August

1999

John North Wright: Profiles In American Courage

John Wright is a fucking crazyman first and foremost, but unlike most of the drooling insane that populate America’s streets, he’s a crazyman with a mission and a whole bunch of web pages.

Originally, John was most occupied with the psychic violence done onto him by Bob Dylan and Dylan’s using his precognitive powers to steal John’s then-wife, Martha “Marty” Brumbaugh.

This crime is detailed in a series of astonishing webpages, audio and video cassettes, and countless sheaves of loose-leaf paper. But other matters also occupy John’s attention – he once threatened to kill George Bush on a Michigan radio show, and is busy trying to sell his screenplay, “Teenage, Teenage Volleyballers,” to Hollywood.Last year, I ordered a bunch of stuff from John. A copy of the “Teenage, Teenage Volleyballers” screenplay ($30), the soundtrack to “Teenage, Teenage Volleyballers” ($12), the “Dylan Stole My Marty” video ($20), and the “Dylan Stole My Marty” audiocassette ($8). So that’s a total of $70 I spent on this maniac. A couple months after I sent a check, I recieved an ungainly package in my PO box. Inside?

One audio tape, the “Dylan Stole My Marty” one, was recorded over a typing lesson. “Dylan Stole My Marty!!!!!” was scrawled on it in ball-point pen. I popped it into my walkman and gave it a listen. The first side was a retelling by John, in his hash-ravaged croak, of an argument he had had with Marty over “Tarantula” by Bob Dylan. The second side opened with John’s terrible acoustic guitar renditions of “Lay Lady Lay” and some Joan Baez song, and then segued into a phone call John recieved from “Bob Dylan” one Saturday night.

It’s obviously not Dylan; it sounds nothing like him. It’s some stupid twenty-something Michigan slacker with a dep bass voice who knew some of John’s preoccupations. But as John talks to him, you realize that he really thinks that it’s Bob Dylan calling him.

The “Dylan Stole My Marty” video is even better – it’s taped on incredibly cheap 1980s videotape, the title is written on a piece of masking tape stuck to the front, and the recording quality is immeasurably terrible; it skips and jumps all over the screen. The “movie” starts out with a pot-wasted John staring straight at the camera, narrating the story.

It should be pointed out that John Wright is an immense man with a striking similarity to John Wayne, albeit with gray hair cut into somewhat of a pageboy. He has the same leathery certainty to himself, and as he relates the story of Marty’s leaving him at the University of Chicago, you almost begin to empathize with him.

Then the video changes to scenic shots of Hawaii (another Wright obsession) while we listen to John play the entirety of Dylan’s “Blood On The Tracks” album. He superimposes cheap computer graphics titles on these shots to symbolize the “telepathic connection” – red text for Dylan, blue for John.

Even better is the “Teenage, Teenage Volleyballers” soundtrack. While Wright’s musical talent is difficult to grasp at best when he’s playing solo acoustic guitar, it’s even more mind-boggling when he’s accompanied by an underpaid studio band and female vocalists.

Each of the six songs on the soundtrack is at least seven minutes long, and the screenplay calls for all of them to be played at their full length in the film. They range from the morose, dirgelike “Company Town” to the frenetic 80’s techno of “Teenage, Teenage Volleyballers Dance Mix.”

John’s singing style has been described as “Hold the chord while trying to find the note” and that sums it up pretty well – his reedy, wavery, ironically Dylan-inspired voice is all over the map on these tracks, and when placed up against the insane repetition of the keyboard parts, it really creates a hallucinatory listening experience.

But the best thing of all was the screenplay for “Teenage, Teenage Volleyballers.” If this epic film was ever made, it would be nearly three hours long and rated “X”, sort of like “Eyes Wide Shut” but actually good. Here’s some sample dialogue from the script:

Ray: “Teenage girls? Teenage volleyballer girls? TEENAGE, TEENAGE VOLLEYBALLERS???”

I wanted to get some graphics from John’s site for this, but it seems like his main site at www.pacifixparadise.com has been shut down, so I couldn’t. The link below still works, however.