Graham Parker @ Shank Hall

Graham Parker is playing a solo set for his Last Chance to Learn the Twist (2023) tour. He played 4-5 songs from his latest album (“It Mattered to Me”, “We Did Nothing”, “Lost Track of Time”, “Them Bugs”), then one song from the rest of his records. For this set is was “Back to School Days” from Howlin’ Wind (1976), “That’s What They All Say” from Heat Treatment (1976), title track from Stick To Me (1977), “Discovering Japan” from Squeezing Out Sparks, (1979), etc. I’m a fan, but don’t have all his records, so when he introduces songs from Up The Escalator (1980) and Steady Nerves (1985) I’m basically hearing them for the first time and they are holding up with the rest. I’m saying to myself, “I’ve got to get the rest of his records,” and that hasn’t happened to me in a long time.

I’ve been to a lot of shows in my life and seen many great bands & performers, but the truth is most live shows disappoint in many respects. Often the performance isn’t good, and doesn’t reflect the standard set with their studio versions, videos, etc. Most bands & acts need a great producer to prop them up a bit. It’s one thing to be able to record yourself well, it’s another thing to translate that into a live performance that commands an audience. Graham Parker does all that & more.

Shank Hall is general admission, doors at 7:00, show at 8:00– and yes, there are Spinal Tap (1984) reminders all over the place. Legendary venue. I arrive just before the doors open and there’s already a line of a dozen people. Mostly men, my age or older. Once you’re in you can sit anywhere and the people ahead of me mostly go for the tables. I let everyone go ahead, then walk down to the front row and select the chair directly in front of the microphone. Best seat in the house. I order a Guinness and relax. More people now start seating themselves up front.

Graham Parker’s set-up is a telecaster electric (not electrical!) guitar plugged into a Fender combo amplifier that is microphoned to the house PA. He uses one effect box, which I didn’t identify. He came out on stage with an acoustic/electric guitar that fed into the house soundboard, while wearing a harmonica rack– ala Bob Dylan. He substitutes a kazoo for harmonica on an encore number “Them Bugs” that brought the house down.

I have tried the harmonica rack in the past for live performance, and I can tell you it is one of the most difficult things to well as a rock musician. It’s extremely difficult to get comfortable on stage when your strapped in with that thing, as you feel like a restricted paraplegic. You can’t dance around to distract the audience or naturally to release tension. You have to be completely into the music and focus everything on delivering the song no matter how uncomfortable you are feeling. Graham Parker does this very well and makes it look relatively easy, which is quite a trick.

Graham Parker has the magic, by that I mean he can focus his songwriting spirit, singing voice, guitar playing & (when necessary) harmonica playing into one sound which fills up the room & captivates the audience. I’ve never witnessed an original rock performer who was more relaxed and 100% sure of themselves than Graham Parker. That is a total artist.

There are two basic situations which make it difficult to relax on stage. First is if you have a tough crowd and no friends in the room. You have to handle that FAST, otherwise you’ll get run off stage. I’m sure Graham Parker has dealt with that in the past and knows what to do. You have to have a chip on your shoulder and then let it rip. If you can do that, you can play anywhere.

The other case where it’s tough to get comfortable on stage is when the crowd loves you. There’s a lot of excitement & anticipation which infects the audience, and the artist feels this. That is perhaps an even tougher pressure to deal with, because you’re fighting yourself. You want to do well for this crowd that adores you and expects a great show. It’s very tough to relax and live up to those expectations. I’ve never seen anyone handle that better.

Graham Parker didn’t even play 20% of his best songs, and everyone (newbies & longtime fans) left that show saying to themselves, “That guy is amazing, I definitely underrated him!” Graham Parker played for 90 minutes, and performed about 20 songs– 4-5 from his new album, and 15 classics he decided he wanted to play that night. What that means is that his next show where he still promotes his new songs (as he should), he can play 15 entirely different songs from his catalog of classics and that show will be just as good. He can do this at least 2-3 more times before he runs dry or starts repeating. How many artists can you name who can do that? There are very few, and most of them are dead. Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello & Thurston Moore are among the living artists who are in Graham Parker’s class.

This leads to another point, which I had in discussion with a longtime fan before the show. You have to survive to be this great, and that’s not easy. The music industry will kill you, and few know this better than Graham Parker. You can hear it in his music. There’s always an intellect working and the music has soul. This no longer exists in the music industry because everything revolves around superstar performers like Taylor Swift & Beyonce. Nothing exciting or original can be allowed to interfere with these mega-releases. The industry can’t afford that, so there are no original rock bands anymore, and songwriting has been pushed to the side in favor of American Idol winners.

I can’t imagine Graham Parker kissing Simon Cowell’s ring in order to get a record deal. I don’t think it would happen, and furthermore I know it wouldn’t work. A young songwriter like Graham Parker isn’t allowed to exist in the music industry today. The corporate blacklist on originality & meaningfulness in music is complete. So for all these reasons, I highly recommend Graham Parker in concert. The title of his latest record leads one to believe there may not be many chances left to see such a true artistic genius as his. Don’t miss it.

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December 8, 2023

How do US representatives who tried to overthrow the US Constitution avoid jail & all accountability for their criminal actions? It’s because Joe Biden & the Democrats have covered for them in the name of ruling class “bipartisanship.” Democrats enable fascists while attacking & censoring true leftists. That’s how Biden’s proxy war in the Ukraine (and now ethnic cleansing of Palestines in Gaza) are being sustained, despite their unpopularity among American working people & youth.

Both Democrats & Republicans agree we need to be at war with China over Taiwan sometime in the near future. Obama/Biden ‘pivoted to China’ after the “war on terror” under Bush/Cheney became an untenable US foreign policy doctrine to sell to the American people.

Donald Trump pushed past that on the far right, by reneging on the long agreed-upon doctrine of One China, which was Richard Nixon’s foreign policy baby to open up China to US business interests. It got him re-elected in 1972 despite strong anti-war & youth opposition on Vietnam, and capitalism flourished through the 1970’s into the early 2000’s because of it.

US recognition of One China was a conscious ruling class policy of economic globalization to lower costs for American corporations and make them more profitable. It brought humanity the internet, mp3s & social media– but it has wrecked our planet with pollution, deforestation & runaway global warming which isn’t being addressed at all. The US military can’t win a world war for many reasons, foremost are: 1) Russia & China (and Israel [!!]) have nuclear weapons and will use them if their existence is seriously threatened, and 2) US businesses depend on the world for supply chains & cheap labor.

Cheap oil means affordable global transportation, and that’s what all the fighting is about in the Middle East and why the Zionist Netanyahu regime of fascists are always proclaimed to be inseparable partners in US foreign policy, which is imperialism. That’s what the IDF’s ethic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza is about. To Zionists. a multi-ethnic state living in peace is out of the question. This racist ruling ideology is opposed by many Jews in Israel, the US & beyond, but this fact is never mentioned in the American fake media.

Zionists are today’s Nazi’s, as is Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev, whose fascist cabal are the direct political descendants of Nazis under Adolph Hitler. Zelensky’s war over Crimea with Russia is unwinnable, yet Joe Biden & his CIA Democrat cohorts keep doubling down on it. Republicans will hold up funding in Congress for awhile (when it is politically convenient) to get more anti-immigrant militarization for the US-Mexico border.

Canada is our friendly neighbor to the North, historically a safe haven for Nazis who fled Europe after WW2. Death squad democracies under Truman (Dem) & Eisenhower (Rep) administrations in Latin America harbored WW2 Nazis under US protectorate. They were used to teach the CIA their methods for becoming known globally as Murder, Inc.

This capitalist economic boom period ends with WW3, unless the youth & working class unite to overthrow capitalism before it’s too late. Workers of the world, unite– by joining the Socialist Equality Party in whatever country you live, or form one if there isn’t one yet. The SEP is the only political party of Trotskyism, which is the true socialism of Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels.

All other ‘left’ variants, from the DSA & the labor union bureaucracies, are the fake left. So is PBS, CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post & Rolling Stone magazine. Pussy Riot is fake, they reek of CIA provocation as its members have been designated “foreign agents” by Russian president Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton was Pussy Riot’s biggest fan back in the day. Pop music & entertainment have been thoroughly fake since American Idol & 9/11.

For publishing these truths, you are branded a ‘class reductionist antisemite’ by the fake left, which is well-funded by the CIA Democrats. The Black Lives Matter & MeToo campaigns also originate with the CIA Democrats.

MAGA Trumpists are the ultra-nationalists on the far right. This means white supremacists, holocaust deniers, anti-vaxers, Christian fundamentalists, and other reactionary variants of militia anarchism. They all prefer to let their fists & guns do their talking when it comes to politics, since their limited talking points never hold up.

Historically speaking, December 8 is the day after the date that lives in infamy. What was the American workers’ mood on December 8, 1941? It was anger, which was exploited to the benefit of the American ruling elite. Working kids got drafted and sent overseas to fight & die, while rich kids got deferred. Just like Bill Clinton and just like Donald Trump. They’re all cowards. Enabled bullies, actually.

The danger is this sociopathic class controls all the levers of power, and Trump has fascist shock troops at his behest & command, which the world saw on January 6, 2021. That was a coup attempt by Donald Trump & his fascist cabal which extended to all branches of government & the military/police, and intended to establish a presidential dictatorship.

This threat to human democracy needs to be overwhelmingly crushed by an internationally united working class & youth. That’s the path to victory and saving our planet (& ourselves!) from self-inflicted destruction. The work is in party building and the development of political conscious & united leadership of the working class. Social media is what unites us, so all platforms must be democratized to be de-Nazified.

Leading antisemite Elon Musk bought Twitter last year and changed its name to X. He’s had to cash in more than a few bitcoins to do it, but for Musk it’s worth it. Elon Musk is a Nazi, who pretends he’s a prodigy. He’s acts as if he’s intelligent, but he’s a proven philistine– even in his so-called fields of expertise. Elon Musk needed a big platform he could dominate on every level, so he overpaid for Twitter, which was estimated at around $12B, but Musk was forced to pay $44B.

Elon Musk had to recoup lost value somehow, so he has encouraged his fascist followers by inviting Donald Trump back onto the platform– which the Donald refused. Trump now rants exclusively on his Truth Social platform. Trump, Inc is always lying, ripping people off, and going bankrupt– that’s the Trump business cycle. His hardcore supporters are on Parlor & Breitbart spreading their filth.

A sign of global financial turmoil is the crypto bubble being re-inflated, with bitcoin now at ~$44K after starting 2023 at ~$17K. Bitcoin as ‘digital gold” is a myth, but it’s being hyped as a ‘safe haven’ & ‘good investment’ in the face of weakening currencies. Crypto has to get past SBF/FTX  & CZ/Binance before Elon Musk can sell his crypto garbage as good coin again. The bitcoin market is being pumped again, for sure, but there is still strong opposition among powerful US business & political interests. As mentioned before, US intelligence is the Black Hand in crypto.

Finally, December 8, 1980 was the day John Lennon was murdered in NYC. Beatles fans around the world mourn this tragic anniversary every year by trying to celebrate what John Lennon’s existence brought to humanity. Pop culture & art changed with the Beatles, and the idea that there are deranged people out there who want to kill that is deeply offensive to anyone who thinks & feels.

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What is a guitar player?

It’s not such a simple question because so much more is involved besides just how well you play. There are so many styles around the world that are respected & influential that much must be considered on the subject. I’m going to speak from a rock perspective, which is somewhat limited, but necessary since there are so many rock guitar players as it’s the dominant modern style. Classical & flamenco styles are certainly just as valid.

As I written before, rock music needs more bass players. If you are enthusiastic, yet average at guitar, seriously consider a switch to bass. By becoming merely competent on bass, your bandmate options will increase exponentially– I can assure you. If you are more creatively inclined as a songwriter, yet have difficulty singing & playing guitar at the same time, then bass is the place.

With that said, if you are committed to the six-string guitar, then learn how to play your instrument well. There are different roles & expectations for pure guitar players, as compared to singer/guitar players. Since I’m the latter, I’ll be discussing from that perspective.

Pure guitar players like Tony Iommi, Angus Young, Alex Lifeson, Eddie Van Halen, Dave Murray, Brad Gillis, Joe Satraini, etc, can do EVERYTHING. They can play lightning fast & change tempos fluidly with overwhelming technique. If you’re in a serious rock band, THAT’S what you want on guitar. It REALLY helps if they are part of the songwriting process.

Pure players who lack songwriting creativity are severely limited because as a band you NEED great riff ideas from your guitar player. These impressive technical (yet creatively impoverished) guitar players often become session aces or tour replacements for major acts in need. They get a lot of corporate work.

For singer/guitar players such as myself, the expectations & responsibilities are different. You’re more of a rhythm player as a singer, so you have to be solid yet make it look easy because everyone is watching you, but most are concentrating on your vocals & overall stage presence. But every pure guitar player (and other serious musician) in the audience will also be rating your technical playing, showmanship & charisma, song content, stage awareness, equipment, set-up, etc. Every fan wants to see a star, and every musician wants to work with a star because they all believe THEY are stars.

Depending on whether there is a lead guitarist or not, a singer/guitarist may also have to be proficient at soloing. That’s the part which most singer/guitarists struggle, the point in the song where they aren’t singing and they have to perform at a higher level on guitar. They won’t be able to play like the guys I’ve listed above, so what can be done?

I started using a slide on my pinky finger when I realized that I was going to have to be a solo artist. That means you have to do everything well at all times, otherwise you will suck & the crowd will know it instantly. A slide gives your guitar playing an entirely different dimension and allows lots of creative uses without having to be fast & flashy. It’s not an overused crutch, like the capo (both pictured below).

I don’t try to play like Duane Allman or any of those other classic bluesmen. They’re too good. Mississippi Delta bottleneck blues is where slide guitar started, and if you listen to these early recordings from the early masters, they were very creative & free in their use of a slide. This slide style reverberated through post-war electric blues. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band’s used multiple slide guitars with all kinds of crazy patterns. George Thorogood is a great modern rock slide guitar player. If you absorb all that on record, you can figure out something new on slide. My approach is to use the slide as a scrape for punk effect, verses the glistening leads of Mick Taylor, etc.

Jimi Hendrix is the standard for the singer/guitar player style. NOBODY could play like that, while writing & singing such amazing songs. Jimi Hendrix could do it live, and in the studio. He could be a show all by himself or in a great band. He was a natural in an era that exploded him into popular consciousness, but of course, it was the excess of this era that killed him. Jimi Hendrix was a prodigy, perhaps the best ever while he lasted, but he’s not a model to follow because his excessive hippie lifestyle will kill you at a young age like it did him.

Same with Kurt Cobain, no matter how you feel about the circumstances around his death in 1994. If you can’t survive, then you don’t leave much of a blueprint for young fans to follow. Maybe that’s their idea, they DON’T want to be followed, but then why become a performer in the first place? These are the tough responsibilities that Frank Black, J Mascis, Thurston Moore, Billy Corgan take on as the LEADERS of their respective bands. You have to be be an effective & easy player, while singing the great songs you wrote. You have to be able to lead everyone during the formative creative process, in the studio, and then on stage.

This gets to the inexact science & sticky question of who is replaceable in a band? Example: everyone knows Aerosmith because of Steven Tyler & Joe Perry, so they are irreplaceable. The rest are integral, but replaceable in the band’s legacy stage which is about being able to get through lucrative tours, not making new music.

Devo, Cheap Trick, the Meat Puppets, etc, are serious bands who still tour successfully (young energetic capacity audiences) with replacement drummers. Their original drummers were essential band members during their prime, but replaceable as they evolved into legacy acts. It’s usually the lead singer and the songwriter(s) who are indispensable throughout a band’s existence. Rush couldn’t continue after drummer/songwriter Neil Peart retired from music & subsequently passed away. The Rolling Stones probably won’t tour again after the death of Charlie Watts. They were indispensable.

I’m making broad generalities for illustrative purposes. The original band member is ALWAYS better than replacements, as they were part of the original creative process & cool vibe that fans identify with. Unfortunately, industry machinery takes its toll on musicians… As mentioned above, replacements are mostly session musicians by trade, industry veterans who never had much creativity in their prime.

Replacements are sometimes now a son (or other family member) of the band leader, etc. It takes a lot of chops & dedication to fill in for any major act, on any instrument. You’re expected to be solid, while in the background, unassumingly carrying the headliners everyone paid to see. That’s a tough gig for little bread, and only a limited number of musicians are good enough (and have their head on straight enough) to do it. There is some audience respect due for that, but the bigger point is too many replacements will diminish any band into an empty shell of itself.

How much would a young kid pay to see Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Poison & KISS at a festival? No more than $10-20 in 2023, and that’s being generous. Too many replacement members, etc. How much would a young kid pay to see Jane’s Addiction, the Pixies, the Smashing Pumpkins & Dinosaur Jr at a festival? Anywhere from $200-300+. Why is that?

It’s because hair metal was all about good times & partying, which never last. That’s why hair metal acts fare so poorly in this 21-century era of climate change, COVID & fascist politics. Alternative bands of the 1980’s & 1990’s brought real energy & taught kids about life, and that’s what holds up with every generation of kids. That’s why the Pixies shows sell out, with parents taking their EXCITED teenage kids, while hair metal draws only old folks.

The grunge movement happened when I was in dental school and as a fan of the music who had a year-and-a-half of guitar lessons I would think about these things in between my academic schedule and wonder what I was going to do with my life…

You get through difficult life situations with hard word & intelligent thinking. You have to stick to the process especially when difficulties & failures arise. That’s the ‘hard part’ many people don’t want to face. But if you have a good plan that is adaptable as needed, and you stick with the process, your situation will improve and then you can turn your ambitions into reality. That’s how grunge guitar broke through and why it remains relevant.

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Orlando music & Ric Size influence

Why does a huge sprawling metropolis like Orlando have no significant music scene? The biggest factor as to why there is no significant music scene in Orlando is Disney, which owns the town. Disney, like any powerful & ruthless corporation, seeks to eradicate all competition in its sphere. There is no way a creative & independent artistic movement will be allowed by Disney in Orlando. That’s part of Florida politics.

I lived around Central Florida for over 25 years. I arrived as a new resident from out-of-state as a practicing dentist, and became an independent musical artist. When I arrived in Orlando in late-summer 1994 as a fresh-out-of-school dentist, I was immediately besieged as a provider by constant requests/demands for oxycontin & Lortab for pain relief. Evidentially, Orlando was an early test market for huge pharmaceutical companies to dump opioids onto the market, creating legions of addicts overnight. No one taught us about this in dental school.

Drugs is what drove the mid-1990’s electronica rave scene in Orlando & elsewhere. This is when meth started becoming popular in the drug underworld, and as a practicing dentist I saw more than my share of meth mouth. It’s very tragic when you see a once-beautiful 19-year old husk in your chair, begging you to remove teeth in order to stop the pain. It’s even worse when they insist on narcotics for prescription-strength pain relief afterwards. Those CEO’s at Pfizer, J&J, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, etc, all made fortunes off the opioid epidemic they created, while healthcare providers in every field were stuck in the trenches dealing with this crap.

This, and all the problems it creates, is why so many providers have left healthcare since the COVID pandemic hit in early 2020. All the fields of healthcare have fallen under corporate control, where doctors, assistants & nurses no longer have control over their offices & patients. Today, it’s too expensive to compete with corporate, unless you are catering to the top 2%. That’s a tiny niche, but highly competitive. Most of the patient need (in medical & dental) is for ‘nuts & bolts’ care. This means: 1) proper exam & diagnosis; 2) preventive health procedures; and 3) basic care procedures. ‘Less is more’ in most cases.

You can see how this conflicts with our current corporate healthcare model, which emphasizes high-production & expensive elective procedures because they make the most profit. And when under-trained & unqualified providers don’t have good answers, they often write another prescription… No wonder America is so sick.

Back to Central Florida and its lack of a new music scene. This is where & what I came out of as an artist when I began writing songs in the late 1990’s. Orlando ‘music & arts’ is more correctly defined as a drug & party scene. It’s been dominated by drug-fueled LGBTQ+ activists long before I arrived.

The biggest Orlando rock band of that era was Matchbox 20, who relocated their home base to Atlanta after they broke through with “3 AM”. They did this because (as a straight rock band) they couldn’t get sustained local support from Orlando Weekly & Co. It’s mostly sniping, intrigue & backstabbing that drives their tabloids. Their identity politics today are widely despised.

So how did I overcome all this and make records? First, I was extremely fortunate to work with great people who really helped me and believed in the music. Jay Stanley was in Tabitha’s Secret, the name of Matchbox 20, just before they broke big. Jay had been amputated in the process. As my recording engineer & producer on Magnified (2012), he explained a lot of the Orlando music politics to me. Jay Stanley was forced to sue Matchbox 20 for songwriting credits to “3 AM.” which were worth millions of dollars in royalties.

Jay had won his legal case, and he had it made when we first met in Ocoee, FL in summer 2011. He had a great 2nd-story home studio, nice & private with everything we needed. We clicked right away, and together we blasted out all the songs– I sang & played all the guitars & harmonica, while Jay added electronic beats, studio effects & mixed. It was fast work & high-energy excitement the whole time. Both of us liked Magnified, and still stand by it. It’s a revolutionary rock album.

After shooting videos for “Mercury Rising” & “Talented” with local Lake County video producer Susan Cameron and her team at Wild Zebra Media in Tavares, FL, I had greater ambitions for my next album. Electrified! (2015) was to be a CD as well as a documentary essay film. Susan filmed, while I starred & directed. We edited & she produced it– as far as we got. We recruited as much local talent as we could, for as long as we could, and shot that fucker on a hope & prayer. I didn’t have the money to finish, or any possibility of major distribution, so the project collapsed at the end. Here’s the film, which still needs some editing & corrections, but it’s 98% finished.

Jay Stanley relocated to Apopka while I was working with Susan Cameron in Tavares. By the time I was ready to record my second album, he had just finished moving into his new house in the suburbs. Jay had converted the garage into his new studio, and I was his first client there. We has numerous sound & microphone issues, as you can imagine. We had barking dogs, along with an upset & needy girlfriend constantly interrupting the sessions. My management skills & patience were never more tested than during this period.

I had Tom Pearce on board with being my drummer. I wanted live drums this time, and Tom has no problem recording to a click track– which means he’s a real pro. Tom is a very sociable & likable fellow, in ways that I am not. Every veteran rock musician in the Orlando area seems to know who he is, because he’s drummed in many bands. Tom is a professional, so he does a lot of ‘fill-in’ gigs, where a band needs a drummer for a night or just a short time, for whatever reason.

What you learn from listening to people like Tom is that local live music is a community. Bands & their musicians are often interchangeable. Every singer-songwriter & guitarist is constantly looking for an upgrade, whether on drums or bass. It’s typically a fluid exchange of talent within a healthy music scene.

As I mentioned above, Orlando is just the opposite. Instead of healthy & thriving with creative energy, its juice has been sapped by drugs & cynical politics. In a word, Orlando is toxic. Remarkably, it is within this milieu that Tom Pearce was able to find & connect with the best rock musicians Orlando had to offer at the time.

On bass, Craig Roy is the best technical rock player in Central Florida. He has a sense of artistry that most professional bassists aren’t even aware exists.

Jessica Dauman (now Jessica Lynn Martens) was brought in for her violin. Her 2013 recording session only lasted an hour or so, and included “Anna Rex”, “Old Friends” & “Moneybug”. After “Anna Rex” became an underground internet sensation, particularly in the modeling community, Jessica earned a vocalist role on the FOX series Archer (2009-21), and also has worked with Kenny Loggins.

I required a real guitar player for “Tip of the Cap”, so I convinced a local two-bit redneck shitkicker I know named Bill Pelick to play for me. He did a great job, and then was willing to give it a whirl on “Just Because,” and it worked great. I’ll admit, this is one of my favorite tricks. I’ll invite someone in for one song, and then when that’s quickly done, I’ll say, “How about this song…?” That’s how records get finished.

One regret on Electrified! was that I didn’t ask Jessica to play on “Listen to the Woman”. What was I thinking?! Tom had everything else produced by mid-2015, but that song needed a woman’s voice, so he convinced Rachel Decker to add backing vocals. It was recorded on a laptop computer in my Mount Dora apartment. We actually has a better take a few weeks earlier, but Tom accidentally erased it. That’s how things went back then.

It took over two tears to finish Electrified!, from start to finish. After Jay recorded it, I decided to have Tom produce it. Of course, Jay didn’t like that, and there were hard feelings on all sides at the time, but today we’re cool. Tom has aptitudes that Jay & I lack. Tom is a drummer, an egghead & a computer whiz. He LIKES reading & learning all that technical sound science.

Tom took all the tracks which were recorded on Apple ProTools by Jay, and converted them to PC so he could work with better recording software. This, along with re-recording certain tracks, occupied Tom & me for two years. In October 2015, Electrified! was finally released online. I had already put the film online.

Since then, Tom & I have record live & acoustically. Hwy 19 & Main St (2015) was recorded in November in a tin shack at that location, and then Fully Covered (2016) in December/January. Over & Out (2017) was recorded in one session at my Mount Dora apartment in May of that year, also by Tom Pearce.

Tom then traveled to Sanford to record my last singles to date from 2019-2021. Bill Pelick & Rachel Decker each participated in a session. Both appear on “Patch Me Up Doc” & “Millennial Whoop”, Rachel on vocals & Bill on bass. Tom on drums & beats, also was the recording engineer & producer.

Tom Pearce also contributed mightily to the artwork for all of my projects from Hwy 19 & Main St, through the singles. He makes great suggestions and understands how to work creatively with a bold idea. He also knows when to set his ego aside, which is the mark of a great producer.

At the outset  of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, I self-recorded the Coronavirus Concerts (2020) on an Amazon Fire tablet in Sanford, FL, and released them as videos.  This was during the initial lockdowns, and well before any vaccines were available. The point was to prove a new & safe model for music recording & delivery during an uncontrolled viral pandemic.

I’ve used this career retrospective to illustrate many points. The title referred to the Orlando music scene, and that’s where I’ll conclude. When I say there is no significant new music scene in Orlando, that is a statement of fact. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t talented performers & artists who care. It means that the talent & creatively isn’t being allowed to flourish and there are material political reasons for that.

Artists & musicians need to stop isolating themselves and re-join the real world again. The real world works for its living, and in general it isn’t happy with its present compensation level. As long as musicians continue to endlessly party & get high, seeking only fame for themselves & vicarious pleasures at any cost, then they will continue to be isolated. They have nothing good to offer to humanity.

This downward spiral of despair & hopelessness can only be corrected when musicians & artists link together in solidarity. Hollywood writers & actors along with disenfranchised workers throughout the entertainment industry are now organizing & linking with teachers, autoworkers, UPS drivers, Amazon workers, etc. The entertainment industry can’t exist without all this coordinated labor. The current problem is that all the power is in the hands of corporate, backed by the state. Workers need to realize that THEY are the power. Without their labor, there is no economy.

Postscript: So where does Ric Size belong in the tradition of Florida rock music? While I love the Allman Brothers Band & Lynyrd Skynyrd, I’m probably closer to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as far as classic rockers go, but I’m not nearly as prolific. I’ve always considered myself a post-punk rocker, in the tradition of the Minutemen, Sonic Youth & Nirvana. Somewhere along the way I became a Trotskyist and it became revolution rock. You wouldn’t expect any of this to come from Central Florida, but that’s the story.

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Marilyn Manson vs. the abusive MeToo campaign

Who anointed the MeToo campaign as the morality police, judge, jury & executioner? Whether you like Marilyn Manson or not isn’t the issue. The guy worked hard to make millions of fans, and his relationships with those people has been poisoned by cynical politics & a dirty-tricks campaign. I know fans of Marilyn Manson (men & women) who say his music helped them get through a tough period in their lives, etc. Who is MeToo to judge all this with absolute authority?

In the case of Marilyn Mansion & Ashley Morgan Smithline, it’s Evan Rachel Wood who is the abuser. Evan Rachel Wood is a perjurer who (among other criminal activities) submitted a fraudulent letter from the FBI as evidence under oath in court. Commenters online are now calling Evan Rachel Wood “Amber Heard 2.0”, which is accurate. Evan Rachel Wood has the full backing of the CIA Democrats as Marilyn Manson has been the victim of a coordinated MeToo-style hit job because he’s an easy target.

The MeToo campaign and its fanatic adherents have no compassion & understanding for a man’s career ruined with lies. Just as they have no compassion for women who are teaching in classrooms with COVID, or female healthcare workers, retail employees, etc.

The MeToo campaign supports the criminal US/NATO-led proxy war in the Ukraine against Russia, nevermind all the women & children who have become casualties. The MeToo campaign still supports sanctions on Syria, even after a series of devastating earthquakes hit the region. Women & children buried under rubble doesn’t register on the MeToo campaign’s radar.

MeToo doesn’t care one whit about women autoworkers who have been unfairly fired for reporting sexual harassment & wage theft to the UAW bureaucracy. When a woman working on the line in an Ohio auto plant had a miscarriage last year, because she was doing work she shouldn’t have been doing, the UAW helped deny her insurance claim. And so on, etc…

MeToo doesn’t care about working class women, it is only concerned with gaining privileges for a thin layer of women in the upper-middle class. That’s the focus of all the identity politics campaigns (Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+, etc) which come directly from the CIA Democrats. This cynical attempt to divide workers & the poor only strengthens the hand of the far right.

Ashley Morgan Smithline has declared that Evan Rachel Wood manipulated & abused her. So why wouldn’t you believe her? MeToo (who claims women should ALWAYS be believed) is silent on this question.

The MeToo campaign, like capitalism, is exploitative & abusive to its core. The only way to end this nefarious, dirty-tricks MeToo campaign is by organized mass resistance to the capitalist system itself.

Music is such an important form of communication, perhaps the most influential as its primality touches & stirs our deepest emotions. The question of questions becomes: Who controls the music? Consider all music of the past in its historical materialist context, with a philosophical understanding of dialectics in revolution. These days, if the music doesn’t also stimulate the intellect, it’s crap.

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Wanted: bassists

If you are a bass player and you don’t sing or help with songwriting, then you need to shut up & play bass. If you want to handle management, booking duties, etc, that’s fine– but since you don’t write songs, you are NOT qualified to be the bandleader and therefore you are NOT allowed to dictate every creative decision by leveraging your position of advantage. That fucks up a band every time. There are a million guitar players out there & a zillion singers too, with a more limited pool of good drummers, but quality bass players are very hard to find. Many of the best bassists let this instrumental scarcity go to their heads, by taking the attitude that if they don’t get their way, they’ll simply take their bass & go home– leaving the band stranded. One of the biggest problems in rock music today is there aren’t enough bassists who are team players.

I’ve learned over the years that many of the top bassists do corporate gigs for a living, including tribute acts & such that play six nights a week and twice on Sundays. Any left-handed bassist is wanted for Beatles tribute bands, etc. That’s where the steady money is, as compared to forming a band and trying to be something new. My biggest criticism of professional bass players is that they are too rigid as a rule, which limits them. You can’t be a great band without a solid bass player, and you can’t be a serious bassist if you don’t work well with others.

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Manufacturing Music in 2022

Country music artist Miranda Lambert did it again with Palomino, which has plenty of crossover appeal. It’s my choice for the best mainstream album of 2022, in any genre. Conspicuously absent from most ‘2022 best-of’ lists, I’ve noticed.

Brian Eno & PJ Harvey are continually intriguing artists I follow. They endure & gracefully evolve by becoming multi-media artists. Thus they don’t fit so nicely on the limited ‘best-of’ lists published by most critics.

Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion, Harry Styles, Wet Leg, BlackPink, etc, are production-heavy industry creations. These performers dominate most of the corporate media’s best-of-2022 music lists. These fans & boosters should credit the producers more, and realize what that means– particularly its limitations.

Mediocre & dull music is now precisely MIDI-ed, EQ-ed & compressed, which allows for better dynamics– yielding a cleaner & louder sound. Bass is boomier than ever, and distortion is crunchier in all ranges. Beats are mostly electronic, or at least enhanced by digital effects. That’s the sound of today, from pop & rap to punk & heavy metal. Much of this ‘excitement’ is achieved by computerized digital processing. It’s the same process in film, television & crypto.

Hillary Clinton w/ Pussy Riot_2014

The nefarious #MeToo campaign bears much of the current responsibility for this lack of excitement & innovation in popular culture. Many talented performers (in all fields) have been cancelled by a Democratic Party-led identity politics campaign in its feminist (Me Too), racialist (Black Lives Matter), and LGBTQ-activist incarnations. All are corporate funded, anti-science & pro-war. The “punk” spearhead for this CIA campaign has been Pussy Riot (pic above), who have been hyped in the Western media as a “protest art collective,” while being officially designated as foreign agents by the Russian government.

The list of performers who have been cancelled in music, as well as film, television & theater is staggering in terms of top talent, and irreplaceable in terms of art. You simply can’t replace a Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, or Bill Murray in film. In music, you can’t replace a Michael Jackson, Ryan Adams, or Roger Waters. If they can be attacked and taken down by cynical politics, resting on a mountain of lies & baseless allegations, then who is safe from this?

It’s nearly impossible to be an artist under these conditions. The industry hype machine allows nothing subversive (left-wing) to enter into popular consciousness. In fact, they censor it harshly. We are nearing the end of the ‘American Idol era’ in popular music, when a handful of industry big-shots & gatekeepers were allowed to control everything the public saw & heard– on the radio, television & online.

In 2022, most music fans are bored with Justin Bieber, Brittany Spears, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Adele, etc. No one expects any of them to age well. There’s not enough talent there. None of them come close to matching Prince, Madonna, Gloria Estefan, Chuck D, or Tupac in their primes. Anyone inspired by that is driven underground these days. I believe the best music of 2022, in every any genre, was underground. This means most people, myself included, never heard it.

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Sun Ra and his Arkestra: an appreciation

The most unfindable musical artist of the 20th-century was Sun Ra. As someone with a rock perspective who has purchased records & music since childhood, there is no artist as confounding as Sun Ra and his Arkestra. His classic Saturn records were pressed in limited quantities, usually 75-100 at a time, and were only available through the mail, at live performances, and in select neighborhood record stores in Chicago & New York.

It wasn’t until his Philadelphia period (1972-1992) when his music began to become available to consumers in big-chain & indie record stores. Sun Ra signed to ABC/Impulse in 1973 for a huge multi-record deal, and delivered them in amazing speed, but was quickly deleted when new management took over ABC in 1975– and was never paid. That’s how it goes in the music business, and few knew it better than Sun Ra.

Sun Ra knew how to survive & sustain and he did it in an ever-creative way. He lasted because he retained the joy of music which is what keeps us young. It’s the kids who always decide what’s hip & cool in music, and to maintain the leading edge in avant-garde jazz for 40 years, Sun Ra made it a point to stay in tune with new music of all genres. This is an artist who completely absorbed all the classic songbooks & jazz standards of pre-WW2 popular music, and was more musically advanced than Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, etc, the pioneers of be-bop.

Sun Ra’s Supersonic Jazz (1956) through Jazz in Silhouette (1958) are indisputable jazz masterpieces. Early Sun Ra and his Arkestra compares favorably to Miles Davis during his classic John Coltrane Quintet era. That’s where Sun Ra starts. From there, he launched a vessel known as his Arkestra, which was meant to take your mind into outer space. In doing this, Sun Ra left the rest of the jazz world in his space dust.

There was too much corruption & evil on planet Earth, so Sun Ra sought an outward trajectory for his music & live act. And Sun Ra had possibly the greatest act ever. It was an assault on the audience’s senses, in musical & visual terms. The crazy costumes & all his theatrics kept people at a distance and off-balance. This created a safe space for Sun Ra & his band to perform.

This is revolutionary music which still resonates, and thus Sun Ra had to be careful with politics during his lifetime. As a black man from the Deep South, he learned that he would never be taken seriously by white intellectuals in the 1950’s and beyond, so he was better off creating a myth of himself and then used that myth as a vehicle to drive his music.

Sun Ra maximized his influence by minimizing his political risk. Sun Ra was never a socialist politically, but it is in his music and how he lived. Sun Ra and his Arkestra lived communally so they could rehearse & play whenever Sun Ra needed them, which was all the time. There was never any money, so things were shared. Sun Ra lived by many socialist principles without identifying himself as a socialist. Ultimately, this carries more artistic weight than his Afro-futurist act, no matter how much he believed it.

Sun Ra was very much a black man, meaning he was proud of his race and wanted to help others like him. While he had dalliances with the Black Panthers & other such organizations, he never fully subscribed to any of their programs of black nationalism or militancy. Sun Ra and his Arkestra were thrown out of the Black Panther house in Oakland in 1972 because of this. It was Eldridge Cleaver & COINTELPRO that forced the split. Sun Ra was a black universalist, as opposed to a black nationalist– a man of the Omniverse (1979).

One of the great ironies (and there are many) of Sun Ra’s music is that it was often more accepted by white audiences (particularly European), than by black listeners of his day. As an avant-garde artist in NYC, Sun Ra  co-mingled with the Velvet Underground & MC5, and were very influential on acts such as Funkadelic & Pink Floyd.

It’s important to understand that when someone mentions “Sun Ra,” they are also talking about an Arkestra of virtuoso musicians. John Gilmore was at least the equivalent of John Coltrane on tenor sax. Marshall Allen & Danny Davis were virtuoso multi-instrumentalists in the alto range on sax & woodwinds. Pat Patrick had one of the fattest baritone sax sounds ever. Ronnie Boykins could coax sounds out of his stand-up bass that brings you to tears & makes you shiver. Everyone played percussion at some point, as Sun Ra used polyrhythms & percussion-as-texture better than the rest.

June Tyson added the dimension of a woman’s voice to what up to that point was an entirely black male ensemble. June Tyson joined the Arkestra in 1968 (or so), and would stay with Sun Ra until her death from breast cancer in November, 1992 at age 56. June Tyson never recorded with another artist. Sonny died 6 months later, and John Gilmore, who was in deteriorating health for years, died in August, 1995 at age 63.

Other significant members of the Sun Ra Arkestra over the decades included: Tommy “Bugs” Hunter, Clifford Jarvis, Robert Cummings, Ali Hassan, Roger Blank, Teddy Nance, Jimhmi Johnson, Chris Capers, Pharoah Sanders (whom Sonny named), Danny Ray Thompson (who also doubled as Sonny’s de facto manager), Akh Tal Ehah, Eloe Omoe, James Jacson, Dale Williams, Hayes Burnett, Samarai Celestial, and many, many more.

Perhaps the most confusing & challenging part of Sun Ra’s music is the space chord, which is when members of the Arkestra all wailed different tones on their instruments as loudly as they could at the same time. This is Sun Ra calling for a space chord, which creates a LOUD combination of sounds– full of tones, harmonics & rhythms that will change the flow of the music. Sun Ra developed this disciplined/undisciplined avant-garde compositional technique to allow free improvisation to move forward, finding new forms & creative directions.

Sun Ra was a master talent collector. If you’re going to build something that lasts 40 years, and then beyond your Earthly death, you constantly need fresh talent. This infuses the artist and provides what is needed to innovate with new ideas. Musical talent means you can play well and have a passion to be part of something remarkable. Sun Ra’s reputation as a master made it easier to find the talent he needed, and he was always receptive to it, where most old-guard musicians (in any genre) feel threatened by young talent.

As an artist you have to learn to go with the flow, when the general direction is forward. You can influence more effectively if you stay young in the mind, and that’s the revolutionary concept behind the music of Sun Ra. By orienting towards youth & new ideas, Sun Ra transcended much of mainstream jazz, as well as capitalist politics.

Sun Ra was the pioneer of Afro-futurism which can be defined as a black astrological myth. As mentioned, it was a great act. Sun Ra read a lot of books, but mostly obscure ones, it appears. John Szwed’s biography Space is the Place (1997) lists a lot of them as books on numerology, Egyptian mythology, etc, along with sci-fi space travel and NASA/UFO stuff.

I don’t criticize Sun Ra for his taste in books, but I will say this limited him intellectually when it came to dealing with the Frankfurt school of post-modernism (Paris pseudo-intellectuals praising him with babble), and the powers of the state. Sun Ra didn’t dare approach Marxism, because the era of HUAC and red-baiting anti-communism made it impossible for him to do so.

Sun Ra would tell people he came to this Earth from Saturn (the planet of disciple & sacrifice) to make his music which humanity needed, and nothing was going to interfere with that. Marxism would have blacklisted Sonny forever, and then no one would have heard of Sun Ra. Sonny was smart enough to know the circumstances that limited him, and then adapt.

There are so many sides to his genius, and it takes a long time and a lot of listening to even begin to get your head around Sun Ra. Ask any fan. The best place to start is anywhere you can. But if you are reading this with serious interest, then you really owe it to yourself to get a few Saturn records. In total, all his eras are filled with amazing titles, and what you like often depends on individual taste & preference.  By 1986, his releases are compact disc format. Mayan Temples (1990) is his last release before he was debilitated by a series of strokes in November 1990. He still went on stage, but could no longer perform the Sun Ra magic. By the end of 1992, Sonny had to return to his family in Birmingham, Alabama due to terminal illness. Sun Ra died of complications from pneumonia on May 30, 1993 at age 79.

Leadership of the Sun Ra Arkestra has since been assumed by Marshall Allen (above), the only original member remaining. In 2020, at age 96, Marshall Allen recorded & released Swirling, perhaps the final Sun Ra Arkestra studio recording. Marshall Allen still lives in the House of Ra, which he owns in Germantown, Philadelphia. I hope that place becomes a registered national landmark at some point. It should be already.

What Sun Ra did was impossible. There was no money. This avant-garde keyboardist, composer & bandleader was an outcast of the jazz world because he broke too many rules and never apologized for it. The gatekeepers never forget that, and up to today their wrath towards Sun Ra still applies. In this era of vinyl re-issues for everyone, too many Sun Ra titles are still hard-to-find or ridiculously overpriced in the re-sale market. No one deserves a contemporary & comprehensive catalog re-issue more than Sun Ra.

Sun Ra is still being suppressed because his music is revolution. If people widely discover Sun Ra, then all of a sudden all those lame mainstream records will never sell again. “The Network” can’t have that, and neither can the artificial & overpriced re-sale market. That’s why there aren’t very many Sun Ra records available when you first look for them.

By the 1970’s Saturn Record releases became more infrequent, as Sonny was suspicious that his business partner Alton Abraham wasn’t giving him all the money he deserved, so he began making deals with any label he could. Sun Ra also formed a new label with a NYC partner and called it Enterplanetary Koncepts, which pressed & distributed his records. Today, many classic Saturn titles have been re-issued on Enterplanetary Koncepts, and other labels including Cosmic Myth and Evidence. As a starving artist the motto is: Anywhere you can find the money. Thus, there were a lot of record labels that issued Sun Ra recordings.

Modern Harmonic is a great record label that is active in re-releasing classic Sun Ra titles, as well as unreleased stuff. Artyard is a UK indie label that is also keeping the faith in Sun Ra. Artyard was a distributor of a few key Ra titles including Horizon (1971) Antique Blacks (1974), Sleeping Beauty (1979), and On Jupiter (1979). Many of Sun Ra’s 1970’s live albums from Europe & beyond were off-label releases. In the 1980’s, more of his studio projects fell to such labels too.

  • BTW, in parenthesis after the title, is listed the recording date, not the release date. Sun Ra makes you do this, otherwise his catalog is a mess, because many early Saturn records were recorded in Chicago (1954-60), but not released until many years later when he was based in NYC (1961-70). When sequencing Sun Ra titles, do it by recording date and they will make more sense when listening.

Sun Ra creates difficulties that you never face with any other artist. His catalog is well over 200 albums, plus singles & EP’s. Since his death, there has been a plethora of new releases, new-found tapes, live concerts, compilations, etc. The hardest part is figuring out what you need, and what you can pass on. A lot of that depends on your taste and (of course) your budget.

About a dozen Saturn albums from Chicago, and 20+ NYC-era albums are essential, with the later being more space music. By summer 1970, Sun Ra finally began to tour Europe & the world. There are a lot of live concert recordings from this period up until his death. This is where you have to be picky, and identify titles in eras of interest.

For me with live Sun Ra, it’s the early mini-Moog stuff from 1970-71 that excites me the most. It’s a historical fact that Sun Ra was the first to perform live with a mini-Moog. See the liner notes in the 2012 re-issue of My Brother the Wind, Vol 1 (1970) for details on this. There are now at least 100 titles of live Sun Ra, so listen first on YouTube, etc, and decide on what you like. I estimate there are, at minimum, about 75 titles (65 studio, 10 live) that you need to understand Sun Ra’s music.

Sun Ra made so many live albums because 1) he invested in the technology early and learned how to use it; and 2) it made him money. Sonny learned how to record himself early, so when his Arkestra finally launched in the mid-1950’s, he completely understood micing, acoustics & recording principles so well that he would always get the best recording the available technology would allow. Sun Ra was his own sound engineer & producer [!] for most of his career. When he was finally recognized as an artist in Europe in the summer of 1970, Sun Ra started recording every concert he could, and would do so until he couldn’t physically go on stage anymore. If the tapes didn’t get lost, damaged, destroyed, etc, it almost always turned into a record release, sooner or later. It’s still happening.

Philadelphia-era has some of the hardest-to-find Sun Ra albums. For instance, in January 1978, Sun Ra went to Rome with John Gilmore, trumpeter Micheal Ray, and drummer Luqman Ali to record as the ‘Sun Ra Quartet.’ Those are hard-to-find and expensive when you do. A few other off-label/European releases such as Cosmos (1976), etc, are coveted Sun Ra oddities.

It’s a crazy market for Sun Ra, and it will test all of your skills as a music connoisseur & consumer. It’s a great unknown world, with mind-blowing rewards, but all kinds of snares & pitfalls to discourage you. For example, many Sun Ra titles have more than one cover image. Some titles are different names for another already-existing record, such as Jazz by Sun Ra, Vol 1 (1956), which is also titled Sun Song (1956) on a different record label. Cosmo-Earth-Fantasy (1974)  and Sub-Underground #1 (1974) is another example of this. Live in Egypt, Vol 1 (1971) and Dark Myth Equation Visitation (1971) is yet another. It’s easy to buy duplicates of what you already have because things are so confusing.

AllMusic normally has a reliable artist discography, but for Sun Ra it’s a mess. AllMusic still lists The Sound of Joy (1956) as Sun Ra’s first album, when it’s actually his third. It gets worse from there, with bad dates and disorganized titles up & down his regular album & compilation discographies. This makes everything tougher for someone trying to research Sun Ra, and is part of the subtle censorship he still receives. AllMusic would never let this happen to Count Basie or Wynton Marsalis.

The John Szwed biography is essential, and the 2020 edition has a correct discography for his albums & singles which lists by recording date. Sun Ra records make a lot more sense when you can play them in order, as there is a logical progression to his catalog. But you need to know the correct sequence. Most artists don’t present this problem, but with Sun Ra it’s a different world, as he created much of this confusion by design.

It’s difficult to make comparisons to Sun Ra because he was such a unique figure in jazz music. Only Duke Ellington & Miles Davis have his longevity of relevance, but they both fit squarely within the mainstream and were critically accepted in their day. Sun Ra’s acoustic piano playing is comparable to Thelonious Monk, but Ra was also the master of all electric keyboards, which Monk wasn’t. Sonny was the first to record with electronic keyboards– in 1956. He could play the clavioline (precursor to the analog [Moog] synthesizer), all types of electric organs, rocksicord (electrified harpsichord), and finally Moog synthesizer & mini-Moog. Sun Ra was arguably the most prolific & aggressively experimental synthesizer artist ever.

Sun Ra was avant-garde, which doesn’t get the respect it deserves, particularly with the critics who are supposed to be fair & unbiased, but really are not. Influential critics from Nat Hentoff to Scott Yanow clearly have their favorites & pariahs, and Sun Ra is the latter for them. Outside of jazz, Fela Kuti, the multi-instrumentalist Afro-beat artist from Lagos, Nigeria; Brian Eno; and Sonic Youth, an art-rock band from NYC, are probably Sun Ra’s best comparables.

What makes Sun Ra an artist of special interest is that he’s a 20th-century figure who will be more appreciated in the 21st-century & beyond. There’s a lot to learn from Sun Ra. He started his Saturn label as a way of taking control of his music. He did it in the 1950’s when no other artist comprehended doing such a thing. He created an inimitable persona to protect & promote himself. He lasted & was prolific, building an Arkestra that continued on after his death. Sun Ra humbles you because an as artist you know you will never come close to matching his output, and he inspires you by opening your mind to new creative possibilities. That’s the dialectical rub which makes Sun Ra so magical & revolutionary.

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The significance of Roger Waters

Roger Waters commemorated the fall of the Berlin Wall in July 1990, and used it to promote his music. The destruction of the Soviet Union (1989-91) and collapse of the Eastern Bloc was a reactionary event in world history. Any Trotskyist will tell you that. It was a degenerated workers’ state falling back into capitalism because the Bolshevik revolution had been strangled & betrayed by the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Since 1992, NATO has expanded some 800 miles eastwards up to Russia’s border, finally provoking Putin’s reactionary (but politically understandable) invasion of the Ukraine. Roger Waters is surely better than these modern musical clowns he publicly cites, and his support of Julian Assange proves it. But there are flaws in his overall politics, combined with monetary incentives, which tie him to the rotting corpse of capitalism.

The question wasn’t whether the fall of the Berlin Wall was a good/bad thing. All such walls are inherently bad. The historical question was: Who did the pushing and upon whose heads did the rubble fall? The standard-of-living for the vast populations in every former Eastern Bloc nation has declined, wars have flared up & never stopped, all while a corrupt billionaire class has been created which embraces neo-Nazi ideology with funding from the CIA/Pentagon complex.

Roger Waters got upset that the latest teen flavor was interviewed before him in Toronto. But the truth is Roger Waters isn’t significant to 16-24 year olds, and that’s the only demographic that matters in music. Waters doesn’t speak to them convincingly. If he was significantly influential with his anti-war message, he would have been cancelled like all the rest.

He’s allow to exist & go on because kids don’t care about him. It’s all “I, me, mine…” in that notorious interview, which tells you it’s more about promotion than anything else. Pink Floyd was never a political band, they were artistic stoners who hit the jackpot. Then punk/post-punk showed the world how stale they were, and they’ve been dinosaurs since.

Pink Floyd is a staple of classic rock, whose playlists were ossified by mafia programmers in the early 1980’s to the benefit of Roger Waters. He never objected that well-deserving artists such as the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, the Stooges, Modern Lovers, Sex Pistols, Wire, etc, never get played on classic rock stations, even though their music is of their era. Why is that?

As a middle-aged man, I can definitively say that I am sick & tired of hearing Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Boston, etc, over & over forever on rock stations. There HAS to be more to music than that, and in fact there is MUCH, MUCH more. All you need to do is turn off that boring classic rock you’ve gotten so comfortable with and try something new & different. It’s actually the music industry you’re listening to when you dial in the classic rock format. You’re feeding Clear Channel & EMI, who have an unlimited supply… of bullshit. Here’s the 2003 re-issue cover of Roger Waters Live in Berlin.

It’s capitalism you’re feeding. The music industry needs you to forever tune into their stale stuff, and they surely DON’T want you seeking an alternative. That’s why Husker Du & Sonic Youth were called “alternative” in the 1980’s and still are today. Never to be heard on programmed XM Satellite radio. Either you love the music or you don’t. To those who do, I’m with you.

Roger Waters has the right to be heard, and he has been. The rest of us have the right to criticize him because we bought his records a long time ago and have listened to them. I like Pink Floyd as a group. I like the fact that David Gilmour took care of Syd Barrett (as best he could) after he left the band. I didn’t like Roger Waters suing Pink Floyd after he left the band, over their name. He lost that one because he was selfish & wrong. Today, I view Roger Waters as selfish, but at least on the correct side politically– for now. We’ll see how things go. We’ll see if anyone cares.

For over 40 years now, punk rockers have considered Pink Floyd irrelevant. They were a decent band who made a few great records back in the day, then slowly disintegrated. Pink Floyd was often a Rogers Waters’ studio project more than anything else, and that’s why he finally went solo. For better or worse, that’s how I see this band and the creative force behind it. Over & Out

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Political guide to being an artist

Music is personal and everyone does it for their own reasons. Everyone who has tried knows that. This essay is to concisely explain my reasons, which are mostly misunderstood. I started like everyone else because I love music and wanted to do my own thing. At first the goal was to be a rock star. I eventually learned that wasn’t possible, so I outgrew the idea and became something more. I became an artist with socialist consciousness.

In the history of popular music, this has only been tried a few times, and it has always been met with virulent hostility & blacklisting from the entertainment industry & ruling establishment. The surrealists led by French writer André Breton were the earliest 20th century example of art & socialist politics meeting (through Trotsky), and their movement was deeply influential, though it was finally overwhelmed by fascism across Europe in the 1930’s. The surrealist movement deserves careful study today in terms of content, revolutionary potential, and its inherent limitations.

Mexican painter Diego Rivera, whose frescoes & murals dazzled the art world in the 1930’s, flirted with Trotsky, but eventually retreated to his mansion as World War II broke out in Europe.

Post-war art has been kept under the thumb of anti-communism, ever since President Truman laid out US Cold War policy, which has continued up to this day. Cold War policy can be summed up as: Russia is the evil enemy, and Marxism is never to be tolerated. If you were an advocate for civil rights (women, blacks, immigrants) & anti-war in this era, then you were branded as a godless communist that must be expunged from the Earth [!].

Popular folk music group, the Weavers, whose best known song was “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” were blacklisted because leading member Pete Seeger was a socialist. The Weavers had a “clean” playlist for live performance, but it didn’t matter to the anti-communists in 1950. The original Weavers disbanded in their prime by the summer of 1952, due to no gigs. They revived themselves a few years later with their famous Carnegie Hall performance, recorded Christmas Eve 1954, but not released by Vanguard Records until April, 1957.

* As a footnote. these irrational hysterics & witch hunts were brought back to life by today’s anti-communists with the Black Lives Matter & MeToo campaigns in the 2010’s. Their goal (as always) is to artificially divide the working masses through identity politics. No serious discussion of class inequality & imperialism is allowed with anti-communists. That’s when they get hostile & violent.

Bob Dylan’s working class appeal in his early to mid-1960’s era made people take sides on issues like racism, class society, the Vietnam War, etc. Fans & the establishment turned on him when he electrified (which magnified his message), to the point where he finally had to retreat & hide away.

On July 29th, 1966, a month after his final classic-period masterpiece Blonde On Blonde was released, Bob Dylan crashed his motorcycle near Woodstock, New York. He used this (relatively minor) accident as a pretext to remove himself from the political discussion in the mainstream. He did this to save his life. At this point, Vietnam was becoming out in-the-open & overwhelmingly polarizing. Bob Dylan risked being killed like Malcolm X, as he was the white equivalent at the time with his songs. MLK, and Democrat for President, Bobby Kennedy were gunned down in 1968, just to give you an idea of the times.

I don’t blame Bob Dylan for doing what he did to save his life, and neither should you. There was no organized political party on the left that he could have joined to protect himself and his political convictions. In revolutionary terms, Bob Dylan was too far ahead of his time. He had to retreat back into capitalism to carry on.

In the jazz realm, Sun Ra (pic above) stands as the shining star of revolution, with a catalog & body-of-work too vast to discuss here. His avant garde piano/electric keyboard/synthesizer style, backed by his Arkestra, seems to have come from another planet, which he claimed it did. Everything he did, from Saturn Records, to how he recorded & marketed himself, while holding his Arkestra together for 40+ years until his death (and then beyond), deserves careful study.

Sun Ra approached music as a conscious objector to WWII. He lived with, then ran afoul of the Black Panthers, a point ‘Afro-futurist’ racialists avoid. Sun Ra created his myth, to protect himself, and it worked. He died naturally in 1993, and never had to change his message.

If you are not a myth, whose reality are you?
If you are not a myth, whose reality are you?
If you are not a reality, whose myth are you?

— Sun Ra

Let the verse cited above roll around in your head for awhile, while contemplating deeply. I love Sun Ra, but I don’t want to be a myth, I’m a reality, so the question eventually became for me, as Ric Size: How do I become a revolutionary artist without having to retreat politically or descend into mysticism?

First, you must educate yourself in all spheres. You can’t be fooled by the bullshit, old & new, and you can’t rely any anyone else to tell you the truth. You must discover it for yourself & always keep it close. You must know yourself completely.

But beyond that you need help. No one is an island, and eventually everyone dies. You need to affiliate yourself with an organization that represents your political values and will survive into posterity. By the time I became serious about being an artist in the late 2000’s, such a political entity had come into existence– the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS).

The WSWS has had an Arts section from the start, at the insistence of Arts editor David Walsh. As I understand the discussions which took place back in 1998, (and I wasn’t present), it was David Walsh who insisted on the inclusion of an ‘Arts’ section as essential, and he had to convince David North & Nick Beams (among others)– and finally did. It was a far-sighted inclusion which deserves socialist merit, because it is art that sparks revolutions by defining it to the masses through songs, film, literature, paintings, etc. You can’t separate art & revolution.

Let me finish on musical artists with socialist consciousness by pointing out that there is revolution in the reggae music of Bob Marley & the Wailers, Scratch Perry, etc. Same with P-funk, punk & post-punk. Same with Fela Kuti’s Afro-beat. Same with Eno, Fripp, Byrne…

I affiliate myself with the ICFI, the Trotskyist party of international socialism. By doing this, I never have to walk anything back. My art isn’t perfect, and there is no such thing anyways. All it’s meant to do is inspire & educate. As a revolutionary artist, you light a candle so others can follow. Whatever comes after is left up to others, as it should be.

All an artist can do is continue to work. The critics & naysayers will always be there. You can’t have fans, without having haters. The idea is to love your fans and always be true to them, while appropriately dealing with the haters. It’s serious work, so make sure you find good help & trusting allies.

I’ve written a lot about baseball analytics on this site and for good reason. There is a truth in the numbers, that is often hidden through only observing. MLB is such a long season, and the subtle differences between good teams & the best team, are often too slight to see with the naked eye. If you can see them, it helps to have numbers to back up what you are scouting.

It’s like this with art & politics. Art is creative freeflow, where politics can be studied scientifically using orthodox Marxism, known as Trotskyism. To make sure your art stays true to the truth, you need Trotskyism (the WSWS) as a political guide. Once you are fundamentally sound (politically speaking), a dialectical change will occur, and then you will be able to write anthems that appeal to kids & the masses with a revolutionary spirit.

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