I’ve been meaning to post this for some time. Unfortunately, it is not my own writing, but a fantastic personal essay by the man who (self-proclaimed? I don’t know) invented the 60’s, Mr. Al Aronowitz.
How did he do it? Well, he introduced Bob Dylan to the Beatles — yes, he was a catalyst to one of the most important of several big bangs involving the Beatles — and he brought the weed, introducing it to the Fab Four for the first time.
He was also the first manager for the Velvet Underground, getting them a gig at a high school auditorium. He was promptly fired after the band took his recording equipment. Beyond that, he’s in a class of rock critics and journalists that deserve the kind of rock star treatment reserved for, well, rock stars. Him, and Lester Bangs. No one else matters.
Beautifully written, it’s a piece theorizing that the month of August has some unusual significance to the human spirit and condition, wherein all of these phenomena just so happen in this specific month. Groovy.
The full essay is after the jump.
By Al Aronowitz
August is the month when wars start. It’s when the water dries up and the spirit begins to wither. Insomniacs pull down their shades and lock themselves in their rooms in August. Lifelong friends have fist fights. People feel like they’re going to burst. Sometimes they do.
World War I started in August, or just about. The Austro-Hungarian Army began bombarding Belgrade on July 29, 1914, not quite August, but then August sometimes begins early. World War II didn’t quite start in August either. A German pocket battleship anchored alongside the harbor fortifications while on a good will call to the Polish port of Gdynia let loose with a broadside at dawn of Sept. 1, 1939, but then August sometimes lasts for weeks after you’ve ripped it off the calendar. It drags on and on like some kind of insanity that can only be snapped away by the first crisp shock of autumn.
The sailing ships used to get becalmed in August. August is when dogs go mad. American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell was assassinated by one of his own subordinates in August. This is the month when the sale of tranquilizers goes up. Corporate executives get their heads chopped off. Groups break up. Organizations fizzle out. August is when you start seeing things. The stars fall in August. You wake to days with the feeling you’ve already lived through them. People pass out in the street and on airplanes. The moon talks to you. August is the month of visions.
My father died in August. It was years ago. We were all standing around him when he gasped his last breath, emaciated on a bed of cancer. My three sisters and I each kissed him on the face and cried. I do not mean to say that August has cornered the market on tragedy. You can have fun in August; people die all year round. Shall I tell you about the other night in Central Park, the sky lit by a sliver of a moon, the weather air-conditioned by the first cool, abortive breath of the fall? August may end early this year.
On the park drive, bikers stood around in knots, talking about good times, holding onto their handlebars like nannies gossiping while little kids tugged at their hands. It was a better place to meet than at some bar. Outside the Schaefer Music Festival at the Wollman Rink, couples were stretched out on the grass, some on blankets. Others walked hand-in-hand. Bootleggers hawked albums like dealers selling drugs at some pop festival. There were pretzel pushcarts and ices pushcarts and a quiet carnival feeling of the kind of romance you see in pictures of some park in Paris on a gay, colorful night.
Inside the rink, the dusk darkened slowly while Carly Simon sang her hits in the skyscraper voice, as big and strong as her New York City. Backstage, promoter Ron Delsener was all dressed up for a Friar’s Club meeting. Ron had been hit early August. The last week in July, one of his security men had been stabbed to death at Ron’s Who concert at Forest Hills. A day or so later, one of the backstage crew at Madison Square Garden had fallen to his death while hanging rigging for Ron’s Steve Stills sow. Ron himself had fallen sick the night of the show, put to bed by an inner-ear infection. August is when unexplainable fevers come. Nagging aches and mysterious pains visit your body. August has to be suffered.
The night was gentle. There was no strain. I laughed out loud when David Steinberg told about how God put a fly in Jezebel’s head to buzz as a punishment every time she lusted after a man. Jezebel liked the buzzing. The first girl I ever made it with was born in August. We used to break up just in time for her birthday every year. August is when the ocean dizzies you. August is when you find yourself drowning in your own head.
I went broke and lost my house in August some five years ago. It was almost August when Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the University of Texas tower and shot down forty-nine people, killing seventeen, sniping at random through the ramparts. August is when Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii. The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in August. August is when Congress first passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Women turn into witches in August. I remember once I refused to buy a flower from an old lady selling them in the Nite Owl on Third Street. I was managing a group called the Myddle Class then, and they were onstage. The old lady gave me a dirty look and our sound system immediately went dead.
I suppose it has to do with the sun and the heat and the planets and the stars. Brian Epstein died in August. So did Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, although their August stretched through an Indian summer. It’s no accident the Jewish New Year begins then. August sometimes lasts until the sound of the ram’s horn. People move in September. School starts. Somehow the pulse revives. People begin to think about lighting fires for winter. Finally, August lets go like the leaves from the trees. And the weirdness ends.
– Al Aronowitz
May 5, 1928 – August 1, 2005
You can find more from Mr. Aronowitz at his (extremely primitive) website, the Blacklisted Journalist.