John Mendelssohn

  • John Mendelssohn
  • I Have Nothing Against Homosexuality So Long as No Fellow Male Tries to Force Himself on Me, and at This Point, I Don't Think I'm in Much Danger (self-released) 2022 
  • Christopher Milk
  • Some People Will Drink Anything (Reprise) 1972 

Self-described as “a withered old embarrassment from Santa Monica, California, who, in spite of fervent listener indifference, or even antipathy, has been writing and recording music for over 50 years,” John Mendelssohn — now a longtime expat in the UK — earned his notoriety in the before time by being one of the gutsiest free thinkers among the sharp-tongued first-and-a-half generation of rock writers who made the world safe (or, I suppose, dangerous) for the likes of me a few years down the road. While standing tall as an influential supporter and chronicler (ha, fooled ya!) of the Kinks, he also had the temerity to give Led Zeppelin a lukewarm review in Rolling Stone upon its release in 1969, and then ramped up the sarcasm to really sneer at LZII in those same pages (no doubt to Jann Wenner’s eternal unease).

But, as one of the first rock critic-and-musician hyphenates, he also led the band Christopher Milk, who got so far as releasing an album on Reprise in 1972. Produced with typical clarity and precision by Chris Thomas, Some People Will Drink Anything is basically a tongue-in-cheek version of a glam-rock record, well-played but inexplicable in purpose: Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion” (the vocals credited to “John + the Angelfood McSpade Choir”) gets an overhaul as weird as what Vanilla Fudge did to the Supremes, while the long meandering finale is titled “In Search of R. Crumb.” While the put-on liner notes and cover suggest Frank Zappa as a bad influence, the music is more like an Americanized Roxy Music, only not nearly as adventurous. 

Over the years, under a number of droll monikers, this prolific and restless character has made and self-released countless solo albums, all of them articulate and arch, in a variety of styles. Capping off his 50th productive year as a recording artist, he put out I Have Nothing Against Homosexuality So Long as No Fellow Male Tries to Force Himself on Me, and at This Point, I Don’t Think I’m in Much Danger via Bandcamp. If the title is indicative of Mendelssohn’s cavalier willingness to risk offense (and his singing, in a louche waver with calm resolve, is not for everyone), the songs are unlikely to put anyone too far off. The low-key music, of the sort one makes at home using computers and keyboards, is plain and pleasantly melodic; the lyrics consistently offbeat, erudite and wittily entertaining. “The Universe” mentions Banksy and Satie, and cleverly rhymes “aioli” with “wholly.” He manages not to mention the place’s owner in “Bury Me at Mar a Lago,” but mortality weighs heavily here. Even the romance of “The Universe” factors in oblivion: “I love you enough to hope there’s a hereafter.” “Tough and Bold” is all about infirmity, advancing age and death, and “Tabasco” (which rhymes with “fiasco”) is largely as well:

The hours pass like glaciers. The years now last a week
My heart, although reluctant, still pumps blood. I mustn’t speak
of existential terror. It’s much wiser to ignore
the fact that in an eye’s blink we won’t be here anymore

The most poignant song here, “The Misfit and Wimp,” declares solidarity with misfits, wimps, stammering boys, gimps, those scorned and bullied from birth, rebels, huggers of trees, quarterbacks down on their knees. In this realm, that sentiment manages to be perversely positive.





[Ira Robbins]