I remember raindrops I remember a child I remember that look of yours When we were young and wild I drink to forget these days And sing songs without hooks As I search for my shirt And go to burn some books I remember outrage I remember the shock We stupidly thought we were free As we danced 'round the clock You made a beautiful bride While I made a mess of things We could not be enslaved By the confines of rings And yet I get sentimental Every time I stumble And in every reflection I see Berlin in rubble I remember lamb chops I remember a road I remember how much I loved Before the teardrops flowed I drove to Hollywood While you drove me insane Nowadays I'll be found Among mementos of pain And yet I get sentimental Every time I stumble And in every reflection I see Berlin in rubble I had a winning regime Before Russia in the fall In case you were wondering In case I missed your call And yet I get sentimental Every time I stumble And in every reflection I see Berlin in rubble (c) Frank Howson 2020
Dear World, It has been quite an interesting stay here, but I feel I must be on my way. I've always been quite anxious about overstaying my welcome. An overthrow of too many years on the boards. Whilst here I have met some truly beautiful people, by beautiful I mean in spirit, who have inspired me and been kind to me. Most are dead now and I miss them deeply. Unfortunately, I have also met an abundance of cunts who have left me broken in spirit and in pocket. Horrendous people whom not even Mr. J. Christ, formerly of Nazareth, could find it in his heart to forgive. Their actions discredit everyone and they think the human race is some perverse sporting event where someone has to win by any means necessary and every other person has to lose. When I discovered this truth I sold my running shoes and took a seat in the bleachers. The only thing those deluded competitive bastards have won is a place in hell. Their names are on the doorlist. And what's with the fucking weather? Earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, torrential storms and bullshit vomiting from my TV set every night? You can also stick your cooking shows, and your expert political analysts explaining the politics of the day to me via their own fucking bias agendas, up your arse! If you have one? It's enough to send a person mad. And how come after many thousands of years some people still judge others on the shade of their skin? Are you kidding me? Evolution? Zip. The other day I saw a prejudiced old cunt walking a black dog that he called "Sweetie"! So, racism doesn't apply to the shade of animals, only people? Well let's look at each other as animals and we might learn to be kinder. Beam me up, Scotty. There's very little intelligent life down here. The proof of that is aliens may fly past us but there's no way they want to make contact with barbaric rednecks. They've seen what we do to each other. What the hell would we do to little green aliens? But don't get me wrong, dear World. I have enjoyed some aspects of my stay here. Mainly the simple things. Coming home to a warm meal and a happy family; an open fire; being able to help a friend in need; the blissful ignorance of youth; the look in someone's eyes when they believe in you; the beautiful lies of lovers; and the true love of parents who allowed me to be me, even though they must've known the price that would eventually cost. I walk through crowds every day on city streets and all I see are the long faces of the disappointed. As though each face is one big teardrop. The world has certainly been an interesting place to visit. Just not sure I can live here. (c) Frank Howson 2019 Photograph by Vanessa Allan.
Don't stop me from having some fun Fun is in such short supply these days When I was a child nothing made sense And the school system shut me out I was too busy dealing with things at home To be expected to think during classes All the lessons I needed to learn were there Within my family And I soon excelled at observation And the devastating power of words Achieving an A every year My senses heightened to love And other dangers So I befriended broken people Some were too broken and betrayed me So they could claim credit for breaking me some more But others bloomed when they received the loyalty Of a friend And I was nothing if not loyal For loyalty has been my greatest gift And my deepest flaw It has undone me many times In the light of day The most important thing we can learn Is that we know very little We can send men to explore the outer realms of space And yet so much of us is unchartered If the moon landing was faked It is probably the most revealing comment one can make about human beings God would smile at our arrogance Attempting to create on such a grand scale for ants It seems, to me, that it's not what we do that counts Anymore It's what we appear to do So, perhaps we have finally accepted The truth That we are just B grade actors On a huge soundstage created by the Almighty And each day we rise to go through the motions And play our roles as convincingly as possible For the amusement of God You see, the poor bastard is so bored Living in the great darkness he shares with Satan Where there is no time And not even the relief of commercial breaks In my opinion that would make sense Of the nothingness And we'd at last know who we are And where we are Like the Joker One has to go insane to see the insanity of the truth (c) Frank Howson 2019
I remember you Even more painful, where and when You told me when it was over That you'd find me again So you searched all the hostels Inhabiting lonely men I was killed by your mouth You were killed by my pen I told you I liked chocolates So you bought me a cigar You have a cruel talent For pushing me too far I remember walking miles While you passed me in your car The same one I'd bought you When you became my star Now the years are conspiring To drive me insane Along with some of my friends Who only deal in pain So let me spell it out To you nice and plain My dance is slowly fading And it failed to bring you rain I'll soon be gone like Jesus To never come again You nailed me to your cross And made me watch you with other men They all hurt and manhandled you And I shed tears for my precious friend But you stood with them and mocked me I should've known how it would end (c) Frank Howson 2019
“All they wanted was to be free, and that’s the way it turned out to be…” – The Ballad of Easy Rider.
I was recently saddened to wake to the news that Peter Fonda had died. At my age it has become a regular occurrence, almost daily, to hear about a dear friend, acquaintance, associate, or a boyhood hero checking out of this world.
When I lived in Los Angeles for nine years I was very fortunate to have met a large number of actors, musicians and directors that’d inspired me during my formative years. Some of them became friends, others I’d see around here or there and we’d give a nod and a smile. They were mostly nice people dealing with their own pressures, families, problems and all those things we too juggle. Just on a much bigger scale. The few I encountered that were mean or monsters were the pretenders. The ones who’d seized a spotlight or some power through bluff, marketing or manipulation.
The bigger the talent, the nicer the person is what I found. Mostly.
Which brings me back to Peter Fonda. I only met him once. It was in one of my favourite books stores, Book Soup, on Sunset Boulevard, and I was browsing the latest releases when Peter came in with some people and they began setting up a table for him to do some book signings for his autobiography, “Don’t Tell Dad.” The title referring to his father, the legendary actor Henry Fonda, who was described by his children as being strict, uncommunicative, and unaffectionate. He never told them, ever, that he loved them. One of those closed men from an era when it was deemed unmanly to show your feelings. Perhaps this explains why both Peter and his sister Jane became rebels. Pushing the boundaries, striving to achieve and seeking approval from others. Running wild in Hollywood.
Peter had nothing in common with his father other than looks. I chatted with him that day and he was a genuinely nice, kind, loving individual. Before the crowd arrived he even signed a complimentary copy of his book for me. He was a hippie, spiritually, until the end.
Carving out a film career had been difficult for Peter. When he started out he had to stand in the very large overpowering shadow of his father. Remembered not for his work, but for being Henry Fonda’s son. Then later, he would be referred to as Jane Fonda’s brother. It must’ve been a creatively lonely and humbling existence for him. In fact, in most of his early films he looks stilted and uncomfortable, devoid of any identity of his own. If the trick to great acting is total relaxation, he was a long way from it.
Not making much of an impression in movies such as “Tammy and the Doctor” “The Young Lovers” and other forgettable fluffy fare, the offers dried up as he sat on the sidelines watching his father continue to shine in major movies, and his sisterJane soar in one film after another. It must’ve hurt Peter to have been thought of as the “loser” of the family, but perhaps those forces also shaped him as the gentle, unassuming, empathetic, kind man he became. He knew, in his own way, what it was like to suffer. To be ignored. Or dismissed.
Like many outsiders of the big slick Hollywood machine, Peter stumbled into the conveyor-belt Roger Corman “B” grade movie productions churned out for drive-in market. These exploitation films had budgets less than what real movies spent on catering. Some of them were shot in two days! And those that worked on them, usually had two or more jobs to perform. But Peter joined an illustrious company of other young, eager outsiders who couldn’t get a break in mainstream movies either. People like Jack Nicholson, Francis Coppola, Robert DeNiro, Bruce Dern, etc.
The brilliant thing about the Corman movies was that you learnt on the job, from experience, seeing yourself on the big screen and seeing what worked and what didn’t. You can now observe in these mostly crappy movies how Fonda and Nicholson go from stilted, self-conscious actors to guys who become so comfortable in front of a camera, their true self shines through and magic is born. We see this in Fonda’s performances in “The Wild Angels,” and the LSD fuelled “The Trip.”
And so it was, with a small budget film called “Easy Rider” (directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Peter, who also co-wrote the script and co-produced it) that Peter Fonda became a huge international star in his own right, and a cultural icon to a whole generation of baby boomers. His character Captain America oozed quiet confidence and the cool factor in abundance. The way he moved, how he dressed, the manner in which he spoke, had us boys all trying to emulate him. He became our martyred hero who, like us, was so lost, confused and despairing about the world, that we dropped out of the ranks of what was expected of us.
One of the last lines his character utters in the film, just before his date with destiny is, “We blew it.” He doesn’t elaborate. It is a beautiful, sad, famously enigmatic line that in a way is a eulogy to a lost generation.
Although Peter went on and starred in many movies and won Golden Globe awards and nominations for Oscars, it is his character in “Easy Rider” that still haunts us. That cool, disenchanted, silent-type loner, searching for the meaning of life on the coolest looking motorcycle we ever saw.
The advertising by-line to the movie “Two men went looking for America, and couldn’t find it anywhere,” best sums it up.
Peter screened the final cut of the movie to Bob Dylan hoping that the famous troubadour would give permission for his recordings to be used for the movie’s soundtrack. But Dylan was so angered by the movie’s tragic ending, he said he’d only give his songs to the movie if the final scene was reshot and the bikers won. But Peter explained that the two leading characters had to be martyred. That’s what happened at that time, at that place, in America. Young people couldn’t beat the system.
So Bob took a piece of paper and scribbled these lines on it, “The river flows to the sea. Wherever that river flows that’s where I want to be. Flow river flow, let your waters wash down, take me from this road, to some other town…” He handed it to Peter and said, “Give it to Roger McGuinn to finish. He’ll know what to do with it.”
And do he did. Roger added the lines, “All they wanted was to be free, and that’s the way it turned out to be.” And “The Ballad of Easy Rider” was born. Dylan declined a credit as he’d given the lyrics to Peter, and the film, as a gift.
Peter Fonda was born to be wild. He is now free from the chains and restrictions of this earthly world. Free to ride the wind. To be a part of that beautiful dawn. To be as still and wise as the trees. And to flow with that river to the sea.
Farewell, dear Peter. Take it easy.
(C) Frank Howson 2019
We sleep in the dark
And wake to a stark
We never learn
We wait our turn
Then forget what to say
When someone nags
We pack our bags
We push and shove
And try to love
But lonesome ends with me
Wasn’t I there for you
Aren’t I a friend too?
You sneak thoughts into my head
While I rest in bed
I used to feel alive
But now I feel
As good as dead
With that having been said…
We give what it takes
And make our mistakes
We walk alone
And turn to stone
I love you but you lie
I walk the beach
And sometimes teach
That one and one
Can come undone
And lonesome ends with me
(C) Frank Howson 2019
I died a week ago
About the time you left me
But no one has seemed to notice
I’ve been haunting some familiar bars
Speaking to strangers without getting an answer
I guess they’re dead too
There’s a lot of this going around
I think it’s called Limbo
The waiting room
Before we can move on
I’ve heard we are stuck here
Until we can make sense of it all
The room of the lost
I guess heaven is reserved for the winners
So that won’t be such a change
From what I’m used to
I don’t know what I did
Or didn’t do
To lose you
I hope I work it out soon
Because I can’t move on
Without some closure
Me, the one who vowed to love you
May be here a very long time
In this place where nothing grows
This grey place
I kept my vow to you
And now there’s all hell to pay
What room are you in?
(C) Frank Howson
Photograph by Frank Howson.