The always notable Kurt Ralske just recently blew my mind by introducing me to the work of Polish singer Ewa Demarczyk. Dealing mainly in symbolism and metaphors for freedom was a necessary tactic for her lyrics under communist rule, but one needn’t speak Polish to pick up on what is conveyed in these heavy 1966 performances.
It’s been a while since anyone’s mined Letters of Note, but this one was too good to pass up: a 1990 letter from Frank Sinatra to George Michael urging the “reluctant pop star” to loosen up and “dust off those gossamer wings.” (!)
September 9, 1990
When I saw your Calendar cover today about George Michael, “the reluctant pop star,” my first reaction was he should thank the good Lord every morning when he wakes up to have all that he has., And that’ll make two of us thanking God every morning for all that we have.
I don’t understand a guy who lives “in hopes of reducing the strain of his celebrity status.” Here’s a kid who “wanted to be a pop star since I was about 7 years old.” And now that he’s a smash performer and songwriter at 27 he wants to quit doing what tons of gifted youngsters all over the world would shoot grandma for - just one crack at what he’s complaining about.
Come on George, Loosen up. Swing, man, Dust off those gossamer wings and fly yourself to the moon of your choice and be grateful to carry the baggage we’ve all had to carry since those lean nights of sleeping on buses and helping the driver unload the instruments
And no more of that talk about “the tragedy of fame.” The tragedy of fame is when no one shows up and you’re singing to the cleaning lady in some empty joint that hasn’t seen a paying customer since Saint Swithin’s day. And you’re nowhere near that; you’re top dog on the top rung of a tall ladder called Stardom, which in latin means thanks-to-the-fans who were there when it was lonely.
Talent must not be wasted. Those who have it - and you obviously do or today’s Calendar cover article would have been about Rudy Vallee - those who have talent must hug it, embrace it, nurture it and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you.
The mid to late 70s were an odd time for music: On one hand you had all of these amazing performers from the 60s who were now… past their prime and on the other hand you had all sorts of great new and unheard sounds emanating from punk quarters. Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming album falls into the first category. It must’ve come out when I was 13 years old and it was simply confusing for me at that age. I bought it (via Columbia Record House!) and when it arrived I slapped it on the turntable and… it totally sucked. Where was the awesome Bob Dylan of Like a Rolling Stone and the other great songs if his they played on the radio? This was… shite.
Over 30 years later, Slow Train Coming still sucks, in my adult opinion—despite the Jerry Wexler production and the Muscle Shoals participation, it sounds like it was recorded with bored, day-jobbing session musicians and the songs are not memorable—but there is a perfectly wonderful—and seldom seen—animated video for the song Gotta Serve Somebody, that remains, for your viewing pleasure.
Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, artist/musician/author/record producer/music theorist/ designer/inventor of ambient music etc. etc. turns 62 today.
Below, Roxy Music tear it up, performing Ladytron on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1972. Eno’s VSC3 solo comes in at 4:10, but you’ll want to watch the entire thing. The band is in fine form here, especially Phil Manzanera. Bottom: Editions of You on German television, 1972.
Genesis Publications, they of the opulent, extremely expensive, over-the-top, signed limited-edition rock photography coffee table books have a new title that looks amazing, this one featuring photographs of Led Zeppelin maestro Jimmy Page:
Genesis is proud to present Jimmy Page’s first official published work and the definitive photographic history of one of the world’s most iconic guitar players.
As well as signing every copy, Jimmy has personally chosen every one of the 650 photographs, written the accompanying captions and helped design the magnificently luxurious binding to create Genesis Publications’ biggest ever limited edition.
Oh Lou, you’re such a… wag. Hot on the heels of putting his, er, difficult, Metal Machine Music onto the concert stage, Lou Reed has a high frequency—literally—concert event planned in Australia with partner Laurie Anderson: a concert for canines…
Lou Reed and his partner, experimental musician Laurie Anderson, will be putting on a concert exclusively for dogs as part of Sydney’s Vivid LIVE festival on June 5.
The high-frequency ‘Music For Dogs’ gig will take place on Sydney Opera House’s northern boardwalk at 10am (EST). The show will be 20-minutes long due to the canine audience’s short attention span and will be inaudible to the humans present.
“Taking the idea of the apparently inaudible dog whistle to new artistic heights, our canine friends will be treated to a glorious cacophony of sound, while all we will hear is the lapping of the water on the harbour,” festival chiefs wrote on the event’s official website, Vividlive.sydneyoperahouse.com
I have personally seen Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson walking their cute little dog many times in the West Village—I lived a half-block away from them for many years—so I think it’s pretty safe to assume that they are “dog people.” What would really be impressive, though, is if they did at least one show where no humans were present, just the pooches.
Calling it “flawless,” and “rife with sci-fi paranoia and doomed futures,” Popmatters today celebrates the reissuing of Devo‘s Duty Now for the Future. I love that ‘79 album dearly, but looking back at that era now, I can still remember the absolute, utter contempt some of my fellow Angelenos reigned down upon Akron’s spud boys.
Being a time when authenticity seemed prized beyond all other attributes, it’s not hard to see why. Devo had uniforms, a mythology, tightly orchestrated playing. But Gabba Gabba Hey, so did these guys. And whatever doubts I had about the band were quickly and forever banished by this.
So, here we are today. With authenticity no longer a concern, like, at all, are we not better poised, err, evolved, for Devo’s return? And, more importantly, will the world switch with them from Whip It red to Winter Olympic blue?
Devo’s upcoming album, its first in 20 years, comes out June 15th. And perhaps mocking, perhaps embracing, this focus-grouped-to-death time of ours, the band’s calling it, Something For Everybody:
Though the 12 songs on Something for Everybody are built on Devo’s signature mechanized swing, the recording and presentation of the album saw the band experimenting with an entirely new approach. Greg Scholl was brought in to serve as COO for Devo, Inc., and—working with the advertising agency Mother LA—conducted a series of studies through the Club Devo site to help the band with its creative decisions, from color selection to song mixes.
“We decided to actively seek comment and criticism from outside people and use that as a tool, rather than shunning or ignoring it,” says Gerald Casale. “Our experiences participating in secondary creativity—things like corporate consensus building, focus groups—make you appreciate the connection that an artist has to society.”
An amusing “touch test” for Something For Everybody follows below: