April 19, 2018

Minor Secrets of "At Gilman Street" Revealed

Gesælig Wodensdaeg to ēow, once again. Minor secrets! "At Gilman Street"! Reveal'd!!!

Today's video is the second of two music videos made by Byron's neighbor (that's literally all I know about him, and it); the other one, for "Surfin' Cows", I posted a few weeks back. They're basically short films with a montage of images vaguely related to the song-as-soundtrack, and are kind of like historical documents unto themselves.

This version of the song is from the Rough Trade Big Black Bugs ep, and it must have been put together sometime in 1989. I like the non-sequitur (or are they?) images best (that Greco-Roman statue head that is the current thumbnail and coincides with the Isocracy name-drop never fails to amuse me) but the Gilman footage is genuine as is, the general scuffed-up, chaotic, grainy, what-the-hell-are-we-doing spirt of the whole thing. That urinal, for example.

I started writing the song, rather idly, before the club opened, during those endless planning meetings. At the time it seemed pretty doubtful that it would get much beyond the meeting stage, but Berkeley people love their meetings and that's usually reason enough to have them. I brought my schoolwork to them and was mostly pretty distracted but every now and again I'd look up and notice what was going on: hippies yelling "point of order" at each other, our Dear Leader making everyone vote till they came up with the result he wanted, routine denunciations of Bill Graham Presents, the Judean People's Front, and the military-industrial complex, earnest guys on the "Security Council" renouncing their right to impose their will on other sentient beings... basically, it was just like every other Berkeley community meeting since at least 1968, I'd guess. Vive la revolution. Death to the fascist insect that preys on the life of the people. I am Tania. Then it was back to homework for me, I'm afraid.

Anyway, as many have had occasion to point out recently (quoting my notes to MTX Shards, vol. 2) it is perhaps just a bit of a shame that I of all people was the guy who happened to write the “Gilman anthem.” It could have been a lot more sycophantic and triumphalist and mythopoeic in other hands. Sorry about that, Punk History.

When I noticed people start to mythologize it and Shining-City-on-a-Hill-ize it, I had the notion of writing a follow-up song called "Yo Jerusalem" but it never quite came together. And fair enough, really. I'm glad it was there. We had some good times there (and down the street at Picante.) It's a club, it's a place, it's a thing, innit?

(Putting this on the "official and semiofficial music videos" playlist, because it is at least semi-official, considering. And I think that list may now be complete, till we come up with more.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at April 19, 2018 05:43 PM