Flipper

Ever live a life that’s real?
Full of zest, but no appeal?
Ever want to cry so much…
You want to die?
Ever feel that you’ve been had?
Had so much that you turn mad?
Ever been so depressed, that
(to) those you turn to, you bring distress?
Ever sit in tormenting silence,
That turns so loud, you start to scream?
Ever take control of a dream
And play all the parts and set all the scenes?
Ever do nothing and gain nothing from it?
Ever feel stupid and then know that you really are?
Ever think you’re smart and then find out you aren’t?
Ever play the fool and then find out you’re worse?
Ever look at a flower and hate it?
Ever see a couple kissing and get sickened by it?
Ever wish the human race didn’t exist
And then realize you’re one too?
Well?
Have you?
Ever…
I have.
So what!

When I was 16 I went to see my favorite band SNFU play a show in DC. They were touring with another band called Gang Green which was the first Punk band officially sponsored by Budweiser. SNFU were great, as usual. They were a mixture of high energy guitars with this stop and go rhythm that I loved at the time. Their stage show was also remarkable for their lead singer: he was five foot tall and had a four foot tall mop of hair that he would somehow manage to get to stand perfectly on end by doing some kind of actobatic jump-kick-head-waggle thing.

After SNFU played I was buzzing and ready to go home but my friend told me to stick around, Flipper was going to play. I watched these weird, crusty men set up slowly, then do a bunch of noisy sound checks, and start the show with the most awful cacophony of feedback I had ever heard. It was an unrelenting wall of noise, feedback, and pounding on what sounded like garbage cans. Will Shatter was singing because he had broken his arm in ann accident and his voice was creaky and broken – he wasn’t singing, he was angrily croaking into the microphone. It was so offensive that it was driving the other Punks out. As I stood there amidst the dwindling crowd I was in awe of this noise. I only caught glimpses of the lyrics and they were all dark and gloomy. I was hooked.

My teenage years weren’t emo. I wasn’t one of those kids who died his hair black and covered his face because I was so sad about myself. I was more generally depressed about the world. Regan was President, crack was king, joining the army was my only hope to get into college and thus of getting ahead in life, and the world felt like it was teetering on the brink of nuclear destruction. I wasn’t depressed. I was learning to accept the depressing state of existence.

When I bought their album “ALBUM”, I opened the sleeve and there were songs like “Nothing” and “Life is Cheap” or “Living for the depression”. It was an overwhelming eight tracks (plus Sex Bomb) of screaming ennui. I was learning to suppress my own existential dread and here was a band to help me.

Thanks in part to Flipper and a comically stupid stint in the Army, I made it. I now keep my existential dread down to a low roar at all times. It’s always there like a jacuzzi, a pool of warm water for me to dip my toes in when I really need it.

ALBUM was recorded in 1981 and yet I’ve never seen Flipper credited for starting the doom metal scene or emo but they were certainly at the forefront of both movements. In their liner notes Flipper says that I should “tell them what they want to hear”, I don’t know if you should listen to ALBUM. I don’t think you can take it. It’s depressing from start to finish.

Will Shatter died of a heroin overdose on December 9th, 1987. That was one year after I saw them. The songs he wrote on ALBUM are “Shed no Tears”, “(I saw you) Shine”, “The way of the world”, “Life”, and “Sex Bomb.” I bought my copy of the the album Generic Flipper on Amazon.com for less than $10. It looks like they have raised the price to $15. That’s the way of the world.

And yes, this post is a metaphor for Arsenal.

Qq

26 Comments on Flipper

  1. I’d love to hear more about your comically stupid stint in the army. I think a lot of us would, actually. A future blog post?

  2. I remember SNFU playing in my home town with DOA, youth brigade, and a couple of local punk bands, this must have been mid 80s or so.
    Killer

  3. Ha ha. I wondered when the post was going to mention Arsenal, but little did I realise it was all Arsenal.

  4. tim, that song was a dreadful read. i’m glad you didn’t kill yourself, bro. sounds like you needed jesus in your life in a major way. but hey, if someone made music that got you through, rock on. i’m glad you’ve come out on the other side.

    there is a great truth to your words. there’s this underlying since of dread in goonerdom. will our beloved manager come around or will he, too, suffer a heroin-like overdose to his management career? we’ll continue to monitor while keeping it compartmentalized so we don’t experience the woe you may have felt during your adolescence.

    • …silly me, i thought i was going to hear some happy, uplifting feel-good story about a cheerful dolphin.

      • Ha! I was totally thinking of that 60’s dolphin show (which I remember from replays in the early 80’s) when I saw the title of today’s post. In fact, to this day, I still find myself singing, “they call him Flipper! Flipper! faster than liiiiightning” around the house. My kids have no frickin’ clue what it’s all about, and generally it contributes to their sense of my dementia.

        • Dude, I LOVED Flipper. One of the 6-7 dolphins that played Flipper died under strange circumstances. There is much speculation that Cathy – one of the dolphins who played Flipper – committed suicide.

          Dolphin suicide is highly debatable but there are perfectly respectable marine biologists who think that yes, dolphins can and do off themselves because of overwork, depression, etc.

          And I totally believe it. It just makes sense to me on a non-empirical gut level. Ostensibly depressing but not entirely if you think about how much we may have in common with these creatures.

  5. We’ve passed through and are yet again passing through bleak times in Nigeria. We once had the totemic defiance of the originator of Afrobeat music, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, to guide us. Now, only his firebrand lyrics remain, offering not just implacable resistance to The System but also an indefatigable belief in the power of the impassioned and well marshalled collective to effect radical and positive change. Ennui should never be an option in life. It is death!

    • Preach!

      Jesu Cristo, my man, that is one special piece of rhetoric right there. Can you write my obituary?

    • “Ennui should never be an option in life. It is death!”

      ===

      Thank you for this post Tochukwu. It really hit home, especially in the West where “The System” thrives on the ennui of its citizenship.

  6. Hi Bun! Ever listened to Fela’s sound? He made anger sound poetic sound…beautiful. His peculiar musical cadence, fashioned on the “call-response” format, lent itself to audience-participation in a seductive manner. In a certain way, Tim’s beautiful blog here also has a way of distilling scintillating (and usually optimistic!) insight on the Arsenal, nay Life itself. That’s why I become wary when he sounds so glum. But I get it: we all feel that way from time to time. That’s why we’re human…and Gooners!

    • Fela Kuti was a radical, a revolutionary, and also holder of some rather problematic views of women and HIV/AIDS. But I love his music even if most of the lyrics are not in English.

      I have seen the biopic of him. I also saw Ginger Baker’s biopic. Both great musicians who changed the world, albeit in different ways, and both interestingly problematic. They have a live album together which is one of my favorites.

      I would be happy to switch to a discussion of the Black President if that is where this thread wants to go. I’m jazz like that.

        • He died of AIDS and almost up to the very end refused to believe that he was infected while having unprotected sex with many women and subsequently infecting them.

          Perhaps Tochukwu can clarify this but from what I’ve read and from the documentary I watched this was probably the worst part of his legacy.

  7. Fela’s views on womenfolk were certainly not conventional and on occasion unsavory.As for HIV/AIDS, he strangely believed it wasn’t quite real and duly paid with his life for it. However, what fascinated me about him was his conscious decision to go against the grain in order to stand with the masses and those on the fringes. That was why no less an orthodox personage than the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos at the time chose to eulogize his opposition to oppression and corruption rather than dwell on his mega-polygamy and known use of marijuana. For the records, Fela’s father had been a reverend and his mother one of Nigeria’s first female politicians. Two of his brothers were medical doctors: one was in fact a professor of pediatrics and a federal minister! As for Fela, he studied Music at the prestigious Trinity College, Dublin, and yet elected to sing in Pidgin, rather than conventional English, in order to connect with the masses that he loved. A maverick.

  8. Fact: Woke Soyinka, the Nobel literature laureate, was Fela’s cousin. Fact: Fela once married 27 (yes, twenty-seven)of his female dancers IN ONE DAY in order to “legitimize” his relationship with them in the eyes of the traditionally conservative Nigerian society. Fact: Fela’s “African Shrine”, where he staged most of his live performances, was a known den of marijuana. These were the stains on Fela’s legacy. To the credit of his family, they went public with the cause of his death at a time when HIV/AIDS was seriously stigmatized in Nigeria and, in this way, Fela’s death gave real fillip to public sensitization on the deadly scourge.

  9. I’m a rock guitarist, not a jazz saxophonist but…

    Wenger did play some great stuff at one time, didn’t he?. He was no Charlie Parker or John Coltrane, but he was a virtuoso nonetheless. Like a Wayne Shorter or Sonny Rollins, he was post-modern, inventing his own version of English football on the fly. He was crossover, hard bop more than bebop.

    The originator of some of greatest music ever to come from The Arsenal or the Premier League. Now, today? He’s just a couple of years older than someone he increasingly resembles. Kenny G. Arsene Wenger is f&%king Kenny G.

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