Reverend Norb

column from MRR #173 - October 1997

…a strange and wondrous insight was recently made manifest to me (quite apart from the not-quite-as-recent-yet-still-topical divination which indicated that it might not be such a good idea to write last-minute columns whilst under the influence of The Brain Formula™ With Gingko Biloba [and Jerry Mathers as The Beaver] after all [but, i mean, what the hell -- it's that very spirit of non-stop horizon-expansion and continual cutting edge experimentation that has, throughout the years, come to define MRR as we know it! If you don't believe me, ask your dad!]) in the heretofore unsatisfyingly skirted area (our Unabashed Dictionary defines "unsatisfyingly skirted area" as the parts of a girl drummer's undies you're unable to see when she's behind the kit, regardless of how you position yourself relative to the rack tom) of the concept of guitar-as-phallic-symbol as it applies to the arena of Women In Rock (as with almost all other great instances of 20th Century Thought, the initial concept of guitar-as-willie is generally thought to be the work of Paul Stanley of Kiss, who also invented the Tesla coil and the Ibanez Iceman). While the notion that guitars metaphorically represent the dongs and/or fantasy dongs of the individuals around whose neck said devices are strapped is routinely taken as, if not a high truth, then certainly nothing less than a medium-altitude truth by anyone who actually still gives a shit about such things in the post-Freudian world in which we dwell, this analysis has traditionally only held for guitars slung by the male of the axe-wielding species. The question of what the fuck it all means when chicks of the species don axes -- not just to chop us up in our sleep, as had formerly been the sole lot of the axe as regards womankind, but to, you know, ROCK OUT with ("axe" means "guitar," man! It's rock and roll talk, jive turkey! Take five, way gone hep cat of intransigent reetness!) -- has remained somewhat of a mystery throughout the years. WHAT DOES A GUITAR SYMBOLIZE WHEN THE OWNER HAS NO DICK??? (i mean, sure, we could always ask the guy from Oasis this, but, you know, that would be cheating) Is it merely a manifestation of penis envy ("penis envy" being one of the very few major concepts of 20th Century Thought not initially hypothesized by Paul Stanley, having instead been first theorized by G.G. Allin in his groundbreaking psychological treatise Where's The Rest Of Me? and Other Knee Slappers [Brown Sausage Press, Vienna, 1916])??? A soul-baring trumpeting of blatant latent dykehood??? A prosthetic Vanessa Del Rio impalement-style clit??? The severed genitalia of the UberBobbitt man-pig on display for all to see??? A symbolic brandishing of a BIG MOTHERFUCKING STRAP-ON DILDO which they intend to ram up malekind's collective rock'n'roll rectum at the earliest opportunity, and from which everyone but Mykel Board should flee in blind anal panic??? HA! THE CORRECT ANSWER IS NONE OF THE ABOVE (which is often the correct answer during early rounds of Dust Bowl Punk Trivia as well, but never mind the gratuitous scene frippery. However, since his name did come up, i'd like to take this opportunity to veer off on a tangent completely unrelated to the topic of my dissertation [hey, don't think of it as me wasting your time, think of it as me building tension!], ergo and to wit a recent column of Our Mr. Board's [i like reading Mykel's column. My list of "Things Which I Must Have Up My Butt Before I Am Truly Living The Good Life" would be comparatively puny if it weren't for that man!] wherein M.B. stated that i championed that which he referred to as "Springsteenism" [i.e., the belief that bands should play "long" sets, with the ultimate aim of their performance being an eventual grinding of the audience into moosh]. The opposing theory, which Mykel himself espoused, he called "Ramonesism" -- the belief that punk bands should deliver a nice, concise, thirty-minute-max slap to the audience's head, then get the fuck off the stage [kinda funny how Myke chose the term "Ramonesism" to represent the short set point of view, since the Ramones haven't played 30 minute sets since, like, what, 1976 or something? You gotta get out more, bro! {oh well, Mykel lives in Manhattan -- i heard they only recently got K-Mart™ there, so it stands to reason they're a bit behind the times in many regards}]. Although this is not a particularly inflammatory -- or, hell, even interesting -- subject for debate [although, shit, i guess it's better reading than a column entitled Should Ben Weasel Get A Day Job? or something would be], a fella just can't sit on his typing finger after being called a dang "Springsteenist," ya know? [PARENTHETICAL CONFESSIONS OF AN ACCUSED SPRINGSTEENIST, PART ONE: I actually purchased a used copy of the "Born In The USA" vinyl for $3.50 within a year or so of the album's release. Now, not that i've listened to it in the last ten years or anything, but i did not and still do not think that record totally sucks. Whoops, looks like that's all the time we have for today, kids! Be here tomorrow, when this troubled soul divulges how he once turned the radio UP when "Born To Run" came on, provided he can elude the lynch mobs and Taste Authorities for another twenty-four hours!] Anyway, to paraphrase former President Richard "Dale" Nixon, I AM NOT A SPRINGSTEENIST!!! [ha! and here you thought i was gonna make with some sort of clever "My War" Side Two lyrical reference! Pshaw! I MAY BE SLOW BUT I'M AHEAD OF YOU, BUDDY!!!] I do NOT, under any circumstances, wish to be associated with the notion that bands should play big long sets. I've had to sit thru hour-long sets by bands who could've packed it in after four songs as far as i was concerned far too many times to endorse such mind-numbing, soul-skwushing, all-eyes-on-the-clock-as-the-band-obliviously-plods-on tommyrot. No, tramps like us, maybe we were born to run -- and, ruminating upon the matter some, i came to the conclusion that, indeed, some of my band's most orgasmically triumphant [well, okay, some of our least sucko] shows occurred when we were part of some big hairy shindig and only got a half hour to play, leavin' 'em screamin' and creamin' [note how colorful rock'n'roll hyperbole underscores my great personal desirability] after 30 minutes of fast-paced punk hijinx. Point for Ramonesism. However, i also recalled that other, equally as boss [ho ho, couldn't resist that one] affairs happened when we were playing in clubs where fully-shitfaced patrons kept us onstage playing long past our intended stopping point and up until the time the lights came on. We've had seventeen-song sets wind up being thirty songs long before, and why not? We're from Wisconsin -- we ain't got anything else to do and neither do they. You want us to stop, we'll stop. You want us to play, we'll play. Who gives a fuck? We're not exactly the type of band that are really hung up on promulgating the image of ourselves as these cool punk rockers who play for like a half hour, then tell the audience to fuck off 'cause we're too fucking great to be bothered with entertaining them any longer, ya know? Customer service, goddammit, customer service! Big, smelly point for Springsteenism. Plunking myself into the spectator's seat [and strap yo' hands cross my engine], the, in all probability, best live performance i've ever witnessed in my life was an -- hour and a half? two hour? --  bangin' and yellin' marathon by the righteous Mojo Nixon and his sidekick, Skid Roper, at Lefty's in Green Bay in 1987 [the memory of this show i will always most deeply cherish came during an impassioned mid-song plea from Mojo late in the ethanol-drenched evening for everybody to stand up! Stand up! God dangit, stand up! -- so i'm, you know, standin' up, god dangit {not without much equilibriar effort, i assure you}, and i decide that, god dangit, this guy rocks so hard, i'm gonna god-dang stand up on this here god-dang barstool! So, improbably enough, i actually manage to scale the barstool {which, at the time, seemed pretty much the size of the Empire State Building}, and i'm standin' on it, towering over the crowd, making ready to snatch a suitable Fay Wray, etc., etc. -- for all of about two millionths of a second -- then i come crashing down into the table of some people i do not know, knocking glasses and drinks hither and yon onto floors and into laps and such, and Mojo, still playing, looks at me, flat on my back in the midst of all this libationary chaos, and goes "I didn't say nothin' 'bout FALLIN' DOWN, foo! I SAID 'STAND UP!'" Oh well, at least he didn't gimme a swirlie]. Point for Springsteenism. Of course, the approximately third-best performance of all time i've ever seen was like fifteen minutes worth of the Dwarves in 1991, back when they were a real band [i.e., prior to the tragic death and subsequent amazing resurrection of He-Who-Cannot-Be-Deep-Throated {oh, and for the record? That latest Dwarves album SUCKS TOTALLY, although i suppose it isn't quite as bad as that Blag solo stuff that was apparently trying to pass itself off as the next incarnation of cock-rock for chicks a la The Cult [circa "Electric" -- which, i suppose, is no worse an album than "Born In The USA" but certainly no better]. Why the whole band didn't fake their deaths and get jobs as roadies for Less Than Jake or some similarly productive life-path is beyond my ability to comprehend right now}]. I mean, you're sittin there all night, waitin' for something to happen, band after band after band, blah blah blah, rock rock rock, so on, so forth, you know the drill -- and suddenly here's this big tall guy in pantyhose and no undies running amok, and some ugly, Joey Ramone's shorter brother dude wearing nothing but combat boots and nylons over his head blasting uncut punk guitar crank thru a Vox amp and the whole place, like, you know, explodes or something and you don't know if you're gonna die or go to heaven or have a fuckin' seizure or poop your pantyhose or get your head split open or get arrested or get knocked into the nude guy and come in contact with his dwarfly sausage [and therefore become gay] or fuckin' what and all of a sudden the drummer kicks over the kit and it's over and you're just left standin' there in the psychic planetary rubble goin' HO-LEEEE-SHIIITTTTTT, ya know? Return fire for Ramonesism [especially when one takes into account that the next time i saw the Dwarves {circa "Sugarfix"}, they played a more or less "ordinary" set of punk rock in every regard, and were merely very good {of course, that yeti from Kyuss they had on guitar in lieu of H.W.C.B.N. was not exactly a step forward in the depth charts}]. ANYWAY, ANYWAY, ANYWAY, my point is this: I endorse neither Ramonesism nor Springsteenism. I would no sooner subscribe to the notion of one given set-length philosophy being the aesthetic godhead towards which all mankind should strive than i would buy into a claim that all acts of fornication should be of uniform intensity, duration, and thrustular tempo. I mean, if you were gonna fuck somebody in an alley, you wouldn't fuck 'em the same way you would fuck 'em if you were fucking 'em in one of those FantaSuite hotel rooms with the inoperative '59 Dodge Coronet parked in front of the teevee, would you? Or would you? Hey, buddy, don't look at ME for clues! It was a theoretical question! [furthermore, the days of me publicly divulging my closely-hoarded personal stash of Sex Technique Secrets are long over with. As we say around the poker table, folks, pay to know or die wonderin'] You need the RIGHT TOOL for the RIGHT JOB, Flakey Foont! Neither "longer sets" nor "shorter sets" is the answer, in and of itself, to the fundamental rock'n'roll question of how can my band suck less? Playing short sets will not make you exciting. Playing long sets will not make you inspiring. Thou must do that which lends itself to that which thou art attempting to pulleth off. If your grand intention is to quickly knock everybody over the head in the twinkle of a young girl's eye and run, go for it -- but don't think that merely playing for 15 minutes or whatever somehow automatically constitutes a head-knocking [Foreigner reference emerging off the starboard bow! SUPPRESS!!! SUPPRESS!!!]. I've seen bands play for fifteen minutes or whatever, kick over their stuff, and leave the stage, and have it be, really, sorta boring. I mean, the abruptness of it all was kinda cool, but by no means was there an entire set's worth o' hell breaking loose compressed into that fifteen minutes, thusly setting up the senses-shattering anti-wallop of the sudden death ending as was the case with the Dwarves -- they just seemed like a band that played for fifteen minutes and then stopped. Same with the twenty-minute pseudo-Ramones thing. The first time i saw the Queers, they played like, what, 12 or 14 songs in like 20 minutes [Ramonesism par excellence], and it was great. In a fairly fucking Queer-less universe, as was the case way back when -- what was it, 1993? -- their method of attack appeared cool and neato and even somewhat novel. Four years and fifty thousand half-assed Queers rip-offs later, i don't think it's news to anyone that this particular modus operandi has been run into the ground more often than Drew Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI; cool, neato and novel it ain't. Of course, the real fault isn't with Ramonesism -- it's with this whole sorta Must-Follow-The-Rules-So-My-Idols-Will-Like-Me lame-o mentality that's not only omnipresent in the punk scene these days [gak! i just used the words "punk scene" in a column! Forfeiture! Forfeiture!] but seems to be almost encouraged by the very entities who y'd think would have a half-decent shot at shutting it down, for reasons far too heinous and frightful for me to speculate upon any further. My band usually plays a 17-song set [maybe one or two more if there are a lotta real short fast thangs involved] which generally lasts about 45 minutes. Why? I dunno, that's just what we feel comfortable with. We've played 18-minute sets before, we've played 60-minute sets before, neither particularly successfully. My point is simply that, as regards set length, there is no right answer [although there are a number of wrong answers]. We play 45 minutes because that seems right for us, and, if we're the last band, we'll play longer if, for god-knows-what-reason, the payin' customers are demandin' it [which, in NYC, i believe they were {at least up until the point when we played "Get Off The Phone," which went over like a lead fart in a magnet factory. Sometimes, when i lie awake at night, troubled by what i perceive to be gross shortcomings in my band's musical abilities, i tell myself that the song didn't fly because the youth of today -- even the denizens of the Big Apple -- are no longer properly worshipful of their heroin-shootin' hometown heroes, the Heartbreakers. On other nights, when i lie abed gnashing my teeth and beating my breast over the failings of the younger generation, i tell myself that they didn't dig it simply because, well, our version kinda sucks. Reality by Multiple Choice!}. At several instances during our encore, i did indeed ask the crowd if we could please be done, since it was past midnight and we were supposed to be in Boston by noon, to no avail {well, some New Yorker in the crowd sagely yelled "Boston's in New England! FUCK New England!" in response; i could hardly take the opposing viewpoint to that ((instead hollering back that Green Bay fucked New England once this year already, and we'd do it again tonight, by golly!))}]. The bottom line is that, if you're the last band playin', when you stop, everybody's gotta go home. I know, this is all gettin' kinda "rock and roll" for a highbrow rag like MRR [we barefootin'! we barefootin'!] but, in my opinion, the "if-people-are-havin'-a-good-time-let-'em-have-a-good-time" thing far outweighs the "let's be cool punk rockers" thing [then again, if the Oblivians would have played one less encore song last night, perhaps i could have gotten outside in time to prevent our van window from being smashed in, in a fruitless quest by some foul grubworm to filch our TOTALLY WORTHLESS TAPE DECK THAT I WOULD HAVE FUCKING JUST GIVEN HIM, and Uncle Ben might still be alive today!]. 'Course, i understand Mykel's plight all too well: if you're in a band that played that night, you don't usually have the option of going home when you get bored [which is usually, like, what, 8 PM?]. Next time we play with Artless i'll hafta dry-hump him at regular intervals [although it certainly won't be as much fun without George there] so he doesn't get bored [get it? Mykel? "Bored?" ]. Uh...back to our regularly schedule column post haste...)! The question of what a girl's guitar symbolizes is, as with many other questions, best answered by another question (i like that, it makes me seem like the Riddler. Live The Dream!), to wit: If a guy's guitar is his dick, what is his amplifier? HA! IT'S ANOTHER TRICK QUESTION! A guy's amplifier symbolizes absolutely nothing!Which is the same thing a girl's guitar symbolizes: absolutely nothing!!! (which is also the same thing the "Ø" in my name symbolizes, but never mind the entry-level math humor) So if a guy's guitar is his dick, and his amplifier is nothing, then it can only mean that a girl's guitar is nothing because her amplifier actually symbolizes her vagina!!! IT'S TRUE, MAN, IT'S TRUE!!! THE FALLOPIAN TUBE AMP THEORY MADE FLESH!!! This is a blockbusting revelation of such unexpurgated brilliance and raw, nekkid insight that i'm legitimately surprised i was the dork who thought of it! I mean, it just sorta came to me, man! I was watching these girls play, and, god damn, they were playing thru really little amps, and i kept having all these, um, strange thoughts, and i couldn't help but notice that they were of an ethnicity reputed to have rather diminutive vaginal capacities, although i wouldn't know about such things (and, if i did, the findings would be withheld under the Chevron Protocols of 1997), and, you know, one line of thought led to another and suddenly i was like, doing! That's it! Amps are twats! I mean, it's gotta be. That's quite in line with the standard Freudian theories that dream imagery containing houses, rooms, or any other boxlike structures equals pussy. A box is a box is a box, one might say. Besides, this jibes with existing data so well that you'd be a flippin' moron to disagree with me -- i mean, come on, Lita Ford! Marshall stacks! 8-lane highway!! ADMIT IT, FUCKERS, I'M RIGHT!!! Anyway, i'd discuss the matter at greater length, but i'm afraid i have to go install a gigantic skittle in the middle of my guitar, and bend the neck way off to the left. Gentlemen prefer Pignose!

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