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December 12, 1979 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-12-12
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Page 12-'Wednesday, December 12, 1979-the Michigan Daily;

(Continued from Page 11)
Art has always been about com-
munications systems. Whereas it once
could be thought of as a brain or a shiny
IBM computer-two centralized sour-
ces of information that happily spit out
information upon request-art now is
set up more like a walkie-talkie. The
walkie talkie doesn't store up infor-
mation, it just passes on what it already
has to eveybody else. Today, art doesn't
come from anywhere ... the network
creates it. Get the message?
Pop art has always depended on the
artist and the audience hitting it off. In
the 70s, high art more and more went
the same route. Modern composers
such as George Crumb and Phillip
Glass sought new ways to pull their
audiences into their compositions.
Glass, among other things, weaving in-
tense tapestries of dense minimal
melodies and Crumb working more in a
chamber music vein. The German ar-
tist Joseph Beuys creates an art that is
really only accessible if the viewer
knows some of the particulars of Beuy's
German background. After the 70s, it
will seem hard to think of the artist as
someone incredibly magical; the artist,
we are being taught, is all of us.
especially when we work together.
"It's hard to tell where you leave off
and the camera begins
A Minolta 35mm SLR makes it
almost effortless to capture the
world around you or express the

In today 's art,
I'm a star,
you're astar

world within you. It feels comfor-
table in your hands. Your fingers
fall into place naturally. Everything
works so smoothly that the camera
becomes a part of you. You never
have to take your eyes from the
viewfinder to make adjustments. So
you can concentrate on creating the
picture. . . And you're free to
probe the limits of your imagination
with a Minolta ...
When you are the camera and the
camera is you"-advertisement, 1976.
Nowhere does a community of art-
followers mingle more closely with the
artists than in the realm of pop art. And
in the 70s, pop art gobbled up large
chunks of high art. Not only were the

arts merging with people's lives, but
they were combining with each other as
Although Star. Wars seems on one
level a throwback to every western and
Buck Rogers flick ever made, the truth
is that the film was too perfect to have
been made in any decade but this one. It
took the high-tech, post-turbulence-of-
the-60s mind of George Lucas to paste
together in a film such elements as the
Bible, Casablanca, Nazi propaganda
films, comic books, and pulp
magazines, and The Wizard of Oz. The
genius of Lucas as that such com-
binations, once considered taboo, now
appeared so commonplace and natural
as to make them invisible.
And the mixing of the arts is
everywhere. In the 70s we had rock
bands like Television quoting 19th cen-
tury poets, and Ornette Coleman and

Milton Berle sharing the stage on an
episode of Saturday Night Live (Uncle
Miltie furnishing the snappy racist pat-
ter, no less.).
"Relax, Jack. Nick, put on some
background music to sooth the ner-
ves. A little Billie Holliday and Judy
Garland-they'll do wonders for
you-even make you forget we got
nuclear fallout screwing up our air,
yeah, and even on the grass and get-
ting in our milk. Hurry up
Nick-get little Judy on there,
singing her heart out. Boy am I glad
she's not here to see what it's
coming to. The world, I mean,
Jack-the world!!"-Scorpio to Nick
Fury, No. 48 Defenders Comics.
In The Mad Adventures of Rabbi
Jacob, one of the unnoted classic films
of the mid-70s, there is an unforgettable
scene in which the protagonist falls into
a vat of molten chewing gum and then
gets coated by a stampede of gumballs.
People are like that today-encrusted,
weighed down to the grouind by
teeming, brightly-colored diversions.
The voices of those calling for an art
that has a thrust, even an art that is
moral, are rising. It's a question today
of 'now that we have art, what are we
going to do with it?'
Our wait for the answer to that one
seems to have only begun.
-R. J. Smith

Music: To hate it is to love it

T HE LAST THING the people
of this country probably
agreed on was Richard Nixon.
His' name has become
synonymous with the sort of pure Evil
generally reserved for Hitler-like dic-
tators and mass murderers. But for all
its extremism, Nixon-loathing is still
the paradigm of this decade's reigning
personal credo: In the 70s, you're
defined by what you hate.
No one much bothers denying that
about politics anymore (name the last
election that wasn't a letter-of-two-
evils affairs), but it sweeps over into
popular culture as well, shaping the
ways we listen to music and the
demands we make of it. Just as the 60s
kids gathered like sheep under the um-
brella of "The Movement" eventually
splintered into a thousand dissociated
sub-species, the rock messiahs of the
60s-Dylan, Jagger, Lennon-gave way
to the rigid musical cultism of the 70s.
These days, to borrow from Bob Dylan,
you gotta hate somebody. You may
think Disco sucks or that we should
Knuke the Knack. If you're a hard-line
New Waver you probably think the
mainstream pop-rock goulash is gar-
bage. And if you're a post-New Waver,
as far as you're concerned, groups like
Talking Heads and Blondie sold-out
when they landed hit singles,

your own the lasst few years has been
like trying to escape the cosmic suction
of a black hole. Whether you liked
Saturday Night Fever or not didn't
matter much-except that you had to
Iirewith it, on the radio, at parties, on
television, in magazines, at the movies.
After awhile, it wasn't enough to turn
one's back on mass tastes. Some had to
make a show of it, striking out publicly
against all that homogenized masses.
And so-we got Chicago DJ Steve Dahl
leading a horde of anti-disco crusaders
onto the Chicago White Sox baseball
field to light bonfires and detonate disco
albums; Elvis Costello stinging his
adoring liberal media following by
calling Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant

in the process. The result was the per-
fect dessert for kids who wanted to have
their cake and eat it too: They got
"punk" without the catharsis or
malevolence or alienating weirdness.

A decade of performers on campus
(from bottom to top): Leon Redbone
at Hill Auditorium, Harry Chapin at
Hill, B.B. King at Hill, Santana .at Hill.
Patti Smith at Second Chance, and
John Denver at Crisler Arena.

nigger"; and Sid Vicious, ex-Sex Pistol,
and all-around bad boy, doing a
scouring-pad rendition of "My Way"
and firing a gun into the audience.
When Johnny Rotten caught the eye
of the media in 1977, everyone either
thought the punks would take over the.
world (by blowing it to smithereens, of
course) or whither away into oblivion,
like the crusty remains of some freshly
popped pustule. In the spirit of 70s
homogenization, what happened was
something in between. To a degree,
punk was co-opted, and artists like the
Cars and Joe Jackson proved how one
could straddle the mainstream and
New Wave and sell millions oft albums

Even disco had to undergo some sub-
tle refinement before getting plugged
into the circuit of mass tastes. It took
music like "Stayin' Alive" and "Night
Fever" to make America disco-crazy.
They were songs that eschewed
Moroder-like rhythmic drone for an
irresistible blend of disco, mellow pop,
and rock and roll gutsiness. After that,
it was no revelation when groups like
" Blondie and Roxy Music came out with
quasi-disco material. Just as punk had
gained some respectability in the eyes
of high school kids who didn't want to
get their hands dirty, it was suddenly
OK by musical asethetics- (and their
Bible, the previously discophobic
Rolling Stone) to like disco.
BUT AMERICA'S disco-madness
took its full toll. Black music, one of the
seminal cultural influences of the 60s,
was sumsumed into the disco fortree it
had helped build, watered-dowh to
sounds like Donna Summer's icy rock-
disco and the passionless soul of the
Commodores and Peaches and Herb.
The black music producing jewel of the
60s-Motown Records-exists now in
name only. The company itself is
merely one of many L.A.-based labels,
shurning out anonymous formula music

and selling the product with slick, Day-
glo packaging. The most successful of
the 70s rock/R&B-based black
musicians-Earth, Wind & Fire's
Maurice White and
Parliment/Funkadelic's George Clin-
ton-have expanded fairly standard
forms into vehicles for creative pur-
But perhaps the only artist to ap-
proach the awesome freedom of the
Motown classics was Stevie Wonder,
whose-fresh sounds were a revelation of
innocence next to the plain, passion-less
soul-disco that dominated black music.
What, then, are we left with? A few
fractions that will probably fight them-
selves into an early grave, a dance-
style (and lifestyle) that's here to stay,
and a handful of performers with
enough passion, guts and flash between
them to keep rock-and-roll alive in the
decade to come. Artists like Bruce
Springsteen, Graham Parker, Elvis
Costello, the Clash, Neil Young, and
Blondie are in it for more than the
money. What puts these artists over the
edge is their endless balancing act bet-
ween an honest doubt and fear about
the world they have inhibited, and a
proud, hard-assed belief in themselves
and rock-and-roll. Of course, some of
the bedrock performers are still around,
and dumping away a lot harder than
they peed to after fifteen years of ser-
In "Badlands," a late .70 call-to-
arms, Bruce Springsteen sings, "keep
pushing till it's understood, and these
Badlands start treating us good."
That's a hell of a challenge. But when
you hear Bruce's bristling guitar solo
written through that song, it's one you
want to live up to.


-Owen OGIlbermcn

Supplement to The Michigan Doily Ann Arbor, Mi 'gon=-Wednesday, December 12. 1979

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