Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bloody Good Show!

There was a Bantam paperback anthology called "Black Humor" that came out around 1965 that functioned as one of the key incendiary devices of my youth, blasting open my consciousness in a year that saw "The Rolling Stones Now!" and "Bringing It All Back Home" establish themselves as the twin soundtracks of my life--"Black Humor" was an essential Ur text of that year (along with "I, Jan Cremer", Mailer's "Advertisements for Myself", and any issue of Evergreen Review, Ramparts, Mad, and Fact, Eros, and Avant-Garde that I could get my guitar-strangling hands on--speaking of the last 3 mags, rest in peace Ralph Ginzburg, idol of my youth, victim of a government witch-hunt against so-called obscenity).

Edited by the great Bruce Jay Friedman (author of "Stern", "About Harry Towns", "A Mother's Kisses"--fabulous dark satires, subtle comedic masterpieces all of them, by a man whose literary rep has shrunk inversely to his success as a Hollywood screenwriter, an author who should be a hell of alot better known today other than as the writer of the screenplay for "Splash"), this little book's cover depicted a closed black coffin with a pink bra caught in and dangling from its shuttered lid, captioned thought balloons depicting the voices of lovers emanating from within (one is reminded of Andrew Marvell's howler "To His Coy Mistress": "The grave's a fine and proper place/but none I think do there embrace"...also that photo postcard that Maila Nurmi, a/k/a Vampira, whose bosomy cleavage and 17 inch wasp-waist helped propel "Plan 9 From Outer Space" into the pantheon of high Camp, mailed to her friend James Dean depicting her lasciviously lounging on a tombstone in Forest Lawn, with the inscription "Come and Join Me Darling!").

Inside were excerpts of works by Friedman (his short story "Black Angels"--niiiiice!), Thomas Pynchon ("In Which Esther Gets a Nose Job", from "V."), J.P. Donleavy ( a wild snort of exultation from "The Ginger Man", which I hear they are finally bringing to the screen--about 40 years too late, but what the heck), Edward Albee's "The Sandbox", a short story by Nabokov, an excerpt from John Barth's "The Sot-Weed Factor", still his best book, and more stories and bites from Terry Southern, Joseph Heller, and the fabulous James Rechy--closing with the knockout onetwo punch of a passage from Louis-Ferdinand Celine's "Journey to the End of the Night" (the "all your seasick sailors they are rowing home" section).

Now I daresay this little book coloured my nascent teenage world-view in a majorly way (with the absurdist drama of the Vietnam War playing out in daily bloody installments on Walter Krankheit's show in those years, how could it not?) -- and also served to point me in the direction of much great modernist literature--because after sampling the delights of this book I went out in hot pursuit of just about every writer I've mentioned here, and subsequently enjoyed their work (in the main, esp. Donleavy) immensely. Definitely a volume ripe for re-issuing ("Pass it on boys...Pass it on!").

All this is preamble to saying that Martin McDonagh's corruscating satiric play "The Lieutenant of Inishmore", now playing on Broadway at the Lyceum on 45th Streetm is probably the greatest black humoresque modern masterpiece I've enjoyed (and stayed awake through!) in ages, and may well be the best show currently playing on Broadway (can't say for a certainty as there's a bunch I haven't seen, yet--"Awake and Sing!" was pretty damn good by the way)--and if Bruce Jay Friedman was commissioned to edit "Black Humor Vol. 2" (and God only knows we could surely use it in this sanguinary age, where "The Daily Show" plays out as actual Truth) he could do no worse than to lead off his anthology with this particular play (way, way better than his "Pillow Man", which wasn't half bad). "Horror movies are the only true reality," Van Vliet once told me, a remark I repeated in a Yale Daily News article, and which was then recycled as a Blue Book essay question ("Captain Beefheart has stated that 'Horror Films are the only true reality'. Discuss.") in a Modern Philosophy Final Exam given later that year. (Course was called "The Self and Others"). (Here Comes Everybody).

Now in the matter of medieval bodily Humours, Black was the colour-coded correlative for Bile, was it not--and Truth to tell, much bilious as well as bloody bits of business crop(py-boy) up on stage here in a manner positively Tourner-esque (Cyril, as well as Jacques--think "The Revenger's Tragedy" crossed with "Curse of the Demon", a film derived from M.R. James's short story "Casting the Runes"-- cited in my lyrics to "In a Forest", available as a free mp3 download on my website). Tarantino has been name-checked as an inspiration to McDonagh, but I was more reminded of the backroom of Satriale's Pork Shop with Tony Soprano and the boys a'carving fact Blood seems to be the operative medium in this Age in which we swim (not merely "the rose of myserious union", pace James Douglas Morrison). One is reminded of Theodore Sturgeon (Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout)'s short story "Some of Your Blood", in which the pathological atom-age vampire is discovered in rabid pursuit of his paramour's menstrual flow...(also Germaine Greer in "The Female Eunuch", in which she posits that if the modern woman is unable to enjoy the taste of her own period, she really hasn't come a long way, baby). Mmmmm mmmm good!

And blood sure does flow copiously herein, like Macbeth on ensanguinated overdrive (...till Birnam Wood doth come to dance inane)--lotsa damn spots coagulating into veritable rivers of claret, enough to float a flotilla of pirate ships (and by the way I found the 300 million dollar "Dead Man's Chest" curiously inert last night in the cinema after the splendid hijinx of "Curse of the Black Pearl", director Gore Verbinski --good name for this ramble!--only pumping up the volume in the last half hour or so) (mention should also be made of the Ray Harryhausen connnection here, as Verbinski's Kraken beastie was first depicted onscreen in a film historical sense in Ray's "Clash of the Titans"--also the tenticular CGI whizbang version on view in "Dead Man's Chest" isn't a patch on Ray's giant squid in "It Came From Beneath the Sea", copping the same moves and all...Ray's delivered alot more bang for alot less bucks) .

In "The Lieutenant of Inishmore"'s rosy cruci-fiction, a deranged IRA splinter group (the Army of Inishmore?) run amuck on the auld sod, lots of psychotic bumbling stage Irishmen casually committing torture, maiming, and other extreme corpuscular mayhem (and one dainty murderous punkette, the Irish Lieutenant's Woman, singing Dominic Behan's "The Patriot Game"--melody of which was pinched by Dylan for "With God On Our Side", a smart choice of pilferage--the volk tradition, didya nae know?--as Dylan's lyric renders Behan's sardonic commentary into the flattened affect/dead-brainpanned voice of the patriot simpleton justifying his slaughter with the imprimatur of the Divine) (s'funny because one recollects Dylan trying to throw Derroll Adam's blood-hound instincts off the scent of his lovin' theft, as it were, in "Don't Look Back" at the scene of that drunken party, when Dylan attempts to shift gears after the incident of the broken glass aerolith, with: "Are there any poets like Allen Ginsberg around here?" and Adams replies : "No, no, nothing like that--Dominic Behan"-- and Dylan covers his bloody tracks--"With God On our Side" being last year's model, but still in the showroom--with "Hey, yeah, yeah, you know, you know. No I don't wanna hear nobody like Dominic Behan, man, Dominic Behan"--well, Dylan was so much younger than...)..

And all these mixed-up contusions for the love of a Cat (jaysus!)-- namely Wee Thomas, the flung dummy dessicated corpus of which is passed around like a totemic head on a pike throughout the proceedings (conjuring up memories of the Monty Python "Confuse a Cat" sketch--not to mention John Cleese nailing that Dead Parrot to the perch in his pet shop in the scenes here concerning the loutish Irish pair trying to reconstitute the dead critter)--in fact the farcical 'arold the Flying Sheep country bumpkin-ish (more) tones of the Python crew do waft benignly throughout the onstage proceedings, also the bloody-minded astringent non-sequiturs of 'arold Pinter circa "The Caretaker", there's even a soupcon of Beckett in this bucket 'o blood (McDonagh's cup runneth over)--

and the penultimate curtain closer, when the actual Poe-etical Black Cat Wee Thomas makes a surprise appearance, risen from the dead Pyewacket- like (the cat in "Bell, Book and Candle"--after Kim Novak, the real star of that film) brought a delighted gasp from the crowd on Friday night, a crowd psychically attuned to the shattering savage wit of the play, right up there with "Marat/Sade" in me humble opinion, in its jaundiced view of the human condition. In fact Billy Connolly (fantastic Scottish comedian) was overheard in the bogs of the off-Bway theatre where his brilliant one-man show was playing a few weeks ago saying that "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" was the funniest thing he'd seen what are you waiting for?

(Audience also gasped at the dismemberment scene near the finis, as in a life-imitates-art moment--or is it the other way round?--a derelict went at a subway rider Thursday night here with 2 power saws)...

(shout-out to Drew Friedman, I still have your video copy of "Daughter of Horror"--great great avant-horror film of the 50's with the hallucinatory quality of a dream and a voice-over narration by an uncredited Ed McMahon--Drew being the son of Bruce Jay Friedman, and a spectacular artist in his own right with the vision of a modern Hogarth, whose meticulous pen and ink renderings of Tor Johnson and Vampira and Joe Franklin delight me to this day. His brother Josh Alan Friedman's "Tales of Times Square" is a must-read, too--what a talented Brood!).

Off to India tomorrow at 8am to play Bacardi-sponsored shows in Mumbai and Hyderabad with my pal the female dj/producer Cosmo, along with a percussionist and a fire-dancer this time, unlike London last month these shows are open to the public and they're estimating crowds of 2500 in Mumbai and 5000 (spirits) in Hyderabad...very excited, my first trip there...after the gigs a much needed holiday is on the agenda but I plan to keep posting throughout...



ps I just got sent a mix of a track I co-wrote with the British group Onetwo, a new group featuring my friend Paul Humphreys from OMD and the lovely Claudia Brucken, the former singer of Propaganda, who is possessed with the voice of an Angel--
I gave them the finished music, and they've added percussion and Claudia's voice and lyric--and I cannot get this song out of my head, playing it over and over and over, how I wish I could share it with you now! Certainly one of my best collaborations, will be featured on Onetwo's debut album out in October..

if you don't know Claudia's voice, seek out Propaganda's "Duel" single, which I'd rate in my Top 5 (this week anyway--along with Black Uhuru's "Shine Eye Girl", Jonathan Richman's "Corner Store", Dylan's "Corrina Corrina", and The Mamas and the Papas "Dedicated to the One I Love"...)


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