Thursday, April 20, 2006

Two Retrospectives

Harry Browne passed away.

It happened in March. He succumbed to complications arising from Lou Gehrig's disease. Harry was the Libertarian candidate for president in 1996 and 2000. Damned fine man and it was my honor to have had the opportunity to introduce him at the Massachusetts state convention during one of his runs.

At that time, I said something - for a small laugh - which was actually quite truthful. During my introduction, I rattled off a number of good things that Harry would do if elected, and then I said, “But forget about that. For goodness’ sakes, all you have to do is just look at him. Harry Browne looks more like a president than anyone else on the ballot.”

It was true. He looked like a statesman and, by the dictionary definition, he most definitely was. He always carried himself with a gentle dignity that commanded respect and he was always a true gentleman.

President? Statesman? Considering the bozos who were actually elected, in retrospect he looks like a god.

Rest in peace, Harry. You didn’t lose; the country did.


I’ve been listening to School’s Out by The Alice Cooper Group in my car recently. That album becomes more and more impressive as time goes by. The title cut was always fun - and will perennially get airplay when June rolls around each year, guaranteeing royalties – but the rest of the album is chock full of rock ‘n roll goodness and stands up to the passing years better than many recordings from the same time period.

For one thing, the arrangements are about as intricate as glam metal ever got. Producer Bob Ezrin had a lot to do with that. He gets a songwriting credit on half the tunes and he plays piano or synthesizer on most of them. If you strip away those keyboards, and/or the string and horn sections he charted, it would be a somewhat sparse landscape. However, this guy knew what he was doing. He took the somewhat limited musical talents of these guys and made them sound damned good. The trick was writing the charts around what the guys had done, rather than writing the guys into the charts.

(If a member of the group wrote the charts, my apologies for being condescending. I’m basing my assumption that it’s Ezrin on the fact that none of the records before Ezrin or after Ezrin sound anything like this. Seems logical to assume it was Ezrin.)

Not to belittle the group completely, of course. Alice Cooper was a clever lyricist and his nasally gravelly screeches fit the subject matter well. Dennis Dunaway was a very underrated bass player; still one of my favorites, as a matter of fact. Listen to his playing on Gutter Cats Vs. The Jets. Rock bass doesn't get any better than that. But Ezrin’s arrangements on this record are amazingly good and that’s the main strength.


So, what can I say to tie these two seemingly disparate bits of writing together? Let's try this.

From the vantage point of 2006, some 30+ years after the fact, doesn’t all the fuss about Alice Cooper in the 1970’s seem tremendously silly? I mean, some people actually believed that this guy worshipped Satan and that he skewered babies on stage. The group's appearance on the ABC television show In Concert was censored, or not even allowed to air, in a number of major American cities for fear of... well, your guess is as good as mine.

From the vantage point of 2036, some 30+ years after the fact, I suspect that most of what Harry Browne espoused will be commonplace and not seen as the least bit radical.

Either that or we're in for one hideous future.

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