Wednesday, January 04, 2006

5 for 2005

l to r: Linda Shanson, John Stewart, Baluji Shrivastav, Gary, unidentified fans, Leela Shrivastav, Caroline backstage at the 12 Bar Club, London

singer/songwriter Timothy Parkes and Gary at the 12 Bar

unidentified fan, Gary, and singer/songwriter Lucy Kitt

Gary on stage | photo by Alan Rowden

Click a photo to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

Sorry for the long hiatus from my last posting, but, well, sometimes it's best to keep schtum until the thing in itself rears up Alien-like, erect and bristling and demanding a ritual sacrifice of time and energy with a burning desire to establish friendly contact with the outside world again (Are you receiving me? Over to you...)

...which is to say, I have been insanely busy, back from London now where the old year was wrung out and hung to dry on a hook on a houseboat in Cheyne Walk in the company of Caroline and my Russian friend Yuliana and her houseboat confreres, who broke out copious amounts of Taitinger and cartons of fluted glasses and we all made merry as I jammed with several female musicians in the hold of the houseboat, including an ace bass clarinet player (had a really nice jam with Baluji Shrivastav, master sitar player, and his lovely wife Linda at their palatial digs in Highbury the night before)-- and now with the New Year flying in on wings of song it feels good to be back in NYC again, o pal Dick Heath made it all the way down to London with his lovely daughter from the University of Loughborough (Nottingham) with a special guitar designed by Owen Pedgley for me to road-test at my 12-Bar gig last Thursday night (sounded good too). Night before Caroline and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary (oy). And mad Scotsman John Stewart had a loverly New Year's Eve knees-up at his Hammersmith abode immediately before our houseboat hijinx, graced by 3 lovely ladies (one imported from his University of East Anglia days, Caroline's alma mater as well--she majored in Anarchist Philosophy :-)). Special mention should be made of my pal Mike Barnes, Beefheart biographer and music critic formidable, we spent a splendid evening together sipping Bailey's and regaling each other with tales of the music wars, Mahler's Ruckertlieder ("Mitternacht" is my favorite) and Mike gifted me with a superb version of Mahler's Second Symphony in a new recording by Claudio Abbado...special mention should also be made of masterful high art photographer and dear old friend 'o mine Anton Corbijn, with whom we dined Monday morning at Cafe Violette in England's Lane, and who is hard at work preparing a film about Joy Division lead singer/suicide Ian Curtis, which he will direct...he's already got Samantha Morton lined up for this one--Go Anton! His b&w expressionist video for Propaganda's "Doctor Mabuse" track is one of my favorite clips (and not just because he included a photo of me in his "Star Trak" book. That inverted photo, the cover of my 1992 "Gods and Monsters" album, with the World Trade Center in the background reflected in a muddy pool of water on the Christopher Street docks, haunts me still, and in fact is one of 2 shots with the Twin Towers in the frame taken during my ongoing escapades--check the back cover of The Du-Tels album "No Knowledge of Music Required"...Peter Stampfel and I looking most congenial in front of you know what ). Mention should also be made of the celebratory dinner we had with Propaganda singer Claudia Brucken and OMD vocalist Paul Humphreys at Jimmy's, a great Thai joint on Finchley Road hitherto unknown to me--Claudia and Paul were on their way to spending New Year's holiday in Mallorca with Andy Bell of Erasure. Their fabulous new Onetwo album is nearing completion, and as a fellow collaborator on the project with them I can't wait to hear the final mixes...

Big big thanks and major props are in order also here to indefatigable web-mistress Tanya who has helped me over many many years with the ongoing website maintenance, including this here blog--and may I direct your attention dear people to the new free mp3 downloads section she has created at the top of my home page--there should be a few more choice tracks/works in progress put up there soon (and if you got ears, you gotta listen...)

and now we come to the payoff mix...

off the top of my head, here's my Top 5 of 2005 list (maybe I'll get around to limning another 5 soon-- but geez, these things take time):

1. "The Brazilian Girls" debut album (Verve)...Has provided me many many hours of pleasure, especially rewarding close listening (epic and precise use of sampling from disparate sources, including the great Astor Piazolla, intermeshed with dance-floor grooves from all over the map) as well as making great ambient background party music (also a wonderful adjunct to sex) . The multi-lingual gamine Sabina Sciubba has such great erotic charm, personality, and, well, verve, hypnotically compelling in concert with her stylish/over-the-top threads and persona, and only a churl could resist the silly singalong reggae chorus of "Pussy Pussy Pussy Marijuana" and the 4-on-the-floor orgasmic rush of "Don't Stop"...saw them at Joe's Pub last year, and SXSW this year, and they keep getting better and better. A perfect paradigm of the polyglot new yawk melting pot, with, appropriately, no actual native New Yorkers in the band. They make effective civic ambassadors to the word, encapsulating the cosmopolitan thrust and parry of our city better than any other band I can think of right now.

2."My Hustler" and "Chelsea Girls" DVD bootlegs...the Warhol executors are sitting tight (haha) on the celluloid output from the Golden Age (mid to late 60's) of the Factory, but these 2 boots somehow escaped from the vaults with love and definitely bring it all back home (special thanks to Bob Strano for his sourcing and sleuthing). I remember viewing the first film at Yale in the early seventies around the time Paul Morrissey came up to New Haven, and this Chuck Wein/Morrissey/Andy throwdown hasn't aged at all badly. Featuring a stunning tour de force by Ed Hood as the motor-mouth jade who imports blonde stud Paul America to Fire Island through the agency of the mythical Dial-a-Hustler. A stationary camera parked midway between Ed's summer house and the beach turns 180 degrees on its axis throughout the first half of the film, alternately lingering lovingly on Paul and his older hustler friend sprawled out on the beach greasing each other up, and then swiveling back to clock Ed chatting with his female companion--and all the while the Hood-ed one carries on a running monologue (exquisitely campy and loopy) on the care and feeding of hustlers (my bass player Ernie Brooks and Talking Head Jerry Harrison--soon to be Modern Lovers-- were pals with Ed up in Cambridge in the late 60's, when the 2 musicians were roommates at Harvard. Danny Fields introduced them to Ed.). Second half of this amusing folderol is a static shot of the 2 hustlers grooming and lovingly anointing themselves apres la plage in the brightly lit interior bathroom moderne of Ed's pad, studiously applying (without a trace of irony) various moisturizers, perfumes, oils and unguents for over 25 minutes in an orgy of narcissistic abandon...Yeah!

"Chelsea Girls" was new to me, and this boot a really sharp print of it...unfortunately the dual side by side vignettes do not keep both sequences' soundtrack volume levels up and bleeding into one another, as the film was originally meant to be screened in theaters, but rather keeps one vignette's audio track all the way up at the muted expense of the other--so it is frustrating indeed not to be able to hear Rene Ricard's wry witticisms in tandem with the always amusing repartee of the aforementioned Ed Hood, with whom he shares a scene--malheureusement, whoever dubbed this DVD off the film prints decided to keep that particular vignette silent. You do however get to hear the very commonplace (read vulgar) adenoidal palaver of International Velvet (Susan Bottomly) in all her glory playing off the domineering charisma of the great Mary Woronov--and Brigid Polk blazes throughout. The opening scene of Nico cutting her bangs for 20 minutes and the closing sequence where that other great Warhol motor-mouth Ondine impersonates the Pope and then viciously throws a drink in the face of his female scene companion (reportedly Warhol's favorite sequence) are worth all the other silent frustrations.

3. Michel Houellebecq's "H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life" (Believer Books)--An intense book length essay on why Lovecraft endures, now more than ever, with the added bonus of "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Whisperer in Darkness", 2 of the master's "great texts". Hate to say it but Houellebecq's new novel "The Possibility of an Island" was a disappointment after the pleasures of "Platform" (although his first person account of his radical comedian protagonist--an obvious stand-in for Houellebecq--and his hit show "We Prefer The Palestinian Orgy Sluts" brought a smile). But after dissing Joyce and Nabokov in the early pages of the book as mere wordsmiths and not acknowledging them as the great enchanters that they are, I was waiting to see what MH had up his sleeve, and am sad to report it appears not a whole hell of alot this time out. His riff on the scary Raelians (here re-christened the Elohim--not that far afield from HG Well's Eloi, come to think of it) never really catches fire, and he seems more than ever to have adopted Lovecraft's technique of lots of faux-scientific technical exposition ("Platform" was full of this, concerning the intricacies of the French mass tourist trade) alternating with autumnal, elegaic riffs concerning the wistful mortality of his aging melancolique radical comic-- whereas Lovecraft concerns himself with the imminent takeover of the world by the Old Ones, dovetailing lush pastoral descriptions of Arkham, Miskatonic University, Antarctica, and so forth). And here, MH fails to enchant. Houellebecq's book on Lovecraft book though is something else again (and by the way, I noticed Lovecraft's mention in the second tale of "the Atlantean high-priest Klark Ash-ton" during a role call of Lovecraft's monstrous mythical gods--a veiled reference no doubt to Lovecraft's good friend, the fantasy author and painter Clark Ashton Smith). And I would add that anyone with more than a passing interest in fantasy, horror and the supernatural could do no better than to score a copy of the Library of America's cool compendium of the best of H.P. Lovecraft. Like all of the LOA's output (their compilations of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Saul Bellow, George S. Kaufmann, and Phillip Roth are must-haves) the text is elegantly laid out in handsome, hardback bound editions. In fact I would put their Lovecraft "Tales" book right up there alongside Houellebecq's polemic in my Top 5 of 2005-- definitely.

4. Jack Clayton's"The Innocents", finally out on DVD--with a script by Truman Capote, based on Henry James's "Turn of the Screw", this proved to be one of the scariest ghost stories ever witnessed by yours truly, I'd rank it right up there with the late great Robert Wise's "The Haunting" (sad to hear Wise passed away this year. Fantastic director--and did you know he was the editor on "Citizen Kane"?). Deborah Kerr is totally affecting as a possibly mad nanny whose two youthful British charges may or may not be possessed by the ghosts of the great house's former murderous occupants. Beautifully shot black and white cinematography, sweeping interior and exterior tracking shots of the foreboding and eerie old house, and phenomenal ensemble work. They just don't make them like this anymore, sad to say (and please don't tell me about "The Ring"). Capote rules. Check this out pronto.

5. The original "King Kong" on DVD--excellent sharp transfer from a pristine London film archive print that retained the original censored 35mm footage--Kong sniffing his fingers while disrobing Fay Wray, Kong grinding natives underfoot--now restored as an integral part of the film instead of the grainy 16mm clips that were cut into a not so great American 35mm print by Janus Films in their 1969 "restored" version. This double disc includes a wonderful bonus DVD with a long (couple hours) documentary by Peter Jackson on the making of the original "Kong", which contains a hardcore recreation of the infamous deleted spider-pit sequence, reputedly destroyed by Merian C. Cooper after audiences at the preview of his test reel found this footage too strong to handle. Jackson actually used some of the original Kong models (and built others after x-raying the mouldering old things) and also applied ye olde frame-by-frame stop motion technique instead of the (to this reporter) soulless and lackluster CGI process to create an intense little frisson of giant spiders and tentacled insectoid creepy-crawlies devouring the hapless sailors at the bottom of the ravine-- Jackson pulls this sequence off with such aplomb you'd swear he'd found the actual mythic lost footage. Haven't seen his new Kong yet (which I hear is a turkey). but will check it out sooner than later.

bye for now!




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