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Germany issues commemorative stamp collection in honor of Lemmy Kilmister
05.13.2016
01:13 pm

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One of the five commemorative stamps issued by the German postal service honoring the late Motörhead frontman, Lemmy Kilmister.
 
If you have friends or relatives in Germany, it’s time to call out a favor as the German postal service has just released a collection of stamps honoring the late Lemmy Kilmister.

There are a total of five different images of the iconic Motörhead leader in the book of ten stamps, that will be available for sale starting on May 17th through June 17th, 2016. Sales of the Lemmy stamps will be limited to only 7777 books (an homage to Lemmy’s “lucky seven”), and will run you about eleven bucks (US) over here. But again, you can only purchase them if you’re actually in Germany. So get going on locating your long-lost German Aunt or Uncle as I’m 100% sure these stamps will sell out swiftly. 
 

 
More after the jump…

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The Move: The drug-addled, axe-wielding rock group who got sued by the Prime Minister
05.12.2016
09:20 am

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Heroes
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Pop Culture

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It’s one of those odd quirks of fate why sixties beat group The Move never became as big as say The Who, Kinks or the Dave Clark Five or even (crikey!) The Beatles or The Stones. There are many reasons as to why this never happened—top of the tree is the fact The Move never broke the American market which limited their success primarily to a large island off the coast of Europe. Secondly, The Move was all too often considered a singles band—and here we find another knotty problem.

The Move, under the sublime writing talents of Roy Wood, produced singles of such quality, range and diversity it was not always possible to identify their unique imprint. They evolved from “pioneers of the psychedelic sound” with their debut single “Night of Fear” in 1966—a song that sampled Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture—through “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” and “Flowers In The Rain” to faster rock songs like “Fire Brigade”—which inspired the bassline for the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”—to the chirpy pop of “Curly” and “Omnibus” to sixties miserabilism “Blackberry Way” and early heavy metal/prog with “Wild Tiger Woman,” “Brontosaurus” and “When Alice Comes Back to the Farm.” Though there is undoubtedly a seriousness and considered process going on here—it was not necessarily one that brought together a united fan base. Those who bought “Flowers in the Rain” were not necessarily going to dig the Hendrix-influenced “Wild Tiger Woman” or groove along to “Alice Comes Back to the Farm.”

That said, The Move scored nine top ten hits during the sixties, were critically praised, had a considerable following of screaming fans, and produced albums which although they were considered “difficult” at the time (Shazam, Looking On and Message from the Country) are now considered pioneering, groundbreaking and (yes!) even “classic.”

The Move was made up from oddments of musicians and singers from disparate bands and club acts who would not necessarily gravitate together. Formed in December 1965, the original lineup consisted of guitarist Roy Wood (recently departed from Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders), vocalist Carl Wayne who along with bass player Chris ‘Ace’ Kefford and drummer Bev Bevan came from The Vikings, and guitarist Trevor Burton from The Mayfair Set. Each of these artists had a small taste of success—most notably Carl Wayne who had won the prestigious Golden Orpheus Song Festival in Bulgaria—but nothing that was going to satisfy their ambitions for a long and rewarding career.

It was David Bowie—then just plain David Jones—who suggested Kefford and Burton should form their own band. They recruited Wood onto the team sheet and decided to follow another piece of Bowie’s advice to bring together the very best musicians and singers in their hometown of Birmingham. This they did. And although technically it was Kefford’s band, Carl Wayne by dint of age steered the group through their first gigs.
 
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The Move’s greatest asset was Roy Wood—a teenage wunderkind who was writing songs about fairies and comic book characters that were mistakenly believed to have been inspired by LSD. This gave the band their counterculture edge when “Night of Fear” was released in 1966. They were thought to be acidheads tuning into the world of psychedelia a year before the Summer of Love—but as drummer Bev Bevan later recalled:

Nobody believed that Roy wasn’t out of his head on drugs but he wasn’t. It was all fairy stories rooted in childhood.

Young Wood and Wayne may have been squeaky clean but the rest of the band certainly enjoyed the sherbets—with one catastrophic result.

After chart success of “Night of Fear,” The Move were expected to churn out hit after hit after hit. Though Wood delivered the goods—the financial rewards did not arrive. Ace Kefford later claimed the pressure of touring, being mobbed by fans, having clothes ripped—and once being stabbed in the eye by a fan determined to snip a lock of his hair—for the same money he made gigging with The Vikings made it all seem rather pointless.

But their success continued apace. By 1967, The Move had three top ten hits, were the first band played on the BBC’s new flagship youth channel Radio One, and were touring across the UK and Europe. They also caused considerable controversy with their live stage act which involved Carl Wayne chopping up TV sets with an axe. While the golden youth were wearing flowers in their hair and singing about peace and love, The Move were offering agitprop political theater.

Then they were sued by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
 
More of The Move, after the jump…

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Negativland documentary now in the works
05.12.2016
09:06 am

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It’s been a rough couple years for Negativland fans. In swift succession, the Reaper took members Ian Allen, Don Joyce and Richard Lyons, decimating our heroes but leaving many ensembles of lesser quality intact. When will it be Air Supply fans’ turn to grieve? Why can’t Coldplay or Weezer come up three members short the next time they wish to prance upon the stage and make their guitars go tweedly-deedly-dee? When can others’ shame be our pride?

The good news, as the late Pastor Dick might have reminded us, is that filmmakers William Davenport and Leah Gold are collaborating on the definitive, full-length Negativland documentary, Media about Media about Media: The Negativland Story. (No slight against Craig Baldwin’s wonderful Sonic Outlaws, in which Negativland is only one of several groups profiled.) Better still, Davenport and Gold reckon they have about half of the movie already shot.
 

 
Aiming for the modest goal of $8000, with a projected release date of September, the filmmakers are offering perks that will make a person of healthy appetites drool. A $250 contribution gets you an endless loop “cart” (i.e. old-fashioned radio programmer’s tape cartridge) that belonged to Don Joyce, $1000 purchases all of Negativland’s releases “including many special surprises from the band and the filmmakers,” and $1500 buys the very model plane that appeared on the cover of the outlawed U2 EP. But I’m not saying you should go knock over a gas station and give the money to these nice people, who are so kind and decent, unlike the gas station attendant, who sits there judging you all the time, so mean and miserly.

Among other treats in the trailer below, Mark Hosler and his mother discuss how and whether the documentary should be marketed, Don Joyce (a/k/a C. Elliott Friday, Crosley Bendix, Izzy Isn’t, et al.) goes “Over the Edge,” and David Wills (a/k/a the Weatherman) hints at the “sexual” meaning of “seat bee sate.”

Visit the Indiegogo page for the Negativland documentary here.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘I’m A Boy’: The many fantastic times Keith Moon dressed up in full-on drag back in the 1970s
05.11.2016
10:31 am

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The cover of Trouser Press magazine featuring Keith Moon, #14, June/July 1976.
 
According to super-groupie Pamela Des Barres, during the time she dated Keith Moon for about a year, Moon seemed to be happiest when he was “anyone but himself.” During their short time together, Des Barres recalls that Moon enjoyed dressing up in her clothes and “frolicking” in her high-heels in the middle of the night, as well as trading “sexes” for kicks from time to time. Let there be no mistake, in the 32 short years Keith Moon walked among us mere mortals, he really lived every moment like it was his last.
 

Keith Moon in drag with Pamela Des Barres.
 
Dougal Butler, Moon’s personal assistant who was with Moon for ten tumultuous years, would refer to The Who’s timekeeper as a “heterosexual drag queen” who frequently enjoyed acting like a “ginger beer” (a “ginger beer” is a Cockney rhyming slang for “queer”) and was happiest when he could “get ahold of a dress or two.” Dougal, who authored two books on Moon, Full Moon: The Amazing Rock and Roll Life of the Late Keith Moon and Moon the Loon, noted of all of Moon’s many drag ensembles, the drummers favorite was anytime he could dress up in full regalia like an actual Queen.

In 1972 as the emcee of “The Ultimate ROQ Concert” festival for KROQ FM at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that featured co-headliners Sly and the Family Stone and the Bee Gees (as well as Stevie Wonder among others), Moon appeared on stage dressed in silver sequins (a particular number he would wear many times to many events, pictured above), makeup and a blonde wig when he introduced the shows “special added attraction” Sha-Na-Na. Des Barres recalls in her book, I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, that she and Moon shared a dressing room with the Bee Gees, who got to watch the perpetually drunk Moonie’s many “wardrobe” changes. Yes.

Of course if you are a fan of The Who, then you’ve probably seen some of the photographic outtakes or magazine adverts from the band’s, 1971’s Who’s Next that feature Mr. Moon cheesecaking it up in ladies lingerie, full makeup and brunette and blonde wigs. In issue #14 of Trouser Press magazine (June/July 1976), the cover (seen at the top of this post) had a side-by-side image of Moon that amusingly suggested that Keith had a “split personality” of sorts. The image included a photo of Moon dressed in drag (and looking super hot I might add), for his gig as the emcee for two shows at New York’s Carnegie Hall with Sha-Na-Na and Cheech and Chong (during which, according to a news item from Billboard Magazine in 1972, Moon sat in on the drums during Sha Na Na’s set. WHAT?). A gig for which Moon flew from England to New York for one night’s work. Keith Moon’s unwavering dedication to having a good time truly (and quite sadly), knew no bounds. 
 

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” ad featuring Keith Moon vamping it up in ladies lingerie, 1971.
 
More Moon the Loon, after the jump…

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Sparks fly: A brief trip through Ron & Russell Mael’s appearances on German TV over the years
05.06.2016
12:31 pm

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You know you’re getting old when your love for a band hits middle age. Yikes. It’s forty-two years since I was first heard Sparks’ single “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Both of Us” on the radio. A couple of weeks later I caught them on Top of the Pops—the bottom-wiggling Bolanesque lead singer Russell Mael and the stern, strange, Hitler-mustachiod pianist Ron Mael. The differences of the brothers’ iconic images very much suited the joyous one-upmanship of their performance—the battle between Russell’s impressively soaring vocals and Ron’s cleverly structured music.

Sparks evolved out of another band called Halfnelson (which was the Mael brothers and guitarist Earle Mankey,  bassist Jim Mankey and drummer Harley Feinstein) formed in 1968. They were mainly popular with the brothers’ relatives and friends, though they did attract the attention of musician Todd Rundgren who produced their brilliant eponymous debut album. It didn’t sell well. A problem of perhaps having too small an extended family or a limited number of friends. But still there was enough interest to give the brothers a new record deal.

The record company suggested the band rename themselves the Sparx Brothers—in reference to the zany comedy troupe the Marx Brothers. Ron and Russell agreed to to keeping the “Sparks” but dropping the brother bits. It was obvious enough anyway.

A second album (the rather superb A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing), a move to England, a new band line-up (Martin Gordon on bass, Adrian Fisher on guitar and Norman “Dinky” Diamond” on drums) led to the the superlative album Kimono My House and a legendary career began.
 
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With age comes maturity and sometimes good sense. I’ve stopped evangelizing about the utter genius of Ron and Russell Mael sometime ago. Well, about an hour ago—to be exact. As sadly there comes a point when attempting to convince other people to listen to something you like becomes a bit like the well-meaning Hare Krishna pestering a passersby to shout “Gouranga!”

Sparks don’t need a plug. They’re too good, too brilliant, to need anyone shouting their genius from the rooftops. If you are a fan (or have been paying attention) then you’ll know what I mean. Sparks have kept evolving, developing and progressing—their music today is as great, if not greater than the work they produced forty-five years ago.

Most bands after their fifth decade together just hash out the greatest hits for the stadium audience. Not Sparks—they are still writing, producing and performing new, audacious and original material. Last year the Brothers Mael collaborated with Franz Ferdinand to form the supergroup FFS—one of the best (if not the best in this reviewer’s opinion) albums of the year. Their show was certainly the best gig I saw in 2015.  I know you’re busy but if you could just say “Gouranga..!”

This little selection of Sparks’ live appearances on Musikladen show the big shift in the brothers progress from classic Kimono My House and Propaganda-era art-rock-pop to the minimalist-experimental-electronica of the Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins album—that eventually led to their masterpieces of Lil’ Beethoven and The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman. As a band Sparks are tight—something they never quite got the credit for—and as a way of life—hell, there’s nothing to beat ‘em.

Track Listing: “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both Of Us,” “Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil,” “Something for the Girl with Everything,” “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’,” “Frankly, Scarlett, I Don’t Give a Damn,” “BC,” “(When I Kiss You” I Hear Charlie Parker Playing” and “Senseless Violins.”
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Sexy M*therf*cker: Amazing lifelike Prince doll with custom-made clothing from ‘Purple Rain’ & more!
05.06.2016
09:58 am

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R.I.P.

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Le Petit Prince at
Le Petit Prince at ‘Lake Minnetonka’ with his customized Honda CB400A.
 
Tuesday, May 3rd marked the sadly poignant moment when it became “seven hours and thirteen days” since Prince left this world. And I for one have still not (and probably never will) come to terms with his passing. His loss is a truly immeasurable one that has left his fans (including myself and my colleagues here at DM), dumbfounded. 
 
Let Petite Prince in his
Le Petit Prince in his ‘Dirty Mind’ outfit.
 
If you’re a Prince fan (and I wouldn’t trust anyone who said they weren’t, it’s one of my rules), you know that he was an incredibly private person—and was quick to put the kibosh on video footage of his mind-bogglingly epic live performances that somehow made their way to the Internet. In the past when DM has posted footage of Prince blowing-minds live, it’s always come with a warning to watch it before it gets taken down. Such was the case with Prince and his request to Seattle artist Troy Gua, who created a lifelike figure of Prince called “Le Petit Prince” (or “LPP”) sometime in 2012, and was swiftly served with a “cease and desist” notice by The Purple One himself. Gua, a huge Prince fan, was devastated. Figuring out a way around the order, he continued to take photos of his “LPP,” only now it had a sculpted head in Gua’s own image. In 2015, Gua started to once again publish images of Le Petit Prince and one of his most recent posts on his Instagram featured the realistic looking figure beginning his ascent to heaven by way of a ladder. Sigh.

Gua (who also makes all of Le Petit Prince’s painstakingly detailed clothes) says he doesn’t want to profit from Prince’s death, so you can’t actually purchase a small version of Prince dressed in era-specific attire (although Gua didn’t rule out this possibility in the future or selling prints of Le Petit Prince in action). When I say that the images in this post are almost as beguiling as Prince himself (almost), I’m not exaggerating. From Le Petit Prince riding a tiny replica of his customized 1981 Honda CB400A from the film Purple Rain, to the open trenchcoat and tiny black thong Prince wore on the cover of his 1980 album, Dirty Mind, Gua (who might be the greatest person ever) has created so many perfect Princes that I couldn’t possibly post them all here.
 

Prince as seen in the video for ‘Automatic’ from the 1982 album, ‘1999.’
 
More after the jump…

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1970s glam rockers Cuddly Toys cover ‘Madman’ a song written by David Bowie & Marc Bolan
05.04.2016
09:39 am

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Punk

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The Japanese 7” for Cuddly Toys’ cover of ‘Madman.’ A song written by David Bowie and Marc Bolan.
 

We always had ideas above our station, and wanted to be a bit more interesting than the rest of the punk groups who only wanted to sing about being poor and ugly, even though we were poor and ugly.

—Faebhean Kwest, Cuddly Toys guitarist

I know that many of you die-hard glam rockers out there will probably already own the stellar album Guillotine Theatre by Cuddly Toys (which was originally released in Japan in 1979 then remixed and released in the UK a year later). However, if you do not, then I’d highly advise you that you add this fantastic record to your collection as soon as possible.

Originally known by the not-so-catchy name of “Raped”—the title of their first EP was also a cringer called Pretty Paedophiles, yikes!—the band’s guitarist Faebhean Kwest, claims that he was once asked by Malcolm McLaren to audition for the Sex Pistols, but turned the offer down. Early in 1979, the band changed their name to the less aggressive sounding Cuddly Toys at the suggestion of none other than legendary Radio One DJ, John Peel. Influenced by bands like Richard Hell and the Voidoids and (naturally) the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols, the Toys boys were soon rubbing shoulders with many of their idols like Sid Vicious and Generation X.

Shortly before Marc Bolan’s untimely death in 1977, he co-wrote the song, “Madman” with David Bowie. Recordings and rough demos of the sessions in which “Madman” was birthed exist. The Cuddly Toys covered the song and released the track as their very first single. To help promote the song Cuddly Toys played a gig at The Music Machine in London. According to an interview with the band, the show was attended by a few famous admirers such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Paul McCartney—not too shabby of a start for the up-and-coming glam rockers who would call it quits in the early 80s.

Keep reading after the jump…

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‘20th Century Toy’: Behold the glam-rock glory of this customized ‘Marc Bolan’ Lambretta scooter
05.02.2016
12:30 pm

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Danielz, the vocalist for the T. Rex tribute band, T.Rextasy sitting on the customized Marc Bolan Lambretta scooter
Danielz, the vocalist for the T. Rex tribute band, T. Rextasy sitting on the customized Marc Bolan Lambretta scooter.
 
In May of 2012, this vintage, customized Lambretta scooter plastered with images of T. Rex frontman, Marc Bolan sold for a whopping $17,372.22 in an Ebay auction. And once you see the images of said scooter, you’ll understand why.
 
The customized
Customized Marc Bolan Lambretta scooter.
 
Made in Italy, this model of Lambretta (a “TV 175” according to the listing) was manufactured in 1964. The seller, who aptly dubbed the tricked out ride “20th Century Toy,” completely rebuilt the engine before a team of experts “glamified” the scooter in nearly every possible way. Such as the addition swan-shaped mirrors, the modification to the Lambretta’s handlebars that include an engraved nod to T. Rex’s smash from their 1972 album The Slider, “Metal Guru,” as well as the brake & clutch levers which were cleverly fashioned into Gibson “Flying V” guitars. Bolan was fond of using the Gibson Flying V during the 1970s, and one owned by the “Jeepster” himself sold for $36,000 at a Christie’s “Pop Memorabilia” auction in 2007.

More photos of what possibly may be the coolest scooter ever, follow.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention get caught up in a German student riot, 1968
05.02.2016
10:57 am

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1968 was a year of great political unrest across Europe. The psychedelic summer of love had quickly faded—replaced by angry students hurling cobblestones at police in Paris or instigating loud and bloody demonstrations against the Vietnam War in London. It was against this background that Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention paid their first visit to Germany on the band’s second tour of Europe. The trip to Germany was to prove memorable for two very different reasons.

Firstly on October 6th, 1968: Zappa and co. appeared on Beat-Club where they jammed through a superb set of tracks including “King Kong,” “A Pound For A Brown On The Bus,” “Sleeping In A Jar” and “Uncle Meat”—all of which would appear on the band’s next album Uncle Meat. There was also an instrumental version of “Let’s Make The Water Turn Black”—from We’re Only in It for the Money; an early attempt at “Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Sexually Aroused Gas Mask” and some interesting takes on Richard Wagner’s prelude to act three of Lohengrin and Edgard Varese’s piece for a small orchestra Octandre. All jolly stuff and very agreeable too.

However, any youngsters catching the Mothers on tour at this time may have been fooled into thinking Zappa was the ringleader of some revolutionary collective—which leads us dear reader on to our second reason this was such an interesting occasion..
 
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The Mothers 1968—Ron Kroon / Anefo / Nationaal Archief.
 
A week after their appearance on Beat-Club Zappa and the Mothers played one of Hitler’s old stomping grounds, the Sportpalast in Berlin. It was here Zappa was approached by a group of young German radical students who—depending on which book you read or version you hear—either wanted their pop idol to demand the release of Fritz Teufel—founder of the radical group Kommune 1 who was currently under arrest; or to denounce capitalism from the stage that very night; or show his support for the imminent glorious socialist revolution or wanted they wanted Zappa’s help with their plans to riot for a “socialist education policy.” Take your pick.

Having witnessed the Civil Rights movement in America, Zappa was none too impressed by these grievance hungry students, who had mistakenly taken their cue from the length of the Mothers’ hair and Zappa’s subversive songs that he and they would willingly sign on to the student demands. Understandably, Zappa said “nope” or perhaps he said “nein.”

Undeterred, the students demanded Zappa to order the audience at that night’s concert to go out and set fire to the Allied Command Building on Potsdamer Strasse. Again and none too surprisingly Zappa said “no.” The students felt doubly betrayed.

They soon made their disappointment known at the gig that night when these red kerchiefed malcontents bombarded the stage with vegetables and blasted air horns. The Mothers carried on regardless, as Zappa later recalled:

We had to play a two hour show in the middle of all this bullshit. And these guys were out there stomping around and throwing stuff and the people on the bandstand are getting hit with hard vegetables, you know, cucumbers [laughter]. Squash. you know they really hit you like a rock up there. And they were throwing eggs, and cherry bombs. And then they grabbed this big fence, like a restraining device to keep the audience away from the performers at those events. It was made out of pipes this big around with a chain link fence in between and concrete feet. And about thirty of them picked it up and tried to throw it on stage, which would have killed both of our drummers by pinning them against the amplifiers, you see.

So our manager Herbie [Cohen] and this German promoter Fritz Rau caught it in mid air and threw it back on them. And then this other guy charged the stage and Herbie put his foot through his face. And then they kept on throwing things, and then they kept on trying to get up onto the stage. We kept pushing these guys back—and we’re up there humming and strumming…[laughter] and it was really a very unusual situation.

So then we had to take an intermission, see. We left the stage after an hour of fun and merriment. And during that time the ordinaries, that the local promoter had hired to keep everything under control at the hop thought that we had run off, so they ran away. And when they ran away, about a hundred of these kids went up onto the stage and started stomping all over our equipment.

So we come back from intermission, and here’s all these people milling around on stage. They don’t even know why they’re there. They look like cows. They’re standing there like this. But they’re standing, you know, on drums, and they’re knocking things over, and a few of the guys had stolen small pieces of equipment and disappeared into the audience. They were just making a lot of noise and standing around. Just completely blank. They don’t even know what their revolution is about.

So we started pushing them off the stage. We started putting our equipment back together. We got the PA system working. And I gave them a speech for about 15 minutes, wherein I discussed the possibility that they were acting more like Americans than anything I’ve ever seen. And that pissed them off. And they’re out there yelling “Revolution, Revolution”—and I’m saying “You people need evolution, not revolution.”

And they said, “No take it back you’re the Mothers of Reaction.” And I told them they were [beeped], and they understand English. I told them whether they liked it or not we were going to continued to play the second half of the program. So gradually they shut up, and they sat down. The only thing that happened during the second hour was one cherry bomb on stage.

And we had played about 45-50 minutes, and we were into a long instrumental piece, which was going to be our closing number, and I’d reduced the volume of the tune so that I could say goodnight to the nice German people. At which point the student leader with the red rag around his neck comes running up on stage and grabs the microphone and starts raving in German. I just knew he was telling these people, “I’ve got the matches come with me.”

So we played real loud so nobody could hear what he was saying. Two people were taking the instruments off the stage, you know piece by piece pulling things away until it was just me and the organist left on stage playing one full-volume fuzztone loud ugly note that was just going BLAAAAAH.

And it was the only thing that kept people back off the stage, ‘cause they kept trying to get up onto the stage and this noise would hit them and they’d go ...

Finally, when they got all the drums and all the rest of the stuff out of the way, we just unplugged and split off the stage. And they all came milling back up there. And they looked around and they didn’t know why they were on stage again. That’s Germany today.

Zappa later wrote about it all in the song “Holiday In Berlin”:

Look at all the Germans
Watch them follow orders
See them think they´re doing
Something groovy in the street.

See the student leader,
He´s a rebel prophet
He´s fucked up
He´s still a Nazi
Like his Mom and Dad.

Cheap shot, maybe. That’s what happened in Berlin.

After the jump Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention perform a fantastic improvisational set on ‘Beat-Club’...

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That time Jack Kerouac asked Marlon Brando to make a movie of ‘On the Road’ 1957
04.27.2016
11:55 am

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It’s fair to say most writers would like a movie made of their books—it’s a way of reaching a far greater audience and pegging a stake on fame, fortune and celluloid immortality. To this end, some writers often dream up a cast list of their favorite actors who they think are best suited to play the fictional characters they’ve created. Though of course this rarely happens as box office clout always beats artistic sensibilities when it comes to casting.

In September 1957, Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road was published to great and immediate acclaim. Film studios clamored to option the book. Warner Brothers expressed an interest as did Paramount, but Kerouac had his own ideas.

The Beat author wanted Marlon Brando to make a movie of On the Road. He thought Method actor Brando was perfect for the central role of Dean Moriarty. Kerouac was ambitious enough to consider himself for the role of his fictional alter ego and Moriarty’s sidekick Sal Paradise. Brando was a hot property. He was considered perhaps the greatest actor of his generation and had been nominated five times for an Academy Award—winning one for his performance in On the Waterfront in 1954. It was a big ask, but Kerouac was hopeful.

“Dear Marlon,” his letter began:

I’m praying that you’ll buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it. Don’t worry about the structure, I know to compress and re-arrange the plot a bit to give a perfectly acceptable movie-type structure: making it into one all-inclusive trip instead of the several voyages coast-to-coast in the book, one vast round trip from New York to Denver to Frisco to Mexico to New Orleans to New York again. I visualize the beautiful shots could be made with the camera on the front seat of the car showing the road (day and night) unwinding into the windshield, as Sal and Dean yak. I wanted you to play the part because Dean (as you know) is no dopey hotrodder but a real intelligent (in fact Jesuit) Irishman. You play Dean and I’ll play Sal (Warner Bros. mentioned I play Sal) and I’ll show you how Dean acts in real life, you couldn’t possibly imagine it without seeing a good imitation. Fact, we can go visit him in Frisco, or have him come down to L.A. still a real frantic cat but nowadays settled down with his final wife saying the Lord’s Prayer with his kiddies at night… as you’ll see when you read the play BEAT GENERATION. All I want out of this is to be able to establish myself and by mother a trust fund for life, so I can really go roaming around the world writing about Japan, India, France etc… I Want to be free to write what comes out of my head & free to feed my buddies when they’re hungry & not worry about my mother.

Incidentally, my next novel is THE SUBTERRANEANS coming out in N.Y. next March and is about a love affair between a white guy and a colored girl and is a very hep story. Some of the characters in it you know in the Village (Stanley Gould etc.) It easily could be turned into a play, easier than ON THE ROAD.

What I wanta do is re-do the theater and the cinema in America, give it a spontaneous dash, remove pre-conceptions of “situation” and let people rave on as they do in real life. That’s what the play is: no plot in particular, no “meaning” in particular, just the way people are. Everything I write I do in the spirit where I imagine myself an Angel returned to the earth seeing it with sad eyes as it is. I know you approve of these ideas, & incidentally the new Frank Sinatra show is based on “spontaneous” too, which is the only way to come on anyway, whether in business or life. The French movies of the 30’s are still far superior to ours because the French really let their actors come on and the writers didn’t quibble with some preconceived notion of how intelligent the movie audience is, they talked soul from soul and everybody understood at once. I want to make great French Movies in America, finally, when I’m rich… American theater & Cinema at present is an outmoded dinosaur that ain’t mutated along with the best in American Literature.

If you really want to go ahead, make arrangements to see me in New York when next you come, or if you’re going to FLorida here I am, but what we should do is talk about this because I prophesy that it’s going to be the beginning of something real great. I’m bored nowadays and I’m looking around for something to do in the world, anyway — writing novels is getting too easy, same with plays, I wrote the play in 24 hours.

Come on now, Marlon, put up your dukes and write!

Sincerely, later, Jack Kerouac

 
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This letter was only discovered after Brando died in July 2004. Helen Hall was tasked by auction house Christie’s to visit the actor’s home on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles and select property to include in an auction of his estate.

Hall spent around ten days at Brando’s house sifting through his personal effects “with a fine tooth comb.”  The most valuable thing she had found was an annotated copy of Brando’s script for The Godfather tucked away with all his other movie memorabilia in a bunker in the garden. Hall thought this was the best she would find. On her tenth day at the house, Hall and her team searched through the very last room on their list—Brando’s office.

Continues after the jump…

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