You Will Be Remembered, Frank Gutch Jr


gutch thru the yearsYesterday I went through all of the private messages I’d shared with Frank Gutch Jr, since I’d first encountered him. It was in 2013, just after I’d begun writing a weekly column for Don’t Believe A Word I Say, and right from that first message, it was as though we were separated at birth.

Cheri Hill: “This is such sad news. My heart is hurting so much to hear that our dear Frank has passed. We were in Junior High and high school together. We were one of the band geeks and I had such a crush on him. Please someone, let me know what happened and when and where are the services. Thank you.”

Suzi Stark Brubaker:OMG … I can’t believe this is true … I am hoping it is a cruel joke, Frank and I went to school together and have remained friends over the years, coffee buddies and someone to reminisce with about our early days in good old Sweet Home, Oregon. He will be missed! My heart is heavy.”

There was no tentative, pussy footing around in our chats; it was always right to the good stuff, the things you joyously share when you find a like mind and spirit. We spoke about music, of course, but also of our love of reading, and our shared childhood experiences of hiding under the blankets with a flashlight and a new book. We’d speak about the roads not traveled. “What if, ” he once said, “your grandma had not taken that wagon train all the way to Alberta? What if she’d stopped in Oregon instead? Who do you think you’d have been, what sort of life might you have lead?

friends of the heartFrank didn’t waste any time, when it came to his friendships. He walked right into my life, parked himself on the cosy chair beside mine, and poured himself a drink. You need to be comfy when you’re busy taking apart the world, and figuring out how best to put it back together.

For all of us at Don’t Believe A Word I Say, he was a part of what we did, even though we had never met him. We all spoke fluent ‘Gootch.” He was there with us at the Bobcast, beside us at every birthday, every get together, every gig, and we’d so often reference him at our gatherings that it felt like we could see him sitting there beside us .. and yet we’d never physically met the man.

The Green Pyjamas, Seattle WA: “When I heard of Frank’s recent passing, I was startled by the realization that I had never actually met him. The thoughtful yet easy way he expressed himself in his writing, and how he was so very passionate about music -especially that of the underdog – bonded me to him, and I considered Frank a friend and comrade.”

Thane Tierney: “Just gobsmacked. We never met, but we conversed and exchanged music geekery and ideas and suchlike, and both of us were 100% positive sure that we’d be thunderbuddies for life if we had just crossed paths earlier. Gonna miss him.”

He could reference the boys in XPrime and their abilities as easily as any band he’d seen in person. He loved to hear about the bands we’d showcase on the Bobcast, and he made a point of getting to see Mad Anthony and their leader Ringo Jones, and to introduce himself to the lads, when their circuit ran close enough for him to catch their show.

When I sent him the early recordings of the songs that would be on my CD, he was enthusiastic and nurturing, warmly congratulating me on how well my vocals worked within the music. He was a hugely supportive listener, as so many musicians, all around the world, would attest. His critiques always found the best in the artist, and always left those being reviewed with pride in their creation, and a warm spot in their heart for this man who could really ‘hear’ what they were trying to say.

Jeff LeGore:He gave us a great review on Chris Laterzo’s “West Coast Sound” record I produced with Chris and engineered. He REALLY LISTENED. Sad to lose such a true music lover.”

Maxine Dunn: “I was very sad to hear that Frank Jr. Gutch has passed away. He was one of those rare people who truly believed in my music and wrote amazing reviews. The music community are really going to miss him. My thoughts go out to his family at this sad time.”

(On why he wrote about indie music) “It is not just an album or a song, but the journey it took, and how it changed them. And I love the fact that, no matter how similar musicians can be, when you dig deep enough, they become so unique. ”  Frank Gutch Jr., August 23, 2016

Frank didn’t often write about politics, per se, but oh! how we discussed them in chat! He had very strong opinions, but kept his political views to himself, as a rule, so as not to allow the perceptions or perspectives of others to colour his musical views. It was always about the music, first, last and always.

Some dark and wintry nights, when maybe we’d had a few drinks and were feeling philosophical, we’d talk about the span of our lives, what we’d felt we’d done right or wrong, and where we saw ourselves in the future. I remember a night in 2016 when he wrote, “Time was never a factor in my youth. It is now looming over me like a dark cloud.”

But he wasn’t a guy to worry about what was to come. No, he had far too much to do, far too many books he wanted to read (he was a huge fan of Canadiana, especially the works of W.P. Kinsella,) far too many CDs on the table that he had to listen to, with that critical but supportive ear that made so many ask for his attention.

And yet he must have sensed that his time was coming to an end, because last October, he wrote, “It would be wonderful to have done something for which one could be remembered.”

I think you did that, Frank. I really think you did. I think you’ll be remembered for a very long time, just for being who you were, and what you gave to the musicians lucky enough to have known you, in person or online.

I’m gonna miss you, Frank. And I’ll never forget how much you loved all of us in the DBAWIS family, and how much you always cared about the peaks and valleys of our lives. And I’ll remember one of the last things you wrote to me …

“Knock ’em dead, Roxanne. And if you can, keep Bob honest.”

Sweet Home, Oregon 1964                       Members: Frank Gutch, Jr. ~ Drums; Dave Horner ~ Guitar, Vocals; Bill Johnson ~ Guitar, Vocals; Terry Rice ~ Piano; Dayton Turner ~ Guitar

“In the little writeup about A Six Pack, I mentioned an earlier band called The Survivors. Frank Gutch, Jr. has located a snapshot of that band.
The photo shows one of the few performances of that band, probably a post football game dance in the fall of 1964. This band, formed in Sweet Home, Oregon, in the fall of 1964 never, got out of town and may not have even survived football season!”

gutch band The Survivors

Pictured are, Terry Rice on piano, (from left) Dayton Turner, Bill Johnson and David Horner on guitars and Frank Gutch, Jr., on drums. The photo, we think, was taken by a Sweet Home High School student, Ernie Dunigan.

Dayton Turner, February 2006         http://www.pnwbands.com/survivors.html

Jaimie Vernon:My soul continues to get hammered from all sides. The loss of Jon Long on the weekend, Toronto’s tragic mass murder yesterday, and now I find out that a fellow blogger – someone who I shared the same pages with for nearly four years and was a constant, unwavering cheerleader for everything I did – Frank Gutch Jr has passed away. We were two penpals (though we did talk on the phone several times) living 3000 miles apart, but we were like old friends. We “got” each other. I don’t know the circumstances as yet. Knowing won’t make it hurt any less. “

Darrell Vickers:A few weeks before Frank passed away, he was generous enough to send me three boxes of Lp’s from his collection. I thought I’d spend the day digitizing some of those records and being grateful that I was among the lucky people that knew him. Sleep well Frank.”

Bobby Gottesman: “Deeply saddened by the loss of a man who was a mentor, a fellow lover of indie music, a kind and generous soul. A man I considered my friend. Pretty sure he’ll still be listening and writing. You will be missed Frank…..”

No Small Children: “We are so sad to hear this news. We would love to be involved in any tribute for Frank. He was a champion for all music. We are so grateful to have known him. 

gutch in san diegoHowie Wahlen:I’m going to try to hammer this out while it’s still raw.

Here’s one of those columns you wanted me to write, Frank.. You always find a way.

Frank Gutch Jr tripped off this mortal coil yesterday (April 23rd as far as I know). I had been in contact with him as recently as Friday last week. It comes as a bit of a shock. I know that the clock is always ticking and we all have a limited amount of time. This is another reminder.

I first met Frank as a new hire at Peaches Music and Video in Seattle WA about spring 1983. I was hired as a buyer and worked side by side with him for 6 1/2 years. It was a fucking great job. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and by December, 1989 I’d had enough. I needed to get away from his looming presence. I can’t remember how we reconnected, but we did by 2005 or maybe before then. I’m not sure. Love of music was always the common denominator.

That’s the short version.

From the get go at Peaches, Frank was supportive and my first duty was to go through the racks at Peaches to learn what the store carried and where things were and pay no attention to what went on before (as far as buying went). It was the biggest record store I have ever worked in and, at first, it was a little intimidating. Actually, it was very intimidating. In my search of the racks, I must have found more than a dozen records that either I didn’t know were available still or even existed. I later found out this was mostly due to Frank and the “bag system.”

Through this rack education, we developed our rapport. He saw what I liked and I learned what he liked. The conversation began for that intense 6 1/2 years of a working relationship trading favorite record stories. We turned each other on to our favorite unknowns or should of been huge artists or bands.

We had similar interests, but complimented each other well. He was the “indie” buyer and I was the “majors” and hits buyer. He said he didn’t want to have anything to do with that mainstream crap that the gullible public seemed to so easily drop their money on. He knew it was the bread and butter for the store and that he needed those sales to stock the racks with the really good stuff. We had return margins (it’s a record industry thing) that were so phenomenal that we could feature (and sell!!) some of our favorite unknowns without worrying about a few that didn’t. It surprised me what we could actually move at that store.

We were a good team, but we did have our off days. My biggest pet peeve was his damn moodiness. His pet peeve was that I had to play my flavor of the month to death. I’d go to work each day wondering what the mood for the day was going to be. Grumpy silence or enthusiastic music rap. It made it tough at times. Those who were there will remember this. I don’t write this to be mean. Shit, I had to endure, “John Lennon’s still dead,” almost weekly for 6 1/2 years! He later apologized for that long after I’d almost forgotten about it. What a guy. I never apologized for playing Let’s Active so much that he swore they were huge in the 80s (my kids thought so too).

Years passed and somehow we got in touch again around 2005. It could have been the phone, but it might have been the interwebs. About 2009, after much resistance, Frank Gutch and Tom Dyer convinced me to open a Facebook account. I did it because I was getting involved with the re-activation of Green Monkey Records, but it quickly turned more personal. So it began again in the naughties. We began trading the inevitable “have you heards.” Both of us still as enthusiastic as ever, but he was more willing to share this with his writing and on FB.

Frank was very interested and supportive of what Tom and I were doing with GMR and wrote about it a lot. Go back and look at Frank’s columns on Robert Segarini’s “Don’t Believe a Word I Say” blog. If you want to really know Frank, just read those columns and other reviews he’s done. I learned most of what I do know about Frank through those columns. He gets very personal at times. If you can find his very first review check it out. It seemed to me to be his music manifesto. (If I ever find it again, I’ll post a link.) It had more him in it than the album he was reviewing. Here’s a link to his own website…

http://www.rockandreprise.net/index.html

Read the Cargo and the Space Opera overviews. They were a couple of his favs. His strong suit was asking the right questions and letting the responders go with it.

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to have, not one, but 2 jobs that I really loved with people that I really loved. The first was Everybody’s Record Company store #5 in the 70s. What a crew! I never thought it would happen again but, the second was at Peaches in Seattle in the 80s thanks to Frank. What a crew!

I’m pulling a Rainier Beer outta the fridge now. Hoisting one for Frank. Thanks my friend. You had a heart of gold. I’m gonna miss ya.

Oh yeah, I’ll give SF Sorrow by The Pretty Things a spin in your honor. Love you.

Tom Dyer:Wow. I’ve been in sessions or meetings all day and just saw this.
Frank. I never met Frank. We never sat in the same room. We never even spoke on the phone. We just typed at each other. Nonetheless, I consider Frank my excellent friend. Howie intro-ed us when I first re-fired up the Green Monkey motor. He said you need to know Frank. And Frank was a person that got it. He understood what we were doing. He gave me a lot of crap (very wise) but he got it. And not just championing the Green Pajamas, where it is relatively easy to grasp and love their brilliance, but the more obscure. He did a retroactive review of Jim of Seattle, just because Jim is so fucking great. Who does that? He even gave my own personal (and at least sometimes annoying) music efforts a gratifying amount of attention.

I suppose I could just say good on ya – thanks for the reviews – and we’d be all set. But there’s something more going on here. Frank was simply a good human and our typing connected us well. I think there was a link of mutual respect and really, just the simple enjoyment of interfacing as humans.

So am I going to miss Frank? Yes I am. Do I feel sad? Not too much, I think Frank had a pretty good life and used his time on planet earth pretty well. Nothing to complain about. I consign you to the cosmos Mr. Gutch and I thank you for the time you have given us. Fair thee well. I will join Howie on the Rainier this weekend.”

Jim Gratton: “Howie, Thanks for posting this. I met Frank because of a mutual love for the band Notary Sojac. He had a shaky web page dedicated to the long-gone band (1969-1974). I wrote him about an encounter I had had with two of them a few years after they broke up which he posted on the site. We exchanged numerous emails, and when my job took me to Eugene, I looked him up. I loved the irony of a writer who lived in a town named Tangent. We got together several times for beer, and last time for dinner at a Eugene restaurant. My Facebook friendship with him reconnected him with another Facebook friend of mine, Mary E. Kohl, who worked with Frank back in the day, too.”

Debbie Dodd:Unlike Howie, I had to wait a bit for this to sink in. Like many of you, Frank has had a huge impact on me. I started working at Peaches in 1983. I wanted to work there because they had a really neat greeting card section. Didn’t think I really had any business working there with my pitiful music knowledge, but I got in the door nonetheless. Frank and Howie were those cooler than cool buyers who intimidated the heck out of me, a lowly sales clerk. As Howie said, Frank could be a real curmudgeon and cranky cranky cranky. You always knew who had control of the store turntable–seems like Frank always played way more Steve Goodman than anyone else wanted to hear.

But Frank was sort of our guru, and the Peaches-related folks I have had the privilege of knowing, well, as Frank has said, “mean more to me than you will know.” It was a very special time and my real coming of age. And although Frank was the anti-schmoozer, we had some good times at Breakers/Thunderbirds games and minor league baseball games. Outside of work was where I learned what kind of man Frank really was–generous, sensitive, thoughtful, and a true supporter of the underdog, especially in music.

When I left Seattle, Frank wrote, “Remember me as 20 pounds lighter and 20 years younger.” I don’t know if I ever cut those 20’s off of my memories of Frank, but Facebook reunited us and for the past 8 years we have been in touch one way or another. Frank has said some of the kindest words to me I have ever heard. Frank and my husband Sam had become somewhat pen pals, both passionate about discovering new music and poo pooing the idea that there is no good music being made anymore. I can only hope that many of you, Frank Gutch Jr fans will continue his legacy and keep exploring new music and getting the word out. Because yes, you can teach an old guy new tunes. Bye Frank.

gutch in 1983Gary Heffern: “here is a photo of frank at his apartment in san diego, the night before he left to seattle. i will miss him so much. thank you for your beautiful post. i posted a bunch of his messages to me about music and art on my wall… just gobsmacked. love to you all. life is short.” 

The Minnows:It is with very heavy hearts that we write this post, having only just heard of the sudden passing of our good friend Frank Gutch Jnr.

We always joked that Frank, from Oregon, USA, was one of the best music journalists on the planet… on the basis that he really liked our music! But his knowledge and support of indie music was indeed vast.

As a musician or band, writing, recording and releasing your own music, you always want someone to hear your music as you do.

Frank Gutch Jnr was that man and reading his review of our Leonard Cohen’s Happy Compared To Me album was an amazing thing… that someone we’d never met could appreciate and articulate everything we were trying to do on that album – better than we could ourselves.

He’s been a supporter ever since and a great friend on social media.

He gave us some stick (and rightly so) about the length of time it was taking to release our new album – but we are very happy that he, along with our dear friend Bobby Gottesman, was one of just two people outside of the band to have heard the completed album from start to finish. And he loved it.

It’s a very strange feeling to lose a friend that you’ve never actually met but that’s what Frank was to us.

We’ll sign off now with a video from the new album that Frank loved and always said it made him cry. It’ll bring a tear to our own eyes tonight.

The one’s for you Frank. RIP. 🎸 😢

Jim Parrett: “Just learned that Frank passed away. A great guy and frequent contributor to this page, Frank gave us first-hand accounts of rock and roll in Oregon during the 60’s with inside info on some of the magic of that wonderful time in a wonderful place. He always took the time to provide background on the 60’s Oregon bands I would post. A fountain of knowledge with a real love for rock and roll, Frank’s input was educational but more than that, fun. “

The Posies – Ken Stringfellow:I just got word that Frank Gutch Jr passed away this week. Frank was an avid music supporter, going back to the earliest days of the Posies, and continuing to the present with his enthusiastic reviews not only for my own work but for several albums I produced — albums with a very small base audience that needed a champion – he was there. Music has a lost a great listener, right when we needed it most. Rest in peace.”

Bobby Gottesman:Deeply saddened by the loss of a man who was a mentor, a fellow lover of indie music, a kind and generous soul. A man I considered my friend. Pretty sure he’ll still be listening and writing. You will be missed Frank…..”

Julian Taylor: I’m trying to find words to express how I’m feeling right now. I’m trying but not too hard because that could be the breaking point. Life is tough. I’m tired of losing people that I care about. It can be a tad bit crippling. It hurts and it’s a hurt that’s never gone away since the beginning of losing. Even if you’re expecting it it is unexpected. It subsides a bit sometimes over time but it never really ever goes away.

The world lost another good one today in Frank Gutch Jr. He was my friend. A beautiful writer and supporter of original art.

I don’t think that journalists get the credit they deserve these days but where would we be without them. Frank was a purveyor of good taste and authenticity. He was a pure human and a soulful American. One of the good ones, and good ones go each and everyday. It’s been a difficult realization to come too for me but no matter how hard it is to lose people it’s never ever truly permanent. We ALL come back again. I suppose that’s the lesson that I’ve come to learn over the past three decades. I struggle. I do. I struggle almost every second of the day. I know we all do. I’m trying to just breath. It’s a rough road sometimes but the beauty in it far exceeds any of the tough parts that life throws at us. Over the past four months I and so many people that I love and adore have had to say goodbye to people we love. At this moment in time my mind refuses to let go because I only want to remember the kindness, love and support people have shown me and cultivate that.

Rest In Peace Frank, Jon, Maggie, Colin, Doreen and Wingrove. It’s been a whacky four months.

To all those who’ve lost someone recently. I feel you. I’ve always felt you and to Frank I hope you keep writing. There’s a great big party in the sky with a few good musicians that might appreciate your insightful reviews. #giver”

Sam Taylor:I was just notified that an incredible, monumental lover of original music and an integral supporter of my work,Frank Gutch Jr, has passed away suddenly. This breaks my heart. Frank lived in the US and gave so much support and assistance to musicians from all over the world. I remember fondly a Skype session that Julian Taylor and I had with Frank last year that was a bit of a career State of the Union so to speak. An intelligent and generous soul that I wish I could have gotten to know better. Cheers, Frank. The world needs more of you.”

Adam Dawson:The world lost a good one this week. R. I. P. Frank Gutch Jr”

Terry Varner:Sad to hear that Frank Gutch, Jr. will no longer be promoting obscure and purely honest music – not on this earth anyway. A man I never met, but what a difference he made in the lives of so many – many of whom also never met him. Go to his FB page and read the comments. This guy spread a lot of joy, simply by being honestly appreciative and expressing it. RIP and light perpetual shine upon you Frank.”

Suzi Stark Brubaker: “Those of us who knew Frank were extremely lucky … he was a very talented individual who only gave his true self to a very few. He loved his music and his musicians without having to put himself out there too far. I will miss this wonderful, loving, entertaining, sweet man for all the things others never got to experience!~ RIP my sweet friend Frank!”

Cindy Lee Berryhill:Things can change in a heartbeat. Last summer Frank wrote one of my favorite reviews of The Adventurist. Frank passed away in the past day, I’m sad to say. He’d been, many years back, fellow brethren of the southern Calif-music-cult of San Diego from which many of us labored and arose and some of us extricated ourselves from. Frank was one of those. I didn’t know him then, but my dear friend Gary Heffern, introduced us via electronic gadgetry. And prompted by his review of the album we embarked on several enjoyable electronic conversations. The last thing he wrote to me was this: “One thing that always connected Heffern and I was the truth in music. Whenever I hear it, I have to write about it. There is a lot of truth in The Adventurist whether you choose to see it or not. And it means a lot to me that you appreciate my appreciation.”
Sail on dear Frank, free spirit of words..”

Bill Jackson:Just heard in Australia regarding the passing of Frank Gutch Jr. and we are absolutely devastated. Frank and I had just video chatted a few weeks ago to set up time for an long retrospective interview in May. The best friend and supporter of my music I never met, even though Rue Hazel (Ruthy) and I had long phone conversations with him. Ten years we have been corresponding. His knowledge of and hunger for independent music was second to none, insatiable and inspiring – I trusted him implicitly to always be encouraging as well as direct. I always thought we would meet someday and this doesn’t seem real – more later. Rest In Peace Frank – you made the world and making music a better place for so many people x — with Hannah Gillespie.

Thane Tierney:One of the wondrous aspects of this set of tubes we know as the Internets is that it can collide you with people who should have –and would have — been friends, had you ever met them. Frank Gutch Jr was one of those guys. We geeked out over artists from McKendree Spring to Old Californio (he was chuffed when I told him I’d jumped in on one of their Kickstarter campaigns years ago) to Daisy House, about whom he writes in the attached.

Those same miraculous tubes that brought us together delivered the news that he’s gone crate-digging in the Great Beyond. As the Pogues say In “Sally Maclennane,” “some people left for Heaven without warning.” Shoot.

It’s not everyone who can bring a casual Richard Rodgers or Modest Mussorgsky reference into a column on roots music, and I totally dug that about him. This place is poorer for his exit. To borrow (and modify for gender) a couple of lines from the late sportswriter Jim Murray, “We cry for ourselves. Wherever he is today, they can’t believe their good luck.”

Mark Strong:I just heard the sad news that a man by the name of Frank Gutch Jr had passed away. Frank was a musician, a writer/journalist and a major music lover. I had never met Frank but I felt like he was a long-time friend. Frank was such a big supporter of my music over the years, he’d always share ANY post I made that contained a song, demo or video from any of my bands. Even as recent as about two or three weeks ago, he shared my acoustic demo video of “Fine On My Own” on his Facebook page. He’s written a few flattering blurbs about my bands, Salton Sea and Witherwolf in his online music blog (which I will link to in the comments). He was such a supporter of my music, even if no one else took much notice or had much interest in a new demo or song I posted, Frank did!

Now I know I’m probably nothing special or different, as he seemed to support many artists just as he had me. However, regardless of how many artists/musicians Frank supported, it seems he made each of us feel as if we were one of his favorites. Just look at his Facebook page and you will hear similar words echoed by many. He had such a vast knowledge of music from the very beginnings of rock & roll all the way through to the modern indie sounds. Just recently I recall we were both really enjoying the Phoebe Bridgers album. Anyway, I just wanted to share what a special person Frank was and while I had never met him I’m going to miss him horribly. I’m sad that he won’t get to hear the Salton Sea album and single I’m working on. I know he would’ve loved it all. My condolences to his family and friends. RIP Frank Gutch Jr.”

Eric Rife:I feel terrible. We were supposed to hook up at some point for an interview. We never met in person but he was always very kind to me here on FB. I am so sorry Gary, James, and everyone else who had the pleasure of knowing him. Another piece of San Diego music history gone too soon.”

Ray Brandes:RIP Frank Gutch Jr, writer and all around great human being. I met Frank when he stumbled upon an old recording of mine on YouTube, and became my biggest champion. Frank owned a very influential independent record store in Mission Hills in the 1970s called Scratching the Surface, and was a great source of information for my book. You’ll be missed, Frank!”

Tom Smith: “The Frank Gutch mixed tape!! Legendary. But these were too deep, and impossibly obscure, for me at age 20. But I kept listening. …For years and years!! My interest in so many great records and bands started with these tapes. THANK YOU FRANK!!”

Ryan Collins:Raising a porter as a toast and farewell to my ex-boss, Frank at Peaches Records. One of the best straight jobs I ever had working in a basement warehouse stocking three Puget Sound record stores.

Once one got past the grumpy bluster one found a really good friend – from the gruff quiet moodiness to the loud room filling belly laugh. Such a generous guy – from pizza and beer in summer to a bottle of spirits at Christmas. Always the first to share an opinion and critique – and mebbe an insult.

He loved his crew and I loved working for him. A good good man. Rest easy, my friend – job well done”

Toby Schwartz Demain:Dang I am shocked to hear this news. I loved working for/with/alongside Frank. I will always remember his love of music, gnar work ethic and strong opinions on everything under the sun. ❤️”

Maurizio Michelino: “During the life of each one alternates events full of joy, serene and sunny days to other times and periods more complicated and less pleasant. We know that life does not always reserve some nice surprises and often has not prepared to face these events, I met Frank in 1978 … a lot of music, a lot of generosity, an immense person, you will miss a lot, So Long!”

Dave Coker: “Just heard My Friend, Frank Gutch Jr, stepped on a rainbow. We would converse on FB about obscure, little known west coast bands. This Hendrix song popped into my head, while thinking about you…

Michael Fennelly:sad to learn of the sudden passing of Frank Gutch Jr. Frank’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for music was always a delight, even when we disagreed about an artist or record. he was always kind in his support of my music and wrote some pieces about my more recent record releases that I shared here with pleasure. we met up a few times at Music Millennium for events there – and we shared a devotion to Portland’s great record store that felt like brotherhood. I’m reading other Facebook friends’ tributes to Frank, and we all seem to have the same sense of loss and the same gratitude in having known him..”

Julie Cain (Little Lonely): “RIP Frank Gutch Jr. So saddened to hear the news of his passing. I went through some old correspondence of ours and hung out there for a few minutes in that conversation. It was one that started back when he reviewed my record and continued now and then when he was reminded of me, one of my songs or a video and would mention it in his blog, or he’d drop me a note to see what was new. He lived for music, just soaked in it from morning to night, and was so generous with his support and loyalty.

I wish I could play you the new stuff, Frank. Wherever you are now, I know you’re listening. Little Lonely

Johnny Hicks:RIP Frank Gutch Jr … one of the coolest,.. most knowledgeable music heads I’ve ever known. Taught me a lot,.. always hilariously sharp. Really really sad.. damn.”

mike marino and frankMichael Marino – Frank Gutch Jr Army Nuggets
(Photos: Frank and I at his home in Oregon enjoying beer and wrestling ha)
One guy that clearly stands out is a plaid shirt wearing Oregon logger type who was a writer. I write too.

Must have been the chemicals we both fortified ourselves with. Frank Gutch Jr. you may have heard of him as he has not been mentioned all year in a sexual assault case in Hollywood by Reese Witherspoon, although she has a restraining order on him. He was and is Numero Uno buddy and quite “Frankly” got me through those days by covering my ass from the brass.

Frank and I met while stationed in 1970 at Ft. Lewis, Washington and were both Company Clerks at the Headquarters Company. Think, Radar O’Riley on M.A.S.H. One day a young GI had done a tour in Vietnam, re-enlisted and came to us to fill out paperwork to go back for another tour to as he said, “To Kill me some more gooks” Frank and I working for the military underground he as an organizer and me as a writer for the Ally underground newspaper decided we would fill out the paperwork for him except instead of Saigon, we were going to send him to Germany where he couldn’t get his wish.

He signed the papers, not reading them (we were counting on that) and they were approved. Frank and I made sure we were scarce that day as we didn’t want to get napalmed by this redneck. (He was pissed and looked for us all day until he was ordered to report to his shipping out station. We figured we saved a few lives that day from the Ugliest of Americans!)

Frank and I were shall we say heavily into LSD and marijuana. Me more so and the day we were to have our barracks inspected by the General I was already on a boat on a river finding looking glass ties. Sure enough, stockade time for me if caught. I passed out and Frank, McCarthy and Will picked me up and locked me passed out in a basement closet. I missed the inspection and the stockade. They eventually called in a medic friend of ours who said by rights I should be dead..but lived to bang a gong anyway…Thanks Frank. He’s written about this as well….

On another time, Frank, me and three other guys went camping and doping on Puget Sound. We were quite loaded on Orange Wedge acid and when we finally crashed listening to the waves and the campfire still crackling I was awakened by screams. Seems in my drugged sleep had rolled into the campfire and my sleeping bag was a blaze. Frank awakened and grabbed the bag with the others and dumped me ablaze into Puget Sound. A hell of a way to wake up I mean to tell ya…again..Thanks Frank….

One Friday night Frank and me and others went to Seattle for two and half drug saturated days in the U District. Along for the ride, were Red, Morgan, Ed, Kelly, McCarthy (the crazy one) and myself. We each had a hit of Sandoz red at noon when we arrived (that evening around sunset we had another hit of Sandoz red, one cap of mescaline and throughout the evening with the ladies we met at the crash pad we all enjoyed smoking 2 dime bags.

The next day, we all had more acid and went to see the premier of “Woodstock” first going to the Ave to score more acid. Six hits of purple double domes at $3 bucks each. McCarthy was so stoned he stood on his seat doing the Joe Cocker song singing along. Frank and I got him to sit down and shut up but I wanted to do the Who impersonation! Afterwards we we smoked more dope and scored more acid in the morning on the Ave. Blue flats for $2.50 each for band of outlaws. We went to the Spacearium and Planetarium spacing out on space then to the Space Needle. I was rushing fast on the elevator and when we got to the top I thought we were in a flying saucer. I told Frank that and he believed me. We had to head back to Ft. Lewis so scored some green flats $3.00 a hit smoked a joint and took the bus back.
frank from mike marino

We shared a lot of drugs and politics in those days including the attack on Ft.Lewis with Jane Fonda… also have reams of stories we wrote together,,,he has my half of them and I have his..I’d start the story about the army (parody) send it to him and he’d follow up and send his portion to me…we talked a few months back about putting them together and cleaning them up for a comedy short book of insanity…ha…a few years back I picked him up in Oregon and we headed for two weeks in Northern California for campfires, beer and good times amongst the Redwoods…took the coast road all the way…camping and enjoying life…

Yep…Frank was a friend…a brother I never had and a guardian angel ..lets face it…Frank was the man!! 

Christian Anger: Just learned about the passing of my friend Frank Gutch Jr 😦 Frank wrote for No Depression magazine. I was able to discover a lot of great music through him. Thanks to him I got to know about the great music of Thomas Shelton House, Drew Gibson and Tom Braam . Together we found out about Daisy House and I even was honored to be mentioned in one of Frank’s articles. He was one of a kind, a great person and music lover, always open for new stuff. Although we never met in person I’m thankful to have known him. Rest in peace, my friend. I will always remember you. “

Davina Jackson: “Sad to hear about the passing of Frank Gutch Jr. He was such an awesome, music loving individual that will be greatly missed. I will always take to heart our conversations we had about music and my vocals. Glad to have known him, and to have known that he said every time he heard my singing it would make him happy. Rest well dear friend!!!”

Jen Morris:RIP Frank Gutch Jr, a fierce advocate of indie music, and always a strong supporter of Keith’s music. So sad.”

Devon Sproule:Damn. Outta nowhere and so sad. Wish I could tell him how much I have appreciated his communication over the years. His thinking C’ville (Charlottesville, VA) music was cool always reminded me that C’ville music is so cool. And just music in general, of course. Goodbye & thank you, Frank!

The Real Shade: ” I’m very sad to learn of the passing of one of indie music’s great champions, Frank Gutch Jr.  Frank had been endlessly supportive of our music, and of that of so many bands who may otherwise have passed under the radar. He wrote in thoughtful detail about lyrical significance, melodic nuance; about everything that the music made him think and feel, and that which he hoped others would also think and feel.

I never had the chance to meet Frank in person, but was looking forward to giving him a big hug one day if we ever played a gig in Oregon. He was a good-hearted person, with a cheeky sense of humour which I appreciated. He and I had great exchanges via fb and email, and spoke just days ago.

The band and I send deepest condolences to Frank’s family and friends. If there anything we can do to help through this difficult time, we are here.
love,
Jane (Gowan)

Tom Kell:Rest in peace Frank!! Such a wonderful guy! You will be missed. A Skyboys fan for the ages…”

Kim Grant:Shocked to hear about the passing of Frank Gutch Jr. he was a real likeable person and a great supporter of independent music. He will be sorely missed. Rest easy, friend. xo”

Rich McCulley:Oh no! Fuck! He came to a gig of mine in Oregon 4-5 years ago and we hung out and he was such a cool guy. We kept in communication often. He lived for music and such a supporter of it. RIP my friend.”

David Graves:Many of us lost a very good friend with the passing of Frank Gutch, Jr. I’ve lost a kindred spirit, as well. Frank and I came of age at the same time…an age of activism. Frank remained the activist. Fighting for independence artists striving to present their art…railing against corporate greed cheating those artists. I will miss his presence in my life. He was always a breath of fresh air. Rest well Frank.”

Stephen Marcus: ” So sorry to hear of Frank’s passing. He was truly one of a kind and, even though he was a bit o a crank, a mani of my own heart in many ways. Sorry for your loss, Debbie. May Frank Rest In Peace.
“Who Knows Where the Time Goes” . . .”

Astrid Guldenmann:My first go round w/Frank was around 1979 when I worked as a cashier at Peaches. Those were the early days, and Frank was much less grumpy then. Fast forward to 1985 and I was back as a label rep. Enter grumpy Frank. And honestly, I didn’t like him much. Then time rolled on and FB happened, and somewhere along the way we became “friends”. And now I’m a little sad. RIP, Mr Gutch. You made your mark. And you were loved, whether you like it or not.”

Justin Smith: ” This is such sad news, Frank was such a cool and amazingly supportive person. He just loved music more than anything and he was such a kind human being. This is a huge loss.”

Kevin Casey: I read, liked, listened and enjoyed the posts, and the exposure to acts I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. My condolences to Mr Gutch’s family and friends.”

Laurie Biagini: “Frank Gutch Jr was a great supporter of Independent Music. He always had nice things to say about my music in his columns. It was a shock to hear of his passing today. RIP Frank.”

Rich Krueger:Frank Gutch Jr, who was a wonderful guy and an enormous supporter of my music, has died all of a sudden. This is just awful. My deepest condolences to the close family and friends.”

Elliott Randall:RIP dear friend.”

patricia davis imagePatricia Davis 

Keith Morris:It’s been sad around here. Frank was practically extended family for my wife Jen and me. We’d known him since 2007, when he reviewed my first album, and had an ongoing correspondence after that, talking about everything from life to songwriting to Charlottesville’s music scene (he was a huge fan of what he’d heard from Charlottesville and asked me to point out my favorite local artists) to baseball to the ongoing dumbing-down of America. He was always interesting, highly intelligent–and funny. And he loved to laugh, so we kept each other entertained.

It’s bittersweet reading these wonderful posts about Frank. He blessed so many of us with his attention to our music. If he liked what you were doing creatively, he was a constant supporter. And if he didn’t like something you were doing, he’d tell you about that too. Typically, this meant encouragement to maintain your focus and keep producing records he liked. This kind of feedback is of course hugely important to a young artist, as there aren’t too many people otherwise who’ll give you the time or attention. Frank’s feedback was always helpful. You could trust what he was telling you.

Frank was endlessly kind, devilishly funny, and always on-point. The best interview I ever had was the first one I did with Frank. I was a bit nervous, as I hadn’t done a lot of interviews at that point, but as soon as we started talking, things just took off. We spent a lot of that hour on the phone laughing at each other’s quips, and that openness allowed me to speak truthfully without holding a lot back. We covered significant & difficult territory–particularly race in america–and Frank liked what I said enough to turn that one interview into several pieces. This was a decade ago, and America was still touting a “post-racial America.” What a laugh to think of that today.

Frank was under no such delusion–he knew the significance of the issue, and edited none of what I said…and what I said was harsh indeed. Frank never blinked. As a matter of fact, what he did was take one of the articles and re-print it every spring. He did this as a favor to some degree, but mostly my sense was that he wanted that interview about race to remain out there. Because he gave a damn. That’s the type of character he had.
Indeed, as wonderful a man as he was, he was also a staggeringly productive & insightful critic. Years ago, I held a job as a music reviewer, and it can be a difficult & time-consuming task if you approach it with integrity. Also, it can be a thoroughly thankless job. You don’t get paid huge sums of money for yr work, so most reviewers sorta phone it in–give a record a quick listen and write a short review full of glib nothing. Not Frank. His work ethic was dazzling when you understand how long it takes to properly review an album. And Frank took no shortcuts.

Just look at all the columns he’s put out and how many bands are reviewed in each column. It’s astounding to me. Reviews like Frank wrote require at the very minimum five hours per album. Much of that time is spent listening. Anyone who writes a review before having listened to an album several times is writing a poor review. It would take me about 8 to 10 hours to listen & then write a review I felt did justice to the artist.

Given the amount of insight he provided in a review, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Frank spent at least 10 hours — probably many more– writing some of these reviews. He knew my albums–and those of my friends–inside/out. These weren’t short and poorly-written reviews like you see these days. Frank was interested in the songs, what they meant, how they came about, how they were sequenced, produced, their imagery, meaning, and who the songwriter is and what makes her tick. Frank had a unique ability to see right through to the heart of an album, and bring it to life for the reader.

And there would be several of these in-depth reviews in every column. Often with an interview–which he had to transcribe. This is a stunning sense of dedication. And he worked at this level of productivity for many years. I have great respect for his work ethic & dedication–all should.

Frank loved indie artists. He admired our courage to pursue our art, our purpose. He saw life as far bigger than most. He understood the value of doing what you love. He related to that directly, of course, as he practiced what he preached. Frank got it. As a writer, he redeemed yr commitment by listening closely, and then conveying your vision to others.
It’s important work, and few do it with the insight, grace & understanding that Frank did. I’ll miss his friendship greatly, and I’ll miss his writing. We lost a great man. Thanks for everything, Frank.

yr (“crime-fighting son of a bitch”) friend, keith morris

Sheila Ellis – Annabel (lee) : “Frank Gutch Jr was a true champion of the Unsung, the artists yet to be discovered, the hungry ones. He introduced their works to a larger public, as if revealing a secret that only he knew of. He was proud; I was flattered. He stepped into the dreams of our project, Annabel (lee), took my hand, and said, ‘you can trust me, I’ll share your story’. I am stunned, saddened, but ultimately thankful for his walking into my life. I send all the warm embraces of comfort to his loved ones, be they family or friends. Rest easy, Frank. May you discover more unsung treasures on the other side. May our Requiem play in your ears. (with Richard E Further Out)

Thomas Shelton House:Frank exploded into my world about 5 years ago. Keith Morris hooked us up and what a fun ride it was. You hear people say there’s no great music anymore. Frank was on a mission to find it everywhere, and he did. Fun to read through his old columns and the testimonials the many liives he touched online and the daily comings and goings his life in Oregon. He will be missed by many”

Mimi Schell:I’ve never been able to meet Frank Gutch Jr personally, and yet it is my heart to know that he has passed away. This good spirit of music reviewer wrote to me recently, and I was happy as audit about his interest and that he wanted to discuss my album. It occurred to me that this was a special gift, not from this time, but from a place where love to music is the only criterion, an independent, independent selection. I would have liked to stay in touch with someone like him. My thoughts go to his family and to all those who sorely miss him. All the best on your way to infinity, Frank Gutch Jr.”

The Luck of the Irish


If you didn’t get your chance to get your Irish on on Friday, March 17th, Torontonians will get another chance to do so today, when the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade starts at noon. The route begins on the corner of Bloor and St George, heads east on Bloor, south on Yonge, and west on Queen St, before finishing up at the parade reviewing stand at Nathan Phillips Square.

The parade is still a big deal for many of Irish descent .. and there are a lot of us! As of 2006’s census, the Irish were the 4th largest ethnic group in Canada, with 4,354,000 Canadians (or 15% of us all,) have full or partial Irish descent. And more than two million Irish Canadians are in Ontario!

st patricks day queenI haven’t been to the parade in years, though I did get to be one of the rabbit stole wearing girls waving from the back seat of a convertible many years ago as the “Miss Irish St Augustines,’ in Montreal.

When I was a teen growing up in Montreal, St Paddy’s was always a big day. My grandfather, whom I’d never met as he’d died before I was born, was literally “a man without a country.” His own parents had fled Ireland’s economic woes, and he was born, mid Atlantic, before they docked in New York‘s harbour. They stayed briefly in the United States, before moving to Montreal.

My family loved their Irish heritage. A musical lot, they were the sort to gather ’round the piano to play and sing the songs of the ‘ould country.’ I was brought up listening to a mix of classic Irish tenors, as well as the rebel songs, and of course, the  lighter ‘stage Irish’ fun songs peddled in theatre and film.

There were two sides to the Irish connection, in my world. On the one hand, I loved the singalongs, the funny accents, and the camaraderie, especially on the holiday itself, when I could be guaranteed a fine old time. On the other hand, and always present, were the realities of a divided Ireland and ‘the Troubles.’

My mother’s family were not prone to arguing over politics, which was a good thing, considering that my grandmother was British, and my uncle Dennis had married a Dubliner.  Hard-line rebel songs were strongly discouraged, but we’d always be in for a‘cead mile failte.’

There are some that look down upon the ‘stage Irish’ of the Irish Rovers, or even der Bingle’s portrayals of kindly Irish priests, but it must be remembered that the Irish faced a great deal of discrimination on their first arrival in North America.  Early Irish entertainers and newcomers could rely on getting a rise from a hostile audience by sending up their own people as friendly, ginger, alcoholics, quick with a joke and a laugh.

“Irish men and women both had a hard time finding skilled work in the U.S. due to the stigmas of being both IrishNo Irish need apply sign as well as Catholic. Prejudices ran deep in the north and could be seen in newspaper cartoons depicting Irish men as drunkards and Irish women as prostitutes. Many businesses hung signs out front of their shops that read “No Irish Need Apply“, or “NINA” for short. The initial backlash the Irish received in America lead to their self-imposed seclusion, making assimilation into society a long and painful process.”  

But the Irish played a significant role in American society, especially in teaching and policing occupations. Eight of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Irish descent. Irish Catholics have served in all layers of American government, in every capacity, from mayors to Presidents.

Ontario is rife with towns named after the places and last names of Ireland, including Donnybrook, Dundalk and Dublin, Enniskillen and Galway. and Tara and Waterford.

Canada has had our share of notable Irish-Canadians, in every field, from the arts, to sports, and politics. Writers like Morley Callaghan and W.P. Kinsella have explored the many facets of Canadian lives, as have my cousins Rita Donovan and Michael Donovan, while Stompin’ Tom Connors and Denny Doherty have shaped how we sound. Add to that list my husband, musician Shawn O’Shea, also of Irish descent, who’s even born on March 17th! (In a bizarre coincidence, two other members of the heymacs, Kid Carson and Carlyle Walpola, were also born on March 17th.)

I can’t picture Canadian comedy without the stylings of Mary Walsh, our Amazon Warrior. And what would the world of show biz be without Mack Sennett,  producer, director, writer, actor and founder of Keystone Studios?

Politically, Irish Canadians have been integral to the country since the days of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation, while Louis St. Laurent, Sir John Thompson, Paul Martin and Brian Mulroney have all served as Prime Ministers.

In world entertainment, the Irish have always had a strong presence, and there’s no shortage of musical talent exported from the Emerald Isle, with memorable stylings and poetic imagery flowing from U2, Enya, Gilbert O`Sullivan, Sinead O`Connor, the Cranberries, Van Morrison  and Thin Lizzy.

The Irish in North America have come a long way from the days when thirish_blessing_cottageey stumbled off the boats, fleeing famine and political strife. Many of those marching in St Patrick`s Day Parades today have no interest or stake in the politics of modern day Ireland, but the urge to celebrate their heritage remains strong.

And the rest of us, in our green wigs, and drinking green beer, just wish we could have a little of that fabled Irish luck and good humour, if just for one day.

 

An Immodest Proposal (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)


swift Modest proposalIn 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal  (for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.)” His answer to the “Irish’ problem was to advise the poor to sell their children as ‘food for rich gentlemen and ladies’, and came complete with techniques for slaughter and mouth-watering recipes.

His satirical essay was meant to mock society’s lack of empathy towards the unfortunate, and in particular, to make clear the contemptuous attitude the British aristocracy held of the Irish people.

As outrageous as Swift’s essay may seem, his point must be taken; when people are overwhelmingly seen as commodities – be they the poor, the disabled, the elderly, migrants or refugees – it’s only a small step to conceiving of humans as being little more than meat, which then, logically,  becomes only worth what the market will bear, per pound.

While the idea of cannibalizing the poor may seem shocking, in truth, we’re little different now, three centuries later. Our media is filled with assaults, deaths, and murders being committed every day, all around the globe, most of which rarely elicit more than a few seconds of our disapproval, before our thoughts move on to something less disturbing.

Hence, my proposal, which I hope will interest those questioning how society should deal with the physical assault or murder of its citizens.

In the last several years we’ve seen Justice using a sliding scale for the punishment of apparent and actual wrongdoers. A young black child alone in a snowy playground, for instance, apparently poses an enormous threat to armed officers in police cars, and is therefore executed before their fears can be realized. On the other hand, a young, armed white man who opens fire in an Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in South Carolina during a prayer meeting, can kill nine people, and still be arrested in an orderly fashion, and indeed, be treated to a Burger King meal by police officers as they chauffeur him from the church to the jail.

Or we can look to the case of the young, white male Stanford student, who, despite being caught in the act of assaulting an unconscious fellow student, received a six month sentence (now somehow dropped to three months) to be served in prison – not jail – rather than the six years the prosecutors had requested,  and despite white rape v black rapethe twelve pages of the victim’s statement, which outlined in searingly heartbreaking detail what she has gone through, during and since the rape.

Contrast that with the case histories of hundreds of young, black males serving much longer prison sentences for the same or similar offences, as in the case of Vanderbilt football player Cory Batey.

Murder and sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender, sexuality, or other factors. Inserting prejudice and bias into the process of sentencing renders the law farcical.

Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, which gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, on the grounds that race is life or deathracism is no longer an issue, I am very aware that racism, sexism, and bigotry are enormous problems, and that pretending they do not exist is as foolish as denying gravity. This is our reality, and wishing it away demonstrates the naiveté of a child.

(And according to polls, the majority of Republicans in America believe that ‘reverse racism’ is a worse problem than racism.)

Therefore, I tender my proposal. People are citizens of their countries. Although they cannot be enslaved, they are nevertheless in many ways the ‘property’ of their country, in that they are expected, by birth or through acquired citizenship, to obey the laws, while receiving the rights and protection available. They are simultaneously a country’s asset AND liability.

bst051

So I propose that citizens of all countries be defined as what they really are – property of their governments.

There is a provision in most countries’ military agreements that outlines what constitutes abuse of government property. In the United States, that provision is Article  108 – Destruction of Government Property – which describes as criminal, “Any person subject to this chapter who, without proper authority (1) sells or otherwise disposes of; (2) wilfully or through neglect damages, destroys, or loses; or (3) willfully or through neglect suffers to be lost, damaged, destroyed, sold, or wrongfully disposed of, any military property of the United States, shall be punished as a courtarticle 108 US-martial may direct.”

And some overzealous NCOs have been known to threaten the rank and file for wilful personal damage, even going as far as issuing a letter of reprimand for the sin of getting a sunburn that prevents a soldier from going on a mission.

In Canada, Department of National Defence employees and Canadian Armed Forces members are “Crown servants.” They too are, in a sense, property of their country. Strictly speaking, any assault of a member of the armed forces is an assault of government property.

But if citizens of all countries are defined as the  property of their governments, then assault, rape, and murder can be immediately reclassified as physical damage or destruction of a country’s property. Rescind the gray areas subject to bias, and assign a punishment that fits the crime.

Strongly held beliefs of a physical or moral superiority of one race or sex over another cannot be eradicated in a generation. Indeed, the popularity of  those who consider Donald Trump merely ‘an honest guy that says what the rest of us are thinking ’ proves that there are millions in the United States alone that see themselves as superior beings , and that they see those that are not like themselves as inferior.

Rather than argue with stubborn mindsets, it seems far more sensible to deem citizens as property of their country. With this as a guideline, it then becomes a simple matter of assigning value. value of a human lifeWhat is a life worth? Should men, women, and children have separate values, or can we agree that the assault or murder of any person is grievous? Since  racism is supposedly a non-issue, do we then assign the same value to people of all colours? In a court of law, can we agree to an equality of all members of society, independent of their circumstances of birth?

Rather than the lip service of equality granted by charters and constitutions, lay out the terms of the perceived worth of citizens. What is the lifetime value of your citizen, after taking into account both the costs and benefits? If that is pro-rated over an estimated lifetime, should the potential of a child’s life, nipped in the bud, be a factor in higher penalties?  Where then does that leave legalized abortion?

If a mother can be forced to give birth, is she not then entitled to ongoing support for the child? And if we now hold that all citizens are of equal value, can we then withhold the necessities of life to those who are caught in cycles of poverty or addiction? Can we, in good conscience, subscribe to cuts to benefits to the hungry, the homeless, disabled or elderly? Property must be maintained!

What of the wounded veterans, who served their country in good faith, but have returned from combat, damaged physically or mentally? Should their rehabilitation – the cost of repairing damaged property –  not be considered a vital part of the calculation of the cost of continuing conflicts or new acts of aggression?

justice is conscienceIn order to purge real or perceived prejudices in the courts, each and every citizen must be first and foremost recognized as a unique and valuable entity in his or her own right. If the law, lawyers, and judges are unable to see people as such, perhaps the only solution is to tack a label upon the people, signifying ownership, with the attendant penalties enforced upon those who damage governmental property.

My immodest proposal only seeks to level the judicial playing field, and avoid judgments that strain our belief and fervent hope that “Justice is Blind. “

Greece Is The Word


The outcome of the election in Greece is sending shock waves across Europe. Syriza, the left-wing, anti-austerity party led by new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, won 36% (149 of the Parliament’s 300 seats,) and, by forming a coalition government with the center-right Independent Greeks’ win of 13 seats, will have least 162 seats, a viable majority.

Greece new govt plansThe new government plans to raise the minimum wage, and create 300,000 new jobs, reverse the bank bailouts and stop banks from foreclosing on home owner’s principle residences, close corporate loopholes and offshore havens, and bring in a voucher system to help seniors in need receive food and healthcare.

For more than five years, the Greek citizens have been crushed under austerity policies imposed by the Economic Union’s “troika” of creditors; the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Greek foreign debt currently stands at 175% of Gross Domestic Product.

Almost a third of Greece’s economy collapsed under the restrictions. Since June 5, 2011, when the “Indignant Citizens Movement” or the “Greek indignados“, held a demonstration of between 300,000 – 500,000 people protesting in front of the Greek Parliament, a change in government thinking has been pre-ordained. greek protests 2011

The Greek protest was non-violent for about a month, but on June 29, 2011, the police cracked down viciously on the protesters. Three people were killed, and accusations of police brutality, excessive use of tear gas, as well as the alleged use of other expired and carcinogenic chemical substances, led to an outcry by international media and Amnesty International.

austerity greeceWith half the population in poverty, and no end in sight to continued austerity and misery, it was inevitable that the people would rise up, and demand change.

“Both Syriza and Independent Greeks have detailed emergency economic programs that will commit their government to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe left by five years of the hated Troika policy. The damage has been unprecedented short of wartime, and has led to unemployment officially at 28%, but considered by experts to be actually as high as 45%; pensions and salaries have been slashed by 25-45%. The destruction of the health-care system has increased the child mortality rate, the suicide rate, and the death rate.” (http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2015/4205grk_elex_eup_new_deal.html)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech  at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, ScotlandEuropean leaders were swift to denounce Greece’s audacity. British PM David Cameron tweeted, “The Greek election will increase economic uncertainty across Europe.” (Britain’s membership in the European Union is a major issue in the campaign for the upcoming May election.)

russia-greeceGerman Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann told ARD network that he hoped “the new Greek government will not make promises it cannot keep and the country cannot afford.” But Germany’s opposition Left Party l called the Syriza victory a “sign of hope for a new start in Europe.” And today, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told CNBC that Russia would consider giving financial help to debt-ridden Greece.

The EU is shaken by the possibility that Italy, Portugal and Ireland, also horribly impacted by austerity measures, will follow Greece’s lead. Fiscal conservatives fear that Greece’s demand to write off up to half of their of €240bn debt will create a “Global Event,” on the scale of the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers Holdings, who went bankrupt with $600 billion in assets.

German Economics 1953But there is precedent in countries restructuring debt. In 1953, Germany was in a similar position to Greece today. With debt from pre-and post-war, they owed nearly 30 billion Deutschmarks to around 70 countries. With no access to capital, and creditors who didn’t believe the country could turn the economy around, Germany was desperate for cash to begin the country’s reconstruction and growth.

Despite budget cuts and laborious repayments, the economic burden was crushing their population. FinanDebt-Accord-290cial negotiations were begun by banker Hermann-Josef Abs, who led a German delegation in London in 1953. He hoped to turn the creditors of today into the financiers and investors of tomorrow. But the foreign creditors felt his first offers were insulting.

The London Debt Agreement, finally signed on February 27, 1953, saw half of Germany’s debts written off, with the rest restructured for the long-term. Germany was not to be economically overburdened. Today, our view of Germany’s economy is paired with the idea that the German people are just a very hard-working people. But none of what Germany accomplished would have been possible without the Agreement.

Greek beach NaxosThose who believe that Greece’s new vision is childish and selfish stereotype Greece’s economy as being irreparably rife with corruption and greed, and fed by an indolent, Mediterranean lifestyle. Those same people once thought that all Germans were Nazis.

greek protests 2014In fact, the average Greek retirement age is nearly 65, but the pension is quite small, requiring many retirees to continue working as long as they are physically able. According to Eurostat statistics, the Greeks work 40.6 hours a week, the highest of all 27 EU member states. The ordinary Greek citizen in not lounging on the beach drinking ouzo, they have been protesting in the streets, as tax increases and social security cuts destroy the peoples’ hope, and the public sectors are privatized to serve as collateral to service the European debt.

The Eurozone finance ministers have no intention of continuing debt relief negotiations unless the new Syriza government promises to honour all existing austerity agreements. Meanwhile, the Euro is trending downward, and the Podemos in Spain, a year-old political party that has surged to the top of the polls promising to reverse austerity in Spain and impose a levy on banks, are poised to join Greece in challenging the stranglehold of the Troika. As Tsipras pointed out during his victory speech, the old ways of doing things in Europe are doomed.   debts are not destiny

Canada’s Heartaches by the Numbers


crude oil boomingOur dollar depreciated more than 2 cents on Wednesday, and is now worth .81 of the U.S. dollar, the lowest level since 2011. The Harper government put all Canada’s eggs in one basket by banking on North American crude oil, our top export, but the commodity has plunged from a high of $85 US a barrel in October of 2014, to a low of $46.US on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced this week that he would be delaying his budget from the usual February-March date until at least April, due to “market instability.”

Unable or unwilling to admit Canada’s damaged economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters yesterday that “These things are creating some shocks that will impact us but they’re not going to throw us off our fundamental growth path or undermine the very strong fundamentals of the Canadian economy.” He added that “The government has complete confidence in the Bank of Canada in the actions that it has taken.”

The Bank of Canada cut the rate on overnight loans between commercial banks by a quarter point to 0.75% on Wednesday, in a response to the recent drop in oil prices. The previous rate had been at 1% since September 2010.  market failure

“The drop in oil prices is unambiguously negative for the Canadian economy. Canada’s income from oil exports will be reduced, and investment and employment in the energy sector are already being cut,” BoC’s Governor Stephen Poloz explained.

Many, including NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen, think Harper is in denial. The Conservatives had hoped to sail into 2015 on a high of oil fumes and the elimination of the$2.9-billion federal deficit , but it looks like their plans may be tanked as predicted federal tax revenues could be reduced by several billions of dollars thanks to global oil price shake-ups.

No worries, though, as Harper is relying on the annual $3 billion contingency fund built into the budget for “unforeseen circumstances.”

He also said that “The oil industry isn’t remotely the entire Canadian economy.” So … what is the Canadian economy?Canadian economy

Our population of 36 million boasts a 6.6% unemployment rate, with approximately 62% employed (16-64 years of age). (The United States, with 316.1 million, is at 5.6% unemployed, and 59.2% employed, while the United Kingdom, with 64.1 million people, has an unemployment rate of 6.0%, and 73% of people are employed.)

In Canada, wealth inequality, while an issue, is not quite as visible as in America; our Canadian 1% holds 12.5 per cent of Canada’s total income. 29 per cent earn $135,000 or more. But our incomes are generally lower – 95 per cent of working Canadians earn less than $100,000 a year. Our definition of ‘wealthy’ begins at $150,000.00 per year – chump change for wealthy Americans.

One of the reasons Canadians have not felt as impacted by wealth inequality is that, beginning in the late 1970’s, women surged into the workforce in record numbers. A household with two incomes could manage quite well. With the inclusion of children into the family, however, things got shakier financially. If one of the two wage earners has to stay home with the kids, they’ve effectively halved the family income, in order to raise children and run the home. As baby boomers aged, that child care burden lifted for a large portion of the middle class.

canadian workforceEducation, and it’s inevitable costs, are a factor. In order to succeed in a technological society, we need workers with complex skills and higher education. 64.1% of adults aged 25 to 64 had post-secondary qualifications in 2011, with women aged 25 to 34 holding a larger share of university degrees. 8 in 10 Registered Apprenticeship certificates were held by men.

In 2011, Almost two-thirds of adult Canadians had post-secondary qualifications, Stemwhile 2.1 million adults had a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree in STEM (science and technology, engineering and engineering technology or mathematics and computer sciences) but half of STEM university degrees were held by immigrants who have lived in Canada for many years, and Canadian newcomers.

waiterUnfortunately, Canada has the third-highest proportion of low-paying jobs in the world, with only the U.S. and Ireland having a higher percentage of low-paying jobs. Canada is becoming a ‘nation of part-timers’; part-time employment may still outgrow full-time employment for some years as the baby boomers reduce their working hours or retire.

But the big, well-paying manufacturing companies have left Canada to take advantage of lower labour costs abroad. What’s left for those with or without special skills are low-wage service and retail jobs, which generally lack the benefits associated with higher paying positions, and are becomingly increasingly insecure.

StatsCan released this information in January 2015:statscan

In December (2014), Canada lost 4,300 jobs as full-time employment rose by 53,500 while there was a decline of 57,700 in part time jobs… Employment gains in 2014 amounted to 186,000 (+1.0 percent), with increases in the second half of the year accounting for most of the growth. Compared with 12 months earlier, the total number of hours worked increased by 0.7 percent.”

“There were 24,000 fewer women aged 25 to 54 employed in December. Their unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.2%, as fewer of them participated in the labour market. Employment among men aged 25 to 54 increased by 23,000 in December and their unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 5.5%, their lowest rate since 2008.”

This month, however, it was announced that five large retail companies will be closing Canadian operations. Lured to Canada by massive tax breaks, cuts and incentives, they’ll be leaving more than 21,000 unemployed by March or April.

Stephen-Harper-CowboyIn Alberta’s tar sands, Suncor cut 1000 jobs last week as oil prices crashed. They also announced that they’d decrease their capital spending program by a $1-billion, and reduce operating expense s by another $200 million.

Canada’s largest growth sector in jobs has been in service and retail industries. Only Alberta has seen respectable job growth. Mr. Harper’s blithe suggestion that the current oil crisis will fail to impact the economy as a whole, sounds very much like a man whistling past the graveyardcanada bleak future

Update Jan 24/15: Last week on Global TVs The West Block, Jason Kenny (MP, Canada’s Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism) told host Tom Clark, “We won’t be using a contingency fund. A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.”

But during an interview for this week’s episode of The West Block, Canada’s Finance Minister, Joe Oliver told Tom Clark, “The contingency fund is there for unexpected and unavoidable shocks to the system and, you know, the oil price decline – which was a dramatic one – would fall in that category. I’m speaking as minister of finance so I’m sort of current on the thinking here.”