Alan Vega, 70s, photo by Paul Zone
I plan to stand behind my front door clutching a baseball bat for the duration of this year’s Republican National Convention, but if I were headed to one of the “First Amendment zones” in Cleveland next month, I would carry a ghetto blaster that played nothing but Suicide’s “White Man.”
Born Boruch Alan Bermowitz in 1938 and married to a Holocaust survivor during the sixties, Alan Vega knows whereof he sings on “White Man,” an obscure late-period Suicide track that deserves a wider hearing. While Vega denounces the legacy of white supremacy in the barest language there is, Martin Rev’s music—drums, a single guitar chord through a tremolo effect and a three-note bassline, punctuated by keyboard noises—corresponds to an inner state between trance and fury.
So far, “White Man” has only been officially released on the DVD One Day + Live at La Loco / Paris, a pro-shot live show from January 2005 supplemented with interviews. (A used copy from Amazon will set you back about $5.) Though Suicide has been playing the song since ‘98 (according to this fan’s timeline), they left it off their last album to date, 2002’s merciless post-9/11 nightmare American Supreme.
It just so happens there’s video of Suicide playing “White Man” in Manhattan right after the 2004 RNC. The performance falls flat, but Vega’s ad-libbed tirade is much clearer than on the Paris tape:
HRRRRAARUUGHGH white man
Goin’ ‘round the world
Killin’ everybody with a different color skin
Yeah, it’s the American race
Yeah, kill the fuckers
You’re a fucking diseased fucker
You’re a fucking cancer
White men are famous for lots of things, but alas, reckoning with history isn’t one of them. As you might expect, a few of nature’s noblemen have posted in the YouTube comments for the NYC “White Man,” giving a clinic in
dispassionate analysis and reasoned argument subliterate hate speech. White racists: If you want people to think you’re capable of honkifying the USA, routing the Chinese menace and putting 1.6 billion Muslims to the sword, maybe you should start with something small like learning to spell ethnic slurs of five or six letters. Now there’s an accomplishment to be white proud of!
Suicide is headlining the Desert Daze festival in Joshua Tree, California this October.
“White Man” live at La Loco in Paris, January 2005: