Novelist and folk singer Richard Fariña is the missing link (or “Kevin Bacon” if you prefer) connecting author Thomas Pynchon (the best man at Fariña’s wedding to Mimi Baez) and Bob Dylan. Some have called Fariña an out-sized influence on the young Dylan, who allegedly aped the older man’s world-weary bohemian attitudes and persona. (It was also Fariña who allegedly suggested to Dylan that he hitch his horse to a then-rising star Joan Baez (his sister-in-law), ditch the folk thing, and start a new genre of music: poetry that people could dance to).
Richard and Mimi Fariña (along with Bruce Langhorne on tambourine), recorded this vaguely Near East-sounding dulcimer drone on their 1963 album Celebrations for a Grey Day, as a tribute to Pynchon’s first novel, V. Fariña said of the song, which seems like it was inspired by the Alexandria of V‘s chapter five, in the liner notes:
“Call it an East-West dreamsong in the Underground Mode for Tom Pynchon and Benny Profane. The literary listener will no doubt find clues to the geographical co-ordinates of Vheissu, the maternal antecedents of the younger Stencil, and a three-dimensional counter-part of Botticelli’s Venus on the half-shell. May they hang again on a western wall.”
Fariña, whose claim to fame was the “road” novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, died tragically on April 30, 1966, in a motorcycle accident. It was his wife’s 21st birthday. Fariña was just 29. Thomas Pynchon later dedicated his classic 1973 novel, Gravity’s Rainbow, to Richard Fariña.
It’s the time of the year many folk think of vacation. Join Dangerous Mind’s host Nate Cimmino for a different vacation trip (note from Nate: As I was preparing this, my mom passed away. At first, I thought this was simply about space travel, but came to realize it was literally about passing from one realm to another. So this is dedicated to my mom, and my Dad, who came from the beyond to get her. We’re not ever alone—Elizabeth Ruth Cimmino (May 2, 1924-June 23, 2011). Although there’s nothing here she would actually listen to, she’d have wanted me to finish this edition, and always allowed me my own expression.)
01. Attilio Mineo- Science of Tomorrow (Excerpt)
02 Beach Boys- Let’s Go Away For A While (bed under intro)
03. David Rose- Forbidden Planet
04. Alexander Courage - Star Trek Soundtrack Intro
05. Andreas Dorau & Die Marinas- Fred Vom Jupiter
06. Dick Hyman & Mary Mayo-Space Reflex
07. Uncle Monster Face- Escape To Outer Space
08. The Kinks- Supersonic Rocket Ship
09. Captain Beefheart- Space Age Couple
10. Sun Ra- Love In Outer Space
11. Tiny Tim- If I Could Ride A Spaceship (excerpt)
12. Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship- Have You Seen The Stars Tonight
13. Harry Nilsson- Spaceman
14. Hawkwind- Master Of The Universe
15. Modern Jazz Quartet- Visitor From Venus
16. Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain- Medley: Life On Mars / My Way / For Once In My Life / Born Free / Substitute
17. The Byrds- Space Odyssey (mono)
18. Sun Ra & His Astro’Infinity Arkestra- Adventure In Space
19. Bernard Herrman- Space Stations
20. Lothar & The Hand People- Space Hymn
21. RHPS soundtrack- Science Fiction Double Feature Reprise (Instrumental)
Various Sounds, effects and instrumentals: Strobe Crystal Green By Gil Melle’ from the Andromeda Strain Soundtrack, SFX from Paul Kantner & The Jefferson Starship, David Van Tiegham: And Now This, and Head: Cannabis Sativa and Lysergic Acid Diethalimide.
I find it difficult to watch Adam Curtis‘s various acclaimed documentaries without thinking: how much has he taken from Bruce Conner?
Indeed without Conner, would Curtis have developed his magpie, collagist-style of documentary making?
I doubt it, but you (and Curtis) may disagree.
The late Bruce Conner is the real talent here - an artist and film-maker whose work devised new ways of working and presciently anticipated techniques which are now ubiquitously found on the web, television and film-making.
Conner was “a heroic oppositional artist, whose career went against the staid and artificially created stasis of the art world”. Which is academic poohbah for saying Conner kept to his own vision: a Beat life, which channeled his energies into art - with a hint of Dada, Surrealism and Duchamp.
Conner was cantankerous and one-of-a-kind. He would wear an American flag pin. When asked why, he said, “I’m not going to let those bastards take it away from me.”
He kicked against fame and celebrity, seeing art as something separate from individual who created it.
“I’ve always been uneasy about being identified with the art I’ve made. Art takes on a power all its own and it’s frightening to have things floating around the world with my name on them that people are free to interpret and use however they choose.”
Born in McPherson, Kansas, Conner attended Witchita University, before receiving his degree in Fine Art from Nebraska University. At university he met and married Jean Sandstedt in 1957. He won a scholarship to art school in Brooklyn, but quickly moved to University of Colorado, where he spent one semester studying art. The couple then moved to San Francisco and became part of the Beat scene. Here Conner began to produce sculptures and ready-mades that critiqued the consumerist society of late 1950’s. His work anticipated Pop Art, but Conner never focussed solely on one discipline, refusing to be pigeon-holed, and quickly moved on to to film-making.
Having been advised to make films by Stan Brakhage, Conner made A MOVIE in 1958, by editing together found footage from newsreels- B-movies, porn reels and short films. This single film changed the whole language of cinema and underground film-making with its collagist technique and editing.
The Conners moved to Mexico (“it was cheap”), where he discovered magic mushrooms and formed a life-long friendship with a still to be turned-on, Timothy Leary. When the money ran out, they returned to San Francisco and the life of film-maker and artist.
In 1961, Conner made COSMIC RAY, a 4-minute film of 2,000 images (A-bombs, Mickey Mouse, nudes, fireworks) to Ray Charles’ song “What I Say”. With a grant from the Ford Foundation, Conner produced a series of films that were “precursors, for better or worse, of the pop video and MTV,” as his obituary reported:
EASTER MORNING RAGA (1966) was designed to be run forward or backward at any speed, or even in a loop to a background of sitar music. Breakaway (1966) showed a dancer, Antonia Christina Basilotta, in rapid rhythmic montage. REPORT (1967) dwells on the assassination of John F Kennedy. The found footage exists of repetitions, jump cuts and broken images of the motorcade, and disintegrates at the crucial moment while we hear a frenzied television commentator saying that “something has happened”. The fatal gun shots are intercut with other shots: TV commercials, clips from James Whale’s Frankenstein and Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front. The film has both a kinetic and emotional effect.
REPORT “perfectly captures Conner’s anger over the commercialization of Kennedy’s death” while also examining the media’s mythic construction of JFK and Jackie — a hunger for images that “guaranteed that they would be transformed into idols, myths, Gods.”
Conner’s work is almost a visual counterpart to J G Ballard’s writing, using the same cultural references that inspired Ballard’s books - Kennedy, Monroe, the atom bomb. His film CROSSROADS presented the 1952 atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll in extreme slow motion from twenty-seven different angles.
His editing techniques influenced Dennis Hopper in making Easy Rider, and said:
“much of the editing of Easy Rider came directly from watching Bruce’s films”
The pair became friends and Hopper famously photographed Conner alongside Toni Basil, Teri Garr and Ann Mitchell.
Always moving, always progressing, having “no half way house in which to rest”, Conner became part of the San Francisco Punk scene, after Toni Basil told Conner to go check out the band Devo in 1977. He became so inspired when he saw the band at the Mabuhay Gardens that he started going there four night a week, taking photographs of Punk bands, which eventually led to his job as staff photographer with Search ‘n’ Destroy magazine. It was a career change that came at some personal cost.
“I lost a lot of brain cells at the Mabuhay. What are you gonna do listening to hours of incomprehensible rock’n’roll but drink? I became an alcoholic, and it took me a few years to deal with that.”
Conner continued with his art work and films, even making short films for Devo, David Byrne and Brian Eno. In his later years, Conner returned to the many themes of his early life and work, but still kept himself once removed from greater success and fame. He died in 2008.
Towards the end of his life he withdrew his films from circulation, as he was “disgusted” when he saw badly pixelated films bootlegged and uploaded on YouTube. Conner was prescriptive in how his work should be displayed and screened. All of which is frustrating for those who want to see Conner’s films outside of the gallery, museum or film festival, and especially now, when so much of his originality and vision as a film-maker and artist has been copied by others.
‘Mea Culpa’ - David Byrne and Brian Eno. Directed by Bruce Conner
On Thursday, Jamaican singer Buju Banton was sentenced to ten years in federal prison for his role in setting up a five kilo coke deal in Florida in late 2009. Concealed weapons charges were dropped against the Grammy Award-winning singer and the sentence was the most lenient that the judge could have given him under the sentencing guidelines. His lawyer say they’ll appeal, but good luck with that…
Banton is one of those guys who thinks he’s more clever than he is. Even though I admit to liking some of his music—he’s an undeniably a big talent, one of the best musicians of his generation on the island—his rampant homophobia and smart-ass posturing to gays rights groups has always made me think he was a total asshole. And what is a Grammy winner doing making drug deals, anyway? He doesn’t have enough money already? He thinks he’s a tough guy, but I wonder how tough he’ll be in a federal penitentiary. I don’t suspect Banton is going to have a very easy time with all the “batty boys” he’s going to meet in prison. Some of them probably don’t appreciate his lyrics that advocate shooting gays in the head and burning them alive. That’s the way it goes. Karma’s a bitch, Buju-baby.
Below, Jamaicans react to Banton’s sentencing in Florida.
The talented writer and DM pal, Steve Duffy has a knack for finding weird and wonderful sites. This amusing gem comes from German photographer Paul Ripke‘s impressive homepage, which shows, as Mr Duffy points out, photographic proof that “the child is father to the man.”
From last night at the Glastonbury festival, where U2 made their debut. The balloon reads “U PAY YOUR TAX 2?”, referring to the fact that U2 don’t pay taxes in their native Ireland, despite being one of the country’s biggest exports. Methinks Ireland, which is pretty fucking broke, could do with Bono and co’s extra dollar right now…
From BBC News (where you can also see footage of the balloon and the Glastonbury festival security’s over-the-top reaction to it):
[U2] played a greatest hits set that included Where The Streets Have No Name, One, With Or Without You and Beautiful Day. They also played on as protest group Art Uncut inflated a 20ft balloon emblazoned with “U Pay Your Tax 2”.
Scuffles broke out when the protest balloon was removed by festival security, although many of those in the 50,000 crowd were probably unaware of the minor incident. Security staff sought to stop the protest by about 30 people at the end of U2’s opening song Even Better Than the Real Thing.
So the next time you see or hear Bono patronisingly droning on about some sanctimonious twaddle, just think these three words: “Pay Your Taxes”!
In the history of popular music, disco and dance culture generally get a raw deal when it comes to talking about of social change. Sure, some massive changes happened in the Sixties, but to paraphrase Nile Rodgers, the Seventies was when people started to enjoy their new social freedoms. It was an age that saw huge breakdowns of race, class, sexual and social boundaries that were not just confined to small social groups, and much of this was down to the disco and party scenes.
Maestro, a 2002 documentary by the director Josell Ramos, tells the story of the legendary New York club the Paradise Garage, and its equally legendary resident DJ Larry Levan. Levan is often cited as being the best DJ of all time, particularly by some of the most popular DJs in the world, and the music he played at his club spawned a whole genre named in its honour. The Garage’s cultural and musical legacy has been global, influencing some of the world’s best known nightspots, but Maestro is also careful to explain where the roots of the club and the world that developed around it lay - in the seminal underground New York nightspots of the very late Sixties and early 70s.,
Levan in the DJ booth at the Paradise Garage
Many of the characters still left standing from the era are interviewed in the film. Among these is David Mancuso, whose own private loft parties in his living space kick-started the serious dancing scene and gave birth to the modern idea of clubbing..There is the late Francis Grasso, the first man to ever mix two records back in the late 60s at the Sanctuary; Nicky Siano, who in 1972 and still a teenager opened the night spot the Gallery; Frankie Knuckles of Chicago’s Warehouse (the birthplace of garage music’s broodier twin house), reminiscences on his close childhood friend Levan with stories that are both funny and sad. Most movingly of all respected DJ and remixer Francois Kevorkian remembers how the AIDS epidemic swept through his social circle killing many of his friends and decimating the party scene.
The Paradise Garage was a true melting pot where black, white, gay, straight, male, female, old and young mixed, got high, danced, and had sex. The footage of the Garage, the Sanctuary and the Loft in Maestro is great, and really makes you want to grab a time machine to visit these incredible parties. While this film is flawed, it’s good to have the story of this era told from the perspective of the people who were there and helped shape it. Oh, and needless to say, the music is FANTASTIC: