Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Les Rita Mitsouko and Catherine Ringer on Tosh Talks

Les Rita Mitsouko and their vocalist Catherine Ringer is magnificent. For me, probably the essential French pop music artists, along with Serge Gainsbourg and Edith Piaf.  The band is actually a duo consisting of Ringer and her late husband Fred Chichin.  Tony Visconti produced two of their albums "The No Comprendo" and "Marc & Robert," which also features Sparks (Ron Mael & Russell Mael).  Their first album was co-produced by the great German producer Conny Plank.   After Fred's tragic passing, Catherine made two solo albums "Ring n Roll" and the very recent "Chroniques et Fantaisies."   For me, Les Rita Mitsouko reminds me very much of Iggy Pop's "The Idiot."  There are traces of Sparks (of course) and T Rex in their sound, but still, Fred and Catherine were (are) a unique music force.  On "Tosh Talks" I chat about their brilliance and the French Rock world.  - Tosh Berman

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Andy Warhol Screen Tests on Tosh Talks

Andy Warhol Screen Tests on Tosh Talks

Andy Warhol is too huge of a subject matter for one show. So, on "Tosh Talks" I focus on the Andy Warhol Screen Tests, as well as the film "Empire," which is his portrait of the Empire State Building. Warhol did a series of portraits of people he worked with at his Factory, as well as those who just stopped by like Dennis Hopper, Ann Buchanan, and Edie Sedgwick. "13 Most Beautiful..." is a superb DVD released by Plexifilm. "Andy Warhol Screen Tests" edited by Callie Angell is a must-have book for anyone who is interested in Andy Warhol as well as his cinema. This is one of my favorite episodes. - Tosh Berman.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Phil Spector on Tosh Talks

Phil Spector on Tosh Talks

At times I feel like I made up Phil Spector in my imagination, perhaps due that he's a figure that seems cinematic more than human to me.  I love everything he has done from his first 'band' The Teddy Bears to The Righteous Brothers to The Crystals/The Ronettes, and the entire 'Wrecking Crew" world.   Here on "Tosh Talks," I explore the darkness in his work, which at times reminds me of Martin Scorsese and David Lynch's exploration of evil.   Gerry Goffin and Carole King's incredible song "He Hit Me, and it Felt Like a Kiss" as well as the nature of the girl groups all play in the cinematic world of Phil Spector.   To Know him is to love him.  Still, that's troublesome.  - Tosh Berman

Sunday, February 11, 2018

"Mademoiselle Bambù" by Pierre Mac Orlan and Illustrations by Gus Bofa (Wakefield Press)

ISBN: 978-1-939663-25-2 Wakefield Press
Pierre Mac Orlan is a combination of mystery and a total delight. In such fashion, he reminds me a bit of Blaise Cendrars, but more of a figure that is abstract to me. "Mademoiselle Bambu" is a combination of detective/crime fiction mixed in with avant-garde touches of the time. It's a book that is dreamed more than written, but that's a sign that Mac Orlan is a fantastic writer and a literary adventurer. Wakefield Press outdid themselves in putting this book (text) together with the original illustrations by Gus Bofa, whose work is pretty magnificent throughout the book. Also a salute to the translator Chris Clarke for his work on this book.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

David Trinidad Swinging on a Star on Tosh Talks

I have a great love for David Trinidad's book of poems "Swinging on a Star on Tosh Talks"  Here I gush about his book especially "Ode To Buddy Holly."

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Scott Walker Sundog Selected Lyrics on Tosh Talks

Tosh Talks special!  I give a lecture (Tosh Style) on Scott Walker's music, image, and his new book of selected Lyrics: "Sundog."  (Faber & Faber).  I even do a bit of Scott, of course, in my own style. - Tosh Berman

Saturday, February 3, 2018

"Sundog: Selected Lyrics" by Scott Walker (Faber & Faber)

ISBN: 978-0-571-32857-4

The great beauty or sadness of Scott Walker is how slow he moves in the 20th century.  From the very beginning as a teenage singer to now is a magnificent journey.   There are many who have long careers either in writing or music, but Scott Walker has always been a consistent quality-artist, who took his time, and not waste our time.   "Sundog: Selected Lyrics" is a remarkable book just focusing on Walker's lyrics.  As I read them, I can hear the music, but also I try not to listen to the melody that comes to the words (due to memory) and take the text away from the song.  It's very clear to Walker and to Eimear McBride, who wrote the introduction, that these are lyrics and not poems, but to me, there is a fine thread standing between poetry and lyrics -especially in the mind of Scott Walker.  

"Sundog" is part of a series that Faber and Faber have been publishing over the years. For instance, there is a Jarvis Cocker book of lyrics as well as Billy Bragg.    I suspect that Cocker may have something to do with the series, because he was (or still is) the editor at F&F.   They all have the same elegant design and reading the Jarvis book as well as Scott's, they stand alone as literature.  Walker is a genius in what he does.  Reading the lyrics without the music in the background is like watching sculpture made out of words.  In this sense, to me, he's very much a poet.  He's not a lyricist in the sense of Cole Porter or Elvis Costello, but more of a sound artist who uses words.  The brilliant aspect of his lyrics is that Walker can write about terrible violence or emotional distress but be funny at the same time.  He has this incredible talent for throwing in one or two words or phrases that cut the violence of the piece and make it almost like a music hall entertainment.  It's the contrast between his words, which are carefully written and thought out.  When you hear his music, the words sometimes matches with the intensity of the sound, but a lot of times he throws in something ridiculous and it's really funny.  The intensity of the work lightens up, but never loses its seriousness or purpose.  It's a balancing act.  In a way, it is like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining" yelling out "Here's Johnny." 

"Sundog" is superb poetry, or if you wish, song lyrics.   I read the book in one sitting, but I'm going to go back to it again and again.  The textures and how the word (or wordings) are placed on the page is equally important to the spaces in his music - where you reflect on what's happening aurally, as well as the sound mixing in with his magnificent voice.  Great book.

Monday, January 29, 2018

"Swinging on a Star" by David Trinidad (Turtle Point Press)

ISBN: 978-1-933527-97-0 Turtle Point Press

A small book that's gives out big awards. David Trinidad's book of poems "Swinging on a Star" is perfection at work. A poet who always keeps his vision and language in an exceptional form. I think I'm around the same age as Trinidad, and the pop cultural references that are in his poetry fits my or our generation greatly. For anyone outside that world, the poems are inviting and will bring new discoveries to the new reader. For me, it's like dipping into a pool of great pleasure. Some of the poems are simple imagery, and others are like biting into a ripe fruit and enjoying its freshness and the different textures that come with the taste of that first bite. 

It's always dangerous to compare one poet to another, but I think anyone who enjoys the work of the so-called New York School of Poetry such as Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, James Schulyer, Kenneth Koch, and Barbara Guest would appreciate David Trinidad's poetry. I mention the above poets because they too filter pop culture within their work, which brings their world a larger landscape for the reader. The longest piece here is one of Trinidad's greatest poems: "Ode to Buddy Holly." Here he writes about the visit to Holly's hometown, and where is he is buried, Lubbock Texas. For me, who loves Holly's music, this is an incredible impression of the man, his burial grounds, home, and the nature of his death through the means of a plane accident. It's a moving poem that works on various levels. For one, Trinidad is a good reporter (through poetry) and how he recounts his time at the location, and how poetry brought him there, is him coming to a meeting with Buddy Holly as a fellow artist. The greatest gift from one artist to another is an appreciation and how that person's work sinks into the other's

"Swinging on a Star" is another fantastic book by one of the great American living poets. Also a nod of my hat to Turtle Point Press who has a history of publishing great books.

* I intereviewed David Trinidad on my cable TV show from the 1980s "Tea With Tosh"  You can see it here:  https://youtu.be/6EWTDIG-zoE

John Cale New York in the 1960s on Tosh Talks

John Cale is without a doubt, a major figure in music. Along with Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Moe Tucker, Cale played a huge role in The Velvet Underground.  Cale brought in the influence of experimental and drone music.  About ten years ago, the record label Table of Elements put out a five-disc box set (a real wooden box by the way)called "John Cale New York in the 1960s."  A brilliant packaging of early experimental music by Cale with the assistance of Tony Conrad, Angus MacLise, and the great artist/performance artist and filmmaker Jack Smith (Flaming Creatures).  Here on "Tosh Talks" I focus on this particular box set and the way he used a portable reel-to-reel tape machine manufactured and designed by Wollensak, as well as the Hungarian instrument Cimbalon. - Tosh Berman

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"The Garden of Eros: The Story of the Paris Expatriates and the Post-War Literary Scene" by John Calder (ALMA)

ISBN: 9780957452213

Along with Grove Press's Barney Rosset and the legendary Olympia publisher Maurice Girodias, John Calder is part of the powerful trio of visionaries who presented and published remarkable literature in the 20th century.   "The Garden of Eros" is both a literary history of publishing as well as a memoir of those years.  Calder also wrote "Pursuit" which is interesting, but also in the need of some editing.  "The Garden of Eros" is a better book that focuses on a huge subject matter - publishing in the 20th century.  The subtitle is correct, but rather limiting when one reads the book.  Paris is pretty much the focus with respect to the publishing history, but it also deals with the Paris Review crowd to Terry Southern to Alexander Trocchi, who is without the doubt, one of the great characters of the 20th century - both in a good, but a mostly bad way.  In fact, Calder's book may be the best with respect to writing about Trocchi's sordid history as writer and junkie.  The book is gossipy, as well as information regarding Trocchi, but also Girodias, who is an important figure in not only publishing but in his troubled relationships with his writers.  Henry Miller, Beckett, Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Jane Bowles, Alain Robbe-Grillet and so many other writers/ personalities are in this volume of delight.  As a publisher myself, I can easily identify myself with the Maurice Girodias and John Calder passion for making books and presenting authors - even those who wrote DB (dirty books).  An important document on publishing and its incredible personalities that ran into that world. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Lou Reed on Tosh Talks

Lou Reed is a huge subject matter that one can't or shouldn't put in one package.  He represents not only himself but an entire pop culture of his lifetime.  The Velvet Underground was the flip and darker side of The Beatles and the Summer of Love.  Like many, The Velvet Underground and Nico (with the Andy Warhol cover) was my gateway to an adult version of rock n' roll.

Anthony DeCurtis' biography of Lou Reed is a fun and informative read on this iconic figure. More important, "Lou Reed: A Life" introduced or reminded me of Lou's later work.  For instance the album he did with Metallica, "Lulu."  A masterpiece that is just as great as "Berlin," "Transformer," and "Street Hassle."  David Bowie commented to Laurie Anderson that he felt "Lulu" will be considered to be a masterpiece in the future, and in fact, is his best album/work.  I agree. Painting in the background is a portrait of The Velvet Underground and Nico by Lun*na Menoh - Tosh Berman, Tosh Talks.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Paul Knobloch Translator Writer on Tosh Talks

Literary translations to me are extremely interesting.  My press TamTam Books mostly focuses on translations of novels by Boris Vian, Serge Gainsbourg, as well as the biography on Gainsbourg written by Gilles Verlant. Translator and writer Paul Knobloch discusses his work and the issues one has to deal with when publishing Boris Vian.  Also a detailed look in how one chooses the right phrase or sentence while doing a translation.  A very informative interview on this subject matter as well as on TamTam Books.  Tosh Berman, Tosh Talks.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Philip Glass Composer on Tea With Tosh Part 2

This episode of "Tea With Tosh"  is part two of a two-part interview with the great American Composer Philip Glass.  We discuss the nature and difference between the Opera/Theater and film soundtrack composing. At the time of this interview (1987), Glass finished his soundtrack work for the Paul Schrader film "Mishima," based on the works and life of Japanese writer Yukio Mishima.  Glass was very easy to interview.  He had a professional attitude about doing interviews.  He told me that every Wednesday (at that time) he set aside the time to talk to the press/media.  He's an engaging person, and also talked about his opera "Einstein on the Beach" and other operatic works such as "Satyagraha, "Akhnaten," the film "Koyaanisqatsi," and his 'pop' album "Songs from Liquid Days." One of the great 20th century composers. - Tosh Berman, Tea With Tosh

Philip Glass Composer on Tea With Tosh (Part One)

This episode of "Tea With Tosh"  is part one of a two-part interview with the great American Composer Philip Glass.  We discuss the nature and difference between the Opera/Theater and film soundtrack composing. At the time of this interview (1987), Glass finished his soundtrack work for the Paul Schrader film "Mishima," based on the works and life of Japanese writer Yukio Mishima.  Glass was very easy to interview.  He had a professional attitude about doing interviews.  He told me that every Wednesday (at that time) he set aside the time to talk to the press/media.  He's an engaging person, and also talked about his opera "Einstein on the Beach" and other operatic works such as "Satyagraha, "Akhnaten," the film "Koyaanisqatsi," and his 'pop' album "Songs from Liquid Days." One of the great 20th century composers. - Tosh Berman, Tea With Tosh

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Where Did You Go To, My Lovely: The Lost Sounds and Stars of the Sixties (published in 1983) by Fred Dellar

ISBN: 0-352-31374-9 A Star Book (UK)

Two stars for quality, and five stars for being such an interesting by-product of pop music culture. Fred Dellar, who wrote "Where Did You Go To, My Lovely?" is a legendary British music journalist who worked for New Music Express (NME), as well as Melody Maker, if not mistaken. He now works for Mojo Magazine, doing the "Ask Fred" column. 

Published in 1983, Dellar managed to locate most of the British Invasion bands and artists to find out what they were doing now (in 1983). Which mostly were retired, or still struggling with the music business. Some of the artists in Dellar's 'whatever happened to?" are now very much respected and well-known (still). The Zombies, Scott Walker, The Troggs, The Pretty Things, and the late Dusty Springfield. On the other hand who remembers The Temperance Seven or Eden Kane & Peter Sarstedt? My huge discovery in this outdated and out-of-print book is that Morgan Fisher of Mott the Hoople, and eventually moved to Tokyo to do music (and maybe still there) used to be in the band Love Affair. Or that bassist John Gustafson (played with Roxy Music for one album) was in The Merseybeats. Those two facts for some odd reason, I find totally fascinating. So that knowledge is five stars alone, but as a book, it's only for the obsessive people like me. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Tosh Berman Reads at Beyond Baroque Sunday January 21, 2018 plus Interview at 4:30 PM

Ladies and Gentleman, at last, I will be doing a reading of my works (including a touch of my memoir) at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, California on Sunday, January 21, 2018, at 4:30 PM. I will also be interviewed by Jon Hess. Do come. Here's the full info:
Tosh Berman will do a reading of his works, including an excerpt of his upcoming memoir that will be published by City Lights Books this year. Also, Berman will be interviewed by Jon Hess. Tosh is a writer, poet, and former Artistic Director of Beyond Baroque. His two books are “Sparks-Tastic” (Rare Bird) and a book of poems, “The Plum in Mr. Blum’s Pudding (Penny-Ante Editions). He is also the publisher and editor of his press, TamTam Books, which published the works of Boris Vian, Serge Gainsbourg, Guy Debord, Jacques Mesrine, Ron Mael & Russell Mael (Sparks), Gilles Verlant, and Lun*na Menoh. His most recent project is a series of YouTube programs "Tosh Talks." 
Venue: Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, 681 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Date: Sunday, January 21, 2018
Time: 4:30 PM
Admission: $10 Students/Seniors/Children $6 Members: Free.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Source Music of the Avant Garde 1966 1973 on Tosh Talks

"Source Music, of the Avant-Garde, 1966-1973" was an amazing journal that focuses on the contemporary Experimental music of the mid-20th century.  Morton Fieldman, John Cage, Robert Ashley, Giuseppe Chiari, John Mizelle and others focus on the nature of modern classical music as well as publishing actual music scores, which there are plenty in this volume, edited by Larry Austin and Douglas Kahn.  Published by Univerity of California Press.  Tosh Talks, with your host, Tosh Berman.

Monday, January 8, 2018

"Property of Ronald Kane" by Tosh Berman

I went to Rockaway Records this week, and I purchased two albums: the late Ronald Kane owned Gavin Bryars' "The Sinking of the Titanic" (Obscure Records) and "The Joe Meek Story" (Decca).  I know this is true because there are stickers on both albums that says “The Property of Ronald Kane.”  One on the back cover, and another on the record label itself.   I may have met Ron Kane when I worked at Licorice Pizza music store chain during the 1980s.  He was the import record buyer for the entire chain, and it’s considerably possible that I met him perhaps at a Christmas party for the store, or when we had to get together for work meetings.   Then again I worked at the West Los Angeles and Reseda stores, so, for instance, I never went to their Glendale headquarters.  At least, I have no memory of going to the main offices.   That would be where Ron Kane worked, and now, I only know of him due that he passed away not that long ago.  

Ron built up his record collection over the years, and like me, it seems he has visited Japan numerous times to buy and searching out recordings.  I have my favorite record stores, but oddly enough, for the past 25 or so years of going back and forth to and from Japan, I always find a new place to shop for vinyl.  A collection is very much an activity that shows one who you are, and what your obsessions are.  It is just as truthful as if finding one’s DNA on a murder weapon - it can’t help itself in not telling some history or narrative through one’s collection of objects or things.  Ron Kane, right before he passed away, sold his entire collection of vinyl to Rockaway Records.  

Going through the new arrival bin at Rockaway, I see that Ron had a thing for European prog rock, or bands/artists that error on the side of experimental made music.  The sense of exploration on his part is awe-inspiring to me.   It would be interesting to know if he kept notes or a journal regarding his record hunts throughout the world.   What I see here is a man of intelligence and curiosity.   There are focuses on countries, such as Italy, as well as France, that put out numerous experimental/prog albums throughout the late 1960s to the mid-1970s.   When you are a fan of a particular artist or group, you become interested in what part of the world that they came from.  Which leads one to study that culture that would produce such an artist.  

I’m not the most excellent collector in the world, but I suspect Ronald Kane was one, in that he spent his life being intensely focused on the issues of records and where they came from.  The vinyl albums here in the store are all new looking.  Nothing tattered or torn, and every piece of vinyl, when I open the package seems in perfect shape.  The only alteration is the sticker with his name and that he owns the object on hand.  I often wonder why people put their names on albums.  For one, you can presume that they loan out to friends or institutions, and they want to make sure that they get their record back. Or, the essence of owning an object, you want to make sure there is some physical sense of ownership of that object.   Signing one’s name to an object or a collection is very much the same as an artist who signs their own artwork. 

So, with my memory, I’m not entirely sure if I met Ron Kane or not.  As an employee at Licorice Pizza during the 1980s, I purchased a lot of vinyl that came through the central office of licorice Pizza from the U.K.  Mostly due to the buying power of Ron through the store.  Although I never met him face-to-face or at the very least, a mere passing perhaps being in the same room together, his work had affected my record buying (with discount) adventure.   I’m a believer in museums to obtain a collection or one’s holdings.   I don’t know the number of albums owned and sold to Rockaway Records by Ron, but I have to imagine it was at the very least a few thousand titles.  As time goes by people will come to the store and more likely purchase a brilliant album with the sticker on it saying “The Property of Ronald Kane.” 

- My homage to Ronald Kane, and collecting - Tosh Berman, January 8, 2017

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Bruce Conner Artist on Tea With Tosh

Along with my father Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner is one of the great artists to come out of 20th mid-Century America.  I have known Bruce throughout my life, and one day, out of the blue, he called me to ask if he can be on "Tea With Tosh."   I remember being nervous interviewing him, due to his nature, but also my appreciation for him as an artist and filmmaker.  Shot in 1987, this is a snapshot of Bruce and his world.   - Tosh Berman, the host of "Tea With Tosh"