Siouxsie Sioux (Feb 1979) This is certainly a young woman who knew exactly who she was, wouldn’t you say?
Nevermind those sterile museum retrospectives, First Third Books has just published Punk+, a gorgeous new coffee table monograph featuring Sheila Rock’s documentation of the formative London punk scene. Although many of the faces are familiar, the emphasis on punk as a youth culture, as a tribe, makes this a welcome departure from many other books of punk era photography. These shots are from when the participants were still really young and Rock’s intimate images haven’t lost any of their power from being overused (85 to 90% of the photographs are unseen according to her estimate).
I get sent books like this, well, frequently, and Punk+ is far and away one of the best. Speaking as a former publisher myself, this is a high quality piece to be really proud of.
With a brief introduction by Nick Logan and commentary from some of the participants, Punk+ wisely lets Sheila Rock’s portraits do the talking. I especially loved the pics of a young John Lydon in what appears to be his own flat.
Jordan outside of Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX boutique
Girl (Leather Jacket)
Subey (June 1977)
The Subway Sect, Chalk Farm (Dec 1976)
Rob Symmons: “They’re the only public photographs of us that exist from that time because we wouldn’t have any photographs taken. When you (Sheila Rock) rang the door bell, (that little black door at the side Rehearsal Rehearsals) you asked for The Clash and were disappointed they were not there, didn’t believe us and came in to see. To save a wasted trip, you reluctantly photographed us. After we told Bernie [Rhodes] you had come to the studio one evening and taken our pictures, he was cross. I remember his exact words: “When the cat’s away. the mice will play”
Generation X (1977)
The Buzzcocks (Nov 1977)
Paul Simonon: “We did a couple of shows with The Buzzcocks and we used to go on stage with Jackson Pollack Shirts. One time they did a show with us and came on with Mondrian shorts. It was great!”
The Damned (Nov 1976)
Paul Weller of The Jam (1979)
Sheila Rock’s Punk+ is available as a signed limited edition and standard edition directly through First Third Books.
And of course there are those times when so much is happening—the emails to be read, the dog to be walked, the work to be done, the ‘toothpaste to be squeezed’—that a story occasionally slips by unnoticed, unacknowledged. So, it was with this piece from the Tampa Bay Times that was posted in March.
..visited several times with Jack Kerouac at Kerouac’s home on 10th Avenue N for this story, which was published Oct. 12, 1969. Kerouac died nine days later, on Oct. 21, at St. Anthony’s Hospital.
According to Kevin Hayes, author of the book Conversations With Jack Kerouac, McClintock’s interviews were Kerouac’s last.
Kerouac was unlike the imaginary Beat writer that millions venerated. He was a maudlin drunk, who clung to his childhood beliefs, spoiled by drink, a bitter Republican, who was dismissive of the hedonistic culture his work had inspired. It’s sometimes inevitable that the youthful firebrand will evolve into the tweedy curmudgeon. Often this phase of an artist’s life is dismissed or edited out (look how Allen Ginsberg tirelessly ignored or defended, as somehow ironic, his friend’s homophobia and anti-semitism). Still, I find such phases as interesting and as valid as the sunny, glory days—in the same way “fat Elvis” is as compelling a narrative as “Sun Records Elvis,” but for wholly different reasons.
McClintock went looking for Kerouac wanting to know what happened to the Beats in the “Age of Aquarius?” After a week of no-shows, McClintock at last saw a recognizable face with “grizzled jowls and red-rimmed eyes under spikey, dark tousled hair.”
Kerouac? The face said, “Yeah,” and then: “You want to come in?”
Although the sun was two hours from taking its evening dip into the gulf 10 miles to the west, the house was dim inside. A television set in the corner was on, soundless. The sound you heard was Handel’s Messiah blaring from speakers in the next room.
“I like to watch television like that,” Kerouac said.
“You ain’t going to take my photo are you? You better not try to take my photo or I’ll kick your ass.” A threatening leer, then a laugh.
“Stella. Hey! Turn the music up!” Stella went and turned the music up. Her feet were silent on the floor.
Kerouac dragged up a rocking chair for the reporter, then slumped into another one in the corner.
He was wearing unpressed brown pants, a yellow-and-brown striped sport shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbow. The shirt was unbuttoned and beneath it the T-shirt was inside out. He pointed to his belly, large and round.
“I got a goddam hernia, you know that? My goddam belly-button is popping out. That’s why I’m dressed like this … I got no place to go, anyway. You want a beer? Hah?” He picked up a pack of Camels in a green plastic case. “Some whiskey then?”
Kerouac has a hernia, his gut swollen over his pants, “My belly-button is popping out,” he said. McClintock wanted to know what Kerouac was working on:
“Well, I wrote that article,” he said, a trifle belligerently. His agent was busy selling a piece Kerouac had written, entitled “After Me, the Deluge,” his reflections on today’s world and what he might have contributed to it.
“Well, I’m going to write a novel about the last 10 years of my life …
The conversation moved onto the Beats, Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and Ken Kesey (“I don’t like Ken Kesey…He ruined Cassady”) before Kerouac began his drunken ramblings about the Mafia, the Communists and “the Jew,” and talking about his experiences with drugs:
“I smoked more grass than anyone you ever knew in your life,” Kerouac snorts. “I came across the Mexican border one time with 2½ pounds of grass around my waist in a silk scarf. I had one of those wide Mexican belts around me over it. I had a big bottle of tequila and I went up to the border guard and offered him some, and he said, No, go on through, senor.”
Kerouac laughed, remembering how that was.
“It should be legalized and taxed. Taxed. Yeah, ‘Gimme a pack of marijuana!’ But this other stuff is poison; acid’s poison, speed is poison, STP is poison, it’s all poison. But grass is nothing.”
By the end of the interview, Kerouac revealed a spark of his old self, his essence, his enthusiasm for writing:
“Stories of the past,” said Jack Kerouac. “My story is endless. I put in a teletype roll, you know, you know what they are, you have them in newspapers, and run it through there and fix the margins and just go, go – just go, go, go.”
McClintock has written a powerful and memorable portrait and the whole article can be read here.
John Lahr discusses Prick Up Your Ears, his superb biography on playwright Joe Orton, with actor and friend, Kenneth Williams and theater critic, Michael Billington, on the book’s release in 1978.
The cherubic Orton was arguably the most exciting and original playwrights to break through in the 1960s—his first play Entertaining Mr. Sloane was an influence on Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, while his last What the Butler Saw led to political controversy and questions being raised in parliament—in reference to the size of Winston Churchill’s cock. Sadly, Orton’s life was cut short by murder—he was working on a film script for The Beatles (Up Against It) when he died (the Fabs made Magical Mystery Tour instead)—and one can only imagine what works of brilliance he would have concocted had he lived.
The quality of this interview is iffy, but it is a marvelous and important piece of cultural history for those with an interest in Orton (or even Williams). It’s also fascinating to hear some of the “politically correct” language used by presenter, Valerie Singleton, and interviewer Billington, where Orton is described as a “practicing homosexual”—as if he was in training for an examination. All jolly good fun.
A recording of author Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) reading his poem “Alexandria.”
Durrell may be slightly out-of-favor these days, in part because he was a writer’s writer—more interested in method and style of writing than plot and narrative—yet, his books can be profound and very enriching reads, in particular The Black Book, The Dark Labyrinth and of course, The Alexandria Quartet, which made him a star when it was first published. There is also The Avignon Quintet, which has its moments but is too often caught up with its own mythology—think Dan Brown, secret organizations, Nazis and the intricacies of love.
Though Durrell will never be considered a truly great poet—he is more A. E. Housman or Robert Browning than T. S. Eliot—there are always cleverly constructed poems to be found in his work, such as this gem, “Alexandria,” which was written during the Second World War.
To the lucky now who have lovers or friends,
Who move to their sweet undiscovered ends,
Or whom the great conspiracy deceives,
I wish these whirling autumn leaves:
Promontories splashed by the salty sea,
Groaned on in darkness by the tram
To horizons of love or good luck or more love -
As for me I now move
Through many negatives to what I am.
Here at the last cold Pharos between Greece
And all I love, the lights confide
A deeper darkness to the rubbing tide;
Doors shut, and we the living are locked inside
Between the shadows and the thoughts of peace:
And so in furnished rooms revise
The index of our lovers and our friends
From gestures possibly forgotten, but the ends
Of longings like unconnected nerves,
And in this quiet rehearsal of their acts
We dream of them and cherish them as Facts.
Now when the sea grows restless as a conscript,
Excited by fresh wind, climbs the sea-wall,
I walk by it and think about you all:
B. with his respect for the Object, and D.
Searching in sex like a great pantry for jars
Marked ‘Plum and apple’; and the small, fell
Figure of Dorian ringing like a muffin-bell —
All indeed whom war or time threw up
On this littoral and tides could not move
Were objects for my study and my love.
And then turning where the last pale
Lighthouse, like a Samson blinded, stands
And turns its huge charred orbit on the sands
I think of you — indeed mostly of you,
In whom a writer would only name and lose
The dented boy’s lip and the close
Archer’s shoulders; but here to rediscover
By tides and faults of weather, by the rain
Which washes everything, the critic and the lover.
At the doors of Africa so many towns founded
Upon a parting could become Alexandria, like
The wife of Lot — a metaphor for tears;
And the queer student in his poky hot
Tenth floor room above the harbour hears
The sirens shaking the tree of his heart,
And shuts his books, while the most
Inexpressible longings like wounds unstitched
Stir in him some girl’s unquiet ghost.
So we, learning to suffer and not condemn
Can only wish you this great pure wind
Condemned by Greece, and turning like a helm
Inland where it smokes the fires of men,
Spins weathercocks on farms or catches
The lovers at their quarrel in the sheets;
Or like a walker in the darkness might,
Knocks and disturbs the artist at his papers
Up there alone, upon the alps of night.
How do you think Kim Jong-un got to be the dictator of North Korea, anyways?
In searching for hint of satire or farce, I am left wanting. Beat Your Way to the Top: Masturbation as a technique for business success, written by Dr. Stephen Larkin PhD, appears to be (somewhat?) legit. In my mind, it’s really only the natural mutation of 1980s self-improvement pseudo-psychology business culture. Really, what’s more masturbatory than meditating on one’s own awesomeness? I mean, doesn’t espousing masturbation in the context of business culture feel kind of redundant?
But Dr. Larkin appears to be deadly serious about his work, despite the cynical dismissal of his peers.
I am not able to publish these findings in any psychology journal. Business journals that I have approached have tended to act as if it was all a joke. I assure you it is not joke. As embarrassing as it is to admit it, I myself started following these routines and as a direct consequence, I am publishing this book today.
I’m surprised he found the time.
Masturbation WILL lead to the realization of your dreams. It will focus you. Energize you. It will allow you to see with clarity. Follow the instructions in this book and you too, will find success.
Okay… but what if I’m wrong? What if this man the Tesla of our time? Pitching his drops of pearly brilliance over the heads a skeptical audience of prudes?
Are we the ones on the wrong side of history? Is success in business not based on luck, skill, being born into a wealthy family and (to a far lesser extent) hard work? Call me a skeptic, but I just think that if this worked, we’d ALL be far more successful by now. Poverty would have been conquered thousands of years ago. EVERYONE would own a Rolls Royce!
But if you look at the Amazon reviews, it seems to be working for many of Dr. Larkin’s readers.
Hannah from Michigan, gives the book a five-star rating:
I was worried when my husband brought this little gem home. Imagine my relief when I learned it was actually about masturbation!
This book is geared toward men, but if you squint, you can relate it to women, too. Before I read this book, I was a dime-a-dozen bean counter at the local Mexican restaurant. How was I supposed to know that the secret to success is tickling the taco? It had been so long since I had stirred the yogurt, but you know what they say about riding sidesaddle ! Now, every day at my lunch break, I spend five minutes in the bathroom making soup and feeding my bearded clam, and my professional life is climaxing! The owner has been eyeballing me for my manager’s position- I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I have a feeling I’ll be rubbing out her name on the office door soon!
Reviewer Noj also seemed to get something from Dr. Larkin’s techniques:
Before I bought this book, my handshakes were weak and weary. Now, they are firm and muscular, with a hint of a non-slip grip. It’s hard for me to imagine how I survived in the business world before. The only problem that I have now is that I occasionally squeeze a soda can too tightly, and get it everywhere.
Well, maybe it does work, what do I know? I just wouldn’t buy a used copy of this puppy, if you know what I mean…
Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (“Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo” in English) is a 1981 German film based on the autobiographical recordings of a young heroin addict and prostitute in West Berlin. It was one of the most successful German films of that year, going on to become a worldwide cult hit, but one that stirred up a lot of (I think justifiable) controversy.
Vera Christiane Felscherinow
Two journalists from Stern magazine, Kai Herrmann and Horst Rieck, met the girl, Vera Christiane Felscherinow (born May 20, 1962) in 1978 when she was a witness against a john who paid underage prostitutes with heroin. The reporters were shocked to the extent of the escalating teenage drug problem and spent over two months interviewing Christiane and other young junkies and prostitutes (of both genders) who congregated near the Berlin Zoo. They ran several articles and a book Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, covering four years (ages 12-15) of her life on the streets, was published in 1979.
Christiane lived with her mother in a bleak West Berlin neighborhood full of the sort of postwar high-rise apartment blocks that were often hives of social problems. She became fascinated by a discothèque that she had read about called “Sound” and although she was only 11-years-old, too young to be admitted, she was able to get into the club. There she fell in with a fast crowd who were experimenting with various drugs and by the time she was only 14, she was turning tricks to feed her habit in the Bahnhof Zoo train station.
When the film—directed by Oscar-winner Uli Edel—was released in 1981 it was a huge hit in Germany, and elsewhere, turning Christiane into somewhat of a celebrity in Europe, a real-life “Go Ask Alice” who had great fashion sense and cool hair. And this was the problem: Although the film does not intend in any way to glamorize the life of a heroin-addicted teenage prostitute, it inadvertently does. The fact that the actress who played Christiane F. in the film, Natja Brunckhorst, was so beautiful didn’t help matters. Soon teenage girls were emulating both the cinematic “Christiane” and the real-life Christiane’s hair style and clothes. The Bahnhof Zoo station even became somewhat of a Japanese tourist destination, for a while.
Actress Natja Brunckhorst and David Bowie
I saw this film when it came out, when I was a teenager myself, and I can recall thinking that a) Natja Brunckhorst was super hot and that b) doing some drugs with such a cute girl and going to a David Bowie concert (he’s seen in the film performing and provided the soundtrack music) seemed like a really good time to me. I can certainly understand why why German youth advocates were concerned at the time by the way impressionable young girls saw Christiane F. as a role model.
Thirty-some years after it was released, the film still has that undiminished heroin chic quality going for it. This comment was left on YouTube just one week ago:
Amazing film. Amazing book. She was so beautiful. So clever. Such a shame she ruined her life. But she’s a hero. And maybe I’m the only one who thinks this, but it looks to me kinda attractive,you know. I mean,seventies, Berlin, David Bowie, freedom,it all looks so great! Today it’s awful.. Like everything.
The couple also appeared in the 1983 German film Decoder, along with Neubaten’s F.M. Enheit, William Burroughs and Genesis P-Orridge (you can read about the film at The End of Being) (I suppose this is as good a place as any to tell you that I once answered the phone at a German friend’s apartment. I had to take a message and when the caller said “Tell her Christiane F. called” I just HAD to ask if she was THE Christiane F. and she said yeah and seemed really annoyed with me!)
Although she has been able to support herself from author’s royalties for many years, Christiane F.‘s life has been anything but easy, She’s been on and off drugs since her teens and at one point a few years ago, she lost custody of her young son. In 2011 she was caught up in a drugs sweep when police searched her bag at the Berlin train station, Moritzplatz, a known haven for junkies, but no narcotics were found on her person. As you might expect, every couple of years the German media check in with her to “see how she is doing.”
Below, Sentimentale Jugend, live (with Christiane F. on guitar) in Berlin, 1981.