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Marc Bolan: A documentary


 

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

I was foresaken by rock and roll in the early 1970s. Gene Vincent, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones had died. The Beatles disintegrated. The Byrds broke-up and then reunited to record their worst album. The Stones released their last great one. The Who were making tedious, bombastic operas choked with bad symbolism and simple minded metaphors. Pink Floyd took the brown acid and became boring. The Dave Clark Five became Dave Clark and Friends. Phil Spector went into seclusion. Elvis went to the White House to shake Nixon’s hand. Bob Dylan went Nashville. Brian Wilson went mad and Arthur Lee wasn’t too far behind.

Top 40 radio was in dire need of a Rotor-Rooter. The pipelines were full of excremental sludge consisting of some of the worst songs to be sprung from the a-hole of rock n’ roll.

“A Horse With No Name” - America
“The Candy Man” - Sammy Davis Jr.
“Joy To The World” - Three Dog Night
“One Bad Apple” - The Osmonds
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” - John Denver
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree” -Tony Orlando & Dawn
” Bad Bad Leroy Brown” - Jim Croce
“The Way We Were” - Barbra Streisand
“Seasons In The Sun” - Terry Jacks
“The Streak” - Ray Stevens
“One Hell Of A Woman” - Mac Davis

All of the above were best-selling singles from 1971-74, all of them appearing in the Top Ten.

And when it came to rock criticism, Robert Christgau’s insulting and utterly clueless one-line review of Tim Buckley’s masterful 1970 release Starsailor is one of the most odious things that sandal-wearing beatnik ever wrote:

A man who was renowned for his Odetta impressions on Jac Holzman’s folkie label switches to Frank Zappa’s art-rock label, presumably so he can do Nico impressions.

Yes kids, it was a wasteland. If it was some fresh badass rock and roll you were looking for, you had to look hard. If you were lucky, you found Iggy… and eventually you’d come upon a few other shards of light within the shitstorm: Marc Bolan’s Electric Warrior and Roxy Music’s debut album, with Lou Reed’s Transformer and Ziggy not far behind. The guys with the make-up, glitter and hairspray brought something essential back to rock and roll: big hooks, guitars, a little danger and sex.

I took a pass on Bowie. Reed, as a Velvet, was already a hero. Roxy music knocked me out, but it was Marc Bolan that blew me way. Everything about T. Rex worked for me : the chugging guitar riffs, undeniable hooks, propulsive tribal rhythms, sassy vocals, surreal alliterative lyrics and Marc’s pimped out fashion sense. It all came together with a certain inspired savoir faire. Bolan, like Hendrix, Chuck Berry and Elvis, exploded fully formed out of the rock and roll godhead. He was one for the ages. His influence reached far and deep, inspiring and setting the stage for The Ramones, The Runaways, Blondie, The Clash and The Sex Pistols.

Marc Bolan:The Final Word is a BBC documentary that provides a fairly detailed overview of Bolan’s life. It’s narrated by Suzi Quatro and features contributions from his companion Gloria Jones, brother Harry Feld, producer Tony Visconti, Queen’s Roger Taylor, Steve Harley, Zandra Rhodes and more.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young and Tom Jones ?
12.21.2011
05:17 pm

Topics:
Drugs
Heroes
Music
Pop Culture
Television

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By god, it’s true. From Tom Jones’ TV variety show circa 1969. Tom seems to be inspiring a certain level of vocal enthusiasm from the other fellas here. Even the untouchably cool Neil Young seems inspired by the odd pairing. I never knew…
 

 
Thanks Danny Benair !

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
Christmas in Hell: Ozzy Osbourne sings ‘Winter Wonderland’


 
When rock and rollers feel the holiday spirit, we all suffer. This is worse than a rat salad sandwich.

Jesus has left the womb.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Documentary filmed in The Haight Ashbury during the Summer Of Love

 
Filmed during the Summer Of Love (1967) in the Haight-Ashbury, this groovy documentary features commentary from visionary poet Michael McClure, footage of The Grateful Dead hanging out at their Ashbury Street home, a visit to The Psychedelic Bookshop, The Straight Theater, scenes from McClure’s play The Beard and rare shots of the bard of The Haight, Richard Brautigan, walking through Panhandle Park in all of his glorious splendor.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Woman caught smuggling cocaine in dreadlocks
12.15.2011
09:35 am

Topics:
Current Events
Drugs

Tags:
Cocaine
Thailand


 
A 23-year-old South African woman was caught smuggling 3.3 lbs of cocaine into Thailand by hiding the drugs in her dreadlocks!

That much coke on your head would make for a very numb skull, wouldn’t it? That might explain why this numb-skull tried to import 3.3 lbs of coke into Thailand, a country known for enforcing harsh penalties on drug smugglers, including death.
 

 
(via Arbroath)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Jodorowsky’s ‘March of the Skulls’: Collective Psychomagic in Mexico


 
Late last month in Mexico City, Alejandro Jodorowsky organized the “March of the Skulls” to disperse negative energy caused by the death toll of the nation’s drug war. Nearly 40,000 Mexicans have died drug war related deaths in the past five years. The advance billing for the November 27th event described it as “the first act of collective psycho-magic in Mexico” and it attracted nearly 3000 people who donned skeleton masks, face-paint, tops hats. Some marchers carried black versions of the Mexican flag and shouted “Long live the dead!”

From the Los Angeles Times:

The “maestro” arrived at the palace steps about 1:30 p.m., causing brief havoc among the gathered calaveras as people jostled to get near him. The white-haired Jodorowsky, fit and agile at 82, wore a black sports coat, a bright purple scarf and a detailed skull mask.

Along with his family, Jodorowsky led the calaveras up the Eje Central avenue to Plaza Garibaldi in a mostly silent demonstration. In the late 1980s, he filmed some key scenes of “Santa Sangre” at this plaza, homebase for the city’s for-hire mariachi bands. On Sunday, it was easy to imagine another “Santa Sangre” scene being filmed during the march, but this time from a dark and unfamiliar future.

Someone decided the group should sing a song. It became “La Llorona,” the Weeping Woman. 

Jodorowsky was displeased with the group’s initial interpretation, so he asked for another go at it. A mariachi band joined in as accompaniment.

“There are 50,000 dead beings,” Jodorowsky said through a bullhorn, before the sea of skulls. “They are sheep. They are not black sheep. We must have mercy for these souls that have disappeared. Let’s sing this song with lament, as if we were the mother of one of these persons. Understand?”

Then he asked that all those present cross and link their arms with those of the strangers around them. The group did. They chanted “Peace, peace, peace!” until Jodorowsky asked that everyone let out a big laugh. Laughter and applause followed.

You have to love that the wiley shaman did the old “c’mon you guys can do better” routine and made them sing it again!
 

 
After the jump, a news report about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s November 27, 2011 Psychomagic event in Mexico.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Twelve hours of white noise
12.06.2011
08:39 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Drugs
Movies
Music
Television
Unorthodox

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Quite possibly the finest use of the Youtube I’ve come across yet. You’re welcome.
 

 
Thanks to the redoubtable Jimi Hey !

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
Cancel my subscription to the Resurrection: Greil Marcus’s ‘The Doors’
12.05.2011
09:15 pm

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Drugs
Literature
Music

Tags:
The Doors
Greil Marcus

d
 
Listening to The Doors’ second album, Strange Days, while peaking on half a tab of Purple Owsley was one of those mindbending events that alter the course of a young man’s life forever. I was 16 years old, living in the suburbs of Virginia and, with the exception of a couple of freak friends, was pretty much alone in the world. There weren’t a lot of support systems during the Summer Of Love in the American South for a kid who wanted to explore his spiritual side. Organized religion had more than failed me, it terrified me. Catholicism spooked me so bad that even the sight of a nun or priest would send me rushing in a cold sweat in the direction of the nearest mental exit sign.

Getting LSD was the easy part. Knowing the best way to navigate the experience was the challenge. You just took the trip and put your faith in the loving hands of the cosmos. At least that’s what I did. Jim Morrison and his band mates were the dark guides on my solitary psychedelic journey.

Well the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end
Until the end
Until the end!

The Doors’ apocalyptic rock might seem like an entry way to a bad trip, but for me their music echoed and expanded upon an interior shadow world I had always been drawn to and their anti-authoritarianism played into my distrust of bully gods and their black-robed hitmen. LSD gave me a glimpse into the spiraling DNA that contained everything I needed to know about the Universe and all I had to do was crack the code.The Doors provided the soundtrack in my search for the key. A search that continues to this day. Breaking through to the other side turned out to be harder than I imagined.

Jim Morrison was the first rock star that tapped into the same rich vein of poetic dreaming that had lured me into the web of the French surrealists and the American counter-culture. Here was a young Navy brat, like myself, who drew inspiration from Rimbaud, Baudelaire, the Beats, The Living Theater and cinema. He took it all in and spun it back out into lyric-driven music that was familiar and strange at the same time. Intense and filled with mystery and sex, you couldn’t call it pop, but you could dance to it….or melt to it like a pillar of Biblical salt. In my rock and roll world, Morrison was the benign high priest who led me not so gently into a dark night of the soul shot through with glistening shards of seductive light.

Along with most of the rock groups I grew up with, I don’t listen to The Doors these days. The iconic songs of my youth are etched in my genes - musical scarification. I hear them whenever I want by tilting my head in the direction of the Akashic records that spin on turntables somewhere in the Bardo. Years of hearing “Light My Fire” and “When The Music’s Over” on classic rock radio has dulled some of the magic for me. Yet I still get excited when I see a new book on The Doors, particularly when it’s written by someone who was “there.” The thought that hidden secrets might be unlocked from old songs making them feel new again or that some lost piece of history has been unearthed like a rock and roll version of the Dead Sea Scrolls triggers little jolts of excitement along my spine as electric as a Nicolai Tesla neck massage. Yes, hope springs eternal for fools like me.

Greil Marcus’s new book The Doors: A Lifetime Of Listening To Five Mean Years teased me into thinking there might be something fresh to be said about The Doors. Marcus has a rep for knowing a thing or two about rock and roll and pop culture, so I assumed he’d bring something to the mix that lesser writers managed to overlook, you know, a different perspective. But Marcus fails in almost every respect to engage the reader. Even the most devout Doors’ fan will find this slim volume of overstuffed prose and wild tangents a numbing experience. The Marcus perspective consists of bloated descriptions of Doors’ songs and performances, descriptions that are so subjective and adjective heavy that at times it’s like reading Olympia Press fetish porn by someone named “Anonymous.”

The Doors is less a book about the band than it is the experience of being subjected to Marcus’s stream of consciousness vamps on Thomas Pynchon, cult flick Pump Up The Volume, Oliver Stone’s dreadful Doors movie, Val Kilmer’s post-Morrison career, 20th century pop art, Eduardo Paolozzi, the Manson Family and so on. None of which he connects in any compelling way to the subject at hand (the subject becoming less clear as the book lurches along). It’s as if Marcus put some of The Doors’ music on shuffle and started writing whatever popped into his head - a Jackson Pollock action painting connected to The Doors by the mere juxtaposition of sharing the same room as their music. There are threads of elegant symmetry in Marcus’s writing but the center wobbles like a bead of sweat on a brooding hipster’s brow.

Read The Doors to get inside of Greil Marcus’s head if that’s of interest to you. He’s a smart guy and the book gives him an opportunity to show it off. But as a book about one of the planet’s great rock bands, The Doors is a brainy wankfest in which little of any significance is actually said. No amount of pop culture name-dropping and metaphoric over-kill in describing The Doors’ art can obscure the fact that there’s a big hole where the soul of a book ought to be. Marcus claims to be a Doors’ fan and yet there’s little love for the band between the pages of this frustratingly irrelevant book. The Doors may have been a labor of love for Marcus, but for the reader it’s just labor.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the south of France, an overweight bearded poet is writing his autobiography about his early days as a rock star: The End by J.M.

Video: The Doors interviewed in New York in 1969 for public television.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Viagra’s new ‘Unleash the Beast’ ad campaign is…
12.05.2011
11:30 am

Topics:
Amusing
Drugs

Tags:
Viagra


 
You fill in the blank for the new Viagra campaign out of Nairobi, Kenya. I like the title Copyranter gives ‘em “Viagra turns Kenyan men into horny, buff furries.” Trend Hunter says, “Humanimal Arousal Ads.”
 

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Buddha made me cut my hair: The teachings of my imperfect Master

trungpa
Ginsberg and Trungpa.
 
When I arrived in Boulder, Colorado in 1971 it was a small town with a big campus filled with privileged white kids. It was also home to thousands of hippies. I’d left Berkeley for Boulder drawn not by the institute of higher learning but by a desire just to get higher…literally.  Convinced that a massive earthquake was imminent, I fled the Bay Area and headed for the higher ground of the Rocky Mountains. I had also been told by people I trusted that Boulder was my kind of town: Berkeley without the angst. Tibet of the West. And as a child I had lived in Boulder while my father attended the University (on the G.I. Bill) and I had distant memories of something magic about the place.

Boulder in the 70s was an easy mix of stoned and moneyed youth and rough-edged mountain Bohemia. On the fringes of the University, was a thriving arts and intellectual scene. Professors, hipsters, local poets, divinely intoxicated recalcitrant drunks and various combinations of all of the above would hang out at a downtown watering hole called Tom’s Tavern. Tom’s sold cheap beer, had a pool table and a jukebox stuffed with vintage rock, old standards and hillbilly music. It was the center of off-campus intellectual life in Boulder. Within the smoke stained and booze infused walls of Tom’s I found my University, a joint where Jean Paul Sartre could drink Hank Williams under the existential table while Arthur Rimbaud shimmied to “Mickey’s Monkey.”

I had always considered alcohol the drug of choice for straight people. It was my parent’s drug. Alcohol was for squares. But at Tom’s you drank. And that’s what I did. I started drinking. I also started getting serious about being a poet.

In 1971, Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa landed in Boulder and the mix of academia, back to naturists, spiritual seekers, old beatniks and young hippies was given an energizing and discombobulating dose of high-octane Crazy Wisdom.

Trungpa had developed a style of teaching meditation and Buddhist philosophy that was user-friendly for Westerners. Raised in the classic Tibetan monastic tradition as a child and later as a student at Oxford, Trungpa had the experience of ancient wisdom coupled with a modern education that allowed him to fluidly adapt to contemporary expectations and to challenge them. Unlike the kind of gurus most of us were accustomed to, Trungpa wore tailored suits, smoked menthol cigarettes, was a heavy drinker and known to have experimented with psychoactive drugs. He upended every holy man stereotype in the book. In his own sly way, Trungpa was shedding light on how superficial our ideas about “spirituality” are. As Catholics and Christians, many of us were substituting Bibles, crosses, crucifixes and rosaries for prayer beads and the Tibetan Book Of The Dead. Trungpa let it be known from the get-go that spirituality was more than just changing your costume.

Trungpa’s fresh approach to Buddhist instruction and initiation included methods that were controversial and his drinking and womanizing created a lot of scandal among the more conservative and traditional Buddhists, both in America and back home in Tibet. Sometimes his methods were as radical as the old Zen master who broke his student’s finger in order to bring the student into the moment. I experienced Trungpa’s teachings first hand and the results were mind-altering and soul-shaking.

I was celebrating Trungpa’s birthday (his 35th?) with a bunch of his students and friends at a home in the foothills above Boulder. Everybody was roaring drunk, including Trungpa. At one point, he grabbed the kitchen sink water hose and starting spraying everyone until we were all soaking wet. He then began hurling handfuls of birthday cake in all directions, landing a direct hit on my face. I grabbed some cake and threw it at him. With the speed and ferocity of a lion, Trungpa lunged forward and dragged me down to my knees by my hair, which was very long at the time. He yanked at my hair until tears flowed from eyes. After what seemed like an eternity, he let go of me and laughed. I was mortified.

Later that night I cut off all my hair. It was the first haircut I’d had in seven years. When I was 15 I had been expelled from school for being a longhair. I never went back to school and hadn’t cut my hair since. Looking in the mirror, I was appalled by how I looked. My identity had been so linked to my “freak flag” that I barely recognized the nerdish fellow staring back at me. My beautiful hair was gone and so was an important symbol of my freedom…a symbol that I had relied on for years to declare my independence, my spirituality and general grooviness. I had grown so attached to my hair and what I thought it stood for that I had become lazy in developing other ways of being truly free. At least that’s the conclusion I came to based on what I felt was a lesson from Trungpa.

I was certain that Trungpa’s hair-pulling rage was a mystical transmission of a profound teaching, a bit of the old Crazy Wisdom. I was absolutely convinced that Trungpa’s actions were much more than just a drunken reaction to my tossing cake at him. I was the recipient of something ancient and precious. This is the kind of thing that happens in a guru/student relationship. The student reads and projects a lot into whatever the guru does, whether there’s anything there or not. But it doesn’t matter whether or not the teacher is teaching. All that mattered to me is that I was compelled to question my identity, my ego, my reliance on exterior symbols as substitutes for real wisdom and real freedom. I was also reminded of one of the main reasons I had grown my hair long in the first place: I have big ears.

I felt so naked and uncool with short hair that I went into a self-imposed exile until it started growing back. I went so far as to stop seeing my girlfriend Mimi. So in addition to being a recluse, I was also a celibate.

The “hair teaching” was yielding all kinds of unexpected results. I was hurled into the life monastic. I was Thomas Merton with Alfred E. Neuman’s ears. “What me worry?” Yes, I was worried all the time. Worried that by the time my hair grew back Mimi would find someone else. And she did. She left me for one of the biggest pot dealers in Colorado. This betrayal escalated my self-pity into self-loathing on a grand scale.

At 22 years old, I had entered my dark night of the soul over a fucking haircut. A blow to my ego and vanity exposed just how firmly strapped to the Wheel Of Samsara (illusion) I really was and the whole fucking game was blown wide open by a drunk Tibetan guy covered in birthday cake.

My hair grew back and a few years later I cut it again. This time I wore it as a Mohawk that I dyed silver. The freak flag was still flying but with a whole lot less at stake. Hair comes and goes, but the ego is forever…until it isn’t.

I could write a book on what it was like being around Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche during those wild days in Boulder. He started a school (Naropa) which drew my literary and counter-culture heroes to our Colorado town. The collective energy surrounding him was madly magnificent. Poets and prophets everywhere: Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Diane di Prima, Jack Collom, Timothy Leary, Amiri Baraka…the list was long and impressive. They were all coming to Boulder to study with, observe or challenge this young Tibetan sage.  They would eventually pull it all together in a branch of Naropa called “The Jack Kerouac School Of Disembodied Poetics.”

As the scene continued to gather momentum, I ended up managing a beautiful old hotel in Boulder where Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso and other poets and artists took up residence for a while. I sat at Ginsberg’s feet and read him my poems. He was patient. But I was a pretty boy and he enjoyed my company. I drank with Corso and listened to his high-pitched rants. Burroughs was the mystery man up on the top floor guarded by his mellow and diligent assistant James Grauerholz. I organized impromptu poetry readings in the lobby of the hotel and people would be hanging from the rafters as some of America’s greatest bards proclaimed, sang and shouted at the heavens.

When I write the book, I’ll recall the night my punk band performed at a Boulder nightclub with Allen Ginsberg and his mighty harmonium as our opening act. He sang from Blake’s “Songs Of Innocence And Experience” and I stood offstage and watched him and realized how fucking lucky I was to be so close to someone who literally changed my life when I first heard him read “Kaddish” on a vinyl record that Carla Bombere (my beatnik girlfriend) gave me to listen to when I was 15 years old. And not far from where I was standing was another young guy taking it all in, a teenager named Eric who helped my band carry our equipment. A few short years later he’d change his name to Jello Biafra and begin his own unique bardic journey.

Chogyam Trungpa’s arrival had a seismic affect on this lovely town at the foot of the Rockies. Whatever magic exists in Boulder wasn’t created by Trungpa, but he was certainly a big part of activating it. And the Naropa Institute continues to sustain that magic. The last time I was there a few years ago, I noticed that Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth was walking the grounds and soaking it all in.

There are those who think of Trungpa as some kind of charlatan, an exotically charming scam artist who beguiled a bunch of gullible people into buying into a bastardized form of Buddhism. I hear it all the time. But take it from someone who was there, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was the real deal. In asking us to look past spiritual materialism, he included himself. Look past the teacher into that formless void from which all things of the ego arise. The great teachers offer us a glimpse into nothingness and Trungpa was a great teacher. His willingness to get down in the trenches with his students is often mistaken as a weakness in his own character. Aren’t gurus supposed to be above it all? Trungpa didn’t give a shit about the games gurus play. Trungpa worked from the ground up, taking energy from wherever he got it and using it to set a fire under his students that would eventually burn away some of the bullshit and illuminate the illuminated. Was he a perfect teacher? Probably not. But that’s what made him special. It was his humanity and accessibility that made him such an effective teacher. There’s nothing remote or exotic about Buddhism. It’s really rather plain and ordinary. Kind of like the nose on your face. Or in my case, the ears.

In the raw documentary Fried Shoes Cooked Diamonds , director Costanzo Allione captures some of the communal craziness and excitement that was flowing through Boulder while Trungpa was living and teaching there. It was an exhilarating time and important period in the evolution of America’s Buddha nature.
 

 
Watch another fine documentary, “Crazy Wisdom,” on the Naropa scene after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
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