WHEN THE PRISON DOORS ARE OPENED/THE REAL DRAGON WILL FLY OUT
-- Ho Chi Minh
A column by JOHN SINCLAIR
Chairman, Rainbow People's Party
"Wake up in the mornin' hold my
head and pray for rain
Got a head full of ideas & they're
drivin me insane
It's a shame the way they make me scrub the floor
Ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more!"
I don't know f I can say anything coherent this week--there's so much I want to say that it's scramblin' my brain, and I'll just try to spew some of it out so I can get some peace of mind here in my new cell in the penitentiary. I was down in Detroit for a couple more weeks last month and got to see brother Pun again, but I'm back in Jackson and he's been dragged back to the Kent County Jail in Grand Rapids where he can't even get to read the newspapers. We've gotta get that brother back on the streets! Every time I think about the free concerts starting again in the parks I flash back to when me & Pun & Skip and all of us used to be out there together in the sun, dancin around and just gettin down with the people--whew! That sure was a long time ago.
I was listening to my man Larry Rock on the radio last night and heard this killer commercial by Mark Farner of the Grank Funk--he was talkin about the plague and it was really inspirational to hear one of the people's musicians speakin out like that. I really relate to Grand Funk anyway, because they took their music straight to the people and played what the people wanted to hear. This really pissed off the vampires who control the rock and roll industry--all except for the owners of Capitol Records, who make a whole lot of money off our brothers' music, but it's gonna be that way until we get our own companies anyway, and control every aspect of our own culture. Maybe now that GF is rich as can be from selling all those records and selling out Shea Stadium and all, maybe they'll start some kind of program of their own and bring some of that money back into the community? Anyway, Mark Farner talkin' about death dope on the radio last night really gave me a lot of hope for them, and the jams I heard them smokin out were pretty inspirational too. ROCK AND ROLL!
What was so far out about that little 15 or 30-second commercial was that a whole lot of big pop star bands have done everything they could to promote death drugs like smack and speed in the rainbow colony--like it's really hip to pump certified death into your arm, you know? That's what the CIA says, anyway, and you know how hip they are! But it's not the kind of death Mark Farner was talking--he says, "hard drugs--they'll kill ya"--but the kind of slow death that oozes out of television sets and courtrooms, good old Amerikan death on the installment plan. You pay your money and you get your choice kind of dying that saps your energy and turns you into a plastic vegetable nodding your life away in the corner while the vampires and vultures lick their greasy chops and go slowly through your pockets, turning your life inside out and throwing you away on the junk-pile of capitalism. Whew! Operation Jones! And people shoot that garbage into their bodies and think they're hip. They don't call it "jones" for nothing, it's just like in another song by Bob Dylan where he says "you know something's happening but you don't know what it is--do you, mr. jones?" I used to know a band that played that song once in a while, and now they're just a bunch of mr. jones replicas too. And Bob Dylan himself actin like he owns Ed Sullivan--I dunno, maybe he does?? He sure could own old Ed, if Ed hadn't gone off the air at last.
I guess what I want to talk about is the responsibility of the artist to his or her people, and the way so few of the musicians we look up to and live for their music really do anything for the people who make it possible for them to get rich and buy villas on the French Riviera or Rolls Royces that Hitler's goons used to drive, you know what I mean? Musicians who get up on stage and perform and write songs that turn our whole lives around, and then go back to their hotel rooms and mansions and shoot up all the money they took home from us and get offended when we ask them to play for free once in a while, or help us raise some money to get out of jail where we ended up when we tried to live the words to their songs.
I just get so mad because I love those musicians so much and believed everything they sang, you know? And then have to sit here and watch them, or hear about them (I don't get to see any musicians anymore except my brother Frank, and that's for an hour and a half in the visiting room), acting as front men (and front women too) for the CIA and the vampires it works for, shooting scag and spreading the plague all over the land. My problem is that I have this vision of the people's artists as the natural leaders of their people--"poet is priest, " Ginsburg said that--and I keep waiting to see them step forward to lead the people to more freedom and life because they're in a position to do just that. And then they do just the opposite--they turn out to be running dogs and propagandists for the death merchants, turning themselves into junkies and mindless consumers of all the plastic shit the control addicts turn out, taking the big money they make off their people out of the people's lives altogether and into the banks and stock markets of the oppressor. They perpetrate the deathly entertainment ruse on their own brothers and sisters, pervert their own music and let their lives be used to keep their people enslaved. It's really sickening, you know what I mean?
What hurts me the most is not just that a lot of musicians whose work is destroying themselves with all the deadly junk of western civilization, but that they let themselves be used as new tentacles of the octopus to be wrapped around the necks of their brothers and sisters who think it's hip or groovy or far out to do what the stars do--and I'm not opposed to that, that's only the way it should be, people are always gonna emulate their heroes and heroines cause their music is so righteous--but when "heroine" comes to mean "heroin" as it did with Janis Joplin then there's really something wrong, and we've gotta understand that for just what it means.
What it means is that we are being betrayed by our heaviest brothers and sisters--we' re being stepped on coming and going, and now we're being trampled right into the ground by the people we love. It's bad enough for the bands that make it on our support and adulation to rip us off for our money and just use it to buy themselves a place in the jet set ozone instead of taking that capital and investing it in people's ballrooms, people's record companies, people's free health clinics, people's printing plants where we could get this paper printed by our own people and provide more jobs for ourselves, people's housing projects where we could all live together and do it a lot cheaper than we have to live now--that's bad enough, but when these same stars use their incredible prestige and influence to get kids to shoot scag and kill off their own spirit so none of this can ever come to be, then it's really sick, and it has to be stopped somehow.
OK, I've opened my big mouth and now what am I gonna do about it, right ? What can I do about it, except to write stuff like this and try to keep pushing for what I know we have to have. When I was on the street I worked with a band for a long time that was trying to be a real people's band--we played benefits and free concerts as much as it was possible to do so, we took the money we made and put it back into people's service programs, we used the stage to spread the word that there was another way of doing things, we went on the radio and made records and talked to as many people as we could about our vision of the way things could be if we all got together with each other and worked to bring the new world into being. We did all that and more, and the minute I got locked up the band deserted me--and not just me, but the people who had made them what they were--so they could gain "acceptance" from the same vampires and snakes who put me in the penitentiary.
But it had to be my own fault finally, because I didn't speak up when I should have against the degrading practices they were getting Into, and their ridiculous dreams of Hollywood mansions with swimming pools and trips around the world and kids screaming for their autographs and wild parties and millions in the bank, you know? I would just let all that slide, because they were out there in their music and they were out there in front of the people all the time, playing their asses off, and I trusted in the music like a big romantic fool to bring them to their senses and chase all that junk out of their heads. But it didn't work that way, and the only thing I can do about it is make sure that I don't let that shit slide any more, not in my closest comrades and not in the musicians I only get to hear over the radio three hours a night.
It's up to us, the people who love them, to keep our musicians up front and make sure they don't betray us--we can't let ourselves be fooled by the power of the music, because strong as it is it still comes from bodies and minds that have been twisted by the insane conditions all of us live in, and a lot of times it doesn't mean as much to the people who make it as it does to those of us who just take it in and try to live it for ourselves. That might sound weird, but believe me, I know what I'm talking about. To the musicians the music is just something they do, and even just something they do to make a living and strike it rich--there really aren't that many killer musicians who really understand what the music means to the rest of us and what kind of effect it has on our lives. Dig it. So they can sing "The Times They Are A-Changing" and then move into the suburbs in their minds, or "Street Fighting Man" and refuse to play benefits for the Black Panther Party, or "Ball and Chain" and not understand that they're hanging a ball and chain around the necks of their people with every geeze in their arms, or "Freedom" and choke to death on barbiturates and alcohol gagging out in their sleep. I don't mean to be sacrilegious, but I mean it--we've gotta make our musicians start living up to their music, or else it doesn't mean a goddamn thing at all. If the poet can't be the poem then his or her whole life, and even the poem itself, is a barefaced treacherous lie, and it has to be exposed so it can't damage anyone else except its maker.
I know I shouldn't stop now but they're turning out the lights and I have to mail this off so it can get to you--for the next few weeks I'm gonna try to run down some things I know about rock and roll and what it can mean for us, so if this makes any sense to you stay tuned to the paper radio and we'll see how far we can go. Power to the Brothers and Sisters Who Pick Up the Guitar and Fight the Real Enemy! Death to the Death Drugs! Life to the Life People! Rainbow Power!!