---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 23:40:28 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: His guitar never gently weeped
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His guitar never gently weeped
George Harrison fans fall into the same anti-dissent crowd they claim to abhor
I am a big enough Beatles fan to have attended a few Beatlefests, dressed
up for a few Halloweens as a Blue Meanie, and released a two-part harmony
record where about half the songs end in G-sixth.
And yet all I could do this past weekend, while watching news anchor after
rock critic gush about how George Harrison was such a lovely humanitarian
prince, was recall a uniquely horrific passage from the Hollywood
kiss-and-tell classic "You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again."
I won't slur the reincarnated by quoting the details, but suffice it to say
that it involved a call-girl, illegal narcotics, and a live ukulele
performance during unlikely circumstances.
This possibly false anecdote has zero impact on my opinion of George
Harrison the terrific pop musician -- If I Needed Someone, Here Comes the
Sun, and the lead guitar work on Abbey Road are a tad more relevant, but
the comical gap between the Saint Harrison on the weekend's airwaves and
the human, fame-changed guy who actually died, is illustrative of a
cultural condition that has some relevance to the political discourse since
Its a banal truth to observe that many of our public heroes, especially the
filthy rich peace-and-love musicians who torched Hollywood and their own
sinus passages in the 1970s, are known to have engaged in what might be
called inconsistent lifestyles, given the content of their songs. And it is
hardly original yet still instructive to note that the public, despite
stacks of evidence to the contrary, never ceases to lionize such Grade-A
creepizoids as David Crosby.
If you were bored and mean (and/or, had tenure), you could easily build a
case for naming George Harrison one of the five most hypocritical
songwriters of the rock era. Here was a next-world spiritualist who gave
sanctimonious lectures about the people who gain the world and lose their
soul, while bitching about his high taxes and openly coveting his
bandmates' songwriting royalties.
These are the kind of natural, reactionary thoughts that spring to mind
when you're being force-fed an abstract reality you know to be (at best)
inaccurate. Not that it really matters, in the scheme of things, but it's
the same phenomenon that makes one instinctively champion the cruel Teddy
Boy-era John Lennon over the foolish hippie caricature we always hear about.
You don't have to look hard in the United States for examples of the
conformist reflex and the suffocating comfort of consensus. Try to survive
a Southern California public high school without a car, or surf the
Internet without a credit card, or suspend your wife's health insurance for
a month while she visits her health-care-rich native country, and you will
be made to feel like a deviant jackass.
Just the other night, a friend of mine was humiliated at the local
supermarket because she had the bad manners to pay for her groceries with a
personal check. The Albertson's computer didn't work, which the employee
somehow blamed on my friend (after an excruciating delay), and she was sent
away. Writing checks just isn't done anymore, and it's time she got with
Yet, rebellion against the conformist urge is one of the things that makes
American art so dependably vibrant, I have a rock-critic friend who once
said that most every good songwriter she knew was still trying to get their
revenge on those damned girls from 8th grade. The country's mobility,
prosperity and diversity is such that the sensitive crowd who take these
kinds of insults personally can eventually find enclaves where their
eccentricities are welcomed.
The stifling intellectual and cultural environment that stunted my
beleaguered teenage creativity is a whopping 26.6 miles from where I sit
right now, in an apartment complex filled with rock guitarists, massage
therapists, homosexual couples and immigrant families from a half-dozen
countries. It is possible to find your place, and to render most of the
hand-wringing about conformity quite moot, thank you.
Since Sept. 11, I have read, and harshly criticized, scores of columns and
articles complaining that political debate is every bit as monochromatic as
the worst suburban high school, as banal as the consensus idea that George
Harrison was a spiritual hero. Dissent, I have heard again and again, is
being stamped out by a culture of flag-waving conformity. This strikes me
as more than ludicrous in the Internet era (when you get to read dozens of
sites not unlike this one), and especially ridiculous given the strongly
skeptical opinion-page content of mainstream newspapers like the Los
Angeles Times, New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle.
But thinking about George Harrison and Albertson's, it occurs to me that
the dissent lament is an aesthetic response, not a reasoned analysis of the
If you are against the war, and you see flags all over the place, you get
creeped out, and conclude reflexively that most every person who supports
the war shares the exact same sentiment as the cretins who, say, make those
dreadful patriotic United Airlines commercials. Much as I might conclude
that all of George Harrison's fans have been hoodwinked by his mystic
But here's the good news, none of it is true. Pro-war opinion in this
country is diverse as hell, and squabbles with itself on a daily basis, on
issues such as military tribunals, Colin Powell, Iraq policy, and dozens of
other key matters. The anti-war message is getting onto op-ed pages in
numbers disproportionately higher than opinion polls would suggest. Some of
George Harrison's fans, really! -- are more sophisticated than the CNN
It is easy, when faced with a seemingly monolithic and crass culture you
disagree with, to underestimate the intelligence and diversity percolating
vigorously behind the unified front. And it is also a mistake. Luckily, it
is one of the easiest mistakes to fix.
Los Angeles writer Matt Welch writes The $75 Outrage for WorkingForChange.
To see more of his work, visit mattwelch.com.
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