THE CIA...the FBI...the IRS...AND THE POPE (OF GRUNGE)!
Folks of the Interwebs, please allow me to preface this onslaught of words that you see below...there are two sides to every story. I feel like we can all acknowledge that everyone has a different perception based upon their own collective experiences in this world...two folks may view the same specific people, place, or thing...but see it from two very specific perspectives. The disparity in views of the same "thing", coupled with recognizing the existence of a public relations "front" to all entertainment operations, "Grunge" rock not excluded...I think a reasonable individual is able to conclude that the a rock band is presented exactly as the Public Relations folks want them to be presented.
Let's utilize Nirvana as example...there is a band, its members, and then there is a publicist...the publicist's sole purpose in life is to effectively "spin" any news into a favorable position for their client. Public Relations folks & firms are for lack of a better term, contemporary propaganda machine...in times of yesteryear I am certain propagandists were not called "public relations", but the same purpose was served. It is in the depths of public relations cesspools that facts get twisted into elaborate cover stories...fundamentally no different than the operations to conceal a covert operator within an "Intelligence" operation...every covert operator needs a good cover story.
As I have meandered about the thoughts from my brain hole here, I suppose what I am attempting to say can be summarily stated in the following question....what do we really KNOW about these "Grunge" bands, after all???
Not gonna lie to ya, Johnny....I have no intention of chasing ghosts, so to speak, through World War 2 and Vietnam & what not. There are a lot of "ins" & alot of "outs", possibly even a couple "what have you"...simply not my goal to get to the heart of those wars. Rather, these wars and other such related conflicts appear to serve as a backdrop to this Seattle Grunge tale.
In that aspect, this tale is much like Dave McGowan's "Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon", the south pacific, specifically the Vietnam war was essentially the "McGuffin" of McGowan's work. For those readers unfamiliar with the concept of a "McGuffin" it is essentially an object or event that is the impetus behind the character's actions or plot line in a tale, be it film or written formats. Take the cinematic masterpiece "The Big Lebowski", winner of every Academy award if I were vote'n...including "Best Animated Feature"...and there wasn't even animation in the Lebowski...that just speaks to the level of achievement that the "Big Lebowski" has attained.
Oh yea...the "McGuffin"...the "Big Lebowski" featured a "McGuffin" in the form of the dude's rug. The Dude, aka "Jeffrey Lebowski", just want his rug back, "man"...this served as the impetus behind the plot of the film, with the Dude taking actions in which to compensate him for the rug that is pissed on in the opening scene...cause as the Dude said himself "that rug really tied the room together, man".
It seemed to me as I read McGowan's work, that the Vietnam war was part and parcel to nearly every activity of the scene...the Vietnam war seemed to be the "McGuffin" in McGowan's "Weird Scenes" tale. From the parents of Hippie counterculture "Rock gods" directly affiliated with the war...hell, even some of the rockstars themselves claimed to be covert commandos in the Vietnam war. Stephen Stills of the Byrds and of Crosby, Stills, Nash & the other guy (As a true Skynyrd fan, his name shall not be mentioned)...ol Stevie boy claimed to be involved in Vietnam conflict prior to the "official" start of the Vietnam war in 1964, as some sort of covert commando. Of course it is in 1964, that the Doors lead singer Jim Morrison's father was the Admiral in command of the ships that were allegedly attacked in the "Tonkin Gulf incident", which was the "official" kick-off of 'Merica's war in Vietnam. McGowan brings numerous other examples to the table in his tale.
All that being said, and "McGuffins" aside...I do intend to paint some broad strokes to ask the question, "Do we truly understand how we got here today?". "Here" of course being the $21 Trillion in debt (and count'n!). An attentive reader may be asking themselves, "hmmm, isn't that more than 'Merica is worth?" Well, you would indeed be correct in that thought. If you wanna get down to brass tax here Folks of the Interwebs...as a nation, 'Merica is insolvent; the interest alone is unmanageable! My kid's kid's kid will still be paying on the interest, while the principal portion of the debt continues to loom over the future generations of servitude in 'Merica!
Of course our current version of 'Merica doesn't only suck fiscally speaking...'Merica is come'n in real hot in the field of education. Depending on what study you look at, 'Merica! is somewhere between #7 & #14 place in education in the western world. Wait for it, it gets WAY better...'Merica is #1 in obesity in the western world...with over 30% of adults are...how do I put this in an eloquent manner?...uhhh, 'Merica is clearly under a "fat fuck" epidemic...thanks a lot Obama! (no politics here...I just like to blame Obama for nonsensical schtuff...like fat people).
Well Folks of the Interwebs, nothin here happens in a vacuum...where there is action, there is reaction...a sort of our physical reality representation of quantum entanglement, if you will. Lets take for example the interesting case of the relationship between Lance Armstrong & the United States Postal Service. At some point not too many years back, the USPS just delivered mail & Lance just won French bicycling titles. Then both sides came to some financial terms of representation...and long story short...both sides appear to blame each other, while not having a moral or ethical leg to stand on, if you ask me Johnny. Again things do not happen in a vacuum...it was not poof! suddenly these things occurred..there is pretext to any event.
If I were a gambling man, I would say that both sides would claim that the other party is a "dick". However, on the Lane Armstrong angle, the dude was doing what he needed to do to compete...to make the money his sponsors required of him, hence the astronomical amount of money given in the sponsorship deal. After all a "sponsor" is merely an investment in an athlete, with hopes to obtain monetary returns in the future, preferably that exceeds the amount paid to the athlete. So once Lance was persona non-grata in the world of cycling & life...the USPS was butt hurt and wallet hurt.
Of course, the USPS went on a holier than though campaign against Armstrong...filing a lawsuit for some obscene amount of sponsorship money back from Armstrong. Why did the USPS need to spend loads of tax payer funds to improve their image?? Great question Johnny! Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the United States Postal Service has been hemorrhaging 'Merican taxpayer dollars to the tune of numerous BILLIONS every year, without even batting an eye. Hello pot, its the kettle...you're black!
Hang on there Folks of the Interwebs, I have a point...again there is two sides to every story. We know one side of the story...in regards to Vietnam that story is in our "history" books. However, what is the other side of the story? If you were to just listen to USPS's story, Lance is a "dick", and vice-versa. I feel like this is the point that Dave McGowan drove home to this reader of his "Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon"...a relative sense of objectivity in the tale.
McGowan stated the facts, whilst some of those facts are seemingly juxtaposed to our "history" books version (Jim Morrison & father as an example), McGowan left much of the inference on conclusion up to the reader's imagination. This is all ol Double J here is attempting to accomplish here in this tale...offering a new context, an alternate view of the same facts in this tale of Seattle "Grunge".
Let me put it to you this way Johnny...why can I extrapolate the concepts of understanding, you know the salient characteristics, from Dave McGowan's work highlighting the 1960s rock scene...and then apply it (like a goddamn carbon copy) to the 1990s rock scene??
I was born at night Johnny, just not last night...
Is this sheer happenstance...or is there an organizing principle that has gone largely unnoticed until our current "information age"?
Now that we got the table set for this adventure we are about to embark on into the 'Merican history that scholastic style textbooks do not offer...the "dark" under belly of 'Merican history, if you will. Lets check back in with Dave McGowan to see what insight he can offer on today's adventure...
Let's start it off the right way...the Central Intelligence Agency. Back before agencies in this nation were commonly described alphabet soup style...there lived a man named Miles Copeland Jr. Perhaps a alphabet soup fan himself, as he appears to have been an integral party in the 'Merican Intelligence apparatus, to include an original member upon the formation of the CIA in 1947. It appears he passed on his affinity for alphabet soup to his sons.
As you heard above, McGowan provides an overview of this family, and I would not do his work any justice if I attempted to spew some of those facts, as he is indeed the subject matter expert in the matter. However, I do reference the Copeland family, as Miles #2 (the father) had a massive impact on 'Merica's intelligence apparatus. Where his son's had the same level of impact on the late 70s & 1980s music scene...with direct ties directly into the "Grunge" scene. Essentially, members of this family and their constituents appear to have bridged the gap between the Laurel Canyon scene of 1960s Los Angeles, and the 1980s/90s "Grunge" scene in Seattle.
As I state before, Miles #2, CIA station chief style amongst numerous combat hot spots in the 1950s & 1960s...he had 3 boys...
Ian - formed Frontier Booking International in 1979...aka FBI talent agency. FBI talent agency manager the careers of numerous stars of the time, including...both R.E.M. & the Go-gos. Also in the FBI talent pool, acts such as Nine Inch Nails...not quite "Grunge" but definitely on the scene. All of these activities were of course post-Vietnam service for Ian Copeland, who served in the Army earning a Bronze star for his service in the war. (McGuffin alert!) Perhaps one of Ian's most noted acts was that of his brother's band, Stewart Copeland, drummer for the Police.
Stewart - formed the Police in 1977...whose band grew to such worldwide recognition that its' lead singer has been accepted by being known as verb, present tense...whatever you say Gordie!...aka Sting.
Miles #3 - formed International Record Syndicate, Inc in 1979...aks I.R.S. Records. I.R.S. records & in-turn Copeland produced the largest acts of the Punk & New Wave scene of late 1970s/1980s...including perennial favorites of the Copeland clan, the Go-GOs & R.E.M. The Go-Gos and their lead singer, the female face of "punk", Belinda Carlisle...who in 1986 married the former special assistant for political affairs to President Ronald Reagan...now that's an odd couple!
I.R.S. Records other powerhouse act, R.E.M. It is R.E.M.'s lead singer and "Powder" doppleganger, Michael Stipe, who has certainly left his mark on "pop" & "new wave" music...but perhaps you did not know about Stipe's prominence in the land of Grunge rock??
If Kurt Cobain is the "King of Grunge"...then Michael Stipe is the "Pope of Grunge"...you know God's Grunge vicar on earth. No need to fret there Folks of the Interwebs, he is clearly a flannel-shirt-wearing God.
Anyone familiar with history, knows that it is the Pope who is the only man able to make a King (allegedly). It is Stipe whose influence can be seen all over the Grunge rock scene, like an overly excited Hollywood executive backstage at the Nickelodeon Kids Choice awards. However, it is not just Kurt Cobain who was impacted by Michael Stipe...he was friend & mentor to many other "Grunge" rockers too. In fact, would you believe that Michael Stipe and a different member of Nirvana, met 30 years prior to the eruption of Grunge circa 1991? More on that story & Michael Stipe in future editions of "Smells Like Laurel Canyon".
In the meantime there, Folks of the Interwebs, lets loop back to where we kick'd off today's here adventure & end it the right way...the Central Intelligence Agency.
Vietnam war & the Central Intelligence Agency
The Vietnam may take an eternity & a secret decoder ring to effectively ascertain the events that transpired during the decades of 'Merican armed conflict in that south Pacific Area of Operations (AOR). In many regards the 'Merican! involvement in the south Pacific AOR has never completely ended.
In fact, it's today's tale that focuses on a group of folks who maintained course, and continued armed conflict in the south Pacific AOR...bridging the gap between WW2 to Korea...Korea to Vietnam.
This organization, this seemingly loosely aligned group of individuals, the folks who owned and operated 'Merican combat air travel in and out of the South Pacific, perhaps more commonly known as "Air America". This organization was formed in conjuction with Taiwan's Air Force and the new 'Merican Air Force in post-WW2 era, circa 1947, essentially forming Chinese National (or more commonly known as "Taiwan") civilian airline.
Now, just cause a worldwide ceasefire was called in order to stop WW2. It appears that a number of folks did not get the "memo", so to speak. Certain folks appear to have remained concerned about the growing threat of international communism, and 'Merican allies in the south pacific apparently felt the full scope of this communist pressure...as history would tell us at least. Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam...this was the combat zone for "Air America". This is also the AOR on paper for the past 70 years, the region where Taiwan's national airline, known as Civilian Air Transport (CAT), operated their civilian airline service.
An attentive reader may be thinking..."yea right! combat operations?...not without Congressional approval!" Well, such reader would be correct in the assertion, whilst also being wrong. That is the point of today's discussion...history without the proper context is just another silly story. Take for example, George Washington and his cherry tree...is there any historical accuracy or context to this tale of George Washington? No, not likely...in fact, any mention of George Washington stories of the 'Merican landscape, without mention of his obsession with the "ancient 'Merican architecture", known as the "Mounds", is a disengenous tale and one without context. A simple review of ol G-Dubs journals would quickly yield an understanding that ol G-Dubs loved himself some "Mounds".
Speaking of context...now is a good time to point out that Taiwan is the "old China" and since WW2 the "new China" has made it a full time endeavor to ensure no country in the world recognizes Taiwan as "China".
CAT was a very busy airline for the decades between their inception in post-WW2 world, and when their holding company folded in 1979, thus ending their airline's operations. The Pacific Corp. was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Pacific Corp. (CIA front company registered in Delaware) owned 40% of Taiwan's airline, Civil Air Transport (CAT). CAT was a successful Chinese Nationalist (Taiwan) government owned civilian airliner by day, and 'Merican covert ops airline service by night.
CAT's covert operations included dropping equipment & commandos behind enemy lines, extracting these personnel, and even conducting covert bombing missions. Of course much of this story was later glamorized in "true" Hollywood form and fashion in the film starring Mel Gibson & RDJ..."based on actual events". Of course while in some regards the film seemed like a whitewash of the hole affair, "tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists" often point to "Air America"/Civil Air Transport as a primary mover & shaker of the lucrative drug biz in the south Pacific. Some even claim that "Air America" is allegedly responsible for epic quantities of heroin entering 'Merica! (e.g. the plot line to the classic 80s buddy cop film "Lethal Weapon"), this long before the current heroin/opiod epidemic in 'Merica! Which...btw...drum roll please...Double J here is come'n at ya from the #1 county in 'Merica! for drug OD deaths since 1980 (hold the applause).
What do I mean by all this? Well, Folks of the Interwebs...'Merica! appears to have employed a variety of protocols in order to accomplish military objectives during the post-WW2 era in the south Pacific. These activities and objectives seemed to have manifested in the form of both "official" & less than "official" operations. As previously mentioned, one of these protocols was the use of CIA and other military special operations type personnel in covert or "black" ops. One cannot discuss black ops & Vietnam without discussing the Republic of China's national civilian airliner...aka "Taiwan's" national civilian airline...known to history as their civilian operations as Civil Air Transport (CAT) & their covert, or less than "official" operations, as "Air America".
Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon call back! Now seems like an appropriate point in the tale to compare to McGowan's "Weird Scenes", in which McGowan references the legend of Stephen Stills' combat service. As Laurel Canyon legend has it...ol Stevie boy would often get all sauced up and tell folks combat stories from the jungles of Vietnam...problem was this was the Byrds were the first band on the scene...so the Byrds were already huge by the time the war started in late 1964, when the influx of 'Merican ground troops began. So that begs the question was Stephen Stills run'n covert commando operations like he claimed, prior to the "official" kick-off of the Vietnam war? If so, perhaps he flew "Air America"?
At this point...you may be wondering what in the fiznucks am I talk'n about?? What do CIA covert ops in Vietnam have to do with Grunge music?? To wit I must reply...great question!
While Michael Stipe, you know the "Pope of Grunge", is an interesting character in this here saga...and he indeed has some interesting relationships in his life. Especially relative to "Grunge" rock, relationships that harken back to Vietnam era military operations in Ft Benning, GA. As it stands today though, ol Michael may not be the most interesting character in R.E.M. Although I fully intend to explore his relations to "Grunge" music in future editions of the tale. Their personal relationship excluded from the statement, but according to Kurt Cobain himself in a 1994 interview discussing R.E.M...
"I don't know how that band [R.E.M.] does what they do...God, they're the greatest. They've dealt with their success like saints, and they keep delivering great music." (Kurt Cobain, Rolling Stone magazine in 1994 just prior to his death)
55 years later...clarity with context.
If we are talking bout the most interesting dude in R.E.M...in fact that title appears to belongs to none other than R.E.M.'s manager/attorney for over 3 decades, Mr. Bertis Downs #4. But, in order to effectively introduce the interesting nature of this character known to the world as Mr. Bertis Downs IV, and perhaps more notably for the actual nature of today's tale, an introduction to his father Bertis Downs #3. I must first introduce you Folks of the Interwebs to a conversation I had with my dood, Grizzle. Let me dial it back to sometime in winter 2016...it went something like this...
Double J - "Dood! R.E.M.'s manager's father died in Taiwan, aka "old China" in 1964????"
Grizzle - "So what dood? A lot of people go to China."
Double J - "A 'Merican Presbyterian minister dies in mysterious plane accident in Taiwan...'Merica's largest base of military operations outside of sovereign soil ate the time...approx one month before the kick-off of Vietnam?...doubt it."
Grizzle - "See he was on a mission with his church"
Double J - "Classic cover story"
Approx. 90 days later...circa Spring 2017...
History without context is simply a silly story. For 55 years the context of the following event was a Presbyterian minister on missionary service in "New China"/Taiwan died in a tragic plane crash/accident. When in reality there was no question that this plane crash was no accident. The New York Times was publishing stories at the time regarding the state of pistols hidden in a hollowed out book, with an additional pistol found in the wreckage...both owners remain unidentified.
Of course, CIA documents unclassified circa 2009, reflect a different tale of this "hijacking", not pilot or mechanical error as sold in 1964...suddenly, 55 years later there is clarity to plane crash, when given proper context.
Please allow me to introduce to you Mr. Burtis Downs #3...died in combat in 1964...whose death notification is the purpose of the US State Department memorandum to notify the CIA & Mr. Bertis Downs #2.
So, for 55 years...Mr. Bertis Downs #3 was merely a young Presbyterian minister from rural Virgiia, on a mission in Taiwan/Republic of China (potato potatoe). It was in 2009 that documents were declassified...and a dood such as myself no longer has to speculate (reference above speculation with my dood Grizzle).
It was June 20th 1964...in what would be the first "civilian accident" suffered by CAT airlines. There had been many accidents & casualities on the covert side of CAT, the "Air America" side. Which again was a covertly owned & operated airline of the CIA. "Air America" conducted the off the books combat missions in south pacific from WW-2 when old china got kicked off the mainland, to the defensive support of Taiwan/"old" China...as well as Thailand & its neighbors from the damn Red China Commies come the 1960s.
More to follow in the future of the mysterious and tragic plane crash/hijacking of CAT Flight 106 on June 20th 1964. But I will leave you Folks of the Interwebs with this thought...I wonder why the CIA has not given Bertis Downs #3 a star on the wall at Langley?
I do not say that to be a smart-ass or to be disrespectful. If nothing else, I am totally empathetic with the whole Downs clan...perhaps most specifically Bertis #4. When Bertis #3 met his demise in the tragic plane crash in Taiwan 1964, Bertis #4 was a youngster...possibly too young to recall his father. I can totally relate to this situation from my days in combat, nearly leaving a young son without his father...again very empathetic to the situation, one that strikes all too close to home.
Perhaps Bertis #3 is one of the unnamed stars on the wall of Langley? But one would stand to reason that if that were the case then, in 2009, when his death was declassified...his name would have been added to the unnamed star? Just say'n, it seems odd...
That's the show today Folks...thanks again for join'n me to get a lil GCD! Swoop back in for the next edition where we explore more connections from McGowan's "Weird Scenes" compared to the Seattle "Grunge" scene...
"Smells Like Laurel Canyon" - part 4 - The Godfather of LSD meets the Godfather of Grunge??