The bell that rings inside your mind
Is challenging the doors of time
I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but what your guy did? It's been done before, and by someone wearing even more glitter and makeup.
Ten years before Adam was born.
Gives a whole new meaning to "Ziggy played guitar...", no?
And for my very very young readers, that's David Bowie fellating the guitar of Mick Ronson on the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars tour. In 1972. I'm just saying.
Like most bootlegs, the sound quality was horrible. But I worshipped Patti Smith and really, back then, it was enough for me to hear her sing.
She started a song I didn't know, not one of hers. I couldn't understand the spoken intro because it was garbled, and after a few minutes, I sat up. "What... what is this?" I asked my girlfriend.
"White Light, White Heat," she said. "It's a Velvet Underground song."
"Oh," I said. "Oh."
And that's how I discovered Lou Reed.
What got me remembering this is that a friend posted a snippet of Antony singing a Leonard Cohen song to her Facebook page last night. Antony is not well-known by the general public, but musicians know him and his slippery, bewildering, beautiful voice very well.
One of those musicians is Velvet Underground founding member Lou Reed, who invited him to be part of a series of now-legendary performances of Reed's album "Berlin" that were filmed by Julian Schnabel and became a concert movie that debuted last year at SXSW in Austin.
I was at that screening, and just after the lights went down, Lou Reed himself walked down the center aisle and slipped into the seat directly across from mine. It's a testament to the film and the concert that I eventually forgot he was there; it can be very distracting to have one of your idols sitting three seats away from you while you watch him perform a work that itself had affected you powerfully from the very first time you heard it.
"Berlin" has been described as a "rock musical," but that's not how I see it. I'd say it's more of a concept album, although to be honest, it really couldn't matter less. It's a collection of songs about a time, a place, and a small group of people; about destruction and suffering, and little pieces of love that never add up to enough.
Some of its songs, well, I don't know what to call them except for perfect: "Caroline Says," "Sad Song," "Oh, Jim."
And you know, that album sank like a fucking stone when it was released in 1973, and now it's on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest rock albums of all time.
I went to YouTube to find a link to Antony singing in the film of "Berlin" to share with my Facebook friend. And I found one; it's at the end of this post. It's actually from the encore and is an old Velvet Underground song called "Candy Says," not from "Berlin" at all, but it should give you an idea of what Antony's voice is like, and also, what Lou Reed's is like now.
Which isn't good, as several clueless folks pointed out in the comments, as if Lou Reed fans are just stoopid and somehow hadn't noticed and if it were only brought to our attention, we'd stop liking him.
And then I realized why I got so angry last night, in my post ranting about an email I got saying that Scott Walker's music sucks.
Scott Walker isn't like Lou Reed in the sense that he's lost his voice; his voice was always one of the most beautiful in rock, and it's still an incredible instrument, haunting and pure, even if the music he's using it to sing is unsettling. But his music has gone off in a direction most of his fans, including me, find difficult to follow. Or even impossible.
But he's like Lou Reed in that both men have had incredible influences on other musicians, and sparked huge musical transformations that are still going on today, while themselves flying under most people's radar. I think it's fair to say that had Lou Reed never recorded "Walk on the Wild Side," most people reading this would not know his name at all. It's probably apocryphal, but Brian Eno supposedly said that almost no one bought the first Velvet Underground album, but everyone who did went out and started a band.
Of course I know Lou Reed can't sing. (Neither, for that matter, can Leonard Cohen.) Of course I think Scott Walker is, at least creatively, batshit insane. It's just that I don't care, because those artists are at the roots of pretty much every single bit and shred of music that I've cared about in my entire life.
Lou Reed's "White Light, White Heat" is the song that invented punk. Scott Walker transformed the face of alternative music forever. They can't just be dismissed because they're obscure or the voice is gone. They're legends. It's not about liking them; it's about knowing who they are.
My mini-review of "Lou Reed's 'Berlin'" from last year's SXSW film festival, and notes on an audience Q&A with Reed, are here; my liveblogging of his keynote address is here. The photos on this post were taken by my Club Kingsnake colleague, photographer Clint Gilders, during that address.
And this is Antony, singing "Candy Says" with Lou Reed:
Okay, I recognize that I'm about to be irrational. If that might bother you, feel free to, you know, move along.
There are things in life I do not like, that other people do. Most famously among them: cilantro and Crocs. Many of my friends (hi, Gina!) like these things, like them very much. I remain friends with them. I don't doubt their sanity nor their powers of reason. I simply accept that it takes all kinds of personal preferences to fuel a competitive global economy.
There are times, in fact, when I glory in the diversity of human experience. I mean, if I had to compete not only with the other people who find my girlfriend hot but every person now living on the planet, that would be very exhausting.
Who we find attractive, the shoes we like, the television shows that grab us, the music we enjoy listening to, all these things are simple personal preferences and matters of some kind of chemistry or magic.
But how we express our likes and dislikes, and the way we talk about those of other people, gets into an entirely different zone. The zone where everyone who knows me is tapping his or her foot and going, for the love of god Christie stop rambling and qualifying and tell us what the fuck has you pissed off before we slap you silly and make you wear Crocs.
So fine. Here it is:
I don't care if you like or don't like Scott Walker. I don't care if you enjoy his music of the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, or the new millennium. I don't care if you enjoyed Stephen Kijak's film about him or not.
But if you're going to spew out your opinions on either of those subjects, and dismiss either or both as lame, bad, or disappointing, it would be nice if you had some kind of basis for your opinion, if you could put either thing into context in some way, in other words, if you knew what the fuck you were talking about before you informed all the people on the Interwebz of your views on the subject.
Scott Walker is considered by many of the best known and most respected musicians in the world to be a genius and a major influence on not only their work but the entire field of alternative music. It's fine if you don't like him. I honestly don't care. But when you shrug off who he is and how he fits into the music world as if listening to a few songs by him gives you the ability to put him into any kind of context... oh god, someone make me shut up. Honestly, I shouldn't write when I'm this pissed off.
As for Stephen's film, if you don't like it, that's also fine. But critique it in a way that respects it, that shows some remote understanding of its structure or themes, the craft that went into it, or the field of musical documentary filmmaking. I have a friend who didn't care for it, and when she published a critique of it in her blog, I didn't come here and rant about it. I read it, I saw where she was coming from, and while I didn't see it the same way, she had a foundation for her criticism and I respected that.
But the little girl who wrote me that she's "disappointed Gale Harold put his name on something so weak.... about a musician no one's ever heard of" needs to get her head out of her ass. A hundred years from now, when we're all dust and every TV show Gale Harold has ever been in is forgotten, people will still be making and listening to music that has its roots in Scott Walker's work. And I'll bet that "Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" will outlive "Desperate Fucking Housewives" into eternity, too.
If I had blood pressure medication I'd take it. I don't, so I did this instead. I now return you to your normally calm and rational Dogged blogging.
The film "Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" opens in San Francisco next Friday, Jan 23. I was thinking, wow, it seems like years since I saw it... and then I realized, it has been.
I was at the film's premiere in Austin at SXSW two years ago, where I also had the opportunity to interview the film's director, Stephen Kijak, for both Club Kingsnake and AfterElton.com -- because fortunately Stephen has teh gay, so I was able to use that as an excuse to get AE to let me write about Scott Walker on the site. Well, that and I also had to throw in some eye candy for the boyz in the form of the film's associate producer Gale Harold, who used to play teh gay on Showtime's "Queer as Folk."
Although I love QAF, Gale and I more bonded around a somewhat scarily obsessive love of Patti Smith and, of course, Scott Walker -- although I think everyone who loves Scott Walker is a bit scary. Including me and definitely including Stephen Kijak, who described his first meeting with the man here:
You may never have heard of Scott Walker, but if you've listened to alternative music (and quite a bit of music that's gone way beyond the alt label) in the last 30 years, you've heard his influence. Everyone from David Bowie to Johnny Marr of the Smiths to Brian Eno to Lulu worships at his shrine, and they and dozens of other musical greats are interviewed in the film.
Walker's most recent work is a bit esoteric for me, but I spent a rather large part of my formative years lying on my back staring at the ceiling at 3 AM with "Night Flights" blasting loud enough I'm still not sure why my landlord didn't have me evicted.
The film itself isn't as experimental as Walker's recent music:
You can read my review of the film here, and the interview with Kijak and Harold here. And if you're looking for me on Jan. 23, well... I'll be at the Bay Area premiere of the film at the Lumiere Theater. Friend the film on Facebook and see when it opens near you, or is released on DVD... something Stephen swears is in the works.
And I sincerely hope I don't have to wait another two years for it, either.
I mean, even the trailer is brilliant:
I blogged on Club Kingsnake about some of the songs on the "Just Politics" playlist on my iPod -- I included only a few, and found video clips for each of them, too.
Here's the complete list. My musical taste doesn't include some genres that have a lot more political music than this, and I frequently snagged just a single song from an artist who has a huge political catalog. So I won't say these are the best, or even all my favorite, political songs. It's also a bit heavily weighted towards The Nightwatchman because he's new for me after SXSW this year. But yo, he's worth some heavy weight.
Biko - Peter Gabriel
I wrote about this a lot of Club Kingsnake so I won't go into the whole thing here again, other than to say this may be the greatest political song of all time, and seeing it live is a religious experience.
In The Ghetto - Joe Simon
Love, love, love love this version -- although the Elvis Presley one is, of course, much better known. It just always sound a little too over-polished to my ear -- although not remotely as much as the version by the song's writer, Mac Davis, which hurts me to listen to. But there are several versions of this: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dolly Parton (no, I'm not kidding), Natalie Merchant, the Cranberries... I'm sure there are several others I'm not thinking of. Great, great song.
Flesh Shapes The Day - The Nightwatchman
This is a profoundly poetic song about race and war. It gave me chills when I heard it live in Austin.
The Road I Must Travel - The Nightwatchman
I suppose this one might come off the playlist after I OD on Morello... maybe in ten years or so. This song evokes some of the feeling of old folk/populist songs with a dark, post-911 sensibility and a touch of WTF. Brilliant.
What's Up? - 4 Non Blondes
One of the least overtly political songs on here, but it always makes me want to change the world when I hear it. Plus you gotta love the words:
And I try, oh my God do I try
I try all the time
In this institution
And I pray, oh my God do I pray
I pray every single day
For a revolution
P!nk has never recorded this, but she performs it live... like here.
Democracy - Leonard Cohen
I love Leonard Cohen, and this is one of my favorite songs of his. It's idealistic, realistic, full of hope, aching with sadness... and despite the fact that he can't sing anymore, extremely beautiful.
It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
I did, indeed, grow up in San Francisco in the 60s, but I was just a little girl and not a flower child. And you'd never know it from the crazy huge love I have for this song.
I Hope - Dixie Chicks
I heard this when they played it on a televised Hurricane Katrina benefit. It was the first time I ever heard the Dixie Chicks and it was instant love.
Sunday morning, I heard the preacher say
Thou shall not kill
I don't wanna, hear nothin' else, about killin'
And that it's God's will
Cuz our children are watching us
They put their trust in us
They're gonna be like us
So let's learn from our history
And do it differently
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live - Bruce Springsteen
Another Katrina benefit number that blew the top of my head off. View it here.
Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six - The Pogues
The Pogues have no shortage of songs that could have been on this list, but although it's about war, this one always reminded me of the early years of the AIDS epidemic:
Oh farewell you streets of sorrow
And farewell you streets of pain
I'll not return to feel more sorrow
Nor to see more young men slain
Through the last six years Ive lived through terror
And in the darkened streets the pain
Oh how I long to find some solace
In my mind I curse the strain
Which Side Are You On - Billy Bragg
I first heard this song in 1984 during the British miners' strike, when Bragg and other progressive British musicians toured the country raising money for their cause. Old-fashioned politics with a punk edge. I loved it then. I love it, and him, now.
Holiday In Cambodia - Dead Kennedys
I remember when the Dead Kennedys were just one of many local punk bands. I can't count the number of times I saw them play, and the band I managed opened for them a couple of times. And even given the embarrassment of riches that was the punk scene in San Francisco in the early 80s, the DKs are still one of the best things to ever come out of it.
Not Ready To Make Nice - Dixie Chicks
If "I Hope" hadn't already done it, this would have. Their non-apology for pointing out that Bush was wrong, wrong, wrong about the war in Iraq. You go, Chicks.
I Love A Man In A Uniform - Gang Of Four
More of my 80s self coming out. We used to dance to this one and changed the lyrics to, "I love a man in a Maidenform." Ah, the days when I thought this was dance music. But hey, it has a beat!
House Gone Up In Flames - The Nightwatchman
Another one I suspect will stand the test of time with me. The incredible poetry -- I don't know what other word to use -- of Morello's lyrics, combined with the spare, hard delivery, just get me every time. If I quoted you every word, it would be hard to say why this is such a political song, but listening to it, and even more, seeing him perform it live, leaves you with absolutely no doubt.
Marvin Gaye - What's Goin' On?
Completely iconic anti-war song that I actually like more than, say, Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," which always hit me as just a little too sweet. I also love Cyndi Lauper's 80s cover, here.
He Thinks He'll Keep Her - Mary Chapin Carpenter
I'm sort of in an anti-war political mode these days (wonder why), but I'm a feminist nonetheless, and I love this song.
Stupid Girls - Pink
Feminism you can dance to. Play it for every little girl you know.
Anthem - Leonard Cohen
Apparently I'm a complete sucker for that place where politics and poetry intersect.
I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
and they're going to hear from me.
Dear Mr. President (Featuring Indigo Girls) - P!nk
This one needs absolutely no explanation. Video here (without the Indigo Girls, but great anyway.)
Jesus Walks - Kanye West
Another Katrina benefit song. I freely admit I don't listen to rap or hip hop. I am old; what can I say? But he performed this at the same benefit where I heard "I Hope," with some custom lyrics for the floods, and I was just staggered by it.
The Captain - Leonard Cohen
An oldie, from when Cohen could still sing. "There is no decent place to stand in a massacre."
Suffragette City - David Bowie
I really don't care what he meant by this song. It'll always be a feminist anthem for me. "Don't lean on me, man, cuz you can't afford the ticket."
Whine and Grine / Stand Down Margaret - The Beat
I imagine a lot of people reading this don't remember Margaret Thatcher, but I do. And seeing the Beat do this live in London when she was in her heyday? Nothing like it.
I see no joy
I see only sorrow
I see no chance of your bright new tomorrow
So stand down Margaret, stand down please
I said stand down Margaret
This Is Radio Clash - The Clash
I continue to be susceptible to the idea music can change the world. I know it can't, but still....
Pride (In The Name Of Love) - U2
Martin Luther King, Jr: Rest in Peace.
Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride
Straight to Hell - The Clash
Talk about bitter.
Absolutely Not (Hex Hector/Mac Quayle Chanel Mix) - Deborah Cox
More feminism with a beat!
Should I wear my hair in a ponytail?
Should I dress myself up in chanel?
Do I measure me by what you think?
Absolutely not, absolutely not
If I go to work in a mini-skirt
Am I givin' you the right to flirt?
I won't compromise my point of view
Absolutely not, absolutely not
Silent Legacy - Melissa Etheridge
Breaks my heart every time. About growing up gay. Her "Nowhere to Go" does, too.
You are digging for the answers
Until your fingers bleed
To satisfy the hunger
To satiate the need
They feed you on the guilt
To keep you humble keep you low
Some man and myth they made up
A thousand years ago
And as you pray in your darkness
For wings to set you free
You are bound to your silent legacy
Mothers tell your children
Be quick you must be strong
Life is full of wonder
Love is never wrong
Remember how they taught you
How much of it was fear
Refuse to hand it down
The legacy stops here
Help Save the Youth of America - Billy Bragg
The cities of Europe have burned before
And they may yet burn again
But if they do I hope you understand
That Washington will burn with them
Omaha will burn with them
Los Alamos will burn with them
What's the Matter Here? - 10,000 Maniacs
I'm not a huge fan of this band, but this song, about child abuse, is incredible.
One Man Revolution - The Nightwatchman
Tired of him yet? I think this is the last one.
There Is Power In a Union - Billy Bragg
Do you know I have never, ever crossed a picket line? It's just how I was raised.
Money Can't Buy It - Annie Lennox
I'm not absolutely sure this is political, but it feels that way to me.
London Calling - The Clash
More of my 80s youth.
Free Nelson Mandela - The Specials & The Special A.K.A.
When I was young, Nelson Mandela was still in a South African jail.
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards - Billy Bragg
This one always makes me happy, even if the lyrics are a bit rough. "You can be active with the activists or sleep in with the sleepers while you're waiting for the great leap forward." Also, "If no one out there understands, start your own revolution and cut out the middle man." You gotta love it.
Glad to Be Gay - Tom Robinson Band
This one's from the 70s, actually -- I have the single version on my iPod, but the live version from 1979's "Secret Policeman's Ball" to benefit Amnesty International is better and it's here.
Enola Gay -- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Again, you can take the 80s out of the girl etc. A song about the bombing of Hiroshima from the dawn of the synthesizer age.
Man In Black - Johnny Cash
I love this song by Cash, which is about the Viet Nam war. And he took huge heat in the day for recording it, too. But if someone could find me an mp3 of Marc Almond's version, done on an 80s AIDS benefit album called "Man in Black," all of covers of Cash's songs, I'd love you forever. I own it on vinyl but I don't even have a record player anymore.
I'm a jaded bitch now, but once upon a time I believed the world would change. I even believed it might come about through music. And when I was 20 and a punk, and hating hard on Ronald Reagan, and about to be, but not yet, faced with the nightmare of AIDs burning its way across America while the government ignored it, I used to listen to a band called the Au Pairs.
Wikipedia tells me the Au Pairs were a bit in sound like Gang of Four and the Delta Five. Huh. At the time I'd have probably argued about that, but in retrospect, I guess it's true. They had an edgier sound than the Gang of Four, the lead vocal teased out in a different way, a bit more spare in their production.
But this isn't about their sound. It's about a song they wrote, and a news story I read last night, and how not only can't music seem to change the world for the better, but maybe nothing can.
The song is "Armagh," from the brilliant 1981 album "Playing With a Different Sex," and it was about a British prison for women in Northern Ireland:
We don't torture
We're a civilized nation...
This is the story, from ABC News:
The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.
Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.
The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.
The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.
At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
But we're a civilized nation.
I'm liveblogging Lou Reed's keynote address at SXSW in the morning, but this afternoon I not only saw the U.S. premiere of Julian Schnabel's film of "Lou Reed's Berlin" here in Austin, but I sat three seats away from Reed!
My impressions of the film and my notes on the Q&A with Reed and Hal Wilner over on club kingsnake!
Tuesday the second part of my article on the environmental impact of having pets ran... but don't read the comments section unless you're trying to have an aneurysm, because the pet haters are out in force over there.
I contributed to the Top 25 Gay TV Characters of All Time article over on AfterElton.com -- gold stars to anyone who can guess which profiles I wrote. ;)
Gina's and my article on the no-kill movement for our nationally syndicated pet feature ran this week... based on my interviews with Nathan Winograd ("Redemption") and Richard Avanzino (Maddie's Fund).
I reviewed some holiday music over on Club Kingsnake... old and new!
Since getting my iPod, I've been slowly putting all my CDs on it, and this weekend, I put the first Red Hot + Blue compilation on it.
This was originally an album with a companion television show, a group of videos by different artists and directors to songs by Cole Porter. It was a benefit for AIDS research, and a number of follow-up albums were released.
This project was spearheaded by John Carlin, who commented in the notes for last May's DVD release that "Things were different in 1990." They were; darker and far more frightening than they are today.
Each artist was paired with a director, and some of the best directors of the day were involved -- not just music video directors, but film as well. Wim Wenders, for instance, made U2's video to Cole Porter's "Night and Day." Derek Jarman, whose films were often really a bit too artsy and self-indulgent for me, was a director I thought might be best appreciated in music-video length. He was supposed to direct Annie Lennox singing "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye," but he was too ill; he died of AIDS in 1994.
More and lots and lots of YouTube vids under the jump....