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Flashbacks: August 18, 2006

The Boston Phoenix has been covering the trends and events that shape our times since 1966.
By FLASHBACKS  |  August 17, 2006

Perfect squares | 5 years ago | August 17, 2001 | Loren King reported on Somerville's aversion to tattoo parlors.
“This blue-collar city, in recent years, has seen an influx of young professionals, many priced out of Cambridge after the demise of rent control. This has sent Somerville’s own real-estate prices soaring, and has brought a wave of trendy restaurants, cafés, and shops in Davis and Union Squares. But an old-guard attitude toward tattooing prevails. Before even one application for a tattoo parlor was filed at City Hall, Somerville officials took the bold step of restricting tattoo establishments …

“ ‘Tattoo parlors are not the image we want to project,’ says Alderman Bill Roche, who represents East Somerville … ‘Somerville has turned a corner; we have a reputation now as an up-and-coming city. We want to maintain that, and I’m not sure if we can with tattoo parlors scattered around our squares.’

“Concern for the interests of residents motivated Somerville’s zoning efforts, says at-large alderman Bill White …

“ ‘Residents felt it was not appropriate to locate tattoo parlors here. I think it is a generational thing. Kids in their 20s with tattoos may look at it differently when they are in their 40s or 50s. Tattoos make older people think of sailors in Scollay Square and punk kids.’

“But [tattoo artist Ram] Hannan, a Cambridge native who studied painting and sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and who commands $100 an hour for his custom work (he commutes to Rhode Island, where tattooing is legal), simply shakes his head when he hears old-timers invoking drunken sailors and Boston’s old burlesque area. ‘Because tattooing was underground here for so long, Massachusetts is way behind the curve,’ he says. ‘To talk about modern tattooing in terms of Scollay Square is as absurd as saying that going to the dentist today is like going to the dentist in 1965, when you were probably lucky if they used a bucket and soap.’ ”

Raising the Dead | 10 years ago | August 16, 1996 | Gary Susman examined life a year after Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia's death.
“A year ago August 9, Jerry Garcia died at age 53, ending the 30-year reign of the Grateful Dead as rock’s top touring attraction. …

 “Garcia remains a controversial figure, even among Deadheads, not only because his own drug abuse seemingly gave tacit approval to emulators in his audience, but also because it hurt is family and ultimately deprived them and his fans of his presence. The official cause of his death was a heart attack, but he had used heroin days before, according to the coroner, and then checked himself into a rehab clinic to break free of his addiction. Garcia was also a cigarette smoker and an overweight diabetic fond of sugary snacks.

“Some Deadheads react with bitter antipathy towards anyone who portrays Garcia as less than saintly. Fans all but excommunicated former Dead manager Rock Scully when he revealed the seamier side of the Dead’s backstage life in his book Living with the Band, published shortly after Garcia’s death. Similar accusations of exploitation greeted this month’s publication of Robert Greenfield’s Dark Star, a warts-and-all oral biography taken from reminiscences of people close to Garcia — friends, employees, ex-wives and ex-lovers, but significantly, none of the band members or primary lyricist Robert Hunter. Rolling Stone was also taken to task for publishing the most lurid parts in an advance excerpt of the book last month.

“Former Dead drummer Mickey Hart dismisses Dark Star, saying he hasn’t read it, but then goes on to detail his objections. ‘It’s all very self-serving,’ he says … ‘What do you think he was, a god? He certainly didn’t lay that on himself or on me. He was just a guy who played guitar beautifully. He was a friend. He was also sick and had his problems. But they certainly weren’t anybody’s business. There’s a word for what these people are: P-A-R-A-S-I-T-E-S.’ ”

Smart bomb | 15 years ago | August 16, 1991 | Ted Drozdowski hailed Metallica's new self-titled album
“Heavy metal’s reputation as a great thundering, brainless beast is largely deserved. It’s part of the attraction. With few exceptions, metal is music from and for the gut and groin — chunky blocks of sound that tower and crash over listeners, leaving a tingling rush of volume-stoked excitement in the wash. Or it scares people off, depending on their tolerance for loud guitars, cliché lyrics, and singers who wail like aspiring castrati.

“Metallica, whose sixth, homonymously titled album has just arrived in stores, is one of the exceptions, and perhaps the most exceptional. The 10-year-old San Francisco-based four-piece have defied the metal stock-in-trade by combining the power of raw thrash with a rhythmic sophistication not far removed from jazz, and penning provocative lyrics about the sinister relationship between the US government and foreign drug lords (‘Master of Puppets’), fear of mortality (‘To Live is to Die’), or the way parents can stifle and suffocate their own children (‘Dyer’s Eve’). To date, the band’s most popular song is the Grammy-winning ‘One.’ Based on Dalton Trumbo’s novel Johnny Got His Gun, it’s the story of a war-damaged quadriplegic who, left literally faceless by an explosion, has no means to communicate. And it’s told, with chilling detail, in the first person.”

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Related: Wild and Crispy, Brains, balls, and a key to Fenway, Flashbacks: July 21, 2006, More more >
  Topics: Flashbacks , Politics, Elvis Presley, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary,  More more >
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