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Book Review: Reefer Madness

by Lang Reid

Books being published do happen to reflect the current sociological situations in the world, and with there being so much anti-Americanism at present, it does not come as any surprise to see another American ‘introspective’ on the shelves this week.

Reefer Madness (and other tales from the American underground) (ISBN 0-141-01076-2, Penguin Books) is written by Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, previously reviewed in this column.

The book is in four basic sections. The first deals with marijuana and the government’s battle against the weed. The second deals with immigrant labour and illegal immigrants making a (dis)honest living without officially owning work permits. (Thank goodness nothing like that ever happens here.) The third is an appraisal of the pornography industry in the US, bringing up people such as Reuben Sturman, a man who has made megabucks from ‘porn’, and you have never heard of him! After reading about his harassment and his thumbing of his nose at the American legal system, you can understand what drove him on! And the money helped too! The final chapter deals with ‘dark influences’, and again there seems to be a similarity with SE Asian countries!

After pointing out that the pornographic film industry began in the USA in 1915, Schlosser writes, “The popularity of ‘stag films’ and the tolerance of their display in most communities reveal the oddly contradictory attitudes towards sex that still permeate American culture.” How true! We have just witnessed America’s farcical self-flagellation over Janet Jackson’s right breast and nipple jewelry being seen on national TV, and thereby exposing America’s youth to the vision of their neonatal nourishment. Shock! Horror! (It should also be noted that Thailand appears to be slavishly following America with the furore over an exposed nipple on a Bangkok catwalk being described as ‘un-Thai’ in some quarters.)

The review copy was made available by Bookazine with an RRP B. 450, and should be available in all good bookshops. The details, as described by Eric Schlosser, do show the depths that politicians will go to ride their pet hobby horses in public, particularly if they think those hobby horses can canter home with a few votes (even if they are red-neck ones!).

The message from this book is much larger than Good ol’ America, however. The “War against drugs” being waged for many years, with draconian penalties, including the death penalty, and seizure of assets if you are in any way associated with a suspected drug dealer, has a certain commonality with another war against drugs that I remember reading about recently. Both wars look as if they will have similar outcomes.

When I reviewed Schlosser’s previous book, Fast Food Nation, four months ago, I wrote that it was a “serious look at the sociology of life in the 20th and 21st century. And by ‘serious’, I mean well researched sociology.” You can say the same for Reefer Madness and other tales from the American underground. Full notes at the back of the book, plus bibliography and index. A true research work, with an even truer and chilling message. Get this book!

Mott's CD Reviews: Pink Floyd The Final Cut

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

One Star

A better title for this musical mess would perhaps have been ‘The Final Straw’. Many Pink Floyd Fans call this the first of Roger Waters’ solo career rather than a full blown proper Pink Floyd album, and we all know how successful Roger Waters has been solo. (Playing live in Bangkok Roger Waters had to slip his solo songs in between Floyd classics to keep the audience attention from wandering too far.) However, it has to be said the man is a genius with the written word. His lyrics on ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ and ‘The Wall’ are nothing short of superb. The trouble starts when he sets them to music without the full support and musical ideas of his colleagues.

‘The Final Cut’ is made up of some half-baked Roger Waters ideas and some things that did not get onto ‘The Wall’. So what you are getting are songs that were once considered not good enough. What the heck! If the album cover has got ‘Pink Floyd’ on it the gullible public will buy anything. And buy they did. ‘The Final Cut’ got to #1 in England, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and West Germany, and #6 in the all-important American market. But this was purely on pre-release sales and the album forthwith dropped out of the charts like the preverbal falling brick.

Roger Waters had written all the lyrics for the magnificent ‘The Wall’, and he had the full backing of David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Rick Wright on that particular masterpiece. Still ‘The Wall’ tour had not been a happy experience for Pink Floyd. Waters resorted to dictatorial methods to dominate all the others. This put extra strain on the band to the expense of performing ‘The Wall’ live. Plus they lost most of their already amassed fortune by bad investments by their accountants. Rock ‘n’ Roll and money never seem to stay together long. So before going into the studio again, Roger Waters, to the amazement of the whole rock world, fired Rick Wright. Actually this had taken place during ‘The Wall’ tour when Wright was cut off from the Pink Floyd financial machine and put on wages. This turned out to save him a fortune when their investments crashed.

For the first time in their career Pink Floyd went into the studio with only one person allowed to write the songs and no keyboard player (a certain Michael Kamen played some keyboards, but remained pretty anonymous). On one song only one original member of Pink Floyd played as Andy Newmark was on drums on ‘Two Suns In The Sunset’. Technically David Gilmour was not an original member of Floyd as he was brought in to replace the wayward genius Syd Barrett, and although Andy Newmark is a fine drummer, Nick Mason is the Pink Floyd drummer. The results are disastrous.

While I sympathize with Waters views, I in fact applaud them. The futility of war, the innate powerlessness of the individual in modern society to have any effect on his surroundings, even from the giddy heights of one of the world’s most recognizable people, in parts of the album in the spoken word his point comes across with great bile and intensity. In these parts Waters’ object was to create ‘A requiem for The Post War Dream’. He succeeded with aplomb.

The music that accompanies it though is embarrassing. Not only that, every song is taken at the same turgid pace. ‘The Poor old National Philharmonic Orchestra’ is used totally out of context and must have been wondering what was going on during recording. With Roger Waters limited musical ability the orchestral arrangements were done by Michael Kamen (co-producer of Roger Waters’ wretched mess), who’s own ideas seemed to cross Roger Waters’ plans. It’s all a bit like watching a musical with the wrong soundtrack. Themes repeat themselves again and again like a recurring nightmare - quite unsettling. They are only being broken up by the odd moments of David Gilmour’s rapier like guitar breaking through like a ray of sunshine in a perfect storm. Unfortunately these moments are too few and far between. You would need to be a complete David Gilmour anorak case (like this Dog) to get this album just for these moments. David Gilmour is perhaps not the greatest guitarist ever put on the planet, but in the light of these songs he positively sparkles.

The nadir of this album though is the dreadful pathos that Roger Waters puts into his singing when he is trying to get his point across. It becomes cringing when he actually takes on his own audience in ‘Not Now John’. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

So you buy the album. First time you play it you desperately hope that things will improve as things go from bad to worse. Then to add insult to injury on the 2nd last track the author starts slagging you off. Great. I had to actually dust this album off to listen to it again before I could review it (with paws over ears). Not an experience I shall gladly go through again.

The album comes with a sticker on the front warning of lyrics that may be offensive to some listeners. Well, there ought to be one from the Trades Description Board and the Office of Fair Trading as this is a Pink Floyd album in name only.

The Songs
The Post War Dream
Your Possible Pasts
One of The Few
The Hero’s Return
The Gunners Dream
Paranoid Eyes
Get Your Filthy Hands off My Desert
The Fletcher Memorial Home
Southampton Dock
The Final Cut
Not Now John
Two Suns In The Sunset
David Gilmour - Guitars
Nick Mason - Drums
Roger Waters - Bass and Vocals

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