Real Life Rock Top 10

Special bizarre all-quotation edition!


Greil Marcus
November 29, 2000 1:45AM (UTC)

1/2) Alan Berg and Howard Hampton on Election Eve and after

Berg, Nov. 6: "I am trying to cope with my jitters by listening to the five CDs of Dylan's Basement Tapes bootlegs and nothing else till it's over." Nov. 9: "I didn't think I'd have time to listen to all five CDs. When things got rough, right before Pennsylvania came in, 'Clothes Line Saga' came on and that took care of Pennsylvania. Right now it just went to 'We carried you/In our arms/On Independence Day.' No question about what this will be resolved on: 'I'm Not There.'" Hampton, Nov. 18: "Today I played the only appropriate song I could find: 'I Was in the House When the House Burned Down.'"

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I called Warren Zevon to find out where he was on Election Night, but he wasn't home.

3) Fran Farrell, "I Want to Be Teenybopped: Teen Star Sex Fantasies" (Nassau Weekly, Princeton, N.J., Oct. 19)

"Jordan Knight, of the New Kids on the Block, was the first person I ever masturbated about ... While my friends were playing with Barbie, I was imagining having sex with Jordan, and sometimes a threesome with Joey, on their big tour bus. See, I met Jordan when I was 10; it was downhill from there. Fast forward 10 years, to London, England. I'm walking down the street when I see a sign, the most beautiful sign I've ever seen -- Jordan Knight, performing at 4 o'clock today. I couldn't believe my luck. Then I thought, this isn't luck, it's fate. We met 10 years ago, but now it's legal for him to have sex with me!!!! So I wait in line for FOUR HOURS. Yes, four hours for that has-been. The line was full of 15-year-old girls with thick British accents, acne and very bad teeth. I was squished in the middle of a crowd of sweaty, ugly girls screaming for a washed-up '80s pop star. But when he came onstage ..."

4) Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Fiftieth birthday greeting for Bob Dylan (U.S. Senate, May 24, 1991)

"Twenty-five or 30 years ago, I would have had a very difficult time imagining Bob Dylan, whose music was so much a part of my life at the time, being 50 years old, an age he attains today, his birthday. I would have had even greater difficulty imagining me taking note of his achievements in remarks in the Senate of the United States.

"Back in 1963, it is hardly likely any member of Congress would have been talking about Bob Dylan, at least not on the floor of either chamber; at least not in favorable terms. After all, it was he who said of them, 'Come senators, Congressmen, please heed the call/ Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall.' So times have changed, though Dylan's sentiment still holds true when we consider how many problems we still have to heed. I am sure he sings those words with the same spirit and intensity today as he did 28 years ago.

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"There is a mystery to Bob Dylan, which is surprising, in a way, given how freely he has expressed himself through his music. But the mystery results, I think, from Dylan's refusal to play roles society might seek to assign him -- roles like superstar, rock idol, prophet. 'I tried my best to be just like I am/ But everybody wants you to be just like them.'"

5) David Thomson, "The Big Sleep" (BFI Publishing)

On Lauren Bacall, director Howard Hawks and "To Have and Have Not" (1944): "Betty was born in 1924, and grew up looking like nothing else on earth. I mean, how does one describe that young woman who could look like a Jewish teenager, a Eurasian doll, a Slav earth mother and the smoke that gets in your eyes -- and all that before Hawks got hold of her? Add to that the allegation that she was only 17, and you can see what a wide-open country America was then."

6) Ishmael Reed on the dance mania "Jes Grew," sweeping the nation after the election of Warren G. Harding, "the first race president," in 1920, and the conspiracy of the "Antonist Wallflower Order" to stop it ("Mumbo Jumbo," Scribner, 1972)

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"It has been a busy day for reporters following Jes Grew. The morning began with Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the three-element vacuum tube, which helped make big-time radio possible, collapsing before a crowded press room after he pleaded concerning his invention, now in the grips of Jes Grew: 'What have you done to my child? You have sent him out on the street in rags of ragtime to collect money from all and sundry. You have made him a laughingstock of intelligence, surely a stench in the nostrils of the gods of the ionosphere.'"

Tycoon Walter Mellon: "Jes Grew tied up the tubes causing Dr. Lee De Forest to cop a plea at the press conference ... At the rate of radio sales, $600 million worth will be sold by 1929, correct?"

Hierophant of the Wallflower Order: "That is true, Mr. Walter Mellon."

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"Suppose people don't have the money to buy radios. It will be an interesting precaution against this Jes Grew thing, isn't that so?"

"I don't get what you're driving at, Mr. Mellon."

"The liquidity of Jes Grew has resulted in a hyperinflated situation, all you hear is more, more, increase growth ... Suppose we shut down a few temples ... I mean banks, take money out of circulation, how would people be able to support the appendages of Jes Grew, the cabarets juke joints and the speaks. Suppose we put a tax on the dance floors and get out of circulation J[es]. G[rew]. C[arriers].s like musicians, dancers, its doers, its irrepressible fancy. Suppose we take musicians out of circulation, arrest them on trumped-up drug charges and give them unusually long and severe prison sentences. Suppose we subsidize the hundreds of symphony orchestras across the country, have government-sponsored waltz-boosting campaigns ..."

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"But wouldn't these steps result in a depression?"

"Maybe, but it will put an end of Jes Grew's resiliency, and if a panic occurs it will be a controlled panic. It will be our Panic."

7) Hal Foster, Election "Diary," on a word soon to disappear from our lexicon (London Review of Books, Nov. 30)

"'Chad' ... For some reason I think of Troy Donahue, and imagine him dimpled, pregnant, hanging or punched."

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8) Colin B. Morton on Metallica and Napster in "Welsh Psycho: Extracts From the Teenage Diary of Colin B. Morton" (Clicks and Klangs #3, Oct./Nov.)

"William Hague, leader of the UK Tory Party, has recently come out in defence of a man who shot dead a youth who was trespassing on his private property. Even more recently, the Tory Party has used, without permission, the music of Massive Attack to help promote the idea that we shouldn't have to pay tax or care about the sick. Hague's own logic dictates, therefore, that Massive Attack's Daddy G and 3D should have the right to shoot all members of the Tory Party for trespassing on their Intellectual Property. Either Intellectual Property doesn't exist, or they can have that right. Hague can't have it both ways. (Well, he can, but that's another story entirely.)"

9) Seminar on Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music" (Princeton University, Nov. 17)

One person at the table, on the notion of the panoply of farmer-miner-laborer-domestics or itinerant professional entertainers such as Dock Boggs, Sister Mary Nelson, Frank Hutchison, Uncle Dave Macon, Blind Lemon Jefferson or Bessie Johnson, as their 1927-32 78s were assembled by Smith in 1952, as a "town" or "community" (following, among other comments, "Hattie Stoneman ought to be drowned" and "Uncle Dave seems much too satisfied about the prospect of apocalypse"): "If it is a community, it's not one I'd want to be part of." "Of course no one wants to be part of it," another participant said later. "All these people are poor!"

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10) Special "Forward Into the Past" Election Update -- Francis Russell, "The Shadow of Blooming Grove: The Centennial of Warren G. Harding" (McGraw-Hill, 1968), quoting Progressive newspaper editor Brand Whitlock on the Republican Party's nomination of Warren G. Harding as its candidate to replace Woodrow Wilson

"I am more and more under the opinion that for President we need not so much a brilliant man as solid, mediocre men, providing they have good sense, good and careful judgment, and good manners."


Greil Marcus

The Rude Mechs' theatrical adaptation of Greil Marcus' book "Lipstick Traces" will play Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at DiverseWorks in Houston. For more columns by Greil Marcus, visit his column archive.

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