INSTALLMENT #1: WHO??
We, the few, the proud, the Dictators are just bustin' our buttons over this, our latest website feature. By special arrangement with the mighty powers-that-be, we present the musings and writings of author, beatnik, columnist, poet, singer, conceptual artist, pal and the Dictators Spiritual Godfather, Richard Meltzer. Richard has long been an inspiration to us, longer even than we all know each other. And that's quite a while! Shit, we've been a band for over a quarter of a century! His influence is stamped all over us, in our songs, our tunnelvision determination and certainly in our bad attitude. I've personally thanked him on every record i've ever made. I feel like he's always part of it. That's especially true when it comes to our band.
Alright then, enough! What you got here is just the first installment of THE RETURN OF BORNEO JIMMY; a coupla poems, a little prose, some old, mostly new. For those of you who are completely unfamiliar with Meltzer, i've written a brief history of our hero.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF OUR HERO
As the Rock'nRoll and the Rock'nRoll culture, or at least what's left of it, limps into the new millennium, it's hard to imagine that there was a time when "Rock Criticism" not only contributed to the Rock'nRoll but it even FELT like the Rock'nRoll. The words on the page danced and sang and were infused with the same spirit that had insinuated itself into the same private corners of our collective hearts and minds as the music. A symbiotic relationship it was, not the cantankerous bitch fight it has become. The written rockword enjoyed a heyday between the teenybopper hollywoodesque fan crap and the self-important, patronizing ass-sniffers of post-1970 ROLLING STONE (and its lame-ass little red-headed stepchild, the pathetically hilarious SPIN). What was written complimented and even enhanced what we heard.
But back in about 1966 came a crude mimeograph with some staples full of the same unadulterated thrill and joyride of the music itself. It was called CRAWDADDY. The publisher was a music lover named Paul Williams and thirty-five years later I can still remember quotes from his writing that inspired me to listen in new and better ways. Other soon-to-be's lent their own personal vision to CRAWDADDY. There was Sandy Pearlman, one day to become the Dictators' manager/producer, and Jon Landau, who went on to become Broooce's manager/producer. But, most special of all, was the brain-busting, consciousness-expanding (no, really!) slippins' and slidins' of R(ichard). Meltzer. "WOW!!!" said little Scotty K. In a BIG mutherfuckin' way.
Richard Meltzer's pieces on Cream ("What a Goddamn Great Second Cream Album"), Hendrix ("Pythagoras the Cave Painter") and, uh, stuff ("The Stones, the Beatles and Spyder Turner's Raunch Epistemology") blew huge holes in my delicately developing teenage psyche. In a good way! I think of CRAWDADDY and Meltzer as having served as a sort of launching pad in my life. It put me in orbit and I never came down.
Then, in 1970, came Melteršs first book, "THE AESTHETICS OF ROCK." It was an expansion of his writings for CRAWDADDY and was written in the most personal and distinctive voice I had or have ever read. A lotta big words I didn't know (hey! I was only 12) but ya know what? I know 'em now. Originally written as a college thesis handed in to one of R.'s profs (and rejected by same said prof) inside the album cover of BEATLES VI, "AESTHETICS" remains visionary, challenging; even threatening and a real hoot, to boot.
The Chance Meeting. Ungano's, a hepster basement rock club on West 70th Street in New York. The summer of 1970. The band, THE STOOGES. The summer of their classic, FUN HOUSE. There he stood against the bar, every bit as famous to me as THE STOOGES, wearing a YANKEES cap, R. Meltzer. I introduced myself and he seemed impressed that I seemed impressed. At the end of the night I asked him if he was going to write about what was for me, a completely life-changing atom bomb of a rock show and he said, "No, i'm going to write about you." Well, well, well, a couple tree months later a friend comes up to me in school and says that he was checking out his dad's SCREW mags and he came across an article about some rock band called THE STOOGES and he said my name was in it! And sure enough there it was, "Last week Scott Kempner and his pals and gals from the Bronx High School of Science were down at Ungano's catchin' the action from the front row....," it read. SCREW magazine, my first press!! How about that??!!??
This was all around the time that the Dictators met. I met Adny and Ross right around the end of that school year just 3 months earlier. Manitoba and I go back to the 4th grade. Yes, that is a long time! That night, at THE STOOGES show, Richard gave me his address and phone number and I got in touch with him. Long story very short, he appointed me his junior archivist and we became friends. And I became a junior archivist!
A few years after AESTHETICS OF ROCK came GULCHER: POST-ROCK CULTURALISM IN AMERICA (1649-1980). This was actually 1972 and this time the humor was put dead center and a lot of the big words were gone but brilliance and fun remained. The Most Singular Voice had transformed (evolved?) into yet another completely singular voice. GULCHER was Meltzer's manifesto for the under-the-counter culture (his terminology). The most current pressing of which contains a cool blurb by our own Adny. A collection of essays (a few dozen of 'em) with titles and subjects ranging from "Grady Hatton's Niece Set the World on Fire" and "The Wonderful World of Booze" to "Luckies vs. Camels: Who Will Win?" and "Neil Sedaka: Horseman of the Apocalypse," GULCHER set the tone and Zeitgeist (my woid) for CREEM magazine when it was great (early to mid-70's) and for what has come to be known as the Lester Bangs school of Rockwrit. I only wish dear ol' Lester was around today to tell you what he told me. "It's all about Meltzer. HEšS THE MAN," he told me and he would have been glad to tell you too!
Meanwhile, Meltzer's output continued. The books, the columns, the poetry and prose, the social critiques, the fiction, the novel and, even, the autobiography. Everything except the rock criticism, funnily enough. He continued to write in torrents. Born, bred and hellraised here in Long Island and Greenwich Village, he moved to LA in about 197X when he felt he had "used up New York." He even led a rock band. Hail! Hail! VOM!!!
We recorded BORNEO JIMMY on the BLOODBROTHERS LP as a tribute to our pal. That's a song that is truer than most of you would probably believe. But you can believe me!
These days our hero resides in Portland, OR, where there is no sales tax. "That's right," says R., "if it says $6.95, it actually is $6.95." It was in the Northwest that 1995's fantastic THE NIGHT was written. Later, this spring, keep an eye out for Da Capošs compilation of Richardšs rock writing entitled A WHORE JUST LIKE THE REST. Buy it!!!
That's a very condensed and simplified history of Richard Meltzer. He deserves better but, hey, this'll have to do for now. And now, it is our honor and pleasure and duty to our fans, friends and, yes, our country to present the first installment of THE RETURN OF BORNEO JIMMY. (That's him, ya know!) BEHOLD!!!
Top 10, nyc 2000, DFFD