9-11 ruminations

Every year I feel this awful ambivalence on 9-11. I understand and appreciate the need to feel unified as a country and “NeverForget,” as the Twitter hashtag says. Then again, never forget what? The horror of that morning? Not to worry, it’s indelibly imprinted in the minds of all who were conscious that day—not to mention those of us who live in New York City. But after that it all kind of falls apart.

Never forget how great we are—as so many of today’s #NeverForget tweets demand? How resilient and unbending? How about, How nationalist and vengeful?

But loved this one: “#NeverForget that 1.57 billion people were forced to accept blame for the actions of the few,” this accompanied by a pie chart estimating Al-Qaeda with less than 10,000 members, the Taliban with 36,000 out of all 1.57 billion Muslims.

Or better yet, “#NeverForget God is in the business of disarming violence, not escalating it,” with a link to the Patheos Progressive Christian Newsletter entry “Things to #NeverForget on 9/11” by Episcopalian priest David R. Henson. An excerpt:

“But on this day, as a Christian, there are some other things I want us to never forget about 9/11 and the retaliatory War on Terror that happened in response.

On 9/11, 2,977 innocent Americans were killed by terrorists.

In the 14-year war on terror, 5,280 American soldiers were killed because of our country’s response to the 9/11 attacks.

Conservatively, reports estimate the War on Terror claimed 1.3 million lives in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Our war killed 5 percent of the Iraqi population, people who had zero ties to what actually happened on 9/11.

Our war killed at least 465 people for every person who died on 9/11. Some estimate we killed 670 or more per person.

Our war displaced 3 million Iraqi people.

Our war created 2.5 million Afghan refugees.

I posted a couple songs. Here’s the first–Alan Jackson’s No. 1 country hit, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning):

I always thought this was the best of the 9-11 song lot, far and away. Nothing vengeful or nationalist about it, unlike so many other country artists who would pull a trigger with little regard as to what gets hit. No, Alan’s just a simple man, asking simple yet profound questions:

Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you’re watchin’
And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?

To me the chorus was so beautiful:

I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love.

Elvis Costello took me to task for favoring Alan over Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” which for me was so overwrought and symbolic. But I could understand his reasoning, that Alan, like so many Americans, should be knowledgeable and responsible enough to at least know the difference between Iraq and Iran.

I was at Billboard on 9-11, the music publishing editor then. Besides the predictable dusting off of Lee Greenwood’s patriotic chestnut “God Bless the USA,” the big song of the moment was “God Bless America.” I wrote a column about it, in which I suggested that as we returned to “the semblance of normal,” we also move “beyond understandably knee-jerk, ego/ethno centric fare.”

Woody Guthrie’s all-inclusive “This Land is Your Land” made sense, but Ashford & Simpson’s “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” made the most–then and now.

Reach out and touch somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place, if you can.

And the greatest is love.

Jack Shit’s shitstorm


(Photo: Jason Shaltz)

Jack Shit took New York, if I may remain in character, by Shitstorm, last Friday (Aug. 8), starting with a 10 a.m. taping, in character, at SiriusXM for later satellitecast on its Outlaw Country channel.

Props to the channel’s program director Jeremy Tepper for a lot of things, first for asking if I was all right with citing Pete Thomas—Elvis Costello’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer and Pete Shit in Jack Shit (“Pete’s a Shit–Never a beat off!”), as the greatest drummer in rock history. “Yes, Jeremy, I’m all right with that,” I said, momentarily overlooking Ringo.

It was Pete’s 60th birthday on Saturday, and the celebration began early with cake and special City Winery Jack Shiteaux brand wine. But the big gift was Freda Payne, who was doing an interview elsewhere at Sirius and came in at the end of the Jack Shit set, then when the band switched gears and struck up the opening of “Band of Gold,” went straight to the center vocal mic and sang it straight through, even repeating the frist verse to make sure they got a good take.

It only got better. Jeff Bridges was also in the building doing an interview show, and graciously posed for pictures with the band. All in the Jack Shit camp marveled at how great he looked—and what a great guy he is, in addition to being the greatest living American actor.

The gig that night at City Winery, which had sold out as soon as they advertised Jackson Browne as special guest (guitarist Beauregard “Beau” Shit is Browne’s guitarist Val McCallum), started strong with “Hi-how-are-you?”—a wack greeting song lifted, if I recall correctly, from a Simpsons episode. The set proceeded into the Burritos’ “Christine’s Tune (Devil in Disguise).”

“Gram!” saluted my date Tammy Faye Starlite, a Parsons partison. “Chris!” I countered, preferring Hillman.

It being Jack Shit, there were a lot of shit jokes, that is, Shit jokes. Jack Shit being from Cochtotan, California (don’t ask directions), there were plenty of cock jokes, that is, Cock jokes, presumably relating not only to the hometown but bass player Shorty Shit’s rooster figure on the front of his cowboy hat, which he won at a bird calling contest, for his Tufted Nighthatch call, if I recall correctly.

Shorty, by the way, also moonlights in Costello’s band. Both he and Beau split lead vocals, while Pete gets a lead or two as well, and sounds, well, kind of like Ringo—and that’s not at all a bad thing, Ringo being an arguably better drummer than anyone but Pete, and a hitmaking solo artist on par with his fellow Beatles.

The band played country fare including “Tiger By the Tail,” “Lazy Days” (there went Tammy Faye again with a dreamy “Gram”) and “Long Black Veil.” Then they smoked out a tiny female audience member, Cat Shit, who shined on “Crazy” and “Lonesome Me.”

And then it was Browne Shit’s turn.

“I wonder if your influence wanes the farther you get from Cochtotan,” contemplated Browne before leading his Shit brethren in the George Jones gem “The King is Gone (So Are You)” and his own “Shaky Town,” “Take It Easy” and of course, “Running On Empty.”

“I thought I should have a different Shit name,” he concuded. “But a name like Browne Shit kind of sticks.”

After Browne finished, Jack Shit ended the show with a medley of The Maddox Brothers’ country-and-western classic Ugly and Slouchy, Geoerge Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag,” Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel,” “Jesus is Just Alright,” “Pinball Wizard,” BS&T’s “And When I Die and back to “Ugly and Slouchy.”

But they’d already demonstrated their versatility that morning.

“Freda was doing an interview in the studio next door, and Jeremy hinted that if he brought her in, could we learn ‘Band of Gold’?” said Thomas after the City Winery gig in between forkful’s of Costello-supplied birthday English bread pudding and custard. “So we had a quick run over it, but then within seven minutes he went and brought her in and introduced her.”

“Her assistant said she couldn’t sing, that she had to save her voice for a show later. But Davey started playing the bass line intro and before her assistant could finish her excuses, Freda grabbed the mic and they pushed the record button and got a great version of Band of Gold–and all she could hear were the bass and drums, since she had no headphones on. She just went for it.”

Payne felt she was a little off on the first verse, and when she finished, kept going and tagged the first verse on to be inserted during post-production.

“It was all very professional,” said Thomas. “It’s real proof that there is a God: It was clever of Jeremy to get her in before any of us had time to think about it. That’s really where a lot of great music happens—spontaneously. If we had 20 minutes to think about it, it wouldn’t have been very good. We would have started talking about it, which is fatal. Like Martin Mull said, talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”

Tepper couldn’t believe that Faragher and McCallum went back and taped backup vocal overdubs. “No one does that,” he said. McCallum, by the way, is Man from Uncle David McCallum’s son.

Meanwhile, everyone was still marveling about Jeff Bridges.

“He posed for a picture with all of us, and then did one with the booker at City Winery,” said Thomas. “When he saw her, he said, ‘Dig!’ Just like The Dude!”

The Jack Shit Show will air on SiriusXM Outlaw Country (Channel 60) tomorrow (Aug. 16) at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern, and Sunday (Aug. 17) at noon and 9 p.m. And the comely gal who books City Winery hopes to make the Jack Shit booking an annual event, no Browne Shit necessary.