Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Pete's Pantheon: Bertrand Russell, an extended correction
OK, corrected version follows... Starting with the image, this was clearly photoshopped, a more representative photo appears above. Now as to the story itself, The best approach when dealing with a breach of reality this enormous is to go through line by line and correct as we go. Ready? Here goes...
Most people know of Lord Bertrand Russell, mathematician, social philosopher, Nobel Laureate, and conscientious objector to World War One. But few remember Bertrand Russell, Rock Pioneer. (Few remember this because it is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit. While the amazing Russell was in fact a gifted mathematician, a prominent social philosopher, a conscientious objector during the first World War who was imprisoned for his stand, and later a Nobel Laureate in Literature, he does not appear to have been a pioneer rocker) In fact, he led the first electric band composed entirely of Cambridge University academics. The band, Lord Bertie and the Don Patrol, was in fact the first known power trio. With Ludwig "Magister Ludie" Wittgenstein on bass and Karl Popper on the skins, the band had a foundation that few had seen the like of, and fewer could tolerate. Lord Russell sang and played a mean telecaster. It's now in the British Museum. (While all three philosophers mentioned here were at Cambridge, they were never in a band together.) Their visionary first album "Principia Rock and Rolla" actually made it to the British Charts on the strength of their hot single "Epistemology of Love". Unfortunately their second album "Illogically Positive About You" was shelved unfinished after Popper and Wittgenstein quarreled. (Again, no such band, hence no albums, no singles.) Popper accused Wittgenstein of being unable to keep a beat, to which Wittgenstein bitterly retorted "How am I supposed to keep time, when it is really a illusion created by our inability to experience all of reality at once?" At this Popper hit him with a drumstick, leading to the infamous attack on Popper by Wittgenstein using a fire poker from the faculty lounge in the Philosophy department. (It seems fairly well established that Wittgenstein did threaten Popper with a fire poker in the Cambridge faculty quarters, however the dispute seems to have been over some obscure, yet obviously important philosophic argument). Needless to say, bootlegs of the never-released second album have surfaced and been very influential. (No such album ever existed, so don't bug me for my copy so you can burn your own.) Eric Clapton praised Russell's playing for its "Warm singing tone, not at all academic.", and Keith Moon is said to have dropped Popper's name often, saying "If he could make it as a drummer, obviously anyone could." (again the music never existed, so theses quotes are obviously bogus.) The breakup of the band left Russell even more uncertain of the long-term survival of humanity. His journal of the time contains pages filled with angst in which he wonders "If philosophers can't co-exist as a band, what hope is there for the masses?" (No band, no breakup. Russell had plenty of reason to fear for the future of humanity, but this was not among them.) He got his answer shortly after when the Beatles, in an unprovoked act of aggression, invaded America.