirley Temple;
are they called "corncobs"?
your ass barely fits inside
the black thread
that you drag around
your hands are
A few nights ago,
in the dead ice cold,
I layed in the driveway
and changed her headlights.
It was a Volkswagon-
I had to take the whole front grill off
and use three different kinds of screwdrivers.
All of this despite the fact
that the headlights were not faulty.
It was done only to impress my girlfriend of four months.
When she came out and asked me about my actions
I told her they were flickering.
"Headlights don't flicker," she said.
"These lights flicker," I said.
The next night I changed the oil.
"Why don't you wait 'til morning to do that?" she asks.
"In the morning, I put chains on tires," I say
in a primitive accent
while freezing to death in a sleeveless T-shirt
splashed w/ grease and car gunk.
On both of these nights
we did extraordinary things in bed...
I became convinced this was due to my
pre-meditated quasi-mechanical exhibitionism.
On the third night
I watched a Bowl game and ate potato chips.
She stood in the kitchen doorway and glared at me.
After the game
I sat at my desk and wrote poems on a
piece of paper spotlighted by a small lamp.
I wore glasses while doing this.
Her glare became a glow.
That night again we had outstanding sex
before I was left twisted on the floor,
clumps of hair easily torn from my head.
I was starting to figure things out with her.
Auto repairs, poetry, well-shaped arms
Football games, potato chips
the weather was still frostbitten
and we stayed indoors.
There was nothing to talk about,
nothing on TV, and nothing new to read in the house.
She made dinner and we sat at the table.
"Close your eyes," I said,
and she did.
I wheeled into the room a large Karaoke sound system
and started singing "You Light Up My Life".
On the last lengthy note, she interrupted and said-
"The lights on the car, they weren't really broken were they?"
I lied, saying they were.
She looked out the window with a pained expression.
I picked up three knives off the table
and began juggling them
like a cold
Mr. Rucker had moved into the old farmhouse three years before. He worked at raising roses. Red roses, hybrids ranging in hue from a pink so delicate as to be nearly white to a crimson so deep that, from the sidewalk, it appearred black. The single exception to the rule being a tree rising in the center of the lawn, which, in season, produced a yellow blossom, larger and of a stronger fragrance than it's scarlet brothers. Carved into a weathered piece of wood and stuck on a pole before this tree was the name Jennifer. No one knew why the old man carved it, or displayed it in front of the tree. Mrs. Henderson asked him once, and he started to cry. Silent tears slipped down his cheeks and he hurriedly excused himself.
On rainy days, Mr. Rucker outfitted himself in a slicker and walked through the village to the fishing pond, where he would wile away the lonely hours of a long afternoon waiting for the float to wiggle and dance, betraying the indiscretions of a careless trout or errors of a humble catfish. If God had decreed, however, that Indiana, along the Ohio border, near Richmond and Tuscola, should be free of rain, the fish would be free, forever, of this particular predator. On sunny days, Mr. Rucker's energy was given over entirely to the children. The leafy, crimson ones in his rose garden and the little ones that streamed from the school at 2:15.
In these days of two income families, of struggling against the incoming tide of bills and expenses, Mr. Rucker found his calling. Without charge, for the joy of children in his garden, he opened his lawn and garden to all of the children of Tuscola. In a large city, he might have been viewed with suspicion, but in small town America, there was still room for an old man who loved children. The parents of Tuscola looked on him with gratitude, and never once ventured suspicions about some unclean or unwholesome motive in his unrenumerated ramblings with their children. On any sunny afternoon, Mr. Rucker was to be found playing with children on his lawn, or towing a brigade of them through the wondrous pathways of his rose garden. In time, he became the town's unofficial grandfather. The licorice whips he handed out with reckless abandon were now purchased wholesale from Brogan's supermarket. The lemonade was donated, and, on rare occasions, a cake, for someone's birthday, showed up at his door, compliments of Mario's Italian bakery.
Sometimes, the children noticed, Mr. Rucker would seem to lose interest in their games, for a moment. At those times, he would stop and stare at the tree with the big yellow roses. Every so often, when he did this, the children spied a tear running down his cheek.
Tuscola was not a place in which to keep secrets, however. Mr. Rucker's life was slowly unraveled by those ladies whose business it was to reveal the lives of the town's residents, and then spend hours on the telephone inventing better tales to tell of them than the truth. It had taken three years of digging, and hinting and winnowing the grains of truth from the chaff of rumor, but much of Mr. Rucker's history was known to Tuscola.
He had been a successful real estate broker in Philadelphia, and retired nearly a millionaire. His early years, however, had been quite different. He worked and struggled for many years on the ragged edge of poverty. He was thirty when he married, and spent only a year with his bride before she died, leaving him with a two month old baby girl. Unable to care for himself in this tragedy, much less the child, he put her up for adoption.
From that point on, he buried himself in his work, and prospered. He retired early, at sixty. Though he never said, and no one, not even Mrs.Johnson the sine qua non of Tuscola gossip could state it definately, it was an accepted fact that the little girl he gave away thirty-one years ago, was named Jennifer.
April 27th was Mr. Rucker's birthday. The children and their parents had carefully planned that afternoon. Mario made a cake worthy of the wedding of the king of a small European country. The children spent the day away from the various Rs to craft paintings, ashtrays, decorated boxes and all manner of things children make as gifts. En mass they moved from the school down the old creek road to Mr. Rucker's house. The road was seldom used by cars. Mr.Rucker and the Holmsbys were the only residents and neither was much given to entertaining adults, or driving, except to Brogan's on Tuesdays. So it was a rather strange thing for the children to see a car drive past them and up the driveway to Mr. Rucker's. As fast as they could move, without damaging an fragile leaf of finger-painted masterpiece, they gathered behind the row of pink roses that separated the garden from the lawn. There they could spy.
The car pulled up, just as Mr. Rucker was going out his front door, arms full of badminton, horse shoe and volleyball, in an old jacket, bursting with licorice whips. The woman who got out of the car was short and as blond as any of the children had ever seen. The children didn't hear what was said, much to the consternation of the ladies charged with recording the social history of Tuscola. Mr. Rucker walked over to the tree named Jennifer, took out his jackknife and cut off the largest blossom. He carefully cut off the thorns and handed it to the blond lady.
Mr. Rucker is still grandfather to the town of Tuscola, but he is away more often. And, sometimes, on summer weekends, he brings home two little girls with shining blond hair, and, on sunday, sends them home with a rose from a tree named Jennifer.
Mansion On The Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce by Fred Goodman
published by Times Books, Random House -- 431 pages -- $25 (US)
reviewed by Jim Esch
In the early 60’s Bob Dylan sang of an "artist" who "don't look back;" Dylan represented the vanguard of the sixties generation forging ahead into the uncharted waters of pop music stardom. But something’s happened since those days; the baby boom generation has reached middle age, that time of life when one can’t help but look back. And looking back it’s no understatement to claim that the 60’s revolutionized pop music and the music industry. By decade's end, rock music had changed. It had become art. And it had become big business.
It’s this janus-faced duality of art vs. Business that enticed Fred Goodman to write Mansion On The Hill, a title taken from a Hank Williams classic. One story in the book concerns a 1988 black-tie industry-only, awards ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria honoring the folk legend Woody Guthrie. When accepting the award on behalf of his father, Arlo Guthrie looked out and proclaimed he didn’t know what his father would be doing tonight were his father still alive, but he knew he wouldn’t be here. Guthrie was no sellout. Could the same be said of most recording artists today?
The book explores how the underground roots of sixties rock with its attendant beliefs in "authenticity" and a refusal to sellout metamorphosed into a mega million dollar music industry that was preoccupied with money, deals, and profits. Goodman, a freelance journalist and former editor at Rolling Stone, chooses to tell the story by tracing the careers of several personalities – Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen, Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman, journalist cum producer John Landau, and record industry movers and shakers like Mo Ostin and David Geffen. There’s also the story of the major record labels: Columbia, Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Asylum, Arista, an incestuously competitive world of rivalries and one-uppmanship among record industry execs, promoters, agents, managers, and journalists.
Goodman tells his story with an eye for the juicy anecdote and a sometimes too meticulous recounting of how the business deals came down. Most of the book’s sources are dutifully credited in an endnotes section, which makes this book something more hefty than mere gossip.
The premise of Mansion On The Hill is that what started out in the early sixties as earnest efforts to promote and sell records and concerts that had artistic muscle, even political teeth had unwittingly by decade’s end turned into a business-aware, mass-culture movement, where the tail wagged the dog. The quest to be different to retain artistic control over record production was spearheaded by Dylan and his take-no-prisoners manager Albert Grossman forever changed the business. But all this "authenticity" wasn’t without strong ambition. Artists wanted to be big and famous, and they soon became more aware of the business side, so that by the 70’s a big commercial act like the Eagles went toe-to-toe with David Geffen over music publishing rights. How these developments happened is a complex, labrythine tale of personalities, deal-making, scamming, lying, cheating, drug abuse and greed. Which means it’s a pretty entertaining read.
One of the most telling portions of the book deals with Bruce Springsteen and his mentor/friendship with John Landau, an influential rock journalist who blurred the lines even more between rock and commerce. Landau dubbed Springsteen as "the future of rock and roll," a prophecy that Springsteen had then to live up to. Landau helped Bruce to craft an image as an icon of blue-collar rock and roll, an image that by the 80’s hit home with the smash Born In The USA album. But Goodman dares to poke at the icon: portraying how calculated the image was, leaving it up to us as readers to draw the conclusion: with all this money being raked in, what ever happened to authenticity? It’s hard to swallow the crafted elegy for America’s vanishing hometowns in a song like "My Hometown," after learning that he bought a multi-million dollar mansion in Beverly Hills soon after the Born In The USA tour.
Some artists have managed to retain some integrity in Goodman’s book, especially Dylan, who doesn’t seem to care what anybody thinks anymore, and Neil Young, who’s pock-marked recording career is filled with enough twists and turns to make a tornado dizzy. But Young is championed as a survivor of the industry, a man who quested for fame, got it, then did what he wanted to with it. Other artists weren’t so fortunate. Case in point being Peter Frampton, who willingly went along with the commercial juggernaut that was the best-selling Frampton Comes Alive album, but then faded quickly into oblivion, a victim of over-exposure.
The emblematic figure of the business side of rock can’t help but be David Geffen, the billionaire media mogul who started in the mail-room of the William Morris Agency and clawed his way to the top. Geffen is seen as an immensely talented businessman who didn’t have the same devotion to the counter-cultural ideals espoused by sixties rock. While allowing most of his artists the freedom to do what they did best, his eye was always focused on the bottom line, getting the best possible commissions, percentages and deals as possible. Geffen demonstrates just how powerful the rock and roll music industry has become after abandoning the counter-culture. He was the largest personal contributor to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign; when Geffen phones the White House, they pick up.
Mansion On The Hill is at bottom a disillusioned tale of the corrupting influence of money on the business of art. When we wonder why much of the music produced today doesn’t seem to have the cultural import that it had back in the sixties, we might look to Goodman’s chronicle for some telling answers.
Richard Garni, firstname.lastname@example.org,is a writer and fourth grade teacher as well as the founder of 101 Secret Wing Dings, an organization that brings art and writing into the living rooms, bars, hot dog stands and laundromats of the Triangle. He is presently at work on a grant to complete a travelogue to the desert resort of 29 Palms, California, where, in the thirties, James Cagney and Jimmy Durante used to stay up all night telling each other stories at the hotel's bar.
Mark Johnson, email@example.com, has been writing since the age of five, when his first two books were produced (with his mother's help.) He has appeared in school lit magazines, "Dragonfly" (a haiku quarterly in Portland, Oregon), several recent e-zines including "The Empty Shelf", "gaZet," and "AS-IS Fiction," and will have two haiku in the winter issue of "Cicada", an asian poetry quarterly from Bakersfield, CA.
Ro London, firstname.lastname@example.org,is Associate Editor of the Queens Historical Society Newsletter. Her fiction has appeared various publications such as Nobodaddies, Rough Draft, FUEL Magazine, Lynx Eye and Happy. Ro lives in New York City, prefers listening to speaking, sitting to standing, and wears Viva Glam lipstick no matter what she's doing.
Richard Russell, email@example.com, is a retired New York advertising executive who spent most of his working years as a copywriter. Upon his retirement, he decided to attempt to write experimental pieces and expand the concept of literature as a whole. He sums up his attempts this way: "Stories are all around us, all the time. Literature attempts to tell a whole story. To have the story make sense. This is, in a sense, unreal and artificial, and, I think, that omniscience is becoming boring. In real life, stories are cobbled together bits of observation, gossip, intuition, imagination. That's what I am attempting to write." His other writing credits include: PISTIS SOPHIA, A Gnostic Gospel, and the introduction to the first facsimile version of THE AMERICAN MERCURY.
Kevin Sampsell, firstname.lastname@example.org, has been published in numerous publications such as Carbon 14, Atom Mind, Plazm, Wooden Head Review, Flipside, Pink Pages, and many others big and small. He runs a small press in Portland, Oregon called Future Tense that deals with cutting edge fiction and poetry.(PO Box 42416 Portland, Or. 97242 ... A full-length collection "How to Lose Your Mind With the Lights On" was published in '94, most recent chapbooks are "Haiku You" and "The Patricia Letters".