From our friends at Mod Cinema comes this fantastic forty song collection of TV performances, promo films and some wonderful duets featuring breathtakingly gorgeous French chanteuse Françoise Hardy. I was introduced to her at party in the the mid-90s and believe me when I tell you, it was a special thrill just to touch her hand. She was in her 50s at the time, and she was still one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever laid eyes on. Talk about a MILF…!
Françoise Hardy covered more stylistic ground and owed more debts to pop/rock than she’s given credit for. Immensely popular in her native France, the chanteuse first displayed her breathy, measured vocals in the early and mid-‘60s. Her (mostly self-penned) recordings from that era draw from French pop traditions, lightweight ‘50s teen idol rock, girl groups, and sultry jazz and blues—sometimes in the same song. The songs are invariably catchy and the production, arrangements, and near-operatic backup harmonies excellent, at times almost Spector-esque. This DVD compiles rare footage of Françoise performing on French television. Over 40 songs including “Tous les garçons et les filles”, “Le premier bonheur du jour”, “Ton meilleur ami”, “Mon amie la rose”, “La maison où j’ai grandi”, “Voilà”, “Comment te dire adieu?”, “J’écoute de la musique saoûle”, as wells as duets with Jane Birkin, Sylvie Vartan, Patrick Bouchtey, and Sacha Distel.
This two-hour collection is an embarrassment of groovy goodness. And the quality of the clips is uniformly very high.
A mural in Libya of Italian Prime Minister Silvio “Milton” Berlusconi and his good buddy, Muammar “Moe” Gaddafi. AKA “the Colonel.” These two go way back, they’re old showbiz palz from their Vaudeville daze. I guess they had a falling out?
More Nineties nostalgia to round out the weekend. Growing up as a kid in that decade I was subjected to huge ignominies in the name of yoof TV. “Yoof TV” was the British expression for television programs made by people in their thirties and forties for people in their teens and early twenties, trying hard to represent the energy and anarchy that being young supposedly represented. YEAH! Like down wiv ver kids anthat?! Yoof!! Energy!!! Rissspekt!!!! YOU KNOWORIMEAN?! It was baaad (meaning just bad). MTV built an entire channel around it, but the biggest, smelliest turd lurking at the bottom of the yoof barrel was undoubtedly The Word.
The Word was Channel 4’s first stab at a concept called “post-pub” television, and as the name would suggest it had a rowdy, boozy, “anything goes!” atmosphere, though I think the show’s primary audience were still too young to go to the pub. Launched in 1990, it was presented by the annoying Manc Terry Christian with a rotating cast of inept co-hosts, most famous of which was probably the ex-model/whatever Amanda De Cadanet. She lives in LA now, and you can have her. Fans of River Phoenix, watch this clip and prepare to have all your romantic illusions about the best and/or best looking actor of his generation (and his crappy band Aleka’s Attic) shattered.
There were moments of genuine unscripted tension too. The best of the co-hosts, Mark Lamarr (currently a dj for BBC Radio 6) famously took issue with Shabba Ranks over his homophobia. Oliver Reed was secretly filmed getting drunk in the dressing room (a very classy move by the producers). The British riot grrrl group Huggy Bear and their fans were forcibly removed from the studio for protesting over a segment about a couple of porn star twins, and funniest of all was an altercation between Snoop Dogg (then just emerging with Doggy Style) and the British kids TV host Rod Hull’s puppet Emu, which had a reputation for violently attacking guests.
The show provided a glimpse of the future of television – some would argue a horrifying one. No longer could celebrities be treated with total reverence, as on The Des O’Connor Show or Wogan. Five-minute videotaped pieces tackled subjects that would these days be given whole series on ITV – dog plastic surgery, fat farms, child beauty pageants.
Yet, while Parsons only mentions it in passing at the start of the piece, 20 years later The Word does have one lasting positive legacy - the live music. Sure, they went for what was then currently popular, but this ensured a diverse range of bands and lead to the television debuts of both Nirvana and Oasis (Nirvana’s spot including the infamous moment when Kurt declared that Courntey Love was “the best fuck in the world”). The tone may have been jarring (see the fluffy bra podium dancers gyrating to Stereolab’s kraut-punk!) but the energy was real. This was one of the very few places on TV you could see bands whose shows you had only read about, and if you were lucky they gave good show too - like L7’s Donita Sparks dropping her pants. Charlie Parsons, speaking as someone who WAS a lonely teenager in a bedroom at the time, THIS is why we watched your towering pile of faeces of a show. Not for “The Hopefuls”, not for the interviews, the wackiness, the innuendo, the edginess, the supposed rule breaking, the sticking-it-to-the-man-down-wiv-yoof-culcha-yah - we watched your show for THIS:
L7 - “Pretend We’re Dead” live on The Word
After the jump: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Hole, Stereolab, Blur, Daisy Chainsaw, Pop Will Eat Itself with Fun-Da-Mental & Huggy Bear
For my tenth birthday I received a copy of the MFP record Geoff Love and His Orchestra Play Your Top TV Themes. MFP was the acronym for “Music for Pleasure” a low budget English record label formed between EMI records and book publishers, Paul Hamlyn. MFP released session musicians performing hits of the day, or artists from the EMI back catalog. The local supermarket had a carousel of MFP discs, ranging from Frank Sinatra, Semprini, Edith Piaf, Dean Martin, Benny Hill, Liberace, to The Beach Boys, The Monkees, The Move, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and T.Rex.
There was an unspoken consensus amongst my peers, that If it was MFP then it was suspect; as MFP was either ersatz, or some original recording that had bombed. I knew what they meant, but didn’t agree. I thought of it more like a book club edition, if you couldn’t afford the top dollar for the first print run edition, then there was always MFP.
Music for Pleasure, in many ways, gave me a good musical education. The first record I bought, at a rummage sale, when I was 5, was Russ Conway’s “Snow Coach”. From this jaunty instrumental, I progressed on to the magic of Herb Alpert via The Tijuana Sound of Brass, Edith Piaf, Johnny Cash and Beethoven. While my older brother fed me The Stones, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Move, and later T.Rex, and Bowie.
Music was key, along with books, films and TV, and whenever any of these fused, it was something special. Remember this was the sixties, the early seventies, there were no pop promos - only The Monkees on TV, and later Ken Russell’s Tommy in the cinema.
This was why I liked MFP, which released records that were often compiled of tracks unavailable elsewhere, like Geoff Love and His Orchestra Play Your Top TV Themes. Where else would you find the sophistication of John Barry’s “Theme to The Persuaders” next to “Sleepy Shores”, the theme for Owen M.D.? Or, Mort Stevens’ “Hawaii Five-O” on the same side as Geoff Love’s jolly sit-com theme “Bless This House”?
This liking for signature tunes brought me to Ron Grainer, who in many respects wrote some of the themes that best defined British TV in the 1960s.
Grainer was born in Queensland, Australia, and studied under Sir Eugene Goosens at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music. His studies were cut short by the Second World War, which saw the young composer seriously wounded - nearly losing his leg. After the war, Grainer moved to England where he began his career in earnest as a composer and musician.
In the 1950s, Grainer collaborated with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop on variety of projects, most famously on his theme for Doctor Who. The success of this track was in part due to Delia Derbyshire, whose hard work re-interpreting Grainer’s composition, note-by-note, made it unforgettable. When Grainer heard what Derbyshire had done, he could hardly contain his delight. Grainer said “Did I really write this?” to which Derbyshire replied, got the answer “Most of it.”
Together they had produced a work of brilliance. Grainer wanted to give a co-credit to Derbyshire, but the dear olde fuddy-duddies at the bureaucratic BBC preferred to keep their talents under a bushel. Damn shame, as Derbyshire deserved much recognition for her pioneering work.
Original ‘Doctor Who’ Theme (1963)
In 1967, Grainer wrote “The Age of Elegance”, which became a perfect synthesis of image and sound in Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner.
More classic Grainer themes from the sixties, after the jump…
I couldn’t get in so left just minutes before the shit hit the fan outside the Beauty Bar during the Death From Above 1979 SXSW showcase.
According to the Houston Press the scene was…
[...] a mini-riot complete with a shoddy, downed fence, beer cans flying through the air, Austin police officers on horses, tasers going off, mace being expelled, and cops using extreme force to quell the crowd who couldn’t get inside the tiny patio venue.”
This was just one of several bad vibe situations at SXSW this year. With gatecrashers bumrushing the packed Strokes show, Ben Weasel’s freakout, Odd Future’s punkass tantrums, the camera jib disaster at the OMD show, Cee-lo Green and Lupe Fiasco’s no-shows (two of several acts that canceled at the last minute) and hundreds of invited guests being turned away at the Kanye West ego-stroke, this year’s SXSW was the Altamont of music industry circle jerks.
I live in Austin and attending SXSW doesn’t involve costly travel or expensive hotel rooms. It’s relatively cheap way for me to see emerging bands and old warhorses. So I go. But this year was a fiasco for me and 1000s of attendees. I was turned away, like so many others, from most shows because of the overselling of wristbands and badges and hype-driven showcases of bands no one will even remember a year from now.
As someone who has organized concerts and run music venues, I understand the complexities involved and that there are things beyond any organizers control. But SXSW has allowed itself to become an unruly monster that has little to do with the exposure of new bands to the press, music industry and public.
SXSW has become less about music and more about creating an illusion of relevance and importance. I’m not sure what the bands or the dying music industry think SXSW is going to do for their careers. There was a sense of desperation at SXSW this year that comes from the deep down knowledge that everyone attending was being scammed on some level. From the delusional music business lackees looking for one last gasp of the rarefied air of rock and roll privilege to the bands playing in parking lots and alleyways for a dozen people while established stars like Kanye are packing them in at a converted power plant (power is right), SXSW has turned into the very thing it was originally designed to be an alternative to: a music industry dinosaur. It needs to either be radically re-designed or put out of its misery because, like a rotting hunk of prehistoric meat, it’s starting to stink up the place. The folks behind SXSW need to do some serious soul-searching and do it now.
Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark’s Andy McCluskey is quoted in the music press as describing the SXSW venue he played in as being a “shithole.” And this was even before a camera jib collapsed into the audience at OMD’s show the following night resulting in several injuries. Why are rock fans and bands willing to be treated like shit by concert promoters? From having to piss in rank smelling porta-potties to standing for hours in long lines and being herded into clubs like cattle, rock audiences seem to be gluttons for punishment. Since when did it become a badge of honor for a rock fan to be abused after spending a few days wages on a rock concert? Does this go back to some primal collective cultural memory of dancing in mud and shit at Woodstock or pool sticks pounding flesh at Altamont?
I went to SXSW 2011 with cautious optimism, being somewhat cynical after my lousy experience last year. I was hoping for a better organized and more equitable fest and it did have its positive moments and certainly should be credited for the shows that did result in upbeat energy for the audiences and bands. Among the ones I saw, TV On The Radio, Psychic TV, Hong Kong Blood Opera, OMD, Charles Bradley, Mark Eitzel, Noah And The Whale, Foster The People, The Black Angels, The Vaccines, Jesse Malin and Scala & Kolacny Brothers were good to great. But these bands are touring, signed or been around for awhile and can be seen in far less chaotic settings than SXSW.
And to the people who spent $750 on badges, was it worth it? With average ticket prices for concerts in Austin generally running $25 or less throughout the year for many of the bands that appeared at SXSW 2011, that $750 could have bought tickets for 30 or more live shows. And for out-towners who spent their cash on travel, hotels and badges, you could have stayed home and with the money you saved hired a few of the struggling indie bands to come play at your house. Your own mini SXSW in your own crib. And I bet your living room has better lighting and sound than the alcove of a coffeeshop where I saw one band heroically try to put on a show as they watched their SXSW dream slip away.
Of all the shit that goes on at SXSW, it is seeing the little guys, the unknown groups, the frontline of rock and roll, get fucked by the heartless greed machine that this perversion of a festival has become. SXSW is an aging vampire sucking the vital fluids of young rockers while the music industry zombies are working up their pathetic hard-ons and tossing off like guilty priests in their the corporate goodie bags. That smell in the air ain’t teen spirit, it’s the foul scent of aging scrotal sacs contracting for one last spurt before they deflate into useless flaps of flesh. I’m having visions of Pasolini’s Salo dancing in my head.
What are Foo Fighters, Duran Duran, Kanye West, Queens Of The Stone Age and corporate flame-outs like Panic At The Disco and The Bravery doing at a festival that is ostensibly about new music? Or is it about new music anymore? Do established bands come to SXSW to restore flagging careers or re-ignite indie cred? I have nothing against big acts attending SXSW other than they draw crowds away from some young band that has traveled to Austin at great expense to play in an empty dive bar. These are the bands that should be getting the attention because they need it. Fuck Kanye.
Part of the problem lies not with SXSW but with all of the corporate sponsored parties and temporary venues that occur simultaneously with SXSW, feeding off of its energy. These events bring in more bands and more people resulting in more traffic and more chaos. The thing is SXSW benefits from being associated (unofficially) with big gun brands and bands. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship but adds 1000s of additional people to the already maxed-out 19,000 official attendees. It is more than the streets and hotels can handle. Car and human gridlock make the festival a frustrating and occasionally dangerous spectacle.
My suggestion is to kill the music festival and keep the SXSW film festival. For $70 a film fan can get into virtually any film screening at the fest and the venues are mostly state-of-the art. For music, Austin City Limits and Fun Fun Fest are doing a far better job of bringing music to the people.
Here’s what I missed at the Death From Above 1979 gig:
At his lowest ebb, it was the book that kept Ken Russell believing in his talents.
Alone, unrecognized and poor, the struggling, young film-maker found faith, during the 1950s, in a slim biography of the Vorticist sculptor, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. The book, Savage Messiah by H. S. Ede, consisted of letters from the young artist to his soul mate, the older, writer Sophie Brzeska. Of the artist’s life, Russell later said:
“I was impressed by Gaudier’s conviction that somehow or other there was a spark in the core of him that was personal to him, which was worth turning into something that could be appreciated by others. I wanted to find that spark in myself and exploit it for that reason.”
Born in 1895, H. S. Ede became a curator at the Tate Gallery London, in 1921, where he promoted works by Picasso, Braque and Mondrian. Ede often found himself frustrated by the more conservative tastes of the gallery directors. However, the position allowed Ede to become friends with many avant garde artists, and, more importantly, offered him the opportunity to obtain most of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s work through the estate of Sophie Brzeska. An event that helped ensure Henri’s art and reputation.
Gaudier-Brzeska was one of the leading artists of the Vorticist Movement, formed by Wyndham Lewis in 1913. Vorticism developed from Cubism and was linked to Futurism and Impressionism. However, Lewis and some of the other Vorticists, saw themselves as separate - a group of artists focussed on Dynamism, or as the Vorticist and poet, Ezra Pound wrote in his memoir on Gaudier-Brzeska:
“It is no more ridiculous that a person should receive or convey an emotion by means of an arrangement of shapes, or planes, or colors, than they should receive or convey such emotion by an arrangement of musical notes.”
“Vortex :- Every concept, every emotion, presents itself to the vivid consciousness in some primary form. It belongs to the art of this form.”
Vorticism is art before it has spread itself into flaccidity, into elaboration and secondary application.
Gaudier-Brzeska’s early sculptures had a hint of Rodin, though this wasn’t to last, as the dynamic young artist soon adapted Chinese and Japanese prints and paintings for his needs, before using the processes of Cubism to develop his own unique artistic vision. As Pound later wrote, Gaudier-Brzeska, “had an amazing faculty for synthesis…” which, Pound believed, had the Gaudier-Brzeska lived, would have made him as famous as Picasso. He didn’t. But the fact he produced so much work, “a few dozen statues, a pile of sketches and drawings, and a few pages about his art,” in just a few years (whilst living in desperate and impoverished conditions), only confirms Pound’s belief.
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska : after months of fighting and two promotions for gallantry, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was killed in a charge at Neauville St. Vaast, on June 5th, 1915.
He was twenty-three.
Born in 1891, the son of a carpenter, Gaudier had been a translator, a forger of paintings, and a student, by the time he met Sophie Brzeska in 1910. Brzeska was almost twice Gaudier’s age, but there was a connection that kept them together for the next 5 years. To mark their bond, they adopted each other’s surname, and became Henri and Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska.
Sophie’s life until meeting Gaudier, had been one of misery and heartbreak, a tale no author of Gothic romantic fiction could have conceived. Sophie was a writer with ambitions to publish her autobiography, Matka, of which she wrote several versions. With intentions to revolutionize art, the pair moved to London, and began their creative life together.
It wasn’t easy. Henri worked by day and sculpted by night. Sophie wrote and rewrote, worked and kept house. Henri forged his own tools, and carved directly into stone. He used off-cuts and (allegedly) a marble headstone to make his sculptures. One story goes, that after an idle brag to an art dealer, who he told he had three new statues ready for show. Henri worked through the night to deliver the statues. When the dealer didn’t turn up at the expected time, Henri carried his sculptures round to the dealer’s gallery and hurled them through its window.
Gaudier-Brzeska was passionate, industrious, creative and dynamic. You can see the attraction Henri’s life and work would have to a young Ken Russell.
In London, Henri met and mixed with Pound, Lewis, and Edward Wadsworth, who together exchanged ideas and loosely formed the short-lived Vorticist group. It was through his association with Vorticism that Gaudier-Brzeska formed his own ground-breaking maxims about sculpture, which he published in the Vorticist magazine Blast:
“Sculptural feeling is the appreciation of masses in relation.
Sculptural ability is the defining of these masses by planes.”
Henri was re-defining sculpture, using “the whole history of sculpture” as his Vortex, to give a “complete revaluation of form as a means of expression.”
As Henri slowly flourished, Sophie started to weaken. Her health was poor, and their bond constricted. While Sophie recuperated outside London, Henri enlisted in the French army. They never saw each other again.
Even on the front line, Gaudier-Brzeska sketched, carved small statues from the butt of a German rifle, and wrote down more of ideas:
With all the destruction that works around us nothing is changed, even superficially. Life is the same strength, the moving agent that permits the small individual to assert himself.
After his death, Sophie went slowly mad, and wandered the streets of London, her fingers knitting together, distraught over the loss of her love.
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska at work in his studio.
In 1972, having succeeded in establishing himself as the best and most original British director since Alfred Hitchcock, Ken Russell repaid the debt he felt he owed to Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, and that slim volume by H. S. Ede, by adapting Savage Messiah for the screen. Russell made a beautiful and inspiring film, with a cracking script by poet Christopher Logue, set design by Derek Jarman, and sterling performances from Scott Antony as Henri, Dorothy Tutin as Sophie, along with Helen Mirren and Lindsay Kemp. As Joseph Lanza noted in his biography of the director, Phallic Frenzy:
...Russell draws bold battle lines between artists and society, as well as true art and commercialism…
Or, as Russell explained:
“Gaudier’s life was a good example to show that art, which is simply exploiting to the full one’s natural gifts, is really bloody hard work, misery, momentary defeat and taking a lot of bloody stick - and giving it…If you really want to show the hard work behind a work of art, then a sculptor is your best subject. I was very conscious of this in the sequence when Gaudier sculpts a statue all through the night. It’s the heart the core of the film, the most important scene to me.”
As the book Savage Messiah had inspired the young director, so Russell’s film inspired me. Though I doubt I will ever be able to pay back this debt, as Russell did so beautifully for Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.
Ken Russell’a film Savage Messiah can be watched here on Veoh.
The Vorticist magazine Blast, with contributions from Gaudier-Brzeska, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and Wyndham Lewis, is avaiable as a PDF. Issue 1 can be found here and issue 2here.
Over on AV Club journalist Steven Hyden has come to the end of his ten part look-back over the alternative music of the 90s called Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation? Cataloging his musical obsessions year by year from 1990 to 1999, the series (named after the long-defunct MTV alt-rock show) is a great read, and ends on a spectacular low point for pop culture - Woodstock ‘99.
Remember Woodstock ‘99? The one where lots of people got beaten and raped? Just as we had almost completely erased it from the collective conscious, back come memories of Fred Douche shouting at a bunch of drunken jocks to “RAPE SOMETHING!!” in his squeaky, balls-not-dropped voice, while security throw their badges an the ground and dive into the mosh pit. OK, so he didn’t encourage rape (not that I’m aware of anyway), but the point is still the same. The ‘90s pretty much started with Kurt Cobain in a dress, and ended with Durst’s audience forcibly ripping dresses off harassed women. What a fitting end to the decade, this series, and the story of rock music itself over those years.
So here’s a clip of Limp Bizkit playing “Break Stuff” at the festival. Yes, sorry, it is more terrible music on DM this week, but whereas I can find genuinely interesting aspects of Gaga/AntwoordAndrew WK, I cannot for the life of me see a shred of redemption for anyone involved in this aside from car-crash attraction. Durst goads the crowd into breaking stuff, advice they take literally, and then bemoans their lack of attention for almost two minutes while asking “is this mic working?”. An audience member tells him it is - presumably the crowd are too busy rioting or trying to avoid danger to pay much attention to the band. The situation has the strange, menacing air of a child playing with grown-up forces they don’t truly understand. And that pre-pubescent, squawking, try-too-hard-yet-not-hard-enough MC style of his is in full effect between 2:40 and 2:50, delivering hilarious lines like “I pack a chain saw!”
Hey it’s ok, you don’t have to watch this if you really don’t want to:
OK enough of that crap, back to WHTAN? The current article “1999: By The Time We Got To Woodstock ‘99” contains some interesting and chilling details from Woodstock ‘99, including stories of women getting gang raped in mosh-pits or being forced to bare their breasts to large groups of drunk guys, and security being woefully under-staffed and themselves being refused drinking water from the festival organizers. It begs the question - how the fuck did this festival ever take place? Oh wait, it’s that old devil called greed again. Greed and the fact that the hippy ideal hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that by the end of last century it had been almost completely wiped out. But then how the hell did acts like Korn, Kid Rock and Metallica embody Woodstock’s ideals in the first place? Needless to say the organizers of Woodstock do not come off looking good in this article.
So, were the late Ninties a complete curtural waste ground? No. Of course not. If I have a complaint about WHTAN? it is that it’s too rockist. I left this comment which describes how I personally feel about the path of “alternative” music in the 1990s:
“Great series but it just underlines for me how spent a cultural force rock became over this period. The original sense of anarchy and rebellion that made rock so engaging was strip mined to nothing in the Nineties. The real story of the decade is how rock, or alternative, was superseded by other genres and how people who before would have dismissed those genres started to like them. A lot. It’s what happened to me.
I would like to see someone write about what was REALLY alternative and fresh in the Nineties. Hip-hop (THE genre that defines those times), house (the early-to-mid 90s was probably the most gay-friendly period the mainstream has ever been), electronica (producers like Aphex/Squarepusher pushed boundaries that rock bands are still catching up with), drum & Bass, rave, Daft Punk etc. Real progression / boundary breaking in 90s music was being done by kids with samplers, computers and machines, not by guys with guitars trying to fit into patterns established 30 years before. Not to mention that the drugs were better. I hope someone will write a series about music beyond rock in the 90s, because that is the real story waiting to be explored. “
This post was brought to you in association with Niallism.
Over on Oli Beale’s website there’s an amusing post about he how he tortures his friend James on Facebook. Oli explains: “I like going on my friend’s Facebook page, taking photos of him, changing his face slightly then putting them back up on Facebook. He doesn’t like me doing this.”
The results are pretty freakin’ funny. For a good laugh, go to OLI + ALEX to see more ‘shopped images of James.