"Please tell me that they at least called you," my friend Willie J. said over the phone the day that the Nashville Scene's "Never In Nashville"
article hit the street. "If they didn't call you, they didn't get the whole story," said Willie. Other calls and emails also came in, from people who knew about The Other Side Of Nashville
No, they didn't call me, not really. I had swapped emails with Scene
music editor Tracy Moore, author of the rag's "Never In Nashville" story, but in the end she never called me back for my input. 'Tis a shame, too, because in talking primarily with Tom Wood, Kath Hansen and Ray Crabtree, she limited the perspective on an otherwise passable article -- not great, but it could have been worse, especially since the writer was probably in grade school when we were having all that fun some twenty years ago.
On the plus side, Moore did track down Rick Champion for the article, something I've yet been able to do, and she did include Andy McLenon and Kay Clary of Praxis (two great people who were there
); Dave Willie, an upstanding fellow by any measure; and Jason Ringenberg, who did more, perhaps, to put Nashville rock on the map than anybody. Moore relied too much, perhaps, on Crabtree -- a publicist whose number one client is himself and the White Animals -- obviously without realizing the long-standing enmity between the band and much of the rest of the local scene. Now I love
the White Animals, always have, and have written glowing things about them through the years, but let's be honest...the band has always felt that it never got the acclaim that it deserved and has always been jealous about the modicum of success enjoyed by Jason & the Nashville
As for Tom Wood and Kath Hansen, well, I mentioned both earlier, in the second part of my history of Nashville music zines
. In my mind, they both overestimate their involvement in the local music scene, but maybe I'm overestimating my involvement
in the scene. Moore's article says that the two "left The Metro
in 1988 to form a snarky, contentious literary zine called the Fireplace Whiskey Journal
..." after which she gives them credit for helping launch the Nashville Scene
. Well, FWJ might have indeed been "snarky" but it was anything but literary. It seemed to me to be more of an attempt to keep getting into shows for free than to publish anything of substance. I give a lot more credit for the early success of the Scene
to former Metro
writer Brian Mansfield, who was the rag's music editor, and to editor Bruce Honick, who pursued the idea of an "alternative newsweekly" in Nashville and worked to make it happen...and yes, I also
wrote for the Scene
in those days.
In Moore's article, Wally Bangs made a comment that I liked about as much as being attacked by a pack of wild gerbils. Now I gave proper credit to Bangs
in this blog for writing "Rick Champion Opened A Hot Dog Stand," a great look back at Nashville rock circa the '80s, but his memory of The Metro
is somewhat flawed, in my obviously biased opinion. Pointing out, somewhat scornfully, that Jon Bon Jovi was on the cover of the first issue, Bangs tells the Scene
that "some issues would totally suck...but then for a while, it was awesome. People like Kath Hansen and Tom Wood were writing for it, and suddenly it was pretty good."
Now I won't disagree with Wally that The Metro
often sucked. Some of the Reverend's work sucked the hardest...I remember an article on Tears For Fears written from a bio when the notoriously whiny band refused to talk to us on the phone...whew, wotta smellbag! And how Jon Rich ever got any of his drivel on heavy metal published in the rag is beyond me...he must have lent Gus Palas some money or something. But let's be as honest as churchmice here, shall we people? In August 1985 when The Metro
put Bon Jovi on the cover, few people outside of New Jersey had any idea who Jon or his Aquanet crew were. To claim that we "sold out" with that very first issue is a nifty little bit of historical revisionism. We were still a year away from Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet
album dominating the charts so The Metro
was...shall we say...actually on the cutting edge of musical coverage.
Besides, Palas never meant for The Metro
to be an exclusively local music rag, even though we covered local artists that nobody, not even the Fireplace Whiskey Journal
, would write about. We put LA's Screamin' Sirens on the cover of issue number two and other early issues featured cover stories on Afrikan Dreamland and R.E.M. and articles on local bands like Dessau, In Pursuit and, ahem, the White Animals. Although the Reverend often took issue with Palas back in the day, it was his
rag after all, and I'm proud of the work that we did in The Metro
through the years. To his credit, Gus pretty much gave this writer carte blanche to cover whatever wild-assed shit that I wanted to, and articles on Living Colour, Chagall Guevara, Widespread Panic, Suicidal Tendencies, Hispanic rapper Kid Frost and others brought the zine national attention and earned yours truly a solid (worldwide) reputation as a music journalist. I'm proud of what we did at The Metro
and could once again point out that no other publication focused as much national attention on our local music scene, before or since....
Let's call this for what it was, and then let it rest like the stinking corpse that it is: there existed in Nashville during the '80s a small local group of elitist assholes that hung around The Metro
and loitered in the local clubs and supported the bands that they alone could lay claim to. Their identity was based entirely on showing up at Cantrell's every night and hanging out with other members of the clique. Once the Scorchers got signed to EMI, their "scene" had become too commercial. The Metro
had "sold out" because we didn't feature local bands exclusively and some people would bitch and moan whenever we wrote about somebody that this cultural troika disapproved of. Sometimes they were right -- the Whyte Lace article never should have seen the light of day, much less the cover. But far more often they were wrong. Tom Wood and Kath Hansen were a small part of The Metro
's inglorious history, and when I think of the rag, I think of good writers like Andy Anderson, Bill Spicer, Brian Mansfield and Rebecca Luxford that earned The Metro
respect everywhere but in its own back yard.
I have a few other minor complaints about Moore's Scene
article. Cantrell's was never a "Big Boy" restaurant...I worked for Shoney's through high school and well into the '80s and, as a manager, was intimately familiar with the location of their restaurants. Cantrell's, if memory serves, was instead a "Burger Boy" knock-off of Shoney's. A minor cavil to be sure, but let's get it right. Also, how Moore could invest several thousand words on Nashville's rock scene in the '80s without mentioning Aashid Himons is beyond me. Aashid's Afrikan Dreamland was the biggest draw on the local music scene for much of the decade, bigger than the White Animals, bigger than the Scorchers. Aashid being the free-spirited kind of guy that he is, often befriended local rockers and would have them open up for Afrikan Dreamland in front of large audiences. Aashid did a lot to support the local rock scene and deserved to be mentioned.
Other local bands from the era that got short shrift in the Scene
article, in my mind: Civic Duty, 69 Tribe, the Bunnies, Afterdark, Radio One, In Color, the Paper Dolls and, well, the list could go on and on. All had significant local followings and contributed to the music scene at a time when it was fresh, young and exciting. Musicians like Donna Frost, her brother Tony Frost, Randy Ford, Ed Fitzgerald, Richie Owens, John Sheridan, Lee Carr, Joey Blanton, Chuck Allen and many others built the framework that made bands like the Pink Spiders, Kings Of Leon and the Features possible.
No, I was not consulted for Tracy Moore's "Never In Nashville" article, and she never mentions my name once, even though she does mention some things published by The Metro
that I wrote. It all depends on your perspective, I guess, and Moore's article is just one version of the story. The Other Side Of Nashville
book will present the history of Nashville's rock underground from the Reverend's perspective and, hopefully, will be much more inclusive.(BTW, Collin Wade Monk's '80s podcast featuring Nashville bands rocks with Biblical proportions, and yes the Reverend contributed music from the dusters, the Young Caucasians, Walk The West and more for Collin to use. Download and listen at your own risk, but DO IT!)