Although it got off to a horrifying start, 2011 ended up treating us pretty well—good enough, in fact, that we're going to indulge in some uncharacteristic optimism. So in a few hours, with a glass of cheap champagne in hand and Dick Clark's slack, dead face on the television, we here at The Little Black Egg will resolve to wriggle like a fucking eel in 2012.
Now, I wanted to talk a little bit about the above 7", which after years of looking I finally scored for a reasonable price. I tend to shy away from collecting olden punk singles for the simple reasons that they are usually extraordinarily expensive, and I am not of the financial posture to drop over a hundred bucks on a piece of plastic. My copy of this thing is pretty ragged, however, and the previous owner appears to have added up a restaurant bill on the back in blue ballpoint pen; thusly, even a miser like me could throw down for it.
Pekinška Patka were one of the first punk bands in Serbia, and were fronted by a high school teacher named Nebojša Čonkić. Their early singles and first album are great—although like too many of their ilk, once money and recognition hit these guys they transformed into something else by their second album (in this case, palatable postpunks). Some people like their postpunk stuff, but as far as I'm concerned, the early singles and 1st LP are what count here. In their prime, Pekinška Patka were catchy playful without being annoying, and their songs are undeniably infectious—they're like the super-fun friend who everyone invites to their parties. Bila je Tako Lijepa was their third single, a cover of a smooth Euro crooner number rendered in frantic basso profundo glory by Čonkić, who has a ridiculous set of pipes. This masterpiece is backed with Buba Rumba, an ersatz-ska number with a weird spoken intro, multiple interjections of "olé," and a brief thrash breakdown. The whole affair is extraordinarily charming.
The thing I really like about this record—and the rest of the pre-81 Patka oeuvre—is how on it is for it's time and place. It's enough to wish that I was in a situation were someone was wondering aloud "Hey I wonder if first-wave Serbian punk was any good" so I could whip this puppy out and be like "Bang fucking bang, the mighty Pekinška Patka! Put this in your ear, son." No one, and I mean no one, did the thing they did any better.
This kind of perfection is part natural skill and craftiness, part cosmic alignment of interplanetary bodies, and while it can't be sustained we live in an age where anyone can get a copy of the document in one form or another. Everything goes downhill eventually, you know? If anything good remains, I think it's a victory over Vishnu in his many-armed universal form.
Man becomes aware of the sacred because it manifests itself, shows itself, as something wholly different from the profane. To designate the act of manifestation of the sacred, we have proposed the term hierophany. [ . . . ] By manifesting the sacred, any object becomes something else, yet it continues to remain itself . . . A sacred stone remains a stone; apparently (or more precisely, from the profane point of view), nothing distinguishes it from all other stones. But for those to whom a stone reveals itself as sacred, its immediate reality is transmuted into a supernatural reality. In other words, for those who have a religious experience all nature is capable off revealing itself as cosmic sacrality. The cosmos in its entirety can become a hierophany.—Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane
James Booker was a New Orleans piano prodigy who was difficult to work with, so he ended up playing solo piano gigs. There’s a recording of a solo gig he played realeased as the album Resurrection of the Bayou Maharajah, which is one of the best things ever captured by magnetic tape.
Over two sides, medleys of whatever comes into his head sprawl through a series of unbelievable piano acrobatics, stop for digressions into classical runs, and mutate into paranoid tunes about how the CIA is after everyone. It’s an insane, baroque mess spilling all over the place, an admixture of the history of New Orleans piano as presented by a hierophant whose connections have been swapped and resoldered. By all accounts, Booker was a genius—the liner notes of this album detail an incident when he tells a headlining musician that he’d hit a bum note in his solo, then proceeds to play the headliner’s entire solo from memory, and then play the whole thing again, backwards.
By the time I’d heard of James Booker he was dead and interred, and only crossed paths with his music because one Friday I was walking home from work and I stopped in the liquor store, where I ran into an acquaintance. Actually, that’s too generous a term—I’d met the guy once at a bar. We had mutual friends. He was a writer and from the South and was wearing a cream-colored blazer, which was enough to seem fairly exotic to me at that time. Bleary-eyed, two bottles of gin in hand, he didn’t recognize me when I said hi, but asked me to come back to his apartment and talk about writing—it turned out we lived about 2 blocks from each other.
His apartment was fantastic and there were these plots of dirt out back where he was doing gardening, supposedly, although nothing was growing there. He poured gin into a pint glass and added a splash of soda. I opted for whisky, and was given my own pint. “This is a sipping drink,” he explained.
There wasn’t really much in the apartment except for alcohol, some furniture, and CD racks lining the walls. The guy clearly had money coming in from somewhere, On closer inspection, it was all blues and jazz stuff—a really impressive collection. So we were talking about music for a while, and he knew everything. It was like talking to what’s his face, Alan Lomax. Like a gin-soaked Alan Lomax with a totally dead garden. Our conversation moved to writing, which is always more awkward for me (and I don’t know why, that’s probably something worth examining but who has the time). He was going to be reading some of his stuff later that night, and showed me a really good poem he’d written.
I finally had to go because I had to meet my lady, at which point my host began demanding to know about her. I told him a thing or two—she used to work for the circus, she like experimental theatre, she was from Oakland—and he began scrambling along the CDs, chuckling to himself. “Oh shit my friend, you are in luck, you are gonna get laid tonight friend, oh shit.”
He thrust a copy of Bayou Maharajah in my hand and I crept out the door, shitfaced and happy. He made it clear that this was an important album, and I thanked him and promised to return it, which I never did. I never hung out with the guy again. I have no idea what happened to him.
I was weightless as I climbed up to my fourth-floor walkup. Sarah was eating a Mango and listening to Hot 97, which was the usual Friday routine. I put on the James Booker CD and it unfolded into the room, a weird angular buzzing cloud that that sparkled. We tried to talk about our plans but instead hunched around the apartment singing Boney Maroney. The world was rife with possibility, and we vowed to have great adventures together.
In the weeks to come, that album never left our stereo. We still listen to it all the time—it feels like the apotheosis of New Orleans R&B and about 13 other strains of American music. You can hear the audience on this recording, they’re loving it—Booker had a residency at this club, and I don’t know how this show stacks up to his other performances, but this is the one that got recorded and the one I listened to. It’s still around and still means things, and as long as humanity is still crawling along the face of the earth, it’s still going to resonate within a small circle from one generation to the next.
There are a lot of non-fiction books that trace the origins of cultural phenomena. The root of a certain religious practice, the evolution of political theories, technology. Music fanatics like to trace the pedigree of certain bands or artists. Someone could probably write a tome on James Booker, who seems to effortlessly channel the entire history of New Orleans music. It's hard to articulate what this means to me. I'm reduced to thrusting this album at other people and telling them that it's the real shit. I'm not sure why I can never say why this particular album is important, whenever I try I just feel like I'm somehow pointing my finger at centuries worth of music and saying "it's all that, because of all that."
Also he had an eyepatch with a star on it, which is nothing if not classy.
Labels: James Booker
Dear Reader, as you all know, we here at The Little Black Egg think that punk rock (and other music) from the ex-Yugoslavia is among best stuff ever made. Starting out in 1987, Croatian record label Slusaj Najglasnije! (or Listen Loudest!) documented many of Croatia’s greatest bands, including Madjke, Hali Gali Halid, Satan Panonski, Bambi Molestors, and many others.
Hi Zdenko. What are you up to these days?
I just got back from Vinkovci and Novi Sad where I’ve been with my stall with books and my digital records. In Novi Sad we (“Iggy Onemanband and his Harp Explosion” and me as Lutajuci JD Zdena, or “Wanderin’ DJ Zdena) did a show in Nublu cafe/bookstore. Also, I’m preparing a little tour of east and south Serbia and Macedonia and I will play at “InMusic” biggest Croatian festival with my band Babilonci (The Babylonians).
When did you start DJing?
How did you get into singing on top of other songs?
I was reading interviews with you and you mentioned that what got you into music was this guy in your town who dressed all in black and wandered around with a violin, and the neighborhood kids all yelled stuff at him. Is this true? It sounds like Fiddler on the Roof.
How did you end up gravitating towards rock and punk?
What led up to your starting a record label in 1987? Were there a lot of independent labels in Croatia at the time, or was it like just Jugoton, Dallas Records, and you?
Do you find that people keep on discovering the bands on Listen Loudest! year after year? For instance, I know that Satan Panonski and Hali Gali Halid continue to have a cult fanbase in the USA—everyone I play that HGH record for loves it.
Satan Panonski and Hali Gali Halid are just the tip of the iceberg because here we have a lot more to offer, not just punk and rock bands, there’re also more progressive and different and great bands and artists.
Was there a reason why Bare didn’t continue with HGH?
Did you get to see Anti-Nowhere League when they recorded their Live in Yugoslavia album? I’ve heard some funny stories about those guys.
What was it like organizing a two-day festival during the war?
There are a lot of stories about Satan Panonski: that he killed a guy, he was in the institution, he cut himself when he played shows, he died mysteriously. But when I talk to my friend from Rijeka, who is a writer, he never mentions any of that stuff. Instead, he’s always talking about what great lyrics Satan wrote, and how important they were to him and his friends. Was Satan Pannonian an inspirational figure in Croatia at that time, or was he just seen as a madman, or both?
For me Ivica was a great artist, a renaissance man I can add. He was a painter, a poet, a performer, an actor, he made even his clothes and everything he did with a great perfection.
The songs he did with the band are not his best. His best poems can be found in his book called Prijatelj (A Friend).
Ivica was an inspirational figure for me and a lot of my friends in Croatia and wider. Some saw him as a madman and were afraid of him, and when I sell my stuff at my stall everybody has something to say about him.
Was it hard to get him out to play shows?
How did people take Satan Panonski’s Kako Je Panker Branio Hrvatsku album? Were people offended by the more nationalist songs, or did it capture the spirit of the times?
Did Satan have a steady band over time, or was it more just random people? I’d read that a couple of his bandmates were killed in the fighting, but I don’t know if that is true or not.
How did you begin corresponding with John Trubee? He’s infamous for his song Blind Man’s Penis, and for generally just being a fascinating human.
You’ve got loads of Bombardiranje New Yorka compilations. The first is obviously a super-famous punk compilation that sort of introduced people outside of Croatia to Satan Panonski, Majke, etc. You’ve kept doing them, however, going from vinyl to mp3, and the comps feature more international artists. What kind of stuff are you excited about nowadays?
Now I’m on Volume 14. The 13th Volume was on a DVD in mp3 format, both audio and video. Over 55 hours of music. Artists from all over the world. I don’t know that anybody ever did such a deed. It is a compilation to listen for a years to come. There was just one review of that compilation by Vladimir Horvat Horvi on Terapija Magazine on the net. I send my stuff to Roctober zine and KZSU radio, and some others, and they review and play my stuff, but nobody noticed or recognized that compilation.
What question do you never get asked during interviews that you wish people asked?
Anything else that you want to say to the people, sir?
All my releases can be downloaded through Soulseek. User name: franticz
So there you have it, readers. Slusaj Najglasnije! is still very much alive and kicking, and you can contact Zdenko directly to order any of the amazing records and books he puts out. There's shirts for sale, there's all kinds of stuff. Go there, fer chrissakes, and get some stuff. You won't be disappointed—there are a million record labels out there, but few present such a solid, unified body of work. It's worth your time.
Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of "facts" they feel stuffed, but absolutely "brilliant" with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
The object of desire, the object which stokes one’s passions and ignites the senses; that which lay at the center of the best time in one’s life. The subject of sighs of regret, memories of one’s halcyon days. The thing you didn’t try hard enough to keep, you fucked up, and now you’re left to contemplate a life of solitude, breathing in and out in a gray and exhausting world that grows dimmer and dimmer until you lay down and die.
In my case, the one that got away was a copy of the soundtrack to the movie Rollerball; it happened last week, and I’m still thinking about it.
One thing you should know about me, Dear Reader, is that I have a somewhat difficult time connecting with people. I’m good at being friendly—but secretly, I’m just doing a modified impersonation of David Letterman. I have funny things I say, I prompt people to talk about themselves, and I keep the conversation moving along. But really, it’s all learned behavior. I spent a good chunk of my childhood catching snakes and frogs in the middle of nowhere; with human relations, I am usually vague and distant. I tend to go to shows alone, not socialize, and then just leave, which seems reasonable enough. What am I gonna do, talk to a bunch of people? Jesus.
The point is, I’m good at travel. If I could figure out some way to be mobile and have a tiny income, I’d just go all over the place and never ever stick around anywhere, never have to see the same people and do the same things.
The hotel I was staying in was in the middle of town and was seriously underbooked, with old ornate elevators and the odd Mainer stumbling around. It occurred to me that, just like H.P. Lovecraft sez, you can’t escape your biology. I was soon among my people, drinking beer and listening to my nephew tell a pretty great story, which went like this:
So I was at this fuckin party at this house and the fuckin cops came and I was like oh fuck so I jumped out a second story window and just ate shit and when I stood up and some fuckin kid lands on me, and this fuckin cop shines his, uh, his flashlight at us and was like stand still but I was like fuck that and I fuckin took off into the woods and ran into this tree, but then I got up and no one was around so I went back to see what the fuck was goin on and the cop saw me and was like don’t fuckin move so I started bookin into the woods, runnin into trees, fuckin running through brambles, eatin shit right and left, I lost my fuckin shoes, and the cop was behind me but I jumped a stone wall and tripped and fell into an electrified cow fence which fuckin wrapped all around me and was stuck to my skin and shit so I couldn’t get free, and I was shoeless and gettin fuckin electrocuted, but I heard this fuckin cop and got free and took the fuck off and got home. Then I remembered fuck, I need to find my fuckin shoes.
My niece, meanwhile, has been making hundreds of tiny florescent trees out of paper, and they are fantastic. The motivation behind her art is fantastic. People were bugging out looking at her stuff in the gallery.
The secret plan the whole time I was there, was for me and my brother to go record shopping. Portland has three record stores, and my mind was swimming with the unlimited treasures that might be found. “There’s no way that these lumberjack schmucks understand the potential of the sick-ass vinyl in this town,” I was thinking to myself.
Quietly, my brother and I formulated a plan to sneak away at every opportunity to check out the record stores. It was pouring rain and we had no umbrellas, so we ran giggling from one place to another. He picked up a shitload of Allman brother records, I got the Shangri-Las and a sound effects record. And at one store, which we snuck into 5 minutes before closing. My brother began making a pile of Kansas records, I found a pretty good copy of Metallic K.O. for $4, passed on a totally fucked Bo Diddley record, and out of boredom (while my brother examined the grooves of a Little Feat LP), I started perusing the soundtracks section, and came across the soundtrack to the movie Rollerball.
And I’ll say this right off—if you don’t like this movie, you don't deserve to be human.
James Caan plays the Michael Jordan of a mega-violent futuristic sport designed to control the masses. [GROOVY, right?] The fascist government of this world decides that James Caan is too revolutionary and wields a dangerous amount of power, so they attempt to bring about his demise.
It should be mentioned that the sport of Rollerball is basically a lethal version of roller derby, with motorcycles, and this weird chrome ball that the participants have to throw into a tiny goal.
There is all this really intense classical music, crummy computer fonts from the olden-timey days of Atari and that kind of thing. James Caan revolts, however, and kills everyone else in the game to stick it to the man, a lone gladiator, his future uncertain: will he be liquidated, or will he stride out into the world, triumphant in a pair of tight polyester slacks? You never really know whether Caan will don slacks again at the end, because them’s the brakes when it comes to these kinds of movies, movies where grown men do karate on rollerskates. Why is he fighting? Mostly it seems that it’s because he misses his family, who were forcibly removed or killed or something by the overlords of Rollerball.
There’s no resolution to this; there’s just a bunch of death, which although dramatically unsatisfying is true to life. Individually we’re just these bags of cells and fluid that run down and die.
So I was in the store, looking at this copy of the Rollerball soundtrack, priced at $5, it was pouring rain, and for some reason I didn’t want to get it. I really should have; granted, I was a little low on cash, but I’d set aside some folding money for the trip. I was either going to get this record, or later, get drinks in the lounge on the roof of the hotel, which looked creepy and isolated.
I said to Scott, “I want to buy this record, but I also want to have drinks in the hotel lounge because it will be like the Shining.”
“There’s some beer in our dad’s room,” he said.
“Stealing beer from dad is not like the Shining AT ALL,” I said.
“Dude, get the Rollerball soundtrack. That movie is awesome.”
I should mention that my brother gave me all sorts of music on tape as a kid, lots of mixes or just tapes of Beatles albums. His beat-to-shit copy of the Rollin Stones’ Get Your Ya-Yas Out was one of my favorite tapes when I was a little kid; it played too slow and was muddy and stretchy and distorted, like it was coming from a reversed magnetic death planet far off in the cosmos. I was disappointed when I heard how the record was supposed to sound. My brother once built me a bicycle from spare parts (he’s amazing at building and fixing bikes), when I could barely walk I watched him make a giant rabbit out of snow. He trained his dog to fetch anything. He can basically conjure wonder out of random materials; I took a very different path in life, where I am always hunched over paragraphs of text both at work and at home, worrying about copyediting and proofreading, making sure that paragraphs are kerned correctly, poring over typesetting specs, and in general just destroying my vision. I think about fonts. There was a time, though, when I was a little kid, watching a wobbly video of Rollerball in my parents’ living room, and thinking about how the future was doomed. It was just going to be ominous electronic music and people in spiked gloves smashing each other in the face, or something. My future was definitely doomed. I was always sure of this.
“Forget it, man. Do I really need the Rollerball soundtrack? I have so much stuff I don’t need.”
We had to get back to the hotel. The rest of the day passed. There was graduation, I shot the shit with my parents, hung out with my niece and nephew, and ate horrible pizza. Back at the hotel, by myself, I packed my luggage and sat on the bed, exhausted.
I’m terrible at going to sleep anywhere which isn't a moving vehicle. Once I’m asleep, I’ll sleep forever, but getting there is impossible. Anxieties eat at me all the time. I worry about death. Sometimes I read about totalitarianism when I need to sleep, and I had a Victor Serge novel with me for just that purpose, but I felt disgusted by looking at all the letters all lined up. I know that language is supposed to be the force that gives me meaning, but sometimes it just gives me a headache and makes me nervous. The words don’t always cooperate. The room had a TV, but I'm not really a huge TV fan.
I crept upstairs to the bar and got a drink and sat at a table near the window so I could look over the city, which spread out indeterminately below. Somehow, it was still raining, so everything was blurry. I had to get up in four hours to fly back to NYC and go right back to work, and then I had other writing projects, and I was supposed to edit something. I'd barely slept. I wish I’d gotten that Rollerball soundtrack so I could go home and put it on the turntable and turn it up, really loud, and maybe then I could drift off to sleep. I was exhausted.
Labels: Rollerball OST
Labels: Black Stalin
Dear Reader, throw all that Erkin Koray shit out the window because the future of Turkish music is here, and it's from Croatia in 1991. That's the year that the Slusaj Najglasnije! (or "Listen Loudest!") label released the Vo-zdra EP by Hali Gali Halid, AKA a Mr. Goran Bare from Vinckovci, Croatia.
Now I first came across Hali Gali Halid courtesy of the excellent (if now-defunct) Static Party blog. Hali Gali Halid was the brain child of Croatian RNR mench Goran Bare, frontman/mastermind of Majke and all-around debonaire man-about-town. When Majke went on hiatus, Bare formed Hali Gali Halid to make fun of the Turkish pop craze sweeping Croatia.
This shit is far out. Honestly though, this is more than the sum of its parts, and its parts are fucking awesome. Besides Vo-zdra, there is a Hali Gali Halid tape floating around, which is a little rougher around the edges and sick as hell. Nothing else sounds like this—I crawl through dusty boxes of vinyl and around the internets and through estate sales like some cruddy Count of Monte Cristo looking for audio splendor that will help me exact my revenge on boredom and the dull etceteras of virtually everything, and then suddenly here it is, 20 years old and with cheerful cover art of a rocket ship flying through eyes. I know that this is supposed to be a satirical album, but I don't know enough to get the joke and I can't speak the language, but I know a thing or two about a thing or two and this thing is killer.
Hali Gali Halid lasted for a couple of years and then fell apart, Majke started back up and that was that. Luckily, the tape was rolling when these guys were kicking it.
I liked all the previous Tyvek stuff a lot, but when I put this platter on the turntable a bunch of exclamation points appeared over my head and I hollered “Gadzooks!” I didn’t even know what side I was listening to because the record didn’t have a sticker on it. "4312” kicks off side 1 and it’s sick, the first chord hits and it's a brushback pitch so pay attention. The guitars sound like crummy magnetized metal hulks grinding together; I'm guessing that someone took a soldering iron and circuitbent Detroit’s municipal power grid to get this tone. Unlike some of today's rickety garage/punk/moustachekrieg/etcetera breed that use noise and shitty recording techniques to obscure what's going on, the lo-res sonic maelstrom on Nothing Fits is on-point and ecstatic, catchy without being poppy or pedantic or anything.
Tyvek writes brilliant songs that don’t go where I think they’re going to, except sometimes they do which is weirdly comforting. Have you ever had really strong déjà vu and felt creepy but in a good way? “Kid Tut” and “This One or That One” offa side 2 sound really familiar, like I’ve heard them before but I know that I haven’t because if I had I would have taken out a post-it note and borrowed a pen and said “what band is playing this song, let me write it down and stick it to my refrigerator or somewhere that I’m bound to see it tomorrow morning when I wake up, this way I can go to the record shoppe and throw some cash down on the counter and say ‘sirs please provide me with the newest record by the band written on this post-it note I have taken out of my pocket and handed to you, I need to change my life and start doing things differently right now.’” Finally someone put the first couple Meat Puppets records in the cyclotron along with the Swell Maps' Jane From Occupied Europe and hit the button that will make them smash together. Now we're in the future.
These are tunes that aren't going away, like that fucking monolith in 2001. Frankly, this album crushes heads with a human femur. It's a step forward for the human race.
(Also, “Frustration Rock” is still the jam.)