A toast to Carlin, the s-word and Disco Organica


by Chris Aaland

merica lost an icon on Sunday when comedian George Carlin, 71, died of heart failure. Best known for his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” monologue, which appeared on his 1972 album, “Class Clown,” Carlin was the focal point in a Supreme Court decision that defined acceptable free speech limits on broadcast radio and television.


With that one word – and the six deadly zingers that followed it – Carlin launched a maelstrom that, 35 years later, is still unresolved. That little four-letter word has appeared, uncensored, in such network TV shows as “ER,” “Chicago Hope” and “South Park.” Yet volunteer deejays at KDUR and other stations are warned not to play songs with language deemed “profane” or “indecent” unless is comes during the FCC-deemed “safe harbor” from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Complicating matters is the ban of “obscene” material all hours of the day.

I’m no semanticist – and I’m certainly no lawyer – but there seem to be countless legal loopholes in the FCC’s interpretations of decent language. I, for one, thank Carlin and will raise a toast to him for defending my First Amendment rights … and for making me laugh my ass off.

Back in my college heyday, I was editor-in-chief of the Fort Lewis College Independent. A friend, Jeff Lipschultz, authored a weekly sex-advice column called “Ask Uncle Ernie,” named after the perverted uncle in the Who’s “Tommy” rock opera. When Lipschultz crossed someone’s moral-line-in-the-sand in one particular column that referenced the urban legend of Richard Gere and the gerbil, all hell broke loose. Businesses threatened to pull their ads, administrators threatened censorship and overzealous readers … well, they were just threatening us. We held our ground, though, kept printing the column and even paid for a few kegs by selling “Save Uncle Ernie” T-shirts.

Carlin was more than comedy. He was more than an activist. He was rock and roll, inspiring Anthrax, Howard Stern and Krusty the Clown. He taught college DJs and columnists to exercise their rights. He flew his freak flag, and he flew it high. No doubt some of the performers in town this week were inspired by his actions and words.

Pete Guliani’s rock band, Freeplay, plays tonight’s (Thursday) Ska-B-Q from 5-7 p.m. Ska’s packaging crew will be cooking up free barbecue. Double your pleasure with two Ska-B-Qs in the same week, as Disco Organica, a jazzy, funky soul group from Eugene, Ore., plays at Ska from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday. The five-piece band features the sultry vocals of Heather Nixon backed by guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. Later Tuesday night, Disco Organica brings its show to the Summit, which also hosts a disco party with D.J. Mateo tonight (Thursday) and the reggae and hip-hop of Flagstaff-based (and appropriately named) Summit Dub Squad on Saturday.

Black Pegasus and Tully the Rapper will perform at 10 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at Steamworks.

The Badly Bent brings its high-energy, traditional bluegrass to the Dolores River Brewery at 8 p.m. Saturday. Local dates for the award-winning Durango quartet have been rare lately, so the drive west is worth it – not just for Epstein, Dressen and company, but also for Dolores River’s tasty ESB.

The Kirk James Blues Band rocks the Bike Tour of Colorado at the Cortez Park from 4-8 p.m. Friday, and plays again at Blondies Pub & Grub in Cortez on 9 p.m. Saturday.

In addition to their Ska-B-Q gig, Freeplay also plays rock, country, blues and originals at Rubio’s in Aztec from 7-11 p.m. Saturday night, while Pete Guliani performs solo at the Legends Lounge (formerly the Ball Park) from 4-7 p.m. Sunday.

Local country crooner Tim Sullivan holds court from 6-9 p.m. Friday on the Serious Stage at Serious Texas BBQ South.

Formula 151 guitarist/songwriter Dave Mensch is as busy as ever this week, playing solo at the Office Spiritorium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, with Formula 151 at the Hollywood Bar in Dolores at 9 p.m. Friday and solo at Steamworks in Bayfield at 5 p.m. Saturday.

If you haven’t gotten your festival fix yet, you might want to head south to the 10th annual Taos Solar Music Festival from Friday through Sunday. Headliners include the Bodeans, Collective Soul, Steve Earle, Susan Tedeschi, Hal Ketchum, Allison Moorer and Robert Mirabal. In addition to music on two stages, the event features alternative energy displays and celebrates the cultural diversity of northern New Mexico.

One of the region’s legendary venues has reopened! The Rico Theatre & Café — smack dab in the middle of downtown Rico – hosts Great American Taxi, featuring Leftover Salmon frontman Vince Herman, tonight (Thursday).

The Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College recently announced that tickets for two August dates will go on sale on Wednesday. Asleep at the Wheel brings its neo-Western swing back to town on Aug. 13, while legendary bluesman Taj Mahal returns Aug. 14.

This week’s Top Shelf list eulogizes the late, great, George Carlin and some of his memorable stand-up moments, movie roles, comic genius and political activism:

• “Al Sleet,” Carlin’s hippie-dippie weatherman character who would forecast darkness each night and scattered light come morning.

• Roles in the Kevin Smith classics “Dogma” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.”

• Hosting the first-ever episode of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975.

• Being arrested in Milwaukee on July 21, 1972, for violating obscenity laws. A judge dismissed the case later that year, citing free speech and declaring the seven words to be indecent but not obscene.

• Witnessing the arrest of Lenny Bruce for obscenity in the ‘60s and then being arrested himself for refusing to produce a government-issued ID. Rumor has it that they shared a ride in a police car upon arrest.

• Appearing on “The Tonight Show” for three decades as a performer and guest host. Johnny Carson always did have a keen eye for talent.

• “Baseball-Football,” from “An Evening with Wally Lando,” released in 1975.

• When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? When this Carlin-authored book was released in 2004, Wal-Mart refused to sell it because of the cover, which spoofed DaVinci’s “Last Supper” with Carlin sitting next to the empty seat of Jesus.

• “Wonderful WINO (Top-40 Disc Jockey),” from 1967’s Take-Offs and Put-Ons.

• “Rufus,” the time-traveling mentor in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” •

Starting up a posse? E-mail me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.


Starting up a posse? E-mail me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.



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