Sunday, August 31, 2008

Kiss Where I Cain't

Shock Horror!!!

BOB DYLAN, for years my number one Desert Island Artiste du Disque (there is more information contained in the grain of his voice, more pixels packed in the thwack of his lonesome guitar than, oh, I dunno, just about anyone since Skip James, Bukka White, Bob Nolan, Joseph Spence, Chester Burnett, Blind Willie Johnson, Roscoe Holcomb, and Ukulele Ike...sans guitar, one would have to namecheck Caruso--Dylan thought so too, see "Don't Look Back"--Nervous Norvus, John McCormack, Sir Harry Lauder, Paul Robeson, Charles Trenet, Doodles Weaver, William Burroughs, Gordy McRae, and T.S. Eliot)...

Yep--THAT Bob Dylan--best damn singer/songwriter/song 'n dance man ever--recently played 2-count them-2 tracks by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART AND THE MAGIC BAND on his XM Satellite Radio Show:

beginning with "Click Clack" last December, on a show whose theme was "More Trains"...

and then just a coupla weeks ago on August 4th, Bob spun the one and only "Ice Cream for Crow" (sporting slide by yrs truly) on his show, rubric of which was "Birds" (come to think of it he coulda played "Golden Birdies", or even "Peaches"--glad he didn't!)

Here's Dylan's playlist for that show:

Monday 4 August 2008 - The theme was 'Birds'

The Rooster Song - Fats Domino
Cooing To The Wrong Pigeon - Merrill Moore
Bluebird - Buffalo Springfield
Chicken - Mississippi John Hurt
The Coo Coo Bird - Clarence Ashley
Bird On The Wire - Leonard Cohen
When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob Bobbin’ Along - Al Jolson
Buzzard Pie - Rudy Green & His Orchestra
Daffy Duck’s Rhapsody - Mel Blanc
Ice Cream For Crow - Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band
Great Speckled Bird - Roy Acuff & his Crazy Tennesseans
Night Owl - Tony Allen & The Champs
Wings Of A Dove - Blues Busters
Shake A Tail Feather - The Five Du-Tones

and here's what Dylan said about selection number 10, comin' right off Mel Blanc's "Daffy Duck Rhapsody":

"Mel Blanc did a lot of voices - our next artist just did one - but it's a heck of a voice. Don Van Vliet was born in Glendale, California - he stopped performing in the 80's to focus on his painting. He's a really good painter but I wish he'd made more records. [tangent about the Corvids - crows and rooks etc] Here's a song that goes as straight as the crow flies - Captain Beefheart and 'Ice Cream for Crow'..."

(I wish Don had made more records too...which is why I skated in 1984, after he rejected Virgin's offer to record the followup to "Ice Cream for Crow"...)

In any case, this public acknowledgment and testimonial by one certified American Master to his fellow Peer 'o the Realm was (beef)heartening news indeed...

and it makes me love Bob Dylan all the more...

(btw, I introduced a 24 year old Jeff Buckley to the awesome majesty and mysteries of Bob's "Farewell Angelina" after the original demo surfaced on Columbia Legacy's "The Genuine Bootleg Series Vol. One"--there is a recording circulating of Jeff and I jamming on this song live on Nick Hill's "Music Faucet" program on WFMU well worth tracking down--our version came out once upon a limited edition double cd giveaway for FMU subscribers titled "They Came, They Played, They Blocked the Driveway", it was Jeff's first time on the radio ever, the studio lights were darkened, the incense was glowing, the triangles tingling... and we were burning)...

More Beefheartiana: MOMA has a show on now through the fall of great music videos from their collection, and you can see the aforementioned "Ice Cream for Crow" vid (which I singlehandedly got Mary Lee Bandy at MOMA to include in the museum's permanent collection back in 1982) (yes), as well as other delights by Devo, Laurie Anderson etc. (and for my readers who live out of the city,and have never seen "Ice Cream for Crow", here 'tis in all its glory on Youtube--btw, the Coen Brothers are obviously big Beefheart fans, as they shamelessly copped the tumbling tumbleweed imagery (shades of Bob Nolan) from this vid at the beginning of "The Big Lebowski" (which also featured "Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles" on its soundtrack)...

And finally-- Dusty Wright and have come out with a terrific podcast about "Beefheart Night at the Knit: A Tribute to Don Van Vliet" which took place last April 9th at the Knitting Factory NYC, and featured Beefheart poetry readings and reminiscences by Lee Ranaldo, Glenn Kenny, Kurt Loder, Alan Vega, Giorgio Gomelsky, Danny Fields, Felice Rosser, Jamie Cohen, Peter Warner, Mike Edison, Billy Altman, and others, and on video, contributions from David Lynch and Anton Corbijn--the live music centerpiece came in the form of 2 sets by Fast 'n Bulbous, the Captain Beefheart Project, which I co-lead with Phillip Johnston, previewing material from our forthcoming second album on Cuneiform--and a surprise appearance by the fabulous Robyn Hitchcock after midnight, which you can view here.

Speaking of Lee Ranaldo: what a great guy!--it was at Lee's urging that I up and recorded several of my instrumental solo guitar arrangements of the 30's Shanghainese pop of Chow Hsuan and Bai Kwong after he and his lady Leah Singer heard me perform several at a Chinatown wedding party for my friends Kenny Hurwitz and Mi-Ling Tsui--and the result was my 2001 album "The Edge of Heaven--Gary Lucas Plays Mid-Century Chinese Pop", perhaps my most successful album (to date) :-)

Lee and his band Sonic Youth were on fire last night at the closing of the McCarren Pool outdoor concert venue in Williamsburg where I attended in the co. of my pal Bob Strano--Sonic Youth one of the greatest high modernist bands of all time, true originals--Lee Ranaldo, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Steve Shelley and co.--what a glorious din of ecstasy they make, strings in the earth and air, best enjoyed sitting on a barbed wire fence, chiming celestial harmonics commingle savage discordant feedback and cool lyrics, heard a snatch of my fave "Kiss Me in the Shadow of a Doubt", they closed with an alternately langorous and rabid "Expressway to Your Skull", what a tight ensemble, iconic stage moves, great irreverent treatment of guitars as non-sacrosanct sound carriers (mere planks of wood strung with razor wire)...yeah!! Aaron formerly of Tonic was on the mix and it sounded GOOOD in such a cavernous concrete laden setting, clips projected behind the group were from Crosby Stills and Nash live in Big Sur and Woodstock :-) Most fun I've had with my clothes on in some time...

Just back from a family reunion and some musik bidness in Prague (yes I am an honest to goodness card-carrying Bohemian by my father's patrimony) where Caroline and I had a lovely dinner with Czech UN ambassador Martin Palous (who commissioned my arrangements for solo guitar of Czech classical music for the 14th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution at the Czech Embassy in DC), Boris Krsnak, the Prague-based reporter for Slovakradio, and Pavel Zaichek, poet and leader of the fierce Czech underground band DG-307, their 1997 album "Siluety" is a classic filled with demonic glissando'ed cello drones and dark incantatory lyrics, he's planning to bring them to NYC this fall--miss at your own peril...

Pavel Zaicek (leader of Czech underground band DG307), Czech UN Ambassador Martin Palous, Gary, and Caroline Sinclair, Velryiba Restaurant, Prague, 8/25/08

Martin Palous, Caroline and Gary, Velryiba Restaurant, Prague 8/25/08

photos by Boris Krsnak | Click to enlarge

The next night I met up with my old friends the Czech artist David Nemec (daughter of Dana Nemecova, who was an original jailed dissident along with Vaclav Havel as a signer of the famous Charter 77 document which heralded the eventual Velvet Revolution) and Richard "Faust" Mader, producer guitarist and leader of Czech underground band Urfaust with whom I recorded the seminal prog rock opus "The Ghosts of Prague" (now available on iTunes) in '96, and with whom I made a series of provocative concerts and tv appearances the length and breadth of that country (for sheer sonic mayhem czech out this 5 part Youtube series filmed at the old crumbling former Yiddish theater The Roxy in Prague's Starometska, featuring me, Faust, Czech avant-vocalist supreme Mirka Krivankova, and percussionist/English horn player Jan Cambal improvising live: part 1, part 2, part 3).

Lots more to relate, but 'twill have to wait, Caroline is making "I want to go out and have waffles at Petite Abeille" noises now...



PS For more Beefheart--tune in on the internet this Wed. September 3rd from 4pm to 6pm NYC time to Holland's National Public Radio station NPS Radio 6 here, when Co de Kloet, THE go-to guy in the Netherlands for all things Beefheart and Zappa-related broadcasts the world premiere of "I Have a Cat", our original recorded collaboration which consists of the last known lengthy recorded interview with Don Van Vliet, conducted by Co in 1991, scored with my original music for solo guitar...

and if you're in the city next Saturday night Sept. 6th, PLEASE check out Gods and Monsters at the HOWL Festival at 8pm at the Bowery Poetry Club--

my boyos Ernie Brooks (Modern Lovers), Billy Ficca (Television), Jason Candler (Hungry March Band) and Joe Hendel (The Latest Show on Earth) are ready to mash it up good, with special guest the sensational vocalist Felice Rosser from Faith...check out this clip from our last performance there recorded on my birthday June 20th, with special guest Felice and the cool Chinese rock guitarist Fang Ke tearing it up on Burning Spear's "Foggy Road".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Lucas, I don't know how you find the time to man this blog on top of all the other irons you have in the fire, but I want to thank you for all the work you do.

I've been a longtime fan and I so admire your musicianship.

I'm lucky in that I finally got to move out of the Midwest and am living 100 miles from NYC.

When and where are you playing next? Can't believe I missed the Woodstock gig. Didn't hear about it until too late.

Take care and thanks again.

9/16/2008 7:42 PM  

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Lift the Bandstand

...was an exhortation, an admonishment, and a command given by Thelonious Monk to his then disciple, the young soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, who later rose to become one of the most influential jazz composers in his own right--it's also the title of an early film about Lacy by my friend the Emmy award-winning documentary film maker/producer/writer Peter Bull, for whom I'm currently scoring a feature length documentary about the myth of "clean" coal burning as a possible alternative energy source, a project under the auspices of the Center for Investigative Research.

Lacy, whose music I love and paid tribute to at a concert organized by Roswell Rudd last year here at Merkin Hall, was a total inspiration to me back in the day, along with Ayler, Mingus, Coltrane, Miles, and Ornette on the jazz side of things...

And this impulse to lift/ascend/elevate/raise high the roofbeam carpenters (JD in JC mode) the proceedings du jour have informed my every move, my every impulse in music is no accident that I titled one of my original solo guitar compositions "Rise Up to Be"--a piece of my art which I gave out of love to my friend and collaborator the 24 year old Jeff Buckley, to try and inspire him, to activate him to realize his full potential, to kick-start him and get him up off the shoals of a moribund LA music scene where he was foundering--and my solo guitar music impelling Jeff to "Rise Up to Be" became the instrumental basis for our anthem "Grace" :-)

And I write this because I have been similarly lifted up again in spirit this week by music and musical happenings that I want to to share with You, dear readers..

Last night Caroline and I caught one of the most joyful, soul-stirring, sexy/wicked and profoundly energizing musicals ever set forth on a stage--

and that would be "Fela!" based on the life and music of the great Nigerian band-leader/political activist/cultural icon Fela Anikulapalo Kuti--as influential in his own way as Bob Marley in effecting trans-oceanic shifts of consciousness and political awareness. This show is in previews now Off Broadway at the 37 Arts Theater--run, fly, if you're David Byrne bike it, get there by hovercraft if necessary--but go see this production immediately, it is the great choreographer Bill T. Jone's first directorial attempt, 6 years in the making, and it is successful on every count--a labor of love and a serious art statement that rocks and is tremendously entertaining, one that only inspired feelings of love from the packed house last night that came back from the audience to the performers on stage in wave upon wave of pure pleasure, dancing in the aisles--the stage set is magnificent, the theater has been totally redone in dayglo colors and Pan-African folk-art murals as The Shrine, Fela's nightclub in Lagos where afro-beat was born, a hybrid of James Brown funk, Latin jazz, and hard bop licks set to incantatory politically charged chants and wails of Fela and his crew (here a large ensemble of gorgeous/vibrant/sexy African-American dancers and singers shaking their asses and chanting down Babylon, excoriating multinational thief thiefs, racist colonialism, corrupt African political regimes, army and police brutality)...the Brooklyn based Antibalas provides note-perfect renditions of the Fela groove while adding their own thang to the proceedings (a great band!)...and in the lead, the handsome and charismatic African actor Sahr Ngaujah actually WAS Fela, he had his stance, voice, his dance, his swagger down cold (Caroline and I saw Fela live at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden in the early 80's, after his most recent release from a Nigerian jail cell, and Sahr Ngaujah's performance was so spot on it gave us both chills)...

The superb cast of dancers and singers under director/choreographer Bill T. Jones turned these songs into whirling phantasms of colour, movement, light and sound, fever dreams that transcended the concept of "production numbers"--you felt you were right there in a nightclub in Africa witnessing the greatest show on earth, the propulsive funky groove music and the heat being generated up on stage (such seductive, supple dancers and singers, bedecked in the most radiant of costumes) propelled you up out of your seat-- and artfully shocking tableaux such as the scene where soldiers of the Nigerian army storm Fela's Kalakuta Republic compound, rape his wives, and murder Fela's saintly mother, the pioneering feminist activist Funmilayo Kuti (movingly portrayed by Abena Koomson), by tossing her out a two story window, mobilized you to want to go out and do something positive, to try and change and make the world a better place (Obama!)...

It's only in its fourth day of previews, the show officially opens the first week of September for a limited run of 3 weeks--see it now before it sells out, I'm definitely going back again...I could easily imagine this show on Broadway spellbinding folks looking for a more globally profound, more sophisticated version of "The Lion King"--"Fela!" is a real consciousness-raiser about the ultimate stepping razor/rabble rouser/soul rebel who took on a government and won (his incendiary music lives on and is still extremely popular here and in Europe--and of course, in Africa), whose story should and needs to be told to a mass audience--the message of "Fela!" is more vital now than ever...

The other event this week that lifted my spirits way high with music was the debut of a new duo project with the great African-American jazz and blues vocalist Dean Bowman...we performed Wednesday night at the Issue Project Room out in Brooklyn run by lovely Suzanne Fiol, and performed a set of mainly blues-based spiritual music old and new, including music by Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, Joseph Spence, the Staple Singers, Jewish sacred music, and much more. The full house was stomping their feet and clapping their hands rhythmically along to our encore "God is a Good Good God" by The Campbell Brothers, we could have played all night, Dean did a soulful take on my original song "Follow", and in the house was Felice Rosser from Faith, who will be singing with Gods and Monsters as our special guest on September 6th at the Bowery Poetry Club as part of the Howl Festival, also there was the director Michael Owen and his wife--a film crew making a documentary on my work for the director Doug Sloan caught our set, and we should have some clips up on Youtube soon--and we are just getting going, having a huge repertoire amassed for further vocal/instrumental exploration--stay tuned for our next appearance, under the name Chase the Devil...

Gary Lucas and Dean Bowman in the spirit, Issue Project Room Brooklyn, NY 8/6/08

photo by Michael Owen | Click to enlarge

Going out for breakfast now with C to our favorite new joint (breakfast all day and then some!)--Bourbon St. Southern Gourmet on Hudson Street corner of Charles St., it's recently opened and we'd never gone in before last weekend--but we had a hankering for New Orleans style food after our recent New Orleans hang with Peter Stampfel and his wife Betsy, so the other night Caroline and our friends the Pakistani pistol Shaista Husain and her guy Gus and Cineaste editor Richard Porton went in there for dessert after a typically sybaritic meal at Al Fama Portuguese restaurant down the street--and the red velvet and cream cheese and banana cakes were so fine (forget Magnolia Bakery, too many bloody tourists there anyway on their "Sex and the City" jag--these baked goods are the real deal) that we went back the next morning for a breakfast of fried green tomatoes and cheese grits and biscuits and eggs and the best apple-smoked bacon and sausage I've had in NYC...the place sports a great lunch menu as well and sells plenty of New Orleans foodie accessories, including about 58 different kinds of hot sauce--and Zapp's potato chips-- now on to sample the banana pecan pancakes, yummm!

Later this afternoon Peter and I are meeting down on the Christopher Street piers as The Du-Tels to film a video for our new track "Obama"--

this song is really pressing buttons, I sent an mp3 of our tribute to the only candidate who matters up to one of my favorite political writers and columnists, the lovely, witty and trenchant Maureen Dowd at the New York Times yesterday, who wrote back: "GREAT"!


Check it out on my myspace jukebox at




Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say everything you wrote about fela the musical and the legend is on point. Keep up the great work. I really enjoyed reading this article.
Keeping the legendary fela kuti alive through video.

8/23/2008 11:47 AM  

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