Monday, April 11, 2011

Revisiting Old Writing: Punk Rock, Parenthood, Science Fiction, and a Dead End Job

The following was the first column that I wrote for OklahomaPunkScene.com. Sadly I can’t remember the date that I wrote it or when it was published, but it was sometime in the early 2000’s.

Periodically I’m going find old pieces that I have written for other publications and repost them here.

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Punk Rock, Parenthood, Science Fiction, and a Dead End Job

It's kind of weird, what will make a person prolific. I've been kicking around ideas for this column for a couple of months now, to no real avail. Some ideas have sprouted here and there, but nothing solid and nothing that drove me to take time out of my day to sit down and write about.

Today while making my usual online rounds, there was a post on The Green Door's message board that caught my eye. Often the subject matter on this particular board jumps back and forth between why the Hives/White Strips/Strokes rule/suck, requests for the booking of someone's favorite band, rants about this and that, and the occasional Barb bashing (Side note to the Barb bashers – What the hell is wrong with you people?!? Barb rocks! And I'm not just saying that because she lets me write for her site. She is totally cool, supportive of the OK scene and the small businesses that comprise said scene, and a genuinely good and nice person. I'm lucky that I've had the chance to become friends with her. It's people like her that make this place worth while.). But today I notice a thread about a new radio station in OKC, The Buzz 94.7. If I'm not mistaken this is the same station that was once 94.7 KQSR – Soft Rock, Less Talk, 95X, and KEBC (remember Keeping EveryBody Country?). Now the awe-inspiring, mega-corporation Clear Channel Communications, that not only owns The Buzz, but also KJ103, WKY, KTOK, The Twister, and KXY, has decided to once again try its hand at a "new rock" station. What can you expect from this musical genius…the same crap with a different label (I think Butthead put it best once – "You can't polish a turd."). Now I'm not going to rewrite what I said in that thread, but the subject has gotten me thinking (and writing) so I'd better not stop, otherwise I'm going to miss my deadline and get my butt kicked by this site's editor.

Once upon a time…okay I'm sorry. That was a lame way to start off a story. Let's try this again shall we … Does anyone remember the show KJ103 had on Friday nights back in the early 1990's ('92 – '95 I think) called Planet Underground? It was hosted by a guy named Joe Friday and played the alternative hits of the day (4 Non Blonds, Belly, The Breeders, etc.) and sometime dived into the cult classic bin (Violent Femmes, The Smiths, The Cure, etc.). It was basically KJ's answer to the MTV's Alternative Nation (which was nothing but a watered down version of the once mighty 120 Minutes). For what it was, it wasn't that bad (and it was a million times better than 95X). A few years later, I got to meet Mr. Friday while taking a tour
of Clear Channel Communications' 50 Penn Place office and studios for my Audio Productions class. Unlike damn near everyone else in that place, he seemed to be nice and a genuine fan of good music. I think that is why Planet Underground was actually a decent show. Here was a guy who proved to his bosses that he knew what he was talking about and could produce a product that could be sold to the kids. At the time (especially in the early days after Nirvana broke) people in the mainstream music business were running around like chickens with their heads cut off, babbling about how this music wasn't supposed to sell and regretting the large check they had written a year earlier to bands like Warrant and Firehouse, and Joe used it to his advantage.

In 1993, Planet Underground debuted a song by The Flaming Lips called "She Don't Use Jelly." Locally the song became an instant hit (it took the rest of the country over a year to catch on to the Lips…hell the KATT only starting playing the song after the band was on Letterman). That summer, KJ booked its then annual summer concert event at the fairgrounds with a star studded billing of Wakeland, The Chainsaw Kittens, and The Flaming Lips. Needless to say, as cool as that show was, it tanked financially. At the most there were 200 – 400 people there (in the Fairgrounds Arena no less) and after that it all went down hill.

By 1994, big music had gotten their collective heads reattached and started to figure out ways to mass produce what made bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam so popular (can anyone say Stone Temple Pilots?). From there things quickly degenerated into the pile of dung that is music today. One can find a direct link from STP to Bush to Korn to Blink 182 if you look in the right place. They all sold millions by giving big business and kids that didn't know any better, exactly what they wanted. Now here is the real question…is that really so bad?

Another thread on the GD's message board was talking about The Hives and White Stripes (go figure), but along the way someone mentioned The Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy. At this point part of the discussion took a turn down political alley and one poster added the following – "(The (International) Noise Conspiracy) blew my minds with their intelligent communism. Rage Against the Machine were always my heroes for condemning capitalism and selling it to capitalists, but they never presented the alternative to the American Nightmare. T(I)NC presents that alternative." Is it just me or does the phrase socially retarded come to mind (Side note – I will give a dollar to the first person who can tell me what TV show I borrowed that line from.)? Okay, I'm seriously not calling you dear poster a social retard…I used that line because it is an inside joke with my wife and I and it made me laugh.

But seriously though, "intelligent communism?!?" That doesn't make any sense. Communism is one of those things that looked better on paper than it did in the real world, kind of like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It didn't work. And what about the "American Nightmare" that allows you to express your opinions in a completely open an unabridged forum like this. Do you think you, or the bands that you like, would be allowed to think, let alone express their feelings in a communist country? I'll answer that one for you…NO.

Don't get me wrong; this country has its issues. Namely big business executives who use fuzzy math to make their companies look like they are making money that they aren't so they can get a big bonuses and then flush thousands of works when the truth finally comes out. That is really really screwed up, and hopefully those dirty bastards will rot in jail for a long time. But at the end of the day, I'd rather deal with those types of issues than live in fear of a repressive régime. At least now I know that I have the power to make the world a better place.

I'm sure you are wondering what in the crap I meant by that last statement. It's simple. Everyone out there really does have the power and ability to make the world a better place. The secret is in our children. This may be hard for some of you to grasp (believe me the thought of being a parent at 17 – 23 just wasn't an option), but you truly do leave your mark by teaching your kids the right way to live. I'm extremely lucky in that I have two absolutely healthy and beautiful children to love and care for. They are my world. But the most important thing that I can do for them is show them the right way.

Yoda once said, "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it consume your destiny." He was right. And I'm not talking about Jedi mind tricks either (but I might if you get me started). I'm talking about how you live your life. Honesty, hard work, morality…those are the things that can make a person whole. Those are the attributes that we as parents must pass on to our children.

How will this change the world you ask? Slowly. The problems that we face as a society are real and big and there is not quick fix for any of it. By raising children that believe in hard work and honesty, they will in turn pass that on to their children and so on. They will start companies with the ideal that success is achieved through hard work and elect honest people to serve in government. The system itself isn't really what's broken…it's those who are running it. We have to find the strength in ourselves to do what is right and pass that on. That was something that my parents (especially my mother) passed on to me. I haven't perfected it by any stretch of the means; believe me I am a healthy screw up like the rest.

What we don't need are big organizations that are out trying to save the world. Or bands that preach anti-war messages while working for a company that build bombs in another division. I think Jello Biafra put it best "What better way to turn people off, then to twist ideas of change into one more church that forgets we're all human beings" (from "Where Do Ya Draw the Line" off of the Dead Kennedys' Bedtime for Democracy).

There is a lot you can learn from punk rock. I did. You can't listen to bands like Minor Threat, Operation Ivy, 7 Seconds, and Youth Brigade and not be changed (That is if you truly get it. There are a lot of people that dabble in underground music and punk rock that don't ever really get it, but they hardly ever last very long). I remember I was working for Service Merchandise in the mid 90's and I turned a guy I that I worked with onto punk rock. And he got it. I ran into him a few years later…he wasn't into punk anymore, but it had effected his life. He had become very active in his church and was a writer, but he wasn't the same kid I taught how to sell VCR's. Punk rock changed him. I know this sounds silly and I'm not really sure how I ended up at this point, but considering this a punk zine I figure it's as good a place as any to wrap things up.

Thanks again to Barb and Brian for putting together a great site. And thank you to those out there that made it all the way to the end of this column. I'll leave you with some suggested listening … Take care.

Suggested Listening:
Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
The Reverend Horton Heat – Lucky 7
V/A - Appalachian Stomp-Bluegrass Classics
Johnny Cash – The Essential Johnny Cash

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