Monday, 29 June 2009
Nearly forgot this month’s playlist so here’s a rushed glimpse at ten numbers that have lit the moon in June.
1. Milt Trenier – “Flip Our Wigs” (1953)
Best known for “I Gonna Catch Me A Rat” but “Flip Our Wigs” is bigger and bawdier.
2. Bobby Marchan – “Chickee Wah-Wah” (1956)
Instantly recognisable – if slightly oddball - sound of New Orleans.
3. Lou Donaldson – “Sputnik” (1957)
Lou gets in on the ‘57 Sputnik fascination with a ten-minute bebop master blaster.
4. Dorie Williams – “Tell Me Everything You Know” (unknown, circa 1962?)
Cracking rare single for R&B dancefloors. Can’t find out anything about it. Anyone?
5. Little Jimmy Dickens - ”May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” (1965)
“May the bird of paradise fly up your nose/ May an elephant caress you with his toes/ May your wife be plagued with runners in her hose/ May the bird of paradise fly up your nose”. A US Country number one, naturally.
6. Gram Parsons – “I Just Can’t Take It Anymore” (1966)
Never paid much attention to Gram’s Dylanesque home recording until the Lemonheads covered it but it’s good.
7. Sugar Pie DeSanto – “Witch For A Night” (1966)
A party poppin’, show stoppin’, wig-floppin’, Hammond and horns rave-up.
8. The Seeds – “The Wind Blows Your Hair” (1967)
So many to choose from. Bless you Sky.
9. The Ramones – “Surfin’ Bird” (1977)
Bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word.
10. Jim Jones Revue – “Princess and the Frog” (2009)
Single of the year.
Bonus track. The Lemonheads featuring Kate Moss – “Dirty Robot” (2009)
An electro funk boogie with vocals by Kate Moss. I’m ashamed and confused. Really like this and have no idea why.
Sunday, 28 June 2009
Hastings! Huh! Yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing usually but on Friday 10th July you could do worse than pop your head into Bar-Celona for some choice tunes to sip your sangria (or Stella) to.
I’ll be dragging a box of Monkey Magic on the train to join CAF resident DJs Rowly and Southern Sam to spin some summery sixties soul and R&B 45s. All the details you need are above.
Feeling in an up tempo rhythm and soul mood myself, with a splash of danceable fuzzed-up blues and a few ever-faithful Motown monsters. Cool as fuck.
“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me”. It’s a Holden Caulfield line I regurgitate with tedious monotony but the chaps at Flipside are causing me to wobble. Their nights at the British Film Institute/National Film Theatre, specialising in unearthing oddities and obscurities (mainly from the 1960s) are rapidly turning into must-do events. This month “The Art of Exploitation: Antony Balch Night”, showed three films; two he directed and one he contributed filming to.
Balch is best known (to me at least) for his work with William Burroughs and a BFI restored print of Towers Open Fire (above), their eleven minute 1963 cinematic cut-up was shown first. Together they made as close an approximation of reading one of Bill’s more challenging books as you could get. It jumps about, it repeats itself, it layers one image on top of another, it jumbles sights and sounds, it blurs, it bleeds, and it leaves the viewer disorientated. Balch also distributed porn films and would show them in his cinemas along with his experimental Burroughs work as the opening feature. Quite what the dirty mac brigade turning up to see The Kinky Darlings made of Bill shooting up and Balch having a Barclays is anyone’s guess, but for Burroughs enthusiasts Towers Open Fire is an invaluable record covering the people, places, themes and activities central to his creative highpoint during the late 50s and early 60s.
Another 1963 short Kronhausen’s Psychomontage No. 1 also mixes sights and sounds; this time “erotic” scenes and scenes of animals and fish with the soundtrack swopped. Unless I’m mistaken, a stocking clad young lady has sex with a dog in the park.
The nearest Balch came to directing a “normal” film was Horror Hospital (1973) starring Robin Askwith as a struggling pop star who books in to a health farm to get straight. Only all is not as it seems. Cue clap of thunder and lightning reflecting off the twisted face of Dr Storm, the knuckle-clicking, wheelchair-bound, evil scientist played by Michael Gough. Ha, ha, haaa. Storm lobotomises his guests and any trying to escape are decapitated by a sword wielding Rolls Royce driven by a dwarf. You get the picture. The acting is thick ham, the script clunky, the plot thin, the budget tiny, and the special effects stretched to a couple of tins of crimson paint. Yep, great fun. More by accident than design it was laugh out loud funny.
The next Flipside is on Thursday 23rd July with the screening of Joanna a full-on swinging London picture from 1968. “Lovely Joanna, doe-eyed and Twiggy-esque in her groovy gear, descends on the Big Black Smoke to take an education in free love, shoplifting and art at the Royal College, her exploits soundtracked by the great Scott Walker song”. Director Mike Sarne will be there for a Q&A session. And finally, get yourself their DVDs: London In The Raw, Primitive London and The Bed Sitting Room, all highly recommended.
Friday, 26 June 2009
When most of your favourite music was made between 40 and 50 years ago you get acclimatised to seeing endless obituaries for artists that left their mark in hearts and record collections. Without wishing to sound disrespectful, most of these I treat with a shrug as they were getting on, they hadn’t made a decent record for decades, and I never even saw them in concert let alone met them personally.
But I’m genuinely saddened to hear the news today of the death of Seeds supremo, Sky Sunlight Saxon. It’s taken as read those Seeds records are bona-fide garage classics; Daryl Hooper’s organ and Saxon’s unmistakable vocals ensured they sounded like nobody else. But it’s that Saxon was still active recently, gigging and recording, that makes this particular passing all the harder to take. I saw him perform three times in the last six years and loved them all, particularly the first one at the Borderline in London, 2003. It was like he’d been living in a psychedelic cave since 1969 only to come out blinking into the harsh modern age to give an amazing performance of classic Seeds songs and new songs about spiders, aliens and fools on Capital Hill. Take a listen to “Seven Mystic Horsemen” from his 2005 LP Transparency for evidence he could still conjure the magic.
I also had the real pleasure and honour of chatting to him a few times and he was such a lovely, sweet, soft spoken man. He was on a totally different planet though, and trying to pin his brain down was like trying to make water run upstream; you just had to go with the flow and see where you’d end up. One moment of clarity did occur when I asked about the Seeds and said I thought they sounded so unique I couldn’t tell where their sound, his voice, come from? “I was trying to sound like Howlin’ Wolf with a piano”. I’ve always listened to them slightly differently since and he's right you know.
The last word belongs to Sky himself with a quote from March 2009 on his website: “I think you could retire when you die. I don't, however, believe in death, so I guess I will retire when I leave my body. But I plan to continue writing and performing in heaven”.
Monday, 22 June 2009
“From the mountains of Morocco, please welcome, the Master Musicians of Jajouka featuring Bachir Attar” goes the introduction to the rarefied splendour of the Royal Festival Hall. “Bet they don’t live there now” says some geezer behind me. He’s probably right of course but it misses the point.
William Burroughs described the Master Musicians as “the primordial sounds of a 4,000 year old rock ‘n’ roll band” and Brian Jones navigated his way to their secluded rural village hidden in the Jibala hills, 50 miles south of Tangier, to record them for Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka. Brion Gysin - creator of cut-ups and inventor of the Dream Machine - introduced their music to both Burroughs and Jones and used the musicians as house band for his restaurant “The 1001 Nights” in the 1950s to enable him to listen to them every night. As hip patronage goes, that’s some trio.
Tonight the musicians are trimmed down to an eight piece unit; four ghaita pipes and four drums of varying sizes. Whether they actually needed the house PA is questionable and they certainly tested the expertise of the sound engineer. Those pipes squealed and wailed at such a volume I thought my ear drum was about to rattle clean out of my head. Hundreds of hands cupped ears in unison. Was as funny to watch as it was painful to listen to.
Fortunately that soon settled down and they got in their groove. Its clear why they sounded so incredible to those first Western discoverers – they still do, although we’re more savvy to “world music” now so there’s less a wow factor. The musicians, historically, have been supported by the farming toil of their fellow villagers and in addition to playing religious festivals their music is said to cure mental illness. The loony locals are tied up and the music banishes the madness. Although this can take “one month, or if someone is more sick he can stay two months, or three” according to Bachir Attar. Attar is the son of El Hadj Abdesalam Attar (see photo, with the different spelling of JouJouka ), who led the Musicians in the Brian Jones period, and who perhaps controversially has now trademarked the name “The Master Musicians of Jajouka featuring Bachir Attar”. It’s extremely hypnotic, trippy stuff (even without the aid of humungous quantities of hashish); repetitive but with subtle multi rhythms. Like ancient shoegazing.
They can play for up to ten hours, which would surely send folk mad not cure them, but tonight it’s a disappointingly short half an hour before they shuffle off to make way for headliner and Meltdown curator Ornette Coleman.
What is it about old jazz dudes? Coleman hunches on, barely inching one foot in front of the other, clambers on to his stool and wheezes something unintelligible into the microphone. Yet stick his white sax in his mouth, or a trumpet, or give him a violin, and it’s akin to pumping him with oxygen and shooting him with speed.
The concert was billed as “Reflections of The Shape of Jazz to Come” so I was expecting a good proportion of the set to be from that groundbreaking album of fifty years ago but Coleman, forever his own man, had different ideas. It was all enjoyable enough in a far out hipster jazz kinda way but as nifty as Coleman is you can’t expect him to be on the top of his game aged nearly 80. It did encourage me to delve deeper into his back catalogue though, so, job done. Patti Smith wandered on unannounced and rapped some crazy free form beat poetry on one number, and the Jajoukas came out for a lengthy jam on another.
Jajouka translates as “something good coming to you”, and it did. Never thought for one moment I'd ever get to see them. Next time - on their turf.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
It’s a hard rain forest that’s a-gonna fall to provide and protect those that seek to prophesize with their pens and publish Bob Dylan books.
Olympia Press and photographer Barry Feinstein are the latest with the softback edition of Real Moments. As photo books go, it’s a decent one. Feinstein took the front cover for The Times They Are A-Changin’ in 1963 and was trusted by Bobby not to “make him look an asshole”. But this was now May 1966 and it mattered not whether Bob was smoking a fag, walking with his pointed shoes and his curls, speaking to some French girl or coming out the crapper, he exuded an air of having all the answers my friend; the rest of the fools didn’t even know which way the wind was blowing.
Fourteen of these pictures form a small collection at the National Portrait Gallery until 30th August (go downstairs and through the bookshop). The book costs a hefty £24.99, which is more than the hardback last year. How does that work?
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Most exhibitions of 1960’s photographs nowadays focus on the pop stars, the celebrities, the historic moments and movements, and the beautiful people. These weren’t subjects that caught the imagination of New York photographer Diane Arbus, so you get a welcome different perspective at her retrospective at the Timothy Taylor Gallery.
Arbus’s subjects were the “ordinary” people, or more famously, those that society considered extraordinary: the midgets, the giants, the twins, the triplets, the mentally ill, the downright peculiar and freakish.
Among the 60 pictures are two of her most well known: Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967 and Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, New York City, 1962. Surprisingly, it’s Arbus’s portraits of children that, for me, are the most reveling. Seeking to capture “the gap between intention and effect” it’s often in children where this is most strikingly apparent. See for example Teenage Couple on Hudson Street, New York City, 1963 (above). How old are these people? Probably not as old as they’re trying to appear. Their outwardly confident bravado fighting their uneasy self-consciousness, resulting in an awkward pose.
Mind you, the old folk don’t do too well either. Check the hilarious King and Queen of a Senior Citizens Dance, New York City, 1970. There they are, all crowned and cloaked, and rather than looking proud and regal they look humiliated and downtrodden.
Diane Arbus committed suicide via the pills and razor combo in 1971.
Diane Arbus at the Timothy Taylor Gallery, 15 Carlos Place, London, W1 until 27 June 2009. Admission free.
Years in the making and this week it hit the doormat with a reassuring thud. A 10-CD box set collecting everything you could ever want from Texan psychedelic evangelists, the 13th Floor Elevators. The classic albums, unreleased albums, demos, alternate versions, rehearsals, live concerts, the lot.
All the CDs (with individual card sleeves) are housed in an arm achingly heavy colour hardback book providing extensive recording details and crammed with photographs and every conceivable piece of Elevators memorabilia. There’s an envelope stuffed with reproductions of flyers, business cards, newspaper cuttings and photographs. And an LP sized box to keep it all. Not that you’ll be keeping the CDs in it for long because as stunning as the packaging is, it’s the music that’ll make you go out of your tiny third mind.
I’m taking my time in digesting all this lysergic lunacy so I’ve only had the first few CDs on repeat; and what treasures they are. A whole “lost” album, Headstone from February 1966 – six months before they recorded The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators – is solid garage brilliance. It may not be quite up to Psychedelic Sounds but it’s not far off and you wonder why it was shelved. Side one was supposedly “pop” and side two “psychedelic” but the Elevators idea of pop was to put a spell on Solomon Burke and the hex on Buddy Holly.
The recording quality of Live In Texas is patchy but sufficient to hear what a formidable force they were, locking into each other whilst “tripping on a mixture of LSD, marijuana, mescaline, amphetamines, Romilar D cough syrup and Listerine”. Teen dance hall etiquette dictated hits of day were placed among original material, so the Elevators set about pulverising “You Really Got Me”, “I Feel Good”, “Satisfaction” and the way they tear a new arse in “I’m Down” would have made Paul McCartney’s eyes water.
With only three released studio albums (the audio quality of those is pristine) there’s repetition in the songs and you’ll need a keen ear to spot the difference in some, but I could listen to “You’re Gonna Miss Me” all day long and still marvel at its menacing magnificence every time.
Sign Of The 3 Eyed Men isn’t cheap but looks good value and will save you buying anything else for the foreseeable future. They were the first band to term themselves psychedelic rock and they’re still the best.
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Underground filmmaker extraordinaire, Kenneth Anger, was at the BFI a couple of weeks ago for the showing of his 1950 film Rabbit’s Moon and to plug a new DVD collection Kenneth Anger: Magick Lantern Cycle.
As you’d expect Mr Anger is no shrinking violet. He enters stage right, arms wide apart displaying a red, white and blue college sweater with A.N.G.E.R. emblazoned diagonally across it and a face that looks like a Richard Nixon mask that’s been left too close to the radiator. Is gently mocking an 82 year old Satan botherer wise? If I wake up tomorrow with goat’s hooves for hands, please call the authorities. Be difficult to use my mobile.
Rabbit’s Moon was like a silent movie with a doo-wop soundtrack. The story was something to do with some clown bloke yearning for the moon which was some metaphor for love or something. It was only seventeen minutes long but I kept nodding off.
Joining Anger on stage to “discuss his influences and legacy” were Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard who spouted the first load of tosh that sprung to mind. Gary Lachman knew his onions but was scarcely given a chance before Anger threw the questions open to the audience. As usual you mostly got inane crap from wordy arseholes that get off on the sound of their own voice spewing pseudo-intellectual claptrap to an audience with no place to go.
One bright spark did however ask whether Anger had studied hypnosis, which he confirmed and said he also used repetitive techniques in Rabbit’s Moon to induce a dream-like state in the viewer. So that’s why I feel asleep. The man’s a genius. Can I have my hands back now?
Someone else did cut through with a question about Bobby Beausoleil and whether they were still in touch. Beausoleil was due to star in Lucifer Rising but they fell out when Bobby used Anger’s money on a block of marijuana “as big as this table”, stole most of the film and, legend has it, buried it in the desert. Then falling in with Charles Manson began the series of “Manson Murders” by stabbing to death Gary Hinman and daubing “Political Piggy” on the wall in Hinman’s blood. Not that such an act seemed to perturb Anger too much as he still got Beausoleil to write and record the score to Lucifer Rising from inside Tracey Prison. So, still in touch? “A little”, says Kenneth, “he sends me ten page letters but he’s lucky to get a postcard back. He’s got a lot of time on his hands”.
As for the Magick Lantern Cycle DVD set, it’s a thorough representative package containing ten of his best known films from 1947-1981 (plus an extra one about Anger’s idol Aleister Crowley from 2002). There’s also a 71 minute documentary, new Anger commentaries, and an insightful and attractive 34 page booklet written by Lachman. If you’re looking for neat, 90 minute, straight narrative films then look elsewhere. What you get are short, dialogue-free, image laden collages and experimental filmmaking. Some of which (Fireworks, Scorpio Rising, Kustom Kar Kommandos) are brazenly homoerotic (sailors, leather capped bikers, youths in tight jeans polishing their chrome) and others (Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Invocation of My Demon Brother and Lucifer Rising starring Marianne Faithfull, who looks beautiful apart from one scene where she looks like a puffy eyed Brian Jones, are heavy on the occult symbolism. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (from 1954) is an especially freakish headfuck; coming on like the world’s first psychedelic pop video. All are set so perfectly to music (be it doo-wop, girl groups, classical music, Mick Jagger fingering a Moog, wigged out psych) that you wonder whether the music was set to the images or the images set to the music. Special mention to Jonathan Halper’s soundtrack to Puce Moment; you will not believe it was recorded in 1949 – it sounds like backstreet psychedelic folk from fifteen-twenty years later.
I can't say I'm mad about it all but it's definitely worth seeing and certainly interesting.
Kenneth Anger: Magick Lantern Cycle 2 disc DVD Set is released by BFI, priced £22.99
Billy Childish and co played their regular Dirty Water Club show on Friday. The above picture says it all.
Labels: billy childish, dirty water club, wild billy childish and the musicians of the british empire
Friday, 5 June 2009
Like black clad outlaws in a spaghetti western, the Jim Jones Revue gallop in to town, shoot the shit out the locals, drink their whiskey, steal their women, and leave a trail of destruction in their wake.
Tonight they reduce the 100 Club to rubble with a blistering assault on the senses; like being slashed with broken bourbon bottles before being bludgeoned with bar stools by barflys protecting their territory.
Jim Jones has his posse meticulously drilled. James Brown would famously fine his Flames for dropped notes, Jim Jones you suspect fines his motley crue for any chord hammered home without a suitable shape being thrown. And believe me, every chord is hammered out with the intention of being the knockout blow.
Jones’ blood curdling screams and the distorted, pummeling, rockaboogie rhythm creates a frenzied commotion before the Revue ride out in to the sunset, mission accomplished.