January 18, 2009

Exhibit 28: Fan letter received by Radiohead, 2001

January 21, 2001

Radio Head Fan Club
London, England*

Dear Radio Head,

How ya doin'? I just wanted to drop you a note to tell you I still think your band is awesome, even though you couldn't play my inauguration last night.

I've loved your band ever since 1994, when I had Pebble Honey played over the loudspeaker at the Texas Rangers' batting practice. I figured it would help out our players with their self-empowering. Unfortunately as you'll recall that season was cut short by a strike, but the Rangers finished first in their division despite being 10 games under .500. I guess you could say we really "Creeped" up on the rest of the American League! Heh!

(If you're confused, since I know you're over there in England: Baseball is a lot like cricket except the pants are less sissy.)

Anyways, no hard feelings over your refusal to play my inauguration. After listening to "The National Anthem" from your new album Kid A, I thought it would really pump up the British ambassador to hear your set, right between Clint Black and the Beach Boys. (By the way, your tour manager was right – Mike Love is one Alamo-sized asshole. I don't care if we agree about politics.) I understand the technical details of your music might have made it impossible for you to play. I guess I don't follow much in the way of music technology today. I still get off on good old roadhouse classic rock, you know? Give me a sombrero and a kick-ass Doobie Brothers cover band and I'll be happier than a mental patient on furlough until the cops force me home!

You guys mind if I call your lead singer "Pippy"? I would call him "Yorkie" but I'm afraid that'd confuse my dogs.

Well, one final thing – you don't have to feel bad about not playing my inauguration, because I am starting right now to book my outgoing party, which'll be on January 19, 2009. The theme will be "Bye Bye Bush – 8 Years of Awesome." I'm thinkin' since we'll have experienced eight years of unbridled peace and prosperity, just about every ol' coot in the world of music will want to saddle up for this shindig. We're gonna take DC by storm, so consider yourselves invited, pancholitos!

I've already written letters to other folks askin' them to play: like the Judds, C&C Music Factory, Paul Anka, Richard Wagner, and some guy my National Security Advisor loves named Nick Drake. I'm thinkin' of having Beck come and do a new version of "Loser." I even wrote the chorus for him – "I'm a winner, baby/So let's be real positive." (Let me know if you get stuck on lyrics for your next album. I got whole shoeboxes full of notes.)

I realize there'll be a new Presidential inauguration goin' on the day afterwards, but I'm banking that folks are still going to be in total marvel about how awesome the previous eight years were. In the face of that, c'mon -- how historic could the new president in 2009 be?

Anyway, I gotta run. My Secretary of Defense is comin' over to show me how the remote control in the bedroom works. I'm afraid if I push the wrong button it could start a nucular war, like in that Matthew Broderick movie with the goth girl from Breakfast Club.

Stay cool, stay in school!


George W. Bush
United States of America

(*Full address, as written on the envelope.)

January 13, 2009

Exhibit 27: Letter From San Francisco City Manager to Thomas-Slick-Marconi Construction, 1989

October 23, 1989

Bernie Martin Lambert-Wolf
Thomas-Slick-Marconi Construction
2401 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94118


Dear Mr. Lambert-Wolf,

In last Tuesday's unfortunate Loma Prieta earthquake, several properties constructed via contracts with your company were heavily and fatally damaged. The most serious damage was sustained by buildings which were erected with shabby foundations, especially those which were built on rock and roll.

Although we respect your company's long history and legacy in the Bay Area, we have privately questioned whether your company's decision to build this city on rock and roll was a sound one. Our own seismological reviews, conducted post-mortem, support our hypothesis that buildings which were built with more traditional (if less exotic) foundations withstood structural trauma much more effectively than buildings which were erected on music genres.

For example, many of the buildings which were built on just rock alone came out fine – admirably, in fact. But most buildings that were built on rock intermingled with the roll component simply collapsed into rubble. In terms of property loss, the devastation was nearly as wide as Hurricane Skip, which destroyed hundreds of Florida homes that were built on freeform jazz.

Of painful loss to us is the Balin-Chaquico Law Enforcement Training Facility in the Mission District, a historic complex known for the frieze of policemen employing chokeholds running across the perimeter of the building. Additionally, the indoor flooding at the Exploratorium science museum left several tourists, employees and schoolchildren knee-deep in hoopla.

Our team of adjusters and assessors is completing a full investigation as to the financial damage of properties constructed by TSM, after which we hope our respective attorneys can peaceably reach a settlement. Please notify your legal department of this pending situation.

On a personal note, my husband Burt wishes to thank Mr. Marconi for his offer of free mamba lessons. For obvious reasons he cannot take advantage of Mr. Marconi's invitation at this time.


Paula Kantner
City Manager
City of San Francisco

January 6, 2009

Explanation About the Fire and Subsequent Temporary Closure of the Museum

Dear Patrons,

As you have no doubt already noticed, the Museum Of Pop Archaeology has displayed no new online exhibits since August 20, 2008, and the Museum itself has been shut down since August 29. Such periods of dormancy are highly undesirable in the mercurial field of cultural anthropology, and we regret our inability to communicate our status to you during that time. Although the doors of the Museum were thrown back open at the onset of the new year, we recognize the many questions donors and patrons may have regarding the reason for the Museum's absence.

With all legal proceedings in this matter completed, we are now free to discuss the rather dubious event and actions which resulted in our temporary closure. The Board Of Directors has graciously allowed me to relate what happened in this forum.

It should first be explained that the usual policy of the Museum is not to take a position or get involved in political campaigns or issues of state. The ethical reasons for this policy should be obvious; as a publicly owned entity the Museum can ill afford to risk the appearance of favoring one side of a partisan government over the other. We have very infrequently leased our premises in Seattle for fundraising by some third-party candidates whose positions encompass all or no points of view, and have only done so with the assurance of campaign staffers and consultants that the candidates the Museum endorsed stood virtually no chance of winning.

The Museum did, nonetheless, consent to the rental of our premises for a campaign fundraiser in August, specifically for a candidate for the position of Senator from the state of Minnesota. As you may have heard in the media, this race came down to a virtual photo-finish between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman.

The Museum, however, endorsed the very peripheral senatorial campaign of Stevie Dash, the Reform Party candidate. Mr. Dash was a classic Minnesota Reform Party choice: a smart, articulate, slightly askew 19-year-old extreme sports athlete who favors unitards and tastefully applied plumage. Dash won our affections with his traveling the entire state of Minnesota on his snowboard (not an easy feat in the middle of summer), his folksy wisdom, his layered haircut and his campaign slogan "No Harshed Mellows For Minnesota, Dude."

Mr. Dash's staff inquired whether the Museum would be interested in hosting a fundraising gala, and perhaps without due thinking process, we agreed. The party's theme was "Lots Of Things Occur On A More Or Less Daily Basis in Minnesota," and as such we decided to pay homage to the character and identity of the North Star State. The fundraiser was held on August 29, with Mr. Dash, his endurance coach and his fiancee in attendance, with over 200 other guests.

The accident of the evening was food-related, which comes as a personal blow to us since the Museum prides itself on sanitary and safe food preparation. We decided to hire a caterer, who we have very reluctantly agreed not to name, and charged him with the task of developing dishes that conveyed the Minnesotan spirit and theme.

Furthermore, we advised the caterer that since the Museum is music-related, his dishes might do well as tributes to famous Minnesota musicians. For the most part, the concept was a solid one, featuring these items on the menu:
  • Soul Asylum Clam Dip

  • Vixen "Edge Of An Onion Tart"

  • Bob Dylan Duluth Dogs (served cold)

  • Hüsker Fondüe (barely melted slabs of cheese and sides of beef served in a very thin kick drum)

  • The Time Chili Sauce (served in Morris Day's navel)

  • The Replacements Delight (a wedding cake that had been accidentally stepped on)

In retrospect, this menu now seems perfectly sufficient, and we remorsefully wish we had halted the brainstorming session at that point.

Unfortunately, someone (currently on extended leave) suggested we include a dessert called Raspberry Brûlée, which proved our downfall. The dish, simply described, was a standard serving of crème brûlée with raspberry-infused custard, with the top crust scorched with fire from a propane blow torch, the typical final step in making crème brûlée.

An employee of the Museum mailroom who happened to be a Minneapolis native overheard our plans and informed the Board Of Directors that he would be able to procure one of the electric guitars used by musician Prince during his Purple Rain tour, shown here:

This particular guitar was modified with a small irrigation system. The neck of the guitar was fitted with a tube that stretched from the body to the end of the head that housed the tuning pegs. In the base of the guitar was a small reservoir of water. In performance, during the climactic moment of "Let's Go Crazy," Mr. Prince activated a thrusting device which shot a stream of water from the guitar's head into the front rows of the audience. The action was widely perceived as a simulation of the act of male ejaculation, a reflection of Mr. Prince's sexually charged nature of the time which has since passed.

The mailroom employee suggested the Museum obtain one of these guitars, which had been in storage, and retrofit the device to serve as a blowtorch for the final touch on the Raspberry Brûlée. The employee assured the Board that the guitar had not been used in any capacity since the Purple Rain tour in 1984-85.

However, our post-mortem private investigation into the guitar's history revealed the guitar had been used twice in the summer of 2008, once to dispense oil and vinegar dressing at a Jesse Ventura block party, and again to dispense massage oil at a preseason gathering of Minnesota Viking players on a remote houseboat.

The Museum fully trusts that our patrons know where this is going.

When the time came to use the guitar blowtorch in the final step of the Raspberry Brûlée, instead of directing a blue flame at the crust of the dessert, the guitar instead shot giant bursts of uncontrollable orange flame, setting all surrounding flammable objects on fire. As the caterer tried to maintain dominance over the guitar, the force of the backdraft proved too insurmountable, and he instead roved around the ballroom, imperiling our patrons with a madly swerving stream of flame. Several people were injured in frantic efforts to reach the exit. The fire moved to other sections of the museum and destroyed some very valuable exhibits (most notably the Hair Mousse Altar, which as you can probably imagine only multiplied the devastating radius of the fire tenfold).

Additionally, dessert was ruined.

The Museum, obviously, could not reopen until reconstruction from this horrible event was complete and the curators could either obtain alternate popular music relics or just Photoshop them. However, after months of painstaking work and seventeen carpal tunnel claims, we are happy to announce that MOPA is back in full operation.

On behalf of ourselves and the great state of Minnesota, the Museum Of Pop Archaeology sincerely apologizes for the inconvenience of our sudden closure, and we invite you to return to our institution.

We especially invite those of you who may be in need of some slightly smoke-damaged ramekins and singed toupees which, at this writing, remain unclaimed.

Best wishes,

Paul Pearson
Museum Of Pop Archaeology

August 20, 2008

Exhibit 26: Partial Transcript, George Bird Grinnell Address to Audubon Society, 1886

Grinnell: ...and that we may, as sentient beings, come to discernment that though preservation of the self may be innate, a birthright infused into our consciousness, that the preservation of other, simpler, but no less noble creatures, be they of the sky, the sea, or the rustic untamed wilderness and desert, should be considered equally vital to our world, our surroundings, our godly gift, and the hopes of those who pursue our cause long after we have committed our spirits to the greater wilderness. Have you, now, any additional remarks or questions?

Unknown: "Free Bird"!

Grinnell: If, by some chance, I should hasten to depart from your charms in the morrow, will your recollection of my entity be fervently preserved beyond this dalliance of our spirits? I feel the drive of the open, welcoming arms of the highway, for there are many other localities that spur my urges on. To remain in your company, nourishing as it may be, may result in unreasonable expectations that this flittering spark may remain as it was this past eve. Indeed, I am as liberated as the fowls that cage the sky -- those who have not been mass-slaughtered, that is -- and you, lovely as your wiles and wares have been, cannot alter or organize my wind-chained spirit, as it casts me this way and that. You cannot, I regretfully but steadfastly maintain, change this creature -- this free bird, if you will.

Unknown: "Stairway"!

Grinnell: Oh, yeah. Real original, pal.

July 31, 2008

Exhibit 25: Set list from a supergroup featuring Fall Out Boy, Panic At The Disco and Sufjan Stevens, 2006

  • Yes, President Lincoln, The Roadway To Heaven Is Paved With Tattoo Ink and Bridal Veils

  • That Joke Was Probably Sexist But There's Precious Little To Be Done About It Now Because I've Just Signed Out My Tab

  • When Used Properly Wheat Grass Has A Gentle Laxative Effect But I Wouldn't Do A Shot At The After Party

  • I Met A Tragic Beauty At The Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival In Champagne-Urbana And Even Though I Know We Feel The Exact Same Way About Tron I Can Discern That In Six Months We'll Be Combing Each Other's PDA's For Genetic Evidence Of Our Betrayals (Version)

  • She Called Me A Misogynist, And I Was Like All, What Are You Talking About, I've Never Even Thought About Applying To Medical School, What's The Deal Yo Are We Going to Weinerschnitzel Or Not?

  • What's The Deal With These Airports? Can You Believe These Airports? Now You Gotta Pay 50 Dollars Just To Check A Second Piece Of Luggage? Am I Right? Of Course I'm Right. And What's The Deal With The Security Detail At The Airports? Hey, Officer, Is That A Laser Wand In Your Hand Or Are You Just Happy To See Me? You Know What I'm Talkin' About, Yes, You Do. And What's The Deal With Airplane Food? Where Does The Airplane Food Come From? Is It Even Real Food? I Don't Know! You've Been A Great Audience, Tip Your Waitress, I'll Be Here All Week, Try The Vichysoisse When You Get A Chance, Good Night! (Part 1)

  • Stupid, Worthless, No Good, Goddamn, Freeloading Son Of A Bitch. Retarded, Big Mouth, Know-It-All, Asshole, Jerk. You Forgot Ugly, Lazy And Disrespectful. Shut Up Bitch. Go Fix Me A Turkey Pot Pie. No Dad, What About You? Fuck You. No Dad, What About You? Fuck You. Dad, What About You? Fuck You. Slap.

  • If Your Girlfriend Mentions Even The Barest Affinity For The Films Of John Hughes Then That's A Clear Signal That She Is Stuck In A Nostalgic Loop That Has Nothing To Do With Achieving Any Form Of Equilibrium And You Should Probably Dump Her And Hit A Milk Bar Or Something

  • I Disagree With You, Brendon, I'm Not Asking You To Turn Into A John Hughes Fan Overnight, Or Even At All, But You Can't Just Assume There's No Value To His Work, Whether Achieved Through Simple Cultural References And Easy Juxtapositions Or No, The Fact Is That Hughes Films Burned Themselves Into The Subconscious Of The Teenager Of The Eighties, And That Persists As A Sentimental Touchstone, Who Are We To Object To Sentimentality's Role In The Formation Of Our Collective Ideals, Plenty Of Other Cultures On The Marginalia Of Poverty Don't Have The Luxury Of Emotive Reasoning And We Should Acknowledge That We Are Fortunate To Employ That Kind Of Evaluative Process.

  • Your Point Is Well-Taken Sufjan, But The Rest Of The Band And I Are Of The Opinion That All Pop Nostalgia Is To Be Mistrusted, And Yes I Appreciate The Irony Of That Position Because There May Come A Time When All Three Of Us Entities May Well Be Relegated To Mere Pop Nostalgia, Who Knows It May Come Sooner Than Any Of Us Think, But That Doesn't Mean We Need To Limit Our Artistic Outreach To That Faction That Responds To The Immediately Disposable Whims Of Our Culture, We Need To Determine How We Reinforce Our Art, If You Will, Because While We Are Indeed A Little More Well Off Financially Than We Were Before, Ultimately The Aim Of The Artist Is To Produce Something That Will Endure Beyond His Own Frame Of Reference, We Need To Use Our Projective Skills To Analyze And Determine How We Do That, And Though I Think It's Perfectly Fine To Enjoy John Hughes Movies As Artifacts Of Their Time, Or Even Wield A Nostalgic Fondness For Them, We Cannot Pretend That Hughes' Movies Are An Acceptable Substitute For Those Endeavors That Are Borne From Storytelling Or Simple Individual Expression But Which Wind Up Harnessing Infinite Truths That Ensure Their Endurability Throughout Future Generations, For Even Though The Temporal Immediate Rewards May Not Impress Us, The Eternal Reward Will Await Us All And Will Bear Itself Out As The Most Satisfying Reward For Both Our Souls And The Soul Of The Cosmos.

  • P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)

June 24, 2008

Exhibit 24: Supergroups

By the late 1960's, demand for rock and roll had increased to such a level that mere music groups were inadequate. As regular music groups were increasingly unable to repel NLF and NVA forces in Vietnam with their shimmering pop hooks and shaggy hairstyles, or stop the Watts Riots with their renditions of "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" on Wilmington Avenue, the need for more awe-inspiring combinations of pop musicians escalated.

To compensate for the power diminishment of regular music groups, General William Westmoreland ordered the creation of supergroups, amalgamations of the most popular components of other, smaller groups (sometimes unfortunately and mistakenly called "semigroups") into one standard-sized group with considerably more oomph, zazz, kapow, hotcha, and woof-woof.

Based loosely on Nietzsche's concept of the Übermensch, supergroups were designed to jolt the consciousness of music listeners with a cumulus of almost unbearable star quality, such that if the listener was to experience even a few moments of the supergroup's music, his or her very intestinal fortitude would be rewired and compromised, to the point of actual physical upheaval. This facet of the supergroup at least partially explained the epidemic of people throwing up at Damn Yankees concerts in the late 1980's.

The first supergroup prototypes, alas, were hastily planned, with little concern or attention given to cultural relevance or context. Dow Chemical's foray into the arena was Ginormous, featuring Sonny Bono, the Fugs' Tuli Kupferberg, Petula Clark, the Lollipop Shoppe's Fred Cole, and drummer Jim Keltner. The supergroup was ill-advisedly allowed to write their own material, which resulted in the confusing hit single "I Got Your Existential Uprising In Swinging London Right Here, Babe":

My hair's too long, my spirit is free
The city-state engulfed in its own glut
I just bought a new purse dooooown-tooooown
Pammie's on a bummer

The United Kingdom took the lead in supergroup excellence, offering these groups into classic rock hsitory:

  • Cream (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce) recorded several unassailable rock staples and also cured diabetes.
  • Blind Faith (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood, Ric Grech) recorded an eponymously titled album that defined the supergroup ethic and also rid the world of rabid dogs.
  • Derek And The Dominoes (Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon) made "Layla" a classic rock staple and also cleaned the streets of London with their tongues.
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Carl Palmer) wrote the book on rock pomposity even as they were performing six open-heart surgeries a day.
  • Asia (Carl Palmer, Steve Howe, John Wetton, Geoff Downes) helped eliminate insomnia by their mere existence.

America was not to be outdone, though, and gave the world the musical gift of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Morgenstern, Schmidt, Rosenberg, Rosenberg, DeLillo, Feinstein, Fierstein, Blomstein, Gluckstein, Springstein, Abramsky, Fleischer, Bomberg, Jacoby & Meyers, Bartles & Jaymes, Mankowitz, Rabbinowitz, Rothschild, Shapiro, Zangwill, Monash, Lehmann and Liebermann. The group sued themselves for breach of contract and represented themselves in court.

Other notable supergroups in rock history include:

  • Warped Gnutella: Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane), Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Barry McGuire (“Eve Of Destruction”), Ray Manzarek (The Doors), Jim Keltner. Best-known work: “I Just Got A Job At Woolworth’s!”
  • The Important People: Keith Emerson, Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra), Jim Keltner. Best-known work: “The Bathroom, Parts I-VI”
  • The Floundering Wilburys: Pete Best (Beatles), Slash (Guns ‘n Roses), David Lee Roth (Van Halen), Jim Keltner. Best-known work: “Severance Package Blues”
  • The Big Sleepers: John Tesh, Kenny G, Enya, George Winston, Jim Keltner. Best-known work: "I Could Do PCP All Night!"
  • The Bleakles: Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Robert Smith (The Cure), Morrissey (The Smiths), Edith Piaf, Jim Keltner. Best-known work: “No, Everything’s Going Great – Why Do You Ask?”
  • The Moving Vans: David Lee Roth (Van Halen), Sammy Hagar (Montrose, Van Halen), Gary Cherone (Extreme, Van Halen), Jim Keltner. Best-known work: “Who Told Cherone Where The Studio Is? Don’t Let It Happen Again.”
  • The Jim Keltner Experience: Jim Keltner, Jim Keltner Replicant #1, Jim Keltner Replicant #2, Jim Keltner Replicant #3, Jim Keltner Replicant #4. Best-known work: “Actually, Yeah, I Do Have Free Time This Weekend”
  • Toto: Steve Lukather, David Paich, Bobby Kimball, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Porcaro, David Hungate. Best-known work: “Maybe We Wouldn’t Have Sucked So Hard If We’d Hired Jim Keltner”

June 20, 2008

Exhibit 23: CREEM

With the publication of the splendid, encyclopedia-sized volume of retreads released last fall and the ability of the internets to indulge effortlessly both the consumer's facile curiosities and the merchant's pandering banalities, CREEM has crept once again to the edge of the the firelight of popular consciousness. Still reeking of stale cigarettes and cheap beer even through a slow dial-up connection, CREEM was, in its heyday during the late-mid and early-late 20th century, recognized as the standard by which music journalism was judged, an amalgam of savantish insight, Curly Howard buffoonery, otaku/Asperger's obsessiveness, and P-town/meangirl bitchiness.

Older patrons of MOPA, those who remember print media and brick-&-mortar retail, may recall seeing the cryptic covers and the odd, confusing feelings aroused by headlines and photo captions inside. Few readers, even those somewhat familiar with the magazine in this period, though perhaps vaguely aware that it predates Mitch Ryder and the MC5, realize the long and storied history of this publication.

First appearing in in the Langue d'Oc region, possibly as early as the 11th century and well established by the end of the 12th, CREME began as a hand copied 'zine of sorts, covering the activities of the troubadours who were gaining popularity in the region, and featuring extensive reviews of area cheesemakers. Many scholars, in fact, claim that if CREME (as it was then rendered, nearly always in capitals, reflecting the importance of the local dairy culture) did not invent the very idea of the troubadour, then it was seminal in the development of the troubadour aesthetic and attitude.

It is also claimed that the remote geographical location in the market village of deTrois, near the modern Spanish border, conferred on the publication both access to the local musicians and cheeses that were in those days its raison d'etre, as well as the outsider status that would be so important conceptually throughout the publication's many incarnations. What is mentioned less is the importance of the local scribe's college/monastery, l'Ecole Bryman del Jesu, where the scribes-in-training would reproduce illuminated copies of the publication for distribution on a national scale, giving exposure to the music, cheeses, and styles of the region.

It is believed that one of these nameless scribe/monks created the first of the snarky captions which would become the publication's trademark, under an illustration of Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, possibly as a joke for the benefit of one of his co-scribes. This was mistakenly reproduced and included in distributed copies of the final manuscript. The same, or perhaps another, nameless scribe would sometimes include a doodle of a milk bucket on his copyings, which Barry Kramer would later pay a young R. Crumb $50 to rework into the highly recognizable "Boy Howdy" logo.

Exact dates are lost to antiquity and largely unimportant before the advent of rail travel in the 19th century. Sometime during the early ascendancy of the French throne, and coinciding with the widespread use of the Guttenberg press, CREME moved operations to Paris. The capital was never a perfect fit for the provincial attitudes of the magazine. It further seemed to founder when coverage of dairy products dwindled. All of this, along with a certain hostility from the court, whose individual members claimed to appreciate the irreverent attitude when aimed at their peers but not their person, and an editorial interest in the raucous theater scene that was exploding in London, prompted another move.

By the time Titus Andronicus premiered at the Globe, CREME had been Anglicized into CREEME, and the magazine was well-established in London. Globe Theater records show a large outstanding bar tab from 1592, and Shakespeare himself includes this passage in his personal diary around the same time:

...with regarde thee gentlefolke frome thee revue Creeme, methinks they be certainlye not gentle and mayhap be not even folke, but instead some manner of wolfe-orang amalgam bred for thee pits and 'scaped in thee streete with stronge taste for ale, tobaccoe and titte...

No positive record can be found of CREEME in London after the death of Elizabeth I. Speculation is that the publication fell from favor with James I, perhaps over an unflatteringly captioned cartoon, or perhaps because excessive tobacco bumming off of the king and his lover, Sir Walter Raleigh, and all connected were beheaded, but this remains fanciful theory with no actual supporting evidence. Ironic, given that the review was ardently supportive of the so-called Jacobean Phase of Shakespeare's career.

Indeed, claims that publishing of a periodical called CREEME, or CREEM, continued are largely apocryphal or even wishful, and could almost be dismissed, except for the fact that shortly before the American Civil War, a publication now called CREEM, appears, published in the Midwest for readers in large, eastern cities like New York and Philadelphia. In addition to the name, that magazine's tone and editorial stance implies a continuity with CREEME, even though no direct links can be found connecting one to the other, and no known articles or issues remain from the years between the London disappearance and the US reemergence.

CREEM cataloged the adventures of wild west gunslingers, generally preferring outlaws and Native Americans to settlers and lawmen, for an audience trapped in the choking miasmas of cities undergoing the pangs of industrialization. With the war, the closing of the West, and the extermination of the native, editorial focus shifted from tales of scalphunters and renegade to the new entertainments being offered in places like St. Louis and Kansas City, where everything was said to be up to date.

Once again, they favored and gave exposure to the more innovative and confrontational forms. It is said that the term "donkey show" first appeared on the pages of CREEM in this era, and in the middle 1880s, they extensively covered the tour of a sensational family act known as The Aristocrats. The substance of this act is unknown but many pages are devoted to the family and its members, including a CREEM Profile of little Sarah, the youngest of the group.

In the 19th century, CREEM coverage favored minstrel shows to the prevailing light opera most other entertainment publications covered. It was issues from this period, uncovered by a young Barry Cramer while looting a Detroit library basement, that prompted him to resurrect the magazine. Plenty has been written and revised about this period of the publication, therefore we may ignore it.

We hope you have found this brief overview of the near millennium of CREEM enjoyable, or at the very least persuasively neutral.

June 18, 2008

Exhibit 22: “Viva Viagra!”

"Viva Viagra!" was a 2007 composition by Nashville songwriter Woodrow Shaft. The song enjoyed considerable popularity thanks to the success of an oft-televised music video, shown above. During the procurement of this exhibit, Shaft granted MOPA researchers a telephone interview, in which he extended the origins and writing process of the song.


WOODROW SHAFT: Please, call me Woody.

MOPA: Very well. Woody Shaft, tell me about the origins of this composition.

SHAFT: Well, I was always a bit of a mystic. I would get these visions. A lot of songwriters of my age get 'em. Some people might call 'em dreams, but I always call 'em visions, 'cause they always happen when I'm drivin'. Usually on the I-440.

So one day durin' rush hour I suddenly get this vision. I'm a weary traveler, limpin' down a crooked road. I been workin' this road for a long, long time. Just goin' up and down this road. I'm very tired. My body is wobbly, infirm, lacking all turgidity… I feel like a toad leg. Very flaccid.

MOPA: What are you wearing?

SHAFT: In the vision?

MOPA: Yes, what are you wearing right now, at this point in the vision?

SHAFT: Just a leathery jacket. A little wrinkled I guess. You want me to go on?

MOPA: Yes, yes, please keep going.

SHAFT: I'm walkin' down this road, exhausted as all get-out. Then I fall down on the ground. My body, I just can't get it up, so I just lay there on the ground for awhile, in a pile of dust.

MOPA: Are you feeling dirty?

SHAFT: I am feelin' dirty, yes. And I'm an old man, but I feel as helpless as a little baby boy, lyin' down there in the dirt.

MOPA: You're a dirty little boy.

SHAFT: Yes I am. Now, I'm exhausted, just like a lonesome toad. I go to sleep for about two hours. When I wake up I notice my head has landed in a very soft-feeling patch of grass. Or I think it's grass, I ain't so sure. So I start touchin' this spot to see if it's actually grass, or if it's somethin' else. This goes on for a few minutes.

MOPA: And you keep stroking it?

SHAFT: Yes. Then I realize it's grass after all. So I slowly get up on my feet – it's very difficult, because I'm so weak and unable to exert much effort.

MOPA: It's getting harder?

SHAFT: Incredibly difficult, yeah. But eventually I get up and stay there for awhile, until I notice a city-limits sign that reads, "Welcome to Viagra – Our Rubber Covers The World." Meanin' this town Viagra must've been a major industrial center for tires and whatnot. But once I see that sign, I realize I've finally stumbled across civilization! So I decide I'm just going to continue down this path until I see something that sticks out.

MOPA: Just keep going.

SHAFT: Right, stay on the path. After a few minutes I fish out these little – I dunno, they kinda look like blue vitamins, some sort of vittles or somethin'. And all of a sudden, I get this sudden surge of energy, and it takes me by surprise.

MOPA: So it feels good?

SHAFT: What's that? Sorry, I'm hard of hearing.

MOPA: I said, it feels good?

SHAFT: Oh, does it feel good?

MOPA: Yeah, does it feel good?

SHAFT: Yeah, I'm really relieved that I can spring back into action like that. So I keep walkin' for about fifteen minutes, up and down, up and down, up and down that road. Then off in the distance I notice this really big, tall lighthouse, with a couple of grain silos on either side of it. The lighthouse is standin' straight up and these two silos go up against its side about a quarter way. I feel this impulse to go towards the lighthouse, because I can sense some sort of closure on my day's journey, a sign that will really mean somethin' to me.

MOPA: You're coming to a climax.

SHAFT: Yeah. Well, not completely. I kind of want to wait a bit and hold back, in case I come too early to a hasty conclusion. I mean, I don't know what's happenin' here, I'm just goin' on instinct, you know?

MOPA: Yes, yes, yes. Oh, yes.

SHAFT: So I get up to the lighthouse, and I knock on the door. There's this supervisor there – I'm afraid of him at first, he looks kind of tough, but it turns out he's a very friendly guy. He says, "Hey, glad you could finally make it. Enter, please!"

MOPA: "Come, come."

SHAFT: Yeah, that's what he says. So I come in the lighthouse, and I notice on the floor there's this little circular launch pad. And it's kind of vibratin'. The supervisor tells me to stand directly on the launch pad. I ask 'im why and he says, "Well, let me tell ya – I'm a man of the cloth, and I'm here to help you get where you're goin'." I say to him, "So, what would I call you, a crusader? Travelin' preacher? Evangelist?" And he says, "I prefer missionary."

MOPA: Oh, yes.

SHAFT: And he goes on, "I'm seeking lost souls, and guidin' pilgrims on their journeys. You look like a pilgrim to me. You're on this pilgrimage, and that's why you wound up here. I'm here to help you. If you stand on this launch pad and just wait for a bit, I guarantee you, you're going to fly up into the face of the cosmos, and you're gonna see God."

MOPA: Oh, God.

SHAFT: Yes, God.

MOPA: God.

SHAFT: I know it sounds crazy, but it feels to me like the journey's coming to an end. That after all this hard work and effort, I'm just about ready to bring it to an end. And I have a feeling it's going to feel good and that whatever's up there is gonna take good care of me. Which is good, 'cause I ain't had tobacco in weeks, and I could sure use a cigarette at the end of all this. So I stand on the launch pad, and it starts shaking violently. All of a sudden the walls crack a little bit, and all this water from the ocean starts filling into the room. I get the sense it's about to happen.

MOPA: It's so close. It's so close.

SHAFT: It is, and I'm sure lookin' forward to that cigarette. The room fills with water, up to my knees, and all of a sudden I hear this horn sound in the chamber, it's makin' this sustained, long, round tone… I'm not quite sure how you'd describe it… it kind of sounds like… I dunno…

MOPA: "Aaaaaaaaaaaah"?

SHAFT: No, not quite that, it's rounder sounding than that…

MOPA: "Ooooooooooooh"?

SHAFT: Yeah, "Oh" is more like it. Finally after a few moments of hesitation, the launch pad pulls downward a little, and the water comes over it… and then, finally…. Whoooosh!

MOPA: Yes, yes!

SHAFT: The launch pad shoots me through a very little hole in the top of the lighthouse, and I come shootin' out into the sky, with all this water comin' out too! It's a powerful moment. It's amazing!

MOPA: Oh, wow. Wow.

SHAFT: You got it! I fly right into the damp atmosphere! And I very slowly start decompressing – I'm very relaxed, kind of flushed, just lyin' on my back, free of obligation. I mean, I don't have to call nobody in the morning, I'm free from all responsibility and commitment. I just stay there, on top of this column of water, floating in the middle of the sky with no cares whatsoever. It's a fantastic feeling. A giant release. An outpouring.

MOPA: Wow.

SHAFT: Pretty intense, ain't it?

MOPA: That was incredible.

SHAFT: Thank you. I appreciate it.

MOPA: That was the best ever.

SHAFT: Well, I've always been told I'm a good storyteller.

MOPA: Good? Only good? No way – you're the best ever! I mean it!

SHAFT: Thanks again. That means a lot to me.

MOPA: Whew!

SHAFT: Heh-heh.

MOPA: Wow.

SHAFT: Thank you.

MOPA: So what happens next?

SHAFT: I stay up there in the sky for more than four hours and I have to call my doctor to bring me down.

June 16, 2008

Exhibit 21: East Coast-West Coast feuds

The concept of the East Coast-West Coast feud in popular music was hatched by Capitol Records' marketing department in 1960. In response to criticism of Nat "King" Cole's professionalism, virtuosity and unfailing politeness, marketing guru Henny Meninsky developed a detailed strategy in which Cole – born in Alabama, but professionally seasoned in Los Angeles – would initiate a feud with pop composer and singer Neil Sedaka, a Brooklyn native also known for his extraordinarily genteel nature.

The "Meninsky Memo" was a list of bullet points circulated amongst Capitol Records employees in 1960, outlining the specific nature and content of the proposed Cole disparagements against Sedaka in media outlets:

  • "I hate Neil Sedaka."

  • "I have a strong dislike for Neil Sedaka."

  • "You know who I don't like? That Neil Sedaka guy."

  • "Sedaka. Oooh, man, he makes me upset."

  • "When I find that Sedaka guy, I'm just gonna… well, I'm so mad, I can't articulate what I'm gonna do in that situation. That's how mad he makes me."

  • "I have it on good authority he files his nails."

  • "What kind of name is 'Sedaka'? It sounds like a foreign cereal brand. We got perfectly good cereal in America. I don't need some Brooklyn wise-ass telling me I gotta have that highfalutin Danish cereal. Doesn't he know there's a Cold War going on?"

  • "You see that picture of him in a ruffled shirt? What kind of man wears ruffles? It looks like he's playing Benjamin Franklin in a re-enactment of the signing of Declaration of Independence at Knott's Berry Farm. Ruffles! Damn fool's wearing ruffles!"

  • "Sedaka is a punk-ass motherfucker."

  • "He killed a man with a damper pedal."

  • "He doesn't tip well at the Carnegie Deli."

  • "Sedaka this, Sedaka that, Sedaka Sedaka Sedaka."

  • "Man, am I mad about Neil Sedaka."

The Meninsky Memo somehow leaked to the offices of RCA Victor, which was Sedaka's label at the time. In a hurried, frenzied meeting before a Sedaka appearance on The Jack Paar Show, RCA marketing head Maximilian Strombulus constructed a series of retorts Sedaka could make against Cole during his appearance:

  • "Nat 'King' Cole – oh, man!"

  • "Who's this Nat 'King' Cole guy anyway?"

  • "I'm gonna get that Nat 'King' Cole if it's the last thing I do."

  • "Nat 'King' Cole? More like Nat 'Big Jerk' Cole! Ah-ha! Ha-ha-ha!"

  • "Yeah, I'm gonna file my nails – right over Nat 'King' Cole's living room Persian! And then I'll strip to my skivvies and do the Nepalese dance of the dead."

  • "Knock knock. Who's there? Nat 'King Cole. Nat 'King' Cole who? Nat 'King' Cole can go stuff himself!"

  • "Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy Nat/You do unbend your noble strength to think/So brain-sickly of things. Go get some water/And wash this filthy witness from your hand./Why did you bring these daggers from the place?/They must lie there. Go, carry them, and smear/The sleepy grooms with blood."

  • "Cole ain't shit."

  • "Cole this, Cole that, Cole Cole Cole."

  • "I need a seltzer."

Neither the Meninsky Memo nor the Strombulus directive ever actually got delivered to Cole or Sedaka, and the two composers frequently golfed together with Cole graciously spotting Sedaka a generous handicap of 14. Chagrined, Meninsky and Strombulus became lovers, resigned their positions and opened a bistro together in Providence.

However, the East Coast-West Coast feud became an attractive alternative marketing strategy, and several manufactured feuds became parts of pop music lore, such as Bob Dylan vs. Frankie Laine, The Four Seasons vs. Moby Grape, the Archies vs. the Fat Albert Kids (which escalated in a knife fight at a Hanna-Barbera office Christmas party), the New York Dolls vs. the New York Dolls of Anaheim, the Ramones vs. the Eagles, Hall & Oates vs. Donny & Marie Osmond, and Chicago vs. themselves.

With the onset of hip-hop, the East Coast-West Coast feud reached new, sometimes fatal extremes. The harshest East-West feud was the fracas between rappers Flavor Flav and Snoop Dogg, a long confrontation that was often conducted in the pages of popular music magazines and entertainment periodicals. Flavor Flav's comments in a 1992 issue of Spin magazine first fueled the fire:

FLAVOR FLAV: Of course Snoop is going to reject Descartes' mode of an elevated dimension; he's an empiricist. Granted, Descartes had some degree of difficulty with his establishment of all the universal properties as a mode of prolonging substance; by its very definition metaphysical dominion is a principle organized around intangibility, and fideism is commonly declaimed as the realm of the poet/shaman, a persona philosophy is conditioned to avoid. But do we therefore simply revert to the rustic principles of containment that reinforced man's crude self-idolatry? If we simply refuse that which is not a reflection of ourselves, we invite consequence that is dangerous, even primal if the communal extension is sufficiently sustained. Should we risk negating the power of the infinite for mere egoism? Shall we ascribe a ceiling to our sphere of enforced rationalism? I think not. No, I think not.

Within weeks of Flavor Flav's broadside, Snoop Dogg issued a refutation of his own to People magazine:

SNOOP DOGG: Flav's assertions, quaint as they are, cannot endure the harsh inquisition of skepticism with their fanciful imagery and reversely pious foundations. Indeed, I fear his arguments because they propagate a type of naiveté that folds into nationalism. Better to follow what Hume endorsed: to be "convinced of the force of Pyrrhonian doubt, and the impossibility that anything, but the strong power of the natural instinct, could free us from it." What Flav fails to recognize is that placing any perceived limitations on our cognitive resources is, in fact, the true skepticism. I was discussing this with my colleague Schoolly D, and he agreed: Descartes' position, though imbued with an admirable strain of altruism, nevertheless lends itself quite easily to the establishment of dogmatic thought. That, I opine, is the truly risky supposition in Flav's argument, and it would be folly to think it is anything more than a merely reactionary tenet, which of course is no tenet at all.

The Flav-Snoop feud fomented for several years, culminating in violence when rap mogul Suge Knight dangled a tenured UCLA professor off a third-floor balcony until he accepted free will.

June 8, 2008

Exhibit 20: Transcript from a Morrison family counseling session, 1958

DR. JERRY SUGERMAN: Why don't we talk about the Indians?

ADMIRAL MORRISON: The Indians. Again with the Indians.

CLARA MORRISON: Oh, doctor, must we revisit that horrible episode?

DR. SUGERMAN: If a child of four years sees any kind of death – like the dying Indians your son saw after that car accident – the trauma can manifest itself slowly, gradually, throughout the course of his adolescence. And that makes the trauma harder to recognize.


ADMIRAL MORRISON: God, do you have to keep having outbursts, Jim? First the supermarket, now here?

CLARA MORRISON: (crying) He's never this way at home! He just sits and listens to music with the bass turned down!

DR. SUGERMAN: Jim, count back from 10, and breathe… there. Now let's take this slowly and calmly. What do you remember about the accident?

JIM MORRISON: I remember… I remember the light, the fractured sun… the squall of the wounded eagle, flying on his side, brushing against God with one eye… the progress of mechanics, and the mystic's slump, caterwauling…

ADMIRAL MORRISON: Oh, for crying out loud. Did you pick this up from that goddamn English teacher?

CLARA MORRISON: Georgie, please…

ADMIRAL MORRISON: Please nothing, Clara! That goddamn teacher's a Communist! Or one of those free-thinkers! With that little Errol Flynn moustache and the elbow patch! That man's teaching our kids, doctor! He has access to our children!

DR. SUGERMAN: Let's try to stay focused, Admiral. This is Jim's time. Go ahead, Jim.

JIM MORRISON: And then the Great Spirit! The keeper of balance! It seeped from the shaman's wrinkled carcass like a smoking cloth! As it approached me, I eyed it with knowing! It persuaded me to inhale, to open up the portals of my personal infinity! I breathed, I breathed! I released my thoughts to the carriage of the wind! And then, like a vapor, the Great Spirit came into me!

ADMIRAL MORRISON: Military school. Why didn't I just put him in military school?

JIM MORRISON: My meat is real! Your ballroom days are over, baby!

CLARA MORRISON: Oh, God, it's just like one of those pamphlets!


ADMIRAL MORRISON: That's it! Jim, you're grounded!

DR. SUGERMAN: Jim, I think what you really need to do is open up to your feelings with your father and be direct about it. For just a minute, don't be a poet – don't strive so hard to be imagistic. Just talk to him simply, man to man. And remember to own your feelings – say "I am," "I want," and so forth.

JIM MORRISON: …All right.

DR. SUGERMAN: So turn and look at your dad, and look him directly in his eyes. Don't worry about how it comes out. Okay?


DR. SUGERMAN: Go ahead.



JIM MORRISON: I want to kill you.

ADMIRAL MORRISON: See? See what I've been talking about? Total disrespect for authority! I gotta keep the revolver locked up in the safe now, is that it? I gotta worry about your killing me now? Seriously? I got enough to worry about without some little beatnik in diapers standing behind me raising a knife in his hand! Good grief, Jim! What did your mother and I ever do to screw you up this bad?

JIM MORRISON: Actually, I'm glad you mentioned mother, because I have something I've always needed to tell her as well…

CLARA MORRISON: Go ahead, Jimmy. I'm all ears, pumpkin.

JIM MORRISON: Mother… I want to…

DR. SUGERMAN: Oh, darn it, our time's up. Jim, hold that thought 'til next week, okay?

June 4, 2008

Exhibit 19: Band names as satanic acronyms

As some musicians directly courted Satan's assistance in furthering their music careers (see Exhibit 15), other bands – especially those in heavy metal – became the targets of Southern Baptists and other religious conservatives who were absolutely certain the bands' styles, demeanors and penchants for tight leather indicated devotion to Satan. To shore up their arguments, these religious leaders pointed to the names of the bands themselves, which they claimed were not mere descriptive, harmless monikers, but rather satanic acronyms.

The most famous of these supposed acronyms, of course, was that of the rock band KISS. Depending on the accuser, it was claimed KISS actually stood for "Kids In Satan's Service," "Knights In Satan's Service," "Knights In Satan's Servitude," "Knights In Satan's Satchel," "Kids In Satan's Slipknot," or during the holiday season, "Kids Ingesting Santa's Spleen."

Many other bands and musicians were accused of having names that were encoded, initialized tributes to Satan, including these:

AC/DC: "Anti-Christ/Demon Child"

Rush: "Right Under Satan's Hand"

ABBA: "At Beelzebub's Beckoning Always"

R.E.M.: "Rendering Evil Monstrosities"

Cher: "Choosing Hell's Eternal Rapture"

'N Sync: "Naughty Satan, You Nasty Card!"

a-ha: "Attention! Hades, Anyone?"

Sade: "Satan's Ass, Demon Enema"

Queen: "Quick, Unholy Entity, Enter Nicely"

Boston: "Bring On Satan Tonight – Oh, Neat-o!"

Sebadoh: "Satan's Ever-Baying, Angry Dogs Of Hell"

Genesis: "Gabriel's Evil, Naturally – Excellent Student In Satanism"

Alabama: "Anton LaVey's A Bright, Attractive Man-Animal"

Celine Dion: "Comely, Eye-popping Lady In Nice Ensemble: Devil Is On Notice!"

Einstuerzende Neubaten: "Even In Nova Scotia, The Unholy Entity's Rusty Zipper Edges Near Destiny's Endgame – Nobody Ever Underestimates Beelzebub's Amoral Tendencies, Endless Nastiness"

Engelbert Humperdinck: "Even Nice Girls Eventually Like Being Easy, Rotten Tarts – His Unholy Majesty Performs Evil, Reeking Deeds In Nasty Carnal Knowledge"

KC And The Sunshine Band: "Kooky Christ, Always Negating Demons, That Holy Egghead. Satan, Understandably, Nobly Says He's Infinite, Never-Ending Evil – Bad Ass, Nimble Devil"

Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band: "Devil's Right. Bad Umbrella – Zounds! Zoologists! – Always Rams Down Satanic Oracles, Really Imaginative, Great Ideas. Nowadays, All Love Satan, A Victorious Archangel: Never Needs A Haircut, Boxes Against Neil Diamond"

Bee Gees: "Beelzebub, Eh? Eh. God, Eh, 'E Sucks."

All these acronyms have since been proven to be mere urban legends, with the exception of Celine Dion.

June 3, 2008

Exhibit 18: Irony

Irony was invented by a French chemist, Claude Delashmit, in the late 1920's. Delashmit was commissioned by a Parisian sweets manufacturer to concoct a candy to compete with bubblegum, which was becoming increasingly popular in French villages and a few unlicensed opium dens.

One afternoon Delashmit was in the process of mixing gum base and toffee for a candy he called sabots de sucre; he abruptly halted his work when he realized he was barefoot. The chemist searched frantically around his laboratory for his shoes, to no avail. Despondent, Delashmit then fatally impaled himself through his stomach with a candy thermometer. French police determined that Delashmit's missing shoes were actually at the bottom of the vat he was mixing at the time. Regardless of the tragedy, the company manufactured the candy to much commercial success, thanks to an ingenious commercial jingle with the chorus "Si délicieux, vous voudrez s'empaler" ("So delicious you'll want to impale yourself"). Delashmit posthumously became a millionaire; his beneficiaries spent the entire sum of his fortune on bubblegum.

From these humble, happenstance beginnings, irony then leaked to the rest of Europe with the help of secret societies and pharmacists with a knack for gallows humor. (An uncured form of irony was also snuck back to America in the satchels of G.I.'s returning from the Second World War, or as the given G.I.'s called it, The Baby Shower.) Artists and authors exploited the new technique to transform their works into new, heretofore uncharted territory: Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea (originally entitled Peppiness), George Orwell's 1984 (originally entitled Last Thursday At The Sunflower Farm With Bunnies), Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit (originally entitled Oom Poppa Mow Mow) and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (originally entitled Piccadilly Circus At The Height Of Tourist Season).

A refined specimen of irony finally reached American shores in the 1950's; Charles Bukowski obtained the first strain of irony while working as a milkman in Utah. As it inevitably trickled into the New York folk, beatnik and art scenes of the 1960's, irony began to have an intoxicating effect on pop and rock lyrics; its sly infiltration into previously benign Brill Building and Tin Pan Alley songs revolutionized creative thought and broke open new layers of meaning, which compensated for the songs' lack of royalty revenue.

A shining example of irony in action was the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane," the original, pre-irony version of which described a far less mischievous New York landscape than the final product:

Standing on the corner
Brochure in my hand
Jack is wearing a modest jacket and tie
Jane is wearing a flair blouse and a sensible skirt that covers her knees
And me, I'm passing out coupons for a Macy's White Sale
I'll do anything for a commission bonus
That is, anything that doesn't call for unreasonable acts of moral turpitude
For example, taking heroin or performing acts of sadomasochism, those are out of the question
I'm very happy I purchased these shoes
They're more sensible than leather boots and my feet don't blister

Jane's a fairly agreeable sort
Jane's a fairly agreeable sort
Well, Jane's a fairly agreeable sort
Jane's a fairly agreeable sort
Makes a darn good casserole as well, oh sing it

Irony worked its magic on several other notable rock songs of the period, reshaping the viewpoint of initially harmless songs like the Stooges' "Now I Want To Take You Out On A Chaperoned Date," the MC5's "Let's Have A Round Of Robust Square Dancing, Gentlefolk" and former Velvet Underground member Lou Reed's "Stroll In A Relatively Safe Suburb With Well-Tended Gardens" ("But she never lost her head/Even when she was clipping hedge").

As with any newly minted literary or narrative device, however, some pop musicians with a glut of enthusiasm were guilty of overusing irony. Unable to wield the gift with the same skillfulness as their more urbanite contemporaries, these musicians' ham-fisted and obvious injection of irony into their lyrics betrayed a quality of perverse naiveté rather than sophistication. One act that was repeatedly culpable in this regard was The Carpenters, who had to rewrite several of their lyrics to repair the awkward use of irony:

We've only just begun, to live
Codpieces and suction cups
A doctor's note and we're on our way
Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?
Because they're winged demons of my lust-whip

I'm on the top of the world, looking down on creation
And I wonder if I should even bother with Australia
Sing, sing a song, sing out loud, sing out strong
Especially if it's by Black Oak Arkansas
You have a dirty little tongue, cupcake

Irony is still employed in the present day, mainly amongst the rock critic community when trying to explain the meanings of Pavement songs. It was also famously and mistakenly used by Canadian songstress Alanis Morissette when she confused the meanings of "ironic" and "coincidental"; in her defense, she was going down on an unnamed man in a theatre at the time, which adversely affected her skills of reading for comprehension.

May 30, 2008

Exhibit 17: Tie-dye

Tie-dye is a chemical process applied to shirts, vestments and sometimes pants. In tie-dye, segments of a garment are constricted with rubber bands or other binding, ribbon-type apparatuses. The garment is then dipped into a vat or series of vats filled with reactive color dye. When removed and allowed to dry, the resultant garment is colorfully patterned, signifying the astral ambitions of the wearer's mentality and/or spirituality. When worn by urbanite men, tie-dyed clothing is also a failsafe tool for promoting sexual abstinence.

As with many popular chemical processes, tie-dye was originally developed for military use, specifically in covert operations against renegade guerillas in Latin America. These actions were never reported in the mainstream press, but the Museum was able to obtain a recorded transcript of one such skirmish through the Freedom Of Information Act. The records do not state the specific country involved, but acoustic experts familiar with the tape assert that a very low-frequency buzz indicates the presence of puss caterpillars, which strongly suggest the confrontation took place in Bolivia:

CHE GUAVARA: All right, I'm missing my cigars. Somebody 'fess up.

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #1: I thought you quit.

CHE GUAVARA: What makes you think I quit?

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #1: Didn't you say something about how self-denial of luxury was important to the revolution, how it aligns us with the peasantry?

CHE GUAVARA: Why would I say something like that? Geez, you make me sound like a stick in the mud!

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #2: I think I heard you say it too, Che.

CHE GUAVARA: Come on, people! What have you been smoking? My cigars, perhaps?

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #2: Look, man, why don't you just have a
cigarette? Here.

CHE GUAVARA: I don't do cigarettes, man! C'mon, you've known me all these years. Fidel gave me those cigars. It was a very important symbolic gesture. If you wanted one you just had to ask.

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #3: Why you getting so uptight about symbolic gestures? I thought we were men of meaningful action, not square dancers!

CHE GUAVARA: Look, it's a simple pleasure, okay? A little taste. It's not what I'd call total slobbering luxury. I'm not sitting here waving my caviar spoon in the air in a silk suit bellowing at the waiter to bring me an expensive cigar. I'm just on my cot, layin' back, thinkin' about things, revolution, et cetera et cetera et cetera, and I just got in the mood for a good cigar. Not every little common gesture I make has to have some Maoist extrapolation to it – I mean, geez, perspective, guys.

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #2: Have you looked in your smoking jacket?

CHE GUAVARA: Ah! Damn, you're right, totally forgot… yep, there they are. Anybody got a…

(sound of door bursting open)

CIA OPERATIVE #1: CIA! Freeze, commie! Don't move!

CHE GUAVARA: … Oh, my God… what in God's name are you wearing?

CIA OPERATIVE #2: You like it, huh?

CHE GUAVARA: I don't so much like it as… I'm mesmerized by the… the…

CIA OPERATIVE #1: It's called freedom, motherfucker! Good ole American freedom! This shirt means I'm free!

CHE GUAVARA: That has got to be the ugliest shirt I've ever seen. Is that agency-issue? God, it's like a trainwreck, I can't look away, I…

CIA OPERATIVE #2: Got 'im. Fire away, Rainbow.

CIA OPERATIVE #1: You got it, Love Gravy.


The hippie population of the San Francisco Bay Area, thriving on irony as they did, adopted the CIA's new uniform as one of their own, effectively demystifying the military's aggressive use of tie-dye. Soon it was the costume of the psychedelic rock movement of the late '60s. Although tie-dye became ubiquitous in the community, it often incurred derision and dismissal from the upper echelon of high fashion correspondents.

The famous fashion commentator Mr. Blackwell, in fact, published these comments about tie-dye wearers in a few of his annual Worst Dressed Lists between 1966 and 1972:

Grace Slick. Heavens to Kerouac, this is a psychedelic disaster! You don't need to go ask Alice to why this tie-dye is a no-go -- divine Grace will show you herself! This appalling multi-colored smock makes her look like a Martian control panel! If she really wants somebody to love, then she should try not to look like an unattended mold culture in the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic! This is one Airplane Mr. Jefferson doesn't want to board! I'd like to smother whoever designed this rag with a Surrealistic Pillow!

Jerry Garcia. Frankly, the sight of Mr. Garcia's tie-dyed vest is so horrible, I think I'll be grateful when I'm dead too! This unflattering garment looks like a family-size serving of pasta primavera after Mickey Hart and Pigpen have sat in it! This blobby, blubbering, bulbous and bulky blight has less form and purpose than a 45-minute guitar solo! Only a friend of the devil would wear such a dastardly disaster, and I think even The Dark One would rip it apart with a pitchfork! This is not exactly an American Beauty – more like an Aztecan Hag! Word to the wise, Deadheads: LSD does not stand for "Let's Stop Dressing!"

Country Joe McDonald. This Fish stinks! A revolting tie-dye button-down with a matching cowboy hat that should have stayed in Vietnam! Mr. McDonald should have burned this outfit instead of his draft card! He has clearly scraped the bottom of the bong for this contraption! If Mr. McDonald were in fashion school, he would just as well be asking his instructor to "Gimme an F!" Whoopee – we're all gonna dye? Count me out, peace-monger! Classify this draft dodger I-Y – for "intensely yucky!"

Fig. 1: Grateful Dead tie-dye shorts, originally marketed with the unfortunate tagline "Show her where your head is at!"

May 26, 2008

Exhibit 16: Graphic design

For years after the music industry's introduction of long-players, visual artists were troubled by the expense required to render cover art for albums. The revenue collected from the commission of the artist quite often did not cover the cost of paints, easels, photography, neutral grain spirits or French cigarettes. The musical artists, as well, were inconvenienced by having to sit for the rendering of portraits, especially when the pose was for a painting. (Jazz drummer Buddy Rich, a figure known for his frequent cantankerousness, once toppled the palette of a Belgian painter working on a portrait for Rich's unreleased album Swingin' Pre-Raphaelites. It was thought that Rich was incensed about having to pose for seven hours in a silk tunic while holding a bowl of apples, but accounts suggest Rich was more upset that the painter wore a beard.)

The job and Citannes budget of the visual artist was made much more manageable with the proliferation of graphic design. By combining prefabricated artistic elements for a single set piece, artists were not only freed of the toil of painstaking creation, they were also able to produce in a much higher quantity than before. Those artists who did not increase their output in light of this new convenience found their schedules opened up, which not only meant more smoking of French cigarettes, but also a higher potential that they would have more time to fly to Paris themselves to purchase the cigarettes personally, rather than rely on shady local associates with pencil-thin moustaches and a penchant for existentialism.

The aesthetics of graphic design also correlated with the sharp, brazen, scabrous style of rock and roll. Impressionism, with its indistinct lines and over-reliance on bonnets, could not keep pace with the instantaneous thrill of rock and roll. Graphic design was aligned with the immediacy of rock music: As the large majority of early hit singles ran less than three minutes, a graphic artist could conceivably finish the accompanying artwork in the same amount of time, given a readily available supply of construction paper.

Graphic design was best championed in the New Wave era of rock music. With a whole rash of newly aloof music heroes forging emotional detachment through mechanical instruments, the graphic artist helped to refine the dehumanization through art that could conceivably be produced with a garlic press. Several landmark examples of this renaissance era of graphic art are shown below:

For Split Enz's excellent album True Colours, the artist uses reflective triangles, alternately shaded squares and rectangles, and one single bold stroke to illustrate how the band's hometown of Auckland, New Zealand was built using a Fisher-Price Shape Sorter.

The cover of the Rolling Stones' New Wave-influenced album Some Girls was fashioned from a sample page of a wig catalogue and not, as was fervently rumored, a listing of the cheapest per-hour prostitutes in New York City.

Genesis' self-titled 1983 album cover featured all the Fisher-Price Shape Sorter blocks left over from the construction of Auckland (see above). Although the cover is a photograph, not technically graphic design, it was done nearly as quickly, as was the songwriting on the album itself.

The cover of this double-A single by punk band the Cortinas features the British Royal Family moments before a banquet in honor of Ronald Reagan. This is also not strictly graphic design, as only the Royal Family itself was assembled from construction paper and paste, as has been the monarchy's wont since the rule of James VI in the 17th century.

And finally, the 1988 issue of Elvis – Live With Love From Terre Haute, features this indisputable classic from the graphic design genre:

May 18, 2008

Exhibit 15: Meeting the Devil at the crossroads

The annals of popular music are filled with anecdotal legends featuring musicians who meet the Devil at the crossroads. In each of these myths, the Devil makes the musician a Faustian offer of fame and wealth, in exchange for the Devil's dominion of his or her immortal soul at the termination of his or her earthly existence.

The myth has been accepted as fact by many music followers in attempts to explain or rationalize the immense popularity of certain musical acts, especially pop "family" acts such as the Osmonds and the Brady Bunch Kids. (These families' deals with the Devil were considerably more complicated, as the souls of each member of the family had to be processed in separate contracts, each with different limitations, conditions and evergreen clauses; the Devil frequently had to temporarily stop proceedings to retrieve ball-point pens and official letterhead from Hell, leaving the families to wait by the crossroads for up to 3 years until he returned. "Deal with it," the Devil was reported to say to patriarch Mike Brady,"at least I made it back to earth earlier than that other guy.")

In reality, encountering the Devil at the crossroads is a phenomenon that stretches back to the earliest days of contemporary American popular music. Reconstituted written journals show the following exchange at a rural intersection not far from Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1892:

DEVIL: Say there, young man, -- you, marching over there. Can I help you with that tuba?

JOHN PHILIP SOUSA: Forsake it! This thing is impossible to march with! I can't keep dropping it like this!

DEVIL: I'll tell ya what you need, sir – you need a way to carry that instrument around your neck! Why, yessir, I think that should just do the trick!

SOUSA: Suspending a tuba via your neck, using a common necklace or lanyard? Speaking of such a thing is nonsense!

DEVIL: Better yet, why don't we take the throat of your tuba, and curve it so the instrument itself drapes against your nape?

SOUSA: You make a mockery of me, candid stranger?

DEVIL: No sir, I am perfectly serious! Wanna strike a deal? We shall make alterations to your tuba, name it after you, and you will make untold amounts of money! In exchange – well, I have one very simple condition for you, sir.

SOUSA: No, sir, I say. No.

(Long, pregnant pause)

DEVIL: You can have orgies.

SOUSA: Where do I sign?

The most well-known account of arranging a deal with the Devil is, of course, that of bluesman Robert Johnson. The legend says that Johnson was guided towards a set of crossroads in rural Mississippi, where the Devil took Johnson's guitar and offered to tune it so he could play any blues song masterfully, as shown in this transcript from a rarely-heard field recording:

JOHNSON: I wanna whammy bar.

DEVIL: A what?

JOHNSON: A whammy bar.

DEVIL: What the hell's a whammy bar?

JOHNSON: Somethin' you attach to the bridge to make the notes vibrate.

DEVIL: You already got a whammy bar. You got ten of 'em. They're on each of your hands.

JOHNSON: Nah, they can't cut it. I want that real fast tremolo, you know?

DEVIL: You can't do that kind of thing with a guitar! Are you crazy? Anyway, I just said I'd tune it. I said nothing about accessorizing.

JOHNSON: Man, you gonna make all these changes to my guitar an' shit, why can't you just throw on a whammy bar? I thought you could do anything.

DEVIL: I… I can, but you're asking me to bend the limits of physics in a way that's impossible!

JOHNSON: Don't gimme that shit. It ain't impossible for you, bitch.

DEVIL: Man… why did I do this today? Why didn't I just go scare the shit out of Benny Goodman like I usually do on Thursdays?

JOHNSON: You comin' down here with all this power and you're tellin' me you ain't gonna use it? Gimme a goddamn whammy bar, cheapskate.

DEVIL: Look. It's very simple. I tune this guitar. You play the guitar. You become the biggest singer in the Delta. That was it. I am tuning this guitar. That's all. I'll tell you what, I'll buff up the frets too. As a favor. I'll even throw in some tuning pegs for free. Because I like you. But there is no way in the world I'm giving you a quote-unquote whammy bar so you can vibrate your notes like some Biloxi whore. If you keep bugging me about this whammy bar shit I'm personally unleashing my hounds on your ass. Is that clear?


DEVIL: Good.

JOHNSON: Then gimme a wah-wah pedal.

The Devil continued acting as impresario in this vein throughout the 20th century, imbuing musicians with unmatched instrumental skills, attractive sexual partners, and the finest alcohol available. During the punk era he also made fliers.

Despite the dying bedside pleas of the artists the Devil conducted business with, the entity steadfastly refused to let any of his clients out of their contracts. The first, and so far only, case where the Devil voluntarily broke a contract was recorded in September 2006, during this taped call to a cell phone in Southern California:


DEVIL: Hey, Kevin… this is Satan…

FEDERLINE: Yo yo yo, whassup D-man?

DEVIL: Not much, not much, how are you?

FEDERLINE: I am rollin', sir. Heavy mobbin'. Chillin' as usual. You get the promo I sent you?

DEVIL: Uh, yes… well, that's kind of why I'm callin', Kev…

FEDERLINE: Does my new album thing slam or what? Does your head hurt from all the slammin' you did? Did you slam against walls and doors and shit? Damn, Devil-man! I wanna know if you slammed! Hey, that rhymes! I just made up a new rhyme, G!

DEVIL: Um… Kev, listen, I… you know, there's no easy way to say this, so I'll just come right out with it.

FEDERLINE: Whatsa matter G?

DEVIL: Uh… I'm letting you out of the deal.


DEVIL: The deal. I'm breaking the deal. I'm giving you back your soul. You're not going to hell.

FEDERLINE: What are you talkin' about, man? The album drops next month! You said it was gonna debut at No. 1!

DEVIL: I know, I know, Kevin. And trust me, nobody feels worse about this than I do.

FEDERLINE: Then why are you doin' it?

DEVIL: Well, Kevin… it's… (sigh)… Man, the album just sucks so bad.


DEVIL: I mean, really, dude, it's horrid.

FEDERLINE: You're hurtin' my feelin's, man…

DEVIL: I mean, Kevin… "Lose Control"? You're calling a single "Lose Control"? Do you know how many rappers have a song called "Lose Control"? What's the matter? Did your ex get custody of the thesaurus?

FEDERLINE: But I wanted a track that made the listener really feel like they were… they were… you know, they were… sort of…

DEVIL: I get it, I get it. Losing control.

FEDERLINE: Exactly! You feel me, yo!

DEVIL: Look, look, K-Fed… I have this reputation to uphold, you know? Quality standards. Look at my record… The Eagles, Rick Dees, that guy who did "Undercover Angel" whatever his name was, Christopher Cross, Crash Test Dummies, Stryper…

FEDERLINE: Daaaaaaaaaamn.

DEVIL: I can't risk my reputation. I just can't. I let you get away with this, then every half-wit white rapper from Podunk U.S.A. is gonna be callin' me, askin' me to hook 'em up, sayin' "I'm totally off the hook, like K-Fed!" And the whole thing will just snowball. I can't have that. So let's just… look, you get your soul back, you don't go to hell, and we just forget this ever happened.

FEDERLINE: But… I ain't gettin' no No. 1 album?


FEDERLINE: No fancy cars?


FEDERLINE: No fur coats?


FEDERLINE: No Grammys?


FEDERLINE: Not even the Best Metal Grammy that Jethro Tull got?


FEDERLINE: No stables of bitches?


FEDERLINE: No cell phone plan with unlimited data?


FEDERLINE: No customized Myspace page?


FEDERLINE: No three-ring binders?


FEDERLINE: No gift cards for Mickey D's?


FEDERLINE: No milkcow in my backyard with a pretty Dutch milkmaid with lips like a trout?

DEVIL: Kevin, please, stop this. Why don't you go on one of those cruises? You see what Norwegian's doin' these days? They take real good care of you.

FEDERLINE: Damn, Devil… I don't know what to say. I really… I really wanted to be famous an' shit, yo.

DEVIL: Oh, you'll be famous.


DEVIL: Um… Yes, in a way, you'll be famous. Very famous.


DEVIL: I can almost unconditionally guarantee that you will… achieve notoriety of some kind. I just don't want to have anything to do with it.

FEDERLINE: Ah, great! I gotta tell the wife!

DEVIL: Kev, Kev, Kev! No, wait! She's not -


Blog Directory - Blogged