Mistah Kurtz, he dead
"money for nothing, chicks for free"
Part One by Jim Hayes
"The gods have disappeared and ironic Death has left only slaves."
George Groslier "a l'ombre d'Angkor", Paris 1916.
(plagiarism is necessary, progress implies it!)
Mistah Kurtz, He dead. A penny for the old guy huh? in for a bad penny, in for Ezra Pound: the Manson chick that was in St. Elizabeth's: well her niece by marriage was in Pussy Galore. Room for one more inside game sir. Money for nothing? You mean like rich kids? Oh I hate those people- chicks for free? well y'know chicks might be cheap but they're never truly FREE. The horror. THE HORROR. The hypnosis from the apocryphal book of James. Apocalypse Now, I'm dropping this bomb. I-95 is the Mekong Delta 72 snaking up the coast. and you exactly are?
... (V.O.) Marietta... shit. I'm still only in Marietta. Every time, I think I'm gonna wake up back in a motel somewhere.
(He moves back to the bed, lies down. He's unshaven, exhausted, probably drunk. We SEE alcohol bottles, cigarettes, photos, documents scattered on the table.)
(V.O.) When I was home after my first Royal Trux tour, it was worse. I'd wake up and there'd be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife until I said yes to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there. When I was there... all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I'm here a week now. Waiting for a mission. Getting softer. Every minute I stay in Marietta, I get weaker. And every minute Checkpoint Charlie gets stronger. Each time I looked around... the walls moved in a little tighter.
(He's up now, naked, going into a frenzy, drinking, doing some sort of martial arts, eventually collapsing onto the floor.)
(V.O). everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a tour. And for my sins, they gave me one. Brought the reunion gigs up to me like room service.
I dreamt there was a black three foot demon in my bed. In the dream I did a banishing pentagram and it wouldn't go away. I then reverted to a good ole Hail Mary and it dissipated. I woke up disturbed and checked my email. Royal Trux were reforming and playing a gig. I stroked my chin and wondered what forces this could unleash Y'know they weren't a band they were a beam of blue light. Unlike other rock bands they either conjured rabid fandom or incredible derision. They really drove people to fury. Their fans dug moats creating a defensive perimeter, saying if they weren't worth defending, who would do this?
I was at some party and I remember this chick explaining how one of her friends at Virgin got fired for signing them (good!) and they were just some fucking rich kid junkies. I was like, "whoa hold it baby, what are we/they (alleged rich kid junkies) supposed to do- give the money back? What does their providence have to do with anything?"
(Michael Rockefeller, Sean Flynn, Dash Snow) "If everyone who listened to the Velvet Underground started their own band, then everyone who listened to Royal Trux started reaching beyond their grasp, musical or otherwise," says Dan Koretzky.1
Alert fatigue: how many times can you be told about a band you should hear? Seriously, how many more times? Every once in a blue moon, a real cry for help is heard in the middle of the forest, next to the trees. Jennifer was sayin' that Royal Trux were a way of life, she wasn't kidding, she wasn't wrong either but it WAS expensive. Don't try this too hard at home.
Recreating the scene in Martin Sheen's hotel room, trying to chase the dragon, the first time you had good sex or more importantly got high- getting high is better than sex (what's better than sex asked Lou Reed? he answered himself: facts!)2 The fucking phone, oh it's a rock star: "you gotta get a new shtick, this fucking Royal Trux as Lou Reed and you as Lester Bangs is just so tired... "
The historian Kenneth Weisbrode notes that: "it has been said that civilization itself is representational, that is, it is a reflective expression that achieves logical coherence only upon (its) decline." in 1998 the imperial culture of American rock and roll was not only in its decline, it was over- it was logical for Royal Trux to dissolve- the hint of their power was that they did not exist: it was merely a story (and contrapuntally the power of the JSBX is that they DO exist).
Royal Trux were a ghost. What they did was secret, yet everything that comes out now it's like umm yeah umm yeah it gets a great review, no matter what it is. Everything that appears in this society is GOOD and everything GOOD appears.
"Money for Nothing" I associate with fireworks, huge sparklers- Royal Trux were declaring the end of the world. I'm not living in the past; it's just that Royal Trux's shadow looms so large. Standing on the shoulders of giants, leaves me OLD.
Some things in the past are history, and some other things are merely the past. In the need to enforce the party's version of history, to promulgate the necessary official narrative of the last days of rock, the story weaves its flesh from forgotten pamphlets and broadsides, secret meetings in exile, strange motels with swiveled televisions bolted to the floor. Royal Trux were notches in the belt that held up the pants of the King that wore no clothes. Godspeed you naked Emperor Penguin Classic.
Royal Trux and their tours ran parallel to the railroad- the 1830's rise of the penny press and the Internet as railroad leaving Thoreau's graphic plastic pencil factory intruding in the dust. The birth of the American avant garde dates to the rise of the railroad, the telegraph factories churn out the presses. If you reach and realize that the speed of transmission changed everything you wonder. The late '90's are like the '70's now and the '70's were like '30's, only the music was better. The music of Royal Trux was talismanic and it helped sustain me during critical moments, kill the fatted calf, call the family round.
Their resistance to narrative form have freed them from the notion that critick's own them. Hoodwinked? Like Ti-Jean boozing it up with the Librarian of Congress, Randall Jarrell: coming on like a back to mono-maniac. Isn't he in jail? Randall Jarrell that is.3 Does Charters own Kerouac? She owns Olsen & Melville that's for sure (Olsen tripping with a Fug: good Lord). Do critick's own the bands and their experiences? When Henry and Ian went to the Library of Congress to look at authentic ancient Stooges promos, was that worshipping the fetish of commodity or some bizarre voodoo vinyl ritual? The priest kings touch the platters they spin in little houses of the holy (they wanted to get close). Spooky.4 Meet me in the square, where the prison usta to be, just sit around...
According to Hannah Karp in the WSJ, the global revenues from major labels are down 60% from 2000.5 Forty percent went to Royal Trux, their music dripped with intellectual residue. Royal Trux were recording artists in the last year that people bought records. Now they're not bands but BRANDS etched into the skin like cattle.
"What happens now, I mean what happens next?" (Twilight Zone)
The first video played on MTV Britain was "Money For Nothing." how ‘bout MUSIC for nothing- in the future, bands won't get paid. "that ain't working"- and all the pornography: that means all the chicks will be for free. Neil and Jennifer were casting a spell.
When Jennifer sings I want my MTV, it's a taunt, it's a challenge. That ain't working. When Dire Straits list the products: "gotta load these microwave ovens" he's reminding society that it should be thankful for such gifts. He's acting as a shill, as a carnival barker (carnival grounds).6
When Hagerty sings it though, you can hear his slouch: listing the products that came without even asking, 1998 was a bleak year 13 years after Dire Straits proclaimed the society of abundance which we abundantly and obviously deserved.
Royal Trux aren't there and that was 17 years ago- think back to 17 years from 2000 that was ‘83 and then that was ‘66- the times have MOVED- and it's not that I'm some elderly rock critic that bemoans the fact "all the good music is gone" it's that the way the music is CONSTRUCTED now that makes it hard for me to relate, not so much as missing a tube amplifier but the band in a VAN (with a deflated Jughead balloon) but the band in the van wiping their fingers on a Texaco roadmap7- it's like push button ignitions, I'm ready for the cover of "Accelerator" with the foot on the gas.
The rock music of today is not the same formula- the road map that DIY hardcore bands drew up is being emulated across the board. When Neil says "that ain't working" it's a not a critique it's a stubborn fact- that ain't working (this society ain't working). Copyright takedowns, the man can't bust OUR music but they can bust in the doors looking for copyright infringement. What happens if you wear an advertisement on the live Graceland cam? the buses stop at the Memphis Temple and the lines get off like a cattle call. I imagine Doctor Mengele and the Klaus Barbie dolls: room for one more inside sir.8
Don't look back: I am lonely soul; in French it's all microwave ovens. Naah when she sings I want my MTV- at that time you had no choice. The Pub got real quiet while '70's schlock rock played, another squeak of driving 55. I said to my skinhead friend: "I like these Boston records a lot better knowing that the singer killed himself."
Troy started singing while gripping the foam warmer around his can of commercial brew, hiding it from the peering eyes of pseudo-hipster brewery snobs. Could you imagine being condescending in Georgia (well yeah, you meet these fag film crews where the PA's are always these grumpy pear shaped hetero's that really want to be working on their screen play about the girl that wins the chess championship but is bullied online and goes postal. Only it's an email threat, not really the same- she killed herself with a ketamine overdose, sad but stubbornly true).
So T starts singing the suicide song: "it was such a LONG time, such a loooonnggg time."
- Yeah he rigged some hibachi up the stairs with carbon monoxide and he left all these notes for the fire department.
"Like what? what the notes say?"
- I dunno, some shit like be careful there's poison gas, look out carbon monoxide and on his chest in French it said "I am such a lonely soul."
"In French?" The skinhead contemplated the pretentiousness that the singer from Boston, a guy that didn't even pen his own words using a foreign tongue to communicate his final heartfelt wishes to a couple of Bawstonnn firemen, almost like Sartre writing about Saint Genet...
Someone said the Pumpkinheads recorded in Marietta- where? oh down interstate north parkway just past windy hill.
- That ain't M-Town, that's Atlanta- it's close but Have a Cigar. The guy was all right then I he asked if I liked the Pumpkinheads and I'm like uhh no. I had explain myself (again). Umm Trux, Trux baby- thank you- how could you listen to anybody but Royal Trux- then?
when they reformed it was like the final scenes in Apocalypse Now- when the airstrikes hit Kurtz's compound- they were saying yeah we are a rock band (after all this time I was fooled!) I thought I was Martin Sheen looking for Colonel Kurtz, instead I was Dennis Hopper. Crazed after all those years in the rock and roll jungle ("Cigarettes! That's what I'm looking for!").
Blue blue windows behind the stars/the yellow kid on the rise. do they have an APP?
what is it about trux that just incites people to fury? you think alleged rich kids don't work? ahh yes affluenza, ha- don't ask for the whom the bell tolls just remember that when you finish the coke and it's almost dawn, there's always a soft Royal Trux song out there- gonna ride it one more time.
Well I don't think that: there's no separation between Royal Trux's life and art... but probably the biggest myth was that, while I thought they were avatars of some Hindu love god, tentacles preaching some new language as the society crumbled into neutral digital mirrors- they were in fact a band. Reuniting. Playing gigs again. Do avatars rise from the grave? I was fooled, I thought Mistah Kurtz was dead- I thought Trux were Kurtz- up the river alone at the head of their tribe- in the jungle.
But now the jungle beeps and clicks there are plenty of ways to tell Trux's story without my own but they've always been the soundtrack, even those years I didn't listen to them. Nostalgia, the Nostos- the longing for: Nostos which is Greek for homecoming. The Acts of the Apostles were the first tour diaries. Nostalgia is a reaction. The present time changes so quickly it never remains.
Rockets redglare- and the critic acts like they're doing you a favor- I'm gonna write about you- oh like they need that or even want that (and you hear a royal trux tape and the critic yells out his favorite song "yo se!"). The rock critic is a parallel star to the music itself, to the career of the musician. It retains energy and it blinks on and off. The sheer pointlessness of rock criticism gives its partakers a freedom. Grand opening/grand closing.
When Kurt blew his brains out; we laughed. When my old lady got back to Queens I greeted her saying "big rock and roll news, big rock and roll news." We used to cop from the guy that sold dope to Kurt before he played on Saturday Night Live. Down on East 5th street, close to Avenue C above the bodega that sold nickel bags of coke. He was a famous mule. You'd give him money and he'd bicycle down to Clinton just across Houston. You had to buy him dope too. Sometimes he would open the bags, steal some dope and then heat wire ‘em shut. Clever. He saved Kurt's message and would play it at parties. The day after the suicide I took my old lady's bank card to get some money to cop. The bank card wouldn't work. See that Kurt's grave is kept clean.
And I think about all the people we've lost since then- good people too. It's like being addicted to Royal Trux you're like the last Japanese soldier, stuck in some cave, refusing to surrender (my gates are all caves). A Stalinist slash Satanist9 once asked me: how did Psychic TV teach how to think and how did Royal Trux teach you how to act? (I see the stars come out of the sky. Jennifer's eyes are so piercing I can't remember what color they are; she usually hides them with shades. The first time I saw her without shades was over the pool table at the echo lounge. Neil has a disaffected glance, he pretends he's not looking at you and the aura he dredges up is like a menacing fog).
Money for nothing is like Nietzsche's "Ecce Homo." It was close to the end: subtitled "how one becomes what one is"; like Neil & Jennifer they would live on royalties soon and then the internet exploded and royalties became like the rubber chicken in Uncle Meat grand opening grand closing.
Then the dreams come, the dreams come down. The money is for devices that show content and the nothing is how much the content costs. Royal Trux opened your eyes to a lot of things: the chicks for free is the ubiquitous porn perhaps the world did end at the turn of the century- and Trux recording money for nothing was prophetic- when Pussy Galore covered "Yu Gung," the song breaks and Jon Spencer says "telephone" and someone responds "fuck THAT."
See Part Two of this Royal Trux article
1. http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/music-2/royal-trux-cult-band-re-shaped-music/ Cian Traynor 8-20-16
2. I can't find this citation! Help! (ED NOTE: maybe from Oui interview, 1974)
3. Randall Jarrell was hit by car during Libra 1965. Rolling Thunder?
5. http://topics.wsj.com/person/K/hannah-karp/7687. I can't find the exact citation but it's in here.
6. "Gotta serve somebody: it might be the devil it might be the Lord."
7. "Open All Night" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf-Y426YMto
9. He gave up law school to drive trucks, oooh I'm impressed.
Also see our interview with Jennifer Herrema/RTX, our Royal Trux article and our interview with Neil Hagerty of Royal Trux
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