COLUMN 116, APRIL 1, 2005
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
DECONSTRUCTING HUNTER S. THOMPSON
"I have heard that there was once a beneficent non-habit-forming junk in India. It was called soma and is pictured as a beautiful blue tide. If soma ever existed the Pusher was there to bottle it and monopolize it and sell it and it turned into plain old time JUNK."
--- William Burroughs, Naked Lunch.
Until his funeral, I'd
never read much Hunter S. Thompson. In 1974, I trudged through a Playboy
excerpt from the Great White Shark Hunt. All I remember is some rental
car getting bashed about in Cancun (where I now live), then a very remote beach
destination still under construction. Mexico was still a very poor and largely
undeveloped country. I knew that the clerk who rented him that car would have to
answer to a very angry owner or manager. This, perhaps unfairly, turned me
against Hunter S. Thompson.
I did not get many further
opportunities to sample his work in subsequent years. I was never a Rolling
Stone reader even during the very brief period I was writing for the
publication. I lived in Mexico for much of the 1970s, leaving the United States
for good in 1981. On the day of his burial, however, I came across an unread
copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" in an otherwise depleted box
of books my daughter left with us on her last visit. I read this twice to make
sure I was getting it all right, laughing out loud
Judging by Fear and
Loathing, no one can dismiss Thompson's technical skills as a writer, nor
the profound sincerity of his mostly libertarian political positions. He
portrays himself with great honesty (laced with some obvious hyperbole, to be
sure) as a degenerate alcoholic drug glutton spinning out on a wild binge. At
his best, he's hysterically funny; at his worst, he is a bit tedious, but always
He never has a good word to
say about drugs, whose effects are always described at their most
malign---vomiting, paranoia, horrible hallucinations, outrageously anti-social
acting out, loss of motor control, stupor. This is not surprising, as he
grotesquely overdoses on bizarre mixtures of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine,
mescaline, LSD, amyl nitrate, ether and adrenochrome.
To me, Hunter S. Thompson
was a literary Cheech and Chong. In 1980, I saw my first Cheech and Chong
movie---the one with Timothy Leary acting an ugly caricature of himself in a
prison cell. I did not laugh once. I came away disgusted, with the feeling that
they were government agents on a mission to discredit marijuana users. In
retrospect, I decided that they were adaptions to a certain media slot---the
dopey doper--- rather than conscious agents of some DEA conspiracy highly paid
to mock their own kind in the most stereotypical terms possible.
Descriptions of Leary's
behavior in subsequent years remind me of Hunter S. Thompson. I don't know if
Leary was an alcoholic, but substitute nitrous oxide for Gran Marnier and
To be fair, all
three---Thompson, Leary and Hoffman---did bring radical ideas to great mass
audiences, but ultimately they resemble the worst case junkies we read about. Do
we ever hear about heroin users who are merely users rather than desperate
addicts? The DEA and its allies are fighting medical marijuana viciously because
they have to obliterate the image of respectable citizens using a very
effective, if illegal, remedy for their physical and emotional dysfunctions. The
DEA goes down in flames if that picture dominates the media stage, not to speak
of its effect on pharmaceutical stocks. Do they want people to be able to grow
their own opium poppies and marijuana in window boxes?
Those who see marijuana,
psychedelics and other drugs as holy sacraments to help humans get through the
pain and boredom of life in industrial society are understandably reluctant to
criticize the often humorous dopey doper media celebrities.
Many laugh along, admiring
their skill and success as comedians. Others cringe silently at the stereotyped
gags, like Jews in Nazi Germany or people of color in white society.
Lenin never did really say
that communism could always count on useful idiots on the left, but today, when
it comes to illegal drugs and alternative politics, the forces of repression can
always count on useful idiots to take the Cheech and Chong syndrome bait.
SIEGEL's writing on cutting edge social issues has been published in Playboy,
Rolling Stone, the Village Voice and many other publications. His latest
book, Mad Laughter, Fragments of a Life in Progress is now available at http://www.lulu.com/jules
FOR AS LONG AS PEOPLE KEEP LISTENING TO BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES, PEOPLE WILL WANT THIS BOOK
"A masterpiece!" --- SALLY GROSSMAN, widow of Bob Dylan's brilliant original manager, Albert Grossman.
"This book is a must-read for all rock 'n roll aficionados!"---EAR CANDY
"An essential reference for demystifying what the author refers to as: 'one of the most self-destructive binges of creativity in cultural history.'"---HAMMOND GUTHRIE, COUNTERPUNCH MAGAZINE
"Required Reading for anyone and everyone who considers themselves fans, followers, students, or those just plain curious of the Golden Age of Popular Music"---GARY PIG GOLD, FUFKIN.COM.
"I love the book. I love the way you can open it to any page and start reading and it keeps you reading. The book is just fun to read." --LEVON HELM, Drummer of THE BAND from Big Pink.
"Ellis Paul and I love your book."---RALPH JACCODINE, Ralph Jaccodine Management.
". . .perfect for our times."---WOODSTOCK TIMES
Duritz (he's the lead singer and writer for the famed
". . .a must read for anyone who loves, music, loves life, loves rock and roll."---TSAURAH LITZKY, author of The Motion of the Ocean, Baby on the Water, and Goodbye Beautiful Mother.
"I recommend it."---DOUGLAS HOLDER, IBBETSON STREET PRESS.
. .It is a fascinating, insightful read. You are such a wonderful
writer."---STEPHANIE LEDGIN, Music
"I could not put this book of yours down for a minute."---ED GALING, POET LAUREATE OF HATBORO, PA.
"Quite simply, Al Aronowitz is a living legend"---JOHN FORTUNATO, THE AQUARIAN.
"Every student and fan of The Beat Generation, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones will want to read this book"---RON WHITEHEAD, POET
"Volume One Of The Blacklisted Journalist is the kinda tome what a fella can dip into at any given point and find oneself hooked within a couple paragraphs"---DUKE DE MONDO, BLOGCRITICS.ORG.
BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES, VOLUME ONE OF THE BEST OF THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST
The sometimes scattered chronicles of
the rock journalist's friendship with a few of the most recognizable music icons
in rock and pop history.
certainly takes a bit of hubris to say that "the '60s wouldn't have been
the same without me."
But coming from Al Aronowitz, the former music columnist for the New York
Post who was often called "the godfather of rock journalism," such
sentiment is perhaps justified.
Here, in a compilation of many of his unpublished manuscripts, Aronowitz
describes in candid yet affectionate detail his friendships with Bob Dylan and
the Beatles. As
a music writer and fan who recognized the musicians' limitless potential early
in their careers, Aronowitz decided to bring them together for the first time,
in a New York City hotel in 1964, a meeting that also involved the Beatles'
introduction to marijuana. His prescience was soon bolstered by the 1965
releases of Dylan's Highway 61
the Beatles' Rubber Soul, both seminal albums that altered the landscape
of pop music. This
landmark moment is just one of Aronowitz's colorful memories and musings of
being a hanger-on with these legends and their associates, including The Band,
Beatles manager Brian Epstein, poet Allen Ginsberg, deejay Murray the K and
provocative are the accounts of Dylan's erratic behavior and short temper, which
often led to fitful confrontations and even the ending of friendships, including
that between Dylan and the author.
It's also evident that Aronowitz was particularly fond of George
Harrison, and the two remained friends until Harrison's death in 2001.
Most remarkable is the close proximity he maintained to these gods,
whether he was at their homes, hoteI rooms, recording studios, or concerts.
Though his personal life certainly had its share of woes (particularly
bankruptcy and his wife's death), Aronowitz exhibits a marked sense of
pride---and rightly so---for playing a key role in music history,
An enticing backstage pass to the meeting of arguably the two most influential acts in rock history.
"BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES: Volume One Of The Best Of The Blacklisted Journalist is a golden stash box of Al's You-Are-There history of two thirds of rock's Holy Troika"---MICHAEL SIMMONS, LA WEEKLY.
". . .Amazing stories in this book" ---JAY LUSTIG, NEWARK STAR LEDGER
". . .Aronowitz has a place in the annals of history that nothing can erase"---DAVID DANKWA, GAZETTE LEADER
". . .Aronowitz has a simple, straightforward writing style that makes the reading go fast. . ."---JEFFERY LINDHOLM, DIRTY LINEN
"Aronowitz. . .witnessed things that most rock fanswould give an arm and a leg to see"---REGIS BEHE, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE REVIEW
"The best of Aronowitz's writing. . . offer riotous and rambling time capsules comprising detailed vignettes and told in a voice that's direct, disarming and self-deprecating"---MIKE MILIARD, BOSTON PHOENIX
". . .Addictive reading" ---GOLDMINE MAGAZINE
you are truly interested in the 'behind
the scenes' events of people who spawned an entirely new direction in the time
we identify as the sixties, this book is truly for you!"---JOHN
IN THIS 615-PAGE PAPERBACK, AL ARONOWITZ, ACCLAIMED AS THE "GODFATHER OF ROCK JOURNALISM," TELLS YOU MORE ABOUT BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES THAN ANY OTHER WRITER CAN TELL YOU BECAUSE NO OTHER WRITER WAS THERE AT THE TIME. AS THE MAN WHO INTRODUCED ALLEN GINSBERG TO BOB DYLAN, BOB DYLAN TO THE BEATLES AND THE BEATLES TO MARIJUANA, ARONOWITZ BOASTS, "THE '60S WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN THE SAME WITHOUT ME."
AND HERE'S ANOTHER BOOK BY AL ARONOWITZ!
THE MOVIE WAS FICTION. THE TRUE STORY IS STRANGER THAN FICTION: FOR MOST OF HIS SHORT BUT SPECTACULAR LIFE, BOBBY DARIN UNKNOWINGLY LIVED A LIE
". . .A highly entertaining and informative read"--HAMMOND GUTHRIE, THE THIRD PAGE
". . .Its 43 chapters provide snapshots of Darin's brief, sensational life>" ---GOLDMINE MAGAZINE
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