Chris Chandler Gadabout Gadfly at Uncle P's January 4th

By Bill Ede

In case anyone missed Dallas Embry's playing Robert Shelton to Chris Chandler's Bob Dylan in the November issue, let me assume the role myself for a brief moment.

Chris Chandler is not just one more guy in his early twenties who heard Ten of Swords a couple of times and suddenly "found his calling." His world-view is pretty well thought out for someone his age and is the result of many years of world-watching, not some spontaneous conversion of undetermined substance. In fact, it may be closer to that of Dylan contemporary Phil Ochs than to Dylan himself, with a touch of Mojo Nixon-frenzy thrown in to keep things rolling, without the latter's seeming preoccupation with things scatological. (Aw shucks.)

His "Whole Wheat Left" updates and outdoes (in zaniness, if not satiric bite) Och's 1966 gibe at the old left, "Love Me, I'm A Liberal." (One might want to note that the only non-original Chandler performs is Och's "Outside of A Small Circle of Friends," done in a way that is barely recognizable.) His "Closet Heterosexual" depicts the gay community as just as capable of ostracizing someone for his or her sexual preference as their straight counterparts. In it he tells of a real-life encounter with a woman in a bar "where men didn't come," where with a little persistence (and properly applied makeup, we assume) he eventually wins her over and helps her set aside her "heterophobic hang-ups." (I guess all that last part's true, too.)

In "Emotional Dyslexia," he likens the sentimentality of Reagan's farewell address to "the day M *A*S *H went off the air."

Chandler's closest thing to a love song is "Avoiding the Call," in which he borrows Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" melody for his own tale of love dissolution, with or without an accompanying disillusion. It is a well-written lyric with a surprise ending that evokes a smile of recognition each time I hear it.

"San Ysadro" is a straight-ahead protest song, decrying a situation in which it is "easier to get a submachine gun than to get mental health for anyone." (No doubt as to where this fellow stands on that issue. Or should I say those issues.)

Not since perhaps Patrick Sky's 1973 Songs That Made America Famous has there been such a sterling example of "something to offend everyone" and all from a real likeable, straight-shooting kind of guy who's been literally living out of his car for the last two years.

He will either make you identify, make you think, or make you mad or some combination of any of the three. He sometimes employs the Randy Newman technique of inhabiting his characters and it isn't always immediately apparent as to who's doing the talking his characters or himself (as with Newman). It is only after repeated listenings that his clear vision is apparent.

Chris Chandler is certainly an important artist/writer to watch. He may or may not be famous someday and that may or may not matter. He has already earned the distinction of being "turned down by forty-two different record companies," which should certainly count for something. "And I offered them good money, too," he continues. Famous or not, Chris Chandler will certainly be at the center of controversy either making it or taking notes. And he will be at Uncle Pleasant's on Thursday, January 4.