The Secret Museum
Jim Webb & Michael Mooney
Rod Stewart: I Used To Love Him, But It’s All Over Now
Some people think that the real Rod Stewart had disappeared by 1980; others say it was in the 1990s, and some long-time fans were even waiting until 2000 or so for his return before giving up. I have proof; it is now undeniable that Rod perished somewhere in Oprah Winfrey Land in 2009. His fatal illness began several years ago when his “Great American Songbook” box-set was one of the worst releases in 2005, and his latest studio release, “Soulbook,” has now confirmed his demise. How did one of the greatest vocalists of our generation turn into a two-bit karaoke stylist that has his heroes like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding turning in their graves?
Rod started off as a harmonica playing fan of The Rolling Stones in the early ’60s when they were churning out souped-up Rhythm and Blues before he became known as the fashionably dressing “Rod the Mod” around 1965. Rock music was the ticket out of working class London for a lot of British youths, and with his distinctively raspy vocals, Stewart had plenty of people clamoring to play with him. After stints with Long John Baldry and singing lead with The Jeff Beck Group, he wound up joining the ashes of The Small Faces in a new band called—The Faces. This period from 1969 to 1974 was when Stewart made his mark as an outstanding vocalist and song writer, crafting such classics as “Gasoline Alley,” “Maggie May,” “Mandolin Wind,” and “You Wear it Well.” When David Bowie was in full flower as an androgynous looking Alien in 1973, Rod happily put on his own shiny, satin Glam-rocker outfits and wore as much makeup as any female who paid to see him.
In 1978, Rod surprised no one by doing a late cannon ball into the Disco waters with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” before joining the MTV Generation in 1984 with a synthpop Duran Duran style song/video entitled “Some Guys Have All the Luck.” He kept selling concert tickets through the years, but it wasn’t until 2002 that he dropped all pretense of having anything new to say and starting mining old songs from the ’30s and ’40s. Nothing wrong with those classic tunes at all, but Stewart adds nothing to their luster and comes across as desperate to keep selling more product. I just hope The Great American Songbook Vol. 5 isn’t coming our way anytime soon. His “Soulbook” release last year was unfortunately a continuation of a marketing plan gone artistically awry. His dull arrangements of Motown/Soul classics, sung with little passion, are all packaged for a certain middle aged demographic and, like his recent cover of “I Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” are just not needed. Rod Stewart used to be a great rock and roll singer. Each year he’s walked a little further away from his roots and he’s been doing his “standards” act for so long now his only goal seems to be improving his Tony Bennett impersonation. The long rumored reunion tour with The Faces might be the only elixir that could bring him back from the dead.
It’s pretty obvious that a long time ago, the real Rod Stewart decided to simply give the people what they wanted. He won’t be the last musician to head down that road, but for him to wind up permanently living there is disappointing. I’d feel the same way about any talented artist who was content to mass produce the same item over and over again for Wal-Mart. Early in his career, he brilliantly took some hand-me-downs from Sam Cooke and The Stones and made them into a custom suit of Rhythm and Booze that only he could fit into. The rented tuxedo that he wears today, anyone could use. Why do I think there is a real Rod Stewart, an artist, somewhere underneath his still perfectly quaffed head of hair? Let’s go back to 1970 when he wrote a song called “Gasoline Alley” that was about his future. With his good looks, voice and stage presence, Rod knew that stardom wasn’t far away, but he also knew there would be a price to pay for that fame.
But if anything should happen and my plans go wrong
Should I stray to the house on the hill
Let it be known that my intentions were good
I’d be singing in my alley if I could
And if I’m going away and it’s my turn to go
Should the blood run cold in my veins
Just one favor I’d be askin’ of you
Don’t bury me here it’s too cold
Take me back; carry me back to Gasoline Alley where I started from
Take me back, won’t you carry me home down to Gasoline Alley where I started from
I could be wrong, maybe Rod didn’t perish last year. There’s always the slim chance that his sales have now totally blinded him and he’s just wandering around lost in Middle America. If you ever do run into him, ask him whatever happened to that old custom suit that he made for himself. If he claims he lost it a long time ago and has no idea where it is, tell him not to worry, he was the only guy it ever fit. One day, if he decides to go looking for it, I’m sure he’ll find it somewhere in that alley back home.
An interview with !The!Bang!Gang!!
The Secret Museum has been on a mission lately to verify rumors that a thriving Rock music scene actually does exist in the area. The results appear, rather surprisingly, altogether positive. Unfortunately, the number of venues for Rock music remains limited. One group who came to our attention is !!The!!Bang!!Gang!! Comprising Karen Vargas-vocals and guitar, Spanky Golub-bass and Doan Wilson-drums, !!The!!Bang!!Gang!! deliver a lo-fi roar straight outta Olympia circa 1991. They have recently released a 14-song CD, on which now-departed guitarist Cullen Morris joins them. The following interview took place via email.
Your new CD !!Whatever!!Meinkampff!! has just been released. Why the extra ‘f’?
There are two extra “fs” actually, for emffasis. We like to come up with new ways of treating old words, because historically, that’s just always been the trend. We like the letter “f” a lot.
Assuming I won’t be referring anyone to your MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/wearethebanggang), would you please provide a short history of !!The!!Bang!!Gang!!?
Well, it IS a short history actually. We’ve been playing together for two years. The first year it was just Karen and Spanky; the second year we decided to start selling timeshares in the cult. Past members include Richie Green, Julia Vanderburg, Cullen Morris and Scottie McKenzie.
Janet Jackson, Mozart, Sacred Rats, Mick Collins, Throbbing Gristle, alcohol, Danger, Danger’s mom, Phil Lynott, Val Margolis, breasts, Donna Summer, Sdrawkcab Tebahpla, Anna Nicole, Giardia.
Most of your songs seemed designed to avoid any radio airplay whatsoever. Is that a reasonable inference?
No, it’s the other way around: most radio airplay has been designed to avoid us.
Who is Val Margolis?
Spanky’s dead ex-girlfriend.
What’s your opinion of the local music scene and how would you like to see it improved?
At this point, Seco Pearl is the only serious game in town for alternatives. We’ve seen some GREAT music there. We love Nina and the Seco Pearl! Taosound by the Post Office in town has a nice selection. There’s also a space called the Mandala Project on the bypass, but we haven’t played there YET. We’ve only ever tried to get ONE gig at a mainstream venue in Taos and they turned us down—probably because we’re too risky—but we’ve never really bothered with trying to get gigs in places like that because why spend time on people and things that aren’t willing to spend time on you? In these sort of situations you usually have to make it happen yourself, you can’t wait around for anyone else.
I.D.K.H.T.H.M.B.H. is one of your catchier songs. Why isn’t it on the record?
It’s on the next album, “World War Five, Get Down Make Love,” which will be done in a few minutes.
It stands for I Don’t Know How To Homologate My Bromide Habit, right?
Are you calling us spastic homos?? THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!
What happened to your guitarist?
Which one? We’ve burned through three so far.
Track 12 on your CD, Trinidad—what’s that all about?
Karen is a writer and last summer she went to an art symposium put on by the Colorado Arts Ranch called Sex and Sensibility, in Trinidad, Colorado, which, as you know, is the sex-change capital of the world. The song is sung in Spanish and it’s about her road trip there and meeting various artists and writers including Dr. Marcie Bowers, who performs the surgeries. It’s a corrido, of sorts.
At least one of you likes Roy Harper. Care to embellish?
If you have an album called “Stormcock,” how could we not be a big fan? Also, Roy Harper manifested Jimmy Page having sex with Aleister Crowley, so how can you NOT love that?
There’s a lot of drinking in your songs. Favorite whisky?
Doan and Karen are allergic to whiskey and Spanky is addicted to Jameson.
I’ve given your disc several listens. Interstate and Joan Doanut are my favorites. That’s not a question, obviously, but feel free to respond.
Joan Doanut is a super-loose, barely recognizable, rip-off of Dick Johnson by Pussy Galore. And it’s a super-loose, barely recognizable play on our drummer’s name. It’s a loving tribute to Doan who’s been holding up the other side of the bar at the Taos Inn for the last twelve years. “He’s the guy that everyone knows, he’s the guy that makes your nachos...” Interstate was written by Cullen Morris. Karen really liked the song and asked if we could cover it, so we did.
The hidden last cut on the CD—if it’s not called Soma Coma, it should be. So what’s it called?
It’s called Soma Coma.
!!Whatever!!Meinkampff!! is available at Taosound, Seco Pearl and through Tralalamedia.com.
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