"I bring you now a special presentation to show what can happen to you if you choose a career in MUSIC."-The Central Scrutinizer
When I was but a lad, back in 1979, a certain, now-dead, songwriter savant named Frank Zappa released an epic masterpiece called Joe's Garage.
Joe's Garage is a rock opera set in a futuristic society where music is about to be outlawed for its so-called "harmful" effect on humans. The story is narrated by a floating, metallic, disc-like being called "The Central Scrutinizer," which makes ominous, declarative remarks such as, "This is the Central Scrutinizer, it is my responsibility to enforce all the laws that haven't been passed yet."
The Central Scrutinizer tells the cautionary tale of Joe, a regular guy who formed a garage band and is inevitably sent into a spiral of debauchery ("Crew Slut"), heartbreak ("Catholic Girls") and venereal disease ("Why Does it Hurt When I Pee"), until, finally, Joe hits rock bottom and falls in love with "Sy Borg," a fully-loaded, automated, homosexual sex robot called Gay Bob.
Sounds impossible, right? Silly also? Indeed, that's how Zappa wrote it-sillily impossible. But now, I'm not so sure.
As you read these words, Congress is considering legislation that could hold anyone who profits monetarily from a music event criminally liable if a patron uses drugs at said event. If passed, both The Ecstasy Awareness Act and the CLEAN-UP Act (Clean, Learn, Educate, Abolish, Neutralize and Undermine Production of methamphetamine) will, collectively, make it a federal crime to profit from a music event if you "know or have reason to know that the unlawful use or distribution of a controlled substance occurs at the event." Violators are subject to no more than $2 million in fines and up to 20 years in prison.
First of all, you can always tell the anti-drug crowd by their unimaginative acronyms. Anyone who knows anything about acronym-making knows you can't use the first word in the acronym (clean) as the acronym. That's cheating. And what's this "Abolish, Neutralize and Undermine Production" business? That's like saying, "Excuse me, I'm going to devour, consume and taste my burrito now."
Secondly, I'd like to say, "Holy Jesus' holy assbone!" Twenty years in prison? That's no Tommy Chong time. That's hard time. That's Dr. Chico the PB lady-raper time. And for what? For a crime somebody else committed?
I'm a bartender in a live rock club. On any given shift, I know somebody is stoned on something somewhere in my joint. According to CLEAN-UP, the fact that I'm aware of this and profit from it makes me liable?
And not just me. Anyone who "profits monetarily" from the event is liable: promoters, venue owners, T-shirt vendors, DJs, bands, security, ticket sellers, accountants, sound and light techs-hell, even the janitorial staff could get a couple of years in jail if this law passes. Who more than the janitor knows what's being imbibed at the shows, what with all the empty coke baggies and spent crack vials they sweep up afterwards.
"This is the Central Scrutinizer. Our studies have shown that music is so dangerous to society at large that laws are being drawn up at this very moment to stop it forever!"
I laughed when I first heard that. It's not so funny now. These proposed bills are tantamount to outlawing live music, because if the crime is in the knowing, who in their right mind will ever put on a show again?
Here's the sick part: The government can't even stop the flow of drugs in its prisons.* This is a hypocrisy so hypocritical it makes all the other hypocrisies look like not-hypocrisies. What's that you say, Mr. Legislator Guy? With all the pistols and cuffs and mace and nightsticks and watchtowers and tear gas and attack dogs and stun grenades and strip searches and Tasers and snipers and snitches-you still can't control the flow of drugs into your lockups? Well, welcome to the real world, turdhole-drugs aren't controllable. Not in prisons, not on the streets and certainly not at Reggae on the River.
Furthermore, are our government officials so ignorant they don't know that it's impossible to separate music and drugs? Even if we could, would we really want to? I don't think I could live in a world without "Heroin" or "Waiting for My Man" or any of the other smack-addled songs written by Velvet Underground. I couldn't live in a world where every Beatles tune sounded like "Love Me Do." I couldn't live in a world that never saw Grace Slick at Monterey Pop shrieking "Feed your head, feed your head" like a witch emerging from the bowels of hell. I couldn't live in a world without Bob Marley or Peter Tosh or Steel Pulse; a world without Duke, Dizzy, Billie, Bird, Count or Cab; without Snoop, Dre, Frost, Kool, Kool, Ice, Ice or Ice-a world without Frank Goddam Zappa. What would that leave us with, a choice between Lee Greenwood and the Wiggles?
I've got a better idea. Instead of new laws that liberate music from drugs, how 'bout we enact a bill that liberates old, narrow-minded, geezer douchebags from their positions of power. We'll call it The Old Geezer Douchebag Awareness Act. And forget CLEAN-UP, how about we compose the MOPP-UP Act (Making Offensive Political Pricks Undergo Psychiatric treatment) for insanely trying to imprison innocent citizens for the crimes of others. Now that's an acronym with some guts.
* Stolen from Protectlivemusic.org (visit them and learn how to get involved). Thanks to Christine Labone for the tip. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.