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John Trubee: Peace & Love (Blind Man's Penis)

John Trubee occupies his own special page in our song-poem discography, only in part because it doesn't easily fit in anywhere else. His solitary excusion into the form, "Peace & Love" (popularly known as "Blind Man's Penis"), is the most famous song-poem recording of all time, yet it was done -- on the lyrics end, at least -- as a tongue-in-cheek lark. It is the strangely detached, apathetic reading singer Ramsey Kearney gives to Trubee's dada/surrealist account of an acid trip that makes this song work. And work it does -- I'm sure I've listened to "Blind Man's Penis" over 100 times by now and I still haven't found the bottom of its well of delights.

The story of this hilarious record has been told numerous times. Reprinted below is Trubee's own poignant account, slightly modified from the version that appeared in the September 1985 issue of Spin magazine.

You Too Can Be A Recording Star!
Article by John Trubee

Stevie Wonder's penis is erect because he's blind. This ludicrous line was invented out of sheer boredom and homicidal frustration as I labored as a cashier in a convenience store in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1975. I'd scribble some poems and weird phrases on a legal pad to vent my seething anguish. Writing on the job was a kind of self-invented therapy to prevent the onset of mental illness due to occupational stress and severe teenage alienation.

In late spring of 1976, I bought one of those horrible sleazy tabloids you find in supermarkets by the check-out stand. I had to keep up on my UFO sightings and mass hatchet murders.

In the back pages of the Midnight Globe (not the National Enquirer, as erroneously reported elsewhere -- was it Time?), I scanned the geeky little ads and saw: "Cowrite on a 50-50 basis, earn $20,000 royalties, send your song poems to ..." some outfit in Nashville, Tennessee. I thought to myself: wouldn't it be fun to send these people the most ridiculous, stupid, vile, obscene, retarded Iyrics to see their response?

In five minutes of stream of consciousness (or unconsciousness), I hammered out the following:

Peace & Love

I got high last night on LSD
My mind was beautiful, and I was free
Warts loved my nipples because they are pink
Vomit on me, baby
Yeah Yeah Yeah.

Stevie Wonder's penis is erect because he's blind
It's erect because he's blind, it's erect because he's blind
Stevie Wonder's penis is erect because he's blind
It's erect because he is blind

Let's make love under the stars and watch for UFOs
And if little baby Martians come out of the UFOs
You can fuck them
Yeah Yeah Yeah.

The zebra spilled its plastinia on bemis
And the gelatin fingers oozed electric marbles
Ramona's titties died in hell
And the Nazis want to kill everyone.

Stevie Wonder's penis is erect because he's blind ... etc.

I wanted to get an emotional letter from the jerks in Nashville. I wanted them to tell me I was crazy. I wanted there to curse me out in writing so I could show all my friends.

Several weeks later I received a letter from Nashville Co-Writers which began:

Dear John,

We have just received your lyrics and think they are very worthy of being recorded with the full Nashville Sound Production. ... I am enclosing a contract of acceptance. Please sign and return along with $79.95 to cover the cost for each song to be completed ...

Aha! They wanted my money. I knew it! But if I send them the money, they would send me a tape and a record of my lyrics set to music. Although $79.95 was a lot to a minimum wage teenager, I signed the "contract of acceptance" and returned it with a check. Several weeks later I received a 7-inch, 45 RPM record that had a label and grooves only on one side. Typed on the white label was "Peace & Love" (John Trubee-Will Gentry). I immediately rushed upstairs and put this little gem on the turntable for a listen. Over the lamest, most minimal country track was some country hack singing the lyrics I wrote. I was stunned.

They did change one line, though -- they excised all mention of Stevie Wonder and had the singer croon repeatedly "A blind man" instead.

Also enclosed with the disc (actually an acetate) was a photograph of Ramsey Kearney, the guy who sang the damned thing. Wearing a butterfly-print polyester shirt, Ramsey looked like the perfect man to sing these demented lyrics.

Several weeks later, Nashville sent a teeny 3-inch reel tape of the song in extreme stereo -- one channel had only the prerecorded rhythm track while the other channel featured Ramsey singing those idiot lyrics with a little slap-back echo thrown in.

For years I had recorded hours of tapes of my teenage band, prank phone calls, studio demo tapes, synthesizer blurbles, and various recordings of an unusual nature. I wanted all this hard work to be heard, and I loved distributing my tapes simply to annoy people and sometimes even to enlighten or entertain them. I am a music fanatic, a recording fanatic, and I needed to get this material out. It was my response to a world that seems always to have told me that I am small and worthless. Putting out music for the hell of it was my way of giving the finger to a universe indifferent to my existence.

In December 1982, I received a call at work from Ron Stringer, guitarist for the Fibonaccis, an L.A. art band. Earlier that year at a gig at Al's Bar, I had given him a John Trubee sampler cassette, which contained my Nashville prank song, "Peace & Love." Ron evidently played the tape for record producer Craig Leon, who was helping the Fibonaccis release their song "Tumors" on vinyl. Craig liked "Peace & Love" so much that he wanted to release it as a 45.

Craig managed to have the record pressed by Enigma, whom I had never even heard of. I got 50 free promo copies of the record. We didn't discuss any specific deal. Any sort of greed, bitchery, money hassles, or small-minded haggling might have discouraged Enigma from marketing my record. I felt that they were doing me a favor by bothering to press it and give me some free copies. In retrospect, this attitude is one of profound naiveté borne of youthful inexperience.

When I drove to Torrance one night after work to pick up the 50 copies of my beautiful record, some guy from Greenworld came up to me and, referring to the 250 copies they had pressed, said, "We already invested $20 in this record, and we don't want to have anything more to do with it." Great. I spend years of my life playing music, studying music, using all my spare moments working on my music to agonizingly drag it into the world to give to people, and I still get the callous snub from the typical idiot in the music business.

The records were in plain white sleeves and had blank white labels. For $16 I had four rubber stamps made at a stationery store so I could stamp each record with the pertinent information. I also bought several hundred plastic record sleeves from a local Licorice Pizza and designed and photocopied my own little cover to insert along with the record.

With my original 50 copies, I did a promotional mailing to Dr. Demento and various radio stations, not expecting any response whatsoever.

I sent a copy to Los Angeles TV vampiress Elvira, a.k.a. Cassandra Peterson, who at the time hosted a show at progressive radio station KROQ-FM in Pasadena. She sent a postcard explaining that she'd attempt to play the record on her show, but she wasn't sure she would be able to due to the offensive lyric content. I basically shrugged it off, put her postcard in my files, and forgot about it.

That Sunday, Zoogz Rift, in whose band I played bass, called and told me to quickly turn on KROQ. I did, and sure enough, they were playing my song. The enlightened and godlike DJs at KROQ thereafter regularly played it.

Enigma re-pressed the record, adding it to their catalogue and christening it with the new moniker "A Blind Man's Penis," even designing a groovy little label for it. Matt Groening devoted his entire Sound Mix column in the Reader, a weekly Los Angeles tabloid, to the convoluted story of how "A Blind Man's Penis" came into existence.

I'm currently working on my second Enigma LP with my band, the Ugly Janitors of America. You, too, Mister Composer/Musician, can put out records if you bother to go to the trouble of sending obscene lyrics and suicide notes through the U.S. Postal Service, as I did. The obsolete and reactionary machinery of the music industry needs the irreverent pranks of ugly outsiders if it's to survive its rapidly calcifying descent into hermetically sealed grayness and keep alive a spark of that rebellious, independent, antiestablishment spirit of rock 'n' roll!

Ramsey Kearney, singer of "Blind Man's Penis"

Send love letters and anything weird or unusual to John Trubee c/o Space & Time World Enterprises, P.O. Box 4921, Santa Rosa CA 95402 USA. For a free catalogue featuring "Blind Man's Penis," CDs, prank phone call tapes, music, poetry, T-shirts and videos, write to Space & Time World Enterprises at the above address.

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