John Woods: American Patriot - RIP
by J. Edward Tremlett, Columnist
September 4, 2002
"Down On the rANT Farm"
For once, I have to admit I'm at a loss for an introduction.
When you lose someone who meant so much to so many, then you have a great deal of responsibility in how you make your feelings known. So when it comes to John Woods - one of the founders of Rock Out Censorship, who passed away last month at 51 - I can't start out with "I'm sorry to announce," "It is with a great sadness" or anything like that. John would have rolled his eyes, shook his shaggy head and told me I was getting too flowery on him. And if there's one thing I know, it's that you never give the dead a eulogy they wouldn't appreciate.
So I'll just say one thing and then get to the business at hand: "F--- Tipper Gore."
John Woods wasn't the first person to ever say that, and he certainly wasn't the only person to say that. But he said it the loudest and longest of anyone I ever met. And - more importantly - he didn't just say it: he got off his ass and went and DID something about it.
I had the privilege of knowing John Woods as a colleague in the fight against censorship. When I was running Ohio University's anti-censorship organization, a local lawyer sent me some issues of a magazine called The ROC: the voice of Rock Out Censorship. He was a friend of one of the other founders of ROC, and he suggested that our two groups should get in touch. And that was the start of a long, good working relationship with one another.
John Woods and his friends were just average, working-class joes from Jewett, Ohio. But when the culture war began in earnest in the 80's, they banded together to fight what they saw as an all-out assault on freedom of speech. They knew that if you let the national debate be controlled by those who believed that music was harmful, then sooner or later music would be widely believed to be harmful - no matter what the facts were - and the dominoes would start to fall from there.
That was the birth of both Rock Out Censorship and its flagship magazine: The ROC. Back in its hey-day, The ROC was an amazing piece of ammunition. Not only did it keep us up to date on what was going on, but they also helped the various anti-censorship groups keep in touch with one another. You could share success stories, give advice, coordinate efforts and - most importantly - find out that you weren't alone in your beliefs after all.
The significance of what The ROC was cannot be stressed enough. These days, if you wanted to do something grassroots like The ROC, you could get by with an e-mail list and a web page. But back in the late 80's and early 90's, people hadn't been wired up. The Net was for geeks and cs majors. So if you wanted to get your word out to the world, someone had to pony up the time and cash to print a 'zine.
And for years - though he was a father who sometimes didn't know where his next penny was coming from - that someone was John Woods. He and his friends slept in the van, traveled the country and endlessly campaigned to keep the momentum going forwards. Even after The ROC stopped its print run, and even though the online version never really took off, if you went to any of the major concerts there was a good chance you'd see John and company out with the vendors, keeping the fans appraised of the situation.
Some time ago, I said that a real patriot was someone who cared about his country enough to do something to help both it and his neighbors, and stuck by his principles - come what may. In that sense, John Woods was a real patriot. We live in an age when any asshole with a 'Net connection can make himself a force to be reckoned with without ever leaving his home, but John and his friends were almost always out of the office and out on the streets: putting some effort behind their emotions. They didn't just talk about it, they went out there and DID it.
Amongst the earliest ROC stuff I can remember was a crude drawing they put on the mastheads: a Paul Revere rider, charging on horseback and brandishing an electric guitar behind him. I don't know who drew that picture, but I know who the rider really was.
Goddess bless and keep you, John.
Oh, yeah, and f--- Tipper Gore. ***
J. Edward Tremlett is a published author, political thinker and self-described "mean-spirited crank." He lives with his wife and two cats in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
© 2002 J. Edward Tremlett
"In the Guitar Army, the greatest on Earth, (John) belonged to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I'm proud to have served with him." - Dave Marsh, from his eulogy.
COPYRIGHT © 2002 BY THE AMERICAN PARTISAN. All writers retain rights to their work.