Crazy Ladies II -- Rock and Roll Lovelies

08.28.2004 | David Walley | Interviews & First Person | 1 Comment
Rock and roll beat the publishing world by a couple of light years. Even if the pay was wretched (or even nonexistent), the perks were fabulous: the parties, the free tickets, the limos, the plane fares to the coast, the records, the hobnobbing with the culture heroes of the age. It was like playing hooky from real life. Anyway, it beat the hell out of graduate school (from which many of the rock critics of the late 60s had fled, trailing their advanced degrees and looking for relevance in the life of the mind. Ah, but would they could they find that relevance in rock and roll?).

Still, it was a valid proposition back then to view rock as cultural history, especially when the whole world seemed tuned into the same frequency. All you had to do was step back far enough or stay straight long enough, and, just for you, the history of the world was writ large and playing weekly at the Fillmore East, the Grandee Ballroom, or even the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas. Rock critics saw themselves as war correspondents for the Cultural Revolution. From the outside, it may well have looked like a party time and no mistake, but, hell, it was serious business, what with all the attendant press conferences, handouts, and receptions.

Rock and roll women naturally filled the liaison positions as assistant publicists, promotion people, managers, and booking agents. Without these ladies the music business would have come screeching to an uneuphonious halt. For a journalist, sources were all-important, and, in their intermediate positions, women controlled those sources.  It was a foregone conclusion that you first had to charm the manager or the producer’s Girl Friday before you could dazzle her boss with your brilliance and ultimately get your story.

It was equally true that by and large, most business women were far smarter than their bosses (who regularly took credit for what their “girls” did). Those who survived that hard apprenticeship are now middle and upper management in record companies    at least, the ones who’ve survived the recent drought.

But the real pioneers of feminism back in the late 60’s were the women rock journalists who they practiced liberation long before the feminist media so loudly claimed to have discovered it.  To earn respect and to be accorded similar rights as their male peers, these awesome ladies had to out drink, out dope and even out fuck their male counterparts. And more than one rock star learned to his dismay and detriment, that sweet talking and bedding a woman journalist did not necessarily guarantee glowing reviews at publication time. Often, it was quite the contrary, and not out of bitchiness, either. In that male-dominated art form, these ladies had the edge.

It followed that they had also to be tough as a roadhouse steak, too. God help you if you crossed one of them (they’d gang up on you) or if you were fooling around with too many from different camps (they’d all compare notes). Then, you were in for it, especially if you ran afoul of the women inside the record companies,  you could be cut off with nary a DJ copy within a month, not one party invitation, and soon you wouldn’t know who was playing where, ‘cause no one would tell you. You’d starve from lack of publicity lunches, and then you’d wind up just another rock and roll writer down on his luck and forced to grow up, perish the thought!

Of course, the scene encouraged a certain emotional and sexual irresponsibility…well, lust, really. Part of the unspoken game was to bag the publicist, or the journalist, or the cute little manager assistant, or the lady rock star, or whoever, just to collect scalps. There were just as many men as women out there power-fucking for status, for self-esteem, even for the cause of historical accuracy.  Anyone who aspired to be an ace woman journalist had to have an acerbic wit, a biting intelligence and the ability to write like a dream.  This woman also had the capability to go toe to toe with you sexually, intellectually or both, together or separately,  The next night, or four nights later, under a different set of circumstances, she could do it again…and again.  And you never, ever took her for granted,

In retrospect, Rock and Roll women were no crazier than the men on the scene. We both responded to the images the music unlocked, because we were drawn to it, because we all knew it was the most powerful force in the universe, “your only friend until the end”, just like the late Jim Morrison said. The music represented the cause and the promise of idealism fused to art.

But it too had to end, of course: the free lunches, the trips to the Coast, the hothouse creativity of it all. It ended when the artists started saying “Who’s to use and where’s my Muse?” just like everyone else, when the sound of money became more important than the message, when the critics finally came down with indigestion at the moveable feast, and when the music that was intended to shake the foundations of the nation and the world was imprisoned in muzak, or used to sell Coke, Pepsi and burgers. Where did all the smart women go?  Was there life beyond rock and roll?

The emotional danger I craved came from an abiding attachment, nay an addiction, to smart women. It’s a smart man who realizes that it’s far better to find the punishment that fits his crime than to settle for someone else making it up for him. As I was finding out, the search, was not rewarding because most smart women seemed to prefer insensitive and crass men.  And why was this? because such men were tractable and non-threatening. Even the most chauvinist pig was preferable to a smart man. Who knew what a smart man might do, how he might act?  No smart woman I knew would consciously complicate her life with some charmingly unpredictable rogue elephant of a boyfriend. Who, after a day of corporate stone killing, needed that?  

No, smart women weren’t looking for emotional danger the way I was. They’d already figured out how to navigate through a sea of dullards without going mad. Of course, I didn’t like being treated like an environmental sculpture with a set of balls, but then again, women hadn’t exactly enjoyed being classified by mammary size either. For me the brave new world of self-interest and career neatly mirrored the changes wrought in the culture’s music producing an aural wasteland of wasteland of horrifying proportions.

Thus the answer to my own personal dilemma lay in the spiritual realm, and I plunged enthusiastically into a cram course in the occult, into ESP, white magic, Tarot, theoretical physics, sacred geometry, Jungian synchronicities, palm reading, and astrology, the whole catastrophe. Through study, I was determined to break through and find enlightenment.

I am so damn filled with envy. Raw, ugly, pure envy.
08.28.2004 | J.E. D'Ulisse

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