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Music of the mad.
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Squid Tempest
Squid Tempest
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Re: Music of the mad.
Aug 17, 2011, 14:21
Hunter T Wolfe wrote:

I tend to think of mental illness as a sliding scale; rather than the world being divided into those who are "mad" and those who are "sane," everybody has their troubles, obsessions and quirks and for some it reaches a point where you can't function, or your perception of reality is so out of whack with everyone else's you just can't connect (though again, this is relative- everyone perceives things slightly differently to everyone else anyway), or you become so upset and frightened you're a danger to yourself and/or others.

Society tends to define madness as when you become a problem, and can't do your job- ie how you impact on the system, rather than how you feel inside. You can be as depressed and confused as anything, but if you keep your head down and turn up to work ever day, the system generally doesn't give a shit.

This means that "madness" in the music industry can be tolerated and even encouraged more than in other fields, because the sufferer can still be productive- indeed, it can be the source of his productivity, and/or success, and even make him a cash cow for others.

The other thing with mental illness being on a sliding scale is that all great art, in my opinion, comes from the artists' troubles, or obsessions, or megalomania- rock n' roll is ther one area where that annoying sign, "you don't have to be mad to work here- but it helps," actually applies.

Brian Eno actually often leaves me cold precisely because he's the prime proponent of the opposite attitude- that art is about process, chance, that you remove yourself from it and observe the "interesting" results.

But for me, the good stuff is wrenched from the troubled soul- the catharis of Iggy and Lydon and post-EST Lou, Jim Morrison's explorations of the subconscious and Neil Young's near-autistic howl... Nick Drake, as Sea Cat said, suffering from crippling depression but still making very crafted, articulate music... right down to the more obviously disturbing, twilight transmissions of Barrett, Daniel Johnson etc.

I know we have to be wary of romanticising mental illness as Ian B here has often warned. For me, Brian Wilson's melodic genius is made more poignant by his troubled, childlike worldview, but his problems ultimately eclipsed his talent as surely as any junkie's heroin use would.

And of course we mustn't forget Roky Erickson, whose fragile mental state and unique vision created some amazing music, but at what a cost.

Mick Farren's 'Mona, the Carnivourous Circus' is also compelling but disturbing listening.

And yeah, I agree that Tom Waits is essentially a talented fake.



Great and articulate post Hunter. Very interesting reading.

I'm still on the fence re Tom Waits though. I reckon he's pretty eccentric for real.
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