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Brendan Behan’s Dublin from 1966

The idea of Brendan Behan eventually became greater than the man himself. No one knew this better than the Roaring Boy, who played up to the image of “a drinker with a writing problem”. By the early sixties Behan was the toast of the West End, the toast of Broadway, the toast of every-effing-where, but his best works, The Quare Fellow, The Hostage, and his biography Borstal Boy, were all behind him, and his confidence had been battered through working with the firebrand director, Joan Littlewood, who had turned the English version of The Hostage into a “Knees Up Mrs Brown”. Unable to stay focussed long enough to put pen to paper, Behan was forced to record his last works (rambling travelogs of New York and Dublin, the play Richard’s Cork Leg) onto tape-recorder for others to transcribe. It was a terrible waste, and of course there’ll be those who’ll say a lesson of sorts, but so what, as his fall form grace didn’t stop the great man’s legend form soaring.

Two years after the Behan’s death, Irish producer / director Norman Cohen (later best known the film version of Spike Milligan‘s Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall and the Confessions of…. comedy porn series) made Brendan Behan’s Dublin, a travelog of the Irish capital based on the playwright’s memoirs, anecdotes and writing of the city by Carolyn Swift, and narrated by Ray McAnally as Behan. The Dubliners supplied the soundtrack.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Key Writers: Photos of writers and their typewriters


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Up from the underground: ‘Sex And Guts’ magazine reborn on the Internet

Wyatt Doyle, writer, publisher and a founding contributor to the website, recently brought my attention to the new “Sex and Guts” blog, a digital resurrection of the infamous magazine. I’ll let Wyatt tell you about it:

In putting together our anthology of Chris D.’s writing, A Minute to Pray A Second to Die, I spent a lot of time tracking down his old press clips. When I asked Chris about an interview in a book called Midnight Mavericks, he clarified that it was reprinted from Sex & Guts magazine. That interview—by Gene Gregorits—turned out to be the most in-depth talk with Chris I’d read, and the rest of Gregorits’ interviews in S&G were of the same caliber. I eagerly picked up a copy of Midnight Mavericks for more.

That book, issued by the UK’s FAB Press in 2007, collected four dozen (!) interviews by Gregorits from the pages of Sex & Guts, encompassing a wide spectrum of artists in popular media whose work has placed them squarely outside the mainstream. With back issues of S&G difficult to come by, Mavericks was an easily-procured frequent recommendation I made to friends, fellow travelers and Chris D. fans who’d write in for progress reports on Minute. Midnight Mavericks was and is a cultural guidebook on par with the best of RE/Search Publications—no small achievement. This was eye-opening, mind-expanding—even inspirational—stuff.

Now Gregorits is taking his archives digital, via his new site, SNG Unexpurgated. He promises “the entirety of the Sex & Guts back catalog” over the next few weeks, all in his full, original edits (most of his work in S&G and MM was trimmed for space). He’s already posted an impressive array of profiles, including Stephen R. Bissette, Dan Fante, Patton Oswalt, John Waters, Lydia Lunch and that Chris D. interview that pulled my coat to begin with.

Though rarely short on memorable quotes, for the most part, Gregorits’ interviews are resolutely anti-soundbite—no small achievement, considering much of what passes for print interviews today. Save the glib and facile for bumper stickers; give me an interesting thinker in an expansive mood—and Gregorits on the tape recorder.”

“Sex and Guts” can be found here.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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He-She: The most cunning, vicious and fiendish killer of all time!
12:33 pm

Pop Culture


One of the weirdest villains in the history of comic books was the formidable He-She. A creation of writer and artist Chuck Biro, the part man/part woman baddie appeared in the pages of Crimebuster comics featuring crime fighter Chuck Chandler. The series ran from 1942 to 1956.

Crimebuster had no super powers. Chuck Chandler decided to fight crime (Nazis, specifically) after his parents were murdered by Iron Jaw, who was Crimebuster’s main recurring nemesis and a really pretty nasty bad guy.

Want to read the whole exciting comic featuring He-She? Go here.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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David Gibson’s ‘Art of Mixing’ will blow your mind

People, I have a new guru. A visionary, a sage, a seer. I hang on his every uttering like they are precious droplets of Mana. He is a true master, and I am keen to follow in his ways.

His name is David Gibson, and he is the author of a book called The Art Of Mixing, a text used by some of the world’s top music production courses to show how best to “mix down” a track using its individual parts (drums/bass/vocals/etc). At some point in the early-to-mid 90s David also produced a video guide to accompany his book, using primitive computer graphics to help explain various ideas. Imagine if Wayne Campbell’s cable-access show had been directed by Tim & Eric, and concerned solely with music production techniques and the intricacies of a track’s mix, and you’re in the right ballpark.

The Art of Mixing (subtitled A Visual Guide to Recording, Engineering and Production) uses a very clever two-dimensional representation of a song’s “sound world” to show how effects, pan, track levels and EQ can be used to alter a song’s final mix, its shape, movement and dynamics. As well as imparting valuable information that any music producer will appreciate—be they bedroom or studio, headphone, Mackie mixer or Neve desk, witch haus, thrash metal or trad jazz—what really shines through is Gibsons sheer joy at working with music. This dude just exudes good vibes (in a slightly goofy, 90s-retro way, natch.)

In the modern world music is both hugely rejoiced and profoundly debased. Talent shows spread a myth that music is merely an easy route to fame, and that fame should be a musician’s ultimate goal before they are disposed of by the corporate behemoth in favour of the next big thing that comes down the machine’s pipeline. At the same time the tools for creating music have become easier than ever to obtain, as have the distribution methods, and now everyone’s voice can be heard. I believe we NEED people like David Gibson right now to remind us WHY we make music, and just why music is so precious, so magical, so moving and so much fun.

Gibson does not shy away from talking about music’s innate spiritual dimension and the long path of discovery, both personal and musical, for anyone who chooses to work with music. To the more literal-minded reader this may sound corny, but it is important to remember that music IS an artform, with as much wisdom to impart to the practitioner as any other discipline, be it scientific, artistic or spiritual. David Gibson is the Buddha of the track bounce. He IS the Anti-Cowell.

What you see below is the conclusion of The Art Of Mixing in its video form, as uploaded to YouTube, and it is truly inspiring. I have started at the end because it gives a very neat summary of the topics covered in the book/video, but also, in the words of Guru Dave himself: 

Now that we have covered all of the dynamics you can create using the equipment… we’ll let you begin this lifelong exploration on your own.

David Gibson “The Art Of Mixing (Part 17)”

David Gibson’s The Art Of Mixing: A Visual Guide to Recording, Engineering and Production is available to buy, in book form, on Amazon

Thanks to Kurt Dirt for expanding my mind!

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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Ed Sanders’ brain-groping memoir is a real mindfugger

One of the defining moments of my life was when I picked up the debut album by The Fugs in a People’s Drug Store in Falls Church, Virginia in 1966. And when I say “picked up” that’s exactly what I mean. I didn’t even have to listen to it. All it took was picking up the album and looking at the cover to have my 15-year-old mind scrambled forever. A grainy black and white photograph of five scruffy-looking hippies holding musical instruments standing among rubble in front of an ancient looking brick wall somewhere in NY City’s East Village was not your usual teenybopper rock and roll imagery. If parents didn’t want their daughters to marry a Rolling Stone, they wouldn’t want them within 20 square miles of a Fug. This was punk rock in beatnik drag. Ten years later The Ramones would release their first album with a similarly New Yorkish cover. I stared at The Fugs with the awe of a kid coming upon a creature from outer space.

Of course, I bought the record (along with a copy of the first Mothers Of Invention album, Freak Out) and went home and eagerly put it on the turntable. The rest, as they say, is history. The Fugs were the hippest thing I’d yet encountered on vinyl. Their mix of the sacred and the profane, poetry and street talk, beauty and coarseness, was intellectual and spiritual manna for my hungry teenage brain and heart.

I wanted to be a part of whatever world The Fugs existed in so I ended up taking a bus to New York City and immediately went to The Fugs’ co-founder Ed Sanders’ bookstore, Peace Eye. There I began my serious Beat education, thumbing through the pages of books by Michael McClure, Alexandra David-Neel, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, the whole underground scene…and it was still relatively underground at the time.

(While writing this I’m listening to the hugely underrated Fugs’ psychedelic/folk-rock masterpiece It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest .)

As much of a Fugs fan as I was, what eventually really knocked me out was Ed Sanders’ prose and poetry. He had a Whitmanesque/Blakean vision and bardic style coupled with gutter humor that bridged the heavens above and the mud below. He could undercut literary pretense with the foul-mouthed rants of a heavy-maned hillbilly cranked up on a ten dollar bag of crystal meth. His beatnik/hippie sensibilities were the foil to his truckstop cowboy skepticism. In other words, Sanders knew how to yin his yang, keeping the whole beautiful cosmic mess balanced between words of worship and the laughter on the tongue of a drunken whore. Within his howling vowels and clanging consonants, Sanders located that strange geography where the mythic mingles with tabloid headlines and TV commercials, where Jimmie Rodgers knocks back cheap bourbon while staring at the reflections of Isis and Ra in the bottom of his shot glass.

Drink up oh mighty yodellers and scribblers who praise the Dharma. The truth that envelopes us all and sends us squealing like delirious pigs into the arms of unbearable bliss is upon us like an ambergris-scented robe made of the pubic hair of two thousand and twelve Aztec virgins. Get naked, now! Or get the fuck out!

Yes, Ed Sanders was my guru of the gobble grope, my slum God of the Lower East Side, the dopethrill psychopath who pointed the way to a place where there is no shame in the flesh, the fuck or the flame that ignites the holy sacraments of the good lord Ganja. With Sanders as my shamanic guide I became a full-fledged member of the skin flower army, bravely facing the future with my hair flapping in the wind, a flag made of a million love tendrils.

That was then, this is now. And it is with great pleasure that I share with you good news indeed. The almighty Fug and editor of “Fuck You: A Magazine of The Arts,” has published a new memoir, Fug You, that covers his early days as a peacenik, poet, rabble rouser and musician in New York during the Sixties. It’s a great read full of fascinating anecdotes, essential counter-culture history, downtown bohemia, wrangles with the law, appearances by hundreds (yes, hundreds) of Sixties’ icons including Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa, Kenneth Anger, The Velvet Underground and tons of photos, images and manuscripts from his archives.

Unlike many a chronicler of those stoned days, Sanders has kept his wits about him. This isn’t a wobbly sentimental journey. The writing is sharp, witty and full of precise detail and facts. Of course, who would expect less of the author responsible for one of the best (and darkest) non-fiction books on the Aquarian Age, The Family. Sanders has always shown an abiding respect for form and tradition, even when fucking with them. Fug You is not only a personal history, it is history in the big sense. It is one of the few books that deals with the hippies and the counter-culture from the inside that doesn’t read like an amnesiac trying to reconstruct a past life or a brain-addled Deadhead recalling the time he caught the clap in a crash pad in the Haight as he desperately tries to keep his drool cup from toppling off his beer gut. Or worse, those guilt-ridden confessionals by former junkies who used to play in hair bands. Sanders doesn’t sound like an old fart spinning tales or pathetically trying to revive the good old days.

What kept Sanders interesting from the very beginning is still very much in operation in this new book: the clarity of his bullshit detector and his irreverent take on virtually everything, including himself. Which is not to say he doesn’t care about things in a deep sense, he does. He just approaches life with a Zen perspective knowing that getting overamped over shit ain’t gonna change a thing. He continues to be a revolutionary with a sense of the ridiculous. His strategy has always been to see the absurdity in the horror show and to shine a cosmic light on it. We see the Fug and Abbie Hoffman style of revolutionary theater echoed in today’s Occupy Movement. When The Fugs went to Virginia to levitate the Pentagon in 1967 not everybody was laughing, but they were certainly paying attention.

“You ask about my philosophy, baby, yeah? Dope, peace, magic gods in the tree trunks, and GROUP GROPE, BABY!”

The book ends in 1970, so I’m hoping this is the first in a series. More than four decades after I first encountered him, Sanders is still manna for my hungry brain.

Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side
is available here.

Here’s a little video mashup of some vintage film footage with selections from Sanders’ ode to rednecks, hippies and the trailer parks of absolute reality, Sanders’ Truckstop.

1. “Jimmy Joe, The Hippybilly Boy”   2. “Maple Court Tragedy”     3. “Heartbreak Crash Pad”     4. “Banshee”     5. “Plaster Song”     6. “Iliad”

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Holmes as Hamlet: Billy Wilder’s ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’

Billy Wilder spent seven years with his co-writer I. A. L. Diamond working on the script of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. The finished film originally lasted over 3 hours, but the studios panicked over the failure of such long form films (Doctor Doolittle with Rex Harrison, and Star! with Julie Andrews and Michael Craig) and demanded cuts. The film was hacked down to an acceptable 93 minutes. Diamond didn’t speak to Wilder for almost a year

It was a terrible act of vandalism that robbed cinema of one of its greater Holmes, as portrayed by Robert Stephens. It was also bizarre that Wilder, who believed in the primacy of the word, allowed his script to be so drastically altered, turning what was an original meditation on Holmes into a mildly distracting caper. In the process we lost Wilder and Diamond’s analysis of Holmes not as just a fictional creation, but in comparison to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The clues are all there to be found. Let’s start with the casting, Stephens, who was one of the most gifted and brilliant actors of his generation - who sadly only graced the screen in a handful of films: scene-stealing in A Taste of Honey, adding flesh to the boney The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,  and as the BFI states, “sublime” in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Stephens was stage actor, the heir apparent to Laurence Olivier, indeed a far better actor than Olivier, who depended for success by flirting with the audience - Olivier could never be bad as he needed, demanded, the love of his audience.

When Wilder cast Stephens, the actor asked the great director:

‘“How do you want me to play it for the movie,” I asked Billy. “You must play it like Hamlet. And you must not put on one pound of weight. I want you to look like a pencil.” So, that’s the way we did The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.’


The game’s afoot on ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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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 | Discussion
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Revolutionary, artist and man of conscience, Vaclav Havel R.I.P.

Velvet Underground meets Velvet Revolutionary

Vaclav Havel died today at the age of 75. A former chain smoker with chronic respiratory problems, Havel had been in failing health the past few months and died at his weekend home in Hradecek in the northern Czech Republic,

Czech independence leader, artist and human rights activist, Havel was elected the first president of a free Czechoslovakia since 1948 on December 29, 1989.

A prominent force in the Velvet Revolution, a bloodless overthrow of the communist regime in in Czechoslovakia, which returned democracy to Czechs after fifty years of Nazi occupation and communist rule, Havel was the very definition of a man of conscience. Soft-spoken, humble, impish and possessing a healthy sense of the absurd, Havel was that rare leader who chose the power of inspiration over rhetoric and empty gesture. He was a revolutionary who recognized that artistic creativity was every bit as important as political dogma or ideologies. Without the humanizing force of literature, theater and music and an understanding of the interconnectedness of all things, civilization is a hollow machine destined for spiritual starvation.

Himself a playwright, Havel was perhaps the only world leader who was closer to rock and rollers like Lou Reed, Frank Zappa and Keith Richards than politicians and bureaucrats. It is reputed that The Velvet Revolution was named after The Velvet Underground, whose music was made popular in Czechoslovakia by Prague’s radical avant-rock band The Plastic People.

Havel was a peacenik who somehow managed to navigate the treacherous waters of political power without losing his sense of perspective or soul.

Havel’s revolutionary message—which helped oust the world’s second strongest power from his country, but which Americans and in that moment the American Congress have not always been ready to hear—is that peace does not come by defeating enemies, it comes by making people free, governments democratic, and societies just. “The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet, I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of a departing era, and it must not be mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world.”

Today’s world, as we all know, is faced with multiple threats,” he said in 1993 in Athens, on accepting one of the countless honors he received. “From whichever angle I look at this menace, I always come to the conclusion that salvation can only come through a profound awakening of man to his own personal responsibility, which is at the same time a global responsibility. Thus, the only way to save our world, as I see it, lies in a democracy that recalls its ancient Greek roots: democracy based on an integral human personality personally answering for the fate of the community.

Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness,” Havel told Congress, referring to a movement toward democracy, “nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe for which the world is headed—be it ecological, social, demographic, or a general breakdown of civilization—will be unavoidable. If we are no longer threatened by world war, or by the danger that the absurd mountains of nuclear weapons might blow up the world, this does not mean that we have definitely won. This is actually far from being a final victory.”

Havel speaks at the Forum for Creative Europe in March of 2009.

Part two, plus a clip about how rock and roll figured into the Velvet Revolution, after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Always a Hitch: R.I.P. Christopher Hitchens

It’s impossible to know where to begin when paying tribute to an intellectual giant and truly Dangerous Mind like author and journalist Christopher Hitchens, who died today of metastized esophogeal cancer.

Far more elegant remembrances will pour in from far more skilled writers than I could ever hope to be. Here’s three hours of the guy speaking for himself on CSPAN’s Book TV show.

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
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Home to Beats and literary rebels: Legendary Paris bookstore owner George Whitman R.I.P.
03:38 pm


George Whitman
Shakespeare and Company

A gathering place for adventurous writers like Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, William Burroughs and Lawrence Durrell among many others, Shakespeare and Company was far more than just a business, it was a breeding ground and spiritual center for literary pioneers who were drawn to the shop by its enigmatic American owner George Whitman who opened the English-language bookstore in 1951,

Whitman passed away last Wednesday at the age of 98.

He welcomed visitors with large-print messages on the walls. “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise,” was one, quoting Yeats. Next to a wishing well at the center of the store, a sign said: “Give what you can, take what you need. George.” By his own estimate, he lodged some 40,000 people.

Whitman was generous but he also had a quick temper. He was loved but his fiery disposition could be off-putting and his methods of running his business somewhat dictatorial. He was a firm believer that anyone seeking shelter in his bookstore should expect to pay their way by doing some work in the bookstore and he evidently could be a tough taskmaster, like a Zen teacher wielding a bamboo stick. This didn’t dissuade thousands of writers from making the pilgrimage to his literary Mecca. There was no bookstore quite like it.

Whitman and his extraordinary bookstore were a seminal force in the lives and careers of some of the 20th century’s greatest authors. In this documentary, Portrait Of A Bookstore As An Old Man, we are introduced to Whitman and a life touched by the marvelous.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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