While I was over at Taki’s Rag checking out that Derbyshire piece about how you should avoid black people unless you want to die, or something like that, I noticed this “letter” to Henry Rollins (apparently a mock tribute to the segment of Rollins’s old IFC show in which he composed acid letters to various celebrities, e.g., Ann Coulter) over in the sidebar. I don’t have much affinity for the Taki’s crowd, in general, but I have to admit, this strikes me as spot-on, in particular:
While you seem to think your political opinions are still perceptive and edgy, they’re mostly recognizable as the default liberal opinions of the LA set you hang with these days. But having read a few books by Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky does not make you somehow more enlightened than the average Joe with whom you claim affinity but toward whom you actually condescend. At this point you have a lot more in common with Tori Spelling than you do with Sid Vicious.
I’ve been to two of Rollins’s verbal bludgeonings, aka “spoken-word shows,” the most memorable aspects of which were their sheer length and the numbness in my ass by the time they finally ended (I had no interest the second time, but I allowed a friend to talk me into going), and I’ve seen several episodes of the IFC show, and pretty much the exact same thought occurred to me on more than one occasion. I remember him ranting, for instance, in the “teeing off” segment of one of the IFC episodes, about the creationists sneaking “under God” into the pledge of allegiance, as if it somehow ruined the majesty of an otherwise rousing work of poetry.
I know we’re all supposed to get more conservative as we age, and I have no idea if Rollins’s political views were ever anything beyond a half-step to the left of tepid mainstream liberalism, but all I could think the whole time was here’s the former lead singer of a punk band called Black Flag defending the integrity of the pledge of allegiance. The pledge of fucking allegiance, for crying out loud! Take away the tattoos, the black T-shirts, and the sudden outbursts of shouting, and you’re looking at someone whose next gig could be as the angry white dude on The View.
Cyberspace was all abuzz on Monday, thanks to Lady Gaga’s “shocking” VMA performance of “You and I” dressed as a young Ralph Macchio, or at least that’s what it looked like from here. It was creative and bold, and definitely entertaining – but shocking? Eh. Then again, a second look is out of the question as the generous folks at MTV promptly scrubbed the Web of any footage in an attempt to sell the awards show in its entirety to every preteen with a PayPal account. But that’s beside the point.
Cross-dressing is hardly a novel concept, for an entertainer at least. The music industry is filled with gender-benders like David Bowie and Prince, Madonna, Annie Lennox, Boy George and Robert Smith. Even Kurt Cobain sang a song in a floral frock now and then. The irony is that amid all the tweet and talk of Man-Gaga on Monday, the anniversary of a truly jaw-dropping onstage act quietly passed: It’s now been more than 42 years since the first time Iggy Pop cut himself onstage on August 29, 1969.
Nothing’s Shocking: Thank You, Iggy Pop
I stopped watching MTV somewhere around the mid-nineties, not long after Cobain put an end to himself and the grunge era with a shotgun blast to his face and shortly before the music video was replaced by a succession of pathetic “reality” shows featuring houses full of vain 20-somethings acting as if they were the first humans in recorded history to discover sex. In spite of that, and my better instincts, I stopped on the VMAs while channel surfing the other night, and I caught the Gaga performance mentioned above. I have to say, forget about shocking, even “creative and bold” and “definitely entertaining” are absurd exaggerations. I stuck around long enough to see a couple of awards handed out and maybe one or two other performances, and that was all I could take. It was just another reminder of how fucking lame MTV is, how what’s really on offer is just a tame, housebroken imitation of “shocking,” “creative,” and “bold.” MTV is a square who is trying to impress upon you how cool he is, who invites you over to his “pad” and tells you to make yourself comfortable and then frowns when you put your feet on the table. MTV would have no use for Iggy Pop; and, more importantly, Iggy Pop would have no use for MTV. G.G. Allin, if he were still alive, wouldn’t be allowed within 200 miles of the VMAs, not that he’d want to be. That’s too bad. I think I’d be willing to pay good money to see him shit on that stage and throw it in the crowd, especially if he got some on Russell Brand and Katy Perry. It might not be shocking, but it’d be pretty damn funny.