Milkowski covers the whole of Pastorius' life, from the phenomenal youngster who neither drank nor smoked to the jabbering, self-destructive street person borne along a river of drugs and alcohol. That Jaco Pastorius was mentally ill now seems painfully obvious, and one of the revelations implicit in his story is how quickly we've made progress in understanding such diseases--progress that, unfortunately, we can measure against how utterly clueless people were only a decade ago. One of the book's most poignant moments is when, after Jaco is brought to New York City's Bellevue Hospital in a straitjacket, his doctor explains the seven symptoms of a manic-depressive personality. Milkowski--a New York City jazz fixture who hung with Pastorius in the '80s--has done such a good job of presenting Jaco up to this point that the reader immdiately recognizes the symptoms (relentless activity, extreme talkativeness, fanciful visions, and an inflated ego, among others) as significant aspects of Jaco's personality.
Milkowski goes into almost numbing detail about Jaco's early career when the bass player was gigging around with road acts like Gorgeous George look-alike Wayne Cochran and his C.C. Riders, but that's necessary to give the book some balance and avoid the appearance of exploiting Pastorius' incredible (and, admittedly, much more entertaining) decline: Jaco in a beautiful white silk suit sleeping in a gutter, Jaco inciting a riot in Italy, or--perhaps most bizarre--Jaco in Japan riding a motorcycle into a hotel lobby and passing out; when hotel employees tried to revive him, they discovered a dead squid stuffed under his shirt.
Milkowski gives us the information and the stories and then leaves us with the space to reach our own conclusions. Was Pastorius' behavior a manifestation of illness, or simply attention-getting stunts that tried to compensate for a declining career? One thing made quite clear in Jaco is the debilitating effects of the wave of cocaine that coursed through the late '70s and '80s music scene and how prodigiously loaded everybody was. From the get-go Pastorius seems like one of those people who should not have done drugs.
The lethal effects of dope, however, are somewhat analogous to Eleanor Roosevelt's quote about feeling inferior; they don't go very far without your permission. Milkowski does a good job of presenting the complexity of Jaco's character--and the scope of his talent--and avoids easy hooks. The real ache behind this story, however, is attached to the inside back cover: a three-song CD of Jaco playing live taken from the Warner Bros. album Jaco Pastorius: The Birthday Concert. Although the new disc contains less than 10 minutes of music, in that brief time the listener gets a better idea of what was lost with Jaco's passing than words could ever convey.
He stoops to conquer
Despite all his good works--and it takes a lot of charity to make up for the turd-polishing abomination that was the Eagles reunion tour--Don Henley seems bound and determined to continually re-establish his overall vibe as similar to the one given off by an aged, arthritic, and ill-tempered wiener dog. His latest fit of pique involved Dallas Morning News rock scribe Thor "The Hammer" Christensen. It seems that when Christensen asked for standard review tickets for Henley's benefit--co-billed with Bonnie Raitt--for congressional candidate John Pouland, Christensen had to undergo a rigorous rite of purification during which his copy was found wanting in the praise-of-Don category, and he was reportedly told to buy his own damn ticket. (Street Beat would like to admit that this item is based on the lowest kind of rock lamprey rumor, but would still like to hear from somebody who could say "Oh, no, that never happened." Regrettably, the biz is so shot through with wiener dog fear--or else the tale be so true--that nobody is commenting one way or the other).
Now here is where your basic Rashomon scenario comes into play: There are a dozen points of view here, each with its own validity. On one hand, who can't relate to Don's Teamsterish Fuck me? Fuck you! response? And who likewise could not delight in seeing some conservative, Buddy Hickerson-dumping, Bob Dole-endorsing A.H. Belobucks going to Pouland's campaign coffers? Still, the idea of Henley--who has admittedly done more than most to turn the lucre earned from his pop career into something like proper political action--caring about what some ink-stained wretch writes about him is disappointingly small in its scope. Perhaps the Khmer Rouge was right after all.
Congrats to popular local Western swingsters Cowboys and Indians, who appear to be taking their careers to a well-deserved next level. They finally--after years of trying--have gotten in at Austin's legendary Continental Club, where they should go over LAMF; that gig is December 7. An even juicier plum, however, is available on New Year's Eve, when Cowboys and Indians will provide the music for the pre- and post-show parties for the live broadcast of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion from the Fair Park Music Hall. Not a bad time for new fiddle and electric mandolin player Sean Orr to join the band; check out their new lineup November 9 at Club Dada or November 15 at the Sons of Hermann Hall...