Neil Young’s hard to see ‘Muddy Track’ movie: ‘I don’t know what the f*ck it is’
04.18.2014
03:17 pm

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
Neil Young
Crazy Horse


 
In 1987, Neil Young told an interviewer that Time Fades Away was “the worst record I ever made—but as a documentary of what was happening to me, it was a great record.”

Young has never shied away from documenting, warts and all, the high points of his career and some pretty low points as well.  When he toured Europe in 1987 with Crazy Horse, disaster was looming. “It was fuckin’ terrible,” to hear Shakey himself describe it. Ticket sales were shitty, band members were often in an alcoholic stupor and played poorly, there were riots and Young even had to deal with the ignominy of a radio interviewer who expressed surprise that Young wasn’t dead yet. Good times! At the end of the tour, Young publicly vowed never to work with Crazy Horse again.

Young, being Young, saw the cinematic possibilities of the chaos of the tour and the result is Muddy Track, a patchwork, out-of-focus Shakey-cam walk in the band’s shoes as they stumbled across Europe. No distributor would touch something like this with a ten ft. pole and so the film remained fairly mysterious until parts of it were seen in the Jim Jarmusch directed Year of the Horse in 1997.

Speaking about his films, Young told MOJO in 1995:

Muddy Track is really my favourite of all of them, though. It’s dark as hell God, it’s a heavy one! (laughs) But it’s funky.

Funky it is! Muddy Track is incoherent, sure, but it’s quite real and immediate in the best sense of Young’s work. Some of the footage is probably a bit too personal (a band meeting that devolves into a tense swearing match is uncomfortable to watch three decades after the fact) but it’s never boring.

Muddy Track is not a documentary,” Young has said “I don’t know what the fuck it is.” 
 

 
Thank you Vinícius!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Meet the six-foot-tall George Harrison Marionette
04.18.2014
11:42 am

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:
George Harrison
puppets


 
This is a guest post written by Tabitha Vidaurri.

There exist a series of music videos of a life-sized, hand-made marionette of George Harrison. He sings songs like “Pisces Fish” and “Someplace Else” while strumming the guitar, banjo and ukulele. As a teen, I constructed a puppet of a blue cat wearing sunglasses and taped it singing “Land Down Under” by Men At Work, so when I laid eyes on this lovingly obsessive tribute to the Dark Horse himself, I immediately felt a kinship with whomever was responsible for its creation.

While I was not able to get in touch with the puppeteer, I did some digging and found that her name is Jenn, she has over 35 years of experience as a puppet builder and performer, and it took her six months to complete the George Harrison Marionette.

Jenn has also written about her project extensively on the Muppet and Steve Hoffman Music forums

Originally, ‘George’ was going to be much smaller…more the size of a traditional marionette (2 to 3 feet tall). Because of the complicated animations I had to build for the unique eyes, eyelids, and mouth, the size of ‘George’s’ head ended up being life size.


The puppet is is fully clothed in a store-bought two-piece suit, though Jenn notes she had some trouble finding non-leather, vegetarian-friendly men’s dress shoes. You Harrison fans will notice that the electric guitar used isn’t accurate, which is due to the fact that this was such a low-budget production. At $80, the tiny Dark Horse Records lapel pin on ‘George’s’ jacket was the single most expensive item used in the project.

A lot of love and nitpicky detailing went into this project to give ‘George’ a realistic appearance both in looks and movement.  His hands are completely pose-able thanks to an eternal ‘skeleton’ of stiff wires in his fingers. This enables him to mimic any playing position. His hands are also rich in detail, with knuckles, veins, and palm lines sculpted into them. The LP record cover of ‘Living in the Material World’ was used to insure his hands were correct to size.  I was adamant about having him be portrayed as himself, as a solo artist, instead of the far more common representation one sees of ‘Beatle George.’

The puppet is modeled off of late ‘80s/early ‘90s Harrison, a period when he was absent of facial hair and prone to wearing blazers. This era was chosen so ‘George’ would have the option to sing selections from the Traveling Wilburys catalog.

I admire Jenn’s devotion and peaceful attitude. She acknowledges that a 6-foot tall puppet—or puppets in general—may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if it does happen to be your mug of Earl Grey, then this is just the tip of the iceberg:

‘George’ is wonderful company…a bit quiet though, and seems perpetually content. He is definitely a ‘presence’ in the room, which some might find disturbing (in a spooky sense) while others may find it charming. The few people who have been able to see him in person have noted this.


To learn more, visit the George Harrison Marionette Facebook Page.

The video for “My Sweet Lord” features a behind-the-scenes look at how the marionette works; ‘George’ is operated Thunderbirds-style, meaning there are no electronic elements used, and a total of fifteen strings control his movements:
 

 
Jenn also filmed a music video for “Life Itself” as a bigger production with multiple camera angles, even creating storyboards. The final product has candles and moody lighting, very much in the style of the early days of VH1:
 

 
This is a guest post written by Tabitha Vidaurri.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Every Rolling Stones clip British Pathé just uploaded to YouTube
04.18.2014
07:52 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones
 
On Sunday newsreel archivist British Pathé uploaded 85,000 films, in high resolution, to its YouTube channel. An incredible, if sometimes a bit stodgy, resource that will be viewed countless of thousands of times in the years to come. Lots of things like the Hindenburg.

And pop culture too. I scoured the British Pathé YouTube presence for all of its Rolling Stones footage (mostly by entering in the term “Rolling Stones” in the appropriate place). This is what that quest produced: 12 videos covering the years 1964 to 1970. Some of them are collections of raw footage that made up some of the completed items you can also see here. A few of them have no sound at all. The concert footage from 1970 isn’t very good, esp. the sound (which is glumly conceded in the YouTube “About” area), but a number of the clips are excellent in their way.

The “Rolling Stones Gather Moss” video captures the Stones in their “Hard Day’s Night” phase, so to speak. They’re still in the Beatles mold—until you get to the performance section, where nobody would ever mistake these guys for the Beatles. The footage from Australia is pretty solid and the Hyde Park concert after the death of Brian Jones is also very good.

My favorite, though, is the weird footage of the audience at the Stones’ 1964 Hull concert. Someone’s going to make a pretty dandy experimental movie out of that someday.

In each instance I have pasted the “About” text underneath the video. In one case there is a duplicate, the two Hyde Park videos appear to be identical, but we strive to be complete.
 
“Rolling Stones Gather Moss” (5:51, 1964)

Full title reads: “Rolling Stones Gather Moss.” Technicolor Material. Hull, Humberside.
 
More where these came from, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Swans’ Michael Gira on their forthcoming triple album ‘To Be Kind’
04.18.2014
07:38 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Swans
Michael Gira


 
Michael Gira’s band Swans have shape-shifted but plenty. They made their reputation with an extraordinarily punishing and shockingly nihilistic take on no-wave music in the 1980s, culminating in the colossal masterpiece Children of God. They then curve-balled their fans with relatively introspective and quietly mournful LPs at the decade’s turn. The ‘90s saw further experimentation, ending with the final album of their first incarnation, Soundtracks for the Blind in 1996. But whatever Swans’ approach, be it the bludgeoning riffs of their early years, the tape loop experiments of the mid ‘80s, or the early ‘90s acoustic efforts, the band’s oeuvre has been united, partly by musical and lyrical darkness, certainly, but also by the ability of all the band’s many lineups to conjure the elemental.

Swans went silent in 1997, after which Gira continued to work both solo and in The Angels of Light. Then, in 2010, Swans reappeared, with Gira and stalwart guitarist Norman Westberg leading an otherwise entirely new lineup. Quoth Gira, from a recent phone conversation:

I just wanted to continue making music. I was doing the Angels of Light project for 13 years and I was growing a little bored with it. I wanted to do something a little more all-consuming, intense. So I started to think seriously about reconstituting Swans, I thought that was the best path. There are certain ways of making sound, and avenues that were maybe started that weren’t fully explored that I wanted to continue, and that pushed into new things. Once we started working on Swans it became its own new entity, and opened up in ways that I never would have anticipated.

 

 
This reinvigorated Swans released My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, an album that met with instant acclaim. As if to prove that this was no fluke, they followed it with the triple-LP The Seer, an album so successfully ambitious it easily equalled Children of God at the absolute top of the band’s discography. In mid-May, the band will release a second triple-LP, To Be Kind, with a heavy-friends lineup that boasts vocalists Al Spyx, St. Vincent, and Little Annie, and Ministry/R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin. I wonder, who else has done two consecutive triple-LPs? Anyone? And furthermore, who has done two consecutive stunningly awesome ones?
 

 
Having only gotten all the way through it twice, I’m still just going to commit to this: To Be Kind is very nearly as astonishing as its predecessor, and with exceptions noted below, it’s just perhaps a bit less musically diverse—many songs here share a noticeably similar emotive arc (21st Century Swans seem to have taken a liking to post-rock crescendoes), though fortunately it’s a compelling and effective one. And most of these songs are loooooong, but this, too, is a good thing; every musical element is treated as though it has great value, and is given plenty of room to grow and breathe and live before new ideas and dynamic shifts creep in. Both albums have half-hour set pieces, and my chat with Gira revealed that the new one is actually an outgrowth of the previous.

”Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture“ grew out of playing “The Seer” live. As that song was winding down, we started improvising, and what you hear on this album is what came out of that over a year of playing. These pieces kind of developed along the way, and I gradually developed words for them. I was reading a friend’s book about one of the instigators of the slave revolt in Haiti, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and so I started throwing in signifiers for that gentleman, and it became that song.

Though it parallels The Seer in other ways, and it’s easy to conclude that two oceanic-sounding triple albums could work as a matched set, Gira holds that the albums aren’t meant to be taken as a pair:

I don’t conceptualize how things fit together with what came before, or the next thing. The one thing I do try to accomplish is not to repeat ourselves exactly, just to take certain threads from what we’ve done and move forward with those and leave other things behind. I tried to avoid the kind of long soundscape kind of passages that were on The Seer, I felt that would be redundant to do again, and wanted to push more of the groove aspect that was nascent in the touring band.

The groove-oriented songs are a welcome surprise. Passages in “She Loves Us” and “Oxygen” have moments that could pass for straightforward rock, moreso than any other Swans songs I could name off the top of my head, and “A Little God in My Hands” sounds like a new direction altogether. Even when toying with decidedly not-so-Swans ideas, though, Swans, as always, sound unequivocally like Swans. Here are “A Little God…,” which has been online for a few weeks now, and “Oxygen,” which debuted earlier this week on The Quietus. (Incidentally, if you’re not already reading that site, good lord, get on that already, it’s fantastic.)
 

Swans, “A Little God In My Hands”
 

Swans, “Oxygen”
 
Lastly, here are early live versions of “Just A Little Boy” and the title track, recorded in Barcelona last summer.
 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
The Unholy Grail of ‘Lost’ Films: Kenneth Anger’s ‘Lucifer Rising’ with Jimmy Page soundtrack
04.17.2014
08:05 am

Topics:
Movies
Music
Occult

Tags:
Kenneth Anger
Jimmy Page
Brian Butler


 
Tonight a lucky audience in downtown Los Angeles, seated in the opulent setting of the theatre at the Ace Hotel (once the original United Artists Theatre co-owned by Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford) will be treated to a number of Kenneth Anger rarities that have been recently rediscovered and restored by Anger’s producer/manager/collaborator filmmaker Brian Butler. Among them are alternate versions of The Magick Lantern Cycle films and the mind-blowing, but ill-fated collaboration between Anger and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, both famously devotees of Aleister Crowley’s philosophy of Thelema.

The story of their falling out has long been a foundation of the Led Zeppelin mythos: Anger had been living in Page’s Tower House abode in London, editing Lucifer Rising on the same film equipment used on The Song Remains The Same. While Page was on tour with Led Zeppelin, his girlfriend suddenly kicked Anger out, not even allowing him to get his things. A few days later, the mercurial Magus of Cinema threw a hissy over not getting an additional five minutes of music he needed to complete Lucifer Rising when he wanted it, phoned the Swan Song office and “fired” Page—who was in America and apparently mystified by the whole exercise—from the project. Anger did his patented “curse” routine very publicly, going so far as accusing Page of being a mere “dabbler” in the occult and a rich, lazy junkie. Rock journalists at the time began to speculate if Anger’s curse had worked when a succession of tragic events ended Led Zeppelin’s reign as the world’s biggest rock group.

Pages’ Lucifer RIsing score is wonderfully perverse: a languid but steadily building Middle Eastern-sounding drone, festooned with chanting, tabla, screaming mellotron, a sonically shifting low frequency, foreboding ambiance and shimmering 12-string guitar work. It’s a mad, diabolical symphony of beautiful evil; a fascinating piece of unconventional aggressively avant garde music from one of the rock era’s most mysterious living legends. Married to Anger’s imagery, it’s an exquisite aesthetic and spiritual experience.

The world’s two most famous, most artistically high-level Thelemite magicians collaborated for several years and frustratingly, the fruits of that effort have been seen by very few people. And not for four decades at that.
 

 

Over email, I asked Brian Butler a few questions.

How or where did you locate this print?

Brian Butler: I got a call from a storage facility who told me that they had found an “aberated” print of Lucifer Rising. They asked if they should throw it away or if we wanted to keep it. This was a year ago. I was so busy that I didn’t think much of it and put it in storage. Gradually as I started to inventory Kenneth’s archive I found old press clippings and film programs. I found it interesting how meticulous he was in curating a unique experience for the audience. In 1966 he began screening his films as The Magick Lantern Cycle and designed a thirteen-page booklet with a different color for each page. He also recut Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome as the “Sacred Mushroom Edition” for this occasion. In the audience notes were included specific instructions on when to take LSD (still legal at the time) to time it for that film.

I started to notice how The Magick Lantern Cycle evolved in the early 1970s with different versions of Lucifer Rising. It’s seems he began including this in the program as he was shooting it—“Lucifer Rising Chapter One” was shown in 1970—and he experimented with various soundtracks including Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother.

Eventually Jimmy Page came onboard in 1973. For someone of the stature that Jimmy Page had reached in 1973 it was quite radical to do an avant garde soundtrack strictly as an artistic endeavor, although Mick Jagger did the Moog soundtrack for Kenneth’s Invocation of My Demon Brother in 1969. They worked together for several years with at least two different versions being produced, one in 1974 and one in 1975.

Which one is this?

Brian Butler: After a lot of research, I found it to be the 1975 version—the most developed of four versions known to exist. It ends with “To be continued” and was obviously a work in progress.

In one interview I found, Jimmy Page refers to when he screened Lucifer Rising in his room hotel room on the sixth floor and seemed delighted that his haunting score terrified guests up on the twelfth floor. He also mentions making a special trip to a screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York to be sure the music was synced up correctly. The Anger/Page version was exhibited to the public at least a few times, and also privately, for potential investors.
 

 
The Films of Kenneth Anger” will be introduced by the filmmaker and is a co-production of Kenneth Anger, Brian Butler and Cinespia. The former United Artists Theatre is one of the most opulent movie palaces ever built in America. For a while it was owned by freaky TV minister Dr. Gene Scott and basically closed to the public for more than two decades. The Ace Hotel has restored and preserved all the original decorations, murals and mirrored ceiling and Anger’s films will be projected on the theatre’s big screen beneath ornate columns, a soaring gold ceiling and walls in the style of a Spanish Gothic cathedral. (I was there once to see Dr. Gene Scott and even then it was pretty impressive. Restored it should be pretty incredible.)

More information here and tickets here. Apparently it’s nearly sold out, so if you snooze, you’ll lose, be warned.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Pussy Galore on ‘The Uncle Floyd Show’
04.17.2014
07:55 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Television

Tags:
Pussy Galore
Uncle Floyd


 
In a just world, Floyd Vivino would be a very famous man. He was the titular “uncle” of New Jersey’s Uncle Floyd Show, a cheap and brilliant kid’s show parody that aired for over 20 years starting in 1974—beating Pee-wee Herman to the punch by a pretty good length—and was even syndicated nationally for a hot minute in the early ‘80s.

Vivino’s show was known for chaos, unpredictability, puppets, and completely weird musical guests. The timing of his initial appearance and the gonzo nature of his act won him some fans in the nascent punk scene, and so he was championed by the likes of The Ramones and even David Bowie (who paid tribute in song in 2002), and welcomed guests like David Johansen, the Misfits, Smithereens, even Tiny Tim.

Also, Pussy Galore. Seriously. Pigfuck’s demented champions of classic-rock-as-corrosive-scum-noise appeared on The Uncle Floyd Show, in what must have been 1987 if the Pussy Gold 5000 EP Floyd plugs was a new release at the time, which seems likely, as that record contains the song they “perform” here. So enjoy a pre-respectable Jon Spencer, not even trying to pretend like he gives a shit about lip-synching in this gloriously shambolic farce.
 

 
Many thanks to Gerard Cosloy for this find.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
‘Viking Angel’: Hollywood Babylonia

Actually Huizenga in
 
If God is in the Hills and the Devil is in the details, then where does that land the glitz of Hollywood? The glitter is there, sure, sparkly, pretty but often masking layers of blood, semen and tears. But isn’t that glamorous too? The grime and soot are as much a part of the picture as the pretty polish and all this and more are explored in post-pop musician/video artist extraordinaire Actually Huizenga’s most epic creation to date, Viking Angel.

Auditioning beautiful, unsure but ambitious aspiring starlets, Mr. Bailey (Louis Oberlander), a blue eyed, bearded Russ Tamblyn-charismatic agent, greets the latest girl. Blonde, lovely and dressed in a sexy approximation of virgin white, the actress (Actually) shows up in his office. A weird tableau of superimposition hell plays on a TV behind her, displaying the legs of basketball players, a neon cross with the words “Jesus Saves” and a future version of herself, naked, bloody and crawling.

The audition, involving lines like “ordinary morality is only for ordinary people,” goes so well that she gets the part and is promptly put through the casting couch process. The film shifts into music video mode with “Male Fantasy” coming on as a Lisa Frank color palette scheme kicks in. A photo of the dismembered body of Elizabeth Short, the infamous “Black Dahlia,” is seen in the background as Bailey soldiers on with his humping. 

Soon, she is being made up and prepped for her big scene, as a newscast comes on a nearby TV. Real newscasts should take a cue from Viking Angel. Animated bats, smoking on the set and dialogue like, “Whatever Ryan, why can’t you just be happy about it?” and “They should be really helping. Not throwing children in the closet with demons.” makes real life news even more mediocre and borderline unbearable. It’s a sick, sad world, with six escaped muscle-bound, sex-starved convicts running around raping and killing innocent families. The newscasters bring on Officer Short (Socrates Mitsios) to discuss the series of new unsolved murders with a matching MO. All of the victims, beautiful and struggling actresses, who have been quartered and drained of blood, Dahlia-style.
 
Socrates Mitsios in
 
As they cue to the weather, the actress gets tied up for her “scene,” as an occult procession starts to roll in, complete with topless women asserting themselves into a fleshy Jesus Christ pose and a ritual sacrifice. Realizing that this is not part of the script, she starts to freak and as the blade starts to pierce her skin, Officer Short arrives and manages to rescue her before the wound gets fatal. Simultaneously, an Insane Viking Warrior (Daniel Pierce) shows up, complete with crazed eyes, ripped six pack and chain mail loincloth, as well as a sexy version of the goddess Freya who looks identical to the actress.

The Officer manages to grab the actress and they crawl out of a hole in the ground, which is flanked by a grinning, dancing gentleman (Gerald) twirling a cardboard sign stating “Sacrifice Here.” They run away, while being unknowingly followed by the Viking Warrior, who lets out a scream of the ages before going on the chase. Down the rabbit hole they go, encountering an S&M bar with whipped businessmen and masturbating Santas, coitus interruptus thanks to vivisection via electric guitar, mass stabbings, watermelon being pierced by a high heel and an ethereal pope figure. 
 
This is all gonna end in blood.
 
Viking Angel is a fluid ride into a universe that intertwines the harsh realities of a violent, superficial world and the dreamy, love-lorn paganism of mythology. The music is a terrific mix of electro-sex-pop with metal undertones, thanks to some stellar guitar work courtesy of Gabriel Tanaka. With Huizenga’s background being music videos and the experimental film work of the SoftRock series, Viking Angel is a seamless blend of these twin formats. There is Huizenga’s brilliant editing style, working superimposition like a well-oiled-acid-laced-machine. The visual layering that is utilized here is like the world’s most stunning pastiche, with the tone of sensuality, bloodletting and the occult playing out like the art-child of Kenneth Anger.

Performance wise, Actually is pitch perfect both as the beautiful starlet who spends ¾ of the film caked in blood during her infernal journey, as well as the strong Freya-type doppelganger. As Mr. Bailey, Louis Oberlander is the epitome of blue-eyed Hollywood sleaze as he leads the sex & death show. Mitsios is charismatic as Officer Short and speaking of which, Gabriel Tanaka is equally striking as both the literally killer guitarist and the ghostly, androgynous Pope.
 
Glitter & Grue
 
The biggest challenge about Viking Angel has nothing to do with the film itself, but the multi-boundary pushing going on. Art crowds will get fussy about the blood and pop music. Horror fans could grouse about the art and pop music. Pop music fans will recoil from the grue and metal undertones, but you know what? That’s why this work is so wonderful and so needed. If your own boundaries are not pushed, then someone is not doing their job. Playing it safe is the last thing any artist should do, while playing it true to their work and vision is the absolute first thing they should do. Actually Huizenga is the real deal and has created a world that is striking, beautiful, nightmarish and complex with Viking Angel. Lucky for both fans and the curious, Huizenga has an upcoming multi-media tour highlighting both the film, the new tunes, as well as an additional performance by cult music wunderkind Ssion. Dates are not yet confirmed but will be posted on her website as soon as they are set.
 

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
Elvis Costello buys avocados in an American supermarket, 1978

Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello contemplating olives
 
I don’t know exactly where this footage came from, but it’s delightful, whatever it is. To say it’s a 20/20 segment would be misleading but it appears to be the raw footage for a 20/20 segment that may never have ended up happening. Geraldo Rivera sure is seen here hanging out with Elvis Costello and the Attractions in mid-1978, and he sure is behaving like someone trying to put together some piquant footage for such a segment. This Year’s Model, arguably Elvis’s best album, was released in March of 1978, so that’s the product they were supporting here.

This footage was taped during the Elvis Costello and the Attractions U.S. tour of 1978. The Elvis Costello Wiki asserts that footage for 20/20 was taped on April 22, the day they played two gigs at Royal Oak, Michigan, and May 4, the day of their Boston appearance. The opening acts were Mink DeVille and Nick Lowe with Rockpile.
 
Elvis Costello
 
The two clips can be usefully called “Tour Bus” and “Supermarket.” The first isn’t super interesting, we see Elvis Costello and a few other guys exit a Howard Johnson’s, where they had stayed the night, and pile into a tour bus—Geraldo tapes an intro in which he makes a lot of the fact that the gang is down-to-earth enough to use a bus. The bus, named “Successful Living,” is cramped indeed. You can hear the Rutles’ “I Must Be in Love” and “Ouch!” playing in the background, and the fellows humming along. Future historians will want to know that Elvis was a Rutles fan.
 
Successful Living
 
The second clip has far more incident. The gang enters an A&P, they pick up some milk and some beer, Elvis grabs two avocados and they head for the checkout line. A matronly woman with a European accent informs Elvis that her son plays “bass”—I’m almost positive she means with a bow—Geraldo asks a woman if she likes “punk rock” and the woman, appearing not to understand, indicates that she drinks it. The nonplussed cashier Gertrude—love her sailor-style A&P outfit—has the most honest reaction to Geraldo’s leading question about punk rock: “I think it’s wonderful. You’re a group, a singing group or something?” before cackling endearingly. Skinny ties abound. Dave Edmunds wears a black jacket, and Nick Lowe can be seen clutching an orange.
 
Geraldo and Elvis
 
“Tour Bus”:

 
“Supermarket”

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
The Idiot: Iggy Pop totally charms square daytime TV audience, 1977
04.16.2014
10:45 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Television

Tags:
David Bowie
Iggy Pop


 
Iggy Pop’s classic album, The Idiot, is now 37 years old. It still sounds as good today as when it was released in spring of 1977, although the times have caught up to it. Somewhat at least.

Produced by David Bowie, who co-wrote all of the songs with Iggy, save for one (Bowie’s longtime guitarist Carlos Alomar co-wrote “Sister Midnight), The Idiot has very little in common with the rest of the Igster’s output, even his next record, Lust for Life, also produced in collaboration with Bowie. No, The Idiot‘s Teutonic-sounding industrial drone had almost no connection whatsoever to the sound of The Stooges, or really even most things of that era, come to think of it.

Bowie’s own Low album had just come out in January and was considered mind-blowing, even controversial at the time. The Idiot, released just a few weeks later (but mostly recorded first), was an equally chilly-sounding affair, but way darker and with a much bigger whomp. It’s sort of the perfect marriage of their talents.

As Bowie told Kurt Loder in 1989:

Poor Jim, in a way, became a guinea pig for what I wanted to do with sound. I didn’t have the material at the time, and I didn’t feel like writing at all. I felt much more like laying back and getting behind someone else’s work, so that album was opportune, creatively.

The Idiot was the first Iggy album that you could easily buy in a small town. I was eleven when it came out and I already owned both Raw Power and a blue vinyl Metallic ‘KO—both purchased unheard via mail order from a Moby Disc Records ad in CREEM magazine, a monthlong round trip—so when I brought The Idiot home from the mall and slapped it on the turntable, I was perplexed at first, but ultimately thrilled. “Dum Dum Boys” and “Mass Production” were my favorite tracks. The druggy, nightmarish vamp “Nightclubbing” was another. I played the shit out of that album.

When Iggy and Bowie toured that spring in support of The Idiot, they made a stop on daytime television’s Dinah! show, hosted by singer Dinah Shore. Bowie had been on Dinah! to promote Station to Station (with fellow guests Nancy Walker and Henry Winkler) and seemed to have a good rapport with Shore, so it was arranged that he would guest with Iggy, who sang a live “Sister Midnight” after Shore introduced him—her show was on at 10am in the TV market I lived in—with a photograph of him covered in blood! Dinah! may have been a middle-of-the-road daytime TV show, but to her credit, Dinah Shore didn’t shy away from asking him about it either (as Bowie laughs and shakes his head “No!”). Shore’s square studio audience, too, seem to actually be charmed by Jimmy Osterberg’s tales of his misspent youth, drug addiction and self-harming, because, hey let’s face it, the man was charisma personified during this delightful chat
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Classical music’s greatest shitty reviews


 
I’ve long felt that dismissive asshole music writers can be every bit as valuable as thoughtful and rigorous ones. Yes, a think piece on why it’s important that so-and-so’s reunion album is held as a disappointment by the cognoscenti and what that consensus might say about the cultural priorities of a generation can be thought provoking and illuminating, and I’m absolutely going to read that piece. But sometimes I only need to hear from the smugging, brickbat-lobbing prick who’ll just flat out tell me that a record is dog shit and that my money would be better spent on maybe a nice lunch. When the ‘zine explosion hit in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I always particularly enjoyed titles like Forced Exposure, Your Flesh, and Motorbooty, some of whose writers would just absolutely SAVAGE a band for being even slightly sub-par—not because I had any particular hardon to see sincere creative strivers get slammed, but because these mags’ ranks were swelling with Bangs/Meltzer aspirants who did their best to be really damn clever with their invective. I succumbed to that temptation, myself, in my youth as an embryonic writer. Not gonna lie, ill-tempered nastiness could be (oh, who am I kidding with the past tense, still is) a great deal of fun, so long as it wasn’t a crutch, and I got validation for it from readers who found such caustic bastardy engaging and funny.

But a book I picked up back in the early oughts revealed to me a tradition for brutal critical smartassery reaching back long before the rock era. Nicolas Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective, originally published in 1953, but revived with new editions in 1965 and 2000, contains hundreds of pages of critical blasts, going as far back as the turn of the 19th Century, at works that later became untouchables in the classical music canon. I’m normally one to seek out the oldest edition of a book I can affordably get my hands on, but in the case of the Lexicon, the 2000 publication not only holds the advantage of still being in print, it has a wonderful foreword by Peter “P.D.Q. Bach” Schickele, from whence:

It is a widely known fact—or, at least, a widely held belief—that negative criticism is more entertaining to read than enthusiastic endorsement. There is certainly no doubt that many critics write pans with an unbridled gusto that seems to be lacking in their (usually rarer) raves, and these critics often become more famous, or infamous, than their less caustic colleagues.

Most of us feel constrained, in person, to say politely pleasant things to creative artists no matter what we think of their work; perhaps this penchant of ours endows blisteringly bad reviews with a cathartic strength…

And perhaps much of the appeal of the Lexicon to a classical-music dilettante like me lies in how it’s all the more entertaining to read slams on works that are so long-embedded in our culture, so widely regarded as timeless works of surpassing genius, that it’s hard to even imagine some grump throughly torpedoing them.
 

 
On Richard Strauss’ Salome:

“A reviewer…should be an embodied conscience stung into righteous fury by the moral stench with which Salome fills the nostrils of humanity, but, though it makes him retch, he should be sufficiently judicial in his temperament to calmly look at the drama in all its aspects and determine whether or not as a whole it is an instructive note on the life and culture of the times and whether or not this exudation from the diseased and polluted will and imagination of the authors marks a real advance in artistic expression.”
—H.E. Krehbiel, New York Tribune, January 23,1907

“I am a man of middle life who has devoted upwards of twenty years to the practice of a profession that necessitates a daily intimacy with degenerates. I say after deliberation that Salome is a detailed and explicit exposition of the most horrible, disgusting, revolting, and unmentionable features of degeneracy that I have ever heard, read of, or imagined.”
—letter to the New York Times, January 21, 1907
 

 
On Claude Debussy’s La Mer:

“M. Debussy wrote three tonal pictures under the general title of The Sea… It is safe to say that few understood what they heard and few heard anything they understood… There are no themes distinct and strong enough to be called themes. There is nothing in the way of even a brief motif that can be grasped securely enough by the ear and brain to serve as a guiding line through the tonal maze. There is no end of queer and unusual effects in orchestration, no end of harmonic combinations and progressions that are so unusual that they sound hideously ugly.”
—W.L. Hubbard, Chicago Tribune, January 30, 1909

“We believe that Shakespeare means Debussy’s ocean when he speaks of taking up arms against a sea of troubles. It may be possible, however, that in the transit to America, the title of this work has been changed. It is possible that Debussy did not intend to cal it La Mer, but Le Mal de Mer, which would at once make the tone-picture as clear as day. It is a series of symphonic pictures of sea sickness.”
—Louis Elson, Boston Daily Advertiser, April 22 1907
 
More shitty reviews after the jump…
 

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