Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Disturbing: de la Rey

JOHANNESBURG, Feb. 26 — "Proudly South African" is this nation's E Pluribus Unum, a slogan stamped on products, echoed in radio commercials and inculcated into the new South African DNA. Much as America's motto celebrates melding many into one, South Africa's says that it doesn't matter what you look like — we can all be proud of our young country.

Enter Louis Pepler, who, perhaps inadvertently, has cast the notion of South African pride in a whole new light. He and two friends penned an unlikely rock ballad about an Afrikaner general named De la Rey who battled British forces a century ago, and it instantly became an Afrikaner anthem.

Mr. Pepler calls the song, "De la Rey," a testament to Afrikaner pride. "I'm part of this rainbow country of ours," he said. "But I'm one of the colors, and I'm sticking up for who I am. I'm proud of who I am."

Which would be fine, except that nobody, not even Afrikaners themselves, agrees on what an Afrikaner is these days.

A dozen years after the end of an Afrikaner government that invented apartheid, the mere concept of Afrikaner pride remains an exquisitely sensitive issue among whites and blacks alike. Are Afrikaners the feared Dutch descendants who built an empire based on a belief in their God-ordained racial superiority? Are they just another ethnic group, like the Zulu and Sotho and Xhosa, with a distinct place in the new democracy? Or are they South Africans first and foremost— 2.5 million whites in a stewpot of 4.5 million whites among 47.5 million people — and Afrikaners second, or third?

"De la Rey" has become a vessel for those aspirations and fears and, for the last month, the object of a caustic, often racially tinged national debate.

I'm generally pretty mellow about this sort of thing, but I can certainly see the concern here. The Afrikaners ruled with an iron fist, disenfranchised millions of their countrymen, and sought to silence political dissent. They were no heroes. (And I'm even cutting them a bit of slack because many members of the Irish resistance fought with the Boers, under the highly complex theory that if you were shooting at a Brit, for whatever cause, it was a good thing.) Idealizing one of their historical forebears strikes me as pretty offensive, even if intended innocently--and I'm not convinced it was.

Taken literally, the lyrics are clear: "De la Rey" is a song about Afrikaner history. In the Second Boer War, from 1899 to 1902, a much larger British force overwhelmed the Boers, or Afrikaners, in a scramble for gold and land — but only after Gen. Koos de la Rey inflicted punishing defeats on the British. Nearly 28,000 Afrikaners and perhaps 20,000 black Africans died in British concentration camps during the war, many of them women and children. Their suffering is a central theme in Afrikaner lore.

Mr. Pepler's song is set in the trenches of that war. In the music video, a blooded and beleaguered Afrikaner soldier sings of "a handful of us against a whole big force" and "a nation that will rise again" — as the Afrikaners later did, winning control of South Africa in an election in 1948.

"De la Rey, de la Rey," the refrain pleads, "will you come and lead the Boers?"

But while the lyrics as a whole refer to the Boer War, some see in those phrases, and in the soldier's hopeless plight, a metaphor for Afrikaners' reduced place in post-apartheid society. His plea for a leader is viewed as a call for resistance to South Africa's government, which is based on universal suffrage.

The lyrics are as follows:

Delarey - Bok van Blerk lyrics (English Translation)

On a mountain in the night
We lie in the dark and wait
In the mud and the blood
As rain and streepsak clings to me

And my house and my farm were burnt to the ground so they could capture us
But those flames and those fires now burns deep deep within me.

De La Rey, De La Rey can you come and lead the Boers?
De La Rey, De La Rey
General, General we will fall around you as one.
General De La Rey.

The Khakis that laugh
A handful of us against an massive force
With our backs to the cliffs of the mountains
They think its over for us

But the heart of a Boer is deeper and wider, they will come to see
On a horse he comes, the lion of West Transvaal

De La Rey, De La Rey can you come and lead the Boers?
De La Rey, De La Rey

General, General we will fall around you as one.
General De La Rey.

Because my wife and my child are in a camp dying,
And the Khakis are walking over a nation that will rise again

De La Rey, De La Rey can you come and lead the Boers?
De La Rey, De La Rey
General, General we will fall around you as one. General De La Rey.

What do you guys think?

UPDATE: I actually thought a lot about this song all night, plus I got a commenter from Pretoria (I checked the IP and everything!) who calls this "a big sob story." So it's as I imagined, the rough equivalent of, say, Jerry Lee Lewis penning a song in 1955 celebrating Stonewall Jackson, as an expression of ethnic pride in the face of the civil rights movement which, by implication, denigrates the goals of that movement and celebrates the racist underpinnings of the system which has been dismantled.

It's not that Pepler's song is actively racist: it doesn't need to be. Like many colonial texts, it focuses on the battle between the white people over who gets to control the resources and the land of the third world: the actual indigenous population might as well not even exist in this formulation. They're even less important than the landscape, which at least merits a mention. The only people who "matter" are the soldiers and the obligatory blonde wife and child. Christ, even Heart of Darkness was more sympathetic to the indigenous African population than this. At least they existed, however dehumanized.

I'm not suggesting that we're in "Skinhead Boy" territory here: at least not intentionally. But part of the point of Lynx and Lamb is that they, well, kind of suck, and this doesn't, really. It's well-produced and catchy (partly why I ruminated on it all night), both anthemic and orchestral at the same time.It's apparently become something of an arena chant at South African sporting events. (It was banned, and then unbanned at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, a rugby pitch in Pretoria.)

There's clearly a difference between hate speech and racial pride, or is there? Does it matter who speaks, what their history is?

Get Well Soon, Steve!

We here at PowerPop wish a big get well soon to Steve Gilliard of the News Blog. Steve's a very bright guy and a terrific blogger, especially sharp on issues of military strategy and race and, err, macaroni and cheese.

Anyway, he's having surgery sometime in the next couple of days, and we wish him well.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


So I was looking at Sadly, No! and Gavin inspired me!

No idea if this will actually work.....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Religion, Bad Religion, and Evolution

Sorry for the delay; Liberal Mountain has been Typhoid Mountain for the last several days, with various versions of strep and the flu knocking almost all of us out to some degree. By the combined miracles of penicillin and TheraFlu, however, I am at least upright for the first time in three days.

Since I've been on this religion and politics kick recently, I'll connect that back to music and talk about this really interesting project:

Evolution and religion may not be at war, but no agreement seems possible in their most basic tenets. Traditional religions are based on dualism, and evolution is strictly materialist. Dualism is founded on a belief in the supernatural. The materialist position forms the basis for belief in naturalism, which holds that "the empirical procedure of exploration and verification is the only known reliable method of discovering truth" (Smith, 1952). For the materialist, the supernatural has no basis in reality but instead is an unwarranted distraction brought about through mythology.

The idea that naturalism might be a kind of modernist religion has been advanced in recent years (Johnson, 2000). Evolutionary biology enjoys a privileged position at the core of this belief system because it offers explanations about why and how humankind originated. Any teacher of evolution is by default a teacher of a deeply philosophical world-view, one that differs dramatically from that of traditional theistic religion.

The proposition that one must "believe in evolution" as people blindly believe in God is easily discounted. Still, much of modern evolutionary biology today is sprinkled with tinges of dualism. Notions of progress, purpose, emergent properties, optimality, and increasing complexity in evolution all contain vague hints of dualism, and are debated in symposia and published in books and journals by today's most active evolutionists. These architects of modern naturalism have traditionally shunned the ideas of religions, but to what degree they discount the supernatural remains to be seen.

The most important feature of evolutionary biology is its integrated view of humankind's place in nature that easily lends itself to a deeply satisfying metaphysics based entirely on materialist principles. This provision, coupled with the observation that theology has lost so much of its appeal to the average citizen, leads to the controversial conclusion that, in the modern world, Naturalism is a substitute for, and provides all the benefits of, traditional religion. If the naturalists have their day, theism is effectively dead.

Now, I know I'm a geek and all that, but this sounds fascinating to me. Principal investigator? Greg Graffin. Yes, THAT Greg Graffin, who finally went back and finished his doctorate after allllllll these years. (Congrats to Greg, BTW. It's not easy, especially when one's life seems to have taken a different path.)

Essentially, what Graffin did for his research was not so much an evolutionary zoology project as a study of what the detailed study of evolution does to one's beliefs, that it, whether or not evolutionary scientists themselves have personal belief in God, or whether they believe such beliefs are necessary for moral behavior.

Overwhelmingly, they don't, on both counts. (PDF) The vast majority of Graffin's respondents were Western (85%) and for those who claimed a religious identity, the plurality were Christian (But still under 10%).

Some really interesting questions here. There's the expected "Do you believe in God?" sort of thing (almost 80% said no, unequivocally), but then he divides that into traditional religion and deism and a willingness to believe that there's an unnamed thing out there. Other questions deal with immortality, free will, materialism, and the role of evidence.

I was most interested in the question of morality. Graffin asks his respondents to reply yes or no to the question "I believe the findings of evolutionary biology can influence and alter morality." A somewhat surprising 67% agreed. Now, we might be dealing here with differing definitions of "morality," as we clearly were with the term "values" in the 2004 election, where for some the term meant "please don't attach electrodes to the genitals of quite possibly innocent foreign nationals" and for others it meant "please don't interfere with my right to be hating on the gays." Here, I expect the two poles would be sexual continence, drinking and dancing vs. a long term view of the morality of our behavior as regards the environment, the planet, and the various species upon it. For example, I happen to believe that it's immoral that we're clearcutting the rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra to build palm oil plantations for biofuels. I have nothing against biofuels per se, but they seem at best a stopgap measure, a methadone for oil addiction. I'm just not convinced orangutans, who only live in Borneo and Sumatra and are possibly a brief decade or so from extinction, should be sponsoring our habit, you know? Anyway, for some of these evolutionary scientists, that might be the sort of morality they mean.

The only area where the scientists showed real division was in the question "What is your view of purpose and progress in evolution?" About half said there was progress in evolution, but not purpose, another 40% said there was neither progress nor purpose, just random changes (since I presume the term "adaptation" would imply progress or purpose). I take it that this is the great Darwin question (but I'm certainly willing to be corrected on that point).

Anyway, an interesting read and a thoughtful intervention in our intellectual discourse by someone who was already well known as a serious principled, and articulate guy. Oh, and a great rock lyricist.


Best of everything Dr. Graffin!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Photoblogging: Last Day!

It's officially my last day of the Other Job, and I've been working with annoying documents for most of it. But the pictures are really beautiful, so I thought I'd share one with you.

And this is my favorite image ever, painted by a fifth-grader in Aceh. Tragic but beautiful.

I've been working at least two and frequently three jobs for just about a decade now, and I'm done. I never want to work more than one job again.

Wingnut Watch: Evil Zionist Conspiracy Edition

One of the oddest pairings in the recent political landscape has been the somewhat surprising conjunction of evangelical Christianity with Judaism. I guess I'm the only one who recalls that callers blathering about the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy were a longtime staple of the sort of late-night radio that has since morphed into your Limbaughs and O'Reillys and Coulters: bizarre people up too late and spewing shit in the wee hours. The talk radio hosts in those days would let these people go for a moment, then cut them off. Now, of course, they're the hosts.

September 11, 2001, among its many somewhat bizarre effects, created a rapprochement between evangelical Christians and Jews as they teamed up to fight the Mohammedan Menace© the world over. I hear that your Rapture Right actually want to poke the Middle East with a stick until someone nukes Israel because that's supposed to bring Jesus back, but I confess I do not have independent confirmation of that (except for one family member, married into the Baptists, who confessed to me that they terrify him: "They really do want to cause the end of the world!"). The nuclear annihilation of Israel seems like an odd goal, but even odder when you consider the political alliance between these two groups.

So it's nice, I guess, to see them return to a state of mutual distrust.

Today's example comes from the office of Georgia State Representative Ben Bridges, a Republican from Cleveland, GA, whose office this week released a memo opposing the teaching of evolution in schools, not because it's unGodly per se, but because it's well, you know.

“Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion,” the memo says. “This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.”

The memo calls on lawmakers to introduce legislation that would end the teaching of evolution in public schools because it is “a deception that is causing incalculable harm to every student and every truth-loving citizen.”


Bridges denied writing or authorizing the memo.

“I did not put it out nor did I know it was going out,” Bridges said. “I’m not defending it or taking up for it.”

The memo directs supporters to call Marshall Hall, president of the Fair Education Foundation Inc., a Cornelia, Ga.-based organization that seeks to show evolution is a myth. Hall said he showed Bridges the text of the memo and got his permission to distribute it.

“I gave him a copy of it months ago,” said Hall, a retired high school teacher. “I had already written this up as an idea to present to him so he could see what it was and what we were thinking.”

Hall said his wife Bonnie has served as Bridges’ campaign manager since 1996.

Bridges acknowledged that he talked to Hall about filing legislation this year that would end the teaching of evolution in Georgia’s public schools. Bridges said the views in the memo belong to Hall, though Bridges said he doesn’t necessarily disagree with them.

“I agree with it more than I would the Big Bang Theory or the Darwin Theory,” Bridges said. “I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie why teach anything?”

Why teach anything indeed? I mean education makes people think, sometimes even about not voting for bigots. Better just to avoid the whole scenario.


Rep. Bridges' Reelection Campaign Begins.
(Image courtesy of the Florida Holocaust Museum)

Gah. I genuinely don't understand why anyone anywhere ever would ally themselves with these people, but then I'm a moonbat, so what do I know?

The Aging Hipster has more.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A PowerPop Valentine Wish

For all my readers and lurkers and friends.... **mwah!**


Went to check our Emerson's assertion in the comments a few posts ago, and here's the news:
Partridge says, "At the moment, XTC is well and truly in the fridge. Purely, really, for the reason that [partner] Colin [Moulding] doesn't want to write anymore. He's either taking a break, or that break could become permanently in place. He told me some months back that he's not interested in music anymore, and doesn't want to write, and basically said, 'Our paths will cross again or they'll be involved in some way.' And then he proceeded to move away from his house-- I have no idea where he's living right now, I have no idea what his phone number is, don't really know how to contact him, and so Colin is obviously wanting to leave the world to some extent. And I guess he's got the right to do that, so I'm not going to pester him and say, 'Come on, what's the matter with you, get it together.' Emphasis added.

That's from less than a weeks ago, so it's pretty current. Thanks for the heads-up, Emerson!

The nine-disc Fuzzy Warbles box set is out and available here.

There's also a podcast here.

I am quite blue about this, I admit.


So after several hours, we come to find out that the teen's freak kickball accident resulted in a broken arm. Just above the wrist. Ouch.

When I gathered the teen from school, her arm was wrapped in a newspaper, which is apparently accepted EMS practice, with a shirt for a sling. Who knew? Here, we have upgraded her to a magazine and kicky scarf.

Now, it's a splint and real sling, and tomorrow we get whatever the orthopedist wants her to have.

She has inherited my grace and dignity, obviously.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Best Grammy Report Ever

Comes from Sal and Tony at NYCD. Simels hipped me to them a while ago, and I've been having great fun with their emails, but this report was just a riot.

Best acceptance speech: Ludacris --"I want to thank Bill O'Reilly"? "My father's on his death bed. I Love you to death, Dad"? Looks like ya already did 'Cris. Or is it Lu'? Luda? He gets bonus points for thanking the William Morris Agency.

We just dont get Mary J. Blige.

Worst song ever by great band: "Life In The Fast Lane" - The Eagles (winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Band That Pisses Off Tony The Most).

Tony missed Rascal Flatts' Eagles tribute so he could check out a movie on ESPN Classic which features a cameo appearance by Buddy Greco.

At this point in his career, Lionel Richie should devote all his time to feeding his daughter.

OK, Mary J. is better than Chris Brown. But he can dance better than Smokey Robinson and Lionel Richie put together. Then again, they are a combined 130 years old.

It is a sad state of affairs when "Soul Brother Number One" leaves us, and the go-to artist for the tribute is Christina Aguilera, with Prince in the room. Even without Prince in the room. When Peter O'Toole dies, we guess we can expect a tribute from James Brolin.

Ludacris and Mary J.-- it just wasn't good.

Watching James Blunt sing "You're Beautiful" (winner of Best Song That The Entire World Is So Sick Of That Nobody Will Ever Want To Hear Anything This Guy Does In The Future) made us think, "This is what we expect Burgess Meredith would have sounded like as a 25 year old folk singer."

There's more, and bitchier. Woohoo!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cat Licks

One of the side effects of my current situation (working about 60 hours a week, more or less) is that I tend to catch crises when they're a day or so in, not at the precise moment of crest. But that also gives me the chance to catch up on things with a little reflection. Often, as you may have noted, I get tips from Thers, who, working only one job, has a comparatively flexible schedule.

And so I note, via WhiskeyFire, that:
Professional Outraged Catholic and homophobic misogynist bigot Bill Donahue is Professionally Outraged at [Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan] for making "anti-Catholic" comments.

(Michelle Malkin is also frothing at the mouth, but she always is, isn't she?)

Thers noted that your Professionally Outraged religious folks want to have it both ways: they want to claim "majority culture" status ("Everyone thinks like me, they just don't say so!") while simultaneously wrapping themselves in the tattered cloak of victimhood ("You're not allowed to be mean to me!"). Okay, but it's important to note that these are--or should be--mutually exclusive cultural positions. If you've got the numbers, why worry about the discontents in the balcony?

For me, Catholicism is a tribal identity: more ethnic and cultural than religious, per se. My separation came surprisingly late: with the ascension of Benedict in 2005. It was a repudiation of everything I find valuable in religion, an assertion that ignorance, control, and paranoia were taking the day. My father, a deeply spiritual man who goes to Mass daily and who I respect tremendously, had no better words of comfort than "He's old; he won't live long." If I wanted to follow gay-baiting Nazis, I'd sign on with Ted Haggard: at least he knows how to party.

Donohue's Catholicism is the stuff that drove me away. If he and his ilk were content to assert their control only over the people who chose to participate, it would be one thing, even though I would still despise them for the policies that made my mother, locked in the house with too many children, depressed and old by the time she was 40. But she chose Catholicism, in a certain way, and late in life even went to work for a rogue Lefty branch of the Church.

Donohue's right to outrage ends the second he goes on national television to whine. He does so in order to influence public policy, policy which does not ask whether someone is an observant Catholic before telling them they can't have birth control or an abortion. If he was so sure of the justice of his position, why would he need it enforced by law? As long as Donohue wants to influence policy, as long as he presents himself as the face of the Catholic Church, he's going to get shit thrown at him, and some of it's going to hit his beloved Church. He is doing them damage.

I love many, many Catholics. I love the Catholic Workers and Pax Christi. When I worked in a Catholic school, the nuns were by far the coolest and funniest women there, much less tightly wound than the Donohughian lay people, obsessing about abortion and sex. But the selection of Benedict indicated to me that these last were now in charge, and I cannot be part of them, not even for the delightful people in the other categories.

So fuck off, Bill Donohue. Fuck off from a lifelong Catholic feminist with twelve years of Catholic schooling under her belt. Be as shocked as you like by the language; I care not. You're a scumbag and a Pharisee. You are destroying the Church--my Church, my family--and I hope you rot in hell for it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Prince Plays his Brown Guitar

Shadow Puppets 1

We, the tribe who cut our teeth during the powerpop era, were forced to listen to a lot of music we didn't really cotton to--some of which was okay, some of which was, as the kids say, Teh Suxxor.

I always felt bad for not liking Prince--his fey misogyny got on my nerves, even if he could play the guitar. All those girls--couldn't they play their copious keyboards in something other than lingerie?

In addition, it seemed to me that both he and Michael Jackson were playing with a certain kind of androgynous hatred for women--shit, Prince still wears more makeup than I do. And remember, this was before Michael Jackson was publically known to get children drunk and sleep with them, and even before Prince himself had his famous catfight with Sinead O'Connor.

So it's not a Tipper Gore thing with me: I could care less whether the music is sexually explicit. But there's always been a certain Short Man's Disease bravado in Prince's assertions of sexuality. And I admit, I just found it kind of icky.

But not as icky as this.

Shadow Puppets 2

As noted in the title of this post, I don't object in principle to the guitar/penis metaphor, if it's done cleverly. But I also confess that I don't see a lot of difference between this and Michael Jackson grabbing his crotch in "Black or White," or indeed, his younger sister's nipple peek last year in the same forum. And yet, apparently there has been no real outcry over the ickiness, which is really just an extension of the ickiness he's been leveraging for the last 25 years.

The video is here.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday Babyblogging: Vintage Edition

NYMary and her big and little brothers, circa 1973. A favorite of the late Mother NYM.

Recently Noted in the Blogosphere: Shoes and 20/20

Thers tipped me off to this post at John & Belle Have a Blog:

When It Hits
JBB readers take note: you can buy the first two Shoes albums (Present Tense and Tongue Twister) on iTunes for only $9.99! "When It Hits" is one of my favorite songs ever. But why don't they have the re-release of 20/20's two LPs? The CD is out of print, but why should iTunes care about that? I really don't see what the barrier could be, and it's not as if the record company is making money off the pricey resales.

As I understand it, one has to "apply" to be carried by itunes, and it's rather a lengthy process for independent bands. (I have a friend who bitched nonstop the whole time.) Basically, even though itunes is only providing storage space and bandwidth, they want to be sure that someone out there wants to download your album. There's a certain logic to it, though of course the economics of digital music are completely different, since there's no manufactured "product" per se, just the intellectual property and a bunch of bytes.

The real distinction between Shoes and 20/20 is legal, however. Shoes signed with Elektra in the spring of 1979 not as a band, but as a production team, which gave them final control over pretty much everything. (They were able to swing this, of course, because their demo, the critically aclaimed Black Vinyl Shoes, was a DIY operation from start to finish: they had proven themselves as producers.) In addition, Shoes had a pretty unusual clause in their contract: if Elektra ever let their records go out of print, rights reverted to the band. (It's a sign of the high expectations for Shoes tht Elektra agreed to this deal.) They did, and they did, so now the members of the band, all ensconced in regular life in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, own their own stuff. Dealing with itunes, then, was a matter of them contacting Apple and making the application and arrangements.

I don't know as much about 20/20's legal status (because there's not a book, and I don't have a regular correspondent from that band, though Chris Silagyi commented here a couple of weeks ago and maybe he can fill us in), but I would be very surprised if they had the kind of control Shoes did over their own material, either initially, or in its afterlife. Remember that Shoes came in from outside the system--they were never really an LA band, except fot that brief period during the recording of Tongue Twister. Not so with 20/20.

Steve Allen and Ron Flynt had been childhood buds in Tulsa--they played Little League together (which isn't to say that Shoes weren't--John Murphy and Gary Klebe met in high school and became fast friends, founding a satirical magazine together before there was a band) and then music. They had a band by sixth grade. They went on to Oklahoma State together (another parallel--John and Gary trekked off to the University of Illinois around the same time).

Flynt and Allen eventually went to college at OSU in Stillwater, but Allen dropped out and moved to L.A. to pursue a record contract, following the example of Tulsans Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour, who had just scored a hit in 1975 with "I'm on Fire."

By the time Allen scored his own record deal, for a single on Bomp Records, Flynt and a whole bunch of OSU/Tulsans had moved to L.A., so Allen got both Flynt and Phil Seymour to play on what became the "Giving It All" single (which can be found on Rhino's Shake It Up! -- American Power Pop II CD with 20/20 on the cover). By this time, Mike Gallo had been recruited for the live act, and the band was officially christened 20/20.

The band's first L.A. gig was at the Whiskey (with gear borrowed from Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos). 20/20 already had two multi-instrumentalists, but wanted an extra musician on stage, so they auditioned Peter Case, who had just left the Nerves; he opted out after a single rehearsal to form a band where he would be the only singer-songwriter, the Plimsouls. Chris Silagyi was recruited on guitar and keyboards instead. 20/20 soon started getting regular gigs at the Whiskey, Starwood, and Madame Wong's. In fact, 20/20 was one of the bands that started that whole scene in L.A.

"There were no clubs for new bands to play in," explains Flynt. "Gary Valentine talked Esther Wong, owner of a Chinese restaurant called Madame Wong's, into letting his band play on a Tuesday night, and we played there the next Tuesday. We got to be really popular, and one night we got to meet Brian Wilson and Tom Petty, who'd come down to see us play; that was the first time we met Petty."

Petty and Seymour were best friends, the latter musician having done backing vocals and arrangements on Petty's first two hits, "Breakdown" and "American Girl."

"Tom came down to the sessions, and we met him again," remembers Flynt. "He would often be working in the studio next door. In fact, when we were recording my song 'Remember the Lightning,' which was a bit of an homage to/rip-off of 'American Girl,' he walked into the room. He just looked at me, smiled, and said, 'Sounds good, keep it up.' Of course, he thought it was cool. After all, he'd nicked the riff for his song from Bo Diddley."

Being "inside" the scene was undoubtedly a mixed blessing: it's probable that their deal was closer to a standard one, in which the company retains control of the material and essentially hires the band to write and record "for" them (see Fogerty, John). 20/20 was on Portrait (a sister label to Epic), and if Portrait owns those first two records, they'd be the ones to deal with itunes. But they've been subsumed into Epic, and thence into Sony/BMG. The fate of a small, critically acclaimed pop band probably isn't the first thing on their minds. It's a crime, but what can you do? (Another possibility: Oglio has released the dual disc John and Belle link to, as they did the two excellent 20/20 albums from the 90's, so it's possible they're the ones with licensing power now.)

That's probably more than anyone really wanted to know about this, but it does illuminate some of the issues of ownership and distribution that keep us from getting our music, even in this fabulous modern age of technology.

As Thers notes: "There's more than one of you, apparently." I always suspected as much.