Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wallace Berman Photographs Liner Notes & CD for July 27 at Book Soup

Wallace Berman

1) Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 / i. Ária (Cantilena) –Villa-Lobos/ Victoria de Los Angeles
This is a piece that I remember being played on a consistent basis in our household. It was one of my Dad’s favorite recordings. As for me, I thought it was cool at a young age that there was someone named after a city: Los Angeles.

2) Who’ll Be the Next in Line (Mono) – The Kinks
In my Dad’s studio in Beverly Glenn he would have a small portable record player. He could set up a record to be played over and over again. This particular song by the Kinks, he would play maybe 30 times in a row. Around the 23rd playing of the record this song becomes sort of a trance recording. It was quite hypnotic.

3) Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
My Father had a great admiration for David Bowie. For instance he took me and my Mom to see Bowie at the Santa Monica Civic. It was the first show he did as Ziggy Stardust. When Diamond Dogs came out, my Dad scored some tickets from Toni Basil, a dear and great friend of the family. She choreographed Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dog’ show. It was a fantastic event – Bowie at his most Bowiest. Also we sat next to Steve Allan and his wife the actress Jayne Meadows. Her sister Audrey Meadows is also an actress and is well known for her role in “The Honeymooners.”

4) A Night In Tunisia – Dexter Gordon
It’s no secret that my father was a jazz fiend. Dexter Gordon’s “Our Man In Paris” was a major soundtrack that was played in the afternoons at our household. Why I have a strong memory of this recording being played during the daylight is beyond me. It has that 2:14 P.M. sound, and I just remember my Dad reading the newspaper to this record. Strange image, right?

5) And I Love Her – The Beatles
Nearly impossible not to be affected by The Beatles here in the U.S. say around 1964. My Dad took me to see The Beatles’ film “Hard Day’s Night” at the Bruin Theater in Westwood. The theater was packed with female teenagers and all of them were screaming their heads off. It was the first time I have ever been in an environment where the crowd went crazy. And they were watching a film! I can’t even imagine having the Beatles live in front of me. It is sort of ironic that my father became part of the Sgt. Pepper album cover, but that’s another story.

6) Bongo Beep – Charlie Parker
The Mozart of Bop. Without a doubt Charlie Parker was a major figure in my Father’s life. I think for Wallace’s generation, there was jazz, and Parker was a door to another planet. A gateway to another galaxy. Also Wallace did his first (and last) album cover for a Charlie Parker recording. The Parker cut was part of an anthology of Dial recordings. And if not mistaken it was the first time Parker appeared on disk. So yeah it was Parker’s first as well as the first professional ‘art job’ for my father as well.

7) You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ –The Righteous Brothers
A Phil Spector masterpiece. My father made a portrait of Spector called “You Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. One day Spector, his wife Ronnie, and their driver/bodyguard showed up at my father’s studio. Spector heard about the artwork and he came by to buy it. My father liked Spector a lot – but he was nuts over the Righteous Brothers recording. Like The Kinks record above, this was played over and over again in the studio.

8)Tell Me – The Rolling Stones

My Dad was a close friend of Brian Jones of the Stones. They would hang out all night in the living room listening to records and drinking wine. When I woke up in the morning I can tell Brian was there by all the records that were laid out on the floor. I remembered he liked Glenn Gould recordings. Also a lot of jazz and blues as well. “England’s Newest Hit Makers The Rolling Stones” was the record that was played a lot in Beverly Glenn. We lost that record with all the other records, furniture, artwork, and personal belongings when the house was smashed into bits by a mudslide.

9) BB Cha-Cha – Brigitte Bardot/soundtrack to “And God Created Woman”

Up to his death one could always see a photograph of Brigitte Bardot on his studio wall. When I was 4 years old he took me to the neighborhood movie theater in Larkspur to see Bardot in Roger Vadim’s “And God Created Woman.” The management refused to let me into the theater because they felt it was only for adults. My father refused to leave the line till they let us in. Finally the manager sold us the tickets and I have to say seeing Bardot on a large screen really affected me deeply. So much that I published one of her ex-boyfriend’s books. Serge Gainsbourg’s “Evguénie Sokolov.”

10) River Deep, Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner

In the summer of love 1967, my family stayed at Robert Fraser’s flat in Mayfair London. It was the first time I have ever been outside of California and I was just overwhelmed to be in a city that in my heart I thought the Beatles owned. Now I know that is not true. Rolling Stones were co-owners as well as the art dealer Robert Fraser. Sadly Fraser was in prison for a drug offence (he got arrested in the famous Stones bust) but he arranged for us to stay in his flat. What impressed me the most was his record collection. It was there that I first heard The Jimi Hendrix Experience, an actual Who album, Manfred Mann, and Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” A major Phil Spector production that was only a hit in the U.K. Ironically enough Tina’s voice was the soundtrack for that trip to London. We played that album all the time. Also Robert had the nasty habit of not putting his vinyl in the right record jacket. It took me a week to find the actual Jimi Hendrix album where it was placed in some classical record cover of some sort.

11) Salt Peanuts - Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker

When I hear this recording I think of my Dad. It has that absurd DADA like title and it is such a great tune. The Diz and The Bird. It doesn’t get any better then that.

I have a deep regret that I didn’t know my father when he was a zoot-suitor at Central Avenue Los Angeles. His love for black culture and the basic “Hipster” quality was something that stayed through out his life.

12) Little Red Book – Love

This to me was the sound of Los Angeles 1966. My parents went to all of the nightclubs on the Sunset Strip at that time. Love was basically the kings of Los Angeles rock. They eventually lost out to the Doors – but to those in the know, Love was THE Los Angeles band. And on record they didn’t disappoint and their first album was glued to the turntable at our house.

13) The Chase - Wardell Gray

Not in Semina Culture with his actual music, but nevertheless a spiritual member if anything else. Wardell Gray is a member of my father’s uber-cool aesthetic than anything else. When you listen to his small combo recordings one comes upon a question ‘did he ever do anything bad?’ The answer has to be no. On top of that he was supposed to be a huge Shakespeare and Sartre fan and very much anti-heroin which at the time was running rampant in the jazz world. Nevertheless he was found dead outside of Las Vegas apparently thrown out of a car in the fuckin’ desert. Not a worthy death for someone who had such an important presence to my Dad and his circle. And of course is music is dreamy beyond belief.

14) The Bogus Man – Roxy Music

I can not count the times I have seen my father lying on the floor in our living room with Koch headphones on listening to this track. He loved it. And he would only listen to “The Bogus Man” with headphones on. This is Bryan Ferry’s favorite album (“For Your Pleasure”) of his, and I have to add that my Dad loved this album. But “Bogus Man” was really special to him.

15) Baby Lemonade – Syd Barrett

My Dad was hip to the Syd Barrett story but never heard him till I purchased the double album package with his first two solo albums. He sat down with the headphones (again) and heard both records straight through. After 80 minutes or so he took the headphones off and said ‘pretty good.” High compliant from Wallace.

16) I’m a Fool To Want You – Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was not someone you would want to tread on. As a Jazzier both my Mother and my father had a great admiration for this woman. Ms. Holiday like the great Edith Piaf expressed a world that most would never set foot in – yet they did so with great poetry, style, and great artistry. Basically anyone who dislikes Billie Holiday has no right to breathe on the planet Earth. And on top of that my Dad knew her via the club scene of the 40’s in Los Angeles.

17) Trash – New York Dolls

Strange choice? No! My Dad took me to a New York Dolls show at the Hollywood Pladium. I have a photo of us together there. I am wearing a tie and a v-neck sweater and he’s wearing a sweater as well. It may have been the last time I went to a concert with my father.

18) Lush Head Woman – Jimmy Witherspoon and Wallace Berman

An uber-rare recording! A b-side of a 78 disk. My father wrote the lyrics to this song. The Spoon and my Dad were great friends. Wallace probably wrote this when he was a teenager. Even then he knew the adventures of a drunken woman!


Book Soup
8818 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood 90069

Info: 310-659-3110


To celebrate the release of the book “Wallace Berman Photographs” co-written and co-edited by Kristine McKenna and Lorraine Wild, Book Soup is presenting a talk and /conversation between Wallace Berman’s son Tosh Berman and Kristine McKenna.

The quintessential visual artist of the Beat generation, Wallace Berman's influence has continued to radiate throughout the American art scene and in our popular culture since the 1950s. As an artist, Berman worked in relative obscurity up until his premature death, at the age of 50, in 1976. Since then, however, interest in his work, and recognition of its importance, have steadily increased. The subject of the recent--and highly lauded--traveling exhibition and accompanying catalogue, Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle, he was the central and binding figure in a diverse community of artists, poets, actors and musicians, and was revered for his wisdom as well as his achievements as an artist, publisher and filmmaker. However, until the 1999 discovery of an archive of his photographic negatives, very few people have known that Berman was also an extremely accomplished photographer. He documented the West Coast Beat culture of the 1950s, the first stirrings of the hippie culture that took root in the canyons of Southern California in the 60s and the diverse cast of characters who passed through his famously creative world with amazing intimacy and candor. Berman's photographs are gathered here for the first time ever.

Tosh is also making a limited edition CD for this particular event to be given away to those who purchase “Wallace Berman Photographs” at Book Soup. First come first serve!

The song selections:

1) Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 / i. Ária (Cantilena) –Villa-Lobos/ Victoria de Los Angeles
2) Who’ll Be the Next in Line (Mono) – The Kinks
3) Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
4) A Night In Tunisia – Dexter Gordon
5) And I Love Her – The Beatles
6) Bongo Beep – Charlie Parker
7) You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – The Righteous Brothers
8) Tell Me – Rolling Stones
9) BB Cha-Cha – Brigitte Bardot/soundtrack to “And God Created Woman”
10) River Deep, Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner
11) Salt Peanuts - Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker
12) Little Red Book - Love
13) The Chase – Wardell Gray
14) The Bogus Man – Roxy Music
15) Baby Lemonade – Syd Barrett
16) I’m a Fool To Want You – Billie Holiday
17) Trash – New York Dolls
18) Lush Head Woman –Jimmy Witherspoon and Wallace Berman

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tosh Dazai

Osamu Dazai Day

I am sort of in this reflective bad mood thing, and when I get myself in this weird void feeling I start to write short stories. Mostly humorous, why? Basically I write for two reasons.

1) Because someone asks or makes a request for me to it. For instance if I have do an event or a reading in front of a crowd I like to do something original and new.

2) The need to work something out in my system, and therefore make it entertaining. To me that's the art of the work or the writing.

One of my all-time favorite writers Osamu Dazai had a rather bleak tragic life, yet when he wrote stories based on his experiences, he somehow twisted the facts to make these incredible charming and sometimes-funny stories. Whenever I put a pencil on paper, I think of Dazai.

Some years ago I went to his living quarters outside of Tokyo. It was there that he wrote many of his short stories. It was probably the most expensive taxi drive ever for me, but it was worth it just to be in a room that the great Japanese author touched. Outside his studio there was a little gift shop that sold a bumper sticker that said "Osamu Dazai." I have it somewhere in my studio.

This is one of my all-time favorite books. Of course, it's out of print.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Japanese Soundtracks while I am in Tokyo

My Tokyo Home

For those who are interested this is where I stay when I am in Tokyo. It's a brand new house right in the middle of Meguro. While living there this past Spring, I worked on my memoir.

For whatever reason I am obsessed with the window in this room

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My journal: Friday the 13

I tried not to mention that it was Friday the 13, but my tongue in my mouth was burning and my fingers were getting itchy. Nevertheless it was a good day for me.

I want to make a cd-r of music that is connected to my father for the upcoming event on July 27 at Book Soup. I realized that I didn't have any Billie Holiday recordings, so I went to Amoeba Records to purchase "Lady In Satin." I love this album because the romantic aspect of it is that she was on her last legs. And this maybe true, but I find her voice incredibly beautiful and sexy. A truly wonderful singer.

The CD I am going to make is what I heard in my Dad's studio while he worked. There was always music in the Berman household and I want to give this out to people who purchase my Dad's book (Wallace Berman Photographs; edited by Kristine McKenna and Lorraine Wild to give proper credit) at the Book Soup event.

It's going to be a wild spectrum of music on this CD, but it should work out ok.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

John Duncan

My genius designer Tom Recchion is doing a concert this coming July 14 with his band EXTENDED ORGAN (with Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Fredik Nilsen and Joe Potts} Playing with noted artist John Duncan.

EXTENDED ORGAN (Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Fredrik Nilsen, Joe Potts,
Tom Recchion)
7P, vlagrant ($20 adv / $25 door)
533 South Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA 90013
213 621 9567 fon


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The 60th Anniversary edition of L'ecume des jours (Foam of the Daze)

This is the new edition of Boris Vian's 'L'écume des jours” that just came out in France. Like the TamTam Books' edition of "L'écume des jours" (Foam of the Daze) it has a series of endnotes describing the world of Vian and the characters in that particular novel. My edition is translated by Brian Harper and the first print run is now gone. There are copies floating around the world and there will be a second-print run shortly.

My Night with "The Holy Mountain"

I spent the night with some friends watching Alexandro Jodorowsky's "The Holy Mountain." Great images!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Wallace Berman's "Aleph" part of The National Film Preservation Foundation Box Set

The National Film Preservation Foundation is going to include my Dad' Wallace Berman's film "Aleph" in a DVD box set called "Treasures from American Film Archives IV: The American Avant-Garde." This will happen sometime in 2008. That is quite an honor!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Haruki Murakami's essay in today's New York Times

A little fascinating essay by Haruki Murakami regarding writing and listening to music. A must read! One of the better things I have read regarding a writer commentng on his work and the importance of music in getting the "right" words down. Thanks Kimley for bringing this article to my attention!


The Origins Of My Thoughts Regarding Design For TamTam Books

I am currently thinking about the design work on a future Boris Vian/Vernon Sullivan TamTam Books’ title “To Hell With The Ugly.” The novel is a twisted version of a Hardy Boys meets straight pornography with a side dish of HG Welles.

It sort of reads like a young boy’s juvenile fiction, but of course being a Vian book it is very perverse and funny. I found an artist who can do illustrations for the novel, and I showed her a ton of old Hardy Boys images. I will see her work later this month. But meanwhile I want to share my thoughts with you regarding the origins of my view regarding the design of this book.

Here are the end sheets for various Hardy Boys editions.

Also here are some early Hardy Boys’ book covers from the 40’s. I like them because of the sense of poetic violence and danger.