RL386 - Pass the Dude

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John was there for the chainsaw incident, referring to a show by Agent Orange at the OK Hotel in Seattle where John was working security on stage when the singer cut himself with a chainsaw.

The show title refers to something people did in the mosh pit at Rock shows where they pick up a guy and pass him around the audience.

The recording starts with Gunter gleiben glauchen globen by Def Leppard.

John has Audio problems and started recording from his built-in microphone. While he fixes it Merlin imagines that his glasses are down at the end of his nose with his head back like Chuck Schumer. John is going to hot plug!

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Merlin needing a haircut (RL386)

Merlin is doing more Video chat than before because he has to and it is a lot of work. In this economy? He really needs a haircut, but his family has forbidden him to use the cat clippers on himself. They are probably worried that he will become a grotesquery. Merlin *needs* a haircut because his hair is unsightly and unruly, but John wonders to whom because Merlin doesn’t see anybody. He has Chester A. Arthur things going on the side. He has always been curious and a little envious of John’s ability to cut his own hair. He is willing to make a grotesquery out of himself with several bad haircuts and he figures he will eventually learn.

John gives Merlin a few tips, like cutting with the scissors parallel to the side of your head, pulling the hair out from the side of the head and then cut up. On top of the head you pull the hair up and cut across. John is using scissors, not clippers. You wet your hair, putt it out on the sides, give yourself that Joker look, like the guy in Firestarter and then you look like a prickly porcupine and from the top of the sideburn where your hair meets your face you want it to be the closest there and go up in a wedge, but not a OK Karen Mom-wedge, but up and out.

Keith Flint, Firestarter, The Prodigy (RL386)

Merlin likes to imagine that the guy from Firestarter is 2.5 feet tall, that would be adorable because he is so mad and so little. He is starting fires! He passed not that long ago (Keith Flint died on 2019-03-04), another example where you think somebody got it all. He doesn’t have to be a pyromaniac. ”No Serenade, no fire brigade” (lyrics Rock of Ages by Def Leppard, the same as the sample from the beginning of the show) ”Gunter gleiben glauchen globen”. ”It is better to burn out than to fade away” (quote by Neil Young)

Keith Flint is almost exactly one year younger than John and he died last year close to the age of 50. He was a motorcycle racer, he dated TV-presenter Gail Porter from England, and he bought a pub and kept a jar on the counter where customers had to put a pound in if they made a Firestarter joke. He committed suicide. When he was a big start in the 1990s John was trying very hard to be a Rock musician and he was searching for what all those big Rock starts who had made it were doing.

John thought at the time in his late 20s that if you could get to that level you had it made, you had no more problems and you would just be riding around in a blimp with all your money. He heard the M.C. Hammer saga, he knew that you could screw up if you hired every… he was a sweet man and didn’t put his money away, but John wasn’t going to do that. Keith Flint was in the Pantheon of people who had made it, even though the other guy Liam Howlett in The Prodigy wrote all the songs. Merlin doesn’t think that is a real name.

After Flint got to be the star of The Prodigy, Liam Howlett always had a sour look on his face because he was the genius and he was mad that Keith was the front man all of a sudden, he was just supposed to be the dancer. Like Paul McCartney says that he took LSD and was the crazy one.

Why do bands get popular? (RL386)

Merlin thinks sometimes a band or artist gets popular because they have a bit, like in that case Keith Flint. There are some other example, like the band Jackyl that had a song that involved a chainsaw solo. Their debut sold a million copies. Starting a chainsaw sounds like bending a 5th. Their best-known song is The Lumberjack, but they also have Down on Me and When Will It Rain? Merlin wonders if they used different motor instruments like a lawn mower. The smartest one for their follow-up record would be a chainsaw that wouldn’t start.

Another example is Jamiroquai with the hat, but his name is not like that. They go on a bit speculating where the name comes from. His name is Jay Kay, he likes hot rod cars. Like Paul Newman, who loved his wife and racing in that order. Jamiroquai is a band that was really big in England that Americans don’t care about, like The Kinks or The Move or Oasis. Jamiroquai was influenced by Native American and First Nation peoples, which we would call appropriation now. He even was wearing a head dress and in the band’s logo he is wearing a hat with buffalo horns and the band name is a portmanteau of the word jam and the Native American confederacy Iroquois.

John working security on stage when the Agent Orange singer cut himself with a chainsaw (RL386)

When John first came to Seattle in the fall of 1990 and he was crashing on people’s couches for a while, his friend Brian let him live in his mom’s Volkswagen Bus in their car port, which was the first time he lived in a car port, not the second time when he lived in a Ford Aerostar. After three weeks he had to leave. John’s great aunt Margarete, whom they called Tutu, the wife of great uncle Al ”Aberdaber” or ”Gaga” who had died, lived in an old-folks home called The Exeter, a grand old 1890s brick building where you bought a nice apartment, almost like a Tenancy in Common, it was old-school and if it existed today it would cost you $30.000 a month, but at the time they had sold their house and bought this apartment in The Exeter and now they got Jell-O every day.

She was 90 years old and John asked her if he could stay with her. After his uncle had died they had sold one or two of the bedrooms and the building was configured that you could sell off one of the bedrooms to the apartment next door and they would just move the wall. It was a small apartment after that and John ended up sleeping in her walk-in-closet in the hall on top of her shoes until eventually she told him that he couldn’t stay there.

After that John moved out to the U-district and was crashing on the floor at his friend Eric’s house, which is also where he got his start in the music scene. It was a group house with six people and in the morning they would all get up and go to work and John would go around and scrape the resin out of all of their bongs and pipes, trying to pitch in with the house work. One time in November of 1990 the phone rang and the person asked for Eric who wasn’t home, but they need security at the show that night and they were calling around, so John offered to take the job at the OK Hotel at 8pm. John had to take three buses Downtown, asking ever Punker for directions to the OK Hotel and he eventually made it there at Pioneer Square and it was a big show where Agent Orange was playing.

John was young and big so they gave him the job they used to have at Rock shows, a guy who crouched on stage with their hands on the monitors and who pushed anybody down who tried to get up on stage. People were doing stage diving and Pass the Dude, and the stage at the hotel was low enough that the barrier to entry was not that hard. John had been to Punk Rock shows in Alaska and Spokane, but he had never been in the music business on the stage and it felt like a big deal.

John knew Agent Orange, they were a SoCal early 1980s Punk band like a fast surfer band, but they were also melodic and their records are listenable. Merlin thinks the Germs are overrated, but now he will get in trouble for saying that. He loves The Go-Go’s and Pat Smear’s work (from the Foo Fighters) with the fellow from the other band. What about Krist Novoselic (bass player of Nirvana)? John got in big trouble for that the other day when he came to his rescue and a lot of people piled on. He didn’t know Krist was a libertarian.

They were doing their Rock show and people were flying through the air and John being on stage was absolutely not keeping them from playing Pass the Dude and as he was holding one guy off the stage two other guys were using him to climb up on stage. But it was Punk Rock, so it was fun and John was getting the shit kicked out of him, having fun, grabbing guys off the stage and throwing them into the crowd, that was the game.

Really early on in the set the singer Bobby Orange pulled out from behind the stage a big chain saw, which was not very safe, he started it up, which is a wo-cycle motor that is burning oil and creates pure pollution. He immediately realized that this was not a thing to do inside because the room just filled up with smoke. There is no muffler on it, it just shoots oily exhaust right into the crowd. It was very impressive and John didn’t see exactly what happened, but he got his finger caught in it or something and it totally really fucked up his hand.

This was pretty early on in the set and the whole chainsaw gag hadn’t even played out yet and it wasn’t clear what was going to happen with it because he had just started it up, revved it a bunch of times and then dropped it, grabbed his hand and ran off the stage, the music stopped, and the thing might have sat there and idled, John doesn’t remember because he was still really engaged in keeping this 600-capacity venue with 800 people in it from getting on stage. He was still 21 years old and he was new in that business.

After a while somebody came out and said the show was cancelled and thankfully the place didn’t devolve into a riot because people had seen what happened, and the lights came up and everybody left. John was getting paid probably $20 and he was out on the street with the whole town. He had gotten to see a bit of Agent Orange for free and he got his foot in the door of the music community and afterwards he was milling around outside and was following a group of people to a party and thus began his life.

Bands and musicians with distinctive styling, Sean Nelson wearing a top hat (RL386)

During the period when The Long Winters put out their second record When I Pretend to Fall, Sean Nelson started wearing a Captain Beefheart top hat. The rest of them were also wearing different hats for a photo shoot, the hat John was wearing belonged to Sean’s grandfather and the other hats belonged to John, but they abandoned them immediately afterwards, while Sean kept wearing the top hat. It felt like it was going to turn into a thing and if John had given Sean one song to sing on each record he could have absolutely seen that Sean would have made that song a hit and The Long Winters would have been a band with Sean as the star and everybody would have said that the guy from Harvey Danger had a new band and it was amazing.

John should have had Sean as the singer and just have written all the sings and played lead guitar. He should have had a girl as the singer, actually, but he lost his Stephanie window.

Canadian bands, Jane Child, Aimee Mann, Plumtree

Merlin made reference to the Canadian singer Jane Child on a podcast recently and did a bit of research on her. She had a nose ring that attached to her ear ring and a very wild haircut, which was starling at the time. Merlin would have thought she was the product of a mill where they make interesting people, but he could not have been more wrong. She wrote, sang, played all but one instrument and produced it, she basically did a (Todd) Rundgren.

When Aimee Mann arrived on the scene there was a lot of haircut about her rat tail haircut and her very spiky hair. Her boyfriend made her hide the tail, but she just ignored him and out came all the hair, that was 1985. Talking about putting a pound of meat in a jar, but she must get pretty fucking sick of the Voices Carry references ”He said shut up Oh God can’t you keep it down” (song Voices Carry by ’Til Tuesday). Merlin was in High School when that song came out. It was a big song that put her on the map.

When Merlin gets his Release Radar or Discover Weekly playlists, if the band name is just a band of letters with unconventional capitalization, spacing and punctuation like ’Til Tuesday, he already has a pretty good idea that this will be white guy traut music, like shirtless DJ music. John thinks of it as Euro Trash. Merlin wants to apologize to Jane Child and all of Canada, and he was listening to Canadian music right this morning. In Canada you are allowed to be in a band and make music even as a woman, which is only a recent thing in the US.

Like the band that wrote the titular song to Scott Pilgrim (Nigel Godrich) that became the name of the comic in the movie called Plumtree and they are absolutely delightful and would fit right into the 1990s. Merlin also likes the band Stars, he likes a Canadian band. There is a song that is featured in his favorite episode of Letterkenny by another Canadian band. Those bands are really weird and Merlin likes them. Merlin gets a rap as being the guy who likes Sloan, he and Eric Corson and nobody else.

John thinks the nose ring to earring thing comes from the Indian subcontinent and it is like a white girl wearing a bindi and these days we wouldn’t be too thrilled about that, either, and John thinks Merlin’s original criticism is going to stand and that is the ruling. The court is adjourned.

Australian actors, Carice van Houten (RL386)

The Zombies all dressed the same, but they had eyeglasses and Merlin found that interesting. It could have been John’s look, too. At least 2-3 guys in the band had very receding hairlines and did that hipster comb-forward thing to cover it up. It is the same with the George Clooney haircut, or the Affleck, but that is not even a haircut, it is just a bunch of somebody else’s hair. Because John watches movie now for a living, because somebody had to do it, he is forced to think about things like Kevin Costner and the other one who was married to the lady, Russell Crowe, a telephone thrower. John was on an airplane with Danny Glover one time. Martin Short is very funny, he is from Canada, but SCTV (Second City Television) was not funny.

John recently watched a movie where Russell Crowe was famously difficult, but as he learned more about the movie, he realized that he was the only sane person on the set. Guy Pearce Australian is in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and he is British/Australian. Merlin gets compared to him a lot. He got compared to Michael Palin a lot when he was younger and less grotesque. John thinks Merlin looks a lot more like Guy Pearce than he does Michael Palin. James Cromwell and Kim Basinger are both Americans, but Guy Pearce and Russel Crowe are both tots Australian, two of the leads in LA Confidential with American accents.

Guy Pearce is married to Carice van Houten, the Dutch actress most famous for playing the red witch on Game of Thrones who follows John on Twitter, the one who collaborated with Stannis, and there was the little girl with the face, which was sad. When Merlin hears the name van Houten, he thinks of the Manson Family and the Simpsons probably got the name from the Manson Family. Leslie van Houten is a baller name! The reason John knows that the red witch follows him on the Internet is that Sean Nelson sometime in 2010 sent John a text like ”Great that Carice van Houten follows you! Hope you are happy!” - ”What is a Carice van Houten?” - ”She is an actor!”

This was during a phase when Sean was watching Who was Following Whom as a sport. In the early days of the Twitter it wasn’t clear what was happening and any day you could turn around and have a million followers. Why are you going to get followers? Because you are good? Famous? Weird? Sean was still waiting for the moment when he was suddenly going to have 200.000 followers for no reason and he was clearly seeing who was following John to send him that text and being mad.

She is in some very good war movies and she is friends with Paul Veerhoven who put her in some movies. John started following her and he really likes her. John watched her film Black Book for Friendly Fire. She is also in Valkyrie. She has a funny sense of humor like Guy Pearce probably does. They are only married for 5 years and they recently had a baby together. She was with Sebastian Koch anymore, who was in Bridge of Spies and The Lives of Others, the East German movie, Merlin loves it! John thinks Bridge of Spies is only fine. Merlin loves Mark Rylance, though, the guy driving the boat in Dunkirk and the spyman under the bridge. He is so warm! In Friendly Fire they call people like that boat dad.

This sounds close to a book Merlin’s daughter has called teen boat about a teen that turns into a boat, like Turbo Teen, except for a boat instead of a car. Turbo Teen is a short-lived cartoon about a boy who becomes a car. John was thinking about putting Turpentine on the floor of his bathroom, which is a manufactured rock product. It has probably nothing to do with the comic.

The Beatles (RL386)

When Merlin was young the Beatles he thought of as The Beatles were the old Beatles. There are the later Beatles and between the red and he blue album Beatles he will of course choose the red ones, the ones that were on Ed Sullivan, not the Beatles that have taken drugs, but the original ones. Three of the four Beatles looked so much like the other Beatles. Ringo and John have a similarity and young George and young Paul have a similarity and they all have the same outfit and the same haircut. Don’t make the joke, it is a misquote and it is mean: ”Ringo is not even the best drummer in The Beatles”

Ringo is the one who looked different and he is the one that the young people liked. Is he the Jamiroquai or the Firestarter of The Beatles? He has the distinctive look and he did get one song per album. John doesn’t think so.

Country and Western music (RL386)

Act Naturally is actually a song by Buck Owens from the Buckaroos. John never had a Buckaroo phase, but Merlin highly recommends it. John doesn’t like Country and Western music. It doesn’t move him and even when it is done by friends of him. Not even Hank Williams. It is formulaic by design and it never made him cry, except for Wichita Lineman (by Glen Campbell). Merlin loves Glen Campbell and Wichita Lineman and Galveston.

Merlin had a phase of getting way into countrypolitan, the big 1960s arrangements, which was almost like the Phil Spector phase of country where you get your Stand By Your Man, which is a very good song. Like the Highwayman song by the Willie Nelson band, out of the whole history of country music John can pick maybe 25 songs that are great tunes and are sung with passion with great production and everything comes together, but in general he did not follow Rockabilly over to country, even when The Beatles did it.

Merlin’s all-time favorite lyric is the last verse of Hey Good Lookin’ where he goes: ”I’m gonna throw my date book over the fence and find me one for five or ten cents. I’ll keep it ’til it’s covered with age ’cause I’m writin’ your name down on ev’ry page” The problem is that he is horrible and most of his songs are about how women shouldn’t be allowed to get mad at how awful he is. That is also what John’s songs are about. He is a Jamiroquai of himself. It sounds like a Miranda July movie. The problem with John being the Jamiroquai of himself is that nobody ever wanted him, which is virtual insanity (song by Jamiroquai) He needed a Jamiroquai. ”Somebody moved my floor! Who moved my cheese and my floor?”

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