January 25, 2010

and I have no idea what drives you mister
but I've killed you in my mind so many times before

Alice Neel, Woman in Pink Hat, 1944

* William Eggleston , king of the record cover. excerpt:

Here in Memphis, however, he's most often received as just Bill. Bill, who, in his own words, was "great friends" with Alex Chilton's parents long before the musician joined forces with Chris Bell, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel in Big Star. Stephens remembers attending a drag party with his band mates and Eggleston in the early 1970s. "Alex thought Bill could take some, for lack of a better word, 'candid' photographs, so he was just snapping us during the course of events, walking through the crowd." Stephens says.

The image that would ultimately appear on the back cover of Radio City shows Chilton captured mid-gesture. His arm is up and he's pointing teasingly at the camera lens, a cocktail and a lit cigarette in his other hand.

Musician/poet David Berman, mastermind behind the Silver Jews, sums up the spirit of that impromptu image in one word: convivial. Selecting an Eggleston work for the cover of Silver Jews' 2005 album Tanglewood Numbers was, Berman says, "a deliberate, self-conscious identification with rock tradition. I was saying, 'Look, the Silver Jews are shedding outsiderhood, coming inside where it's warm.' It's warm inside these photos," declares Berman, who discovered Eggleston and Big Star concurrently, when he was a college student in the late 1980s.

Singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet's interaction with Eggleston has been much more personal. In the late 1980s, when his band Green on Red recorded at Ardent studios in Memphis, he made several visits to Eggleston's home.

"We did a lot of hanging out, listening to Doris Day records at earsplitting volume in the middle of the night," Prophet says. "Eggleston would bring up wine from his cellar and play the harpsichord. Photos were spread ­haphazardly on the tabletop, he'd push 'em around, and eventually, he pulled one out and said, 'This is the one.'"

* Quick recap on Tuli Kupferberg.

* "When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others." -- Anais Nin


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