Thursday, April 28, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Thirty-Fifth Fragment

* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *

MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction (as every schoolchild was taught in the 80s), was supposed to be the ultimate deterrent to nuclear Armageddon - “Everybody Dies!” Any sane individual could be expected to refrain from pushing a Button that would be summarily pressed in kind by his Russki counterpart after death began to rain down from above, but it was the words "sane" and "expected" in that description that gave us the Fear - there was no true restriction, nothing to enforce the deterrent except the anticipated restraint of the button-pusher. It was as if the fever dreams of a thousand lonely Hardcore bands actually came true - if MAD didn't exist they would've had to invent it: Ronald Reagan, fangs elongated and dripping green poison, hunched over the big, fat, round, red, candy-like Button with his crooked finger poised to press, cowboy hat perched on his slick black Bob’s Big Boy quiff, a crucified Christ in miniature bouncing on his right shoulder like some over-eager younger brother on a pogo stick. “I’ve just outlawed Russia forever,” he would giggle, his fawning Yes men laughing along, Nancy poised just behind with her elongated fingers brushing his collar. “We begin bombing in f-f-five m-m-m-m-m-minutes” he would stutter out like a Sigue Sigue Sputnik remix and then he'd push the Button down and it would make a tiny squeaking sound like the horn on a Fisher Price plastic car. Oddly enough, the Button was also made by Fisher Price, but unfortunately their steadfast attention to detail in this case meant that the Button would actually work, and soon enough the missiles would fill the sky. Too perfect to actually exist, these were the collective images that reflected back at us from the t-shirts and album covers of a terrified and neutered nation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Thirty-Fourth Fragment

* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *

-Jason. Wake up.-

I sit up, still dreaming, my wife asleep at my side. They are arrayed at the foot of our bed, the women sitting, the men standing behind them. They are five in number, a little family – although I remember later that only three of them are actually related. The older woman, the Mother, sits to my right, covered in blood from what appear to be innumerable stab wounds. Underneath the blood her dress is plain, her face even plainer. The older man, the Father, and a young teenage boy stand together behind her, the older man’s hand placed awkwardly on his Son’s shoulder. The boy, kind of punk-rock, kind of skater-ish, is also bleeding but less so than his Mother. Fewer stab wounds are visible. The Father appears nearly untouched but for the blood seeping forward into the front of his work shirt – all of his stab wounds were in his back.

Marge Janks seems upset. -Well, I guess I didn’t need to be so worried. You hardly talked about us at all.-

I’m amazed. –I thought that’s what you wanted.-

-Well, I thought at least you’d spend as much time on us as...her.- She gestures towards Katie Hoehner, who shrugs.

-I didn’t have as much to speculate on. The facts of the case are pretty straightforward, the only real mysteries are how Snakeland fit in, the influence that it could’ve had on Jeremy. Unfortunately, he’s never talked about that at all.-

Mark Janks says –It seems like you wrote about listening to rock songs and girls and stuff that happened in the 1980s much more than you wrote about us.-

My turn to shrug. –A lot of what this whole thing is about is listening to rock songs and girls and stuff that happened in the 1980s. It’s just sorting through the ghosts of all that different stuff in addition you guys.-

John Janks appears to choose his words very carefully. –I don’t think that’s why we’re here, though.-

Now I’m becoming irritated. –Why are you here, exactly. If I had a better idea of that maybe what I’m writing would end up being more satisfying to you, or to anyone who reads it.-

John purses his lips. –I’m not really sure. Or I’d tell you, honestly.-

I guess I believe him.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Thirty-Third Fragment

* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *

When we weren’t debating the conflicting themes running throughout Generation X albums, we were debating the sexual undercurrents running throughout pop music as a whole. As I have mentioned before, if we weren’t thinking about rock records we were most probably thinking about fucking, and discussing the combination of the two was a natural end. It is important as we break into this next bit that the reader keeps in mind the sociological difference between 1985 and 2011 – in a lot of ways you could divide it between eras BC and AC – Before and After Compton.

In 1985, Prince writing an album track like “Darling Nikki” with a line about “masturbating with a magazine” was so threatening that Tipper Gore formed the PMRC because of it and eventually got that lovely “Parent Advisory/Explicit Lyrics” box slapped on there. From here a natural progression leads us to 2 Live Crew, Too Short, Schoolly D and a bunch of other proto-gangsta rappers but nothing else had the seismic effect on the culture as a whole of NWA’s Straight Out of Compton LP. After Compton charted at Number 1 in 1989 with absolutely no radio play and incendiary tracks like “Fuck Tha Police”, “Gangsta, Gangsta” and the heartwarming “Dopeman” remix (“I’ll slap you upside the head with 9 inches of limp dick!”) there was a definite sense that everything had changed. However, in 1989 Compton was still just a segment of the whole and not an encapsulation of the entirety of commercial hip-hop the way it often feels today. By 2010 Lil Wayne, one of the most mainstream rappers, made it to the singles chart with “Gonorrhea” which featured such lovelies as “we some asshole niggas / call us diarrhea”. Uh huh. So it’s become apparent that things have changed somewhat over time.

But back in ’85 the mysteries of sex and love were relatively intact, for good or ill, at least in pop music. D-Man was always on about whether “Love Missle F1-11” by Sigue Sigue Sputnik was about sex or drugs (it was the “Shoot it up!” chorus that confused things for him), I was obsessed with the idea that “Crimson and Clover” was about sadomasochism (for reasons that have been lost to history – the words don’t support the idea whatsoever), Griffin endlessly puzzled over the lyrics to T.Rex songs as if they were arcane instructions on how to find the clitoris and we were all enraptured by “Save It For Later” by the English Beat to an unhealthy degree.

The rest of the song was pretty inconsequential, to us at least, but there were two lines in there that seemed pretty life changing to our teenaged ears. The couplet

“Just hold my hand while I come

(loooooong pause)

To a decision on it”

was the one that struck all of us in-between the eyes. Even a cursory listen to the song reveals that the use of the word “come” in there is part of the larger thought, and even if the loooooong pause was put in by the Beat for carnally-related reasons it’s only as a smutty joke that deflates any censorship with the end of the line. But you couldn’t tell that to us. It was as if “ a decision on it” didn’t even exist – no one ever bothered to sing anything but “mumble mumble mumble” along with that part if they sang at all. But if we were playing “Save It For Later” at a party, you could hear “JUST HOLD MY HAND WHILE I COME” for miles around.

What was it about that line? Far dirtier ones existed in the music we listened to, even in 1985. There was an odd sweetness to this one, though – no matter what the girl in the song was doing to the singer (and god knows we debated that for hours, too – was she giving him head, was it a rosy palm situation, was the singer – heaven forbid –roughing up the suspect while his girlfriend watched), he wanted her to hold his hand while he came. As requests go, it’s pretty profound. It’s not the complete innocence of the Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” but it perfectly captured the strange mix of romantic longing that we were barely able to acknowledge at that point with the sexual aching that permeated our daily lives. We knew the word “Just” was part of the key, but further than that we weren’t able to explain. Just hold my hand while I come, but please don’t ask me why.