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So what is the former bandmate of Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band, co-creator of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes doing on a Horror Web Page?
He is one scary dude.
I mean, its pretty damn easy to frighten the infantile minds of the sleepy majority. All you have to do is throw down some standard issue curse words into your song, sing about beating up a woman, "busting a cap" in some drone who "dissed" you, or just generally shout and growl. Oh yeah, add some blasphemy in there as well (that's a safe move in the U.S. at any rate) and viola! Suddenly you are yet another factory stamped consumer approved fashionable alienation.
Now go sing your forgettable little ditties about beating on the weak and how many dimbulb women you fuck and how nobody better mess with bad-ass you. Oh, and don't forget to paste on the attitude.
Hey, maybe if you are lucky, some twelve year old moron feeblewit, trying to have his manhood "made", will actually take offense, shoot you, and make ya famous!
As for me, I'm talking about someone real.
Little Steven aka Miami Steve aka Steven Van Zant, took a different approach. Instead of hollow posturing he sang songs of Substance. He picked fights with the most powerful people he could find. We are talking world leaders, amigo - not the local neighborhood punch-bag. While Steve credits Bob Dylan for "Opening my eyes", Little Steven went far beyond what Bob ever accomplished.
During Dylan's time in the 60's, there were plenty of voices of protest, it was the "in thing", and Bob could do little more than ride the wave. But nobody wanted to hear about protest in the eighties. MTV was lulling the masses of youth to sleep with their prefab designer analyzed target market slush of pop revolution crap - which at that time was for pure white skin only. Despite the wild success of Michael Jackson in that era, they wouldn't play his videos. Only white bands thank you, and an occasional clip of the late Jimi Hendrix. Then artists as wildly different as Michael Jackson and the DEAD KENNEDY's were coming down so hard on MTV that it looked like they might lose that there youth market. That's when MTV cracked, and it was possibly then that Little Steven saw just how one could go about getting any corrupt power to crack. EXPOSE. The only problem with this particular fight was, it wasn't over racism like it should have been, it was over money, like the U.S. Civil War.
I Want My Product On MTV!
Steven's Greatest Hits album is set chronologically. The first five songs are taken from 1982's MEN WITHOUT WOMEN, the title inspired by the Hemingway book of the same name. Little Steven was an extreme kind of guy in those days and the entire album was recorded live in the studio all at once. No separate mixing of guitars, and vocals and drum. Everybody is playing at one time, without headphones, just hearing their own music from the studio monitors as they play which meant that the sound of the monitors was being recorded too. The whole thing was done in two days and whether the songs are as fiery as "Lyin' in A Bed Of Fire" or as slow and smooth as "Princess Of Little Italy", you can tell that this album ain't just raw, the animal hasn't even been killed and cut.
In 1984 Little Steve focused his sights on the corrupt Reagan era. While many current hardcore conservatives in the U.S. are spouting lies and creating revisionist history about what a wonderful grace of a time the Reagan years were, the fact remains that his office was rife with cronyism. No president, before or since, has had so many of his hand-picked staff resign or be forced out of office under a cloud of moral corruption. Tax money was taken out of the hands of "shiftless Welfare Mothers" and put into the hands of U.S. corporations so that they could heist jobs out of the U.S. and into third world countries.
At the same time, the U.S. trained 10,000 terrorists, at places like The School Of The Americas, in order to overthrow the democratically elected officials of countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador. These scum soldiers were known then as CONTRAS*. We continue to have nothing but trouble from them and their students.
Reagan's final years were known as the Lame Duck Presidency. And the media said little about it. Into this fray Little Steven released VOICE OF AMERICA. On that album and on this disk, he sang in a very catchy tune, about some of the most brutal and horrible events - and they were all true and happening right at that moment. Suddenly the news media was playing catch up to the entertainment industry. While some of those "entertainers" hid their shallow character behind an affectation of jaded indifference, LOS DESAPARECIDOS (The Disappeared Ones), put a name on the Reagan supported Death Police Squads of countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua and so many others whose corrupt vicious governments we had not only supported for far too long, but whose sinister killers we trained right here on U.S. soil (that hasn't changed. They still train terrorists at the School Of The Americas). It did much more too. It got a few people off of their dead butts who were willing to do something with their couch potato lives that would make a difference. Its a powerful song and remains one of his best.
His last album of that period, 1987's FREEDOM: NO COMPROMISE contains the last five songs of the album which, with songs like "Pretoria", and "No More Party's" also signaled Steven's adios for the rest of that decade and most of the next.
LITTLE STEVEN: GREATEST HITS is a great album with one very glaring omission. Where the hell is "Sun City"? It was because of "Sun City" that people finally decided to ignore our complacent lazy president and do something on their own. Boycotts were started and maintained against all companies having anything to do with South Africa and its Apartheid (which actually had been modeled on the U.S. formula for the destruction / submission of Native Americans). Bands like QUEEN and singers like Julio Iglesias and Linda Rondstadt (who played South Africa's #1 tourist attraction, Sun City, despite UN sanctions) saw their careers crash and burn once word got out. South Africa, under the pressure of the world, went through much internal turmoil which finally saw the release of Nelson Mandella and his subsequent election to presidency of the country. Wow! How many bands can start or make that kind of difference in the world, eh? Steve and his band received honors from South Africa's Bishop Desmond Tutu and were honored twice by the UN.
The Disciples of Soul included former PLASMATICS bass guitarist Jean Beauvoir, ex- RASCALS band members Felix Cavaliere and Dino Danelli to name a few. The band was multi-racially integrated with friends, not folks hand picked by marketing strategists looking to fulfill "token" requirements. Can you think of any other band that has scared world leaders from Africa to the U.S. to Central and South America? That's a pretty tall order for one band. Just about any other band, even one that paints itself up as a politically conscious band (especially those) would call such things an impossible task. To be sure, I have heard those who try and verbally downgrade Little Steven's accomplishments. They do this by calling forth all the other people who had a hand in the changing of these various countries. It's a ridiculous argument because recognizing individual contributors to a cause hardly negates the efforts of the rest. It only serves to re-establish the lie that "One individual cannot do anything." A lie historically proven false time and again.
Before Little Steven the fighting and torture and Death Squads and slavery went on unabated, with both Democrats and Republicans smiling through the bloodshed while benignly telling U.S. America to enjoy life and relax. The events of South Africa and Nicaragua and the rest were a long sleeping keg of gun powder with no heroes and lots of victims. Then a lit fuse like Little Steven came along and the whole thing blew up. In the end, some of it got better.
If you want to stop posturing and get serious about the real scary stuff, get this album. Only because it doesn't have "Sun City" do I give this album less than a perfect 5 Perplex Skulls.
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.