The Stone Pony
I’m writing this on Wednesday 1 Sept. Today is the 64th birthday of Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. Now there’s a family that has seen some pain. Also, Jonathan Franzen’s new book, “Freedom” came out yesterday. These things factor in somehow. Now there’s a blockbuster for you (“Freedom”). This book is on its second print run already and this will mean 300,000 copies in hardback. Yes, maybe the internet didn’t kill it all. Maybe you just have to be authentic. This book is real.
Asbury Park is on the Jersey Shore and is quite a famous place. You could quite easily say that this is where Bruce Springsteen got his chance and also from where Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes took their shot at the big time. Did Southside Johnny really want the big time? I’m not entirely sure. This activity, the launching of Bruce and Southside Johnny, all happened from one smallish venue: The Stone Pony. Now there are many other launching pads in their respective careers to be taken into account, but the Stone Pony played a major part. Sony Music launched Bruce to the whole wide world.
Southside Johnny is currently touring the UK and I don’t think he’s playing the biggest rooms and I don’t think it even matters. Some people probably have more friends on Facebook than the number of seats that Southside Johnny can fill. But he’s great/real/authentic and they may well be average. Just everyone wants to be a pop star these days. Southside Johhny is who he is and no more.
On this run, I was putting up posters by Janet Frame (it being her birthday) and Chris Knox mainly. But I had at least, four or five other poets on board: Michael Palma, Robert Creeley and Mariana Isara being three. I dressed the town good and proper. I have never been out on a poster run that I did not enjoy. It was a beautiful and sunny day and I went about this run in a calm and methodical manner.
Janet Frame is my favourite Kiwi author. There are all kinds of reasons for this, but the main one is that she gets inside my head and leaves me with thoughts and feelings that last a very long time. At the moment, she reminds me of a New Zealand that I miss very much, particularly Otago and Dunedin. In “towards another summer” she talks about a long train ride (eight or ten hours if I remember correctly!) between Oamaru and Dunedin. Obviously there were many stops and delays to take on passengers and freight. Then there is the prize of it all, the ‘refreshment stop’. There’s just one line where Grace has ‘cream buns and fizz’ that can bring up for me, in one flash of a moment, a childhood’s valued memories. When I was a kid we talked about ‘sculling the guzz’ (drinking that fizz). I wonder whether Grace’s particular refreshment stop was at Palmerston, Maheno, Hampden, Waikouaiti, or maybe Waitati? Or perhaps I’m completely off track. Palmerston was the best stop for me because there are three war memorials there: The Boer War, World War I, and World War II are all signified. This (the war memorials) is all magical stuff to be taking in with a cream bun when you are six. Then there’s that statue on the hill in Palmerston (a sheep dog?) that just gets you glinting in the sunlight to see it. No place like Otago in the whole wide world.
Also we, as Kiwis, have Chris Knox. I’m sure we all feel we own him because he tells us who we are. He resonates with us. I’ve always loved Chris Knox’s music, whether he was in “Toy Love” (or “The Enemy”), or solo, or with Alec Bathgate (“Tall Dwarves”). I always think that more than 90% of all recorded music or written literature is superficial and mediocre. You can always tell when a real one comes along because it (whether it is music or literature) takes over your body and your thoughts and emotions. Putting up Chris’s “Becoming Something Other” on the Jersey Shore did this to me. It took me over. It was the least I could do to bang up a few posters.
New Jersey is the home of several ‘reality’ television shows and yet I think that people these days need every little bit of true ‘reality’ or ‘authenticity’ they can get. The amount of unreality in the world is what is truly disturbing. Everything else apart from reality is bullshit and it messes with peoples’ heads. I’ve always loved posters because often, but not always, they are real. So I do what I can. Don’t think I’m sad with it either. I find it uplifting.
The Stone Pony? Well, I just bet that both Bruce and Southside Johnny played lots of bad nights where there may have only been ten or twelve people in the audience. That’s how you learn your craft. We must remember that the Beatles played six nights a week for two years in Hamburg before they really hit their stride. Then they had become authentic. Fame (or rejecting fame) is not an automatic entitlement, but hell you could be forgiven for thinking that it was. You can supersize everything these days. Getting real acknowledgement for your craft could take hard work, but often it’s just a marketing campaign away (or a Facebook page). Fame can even be achieved these days based on your ability to rip someone else apart. You may never have done anything in your life except rip someone else apart, and yet you may get to the top because you can do that. Good luck with that. How do you sleep?
The Bee Gees were and are a great band. In the beginning, they had people who believed in them and then there were those great songs. Australia couldn’t contain them.
The management of the Stone Pony stuck with Bruce and with Southside Johnny even though it may have looked (at times) that it didn’t make commercial sense. People (artists particularly) need to be nourished and probably not exposed to adulation before they are ready for it (if ever). They should hone their craft.
There was a dude called Albert Schweitzer who said this:
“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
So to me, it was just another day in Paradise down on the New Jersey Shore putting up posters.
Keep the Faith,
*Notable New Zealand Musician, Chris Knox, had a birthday this week too. He was 58 on Thursday, September 2, 2010.