Wag the Dog Motherf*ckers(!)
Wag the Dog Motherfuckers(!)
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I never thought I'd get rich playing rock and roll. It was the adventure I was after. If that's what they were selling, I was buying.
A few things I learned while gigging in Belgrade, Serbia the last couple days:
While the NATO forces were dropping bombs over Belgrade nine years ago [see pics of bombed out building I took from my cab] the local TV played Wag the Dog once a week. Chew on that for a moment.
Somewhere Monica Lewinsky was eating a cheeseburger, bent over the laundry hamper watching CNN. NATO is making their explosive point and the good people of Serbia are watching Wag the Dog on TV.
And I suppose back in the US of A David Mamet continues his transformation from "brain dead liberal" to whatever he is now.
When Ivan (pronounced "even" like "Even Steven") the head of my gang of local promoters heard over the radio that his prime minister Zoran Djindjic had been assassinated, he was busy with scissors and glue making a gig poster.
The gig went on.
A local band recorded Lou Reed's "The Day that John Kennedy Died" and adapted it to "The Day Zoran Djindjic Died".
The state theatre I played is undergoing a million dollar renovation. There was a vote to determine whether to purchase a fleet of ambulances or to renovate the theatre. The people spoke. They wanted the theatre.
Wag the Dog.
It's weird to look at the bombed and hollowed-out buildings. A bomb can take out a city block, yet 100 feet away, the next block over is untouched.
During the Bush years, when bands came over from the states to play and shouted "Fuck Bush!" the audiences rolled their eyes. They didn't need the Supersuckers to tell them; they knew a little about a world gone wrong.
You still see the odd rusting Yugo on the street. They were manufactured, If that's the proper verb, not far from here.
The security guys look like Yugoslavian wrestlers we saw on the Wide World of Sports of our youth. When he hulks over and turns the key to the glass doors to let us in, it makes me smile.
A BRIEF HISTORY:
Back at the theatre, I was given a digested history of the former Yugoslavian state Serbia by my man Dragon over coffee after the sound-check before the gig. Mostly our chat centered around the history as it related to Rock and Roll.
Dragon tells me that shortly after they sent the Nazi's packing, the Monarchy was out and prime minister Tito was in. Marshall Tito broke off a piece for the people apart from the Soviet Bloc. Everyone got a passport and were free to come and go. Now independent, Yugoslavia served as a kind of buffer zone between the west and the more hardcore communist Russia. It was not as isolated as one might think. Most importantly, passports meant everyone could bring back records from abroad. LP's were also pressed up along with comics and such. Love and Rockets translated into Serbian, anyone? And all the arts flourished, although criticizing or protesting the government was not cool, artists were free to express anything as long as it was metaphorical. Sticking it to the man took a kind of poetry to pull off.
Western businesses were allowed to set up shop as long as they didn't employ more than 10 people.
There were two flights per day into London. It didn't take much to befriend a stewardess to bring back the records you read about in the NME.
Late night DJ's on Radio B ruled. You might hear the Bay City Rollers, Zep and Lou Reed's Berlin back to back. The Pistols were not banned in fact. Radio B is still alive and well. I visited there for an interview. Although, sadly, during the NATO chaos much of the record library was looted.
Wag the Dog.
Szechlana tells me when they had to evacuate the radio station during the bombings (the station's the tallest building in Belgrade), going underground meant they set up shop in a hotel room down the block sitting around on the side of the bed playing records from their makeshift control room.
No other way to say it, so I ask her, what-was-it-like? She says she maybe has blocked it out. Doesn't think about it. I look over at the carcass of a building through the cab and back through her eyes as she's talking, imagine her dreams scrambled and unscrambling. You can't block it all out.
Svechlana, Ivan, Dragon, and Capo looked after me. They made my gig happen. Righteously cool people. See the photos. That's Szvechlana the redhead in the beret, working the Patty Hearst look, (unbeknownst to her I'm sure).
The show went well. They had four lights to work with. But they bounced them off the cinema screen as a backdrop. It was beautiful. Behind the board, a bright kid with an emo shag went out and produced some batteries for my pedals when my rig went down out of nowhere. I said, "These aren't some dodgy Russian 9 Volts are they?" (Probably not necessary but hey, as Larry David says, I took a shot). The kid effortlessly dialed in the monitors, and they too s*p*a*r*k*l*e*d.
I autographed a Russian pressing of Age Of Miracles. Never seen that before. It had a stamp on it, said: "limited edition". I guess so.
Wag the Dog.
Maybe I'll never understand the world gone wrong of genocide, cleansing, and senseless fighting. But I met beautiful people, who are making do with so little. Unfazed by hyper-inflation and unrest and isolation. Pressing on with hope that anything is possible. Now that's rock and roll.
And that dog can wag, motherfuckers.