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Nick Tosches - Fuck the Living Fuck the Dead

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Artist: Nick Tosches

Album: Fuck the Living Fuck the Dead

Label: Les Disques du Soleil et de l’Acier

Review date: Jul. 28, 2005

He started up just as I’m doing here, writing about rock and roll music and wasting my life in and outside of bars and clubs, in search of that which red-blooded males search for, looking for something I still haven’t found and working a job that goes against all of that (yet is eminently doable and providing of my lifestyle, as was the plan all along), seeing things that you and I would have given a nut or tit to have experienced, as it’s all been built up that what we missed was so much better than what we currently have to contend with. And he gets older, and that stuff doesn’t matter as much anymore, like how I feel when kids … God, am I really calling them kids? … when the “kids” (that feels better) start oohing and ahhing about some band or art exhibit I saw one night that happens to be the still point that their cultural existence rotates on, and not really caring all that much about it. Hey, some people love rye bread and celery and pilsners; I’d rather drink someone else’s bile than put any or all in my mouth.

If we follow the same parallel, then I will escape NYC before one of us winds up dead (and the city will not be the one to die), and start really wearing my subjects, writing because I have to and finding the truth to the problems I face while creating more problems. Over time, I will become respected, well-regarded in places like Paris, if not entirely understood. I’ll understand why artists flee the freedom that America offers. I will put on a suit of someone else’s clothes and tell you stories of broken men, dead souls and hiding in a thatch hut smoking opium under the stars (or a rough equivalency of such tales, the kind I am better suited to tell, though I don’t have the words or the subjects or the worldview or the access to get there just yet, but bear with me).

And I’ll get known for it, like some of you might know me here, and my interests will broaden and I’ll become an expert in other areas, or at least an extremely curious student, because when I latch onto a subject, the data just fills my head. Nick Tosches has seen the world, though, or at least more of it than I have. He’s probably been more of a scumbag than I have, too, with less recourse. He must have the charm I often lack, and we probably share the intuition that tells me I ain’t got it.

And we both like to tell stories. He must like hearing them too, if his biography work and the dialogue in his three novels have anything to say about it. He sat down with some friends on a spring night in 2001 and out came this recording, Fuck the Living Fuck the Dead, recounting some tales he stored up. At the time, Tosches was writing his third of three published works of fiction, In the Hand of Dante, and gathering the classical side of that material (the story takes place alternately between a thief paid to swipe an original copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and the state of Dante’s mind as he prepared to write those works, and unfolds as 9/11 shakes the world, more as an afterthought to his obsessions). And much like that novel, the material he recites here (as part of the Les Années Pop festival) strikes a comfortable-only-when-spoken-by-him balance between the classical and the profane.

He laments the hunter Don Daria Cella, killed by a butterfly that startled him as it brushed past, ultimately leading to his tragic fall onto the rocks below. He tears into a catalog of fetishes that underscore a lust for life and the awareness and desire to corrupt that which common men cannot have (“What is it with you people/who don’t want to wear fur? I want to fuck you in fur/Kill me a Kennedy/that’s my idea of foreplay … Aynsley makes these plates/22-karat gold and blue Cobalt/Fuck the silver, bring me his head on one of those.”) He pauses, at length, to have “A Cigarette with God” (“He took one deep drag/and in that drag there seemed to lie/more of fulfillment/than the sum of all dreams”) and learns that God’s still holding the cards and bluffing him and all spirits in the afterlife. He seems fixated on Christianity and the Old Testament; Coptic gospels and absolutes. These statements, these truths, are his truths; they work for him, the fruits of a life well-spent telling other peoples’ stories in ways they never could – dark stories of the lives of Jerry Lee Lewis, Sonny Liston, Dean Martin – lives shrouded in mystery and sin and despair through success, the pain of the human condition as it differs for each man, and yet stays the same throughout, and what we can take from it all. Those fruits bear recognition from one’s peers as well, as Patti Smith makes an appearance with Tosches at the end of the disc to walk through her “Wild Leaves” with spoken annotation from whence the title of this work comes through.

The disc left me hanging the first time through, no lie. But hey, Nick’s telling me here, too: “I no longer feel that my youth was wasted. For with age comes the wisdom that it all comes down to ashes in the end ... for, having survived my youth, and all that followed, I now enjoy the gentler madness to whose shore I have been delivered, and I look forward to tangoing in the graveyard, with you, my darling, or over you.” The wisdom just falls out in clumps, there for all to see. If at some point I can come up with a philosophy that’ll work for me in such easy metre, that will allow me to cast off that which holds me back to the point where I can express myself thusly, then will I know the freedom this man, one of the world’s most unsung authors and biographers, holds as a secret to himself.

By Doug Mosurock

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