This short interview from 1960 has some fascinating comments from Orson Welles on the uphill battle he faced getting Citizen Kane into theaters. It was often speculated of course, that the titular character was based on publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst, who only exacerbated this notion by using all his resources to try and prevent the film’s release—this is without ever having seen it. (You’d think a strategy of denial might be a little less self-incriminating!) Welles manages to get in a snide jab with: “Kane isn’t really founded on Hearst… in particular,” specifying that Kane was a composite character.
Even more fascinatingly, Welles does not shy from the more explicit politics of the film, admitting “it was intended consciously as a sort of social document, as an attack on the acquisitive society, and indeed on acquisition in general.” This clear critique of power managed to get him branded as a Communist in the states and banned in the Soviet Union—can’t win for losing, I suppose. As it was, Hearst actually did succeed at limiting the run of the film in the US—by a lot. Few theaters even showed the film. The box office numbers suffered, and though Citizen Kane is now considered one of the greats, it damaged Welles’ career from the very start.
There are few releases I’m looking forward to this year like the self-titled debut from Algiers. There are past and current bands that have edifyingly fused the energies of southern gospel and rock, but Algiers? Theirs is some potent stuff, absolutely worthy of all the discussion they’ve been generating. The band is made up of expats from America’s deep south, and is built around the nexus of singer Franklin James Fisher, an expressive blues howler whose calls for radical social change can turn on a dime from guttural grunts to righteous wails. In answer, the band combines HOT soul tropes with the loftiest ideals and gnarliest noises of experimental post-punk. And I’m tellin’ you, good people, the alloy is as strong as the forge is hot.
He had a mime act and used to open up the show. He didn’t sing at all but had a tape going and he’d act out a story about a Tibetan boy.
Mime act? Tape going? Tibetan boy? It can only be another reminiscence of David Bowie’s early years in showbiz. But this one is special: it comes from a Melody Maker feature by Bowie’s friend and sometime rival Marc Bolan. It appeared in print just six months before Bolan’s tragic death in a car crash.
I came across Bolan’s article, “Music-Hall Humorist,” in the foxed and brittle pages of David Bowie, A Chronology, a relic from the Let’s Dance era. “Music-Hall Humorist” first appeared in the March 12, 1977 issue of Melody Maker, a number that was heavy with Bowie-related news. Published during the Thin White Duke’s annus mirabilis, the issue featured both Iggy and Bowie on the cover, and the headline screamed LOU REED DUE.
The article reads more like a transcript of Bolan talking to a reporter than something he sweated out over a typewriter, but who knows? Maybe it was laboriously composed over a period of several weeks. Sure it was…
David is a great singer . . . he can sing anything, almost. I remember him when he was in The Lower Third and he used to go to gigs in an ambulance. I used to think he was very professional. He was playing saxophone then and singing. I suppose it was a blues band then and he was produced by Shel Talmy.
He did a record which I’m sure everybody has forgotten. It was ‘Pop Art’ – yer actual feedback. I can’t remember what it was called.
After that he went to Decca around the time I was doing ‘The Wizard’. He was into . . . bombardiers then. Don’t you remember ‘The Little Bombardier’?
He was very Cockney then. I used to go round to his place in Bromley and he always played Anthony Newley records. I haven’t spoken to him about it, but I guess that was how he got into mime.
Newley did mime in Stop the World I Wanna Get Off. The funny thing is that ‘The Laughing Gnome’, which was one of David’s biggest singles here, came from that early period.
It came at the height of his supercool image. And that’s very ‘Strawberry Fair’ . . . ‘the donkey’s eaten all the strawberries!’ That was his biggest single, so it just shows you it doesn’t pay to be cool, man!
Rock ‘n’ Roll suicide hit the dust and the laughing gnomes took over. We were all looking for something to get into then. I wanted to be Bob Dylan, but I think David was looking into that music-hall humour.
It was the wrong time to do it, but all his songs were story songs, like ‘London Boys’. They had a flavour, with very square kinda backings.
But in those days there weren’t any groovy backings being laid down. I think if he played back those records now he’d smile at them, because he was an unformed talent then. He was putting together the nucleus of what he was eventually going to be.
When he had ‘Space Oddity’ he was on tour with me in Tyrannosaurus Rex. He had a mime act and used to open up the show. He didn’t sing at all but had a tape going and he’d act out a story about a Tibetan boy. It was quite good actually, and we did the Festival Hall with Roy Harper as well.
I remember David playing me ‘Space Oddity’ in his room and I loved it and said he needed a sound like the Bee Gees, who were very big then. The stylophones he used on that, I gave him. Tony Visconti turned me onto stylophones.
The record was a sleeper for months before it became a hit, and I played on ‘Prettiest Star’, you know which I thought was a great song, and it flopped completely.
But I never got the feeling from David that he was ambitious. I remember he’d buy antiques if he had a hit, when he should have saved his money. David got his drive to be successful once I’d done it with the T. Rex thing. At the beginning of the seventies it was the only way to go.
“It’s so easy, a baby could learn to play it in fifteen minutes”: an ad for the Stylophone
David Bowie, A Chronology also includes this unsourced anecdote from March 1977:
While in London, David is taken for lunch to Toscanini’s in the Kings Road by Marc Bolan. After the meal, David and Bolan, both slightly drunk, wandered down the Kings Road singing. At one point, when in view of a packed open-topped double-decker bus full of school children, the two jumped up and down trying to attract the children’s attention shouting alternately, ‘I’m David Bowie’, and ‘I’m Marc Bolan’. Although the school children were none too interested in their antics, they did manage to attract some Bowie fans who couldn’t believe their luck when David obliged with an autograph and a chat.
I’m not sure if this is the “pop art” single Bolan was trying to recall, but here’s Bowie (in the Manish Boys) singing “I Pity The Fool” in 1965. Shel Talmy produced and Jimmy Page played lead guitar. (Be warned: there’s six seconds of silence before the song starts.)
When photographer Felice Beato arrived in Japan in 1863, he found the country in the midst of civil war. After spending over two hundred years in seclusion, Japan was being forced by the Americans—under a mission led by Commodore Matthew C. Perry—to expand its trade with the west. The country was divided between the Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo and the Imperial Court based in Kyoto. Over the next decade, a period known as the Bakumatsu, Japan was riven as the Imperial order gradually took control. The key moment came when the samurai of the Chōshū and Satsuma provinces defeated the Shogunate in 1867, which led to the restoration of imperial rule under Emperor Meiji.
Beato was an Anglo-Italian, born in Venice in 1832, and raised in the British protectorate of Corfu. He learnt his trade under the renowned photographic pioneer James Robertson, with whom he traveled to Constantinople documenting many British imperial wars fought in Crimea, India and China. Beato’s skill saw him (along with his brother Antonio) hailed as one of the century’s leading photojournalists.
In 1862, Beato sold most of his photographic work and invested the money in the London Stock Exchange, where it was quickly lost. The following year, he decided to quit England and start out on a new adventure, this time to Japan. On his arrival in Yokohama, Beato set-up a business with English artist Charles Wirgman, who drew sketches and engravings based on Beato’s photographs. Travel was dangerous in Japan, with many of the Shogunate samurai warriors killing westerners—in Edo the American legation was burned to the ground and westerners threatened with death. On one occasion, Beato escaped such a fate after declining a tour of Kamakura with two Imperial officers, who happened across two masterless samurais (or ronin) and were beheaded. However, through his contacts in the military, Beato did manage to travel to many of the secluded areas of the country, where he documented the last years of feudal Japan.
Among his first photographs were the portraits of the Satsuma samurais, who happily posed for him. In one group portrait, four samurais symbolically show their strength and ambition by presenting themselves with one standing samurai holding a red book of English literature and one seated with an unsheathed knife—highlighting their hold on western knowledge and their strength in Japanese tradition. As travel became restricted because of the civil war, Beato opened a studio back in Yokohama, where he photographed many samurai warriors and their courtesans.
A selection of Felice Beato’s rare hand-colored photographs will be on display at the London Photographic Fair 23rd-24th May.
More of Felice Beato’s incredible photographs, after the jump…
Surely you know by now whether or not My Bloody Valentine’s pivotal Loveless album is in your zone. When it dropped in November of 1991—just as Nevermind was temporarily blurring the line between mainstream and underground—I was in the thick of my college years, and the gauzy, gooey, heavy, trippy Loveless was completely unparalleled as a soundtrack for having sex, getting high as fuck, and having high-as-fuck sex.
Famously, it took band leader Kevin Shields two years to assemble the album’s dense mass of sounds that often defy their guitar origins, and it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether any given sound or even any sung phrase is as performed or the result of post-production studio manipulation. So when an adventurous fan posted the album backward in its entirety, it was a given that it was going to sound a whole hell of a lot like the album forward. But listening to it backwards subverts the album’s two and a half-ish decades of utter familiarity, and I rather enjoyed hearing it that way.
And I had to wonder if this inspired the idea, but it was posted two weeks after the backwards album was, so it may well be the other way around, if not just coincidence:
(That Twitter feed, by the way, is fun to follow if shoegaze in-jokes are your bag.)
Backward Loveless was posted by NeutralMilkHotelArchive, who describes his/her YouTube channel as “An archive for all Neutral Milk Hotel. Formerly a channel for reversed music,” though it boasts only two NMH shows so far compared to two dozen pieces of reversed music, 7 of which are by Bach. If you’re going to get all high to listen to backward Loveless anyway, it couldn’t hurt to peruse that channel for further fodder, no?
David Letterman’s last show is tonight and so I thought it would be a good time to post a musical highlight from the hundreds, if not thousands of bands that have performed on his show. I searched the ‘net for awhile and found plenty of memorable performance I could I have linked to for your enjoyment. But thanks to The Gothamist, I came across something altogether different than what I set out looking for: a band described—by one of its own members—as “the worst to ever air on the show.” We’re talking about Guns N’ Roses cover band… Mr. Brownstone.
Dave Godowsky (Izzy Stradlin in the group) writes quite candidly and hilariously of what it was like to make a complete fool of himself on late night TV on November 19th, 2008:
I remember taking a shot of whiskey while being escorted to perform on the stage of The Late Show with David Letterman, and a hair from my wig was stuck in my mouth. Having a hair stuck in your mouth is gross and annoying, but the combination of A) wig hair and B) an impending audience of millions can exacerbate that. I plugged in my guitar but no sound would come out of the amp, the production crew was scrambling. I looked up desperately and saw Paul Shaffer just staring at me, confused. In hindsight his confusion was probably less about my inability to turn on an amp and more about why the hell a Guns N’ Roses cover band was playing there.
You can read the rest of Godowksy’s foggy recollections of that historic night at The Gothamist. It’s a blast.
Ever wanted to see William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “Le Chant des Anges” or his “The Youth of Bacchus” painting peacefully hanging out in a subway, or Luca Cambiaso’s “Venus and Adonis” on a park bench seen from the perspective of city bus? Well now you can with the help of Ukrainian artist’s Alexey Kondakov‘s ongoing series “Art History in Contemporary Life.”
While some of the classical paintings are playful and whimsical in their new environments, there are other paintings that suggest sadness and pain when placed in a contemporary setting. Some of the paintings photoshopped into the subways and buses look as though they’re drunkards and / or addicts who are being helped by kind, cherubic strangers. They simply take on a whole new meaning or story.
That startling movie by Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, Kids, turns 20 years old this year, indeed older than all of its characters. It’s rare to see a movie with a worldview this bleak enter the popular discourse so brazenly, and that the movie is just as bracing now as it was then would tend to indicate that the conscious act of infecting someone with a fatal disease is never going to be anything less than a massive attention-getter.
Among its other virtues, Kids introduced the world to such talents as Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson.
Supreme is offering a special suite of skateboard decks and shirts to celebrate the movie. The tees feature the movie’s closing summary statement—“Jesus Christ. What happened?”—on the back. The items are already available in L.A., London, and NYC, and online consumers get their first chance to buy them tomorrow (May 21).
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Larry Clark’s debut film, KIDS, the portrayal of NYC youth’s escapades in the early 90’s. Some were offended by the raw and anarchic world Larry Clark documented, for those that weren’t, the film became an important document of the time, place and culture.
Through photographing skaters in NYC, Larry Clark came to meet the film’s writer, Harmony Korine and star, Leo Fitzpatrick. The rest of the cast was pieced together with a variety of downtown New York characters including original Supreme team riders Justin Pierce and Harold Hunter. It is a testament to KIDS cultural impact that it resonates today just as much as it did in 1995.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary, Supreme is proud to release a collection of items featuring stills from the iconic film KIDS. The Collection will consist of a Hooded Sweatshirt, Long Sleeved T-Shirt, two graphic T-Shirts, and three Skateboards.
It’ll be hard for me to imagine life without David Letterman on the tube. He’s been on late night TV since 1982, and as someone who was a tween during that era I’ve been watching him since probably 1984 or so. In high school he was one of my main heroes, and a lot of what I think I know or appreciate about comedy can be traced back to obsessive late night viewings of Brother Theodore, Pee-wee Herman, Marv Albert, Chris Elliott, Harvey Pekar, Biff Henderson, et al. on the kooky public/secret clubhouse he had going on NBC for quite a while there. At the risk of editorializing, I have found Dave’s CBS show far less essential, to the point that I don’t even really care that much that he’s retiring; the turning point in that process may actually have been the institutionalization of the top ten list, which started out as just another random segment, just like viewer mail. The problem besetting his show post-1988, say, is the same syndrome that has happened to the rest of the late night talk spectrum, which is that watching ultra-prepped actors winkingly play beer pong with Jimmy Fallon (or whomever) has basically no relation to the truly unscripted, fairly snide, and attitudinally aggressive antics that used to occur around 1 a.m. most weeknights during the 1980s.
After Late Night with David Letterman had been around a year or two, a lot of savvier people began referencing it. It felt during this time like renegade entertainment, an unusual commodity that was obscurely about the entertainment industry if not quite of it, and therefore it became a kind of a trope, if you could work “David Letterman” into your story you added a slight buzz of disposable knowingness, much like referencing some of the guests he had on (Pee-wee etc.). In effect, Letterman became a kind of punchline for the smarter set. The idea of John McEnroe or Charlie Brown or Tootsie or Hulk Hogan visiting Letterman’s NBC was a joke in and of itself.
Case in point, issue 239 of the Avengers from Marvel, the January 1984 issue, which trumpeted on its cover, “THE AVENGERS ON LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN!” See? It was mildly ridiculous, as everything that appeared on Late Night was mildly ridiculous.
In the issue, aspiring actor Simon Williams (a.k.a. Wonder Man) gets booked on Late Night, whose producers request a larger cast of Avengers to appear. A few of the reserve Avengers join Wonder Man on the show, not knowing that serial pest Fabian Stankowicz seeks to sabotage their appearance by planting various booby-traps around the set. Eventually Letterman konks Stankowicz on the head with a giant doorknob.
Here are a few images from the issue—if you click on them, you’ll get to see a slightly larger version.
Oh boy, can I relate to this one. Apparently I talk a lot in my sleep, too (or so my husband tells me). I often find myself cringing in the morning when he tells me I was yapping in my sleep again as I almost always say (or shout out) something embarrassing or inexplicable like, “Don’t touch the pumpkin heads already!” or “I will put it in the birdhouse, but I think it must be yellow now.” WHAT?
Well, evil boyfriend and redditor, Soggybrick, decided to keep a little diary of what his girlfriend says when she’s sleep-talking. Honestly, you can’t really argue with her sleepy witticisms. I mean, the lady needs more feet! Who doesn’t need more feet? And my favorite, “The Parmesan doesn’t go like that.” People who don’t know how to use Parmesan properly are really annoying, aren’t they?
Perhaps one day I’ll get my husband to collect my best “sleep-talking poetry” and share it with all of you.