A few years ago when I was hosting "Pure Rock Talkback" on the old KNAC-FM in Southern California, I began a pissing match with a TV evangelist named Jeff Fenholt, who billed himself as "the former lead vocalist" for Black Sabbath." One problem, however. He never was. Fenholt had built his ministry around his former "secular" life stumbling around the rock business, never really hitting it big, except for his run playing Jesus in the Broadway version of Jesus Christ Superstar. The basis for his "act" is slamming the "evils" of rock music, something he has been "saved" from since being "born again." You know the routine.
Several months ago, after not hearing from him in a while, I get an e-mail offering me an "olive branch" and wanting for us to find some common ground and be "friends." Initially I was taken in by this softening, after being beat up by the guy on a couple of occasions over the phone. I consulted my friend and the editor of my book on Black Sabbath, rock writer, Dave Marsh on how I should handle this "new improved" Jeff Fenholt. Always the sensitive kind of guy, Dave wrote me:
"You want to know what I really think? I think you're just gonna sink deeper and deeper into a barrel of bullshit because you have been dumb enough to allow this guy to show you his "point of view." FUCK him AND his point of view. His point of view is that rock'n'roll is evil, the devil's work. THAT is what matters, not some marginally right or wrong horseshit about whether he did or did not jack off or sing in front of Tony Iommi one day. ........You are talking to this guy about the wrong thing, Mike. And he deserves no more sympathy from you than he has shown for others in rock music, which is ZERO, none, less than a millisecond. Send the motherfucker to me, I'LL tell him what changes to make: He can either start by washing his mouth out with soap and making a PUBLIC apology or he can fuck off and die. THOSE are valid choices for vermin like Jeff Fenholt. The rest is a stupid fucking waste of time."
Of course Dave was right. I had missed the point. Here is a guy that has made a career out of knocking a music form that has "saved" more lives than Jeff Fenholt and every other TV evangelist could ever “save”. I was going to accept an "olive branch" from him?
All this brings me to the current Presidential Campaign.
A few years ago things got all mixed up. Traditionally, right wind conservative Republicans had always been the opponents and detractors of rock music. Suddenly, in the era of "political correctness" some liberal Democrats started taking the baton in the "protecting the children" against rock music. This trend culminated in the 1985 Senate Hearing on Music and Record Lyrics, initiated by Tipper Gore's Parents Music Resource Center, the PTA and other Washington wives, bolstered by the then Senator from Tennessee, soon to be Vice President, now Presidential Candidate Al Gore.
In that hearing, testimony from Frank Zappa and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider was countered by an arrogant panel of Senators from both sides of the aisle with veiled threats of legislation if the music industry didn't "clean up their act." The music industry, of course, buckled and now we have the "Parental Warning Label" which has been a blessing to some artists with marginal talent and a nightmare to many real artists who would like their music to be able to be purchased in the local chain department store. With these labels also came a laundry list of artistic and business problems that have plagued artists and record labels ever since.
Frank Zappa continued to speak out against the madness he had seen at that hearing until his death. Dee Snider and others that had been on the PMRC's "hit list" became targets of government scrutiny, death threats and canceled shows, for speaking out against censorship.
Fast forward to present day. A recent Associated Press report now has Dee Snider supporting Al Gore's bid for President.
``I'm sort of supporting Al Gore, which is bizarre. I don't trust the guy as far as I can throw him. He's a conservative liberal, but I think he's going to chew up George W. (Bush) and spit him out. He's an old-school, dirty-fighting politician.''
As in my experience with Jeff Fenholt -- Dee doesn't get it.
But it gets worse.
According to the Center for Responsible Politics listings on campaign donations, Frank Zappa's wife Gail, sons, Dweezil and Ahmet and daughter Diva have all contributed thousands of dollars to the Gore Presidential campaign. These contributions going to the man whose wife Frank dubbed a "cultural terrorist". This "terrorist", Tipper, also, last year played drums on a song by Diva Zappa.
It appears that the Zappa legacy doesn't get it either.
Of course, the Gores are doing everything possible to put those mid-80's antics behind them. Al Gore recently did an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, where he downplayed those 1985 Hearings, while talking about his love for Bob Dylan and Hank Williams. To read that interview there isn't a bigger music fan in the world. This is the same man that scolded the record companies in 1985, saying:
"I think that they should take a look at what their companies are doing and just ask themselves as human beings whether or not this is the way they want to spend their lives, if this is the way they want to earn a living, if this is the kind of contribution they want to make to the society in which we live."
I have not received an apology from Jeff Fenholt as of this writing, and to my knowledge, Al and Tipper Gore have not apologized either for the havoc that they caused in the music business.
I apply my friend Dave Marsh’s quote to the current presidential candidate Al Gore, "He can either start by washing his mouth out with soap and making a PUBLIC apology or he can fuck off and die. THOSE are valid choices for vermin like....".
"The rest is a stupid fucking waste of time."
© 2000 Mike Stark
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