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THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 16

RAMONES AREN'T MEANT TO DIE, PART THREE

Was it a curse? As us music fans get older, we learn that not all those fast-living rock stars we envied in our youth will live to old age. And not all of them can expect our sympathy, especially those who make a conscious decision to keep using hard drugs and who ultimately, like Dee Dee Ramone in 2002, die of an overdose. But what are we to make of the clean-living Johnny Ramone following the equally hard-working Joey Ramone to an early grave from an incurable disease? With Joey it was steadily debilitating lymphatic cancer; with Johnny, who passed away yesterday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, it was a five year battle with prostrate cancer.

Johnny as we should remember him: the guitarist behind a hundred famed riffs.

Johnny was an anomaly in punk rock: a committed Republican, a frugal businessman, a hard taskmaster. He was also a blisteringly effective guitarist, whose buzzsaw riffs provided the blueprint for a thousand imitation bands. Partly because of Johnny's relentless drive and work ethic, relations within The Ramones were not always as smooth as the sibling name would have suggested, but without his dedication to the group's cause, The Ramones might never have enjoyed even their limited success. Writing these last few months about The Clash, I became more aware than ever that the British punk rock explosion would not have happened (certainly not in the way we know it) without The Ramones coming to the UK in 1976 and inspiring that country's then wayward, far-flung scene into action. And the best of the The Ramones' music (of which there is so much) remains forever timeless, a permanent memento of gleeful punk rebellion wrapped in a bubblegum pop manifesto.

One's sympathies right now should be with Johnny's wife. (The guitarist left no children.) But I can't help but wonder how the lone surviving original member, Tommy Ramone, is taking all this. Is it a curse? Do he and subsequent drummer Marky need to make a special point of looking in all directions – twice - when crossing the road? Or is this merely the way the chips fall, The Ramones drawing an unlikely trio of short straws?

Three years ago, when Joey died, I wrote the following of The Ramones. To the final sentence, we must now add the names of Dee Dee and Johnny, and yet the sentiment holds more true now than ever:

"Like the cartoon characters on which they partially based themselves, we came to rely on them always being there for us, cracking the same jokes, pulling the same moves, playing the same songs. It's ironic that we celebrated a group for changing so much of the music world around them while also praising them for doing so little to change themselves, but maybe that's because we just loved them the way they were. Ramones aren't meant to die. And, Joey included, they never will."


WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 15

REACHING THE NON-CONVERTED

I spent an hour this morning with the two main New York City freebie weeklies: the Village Voice and the New York Press. You can learn a lot about NYC life from these institutions, but you can learn even more about the upcoming election. The Voice has always been a left-wing paper, but it seems to have forgotten that the city itself has voted for a Republican Mayor the last three elections in a row, and it makes almost no attempt to reach out to these many potential Bush supporters. In other words, it's preaching to the long converted, and with a self-righteous anger and indignation that hardly reassures anyone who worries that the left is losing touch with the real world.

Now that the Republican National Convention has come and gone from NYC, and peaceful and violent protestors alike have had their say, Bush is not down but up in the polls. Yet the current Voice cover shows an animated W., teddy bear in hand, cowering from upcoming 'Indie Films (that) Attack Bushworld.' Think about the image for a moment and think about the reality: is it really likely that a President whose popularity is stronger after Fahrenheit 911's impressive box office run, is going to be scared of any follow-up films? Or does the cover represent the Voice's wishful thinking – one that is sadly removed from reality? (To its credit, there are pieces inside the paper this week that suggest how Kerry can improve his campaign and how readers can get involved.)

The New York Press, though its front covers are generally tacky affairs, credits its readers with more independence of intelligence. Since publisher Russ Smith sold the paper and moved back to Baltimore, his 'Mugger' column has become the paper's last bastion of staunch Republicanism, and though I don't agree with Smith's endorsements, I can understand many of his observations. (He's an 'Inside Baseball' kind of guy, as the current column proves, and he recognizes good and bad campaigning when he sees it.) Otherwise, apart from JR Taylor's occasionally mean-spirited right-wing reports from political protests and/or fund-raisers, the Press leans more these days to its left-wing columnists, including Michael Signorile (whose current piece eviscerates the Republicans' hypocritical gay-bashing agenda), and Matt Taibbi.

Taibbi is a contrarian in the grand tradition, going so far beyond conventional wisdom of the mass Democratic mindset that he occasionally resurfaces round the other side. Last week, he chose to assail the RNC protestors for their lack of imagination – essentially, for living up to the cliché and caricature embodied by every middle American conservative. After a reader then sent a response calling for a real revolution, he's this week written an erudite defense of the USA's strengths, while calling for increased anti-corporate activism at community level:

"No sensibly governed country would invest so much as a dime in trying to figure out how to sell Big Macs to three-year-olds, but an enormous percentage of our surplus is invested in precisely that kind of activity.

And we have no control over it. Corporations are dictatorships. They have only a very limited accountability to their employees and to the public—and what accountability they do have is diminishing all the time.

Changing this situation doesn't require underground cells of conspirators and a leader like Che Guevara. It just takes ordinary people taking more than an occasional interest in managing their own affairs."

I wish his piece had been published in the Voice.


There's more in the Press that I think is of interest, especially among the unaccredited writers on "Page Two". Last week, having long spoken out against the RNC coming to NYC, the page nonetheless criticized those protestors who were arrested under the headline Guantanamo On the Hudson Reconsidered, accompanied by a cartoon of cry-babies. This week two items on Page Two look ahead to an equally contentious gathering some eight years away: the possibility of New York City hosting the Olympics. Those of us who've been following the machinations behind the West Side Jets stadium and Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn Nets Arena (and accompanying mini-city) know that, just as with the RNC, such an event inconveniences the average person and lines only the pockets of big business. New York is not Athens; we don't need these Olympics to prove anything to anybody. And we can't afford it, in any sense. "We realize that everyone is protested out," Page 2 summarizes, "but the time to get another half-million people in the streets to stop this thing is now, before it's too late."

(Having spent a couple of weeks in Europe, where London is also angling for the Olympics, I don't think New York stands a chance of playing host. It's unlikely that the 9/11 factor will still hold sway with the powers that be; instead, I think the IOC will take another hard look at our overcrowded city, its relentless traffic problems, its surprising lack of easily accessible sports amenities and its continued status as terrorist target of choice, and knock it off the list at the next stage. Hopefully, the Jets stadium will not have gotten the green light in the meantime.)


Returning to the papers and their political stance, my objections to the Voice are not based on any desire to see Bush re-elected. In fact, it's the opposite. My concerns are that I feel like I'm reliving Britain, 1983 when, after four years of a Thatcher government that saw unemployment rocket, and anti-government anger quickly reach such a level that there were serious riots on the streets of many cities, all accompanied a visceral growth in peaceful protest of all forms (especially among musicians), the Prime Minister was none the less re-elected by a substantially increased majority.

Bush does not have the fall-back of a popular war the way Thatcher had the Falklands; if anything, Iraq is his weakness. But he does have the same advantage Thatcher had over Labour in '83.

1) An opposition that has chosen a leader based on seniority and supposed "electability" rather than a candidate who can actually communicate with the common person, especially the working class outside of the major liberal cities. (And I wish all those who voted for John Kerry in the Democratic primaries as opposed to, say, Howard Dean, on the assumption that Kerry was "electable," would now come forward and explain how they reached that conclusion.)

2) An opposition that often seems more excited about being the opposition than about taking power. It's all too easy to protest and parody the Bush Administration, but what the left fails to realize as it hammers home the same critique week after week through editorials, cartoons, weblogs and t-shirts, is that it becomes its own parody in the process.

Those committed to the left long ago made up their minds that they would vote for Anybody But Bush this time round (as long as he's a Democrat: you don't hear many calls for Ralph Nader and a Third Party in '04). With that 40-45% of the electorate secured, they should now be working on bringing in the 10% swing vote rather than offering up retreads of the same old punchlines. They're more likely to achieve this by accentuating the Democratic candidate's positives than constantly swinging at Bush's negatives. But then for that to work, John Kerry himself needs to step up to the plate and make himself truly electable. Where the hell is he in this hour of need?


TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 14

LOVE PARADES... AROUND THE SUN

Interested to see that San Francisco is hosting a first ever American Love Parade next month (Saturday October 2). I attended the Love Parade in its Berlin home in 2000 and it was one of the most exciting and euphoric experiences of my life. In the last few years Love Parades have also been held in Israel, England, South Africa and Austria though, of course, with every franchised Parade, the original event loses a little of its original luster and magic. Indeed this year, 2004, there was no Love Parade at all in Berlin, the local government having had enough of cleaning up after 750,000 tripping trance-heads. (At the 2000 event Parade, there was much madness, but very few casualties for such a large crowd and no evident violence.)

San Francisco, long a bedrock for liberal lifestyles and an important cornerstone in the American dance scene, is the obvious city to host an American Love Parade. Here's hoping they get good weather, a great crowd – and some bigger names than those currently advertised on the site.



An interesting piece in the current Newsweek about MP3blogs – those illegal but enthusiastic sites that upload music files – usually for just a limited amount of time, and more from a love of the artists than any determination to bring down the industry behind it or rip off the artists. Newsweek reports how some labels are throwing lawsuits at the sites while others are trying to get in on the grassroots process: Warners apparently offered a number of MP3blogs an 'exclusive' Secret Machines track, with a not unpredictable scornful response. (Only one blog posted it.)



Warners is trying a different grass roots approach with the new R.E.M. album, Around The Sun. And they need to: the group's last album, Reveal, disappeared almost without trace in the States, racking up the group's lowest domestic album sales ever. The unofficial but sanctioned web site murmurs.com is taking a page from Howard Dean's "meetup" campaigns and encouraging fans to arrange their own listening parties away from the traditional bars and nightclubs. The fans supply the location, cake, sandwiches and liquid refreshments, Warners will supply "a copy" of the album along with other promotional material. Only questions: will the label be spoilsport and take the advance CD home with them afterwards?

Unwilling to leave everything in the label's hands this time around, R.E.M. last week made an audio montage of the new album available for free on iTunes. Smart idea: listeners get a good grasp of the new record's mood, and the group get to look generous without giving anything of real substance away. My first impressions are considerably positive, having been disappointed with Reveal (which sold phenomenally well across Europe): there's the traditional wistful melancholia I always look for from the group, but some upbeat tunes that hark back to Out Of Time. No sign of the big guitars or mutant rock that accompanied Monster, Hi-Fi and several earlier albums, however. It may well be that at this point the group feel they no longer have hard rock in them.


MONDAY SEPTEMBER 13

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAMPBELL...

Nine years old today...

and with so much more to look forward to...

2004 MUSINGS
SEP 11: Absolute Affirmation: A New York Hitlist.
SEP 3-10: The Futureheads live, The Good News, Step Off, No Sleep Till Brooklyn
AUG 23-SEP 2: No postings: On summer holiday.
AUG 16-22: 33 Notes on 45 Bands: Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival
AUG 9-15: Step On, The Summer Hitlist
AUG 2-8: Crystal Palace are shirt, Crazy Legs are back, The British are Rapping, Losers Lounge, Step On
JULY 26-AUG 1: Farewell to Orbital, the Nike RunHitWonder, Pere Ubu in the Park, Devo, Dave Wakeling, Berger & Wyse
JULY 19-25: Live reviews: Mission Of Burma/Electric Six/The Fever/Van Hunt/Brazilian Girls/Apollo Heights/L Maestro; Crime Watch, Book Watch, TV Watch, Booze Watch
JULY 12-18: Jeff Mills' Exhibitionist DVD review, Midweek W(h)ines, Los Pleneros de la 21/Kékélé live, The Homosexuals,
JULY 5-11: Nick Hornby's Songbook
JUNE 28-JULY 4: The Streets/Dizzee Rascal/I Am X/Funkstorung live, Wine, Football and festivals,
JUNE 21-27: Lollapalooza, Morrissey, Deadwood, London Calling, Stone Roses, Euro 2004,
JUNE 14-20: Fast Food and Cheap Oil, Party Prospects, More Clash, Radio Indie Pop
JUNE 7-13: MP3s vs AIFF, Step on, June Hitlist, The Clash,
MAY 31-JUNE 6: Benzos/The Hong Kong/Home Video live, Tribute Bands, Lester Bangs, Glad All Over
MAY 24-30: The Clash, Fear Of A Black Planet, Marvin Gaye, Sandy Bull, Richard Pryor, Stoop Sale LPs, Michael Moore, Nat Hentoff
MAY 17-23: 5th Ave Street Fair, James, Surefire/The Go Station live, Crystal Palace
MAY 10-16: Radio 4 live, John Entwistle, Jeff Mills, Wine notes, Joy Division covers
APR 26-MAY 9: Twenty Twos, Morningwood, French Kicks, Ambulance Ltd all live, More Than Nets, Mod, Turning 40
APR 19-25: 5 Boroughs Rock, The Number 3 Bus, Orbital split, MC5 reform
APR 6-19: British Press Cuttings, More Than Nets, Art Rockers and Brit Packers
MAR 29-APRIL 5: The Rapture/BRMC/Stellastarr* live, The Chinese Beatles, Freddie Adu
MAR 22-28: Singapore Sling live, Kerry on a Snowboard, Pricks on Clits, Eddie Izzard, Who's Two
MAR 15-21: TV On The Radio live, Tracking Terror, Bloomberg's Education Bloc, The Homosexuals,
MAR 8-14: The Undertones live, Winemakers Week, Madrid Bombings, Just In Jest
MAR 1-7: Rhone-gazing, Pop Culture Quiz answers, Who's Hindsight, March Hitlist
FEB 16-29: Lad Lit, American Primaries, New York novels, Candi Staton, the Pop Culture Quiz, World Musics In Context
FEB 9-15: Grammy gripes, Spacemen 3, Replacements, Touching The Void, Moon myths, Voice Jazz & Pop Poll
FEB 2-FEB 8: Suicide Girls in the flesh, Johnny Rotten's a Celebrity...So's Jodie Marsh
JAN 26-FEB 1: Starsailor/Stellastarr*/Ambulance live, Tiswas, Wine Watch, Politics Watch
JAN 19-25: Brooklyn Nets? LCD Soundsystem, Iowa Primary, The Melody, TV On The Radio
JAN 12-18: The Unicorns live, New York w(h)ines, Sex In The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, S.U.V. Safety, Bands Reunited
JAN 5-11: Tony's Top 10s of 2003, Howard Dean and his credits, Mick Middles and Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones and Don Letts,

2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE:


iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2004




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WHAT'S NEW IN iJAMMING!...

ABSOLUTE AFFIRMATION:
A NEW YORK HITLIST
(10 new Albums)

The SUMMER HITLIST:
More culture than makes sense

From the Jamming! Archives
THE HOMOSEXUALS, 1979

DVD REVIEW:
JEFF MILLS - EXHIBITIONIST

BOOK REVIEW:
SONGBOOK by NICK HORNBY

HIGHWAY TO UNHEALTHY:
Why Fast Food depends on Cheap Oil

THE JUNE HITLIST:
12 featured albums, 15 more in rotation, three 12" singles and a handful of books.

FEATURED OREGON WHITE WINES:
Foris Vineyards Gewürztraminer and Witness Tree Pinot Blanc.

THE APRIL HITLIST:
MUSIC, BOOKS, FILMS, TV, BEER, WINE AND FOOD-JUICE

FEATURED WINE:
Aziano Chianti Classico 2001 .

THE UNDERTONES
Live in New York

THE MARCH HITLIST:
REISSUES REVISITED

STELLASTARR*
Live at Tiswas
Live at Bowery Ballroom
Live at Mercury Lounge
Live on the Hudson River
With Joe Strummer
Stellastarr* album review

SUICIDE GIRLS just wanna have fun

FEATURED WINE:
DOMAINE ROGER PERRIN
CHÂTEAUNEUF DU PAPE 2001
Rhône, France,

THE FEBRUARY HITLIST:
Ten That Got Away

NEW YORK W(H)INES Part 2

THE BEST OF 2003
Tony's Top Tens

FEATURED WINE REGION:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES
updated and re-designed

The DECEMBER HITLIST
Bruce, Bowie, Iggy, Joe and Jodie...

From the Jamming! Archives
TONY PARSONS on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, 1984

THE IJAMMING! HITLIST:
Global Techtronica

THE DECEMBER HITLIST Part 2
TRIPPED OUT BRITS: Nine albums of vaguely psychedelic bliss

FEATURED ALBUM:
Eargasm by Plump DJs

FEATURED WINE:
Paul Durdilly Les Grandes Coasses Beaujolais Nouveau 2003

THE DECEMBER HITLIST Part 1
BRITISH DANCE MUSIC:
Down But Not Out

THE OTHER NEW YORK MARATHON: 10 Live Reviews from the CMJ Music Marathon, October 2003

THE OCTOBER HITLIST:
Albums from UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Iceland, Denmark, New York and New Jersey.

NEW YORK W(H)INES:
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

DANCING IN THE DARK:
Bruce Springsteen at Shea Stadium

The biggest night out that you'll ever have in." Jockey Slut
"Hedonism will have you gripped from start to finish, guaranteed." International DJ


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