Linksomania: Trib bashes Lolla again, Wyman bashes Scorsese

October 6, 2011

Catching up on some interesting reading: The Tribune yesterday lashed out for the second time in the last few weeks at Walmart on the Lake, excoriating Lollapalooza for failing to meet the five-day deadline for cleaning up Grant Park set by its sweetheart deal with the city, asking why the Park District hasn’t fined promoters C3 Presents, and suggesting that if they can’t get their act together to return the city’s front yard to its pre-concert state, perhaps they should consider another site… like the vacant Lakeside land on the South Side that hosted the Dave Matthews Band Caravan.

 

Writes the Trib:

When we stopped by Tuesday, most of the gardens north of Buckingham Fountain were completely fenced in and several access points to the Petrillo Music Shell were blocked. A few hedges bore signs forbidding people from putting anything within three feet of the shrubs.

Wednesday marks exactly two months since the opening of Lollapalooza.

The lag time is all the more irritating when you consider that Lollapalooza's contract with the Park District requires C3, the festival's organizers, to restore Grant Park to its "pre-load-in condition" within five days of the festival's end… Two months have passed, and the city's famed "front yard" isn't back to normal.

So why hasn't the park district enforced C3's contract, pesky five-days-out rule and all? Why isn't it charging severe late fees, like Millennium Park does for its private events?

Good questions! This blog first reported on the cleanup issue on Sept. 18, and of course it has reported extensively on Lollapalooza inexplicably and possibly illegally dodging its share of the city amusement taxes, which the Trib also picked up on and strongly criticized in an editorial in early August. Nice to know the city’s largest daily is paying attention to these issues, even if city officials are not.

Meanwhile, in his inimitable, exhaustive style, our old friend and former Chicago Reader rock critic Bill Wyman weighs in on the new Martin Scorsese documentary about “the quiet Beatle” on Slate. The second installment of the more than 3 ½-hour George Harrison: Living in the Material World airs on HBO tonight.

Needless to say, Beatles fans are jumping all over Wyman for daring to critique their hero, and we’re sure he’s not objecting: He always has enjoyed questioning the established rock canon, a pursuit this blog certainly shares. Lost in the backlash, however, is his central point that Harrison (like earlier Scorsese subjects Dylan, the Stones, and the Band) deserves more than a superficial rose-colored fanboy tribute—a “schlockumentary,” Wyman calls it—that glosses over some profound questions at the heart of this mysterious legend, pumping up the myth at the expense of a lot of facts or, you know, real journalism, which is what a documentary should be offering.

Among the omissions Wyman cites: Any substantive discussion of Harrison’s musical talents; any deep look at his solo career post-All Things Must Pass (which, Wyman notes, comprises five-eighths of his adult life); any probing examination of his troubled marriage to Pattie Boyd and the tawdry love triangle with Eric Clapton that inspired “Layla,” and any look at the issues behind the infamous “My Sweet Lord”/“He’s So Fine” plagiarism suit. Then there’s this:

Finally, the film really never investigates the real mystery of Harrison: What was he so morose about? Now, Ringo Starr is one who appreciates the cosmic joke life played on him. He has a cheerful acceptance of life's whimsy, hiding what no doubt has been his daily prayers since circa 1963: "Please, God, I don't know what a goofball like me did to deserve this life, but thank you very much, and please let me know if I'm doing anything that would cause you to end it." Harrison, by contrast, has always had a sense of the aggrieved about him. I just don't know what the source of it was. In Harrison's mini-autobiography at the front of I Me Mine, the unasked-for collection of his song lyrics, he seems mostly unhappy about … the travel indignities he suffered during the Beatles years. In the documentary, Scorsese plays the price-of-fame card heavily. "It's fun," Starr says, "early on. But then you want it to stop, and it never does."…

Scorsese just doesn't seem interested in addressing the source of the impulse that moved Harrison into religious mysticism. (In some of the letters to his parents we hear in the film, Harrison's growing interests in this area sound like something out of Tommy. That's not good. Harrison's drug use, which he might have been using as self-medication, is also given sidelong mention, but the severity of it is never explored.) But that something pained Harrison it is taken for granted here. One nut in full Krishna regalia says that chanting "helped George overcome feelings of distress and anger." What feelings of distress and anger? Rock stars have emotional pain too, of course; I'm not disputing that. But everyone seems to accept that Harrison had some problems, but we never hear what they were….

Perhaps the odd behavior his first wife observed had something to do with depression over the declining critical and commercial appeal of his work. These are all elements that would have broadened our understanding of Harrison the man. By removing the edges that gave the man's life some bite, Martin Scorsese hasn't done George Harrison's legacy any favors.