Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s book “How Democracies Die” couldn’t have come at a better time. The patient in question has been run over by a truck that was paid for and manufactured by the Koch Brothers and the Kremlin and is being driven by a tax evading robber baron of bankruptcy laws and sometime reality TV show host who conned his way behind the steering wheel. He’s being cheered on by an audience of Kid Rock and Sarah Palin fans like it’s Evel Knievel at Snake River. Let us warn you folks, it doesn’t end well. There’s a lot of bragging and boasting and bellowing and then you end up beaten and bruised at the bottom of a dry river bed.
It’s hard not to imagine Tom Wolfe or Phillip Roth rolling their eyes in disgust when they learn that 90s skate punk bands are getting book deals, presumably to recount enthralling tales of the one time on tour when they duct taped the drummers butt cheeks together, or the bass player downed a bottle of Jamo and woke up spooning a tranny. Fine literature is for educated intellectuals, not bros with guitars and wallet chains. So what to make of NOFX’s book, The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories landing near the top of the New York Times bestsellers list?
Anyone who knows the history of Black Flag knows about Spot. The legendary South Bay lensman had a brief tenure as bass player in the band but went on to produce most of their earlier E.P.s and helped build the legendary Media Arts studio where most of their seminal tracks were put to tape. He then began taking photos professionally of the local surf, skate and music scene in the late 70s and early 80s for beach newspaper the Easy Reader. His photo collection, Sounds of Two Eyes Opening – Southern California Life: Skate/Beach/Punk 1969-1982 displays his considerable talents with convincing proof.
My favorite type of non-fiction books are of the ‘Why do us crazy humans do the things we do?’ variety. Any time I go on tour there’s usually a stack of them in my bunk. Some of the best in this genre are Driven: How Nature Shapes Our Choices, by Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria, The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan, and Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor E. Frankl, among countless others. Greg Graffin, Bad Religion frontman and college professor has been asking and answering that question on stage and in classrooms for better than 30 years.
The first time I heard Bad Brains was when I bought the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation. The comp had great bands like FLIPPER, D.O.A., Black Flag and Dead Kennedy’s, but when the Bad Brains song Pay to Cum came on it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. First of all, the song was played ridiculously fast. I still don’t think there’s a song that’s been released anywhere that even comes close in sheer velocity. And then there’s H.R.’s vocals, a blistering stream of consonants and syllables so ferociously jammed together it sounded like auctioneer at cattle sale hopped up on enough speed to power an 18 wheeler cross country. Twice.