Arts &
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Vol. 19, No. 3, 2020
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Robert J. Lewis
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Chris Barry
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Pico Iyer
Edward Said
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Barbara Ehrenreich
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Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

rage against the dying of the light




Former lead singer of the legendary 222s, arguably Montreal's first punk rock band, Chris is now a freelance writer based in Montreal. You can check out his writing at where he combines the sardonic humour of David Foster Wallace and the deliciously contrived irreverence of Anthony Bourdain.


I really only got to know the entity commonly referred to as Bootsey X [aka Bob Mulrooney] towards the end of his life. He was already sick by the time we were introduced and I could often read between the lines of our correspondence to recognize that his illness had begun to colour his attitude towards the world somewhat. And fair enough. We should all be as stoic as Bootsey when confronted with the knowledge our days are numbered and even better, that they’ll likely be dominated by unfathomable pain until the sweet black angel of death finally pops by to put us out of our misery.

I’ve never been one to casually throw out the ‘ol “hero” handle just because somebody’s had the misfortune of contracting a terminal illness. How anyone determines that dying from cancer or ALS or whatever is somehow heroic is beyond me. You get sick, possibly find yourself attached to a shit bag and/or suffer similar indignities for awhile, everybody around you cries a lot and you eventually die. Hopefully sooner rather than later for the sake of all involved. I dunno, I just can’t find any Rambo’s or Che Guevara’s or anything especially valiant in that equation.

To this end I always appreciated that on bad days the Bootstah wasn’t afraid to tell me how he really felt about the hand he was dealt in life and how his story was playing out, knowing full well he was on the final chapter and it sure wasn’t looking like the narrative was working its way toward a surprise happy ending.


After all, a happy ending would’ve been totally inconsistent with the rest of Bob’s saga – as I understand it, at least. Others who knew the man better might have an entirely different interpretation of the Bootsey X legend. I sincerely hope they do and further hope it’s a far more accurate take than mine, because I can’t help but see Bob’s tale as a tragedy. In that respect, I suppose Bootsey’s tenacity in trying to make decent records at a time when decent records were arguably in short supply, the 1980s, could possibly be construed as vaguely heroic. But my guess is that Bootsey was one of those guys who just HAD to play rock and roll, that it was in his blood and to NOT be out there writing songs and doing gigs for 25 people after 30 odd years of trying was an even worse fate than actually doing it. Guys like that really do exist, I know because I’m one of them, it’s just something you sort of have to do, no matter how degrading, demoralizing, and downright depressing it can get at times.

I’m not sure why I feel such kinship to a dead man who, for the most part, I essentially only knew through fuckin’ Facebook and a series of private exchanges we had towards the end of his days. But I liked the guy immediately, maybe because I recognized the fellow rock and roll lifer in him and partially, I admit, because I’d learned he was a fan of my own musical offerings throughout the ages. And as everyone who knew the man already knows, Bob was a walking music encyclopaedia, I mean, this guy really knew his stuff, so having his seal of approval on my own material really meant a lot to me.


Truth be told, I’d never listened to any of Bootsey’s records until we’d gotten to know each other a little, and even then, I’d only paid attention to a few songs here and there. You see, the god honest truth is that I’m used to things sucking. It’s far too rare that I hear anything that actually moves me. So when Bob first emailed me a few tracks of his to listen to, a couple new songs he was working along with the Lovemasters’ “Pusherman of Love” single, I didn’t have especially high expectations for it.

On first listen I remember thinking his stuff was good, but good like a thousand bands can be good. Which is already encouraging for someone as jaded as I’ve become but still, nothing really jumped out at me, I didn’t hear anything special in it. Nevertheless, out of simple respect for Bootsey I felt obliged to give it several listens anyway, I’m always honest when asked my opinion of other people’s music and to do so intelligently requires repeated listens – for me, at least. Chore or not I felt I owed Bob that much.

Well, as it happens Bob was actually the one doing me the favour, because as per usual with records I eventually come to adore, I found myself enjoying Pusherman more with every play.


After a couple of days I got back to Bob to tell him what I thought of the stuff he’d sent me. I was very happy to be able to honestly report that I actually dug it, that with the “Pusherman of Love” single I was really impressed with how he was able to work the well-worn “Kick” out the Jams/Loose riff into something new and, yeah, I’ll say it, unique. No mean feat, for sure. I also told him I thought the Lovemasters were a great band and that I got a kick out of his lyrics, all stuff that was true. What I somehow couldn’t see then though, is that it would take me another full year before I recognized this Bootsey X and the Lovemasters stuff wasn’t just good, it was fuckin’ BRILLIANT! That there’d soon be times this jaded old fuck I’ve become would play “Genius from the Waist Down” five, six, seven times in a row, dancing and singing along to this fantastic song pretty well every day for weeks on end, as enthused about this piece of music as I’d been about anything in . . . seriously, god knows how fuckin’ long. Whooda thunk it?

The late Bob Mulrooney might not have been what most people consider a great singer, but I’ve come to love the guys voice. You can hear his love of rock and roll in it, it’s right there for anyone with ears to pick up on, just Google Genius from the “Waist Down” and you’ll know what I mean.

Of course, by the time I realized just how much I admired his work the fucker had gone off and died on me. Looking back on it now, I’m concerned my original critique of his material might have come off as condescending. Deep down I know it probably wasn’t but still . . . Anyway, condescending or not, Bob was pretty gracious about it all, as any non-idiot would be when presented with a sincere critique of their music.

The last correspondence we’d had before he died was essentially a diatribe of his inspired by a simple query. Said query being, “Hey pal, I haven’t heard anything from you in awhile. Hope you’re feeling okay.” A few days later he responded – and it wasn’t good. He told me that in fact he was doing terribly, that his latest prognosis had definitely not been good, that he was weak and sick all the time, had no money, no place of to live; he essentially he went on for a good thousand words about how miserable this brain cancer business was making him.


I was somewhat taken aback by his response. Yeah, I knew he obviously wasn’t in top form but I guess until then I hadn’t fully digested the fact that this shit was eventually gonna kill him. Bitter and fucked up as it was, I appreciated his diatribe, that he had enough respect for me to be honest about his misfortune, to let me know just how hard it fuckin’ sucks to be dying at his relatively young age. I wasn’t quite sure of how to respond. I mean, what do you say to somebody in such a totally fucked up situation as Bob was at that time? Even though he wasn’t looking for pity or money or anything along those lines, there wasn’t anything I could do to help him out with anyway.

It took me a few days before I was finally able to muster up some sort of response, a simple “yeah, that sucks, Bob. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been having such a rough time of it lately. Do you think you’ll be up to finishing those new songs you sent me anytime soon?” He got back to me immediately with a “yes,” he was hoping to finish them off as soon as he recovered from this latest bout with the cancer eating away at his brain. It actually sounded somewhat encouraging to my ears.

Roughly one month later I learned that he’d died. And that was it. Not that it would have made a huge difference to him or anything, but every time I put on “Genius,” or “Pony Down,” or “Pusherman of Love,” or any number of great Bootsey X tracks, it kills me I was never able to let him know how much admiration I have for his work. People who really knew him always go on about Bob’s great sense of humour, his passion for records, what a nice guy he was, these sorts of things. And I’m sure it’s all true. I believe I got a glimpse of his good character in my own limited way. But the only thing I can truly know about Bob is what I hear on his records – and to that end, well, fuck, some of it is just so good. I only wish I’d been astute enough to clue into his talent a little earlier in the game so I could have told him as much. Unfortunately, this little tribute to the man [eulogy?] is likely the closest I’ll get to it now.

Also by Chris Barry:
From Spring Fatness to Fitness
Coming Out: Is It Any Easier?
Head Trip Story: My Inner Idiot
Ballet Boxer: Milford Kemp
Like Young
Loving Hard Times
Feed Your Head
Talking 12-Tone with Patti Smith
Beauty Pageants: The Golden Years
Swingers' Clubs as Safe Zones
Bust a Move
Trapeze - Swinging Ad Extremis
Hells in Paradise
The Cannabis Cup
Colonic Hydrotheraphy


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