Wednesday, October 1, 2008
When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son,always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns,but I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die-JohnnyCash
This line comes from a flipping awesome song Johnny Cash wrote (Folsom Prison Blues) about - and then actually performed in - Folsom Prison. Did he do it before or after Elvis? Can't tell you to be sure. Now, did the 'King' actually sing in a prison for Jailhouse Rock, or was it just screwing around making a music video? Not really my thing this so you'll have to go to some other fools blog to get that sort of info.
What I can tell you is our boy Johnny C performed for the bad asses in the prison as part of his vibe and caused a fracas while he was at it. A victim of being beaten by his old man as a young squirt, Johnny boy was always ready to throw 'it' back into the face of authority whenever he got the chance. With a mic and a band behind him those opportunities were a plenty. So you can imagine when he got the crowd going things got a little raucous. There is another song he sings right in the prison ( bravely as the warders were within truncheon reach) called San Quentin where he sings the lines:
"San Quentin, I hate every inch of you.
You've cut me and have scarred me thru an' thru.
San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell.
May your walls fall and may I live to tell."
Brave cat our boy!
South Africa has got a good whack of prisons of course and although most seem to be pretty shabby affairs where cash still rules the day and can buy you a more comfortable time in the joint than the poor man, there are some pretty hectic maximum security facilities to lock a couple of the perceived bad eggs up good and proper.
One that I know of is Brandvlei Prison near Worcester in the Western Cape. I place of exquisite beauty, surrounded by mountains tipped with snow in the winter and lush green vineyards standing stoutly and top heavy full of grapes under sunny skies in summer.
My Aunt and cousin went along for a visit to hear some of the good work the prisoners were doing recently. One of the dudes they went along with actually did have a guitar and played some tunes that the prisoners went mad for. They don't get to see any of the magical surroundings. The walls are high and these guys are murderers and rapists. Convicted and serving what usually amounts to a hefty sentence. What they can see above those walls is just sky. Their world consists of just those prison walls and sky.
What interested me was the story my cousin told me about after her visit. She said the one guy was absolutely fanatical about Liverpool United and was after any information that she had on the famous football side. My cousin is a brainy thing indeed but her knowledge does not go so far as to keep tabs on the English Premiership football scores. The guy was adamant that being free, she must have some notion of how his team was doing. I am not sure if she made up some good news for the guy in the orange suit, but when she asked him if he had always supported Liverpool and sympathised with his not being able to watch them, he replied that he had been in prison since a young man and never actually supported the team, but his parents loved the Beetles at the time and he knows they are from Liverpool so that is why he supports the fantastic team.
A long long time to be in prison that is. A long time indeed and hanging on to what ever he can to keep his inspiration going. Sure he murdered someone to end up there and therefore may deserve his predicament. Don't think for a moment you can judge though. Well at least his parents chose the Beetles and not Pink Floyd as then the football loving criminal would be spending his energies on chasing Cambridge United! Actually, young Robyn my cousin would be a lot more helpful in volunteering any information about Cambridge.
post script: Elvis Presley's music video of Jailhouse Rock was the first bit of music ever to be performed on the Television (except for when they play those bugles on 'The Life Of Brian' which was obviously in Bible Times so that was much longer ago). When Michael Jackson watched it for his 356th time, under strict instruction from his father - who also used to thrash young Mike, he was inspired to make his own music video. The result = 'Thriller' (the most successful selling album ever until Robert Mathew Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice) re-launched his career with Mind Blowin.
The point being ... Johnny Cash and Michael Jackson have a lot more in common than you might have thought.