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Say Yes to the astonishing guitar solo from ‘Starship Trooper’
04:31 am


Steve Howe

If you’re “of a certain age”—say early-50s on up—then progrock was most likely part of the musical background of your existence. You might not have exactly requested it specifically—was there anyone who could have anticipated, say, Jethro Tull?—but inescapably songs like “Aqualung,” Emerson Lake and Palmer’s “Lucky Man” and “Roundabout” by Yes were part of the soundtrack to your young life, even if it was just through osmosis. These days you can avoid the mainstream, back then it’s all there was and prog was the big thing for a while…

However, if you’re around my age (I’m 48) progrock groups were seen as the enemy. Budding young rock snob that I was, I can recall picking up Uriah Heep, ELP, Robin Trower and Nektar albums at garage sales when I was in the 5th grade and being fairly perplexed that people actually liked this kind of stuff, or that I myself might be expected to like such crappy music to “fit in” or something. It was confusing when I first started buying records—an album by The Who, The Stones or The Kinks from the 60s would be great, whereas one from 1976 would be just… fucking terrible. In any case, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols came out two days after my 11th birthday and that confusion ended. Instantly. If you were all “punk rock,” then you had no time for progrock bands. You hated them. They were all totally unredeemably shit. (All of them, except for maybe King Crimson. Robert Fripp, now he was cool.)

Things being the way they are, eventually the record industry, or at least a few heroic indie labels, began to sell the again MOJO-reading public on the notion of opening their ears up to music they’d have shunned in the past. Admittedly, it’s only been in recent years that I’ve personally been willing to consider the prog rock genre seriously, and not be reflexively close-minded about it. I’ve simply exhausted most other sections at the record store, and I’ve got an insatiable appetite for finding new music, so why not prog? Much of what I’ve been picking up on are the surround sound editions that Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson has been working on, revamping classic prog albums for 5.1 audio. If Wilson is involved in it, I definitely want to hear it and as a result I’m discovering some great “new” music, like, you know… Jethro Tull.

Good times!

So yeah... um… Yes? “Roundabout” aside, I never liked Yes and never really had the time for them. I didn’t hate them, but they wore capes and seemed very “Middle Earth” to me which had pretty much no appeal to me whatsoever when I could listen to Kraftwerk, David Bowie, The Residents or Public Image Ltd. (Ironically PiL’s Keith Levene was a roadie for Yes in 1974). It was earlier this year when my wife admitted that she was a “closet” Yes fan that I decided to bring Wilson’s Close to the Edge 5.1 surround mix home from the record store for both of us to listen to (I’m always accused of monopolizing the stereo, so this was a sop to that criticism.) I quickly got pretty obsessed with that album—ultimately annoying her with it in the process, I’ sure—but the thing that that just knocked down any resistance to the glory that is Yes, for me, was hearing Steven Wilson’s surround treatment of “Würm,” the third movement of The Yes Album‘s “Starship Trooper.”

Sublime. Glorious. It’s a soaring electric guitar symphony. Playing it loud—I mean really loud—it gets to the point where you feel like you’re standing on the tarmac as a jet takes off. It’s a crazy good. Even if you hate progrock in general, or Yes in particular, you can make an exception for this amazing song. Once you do, you’ll get why Yes was such a huge act in the 70s and beyond. It—they—suddenly clicked for me. Now I love them, or at least I love some of their albums.

But here’s the thing, “Würm” and its memorable, hypnotic riff and blistering guitar solo, was actually taken from a song called “Nether Street” that had been recorded by Howe’s post Tomorrow and pre Yes band, Bodast, in 1968 or 69. It came to naught for them although Howe was loyal enough to the group to stick with them in the face of recruitment attempts from both Jethro Tull and Keith Emerson’s band The Nice before packing it in. Howe revived “Nether Street” for “Starship Trooper” in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1981 that the original recording saw the light of day.

Steve Howe told Music Radar:

The song wasn’t rehearsed; it was constructed in the studio from various pieces. I had the Wurm part from another band I used to be in called Bodast. It was in a song called “The Ghost Of Nether Street.” We’d recorded an album, but the label closed down, and so the record never came out.

I always loved the section as a whole piece of music, so I decided to carry it over to Yes. I like the way it goes from G to E-flat to C, but different things happen on the roots. Although it repeats endlessly, it sometimes has the fifth below roots on the chords. It sounds like a lot going on, and of course, it’s flanged.

The build-up of it is very impressive. It splits into two guitar tracks, one side taking a solo. Somehow, we did a bunch of takes, and so we’d pick the best of each. They were all done as complete takes. I remember thinking that I was sort of jamming with myself.

The “Disillusion” section came from another old song: “For Everyone” was a Yes number written by bassist Chris Squire that was played in concert back in the Peter Banks days but never recorded.

Our guest editors Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd pay tribute to the mighty “Würm” with the name of their new Electric Würms project. The Würm is also a river in Bavaria which gave its name to the Würm glaciation ice age when Scandinavia and much of Britain were under ice. Wurm (sans the umlaut) is an Olde English word for “dragon.”

Here’s “Starship Trooper” as heard on The Yes Album. If you’re one of those people—like I was—resistant to progrock, turn this sucker up good and loud and let it wash all the fuck over you. It’s over nine minutes long, but the build-up is crucial.

Here’s the original Bodast recording of “Nether Street.” Almost as amazing as “Würm” itself for—ahem—damned obvious reasons!

A fan-made video of “Starship Trooper” as it was heard on the live Yessongs album (In the concert film only the final part of the song is used, so the earlier shots are from other numbers. It works.)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
John Cheever vs. Burt Lancaster and the making of ‘The Swimmer’
05:15 am


John Cheever
Burt Lancaster

Author John Cheever made a fleeting appearance in the film adaptation of his story The Swimmer during the summer of 1966. He played John Estabrook, a party guest at one of the homes Burt Lancaster’s character Ned Merrill visited on his journey to swim pool to pool across the county. In a letter to a friend, Cheever described his day’s filming:

What I was supposed to do was to shake hands with Lancaster and say “You’ve got a great tan there, Neddy.” Things like that. I was supposed to improvise…

So we rehearsed about a dozen times and then we got ready for the first take but when this dish [actress Janet Landgard] came on instead of shaking hands with her I gave her a big kiss. So then when the take was over Lancaster began to shout: “That son of a bitch is padding his part” and I said I was supposed to improvise and [director] Frank [Perry] said it was all right. I asked the girl if she minded being kissed and she said no, she said I had more spark than anybody else on the set…

Lancaster heard her. Anyhow on the second take I bussed her but when I reached out to shake Lancaster’s hand the bastard was standing with his hands behind his back. So after the take I said that he was supposed to shake hands with me and he said he was just improvising. So on the third take I kissed her but when I made a grab for Lancaster all I got was a good look at his surgical incision in the neighborhood of his kidneys. We made about six takes in all but our friendship is definitely on the rocks.

John Cheever was an established writer by the time the movie was made. He sold his first short story “Expelled From Prep School”  in 1930 when he was eighteen years old. He sold his first story to the New Yorker two years later and went on to publish 120 stories with the magazine.  His first novel The Wapshot Chronicle was published in 1957. Cheever originally intended his story “The Swimmer” as a full-length novel, with each chapter set in one of the 30 neighboring pools Ned swims across on his way home to his wife and family. He had been “kicking around” an idea of retelling the Greek myth of Narcisus which, according to his biographer Blake Bailey, was loosely inspired by his meeting Ned Rorem, with whom he had a brief sexual relationship, at an artist’s community in Saratoga Springs:

...[Cheever] had in mind a fellow Yaddo guest whom his meeting for the first time that September, composer Ned Rorem, who’d just broken his ankle and was hobbling about with a little plaster cast. As a reader of Freud, Cheever tended to equate homosexuality with narcissism, and in this respect the (almost) forty-year-old Rorem struck him as a kind of wistful, aging boy: “[H]e seems, in halflights, to represent the pure impetuousness of youth, the first flush of manhood, Cheever wrote. “He intends to be compared to a summer’s day, particularly its last hours and yet I think he is none of this.”

But the idea of retelling the Narcissus myth for modern day seemed slight, as Cheever noted in his journal for 1963:

I would like not to do the Swimmer as Narcissus. The possibility of a man’s becoming infatuated with his own image is there, dramatized by a certain odor of abnormality, but this is like picking out an unsound apple for celebration when the orchard is full of fine specimens.

Moving the story away from Narcissus gave Cheever greater freedom with his narrative, but he soon realized the main difficulty in writing the story as a novel was the impossibility of convincingly maintaining Ned Merrill’s delusions about his life over a long period of time:

The Swimmer might go through the seasons; I don’t know, but I know it is not Narcissus. Might the seasons change? Might the leaves turn and begin to fall? Might it grow cold? Might there be snow? But what is the meaning of this? One does not grow old in the space of an afternoon.

He further explained the struggle of writing “The Swimmer” in Conversations with John Cheever:

It was growing cold and quiet. It was turning into winter. Involuntarily. It was a terrible experience, writing that story. I was very unhappy. Not only I the narrator, but I John Cheever was crushed.

He edited his text down from 150 pages to about twelve, which meant the story moved seamlessly from one season to another within the space of a sentence.  “The Swimmer” was published in the New Yorker on July 18, 1964, and became Cheever’s most famous story.
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Le Cabaret de L’Enfer: Turn of the century Paris nightclub modeled after Hell
06:53 am



As a general rule, theme bars are embarrassing affairs. You have your corny waitstaff, your overly literal decor and a sense of forced performance that’s… annoying. Once in a blue moon though, there has been a theme bar so fucking cool you would sell your soul to get in. Tragically, you would have to strike some kind of deal with the devil to go to Le Cabaret de L’Enfer, since the Paris red light district nightclub opened around the turn of the last century and closed sometime during the middle of it. Very little information exists on L’Enfer, but the detail in the decor is absolutely gorgeous—almost Boschian elements of twisting human, animal and skeletal forms—couldn’t you just die?

An entry from National Geographic says that the doorman and waiters dressed as Satan and an order of coffees with cognac was translated as “seething bumpers of molten sins, with a dash of brimstone intensifier.” Okay, so that’s a little bit corny, but come on, it’s a goddamn hellmouth! If you’ll notice the external photographs, some cheeky (or possibly just opportunistic) mind opened a club next door called “Ciel,” the French word for “Heaven.” I appreciate the consistency, but let’s be honest-which bar would you rather go to?









Roughly translated: “L’Enfer (Hell), the only cabaret like it in the world, every night from 8 to 2:30 in the morning, devilish attractions, torment of the damned, round of the damned, the boiler (whatever that was), metamorphoses of the damned
Via Retronaut

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Anatomical Venus: The gory idealized beauty of wax medical models
06:24 am


anatomical Venus

From the “Josephinum Museum” of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria. Late 18th century
The importance of anatomical models cannot be overstated in the education of medical professionals, but these learning tools have not always been so… clinical. Behold, the “Anatomical Venus,” idealized female forms first popularized in 18th century Europe, intended for the education of both medical students and a curious public (men and women were most often segregated for viewings). The figures were usually made of wax, which is malleable and conducive to bright colors and the “ladies” were often adorned with jewelry, ribbons and elaborate makeup.

Disturbingly, some of models look dead, while others are depicted as if they were flayed alive—some even appear to express a level of eroticism. The detail and care in craftsmanship only ups the uncanny factor. Fair warning, quite a few of these are probably not safe for work, and not just for anatomical gore. Boobs, even waxen or terra cotta medical boobs, can get a person in trouble with the boss, and the creepy bedroom eyes of these disemboweled beauties could definitely give the wrong impression as to your perversity. I saved the most unsettling (at least in my opinion), for last—a decidedly unimpressed woman giving birth… the doctor’s hand is featured.

From La Specola museum. Florence, Italy, 1818

From Museu d’Història de la Medicina de Catalunya. Barcelona, Spain, 19th century

From La Specola museum, Florence, Italy, 18th century. By Clemente Susini. Note the tiny fetus.

From La Specola museum, Florence, Italy, no date given.

Depicting eyelid surgery. From Musée Orfila, Paris, France, no date given.

Giovan-Battista Manfredini, late 18th century. Actually made from terra cotta, not wax.

Late 19th century

Jules Talrich, Paris, late 19th century.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
‘Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground’: The best book yet on the dawn of punk rock

Early band shot of Blondie

In the now long line of endless punk rock history cash-in books being pumped out from every corner of the world it’s shocking to find the one book that’s not like the others. Paul Zone’s Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground published by Glitterati Inc. is a coffee table book brimming with amazing, unseen photos and the life story of Paul and his brothers Miki Zone and Mandy Zone and their bands The Fast and later, Man 2 Man. What makes this book different is its author and the time frame it takes place in.

There was a short moment when everything was happening at once, no one knew or cared and the only band that had an audience or a record deal was the New York Dolls. As early as 1974 Patti Smith was playing, as was Television, Wayne County, Suicide and Blondie. The Ramones were starting to play at CBGB (opening for a drag show that starred Tomata du Plenty later of Screamers fame), KISS was pretty much in this same scene playing to about five people with many bands like The Planets And Paul’s brothers The Fast were playing alongside of them. At one point, sub-culturally speaking, all the cards were thrown up in the air and no one knew where they were going to land. It was a very small group of friends almost all of whom would, in a few short years, become icons of pop culture,
Johnny Thunders, early 70’s

At the time, Paul Zone was very young. Too young to be in a band, but not too young to see a band or be snuck into the back room at Max’s Kansas City. And not too young to document this exciting time in his life by photographing everything. There are very few photos of this period when punk rock was actually occurring in the midst of the glitter rock scene. When the up and down escalators of rock ‘n’ roll infinity met and EVERYONE was hungry on the way up AND on the way down. There was change in the air, excitement and confusion.

Seeing Alan Vega of Suicide performing in a loft in 1973 with a huge blonde wig and a gold painted face is unbelievable. The years the photos in the book span are 1971 to 1978. Most are snapshots of friends hanging out when everyone was still on the starting line. The Fast were one of the more popular of these bands who let their new friends Blondie and The Ramones open for them in small New York clubs.

Early photos of The Fast show them amazingly in full glitter regalia with KISS-like make up (Miki Zone has a heart painted over one eye, etc.) but this was before KISS! There are a few photos of icons of the time like Alice Cooper (watching cartoons in his hotel room), Marc Bolan, The Stooges, etc. (a good one of KISS with about three people in the audience, as mentioned above). Most are of friends just hanging out, having a ball, not knowing or caring about the future and without that dividing line in music history called “punk rock.” It is truly a treasure to see something this rare, and even better, 99% of these photos have never been seen before.
Wayne County long before becoming Jayne County

By 1976 Paul Zone was old enough to join his brothers and became the lead singer of the version of The Fast that made records. Sadly due to poor management decisions The Fast got left behind that first punk wave and watched as almost all of their buddies become some of the most famous faces in music history. How amazing that all of these people were friends just hanging out, broke and creative going to see each other play, talking shit and influencing each other in ways they didn’t even realize?
Joey Ramone eating dessert at Paul Zone’s parents house at 5 am

Linda Ramone, future design icon Anna Sui, Nick Berlin and me, Howie Pyro (The Blessed) at Coney Island 1978

After a few years of struggling, The Fast trimmed down to just brothers Miki and Paul Zone and some early electronic equipment. They finally let go of the name The Fast and became Man to Man, one of the first Hi-NRG electro dance music groups, recording with the likes of Bobby Orlando and Man Parrish. They had huge hits worldwide and here in dance clubs like “Male Stripper” and “Energy Is Eurobeat,”
Suicide’s Alan Vega, early 70’s

This book is three quarters a photo book and one quarter autobiography, cutting to the point and perfect for this modern, short attention span world. It is packed with so much amazing first hand information in such a short amount of text that no one will be disappointed. Playground was co-written by Jake Austen of Roctober Magazine, with a foreword by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie. The book is available here
If you are in the Los Angeles area this Saturday, June 28th, there will be a book release party and photo exhibit (with many of these photos printed HUGE) at Lethal Amounts Gallery at 8 pm.

Posted by Howie Pyro | Discussion
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