On an afternoon in 1988: I turned on my television set after school and saw an upcoming promo for week long “special report” on CBS about a band called Missing Foundation. The series was done by journalist Mike Taibbi, and it was dubbed “Cult of Rage.”
What caught my eye initially was their iconic symbol that was literally plastered everywhere below 14th street and parts of Williamsburg when it was a drug infested wasteland. The symbol which was an upside down martini glass with three lines below it and a strike through, was powerful and it invoked the message “the party’s over.”
That party being the rapid gentrification of the lower east side in the late eighties. I knew this symbol, but did not know at such a young age what it meant. The report was fairly inaccurate though it filled me in on some of what this was all about.
A bit sensationalized, the report basically let me know: 1. They are from the lower east side. 2. They were involved in inciting the Tompkins Square Park riots 3. They were beyond Punk Rock. 4. The singer used to set himself on fire. 5. They worshipped the devil!
“Searching For Sugar Man” is the unlikely story of Rodriguez- or Sixto Rodriguez- or Jesus Rodriguez. Although a man by many names, he has few cultural references. In all instances, it’s the story of a late 1960’s musician who released two albums in America with little to no fanfare, quit professional music in 1973, and went back to full-time work on demolition jobs in his hometown of Detroit. Unbeknownst to him, he was enjoying a parallel universe career in South Africa as a musician in the ranks of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Jimmy Hendrix.
The story of South Africa goes that in some whim of fate, Rodriguez’s album Cold Fact was brought into the country, possibly by an American girl visiting her boyfriend, possibly not. Either way, its revolutionary, folky songs took hold in the Apartheid-shackled country and became the soundtrack of a young generation. It was bootlegged out to the masses and later went on to sell roughly a half a million records in South Africa alone. Continue reading →
Three years ago, I went to a friend’s record release party at a club in New York City. In an adjacent room, there was a DJ playing Noel’s “Silent Morning“. I walked in, listened to this Classic record at full club volume, and it was like hearing it for the first time. I being not old enough to hear this record in a club when it first came out understood immediately why this music became huge in the first place. Continue reading →