Monday, October 8, 2018

Dublin | Lefsetz Letter

Now that bummed me out. I figured I’d go see Phil Lynott’s statue. Hokey, I know, but what the hell, I’m here, and it’s not that far from the hotel. Not that I was so sure it was gonna be there, research told me it had been defaced, moved for construction, fans were frustrated they could not see it. I could not find it. I’m good with maps, but it eluded me. So, I turned on the directions and…

There it was. And it looked exactly like him. And I was the only one looking at him.

He was on a side street, behind those poles they use so cars won’t bump into things. You felt as if you came back tomorrow he could be gone, that his placement was temporary. But it was so eerie, because as I said above, it looked exactly like him, and we no longer expect this, in an era where there are constant brouhahas over art veering from reality, where commissioned portraits and sculptures are excoriated. It was like he was there but he wasn’t. The ringlets in his hair, his moustache, his lanky frame, his tie and jacket flowing in the wind. But he’s gone, dead and gone, for a long time. He lived until 36, he’s been gone since ’86, and I realized that as the assembled multitude walked by many had no idea who Phil Lynott was, they weren’t even born before he died.

And this was so different from the U2 exhibit at the Little Museum of Dublin. At this point, everybody hates Bono, except for a few dyed-in-the-wool Gen-X’ers. He’s so busy being larger than life that his identity has superseded the music, and that’s anathema. Everything is subservient to the tracks, your identity should be baked into the cuts, then again, U2 hasn’t created anything worth listening to in years. They’ve lost the thread, they made it to the pinnacle and took chances, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, and now they’re known best for invading your iPhone, if you think about them at all. And now they’re chasing hits, when it’s impossible for them to have one. Somehow they have to get back to basics, make music for themselves, and then possibly we can identify with it.

But once upon a time they were nobodies. That’s what you forget, how hard it is to make it. We live in an instant culture. It appears acts pop up on our radar screen and then disappear. And this does happen in the hip-hop world, usually aided by a more successful act, but it used to be you struggled, you were absolutely nowhere before you were somewhere, all you had was the dream, which you kept in your eye as you tried to dodge the minefields on the way to making a living, never mind becoming a household name.

That’s what interested me, the genesis. A lot was in that movie “It Might Get Loud,” but in this exhibit you could see the struggle. Changing names, being way down on the bill, playing to just a handful of people until…

That’s the funny thing about success, it’s not gradual. It trends upward, but then it goes thermonuclear, your dreams are fulfilled and you can barely cope with it.

So four unknowns from Dublin end up touring the world and impacting it. Going from local to global. This is the way it used to be. You formed a band. Unlike U2, it usually broke up. You found other players, you kept bouncing from here to there until you believed this one could truly go. But it never went without a manager, never ever. In this case Paul McGuinness. Since he’s been gone, the band’s not the same, they’ve been doing things they shouldn’t. Kinda like the “Joshua Tree” tour, which turned them into has-beens overnight, once you start playing albums from start to finish your days on the hit parade are over, those shows are a dash for cash, nostalgia, which is fine, unless you want to be au courant, and you know Bono wants to be.

And Bono is alternately out of the loop and a seer. Remove yourself from the street and you’ve got no idea what’s really happening. Fly at 35,000 feet in a private jet and you gain wisdom the punter can never get, like:

“In America you look up at the mansion on the hill and say, ‘One day that could be me.’ In Ireland they look up at the mansion on the hill and go ‘One day I’m gonna’ get that bastard.'”

There’s so much to unpack there that I won’t. But if you’ve been to both places it resonates.

And I’m here to interview Bob Geldof:

The Bob Lefsetz Podcast with Bob Geldof – Liberty Hall

That’s how far rock and roll will take you, from the Hollywood Bowl to the Liverpool docks to Liberty Hall. That’s what you’ll get by following the music. It’s all I did.

P.S. Looking at all the artifacts in the Little Museum I was stunned to realize that we only remember politicians and artists, and mostly the latter, and most of those we remember struggled and never got rich. And were pilloried by the populace on their journey. Meanwhile, all the businessmen are plowed under. Funny how everybody in America used to want to be an artist, now they all want to be businessmen, or famous, and there are a lot easier ways to become famous than being a musician.

P.P.S. Honestly, I thought “The Boys Were Back In Town” was a Bruce Springsteen rip-off. That Lynott had distilled the popular music of the States and fed it back to them, kinda like Tom Scholz with Boston. Then again, if you were alive back in ’76, the track was pounded into your brain with incessant radio play in an era where hits were known by everybody with ears, we burned out on stuff that now resonates, like “The Boys Are Back In Town.” But cruising the promo bin later that year I found “Johnny The Fox,” the follow-up to “Jailbreak,” and I took a chance. And this was when music was scarce, if you bought it, you played it, and you ended up knowing it. And one cut off of “Johnny The Fox” penetrated my brain, I thought of it when I saw Phil’s statue today.

There’s a girl I’ll remember
Oh, for such a long, long time
This girl I’ll remember
She was an old flame of mine

Rock, especially since punk, is known for being boisterous and in-your-face, as if without a whiskey in your hand it’s meaningless, but that’s not true, it’s the melancholy tunes that touch us most, the songs absent from the hit parade. The kind Taylor Swift sang before she became a whining winner. Everybody’s a winner in music today, they fear if they show vulnerability they’ll be voted off the island. But true artists are living in their own private Idaho anyway, so what different does it make?

Once this flame it did brightly blaze
Among the ashes there still remains
A glowing spark in my heart
For that old flame of mine

For Phil Lynott

For rock and roll.

“Old Flame”


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