A little over a year ago, I was hanging out with my friend Dave. (These days, Dave is probably better known as Davey Oil, but I knew him before that appellation came into being, so I still call him Dave.) He was in town from Seattle, and we were sitting around, listening to music, and shooting the shit. You know, as you do.
Anyway, we were looking at this book my girlfriend bought me this book for my birthday. It was all the William Blake poems as he published them, i.e. as multi-colored engravings. It was pretty impressive collection, and reading those poems as engravings was a much different experience than reading them in a Viking Portable paperback edition.
At the time, Dave was the director of the Seattle zine library. At least, I think he was. See, it might have been a consensus-based, anarchist kind of thing, with no hierarchy—if so, Dave would be annoyed to be called its director. He explained the whole structure of the thing to me, but the passage of time has erased the truth out of my brain. The important thing to know is that Dave is both a charismatic mofo and a bottomless well of knowledge about zines and comics and self-publishing and all that. He was excited that I was reading William Blake, and told me that Blake may well have been the first real self-published zine guy.
And you know what? I think he's right. Blake was an engraver and a printmaker, and self-published all his own works. Other people have self-published, but he actually did his own design and layout and printing.
The other night, I was flipping through the little William Blake paperback I brought out here, which has his collected works and letters and stuff. It includes a couple of bombastic advertisement he'd written for himself. Dear Reader, I submit them to you—does this count as the world's firt-ever zine ad? From October 10, 1793:
The Labours of the Artist, the Poet, the Musician, have been proverbially attended by poverty and obscurity; this was never the fault of the Public, but was owing to a neglect of means to propagate such works as have wholly absorbed the Man of Genius. Even Milton and Shakespeare could not publish their own works.
This difficulty has been obviated by the Author of the following productions now presented to the Public; who has invented a method of Printing both Letter-press and Engraving in a style more ornamental, uniform, and grand, than any before discovered, while it produces works at less than one fourth of the expense.
If a method of Printing which combines the Painter and the Poet is a phenomenon worthy of public attention, provided that it exceeds in elegance all former methods, the Author is sure of his reward.
Mr. Blake's powers of invention very early engaged the attention of many persons of eminence and fortune; by whose means he has been reguarly enabled to bring before the Public works (he is not afraid to say) of equal magnitude and consequence with the productions of any age or country . . .
. . and so on. Then follows a list of every "issue" of Blake's poetry. For example:
America, a Prophecy, in Illuminated Printing. Folio, with 8 designs: price 10s. 6d.
The ad spiel ends with:
No Subscriptions for the numerous great works now in hand are asked, for none are wanted; but the Author will produce his works, and offer them to sale at a fair price.
Is William Blake the first zinester guy? Do each of these quartos count as a zine? And if so, has there ever been a better zine than his? Besides Shark Fear, Shark Awareness, obviously.
I don't know. But I have to say, I'm more than a little impressed with the tone he sets with self promotion. It's clear where he stands, and I think others would do well to follow his lead. In 1809, a printed advertisement for an exhibition of his concluded with:
There cannot be more than two or three great Painters or Poets in any Age or Country; and these, in a corrupt state of Society, are easily excluded, but not so easily obstructed. They have ex[c]luded Water-colours; it is therefore become necessary that I should exhibit to the Public, in an Exhibition of my own, my Designs, Painted in Water-colours. If Italy is enriched and made great by RAPHAEL, if MICHAEL ANGELO is its supreme glory, if Art is the glory of a Nation, if Genius and Inspiration are the great Origin and Bond of Society, the distinction my Works have obtained from those who best understand such things, calls for my Exhibition as the greatest of Duties to my Country.
Wm. Blake: Independent publisher.
A little over a year ago, I was hanging out with my friend Dave. (These days, Dave is probably better known as Davey Oil, but I knew him before that appellation came into being, so I still call him Dave.) He was in town from Seattle, and we were sitting around, listening to music, and shooting the shit. You know, as you do.
Over the past few years, we here at The Little Black Egg have been sucked ever further downward into the vortex that is psychedelic music. It feels as though we’ve digested thousands of hours of psych at this point, if not aeons of psych, but it's still only at the tip of the iceberg.
As a young man, I was surprised to discover that psych music could be a howling pit of lysergic paranoia and general rock and roll awesomeness. I didn’t know that. See, I’d been led astray by boring crap like post-Syd Pink Floyd. That shit is boring, right? It is indeed. It’s very, very, boring. If you don’t do the research, you’d never know that, at the same time Pink Floyd was beginning on their odyssey of pandering to boring people the world around, Roky Erickson was emanating schizo LSD R&B out of his third eye. Do you know how much reading I had to do to divine that fact? Goddammit, in the United States of America, it shouldn’t be so hard to find the real shit. I don’t care if repeated listens will hunch your spine, destroy your chromosomes, and cause pink tentacles to grow outta your face.
However: at the end of the day, this is an cruel world where charlatans and Salieris abound, full of hard luck stories and Van Goghs cutting of their ears and all that, and some things remain unjustly hidden from the audience that would revere them.
There are many stories of heroism in the annals of record collecting, and I’m afraid that my discovery of the rarely-seen Cold Sun record is not one of them. No, I just stumbled across it, really. I think I acquired it because it was a psych record, from Texas, and the name of the band was Cold Sun (but also known as Dark Shadows), and it had never been released commercially at the time of its recording, which was 1970. It’s been released since, in small batches, thanks to Rockadelic.
Cold Sun had a lot of things going for them. They were from Austin, TX in the 1960s, and hung out with Roky Erickson and the Elevators. They had an electric autoharp, which sounds sort of like three 12-string Rickenbackers being played at once with a velvet pick. My first couple times through this album, I couldn’t figure out what the shit was making that noise.
Billy Miller, singer and authoharpist, would later be in Roky's band.
Cold Sun clearly took a lot of hallucinogenic drugs, which went well with the fact that they had a real thing for reptiles. Whoever wrote the lyrics really liked snakes and lizards and other scaly things, and sang about them in songs. For instance, check out this snatch of verse from their song “Ra-Ma,” which (I guess) is largely concerned with the goings on of the past, present, and future, and a tortoise:
The tortoise before you
Saw da Gama
As he landed . . .
We can make a life in a temple of stone
It took an age or two to get home
Now see the tree and how it has grown
It was a seed in my hand when the tortoise was born
Ha ha ha, word! Ra-Ma is over eleven minutes long, by the way. It starts of with all sorts of (actually very pretty) autoharp craziness before growing into a tower of mystical verbiage.
(On the mystical verbiage front, the good people at Lysergia have an excellent article on Cold Sun, where it is revealed the album was made to be the exact length of a Johnny Winter album, because a certain member of the band had a real thing for numerology, and as a result songs like Ra-Ma had to be made longer.)
It’s hard to describe the Cold Sun sound—maybe if you could imagine the 13th Floor Elevators, and then make that image very, very blurry, and at times aimless, and add a weird, dreamy autoharp . . . that’s sort of it. Or, maybe more accurately, it sounds like humanoid-reptilian beings living inside of a hollow earth picked up on radio transmissions from Texas in 1966, and attempted to pay tribute to them in their own band. As biology would have it, their reptilian ears and brains couldn’t quite process how rock and roll worked, so they came up with their best approximation of it via their evil reptile music. Also, they’ve never seen the sun. Or maybe the sun is cold in there. I don't know.
Some of the melodies are a little same-y, but that's all right. Each song is still an amazing psych revelation. “See What You Cause” has, out of the blue, a screaming 10 second-long guitar solo right near the end of the song that sounds like Helios Creed briefly materialized in the middle of the recording studio before blinking out of existence once again. “South Texas” is a nitemare seasick creepy-crawler that ends, weirdly, with a snatch of blissful, come-hither cooing. “For Ever” states the fact that how your future lies is written on your hand, then ends with a horrible guitar squall of white noise, followed by a cleanly played little guitar and harp flourish, which stabilizes the proceedings for the album closer, “Fall.” I say album closer, but there is no definitive track listing. There are other tracks, too, and you can put them in any order you like.
This album is rare, and it’s weird, and it has a cool link to Roky, but that’s not why I’m writing about it. No sir, I’m writing about it because it’s the kind of music that I didn’t know I needed to hear until I heard it. Then I thought, I’ve been waiting to hear something like this forever and ever. How did I ever get along without it? It sounds like its been around since ancient times, like the coelacanth. Yeah, it's like coelacanth of psych. People thought it was long dead, but it’s still around, and it’s eating things.
Labels: Cold Sun
These music blog thingeroos are neat and everything, but there's nothing like actually reading words on paper. You know, so's I can read in the park, or on the toilet, or on the bus, or lying on my bed, or whatever.
And if you, Dear Reader, are in the market for music zines, printed on paper, you'd have a harder time getting a better value for your money than Z Gun. Based in Sacramento, Z Gun just recently put out its first issue, and it's fucking great.
Now, there's a lot of cool things about Z Gun, such as the fact that it's a giant newspaper tabloid, the writing is snappy, and that it's relatively typo-free. But the best thing about it is that it's a music publication you can trust, and that's important. And at the end of the day, isn't that what you're looking for when you're reading about music? Whether you are compelled to examine single album in the record store before you can leave with a clear concience, or if you just wanna figure out what's good out there now, Z Gun is in your corner. A fact worthy of note: one of the editors of this fine magazine runs the equally fine Crud Crud music blog, which I link to at right, and the S-S Records, which put out a lotta notable records (including my faves the A Frames, holy shit one the A Frames writes for Z Gun!!!).
On a personal note, I was pleased to be directed towards some excellent new(ish) music like Pink Reason and The Touched, and old music like Washington Phillips and Witch—these are solid recommendations, people. Also, I hafta admit I got a total nerd-rush upon discovering that I could easily keep up with their San Francisco artpunk primer. (Ha ha ha, I still rule, OK?)
Speaking of San Francisco art punk, Z Gun kind of reminds me of V. Vale's old zine Search & Destroy, which later mutated into RE/Search. There's the tabloid-style layout, obviously, but besides that, I am gripped by the sense that music is out there happening, and it's happening now, and if I'm missing it, it's my fault. I get the feeling that, in the future, these will be considered an important record of an important time. It's inspiring stuff.
Ink on paper.
A reader writes to announce their discovery of not one but two additional copies of Voice Print:
Add another extant copy of Voice Print to the registry: my friend just found a sealed copy in Kerrville, Texas! Did Tom say how many were made or how they were distributed? The record is a collaboration with Kocot, who went by "X" at the time. She took the photograph on the jacket.
A copy also sold on Ebay in 2005 for $40.
Wow! As the world's foremost expert on Voice Print, I'm glad to know that I don't bear the burden of my knowledge alone. Here is a picture of the album from the Pop Sike website.
Voice Print is described thusly:
Weird PSYCH! VOICE PRINT by HATTEN on Middle Earth Recs!
Truly a bizarre record and a rare one too!
Much of it is whispering weird poetry with trippy sound effects, echo, and bizarre other-earthly musical sounds...
Gatefold cover with black on the inside! Recorded in 1974 on Middle Earth records. Cover photographed by X.
Record is VG++/cover is VG++
The record is in "VG++" condition? Really? You mean that the grooves aren't all worn out? Ha ha ha, but I kid. "Weird psych," indeed.
Balkan brass band music can be traced back to the 14th century, when children in the former Yugoslavia were taken by the Turks and trained to become Janissaries, elite soldiers in the Ottoman empire. The percussive music of the Janissary drum corps was originally to accompany armies into battle.
The sounds of the Janissary bands inspired the first European military marching bands, and became the foundation of the modern symphony's percussion section. But in the Balkans, Janissary music transformed into popular song. Today, Balkan brass bands don’t provide a backdrop to battle, but rather the soundtrack for weddings and funerals.
My initial exposure to this music came from a 2 CD compilation of recordings taken from the Golden Brass Festival in Guca, Serbia. The album artwork included a picture of a guy face down in the mud, surrounded by trumpeters blowing music in his ear. He’d celebrated himself into oblivion but was still being treated to music—it looked like it would be there when he woke up, like it would always be there.
Most of Balkan brass bands don’t have albums and don’t travel abroad, so if you want to listen to them live and in person, you have to make the trip to Serbia. I went to Guca's Golden Brass Festival in 2005, and returned in 2007 with some American friends. Brass bands journey to Guca from around the world to play for money and compete in front of a panel of judges, but the best ones usually only live a few hours away.
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Getting to Guca from abroad can be difficult, especially without a car. In 2005, my girlfriend and I had been able to get a direct bus to Guca—the ride was long and the bus filled to capacity. Men and women stood in the aisles with cases of beer, singing and drinking and laughing. Occasionally the bus would pull over, and several passengers would run out into a cornfield to pee, and then run back, yelling and waving ears of corn over their heads.
Guca is a small town, and its residents make extra money renting out their homes and yards to people who want to pitch a tent somewhere with a shower, toilet, and a small degree of privacy. We found a house not far from the bus station, where we got a more than reasonable rate after haggling with the matriarch’s Iron Maiden-shirted grandson.
The plan was that we’d get a bite to eat, and then go see music. There’s a stage with a massive PA in the soccer stadium, which is where the competition takes place. (Watching the competition itself isn’t as fun as you might think; the bands play to a panel of judges and concentrate on their technique.) There’s also a little stage in front of the cultural center, which draws a small crowd. But the action at Guca really isn’t on the stages.
Brass bands don’t really need amplification. So they wander around from restaurant to food tent, playing for tables. The musicians surround the table, and their audience pays them by sticking money in the horns, onto the sweaty foreheads of the band members, whatever. If you’ve got money, you can get your music in extra loud 360º surround sound indefinitely—the bands stick around longer the more they’re paid. You can even get the band to follow you around. But no matter where you go, you’re within earshot of at least one band.
There is a sort of intersection in town, marked by a statue of a man playing a trumpet that everyone likes to climb. Starting early in the morning, music fans ascend to the top of the monument, holding plastic bottles of beer or flags up in the air. If the festival can be said to have a center, this is it.
The restaurant at this intersection gets the best bands in town, and as we walked by, an astoundingly good band was playing. What luck, I thought. We just got here, and already we’re in the thick of it. The band was tearing it up—people outside the place were dancing, drinking, throwing beer on each other, and singing. It had rained early in the day, and some guys were shaking tree branches to make water gently rain down on their fellow revelers below.
Suddenly, a second band appeared, playing to a different table at the restaurant. The two bands, only a few feet from each other, were playing different songs simultaneously, which escalated into an amazing clash of decibel brinkmanship. It was like watching the musical version of one of those science fiction movies where one giant monster grapples with another.
If you’re eating and drinking beer in one of the many restaurant tents, you might be surrounded by two or even three bands. (Three seems to be the maximum number of bands a tent can support before the tips dry up.) You just sit there, drinking, while this sonic maelstrom rages all around. And so the day goes: music is all around, and you float in it.
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In 2005, I was lucky enough to be sitting at a table surrounded by the band Pearls from Vranje, a group that no longer needs to compete at Guca as they get extraordinarily high paying, mega-exclusive gigs. From what I understand, Vranje is a Serbian Roma village home to all of the best brass brands. (There are at least as many Roma brass bands as ethnic Serb brass bands; probably more, in fact.) Two years ago, Pearls from Vranje was being managed by our friend S——: sound designer, Belgrade native, and all-around swell guy.
Pearls from Vranje have reached success to just about the greatest extent possible for a Balkan brass band. There is obviously an international interest in this sort of music, but it’s difficult for Serbs to travel internationally now. At one time, a Yugoslavian passport was gold; Yugoslavs could travel freely in on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Those days are long gone. The younger Serbs we met want to travel, but they just can’t—visas are expensive and hard to get. Serbian brass bands generally play at weddings and other festive occasions, and rarely travel abroad. I saw the winners of Guca 2007 playing at a barely promoted gig in Budapest one week after the festival. Maybe 100 people were there.
The successful musicians who do travel, like Boban and Marko Markovic, or Goran Bregovic, are national treasures—when Boban plays New York, every single ex-Yugoslav in the tri-state area is there lining up to paste money on his forehead.
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Goran Bregovic played the main stage that night. Probably the most famous modern Serbian composer guy, Bregovic became a giant superstar for “composing” the music to Emir Kusturica’s Palme d’Or-winning film Underground.
For a lot of people, Underground served as their gateway into this kind of music. However, Bregovic is a controversial figure who has been accused of claiming traditional melodies as his own compositions. And I’m no musicologist, but it doesn’t take an Einstein to realize how astoundingly unlikely it would be that every single band playing at Guca would have a repertoire consisting mainly of Goran Bregovic songs.
Some people react more strongly to this heavy-handed appropriation than others. It’s undeniable that Goran has a real talent for catchy arrangements, and for transforming folk music into pop tunes, but all conversations about him invariably lead to his sneaky application of writing credits.
There aren’t opening acts for the bands playing on the main stage—I guess it just isn’t done. So during the interminable wait before Goran came on, an announcer said things into a microphone while models draped in some sort of Serbian clothing line paraded around. It’s difficult to appreciate the cut of a dress when you’re 200 feet away from it, standing amidst a crowd of people screaming at the stage and stumbling around. The fashion show went on, and on, and on, for about an hour and a half. Although to be honest, it felt like even longer. It seemed like Goran was late, and so they kept sending these models out, and everyone onstage was beginning to get nervous. The soccer stadium was filled to capacity, and the crowd was frothing at the mouth.
Goran finally took to the stage. I’ve never been a big fan of Goran’s high-gloss arrangements, and quickly grew tired of watching him sit in front of a giant orchestra, strumming a (possibly unplugged) guitar. He smiled and strummed while dozens of musicians stood behind him and pumped out the sound. Traditional numbers went over the best with the crowd.
It was a very different experience than, say, seeing him in New York: we weren’t amidst a crowd of hipsters and film geeks sitting with their hands folded, and this wasn’t Lincoln Center. Here were thousands of people who knew every word, and who’ve had this music in them for generations. Thousands of people were singing at the top of their lungs, and giant circles formed of people who joined hands to dance the kolo. It was utter bedlam.
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They wake everyone up in the town of Guca with an amazingly loud cannon blast at around 8 AM during the festival. I got up. Everyone gets up.
We ate brunch, which came in the form of this pork and cabbage stew called kulpus. Kulpus is slow cooked in cauldrons.
We watched a parade of bands representing their villages, dressed in their traditional costumes.
And so the day spun out. We saw dozens of bands while waiting for the big concert at the soccer stadium to begin.
The concert started midnight, and featured members of a lot of the bands wandering around the festival. It was, as they say, the Main Event. So many people were heading to the stadium by the time we got underway that movement was nearly impossible—we shuffled along inch by inch down the dirt path. Mirth soon became exhaustion. Roasting animals turned on spits, sending clouds of thick smoke into the air.
The show at the stadium was, unbelievably, even wilder than the previous night’s. Everyone in the crowd sang and screamed, spirals of kolo dancers winding through the mass. It went on for hours, the energy level never abating, one traditional song bleeding into the next. I left that concert completely limp, stumbled back to our tent and slipped into unconsciousness.
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Vendors all over the festival grounds did a brisk trade in whistles. I’d found this irritating—it seemed like every other person had a whistle hanging around their neck or parked in their mouth, and they didn’t hesitate to use them.
Back in 2005, we were eating some food with our friend S—— in Belgrade after the festival had ended. We asked him what the deal was with all the whistles—didn’t people find them annoying?
He told us that, leading up to the NATO bombing of Belgrade, when nearly hundreds of thousands of Serbs were flooding the streets to protest against the Milosevic regime (and the regime was sending tanks into the streets of the city to stop them), the only news on TV was that approved by the regime. And of course, news vetted by the regime was a big pile of lies. So people living in the city would make noise to try and drown out the news so no one could hear it.
“Do you know that song, Bring the Noise? By Public Enemy, with also Anthrax playing?” S—— asked.
“Yeah, of course,” I said.
“Well, I had very, very big speakers in my apartment—I am a sound designer, you know, and they were very loud. I’d put them out the window and turn it all the way up, ha ha ha!”
And we laughed, because S—— had been describing some upsetting things prior to saying this, events occurring at the time of the bombing, such as how friends of his had been killed by a NATO bomb, young people just like any of us who just happened to be in the wrong building at the wrong time. They had their lives cut short in the blink of an eye. We’d all been sitting there on the edges of our seats, eyes wide open. But then we suddenly imagined Chuck D.’s stentorian voice echoing through the streets, and it was finally OK to break the tension.
“You see,” said S——, “all those whistles at Guca refer to that. No one minds them because that’s what they mean. But then again, some people are just blowing them because they want to make noise.”
The whistles are not unlike the Chetnik hats that people are wearing, or say Confederate flag shirts at a country music festival. They might mean something, or they might mean little to nothing at all.
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I’ve heard that when this festival first started, around the time of the war, it was, ahem, intense. War veterans in attendance would fire off automatic weapons into the air, for instance. At that time, it wouldn’t have been safe for me to be there. Since then, the festival has undergone a lot of changes to make it more palatable for tourists, and now draws a sizeable international crowd.
Despite my deep abiding love and respect for the joy, love, and noise engendered by this festival, it does have ugly parts. And by that I mean that there is a good amount of nationalism on display—not just patriotism, which you’d expect at an alcohol-soaked festival of traditional music, but the ugly phenomenon that is nationalism. This is unfortunate, if not surprising—at this point in history, it’s probably impossible to attend any sort of cultural celebration in the former Yugoslavia where this would not be the case.
Most people attending Guca are not rabid nationalists, but those who are don’t hesitate to advertise the fact. Not long after pulling into town, I had the sense that there was more far-right stuff on display. In 2005 things were more mellow—there was still far right stuff, but it was equaled, if not surpassed, by shirts with pan-Yugoslav messages like “Guca is My Country.”
I don’t know if this is part of a gradual trend, or a direct result of the 2006 independence of Montenegro and the recent movement for an independent Kosovo, or both, or neither. It can be hard for me to wrap my head around the conflicted history of this region, which stretches far into the past, far beyond the events of the 1990s. I once asked a Serbian friend about the future of Kosovo, he said: “The first thing you have to understand is that we fought the Turks in the Battle of Kosovo.” The Battle of Kosovo was in the 14th century, and that’s the first thing I have to understand?
The British author Rebecca West wrote a book called Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which was published in 1941. It is the first thing writers looking for a quote about the Balkans reach for when at a loss for words. As always, Rebecca West says it better:
I had come to Yugoslavia because I knew that the past has made the present, and I wanted to see how the process works. Let me start now. It is plain that it means an amount of human pain, arranged in an unbroken continuity appalling to any person cradled in the security of the English or American past. Were I to go down into the market-place, armed with the powers of witchcraft, and take a peasant by the shoulders and whisper to him, “In your lifetime, have you known peace?” wait for his answer, shake his shoulders and transform him into his father, and ask him the same question, and transform him in his turn to his father, I would never year the word “Yes,” if I carried my questioning of the dead back for a thousand years. I would always hear, “No, there was fear, there were our enemies without, our rulers within, there was prison, there was torture, there was violent death."
If the entire true history of Serbia and the Balkans could be written out, without one fact or omitted or contested—if this vast text existed somewhere, the nationalist exegesis of it would be roughly the length and depth of a New York Post headline. Despite their high visibility, these Chetniks are ultimately only an ugly footnote in the grand parade of history.
Our friend S—— told us that Guca reflects the state of the country—sort of a like a barometer. During the war, it was frightening and closed. But over time it changed, becoming more welcoming, and more diverse. Reading the English language reportage available about Serbia, and talking to people, it seems like the gains the far right is making are also proportionately represented at there. Still, unlike every single music festival I’ve ever been to, I’ve never seen a fight at Guca, a place where a stand selling Ratko Mladic shirts and Chetnik hats can be found right next to a stand Tito and Partisan merchandise.
A kind of fission occurs when tradition, history, and music are brought together in Guca. There’s no agenda here besides creating and enjoying music. This is a history of Yugoslavia written in sound. No conscious decision was ever made that these would be the songs that survived—they simply persevered. The audience wants to hear these songs, so the bands keep playing them, and over time a tradition is shaped.
The superhuman passion and vitality here surpassed even my wildest imaginings, and there were times when the celebration reached a point that I thought to myself, surely something’s about to go wrong—things are going to fly apart. Except they never did. People have linked hands and circled up to dance the kolo for hundreds of years. They’re dancing it now, and they’ll be dancing it in the future. This is how it’s supposed to be; even this fevered emotional pitch is a tradition. There were moments where it felt that everything would just escape the pull of gravity and levitate into the air. I’d like to think that could actually happen.
While we here at The Little Black Egg are loathe to use our publication as forum to discuss current events, recent happenings have coaxed us, slowly but surely, to wade in the dark and fetid waters of politics.
You see, our editorial offices are run out of Budapest, Hungary. And in Budapest, a quasi-fascist political party is establishing what they call a "Hungarian Guard." Dressed in matching blackshirt uniforms, this aspiring paramilitary organization will supposedly defend the country from invasions and help out during emergencies—for instance, a few weeks ago the far right mobilized to throw eggs at a gay pride parade. Oh, the bravery and the courage.
Now, we've been here for several political demonstrations and two riots, and the pitiful handful of Arpad flag waving skinheads I've seen looked as though they would only be able to defend Hungary if it was invaded by an army of 16 oz. cans of bargain pilsner. As you might expect, they're perpetually drunk and stupid and silly-looking and profoundly incompetant and ineffective—combine this with their hilariously overblown sense of their own importance, it's a recipe for instant comedy. It's no suprise that the kind of person who would spend their time skulking about, writing anti-Semitic graffiti on walls and inside restroom stalls, would be the same kind of person who felt nostalgic for Hungary's ill-advised alliance with the Axis Powers during the Second World War.
Anyway, the Hungarian Guard is being sworn in today at the Castle. Coincidentally, this marks the first day of the week-long Jewish Summer Festival here. To commemorate their swearing-in, we here at the Little Black Egg have dredged up the following footage of Spike Jones and his band from 1942. We hope you'll like it.
It was a big hit back in the day.
We here at The Little Black Egg are feverishly working around the clock to transcribe our nearly-illegible notes from our recent Serbian excursion. Tasked with the job of getting a space-filling post to keep our rabid audience of millions entertained, the Little Black Egg Editorial Squad rolled their eyes and did what they always did—went directly to a very popular internet video sharing service.
And as luck would have it, people have been uploading videos from those perennial Little Black Egg fave raves, the undisputed kings of YU Garage, the Partibrejkers. Once again, we here at The Little Black Egg missed seeing them by a only couple of days while in Belgrade. Again! This is the third time it's happened.
Kreni Prema Meni (Live)
Ludo i brzo
Hocu da Znam
(We here at The Little Black Egg would like to extend a sincere "hvala" to those of you who posted these.)
In the futuristic-sounding year of 1999, my friend Tom informed me that he had a record that would interest me. This was big news: Tom was the guy who introduced me to Futurism, Albert Ayler, and the Shaggs. His recommendations did not disappoint, and I took the record from him with no small amount of anticipation.
It was encased in a black & white record sleeve featured a guy wearing sunglasses and a suit and sitting on what appeared to be a park bench. One leather-gloved hand was pressed over his mouth, as though he’d just stifled an exclamation. The album was called Voice Print. It was put out by a guy named Hatten.
Opening up the gatefold sleeve revealed a big, dark, glossy expanse of nothing—the whole inside of the gatefold was printed solid black.
The record itself had a black label with no song titles, only track lengths, although for all intents and purposes the Voice Print record was more or less unbroken sides of audio. The only thing spoiling the overall austerity was the logo of “Middle Earth Books,” the entity I assume released this album, stamped on the label. Middle Earth Books? I thought.
[Editorial Disclaimer: Now, because of what eventually became of Hatten’s Voice Print project, I’m not entirely sure that I can divulge too many details about the record’s actual content. I don’t think Hatten would be too keen on it. I will say that the record had nothing to do with hobbits and elves, but was more of a sound collage sort of thing. ]
The record was totally, gloriously ridiculous. People saying the world “life” over and over, existential bon mots were delivered in a loud stage whisper, and randomly plucked guitar, plinked piano, and other self-conciously “weird” noises. Like many notable failures, Voice Print is a little hermetically sealed world with its own system of logic. Some of it’s actually effective, some of it “less so.” Despite not being very good by conventional standards, it’s clear that Hatten really tried to make a great audio collage. And Voice Print was what he imagined that a good audio collage ought to sound like, modelled off of a perfect Ur-collage that only he could fully comprehend, and for which he was an imperfect avatar.
At this point in my life, I’ve managed to hear more experimental audio things than I’d care to count. Back then, however, I’d never heard anything like Voice Print ever before. I hadn’t developed any kind of resistance to it: my mind was open and trusting, ready to be imprinted. I was even hungry for this sort of thing: hold me up to a bright light, and you'll see its watermark.
I was about 18 or 19 when I was introduced to this record, and it was a weird time for me. Over the course of a boring and depressed summer, I must have listened to it, oh, I don’t even know . . . several dozen times, probably. It was just more interesting than many of my other records, and there was always something that I hadn’t noticed before. I’d kick back with Voice Print, eat an onion and cheese sandwich, and think to myself: this Hatten guy really went for it. He really went through with it, and I’m listening to it now. It was a hot summer, and mosquitos flew in through the window to bite me.
Consider how much work committing one’s audio collage to vinyl must have been back then. It’s 1970-something, and Hatten is sporting the shades, the leather gloves—he’s eager to put his collage on an LP for posterity. He spent all this time writing the material on Voice Print, and performing it, and doing the musicky plinking thing underneath it all. Probably edited the thing on tapedecks, or by slicing tape together, or however such a thing was put together back in the olden days.
I’m betting that Hatten knew someone who wanted to put this out, if only because I can’t imagine him shopping it around. So the guy at Middle Earth Books collects the Hatten tapes and then they get the artwork together, and put together the actual design to send to—I don’t know, wherever that got sent. The cost estimate for the artwork is kind of high because of the gatefold cover with the big black printed square, but Hatten won’t compromise. He says “Damn your eyes—I want people to open this cover and reflect upon the inky void contained therein! You’re not in Hobbiton anymore, buddy boy, so don’t cross me or I will smite you.”
The Voice Print tapes got shipped to a pressing plant, where they were mastered, and then a test pressing gets sent back to Hatten for review. He might have said something like “The midrange could be a bit more pronounced.” If so, there was more mastering, Hatten signs off on the thing, and then gets his package of Voice Prints in the mail.
I wonder how Voice Print was distributed, if at all. Did Hatten try to sell them in stores or galleries, or give them to friends? Did he end up with a box full of 499 Voice Prints in his basement? There is so much of this story that is unexplained, I’m afraid. My friend Tom only had a copy because his mother knew Hatten back in the day. I wonder how many other people might have a copy.
Years after hearing Voice Print for the first time, I turned 25. In recognition of this momentous achievement, my friend Tom threw me a huge birthday party. My friends were there, friends of friends were there. Some random assholes were wandering around as well.
People would come up to me and say “Hello, I understand it is your birthday so you should have this drink” or something to that effect, and I was flattered. It was an Event and I was its capering overlord, scurrying from room to room (each illuminated by many different colored lights), drink in hand, trying to communicate with people over the general din. I bumped into a friend of mine, who plucked something tiny and invisible out of the air, crying “It’s a flower . . . for you,” uncurling his fingers to reveal an empty palm. Some folks were doing a kind of dance I did not recognize, and they could not agree on the steps. More and more people wandered in, drawn by promises of fun communicated via cellphone.
My darling girlfriend, who had a made a big deal out of the fact that she’d miss my birthday because she had mixed up the date while buying a plane ticket back from her hometown of Oakland CA, arrived with her suitcase in tow.
“Did you change your flight?” I asked, incredulously.
“No, I’d been lying, you jerk,” she said. “I’d scheduled my flight to come in today all along.”
“Ha ha ha! What capers!” I cried. “This sure is fun!”
Then my friend Tom came up to me with a cell phone and said “Here.”
“Hi, it’s Tom Hatton,” said the voice on the other end. “I hear you like the Voice Print record.”
Dear Reader, I had not prepared for this. And sadly, my idiot brain knew not what words to formulate. I’d gleefully euthanized the last vestiges of grammar and syntax lurking in my mind. I had lost the ability to communicate rational ideas, and even walk entirely upright—I was like a mandrill loosed from the zoo. Concepts such as “left” and “right” were ungraspable. This is all fine and good if you’ve planned a night floating in the amniotic sea of oblivion, but not so fine and good if you’re suddenly called upon to think about conceptual art.
I am sorry to say that I failed myself and brought shame upon my house. It was over before I even put the phone to my ear. All of the questions that I’d like to ask Hatten now utterly abandoned me. It had honestly never occurred to me that I’d end up shooting the shit with Hatten about Voice Print. I stumbled around, trying to find a quiet place in the apartment while my mind desperately tried to switch gears.
“Tom tells me that you’re a fan of Voice Print,” Hatten said.
“Uh, yeah. That I am, Hatten,” I said.
“What do you like about it?”
“ . . .”
“Hi, I’m here—sorry. Uh, I just really like Voice Print I guess, um, you know, because . . .”
And there, dear Reader, my mind seized up and I started stuttering. I don’ t even—look, even today I don’t know why I like Voice Print.
Now that I’m old, I tend to think about why I like something or why I don’t. I didn’t do this in my youth, and my present-day attempts to peer through the murk of intervening years yields little in the way of insight. I guess I just developed an affection for that record before I’d learned to think critically. I also like that Bat Out of Hell album a whole lot—see, that’s another thing that snuck in there. People trepan themselves to try and regain that state of wide-eyed wonder. I don’t particularly care why I like Voice Print, but if I could have figured it out whilst on the phone with Hatten, I might have avoided saying:
“ . . . I, uh . . . really like . . . audio.”
“ . . .”
“ And, uh . . .”
“ . . . Yes?”
“Uh . . .”
But despite my idiocy, Hatten was a good sport and a generous guy. He told me some stuff about Voice Print and talked about his art a little bit. He and his wife, Marcia Kocot, have been creating art as a duo for decades. They’ve used a number of different names in the past, hence the different spelling between Hatten, the name used on the record, and Hatton, his last name.
I haven’t seen any Kocot/Hatton stuff in person, unfortunately. For more on their art in general, please check out this excellent interview with them. (Also, that's where I got most of these pictures.)
Kocot Hatton planned to create a life-sized replica of the Empire State building.
They made a film of the American flag. During the course of the film, it started raining on the flag.
They painted self portraits every day for a year and exhibited them face-down.
They really walk the walk, if you know what I’m saying.
Hatten’s words spilled out of my friend’s tiny Nokia phone into my ear, vying for attention above speakers blaring Tower of Power songs. My brain struggled to make information out of words, and I couldn’t think of any questions to ask, and our conversation wound down. I had blown it.
“Before you go,” I said, “do you think it’s possible that I could get my hands on a copy of Voice Print?”
“Actually, we’ve taken all the separate copies of Voice Print and combined them to form a large, unplayable slab of vinyl,” Hatten said.
“My friend has a copy, though,” I said.
And while time and alcohol have conspired to draw a veil over Hatten’s reply, I’m fairly sure he said:
“Well, I urge you to destroy it immediately.”
But don’t quote me on that.
Here is a photo of Voice Print now:
And here is a detail:
Somehow I got around to thanking Hatten and he hung up. Despite my general inanity during the conversation, I sprang to my feet, renewed—I felt that a sort of tele-osmosis had taken place; I’d absorbed positive audio energies from Hatten, washed clean my third eye, and could now begin my twenty-fifth year with some degree of clarity. I’d spoken with the voice behind Voice Print, and he was a nice guy. Not every serious conceptual artist person would take the time to call a drunken twenty-something on his birthday and chat.
One thing still bothered me, though. I didn’t like that Voice Print was now a giant unplayable slab of vinyl—it just didn’t seem fair. For the Kocot/Hatton piece where all the self-portraits are laying face down so they can’t be seen, well, I get the feeling that no one ever actually saw them. As in, it’s doubtful that they were displayed in a gallery, and that Kocot/Hatton probably made the portraits for themselves and not others. I could be wrong, I only ever saw a tiny little photo of the piece and was too dumb to ask Hatton about it when I had the chance.
I believe Hatten made Voice Print before he and Kocot began collaborating, and it seems that he doesn’t really like it much anymore. That’s fine, but letting the LP exist in the wild for thirty years and then destroying in a millennial cull feels like a cop out. Does the fact that a copy is kicking around mean that vinyl pillar Voice Print is somehow compromised?
Dear Reader, I’ll bet that no one has listened to Voice Print as much as I have. I’ll bet that even Tom Hatton himself hasn’t. I’m very possibly the world’s pre-eminent expert on Voice Print. All signs point to the fact that only one known playable copy of it currently exists. And as long as that remains in storage, it’s doubtful that anyone will ever have the opportunity to listen to it, and enjoy it, as I have.
However, with great power comes great responsibility. I suppose that I'm Voice Print's designated mourner. Somewhere, in a safe place, the lone surviving piece of 33 and 1/3 rpm samizdat resides. As the last person who listens to this record, I can’t help but wonder if, way back when, Tom Hatton could have imagined that this is what the audience for Voice Print would be 30 years on.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Editorial Update: Since writing this, several other copies of Voice Print have surfaced (see comments). Dear Reader, if you yourself have come across this exceedingly rare vinyl, please leave a comment and let us know where you found it. I'm curious as to how many copies are floating around out there, and how far they were dispersed.
Labels: Voice Print
I'm a big fan of all things Tesla, and was excited to stumble across some clips of people playing music on Tesla coils. If you are unfamiliar with Tesla coils, they are mad scientist-looking machines of high-voltage death, and it seems that you can actually get them to generate sound:
Thanks to Curious Expeditions for sending me the link.
Now, I have no idea what the Geek Group is talking about here because I slept through math class and have approximately the same understanding of numbers and technology as that of a Morlock living in an underground cave with stalagmites and bats and stuff, but I heartily approve. Just think how much better this band would be with Tesla coils hooked up to their amps.
Holy shit! Dear Reader, in a shameful and shitty oversight, we here at The Little Black Egg forgot to tip our hat to Egg City Radio, a fine blog of note that also links to us.
As the British might say, we here at The Little Black Egg are "quite chuffed" to have Egg City Radio list us amongst its multitude of Music Writing blogs. You see, we were huge fans of the Egg City Radio's previous incarnation, a fine blog indeed called Post Punk Junk. Do yourself a favor and check Egg City Radio out; they share tons of mind-blowing stuff and provide informed commentary. I mean, they should get tax-exempt status for the public service they do.
Ha ha ha, Dear Reader! You thought that The Little Black Egg was asleep, maybe even dead didn’t you? Well, maybe it was, but it sleeps with one eye open. Waiting for you, Dear Reader, to come here from your far-flung corner of the globe and read things.
Now for some acknowledgements: I have long enjoyed these music blog thingeroos that are so popular. They have done an admirable job helping me find my way through the invisible and sprawling “world of music that I haven’t listened to yet.” Dear Reader, they can help you do the same. So while you’re waiting for me to finish my fucking work and get back to entertaining you, take a minute to visit these fine folks who have elected to link to we here at The Little Black Egg.
Don’t worry! See, they link to me, so you will have no trouble finding your way back home (where you belong). Now, for some “tips of the hat.”
I’d like to tip my hat to the good folks at Life on the Dot, an excellent music blog full of dark indie obscurities. If more people listened to the sort of popular musics featured here, less people would have shitty musical taste. It’s good stuff, is what I’m saying.
Also, a curtsy and a tip of the hat to The Thing on the Doorstep, a festeringly excellent music blog that offers a veritable feast for your ears. That’s right pal, you heard me. It’s a total earfeast (of batwings and maggots in a disused laboratory).
And a final tip of the hat to the all-mighty Crud Crud, which everyone should check out because it’s great. Reading Crud Crud is like hanging out with your awesome friend who can dip their hand into the bargain bin at the record store and come out with the coolest (or weirdest) thing you ever heard.
So, I’m finishing up a longish post about one of my favorite records of all time, by a guy named Hatten. This has been a difficult few weeks, what with a deluge of work and an impending trip over the border to Serbia, where we’re going to be making our triumphant return to Guca.
Regarding Guca, you, Dear Reader, will “read” about it here, in the future. Ha ha ha! Yes, read it here first. A more exciting account of this Serbian trumpet festival you are unlikely to find. Tune in around late August.
In the meantime, while you wait with bated breath for my next post, check out my pals D and M over at Curious Expeditions. In particular, check out this revolting account of how one of them (D) actually ate a real life little black egg that looked like revolting death on a plate.
Dear Readers, since the atmosphere of our editorial suite has been steadily devolving from “generally gleeful” to “a bit gloomy” to “howling psychic shit-vortex,” let’s dip into the Reader Mailbag turn an ear to the old vox populi. There’s nothing for getting the dopamine and serotonin flowing like a sampling of the V.P., you know? Here goes.
Hailing from somewhere deep within the Internets, Anonymous writes:
I haven't read/listened to these yet, and they may indeed change my life, but Rick, let me tell you about a WNYC segment I just got through listening to about blogs. The segment featured some great accomplished journalist disparaging blogs as 'some kid sitting in his living room' and 'not anywhere close to an actual trip to the Bronx to see the Hispanic neighborhoods or what goes on at the print houses, the interaction with the editors, and how one is paid, which gives reporting it's value, and so on.
You yourself at T.L.B.E. have championed your own exhaustive research including but not limited to my personal favorite 'haggled with morons'. This, in essence is what makes your blog special, it's a piece of yourself, not necessarily what you have good taste in, although that is the vehicle through which you express yourself, still indeed, it's a waste to simply showcase someone else's work. After all, it's your work we're here to see.
That said, I highly recommend watching Lurita Doan's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee at C-Span.org
Thank you, Anonymous! This is really sweet. I totally agree: this blog is special, casting light upon Life’s Mysteries of Knowledge and illuminating each and every one of you who read it. So forget what you’ve heard on WNYC and tune into to the one watt golden emission of WLBE.
We here at The Little Black Egg haven’t listened to this WNYC program, but I think the journalist does make one good point—reading about something on a blog is no substitute for the real thing. Reading a travelogue isn’t the same as going to a place, and reading about me haggling with morons is no substitute for the excitement and glamour of watching me, in the flesh, try to convince a guy who looks like a tattooed Anthony Perkins (but retarded) to knock two bucks off the price of a Throbbing Gristle record.
But I don’t think blogs are going to take the place of, say, a paper of record. The whole discussion is almost moot, really—the people who want reliable news are going to find a way to get reliable news, and the people who don’t give a shit won’t. And I think that some blogs, you know, are perfectly respectable places to get your news. For instance, I’m rather partial to Taken As Read, myself. And will blogs like mine replace, say, The New Yorker? I certainly hope not—while I have poked fun in the past, the most recent New Yorker is sitting in my bathroom even as we speak. I’m about half way through the Günter Grass essay “How I Spent the War,” and look forward to finishing it later tonight—or, possibly, early tomorrow morning (depending on how things go, you know what I’m sayin’?).
Anyway. You make a good point about me showcasing other people’s work, which we here at The Little Black Egg been doing because we’ve been far too busy to write anything entertaining for this fine website. And as the original intention of this website was to keep from vanishing off the face of the earth whilst in far-flung lands, we figured that quantity was more important than quality. But maybe . . . maybe it isn't.
So in the spirit of total capitulation, we’ll make you a deal. It’s a two part deal:
1. We promise to make the time to write more involving little article thingies.
2. We also promise to grant you, Faithful Reader, greater access to us and the fruits of our, uh, typing things on a keyboard.
We now have, tucked away in our profile, an exclusive email address for fan mail, hate mail, criticism, or any other sort of missive you feel like sending our way.
And all you have to do to keep up your end of the deal, Dear Reader, is keep reading. So it’s not a bad deal, right? Right. So stay tuned, OK?
One of the decisions we made when starting The Little Black Egg was that we wouldn't be one of those blogs that just links to some cool shit like five times a day. We may have been guilty of this abhorrent practice in some of our recent video posts, but Dear Reader, please don't underestimate the sort of sway technological novelty, such as embedded video clips, can hold over our idiot minds.
Still, we here at The Little Black Egg simply couldn't live with ourselves if we didn't point you towards these 20 mp3s of noted film maker Stan Brakhage hosting a radio show. They come courtesy of the astounding Ubu Web.
He plays music and talks, as you do on the radio, but see it's Stan Brakhage, so the actual content is so staggeringly awesome that you will walk away from this audio a changed person. I'm not really one for lectures, but I was spellbound. You could certainly do worse than to take these in at your leisure. I haven't listened to them all yet, but may I strongly suggest the seventh, which I'm going to listen to again after I'm done writing this.
I know what you might be thinking: "Say Rick—can't I just read 'em?"
To which I say, why sure you can! However, you're not going to get to hear the music Brakhage plays, or hear his ruthless impersonation of Ezra Pound. If that doesn't faze you, than read, read away.
Labels: Stan Brakhage
We here at The Little Black Egg know that no small amount of time has elapsed since our last transmission, and shrug our shoulders regretfully. It isn't always possible for us to provide you with the sort of content that you've come to expect and appreciate from The Little Black Egg. Especially when we're pushing red pencils over manuscripts various and sundry, earning coin in the capacity of "tireless word janitor."
But as promised, we're turning our eye away from musics psychedelic and otherwise, and casting our gaze upon non-musical audio. We here at the Little Black Egg are fans of audio first and foremost (well, behind print, obviously), we've decided to turn our rabid fandom into an instrument of enlightenment and guidance.
Introducing, His Lordship, the One and Only Lord Buckley
Lord Buckley! Born in 1906 and eventually finding his way into showbiz and vaudeville, Lord Buckley made his way to Chicago where he worked in jazz clubs. Later, he moved to New York.
Lord Buckley's schtick was the following—he grew a handlebar moustache and spoke in a British-accented hipster argot. He was sort of a stand up comedian, sort of a spoken word performance artist, but actually neither. Standing in front of a mic, Buckly delievered rapid fire monologues in heightened hipster speak that were, well, hilarious and just sort of unbelieveable. A bit unreal.
Buckley didn’t only grant himself a noble title, he granted it to just about anyone he talked to. He referred to people as lords and ladies, or sometimes “your majesty,” and his patter was exaggeratedly formal. I suppose it’s hard for the squarest of TV hosts to be speak sarcastically to looming, moustachioed fella with the mannered speech of a Victorian butler, even if he did repeatedly break into monologues more befitting a coffeehouse full of Maynard G. Krebs look-alikes than Ed “Hunchyshoulders” Sullivan’s TV show. His monologues are astonishing even today—sure, sometimes they come off corny, but you hafta be impressed by the avalanche of words he lets loose.
Supposedly he was friends with Charlie Parker, although I don't know if that's ever been confirmed. Seems to good to be true, but he doubtless saw Bird play, which still blows my mind. Sarah has a bunch of Charlie Parker live CDs, one of which is like from a rent party or something, and let me tell you, they far exceed the studio stuff as far as I’m concerned. Because if you found yourself onstage with Charlie Parker, and you’re an ambitious young musician, what are you gonna do? You’re going to try and show him up, right? Which was impossible, but if you listen to his playing on some of these records—good lord. It is not of our world. You know, it’s kind of like how Olympic records are often broken when two people are locked close competition, or how the fastest gun in the West has to endlessly defend his title against every brash young gunslinger who rolls into town. Anyway, regardless of the Charlie Parker connection, Buckley was a popular guy even if he never really became a household name.
It's weird watching and listening to his material. His monologues and impressions were devoid of any real threat to the status quo, but weren't "be bop lite" or anything like that. He didn’t condescend or patronize the culture he drew his inspiration from; his goal was not to poke fun of anyone besides himself. Buckley pulled the age-old trick of making his act and message palatable by making himself an object of ridicule. Clever. And of course, there wasn’t much for anyone to make fun of, since Buckley had already done it.
Offstage, Buckley persisted in addressing everyone by their royal titles, and he and his partner “Peaches” walked around their apartment naked, all the time. They received guests naked, and encouraged their guests to strip down as well. Wild parties ensued. Needless to say, Buckley liked to get high, and dabbling with LSD near the end of his life (Groucho did too, but that’s another story for another time).
Although it seems that he was a frequently inebriated womanizer (and massively in debt to his friends), Buckley appears to be remembered fondly by one and all. And while his overwrought persona could obscure his message, for those who listened it was generally one of “We’re all OK, let’s respect each other and be generally groovy” or whatever. He was ahead of his time, as they say.
Hey, Let’s Watch Some TV!
It’s amazing what you can find on youtube, isn’t it? Actually, all I know about Lord Buckley comes from the internet. There’s a biography of him out there, but I think it’s out of print. I think Rhino might have reissued his album, which means it’s probably available for stealing over the internet.
1949: Buckley on TV variety show "Club 7." You get the Louis Armstrong impression he would do at the end of his bit "the Nazz," as well as a brief monologue.
1956: His Lordship with Groucho on You Bet Your Life. It's sort of hard to imagine these two guys in the room together. If you've ever seen any episodes of You Bet Your Life, you know that it isn't a game show so much as an excuse for Groucho to gently insult people on air. It's pretty obvious that Groucho is usually given the lowdown on who the people are in order to work out gags ahead of time. Still, Buckley manages to make Groucho break face, and vice versa.
1959: Lord Buckley on the Ed Sullivan Show, acting as a ventriloquist for four human actors. He leads them through a very weird Amos and Andy sort of thing. I honestly have no idea what the hell to make of this. Maybe he wasn’t so far ahead of the times as all that (or maybe even a little behind them). Draw your own conclusions, and one you do let me know what they are.
1960: Buckley doing "The Nazz" the same year he died. The Nazz stands for the Nazarene, or Jesus. He also had bits on Ghandi, Einstein, and De Sade. You know, the movers and shakers.
Here's an interview with a guy about Buckley. If you’d like to read transcriptions of any of Lord Buckley’s routines, go right ahead. But it’s not really as good as hearing the man himself do them, you know, because Dear Reader, I’m sorry to report that you don’t have his sense of timing. It’s all right, neither do we. I'd imagine recordings of him are out there, somewhere . . .
Labels: Lord Buckley
Sarah and I are going to be in Belgrade for the next couple of days. Besides seeing friends and checking out the Tesla museum, I'm dearly hoping to score some Partibrejkers albums. Maybe they're even playing a gig, god willing.
Anyway, someone with very good taste put together this awesome Partibrejkers karoke video, so all you reading at home can sing along.
A few years ago, Sarah and I traveled around Tennessee and Arkansas. We spent a lot of time in Memphis, driving around and soaking in all the insanely great music and history and food there.
Among the many attractions that Memphis had to offer, one of the most compelling was the fact that you could visit Jerry Lee Lewis’ house. It only cost about $12. Now, keep in mind that the man is still alive, and still lives there. The whole thing sounded pretty compelling. So I asked a friendly bartender about it. It was a Tuesday or something, and the place was nearly empty, and we’d been bullshitting about music for about half an hour before our conversation turned to the Killer. It went something like this:
“Hey, is it worth it to visit Jerry Lee Lewis’ house?”
“Man . . . I went there once. I was a big fan of Jerry Lee . . .” The bartender said, his eyes slightly unfocusing. It was like in a movie—he’d been wiping down a glass, and he slowly just sort of stopped.
“ . . . Well, he was just sitting around in a bathrobe, and it was half open sort of, and . . . I guess it was noon or something, and he was acting all crazy like he was drunk, and kept screaming at his wife to bring him his Kool Aid and fried baloney. We all sort of . . . cowered, I guess. I don’t even know if he saw us. Hell, it was frightnin’ man! Fucking frightnin'.”
So I didn’t go. There was a lot to see and not very much time to see it in. I also missed the telephone pole Chris Bell from Big Star crashed into, and I didn’t make the trek to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and we didn’t make it to Al Green’s church . . . but the thing I really wish I’d done was go pay respects to the Killer.
Anyway, in lieu of me having enough time to finish the other posts I had planned, here’s Jerry Lee fucking blowing his audience’s mind. Check him out—amphetamine-fueled, mad professor hair—the crowd rears back if he makes a sudden move. You get the sense that the guy's only a few milligrams away from being dangerous. This is one of the coolest video clips I’ve found on youtube, although I’m not sure what all that gobbledygook is over the image.
Check out those shoes! Where can I get shoes like that? Either way, that piano will never be the same again.
Here he is in the 1970s, still kicking ass. It’s strange to see him on one of these cheesy variety shows of the era. It’s like they accidentally let a yeti into the studio.
KaPOW! That mic down the front of the pants trick? Fucking brilliant, right? Right.
There’s a very cool biography on Jerry Lee called Hellfire, by Nick Tosches. Be warned that it’s a little . . . it’s a little heavy handed, but such an approach sort of suits the subject matter. Lord knows the guy had a ton of demons. Jerry Lee thought that he was going to go to hell, but if that was the case he was going to go there playing the piano, and he was going to take the audience with him. Man, that’s commitment.
Labels: Jerry Lee Lewis
Well, well, well. It's a lovely Friday afternoon here, and we at The Little Black Egg are up to our necks in all kinds of things, stuff like fiction and freelance work and all that crap. So we're going to take a little break, just for a little bit. It's like what's-his-face said: "Words, words, words."
Man, I heard that. Too many words will turn your life to bullshit.
So since I've got nothing to say, here's the Seeds on some TV show. Check out Sky Saxon's amazing cape with moons and whatnot on it. On anyone else a cape like that would look silly, but on Sky Saxon it looks authoritative.
Anyway, when we here at The Little Black Egg return from our sabbatical, we're going to slightly change formats, ever so slightly, so that we let the music alone for a bit and cover other forms of audio. How's that grab you? I'll tell you something: it's gonna be better than you think.
So tune in next week, Dear Reader. Same time, same channel.
Bobby "Boris" Pickett, legendary singer of "The Monster Mash," succumbed to leukemia on April 25.
Pickett was 24 when he recorded his signature tune. A long time fan of horror films, which he watch in the local theatre in his home town of Somerville, MA, Pickett worked up a passable Boris Karloff impersonation. One thing led to another, and he ended up writing the world's greatest Halloween song, released as a single in 1962. His band, the Crypt Kickers, included a young Leon Russell.
1962 was the Year of the Monster in America, and Moster Mash went to #1 the week before Halloween. Famous Monsters magazine was on newstands across the country, The Munsters and The Addams Family were on TV, and theatres had movies like The Day of the Triffids and Carnival of Souls for one's viewing pleasure. In England, Hammer Horror was reviving the old monsters in movies featuring Christopher Lee and a cast of swingin' mods in period clothing. JFK was in office, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, and Monster Mash at the top of the charts. Sounds like quite a year. (Things really went to shit in '63 though.)
Hey, you should watch a video:
1.) Here's the Monster Mash cartoon.
2.) Here's a video made for the song.
3.) And here's a latter day Pickett performing the song with 60s garage rock legends Richard and the Young Lions.
The Man Himself:
Needless to say, I loved this song as a kid. Still do. Monster Mash forever, indeed.
Labels: Bobby Boris" Pickett
Hello hello again, Dear Reader. You may be wondering why things have slowed down a touch around these parts. The truth is that we here at The Little Black Egg have been busy over at Idle Brains. If any of you haven’t yet checked out Idle Brains, you’re missing out. Do yourself a favor! A world of amazement is only a click away.
However, just because we’ve been busy over here, doesn’t mean that our readership has been keeping mum. Quite the contrary, in fact: you people have sent word our way to let us know what you think. We love getting correspondence here, and would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of these missives.
Unknown reader “.///_-|” has this to say in reference to my inability to track down the new Fall album:
Would it be incorrect to presume you haven't been able to steal 'hard to find' music off the internet bountifully? Whenever you mention 'hard to find' music, I think, there's no such thing as 'hard to find' music anymore.
.///_-| brings up a good point. It’s all there for the taking nowadays. However, sometimes you gotta fork out the money for the actual article because it looks so pretty sitting on a shelf, next to all the other albums. I imagine old ladies must feel the same about their hummel figurines. Also, I’m fairly sure that all whatever royalties reach Mark E. Smith from my album purchase go right towards the MES beer fund—buying a Fall album is probably the closest I’ll ever come to buying the guy a drink.
We have another letter here from “Anonymous,” who writes:
Wenig Schwarzes Ei, Er nimmt Vernunft an, folglich, ob es dir gefällt oder nicht, kommt hier ControllersTeenClub!
Holy shit! It’s a missive from the CTC! For those of you not in the know, the Controllers Teen Club (also known as Controllers Teen Camp), were an anonymous trio of identically-dressed dudes who were responsible for some of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
It’s hard to define the Controllers sound, but they’re kind of like a Teutonic Residents, maybe . . . sort of post Ash Ra Tempel sonic exploration, maybe. Unfortunately, I don’t read German, so I don’t know what they’re trying to tell me with this letter, but fellas, if you’re reading—send me a CD of your stuff, all right? We here at The Little Black Egg love ya. Dear Reader, they have several songs on their myspace that you yourself can listen to from the comfort of your own home.
From San Francisco, CA, Nathan writes:
. . . have you heard Mori's "Painted Desert," a great trio album w/ Marc Ribot and Robert Quine (!!!)?
Holy shit! No, I haven’t. But I’ll listen to anything Robert Quine plays on. Marc Ribot and Robert Quine playing together is like . . . . like . . . that is a total guitarmaggedon right there. How will humanity rise from the ashes?
With style, that’s how.
And finally, Margot writes to say:
Dude. You are so fucking awesome.
Thanks, Margot! People don’t tell me that enough. You’re fucking awesome too.
Dear Readers, please keep the letters coming in. We here at The Little Black Egg thrives on your correspondence—without it, we’d whither and die, like a delicate, neglected flower.
This flower says "help, I'm dying."