Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Views from Glastonbury

Here's someone who at the moment perhaps for obvious reasons wishes to remain anonymous
I received no fee for playing Glastonbury, in fact it cost me £500-600 to play. Artists' camping was an afterthought, we found a tiny patch between a swamp and a skip, and no artist showers were provided. Also we weren't fed. But Glastonbury's all about supporting music isn't it?
Average price for any hot food at all was £8. Lots of space for cars provided. Cigar smoking delegates. I'll just pay the bills with artistic acclaim huh? Was 50/50 whether I could afford the petrol back home. But Glastonbury' s so amazing, its all about supporting the artists.
Also they don't facilitate / allow you to sell your own merchandise, so you can't benefit / make a few quid on that either.
Final point, for balance..it remains to be seen if / how the band benefits from playing in front of 1800 fans. Playing Glastonbury wields currency for future opportunities, which is good. We stayed at / saw the Festival for free. I just think that the basic needs / costs of the artists should be covered, given the whole massive venture is based around us, the people who write songs and stuff.
I tapped into a huge audience and having played there will help future things, so it's worth it from that point of view. But not covering basic artists' needs is pretty disgusting
...and here's The Bug letting rip
So against all my better judgement i decided to try and convince my mcs to play two shows for nothing, twist Ninja Tune's arm into frontin tour support as a label debt, paid myself sub-zero, and desperately tried to avoid any pre-conceived thoughts of typical festival traumas....All of which effectively meant, i definitely lost money and sanity to play this year's Glastonbury Festival..
Foolish maybe, but speakin to a journalist a couple of months ago, who said a previous Techno Animal show at Glastonbury had been "absolutely inspirational" for him and the third of the crowd that didnt run for cover when me and Justin played the festival years ago...It was that conversation that spurred me to take a dive into the mud of Somerset in the hope we could alter spine's, dna's and pre-conceptions, and more importantly shake up the conservative middle ground/middle mass neutrality of the festival's line up(Sleaford Mods asides..)..Plus my agent's assistant, and all round badman Ahsan, egged me on to take a crack at a fresh audience.....So this led to me and the Bug crew to climb into the belly of a giant, robotic, mechanical spider, in the early evening sunshine on Saturday night..
And for sure, whatever the outcome of the set, it was a fantastically surreal memory, that will stay with me for life(even the split second of vertigo when the wind started swingin the gigantic arthropod many metres from the ground was a trip too...lol).. But, i cant lie, when i saw just a handful of people millin around minutes before showtime, the reality set in that we were basically just a small, fairly anonymous number on the bill, and fundamentally a support act to the incredible circus like pyrotechnics of the ARCADIA bug...For us, there was virtually no lighting, fanfares or for that matter, crowd, as i pressed play on the voice of The Spaceape. But again, massive credit to Flowdan, Manga and Miss Red, who immediately put all their energies into the set, whilst i hid behind my wall of noise...They showed again, clearly, they were commited, genuine and fired up...and they seemed to relish clambering around the junkyard beast to magnetise passers by to our racket....As a unit, im happier battlin with these three mic murderers than any previous vocal combo i have worked with live..Their disparate, yet complimentary flows, are a joy to witness and work with, and each mc is respectively a ninja at their chosen flow/lyrical weapon, and even better, they seem as hungry as me to get medieval on the masses..And although, naturally we would of preferred to play to thousands who came out after dark,instead of hundreds, it was still mad vibesy seein more and more people coming to congregate around the droid and brucking out proper at the feet of the insane monster. And having just read this tweet alone, it justified the madness of the decision, day and setting : "Dan Harris @danielharris627 3h3 hours ago
@thebugzoo You were fucking incredible on Arcadia, one of the best sets i've ever seen. "
But if Saturday avoided many of the pitfalls of festivals..(hell we even managed a tiny soundcheck in the spider...haha)...Sunday was a different story...Firstly a small car incapable of seatin all of us had been sent to pick us up from the hotel, so Flowdan/Manga had to be left at the hotel, as me, Miss Red and our soundmaster Goh, drove hastily to the site and WOW tent for set up...
I got to the tent as Four Tet was playin, tryin to set up my shit in pitch black conditions, waiting for bits of gear, concrete and foam to be found, watchin the clock tick closer to showtime....When George Fitzgerald steps up to follow Kieran, the crowd clears considerably, and im side stage in the darkness wonderin why the hell the bookers would put him and us back to back in this tent as his fairly generic house set, amplifies my doubts, and seems planets away from my intentions artistically...
Surrounded by Dan Dirt's sick sound system, and his rig's great crew, i hoped we could sort some decent quality of sound out, despite knowin there would be no soundcheck at all, and the organizers had allocated literally zero time for a changeover(Fine if u show up with a USB stick, but not if u are armed with bags full of hardware toys like mine),that scared me, as did the fact the organizers had not been even able to find a vehicle to go pick up Flowdan/Manga at the hotel until very late in the day, so late in fact, that the organizers informed me "we're not sure we can get your mcs here in time for your set, but we'll try our best."..Zzzzzzz
Bearing in mind we had left them at 6.30, and it was 10, the irony of the slow reaction wasnt lost on me, but my nerves were registerin seismic tremors that didnt allow panic on any one problem, just general stress meltdown on all fronts hahaha...When the roll deep masters literally rolled up 5 minutes before start time, i breathed a hefty sigh of relief, which was soon lost, as the sound guys couldnt manage to set up any monitoring for me.. Havin taken 15 minutes to sort the monitorin, and reposition the stage set ups, i ask the stage manager if were still good for the hour, to which he says "definitely not, you have to finish at 11 as stated in our programme.."...Ho hum, and FUCK, down to 45 minutes and thinkin fast how to re-arrange the set, whilst noticing the tent is now virtually empty...Ah festival stylee...here we go again...
So music kicks in, hideously distorted at high or low levels in the monitors, zero vocals can be heard in my monitors, and later i find out Manga and Flowdan couldnt hear any of their voice in their monitors either...The dirt crew tried their best to salvage the situation, but soundchecks are as useful for the sound guys as the artists, and virtually impossible at festivals unless yr Pharrell etc...SO the choice was get fucked off, head butt a monitor, walk offstage or grin and bare it, hopin the energy of the tracks still manages to translate over the front of house speakers...Luckily i chose the last option...and with Flowdan in demonic form, the tent filling up fast, and then Manga and Miss Red firing out their verses, the shortened set, adrenalin od and sonic friction led to a mad atmosphere on and offstage as the tent went mentalist...Apologies we couldnt play longer, but MAJOR props to the wicked crowd who helped us ignore the bullshit and concentrate on bringin the fire....We had went from an empty tent to a full one, and again Flowdan, Manga and Miss Red had made me proud to share the stage with em, as they achieved energy god status..So the end result was that which counted....A fucka that the organizers had arranged our pick up 30 minutes after we finished tho, so i had to pack up my gear in record time, and then miss Mumdance/Novelist and Mode Selektor sets....
Ridin in the van back to Bristol, the inevitable post weekend post mortem occurs..The 5 of us, discuss Glastonbury festival proper. ie 1/ Officially £225 a tkt, conservatively 198,000 people on site, plus revenue from food/drink stalls. Who gets the cash ? we knew we didnt..lol ..2/ Lionel Richie drew the biggest crowd of the weekend(Zzzzzzzz), why ? 3/ None of our mates would want to or could afford to buy tickets,who comes to this sort of festival ? 4/ We only had time to see one show(Kanye) over the two days due to setting up/breaking down gear and organizers issuing us with our itinery/timetable etc etc etc.....
BUT more importantly, and satisfyingly we agreed we had come to Glasto as an experiment to see what the unsuspecting would make of our attack, and we had collectively enjoyed giving it our best shot, and seein people reacting with ENERGY.
All in all, playin four festival shows in four days, had proved to us that random festival crowds are def open to our sonic/lyrical avalanche, and the crowds responses at all the festivals had been absolutely fantastic, so therefore fuck the problems !!!...Glastonbury, we got paid in minus figures, got treated like numbers, got fed shit, and had time to see nothing. BUT still VERY glad we did it..The battle continues...
PS Sorry for the book
PPS Still waitin for those BBC cameramen to arrive..LOL

Ian Dury on Vauxhall Bridge Road

Via

Bill Bruford on Chris Squire's passing

Really saddened to hear of the death of my old Yes band-mate, Chris Squire. I shall remember him fondly; one of the twin rocks upon which Yes was founded and, I believe, the only member to have been present and correct, Rickenbacker at the ready, on every tour. He and I had a working relationship built around our differences. Despite, or perhaps because of, the old chestnut about creative tension, it seemed, strangely, to work.
He had an approach that contrasted sharply with the somewhat monotonic, immobile bass parts of today. His lines were important; counter-melodic structural components that you were as likely to go away humming as the top line melody; little stand-alone works of art in themselves. Whenever I think of him, which is not infrequently, I think of the over-driven fuzz of the sinewy staccato hits in Close to the Edge (6’04” and on) or a couple of minutes later where he sounds like a tuba (8’.00”). While he may have taken a while to arrive at the finished article, it was always worth waiting for. And then he would sing a different part on top.
An individualist in an age when it was possible to establish individuality, Chris fearlessly staked out a whole protectorate of bass playing in which he was lord and master. I suspect he knew not only that he gave millions of people pleasure with his music, but also that he was fortunate to be able to do so. I offer sincere condolences to his family.
Adios, partner. Bill
Via
The photo is 1971, somewhere in Italy. L-R Steve Howe, Jon Anderson, Bill, Chris

Wayne Kramer Lecture - On MC5 and the Evolution of Pop Music

We’re Old and We are Fucking Angry: Haunted by Post Post-Punk

Watching My Name Go By (NYC Graffiti 1976)


Via

Hatfield & The North w/ Robert Wyatt - Live @Studio ORTF des Buttes-Chaumont, Paris (2/1/73)

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Guilty (of a flashback to May 1977 in Glasgow)

Maybe about eight  or nine years ago an air freighted issue of Uncut magazine arrived at my house. Which was strange in itself though stranger still was the fact that it had been sent by my sister over in Scotland. I started reading it and it was only when I got to the very back of the mag that I realised why I had been sent it. In that particular issue Allan Jones's 'Stop Me If You've Heard This Before' column was revisiting the weekend in May 1977 that New York punk hit Glasgow. 
At the local university on the Saturday night The Ramones were playing supported by Talking Heads and then the following night Television and Blondie played at The Apollo.
The only band that had set foot in Britain previous to this was The Ramones and this was also the first night of the Television tour.
Anyway Allan had been dispatched north by the Melody Maker to cover these gigs and I actually met him early on the Saturday morning just walking down Renfrew Street. As you can imagine it was a great weekend and a few adventures took place, some gaps of which were filled in for me some 35 years later by my compatriot in crime that weekend, Alan, who went on to write for the NME as Tommy Udo, after we got in touch again through Facebook. An example being that I had completely forgotten that after going to The Ramones/Talking Heads soundcheck we met Joey's brother Mickey, who was working as their roadie and we headed back to their hotel for refreshments before setting off for the gig at night.
I was needless to say completely gobsmacked that the following issue of MM had numerous words that apparently had come out of my mouth. I speak here as someone who can talk a load of crap at the best of time but after indulging in powders I can even amaze myself with the shite I utter.
Flashing forward to the twenty first century and to be honest I am in a complete state of shock and awe reliving that amazing weekend through Allan's words but after recovering I decide to call out my two sons to the porch (who it must be pointed out are then both older than the seventeen years old self that I have just been reading about.)
So I read Allan's article out to them as I relive that glorious weekend in my head once more and after finishing it I say to them that it is amazing, as I feel that 'I haven't changed in one bit in all these years' to which my kids reply, almost in unison that 'that is bloody tragic dad.'
I had to laugh!

Tee

WTF with Marc Maron: President Obama


'Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely, erase everything that happened two to 300 years prior.'

Boris - Live @Boiler Room Tokyo (25/8/14)


Heavy, Heavier, Heaviest: A Beginner’s Guide To Doom-Drone

Blixa Bargeld in 'Come To The Point'

Monday, 22 June 2015

Tav Falco's Panther Burns - Live @Westgarth SC, Middlesbrough (15/06/15)


Thanks Martin

Crass: Semi Detached (Gee Vaucher films 1978 - 1984)


Semi Detached is a collection of films made by Gee Vaucher, founding Crass member and the artist behind almost all their graphics (except the logo itself, which was done by Dave King). These six original videos were created for Crass and used as part of all their shows from 1978-1984. Using a VHS video camera, Vaucher created video collages by recording from black and white television with two video machines
Buy

Friday, 19 June 2015

Lou Reed smokes a cigarette (Ronn Sutton 1984)


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Genesis and Cosey Force It

Via

Monday, 15 June 2015

Gone detoxing...

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Explosive intervention by Pope Francis set to transform climate change debate

Inside The Dark Web

Obsession

Thanks Mr Jones

Modris Skaistkalns AKA Mr Tape (DMC World 1991)

St. Vincent + Wire playing 'Drill' (Thalia Hall Chicago)

Photo: Alexander Laurence
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Jon Spencer, Annie Clark & Graham Lewis
Photo via Graham

Welcome to Cleveland

Mark Gubin. You are my hero

Pity it wasn't the neck


Crate diggers

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Ornette & Denardo Coleman photographed by Elliot Landy (New York 1969)

Via

Ken Loach: The Golden Vision (1968)


I watched this at my nana's in Liverpool in 1968. It's stayed with me all this time. Safe to say my parents wouldn't have let me stay up to see it though in my eight year old head the Soho strip club scene was oh-so-much-more

Pat Kane: PuNK’s NOt dEaD... even if its history has been hijacked by big business

Pounds Sterling

Via

How A Baby Is Made (1975)

Andrew Till - Live @Machine Melbourne 24/5/15


This country was good until all the bloody immigrants came here

 ...now it's the fugn best

Gasper Nali - Abale Ndikum Gem


The intro sounds like Public Image
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Deep Roots Malawi

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Patti Smith as The Hermit

Fay Orlove
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Sir Van Morrison's Astral Weeks reviewed by Lester Bangs (1978)

Van Morrison's Astral Weeks was released ten years, almost to the day, before this was written. It was particularly important to me because the fall of 1968 was such a terrible time: I was a physical and mental wreck, nerves shredded and ghosts and spiders looming and squatting across the mind. My social contacts had dwindled to almost none; the presence of other people made me nervous and paranoid. I spent endless days and nights sunk in an armchair in my bedroom, reading magazines, watching TV, listening to records, staring into space. I had no idea how to improve the situation and probably wouldn't have done anything about it if I had.
Astral Weeks would be the subject of this piece - i.e., the rock record with the most significance in my life so far - no matter how I'd been feeling when it came out. But in the condition I was in, it assumed at the time the quality of a beacon, a light on the far shores of the murk; what's more, it was proof that there was something left to express artistically besides nihilism and destruction. (My other big record of the day was White Light/White Heat.) It sounded like the man who made Astral Weeks was in terrible pain, pain most of Van Morrison's previous works had only suggested; but like the later albums by the Velvet Underground, there was a redemptive element in the blackness, ultimate compassion for the suffering of others, and a swath of pure beauty and mystical awe that cut right through the heart of the work
I don't really know how significant it might be that many others have reported variants on my initial encounter with Astral Weeks. I don't think there's anything guiding it to people enduring dark periods. It did come out at a time when a lot of things that a lot of people cared about passionately were beginning to disintegrate, and when the self-destructive undertow that always accompanied the great sixties party had an awful lot of ankles firmly in it's maw and was pulling straight down. so, as timeless as it finally is, perhaps Astral Weeks was also the product of an era. Better think that than ask just what sort of Irish churchwebbed haints Van Morrison might be product of.
Three television shows: A 1970 NET broadcast of a big all-star multiple bill at the Fillmore East. The Byrds, Sha Na Na, and Elvin Bishop have all done their respective things. Now we get to see three of four songs from a set by Van Morrison. He climaxes, as he always did in those days, with "Cyprus Avenue" from Astral Weeks. After going through all the verses, he drives the song, the band, and himself to a finish which has since become one of his trademarks and one of the all-time classic rock 'n' roll set-closers. With consumate dynamics that allow him to snap from indescribably eccentric throwaway phrasing to sheer passion in the very next breath he brings the music surging up through crescendo after crescendo, stopping and starting and stopping and starting the song again and again, imposing long maniacal silences like giant question marks between the stops and starts and ruling the room through sheer tension, building to a shout of "It's too late to stop now!," and just when you think it's all going to surge over the top, he cuts it off stone cold dead, the hollow of a murdered explosion, throws the microphone down and stalks off the stage. It is truly one of the most perverse things I have ever seen a performer do in my life. And, of course, it's sensational: our guts are knotted up, we're crazed and clawing for more, but we damn well know we've seen and felt something.
1974, a late night network TV rock concert: Van and his band come out, strike a few shimmering chords, and for about ten minutes he lingers over the words "Way over yonder in the clear blue sky / Where flamingos fly." No other lyrics. I don't think any instrumental solos. Just those words, repeated slowly again and again, distended, permutated, turned into scat, suspended in space and then scattered to the winds, muttered like a mantra till they turn into nonsense syllables, then back into the same soaring image as time seems to stop entirely. He stands there with eyes closed, singing, transported, while the band poises quivering over great open-tuned deep blue gulfs of their own.
1977, spring-summer, same kind of show: he sings "Cold Wind in August", a song off his recently released album A Period of Transition, which also contains a considerably altered version of the flamingos song. "Cold Wind in August" is a ballad and Van gives it a fine, standard reading. The only trouble is that the whole time he's singing it he paces back and forth in a line on the stage, his eyes tightly shut, his little fireplug body kicking its way upstream against what must be a purgatorial nervousness that perhaps is being transferred to the cameraman.
What this is about is a whole set of verbal tics - although many are bodily as well - which are there for reason enough to go a long way toward defining his style. They're all over Astral Weeks: four rushed repeats of the phrases "you breathe in, you breath out" and "you turn around" in "Beside You"; in "Cyprus Avenue," twelve "way up on"s, "baby" sung out thirteen times in a row sounding like someone running ecstatically downhill toward one's love, and the heartbreaking way he stretches "one by one" in the third verse; most of all in "Madame George" where he sings the word "dry" and then "your eye" twenty times in a twirling melodic arc so beautiful it steals your own breath, and then this occurs: "And the love that loves the love that loves the love that loves the love that loves to love the love that loves to love the love that loves."
Van Morrison is interested, obsessed with how much musical or verbal information he can compress into a small space, and, almost, conversely, how far he can spread one note, word, sound, or picture. To capture one moment, be it a caress or a twitch. He repeats certain phrases to extremes that from anybody else would seem ridiculous, because he's waiting for a vision to unfold, trying as unobtrusively as possible to nudge it along. Sometimes he gives it to you through silence, by choking off the song in midflight: "It's too late to stop now!"
It's the great search, fueled by the belief that through these musical and mental processes illumination is attainable. Or may at least be glimpsed.
When he tries for this he usually gets it more in the feeling than in the Revealed Word - perhaps much of the feeling comes from the reaching - but there is also, always, the sense of WHAT if he DID apprehend that Word; there are times when the Word seems to hover very near. And then there are times when we realize the Word was right next to us, when the most mundane overused phrases are transformed: I give you "love," from "Madame George." Out of relative silence, the Word: "Snow in San Anselmo." "That's where it's at," Van will say, and he means it (aren't his interviews fascinating?). What he doesn't say is that he is inside the snowflake, isolated by the song: "And it's almost Independence Day."
You're probably wondering when I'm going to get around to telling you about Astral Weeks. As a matter of fact, there's a whole lot of Astral Weeks I don't even want to tell you about. Both because whether you've heard it or not it wouldn't be fair for me to impose my interpretation of such lapidarily subjective imagery on you, and because in many cases I don't really know what he's talking about. he doesn't either: "I'm not surprised that people get different meanings out of my songs," he told a Rolling Stone interviewer. "But I don't wanna give the impression that I know what everything means 'cause I don't. . . . There are times when I'm mystified. I look at some of the stuff that comes out, y'know. And like, there it is and it feels right, but I can't say for sure what it means."
There you go
Starin' with a look of avarice
Talking to Huddie Leadbetter
Showin' pictures on the walls
And whisperin' in the halls
And pointin' a finger at me
I haven't got the slightest idea what that "means," though on one level I'd like to approach it in a manner as indirect and evocative as the lyrics themselves. Because you're in trouble anyway when you sit yourself down to explicate just exactly what a mystical document, which is exactly what Astral Weeks is, means. For one thing, what it means is Richard Davis's bass playing, which complements the songs and singing all the way with a lyricism that's something more than just great musicianship: there is something about it that more than inspired, something that has been touched, that's in the realm of the miraculous. The whole ensemble - Larry Fallon's string section, Jay Berliner's guitar (he played on Mingus's Black Saint and the Sinner Lady), Connie Kay's drumming - is like that: they and Van sound like they're not just reading but dwelling inside of each other's minds. The facts may be far different. John Cale was making an album of his own in the adjacent studio at the time, and he has said that "Morrison couldn't work with anybody, so finally they just shut him in the studio by himself. He did all the songs with just an acoustic guitar, and later they overdubbed the rest of it around his tapes."
Cale's story might or might not be true - but facts are not going to be of much use here in any case. Fact: Van Morrison was twenty-two - or twenty-three - years old when he made this record; there are lifetimes behind it. What Astral Weeks deals in are not facts but truths. Astral Weeks, insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. It is a precious and terrible gift, born of a terrible truth, because what they see is both infinitely beautiful and terminally horrifying: the unlimited human ability to create or destroy, according to whim. It's no Eastern mystic or psychedelic vision of the emerald beyond, nor is it some Baudelairean perception of the beauty of sleaze and grotesquerie. Maybe what it boiled down to is one moment's knowledge of the miracle of life, with its inevitable concomitant, a vertiginous glimpse of the capacity to be hurt, and the capacity to inflict that hurt.
Transfixed between pure rapture and anguish. Wondering if they may not be the same thing, or at least possessed of an intimate relationship. In "T.B. Sheets", his last extended narrative before making this record, Van Morrison watched a girl he loved die of tuberculosis. the song was claustrophobic, suffocating, mostrously powerful: "innuendos, inadequacies, foreign bodies." A lot of people couldn't take it; the editor of this book has said that it's garbage, but I think it made him squeamish. Anyway, the point is that certain parts of Astral Weeks - "Madame George," "Cyprus Avenue" - take the pain in "T.B. Sheets" and root the world in it. Because the pain of watching a loved one die of however dread a disease may be awful, but it is at least something known, in a way understood, in a way measureable and even leading somewhere, because there is a process: sickness, decay, death, mourning, some emotional recovery. But the beautiful horror of "Madame George" and "Cyprus Avenue" is precisely that the people in these songs are not dying: we are looking at life, in its fullest, and what these people are suffering from is not disease but nature, unless nature is a disease.
A man sits in a car on a tree-lined street, watching a fourteen-year-old girl walking home from school, hopelessly in love with her. I've almost come to blows with friends because of my insistence that much of Van Morrison's early work had an obsessively reiterated theme of pedophilia, but here is something that at once may be taken as that and something far beyond it. He loves her. Because of that, he is helpless. Shaking. Paralyzed. Maddened. Hopeless. Nature mocks him. As only nature can mock nature. Or is love natural in the first place? No Matter. By the end of the song he has entered a kind of hallucinatory ecstasy; the music aches and yearns as it rolls on out. This is one supreme pain, that of being imprisoned a spectator. And perhaps no so very far from "T.B. Sheets," except that it must be far more romantically easy to sit and watch someone you love die than to watch them in the bloom of youth and health and know that you can never, ever have them, can never speak to them.
"Madame George" is the album's whirlpool. Possibly one of the most compassionate pieces of music ever made, it asks us, no, arranges that we see the plight of what I'll be brutal and call a lovelorn drag queen with such intense empathy that when the singer hurts him, we do too. (Morrison has said in at least one interview that the song has nothing to do with any kind of transvestite - at least as far as he knows, he is quick to add - but that's bullshit.) The beauty, sensitivity, holiness of the song is that there's nothing at all sensationalistic, exploitative, or tawdry about it; in a way Van is right when he insists it's not about a drag queen, as my friends were right and I was wrong about the "pedophelia" - it's about a person, like all the best songs, all the greatest literature.
The setting is that same as that of the previous song - "Cyprus Avenue", apparently a place where people drift, impelled by desire, into moments of flesh-wracking, sight-curdling confrontation with their destinies. It's an elemental place of pitiless judgement - wind and rain figure in both songs - and, interestingly enough, it's a place of the even crueler judgement of adults by children, in both cases love objects absolutely indifferent to their would-be adult lovers. Madame George's little boys are downright contemptuous - like the street urchins who end up cannibalizing the homosexual cousin in Tennessee Williams's Suddenly Last Summer, they're only too happy to come around as long as there's music, party times, free drinks and smokes, and only too gleefully spit on George's affections when all the other stuff runs out, the entombing winter settling in with not only wind and rain but hail, sleet, and snow.
What might seem strangest of all but really isn't is that it's exactly those characteristics which supposedly should make George most pathetic - age, drunkenness, the way the boys take his money and trash his love - that awakens something for George in the heart of the kid whose song this is. Obviously the kid hasn't simply "fallen in love with love," or something like that, but rather - what? Why just exactly that only sunk in the foulest perversions could one human being love another for anything other than their humanness: love him for his weakness, his flaws, finally perhaps his decay. Decay is human - that's one of the ultimate messages here, and I don't by any stretch of the lexicon mean decadence. I mean that in this song or whatever inspired it Van Morrison saw the absolute possibility of loving human beings at the farthest extreme of wretchedness, and that the implications of that are terrible indeed, far more terrible than the mere sight of bodies made ugly by age or the seeming absurdity of a man devoting his life to the wobbly artifice of trying to look like a woman.
You can say to love the questions you have to love the answers which quicken the end of love that's loved to love the awful inequality of human experience that loves to say we tower over these the lost that love to love the love that freedom could have been, the train to freedom, but we never get on, we'd rather wave generously walking away from those who are victims of themselves. But who is to say that someone who victimizes himself or herself is not as worthy of total compassion as the most down and out Third World orphan in a New Yorker magazine ad? Nah, better to step over the bodies, at least that gives them the respect they might have once deserved. where I love, in New York (not to make it more than it is, which is hard), everyone I know often steps over bodies which might well be dead or dying as a matter of course, without pain. and I wonder in what scheme it was originally conceived that such an action is showing human refuse the ultimate respect it deserves.
There is of course a rationale - what else are you going to do - but it holds no more than our fear of our own helplessness in the face of the plain of life as it truly is: a plain which extends into an infinity beyond the horizons we have only invented. Come on, die it. As I write this, I can read in the Village Voice the blurbs of people opening heterosexual S&M clubs in Manhattan, saying things like, "S&M is just another equally valid form of love. Why people can't accept that we'll never know." Makes you want to jump out a fifth floor window rather than even read about it, but it's hardly the end of the world; it's not nearly as bad as the hurts that go on everywhere everyday that are taken to casually by all of us as facts of life. Maybe it boiled down to how much you actually want to subject yourself to. If you accept for even a moment the idea that each human life is as precious and delicate as a snowflake and then you look at a wino in a doorway, you've got to hurt until you feel like a sponge for all those other assholes' problems, until you feel like an asshole yourself, so you draw all the appropriate lines. You stop feeling. But you know that then you begin to die. So you tussle with yourself. how much of this horror can I actually allow myself to think about? Perhaps the numbest mannekin is wiser than somebody who only allows their sensitivity to drive them to destroy everything they touch - but then again, to tilt Madame George's hat a hair, just to recognize that that person exists, just to touch his cheek and then probably expire because the realization that you must share the world with him is ultimately unbearable is to only go the first mile. The realization of living is just about that low and that exalted and that unbearable and that sought-after. Please come back and leave me alone. But when we're along together we can talk all we want about the universality of this abyss: it doesn't make any difference, the highest only meets the lowest for some lying succor, UNICEF to relatives, so you scratch and spit and curse in violent resignation at the strict fact that there is absolutely nothing you can do but finally reject anyone in greater pain than you. At such a moment, another breath is treason. that's why you leave your liberal causes, leave suffering humanity to die in worse squalor than they knew before you happened along. You got their hopes up. Which makes you viler than the most scrofulous carrion. viler than the ignorant boys who would take Madame George for a couple of cigarettes. because you have committed the crime of knowledge, and thereby not only walked past or over someone you knew to be suffering, but also violated their privacy, the last possession of the dispossessed.
Such knowledge is possibly the worst thing that can happen to a person (a lucky person), so it's no wonder that Morrison's protagonist turned away from Madame George, fled to the train station, trying to run as far away from what he'd seen as a lifetime could get him. And no wonder, too, that Van Morrison never came this close to looking life square in the face again, no wonder he turned to Tupelo Honey and even Hard Nose the Highway with it's entire side of songs about falling leaves. In Astral Weeks and "T.B. Sheets" he confronted enough for any man's lifetime. Of course, having been offered this immeasurably stirring and equally frightening gift from Morrison, one can hardly be blamed for not caring terribly much about Old, Old Woodstock and little homilies like "You've got to Make It Through This World On Your Own" and "Take It Where You Find It."
On the other hand, it might also be pointed out that desolation, hurt, and anguish are hardly the only things in life, or in Astral Weeks. They're just the things, perhaps, that we can most easily grasp and explicate, which I suppose shows about what level our souls have evolved to. I said I wouldn't reduce the other songs on this album by trying to explain them, and I won't. But that doesn't mean that, all thing considered, a juxtaposition of poets might not be in order.
If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where the mobile steel rims crack
And the ditch and the backroads stop
Could you find me
Would you kiss my eyes
And lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
 - Van Morrison  

My heart of silk
is filled with lights,
with lost bells,
with lilies and bees.
I will go very far,
farther than those hills,
farther than the seas,
close to the stars,
to beg Christ the Lord
to give back the soul I had
of old, when I was a child,
ripened with legends,
with a feathered cap
and a wooden sword.
- Federico Garcia Lorca
Via

Friday, 12 June 2015

Ornette Coleman, William S. Burroughs & Brion Gysin (1983)

Made In America

Grateful Dead live with Ornette Coleman in 1993

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Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on February 23 1993
Info
Los Angeles Sports Arena on 9th December 1993
Info
Here's a download of the relevant portion of the gigs featuring Ornette