February 26, 2013

And Lord, what will it take, what will it take to get me to be and to stay famous?
Am I going to have to sell my soul to the stylists and the tailors of this world
If I'm not to go down in history as one of the failures?
Lord, teach me the boy band dance routines
Above all teach me to be tame, bland, blind and blameless
Cos that's the hardest thing of all, to be aggressive and yet remain harmless
To edit out my impure thoughts when you know so well, Lord, that I'm shameless
Principled, amoral, provocative, confrontational and shameless

adie Barnette, Untitled (Boom Box), 2012

* From a 2001 interview of Ian MacKaye:

Question: When Fear played on "Saturday Night Live," Ian, did you go down to "Saturday Night Live" and check it out in New York with Rollins and the gang?

Ian MacKaye: Rollins was not there. I'll tell you the story if you'd like to hear the story about that. At eight in the morning, some point in October, I got a call. I was driving a newspaper truck for The Washington Post at the time, so eight in the morning was brutal. It was Lorne Michaels' office, Lorne Michaels being the producer of "Saturday Night Live," and I get this woman, "Lorne Michaels' office, please hold." I was completely delirious. Lorne Michaels gets on the phone - "Hi, Ian, it's Lorne Michaels of 'Saturday Night Live,' I'm calling you because I got your number from John Belushi. He says that you might be able to get some dancers up here 'cause we want to have Fear on the show." I was completely baffled by this. "Pardon me?" "Hold on a second." John Belushi gets on the phone and he says, "This is John Belushi. I'm a big fan of Fear's. I made a deal with 'Saturday Night Live' that I would make a cameo appearance on the show if they'd let Fear play. I got your number from Penelope Spheeris, who did 'Decline of Western Civilization' and she said that you guys, Washington DC punk rock kids, know how to dance. I want to get you guys to come up to the show." It was worked out that we could all arrive at the Rockefeller Center where "Saturday Night Live" was being filmed. The password to get in was "Ian MacKaye." We went up the day before. The Misfits played with The Necros at the Ukrainian hall, I think, so all of the Detroit people were there, like Tesco Vee and Cory Rusk from the Necros and all the Touch and Go people and a bunch of DC people - 15 to 20 of us came up from DC. Henry was gone. He was living in LA at this point. So we went to the show. During the dress rehearsal, a camera got knocked over. We were dancing and they were very angry with us and said that they were going to not let us do it then Belushi really put his foot down and insisted on it. So, during the actual set itself, they let us come out again. If you watch the show - have you seen it?

* Momus: How to get and stay famous.

* "Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen." -- Robert Bresson

February 22, 2013

feed her some hungry reggae she'll love you twice

Ad Reinhardt, Painting, 1954-5

Poetry is Back
-- Ed Sanders

Osgood brings a smile
reciting poetry from his files,
He brings news that you can use
in a way that will amuse.
Poetry is back.

Jessee Jackson promotes,
preaches and orates,
using woven words
to help his message be heard.

Poetry is back.

The cowboy poets from all over
gather in Elko annually
to recite a verse,
tip their hats and houdy.
Poetry is back.

The rappers rap,
the hip hoppers hip.
Poetry is back.

These strange bedfellows
use verse and rhyme,
to preach their politics
and enjoy a good time.

They save for society
and for all time,
poems with proper meter,
and rhymes that really rhyme.

All the while they work
and write and speak,
the properly "educated" poets
write poems that truly reek!

Without any attention
to meter or proper time,
they write and recite
poems that don't even rhyme.

They gaze over their upraised noses
to us rabble far below.
writing verse that makes no sense
except to their friends in the know.

Many of these self appointed poets
who can't even make a poem rhyme,
suckle from NEA grants, writing
poems that only whine.

If their work had to pass the
free market test they wouldn't eat.
But they live high in fine clothes,
as they suckle the government teat.

In spite of the professional poets
talent or their lack,
Cowboys, preachers, radio folk and musicians keep on...
And poetry is back.

16-bit Intel 8088 chip
-- Charles Bukowski

with an Apple Macintosh
you can't run Radio Shack programs
in its disc drive.
nor can a Commodore 64
drive read a file
you have created on an
IBM Personal Computer.
both Kaypro and Osborne computers use
the CP/M operating system
but can't read each other's
for they format (write
on) discs in different
the Tandy 2000 runs MS-DOS but
can't use most programs produced for
the IBM Personal Computer
unless certain
bits and bytes are
but the wind still blows over
and in the Spring
the turkey buzzard struts and
flounces before his

February 19, 2013

When the music stops
Take a tip from me, don’t go through the park
When you’re on your own, it’s a long walk home

Sandy Kim, San Francisco, 2009

* From Harper's Index, March 2013:

-- Chance that a U.S. driver admits to having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past thirty days: 1 in 20

-- Estimated portion of the world's privately held guns that are owned by Americans: 1/2

-- Percentage increase since 1982 in the portion of U.S. college students with a "problematic" level of narcissism: 60

-- Percentage of Americans under the age of thirty who can identify Roe v. Wade as a decision about abortion: 44

-- Cost of a four-hour session at a London "cuddle workshop": $46

* Excellent doc on the early days of Belle & Sebastian. Watch it.

* "The art of letters will come to an end before A.D. 2000. I shall survive as a curiosity." -- Ezra Pound

February 15, 2013

Like a bird on a wire
I have tried in my way to be free

Trey Wright, Cut/Copy (spanish fly), 2012

* Old Ideas and New Generations: What Leonard Cohen means to us. excerpt:

Prominent and unique in pop music, Cohen becomes part of the furniture in its history, despite the fact he never quit fit within its grand narratives. Music criticism and pop culture at large too often regarded him with a lazy shorthand written in reductive labels. You probably know the kind of thing: the Poet of Melancholy, the Dark Romantic, the Lothario of Despair… blah, blah and blah. The clichés then become jokes, usually bad ones about slitting your wrists in a bedsit. “I get put into the computer tagged with melancholy and despair,” Cohen once said. “And every time a journalist taps in my name, that description comes up on the screen.”

True, Cohen has spent a lifetime battling depression, and for a man who has tried almost every means available to escape psychological desolation—drugs, alcohol, sex, psychiatry and religion—it is both inspiring and reassuring that his most effective solution is, and always has been, his art. He once joked that he had mentioned his drinking problem to one of his backing singers. She responded: “That sounds serious. We better set it to music.” But the idiotic assumptions, bad jokes and tired clichés it attached him to are exactly the sort of thing a new generation of Cohen fans could well do without. (Victims of depression generally don’t listen to music to make themselves feel more depressed. They listen to music to make them feel better. For an uncounted many, Cohen appears to have done that.)

We should bear in mind that Cohen, now in his late ‘70s, may not be around first-hand for yet another generation to discover; we’re probably the last who will have that honour (though I do have a fond vision of a 100-year-old Cohen, still besuited and still charming the ladies with a smile and bow). That’s as morbid as I’m prepared to get on that subject, but it should put a few things in perspective.

When confronting music that is not their own, the choice of each new generation usually comes down to this; do they want to repeat the experiences of the past, i.e., “My parents got Beatlemania, why the hell shouldn’t I?”, or to take something old and find a new way of appreciating it? Trying on the formative experiences of another era like fancy dress costumes is something almost everyone will enjoy at some point, but after a decade-plus of considering myself a Cohen devotee, I decided that he deserved more than to be another hand-me-down icon, another poster on the wall. He was bigger than that.
I hope we take him as an example that artists can express themselves in all the ways that feel true to them. Popular culture may be more forgiving of multidisciplinary artists than it once was, but in an age where celebrity is conferred for a single viral Youtube sensation, the inclination to try anything and everything, and to keep doing so, has been overshadowed.

It may be a vain hope, but it would be nice if the mistakes of the past were not repeated, and his poetry was even half as well-known and celebrated as his music. This is mainly because I worry that ages without poetry don’t do well, and that this might be one of them. Cohen made significant steps to figuring out how to be a poet in the 20th century, a problem that naturally informs the question of how to be one in the 21st. Today, lot of young people—most of whom have been told that poetry is a ticket to the unemployment line—will be considering that problem, too. But then, must art be tied to commerce, to make the act of making art attractive?

Asking what Cohen ‘means’ to the youth of today is a question that really doesn’t have any single one. The experience of discovering your own belongs to you. To me, Cohen is the man with the spirituality that can move an atheist. He is a gentleman bearing the kind of dignity we should all hope for. He has, time and time again, performed the role of the poet, which is to articulate that which cannot be articulated any other way. And believe it or not, his music can be rather good for dancing, if you’re in the right mood, in the right place, and with the right person. Try it.

* "Power does not corrupt men. Fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power." -- George Bernard Shaw

February 12, 2013

It doesn't bother me to feel so alone
At least I'm not staying alone at home
I'm out exploring the modern world

Allan Tannenbaum, back steps CBGBs, 1977

* The Car, The Radio, The Night -- And Rocks Most Thrilling Song, an article about Jonathan Richman's Roadrunner. excerpt:

Roadrunner is one of the most magical songs in existence. It is a song about what it means to be young, and behind the wheel of an automobile, with the radio on and the night and the highway stretched out before you. It is a paean to the modern world, to the urban landscape, to the Plymouth Roadrunner car, to roadside restaurants, neon lights, suburbia, the highway, the darkness, pine trees and supermarkets. As Greil Marcus put it in his book Lipstick Traces: "Roadrunner was the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest."

One version of Roadrunner - Roadrunner (Twice) - reached No 11 in the UK charts, but the song's influence would extend much further. Its first incarnation, Roadrunner (Once), recorded in 1972 and produced by John Cale, but not released until 1976, was described by film director Richard Linklater as "the first punk song"; he placed it on the soundtrack to his film School of Rock. As punk took shape in London, Roadrunner was one of the songs the Sex Pistols covered at their early rehearsals. Another 20 years on and Cornershop would cite it as the inspiration behind their No 1 single Brimful of Asha, and a few years later, Rolling Stone put it at 269 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Its impact would be felt in other ways, too: musicians playing on this song included keyboard player Jerry Harrison, who would later join Talking Heads, and drummer David Robinson, who went on to join the Cars. Its power was in the simplicity both of its music - a drone of guitar, organ, bass and drums around a simple two-chord structure - and of its message that it's great to be alive.
While every version of Roadrunner begins with the bawl of "One-two-three-four-five-six" and ends with the cry of "Bye bye!", each contains lyrical variations and deviations in the car journey Richman undertakes during the song's narrative, though it always begins on Route 128, the Boston ringroad that Richman uses to embody the wonders of existence. In one, he's heading out to western Massachusetts, and in another he's cruising around "where White City used to be" and to Grafton Street, to check out an old sporting store, observing: "Well they made many renovations in that part of town/ My grandpa used to be a dentist there." Over the course of the various recordings he refers to the Turnpike, the Industrial Park, the Howard Johnson, the North Shore, the South Shore, the Mass Pike, Interstate 90, Route 3, the Prudential Tower, Quincy, Deer Island, Boston harbour, Amherst, South Greenfield, the "college out there that rises up outta nuthin", Needham, Ashland, Palmerston, Lake Champlain, Route 495, the Sheraton Tower, Route 9, and the Stop & Shop.

My pilgrimage will take me to all of these places. For authenticity's sake I have chosen to make the trip in January, because, as Richman observes in Roadrunner (Thrice) on winding down his car window, "it's 20 degrees outside". Having consulted a weather website listing average temperatures for Boston and its environs, I find it is most likely to be 20 degrees at night-time in January. And, as in Roadrunner, I will drive these roads only at night, because "I'm in love with modern moonlight, 128 when it's dark outside."

Richman was born in the suburb of Natick in the May of 1951. It was there that he learned to play clarinet and guitar, where he met some of his Modern Lovers. But that is not where I begin my journey. If you want to find out where Richman was really born, musically speaking, you have to head to a redbrick building in central Boston. On my first afternoon, as I prepare for my inaugural night drive, I pull up on Berkeley Street, within spitting distance of the Mass Pike, trying to find the original site of the Boston Tea Party, the venue where Richman first saw the Velvet Underground as a teenager.

Richman was infatuated with The Velvets, from the first moment he heard them on the radio in 1967. He met the band many times in his native Boston, opened for them in Springfield, and in 1969 even moved to New York, sleeping on their manager's sofa. Roadrunner owes its existence to the Velvet Underground's Sister Ray, though the three-chord riff has been pared back to two, just D and A.

* "Music is much like fucking, but some composers can't climax and others climax too often, leaving themselves and the listener jaded and spent." -- charles bukowski

February 6, 2013

Let the products sell themselves
Fuck advertising commercial psychology

Tom McGrath, Sprinkler City, 2006

The Sound
-- kim addonizio

Marc says the suffering that we don't see
still makes a sort of sound -- a subtle, soft
noise, nothing like the cries of screams that we
might think of -- more the slight scrape of a hat doffed
by a quiet man, ignored as he stands back
to let a lovely woman pass, her dress
just brushing his coat. Or else it's like a crack
in an old foundation, slowly widening, the stress
and slippage going on unnoticed by
the family upstairs, the daughter leaving
for a date, her mother's resigned sigh
when she sees her. It's like the heaving
of a stone into a lake, before it drops.
It's shy, it's barely there. It never stops.

phantom anniversary
-- kim addonizio

Imagine the marriage lasting,
the lilies blooming in the black vase
for years, the water still fresh.
The man and woman are looking at each other
as they fuck, blooming and looking,
and the angels are looking, too,
opening their beautiful abstract mouths
as though they are about to say something
neither difficult nor true.
The man and woman are oblivious.
They grow fainter and fainter without caring.
And the angels fold their wings flat
and plummet toward them like stones.

the end
-- sharon olds

We decided to have the abortion, became
killers together. The period that came
changed nothing. They were dead, that young couple
who had been for life.
As we talked of it in bed, the crash
was not a surprise. We went to the window,
looked at the crushed cars and the gleaming
curved shears of glass as if we had
done it. Cops pulled the bodies out
Bloody as births from the small, smoking
aperture of the door, laid them
on the hill, covered them with blankets that soaked
through. Blood
began to pour
down my legs into my slippers. I stood
where I was until they shot the bound
form into the black hole
of the ambulance and stood the other one
up, a bandage covering its head,
stained where the eyes had been.
The next morning I had to kneel
an hour on that floor, to clean up my blood,
rubbing with wet cloths at those glittering
translucent spots, as one has to soak
a long time to deglaze the pan
when the feast is over.

February 3, 2013

be careful not to crest too soon

N. S. Bendre, Times Square, 1950

* From a 2002 interview of Gerard Malanga:

Interviewer: How does the present cultural scene compare with the 60s?

Malanga: What I'm thinking about is how quickly change is happening now. This is the digital age. Back in the 60s we were in the analogue age. Store fronts are disappearing that I've lived with for ever. I've lost my Chinese laundry! The Arts scene is in some sort of weird state at the moment. They don't know where they're going now. My friend had a musical which closed last year and I was photographing DJs. I was getting the animated ones. Alec Empire and others. Wonderfully talented people. Alchemists with sound. Things are happening so rapidly and some of is good, some bad. Hollywood is shit at the moment. The poetry is ok -- it's always a tradition with a sub culture attached to it. I'm constantly amazed. The sixties were so different. In retrospect it was a very well paced but quiet time at a certain level. Things were nurtured and developed and evolved. But now that doesn't happen. I don't know how that affects the arts world. Art has become commerce. Big Business. Andy would love that.

* Check out Jesse Jarnow's online readers guide for Big Day Coming, his book about Yo La Tengo.

* Fun 1982 Interview of R. Stevie Moore (plus tons of other cool stuff on the site).

* "An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way." -- Charles Bukowski