I did not know about this Spike Lee-directed “unofficial” video for “White Lines.” He made it when he was a New York University film student back in 1983 (The World’s Best Ever brought this to my attention, so thank you!).
The video starred a then 22-year-old Laurence Fishburne as a disco dust drug pusher.
The song was written by Melle Mel and Sugar Hill label boss Sylvia Robinson (not Grandmaster Flash as they wanted people to believe). The famous sampled bassline comes from Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern.”
KIRO did an interesting investigative report the other day where they got three drivers—medical marijuana patients all of them—stoned to the gills and then put them behind the wheel of a car to test their driving skills vs. the legal allowable limits of THC in their bloodstreams, as measured by Colorado and Washington. And then some. Each was accompanied by drivers-ed instructor, as a police officer visually inspected their performance for signs of impairment.
Although I’m sure that there are a lot of people who would watch this and think “I can drive fine when I’m high,” that’s clearly not the case with these folks after a certain point. True, the control group does consist of just three people (with Addy appearing to be a shitty driver whether she’d be high or not). Regardless, there’s something significant (and wholly positive) about a report like this when the American people can see with their own eyes that drivers who have taken a few puffs (and even really stoned drivers) still tend to be better drivers than someone who’s liquored up.
Personally, I don’t like driving if I’m even slightly baked. I prefer to be a stoned passenger (and much to my long-suffering wife’s annoyance, I usually am). However, given the theoretical choice, I’d much rather have to deal with sharing the road with stoned drivers instead of people who are drunk or texting.
Okay, I have to admit, this is pretty funny and WANT-worthy, right?
May I present to you the Black Lodge hat by Connoisseur:
Well, as we are now in the fifth year of the cult Weir hat our creative juices keep on flowing, this year sees two special editions inspired by two of Hollywood’s great cults. David Lynch’s Twin Peaks is the inspiration behind this one. Based on the extradimensional ‘Red Room’ from the cult TV series and accompanying film Fire Walk With Me.
We’re proud to present the Black Lodge hat.
I think you might have to actually be standing in a room of red curtains for anyone to get it, but I still like it.
Guest post by the great Mick Farren—an exclusive extract from his contribution to Mark Goodall’s Gathering of the Tribe: Music and Heavy Conscious Creation, a collection of essays on music and the occult, featuring contributions on The Fall, The Beatles, The Wu Tang Clan and more. Now available in paperback for the special price of $20.77.
Even the most cursory theological (or even Reichian) shakedown will reveal that rock’n’roll has quantum multiples of the potential mythic/mystic power ever commanded by conventional Satanism. Where so much of contemporary Satanism—with its upside down crosses, modified but still liturgical robes and rituals, its ammended litanies, the serving of a faux-Eucharist from the naked torso of an immobilized cooch dancer on bad acid (shout out, hey, Susan Atkins!)—reveals it as nothing nothing more than an inverted critique of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. (Much in the way that Marxism was essentially a critique of Victorian capitalism rather than a stand alone philosophy.)
Rock’n’roll, on the other hand, arrived on its own mythical half-shell and right away went about its own anarchic rites and wild communions. Jim Morrison, although decidedly from the death-star dark-side, and a fully accredited Agent of Chaos knew he didn’t need any contracts with Beelzebub. He was the Lizard King. He could do anything. The only deal he’d cut would be with Dionysius. John Lennon had stood in the power-eye of the rock’n’roll hurricane and knew what he was talking about when he made his famous “the Beatles are bigger than Jesus” remark.(That is, oddly, rarely quoted in full.)
Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first—rock’n’roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.
A full decade before Lennon and Morrison, however, some of the preachers who railed against rock’n’roll showed an awareness this brand new back-beat-from-the-pit might not be an instrument of Satan at all but a whole new independent threat to the god-fearing. In April of 1956. Lutheran minister W. Carter Merbreier attended an Elvis Presley show in Philadelphia where he observed “nervous, giggling girls screaming, falling to their knees as if in prayer, flopping limply over seats, stretching rigidly, wriggling in a supreme effort of ecstasy.” A few months later Des Moines Baptist, the Rev. Carl Elgena, warned his congregation that “Elvis Presley is morally insane and leading other young people to the same end. The belief of unholy pleasure has sent the morals of our nation down to rock bottom and the crowning addition to this day’s corruption is Elvis Presleyism.”
The concept “Elvis Presleyism” brings us to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ album The Firstborn is Dead. In the opening song, “Tupelo”—a radical reworking of a John Lee Hooker classic—Cave makes the vividly dramatic suggestion that the birth of Elvis Presley, coupled with the death of stillborn twin, Jesse Garon, was the product of a supernatural, of not apocalyptic, event horizon.
The black rain come down
Water water everywhere
Where no bird can fly no fish can swim
Where no bird can fly no fish can swim
No fish can swim
Til The King is born in Tupelo!
Cave wrote ‘Tupelo’ in 1984, seven years after Presley’s death, when it was plain that many of Elvis Presley’s more obsessive fans maintained a personal relationship with their idol that was wholly akin to born-again Christians professing to have an exclusive one-on-one with Jesus. When the Reverends Merbreier and Elgena hinted, way back in 1956, that Elvis might be the dangerous pied piper of some form of neo-paganism, they had the protection of the pulpit. For a lay person to explore such a concept would have been to court accusations of being certifiably crazy or worse. Who in their right mind could seriously suggest that the Son of Gladys might be—in addition to all his other accomplishments—a 20th century fertility symbol inately desired by a frightened world, maybe even before the mushroom clouds had fully dissipated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Humanity had developed the chain-reaction capacity for global-scale species-destruction, but had failed to evolve a philosophy to handle such hideous and overwhelming power. Couple that with plans for cookie-cutter totalitarian capitalism in one hemisphere with mirror-image Marxist repression in the other, plus new and tricky concepts like consumer uniformity and the pharmaceutical-brainwash tyranny of the psycho-civilized society (a major favorite of Sidney Gottlieb and the gang at MKULTRA), and a great many people—especially young people—wondered if they’d be better off back in the jungle for some animalism among the Old Gods.
Could the Elvis, the hillbilly cat, also be a Avalon mist-figure from an Arthurian Lord-of-the-Dance saga, or the myths of wounded Fisher Kings that stretched clear back to the megaliths of prehistory — and were so seriously and ironically invoked when Constantine and St. Augustine were mixing up Jesus Christ with Mithras to create the official deity of the Roman War Machine? Elvis the Fertility God may have also found himself cross fertilized by the horned and phallic, dark Legba divinities of Dahomey with their human sacrifices and Amazon girl soldiers, but, hell, isn’t that the just story of rock’n’roll?
If the pop culture of the mid-20th century was indeed a neo-pagan theocracy on the half shell, Marilyn Monroe could well have been drafted in as goddess-consort—although that might well cause a measure of temporal confusion that perhaps Jack Kennedy was the true Boy King from Camelot who actually took the hit. This would leave Elvis—who, by 1963, had been shorn and symbolically grunt-castrated as a conscript in what had formerly been George Patton’s Second Armored Division (Hell On Wheels)—as a much more esoteric entity.
But did anyone promise theology would be fast? Religions do not coagulate overnight. Christianity has had two full millenia on the game, plenty of time to work out its tortures, terrors, inquisitions, witchhunts, and multiple varieties of auto-da-fé. Rock—should it really prove to be a pagan belief system, or, more likely, a suspension of disbelief—has only been rolling for a tad over half a century, and, although it has exerted a profound effect on the culture of the times, its behaviour has been remarkably benign. It has provoked a number of peaceful mass gatherings, a few riots, only a very modest number of actual death cults, and made something of a junkie mess of the war in Vietnam.
Rock’n’roll has yet to pull any kind shit that stacks up against the Crusades or the Malleus Maleficarum. Although the second decade of the 21st century is hardly a halcyon time for paganism of any kind, and Evangelical Christianity—in the USA at least—is being allowed to get away with wholly unreasonable acts of fundamental stupidity. Route 66 runs now through a cruelly synched Bible Belt, and bands I don’t even care to name sell holy relics of what was once truly sacred. Perhaps some minor reformation might be about due, although the time is hardly ripe for burning corporate rock bands or even Simon Cowell in the cathedral square. At best we might reflect on Nick Cave and his speculations on what wonders might have attended the birth of Elvis Presley on January 8th, 1935, and wonder where they may take us.
In a clap-board shack with a roof of tin
Where the rain came down and leaked within
A young mother frozen on a concrete floor
With a bottle and a box and a cradle of straw
And Robert Johnson? Well hell, maybe he was taking about a wholly different devil.
The King will walk on Tupelo!
Tupelo-o-o! O Tupelo!
He carried the burden outa Tupelo!
Tupelo-o-o! Hey Tupelo! [Repeat]
You will reap just what you sow
In 1986, Leonard Cohen guest-starred on Miami Vice, playing Francois Zolan of the French Secret Service involved in a plot to blow up Greenpeace boats. The episode was called “French Twist.” His role was all too brief.
One of the first record covers I remember. It was in my father’s collection. 1955.
Remember that scene in Cameron Crowe’s film Almost Famous when the little kid pulls his big sister’s vinyl collection out from under the bed? As he flips through the record jackets, you experience a series of tiny epiphanies as each cover triggers a memory. You don’t even have to hear the music, the images are enough to send the viewer into his or her own personal reverie. Like an arcane language, each cover has a secret meaning specific to the one who perceives it. No two meanings alike. That brief scene was a movie in and of itself, capturing more of the glory of rock ‘n’ roll than all of the drama that followed.
Here are a few record covers that tell some of my story. And yes not all are album covers. Like most kids in the early Sixties, 45rpm records were mostly what I bought. They were the first offerings available from a new band. It was rare for a band to debut with an album. After 1965, my record collecting shifted almost solely to LPs. You knew what you were getting with an album by The Beatles, The Who, The Byrds or The Rolling Stones: a dozen mostly great songs. I didn’t start buying 45s again until punk came along.
Chuck Berry Is on Top, a compilation of Berry’s hits from the mid-to-late 50s, was released in 1959 on the Chess label. I was around nine or ten when my babysitter brought it to the house and slipped it onto the turntable of my red and white, portable record player. “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Maybelline” “Memphis” and Johnny B. Goode” were a crash course in the fundamentals of rock ‘n’ roll. As a kid who was interested in poetry, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Berry’s lyrical gifts. Chuck Berry, the Walt Whitman of rock.
The day following my initiation into Berryism, I walked to a nearby department store and bought my own copy. It was amazing how much magic $1.99 could buy.
In 1963, I was 12 years old and living in France. I had smoked my first cigarette, a Gauloises, and jerked-off for the first time (under an overturned row boat on the Riviera). I was cool and continental. A beach bum in the making. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean was not California’s west coast and I was a posse of one in my baggies and wrap-around shades. While the kids in the States were fingerbangin’ to the Beach Boys, I was pulling my pud to the melancholic epicness of Jack Nitzsche’s “The Lonely Surfer.” The kids in L.A. had Redondo, I had Belmondo.
Nitzsche created the soundtrack for my own imaginary Godardian beach blanket flick where hodaddys drank espresso while contemplating the inevitable wipeout and its aftermath.
Aren’t you supposed to grow out of a teenage crush? When it comes to the extraordinary Francoise Hardy, I never did. She always seemed hip and still does. Francoise wore leather, had beatnik hair and sang songs that evoked languid afternoons when teenage boys and girls stared mournfully into each others eyes as whole universes crashed and burned around them. Her voice rustled the air like the sound of a skirt being lifted by the hands of a country priest. In the quietude of her sweet laments, there was a hint of things best left unspoken. She is a beautiful melancholic mystery.
I had a deeply empathetic French mother who bought me a ticket to see Francoise Hardy perform at a concert hall in Cannes. This was to be my birthday present. I was turning 13. I looked forward to that concert like an astronaut waiting for lift-off. When the glorious day arrived, I ascended the steep marble steps of the concert hall and arrived at the ticket booth only to be greeted by my worse nightmare: a sign declaring that the show had been canceled! I was crushed. I felt as though I’d been stood up on my first date, shunned, abandoned. I suddenly understood the electric yearning in the twang of Nitzsche’s lonely guitars. I was the solitary surfer, crashing against waves of youthful despair. Oh, Francoise, why, why? That night I smoked enough Gauloises to make me puke.
By early 1964 the seeds of my discontent had been sown and were starting to take root. I was back in the States and had already been thrown out of school on several occasions. My mother was good at convincing my teachers that my rebellion was the result of having a father in the Navy who was always on duty somewhere else. I guess they felt it would be unpatriotic to throw me out for good.
My hair got longer, I got surlier. I had a rock ‘n’ roll attitude and it was attracting some of the cooler kids in school. I decided to make a mark for myself by throwing a party in the rec room of my parents’ home. There was one chick in particular that I knew this would impress, Lolly. I had the hots for Lolly.
I bought some records for the big event and encouraged my friends to bring some of their own favorite platters. I overestimated my classmates taste in music. Man, the shit they played. I tried to be a gracious host but the onslaught of top forty crap was killing me. Bobby Vinton, The Four Seasons, Lesley Gore, Trini Lopez, Tommy Roe, it all came together in a roiling shitstorm of absolute blandness.The thing is, everybody loved it. They were frugging like frogs on a hot plate. I stood by sullenly, taking it all in. Even Lolly was in the throws of top 40 fever. I finally couldn’t take it any longer. I grabbed a record from the stack I’d bought, a brand new release that I was sure no one had heard yet. I was gonna to be the first one to lay it on them. They’d get in line to thank me. Lolly would be bursting with pride. My reputation as a rock God would be sealed.
I walked over to the stereo, dropped the needle into the groove and the voodoo beat of The Rolling Stones playing “Not Fade Away” filled the room. What followed was like a movie scene shot in slow motion. The dancing throng disassembled into dozens of individual fragments. Skirts swirled and wobbled like tops spinning to a stop. Arms went rigid. Legs went slack. Smiles fell from faces like limbs from lepers. I had hurled a turd squarely at the center of the punch bowl and landed a bullseye. Of course it wasn’t my intent to bring my first teen party to an awful thudding halt. I had misjudged the crowd. They wanted pablum. I gave them The Rolling Stones.
Had I known the effect this choice would render, would I have done it again? Of course I would. And did! I played “Not Fade Away” until the only people left in the room were me and Lolly. I fucking kid you not. The Rolling Stones’ swampy mojo had chased my suburban school chums into the night where they flitted away like the nervous little fireflies they were. It was then that I realized the almighty power of real rock ‘n’ roll. This shit could scare people. It had the magic ability to separate the people I wanted to be around from the ones I did not. And it has worked that way all my life. I may love you, but if you don’t love my music, I love you a little less. And vice versa. Even today, one of the first questions I ask someone I’m meeting for the first time is “what music do you listen to?” It’s the “Not Fade Away” test. It has rarely failed me.
Making a movie is a very mathematical operation, Federico Fellini explains in this interview from 1972. It is like firing a missile into space—everything has to be prepared.
This control over film-making is neatly contrasted with the often random nature of documentary-making, when moments later a telephone rings and the interview is stopped. Fittingly, the sequence is kept in, as if it had been scripted.
There is also a great interplay between Fellini and interviewer Philip Jenkinson, where the director responds to the questions about his films—Roma, Amacord, Satyricon, his techniques, and his life, but rarely giving a definitive answer. There is a drama going on here between the two, of nuance and mood, with Fellini cleverly avoiding his being tied to one thought, one explanation, one answer. That is for the critics, he says.
Ultimately, Fellini defines movie-making, or artistic creation, as a form of autobiography.
Everything is autobiographical. How is it possible to live outside of yourself? Anything we do is also a testifying of yourself. If a creator makes something that pretends to be very objective, it is the autobiography of a man who is very objective…
He ends in a similar form:
...How is it possible to do something outside of your myth, of your world, of your character, of your history, of yourself?
It brings the interview almost full-circle, but Fellini’s answers throughout only leave the viewer wanting to know more. This is a classic and rare TV interview and demands to be seen.
Although its, uh, cultural cachet, I suppose, has fallen in recent decades, a doofy poem called “The Desiderata of Happiness” used to be something that you’d see on the walls of doctor’s and dentist’s offices, at your grandmother’s or great aunt’s houses, or maybe in the very home you grew up in, during the late 60s and 70s. (At one point hippies even adopted it).
You don’t see it so often today, but it’s still around. Now that you’ve had your attention called to it, the next time you see it (normally as a varnished wall plaque) you’ll remember this post (and wince).
You are a child of the universe,
No less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
“The Desiderata of Happiness” was written in 1906 by a lawyer named Max Erhmann, but it was unknown during his lifetime. Its slow burn to popularity began in the 1950s when a Baltimore pastor printed it up in some church materials. The prose poem’s advice to be humble, live a clean and moral life and to respect even thick people seems simplistic even by Forrest Gump or Sarah Palin standards, but for whatever reason this poem struck a chord with the public. (You can read more about its history at Wikipedia).
In 1971, a “groovy” American radio talkshow host by the name of Les Crane (once married to Gilligan’s Island‘s Tina Louise and considered by some to be the original “shock jock”) narrated a spoken word/musical version of the poem (avec gospel choir), that reached #8 in the Billboard charts and won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Performance of the Year. It was on the British pop charts for 14 months.
The following year, a wonderful parody version titled “Deteriorata” was created by the National Lampoon’s Michael O’Donoghue, Tony Hendra and Christopher Guest and released as a single (and on the classic Radio Dinner album). Melissa Manchester sang on the record. The humorously ponderous reading was handled by Norman Rose, a popular announcer of the day whose voice is also heard in Woody Allen’s Love & Death.
Years later, Les Crane was asked about “Desiderata” and said “I can’t listen to it now without gagging,” adding that he preferred the Lampoon’s piss-take. Eventually the parody became better-known than the original hit record due to frequent spins on the Dr. Demento radio show. Below is the original version, Les Crane version:
“Deteriorata,” The National Lampoon parody:
An excellent version of “Deteriorata” closes the new theatrical show Sketches from The National Lampoon that opened last weekend in Los Angeles. Produced by Lampoon founder Matty Simmons, with a winning cast—including our good friend the incomparable Jesse Merlin who gets to read “Deteriorata”—at the Hayworth Theatre on Wilshire Blvd.