"Smells Like Laurel Canyon" - part 4 - What is "Grunge"?

“With the addition of Vedder and drummer Dave Krusen, the new band was complete. They called themselves Mookie Blaylock, in honor of the basketball player, but changed the name to Pearl Jam, purportedly after a psychedelic confection made by Vedder’s half-Native American great-grandmother, Pearl. (Vedder finally admitted the story was bogus in 2006.)”

- Rolling Stone magazine, official bio for Pearl Jam
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Folks of the Interwebs, welcome back…thanks for join’n me today to get a lil GCD!  Interesting quote to start off this chapter of the tale.  Perhaps Pearl Jam’s name is not derived from a psychedelic jam, but that was the urban legend for at least 25 years!  While not the main topic, it is certainly the undertone of today’s chapter of this Seattle tale, psychedelics and “Grunge”…sounds like psychedelics and “Hippies”….hmmm, weird.

 

As you folks join me here on today’s adventure into Grunge-ville USA…uhhh, you know, Seattle…let us first ponder the origins of this movement known as “Grunge”.  What is “Grunge”? Was this a term born in Seattle?  Or did the Seattle “Grunge” rock scene adopt this adjective to describe the disheveled flannel wearing appearance of the “Grunge” rock fan-base? Or perhaps the term was adopted to describe the rough & unpolished sounds of Seattle’s unique combination of mash’n, punk rock with heavy metal rock?

 

Or perhaps it is magically mystery added to the long list of magical mysteries Seattle is alleged to harbor: the first “UFO” sighting…the Green River Killer…the location of Bill Nye’s alleged scientific qualifications…the first sightings of “Men in Black”…Bigfoot…the origins of the Trump family foray into hotels, or possibly more accurate the “Drumpf” family foray into Brothels…and last but not least, who took the jam outta Cal Ripken’s donut???…all Seattle mysteries…shall we add the origins of “Grunge” to this list??

 

Well Folks of the Interwebs…much like the shade of President Trump’s hair (side note: my best guess the color is Orange Parrot, available at your Home Depot location), the true origins of the characterization of “Grunge” rock seems to be a mystery.  It appears that a variety of folks have claimed to have coined the term “Grunge”…from legendary Rolling Stones journalist, Lester Bangs, circa (aka. Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character in the hit rock’n’roll, pseudo biopic, “Almost Famous”)…to Seattle’s own legendary “Grunge” rock god, Mark Arm (Green River, Mudhoney), in the early onset of “Grunge” rock in the 1981…a term later utilized by Arm’s Green River band’s first Sub Pop Records album…hell, even the mythical-mad-man behind the pop culture icon/serial killer-named musical outfit known as Marilyn Manson even claimed to have coined the term "Grunge".   

 

What are the origins of “Grunge”?

 

Lester Bangs, a man with a last name that in today’s accepted vernacular is a verb, present tense.  Perhaps, Lester is more famously known as a prolific journalist of rock music, but Lester Bangs may be more recognizable to some folks as the character Phillip Seymour Hoffman portrayed in Cameron Crowe’s pseudo-Biopic, “Almost Famous”.  A wonderful film about a young rock journalist joining a rock band on tour, based upon actual events in Crowe’s life, when a teenage Crowe went on tour with “Led Zepplin” (spoiler alert: Cameron Crowe makes another appearance in this Seattle “Grunge” tale…replete with more direct connections to McGowan’s Laurel Canyon tale…stay tuned in the future). 

 

According to some “Grunge” scholars (fairly certain I just made up that role in life), world-renowned Rolling Stone magazine journalist, Mr. Lester Bangs may have indeed coined the term “Grunge” way way back in the long forgotten years circa 1972.  Lets take a quick jaunt back to the year 1972, ‘Merica was a shit show in an era where even the US Postal Service is rioting, Tricky Dick was in the white house, Charlie Manson (yes he is a character in this Seattle tale too!) was on death row, as a result of California had not yet repealed the death penalty…and apparently elsewhere in California at this time, Mr. Lester Bangs was coining the term “Grunge”. 

 

Mr. Lester Bangs himself (get it!?), stated in the April 1972 issue of Rolling Stone magazine that described a band named the Groundhogs as a “good run-of-the-racks heavy grunge”.  Mr. Lester Bangs used this term in at least two occasions, the other being, “What do they sound like? Great! Grunge noise and mystical studio abstractions.”

 

But where did this famed rock’n’roll journalist gain his understanding or use of the word “grunge”?  Was Mr. Lester Bangs himself, only utilizing a term he had read, using this term “Grunge” in a similar but new context to better describe the new sound of rock music? Perhaps it seems…as it appears another world renowned Rock journalist and former “Grunge” rock musician is also credited with coining the term “Grunge”, Everett True.  While perhaps known today as a rock journalist, Everett True was actually part of the “Grunge” rock scene, he recorded one album with infamous “Grunge” rock label, Sub Pop, also known as Nirvana’s music label. According to Everett True he actually got the term from Mr. Lester Bangs, “I am supposed to have used the term “Grunge” to describe music…Lester Bangs certainly used to use the word. I used the word myself in the ‘80s…you know “they got grungy guitars”.

 

So it appears that Everett True admits that he is often credited with the term “Grunge” relative to rock music, whilst also confirming that he obtained the term from Mr. Lester Bangs.  The attribute to Mr. Lester Bangs coining the term “Grunge”, seems to be the consensus of all of the original Seattle “Grunge” characters, on scene circa the early-80s at the origins of Seattle’s “Grunge” rock.  Take for example, legendary “Grunge” rock producer & apparent Sub Pop Records mastermind Jack Endino, “I saw it (grunge) in Lester Bangs record review in Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s”.

 

Of course it was Jack Endino of Sub Pop Records that produced & promoted the “Grunge” rock band, Green River’s July 1987 album “Dry as a Bone”, as “ultra-loose GRUNGE that destroyed the morals of a generation."  The lead singer of Green River was none other than Mark Arm, who himself lays claim to coining the term “Grunge”.  Just prior to the onset of “Grunge”, Arm was playing in another band in Seattle’s then pre-“Grunge” underground music scene.  In apparent effort to promote his band, Mr. Epp & the Calculations, Arm wrote a local music review of his band from the perspective of an alleged fan, “I hate Mr. Epp and the Calculations! Pure grunge! Pure noise! Pure shit! Everyone I know loves them, I don’t know why...”

 

That is interesting to see both Arm and then later his legendary “Grunge” rock producer, both laying claim to coining the term “Grunge”.  Perhaps even more interesting, the nexus point of these two fella’s relationship and “Grunge” is located at the Green River band.  The Green River band is an early “Grunge” rock band, fronted by Mark Arm but included two future members of Pearl Jam, Stone Gossard & Jeff Ament. 

 

An early “Grunge” powerhouse, the “Grunge” rock band, Green River derives its name from the “Green River Killer” (or Killers!), a serial killer that haunted the Seattle “Grunge” scene (possibly) since its onset in the early 1980s.  The “Green River Killer” (GRK) was allegedly arrested back in 2001, when a man by the name of Gary Ridgway was arrested for a prostitute’s murder that occurred at the time of the “GRK” killings.  The subsequent events that followed the arrest of Gary Ridgway included a plea deal for over 40 murders of young females prostitutes and runaways.  Would you believe that there is very limited DNA or other physical evidence connecting Ridgway to the murders?  While Ridgway was a suspect for these murders early on, he was ruled as a suspect, and evidenced suggested that perhaps other suspects were involved.  In fact, according to at least one Seattle psychologist, he believes that the “GRK” may include more than one person, and that these “GRK” style killings continued well into the 1990s, counting as one of its victims the lead singer of a “Grunge” rock band! (stay tuned for that chapter...)

 

Seattle had its “serial killer”, the “Green River Killer”…and Laurel Canyon had its own “serial killer”, the Charlie Manson…the man behind the name game of the next individual in this tale who claims to have coined the term “Grunge”.

 

Marilyn Manson…part man/part band…while there is a fella who describes himself as Marilyn Manson, I feel like his band is often just referred to as Marilyn Manson, as well.  This is not a universal situation in the rock’n’roll biz, not even a lil bit Johnny…take for example, 70s rock icon Jethro Tull…would you believe there was no one named Jethro Tull in that band?? Rock band names can be deceiving, take another band, Steve Miller band does in fact include a fella by the name of Steve Miller.

 

Anyhow, Marilyn Manson…the man & the band…all followed a stage name game of “Pop icon” (first name) & “serial killer” (last name)…odd name game for a rock band.  An obvious reference to ol Charles Manson (an Operation GCD character of interest!) the notorious serial killer, who had physically killed no one, at least not according to the official legend of Charlie Manson & his "family".

 

You may be think’n that Marilyn Manson is not “Grunge”…I totally concur!  In fact, Marilyn Manson has had outright public feuds with “Grunge” icons Courtney Love & Billy Corgan.  So it seems a bit juxtaposed that ol Marilyn Manson claims to have coined the term “Grunge” relative to the Seattle rock scene…but Marilyn claims he wrote a review for Nirvana’s “Bleach” album coining the term.  Nirvana’s “Bleach” album was released in June of 1989, so chronologically speak’n I am gonna have to say, doubt it! Although even decades later, Marilyn apparently still references this event…still sticking to his claim, “I didn't say I invented the word. I said I coined it, in that I popularized it. I think I actually wrote "grungy."

 

Or perhaps it was none of these individuals.  Perhaps like many other words it is a word that has been tossed around so much over the years that it gets re-applied and provided a different context of understanding.  Take for example, the word “heavy” in the movie “Back to the Future”.  In that 1980s film masterpiece, those who are not familiar, the teen protaginast Marty McFly travels through time in a sports car from 1985 to 1955, while in 1955 he finds that his 1980s slang does not have the same meaning in 1955…in fact McFly’s friend Dr. Emmett Brown, the 1955 version, continues to be confused on McFly’s use of the word “heavy” in reference to the seriousness of a situation, while Doc Brown was only perceiving “heavy” in his 1955-lingo, you know in terms of actual weight.

 

In fact the term “Grunge” can be seen applied to rock’n’roll as early as the 1950s rockabilly artists, such as Johnny Burnette.  Perhaps since that early application of “Grunge” in regards to the early forms of rock’n’roll, simply evolved over the subsequent decades…ending in a description of 1980s/90s rock that was filled with disillusioned teenagers & flannel.

 

Is “Grunge” a fashion type thing??

 

Perhaps “Grunge” is a fashion type thing?  Although it certainly appears that “Grunge” fashion bears striking similarities to “Hippie” fashion of a couple/few decades earlier. In fact, now that I think about it, today’s “Hipsters” share a remarkably similar fashion sense to its’ counterculture predecessors, “Hippie” & “Grunge”.  In fact, I can recall a recent appearance of a Nirvana shirt being worn by what I can only describe as a “Hipster” circa 20 years of age.  You know the look I am referring to here…torn jeans, leather jacket, Nirvana t-shirt, and some Doc Martens…don’t act like you don’t see these folks out in public...it’s totally still a thing amongst the young go-hards of the new counterculture!

 

As far as “Grunge” fashion goes, the documentary film “Hype” places a unique spin on the fashion sense of the “Grunge” rocker.  It appears that the disheveled appearance, as well as the heavy industrial grade boots, coupled with the classic “Grunge” flannel look is simply a tribute to Seattle’s roots…the lumber and paper mill biz.  Is “Grunge” fashion merely a result of the lumber industry being so prevalent throughout the Pacific Northwest?  Perhaps…it is true that the folks who occupy that industry are often attributed with a disheveled appearance due to the grueling nature of their work, and the flannel shirt and industrial sized boots are most certainly the stereotypical uniform of the day in the lumber industry.

 

It is this ubiquity of the “Grunge” fashion items in Seattle thrift stores that the filmmakers & the folks interviewed in the “Grunge” documentary, “Hype”, which is attributed to the “Grunge” fashion.  Perhaps the filmmakers were right?  Perhaps it was the thrift store characteristics of the “Grunge” uniform that made it so popular amongst the Seattle counterculture that spread worldwide.  Before too long, the early-90s onslaught of “Grunge” onto the worldwide was so HUGE, flannel became so rampant amongst youth counterculture in all nations, it had officially left the realms of “counterculture” and was now into the “mainstream” of society.  This point is not ignored by the “Hype” filmmakers, as the film how the Seattle’s local “Grunge” scene discarded the classic flannel “Grunge” fashion; when $85 flannel shirts hit department store shelves, “Grunge” hit the high-fashion runways, and even the magazine Vanity Fair did a complete spread on “Grunge” fashion replete with Joan Rivers rock’n some flannel. If it weren’t dead yet, “Grunge” most certainly died that day!

 

If we take a moment to compare this trajectory of “Grunge” fashion to the life cycle of “Hippie” fashion, it seems that this is another pattern between the Laurel Canyon and Seattle scene.  I have heard Dave McGowan speak of in various interviews regarding his Laurel Canyon tale.  Where he references  the “Hippie” fashion style beginning as the preferred style of clothing for the 1960s counter-culture, and then points out how the “Hippie” fashion style later evolved into a commercially produced and socially accepted form of fashion amongst the “middle ‘Merica” consumer type folk.  You know your standard consumer of their local shopping malls.  This appears to be the exact trajectory that “Grunge” fashion took…first, the preferred look of the counterculture…followed by the “it” fashion style amongst mainstream culture. 

 

Folks of the Interwebs, it appears that the fashion elements between Laurel Canyon and Seattle is another point of interest in the pattern that Dave McGowan crafted in his Laurel Canyon tale.  As he stated himself in this clip of an interview conducted on his Laurel Canyon tale.

(Side note: On the subject of the cyclical nature of fashion styles…shopping malls are coming back! It has already started…everything is cyclical…it starts with these “one-stop” large scale retailers…be it your Targets or your Wally Worlds…these folks sell you consumer products…then they add a food court…maybe a barber shop…possibly a nail salon…then an auto mechanic…DAMN IT!...here we go again! next stop Mall-ville USA!...get Kevin Smith on the phone we are gonna need “Mallrats 2”!)

 

So the folks of the “Hippie” and “Grunge” movements, share similarities in their fashion sense and appearance.  Additionally, as we discovered above, the similarities between Dave McGowan’s Laurel Canyon tale and the “Grunge” rock scene, be it the name attribute throw back to Charles Manson, by way of Marilyn Manson (who once again claims to have coined the term “Grunge”).  Another comparison to McGowan’s Laurel Canyon tale, many of the already named “Grunge” rockers share similar origins from the Military/Intelligence world, just like the Laurel Canyon rock stars.   That’s right Folks of the Interwebs, REM’s manager’s father may not be the only “Secret Agent Man” in this Seattle “Grunge” saga (those who did not pick up on the reference, that is a song from the Laurel Canyon scene, circa 1966).

 

All right folks, we have established more direct similarities, a pattern, if you will, extracted from Dave McGowan’s Laurel Canyon tale.  But what if the connections between the two scenes, were not purely a comparison in the style and mode of operations? What if it were not just patterns between the two rock scenes? What if there was a more direct connection between the Laurel Canyon “Hippie” rock scene, and the Seattle “Grunge” rock scene?

 

Godfather of Grunge meets Godfather of LSD!

 

"Seattle was like a hub for us," - Jeff Pinkus - Butthole Surfers bassist from 1986 to 1994

"I remember someone mentioned to Paul that we were the 'Godfathers of Grunge'." - Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus

 

Well Folks of the Interwebs…you’re in luck! But in order to effectively share that part of this here “Grunge” rock tale, we must follow the LSD induced journey back to Laurel Canyon.   To the man perhaps most known today for the drug LSD, or “acid”, albeit not the inventor, but most certainly LSD’s most ardent champion, one Dr. Timothy Leary.

 

One day circa….circa a couple decades back…Gibby Haynes, lead singer of “Butthole Surfers” met Timothy Leary, the Godfather of LSD . As legend has it, Dr. Leary invited Gibby Haynes to be a guest at his Laurel Canyon home, for the purposes of being a human guinea pig of drug experiments, “coke, heroin, Nyquil, Hungry Man dinners”…what no LSD?? Apparently Gibby Haynes did not make it too long into the MK-Leary project…once again as legend has it, “He kicked Gibby out of the house after he peed in the drawer of antique desk in Tim’s office when he was off his head.”

 

Ok. We have established a direct connection between the “Butthole Surfers” and the Godfather of LSD, Dr. Timothy Leary.  But what is the Texas band “Butthole Surfers” relationship with Seattle’s “Grunge” rock? To answer that question, lets circle back to the music and get down to business…that answer appears to lie amongst a sea of surf’n buttholes…

 

What’s that Johnny?? You mean to tell me that “Grunge” rock did not start in Seattle???

 

Well, it did & it didn’t…it appears.  For that answer does not reside in Seattle, nor Washington state as a hole! Not gonna lie to ya Johnny, that answer is not even found in the pacific northwest in general…it is found in an entirely different region altogether.  To locate the origins of “Grunge” rock, or at least to locate a man considered a “Godfather” of “Grunge” rock, one must “mosey” on down to the state of Texas!  

 

Butthole Surfers – “Godfathers of Grunge” – from Texas to Seattle –

 

"We stayed a lot in Seattle when the first Alternative Tentacles record came out and we were trying to tour in late 1983," – Butthole Surfers drummer

 

It is in the great state of Texas, where this “Godfather of Grunge” hails…one Gibby Haynes, the enigmatic lead singer of the “Butthole Surfers”, the child of Jerry Haynes, a local TV celebrity of Dallas, Texas. 

 

Jerry Haynes had a long running kid show where he paraded around stage in a red and white striped suit.  In fact, Jerry was wearing this silly suit, whilst filming his show on a legendary date in Dallas history, 11/22/1963.  It was ol Jerry here that, apparently was present that fateful day, when the shots rang out it was Jerry who collected eye-witnesses and brought them back to the TV studio for broadcast. 

 

Of course Gibby Haynes did in fact follow in his father’s footsteps into the world of entertainment, but that certainly was not the life trajectory a young Gibby initially set forth upon in his life.  Gibby left Dallas to attend a private liberal arts college in San Antonio, TX, one Trinity University; where Gibby was President of his fraternity, captain of the basketball team, and studied accounting…even once named “Accounting Student of the Year.” 

 

Seems like an odd trajectory for lead singer Gibby Haynes? Perhaps…but seems striking similar to Laurel Canyon characters Warren Beatty or even John Phillips…with the background painted by Dave McGowan in his Laurel Canyon tale…it seems that ol Gibby and Warren would likely enjoy each other’s company on the Squash court (note: Sqaush is the yuppiest “sport” that came to my mind)….

 

The “Butthole Surfers” gained commercial success on the backs of Nirvana/Grunge mainstream explosion, so while not commonly considered “Grunge”…the B-hole Surfers certainly surfed those waves of buttholes right into commercial “Grunge” rock success!  In many regards the Surfers were “Grunge”, as many folks claim the Surfers were integral into the existence of "Grunge".  

 

This places the entire saga between lead singer Gibby Haynes, of the Butthole Surfers, the “Godfathers of Grunge”…living with the “Godfather of LSD”, Dr. Timothy Leary…into a crossroads of high strangeness surrounding the Laurel Canyon scene of Dave McGowan’s tale…and the Seattle “Grunge” scene, as explored in this tale. To be continued…

"Smells Like Laurel Canyon" - part 3

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, n
othin 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??