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In Praise Of Oliver Reed
10.14.2009
02:03 pm
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Back in my Z Channel days, no actor seemed to show up more often—or was more welcomed by me—than England’s late great Oliver Reed.   In his 40-year career, Reed made nearly 100 films ranging from The Brood, The Devils, Tommy, Burnt Offerings, to the film that killed him (in a Maltese pub, of course), Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.

I think even as a kid, I was able to identify Reed’s onscreen appeal.  It’s the same element missing from so many of today’s career-focused actors: joy.  Reed loved performing, loved having an audience.  As might be expected from the man who once famously said, “My only regret is that I didn’t drink every pub dry and sleep with every woman on the planet,” Reed loved life, loved living it, and he clearly planned to squeeze from it every possible drop of pleasure, pinball wizards and haunted houses be damned.

Even “King of Cool” Steve McQueen proved no match for the Oliver Reed lifeforce.  The story goes that McQueen flew to London to discuss a project.  Putting business aside for a bit, the pair went on a marathon pub crawl which resulted in Reed vomiting on McQueen.  The project was never consummated.

Fortunately, we have all those many great films to remember Reed by.  But now, thanks to YouTube, we can revisit some of his more memorable small-screen performances.  Reed was a frequent, frequently drunk, guest on television both here and in the UK.

In a testament to the saccharine and stage-managed nature of our current talk show landscape, witness below as Reed gropes feminist writer Kate Millett on British TV’s After Dark.  Thanks to After Dark’s supplying of Reed with a “booze buffet” before and during taping, what starts out as a sober-minded discussion on militarism, masculine stereotypes, and violence to women, soon devolves into something else:

 
And that’s just the mesmerizing endpoint to an escalating, tour de force Reed workout you can watch in its entirety here: I, II, III.  But even on the dog-and-pony circuit this side of the Atlantic, Reed was no more willing to dilute his behavior.  His face-off with David Letterman follows below:

 
Bonus I: Oliver Reed drunk on Aspel and Company

Bonus II: Drinking With Oliver Reed

(Thank you, Chris Campion!)

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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10.14.2009
02:03 pm
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Discussion
The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra
10.04.2009
02:58 pm
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In the past year, I’ve been starting to delve into the quirky jazz sub-genre of Afrofuturism. One of the first posts I made on this blog when we launched was about organist Larry Young’s insane 1973 jazzspacerock monolith Lawrence of Newark. I’ve also told you of my love for Parliament-Funkadelic. The whole idea of outer space “Black Power” style sci-fi theorizings—especially if there are costumes and polemic involved—is something I give a big thumbs up to. After searching out more of Young’s music (look out for the bootleg of him jamming with Jimi Hendrix and the Love, Cry, Want album, recorded live at the Washington Mall during a concert that Nixon had the plug pulled on) and listening to his work obsessively in the car for months, I began to make tentative (and not for the first time) inroads to the unbelievably vast—over 1000 songs—catalog of the great Sun Ra.

It’s not easy to find an entry point into Sun Ra’s sprawling oeuvre. Every Sun Ra fan has a strong opinion and no one agrees on where to start. I’ve digested Jazz in Silhouette, Space is the Place, Secrets of the Sun, The Singles, The Nubians of Plutonia and the Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra—the ones you are “supposed” to start off with—but I find that the Transparency label’s Lost Reel Collection of rare Sun Ra recordings contain some of the most astonishing material I’ve heard thus far. I’m one of those people who likes the really “difficult” Miles Davis material (circa 1970 to 1975) so the futher out, usually, the better as far as I am concerned to jazz. According to a rock snob friend of mine who would know, the cache of tapes Transparency has access to are like no other material found in the official released Sun Ra canon. If you read the reviews, Sun Ra fanatics are going nuts over these discs, but always with the caveat that they’re for advanced Sun Ra listeners only. I’m not so sure that’s true because I’m really only now getting deeper into his music and these albums simply blew me away.

The first one I listened to was the fourth disc in the series, Dance of the Living Image. The tape it was mastered from was found in a box marked “Mexico City, 1/26/74” but instead it’s probably a rehearsal tape from San Francisco. The tape gets turned on and off abruptly, off when the things start to fall apart, then on again when inspiration flows and the musicians start to gel again. Hypnotic, syncopated, lumbering—almost dark—when the members of the group lock in, they seem to go through a psychic mind meld, especially during the final 17-minute long jam on disc one.

The Creator of the Universe, volume one in the series, I listened to next. The first CD (many of the Lost Reel Collections are two disc sets) is a live recording at a San Francisco warehouse with a long impassioned black power speech, with a blaring call and response from the horn section. It’s totally wild and eccentric. Sun Ra improvises brilliantly on a Moog synthesizer. Some of it sounds like PiL’s Metal Box or Krautrock. The second disc is a recording of a lecture given by Sun Ra at UC Berkeley in 1971. It’s out of the ballpark amazing. In one part of the speech, Sun Ra explains how the different races have different vibrations and different innate born talents and things they can each do better than the other races and why we should all respect one another, because of our differences as much as our commonality. It’s sweet, cosmic, funny, deep and everything you would hope a lecture by Sun Ra would be.

I could go on about this further, but why not sample a little Sun Ra yourself? Here’s an audio blog with links to a lot of Sun Ra material. And here are a couple of fantastic Sun Ra clips found on YouTube:
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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10.04.2009
02:58 pm
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Discussion
Void of Course: An Interview With Jim Carroll
09.14.2009
03:50 pm
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In honor of the passing of Mr. Jim Carroll, I found an interview with him that I did one month after 9/11, in Saratoga, CA, at a reading from Void of Course. In it, he discusses the effect of the WTC bombing on life and art. Originally published October 24, 2001.

Jason Louv: A lot of your work, especially your diaries, have been about NY and living in it and being a part of it as a city. Are recent events going to affect your work at all?

Jim Carroll: Yes. Yes. I mean it changes my past work, it changes everybody’s past work. But everybody’s work is always changed, with every new book that a person writes. You look at a person who maybe influenced that person in a different way you know? You know when Beckett started writing, we looked at Joyce’s books differently. But, when something like this happens, the psyche of America is changed, you better believe that it changes things. You know, I say in The Basketball Diaries, “I know now that I want to be a writer, I feel it stronger each day.” Then I say that I want to have my writing powerful enough so that one day I’ll write a book that’s 8 pages long, and everytime you turn the page a different section of the Pentagon will explode. Solid.

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Posted by Jason Louv
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09.14.2009
03:50 pm
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Discussion
Turning 50 With Robert Frank’s Americans, Pull My Daisy
09.11.2009
05:33 pm
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While a mood of reflection descends upon on our nation, what better day than today, this 8-year anniversary, to reflect on something approaching its 50th?   Like many people, I have stacks of books by my bed, but beyond all the stacks, flat and visible on a nightstand, I keep a copy of The Americans, Swiss photographer—and Cocksucker Blues auteur—Robert Frank‘s epic, black-and-white meditation on what America looked like in the 12 or so months following the summer of ‘55.

Just eighty-three photos winnowed down from oh, twenty-seven thousand, Frank’s book winds up in my hands time and time again, and if, as Rod Stewart says, “every picture tells a story,” I’m by now pretty sure I’ve forged a story from each of its melancholy images.

But that’s what photos do—the good ones, anyway.  Reduced to two dimensions, stripped from time and place, photographs compel us to find the metaphor.  To search for meaning.  That freedom to look and think and wonder, it’s a large part of The Americans’ stark, open-ended beauty.  And for Frank’s subjects, too, contemplation shows up as a favored mode of expression.  As Anthony Lane writes in the current New Yorker:

Was there ever a book as full of looking as Robert Frank?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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09.11.2009
05:33 pm
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Discussion
You Never Give Me Your Money: Metzger on the Beatles Remasters
09.10.2009
02:12 pm
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The Beatles remasters have finally hit the street and all across the world, music fans are gorging themselves on the most fabled and revered repertoire in pop music history. This may well prove to be the last hurrah of the CD age and certainly the marketing gurus at Capital have been working overtime to make sure we’ve all very aware of the Beatles as we approach this holiday season. It’s highly likely that the Fab Four will prove to be the best selling artists of this decade, an incredible feat for a group that disbanded nearly 40 years ago. So the question—the only question, for the Beatles are hardly an unknown quantity—is simply are these new versions worth it? Are they that much different? Should people who’ve already bought these albums umpteen times buy them again? I’ll try to answer that question here for those of you who still might be on the fence.

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.10.2009
02:12 pm
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