I didn’t know Diane Izzo well and yet I felt close to her. She was a regular customer in my coffeehouse in Taos, New Mexico and one of those rare people that I automatically connect with and feel as though I’ve known forever. Her partner/lover Marco Zas was also someone I felt a deep connection with. For the two years that I knew them, both were struggling with health issues. Marcus had kidney problems and Diane was battling brain cancer, but I had no idea how severe Diane’s cancer had become. She died this past Friday at the young age of 43 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Diane released an extraordinary album in 1999 called One. It should have brought her the kind of attention bestowed upon Patti Smith and PJ Harvey. But it was not to be. She retreated from the music scene and ultimately ended up in Taos where she took care of a ranch that once housed Aldous Huxley. But she was still determined to make her mark musically and in film. At the time of her death, she was working on a film project with Marco, Black & Gold, which provides an inspiring glimpse of the magic that Diane was still conjuring in the last year of her life.
As Diane’s cancer progressed she was struggling to retain her ability to speak. For a singer, losing your voice is of course a nightmare. But Diane was extremely determined to keep her tongue in tune with her thoughts. It required effort, but you can hear in this video that Diane’s singing was something she was not going to let go of. Her strength, humor and optimism was awe-inspiring. I regret not spending more time with her when she was around. I blew it. She was special.
Diane’s album One is available on Amazon. Get a copy here. It’s time for the world to discover the beauty of this extraordinary artist.
Born in Glasgow in 1925 and reborn in the land of Morpheus sometime in the 1950s, Alexander Trocchi was the beatest of the beat, a self-described “cosmonaut of inner space” who Allen Ginsberg called “a major figure in cosmopolitan new-consciousness fifties’ and sixties’ literature.” Trocchi was a junkie, poet, writer of porn and author of one of the landmark books about being a rebel, drifter and drug addict, Cain’s Book. He wrote it while living in New York and even though it’s billed as a novel, Cain’s Book is based on Trocchi’s own life story. Though banned in the United Kingdom as pornography, it wasn’t the sex that upset the status quo as much as it was Trocchi’s unabashedly anarchic spirit and overall fuck you attitude.
Trocchi’s belief was that a writer should be a pioneer, venturing into areas that ordinary people either were too sane or too afraid to go. His explorations included heroin. Like DeQuincey, Crowley, Baudelaire and Burroughs, Trocchi found a muse in drugs. He was relentless in his pursuit of the next high. And while he might be accused of wearing his junkie status as a badge of honor, he never romanticized the life of the addict. He also never apologized for who he was and what he did, which included turning Marianne Faithfull onto heroin and letting his wife Lyn prostitute herself on the streets of the Lower East Side.
Cain’s Book is the classic late-1950s account of heroin addiction. . . . An un-self-forgiving existentialism, rendered with writerly exactness and muscularity, set this novel apart from all others of the genre.” –– William S. Burroughs
Along with Naked Lunch and Hubert Selby’s Requiem For A Dream, Cain’s Book is a classic of dope-inspired writing. It was Trocchi’s last novel. He spent the rest of his life occasionally writing short stories, prose and poetry. He died of pneumonia in 1984.
I discovered Cain’s Book right around the time I was reading Burroughs, Bukowski and Kerouac. It was another big black splotch on my teenage Catholic soul. Literature was ruining me for the “straight” world but splendidly preparing for a life of sexual adventuring, drug experimentation and the pursuit of my own muses. Trocchi was an imperfect muse himself. But I have discovered that it is the troubled souls that stir up the most heat and though their light is often hidden in the murk of their disheveled lives when it does shine it does so more intensely.
Here’s a clip from the documentary Cain’s Film followed by a short video on Trocchi featuring William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Leonard Cohen.
Although it’s a touch more interesting than most awards shows, we tend to treat the Oscars as little more than a gossip source, fashion show, or fun subject for betting pools.
With that said, there are gratifying aspects about the awards themselves, including the fact that French filmmaker Bastien Dubois‘s gorgeous and surreal Madagascar - Carnet de Voyage was nominated for Best Animated Short Film.
It lost, but that takes nothing away from this meditation on mortality on the intriguing African island nation. It’s a dizzying yet coherent display of what seems like a dozen different animation and mixed-media styles. Check it out.
Andy Morgan has written a terrific article for UK paper The Guardian called “From Fear To Fury: How the Arab World Found Its Voice.” It details how music has had a pivotal impact in kickstarting and sustaining the revolutions in the Arab world, with particular attention paid to Tunisian rapper Hamada Ben Amor, or El Général.
On 7 November, El Général uploaded a piece of raw fury called “Rais Le Bled” (President, Your Country) on to Facebook. “My president, your country is dead/ People eat garbage/ Look at what is happening/ Misery everywhere/ Nowhere to sleep/ I’m speaking for the people who suffer/ Ground under feet.” Within hours, the song had lit up the bleak and fearful horizon like an incendiary bomb. Before being banned, it was picked up by local TV station Tunivision and al-Jazeera. El Général’s MySpace was closed down, his mobile cut off. But it was too late. The shock waves were felt across the country and then throughout the Arab world. That was the power of protesting in Arabic, albeit a locally spiced dialect of Arabic. El Général’s bold invective broke frontiers and went viral from Casablanca to Cairo and beyond.”
Morgan’s article can be found here and it is essential reading.
The Guardian has also posted some links to music videos of songs that figured into the Arab uprisings by Sheik Imam Amir Eid, Hany Adel and Sherif Mostafa of Egypt and Iraqi rapper Narcicyst. Check them out here.
In 28 December 1967, David Bowie made his theatrical debut at the Oxford New Theater, in Lindsay Kemp’s mime Pierrot in Turquoise or, The Looking Glass Murders. Bowie wrote and performed the music, and starred as Cloud, alongside Kemp’s Pierrot, Jack Birkett’s Harlequin, and Annie Stainer’s Columbine.
The production was still in rehearsal when it played for its one night at the New Theater, which perhaps explains why the Oxford Mail described the show as “something of a pot-pourri,” though it highlighted Bowie’s contribution for praise:
David Bowie has composed some haunting songs, which he sings in a superb, dreamlike voice. But beguilingly as he plays Cloud, and vigorously as Jack Birkett mimes Harlequin, the pantomime isn’t a completely satisfactory framework for some of the items from his repertoire that Mr Kemp, who plays Pierrot, chooses to present….
...No doubt these are shortcomings Mr. Kemp will attend to before he presents Pierrot in Turquoise at the Prague Festival at the invitation of Marceau and Fialka next summer. No mean honour for an English mime troupe.
The mime told the story of Pierrot and his attempt to win the love of his life, Columbine. Of course things are never simple, and Columbine falls for Harlequin, and is then killed by Pierrot.
After a few tweaks, Pierrot in Turquoise opened at the Rosehill Theater, Whitehaven, before its proper run at the Mercury Theater, and Intimate Theater, both London, in March 1968.
Bowie’s career throughout the sixties exemplifies Thomas Edison’s adage “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration,” as the young hopeful musician worked hard and toured the length and breadth of the UK under various guises: The Konrads, The Hookers, Davie Jones and The King Bees, The Manish Boys, the Blues influenced Davie Jones and The Lower Third, Davie Jones and The Buzz, and The Riot Squad, a band described as:
“The Complete Musical Entertainers covering Pop, Tableaux, Burlesque and Parody”
Even at this early stage, Bowie was shedding musical styles quicker than he changed his hair - from beat thru Blues to Music Hall and Pop. With hindsight, you can see where he was going, but by 1967, the teenager’s first recording career had come to a halt after the release of his oddment Laughing Gnome after which, Bowie didn’t to release a record for another two years.
During this time, he fell under the influence of mime artist and performer, Lindsay Kemp, who helped Bowie channel his unique talent towards Space Oddity and later Ziggy Stardust. As Kemp later told journalist Mick Brown for Crawdaddy in 1974:
“I taught David to free his body,” says Kemp, smiling wickedly.
“Even before meeting, David and I had felt the need to work together. I’d identified myself with his songs, and he’d seen my performances and identified himself with my songs. I was singing the songs of my life with my body; he was singing the songs of his life very fabulously with his voice, and we reckoned that by putting the two together the audience couldn’t help but be enthralled. In other words, one large gin is very nice, but two large gins are even nicer.”
The two large gins became Pierrot in Turquoise, which was filmed by Scottish Television in 1969, and broadcast in July 1970. How a small regional TV station like STV, came to film this rather strange theatrical show is, no doubt, a tale in itself, but thankfully they did, even if one cataloguer at Scottish Screen Archives “found this quite creepy,” it is still well worth watching.
David Bowie as Cloud
Lindsay Kemp as Pierrot
Jack Birkett as Harlequin
Annie Stainer as Columbine
Michael Garret as Piano Player
It was filmed at the Scottish Television’s Gateway Theater in Edinburgh, and was directed by Brian Mahoney. Now if only STV made programs like this today…
This is the infamous performance of “Light My Fire” by The Doors on The Ed Sullivan Show in September of 1967.
Jim Morrison and the band had been asked by the producer of the Sullivan show, Bob Precht, to alter the lyrics of the song so as to eliminate the phrase “we couldn’t get much higher.” Sullivan’s sponsors didn’t dig the idea that the song’s lyrics might suggest drug use. The band agreed to change the lyrics but come show time Morrison sang the lyrics as originally written. As a result, The Doors were banned from ever again appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show. As if it really mattered. The Doors were unstoppable and nothing, certainly not a TV variety show, was going to get in their way.
While The Doors banishment by Sullivan is an oft told tale, the video footage of the performance has only been available on the Internet in low quality truncated form. Here’s a good quality clip of the performance in full.
Bollywood special effects spectacular Endhiran is getting a lot of attention for its over-the-top action sequences but I found the musical numbers to be the most entertaining parts of the movie. With music by the fabulous A.R. Rahman and choreography by Prabhu Deva, Endhiran’s song and dance numbers are a high calorie feast for the eyes and ears. The musical sequences come out of nowhere and have little relationship to the plot of the movie, but in Bollywood it hardly matters. One of the more lavish numbers takes place in Machu Picchu which is totally baffling because there is no reference to Peru anywhere else in the film. For five minutes the movie suddenly shifts to Peru without explanation. Why? Because it looks awesome. No explanation needed. Goofy, surreal and silly, Endhiran is three hours of non-stop Bollywood insanity. Try to catch this one on the big screen in a theater with a good sound system.
Coming on like a mashup of Michael Jackson and Duran Duran videos with bits and pieces of Star Wars , The Terminator and Viva Las Vegas, the following clip will give you a taste of the pop culture explosion that is Endhiran. The song is “Arima Amira.”