Celebrating Hunter S. Thompson’s 75th
Since his pivotal political coverage in the ‘70s, Thompson’s output has been notoriously erratic, publishing sporadically in Rolling Stone, Playboy, and numerous sports magazines. For a time in the 1980s, he penned a media criticism column for the San Francisco Examiner. During this time, Thompson mutated into an icon, more often invoked as a character reference than an actual writer.
Thompson’s writing has suffered in recent years, often coming off as unfocused and paranoid; or, more often, as simply a mix-n-match of stock invective—swine, twisted, fear, bastards, atavistic, Nazi—interspersed with great Ideas and proclamations that employ Capital Letters and imply some insane Mix of drug Frenzy and early Protestant political writings.
When applied well, Thompson’s use of capital letters plugs his writing into much older stories. When he writes of firemen fighting Fire, they aren’t simply extinguishing a blaze, they are engaging in a battle with a Biblical plague. Thompson frames the Bush regime similarly. “It’s a simple Plot,” he says, capital letters evident by the tone of his voice. “There are old-time Procedures: take over the government and loot the Treasury.”
To Thompson, the Bush regime is pure Fire, one that he’ll Fight from his new platform at Vanity Fair, where he says he’ll soon begin publishing (while according to Thompson, he continues his effort to get his name removed from the Rolling Stone masthead). Despite a generally chilly reception (the New York Times called it a “haphazard journalistic yard-sale”), Kingdom of Fear was an instant hit, selling out its first printing and quickly rising onto the Times ’ own best-seller list. Simply, Thompson is still an agitator with a clarion message, which is why he remains relevant, as a character, a public figure and a writer.
And he’s managed to do it without tempering his message. “I piss down the throat of those Nazis,” he writes of the Bush administration, and means it. Lately, he’s been rereading William Shirer’s classic study, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. “I would think it would be pretty difficult to understand what’s going on now in terms of history without reading this. You’ll see the parallels between Nazi Germany and this country. It’s scary.”
While Kingdom of Fear isn’t exactly a return to form, Thompson is still capable of a fantastic dissent. “It was the death of fun, unreeling right in front of us,” he writes of September 11th’s aftermath “unraveling, withering, collapsing, draining away in the darkness like a handful of stolen mercury. Yep, the silver stuff goes suddenly, leaving only a glaze of poison on the skin.”
Andre Breton called surrealism a “new vice.” “There is every reason to believe that it acts on the mind very much as drugs do,” he wrote, and the same might be said of Gonzo. It is said that after Bill Murray portrayed Thompson in 1980’s Where the Buffalo Roam (an amusing, though deeply flawed, biopic), he began to take on Thompson’s personal characteristics, donning dark glasses, smoking cigarettes through a filter, and becoming increasingly volatile. Similar rumors circulated about Johnny Depp after his appearance in Terry Gilliam’s 1998 adaptation of Vegas.
Rallying the troops in bars, Thompson knows full well that his actions will be duly reported in the gossip pages. “Those fuckers didn’t even mention I had a new book!” he kvetched about coverage of his colorful appearance at an Aspen peace rally. Out and about, Thompson is a self-conscious public figure and, thus, a performer.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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