Archive for america

Stuck in America

Posted in culture, ramblings with tags , , , on July 14, 2011 by bridbeast

The classic DJ mix “Too Many DJs” has many superb tracks, but one of my favourites is “I was born for made for lovin’ you”  – a prime cut of sleazy German electro if ever I heard it.

Except of course it isn’t, at least not quite. As I only recently found out, it was originally performed by American spandex pantomime rockers Kiss. I was quite surprised, being a bit of a heavy metal/hard rock fan, but there you go. In a way it’s no wonder I didn’t know this; although it was one of Kiss’ few chart successes in the UK, it only reached the heady heights of No 51 back in’79.

Yet Kiss are – or were – massive in the States. I think all you can say is: “America – what the fuck?!” I mean, men made up as kitty cats?! Kiss are one of those very few pieces of American culture that don’t make it across the Atlantic. Obviously there’s something about a bunch of guys dressing up as the Star Man and the Star Child and singing “Detroit Rock City” that doesn’t chime with a British audience. Only David Bowie could get away with it, and then only as a phase. They have Kiss, we have Spinal Tap.

Kiss’ failure is unusual. From JR to Woody Allen to Elvis to Jane Fonda’s workout video to OJ’s glove to Jay-Z, we’re saturated in American culture. So it got me thinking as to what else doesn’t travel so well to our shores.

First up: the Grateful Dead. I mean, I’ve never heard a Grateful Dead song, as far as I know, and I used to have dreadlocks. That’s saying something. Yet once again, they’re massive in America. They’ve been touring continually since the sixties and, as I write this, their next date is Saturday 16 July in Bethel, NY, should you feel inclined to catch them.

I just looked at “dead.net” and found this: “It’s hard to believe that a year like 1982, which included so many excellent shows, has only been represented once on an authorized Grateful Dead release. We’re making that “wrong” a “right” with Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 4. This awesome three-disc set delivers an indisputably fine show from that underrated year: the complete Philly Spectrum 4/6/82 concert, with a heapin’ helpin’ of the 4/5/82 Spectrum show to round things out.”

People will buy an album from live shows from 1982? That’s what I call a fanbase.

I feel in the nature of research I should go and listen to a Grateful Dead song but I can’t bring myself to. At least not right yet. I guess they’re not going anywhere fast (except to Saratoga Springs next Tuesday).

Third up in my transatlantic no-shows: Ayn Rand. The only time I’ve seen Ayn Rand mentioned on mainstream TV in the UK was a month or so back in Adam Curtis’ documentary “Machines of Loving Grace”. She was the scary Russian lady, a fanatical rationalist and anti-communist who wrote long books that no one has heard of in England but which are massively popular in the US. When the Republicans don’t cut enough taxes for you, then head over to the Rand camp where you can, erm, live for yourself and campaing against taxes. She was the house philosopher for Alan Greenspan, number cruncher, chairman of the Federal Reserve and overseer of the financial crisis.

It would be too easy to note that a lack of irony runs through my three choices of American culture without a passport. When I discussed this idea with a friend, well travelled in America, he suggested including the American breakfast. Now there is indeed no trace of irony about an American breakfast, no sneaky saying one thing but meaning another. It is what is is – a massive Saturn Five of a meal to launch your day in calorific orbit, amped up with enough free coffee refills to wake the dead. The all American breakfast is a glorious thing. And unlike Kiss songs, Grateful Dead shows, and The Fountainhead, I have enjoyed many a three-egg omlette and blueberry pancake, nodded yes to that fourth cup of coffee, and left a few spare dollar bills atop the formica.

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