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 Everett True

Why Artists Should Stick To Art

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Hunter S Thompson

Another reprint from The Stranger. Wow, I was in a fucking terrible mood when I wrote this one. (That remark about Diamanda Galas is so out of order I can’t believe I’m the same person who wrote it.) Great opening line, though.

From June 3, 1999

Why Artists Should Stick to Art
EMI U.K.’s Songbook Series– basically a set of compilation tapes from left-field artists like Gilbert Shelton and Ralph Steadman– is beautiful to look at and delightful to hold. But the music? Ugh.
by 

I don’t know much about art, but I’ll tell you this: Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson is a sad fuck who stopped bothering to live out his dreams sometime in 1972.

This much is apparent after one listen to his EMI U.K. Songbook Series CD, Where Were You When the Fun Stopped? It’s part of a set built around 10 left-field artists’ personal record archives–each was invited to compile their own musical compendium, as well as supply artwork and sleeve-notes. The result, according to the effusive EMI press release which accompanies the collection, is like being invited over to the artists’ places for a drink. If this is the case, then Gonzo acolytes are in for a bitter surprise, because Thompson is even more prosaic than they are. He might claim that “music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of fuel,” but his favorite songs all verge on mass consumerism. Is this what inspired the drug-induced, frenzied writing of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (as Hunter claims: top down, wind blowing through his hair, the great open desert in front of him)–or was it, as we always suspected, just the drugs?

Thompson has no passion for music–not a consuming one, at least. If you can usually judge a person by what they listen to (and by the friends they choose; the clothes they wear), then what does it say about Thompson that his idea of “extreme” is to always opt for the most obvious, pedestrian route? Look at his choices: Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.” Don McLean’s “American Pie.” And so on, and so on. Virtually nothing from the last three decades beyond the odd Lyle Lovett and Tanya Tucker country-style reinforcement of tradition. No wonder he’s been a recluse in Colorado for over a decade now. Life holds no surprises for this tired old man.

Yet, on the CDs accompanying the booklet, he still has the temerity to quote fellow baby-boomer Warren Zevon in inch-high block capital letters: “JESUS MARAUDING CHRIST, THIS IS THE HIPPEST ALBUM IN THE WORLD.” It’s like these pathetic ex-hippies believe the times of their lives were the best possible times anyone could ever have. How ’60s! “You have resurrected fun,” Thompson’s fawning neophyte “The Colonel” adds, pictured in the booklet cocking a “rare” .454 Casul Magnum with the no-good Doctor, before going on to throw in some extremely lazy redneck fantasies involving speed, Mescal, and “dark-skinned beauties” as proof.

How lame! Thompson obviously partied too much one summer and never got over it. In the same way that there’s nothing lasting about his contribution to culture, there is nothing of worth in his taste. Weren’t the weird, psychotic Ralph Steadman illustrations the only notable aspect of Fear and Loathing anyway?

(continues overleaf)

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