Another Witness: "November 22, 1963" by Niagara, DAM and Ron Asheton
In 1977, Ron Asheton was living in Los Angeles. As guitarist for the Stooges until their break-up, and then his newly-ended band New Order, he was already legendary, especially to us. Us being our art collective of Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Cary Loren and I, plus our circle of friends. The Stooges' music was intense, deep & essential...but the world did not know that yet. The Stooges were a religion. Now Ron was back in Michigan. Home. We would run into Ron at the best rock club in Ann Arbor, Second Chance.
Cary Loren had ambitions to recruit Ron into DAM. Cary semi-stalked him relentlessly, to convince him to come play at our practice. Ron needed a LOT of convincing.
Well, Cary did finally get him to our practice. But why Ron stayed is not to be told at this time.
Ron told fabulous stories. The Asheton family lived in Washington, DC, Ron's birthplace. Young Ron became a Boy Scout. Not only that, but an Eagle Scout. One day, his troop was in charge of holding back the crowds for the Kennedy Presidential procession. As the president rolled by, the crowds surged forward, and Ron's HEAD was virtually pushed into John F. Kennedy's LAP. Which was almost a personal encounter.
Cary had an inspiration to write a song about JFK. Ron reworked the tune, bringing drama, much more tension, searing guitar. It was a lesson of metamorphosis by an experienced craftsman. I thought Cary wrote great songs, but now I heard the amazing potential of what a veteran could bring. Literally life-changing. We were pretty enthralled.
June 13th of that Summer was Destroy All Monsters' debut at Second Chance in Ann Arbor. It was our first show with Ron. Also Cary's last. Reading my diary, it seems that show made the crowd go crazy with dedication.
From then on, I was to sing almost all the songs, plus "November 22, 1963". I didn't know any of the original lyrics,except for the first line...and Cary's "on a mountain he stood", which wasn't my style. I needed all new lyrics.
I wanted to tell of that fatal day in story form. I asked Ron to tell me the version of the assassination that he believed. He brought out his favorite conspiracy theory book, and read to me. I took notes, and quickly rhymed it into form. Ron was crazy about it.
November 22, 1963
A shot rang out
Not from one
The country screamed
A CIA plan
Oswald couldn't have dreamed
John woke up in the morning
He knew. He'd be dead
Jackie woke up on that Dallas day
She knew. She'd be alone
Oswald, Don't you know don't you know
It's a government plan. You've been banned
Why'd you go to Dallas and leave me all alone
You sounded kinda nervous on the telephone
Oswald wake up
It's a government plan
You were framed up
The truth has been banned
The morning of the shooting
John had a vision
That fatal day
Death was his mission
A telescopic rifle
Aimed toward his car
Jackie try hard
You're a lonely star
A bullet shot straight
Shattered John's head
Gray matter flew
In a shower of red
Jackie! Jackie Kennedy! Jackie!
Hold onto his Brains!
HOLD ONTO HIS BRAINS!
What happened after that was DAM played lots locally, toured near & far. We explode in the press, blah blah blah. Gone were the early noise band days when our few shows had the audience on the run to the nearest exit. From then on, the listeners were ecstatic.
In the 1990's, my subsequent band with Ron called Dark Carnival had our best tour in Australia. But I didn't know until my return band tour in 2010, after Ron had passed away, that "November 22, 1963" had long been an anthem there.
This November 22, 2013, on the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, a tribute memorial show is being planned in Australia. Two days ago they asked for my lyrics. "November 22, 1963" will be performed there. And, most likely, in other pockets around the world.
Graphic at top is cover of Destroy All Monsters album NOVEMBER 22: THE SINGLES AND RARITIES (France, Revenge Records, 1987). Collage on cover of the single NOVEMBER 22/MEET THE CREEPER (UK, Cherry Red Records, 1979) by Niagara. Song "Meet the Creeper" by Mike Davis.