Sunday, 24 February 2008

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Living on Air, by Anna Shapiro

Unpublished Excerp from Living on Air, by Anna Shapiro © Soho, 2006

“You’re trying to do class-artist art,” the scathing Philip said to her one day as she labored over an etching, to which she was adding ever more fuss and flurry. He was a plump boy with white skin and sharply defined red lips, who continually tossed too-long greasy bangs off his forehead. “That has nothing to do with art .” The most obnoxious boy at school, and he was speaking her language. (Obnoxious, but people enjoyed his blatant dare to them to dislike him, and liked him for it.)

Weesie had just put aside a portrait. Her attempts at naturalistic representation were so bad she felt they pointed at her and said, You are a terrible person. You are terrible for creating us. “You know so much about art. I don’t get it,” Philip said, continuing to watch the finicky doodling. He had applied pieces of fabric to his etching plate and peeled them off again, leaving the imprint of their varied weaves.
“Could I try that?” said Weesie. “No! Why should I give my ideas to you?” he said, pushing up his glasses and tossing the pesky bangs. Then he looked up and smiled as if he’d done her a favor. She had to laugh. He looked more pleased than ever and went back to his work, removing a scrap of burlap with a bravura air. “Ah. A masterpiece,” he pronounced, looking at the sticky brown plate whose outcome was yet to be seen. “You know what you should do?” he said. “Just scratch out what you’re doing. Just scratch it out. That’s what abstraction is. Taking something and refining it to its essentials. Not that there are any essentials in that mess,” he added. Without looking down, she began viciously scratching at her drawing. He smirked. “You might vary the texture,” he advised her.

Weesie and Philip leaned over the acid bath companionably, watching the lines of bubbles eat away where the zinc had been exposed. The bubbles looked like the ones that formed on your skin if you stayed in the tub long enough. Philip removed his plate and put some more brown sticky stuff in spots; those spots would be less deeply etched than the others. “It’s an exercise in corrosion,” he said—something he knew more about than most people. “Process. Process. That’s the whole thing. Process, not product. To involve the viewer in the process, to expose the process so that people can like get into it. Action painting. Yeah!” he said, swooping his zinc plate back in with an endangering splash. “Philip!” He giggled. “That’s acid . You could have gotten my eye .” “Sorry, sorry. Sorry, sorry.” Flamboyantly gay, he mashed his greasy glasses up his nose with his square white hand and grinned at her. The smell of acid prickled on the nostrils like bleach.

They got to oils at last. Weesie quickly developed an accustomed spot before the easel. Within a few weeks, students sat around kibbitzing--watching. “ You are just an artist. I am an artiste,” said Philip to Weesie, pushing his greasy glasses up his little nose with a harsh movement and a smile on his lips, sharply red on his dead-white face. He tossed his bangs off the lenses and made himself more comfortable on the paint-stained counter, where he lounged like a portrait of an odalisque, though an odalisque in the east coast prep school uniform of tweed jacket, oxford shirt, and jeans.

A girl with the oversensitive face of one who cultivates melancholy kicked his work-booted foot with her ballet pumps. “Oo, that’s a tough answer,” Philip continued. “Yeah, now I really feel untalented.” “Up yours, Philip,” said the girl, without energy, evidently accustomed or resigned to his jibes. Another boy, with the refined, good-humored face and curly hair of an archetype that could be labeled “Sensitive intellectual cosmopolitan,” scratched away at an etching plate. He looked up at Philip and the girl who wore her gloom as an attraction. “You two -- you should be in vaudeville.”

The pair were always at loggerheads in the art room. She did traditional, representational work, very pretty--“decorative,” as Philip liked to say, scathingly. He did slabby, drippy abstractions, as messy as his flapping shirttails and the unwashed bangs that swung down to the tip of his nose. “Me, maybe,” said Philip, the critic, “but who would want her ?” “Jesus, Philip,” said a lanky girl in workboots. She was drawing him and either making him unrecognizably handsome or erasing that and having his chin come out grotesque when she tried to show the puff of fat underneath. “You should just be put away.” He grinned happily, as if he’d been paid a compliment, and pushed the glasses up again, tossing aside the bangs that had grown over his eyes. “Now, Weesie here--” “--Louise,” corrected the refined, good-humored boy, his cheeks pursing with suppressed laughter. Weesie had recently taken to asking people to use her real name. “ Louise -- has obviously looked at art. Looked and actually seen , unlike you bozos.” A kind of private smile appeared on almost every face at this insult, as if it were a love pat. “Oi oi oi ,” Weesie singsonged, continuing to wield her brush. “With friends like you, dahling . . .” She paused to study the effect of her marks, without turning around. “Oh, you mean just because she’s doing abstractions ,” said the melancholy girl, rolling her eyes. “Yes, just because she’s doing abstractions! That’s more than you could do. You’d want to put in flowers or some maiden in a dress . “Aw,” he said, “now I’ve made her cry.” The oversensitive girl blinked rapidly but said, “How could anyone take you seriously enough to make them cry?” Shortly thereafter, she slipped off the drawing table’s Jackson Pollock surface and slid from the art room.

Weesie sighed and stepped back for a better view of her creation. Bumping into a piece of furniture, she glanced behind her. “Jesus, don’t all watch me or anything,” she said, seeing that no one was doing their own work. “We just can’t help but be in awe of your artistic prowess,” said Philip. A rare serious note came into his voice. “Really. That looks like a real painting. A painting by an adult. Not like the amateur shit that’s all you see around here, with all their adolescent emotion . That’s a real painting,” he repeated. “It’s about --form.” He purled a plump but surprisingly manly white hand through the air. Weesie looked behind her toward his seal-like shape, stretched on one elbow along the counter, and went back to her work. “No no no no no!” he cried as she added three red dabs to her composition in blue, gray, and white. “Aah,” he said, sitting up and clutching his heart. She didn’t respond. He sighed. “Oh. All right.”

A teacher who had an office on this barn hallway leaned in, swiveled his head around, switched on the overhead lights, and withdrew. “Narc,” said the limp, unpretending, good-natured boy, of whom almost everyone felt protectively fond. “Yeah, just checking up,” said the lanky girl, “Never know what students might get up to if you leave them alone together.” “We might make art or something,” said the good-natured boy, including everyone. The fluorescent lights snapped. One of them flickered like lightning for a minute and then steadied, buzzing, like a rebuke to them for being inside while it was still light. A harsh atmosphere, like a hospital waiting room in the middle of the night, took over the studio despite its skylight. Someone switched the lights off again, zapping it. “Thank you !” said several. Thereafter, the only sound was the scratchings and scrapings of their industry.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Some of Adam's Writings

Fred Nemo has collected some of Adam's Writings and has kindly passed them on.
I post them below with thanks to Fred for his efforts in finding some traces of Adam's work.

Fred also has some photocopies of Advocate articles written before digitalization which I will try to scan and post later.

If you have any writings or letters you would like to add, please e mail them to

Monday, 11 February 2008

Letter - Changing Minds, Changing Bodies 2007

Friday, June 1, 2007

Changing minds, changing bodies

This week’s Newsweek has a letter responding to the previous cover story on gender identity. This person’s reaction was that the very idea that there were not two distinct sexual categories was “bone chilling,” a “grievous commentary on the fall of American morals. Have we strayed so far from the Bible that we have forgotten God created Adam and Eve?” Meanwhile, whereas the article largely concentrates on people who think they have the wrong equipment, the previous letter points out the reality that some people are born with both sets of equipment, or something in between. When your religious faith starts requiring you to deny actual reality, you need to get a new religion.

The same woman’s letter concludes, “Please don’t ask me to rethink gender.” This seems like the real crux of the issue. Even the nonbelievers like me don’t like having to rethink things we thought we knew. On gender identity, the Jeffrey Eugenides novel Middlesex is compelling, but for people already familiar enough with that issue to fling about expressions like “LGBT,” a documentary I saw on cable called Whole presented a rarer phenomenon. It dealt with people who wanted to become amputees, in some cases so desperately so that they’d resorted to home surgery or shooting off the offending limb (it was always a particular limb). Before you go dismissing these people as sick twists who need therapy, which was my initial reaction, listen to their stories. I remember one guy wore some kind of harness sometimes to feel like an amputee. Another had struggled years and years with his desire, therapy and all, but then found someone to operate on him and had no regrets about the surgery except not getting it earlier. If surgery immediately made him happy, and nothing else did, was it unethical for the doctor to operate?

There’ll probably never be enough of the wannabe amputees to constitute an identity group like transgendered people, but the idea does raise the same issue as people who want to alter their gender, about what is normal and whether it even matters if its normal. An Atlantic magazine cover story a few years ago, though largely sympathetic to the idea of people wanting sex changes, raised the idea that perhaps some people would not have felt themselves to be members of the other sex had they not known that there was a possibility that it could be done. In the future, technology will allow us even more new ways to make all sorts of changes to ourselves. Which of those changes will people begin to want when they learn about these possibilities, and which will become “identities”?

Letter from Adam Dexterity Test Oct 2007

Note to Fred Nemo Thursday, October 4, 2007

I Fail a Self-Devised Dexterity Test

So I’m walking home and I find some cents on the ground. There is always something pleasing about finding money on the ground, so much more pleasing than earning it. Or maybe that’s just me. I am listening to my iPod, but that alone is not enough to entirely distract me from noticing that I am walking alone, which I find boring. So I begin to manipulate the pennies in my right hand, and tried to count them. I found that, without looking at them, letting any out of my hand, or using the other hand, I couldn’t do it, although I could have guessed there were about twelve. An interesting experiment to try sometime.

I saw a black and white kitten too. It is the first time I have seen a cat on the street in Center City, at least without an apparent owner.

Note from Adam "12 Word Novel" Nov 2007

November 28, 2000 November 20, 2007

My 12-word novel

The NPR program On the Media has a Novel Challenge in which participants are invited to submit a “novel” in twelve words or less . This was my entry:

My life as a Movie:
childhood, 80 minutes; adulthood, 20; ambiguous ending.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Candy Corn
Candy corn is the fruitcake of Halloween.

I lost the 12-word-novel contest

My favorite of the winners:

“There are no atheists in foxholes,” said the chaplain. “So get out.”

Adam's Letter to a Torture Supporter Nov 2007

Adam's letter to a torture supporter

What the supporter had written to the Philadelphia Inquirer on 11/16/07:
On the subject of torture, Gloria Gelman suggests that "our behavior is being judged by the rest of the world" (Letters, Nov. 9). The rest of the world and especially the terrorists are mocking us because we have become politically correct when it comes to terrorists. Does anyone actually believe that if we treat them with dignity they will tell us where their bombs are located? Waterboarding is a form of torture, but if it can save people from being killed or maimed, it is necessary.
Does it take another 9/11 for people to stop worrying about the welfare of terrorists? Let us be more concerned about the welfare of our children, grandchildren and all Americans who might be killed. We have to face reality when it comes to terrorists.

Elaine Lyons

My reply the same day:

It seems to me that your letter rests on two false assumptions. The first one is that torturing will be more efficacious in obtaining information. At least according to the many interrogation experts I have heard or read of who have written or spoken on the subject, this isn’t true. In fact, they say that developing a rapport with the captives can often extract information from very bad people, and that torture will often yield false information. (Obviously, this is also a risk of obtaining information in other ways, but the point is that torture is not a truth serum.) The second fallacy is the assumption that the prohibitions against torture primarily relate to the welfare of terrorists. The question is not simply whether we are prepared to torture terrorists. The question is whether torturing innocent people, as will inevitably happen, is an acceptable price to pay for any information that will come from the people who are truly terrorists. (There is also a third category of people, those who are not terrorists but may be sympathetic to them and/or have information that will be useful in identifying them.) I believe we prohibit torture to protect the innocent, just as we require search warrants and trials for criminal suspects.

For myself, I believe that torturing an Osama bin Laden might be morally acceptable if it would certainly save the lives of innocent people. However, the possibility of torturing an innocent person is so abhorrent to me that I don't believe it should be allowed as a matter of policy. The experience of other countries shows that allowing torture will inevitably lead to its use among people who turn out not to know anything. (To use an American example, it is clear now that large numbers of people transferred to Guantanemo Bay were not actually involved in terrorism or even insurgency, but it would not have been clear which ones those were when they were first picked up, and when the information they had would have been most useful. Could anyone have then reliably decided who to torture?) I tend to believe the experts that torture doesn't work well, and certainly not better than other methods. I remember hearing one (sorry, forget who, but he had decades of experience) on the radio say that the “ticking time bomb” scenario used to justify torture had never occurred in his experience. Thus it’s my belief that such a situation is so rare, and the possibility of torturing the wrong person so much more likely, that any interrogator who wants to torture should be so certain of guilt, and so sure it’s the best way of obtaining valuable information, that he should be prepared to accept legal consequences if he is, in fact, incorrect.

If you truly support torture and do think it is valuable, then you should be prepared to say that torturing an unknown number of innocents is worth that value, just as I will accept that there is an unknown possibilty that a particular piece of information that could be gained by torture will not be gained, and that therefore some other innocents will suffer.

She didn’t reply.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Letter - January 2, 2008

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Adam's answer to "When did disco die?" as posted on Wiki Answers

Although the backlash against disco gained momentum in 1978 with the success of Saturday Night Fever, there were still many successful disco songs over the next couple of years. July 12, 1979, was Disco Demolition Night at a Chicago White Sox game, and represented this backlash at its height. Fewer disco songs were being played on the radio by then, but disco sort of held on for another year so that Donna Summer's “On the Radio” was a hit in January 1980, Lipps, Inc.’s “Funkytown” was a worldwide smash in the spring, Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” topped the US charts in February, and “Upside Down” by Diana Ross did the same as late as September. Ross’s follow-up single, “I’m Coming Out,” was also a big hit.

However, that was about the last hurrah. Groups like Chic, Boney M (popular in Europe), and the Village People had already declined in popularity. Donna Summer’s next hit was "The Wanderer,” which was in a different style. Until newer dance music like Michael Jackson's Thriller-era hits and early Madonna took hold, there were far fewer dance-oriented pop hits in the early 1980s as compared with 1978-1979. The biggest dance hits of 1981 were songs such as Blondie's “Rapture” and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” that weren’t disco, although Kool & the Gang's “Celebration” (#1 in February 1981) was sort of a bridge between disco and newer dance sounds, as was the Commodores hit “Lady You Bring Me Up.” The band Change (featuring Luther Vandross) had R&B hits that still sounded like disco into 1982; Earth, Wind, and Fire’s 1982 smash “Let's Groove” is funky disco, and even 1983's “Fall in Love with Me” has much of the same sound, but with a harder edge. Some people would make a case for even-later songs such as Kool and The Gang's “Fresh” (1985), but the production on these lacks the lushness of pure disco.

The disco sound was absorbed into newer dance sounds, especially house music, and it has recently made a comeback with songs by Madonna (“Hung Up”), Kylie Minogue, and other singers, though less so in the US than elsewhere. However, the original disco genre was almost completely dead by 1981, and certainly did not survive 1983.

No One Left on Earth Like Kris

No One Left on Earth Like Kris

by Don Baird

sf bay times - 11/15/01

It took me by complete surprise when I read it in an e-mail from a friend who obviously thought I knew about it already, as it had been in the gay newspapers locally but I somehow missed it. As far as I know, the queens didn't produce a makeshift shrine at the B of A on 18th and Castro like when Lucille Ball or Princess Diana died, so the actual news managed to evade me that our community lost a member who has always stood out in my mind as a true original, a master at her many creative endeavors, from her amazingly funny pitch-perfect work as a cartoonist, her incredible ability and masterful skill with the written word and the multitude of styles of writing she embraced over the years - poetry, prose, lyrics, speeches, sermons, spoken word and the nearly lost art of storytelling, perhaps what she was best at...

I believe I first met Kris Kovic at a staff meeting or party for a now-defunct local gay community paper we both worked for in the late 80's. She was a regular cartoonist whose contributions were hilarious depictions of dyke life, from ribald and sexually explicit to politically urbane and self-deprecating, Kris poked fun at the lesbian scene she was unquestionably a part of with a refreshing honesty and candor that really chiseled away at the walls of separatism between gay men and lesbians...

One time she invited us to one of her organized readings at Red Dora's Bearded Lady Café and we arrived just as they started to show a short film by a local dyke filmmaker. We were the only men present, me, Marc Geller and Adam Block. We took our seats and the film started, which was simply a series of odd tortuous things inflicted upon someone's penis, including pounding a nail in the end of it, and letting a jar of stunned wasps loose on it, and a few other choice, well beyond pleasurable manipulations. The dykes were roaring with laughter and various cat calls and when the lights were turned up they all turned around and looked at us and we looked back at them and we all burst into laughter. That was typical of Kris, pushing for a dynamic that was unfamiliar or unusual or just plain funny, linking varied people together who might not generally mix it up, often bringing talents together that could benefit from or inspire each other or collaborate or just have dialogue and conceive of new possibilities. She always seemed to be thinking of infinite possibilities and capabilities when considering her fellow artistic peers...

Her enthusiasm in this way never waned. One time about ten years ago Kris called myself and Marc Geller and Adam Block on the phone and asked if we would meet her at a bar in the Castro one early evening. We all assembled at the chosen place and Kris announced that it was her 40th birthday and after being clean and sober for eight years she had made the conscious decision to step off the wagon, and she couldn't think of three people she'd rather be in the company of for this auspicious occasion than us. I was so honored and couldn't help but think, if she's this much fun sober I can't even imagine how much fun she might be in her planned departure from abstinence. I was also reminded of her whole-hearted endorsement of my own proclivities towards certain illicit substances and the forthright pro-drug, pro-honesty mini-crusade I had begun in my columns. She supported my position and did so while she herself was still very much clean and sober. I was always impressed by this because in the late 80's AA groups were terribly rabid and overwhelmingly large and they knew it all and reminded me of the Jehovah witness people that used to go door to door when I was little with their glassy-eyed look and Night Of The Living Dead creepiness, telling you what to believe, knowing what you were and what you must do to save yourself...

Don, Adam and Dave

Don, Adam and Dave
by Don Baird

SF Bay Times - 7/27/95

As deadline rolled closer this week, I had never felt such a lost, unfocused, dreadful feeling that there was literally nothing to write about. Whenever that thought comes to mind, I know deep down that it really is not the case at all, but nevertheless, I still go through the motions of that certain anguish. It‚s like writers‚ block, but I could write if there were just something interesting to write about. It's faux writer's block, and when this affliction nails me, I break my frozen stare at the keyboard, pick up the phone and call fellow writer/rocker/culture vulture/drug taker Adam Block and see what he makes of this temporary drift in the doldrums. More often than not, this perks me right up, because Adam is a much more devout media monitor than I am. If there's something going on that I should know about in the areas of rock music, politics, star gossip or some absurd tidbit on the news that I could joyously vivify in that perverse, maverick, sick-fuck way for readers to enjoy or at least be shocked or amused by, Adam will let me in on It.

I phoned up and quickly stated my predicament to Adam, who responded, "Well, after that self-indulgent, why-can't-everybody-in-the-gay-community-just-get-along Dave Ford cover story with that picture of a guy sucking himself off, I wouldn't sweat it. You'll think of something."

I recalled the first few paragraphs of that particular article, remembering Dave's metaphorical reference to "dump truck-sized jello molds" of nutrition for the right wing in preparation for their wars/crusades, while the gay community feeds on itself, the less nutritional option. That is, except for the less tasty ones dipped in CK, chortle chortle ha ha. The article continues, dipping the community in a whole slew of socioeconomicaly far-fetched behaviors, activities and concerns that might lead one to believe that all fags and dykes are wealthy world-traveling bourgeois dilettantes who don't know where to eat when the Zuni isn't open on Mondays.

"How about that bit at the end that Dave Ford translates in Latin to: one who does nothing, and does it poorly‚" Adam continued. "Except compulsive shopping, something all fags do, according to Dave. And what about the cutesy way of apologizing for something and then continuing to do it in the article, like his run-on sentences."

"Yeah," I interjected with a hint of indignance. "Everyone knows I'm the champ in the run-on sentence department, only mine don't require any apologies, not for showy but senseless syntax or obtuse vocabulary choices."

"What's up with Dave these days, I wonder?" Adam said in disbelief.

"I'm not sure, but last time I saw him he was wearing a tie, looking all downtown and shit," I recalled, "I wouldn't doubt he's fallen prey to the Scientologists or something."

Adam resumed with a catch-you-up media report, while I wondered to myself if printing the gist of our conversation about Dave would be a good intro. Dave's a good sport and an old friend so he wouldn't get upset over a little ribbing. Maybe I'm wrong, though, maybe it would start a big rash of infighting at the Bay Times, then what would happen? Would we become the paper that eats itself, a microcosm of our troubled gay community and its never-ending "jungle red" kiss-and-kill bitch-fight tendencies which Dave speaks of? No, we'd probably Just laugh and throw our hands up and suc?cumb to the one activity or weakness shared by our illustrious community and just go shopping together like girlfriends˜with trust funds...

Enough of that, Lord knows how counterproductive in-fighting can be, downright cannibalistic even. Adam Block's area of expertise is most definitely Rock music, so that's what he dove into, rattling off tidbits of info, new releases, recent faves. Of course the first order of business in that particular vein was Courtney Love. We love Courtney Love just for her sheer fucked-up-edness...

Adam and I were cackling over all this stuff, and then he asked me if I was going to this year's Lollapalooza. I immediately said no. He said he was going to until he found out that Sinead O‚Connor had dropped out of the tour. No, Courtney had nothing to do with this departure as rumored. Sinead dropped out because she's pregnant with her second child. This news made me even more certain of my decision to skip the show, but suddenly I remembered that my dear friend Margaret (who I attended my first and only Lollapalooza with) told me that a film she developed conceptually and also starred in was being shown in the featured film tent at the Lollapalooza and I simply couldn't miss it. It's entitled Cream Corn Wrestling, which apparently she does, and thought it up all on her own. So I guess I'll be going. For you readers who are attending this year, don't forget to bring lots of cigarettes, for they are not sold anywhere at the Shoreline, which totally sucks. Plus, you'd be surprised what a teenage boy on Ecstasy with a slight sunstroke would do for a cigarette sometimes. You'll be surprised at the great number of brilliant-looking shirtless males around you. It's practically overwhelming, but don't be too confident of this event and its New Age positivity raising the con?sciousness of the crowd to new heights of socio-cultural harmony. I got called fag a handful of times by youngsters in groups, and youngsters come a lot bigger these days than they used to.

Adam and I ended our chat on the phone with him telling me in detail about the graphic testimony given in court by a girl named Jewel who was dutifully sexed up by David Koresh of the Branch Davidians. When it was all over, he told her to take a shower. She came back to the room clean and fully clothed, the bed was made and he then read to her from the Book of Solomon. You know there are records and CDs available of David Koresh performing rock and roll, his second passion in life...

Who's the most dangerous person in America? June 1993

Who's the most dangerous person in America?

MotherJones: The big Q
May/June 1993

William S. Burroughs, author, Naked Lunch:

"Well, dangerous to whom? Fifty years ago I would have had no hesitation in naming Robert Oppenheimer. Now that the nuclear threat is everywhere, it is diluted. The fear of nuclear war has moved offstage. It got the hook, darling. But it may make a spectacular comeback."

Laurie Anderson, songwriter/ performance artist:

"This combines two of my least favorite pastimes: rating things and manufacturing paranoia. The most dangerous thing in the world is ignorance - that much is clear. But the most dangerous person? It could be you, who, in reading this asinine survey, might add a few more names to your list of things and people to fear."

Adam Parfrey, editor, Apocalypse Culture and Rants & Incendiary Tracts:

"If forced to choose one individual, it would be Andrea Dworkin, who has done more to destroy joy and prop up the Christian Right than any other person alive."

Michael Franti, singer/songwriter, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy:

"Christopher Whittle personifies dangerous arrogance in his lust for control and commercialization of so many sources of information, including education. Ross Perot combines arrogance with ignorance in purchasing unparalleled public respect while totally failing to understand the situation of people who aren't billionaires."

Joseph McNamara, fellow, the Hoover Institution; former police chief in San Jose, Calif.:

"In a way, President Clinton is the most dangerous. To his credit, he has raised hopes for change. But if Clinton fails in his goals to restore hope to the underclass in the inner cities, and also disappoints the middle class who made him president by not reducing the deficit, this conflict could tear our country apart."

Helen Tworkov, editor, Tricycle: The Buddhist Quarterly:

"To label a person 'dangerous' is in itself dangerous. As Zen master Pogo said, 'I have met the enemy, and he is us.'"

Bono interview - Mother Jones '89 (reprint '01)

Twelve years ago, Bono fronted the world's ultimate band, U2, scooping up Grammys, making movies, ruling rock 'n' roll. Now Bono and the boys are back on top with a new armful of Grammys, and much of the old iconoclastic attitude. (Updated February 2001)

"We see ourselves as just another boy band," U2 lead singer Bono deadpanned after picking up three Grammys on Feb. 21, 2001 bringing his band's total to 10. U2's latest release, "Beautiful Day" had won in each of the three categories it was nominated in - Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Rock Performance by a Duo or Group.

In the course of their two-decade-plus career, Bono and the boys have proven that music with a message can still rock the charts. In the early '80s the band participated in LiveAid; more recently Bono has worked with London-based Jubilee 2000, which advocates forgiving Third World debt. Not surprisingly, his political choices - and his music - have earned Bono plenty of criticism over the years, with skeptics calling him deluded and egomaniacal to just plain boring. Way back in 1989, Bono sat down with Mother Jones to talk about religion, drugs, and the pitfalls of irony.

- Suzy Boothby

Bono Bites Back

By Adam Block

May 1, 1989

It is January 1989, early evening at A&M studios in Hollywood, where Bono
Hewson (aka Vox) has been remixing singles. His band has just swept their
categories in the Rolling Stone Readers Poll, including Band and Artist of
the Year for the second year running. Their double LP, "Rattle and Hum,"
ruled the charts over the holidays. judging from the numbers, U2 continues
its reign as "band of the decade," and even, as Time magazine and others
have anointed them, the conscience of rock. Yet here is Bono, voice and
lyricist of U2, saying only a bit wryly, "I think we're on the outside

U2's star ascended with rock's rediscovery of its conscience. They played
remarkable live sets at the 1983 US Festival and 1985's Live Aid benefit,
and spearheaded the first Amnesty International rock tour. While other
bands partied, they eulogized Martin Luther King, Jr., "in the name of
love." And by 1987, when their fifth LP, "The Joshua Tree," sold over 14
million copies, U2 had, become the most popular rock-and-roll band in the

But last fall's release of "Rattle and Hum" - the film, the book, the
double LP, and the T-shirts found critics sharpening their knives. The
documentary of their US tour chronicles the Irish rockers collaborating
with B.B. King and Bob Dylan, cutting a tribute to Billie Holiday in the
same Memphis studio that Elvis Presley first used, joining a Harlem gospel
choir to remodel their hit "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."
Bono starts off U2's cover of "Helter Skelter" by announcing that the band
are "taking it back" from Charles Manson.

"The megalomania churning at the heart of this band is beginning to show,"
reacted Musician magazine. The New York Times review was headlined, "When
Self-Importance Interferes with the Music." And the Village Voice's Tom
Carson wrote off U2 as "the priggish, thin-skinned egoist and the three
dullards." Savage stuff for last year's heroes.

At the center of the storm is Bono. "I don't have an ironic persona like
David Byrne or David Bowie to stand behind," he worried while the film was
being edited. "It's me up there on the screen and it makes me cringe." If
he can appear arrogant, he can also be anything but. In 1981, after a brief interview with Bono, I was told by a representative of his record company that the gay press couldn't expect anymore interviews with U2. I wrote Bono a letter in protest. He called me up on his next visit, asked me to join him for a drink, and talked for hours.

Then, as now, in conversation Bono is an intoxicating raconteur, erupting
with enthusiasm, playful and engaged. He grows fervent when speaking of his beliefs, and one of his strongest is that U2 truly are, as he jokes, "on a mission." Bono and his songs take on some very big issues: violence and redemption, God and politics, love and death. That makes him prime game for skeptics, critics, and acolytes. And it gave us plenty of ground to cover.


MJ: Let me read you a recent quote from Randy Newman: "I used to be against world peace until U2 came out for it. Then the scales just fell from my eyes.... And when they're singing with those black people? Do you know that black people just love their music? Bono's conducting those black people and they're doing just what he says!...

BONO: I had heard that. Randy Newman is a very funny man, though I think
he's written far funnier lines than those.

MJ: Are you interested that criticisms like his have been leveled a lot lately, particularly at "Rattle and Hum?"

Bono: I suppose. What's uninteresting about that is that we are such an easy
target, from the word go, because we perform from our own point of view. I
sing about the way I see things. Some people write songs about the way
characters see things. Some artists perform with a wink. That's just not
the way with U2. When people perform from their gut -- when John Lennon
sang a song called "Mother" -- that was not a hip thing to do. He was
exposing himself. It's performers like that I admire.... If you're going to spend your whole life worrying about dropping your guard and exposing
yourself, worrying that working with a gospel choir might look like
imperialism, that would be dumb.

MJ: But the criticisms I read of the film are that it was too guarded. Let me
read, if I could, another criticism ....

Bono: Well, I'm really not interested.

MJ: I just want to give you the opportunity to respond ....

Bono: What this suggests is that the music is not enough. That is my expression
- the music - and within that music I can take my clothes off. Not for
the press, not for the TV shows, not for the film. That film was about
music, and in that music was everything that we have to say and offer. Now
people want it made easy for them. They want it spelled out. Why can't
people just accept the music? You know the real reason? It's that people
don't listen to the music anymore, and a lot of critics don't.... I think
our fans know all the songs on our albums, and I don't think many critics
do. I really don't.

MJ: Were there any criticisms that did sting, that hit home, that taught you

Bono: No. I must say I was generally very disappointed in the community of
critics. It's funny. I would've thought that what people would have
expected us to do would've been to put out a double live LP, and cash in on "The Joshua Tree," and make a lot of money for very little work. That is what big rock bands do.

When we didn't do that, I expected people to recognize that. When we put
the records out at low price, stripped away the U2 sound, then just went
with our instincts as fans, and just lost ourselves in this [American R&B]
music, in a very un-self-conscious way...

MJ: But if the LP has been unfairly and stupidly criticized by people who
aren't listening carefully ...

Bono: No. It's not even that. It's that the spirit of it has been completely and
utterly missed. The spirit of it is unlike any record of a major group, for a long time. That spirit is the very essence of why people get into bands and make music. And it's not about being careful. And it's not about
watching your ass....

MJ: Is there an artist or band whose career you'd like to emulate? Who you look at and say, "They did it right?"

Bono: They did it right? My heroes are the ones who survived doing it wrong, who
made mistakes, but recovered from them.... You see, we are unlike all the
great rock 'n' roll bands in that their records generally get worse,
whereas our records are getting better. Most people would agree. We are on
the ascendance. We started at scratch, writing a song with two chords on
two strings. We are desperate men, struggling with very limited abilities.
Though I think U2 are at the peak of their form in terms of our own music,
when I look at American music, I mean the Memphis Horns and B.B. King, on
that scale, we're at the bottom of the ladder.

OK, so you want to design a great rock 'n' roll group? So, you're gonna
choose guys from Ireland, right? (laughs) No, you're not. You're gonna
choose people who talk about religion and politics? No, you're not. I mean, we're a fluke. Rock 'n' roll bands are about giving people what they want. And what they want often is "Wow! Yahoo! Let's dance!" and "Do you think I'm sexy, do you want my body," that type of thing. And that's not what U2 are about. And I don't know how we've gotten here. All I can say is, I haven't figured it out. No wonder the critics haven't. (Laughs)


In U2's early days, three members -- Bono, guitarist The Edge, and drummer
Larry Mullins -- joined Shalom, a nonsectarian charismatic Christian group. "They were devoted to the idea of Christ as a commitment to social justice, and having no possessions," Bono explains. The band members have since parted with Shalom, but not with their faith. "I believe that Jesus is the son of God," Bono says. "I do believe that, odd as it sounds."


MJ: Do you still believe that Jesus is the way? Doesn't that biblical injunction deny that followers of other religions can enter paradise?

Bono: I don't accept that. I don't accept that fundamentalist concept. I believe, what is it? "The way is as narrow as the eye of the needle," and all that. But I think that's just to keep the fundamentalists out.... (laughs)

I never really accepted the whole "born again" tag. It's a great term, had
it not been so abused. I accepted it on one level, in that I loved the idea of being reborn.... I think people should be reborn every day, man! You know, every day again and again and again! At 20 years old, this idea of "surrender every day," this idea of "dying to oneself" ... was so exciting! Then I came to America in 1981, the land of milk and the .357 Magnum. It blew my mind that this word "reborn" meant nothing.

MJ: It meant something very different; it meant a moral agenda.

Bono: Yeah, it had been raped of its real meaning, of its spiritual significance, and instead a political significance was left.

MJ: In November of 1982 you, The Edge, and Larry Mullins announced to your
manager that you didn't want to tour in support of your second LP, that the rock world was at odds with your Christianity. What happened?

Bono: We were just being pulled in two different directions. A lot of it was
based on the idea of the ego. We'd been reading a lot of Watchman Nee, a
Chinese Christian mystic. His idea was: "Unless the seed shall die and be
crushed into the earth, it cannot bear fruit."

Rock 'n' roll had this idea: "It's me!" You know, "Look at me, 'cause I'm
looking at you, motherfucker!" Like, "Out of my way, looking out for number one, 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction!'" Watchman Nee's attitude to that would be: "So what? What's so important about you anyway?" (laughs)

So it was like we were being torn in two. We felt almost subconscious
pressure being applied to us by a lot of people we looked up to within that spiritual community that we were in and out of. In the end, I realized it was bullshit, that what these people were getting close to with this idea was denial, rather than willful surrender. It was denial, which is the next-door neighbor to self-flagellation, and that awful idea that "through pain is gain." Yes, there is pain. Yes, you may gain from it. But you don't get into your car looking for a traffic jam. (laughs)

MJ: Do you see the world of rock 'n' roll and the Church as at odds, in the way that Jerry Lee Lewis said that he had thrown his lot in with the devil when he became a rock 'n' roller?

Bono: I don't. I don't because I think the most important thing, the most
important element in painting a picture, writing a song, making a movie,
whatever, is that it be truthful. A version of truth as you see it. Rock
'n' roll, and the blues, they're truthful. It says in the Scriptures, "Know the truth, and the truth will set you free." So, there is this feeling of liberation in the blues for me. There is salvation in the blues.

MJ: There is salvation more in gospel music, no?

Bono: The truth. The truth shall set you free. Gospel music is about a step of
faith, which is a whole different concept. The idea is that you step into a world where, if you like, the kingdom has come. You step into it, and you affirm that. You step into that and you sing! You know, people singing
gospel music, they crowded into the churches from the ghettos, to make that "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho / And the walls came tumbling down" step of faith. In their real life, they were living in leaky, rainy conditions, they were living in a sewer. So that's not the truth of their own experience.

The blues is the truth of their own experience, therefore closer to this
idea of "knowing the truth and the truth shall set you free." In the Psalms of David, there is this powerful wailing against God. You know, "You call yourself God!" and "Where are you when I need you?" The Psalms of David are the blues, and I get great comfort from that.

MJ: What do you think of Prince's brand of salacious Christianity, which says
that brilliant sex lights the way to paradise?

Bono: I just believe that Prince believes the same thing I do: that God is sex as well as love.

MJ: So you feel, when you listen to a Prince album, that you guys are singing
the same gospel?

Bono: I feel very close to Prince, closer than you might think.

MJ: Closer than I would think, in that he's considered sex-crazed, while
critics regularly describe U2 as nearly sexless.

Bono: I'm deeply insulted to hear you say that, and shocked, and mesmerized. I
don't think they could have been to too many U2 shows. You'd have to ask
our audience. This may be one of those cliches from the critical community
who generally themselves are completely sexless. You can't fuck people with your head, or maybe you can....

MJ: Now, come on. You honestly think that the kind of really erotic sounds that you hear in "Sexual Healing" or "Little Red Corvette," that there are U2 songs that have that kind of carnal energy?

Bono: No. Yes, I think there is a sexuality to U2. I don't think it's dressed up
in leather, or high-heel boots, or that type of thing.

I don't think it's the sort of peek-a-boo-type sexuality. So, some people,
who have to have a neon sign that says sex before they see sex, may not see it in our music. But sex is a much subtler thing than that. Today you'll find the exact same girl in the Coca-Cola ads and the rock videos. That's not rebellious anymore. It sells products. And it is a product. That kind of overt or camped-up sexuality is no longer rebellious in the way that it was in the '50s and '60s, when people weren't owning up that they even had a sex life. People needed that shoved in their face and rock 'n' roll was a great medium to do it. But that doesn't apply now...

See, most things that a lot of people find sexy, I find incredibly funny! I don't find the things I see out on the Strip, say, latex trousers, turn me on. They just don't.

MJ: What do you find really sexy?

Bono: I'm not telling you.

MJ: Why not?

Bono: I'm just not.

MJ: Why should that be something you're not willing to share?

Bono: I don't know many people that would want the world to know. I might tell
you, but I'm not telling them.

MJ: You've seen Prince live. How do you feel about the sexual play-acting he
does onstage?

Bono: I find it funny, very funny. I get off on it. (laughs)

MJ: Are you tempted to do anything like that? I mean, that kind of sexual humor is the kind of thing people would never expect from U2.

Bono: No. I always go back to the image of filmmakers. I find that makes things
clearer. Some people make movies, and there is a certain kind of movie they make, because that's them, whether it's Altman or Scorsese or Coppola.... We've been trying to get people to dance to "Apocalypse Now."

MJ: You see U2 as more like Coppola, or Scorsese...

Bono: Yeah, and I think Prince would be more like, ummm Busby Berkeley?

MJ: Or Ken Russell?

Bono: Ken Russell! That is what I mean. Prince is the Ken Russell of music.

MJ: The '60s generation celebrated both sex and drugs as liberating. Nowadays
there has been a lot of bashing of both as evil. You present a fairly
chaste image.

Bono: We don't.

MJ: In the movie we never even see you take a drink. We never see you doing

Bono: The idea that we would hide the drink from the camera is idiotic beyond
belief. It's another cliché that redundant minds throw at U2. "You present
a chaste image." Oh god!

MJ: Do you like being intoxicated?

Bono: (Raises a finger) 'Tis better to be drunk on the spirit; however, a bottle
of Jack Daniel's is sometimes handier.

MJ: Do you ever find intoxicants, including psychedelics, creatively useful?

Bono: I am already on drugs. I am the sort of person who needs to take drugs to
make me normal. (laughs) I have experimented. No, I don't think that it is
something that everybody has to do, one, just to be alive, or two, to write great songs.

MJ: I don't mean "have to." But do you have a positive attitude towards drugs?

Bono: I'm not going to tell you that I have a positive attitude towards people
who are hurting themselves. Drug abuse is a very negative thing.

MJ: Do you believe there is such a thing as drug use as opposed to abuse?

Bono: I do believe there could be.

MJ: In your own life, have you experienced ...

Bono: I don't want to talk about that. I'll give you just one example of why it
would be irresponsible for me to answer your question in a certain way:
I've written so many songs using heroin as an image, it might be
interesting for me to tell you that, say, "I've had experiences with the
drug heroin." It might be interesting for me to do it, and to own up to it.

If it were misconstrued, somebody who, for whatever reason, respects me,
that might lead them to get into it. OK. If I became addicted to heroin, I
can afford the trappings. I can afford the Betty Ford clinic. I can afford
to have my blood changed. I can afford the trappings of being an addict.
But there is some guy who lives in a room in Dublin who can't. And nobody
gives a shit about his addiction!

So it is highly irresponsible for rock 'n' roll people to perpetuate the
myth of drug addiction. One of the things that I get a good feeling that U2 has done is to break open the mythology of rock 'n' roll. The mythology
that wearing a safety pin in your nose means you're a rebel. Shaving your
head does not mean you're a rebel.

MJ: You're saying those trappings have nothing to do with the true rebellious
soul of rock and roll....

Bono: Yeah, the rebellious soul. The mythology of "live fast, die young"
perpetrated by rich rock 'n' roll stars sickens me. I just want to throw up on these bastards! That's because in our city, Dublin City, I've seen the place truly ravaged by drug addiction. People seriously fucked up, and
people inspired by this idea of "living close to the edge."


U2's 1983 Album "War," included "Sunday Bloody Sunday," a thunderous anthem against Ireland's sectarian violence, and "New Year's Day," the celebration of Poland's Solidarity. It was U2's first LP to go gold in the United States. Bono and the band intended the record as a stark declaration for militant pacifism, and against nationalism. But it sometimes seemed to exploit the very passions it was decrying. On tour, Bono took to trotting around the stage waving a massive white flag to a martial beat. One early U2 booster wrote that the "great personal fury" of their first LPs had given way to "literal but sincere sloganeering ... hapless, dated, agitpop." He wasn't alone. Yet in Bono's eyes, the band was just ahead of its time, voicing the spirit of Live Aid before Bob Geldof had seen its glimmer.


MJ: In 1985 you and your wife, Ali, worked for seven weeks in Ethiopia on an
educational relief project. What precipitated that?

Bono: Just got carried away with myself, and our involvement with Live Aid. I
thought Live Aid was an extraordinary thing! It seemed we were, at one
time, almost the only voice talking about this idea: that rock 'n' roll
could be a force for social change, in reality, as well as in concept. This was two, three years before Live Aid, when we were making the "War" LP, and it was something we believed for a while. I had conversations with people, from Sting to Bob Geldof to critics who found it almost a laughable idea, that in the '80s people could still really believe that.

Bob Geldof was into pop music. That's the great irony of Live Aid. That
proved to me that God has such a sense of humor, this idea of Geldof
actually refuting his own argument. He really was the man who said, "Pop
music is pop music: bee-bop-a-loola. It's great, and let's just enjoy it
for that." That a little round thing with a hole in it could save lives
must have been an extraordinary revelation to him.

I truly think that with the "War" album, I and others realized that rock
'n' roll didn't just have to be a parody of itself.

MJ: You said the "War" album was "something we believed for a while." Can you
explain that?

Bono: I don't know why, but we always had this belief that there was something
sacred about our music, that it was almost holy..

A division happened in the '70s, a division that has widened now in the
'80s. [On the one hand, there is] this whole pop philosophy, the feeling
that rock 'n' roll can be enjoyed, but only with a wink. Prince almost
became the flagship for these people because he could dress up in high
heels, do the extended guitar solo, and yet, he appeared to be doing it
with a wink. He was laughing at himself, or was he laughing at them?

We are exactly the opposite of that. Call it stupidity, naivete. We are not that. When with "War" we said "no" to that, it was: As well as making rock 'n' roll, we may actually be able to jam up the airwaves with some information, actually be able to push out the walls of rock 'n' roll a bit, not just writing sexual and spiritual, but political things.

We believed we could make a difference. And of course, we had Bob Marley as a role model. Our relationship with Ireland, and his with Jamaica, made sense. He was singing of Jah making him "whole," and singing about his lover, and his people. I saw a wholeness to that, a completeness about his music that I would like in our music .... We again had this awful idea, that we actually dared to see our rock 'n' roll as an art form. (Laughs) That most awful idea.

MJ: The explosion of punk had also produced groups like the Clash, who
certainly acted as if they believed music could change the world, and
addressed issues in much more specific ways.

Bono: I thought that was too specific. I like the mystery of music as well. I
wasn't going to spoil the mystery in music. Again, when we put out "War,"
the Clash had done their best to plant the red flag, if you like, and all
the contradictions of that. But I respected them for it. I respected them
for the [1980] "Sandinista" album. I think it was an extraordinary LP, and
I think the Nicaraguan Revolution was completely kept out of the media in
Europe, and here was this rock'n' roll band bringing your attention to it.

But after that, they had finally been strangled by the press. I believe
there was so much antagonism towards the group in their last few years,
that they actually couldn't stand it. And with the Clash gone, the way was
clear for "pop" music. The idea that rock 'n' roll could actually make a
difference was out of the way for a while. "Thank you, God!" the postmodernists cried.

OK, right then, there I was with me fucking flag! I had read John Lennon's
manifesto, like "put your statement on the back beat." Give peace a chance! And right, I was ready to placard the songs a bit. I took up that idea on the War LP, and I think it was a turning point, not just for U2, but in '80s music. And I am pissed off that the LP is not so recognized. (Laughs) God. Is this mania? It might be.

MJ: Adam Clayton said that right after your Live Aid performance, the band
wanted to pack it in. They were all so upset with the performance....

Bono: We were very desperate, and depressed by it. The feeling was that I had
just shot U2 in the head in front of a billion viewers. (laughs) ... In
retrospect, we feel it was valid. But at the time, we felt I had taken a
real risk, and we didn't know if people would get it.

See, I'm a songwriter first, a singer second, and a performer third. But
sometimes the "performer" is the strongest side. Onstage I often try to
find a way to express a song other than the way I sing it. That's probably
through having a limited voice. Not being a great singer, or even a very
good one at times, I would look for other ways. That's why I used those
white flags: this idea of a flag drained of all color, the idea of
surrender. If there was any flag worth flying, that was it.

In the case of Live Aid, I wanted some way to make the feeling that people
felt there visual: a symbol. So when I saw this African girl in the
audience, she was shouting and shouting at me, calling and calling ... I
just impulsively jumped or fell over into this pit. She was being crushed,
and bashed around a bit, and I just pulled her out. By holding onto this
person, I felt like I was holding onto the whole audience. It felt like
holding onto everyone. It seems, in hindsight, that everyone watching it
felt that. It actually was that for some reason.

It's a risky business. I've thrown drums off the stage, pushed over PA
stacks, burned electric guitars. I find myself resorting to these things.
And I know now that it's pure insecurity about my ability as a singer.

MJ: What do you find ignites the political imagination of your audience?

Bono: Well, I always hate the message idea. You feel like a postman, you know,
delivering all these messages.

I think the '80s have been a blight, culturally and sociopolitically. And
you're right. I think U2, we're one of the best things about the'80s.
(laughs) And I'm personally embarrassed that we're "the band of the '80s."
It's not such a great compliment. (laughs) However, we'll see what we can
do with the '90s.

What happened in the '70s but wasn't admitted to, was, it became clear how
redundant the political ideologies of both the Left and the Right were.
They no longer made sense. [It became clear] that Marxist-Leninism, this
ideology invented to deal with the Industrial Revolution, which is worlds
ago, even though it had been reinterpreted, cannot be applied, and
certainly isn't worth giving or taking a life for. Worst of all, almost,
were the liberals, in the middle.

People are looking for an expression, because everybody, every person that
has a family thinks about what they're going to bring a child into.
Everyone walking along a coastline wonders, will it be here in ten years?
People have worked for ten years in college, paying fees, and they wonder
if they'll have a job in 10 years. The answer to that has been to work with blinkers on, and to be better than the guy sitting next to you in college, and if you're not better, cheat! And fucking blindfold your opponent.

There are people just looking around, and they know there must be a focus.
And they're looking at the Democratic party, and they don't see anything.
They just see white walls. Something inside them says, "This doesn't make
sense." They look to the Right, and the gospel of greed, and they can't
stomach it. They might be able to. If they've got a few kids, they might
have to. But generally, the rock 'n' roll audience is 16, 25, 30. They
haven't, thank God, made their mind up. That's why it's such an exciting
time: rock 'n' roll.

So they're looking over here, and over there. They just don't know. They
just don't know. And the music you turn on is proof that nobody knows. It's just a noise to drown out unanswered questions. You just drown it out. The Beastie Boys' "We've got to fight for our right to party!" -- an amusing line. I appreciate it, but it was not seen as ironic as, I presume, it was intended. Yeah, we've got to fight for that right, alright. That is the anthem of the '80s!

MJ: Are you saying that what captures your fans' political imaginations is
speaking to those doubts they have?

Bono: I think it's at least owning up to them. We're very clear, and it's very
dear in our music that we don't have any answers. But that the questions
are at least worth asking. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."
How much more dear can you make it?

MJ: You said you sense a shift of mood in this country, that for a few moments
U2's subject matter was central to the times, but may not be now. If U2
really is on the outside again, does it upset you?

Bono: I think moods just shift, change, and come around. On one level, I am
aghast. I was reading an interview with Arthur Miller, who said that after
growing up in the Depression and coming back from World War II, having seen those sights of horror and devastation, he never thought it would get to the point in America where people would walk past the kind of homelessness I've seen in Los Angeles. He couldn't imagine that in America. And that is where we are right now in America.

MJ: You think people are getting numb?

Bono: That is the word I would use. And I think they need a really strong
stimulus.... It just seems that a pinprick will no longer pierce. They need a shock treatment.

MJ: Do you see a different kind of politics and consciousness emerging in the

Bono: I think we've lower to sink before people will say, "We can't go any
further." I think America is living on borrowed time. I think you've
borrowed the money to put off this day when you're going to have to
realize: Corporations don't need people to work for them anymore. Machines
don't ask for wage raises. And they haven't figured out how they're going
to, on one level, provide consumers, and, on the other, not have work for
anybody. This question has been put off, but it will have to be answered.
There is something around the corner ...

MJ: Disastrous?

Bono: No. It could be really good.... We need to dream new dreams. And I think
rock 'n' roll is at least a chance to dream those dreams.

MJ: Can those dreams, can records, can music really challenge entrenched power?

Bono: I don't know. I don't think so. It can effect change. It can be a catalyst
for change.

MJ: How?

Bono: It can be a voice of dissent. I think "[I Can't Get No] Satisfaction" is a very great political song. I really do. It's like: "When I'm drivin' in my car / and that man comes on the radio / and he's tellin' me more and more / about some useless information / supposed to fire my imagination." However, a lot of music is selling the same thing as adverts do right now.

MJ: U2 doesn't seem to tackle the kind of politics that might truly trouble or
alienate their fans. In the film you go on about apartheid and then ask,
"Am I bugging you?" just about everyone in the US is opposed to apartheid.
Yet you never speak out on issues like abortion, Israel and the Palestinians, the death penalty, AIDS, gay rights. Let's talk about some of those. How do you feel, for instance, about abortion?

Bono: I just have my own ideas. I believe that it's a woman's right to choose.

MJ: Have you ever talked about that in concert? Or in any context?

Bono: No.

And that is the kind of thing that might alienate some fans....

If I had been inspired to write a song about it, they would get it in the
eyes, just like [supporters of apartheid] do on "Silver and Gold." I will
admit that we are attracted to issues that unify people rather than divide

MJ: Aren't these issues, the tougher issues, the ones that actually demand that people give something up, that actually rub people and force them to look at themselves? Don't you let yourself and your fans off awfully easy by failing to talk about them? About gay rights, say, or AIDS?

Bono: I have talked about AIDS. Did you see that in Cuba anyone with the
antibody, not even the disease, is being put under quarantine for life?
What interests me is that AIDS patients are being seen as the new lepers.

MJ: And aren't those attitudes, and that policy, rooted in homophobia? Isn't
that an argument to speak out about gay rights?

Bono: OK. My bottom line on any sexuality is that love is the most important
thing. That love is it. Any way people want to love each other is OK by me. That's different from abuse, be it homosexual or heterosexual.

But your question is, why don't we write about those issues? The reason is
that there aren't enough minutes in the day, or days in the year, for us to approach every abuse of human rights, and because, in the end, that isn't our job anyway. Our own way of dealing with it is to try to get at what is essentially behind all abuse of human rights, to go to the heart of the problem, to the kernel rather than the husk.

And that, of course, will always bring me back to the idea of love. Spirituality. That God is love. That love is not a flowers-in-the-hair situation, that it is something you have to make happen. It has to be made concrete.

... You see, [with] problems like Belfast's in Northern Ireland, or racism in the Southern states here in America, you're dealing with entrenched communities. When you're dealing with illogical views, the hells that are just deeper, the answer is not argument, often. They're not problems of the intellect.

I am friends with a painter here in LA. Back in Northern Ireland, he witnessed a murder, an actual killing in a field. He was wanted for questioning, and had to leave as a result. He's a Protestant. And he told me, even though he married a Catholic and he's a very right-on man, when he hears rebel songs, the hairs on the back of his neck stand up! He can't help it! He told me he couldn't explain it, it was like it was in his genes.

That is why I will always look not to the flesh of the situation, but the spirit. These are spiritual conditions, malaise. You know hatred is beyond reason. Love is an antidote to that....

This gets back to the reason I wanted Van Morrison on the Amnesty International tour. A lot of people think he doesn't seem politically motivated. But this man is a soul singer, and his music melts the hardest of hearts. That's very political, because it is hard-hearted behavior that results in bigotry, racism, closed-mindedness, and greed - all the things that we deal with.

I must say to you, and you might not want to hear this: I find myself going away from the specific, and even more towards the universal, more towards that one point, which I call "liberation."


Last November, Bono and U2 bassist Adam Clayton set out from Los Angeles on a three-week drive through New Mexico, Texas, and Tennessee, ending up in New Orleans. "It was in a brute black jeep with a sound system out of Studio 54 -- not exactly the 'Dharma Bums'" Bono admits, "but we kept meeting people who kept us up all night." In Nashville they met Johnny Cash and John Prine. At a Mississippi juke joint they discovered "contemporaries of Muddy Waters" who never left. "It was in a field," Bono says, "and as close as I've ever been to the blues." Of US rock's roots, he chuckles, "I don't know whether we've gotten the fascination out of our system, or just got it into our system."

There's a lot riding on U2's next LP, and the band knows it. Pressed about the project, Bono talks vaguely about exploring "developments in pure sound."

"I have this feeling of starting over, that things have reached their end," he says after a pause, "and also this notion that while people always talk about being joined in common wants and aspirations, I'm finding the reverse. Finding we're united in desperation. I dunno, I come back to that line from our song "In God's Country": "We need new dreams tonight." The job is to dream up a world you'd want to live in."


MJ: Seven years ago you predicted, "We're going to be enormous, like the Beatles, the Who." Do you have a vision of what you'd like to be doing seven years from now?

Bono: I never wanted U2 to be the biggest rock 'n' roll band in the world, just the best. The more I know about rock 'n' roll, the more I don't know.... Ten years ago, when I thought about being in a rock 'n' roll band, I saw so much. I saw everything: being on radio, television, making movies, records, being on the road. It was huge, like a really wide spectrum of things that were very important. Now that spectrum has shrunk down to nothing. The essence of what it is to be a rock 'n' roll band to me, now, is just that three-and-a-half minutes. Not giving interviews, not being on television, not all that goes with it. What has drowned out the sound of the rock 'n' roll circus has just been the rock 'n' roll song. Just that one thing. That's the most exciting thing for me.

MJ: And that's what you want to focus on, more than any of the other stuff?

Bono: To try and make sense of the madness, we've found sanity in a song. Everything else, hotel rooms, cars, buses, airplanes, record companies, motion picture companies ... it's incredible. just incredible.

Sometimes I meet young bands. I just tell them one thing. I just say, "You know one song can change everything for you. Everything."

They say, "I can't afford the gear. We've no lights. We've no PA. I'm unemployed." I just say, "Put it into the song. Don't put it to me. Put it in a song and I'll listen to it then."

One young punk came up to me and said, "We can't even afford strings, man. You've got fucking airplanes." I said, "We wrote 'I Will Follow' on two strings. If you can't get two strings together, fuck off!"

The Cabernet Grapes of Wrath Tour '95

The Cabernet Grapes of Wrath Tour '95

The Boss' working-stiff act is unconvincing


Twenty years ago Jon Landau penned the deathless phrase, "I have seen rock
'n' roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." In return,
Springsteen made the critic his manager. Now, after two dud CDs and with
his creative career in limbo, Springsteen has tried to reinvent himself as
"folk music past." His new acoustic LP, "Looking for The Ghost of Tom
Joad," is all muffled ballads about folks paralyzed in quiet desperation:
the ex-con who can't bring himself to steal; the illegal Mexicano watching
his friend blow up in the meth lab they're tending; the border guard who
can't do his job without aiding an illegal piece of skirt.

My guess is that after he won an Oscar for "Streets of Philadelphia," Bruce figured, "If I earn all those plaudits for impersonating a noble homo afflicted with AIDS, why not churn out an LP portraying a roster of desperate souls paralyzed on the margins of contemporary society?" And the live show, at least, has scored reverential write-ups.

God knows it's easier to listen earnestly to one of Springsteen's dark
ballads than to actually talk to a homeless person and engage him as a
human being. But if people start believing that the former is brave and
sufficient penance for failing to do the latter, then what Bruce has
proffered becomes practically pernicious. It's reminiscent of all those
folks who wept after seeing "Schindler's List" and then sat idly by, or
flipped the channel, as reports of ethnic cleansing, mass rape and the
systematic slaughter of unarmed people poured in from Bosnia.

I don't want to be too cynical, but this is all just a little too
vicariously empathetic. I thought the title cut of Springsteen's CD was an
admission that Steinbeck's hero, who embodies the common cause found among
outcasts, is MIA in our contemporary "Depression." But in concert
Springsteen talked about being recently moved anew by the movie "The Grapes of Wrath" and recited Joad's speech about "there only being one big soul that we're all a part of" as a current truth rather than an ironic
counterpoint to the distances between his songs' subjects and his well-heeled audiences on his current short series of $40-a-head acoustic recitals.

Those distances are pretty surreal. Bruce opened his recent show in
Berkeley, California saying, "Silence played an important role when I wrote these songs so I'd appreciate it if you could keep quiet. Down in LA, their cell phones made me have to get heavy with some super models." I figured that was a crack indicating some awareness of the income bracket he was attracting, but it was probably just the truth. And when Springsteen introduced one song by saying that many folks are just a few paychecks away from homelessness, and that he'd found himself imagining not being able to care for his wife or help his kids -- I'm sorry, but I couldn't quite suspend that much disbelief, not while gazing at a guy who figured in the Forbes 500.

Finally, I don't know how important Springsteen thinks it is that the
people he's evincing such profound sympathy for be reached or touched by
these tunes where he impersonates their misery. I don't know if he hopes
the songs will reach much beyond folks (like me) who pay their PBS pledges
with airline mileage credit cards. But I couldn't help but think that Woody and Dylan made some effort to run with the folks about whom they wrote - and to craft music in a vernacular they shared. Springsteen is more concerned with invoking his subject's plausible cultural and historical antecedents than their current tastes, needs, or concerns. (Hell, the folks he's singing about are probably listening to gangsta rap, Metallica, and Garth Brooks.) His Carveresque tales of desperation amongst the marginalized seem contrived from an uncomfortable distance, and I doubt that many of the songs' subjects dropped four Alexander Hamiltons for a chance to catch him in Berkeley.

In Preston Sturges' film "Sullivan's Travels," Joel McCrea plays a
successful Hollywood director of screwball comedies who feels compelled by
the Depression to make a serious Capra-esque film about social justice.
Setting off disguised as a bum, he ends up jailed in a dismal Southern
prison. At a rare screening for the prisoners, McCrea discovers that the
anarchic humor of a cartoon provides the cons with glorious brief respite
from their grim lives. McCrea learns first-hand that a dose of laughter and delight can offer the oppressed something they need far more than any earnest indictment of social ills.

Of course Sturges managed to have it both ways: crafting a gloriously
improbable comedy with an astute social conscience. The point, though, is
that a "rock" LP by the Boss stands a much better chance of appealing to
the misfits chronicled on "Looking for the Ghost of Tom Joad," and offering them some visceral inspiration, than the mock-daguerrotypes on his current release. If seeing "The Grapes of Wrath" helped shape Springsteen's current LP, Landau ought to send him to "Sullivan's Travels" before he undertakes another.

from San Francisco Examiner Image - 2/16/92

The Ecstatic Cybernetic Amino Acid Test
By Cynthia Robins

Some people voice doubt as to whether a genuine youth movement can grow out of these profitable high-tech parties. ToonTown's New Year's Eve gate was reported to be $175,000; a recent Saturday night rave called the Gathering packed more than 700 people into the Stone at $15 a pop. The commercial nature of the rave scene makes some observers skeptical. Adam Block, rock critic for _The Advocate_ and an astute observer of the local scene, says "The ToonTown monstrosity on New Year's Eve struck me as a pretentious, silly rip-off. These kids have stumbled into a social and cultural void that entreprenuers are exploiting. The raves have been appropriated from their underground roots and sold with all kinds of cyberpunk double-talk as ecstatic communalism. I'd say it's an awfully yuppie form of Dionysian celebration." Older scenester- hipsters like Rob "Rob Chop" Vance look around at the sonic youth and snort, "This scene's in tatters. It's teentown."

GLAAD Media Briefs -- September 24, 1993

by Al Kielwasser

Secrets Behind the Songs

Did you know that the Beatles 1965 hit "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" was a queer love ballad? So says reporter and pop culture critic Adam Block, in an essay in The People's Almanac Presents The Book of Lists: The 90s Edition, published by Little, Brown & Co. and due out this month. An excerpt from that essay also appears in the September 5th edition of Parade Magazine, a nation-wide supplement included in the Sunday editions of many newspapers.

John Lennon wrote "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" after spending a weekend with his gay manager, Brian Epstein. Block also reports that, according to lead singer Bono, the U2 song "One" is "about a boy with AIDS, addressing his father." All proceeds from the single's release went to AIDS charities. The lyric, in part, sings: "You act like you never had love/and you want me to go without/We're one, but we're not the same!/We've got to carry each other, carry each other. However, Block observes that "shorn of its context, few have heard the song as the singer did."

Send comments to Walter Anderson, Editor, Parade Magazine, 750 Third Ave., New York, NY 10017.

"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" THE BEATLES

"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" THE BEATLES

In the spring of 1965, shortly after the birth of his son Julian, John
Lennon took a brief holiday in Barcelona with the Beatles gay manager,
Brian Epstein was clearly enamored of Lennon, and more than one biography
(and a brilliant short film inspired by their specualtion, The Hours and
Times) suggests that there, in Spain, Epstein made a last, valiant effot to consumate their relationship. After they returned, Lennon wrote this ballad.

Although Lennon never addressed the subject, and the song was'nt recroded
until February of 1965 (for the Help soundtrack) gay British
singer/songwriter Tom Robinson was always convinced that it was Lennon's
gift to Epstein - penned form the closeted manager's perpspective. Robinson took its title for his cabaret show of "gay" pop songs.

"How Do You Sleep"? JOHN LENNON

In the wake of the Beatles split, Paul Mccartney adopted a faintly pompous
and condescending attitude toward John and Yoko. When he issued his LP Ram, the cover featured gnetleman farmer Paul hugging a sheep, while in "Too Many People", he sang to his former partner as if he were chucking him under the chin: "You took your lucky break, and broke it in two./Now what can be done for you?"

Lennon responded with venom. With laconic rage he punned off two of Paul's song titles singing, "The inly thing you've done was 'Yesterday',/And since you're gone you're 'Just another day'. With the LP, Lennon included a photo parodying Ram's cover: Lennon hugging an immense hog.

"Sexy Sadie", THE BEATLES

In Febraury 1968, with "Magical Mystery Tour" topping the U.S. charts, the Beatles flew to India to study meditation at the Maharishi Mahesh Yoga's ashram in Rishikesh. Ringo was the first to bail, comparing the place to "a Butkins Holiday camp". By the time a dissilusioned Lenon packed his bags, he was already writing his pointed assault on the bubbly, rotund little holy man. Once he was dubbed Sexy Sadie, it was hard to think of hims as anyone else.

(Source: People's Almanac by: Adam Block. He is a San Francisco based investigative journalist and pop-culture critic whose work has been featured in the London Observer, California magazine, Mother Jones, Image, Parenting and Manshots. He is also a columnists for the Advocate and has
contributed annotaged lists of "homo-negative and pro-homo pop songs" to the Alyson Alamanac)

posted by infraternam meam

review of Dave Marsh: Louie Louie - ArtForum, Dec, 1993

The original "Louie Louie" was an r&b shuffle cut by Richard Berry in Los
Angeles in 1956. Five years later Seattle's Wailers reinvented the song as
a frat-rock rave-up. In 1963, Portland's Kingsmen--an obscure high school
combo--cut the passionately inept rendition that scaled Billboard's singles chart.

But the story didn't end there, for if "Louie Louie" is one of rock's most
insubstantial texts, it is also among its most resilient. Twenty years
later, in 1983, a college radio station, promising to play "every version
of the song in existence," solicited renditions, with the slogan "Three
chords and no talent is all you need." Eight hundred versions ran more than 63 hours. That weekend "Louie Louie" achieved mythic status as an icon of rock 'n' roll's capacity to democratize culture.
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The ensuing decade saw two Best of Louie Louie CDs, multicity "Louie Louie" parades, a zine devoted to the song, a wine-cooler campaign, and a bill to make it Washington State's official song. All of this fuss for an unabashed piece of trash.

In Louie Louie, Dave Marsh charts the song's history, and inflates its
mystery. Considering how much of the song's notoriety descends from thirty
years of arguments about the lyrics--which the Kingsmen had rendered
largely indecipherable--it's ironic that the song's publishers have denied
Marsh permission to quote them. Recounting the FBI's obscenity
investigation, though, he does contribute "official accounts" of the "dirty lyrics" that concerned citizens swore to the Bureau they'd heard on the record.

Marsh argues that the song's crucial power resides not in the words but in
the riff that refused to die: those five notes (duh duh duh. duh duh)
possessed a nearly occult power to lodge permanently in a listener's mind.
Marsh tackles questions about originality and appropriation as he traces
the riff from L.A.'s early r&b/doowop scene, where the original song
emerged, through its reinvention in the Pacific Northwest, following its
trail through the song's bizarre reemergence in the '80s.

The history of "Louie Louie" is a whale of a tale. Unfortunately, Marsh has awkwardly submerged and muddied it in this text. At some sorry juncture he decided to cast the song as the Rosetta Stone in a heretofore hidden history of rock 'n' roll, making it a talisman against all claims that art demands expertise. In the process he finds its signature riff ticking at the heart of every genre, and era, since the Kingsmen's.

His capacity for divining the song's influence seems almost clairvoyant. He finds it concealed in a staggering array of tunes: not just in the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night," but rewritten by the Who as "My
Generation," disguised in Tim Buckley's "Wanda Lu," deconstructed in the
opening of Hendrix's "Purple Haze," ticking at the heart of Boston's "More
Than a Feeling," and resurrected by dint of a shared "root emotion" in the
Stories' ballad "Brother Louie." While Marsh begins by aptly following
"Louie" where it leads, too soon he is finding it everywhere. Therein lies
the hubris that curdles this book's real accomplishments.

The best and freshest material in Louie Louie reflects Marsh's original
research. He interviewed Richard Berry at length, and he crafts a nuanced
portrait of L.A.'s r&b scene in the '50s and of the song's author's life.
It is a remarkable saga that could stand alone as a dark, unintentionally
comic, r&b Book of Job--one that's redeemed by a happy ending so cheesy
John Waters could have penned it.

Following the song's trail to the Pacific Northwest, Marsh again offers a
wealth of detail, but the account is marred by repeated attempts to infuse
the mundane with the force of myth. Thus the Wailers' lead singer's shout
"Let's give it to 'em right now," which cuts a guitar solo, becomes a
cultural epiphany. The youthful exuberance of the local bands is glibly and pretentiously equated with the pathological materialism of the Northwest Indian potlatch. Finally, Marsh seems to overlook the one fact that may be most remarkable about the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie."

The history of rock 'n' roll repeatedly charts the appropriation of r&b
hits by white artists, who would fish them out of the gutbucket and hose
off the funk--enunciating all the carnal erotic swamp out of the lyrics to
make them fit for mainstream consumption. "Louie Louie," for the first
time, turned this tradition on its head: a group of middleclass, white
teenagers took a chaste, adult r&b shuffle and remade it as a salacious
howl, fueled by their thundering hormones. Their teen yawp was a world
apart from anything in Berry's version--which the Kingsmen, incidentally,
hadn't even heard.

Berry's claim on the Kingsmen's "Louie" seems remarkably paltry, so making
Berry's bio this book's narrative spine seems almost like draping a study
of Duchamp's Fountain over the tale of the gent who designed the urinal.
Marsh seems compelled to conflate the two tales, as he similarly
exaggerates the song's ability to baffle the FBI, and paints critics
Geoffrey Stokes and Robert Ray as blind to its mysteries--suggesting how
few have mastered its deep, anarchic, interracial mojo. By the end of his
book Marsh is claiming Richard Berry as the forebear of both rapper Ice-T
and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, insisting, with typical understatement, "Louie
Louie" shaped the modern rock 'n' roller's entire world."

Marsh has gathered fascinating stories and inspired insights, but there's
hardly one that he doesn't belabor, exaggerate, or proffer as proof of the
preposterous. What makes this overreaching so frustrating is the toll it
takes on the substantial accomplishment that is cached in this volume.

There is more to "Louie Louie" than meets the ear, and those who can abide
Marsh's excesses will find most of the evidence here. It would have been
far better, though, had he simply told its story. For in the quest to trace the id of pop to "duh duh duh. duh duh," Marsh stacks so many dimes on the tonearm of his skipping record that it grinds to a halt.

San Francisco-based writer Adam Block grew up in Seattle to the strains of
"Louie Louie." His recent work has appeared in Mother Jones, Out,
Filmmaker, and Parade.

From The Advocate (Los Angeles), Oct. 22, 1991

The second edition of The Encyclopaedia of Gay and Lesbian Recordings will be published on August 30th 1992. The new volume already contains over 400 new titles documented since the first edition, as well as additional indexing and biographical notes.

"There is a remarkable piece of gay pop scholarship I can recommend. Jay McLaren has spent six years working on The Encyclopaedia of Gay and Lesbian Recordings, cataloging an international roster of artists, lyrics, and performances that announce a queer presence in recorded music. His 79-page illustrated chapbook ia a labor of love and obsession and a valuable resource. It's neither flawless nor finished. Erasure is listed, but its most explicit gay lyric, "Hideaway," is overlooked. Obscure wonders like the Impotent Sea Snakes are cataloged, while Kitchens of Distinction and Sister Double Happiness are absent. The John Denver-Placido Domingo duet "Perhaps Love" is listed as suggestively gay but not Steely Dan's unavoidable "Ricki Don't Lose That Number." These are quibbles, though, because McLaren's monumental undertaking is rich with rewards."

- Adam Block

Summer and Smoke - The Advocate (mid 80s)

The Advocate (mid 80s)
Summer and Smoke
by Adam Block

"Donna Summer is not homophobic," a closeted gay executive at her record
company insisted recently, sounding terminally exasperated. "She's just a
dumb [anatomical expletive deleted]."

Charming, but that wasn't exactly the kind of official response to angry
complaints over the lady's public remarks that fervent fans were looking
for. They had crowned the pinch-nosed diva the queen of disco back in 1975, when the amyl set owned that music. The lady was gay royalty.

To be fair, Donna Summer never asked to be acclaimed as heroine of the
homos, and I don't recall even fanatics looking to her for political
leadership or wisdom. Her Moroder/Bellotte hits ("Love To Love You, Baby,"
"I Feel Love," "Bad Girls" and "Hot Stuff" were divine let's fuck anthems
set to relentless disco rhythms. Of course, gay men were pioneers at
treating mindless, marathon fucking as a courageous political activity.

In 1980, after five years as a reigning voice of the disco scene, Summer
began to take control of her own career. She sued her manager, left her
record company, remarried and became a "born-again" Christian. In 1983,
touring behind her comeback smash "She Works Hard For The Money," Summer
had graduated from the gay discos to suburban arenas. She was also making
small talk between numbers. Gay fans followed her to the burbs, and if the
shows struck them as careful and gutless, her remarks astonished and
enraged many.

There were reports of Summer reminding the crowd, "It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," a line I thought belonged to Anita Bryant. She reportedly told gays in her audience, "I'll pray for you tonight." And when questioned about gay rights, she is reported to have responded, "I've seen the evil homosexuality come out of you people... AIDS is your sin," finally closing, "Now don't get me wrong; God loves you. But not the way you are now."

Some fans were livid. An angry account appeared in the Village Voice. In
England, DJ/producer Ian Levine banned her music from Heaven, the popular
disco, and called for a total boycott in the British pop press. Summer and
her management stonewalled the issue. The aforementioned gay exec proudly
claims that he personally "got her to drop that idiotic 'Adam and Steve'

When outspoken gay/socialist trio Bronski Beat covered Summer's "I Feel
Love" on their debut LP, the issue resurfaced. My esteemed colleague John
Bryant (Male Review) noted once that once Bronski Beat were told of her
remarks, they responded in disgust, "Donna Summer is dead," but continued
to perform the song. The notion of gay men making the song their own didn't
cut much ice with Bryant, who thundered that Summer's royalties from
Bronski's version "go to the right-wing Christian Hate Campaign through
Summer's donations and promotion." Bryant was appalled to find that DJs ad
L.A.'s popular gay discos Probe and Studio One refused to ban her discs.
His requests for an interview with Summer went unanswered.

This spring, Lorne Michaels and the other organizers of an AIDS benefit in
New York reportedly contacted David Geffen to see if his record company
wanted to provide an act for the show. Summer reportedly volunteered but
was rejected by organizers because of her by now infamous remarks. That
rejection apparently shook Summer from her complacency.

Though Summer declined a request from THE ADVOCATE to be interviewed on the subject, Warner Brothers sent a statement from the singer to both the
Village Voice and to our own pop music desk. This was not a retraction, but an apology.

"It is very difficult for me to believe this terrible misunderstanding
continues. Since the very beginning of my career, I have had tremendous
support and friendship from many in the gay community. It is a source of
great concern to me that anything I may have said has cast me as
homophobic. My medium of expression is music, all I can ask for is
understanding as I feel my true feelings have been misrepresented. As a
Christian, I have nothing but love for everyone and I recognize it is not
my place to judge others. I believe with all my heart and soul that AIDS is a tragedy for all humankind. A cure must be found and all of us have to do whatever we can to help."

Summer isn't ready to celebrate homosexuality or even condone it. The irony is that so many gays, celebrating their sexuality to her performances, assumed that she, too, rejoiced in it. Her music is very much the property of the people who scored their life to it. They own it as profoundly as she does. But the don't own her, not her religion, her politics nor her royalty checks.

When fans identify with music they adore, and with the artists who make it, that doesn't insure that the artist sees herself through their eyes, or ˆ if she does ˆ that she likes the image. Somehow I don't think Donna
Summer's dream was ever to be a musical standard bearer for butt-fucking,
urban nightclubbers. What hurt gay fans was that she didn't seem to have
developed any real compassion for them (at least until this belated
statement was issued).

Reborn, Summer seemed to have blithely accepted the Christian bigotry of
the Christian right towards gays as gospel. If that made Summer's
understanding of gays painfully shallow, it also showed how facile gay fans have been in celebrating glamour and the very idea of stardom. The equation is as simple as pop gets: Summer had a glossy package to sell. We were buying.

So what's love got to do with it? Isn't it a bit much to get all huffy
about the contents when you were only shelling out for the package? After
all, Summer's still singing about love, and you can still dance to it.

Right, and love does have lots to do with it, because that's where the
bitterness erupted: from the breach between the sensual sexuality she once
celebrated and the Christian exaltation she has replaced it with. In the
worst of worlds, the first devolves to simple greedy lust, the second to
righteous bigotry; and though curiously similar, they are inevitably at
loggerheads. In the best of worlds, the two aren't at odds; both are
illuminated by compassion and gratitude. Donna, and her fans, seem to have
lost sight of that.

Summer got caught in the middle of a public dialog between gay lib and the
new Christian right, between gay fans expectations of the queen of disco
and those of her fellow Christians. And she handled it badly. But Donna
Summer is no more a homophobe than many other more tactful artists, and no
more of a dumb [anatomical expletive deleted] than many of her gay fans.
Those are the unpleasant truths that the glare of the disco-ecstasy Summer
swept in on conveniently obscured.

Now isn't it about time she put out an album we could care enough about to
consider raising the roof - or boycotting?