...a house where proper precautions against disturbance can be taken; this being arranged, there is really nothing to do but to aspire with increasing fervor and concentration, for six months, towards the obtaining of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
Boleskine suited Crowley’s needs, and he later described the place in Confessions:
The house is a long low building. I set apart the south-western half for my work. The largest room has a bow window and here I made my door and constructed the terrace and lodge. Inside the room I set up my oratory proper. This was a wooden structure, lined in part with the big mirrors which I brought from London.
For Crowley, Boleskine House was a “Thelemic Kiblah”, a “Magical East”, where he could practice the Black Mass and summon demons. It is these demons which are believed by many to have caused the strange, monstrous disruption to the loch. Crowley later stated in his autobiography:
...the spirits he summoned got out of hand, causing one housemaid to leave, and a workman to go mad. He also insinuates he was indirectly responsible for a local butcher accidentally severing an artery and bleeding to death. Crowley had written the names of some demons on a bill from the butcher’s shop.
Aleister Crowley and the Other Loch Ness Monster is an engaging short documentary, directed by Garry S. Grant. It contains fine interviews with Kenneth Anger, Colin Wilson, Neil Oram, Head of the UK OTO, John Bonner and Mogg Morgan. And the commentary is read by former Jesus of Nazareth, Robert Powell.
Back to my American friend. As we headed off into the night, in search of another bar, he said, ‘You ever think that monster was maybe Cthulhu?’
The Hett Art Gallery and Museum in Chesterfield, Indiana was built to house artifacts from the spiritualist movement, most notably artwork done by spiritualist mediums when in contact with the spirit world, referred to in their installation as “Psychic Art and Inspirational Painting.” There are portraits painted by, among others, the psychic Bangs sisters who painted portraits of spirits with whom they communicated, who were later identified as actual people who had passed on, and a rather touching landscape of the spirit world.
Mediums still live and teach classes at Camp Chesterfield, among the oldest spiritualist communities in the U.S. (founded in 1886).
Above, a tour of the West Room at The Hett Art Gallery and Museum, which houses artifacts from the early history of the camp and the long line of well-known professional mediums who lived there.
The Beatles opened their first Apple Corp. business enterprise, the Apple Boutique, at 94 Baker Street in London, on December 7, 1967. Technically it was simply called the Apple “shop,” because John Lennon disapproved of using the word “boutique.” The exterior of the shop, described by Paul McCartney as “a beautiful place where beautiful people can buy beautiful things,” was originally covered in a bright, swirling psychedelic mural designed and painted by Dutch art collective, The Fool (Simon Posthuma, Marijke Koeger, Josje Leeger, along with Simon Hayes, and Barry Finch). This mural was painted over after outcry from nearby businesses and an order from the Westminster City Council. The 18th-century Georgian building contained demo recording studios upstairs as well as in the basement, with the clothing and groovy accessories boutique on the main floor.
What do you need when you start an ambitious business enterprise with Eastern spiritual leanings and a hippie sensibility?
Of course, you’d require a professional on-staff astrologer.
Caleb Ashburton-Dunning was hired not only as the assistant manager of the Apple boutique but as the house astrologer to do daily horoscopes for the Beatles when asked and charts for any special event or problem. He worked out of a small office in the Apple building. His fiancee, a graphic artist named Mishi, worked as a salesgirl downstairs. Ashburton-Dunning did the majority of his astrological work for John Lennon and Yoko Ono until he had a falling out with John.
Jazz and progressive rock guitarist and bassist Roger Bunn (who later joined Pete Brown’s band Piblokto!) used the upstairs recording studio at Apple. He wrote in his unpublished memoirs, The Right Side of the Tracks, in 2000:
“I first met Mishi through Diana’s friend Caleb Ashburton-Dunning, the Beatles astrologer, and manager of the Apple shop. Wherein, after Djinn had split, and while James Taylor recorded his demos in the basement, I was on the top floor recording “Life is a Circus” [later recorded by David Bowie]. Caleb had since left Apple in disgrace, reason being he told John Lennon to drop Yoko and return to Cynthia. Unfortunately, for Caleb Ashburton-Dunning, he was also in the process of going acid-ape.”
Ashburton-Dunning was devastated over being fired by Lennon simply for predicting that his relationship with Yoko Ono would not go well. He turned to the The Process Church of the Final Judgment, a bizarre new religious organization that had its headquarters in London.
The Process Church was founded by an English couple, Robert Moor (later calling himself Robert DeGrimston) and Mary Anne MacLean, who were former Scientologists. The Process were derided as Satanists because their teachings included the need to worship Jehovah, Satan, Lucifer, and Christ equally. This organization faltered in the mid-1970s and underwent many attempts at revival and renewal, eventually morphing into the Best Friends Animal Society, an animal rescue group.
Ashburton-Dunning seems to have disappeared after the initial disbanding of The Process. Mishi divorced him in 1969 and became the long-time common law wife of Roger Bunn.
In the clip below, from the 1968 comedy ‘Hot Millions,’ a young Maggie Smith shops at the Apple Boutique as Bob Newhart looks on.
There are only a few artists in existence that can actually communicate truth. I know them because their work can immediately cut through the fog of my daily life, force me to drop whatever I’m doing, and command me to listen, slack-jawed, as if struck with an arrow. The list is small—there’s a few songs by Nick Drake in there, some of Daniel Johnston’s 1990 album—but neither of them comes close to the otherwordly power, the angelic fury of Judee Sill at her best.
Judee Sill was born in Oakland in 1944. She worked the same folk scene as Joni Mitchell, perhaps her closest contemporary, but never found the spotlight. She never found the light at all, at least not the light of fame. She found a different light, an inner illumination, in Rosicrucianism, astral travel, Aleister Crowley and heroin.
After an early life spent streetwalking and playing in cafes, she got her chance at success—she was selected as the first artist for up-and-coming mogul David Geffen’s Asylum Records—a chance that was then dashed when she outed Geffen as gay on the radio and he canned her in retribution. (Geffen is now one of the most prominent out gay men in the world—Out ranked him the most powerful gay person in America in 2007.)
Sill, herself bisexual, spent her salad days in a Hollywood mansion surrounded by adulating female fans she kept around like slaves, sunbathing naked in her backyard. Soon all of that was gone. By the mid-seventies she was living in a trailer park and back to prostituting herself. At 35, she overdosed.
Though cited by many as an influence—Warren Zevon, Andy Partridge of XTC and David Tibet of Current 93, for instance—Sill remains unknown, even when similarly overlooked (but far less threatening) figures like the aforementioned Nick Drake have been resurrected for car commercials and posthumously canonized.
She was a genius, or, rather, she had a genius, as Socrates might have put it, a transcendent connection driving her on. Her second and final album, Heart Food, released in 1973 to almost no attention whatsoever (a condition that hasn’t changed), contains what Pythagoras might have identified as the Musica universalis, the Music of the Spheres. Sill, steeped in both mysticism and Pythagorean number theory, was able to produce songs like “The Donor,” precisely striking a raw nerve of human experience with complex musical arrangements that were almost beyond the scope of the merely human.
Prefacing “The Donor” when she played it live for the BBC in 1972, Judee Sill told the audience “Most of my songs, I always try to write them so they’ll make people feel better, or make them feel that their warm, human spirit is affirmed… but I thought one day when I was depressed, you know when you’re real depressed and you see everything comes to nothing, well, I thought, maybe I ought to take a different approach, and write a song that, instead of directed at people, would somehow musically induce God into giving us all a break, cause I was getting a little fed up by this point. So I put some combinations of notes in there that I worked on a long time hoping it would work… since that time I’ve decided that I shouldn’t get any more breaks, cause I already squandered them in weird places. But I’d like to sing this song for you in the hope that you’ll get a break.”
When she sings “I’ll chase him to the bottom, till I finally caught him,” she is talking about Christ, redemption, god, who dwells just as surely in the depths of Hell Itself as in that great gated community in the sky. Perhaps more so, there among the broken and the outcast, the last light in the eyes of the homeless and cold.
In those perfectly struck notes she captures that feeling of exquisite heartbreak that is god moving over the face of the waters, shattering the temple that it may be rebuilt. Or never rebuilt, in Judee Sill’s case, and that of many others. Not in this lifetime and world. In those chords you can hear every single broken life, every acid casualty or otherwise wrecked traveller on the road of higher consciousness. Every one that did not come back. Kyrie Elision.
In 2013’s occult-saturated pop culture, where club kids smear witch house affectations across their Tumblr accounts, it can be easy to forget how real and terrifying the occult can be for those who approach it with self-destruction in mind. It is certainly not that way for everybody—but it is undeniable that for those already enmeshed in life’s dark and entropic side, who are already chasing their own death, it certainly can be. How quickly all sense of perspective or common sense can be lost upon the occult’s event horizon, and how quickly they vanish therein.
Judee Sill was such a person. Her life and her music stand as a guidepost, a statement of truth to those who come looking for the light, and lack the discrimination needed to know where to look. Down the rabbit hole they go, the black hole, after the promise of something-or-other, some kind of God, some kind of power.
To those who have never seen where that hole leads, may you remain so blessed. May it remain an abstraction for you, a nightly news image of a child starving to death. But for those who have seen it, you Know. No glib phrase could do it justice.
But you can hear it in every note of every Judee Sill song.
The Donor is the heaviest thing I have ever heard. And the best.
Let me state this clearly, London-based DM readers: Next Tuesday, you will have the rare opportunity to meet one of the most fascinating people alive on the planet today. I truly believe that you will be stunned, I repeat, stunned, by what you’ll see there that evening. Paul Laffoley’s a Sci-Fi Leonardo da Vinci, a Bodhisattva reborn as a mild-mannered Harvard-trained architect/artist/inventor.
In short, the man is a dazzling genius and I’m reasonably sure that you, London-based reader, yes, I am talking to YOU, here, don’t have anything better to do that evening. In fact, I know that you don’t.
An opportunity to hear artist Paul Laffoley, whose practice has been defined as ‘the conversion of mysticism into mechanics’.
Paul Laffoley works with texts and images to create new ways of thinking about time and space, dream and mysticism, magic and consciousness. He has also designed a time machine and a prayer gun.
His appearance, to celebrate the opening of The Alternative Guide to the Universe, is a unique chance to hear someone The New York Times recently hailed as ‘one of the most unusual creative minds of our time’.
You hear that? It’s not just me, it’s The New York Times, too… Miss this at your own later regret, truly. The lecture begins at 6:30.
I was impressed as fuck by Noel Fielding’s clever “dog whistle” homage to Kenneth Anger (and Roy Wood) in the opening credits to his Luxury Comedy TV series (see below), but just imagine seeing someone walking down the street wearing one of these limited edition embroidered “Lucifer Rising” jackets from La Boca:
We’re very excited to have a very limited re-release of our ‘Lucifer’ jacket for Sixpack France. Designed as a tribute to the jacket worn in Kenneth Anger’s 1972 masterpiece Lucifer Rising, the original release sold out long ago, and has since become one or our most requested pieces. This new release is limited to less than 100 worldwide, and we have a few available in our shop now.
Also available in-store exclusively at Citadium Paris.
I think it’s safe to say that the music composed (and performed alone) by Jimmy Page and intended for Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising, but not used, was/is among the very most sought after Led Zeppelin, or in this case Zep-related, bootleg recordings.
The story has long been a foundation of the Led Zeppelin mythos: Page and the mercurial Magus of Cinema had a falling out, then 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 began to wonder if Anger’s curse had worked when a succession of tragic events saw Robert Plant badly injured in a 1975 car accident, Plant’s five-year-old son Karac dying suddenly in 1977 and the death of John Bonham in 1980 that instantly ended Led Zeppelin’s reign as the world’s biggest rock group.
There are always two sides to every story and Page maintains that he had given the project financial support, put Ken up in one of his homes (Aleister Crowley’s Boleskine House in Scotland, no less) and lent him film editing equipment. Moreover, he’d given Anger 23 minutes of amazing music. Anger needed an additional five minutes from Page to complete Lucifer Rising, but it was slow arriving and after a shouting match with Page’s wife, he threw a major hissy, “firing” Page and viciously denouncing him—for years—in the media:
“He’s a multi-millionaire miser. He and Charlotte, that horrible vampire girl – the druggie that got him on heroin – they’re both junkies. They had so many servants, yet they would never offer me a cup of tea or a sandwich. Which is such a mistake on their part because I put the curse of king Midas on them. If you’re greedy and just amass gold you’ll get an illness. So I did turn her and Jimmy Page into statues of gold because they’ve both lost their minds. He can’t write songs anymore.”
It’s not like Jimmy Page wasn’t busy back then (the time period in question roughly corresponds to the time Led Zeppelin IV was being recorded), plus Uncle Ken can go from sweet and utterly charming to homicidal in like two seconds flat. (I’ve met Jimmy Page, as well. He was super-friendly, easygoing. An old school gentleman, informing me as he shook my hand that he had been gifted with not one, but two copies of my Book of Lies occult anthology. I know which side of this tale I come down on: Jimmy’s! Look, I admire and revere the films of Kenneth Anger. I think he’s a truly great artist, touched by genius, even, but he’s fucking nuts...)
Eventually Page’s music escaped in 1981—probably sourced from the magnetic track from an early 23-minute-long “to be continued” print of Lucifer Rising that Anger showed potential investors (I’ve seen this, it’s pretty incredible)—when it hit the bootleg market as “Solo Performances by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant,” a limited edition LP with a green wax seal (I have one of these, it sounds like frying dogshit). Another blue vinyl version was released in a “Kabbalistically numbered limited edition.” Better quality digital versions started making the rounds on torrent trackers around 2005 and last year Jimmy Page released the music he’d composed for Anger’s film via his website on very limited edition red vinyl that sold out instantly.
The music itself is wonderfully perverse: a languid but steadily building Middle Eastern-sounding drone, festooned with evil 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.
Although Page’s music was not used, the guitarist does make a cameo appearance in Lucifer Rising bearded and staring at a wreathed portrait of Aleister Crowley while holding an Egyptian stele.
Page does not often talk to journalists about his interest in the occult, but in a 2008 Guitar World interview, he did reveal a few fascinating tidbits about his creative process:
Guitar World: There was always a certain amount of speculation about your occult studies. It may have been subtle, but you weren’t really hiding it.
Page: I was living it. That’s all there is to it. It was my life – that fusion of magick and music.
Guitar World: Your use of symbols was very advanced. The sigil on Led Zeppelin IV and the embroidery on your stage clothes from that time period are good examples on how you left your mark on popular culture. It’s something that major corporations are aggressively pursuing these days: using symbols as a form of branding.
Page: You mean talismanic magick? Yes, I knew what I was doing. There’s no point in saying much about it, because the more you discuss it, the more eccentric you appear to be. But the fact is – as far as I was concerned – it was working, so I used it. But it’s really no different than people who wear ribbons around their wrists: it’s a talismanic approach to something.
Well let me amend that: it’s not exactly the same thing, but it is in the same realm. I’ll leave this subject by saying the four musical elements of Led Zeppelin making a fifth is magick into itself. That’s the alchemical process.
In Rolling Stone’s December 2012 cover story “Jimmy Page Looks Back,” Page said “...there was a request, suggesting that Lucifer Rising should come out again with my music on. I ignored it.”
Below, the unused Jimmy Page score for Lucifer Rising:
Manson murderer Bobby Beausoleil, it’s probably fair to say, is an entirely star-crossed asshole.
Take, for example, the anecdote Kenneth Anger has been wheeling around town for a good few decades regarding how the two of them came to part company, in which a nineteen-year-old Beausoleil, who was Anger’s intended protagonist in Lucifer Rising and also living rent free in the filmmaker’s Haight-Ashbury home, purportedly spent money given him for film equipment on dope, leading Anger to send him packing.
In revenge, Beausoleil supposedly stole Anger’s van, as well as the footage for the unfinished film. As followers of his biography will know, Anger habitually relays, usually with a certain laconic relish, how the van, which Beausoleil piloted from San Francisco to LA, broke down right outside Spahn Ranch, resulting in Beausoleil’s fateful encounter with Charles Manson.
Anger’s conspicuous delight at this turn of events could be explained by the infamous locket he reportedly kept dangling from his neck for many years: Beausoleil’s image on the one side, a frog’s on the other, and the self-explanatory inscription—“Bobby Beausoleil turned into a frog by Kenneth Anger.”
This frequently recounted anecdote, however, is perhaps starting to wear thin—so thin it’s beginning to fray. It just doesn’t quite ring true, and not exactly due to the large circumstantial infernal/coincidental overlap element, either, but rather because the real connections of all the main players in this mythology almost always appear (upon closer inspection) much less happenstance than they would have us believe.
So, Beausoleil’s van probably didn’t just break down as recounted (Beausoleil tells a different story himself, anyway). Similarly, Dennis Wilson probably didn’t meet Manson due to his picking up those Family hitchhikers (an equally questionable tale of motorway madness).
Which is not to say that, when you peel off the top layer of seeming psychedelic randomness, the whole scene still doesn’t bristle with synchronicities. Au contraire….
Take, for example, Beausoleil’s role as rhythm guitarist in an early incarnation of Arthur Lee’s Love, The Grass Roots. Eventually replaced by Bryan MacLean, Beausoleil would go on to claim that his nickname at that time, “Cupid,” in part by inspired the band’s ultimate change of name.
Arguably, the hot-headed Beausoleil was probably not the kind of guy it was wise to usurp, and MaClean certainly experienced a very narrow escape.
According to Manson murderer Susan Atkins, it was actually Beausoleil’s arrest for the torture-murder of Gary Hinman that instigated the Manson Family’s ensuing murder spree—enacted, she would claim, in order to convince police that the killer(s) of Gary Hinman were in fact still at large.
Whether or not this was true motivation for the Tate/LaBianca killings, Beausoleil’s connection to them—as progenitor, inspiration, or both—is indisputable, which is why it’s really just super strange that (and feel free to here start whistling “The Red Telephone”) Beausoleil’s replacement in Love, Bryan MaClean, a close friend of Sharon Tate’s, was invited over to Cieolo Drive on the night of the killings, having a change of heart at the last minute.
Below, rarely heard recordings of Beausoleil’s San Francisco group, The Orkustra. Another player in the group was David LaFlamme, who later founded It’s a Beautiful Day who had the eternal FM radio hit, “White Bird.”
On May 17th and 18th, Cinefamily in Los Angeles will be presenting a 35mm screening of the rarely seen Oscar-nominated 1973 documentary Manson. DirectorRobert Hendrickson—who shot some disturbing footage of Family members at the Spahn Ranch—will be there in-person for a Q&A after the May 17th and 18th screenings.
Em’s post about A Certain Ratio reminded me of the above show, a double-billed Psychic TV and ACR gig held at the Hammersmith Town in 1984. I was in attendance, age 18. I still have that flyer as well (note ticket price). In the days before the Internet, you had to truck on down to the Rough Trade Store to buy tickets for a show like this and that’s where I bought mine. I doubt even the biggest ticket sales offices in London were computerized back then.
This was an extremely intense show. I’ve been to some pretty crazy gigs (Einstürzende Neubauten trying to burn The Palladium down and Julian Cope slicing his stomach open onstage at the Hammersmith Palais for two notable examples from that same era), but this show was so insane that (not kidding here) had demons materialized on the stage—or something even weirder happened—I would not have been the least bit surprised.
Let me try to describe the atmosphere to you: First off, I don’t think I have ever, before or since, seen such a degenerate fucking crowd. A fair percentage of the punters looked mentally ill and an equal number looked criminally inclined or overtly sleazy. Diseased in both body and mind, or at least people who cultivated such qualities in the way they presented themselves to the world. I will never forget one lost soul, with her Thorazine-slacked features and one tit hanging out wandering around on her own. She had the blankest look that I have ever seen on a human face, a bottomless pit of psychotic misery in human form. I mean to tell you there were some right fucking weirdos there, and I’m someone who has made a career out of dealing with odd people. The single time I’ve ever been in a weirder scenario was a visit to NYC’s notorious Hellfire Club a few years later, but that’s another story…
There was a seriously dark vibe going on even before Psychic TV started due to the dozen or so television monitors flickering their spinning logo and candles lighting the stage. Then it started to ramp up. The imagery flashing across the monitors was intended to shock and shock it did. Much of it was footage from the First Transmissions and Cerith Wyn Evans’ (amazing) “Unclean” video (with Leigh Bowery), but there was some stuff that made even that level of an assault to the senses seem tame, like a gay S&M porn-style clip with Peter Christopherson having someone stretch his eyelids out as someone else jerked off and ejaculated right into his eyeball. Cheerful, eh?
When the band walked onstage—and this was when Psychic TV were coming off their evil masterpiece Dreams Less Sweet—the “spirits” that were swirling through the hall that night felt so malevolent that my friend and I both opted to back away from where we were standing at the front of the stage. The back of the hall just seemed “safer” in case something, well, something infernal happened.
It’s one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. It completely blew me away. It was actually scary. Have you ever been to a scary concert? I recommend it!
But what of A Certain Ratio? Well… they came on second. It was utterly preposterous to think that anyone could have followed what Psychic TV had done. Most of the dazed and confused audience just got up and left and the ones who stayed on for ACR sat on the floor. I seem to recall that the house lights went up after PTV finished and just stayed up.
When I emailed Em to tell him that I’d seen ACR in London in 1984, and Em, consummate rock snob that he is, sniffed “1984 was also post-Simon Topping for ACR, a very different band.”
Yeah, but I saw Psychic TV, too, motherfucker!
Below, a 1984 Earsay report that shows you just a few fleeting moments from the Hammersmith Town Hall gig. You’ll note that they couldn’t show what was on the monitors and so placed their cameras accordingly. They even say so in the piece.
Towards the end of my research for the original version of Wormwood Star, I managed to track down the master copy of Ed Silverstone Taylor’s film of Cameron entitled San Francisco Street Fair 1959, to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. I impressed upon the archivist there, Jon Shibata, what a valuable document the film was of Cameron’s life and he thankfully agreed and said he would look into obtaining funds to have the film digitally transferred. Well, that funding came through at the end of last year, and the film has just been uploaded on to their website.
The film also features Wallace and Shirley Berman and Cameron’s daughter, Crystal.
It’s very likely that this is the first time that San Francisco Street Fair has been seen publicly for nearly 40 years. The last time it was shown was at the benefit for Cameron held at the Cinema Theatre back in 1964 which, as you’ll remember, turned into a debacle when Kenneth Anger and a couple of biker goons turned up and stormed the projection booth to grab the copy of Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome that had been screened that evening.
Wormwood Star, Kansa’s Cameron biography will soon be re-published in a new edition containing fresh eyewitness accounts of the above referenced night at the Cinema Theatre, as well as rarely seen images of Cameron and Jack Parsons.
This edited Ektachrome home movie with professional titles documents a 1959 street fair, upper Grant Avenue, San Francisco—the center of Beat culture. The film includes shots of filmmaker Dion Vigne and his wife Loreon, artist and occultist Marjorie Cameron, and artist Wallace Berman, displaying and selling their art works.