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David Bowie narrates ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ 1978
07:25 am


David Bowie
Peter and the Wolf

Thanks to its ubiquity in kids’ music appreciation programs, Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf is easily one of the best-known pieces of orchestral music of the 20th Century. Even among those of us who don’t really know classical music in great depth, its main themes are instantly recognizable. As a broadly popular work that was in the USA’s public domain for many years (it’s not anymore, so if you’re an orchestra conductor, don’t go gettin’ any ideas) Peter has been copiously recorded, released, and adapted for other media, but the release that I suspect will be of the greatest interest to DM’s readers is the version I have, RCA’s 1978 LP—on green vinyl!—featuring an enchanting, beautifully recorded performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the great Hungarian-born conductor Eugene Ormandy, with narration by David Bowie.


Though the vinyl seems to have only ever been issued once, the recording remains widely available on CD—a quick perusal of Discogs reveals that it was issued on CD several times between 1992 and last year, with a frankly silly cover image of wolf ears collaged onto Mr. Bowie’s head.


Peter And The Wolf by David Bowie on Grooveshark

We’ve heard lately that a few readers have had problems with Grooveshark embeds. If you’re among them and you want to hear this, there’s a YouTube playlist of the recording here. And if you don’t mind an abridged version (and you can endure an ad), you may enjoy this clever superimposition of the edited Bowie narration over a famous 1946 animated short.

Now, this has nothing to do with the Bowie version, but I don’t know when else I’m going to get to bring this up: if you still haven’t seen the 2006 stop-motion Peter and the Wolf by Suzie Templeton, you really need to do that as soon as possible. It’s free for streaming to Netflix and Amazon Prime subscribers (and a bargainous $2 for non-Prime users), and it is absolutely wonderful. I couldn’t find an embeddable version of the whole thing, but here’s a taste.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Frank Zappa as record label honcho in ‘From Straight to Bizarre’

By far the majority of artist-run record labels exist as mere vanity imprints, releasing an album or two by the musician/would-be entrepreneur him/herself, and that’s that. Noteworthy exceptions are certainly around—Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records and Null Corporation, Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe, and Jack White’s Third Man are a few artist-run labels that have achieved significant successes.

An early example of such an artist using his own label to bypass the strictures of major label deals is, unsurprisingly, the iconoclastically independent-minded Frank Zappa. In the late ‘60s, when Verve Records inexplicably missed their deadline to re-up Zappa’s contract, he and his manager Herb Cohen used that leverage to establish their own production company and label, to retain creative control, and to release artists they favored. The labels they established were Straight Records and Bizarre Records. Between them, in a mere five years of existence, the labels released albums by Lenny Bruce and Wild Man Fischer, and now-immortal recordings like Alice Cooper’s Love It to Death, Tim Buckley’s Starsailor, and Captain Beefheart essentials like Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby.

Tom O’Dell’s 2011 documentary From Straight to Bizarre tells the labels’ story in detail, through interviews with Pamela Des Barres, John “Drumbo” French, Sandy “Essra Mohawk” Hurvitz, Kim Fowley, Alice Cooper’s Dennis Dunaway and the Mothers of Invention’s Jeff Simmons, among many others. YouTube user Treble Clef has broken the feature-length doc into short chunks for your piecemeal viewing convenience. There’s a lot of illuminating stuff herein, so please, enjoy.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Lou Reed and Brian Eno, together at last: it’s ‘Metal Machine Music For Airports’

When the mashup phenomenon hit remix culture a dozen or so years ago, I found the whole business exhilarating. DJs were gleefully combining a capella tracks with instrumental beds from often wholly incompatible songs and making it work, sometimes giving valuable new context to classics, sometimes even creating tracks that improved on both of their sources. People like dsico, Freelance Hellraiser, and the massively gifted and almost frighteningly prolific Go Home Productions were fashioning technically impressive and admirably witty pop-song syntheses.

What I’m sharing with you today isn’t nearly as advanced as all that.

Some clever or stupid person (it’s such a fine line) using the nom de YouTube “machined01” has mashed up Lou Reed‘s immortal noise prank Metal Machine Music with Brian Eno’s groundbreaking Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Not a dazzling technical feat, surely, but the results, surprisingly, are really lovely.

‘Metal Machine Music For Airports 1

‘Metal Machine Music For Airports 2

‘Metal Machine Music For Airports 3

‘Metal Machine Music For Airports 4

Feel free to kick the concept up a level and play all four at once.

Here’s a fantastic TV clip of Eno talking about Music For Airports, and how he arrived at the ideas that would codify just about all of the ambient music that followed. It’s not very long, and well worth the few minutes of your time.

A big ol’ hat tip is due to Pitchfork/The Wire scribe Marc Masters (who also co-wrote the book on No-Wave, as it happens) for this find.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Everything you always wanted to know about Samuel Beckett, but couldn’t be bothered to ask
02:57 pm


Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett said little of his experiences during the Second World War. He dismissed his work with the French Resistance as “boy scout stuff.” Whatever his activities, they were important enough for General Charles de Gaulle to award Beckett the Croix de Guerre.

After the war, he returned home to Ireland to see his mother. He stopped off in London to visit friends, who noticed the change in him—he had lost weight, looked tired, weary, his face lined, his teeth bad.

At home in Dublin, he was saddened to find his mother ill with Parkinson’s disease. He stayed to look after her for six weeks. It was during this time that Beckett had an epiphany that was to change his life, and eventually modern literature.

One day, while out walking along the harbor wall during storm, Beckett had a vision how his life must be if he wanted to succeed as a writer.

He had always written in English, and had been long influenced by James Joyce. Facing out to the gray, lace-capped sea, Beckett understood he must write in another language, and must break with Ireland’s rich literary traditions, which were holding him back. He suddenly saw his path was not with “enrichment,” but with “impoverishment.”

“I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, [being] in control of one’s material. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. I realized that my own way was in impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, in subtracting rather than in adding.”

Beckett began to write in French, and over the following decade, he composed the novels, poetry and plays that established his reputation as one of the century’s greatest authors.

With reference to the autobiographical elements contained within Krapp’s Last Tape, this two-part documentary, Samuel Beckett: As the Story was Told is “a rare glimpse into the reclusive world of this literary giant, whose most famous work, Waiting for Godot, evokes with unnerving precision the cosmic despair and isolation of modern humankind.”



Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Nina Simone calls for ‘Revolution’ at the Harlem Cultural Festival, 1969
12:55 pm


Nina Simone

The great Civil Rights-era “High Priestess of Soul,” Nina Simone was born on this day in 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina. Simone was one of the 20th century’s greatest—and most controversial—musicians, calling for armed and violent revolution by Black people so that African Americans could form a separate state. She was made to feel quite unwelcome in Nixon’s America and disappointed by the revolutionary and political movements she had been associated with, became a citizen of the world. “America had betrayed me, betrayed my people and stamped on our hopes,” she told interviewers. “No way am I ever going to go back there and live. You get racism crossing the street, it’s in the very fabric of American society.”

When Simone did finally return to the US, in 1985, she was immediately arrested for tax evasion (she had refused to pay taxes as a protest against the war in Vietnam). She died at her home in France in 2003.

In this utterly extraordinary footage of Nina Simone performing at the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969 (“the Black Woodstock), she does her powerful song “Revolution,” of which John Lennon said in 1971:

“I thought it was interesting that Nina Simone did a sort of answer to “Revolution.” That was very good — it was sort of like “Revolution,” but not quite. That I sort of enjoyed, somebody who reacted immediately to what I had said.”

I think her idea of what sort of revolution was called for and his were quite a bit different. He was in the bag, so to speak, for peace. Simone wasn’t.

And now we got a revolution
Cause I see the face of things to come
Yeah, your Constitution
Well, my friend, it’s gonna have to bend
I’m here to tell you about destruction
Of all the evil that will have to end


Singin’ about a revolution
Because were talkin’ about a change
It’s more than just evolution
Well you know you got to clean your brain
The only way that we can stand in fact
Is when you get your foot off our back

If you want to see all of the jaw-dropping footage of Nina Simone at the Harlem Cultural Festival, they’ve pieced together her entire set over at Arthur.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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J. G. Ballard: Undermining bourgeois certainties and ‘Empire of the Sun’
10:15 am


J. G. Ballard

Writing is a very peculiar existence, J. G. Ballard told an audience during an interview for his novel Empire of the Sun, at the ICA London, in 1984.

”Unlike playwrights, composers, sculptors and painters who can go to first nights and gallery openings and alike, the writer never sees his audience. I mean, I have never in my life seen anybody reading one of my books.”

Ballard’s knowledge of his audience came from the letters he received, mainly written by teenage Science Fiction fans. He believed his audience was limited as the reading of such speculative or “imaginative fiction—which is not popular on the whole—is a very solitary business.”

”It’s an extreme fiction made out of extreme metaphors, and I think only people with that taste for extreme solutions are going to be drawn to imaginative fiction. Let’s face it, if Gulliver’s Travels or Alice in Wonderland were published for the first time now they would meet with rather a mixed response. Imaginative fiction is not popular as a whole, I don’t think.”

Ballard devoted his whole career to imaginative fiction, and was more influenced by the Surrealists than his favorite novelists Graham Greene and William Burroughs.

”I have a great built in hostility towards the realistic social novel because it does tend to accept society as it finds it. I feel it is particularly dangerous in sort of puritanical, northern European countries like this one, where there’s a polite distaste for going too far—for going anywhere at all practically.

“I have devoted my career, for what it’s worth, to undermining the bourgeois certainties wherever I can, and the bourgeois novel is target number one on my list. I see the writer’s role as important but I recognize, and one has got to be a realist, most people prefer cosy certainties of life to permanent revolution, as the Surrealists called it, but that doesn’t discourage me at all.”

Empire of the Sun was the first of Ballard’s fictional autobiographies, loosely based on his childhood experiences as a prisoner-of-war at Lunghua Civilian Assembly in Shanghai during World War II. The novel was his most successful and was filmed by Steven Spielberg in 1987. In this interview with Matthew Hoffman, Ballard briefly discusses this book, his career as a writer up to 1984, as well as giving his views on America and the rise of China.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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New Slint documentary trailer released
12:11 pm


Lance Bangs

On the heels of Touch & Go’s announcement of an insanely comprehensive Slint box set comes the release of the trailer for Lance Bangs’ documentary on the band, Breadcrumb Trail. Bangs’ impressive resume includes music videos for Arcade Fire, Pavement, Kanye West, The Shins, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and Belle & Sebastian. Slint, of course, were the band of Louisville kids who dropped a very quiet atom bomb called Spiderland in 1991. The album hugely influenced math rock, slo-core, and Post-Rock, and so had a massive impact on the independent music of the 1990s and beyond. I’ve drooled on at length about it before, so I’ll not rehash. I’ll just point you here.

One thing about the trailer that’s just killing me—I am about Slint’s members’ age, and so I was a 19-year-old kid in college when the album came out, and damn if they don’t look ridiculously young to me now. So, how’d YOU change the world before you finished school?

Per Vice, screenings of Breadcrumb Trail don’t begin until mid-March, but I’m crazy-excited to see it. I’m especially keen to see how well it complements the 33 1/3 book on the album, which is thus far the single best source of information I’ve found on the somewhat mercurial band.

Enjoy the trailer.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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King Buzzo of The Melvins announces solo acoustic tour
09:27 am


King Buzzo

Guitarist Buzz “King Buzzo” Osborne of the Melvins is widely known for a brutally heavy sound that served as a major influence on post-hardcore, stoner rock and doom metal. Despite almost never having played a quiet, undistorted note in his 30-plus year career, he’s just announced a solo acoustic tour for this spring.

This has GOT to be interesting. The following dates were listed this morning on the Melvins’ official Facebook page:

Mar. 2 - Minneapolis, MN - Grumpy’s Bar & Grill
Mar. 6 - Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room
Mar. 8 - Kansas City, MO - The Riot Room
Mar. 10 - Norman, OK - Opolis Production LLC
Mar. 11 - Dallas, TX - Club Dada
Mar. 13 - Austin, TX - Record Label Rummage Sale
Mar. 16 - Little Rock, AR - Stickyz Rock N’ Roll Chicken Shack
Mar. 17 - Memphis, TN - Hi-Tone
Mar. 20 - Louisville, KY - Zanzabar
Mar. 21 - Indianapolis, IN - Radio Radio
Mar. 22 - Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen
Mar. 23 - Madison, WI - High Noon Saloon


In commemoration of the tour, a 10” EP titled This Machine Kills Artists will be released by Amphetamine Reptile.

Footage of Osborne playing without amplification is unsurprisingly hard to come by, but what exists is terrific. Here he is playing an acoustic version of “Revolve” from the Melvins’ 1994 LP Stoner Witch, and talking in some depth about his process.

Bonus! Here’s Buzzo being interviewed by Fox News’ douche-god Greg Gutfeld, on the now-canceled Red Eye. You’ll cringe at Gutfeld’s name-dropping attempts to establish OG punk bona fides, but Buzzo is his usual laid-back self, and he uses the platform to inform America’s neurotically hyperpatriotic mouthbreathers about totally sweet bands they’ll never listen to, like Tweak Bird.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘In England sex is not popular’: Wit and wisdom from Quentin Crisp
09:35 am


Quentin Crisp

Ah, Quentin Crisp, what a wonderful man. Witty, intelligent, and very brave. He was out as gay in 1930s England, when such an admission was punishable by imprisonment.

Mr. Crisp described himself as “effeminate by nature,” dyed his hair, wore make-up, painted his nails, and sashayed through London’s busy streets in his open-toed sandals. This is how he described himself in the opening of The Naked Civil Servant:

“I wore make-up at a time when even on women eye shadow was sinful. From that moment on, my friends were anyone who could put up with the disgrace; my occupation, any job from which I was not given the sack; my playground, any cafe or restaurant from which I was not barred, or any street corner from which the police did not move me.”

Mr. Crisp never had a problem with who he was. No, it was only other foolish people who had a problem. Quentin presented himself as how he wanted to be seen, or as he said in this interview on CBC in 1977:

”I laid it out so everyone would know what they were getting.

“[The public] were extremely hostile. And I think it’s because they saw my difference from the rest of the world was sexual. And in England, sex is not popular. Not of any kind. No display of sex, no talk about sex was popular until the permissive society began.

When asked why he had not thought of moving to a more expressive and liberal city like Paris, Mr. Crisp replied:

“There’s no good doing it in Paris. If it causes no stir, then it covers no ground.

“I wanted to survive the stir. The idea was not to create it but to outlive it. To show that people like me had to go on living. That they had to take their laundry to the laundry, they had to eat their meals in restaurants, they had to had to go to work, they had to come back.

“This is what people had to learn.”

All these decades later, it would appear there are many people who could still learn a thing or two from Quentin Crisp.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Otis Redding gives a blistering set on ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ 1966

On that long list of those sadly departed musicians, singers, pop stars and what-you-will, who I wish I had seen in concert, Mister Otis Redding is up near the very top. It’s not just because I like Redding, and think he had immense talent, or that his band played like “some well-oiled machine,” or that together they lit up the stage when they played, but because Otis always looked like he truly enjoyed what he was doing, and wanted the audience to enjoy it just as much as he did.

Take a watch at his appearance on Ready, Steady, Go! from 1966 and you will see what I mean. Otis gives a powerhouse performance and his guests, Eric Burdon and Chris Farlowe, both look awe-struck.

Otis begins with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” then goes into “My Girl” and “Respect,” before Eric Burdon sings “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and Chris Farlowe tries on “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” for size. Then it’s back to the main event, with Mr. Redding joined by Messrs. Burdon and Farlowe, finishing up with “Pain in My Heart,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” and “Shake,” which understandably gets the audience up and dancing.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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