September 08, 2011
Experienced: Rock Music Tales of Fact & Fiction, a rock ‘n’ roll anthology edited by Roland Goity and John Ottey and published by Vagabondage Press, combines memoir, journalism, and short story. The pieces cover a wide range of “experience”, from conventional to quirky, humorous to nostalgic, with writing by Jim DeRogatis, Fred de Vries, Sean Ennis, Laurel Gilbert, Brian Goetz, James Greer, Ed Hamilton, Harold Jaffe, Brad Kava, David Menconi, Adam Moorad, Corey Mesler, Scott Nicholson, Carl Peel, J.T. Townley, and Timothy Weed. The anthology fits my world. I’ve tasted more embarassment than “fame” as a bass player in a Seattle band whose accomplishments were a write-up in The Stranger, some college radio air time (both due to having contacts), and gigs at a couple decent clubs, one or two where strangers outnumbered friends. Anyone who loves music can understand the pull of this world of fantasy and reality; Experienced revisits and expands this dream.
James Greer opens with “Hunting Accidents”, a foray into the two years he played bass for cult group Guided By Voices, and the book he subsequently wrote, Guided By Voices: A Brief History. In this ribald tale, the band, led by Robert Pollard, travels to L.A. to decide whether to sign with Matador or Warner Bros. They are unsuccessfully wined and dined by the larger company: “And that is how we made the deal with the devil, which gifted Bob with the ability to see that Warner Bros. Records, despite its many charms – its palm trees and oases, its movie-set observatories…was not the home for Guided By Voices.” The momentum continues with Fred DeVries aspiring to interview Elastica lead singer Justine Frischmann, “that gorgeous daughter of a Jewish millionaire…who also succumbed to smack.” Music can cause us to lose reason, as Tim Weed demonstrates in “Steal Your Face”, when, in the midst of a choice relationship he tells his girl to wait so he can follow the Grateful Dead. Man! The Dead are cool…but, as we see, they aren’t that cool. We also get “conventional” stories that cover familiar terrain, “Tour Diary (Excerpts)” by Sean Ennis, and “Heavy Lifting Days” by Brian Goetz, spot on pieces on the drudgery of the aspiring rock star. Then there’s Corey Mesler’s fictional tale in homage to all the “couldn’t miss” stars that died in obscurity, “The Growth and Death of Buddy Gardner.”
For an intermission, there is Harold Jaffe’s “Madonna,” where he embellishes on his eponymous book written in 1988. Jaffe, usually provocative and succinct, seems out of his element as he diverts from the pop diva and rages aghast at “them”, “…the incorruptible Stockman, who was a peace activist in the ’60s and recently left the administration for Wall Street and a real salary…” blah whoop-tee blah, concluding with a media-hammered image of torture that lacks any subversive context.
In keeping with the eclectic nature of the anthology, we return to the show with an entertaining noir ditty, Scott Nicholson’s “Dead Air”, about a lady and her calls to a late night music DJ claiming she has killed one more date rapist. Ed Hamilton, author of Legends of the Chelsea Hotel, the place made famous by, among others, William Burroughs in the writing of Naked Lunch, recounts meeting Dee Dee Ramone, and romanticizes the punk legend/pampered asshole.
But the highlight, in a book of headliners, might be the introduction of Jason Ricci as shown in “Road Life Wearies Harmonica Virtuoso” by Brad Kiva (click to hear some rad ‘monica). I had no idea of Ricci’s existence. Ricci, evidently, is “to the harmonica what Eddie Van Halen was to the guitar.” So, to end with a musical cliche…Encore! Encore!