In a comment to my post The Stranger Alongside Me in September our friend Milania remarked on my being a rescuer. In reply my husband David Hughes said, “I guess you could say she rescued me forty-four years ago this month! We’ll have to have Andrea tell that tale some day.” Milania urged me to do so “sooner rather than later.” Okay, but I should say that “rescue” sounds more dramatic that it really was, although David and I agreed that this story could get a little bit personal. Continue reading “And He Never Left!”
Listening to songs by The Royal Family and the Poor while writing my last post, I found myself comparing them with those of Scott Stapleton, who has created and contributed to music in various guises: solo, Virgin Forest, Phosphorescent, New Duo.
I first became enamored of Stapleton when viewing the chipped silver laquer of his nails as he played pedal steel on Phosphorescent’s “Song for Zula” at Glastonbury in 2014. It’s just about all we see of him apart from a denim shirt. His picking is tasteful and ensemble (yes that’s an adjective) and contrasts with his keyboard work the year before on Phosphorescent’s “The Quotidian Beasts” at the SXSW music festival. There, he is flamboyant in a red T on the keys, practically conjuring the song’s lyrics as they are sung by Matthew Houck (aka Phosphorescent), with flourishes from his hands and arms.
Last week, when I was uninspired whilst reviewing my running list of blog topics, YouTube operated as a sort of Oblique Strategies, the deck of cards initially developed by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt independently in the late 1960s and early ’70s. (Eno included four of Schmidt’s prints in his 1977 album Before and After Science.) The cards’ suggestions and comments can act as disinterested—oblique—prods for artists when they encounter roadblocks during the creative process. And so YouTube essentially did the same for me, but not obliquely—rather, evidently, based on my past searches and pointing-and-clicking. “Recommended for you” last week was an obscure track from The Zulu Compilation (1984), an album I happen to have in my collection. Zulu Records was formed by Jayne Casey and Ambrose Reynolds (both of whom also worked in the band Pink Industry, which issued lovely minimalist and melancholic music in the ’80s). The compilation is perhaps most collectible for its inclusion of a pre-Trevor Horn version of “Love Has Got a Gun” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
I hadn’t listened to that compilation LP in years and had completely forgotten the track YouTube selected for me: “The Kremlin in Flame [sic]” by S.T.F.O.T.P.A. It sounds like something from the 1976 Art & Language-Red Crayola collaboration, Corrected Slogans (discussed in my post I Found That Essence Rare). After some searching I found the identity of the track’s creators in a 2010 interview by Arthur McDonald of The Royal Family and the Poor fame. Except that I’d never heard of the band. Or, rather, when coming across their LPs, two of which were issued by Factory Records, I’d passed them by. Continue reading “Vaneigem and Bubblegum”
Seeing the nave and altar of Notre-Dame de Paris after its recent fire, and thinking of it open to the elements, I had an eery sense of, well, déjà vu. I had been there, literally, with my family on a 2002 trip to France in celebration of my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. But I had been in that ruin, virtually and earlier, twice more. Continue reading “Took Me to Church”
Last month I saw Gang of Four for the third time.
The first was at a small club, probably their show at the Starwood in West Hollywood, capacity 400–800, May of 1980. Earlier that same year, the band had opened for the Buzzcocks and later, Iggy Pop, both at the much larger Santa Monica Civic. But those garnered lousy reviews by the Los Angeles Times, the first due to bad sound, the second to fatigue. The Civic could put a lot of distance between the stage and the floor. And it ostensibly seated 3,000, but when I saw the Clash there, the seats were replaced by metal plates; when we bounced, so did they—and there were a lot more than 3,000 bouncing.
Obviously that Starwood show in 1980 featured the band’s original lineup: Hugo Burnham on drums, Dave Allen bass, Andy Gill guitar, and Jon King vocals. It was riveting. The stage was small enough to bridge the Civic’s divide, but broad enough to allow Jon King his signature sprints between microphones. If King was a gazelle, Gill was a beast of prey, exactly as described by poet Ted Hughes in his “Second Glance at Jaguar”: “He coils, he flourishes/ The blackjack tail as if looking for a target.”
The following is an initial meandering musing on dance: casual, staged, amateur, professional, choreographed, spontaneous, celebratory, liberatory.
Six years ago Pet Shop Boys issued their album Electric and I bought it for the cut “Love Is a Bourgeois Construct,” a sentiment I’d been voicing for some time. But I was more taken with the promo video for the more nuanced “Vocal.” Directed by photographer and filmmaker Joost Vandebrug, it is compiled from amateur video shot at British late-’80s raves as well as Manchester’s Haçienda club. Given the visuals, the song suggests a nostalgic number, but the singer is surprised: “Every track has a vocal/ and that makes a change.” The music—“Expressing passion/ Expressing pain”—is the glue that binds its listeners as well as the promo’s dancers. It can be seen as a tone-poem-take on the experiences of ecstasy, a drug of choice at the time.
In the milieu of the multitudes, Vandebrug’s choices convey not only that E-intimacy but also a heterogeneity—racial, sensual, presentational, more.
The “Vocal” visuals only hint at what was taking place across the pond in the waning ’80s, as do those for Madonna’s promo for “Vogue” (1990), which is an oddly literal (mm… periodical) treatment, a recreation of classic West Coast film and fashion photography, even as her choreography, by Karole Armitage, was a lite—and largely synchronized—version of East Coast ballroom moves (at least in the five-minute cut). Continue reading “Everybody Dance Now 1”