Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lord Berners (1883-1950): Composer, Writer, PainterLord Berners (1883-1950): Composer, Writer, Painter by Peter Dickinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the world out there, Lord Berners is known as a classic British eccentric, and second for his composed music.  I only know him through his memoirs and short fiction, which is remarkable.  He was also a painter of some talent, but the works strikes me a little too Sunday school painting.  But any man that has his horse in his living room is ok with me.  He also color dyed the feathers of the local pigeons around his home - which is about the size of New Jersey.  In other words he was rich, really rich, and did what we wanted to do.  For instance he liked to be driven though the local village while he wore a series of masks.

Often compared to Erik Satie (for the eccentricity as well for his music) Berners is one of those classic figures in Pre-world war 2 England.  Surrounded by servants and witty people (Cecil Beaton, Constance Lambert, etc) and a very close relationship with Diana Mitford, better known as Diana Mosley aka as Hitler's close friend.

Peter Dickinson has put together an equally eccentric book on Berners.  Mostly consist of interviews with people who knew Berners (for instance Diana Mosley - a fascinating interview) and it is interesting how one story is told through various individuals.  For instance did he have lunch with Hitler?  Some say yes, but Mosley says it didn't happen.  But people want to believe it happened!

Also interesting in this volume you get Berners record collection at the time of his death, and a list of music sheets he owned as well.  The book is almost like a Peter Greenaway obsessive piece of work.   What I found interesting is that most of his friends didn't really care for his writing as much as for his music.  But even that, they think of his work as "light."  Only the great contemporary British composer Gavin Bryars sees Berners as a subversive artist - and I think that is a correct way of looking at his work.   So as the majority  in this book sort of poo poo his writing, I totally disagree with that critical thought.

Lord Berners is an interesting composer, a so-so painter and a magnificent writer.  That's Tosh's opinion at the very least!

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Fantomas - Kino on Video

Fantomas - Kino on Video

One of the great films of all time. Kino did a great job in over-all design for the 3-DVD set.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tony Duvert's "Diary of an innocent"

Diary of an Innocent (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents)Diary of an Innocent by Tony Duvert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first heard the name Tony Duvert on Dennis Cooper's great (and on going) blog, and was intrigued that he was a French writer (my obsession) and wrote about sexuality that many will feel questionable. "Diary of an Innocent" reads like a sex diary, rant, social theory, and a feverish dream all at once. The back cover liner notes says 'novel' but I wonder if it is - but that's not the issue of the book. What the book is about is a man who enjoys gay sex with various young boys in what may be somewhere in North Africa. It is also a social critique on the nature of passion and how it plays itself out in the 'mainstream' world.

Towards the end of the book he writes about heterosexuality as an outlaw fringe group lurking in the shadows of homosexual world that is both funny and quite insightful in how structure rules the world. In another one of his books (which I haven't read) "Good Sex Illustrated" he attacks the fact that a child's sex is conditioned and controlled by the structure of family and state - and are taught not to for fulfil their sexuality or desires. So through the eyes of Duvert, Western sexuality is part of a system that these kids are pooped out to fill out a role that family, state, and whoever wants to control.

"Diary of an Innocent" is a complex and very frank book about sexuality and how that plays out in a very constructed culture and society

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gerard Malanga: Screen Tests, Portraits, Nudes 1964-1996Gerard Malanga: Screen Tests, Portraits, Nudes 1964-1996 by Ben Maddow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Any book that has a portrait of my Dad in it is ok with me. But lets say it didn't have that portrait, this is still a remarkable (and inexpensive) volume of Gerard Malanga's remarkable photo portraits. Gerard, a poet as well as Andy Warhol's right-hand man during the golden Factory years has a great eye and this book mixes with the pop star (including the famous Iggy nude portrait) and various poets/writers as well as artists. A must-own really!

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular HeadSyd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head by Rob Chapman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My heart sank when I heard the news in 2006 that Syd Barrett passed away. Yet for many he has been dead since the early 1970's. Overall he left one Pink Floyd album and two solo albums - plus various singles - and all I think are quite magnificent.

Anyone who loves the rock mythology knows the Syd Barrett legend. Man burned out by LSD, and became a total eccentric recluse - which is basically true, but the important aspect of him is not his life really, but his music. And that, according the author (and I agree)is not caused by his mental problems or madness.

Barrett was a man who knew what he was doing. Insane, perhaps, but there was logic behind his insanity. The author Rob Chapman pretty much poo poos over all the legendary stories about Barrett, like he tried to stop a jet from taking off as if he was causally calling for a cab, or mixing pills & hair cream for his hairdo for a tv appearance and other such tall tales.

I think one of the appealing aspects of this book is Chapman has such a strong love for Barrett's work - that he gets upset regarding the half-truths, the no-truths, and just basic silly gossip. So, perhaps this is the first biography of the man who is not honored for his 'eccentricity' but for his skills as a songwriter and performer.

Chapman does a good job in interviewing old chums of Syd as well as interviewing Barrett's sister. A great rock bio on a truly great genius. Even though it lasted for only a little while.

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"Max's Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll"

Max's Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and RollMax's Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll by Steven Kasher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For those who are either too young, or have a total lack of social/art/music history of New York City' finest moments - then the book is for you. For those of you who have been to Max's Kansas City, then this is a family album of sorts. For me, I never been there. But the bar/restaurant/club is sort of like a kids' fantasy of Disneyland if they haven't been there.

Before Facebook, Goodreads (ha ha) - the place to be was Max's. Andy Warhol and company ruled the back room, legendary rock artists performed on its stage, and the decadence (i.e. fun) was going strong from table to table. Looking at this book one realizes that that Max's Kansas City was a place of special moments, and those moments will never come back. The criss-crossing of everything that's great in pop culture met up at that hang-out. Drag artists meets famous visual artists meets punk rock stars meets the down and out meets, etc. A snapshot of underground society meeting uptown folks, where anything seems possible. But of course it could never last forever. At least there is this book to keep the fantasy and memories alive.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Paul Du Noyer's "In The City: A Celebration of London Music"

In the City: A Celebration of London MusicIn the City: A Celebration of London Music by Paul Du Noyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title says it all! Remarkable history of London music from the 15th Century through Gilbert and Sullivan to Noel Coward to ....Blur and beyond. Paul Du Noyer was (or still is?) a writer for MOJO, and his book comes off as a good magazine read. Which to anyone sounds "oh oh" but in this case it is a total delight. Mojo has been a consistent well-written journal on music for the past ten years or so - and the writers who work or edit for that magazine are very talented.

Paul Du Noyer takes a difficult and long subject and makes it bite-like segments to tell a narrative what makes London based music so unique. Also the importance of street musicians through out its history is a plus for that culture as well as strange enough the World War 2 era - during and the post-war period as well.

Noel Coward documented the (gay) aesthetic from the 1920's Pretty Things to the support of British morale during the blitz - and is a remarkable pop artist. Also being London, the subject matter of class plays it big in London pop music. Anthony Newley was one of the first Cockney pop singers who convey the depths of songwriting craft as a writer and as a performer. Bowie was influenced by Newley as well as by Syd Barrett with respect that both writers expressed themselves via using their British accents and writing about subjects close to home. A lot of pop was an imitation of American singers at the time. But Newley in the 60's pushed a rather strong British sound to his mainstream pop.

Also another figure of interest is Lionel Bart, who wrote the musical "Oliver" and Tommy Steele's first rock 'n roll record "Rock With The Caveman." Jewish, gay and a bridge between the West side musical and the world of London rock. There are so many fascinating figures in this book: Andrew Loog Oldham, Simon Napier-Bell, Brian Epstein, Vince Taylor, and plenty of obscure artists from the 20's and the 19th Century.

So yeah, this is a really amazing book and its fascinating way of looking at London via the pop song of the last four or five centuries.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

The High Numbers at the Railway Hotel, 1964.

Ground zero or right there or yeah this is perfect moment. But here it is ladies and gentlemen. The perfect modastic moment.