Thursday, November 30, 2017

Richard Lloyd Everything is Combustible on Tosh Talks

My little commentary on a very fine memoir by Richard Lloyd, regarding his years with the band Television, as well as a great history of the CBGB's decade in NYC.   Excellent book.  If you have the chance please subscribe to my YouTube channel.  Thanks, Tosh Berman

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Peter Case Singer Songwriter on Tea With Tosh

An episode of "Tea With Tosh" with guest Peter Case.  A wonderful guy and a superb songwriter.  From the year 1987.

Robert Desnos - "The Punishments of Hell" (Atlas Press)

ISBN: 978-0-9931487-3-6 Atlas Press

As a teenager who loved to read, I couldn't get enough of The Surrealists.  Before I even found their literature on the printed page, I was intrigued by their sense of dress and haircuts.  There was also a 'gang' mentality when you see a photograph of all of them together.  It's them against the world.  It's that aspect that was a huge appeal for me when approaching the world of DADA and Surrealism.  Once I have bitten into the forbidden apple that is their work, I was hooked.  As of this writing, I'm still glued to their personalities and work.   There are many cliche aspects of Surrealism, but you can't eliminate the wit of some of its writers.  Robert Desnos is the proto-type Surrealist.  He's the guy who could go into a trance and tell a tale that would be mind-blowing.  Although, I suspect that he really wasn't into a dream state, but knew how to fool Andre Breton and company.  

"The Punishments of Hell" is Desnos first prose book.  Written in 1922, I think it was much later published in France.  As mentioned, the gang mentality is very much present, even in this collection of dream prose pieces.  All of Desnos famous friends are mentioned in the narrative, and being a work that was produced during the DADA stage, that was emerging into the Surrealist era, is a fascinating document of its time, place, and more important, the individuals.  Sexual in tone, but never pornographic (at least for the contemporary reader) there are 'shocking' imageries, in the flavor of the Count de Lautrémont, who was clearly the inspiration for "The Punishments of Hell."  Still, it's fascinating how crime and Westerns very much influence surrealist text like this book.  Both in the cinematic world as well as literature.  In a way, Desnos is writing a thriller but with a different type of imagery.  

The book is very dark but humorous.  All of the named figures who were friends of Desnos, pretty much end up dead in a bizarre fashion.  There is a homage to his associates and friends, but all living in a cemetery!   In the common grave, those who are buried are such inspirations to Desnos such as Jarry, Rimbaud, Pierre Souvestre & Marcel Allain (writers of Fantomas) and so forth.   A beautiful edition from Atlas Press, who seem never to fail the fan or reader.  

Thursday, November 23, 2017

"Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World" by Billy Bragg (Faber & Faber)

ISBN: 978-0-571-32774-4 Faber & Faber
Music artist Billy Bragg's history of Skiffle is a remarkable book. For those who don't know, Skiffle is music made in the United Kingdom by people (not all trained musicians) who used homemade instruments, including guitars, to perform blues and folk music, mostly that came from the United States. Lead Belly was the leading performer and songwriter that these young British musicians admired the most, and generally, it is their version of his songs which became popular and in turn, inspired rock 'n' roll in England. Nothing is by itself, and this narrative has the cold war politics as well as how the recording industry operated and tried to control their airways. The power of the teenager, both as a creative force as well as an economic strength is part of this story as well. Bragg did a magnificent job in capturing this large movement on these pages. The book is full of fascinating characters such as Ken Colyer, Lonnie Donegan (Skiffle's Elvis in one sense), Joe Meek and the whole traditional jazz scene, especially in Soho London. 

I have always been fascinated with the post-war years in London, and "Roots, Radicals and Rockers" is a wonderful journey into the world of contemporary music of that time. Also, fascinating to me is how another culture borrows from another to make something new. I would also recommend this book to anyone who is interested in British Punk rock because they share a similar DIY practice.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"Paul Bowles on Music" edited by Timothy Mangan and Irene Herrmann (University of California Press)

ISBN: 9780520236554 University of California Press

Paul Bowles, the writer, meets Bowles the composer, who wrote music criticism in the 1940s.   The critiques he wrote in themselves are not that fascinating, but what's interesting is the culture that was presented in New York City during that era, and the coverage of the mainstream media at the time, with someone smart and brilliant as Bowles covering the "Waterfront." 

Bowles as most of us knows as readers is a writer of great skill but also wrote from a great distance.  His work, especially his short stories, is reporting another culture, which is odd, strange, and unknown to the westerner.   In a sense, Bowles was the head ant investigating the other culture for food and music and reported back to the American culture of that and future time.  What you see here is Bowles, primarily a composer at the time, writing about various music recitals/concerts that took place in Manhattan.  The majority of the events are classical recitals, but there are some side trips to see jazz (at mostly big venues) and folk (again, in major concert halls of the time).  He doesn't go to jazz or folk nightclubs to do his reporting, but mostly to places like Carnegie Hall and so forth.  So, in a sense, he's reporting on music culture, not for the specialist, but in most cases for the casual reader who looks through the newspaper for local news or events.  Some articles he did write for special interest publications, but even these pieces are geared for a broad readership.

As a writer and a publisher, as well as someone who loves music and music criticism, I find Bowles extremely important.  For one, I love his music, what I have heard so far, and two, it's fascinating to notice his 'place' in that society that was New York.  He was very interested in other cultures even in the 1940s, and often it seems like he went to South and Central America to discover new music, but was disappointed to realize that even then, countries were officially hindering certain type of music for a more commercial take on that world.   Bowles also covered film movie music for a specialist magazine in that field.  As far as I can gather, he would go to see the film, and just report on the music how it was used in the film.  That's interesting!  Also, he reviewed books on music (again, mostly classical, but some books on jazz) as well as recordings.  So he was probably one of the earliest critics to talk about records, for a well-read journal/newspaper, the New York Herald Tribune.   Also, there is an interview with Bowles, one of his last conversations with an interviewer about him working as a critic.  That alone is a fascinating document.  

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lun*na Menoh artist on Tea With Tosh

An early episode of Tea With Tosh, shot in 1987, which is also the last episode of Tea With Tosh as well. I met Lun*na Menoh in Los Angeles at an opening of her show at a cafe. I was totally knocked out by her work, and invited Lun*na to do an episode of "Tea With Tosh." A week later I asked her to marry me, and we are to this day still a married couple. With all respect, I'm basically a groupie. Here she talks about her work, but keep in mind this is what she was doing in 1987. Also included are the video works of Shirley (Squid) Ouchi, an artist of genius.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Tom Recchion Composer LAFMS on Tea With Tosh

My second post for "Tea With Tosh."  I did this show in 1986. My guest for this episode is Tom Recchion.   A composer, visual artist, and the man who designed the graphics for most of my TamTam Books.  Before that happened, I had him on my show.  Here we have the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS) roots, as well as Los Angeles art in this show.  Watching it now, I'm so proud of having Tom participate in my program.   It's basically a snapshot of a specific time and place - but alas, I feel very tied to Tom's world personally.  It was a magnificent time with a wonderful person, that is Tom .  - Tosh Berman

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sherds Podcast on Boris Vian's "Red Grass" (TamTam Books)

#3 Red Grass by Boris Vian

In this episode, we look at Boris Vian's Red Grass (1950), a surrealist science fiction novel in which the main character, Wolf, creates a machine that allows him to erase his own memories.  Perhaps a critique or satire of existentialism, perhaps a veiled song of mourning for post-war France, Red Grass is a somewhat obscure novel that really got us thinking.
Over the course of our discussion, we consider Vian's playful complexity, his parodies of psychoanalytical and existentialist thought, and the possible significance of Red Grass in terms of French collective memory in the wake of the Second World War. 
This episode features readings by Kinga Stanczuk

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"Everything Is Combustible" by Richard Lloyd (Beech Hill Publishing Company)

ISBN: 978-0-9976937-6-8 Beech Hill Publishing Company

The band Television means a lot to me.  Even before I heard a  note of their music, they had great importance to me.  I saw a photo of the band when Richard Hell was in it, and I was intrigued by their visuals.   I liked the haircuts and their clothing.  It was no frills and all attitude.  I must have been around 18 or 19 when Television hit my consciousness.  Not long after, but for sure after Hell left the band, I purchased their single on Ork Records, Little Johnny Jewel" at my local punk rock record store, Bomp Records in the Valley.  I heard a sound that matched their vision.   To this day, and we're talking 40 years later, Television is still a mystery to me. 

 I have read a lot of books regarding the New York music explosion of the 1970s, including "Please Kill Me" (an excellent book) and various memoirs by musicians of that period (all of them are pretty good).  Still, what is Television?  And on top of that, who is Tom Verlaine"   Richard Lloyd who was one of the remarkable and fascinating characters that came out of the  "Please Kill Me" book and even more important, a brilliant guitarist in Television.  Verlaine and Lloyd were the bookends, and Billy Ficca (drums) and Fred Smith roamed between those two.   Verlaine was and is the primary composer for Television (Hell, when he was in the band, shared songwriting duties, and is brilliant), but that group is constructed like a piece of architecture.  Lloyd was part of the building blocks to build this magnificent sound that is Television. 

"Everything Is Combustible" is a remarkable memoir, due that Lloyd is a good prose writer and a fascinating guy.   Very straightforward, yet metaphysical in his approach to his life, and even with his addictions.   He has a mind like a scientist, who wants to analyze the things and people in front of him or in his sights.   One of my favorite parts of the book is when Lloyd tries to look at his drug addiction clearly and showed frustration when a medical doctor tries to get him to a 12 step program.  At the time, Lloyd wasn't interested in quitting drugs; he just wanted to know in detail the nature of addiction and how it affects the brain/body.  In such fashion, he reminds me of William S. Burroughs. To investigate the 'unknown' and somehow try to make it more 'known.'  

Lloyd writes his memoir as if it's an original science paper.  When he attaches to something, he doesn't let go, until Lloyd masters whatever he desires.   His guitar obsession is singular and it's his devotion to the instrument that made him such a remarkable musician.   He's egotistical in a sense he knows what he can do, yet his appreciation of other artists are quite open and in its way, a strong focus on him as well.  He casually knew Jimi Hendrix as a teenager.  I gather he wanted to know what made him such an iconic and fantastic musician.  He doesn't look at Hendrix as a fanboy but like a scientist studying in a laboratory.   For the mystery part, that is still a mystery to me.  The reader gets facts regarding the inner-workings of Television, but what made Tom Verlaine be such an odd fellow?  Richard Hell in his memoir wrote about Verlaine, and they were great friends, yet, I didn't feel Hell could penetrate the mystery that's Tom Verlaine.  Lloyd doesn't get any closer to Verlaine's character, but you do get great stories about him not using luggage, but laundry or store bags to keep his clothing.  The fact is Verlaine is a very strange being and somewhat guarded.  One gathers he is a control freak and wants to be in control of Television, but what was it in his background that turn him out that way?  Lloyd doesn't answer that question, nor do other memoirists/music historians. 

"Everything Is Combustible" is a must-read for those who are fascinated with the CBGB's New York rock world.  For whatever reason, or what was breathed in that Manhattan air, concerning that generation of musicians, they left a lot of great literature for us to read (and music too) and for us fans to comment on. Lloyd's book is pretty wonderful in that sense.  Superb read. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Harry Kipper on Tea With Tosh

As promised, "Tea With Tosh" with my guest artist/performance artist Harry Kipper.   In the years 1986/1987 I did 20 episodes of "Tea With Tosh."  Gary Calamar, Deborah Hunter and Shirley (Squid) Ouchi came up with the idea of me doing a public access show, and together, with many friends, we did the show.  I came up with the concept of a chat show that I imagined would be an afternoon program.  The inspiration for me was Dick Cavett and William F. Buckley.   At the time, both hosts always had fascinating people on their shows, and another inspitation is when I was suffering from the bad flu/cold sometime in 1985, and I watched a lot of afternoon interview programs on an old black and white TV with horrible reception.  I was too ill to get out of bed to fix the set or adjust the channel, so I just let it be.  The spirit of the show was to do everything in the present and worry about the future.  The past for me was the research of the interview subjects.  Also, I wanted to be in an official format where I can ask questions to all the people who came on the show.  I would never ask these type of questions in a private conservation - but doing it in front of the (imagined) public seemed OK.   I did receive public attention during the run of the show, but mostly through waiters, who many recognize me by watching "Tea With Tosh."  It seemed I had a huge following among people who worked as servers in restaurants!

Harry Kipper is a major favorite of mine.  I met and socialized with Harry (and his partner, Harry) at Punk venues, but I first met him through my father Wallace Berman, who later arranged for Harry to perform at the Mermaid Tavern in Topanga. Sometime in 1972?  Secretly, my father made the flyer for the show and posted it all around Topanga sometime in the very late night.  He loved The Kipper Kids.  And so do I.  Therefore love Harry Kipper.  The other "Harry" married Bette Midler, and I believe he became an economic advisor or dealing with finances/stock market.

"Tea With Tosh" with guest, Harry Kipper.  1986.  30 minutes.  If you like the show, please give it a like or a comment on the YouTube page.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Tea With Tosh" was a cable access TV program that was produced and done in 1986 through 1987. I did exactly 20 shows. My chit-chat guests were everyone from Philip Glass to Phranc to Peter Case to George Herms to Russ Tamblyn to Bruce Conner to Jack Hirschman to my soon to be wife Lun*na Menoh. I imagine myself as a combination of Dick Cavett and William F. Buckley. With no money, but we all had a vision (of sorts) to define our culture as we lived it. Now, I digitalized the entire series and will slowly (and surely) make it available to the public. What we call "Tea With Tosh."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Jimmy Witherspoon /Wallace Berman - "Lush Head Woman"

My father Wallace Berman was a close friend to the great jazz and R n' B singer Jimmy Witherspoon.  They wrote a song together, and 'the Spoon" recorded it.  Here it is.  "Lush Head Woman"

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tosh Berman's (Tosh Talks) YouTube Channel

Photograph by Kimley Maretzo

I'm revamping my YouTube channel and very shortly will be adding the early episodes of "Tea With Tosh" as well as making new editions/episodes of "Tosh Talks."  I have quite a few episodes on my channel at the moment.   Do click on the link down below and subscribe to my station.  Merci, Tosh!