Tuesday, January 31, 2017
January 31, 2017 (Tosh's Diary)
This past week, I wrote several emails to Stephen Bannon, and not once, had he returned my correspondence to him. I suspect he's a rude man. Since I got back from Washington DC, I have been sitting in the front of my blank laptop screen and listening to David Ezra Okonsar playing the piano works of Pierre Boulez and Xenakis. Post-modern thought needs post-modern music.
A lot of my friends are kind of mad at me because I attempted to organize a non-profit for both the Trump statue and my writing. I need to study Hubbard's technique in starting an organization because I'm truly failing in that department. In theory where there is a crisis taking place, and that is apparently happening, the writing should be coming through loud and clear. I'm no Adorno, but I can have a good thought now and then.
I do have two board members committed to my foundation. I called a meeting with my mom and wife, and they are both free for the meeting. My wife, who is a foreigner has a hard time reading my writings, due that it's not that interesting for her. My mother is convinced that one only needs to read the first paragraph and the last to get the 'drift' of the piece. Both are solid board members, but so far they haven't contributed to the yearly board fee. I now wonder if I should have offered Stephen Bannon a discount? I don't think it's a good idea because then I would have to give my mom and wife a discount as well.
Also, I should mention that my idea to organize volunteers for the Trump wall between the United States of America and the country of Mexico is not going so hot either. I went door-to-door in my neighborhood, and pretty much everyone was very hostile to that idea. My one and only friend who is a Trump supporter, as well as giving me Bannon's personal e-mail address, showed some interest. The thing is, his anger is really negative. He spends his entire energy into the 'send Hillary to prison' movement. He told me he's often totally wiped out by the early morning (he stays up late) due to tracking down information on Hillary's criminal record through various news websites.
The news items that he sends me connects the Clinton Foundation to the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy. Part of that Texas/Russia/Alabama connection that keeps coming up. For some, the battle is never over. Even when there is a prison, and they have a prisoner inside the prison cell - some people are never satisfied. My friend is that way. Meanwhile, I will try to stay focus on my end of the world. Which at this time, is not much happening.
Friday, January 27, 2017
|ISBN: 0-520-01354-9 University of California Press|
Thursday, January 26, 2017
January 26, 2017 (Tosh's Diary)
Stephen Bannon. The man who rejected me, but I didn't dear sir, rejected you. My understanding is that he's very much the architect of Donald Trump's vision. In a way, he's like Mick Ronson to David Bowie or Billy Strayhorn to Duke Ellington. Without Bannon, Trump may not be able to do what he must do, whatever that is?
When the country is under stress, it's best to do things that will bring the country back together. A sense of focus. It's crucial for all of us to chose the path, and all must follow it to the conclusion. Therefore I thought maybe I should forget about building a statue in honor of Trump, but instead, help him build the wall between Mexico and the United States. Because without a doubt, this wall will very much be the lasting tribute to Trump. I suspect that the wall itself, once built, will be called "Trump Wall." Not very poetic, but easy to remember.
As I sat in my living room, with a glass of cold beer (been drinking early in the day), I have thought what I can do as a citizen. Should I volunteer to help build the wall? It's going to expensive. Maybe organize a fund-raiser for the wall? For sure, I don't think our taxes should pay it. Citizens should be paying this wall by either donating their services, serving cold beer on the sidelines, or supplying the tools such as shovels, tractors, and so forth. There is no reason why this can't be a positive thing, with all of us, working together.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
January 24, 2017
The last couple of days has been hard. I hitchhiked back to Los Angeles after going to Washington DC in the hopes of seeing Stephen Bannon, who either refused to see me or just forgot about me. More likely just a member of the forgotten category in his life. It was hard getting back, and I will never hit the road like that in such a manner where I have to depend on the kindness of strangers with a moving vehicle.
On top of that, I got a cold. At times, when I feel sorry for myself, I felt the cold was my just reward for trying to do something positive in this world. I won't give up the Trump statue idea, but I will put it on the back burner for now. I suspect in four years there will be various statues of Trump throughout the country. Who knows, perhaps when he passes away (he's mortal), they will build a huge Trump Memorial in Washington DC. Or at the very least, change the name of the XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines as "The Trump Life Lines."
At the moment, I have to make some hard decisions regarding my writing career. Should I start up a non-profit organization focusing on me and my writings? It's manifestly obvious that my work is needed, and to advance my thoughts, writing, and philosophy I do need a board of directors. Bannon didn't work out, but that is how the cookie crumbles. Can't cry over spilled oil. Also, I think I need to think locally, instead of nationally. It's a big country out there, and I'm just a man with a brain with two legs, and two arms. I can do a lot, but not as much as a rich man. I have to accept my limits. But within those limits, it is my property. And I will master my territory.
Friday, January 20, 2017
January 20, 2017
Today sucks. The whole trip sucked. I suck. They suck. One big sucking noise. First of all, I apologize for not keeping up the diary for the last couple of days. To save dough, I had to hitchhike to Washington DC - and someone should have reminded me that hitchhiking in the winter is not the grandest idea. I did dress warmly, but I should have purchased more socks at UNIQLO. My shoes got wet, as well as the socks. I was an idiot to wear Converse tennis shoes for this trip. But I wanted to be comfortable. Wrong. I brought a few days of clothing with me, and two notebooks, and one working ball-point pen. When I'm in a work mode, I live like a minimalist. Not a well-designed minimalist mind you, but one who doesn't bring the extra dry pair of socks.
The first impression of my trip to back east is that this country is not that hot. I was hoping to see the grandness of the states I went through, but to be perfectly honest, it was mostly darkness due to the nighttime, and sleeping with my mouth wide open in someone's back seat, and then there was the truck. A driver picked me up somewhere in Arizona and told me he was going to travel far, and I could stay in the back of his open air truck. So I got rained and snowed on, and oddly enough I didn't get a cold. I think when one is determined like I'm, one doesn't get sick. I have this strong Ayn Rand streak in me that I just go forward and hell with everything else.
I arrived in Washington DC yesterday. Dumpy town. Parts of it looks like an abandoned movie set. So it's cool in that fashion. I arranged to go to an AirBnB which was a room with no furniture whatsoever. I asked the owner if I could use the kitchen. To give them credit, they were very straightforward and said "no" to me. The same goes for the laundry. "No." What I did get was an empty room with no carpeting and the use of a toilet that was in a gas station a block away. On the other hand, the price was pretty cheap. So that's good.
Once I got myself settled in the new place, I e-mailed Steve (Bannon) to let him know I'm here and ask him if he could meet me at Baja Fresh which is located at 1990 K St NW, Washington, DC 20006. I thought it might be close to the Inauguration events, and therefore easier for him to get there. He didn't respond. I then added that I would treat him to lunch. I gave him time and told him I'd be waiting for him.
I easily found the restaurant and ordered a side dish of guacamole and chips. Which I have to say is excellent. One can taste the mixture of garlic and lime in the guacamole, which for me, made it unique. Of course, the portion is small, so I mostly took my time by taking a bite every ten minutes or so. And to be honest, I wasn't that hungry. While sitting there, I took my notebook and pen out and wrote some notes to myself. I knew it was important to get my ideas to Steve quickly because for sure he's a busy man. But I just want to point out to him that I desire his services as a board member, and I should remind him that he's responsible for the finances of the non-profit, which again, is to serve me as a writer, with a side-project of building a Trump statue. My goals are clear and even simple. I feel confident that my 'pitch' is going to work well.
I wrote to him to meet me at 1 PM. As soon as it got to 1:30, I decided to write him another email from my I-Phone. Just letting him know that I'm here, and if he wants me to order some food for him, so he doesn't have to waste time standing in line. I wrote to him again at 2 PM. Then another at 2:30. At this point, I decided I should order a burrito and more chips because the people who work here are starting to give me those looks.
Eventually, I ordered coffee after I ate the burrito. I stayed there until 4 PM. I compulsively checked my e-mails, but not one e-mail came to me, except notices from Pen USA to remind me to resubscribe. There is that funny moment when one realizes that things are not going to work out today. I left Baja Fresh, but first, I put in a $2 tip into their jar by their counter. I then walked out into the wintery early evening.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
I do love the pitter-patter of the rain tonight. When there is a scent of moisture in the air, that is the time when I'm happy. The dead bodies that lay throughout this house seem to me like it was from another time or even place. What has been done has been done, and I can't cry over spilled milk. I open the owner of this home's laptop and start writing in it. I presume the authorities will read this in due time. I may either check myself out or just leave the premise.
Back to the rain. Ever since I was a boy, I seem to feel great comfort in the storm. The more it raged, and destroy, the more happiness came to my heart. Even the leaks over my bed brought a sense of adventure to my life. When I walk through an urban area, I often see a homeless person in a cardboard shelter, but you know that they are getting soaked. I know what it's like to be wet and in a bed or sleeping area. As a kid, I never wanted to fully wake-up, so the rain pitter-patter on my bed till it got soaked. I just stayed in bed and counted the raindrops hitting my forehead. For some odd reason, I never got sick. While walking I like looking at the wet streets reflecting the lights -it's like they are dancing on the pavement. The sound of the rain is a beautiful piece of music. Like millions of others, I feel like Gene Kelly in "Singing in the Rain." I just want to dance till not only soaked but dead. The end of time, the end of everything -it's blissful to be at that point.
In a few days, there will be a new sheriff in the main house. They're going to clean up Dodge and other towns. Sadly, I won't be around much anymore. Neither a lot of people. No pun intended on the folks who lived in this home. One thing I have notice is that it just takes only one incident to change everything. You can plan. Or you don't plan. Still, just by having the stars set in a specific position can change one's presence, and I guess future as well. One lesson I have learned is always to lock your door at night. Even the most friendliest neighborhoods can have a tragedy take place. It's always shocking. I'm glad it's me that brought the news and not someone else.
Well, I should mozy on. It's getting late. Don't want to bore the fans out there. My hair is still wet from the rain. Before I leave, I'll go to the bathroom and comb my hair into a sweet pompadour and then go into the night.
- Tosh Berman
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
January 17, 2017
Good news! My Trump loving friend hooked me up with Stephen Bannon. I wrote an email to my pal, and he promised to forward it to Bannon. What I wrote to him was that I'm interested in having him be part of my Board of Directors to sponsor and support my writing. And as an additional goal of the foundation will be to build a Trump statue in the Sliver Lake Meadows. He wrote back to me, writing that he would be interested in meeting me, and if it's possible, could I come to the Inauguration this coming Friday. As a guest of course, but I will have to pay for my flight, hotel bill, food and stuff like that. But he said that I would be invited to the ball and one of the dinners that will take place that evening.
I looked at my calendar for January 20, and I see I have nothing planned for that day, except to visit the Glendale Galleria to buy some much-needed socks at UNIQLO. I checked the 19, and that can be the day for sock shopping, so I wrote back to Bannon and told him yes, I would love to attend. At this point, my imagination is going beyond excited. I imagine that over this weekend, I can arrange to have Bannon as part of my board, but also maybe even meet President Trump and perhaps get some funding for the statue. One of the things I have learned through life is that things can go up and down. For me, it's mostly down. But when an 'up' comes or arrives, one has to ride that wild wave that is called life.
Monday, January 16, 2017
January 16, 2017
My friend promised me that he could connect me to Stephen Bannon. If I can get Bannon to agree to become part of my board of directors, perhaps even the chair position, that would be fantastic. He clearly knows how to raise money, or find money for a non-profit like mine, and also who knows, maybe even get funding for my (our) Trump Statue for the Silver Lake Meadow Park. According to my friend, the hardcore Trump supporter, Bannon is the guy-to-go-to, for getting things done.
The reason why I wanted to build the Trump statue was in the hopes of bringing people together. Right now, the landscape in America is pretty insane. We have the Anti-Democratic Party people who once belonged to the party but feel gypped, along with the Sanders people who felt cheated, and therefore are lost in the woods, and then on top of that, we have individuals who don't support any political party and are totally confused by Trump's victory. And then there are the Democrats who are rapidly moving towards McCarthy era Republicans stance, while Republicans are siding with the Russians. Then there are the Republicans who are waiting behind the curtain to stab you-know-who in the back eventually. Also, we have Republicans who are against Obamacare but haven't the foggiest idea how to replace it or even why - and then there are those who are racist, but also at the same time like world music. On top of that, we have a current President, who is much admired and missed (even though he's still in office for another five days) and apparently a good man, but after eight years brought us all to this. To be honest, I'm very confused what's happening to Planet United States of America. That is why it's important to build a Trump Statue in the park, where neighbors, their children, dogs, and wildlife can meditate on the Trump world.
Of course, there has to be the foundation to support my writing. One of the people I admire is Ron L. Hubbard. Not long ago, actually around a similar time now (the cold-war) he started a non-profit group to support his writing/thoughts. I think it's clearly the time for me to fill the void that's there now and bring the folks back together. But first, I have to return a library book, due that today is the due date.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
January 15, 2017
Last night I had a dream that gave me a great idea. Before I went to sleep last night, I was listening to a recording by the Jack Quartet, who focuses on contemporary music. When I went to their website, I read that they are actually a non-profit organization. As I dreamed last night, I came to the conclusion that I started my own non-profit to back my work as a writer. When I woke up to pee at around 3:42 in the morning (I have a digital clock in the bedroom) I thought this was a fantastic idea.
The Trump statue project is depressing me because I can’t seem to get it started. But to start up a company that’s the main purpose is for people to invest, or a better word, donate money to my career as a writer is a brilliant one. The beauty of the donation is that since I’m non-profit, it can be a tax write-off for the donator. Therefore easier to get funds and budget together. One thing I have noticed throughout my life is the big difference between me and the other guy/gal down the street is that I have ideas. It doesn’t make me better than them, but just a tad smarter.
The key thing regarding my career is that I don’t work for another person. One thing I’m an expert on is me, and how “me” looks at the world. Clearly, there is a need for someone like me to give the ‘me’ perspective to readers and fans alike. The first order of business for the day is to put together a board of directors together. Every non-profit organization has a board, where the members are financially responsible for that organization. In theory, they are accountable to make sure the organization is funded adequately and that they keep notes to all official meetings. Which by law, I think the Board of Directors has to meet, at the very least, once a year. My first thought is to get my wife on the board, my mom, a few publishers I know who are devoted to my work, and maybe a lawyer or two. People are impressed if you have a lawyer on your board. It shows that you’re not messing around. And maybe one celebrity. Since the Trump Statue is not doing so hot (but it will be !). I’m thinking of getting a key member of the Donald Trump world into my organization on the board. My first thought is getting Stephen Bannon on my board. Logic thinks that he at least reads. He does own a website. This could be a plus for me.
I have one friend who is an outright Trump supporter, and he told me that he knows Bannon. I wonder if I can reach Bannon through my friend. If I get him to commit to the board and at the very least, go to one meeting per year, I think this is a win-win for me. We will see….
Saturday, January 14, 2017
January 14, 2017
I haven’t written in my journal for this past week, due to a sense of depression. When this cloud enters my brain, my body turns itself off. I think what’s causing the mood is the failure of raising money to build the Trump statue at the Silver Lake Meadow. Not only have I failed in getting funding (so far), but also it seems that the city has, at this time, ignored my desire to place such a statue on their premise, which is the park.
I even attempted to approach foundations from Russia to seek out funding. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find any specific charities that are Trump supporters. I have read in the newspapers and online that there seems to be a bent towards the view that Trump would be good for Russia, but finding a particular organization is tough. And on top of that, I think I’m coming down with the common cold.
To fight the cold, I have been drinking honey with lemon and ginger none stop. It cuts through the mucus in my throat quite well, but I don’t think it’s going to help my singing career. Which is a non-starter because I don’t even have a career. In anything. It’s chilly outside, but I’ll go to the library on Fifth and Flower to investigate non-profit foundations that give money to the arts. The library is five miles away from my house. On a good day, I walk to the library, but since I'm not feeling so hot, I'll either take an LYFT ($8.75) or a bus ($1.75). Logic says the bus, but I don't think I can deal with people today. I tend to be the fellow that likes to sit by the aisle and spread my legs out. I never feel comfortable when someone comes on the bus and wants to sit by me. Even when the bus is full and the only seat available is the one next to mine. I rather he or she stand. First come first dibs on the seat!
Sunday, January 8, 2017
I’m a David Bowie fan. I have always been a fan. I don’t idolize him, but I share his distinct taste within the world that we share. I often feel like I can’t articulate my feelings about things or even people, but through Bowie’s music and interestingly enough, his interviews. Whenever he recommends a record, an artist, or a work of art, I usually seek it out. In most cases, I find the art that he likes to be worthwhile. What I hear in his music, is a life that is very much like mine - at least on an emotional level. The Beatles started a culture for me, but Bowie defined the world that I lived in, and he was able to articulate all the pain, glory and sensuality of that landscape. When he passed away, it was like I died as well. Not total death, but I felt something chip away inside my heart. Nothing will replace the lost, except his collection of art. Bowie left us his collection which consists of 400 items as well as precisely 200 works of art. Most of the artwork are from British artists of the 20th century. Even though he spent a great deal of his adult life in America, he still found himself attracted to the British sensibility with respect to the arts. This, I find endearing. Therefore I want to go into that world, in a sense to be closer to Bowie, but also to be exposed to something new - something I didn’t know about.
I woke up this morning hearing about an exhibition of Bowie’s collection at Sotheby’s. It seems that the works are for sale, and will be auctioned off this November in London. But first, it will go on a small tour of London, New York City, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles. Not the complete collection mind you, but just some of the artwork and design objects that he had collected over the years. The exhibition in Los Angeles is only for two days. So after reading the article in today’s Guardian website, I found a pair of freshly cleaned pants and went directly there after my morning coffee and a sweet roll.
Sotheby’s Los Angeles is an office space on the 29th floor of a building located in Century City. I walked into the main reception area of the building, and I immediately felt a sense of vertigo taking over my senses. The entire floor is shiny, so if you look down, it reflects the ceiling. Space is vast, but the texture on the floor makes it even more massive. All there is on this floor are the entrances to the various elevators, as well as a small reception desk. I was told by the security team that I needed to go to the receptionist to get a pass to use the elevator. I waited in a small line, and once I was called over, I showed them my picture I.D. I was then given a pass, and I grabbed the side of the walls to hold myself up to get to the entrance of the elevator. Once inside the elevator, I had to use the pass in a manner like a metro card - I had to press it against the wall to operate the lift. Once I got to the 29th floor, I found myself in a corporate office.
|“Alexandra” (1995) by Romuald Hazoumé.|
I was greeted by a pleasant looking person, otherwise a woman, and she handed me a flyer with Bowie’s photograph. I said “thank you, “ and after that, I didn’t speak to another soul at the auction. First of all, even though it is a corporate office suite on the 29th floor, it’s a small one. The room I walk into, which was the receptionist office was the actual Bowie exhibition space. There was a conference room that other art, but not part of the Bowie collection. On my immediate right, behind the dark-suited security guard was Bowie’s collection of contemporary African art, and there on the wall, was a work of art called “Alexandra” (1995) by Romuald Hazoumé. Once I moved behind the security guard, I could look at the artwork very closely. It resembled a gas mask to me, and seeing that it was backed by a vinyl 12” record which looks like something connected to a hi-fi, well it spoke to me loudly. Hazoumé only uses material that is recycled. And in a funny way, it also reminded me of Kurt Schwitter’s colleges. But to me, the work is very African, and saying that is weird because I never been to Africa or been exposed to African art before. But it apparently didn’t read European or American to me. Still, there are traces of DADA within this work’s DNA.
|Patrick Caulfield "Foyer" 1973|
I’m often attracted to the banal, and it seems this is something I share with the artist Patrick Caulfield. His “Foyer” (1973) painting is the entrance to what looks like a theater or even a bar perhaps. It’s ironic that this painting is in the reception room that makes this exhibition, but then, there you go. The thought behind this painting, one would think of Mondrian, due to the placement of the red color which distance oneself from the structural aspect of the image. Still, the painting gives me lots of comforts, I think because it’s very straightforward, smart, and looking at a space, that one can reflect on - and Caulfield, is such a painter that can paint a room, and fill it with psychological meanings. Also having no human being in the work, makes one think of the design of the room/space itself. I ‘m very fond of this painting.
|"Interior (Mrs. Mounter)" Harlod John Wilde Giman 1917|
The complete opposite of Caufield’s “Foyer” would be “Interior (Mrs. Mounter),” painted in 1917 by Harold John Wilde Gilman. It’s an image of a boarding house room, which has basic but utterly servile furniture for the tenant who stays there. A ray of light (almost Bowie-like) from the window to a specific painting or print on the wall, gives the work a certain amount of tension. Mrs. Mounter (who I have to presume that’s who it is) overlooks the room, perhaps as the cleaning woman, or maybe even the owner of the business. I don’t get the impression that she lives in the chamber. There is loneliness in the space, which one can say the same for “Foyer.” Both British, and both are oddly removed from any drama of a structure, but the banality is shared equally, and both paintings fit well in the same room.
|"Head of Gerda Boehm" Frank Auerbach, 1965|
Frank Auerbach, a fellow Londoner, as well as the other two above artists, is a painter who really looks at his subject matter. His “Head of Gerda Boehm (1965) looks like a portrait of Bowie. It screams “Heroes,” and I can imagine this painting taking over the now iconic photograph of that album. As Bowie had commented “My God, yeah! I want to sound like that looks.” That pretty much explains the painting as well as Bowie’s music. When I first saw it, I didn’t see the face for some reason. I was struck by the thickness of the paint, and I thought of the painting as a work of abstract expression - but alas, it’s an actual portrait. The more one looks at it, the picture actually changes. “Portrait of Dorian Gray” comes to mind. At times, as I stood there looking at Gerda Boehm, I feel like I put my head into a body of water, open my eyes, and I see this face through the murky liquid. The texture or the depth of the water causes the face to come in presence in and out. It’s a powerful work. What is interesting is not the subject matter of the painting, but how Auerbach sees his subject. I’m not sure if people do change, but I think due to the artist, who is trained in a sense to look at an object or individual, and notice a change, or taking a note that something has been altered. And again, one has to wonder if Bowie looked at this painting as his portrait. A man who consistently desired change. Or change that never stops.
One thing that caught my eye (and soul) was a radiophotograph. Designed and made by the brothers Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni for Bronvega, in 1965. This complete hi-fi set comes with radio as well as a turntable with twin speakers in one cabinet. The design reeks of Moderne, and I have to imagine how great it must sound with respect to Bowie’s vinyl collection. To actually play the same vinyl that he held in his hands, and hear with his ears - on his turntable…. A moment like this could not be passed up. I put a bid in for the radiophotograph. In fact, I put my house up for sale, to make sure enough money will go into this bid and deny anyone else nabbing my prized possession. And alas, it is now in my possession. It cost me $327,155.00.
Through my connection in the fashion media world, I was able to purchase 25 albums that Bowie personally owned. They are, in no particular order: The Last Poets “The Last Poets” (1970, Douglas), Robert Wyatt “Shipbuilding” (1982, Rough Trade), Little Richard “The Fabulous Little Richard (1959, Specialty), Steve Reich “Music for 18 Musicians” (1978, ECM), The Velvet Underground and Nico “The Velvet Underground (1967, Verve), John Lee Hooker “Tupelo Blues” (1962, Riverside), Koerner, Ray and Glover “Blues, Rags and Hollers” (1963, Elektra), James Brown “The Apollo Theatre Presents: In Person! The James Brown Show” (1963, King), Linton Kwesi Johnson “Forces of Victory” (1979, Mango), Various Artists “The Red Flower of Tachai Blossoms Everywhere: Music Played on National Instruments” (1972, China Record Company), Daevid Allen “Banana Moon” (1971, Caroline/Virgin), Cast Album “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (1968, CBS), Tom Dissevelt “The Electrosonniks: Electronic Music” (1960, Vendor Philips), The Incredible String Band “The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion” (1967, Hannibal), Tucker Zimmerman “Ten Songs By Tucker Zimmerman” (1969, Regal Zonophone/EMI), Gondola Janowitz “Four Last Songs (Strauss) (1973, DG), Glenn Branca “The Ascension” (1981, 99 Records), Syd Barrett “The Madcap Laughs” (1970, Harvest/EMI), George Crumb “Black Angels” (1972, CRI), Toots & The Metals “Funky Kingston” (1973, Dragon), Harry Partch “Delusion of the Fury” (1971, Columbia), Charles Mingus “Oh Yeah” (1961, Atlantic), Igor Stravinsky “Le Sacre du Printemps” (1960, MFP/EMI), The Fugs “The Fugs” (1966, ESP), and Florence Foster Jenkins “The Glory (????) of the Human Voice (1962, RCA). $20 per album and they're 25 albums which make it $500. Plus shipping of course.
This may either sound like an over-zealous Bowie fan needing something personal from this great figure, or a business opportunity. Or, to be honest, both. I plan to take Bowie’s turntable and album collection on tour with me. I imagine that I can play either in a gallery or a small off-Broadway type of theater, and just play Bowie’s record collection on his personal stereo hi-fi set. For a test run, I arranged to do a “show” in ARTBOOK@HWS. The bookstore is in the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel arts complex in downtown Los Angeles. I made an events page on Facebook, announcing that I purchased Bowie’s original hi-fi set, and also some of his personal record collection. And that I tend to play “his” music on “his” turntable.
At first, I started thinking maybe to play all 25 albums from beginning to end. That will be approximately 16 hours or so (one of the above records is just a 12” single). I loved this as a concept, but could I actually pull it off? The way I see the day going is that people show up at 8:30 am for coffee and danish. At exactly 9:00 AM, I will start playing The Last Poets “The Last Poets” (1970, Douglas) - At 1:00 PM there will be lunch. The restaurant in the arts complex, Manuela, will serve oysters and various fried pies and gravy and biscuits. Even though they are located a foot away from the entrance of ARTBOOK, I’ll have them to deliver the meals to the store. There will be no music played during the lunch hour. At 2:00 PM, I will start with another vinyl album, so forth — till all 25 records are played. Dinner will be served around 8 PM. After dinner, we will have a cocktail bar set up with a bartender just making one drink - a gin martini for the guests or audience. So I think around 3 in the morning the event will be over. I know, I can’t imagine a perfect way of spending an evening than with Bowie’s album collection and his turntable.
The morning of the event, or as I like it, the performance, I felt a tad nervous. I knew what I was going to do would be the ultimate Bowie tribute - at least to me it is - because it is his music being played. I think one can give a tribute to Bowie by playing his actual songs, but I feel today is going to be a very moving experience where one shares a love or at least a genuine presence with Bowie by sharing his record collection. Having it played on his turntable gives it the extra element of authentic, at its core, pleasure. I could afford it; I would not only have his artwork around, but also make a replica of his apartment complex in New York City. I never saw a photograph of his interiors - but I often imagine what it must be like to be in his living room, which I have to imagine having a view of lower Manhattan in one of the windows.
The event started off by Karly, who works at the store, bringing me up to the front of the audience. I’m blindfolded, and what I do is reach for one album, which is stacked in front of me. I don’t know what the album will be, and usually, I try for the middle of the pile. I pick one and Karly to untie my blindfold. It’s Charles Mingus “Oh Yeah” album. The audience acknowledges the blind choice on my part and gives me a standing ovation. The fact is, I never heard this album. I have read about it, but this will be the first time I have ever heard it. I put Bowie’s needle in the groove of his record. “Hog Calling Blues” jumps at me with who I have to presume is Mingus giving a little jazz scat. Even though it’s early in the morning (for some, including yours truly), the music made me tap my feet to the insane beat. The sax playing is incredible, and it’s a big band. Dance music. Did Bowie had this in mind during his “Let’s Dance” stage? Although Mingus is famous for his bass playing as well as for his composition skills, he plays only piano throughout this album. Also is the vocalist. “I’m going to get a devil woman, an angel woman do me no good.” He quotes “Just a Gigolo” in the next cut “Devil Woman.” It reminds me of Duke Ellington’s music, for some reason - perhaps due to the big band arrangement. Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Booker Ervin both play tenor saxophone - and although I can’t tell who is playing what part - they know how to weave the saxes together to make it a bigger sound, but also a form of communication between the two sax players. If I have to place the music in a particular location, I would think New Orleans. But a more perverse version of the site. Not the city that exists, but the New Orleans in one’s mind or memory. It reeks of Black American culture, and in fact, I have to imagine that this album is full of references to classic RnB as well as swing jazz greats. And with respect to it being written and recorded in 1962, there are references to the atomic bomb. “Oh Yeah” sounds like it could have come from the late 1940s. A fantastic album.
The Last Poets is the next selection. One of the first ‘rap’ works, but also one of the foundations of hip-hop as well. To me, it’s punk rock. Or, punk rock relates to rap/hip hop. The beauty of this album is not only the front and out there vocal, but the percussion and the various backup vocals/voices. At times, I feel like I’m listening to a Steve Reich piece of music - yet, The Last Poets are much more organically attached to this music. For one, this is beautifully arranged music. Although this was recorded in 1969, the music and sound are still, very contemporary. It must have sounded totally fresh when this album was originally released, and it still sounds like something new. Incredibly articulate, and now realizing after almost 50 years, nothing has changed. I have a picture in my mind of Bowie playing this album and staring out of his window facing the south side of Manhattan.
Igor Stravinsky “Le Sacre du Printemps” (1960, MFP/EMI) is the next album I played on Bowie’s turntable. Conducted by Igor Markevitch with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the change of pace with the Last Poets/Mingus is quite great. All three albums are from the 20th century, and therefore, they share the modern looking forward to the future feel. “Le Sacre du Printemps” (The Rite of Spring) was a revolutionary ballet when first performed in 1913, for the Ballets Russes company and choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. It caused a near-riot in the theater. The last time something like this happened was when Public Image Ltd played at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1980. Nevertheless, no report of death, perhaps some curtains and several seats were laid to ruin, but overall, the birth of a new sound did happen. The ballet worships the presence of Spring, with a young girl, who is sacrificed by dancing herself to death. Spring brings a lot to the table. It’s the start of the new, yet one can be obsessed with the newness of everything, and totally forget about the decay. Without decay, one doesn’t really have Spring. I like to think that Bowie heard this music, not as a piece of contemporary history, but as something to make him go forward, and not look back.
After such a sharp turn to Europe, I decided to have Bowie bring us back to the South. John Lee Hooker “Tupelo Blues” (1962, Riverside) is a country blues album, with the great Hooker playing acoustic guitar - instead of his famous electric guitar work. The judge may give John 99 years in his song “I’m Prison Bound,” but it obviously had an effect on Bowie to study on another culture. Being a hardcore Mod, one naturally goes to something that is rural but can easily lift it into an urban landscape. John Lee Hooker had the ability to express a picturesque world that is equally real, but with poetic overtures. One would think that the world of Bowie would contrast against Hooker’s, but the fact is both convey a specific state-of-mind or location and made a sound that reflected that world.
The Fugs “The Fugs” (1966, ESP) had to be the most exotic world for Bowie. His love of beat literature, coming directly from his half-brother Terry, had to lead to this album. The odd thing, listening to this album now, in front of an audience, I’m reminded of the New York Dolls. The music pretty much apes vintage doo-wop, early RnB, garage rock, and even Martin Denny Exotica, but in a Beat sensibility. The irony and humor I suspect was out front in the year 1966, yet seven or eight years later, punk hit New York City, and the music is very much like The Fugs. I imagine Bowie bought this original album that year and imagined a New York in his head; that was actually the real thing. The Velvets exposed an inner world, but The Fugs were very much part of the outside lower east side community - and there is a touch of lightness in their music’s bounce. Oddly enough, this is the first time I heard a Fugs album from beginning to end.
Tucker Zimmerman is the only artist besides Lou Reed on this list that has a direct connection to Bowie, due that his album “Ten Songs” (Regal Zonophone, 1969) was produced by Bowie’s longtime associate Tony Visconti. One can hear traces of Bowie within this album, which probably came out around the same time as “Space Oddity. “ Rick Wakeman who also played keyboards for Bowie at this period is also on this album. At times, he reminds me of Paul Simon, before he made his recording with Garfunkel. He’s a folkie with a rock backing. I can imagine Bowie covering songs from this album. I notice that my audience is clapping along to some of the songs. I think they are weird. Nevertheless, I turn my attention to Zimmerman and his album. Harry Chaplin also comes in mind, because it’s aggressive folk. I don’t know. I'm not sure if I like this album or not. There are some theatrical touches, like the carnival-like song “Upside-down Circus World.”
“The Fabulous Little Richard (1959, Specialty) puts me is a zone that has an entrance, but no exit. I have heard that Bowie’s wife, as a birthday present, purchases a jacket once owned by Little Richard. To touch the fabric that touched the skin of such energy, must be priceless. The holy grail for the diamond dog who can choose any bone he wants. It’s strange for me to hear a Little Richard album because I really know his work through his singles, or what was played on the radio. What surprised me is the range of his voice and music. “The Fabulous Little Richard” resembles early James Brown to me. There are ballads on this album that are very heart-broken, weary and a tad sorry. I would think of this album more of a RnB than Rock n’ Roll. If you blindfold me, I wouldn’t know Richard performed some of these songs.
Gondola Janowitz, the soprano singer of operas, oratorios, and concerts, made a recording of the “Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss. Bowie was very much taken by her version of the piece. The mood changed radically in the bookstore, and I notice each facial expression is blank. As I stand by the turntable, I try to imagine what the people out there were thinking. Music can transform a listener to another place, or location. The room at this moment is another world. The work was composed in 1948 when Strauss was 84. The four songs “Frühling” (Spring), “September,” “Belm Schlafengehen” (When Falling Asleep) and I'm Aberndrot” (At Sunset) sound likes the last reflection of a man who will do no more work. The author and poet Hermann Hesse wrote three of the lyrics, which were his actual poems, and the other (I'm Aberndrot) is by Joseph von Eihendorff. Three of the songs touch on the subject of death, and since Strauss died in 1949, and officially this was his last piece of music, must had incredible importance to him. Most, if not all, are young here. Unless they had a serious illness, or an older family member facing the total darkness, these series of songs may have no real connection to them. For me, at the age of my early 60s, I can feel the heavy touch from the needle to the groove, and a picture of life comes out to me, that confirms that darkness will eventually grasp and hold me close to it.
The cover of the 12” single of Robert Wyatt’s “Shipbuilding” (1982, Rough Trade) looks like it came out of the depressed 1930s. Men at work on the sea dock of somewhere that is industrial. A song regarding ships being built for the Falklands War of 1982, music by Clive Langer and lyrics by Elvis Costello. Wyatt, in his modest way, mentions that his only contribution to the song was to remain in-tune. It is the fragility of Wyatt’s voice that really makes this record shine in a shitty world. The casualties of war itself were 649 Argentine military personal, 255 British troops, and three Falkland citizens. And yet, this classic record was produced, culturally speaking, by this war. I bought the single when it originally came out, and I played it over and over again. What struck me was the sad melody and the sad additional vocals by Wyatt, made it into a über melancholy listening experience. I never heard such a poignant recording before - or it was the first record that came out in my lifetime that expressed such feeling of regret and helplessness. Overwhelming in my experience. Also the fact that certain industries are built on death, in other words, war. One would think Bowie could cover this song, yet, it’s a quiet piece of work. I have heard Elvis’ recording as well as video of Suede doing the song, and for one, it is such a fantastic song, no one can really do a bad version of it - but without a doubt, the Wyatt recording is the best - mostly due to the vocals. He’s the only singer who can display the absurdity yet the sadness of the situation. His is a crushing vision of a world gone mad, and nothing will gain from it, except for a specific class that financially benefits from such a war. The industry is in existence for that purpose. I notice the energy level of my audience is a bit down after this song.
I first heard James Brown’s “The Apollo Theatre Presents: In Person! The James Brown Show” (1963, King) at our home, when I was around four or five years old. The cover is the first thing that I noticed as a child. I was always attracted to an illustration than say a photograph on an album cover. It seemed that this cover was always on either the top of the stack of vinyl or the one leaning against the one mono speaker we had in the house. Oddly enough, my father didn’t have any other James Brown album or song, except for this album. A year or so later, he purchased the 45 rpm single of “Papa’s Got a New Bag.” But he did have an obsession regarding Brown and his music. Legend has it; Brown had to pay for these recordings out of his pocket. The Apollo was ground zero for Black American talent, and for someone like Bowie, it must have been almost an imaginary place - just as real as Disneyland. There’s no visual or film made of this performance, yet it is entirely cinematic just by its sound. One imagines that there is nothing edited out, and one is getting the complete James Brown and his Flames live show. The intensity and sweat and the ultimate satisfaction of pure heavenly desire are all in its grooves.
The Incredible String Band’s “The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion” (1967, Hannibal) is hardcore 1967. For instance, the title of the album reeks of that year’s obsession with staring at one’s bellybutton and thinking about the spirituality of all things that are in front, back, side and inside of us all. “Layers of the Onion” strike me as an accurate description of this album. On the surface, it’s a pair of British folkies dwelling on their culture - but then one notices the textures of their actual music and various instruments. Guitars of course, but also a recorder, sitar, the occasional piano (played by John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, a legendary figure in the underground London culture), and Licorice McKechnie on backup vocals and percussion. She, of the entire band, is the most mysterious. McKechnie was reported missing in 1987 and seemed to drop off the planet. A free-spirit who founded Scientology, and then went off wandering into the California desert and no one have heard from her since then. What gives this album its unique sound is the mixture of sitar, played by Nazir Jairazbhoy, who eventually became the founding chair of the Department of Ethnomusicology and Systematic Musicology at USC and UCLA. British born to Indian parents, he was raised in India, and it's odd that he wasn’t used by The Beatles or Stones in that heady period when rock figures got interested in Indian classical music. Still, the uniqueness of the mixture of British folk and the sound of the sitar is a heady mix. One thing that stands out is the charm of The Incredible String Band. It comes across on this album, but also I saw the band at the Santa Monica Civic, I think around 1969/1970. I went to the show as a guest of a friend who had an extra ticket, so I didn’t know what to expect. Four musicians altogether - two men and two women, surrounded by various instruments of all sorts - and there was something casual about how they picked up each instrument and played it. Perhaps we had great seats, but I felt like I could be sitting by their feet as they played their music. I have to imagine David Bowie and Marc Bolan sitting either in a theater to see The Incredible String Band, or perhaps in a festival. Nevertheless, mid-way through playing this album, my audience chose to sit on the cement ground, and I think there was some love making in the crowd as well. Sounds have an emotional aspect, and I have to imagine The Incredible String Band had a magnetic quality when it comes to one’s natural sexual urges in a crowd.
I next played The Red Flower of Tachai Blossoms Everywhere: Music Played on National Instruments” (1972, China Record Company), which is very hard to find. Bowie reportedly found it in a flea market somewhere in Asia. As I play it for the audience, I recall a quote from the Romanian philosopher, Emil Cioran: “Illusion begets and sustains the world; we do not destroy one without destroying the other. Which is what I do every day. An apparently ineffectual operation, since I must begin all over again the next day.” The music was made in Communist China, and it is of course, on vinyl, but 10” and 33 1/3 RPM. It consists of seven songs, and the toe-tapper is its opening cut: “A Long, Long Life To Chairman Mao.” The label is named China Records, which in its natural language it would be 人民唱片. At the time of this album’s release, it must have been like a voice from the world far away from the West. Besides North Korea, few cultures are closed to the outside world - and China at one time, was a place where one dreamed of, but never contain that fantasy as something concrete. At least for the majority of Westerners during the reign of Mao. So when a Chinese citizen hears this album, it is an entirely different take than say the people here at the bookstore.
I had to take a bathroom break. I asked the audience to excuse me for a few moments. I practically ran out of the store to the gentleman’s room. After peeing, I went to the sink to throw water in my face. I noticed in the mirror that I have aged significantly. It is the first time I recognized the effects of aging. Usually, I just struck a comb in my hair, and I’m on my way. But here, I really meditated on my changes. The extra skin here and there, and it’s not a beautiful sight. I rush back to the store and put on Koerner, Ray and Glover “Blues, Rags and Hollers” (1963, Elektra). The blues. Or three white guys from Milwaukee who play the blues, and were friends of Bob Dylan. Like others, and to one of the members of the trio “Spider”: “"I don’t understand the psychology of it, but somehow we decided to imitate these guys down to the note. And we decided to go out and drink and party, and chase women just like they did in the songs and all kind of shit. And when I look at it now, it seems weird to tell you the truth." Perhaps “Spider” put some ideas to young David, when he was a young mod, working for a graphic art company near Soho London. What I hear now, is the sound of young men who worshiped a lifestyle that they imagined, due to they could never live in such a way of life, because of their race. It’s a beautiful document of time that I suspect cannot be repeated, and it’s frozen in one’s ideal past.
Steve Reich “Music for 18 Musicians” (1978, ECM), is a work that I’m familiar with. Based on a cycle of eleven chords, the music just repeats itself, but to my ears, the rhythm has altered a touch. Or is that my imagination? I’m playing this album very loud, and I can see that it is taking some effect on individual members of the audience. Also when I first started playing my set, there were something 30 people there, but now, I notice more have arrived. And it is only standing room now. They are not exactly dancing, but it seems that their bodies are moving to the hypnotic spell of this album. Or is it my imagination? Perhaps I’m altered by these sounds to see the world in a particular manner. As the music is being played, I’m noticing that the cover have a stain on it. I suspect that it must be a food of some sort. Is it green - perhaps guacamole? Somehow I try to imagine Bowie eating guacamole while listening to this particular record. Also, this is the only one that has a scratch on the surface, which causes a rhythmic pop that seems to add to the intensity of the recorded music.
Toots & The Maytals “Funky Kingston” (1973, Dragon) is the original Jamaican edition of this album and quite different from the International release, which most of us know quite well. It is really two separate albums. Only “Louie Louie, ” “Pomp and Pride, ” and “Funky Kingston” are part of the foreign release. In other words, two separate albums with a different feel, but the same title. Bowie would not be confused because he purchased the original and the authentic version of Toot’s album. On the other hand, Toots and the Maytals are a funky band. I hear echoes of Otis Redding singing in the music. I imagine when the British edition of this album came out, it was played in various London neighborhoods. Bowie probably got a sniff of it while walking down a street.
For a lot of people, the world changed when they first heard the album,"The Velvet Underground and Nico “The Velvet Underground (1967, Verve). I remember when I first heard the album when I was 12, and as a child, I thought it was a weird album. But for a teenage Bowie, it was as someone gives him a ticket to Manhattan. In fact, his manager at the time Kenneth Pitt, got him a copy when he visited New York, sometime in 1966. Bowie, was the only human, in the UK, that had a copy of this album. Now, it is evident that this album is an essential must on so many levels. With just that one album, Lou Reed proved to be one of the great songwriters in America, and that fact that his songs were mixed in a noise/rock/ borderline avant-garde, is a remarkable piece of work. Bowie always had a foot in urban street culture, such as his “London Boys, ” but Lou brought him a sense of sexual mishap and adult danger. That and Brel brought Bowie a sense of theater that can come from the Soho street to the rock stage. His album had the banana that one can peel, and it seemed that he did pull the peel off and put it back on again.
Glenn Branca “The Ascension” released in 1981 and on the 99 (pronounced nine nine) indie label out of New York City. For Bowie, this must have been the soundtrack while moving around Soho NYC. The album, composed by Branca, consists of four electric guitarists, electric bass player, and drums. The guitars are in the symphonic mode, with sheets of metallic sound. The album contains five tracks/music pieces, and it is very much a sonic overload. Like a volcano blowing, or steam being released on a heated teapot, it’s a sound that is very liberating. I have noticed ever since the 1990s; Bowie had numerous guitarists all at once in his band, as well as on the recordings. In fact, more guitar orientated than keyboards. Each guitarist has a part to play, and it is either mixed or like an orchestrated effect, it builds on each other. Bowie may have got this idea from Branca’s music. On a volume level from 1 to 10, I try to take it up to a 12. Ears must ring, and distortion of life in front of me should change. I’m amazed that my audience is still here. Once every two albums, I have to clean the needle, but I hesitate to remove the dust from the actual records. I’m reminded that this dust came from the Bowie household, and therefore his presence on this specific album “The Ascension” and every album in this collection.
Tom Dissevelt “The Electrosonniks: Electronic Music” (1960, Vendor Philips) was perhaps the entry way to outer space for Bowie. Highly tuneful, Dissevelt’s early electronic scores were an exploration of space, but not only ‘outer’ but also inner space. Due to the design of this turntable and hi-fi, this music fits perfectly with this machine. I feel we are all being transported to another area of our brain. I think my audience is getting sleepy, and I can see some have totally fallen on to others. At first, I thought they might have died, but no, they’re just asleep. It’s interesting how certain composers saw the machine as something to make music out of. Instruments in general, are just machinery. So there has always been a science to music - in theory, and practice. I think Bowie realized that, and it may be one of the key reasons why he was attracted to “The Electrosonniks: Electronic Music” album. It’s not experimental music. It’s very pop orientated with strong melodies. Perhaps the first techno-pop album. Playing this album after Branca is not only a mood-shifter but also a profound journey from absurdity to absurdity. It does make sense in what we may think of as a Bowie world.
Linton Kwesi Johnson “Forces of Victory” (1979, Mango) was an album that was around me, but never in my home or on my turntable. Still, I was a huge fan of the album’s producer Dennis Bovell. Originally from Barbados, he ended up in London, and very much the focal point in the dub reggae world of that city. He produced not only reggae artists but also The Slits, Orange Juice, The Pop Group as well as Johnson. “Forces of Victory” is highly regarded in the world of British reggae. Johnson is a poet, who uses music as a medium or perhaps even as a blank notebook page. I haven’t the foggiest idea why I didn’t buy his album - as mentioned; it is considered to be a classic. There is something in my DNA that doesn’t accept ‘masterpieces. ' I rather get the underdog’s (whoever that maybe) album, because I feel that there is a need for attention on my part. Still, playing this album at this very moment in front of my audience, I can see it’s reputation. People are awake, and I see them stirring to the music. In theory, this is a spoken word recording, due that Johnson doesn’t sing - but he recites his words with great conviction. Bovell’s music or production embraces Johnson’s voice. Reggae to me is like dancing with a hellish world. Incredible pain is thrown about, and one has to move in such a manner to avoid the shrapnel.
I can only imagine what it was like to see and hear Harry Partch’s “Delusion of the Fury” (1971, Columbia) at UCLA in 1969. The spectacle of seeing his hand-made instruments, which appealed not only to the ears but the eyes as well. Sculptures that can make music. With the help of musicians of course. For Bowie, it must have been an exotic art from America. To my ears, I hear bits of Asia, yet, Partch had a strong American sensibility. My clientele is quiet when this music is played. What does it for me, is when the reed organ kicks in the mix. It’s very powerful and emotional for some odd reason. While playing this album, I feel it's very visual as if it is a soundtrack - and I guess it is due that it’s a theater piece of sorts. I wonder if Bowie was attracted to music that had a visual aspect to it. He clearly thought of images while listening to music - and I think Bowie always had an image in his head while writing songs. Bowie by no means is an outsider, but he admires the eccentricities of artists like Partch. In many ways, listening to this album in such a manner is like a massive voyage but with only a one-way ticket.
George Crumb “Black Angels” (1972, CRI) comes out in the middle of a deep sleep. When your defenses are down and not sure how one is placed in their world. It’s music sneaks up to you when and where you least expect it. The silences are often the most violent in this piece. It’s very much structured work in that Crumb, the composer of the piece, is into numerology. He structured “Black Angels” into 13 movements where the 7th is the focal point of the work. It is subtitled “Thirteen Images from the Dark Land.” So the number 13 plays an enormous importance to the work. The instruments used in “Black Angels” are very accurate. Electric string quart. Two violins, one viola and a cello. Including crystal glasses, which are tuned with different amounts of water. David Bowie also has an interest in numerology, and clearly a believer of systems, which in turn, he can use for his work. While playing and listening to this music, I started to count the audience. Throughout the listening of “Black Angels,” I counted the audience over and over again. I’m pretty sure the number of people here is 910. Which is 13 x 70.
Cast Album “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (1968, CBS) is pretty much the introduction to the music of Jacques Brel in English. Well, for a specific English-speaking listener. I think David Bowie discovered Brel through a girlfriend who used to go out with the singer Scott Walker, who did a series of recordings of Brel’s music. Ironically enough, Bowie is a huge fan of Scott as well. Nevertheless, this cast recording of Brel’s music was clearly the introduction to the citizens and visitors of Manhattan. The original musical revue took place off-Broadway in 1968. That show ran for four years. From there it pretty much went throughout the world. One of the key people behind this stage show was the great songwriter Mort Shuman, who wrote songs such as “Viva Las Vegas, ” “A Teenager in Love, ” “Little Sister and other classics. My all-time favorite song by him is “Little Children” recorded by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. The fact that he went to live in Paris in the 1960s is fascinating to me. Here was a guy who was hugely successful in the States, yet he went to Paris to record music in French, but also write for French pop singers. He was responsible for introducing Brel’s music to the English-speaking world. I have an old videotape of Brel live on stage. I was very impressed with him, not only due to this music, but the fact that he stood there on the stage and sweated like a sick man. Wore a white dress shirt with a black tie, black suit - and under a bright white spotlight. Minimal, but he was singing about maximum stuff. The Scott Walker recordings are the one’s to get into - this album is OK, but not the best introduction to Brel’s music. Even though it’s in English, the Scott Walker recordings are much richer and forceful. Therefore more beautiful.
The song “Memories, mostly known as a Robert Wyatt recording, was written by Hugh Hopper who was a member of The Soft Machine, along with Robert, Kevin Ayers, and of course, Daevid Allen. Under his name, he came out with an album called “Banana Moon.” It is sometimes credited to Allen as a solo venture, but I think it’s a work of total collaboration between the musicians who worked on this album. It came out in 1971, which was an odd year in the world of rock. Sixties rock was disappearing into different trends and was for about nine months; anything could have crawled into the rock category. Daevid Allen and the gang made a work that flirts with experimentation, jazz overtures, great humor, and according to Bowie, a strain of what will be glam rock. A lot of the musicians on this album were from Soft Machine, but also Daevid’s future band “Gong.” Sort of the Über-hippie approach to life and music making. Nevertheless to go back to “Memoires, ” which is an incredible song. Recorded with Soft Machine, on this album, and later recorded by Robert himself (that version is what I know the best) and even Whitney Houston covered this song for the band Material. I didn’t do this on any other album, but I played “Memories” twice. It’s a sad song. I don’t even know what the words are, but the sound of Wyatt’s singing voice and the melody brings a sense of ‘down, ’ that is very profound to me for some odd reason.
David Bowie had commented that for him, Syd Barrett was a huge influence, due that he sang with an English accent. He and Anthony Newley used their natural accents when they sang, and this made a huge impression on the English singer. Before that, at least to him, British rock n’ rollers tried to sound American. But Syd gave his pop overtures an English quality. His first solo album “The Madcap Laughs” (Harvest, 1970) also made a huge impression on me. More than his work with Pink Floyd. For many years, I thought it was an album by a madman, but over time, I realized that in fact, this was a work of someone at the top of his compositional skill, and of course, an incredible and skilled lyricist. What seemed simple now I feel is Cole Porter like.
“I really love you and I mean you
The star above you, crystal blue
Well, oh baby, my hairs on end about you.”
It’s a beautiful statement, and it’s the opening lyrics (opening track as well) from the song “Terrapin.” There is a sense for the whole album that it will be unbalanced, but the fact is, it’s a very clear piece of writing throughout the record. It’s a genius’ work. Those who are in the know, know that this is a major work. I’m looking out towards the audience as “The Madcap Laughs” plays on, and I can see who is into it and who isn’t. Those who are not, I feel like throwing them out of the store.
As we approach the last album for the evening, or perhaps forever, I feel a tad sad. There is only one album that finishes off this adventure, and it's Florence Foster Jenkins’ “The Glory (????) of the Human Voice” (1962, RCA). Jenkins was a wealthy woman who was a fan of music - specifically opera. She supported artists, and in turn, she supported herself as a singer. There are those who claim she can’t simply sing. There is a human quality that doesn’t give up the dream. Jenkins is an iconic figure for those who are damned if they do. Bowie always had a soft heart for those who are considered outside artists - meaning those who bypass the traditional medium of making music or art, by doing something individualistic - and especially if they seem on the surface to be talentless. Alas, talent is a subjective vision. In my thinking, those who try to do something creative in their lives is already two or three steps ahead of everyone else. It’s a lonely and cold road out there, and one can only marvel at someone’s vision of trying to do the impossible. Halfway through this album, people started to go. In some cases, I really dislike my audience.
There was some clapping from the public, but my thoughts were on something else. I didn’t think what will happen at the end of this event, but clearly (at least to me) I had to do the proper thing. I gathered all of Bowie’s albums and placed it on the concrete floor. I found lighter fluid behind the desk, and I poured the entire canister of liquid on to the records on the floor. I then lighted the albums, and it went up as a big flame. It could have been dangerous, but the bigger picture is that this was a cremation of sorts for Bowie. If his body is not here, then why should his personal album collection? It seemed right to me. As the records burned, I found a hammer behind the desk. And I started to smash up the record hi-fi set as well. After tonight, I don’t see any purpose of it existing. I couldn’t tell what the audience is thinking because I feel I’m in a different plane or universe compared to these people. The odd thing is that they didn’t comment or said anything as I burned the albums and destroyed the actual turntable set. At this point, maybe they don’t know the difference between what is real and what isn’t. What I did know for sure is that I destroyed the Bowie vinyl and his hi-fi set. For me, a very expensive day/night, but still, my emotion all of a sudden became free. I let the records burn, and the smashed up hi-fi to rot in its natural state, and I walked out of the store. I didn’t look back. I kept going.
- Tosh Berman, Los Angeles, June - November 2016