FIFTY-SEVEN, MARCH 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
LOOKING AT ALCATRAZ
is a city that tear gasses its doctors, lawyers and housewives, shoots live
bullets at its students and would rather let an unused plot of ground stay a
garbage dump than turn it into a park. Across
the bay lies San Francisco, bright, happy and mysterious, its lights winking and
beckoning like girls from a whorehouse balcony. But I keep looking out my hotel room window and seeing
here for a party. Creedence
Clearwater Revival has a new album and John Fogerty has been telling members of
the Rock Press that he wants his group to have the same cultural import as the
Beatles. The Rock Press? I wish I could boast about having done something more heinous
than to be considered one of its members. Is
that what got me sentenced to this hotel room?
Just a minute, folks. I'm
going to take another look at Alcatraz.
The album is called Pendulum
and John and the rest of his group say it's the most monumental work of their
career. It may very well be.
Certainly this is, the most monumental party Fantasy Records has ever
thrown. For $30,000, a Hollywood
press agency named Rogers, Cowan and Brenner has flown in the “choicest”
writers the Rock Press has to offer and put them up at the Hotel Claremont, a
drafty resort hostelry with miles of worn carpeted corridors, no pictures on the
walls, one elevator and paint peeling off the ceilings.
You've never heard of the Rock
Press? You feed them chicken legs,
and they write nice things about you.
I knew I had been trapped the minute I stepped on the plane and the stewardess told me we were going to see Barbra Streisand in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. Never
brownies didn't help;
I was a member of
a captive audience
I had to sit through such contrived tedium.
That is, not until I got to Berkeley.
Someone passed around a tin of spiced brownies, but that didn't help.
Neither did taking off the earphones.
When you're a member of the Rock Press, you take what you can get
and run. When you're a smart press
agent, you don't let the Rock Press run until you've given it everything you
want it to get. The first thing
John Fogerty said before Creedence started to play for us at the party was that
he always wanted a captive audience.
As I said, the party cost $30,000.
A Rogers, Cowan and Brenner press release said it cost $60,000 but
then RC&B are old hands at making everything look twice as big. Media
manipulation? They ought to work
for Richard Nixon. When we arrived
at San Francisco International Airport, we were herded into a bus that deposited
us at this hotel. In each
room we found a basket containing a banana, an apple, an orange, some grapes and
a half-bottle of red wine. Later
on, a bellhop knocked at our doors, distributing laminated wall plaques.
These were our itineraries.
"Hi!" the wall
plaque said. "Welcome to the
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL GALA. We've
planned a wild, wicked weekend (with the help of our record company--Fantasy-Galaxy
Records), a once-in-a-lifetime spin through the center of American political
eye fell to the item at 3:30 P.m.: "After the screening, you'll have three
whole hours (180 minutes) in which to (Check one:) 1. Take a nap. 2. Go shopping
in Berkeley. 3. Organize a protest march. 4. Go back to Cosmo's for some quick
pool or ping pong. . . or some quick ping or pool pong. . . 5. Just hang out
with the other journalistic power elite at COSMO'S FACTORY. . . "
is an old warehouse in the Berkeley industrial district that Creedence uses as a
poolroom, a basketball court, a clubhouse and a rehearsal hall.
For the occasion, it was decorated with balloons overhead and fake grass
underfoot. There were tables with
pine sprigs, candles and place settings. A
caterer called Pot Luck provided the food.
Someone said he couldn't tell whether he was at a Polish wedding or a
Jewish b'rith. And yet, it felt
good at Cosmo's Factory. I wish I
were there right now instead of looking at Alcatraz from my hotel room.
point is that Creedence didn't need this party any more than I did. Of their five previous releases, they've sold 5,700,000
copies. Their new album, Pendulum,
was released only last week and already 1,000,000 orders have been filled.
What Creedence has accomplished
has been done without hype, on an almost unknown label and by music alone.
As for me, I didn't go to this party to be served champagne on a cattle
car. I went to pay homage and
participate in a celebration. What do
free chicken legs have to do with music? There
are only a handful of groups in this country who are as together as
Creedence is and, as drummer Doug Clifford said, "We're more together now
than we ever were."
things turned out, all that was missing during this wild weekend were name
badges to hang over our hearts. They
also could have used numbers. Most
of my time here has been spent trapped in this hotel room.
When I should have been out organizing a protest march, I was on the
telephone trying to rent a car. You've
probably heard that cash is no longer any good in this country.
When I called Hertz, they'd only accept a credit card.
As for trying harder. Avis wouldn't even answer the phone.
I got up to look out my window at San Francisco beckoning and there was
Alcatraz staring me in the face. I'm
still here, looking at Alcatraz.
that the weekend is over, I feel like I ought to take a bath. I still haven't listened to Creedence's new album yet.
I've been too busy trying to break out of my hotel room.
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