Monday, April 30, 2012

Soho in the Fifties by Daniel Farson

In many ways this can be the companion book to Boris Vian's version of Paris,  Manual of Saint-Germain des Prés.  Writer, photographer and media TV host Daniel Farson takes us on a tour of Soho London circ. 1950's where a great deal of time was spent at local caffs (the British diner), bars, and restaurants.  it was pretty much the world of its most famous citizens the painter Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.  But the real star of the scene was photographer John Deakin, an outlandish personality at the time, who struck disgust, annoyance and in a funny way friendship among the local citizens of Soho.

Farson has a talent in capturing the boozy bohemia of those times, and sees Soho as the ultimate destination against boredom and restrictions.  More eccentric characters per block then perhaps anywhere else in the world, Soho is rich in music culture as well as literature.  I have already started a good size collection of books on Soho - and the reason I like it is because of the conservative nature of the world at the time, and the tension that these loons bring to their culture.  The edition I have was published in 1987, and its fully illustrated with photos by Farson, who had the talent or charm to capture these vibrant personalities doing what they do best - socializing and drinking.   Essential!

the only book devoted to John Deakin's work.  Essential find.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

TamTam Books' Tribute to Nick Faigin

Photograph by Ken Rosenthal
A very close friend of mine passed away last Friday (April 20th).  I heard about it Monday and the thought of it is a real heart stopper.  And of course trying to get the brain working at the same time is sort of a classic Laurel and Hardy routine.

I think I met Nick in the very late 70's.  He was a teenager, and I was about ten years older.  The original generation of punk rock (at least the 1970's version) was fading into a more 'pop' mode at the time.  Both of us worked at Licorice Pizza in Reseda.  And I use the word 'work' loosely because basically, the staff would spend a great deal of time trashing and praising the music of the time.   Paul, one of the Brotherhood of the store, was a Jam fanatic, but also had a great sense of pop music history and his appreciation even went beyond the strict boundaries of punk.  He actually liked Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young!  I personally sort of forgiving him for that, because again his knowledge on the twists and turns of pop music was simply amazing.

And Nick, in his teenage way, was totally open, yet had very strict and sophisticated taste in music.  Both are hardcore Mod like in their appreciation for pop culture.  I was (and still am) deeply impressed with their vision and passion.   Our friend Gwenn who worked at the store was very close to Nick, and they would often go out to see this local band The Joneses.  They were Gun n Roses before there were a  Guns N' Roses.   And both Nick and Gwenn were devoted to them.  In my eyes, they were a sloppy too much hair on the top of their head type of band, but Nick and Gwenn saw pure poetry and 'rock' in their vision.  Again, I knew that they had something of great worth because Nick was so into them.  And Gwenn too!

Many years after Licorice Pizza, Nick got me a job at a sex mag to write porn reviews.  At the time he was the graphic designer for the magazine.  I remember going to his office, and he just showed me a box of VHS videos and told me to take what I want and to write on it.  It was a perfect job!  The first video I saw was about electrocution and having sex at the same time.  I thought at the time "what a great idea."  The beauty of this is that Nick had such a great sense of adventure, humor and just the absurdity of it all - it was hysterical.   He was hysterical.

Also through the years, we never lost our love for being obsessive on the subject matter of music.  I once requested an album by David Sylvian, because he told me he had a copy of a rare recording.  Within a week I not only got a CD-R of the album, but also every recording with David Sylvian - it didn't matter if he only sang background, or maybe he just walked through the recording studio - he gave me the COMPLETE David Sylvian catalog and beyond.

I also made the pleasant mistake asking him for an Associates single - and bingo!  Got every recording solo and band - including rare bootleg recordings.

I learned not to ask him for one recording!  But it was, strange enough, a wonderful surprise when I got the package in the mail, or he hand delivered the precious music.

I think Nick's real love was soul music.  He knew classic Hip-Hop and really appreciated the culture.  He had a thing for Marvin Gaye that was on the obsessive side - but being obsessive for a music fan is the only way to go.'

The great thing about Nick was to see 'music' through his eyes.  It is like he's the driver and you are just the passenger, and it is going to be a wild and crazy ride.

Nick over the years got super interested in poetry and performing his poetry with live music.  A natural talent, who worked really hard on his craft and art.   Here are some samples:

Nick was also a photographer and was the Marcel Proust of Harvelle's Nightclub in Santa Monica.  Like Andy Warhol, he went out every night to this club to either perform, to encourage, and to document what was going on there.   His focus was very tight and wonderful.

I can go on and on, but check out Nick's website:

And Nick, I'll be seeing you.....

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Osamu Dazai's "Schoolgirl"

Whenever i put pen on to a paper or I type words I think of Osamu Dazai.   The craft of his writing with the mixture of his character equals a major influence on me, and I suspect on contemporary Japanese literature as well.  For instance, Mishima's major influence was Dazai.  Well, sort of.  He didn't want to be a Dazai, in fact, he hated his work.   But the truth is hatred of Dazai's character and work was a sign of love and respect to the great decadent literary figure - and Dazai was extremely decadent in the Japanese context.   Drinker, womanizer, cad, drug addict, and extremely handsome - and a writing talent that is extremely superb.  Dazai is one unique writer, and a day doesn't go by where I don't think about him.  Hmm, perhaps this is really an obsession on my part, but let's put that aside for the moment.

"Schoolgirl" is a snapshot of the day in the life of a young girl, with her inner thoughts, her 'childish' impressions mixed in with great awareness of her world.   It reads like a narrative poem, with some quiet beautiful moments, but with a 'punk' attitude.  Well, punk attitude in 1939 Tokyo!  You can smell the coming disaster in these pages, and they a writer/poet can smell the culture as it happens - and Dazai is one of those writers who for sure knew how the wind was blowing at the time of his writings.  This small book is under a 100 pages, but it hits hard like a heavyweight fighter.  One of the great writers of the 20th Century, and "Schoolgirl" is small in size, but huge as a classic piece of literature.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Pataphysical Essays" by René Daumal

Pathaphysics, the science of imaginary solutions,  is a science made up by the writer Alfred Jarry.   What may be a joke to some has become a life-time obsession for writers & artists such as Boris Vian, Raymond Queneau, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage and etc. & etc.  In many ways its laughter, but taken on an almost (anti) spiritual level.  If its a joke, it's a type of humor to convey the absurdity of 20th Century life.

René Daumal a sort of Surrealist (who refused to join up with Breton & Co) and a man devoted to the spiritual side of life.  He wrote two wonderful books - "A Night of Serious Drinking" and "Mount Analogue."  And also self-taught himself Sanskrit language.  So here's a young man totally obsessed with the thought of death and what happens afterwards.  In many ways, Daumal is the perfect card carrying member of Pataphysics -  because as a science it is not really there, and what's there is a spiritual essence of what is not explained.  Nor can it be explained.  So in other words a perfect medium for the Poet!

The publisher Wakefield Press, is one of the great small presses out there right now. Beautifully designed, well thought out, and just brilliant.

Gainsbourg the Biography by Gilles Verlant & translated by Paul Knobloch

Gainsbourg: The Biography

By Gilles Verlant. Translated by Paul Knobloch.


LIST PRICE: U.S. $24.95
ISBN: 9780966234671 | TRADE
Pbk, 8.5 x 5.5 in. / 400 pgs.
PUB DATE: 6/30/2012

When Serge Gainsbourg died in 1991, France went into mourning: François Mitterand himself proclaimed him “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire.” Gainsbourg redefined French pop, from his beginnings as cynical chansonnier and mambo-influenced jazz artist to the ironic “yé-yé” beat and lush orchestration of his 1960s work to his launching of French reggae in the 1970s to the electric funk and disco of his last albums. But mourned as much as his music was Gainsbourg the man: the self-proclaimed ugly lover of such beauties as Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin, the iconic provocateur whose heavy-breathing “Je t’aime moi non plus” was banned from airwaves throughout Europe and whose reggae version of the “Marseillais” earned him death threats from the right, and the dirty-old-boy wordsmith who could slip double-entendres about oral sex into the lyrics of a teenybopper ditty and make a crude sexual proposition to Whitney Houston on live television.
Gilles Verlant’s biography of Gainsbourg is the best and most authoritative in any language. Drawing from numerous interviews and their own friendship, Verlant provides a fascinating look at the inner workings of 1950s–1990s French pop culture and the conflicted and driven songwriter, actor, director and author that emerged from it: the young boy wearing a yellow star during the German Occupation; the young art student trying to woo Tolstoy’s granddaughter; the musical collaborator of Petula Clark, Juliette Greco and Sly and Robbie; the seasoned composer of the Lolita of pop albums, Histoire de Melody Nelson; the cultural icon who transformed scandal and song into a new form of delirium.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Fear of Music" by Jonathan Lethem

My favorite type of critique on a particular piece of art is the one where the author uses it as a subject matter - and then goes off into the inner world of that art work - or in this case the Talking Head's album "The Fear Of Music."  Jonathan Lethem tears into the album if it was a mysterious lost code in his childhood.  If you want to know about the making of "The Fear of Music," or what the band was thinking about - this is not the book.  But if you are either a fan of Lethem or just interested how an album can affect someone - then this is a mighty good read.  One of the better books in the pretty mighty world of 33 1/3 series.

Morrissey "Suedehead (Mael Mix)"

Suedehead (Mael Mix)
EMI release today in the UK a limited edition Record Store Day 10" picture disc of "Suedehead (Mael Mix)": Morrissey's classic debut solo single as remixed by Ron and Russell Mael.
"Suedehead (Mael Mix)" is backed with two previously unreleased BBC live tracks: "We'll Let You Know" and "Now My Heart Is Full", recorded at London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in February 1995.
A digital download of "Suedehead (Mael Mix)" is available on April 23.
"Suedehead (Mael Mix)" track listing:
"Suedehead (Mael Mix)"
"We'll Let You Know" (live)
"Now My Heart Is Full" (live)
Photo: "Suedehead (Mael Mix)" artwork
View a larger version

I have heard the Mael (Sparks) mix of "Suedehead" and its incredible.  Its very much Sparks as it is Morrissey - it's great.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Secret Historian" by Justin Spring

A remarkable world that Samuel Steward lived in.   A collage professor turned tattoo artist who also happened to be a great sex adventurer - Justin Spring really captures the underground world of Gay sexuality and life in the 20th Century.   But for that we have to be thankful for Steward's zeal for keeping track on all his sexual adventures.  Steward built up an erotic museum of sorts - and this gentleman of pleasure is a wonderful figure in Gay social history.  Essential read for anyone who is interested in the counter-culture and the sexual world via the world of Hustlers and tattoo artistry.  And now I have this incredible urge to read his "Phil Andros" novels.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Miles Davis Quintet Live

Miles Davis Quintet featuring Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Recorded at Berlin, West Germany, on November 4, 1967

Miles Davis - trumpet
Wayne Shorter - sax
Herbie Hancock - piano
Ron Carter - bass
Tony Williams - drums

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sparks "Two Hands, One Mouth" concert in London

On general sale from 12 noon on April 10th 2012 from /
24 hour CC hotline 08700 603 777

Ticket price: £32.50 adv + booking fee
Doors 7.30pm
All ages, under 18s must be accompanied by an adult

Sparks announce an extraordinary performance that will see them deconstruct and reinterpret songs from their own extensive and unique catalogue.

For the first time, Ron and Russell Mael will play an entire concert as a duo using just voice and keyboards, a typically bold and unexpected move from the American brothers.

Having inspired musicians and delighted fans throughout the years with their extraordinary songwriting and inimitable style, Sparks’ live shows have become increasingly spectacular - in 2008 they performed all 21 albums in 21 nights in London and in 2011 their 22nd opus, The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman, was performed as a live musical at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Now, forty years since the release of their self-titled debut album in 1972, they will present a selection of Sparks songs in their purest form. Stripping away the often lavish production we will rediscover the essence of Sparks, - the whipsmart, penetrating lyrics, those incomparable melodies – Russell's vocals and Ron's keyboards coming to the fore.  All that's needed.

Friday, April 6, 2012

TamTam Books Tribute to Cowboys International

Without a doubt (if one is sane) one of the best bands to come out of the post-punk era was Cowboys International.  I first discovered them because there was a Public Image Ltd connection, and at the time I couldn't resist any recordings - even in the smallest connection - to the world of PIL.  The mighty and great guitar player Keith Levene was listed in the back cover as playing guitar on one track of the first Cowboys International album - which of course means I had to have it.

Hearing this album was a real 'moment' for me.  For one it was super pop with incredible melodies and the lead singer/writer Ken Lockie had that European croon down to as a perfect art form.  The big question in life was 'why weren't they more famous?'  And that is something that will be a total mystery to me for the rest of my life.   So many crap bands (unnamed) have made it big time, yet Cowboys International (and what a great name for a band, right?) remained in the footnotes of British 70's pop.  And on top of that Ken Lockie made an equally great album after Cowboys International.  But alas let's just concentrate on the first Cowboys International album.

First of all ladies and gentleman, the great song "Thrash."

Incredible song!  Perfect record!

And here's a beautiful tune.  Up there with Morrissey as a ballad:

"M(emorie)62" is Bowie filtered through Lockie's sensibility.

And wow, some live footage of Cowboys International in action (with Marco on guitar).

And here's "Pointy Shoes" live as well:

For further adventues with Cowboys International, check out Ken Lockie's website :

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"The Story of the Kinks: You Really Got Me" by Nick Hasted

The Kinks couldn't do no wrong from 1963 till the early 1970's. By all means and reason they were my favorite band. With Ray Davies, one had a writer that was up there with Cole Porter and (more likely) Noel Coward. In the early 70's I went to see the band whenever they came to Los Angeles - and the shows were more music hall than rock n' roll. Davies always came off to me as slightly like Laurence Olivier in the Entertainer. When you go into a Kinks album, it is very much of a world that doesn't exist anymore. Post-War England as re-imagined by The Kinks.

This is a very good biography by Nick Hasted on Ray, Dave Davies (the brother), Pete Quaife, and Mick Avory. Although in the big picture extremely successful, but in the miniature details a life full of doubt and pain. For whatever reasons the brothers can barely stand each other - and the other two musicians in the band had often suffered under their tortured relationship. Ray and Dave, raised in a house full of sisters, are very eccentric in their ways. Yet totally opposite in character. Dave dived into the world of London 60's and Ray stood by the side and caught it all on paper and music. If one was to get a book on the Kinks - this one is it.