Friday, December 28, 2012

Author Photo and Book Cover for "Sparks-Tastic" by Tosh Berman

Author Tosh Berman photo by Lun*na Menoh

Painting by Lun*na Menoh

My Favorite Albums of 2012 (on vinyl)

Part 2:

Also keep in mind this is what I listened to in 2012.  I rarely listen to brand new releases.

I found a Mono copy of this album at Brand Bookstore in Glendale.  $4 and I play it at least once a day.    Glenn Gould is such a remarkable player, and when he has Bach in front of him it is sort of like watching a great dance between the minds and fingers of these guys.   Gould always struck me as a jazz player for some reason, because he teases and pulls on the melody, its very sexy and what he leaves is a form of perfection.  Fantastic album.

On Charles Mingus' record label, this album captures a brilliant series of moments in a recording studio in 1955.  Moody, textural bliss.  It also features one of my all-time favorite songs "Nature Boy."  Teddy Charles plays vibes on this album, and it really adds a smokey existence that you can still feel after the needle leaves the vinyl.  Sort of the ultimate soundtrack for the first drink in the evening, but it is also very reflective and goes beyond the surface or one may say 'under the skin.'  All I know is when I play "Blue Moods" I get lost in my thoughts.   Elvin Jones on drums.

The Walker Brothers Live in Japan.  Recorded at Osaka Festival Hall January 2nd - 4th  and yeah, a wow.  This album was originally issued only in Japan.  What I have is a British re-issue that came out sometime in the 1980's and was given to me by my friend Stuart sometime in that era.  I sort of lost it among the books and other records, but discovered it recently and I put it on, and was taken to another world.  Loud audience noise of course, but the music and more important the voices come out ringing.  They do all their hits, as well as "Land of 1000 Dances" and "Ooh Poo Pah Doo."  A great snapshot of a time where Scott soon afterwards follows his instincts to a very different area of his mind or world.  A very rare record, and a very fantastic one as well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2012 (on vinyl) Part One

Due to time I am only listing three albums at a time.  And keep in mind that not all of these releases are new ones - but more what I listened to in the year 2012.  As  you can gather, I have very little interest in 'new' recordings.  But there are of course, exceptions.   All the albums are on vinyl.

As a kid, my family hung out with architects at their homes and it seems every one of them had this album.   For one, its not wild.  This is music that soothes but with a certain amount of sexual tension.  Miles is very much a sensual player and his trumpet sways like a dancer with the orchestration.  A perfect cocktail type of album where you sipping wine/martini and just floating with the haunted, but somewhat bitter melody.   I bought this at Rockaway, during their Black Friday promotion. Its a newly issued Mono version.  Really beautiful work.

There are records that you can just throw on the turntable and do something else.  Scott Walker's "Bish Bosch" is not such a record.   Once the needle hits the first track you are tied down to a chair or floor in front of the speakers, and you are not going to move an inch, because this is work that demands your full attention.   Hauntingly beautiful, this is music that takes you into today's world - all the ugliness, the bitterness, and a certain amount of beauty (or some version of it) mostly due to Scott Walker's still-incredible vocals.  Rarely do I hear new work that says 2012.   Probably the most un-bullshit album ever.  To say I love it, is like one needs water.  Without a doubt the most essential record released in the 21st Century so far.   The silence on this album is just as important as the music.

Hearing Sparks' "No 1 Song in Heaven"  on vinyl for the first time is a real 'wow' series of moments.  Released in the late 1970's this record is the shot that was heard around the world.  Without a doubt a major influence on future electro-duos like Soft Cell, Associates, Pet Shop Boys, etc.   I had this album on cassette, CD, and eventually MP3 - but the vinyl kicked me in the rear end so hard.  Its an aural masterpiece on the 12th degree.  And not one bad or weak moment.  Very rarely does one come upon such excellence.  Dreamy, hypnotic,  and sensual to the core.  A Ron and Russell masterpiece.  Do get it on vinyl!

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Red Grass" by Boris Vian

Boris Vian, Red Grass, Published by TamTam Books

Boris Vian (1920-1959) was a magnificent jack-of-all-trades--actor, jazz critic, engineer, musician, playwright, songwriter, translator--not to mention the leading social light of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés scene. His third major novel, Red Grass is a provocative narrative about an engineer, Wolf, who invents a bizarre machine that allows him to revisit his past and erase inhibiting memories. A frothing admixture of Breton, Freud, Carroll, Hammett, Kafka and Wells, Red Grass is one of Vian's finest and most enduring works, a satire on psychoanalysis--which Vian wholly and vigorously disapproved of--that inflects science fiction with dark absurdity and the author's great wit. Much in the novel can be regarded as autobiography, as our hero attempts to liberate himself from past traumatic events in the arenas of religion, social life and--of course--sex. Red Grass is translated by Vian scholar Paul Knobloch.  With an introduction by Marc Lapprand.

In The Words of Sparks... Selected Lyrics by Sparks

Coming out in June 2013.  Published by TamTam Books

 Sparks--the long-running duo of Ron and Russell Mael--are among the most respected songwriters of their generation, their songs ranking alongside those of Ray Davies (The Kinks having been a formative influence), George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. Formed in Los Angeles in 1971, Sparks have issued over 20 albums and scored chart hits with songs such as "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us," "Cool Places" and "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Nature." While their musical style has changed dramatically over the course of 40 years--embracing the British Invasion sound of the 60s, glam rock, disco (they teamed up with Giorgio Moroder for 1979's "No. 1 in Heaven") and even techno--their work has consistently stretched the boundaries of pop music and the song form. Sparks continue to break new ground: they are currently working on a project with filmmaker Guy Maddin and are soon to embark on a world tour. Now, for the first time, the Mael brothers have chosen their favorite Sparks lyrics (to some 75 songs), editing and correcting them for presentation in In the Words of Sparks. As James Greer--novelist and former member of Guided by Voices--comments, "Sparks-level wordplay is a gift, and more than that, an inspiration." This book also includes a substantial introduction by fellow Los Angeles resident and longtime fan, Morrissey.

Sparks-Tastic: Twenty-One Nights with Sparks in London by Tosh Berman

Sparks-Tastic: Twenty-One Nights with Sparks in London
didn't like it it was ok liked it really liked it it was amazing

Sparks-Tastic: Twenty-One Nights with Sparks in London

5.0 of 5 stars 5.00  ·  rating details  ·  3 ratings  ·  1 review
In 2008, Tosh Berman—author and publisher of TamTam Books—got on a plane with a single motive: "Sparks Spectacular." It had been announced that the band Sparks would perform all twenty-one of their albums in a succession of twenty-one nights in London...a monumental experience for any Sparks fanatic. Part travel journal, part personal memoir, Berman takes us through the streets of London and Paris, observing both cities' history and culture through the eye of an obsessive Sparks fan's lens. Including album-by-album reviews of all twenty-one albums and beyond, Sparks-Tastic defines a place and time in music history that's too defining to be ignored.(less)
From Goodreads of course.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lun*na Menoh "Couture Salvage" at Shabon

My wife Lun*na Menoh has her pop-up shop "Couture Salvage" at the shop Shabon. Once-in-a-lifetime experience! Do come and do buy! Now!
Lun*na Menoh
pop-up shop "COUTURE SALVAGE" at Shabon
7607 1/2 Beverly Blvd. L.A., CA. 90036
Phone: 323-692-0061

Friday Dec 14th - Monday Dec 31st

Lun*na Menoh is a Japanese born Renaissance artist who lives in Los Angeles.

Her dresses were exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Hayward Gallery in London, Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco, and Museum of Modern Art Saitama in Japan. She also designed for the MOCA event openings with respect to the Takashi Murakami, Andy Warhol, and Lucian Freud retrospectives.

In 2006 Lunna founded a "real clothing" line called "COUTURE SALVAGE", a collection made up of remade-recycled dresses that are easily wearable.

please contact us at

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Style of Spectacle" with Lun*na Menoh and Tosh Berman

Directed by David Langford

Scott Walker's "Bish Bosch" on Vinyl

It has been a long time since i have heard an album that says '21st Century' to me.  Scott Walker is an artist that is very much part of the world.  Unlike my other favorite obsession, Sparks, who are contained in a very private world surrounded by their obsessions, Walker is very much in tuned with the environment that is out there.

Sitting down in front of a pair of speakers and having the vinyl on the turntable is very much of a beautiful series of moments.  The moment lasts over a hour and within that time-frame one goes into the world according to Scott Walker.  The complex sounds that comes out of the speaker is multi-textured to the extreme.  Off-hand it reminds me of Public Image Ltd's "Flowers of Romance,' which is a terrific album, but Walker takes it on another level that is more humorous but in a very sick way.  I think of Lenny Bruce as being the the head concept man for 'sick humor,' and I think Scott is taking it on a musical level.

The album is brutal, funny, and in your face.  But it also has incredible moments of absolute beauty, but its mixed in with the horror.  There is nothing surface about this record, its a blues album that tears into a culture that needs to bleed or to cry out its blues.  Without a doubt its a masterpiece, and its amazing how artists like Sparks as well as Scott Walker just seems to get better and better as they get older.

And like Sparks, its kind of important to acknowledge their entire career.  Because a lot of people go on about old Scott material vs. the new Scott - and basically its the same road or highway.  The early material of the Walker Brothers and the iconic Scott solo albums clearly leads to "Bish Bosch."  Listen to this album on vinyl or on a good set-up - computer speakers don't give this record the proper setting - it needs to be in front of you and it needs your full attention.  Incredible work!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Harry Houdini's "The Right Way To Do Wrong"

The legendary and totally iconic Harry Houdini wrote this book a little bit after the turn of the century - where till his death, he was a major entertainer/star.   I knew about his obsession with the after-life and the fake people that go along with that world, his silent movie serials, and his remarkable legendary escapes from various locks and locations.  What i didn't know is that he wrote a book about the nature of the con-artist, pickpocket artist, robber, scam artists, and so on.

"The Right Way To Do Wrong" is a small book, but a fascinating document on the underworld as seen through the eyes of Houdini.  "The Sword-Swallowing and the Stone-Eaters chapters are a marvel to read, because one, Houdini is very impressed with the skills of these people, and two, as a reader I am really drawn into Houdini's interest in these side-show adventures.   Houdini is very much a class act in a world that is sometimes not that classy.  Very impressive book and a must to add to libraries devoted to the criminal and their devilish ways.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Juan Rodriguez's review of "Gainsbourg the Biography" by Gilles Verlant

Serge Gainsbourg’s place in French music was thoroughly investigated by Gilles Verlant, whose biography of the singer is now available in an English translation. (Photo: Les Francofolies de Montréal)

Read more:
By Juan Rodriguez, special to The Gazette

Serge Gainsbourg was short, had elephantine ears, a large nose, bug eyes, a foul mouth, and a motto: “For me, provocation is oxygen.” He smoked like a chimney. He was also as successful a skirt-chaser (Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, France Gall and Jane Birkin were among his most well-known conquests) as he was a brilliant songwriter (a majority of his interpreters were women), master of the double entendre.

He was loaded with anti-charisma — his first words to Whitney Houston on a TV show were “I want to f--- you” — yet he was a perverse charmer. “Women adore misogynists,” he claimed; one of his preferred pickup lines was “Mind if I sit down, you little tart?” French president François Mitterrand characterized him as “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire,” but his various musical periods also qualified him as the Picasso of pop. (He stole liberally from Chopin.)

Apart from the admirable but hardly complete A Fistful of Gitanes, by Sylvie Simmons (author of the recent excellent Leonard Cohen biography I’m Your Man), there’s not much in English on the great iconoclast of French pop. Now comes the English translation of Serge Gainsbourg by Gilles Verlant (under the title Gainsbourg: The Biography, from Tam Tam Books), the French journalist who spent more time interviewing Gainsbourg than any other.
The depth of his investigation into the agent provocateur’s place in French music is abundant throughout this hefty 575-page tome, originally published in 2000. Without indulging into too much armchair psychology, we come away with plenty of raison d’être for the man who was forced to wear a yellow Jewish star as an adolescent during the Nazi occupation. He boomeranged the anti-Semitism of those times with perverse irony on the 1975 album Rock Around the Bunker.

He was born Lucien Ginsburg to parents who fled the Russian Revolution and anti-Semitism; his father, Joseph, was a classical pianist who played nightclub gigs to get by; his mother, Olia, was a mezzo-soprano.

The household was cultured (attuned to André Breton, Man Ray et al), something overlooked in Gainsbourg’s penchant for scandal. At the beginning of his career, he suffered from stage fright and was discouraged because of his apparent “ugliness.” He was hardly in the league of Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, Georges Brassens or Yves Montand as a romantic hero, yet his power to shock — in either a disquieting sense or with inimitable irreverence (setting La Marseillaise to a stoned reggae beat) — set him apart, and was somehow more profound than his more genteel contemporaries. When some suggested that his biggest international hit, Je t’aime ... moi non plus, was simply a tape of Gainsbourg and Birkin engaged in sex, he quipped: “Thank goodness it wasn’t, otherwise I hope it would have been a long-player.”

Despite being littered with typos, the book is a page-turner. Although translator Paul Knobloch has drawn some heat for supposedly taking liberties, his adaptation of Gainsbourg’s lyrics is pure genius; most of the translations rhyme — an extraordinarily difficult creative act.

Alongside Simmons’s tome on Cohen, The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by R.J. Smith, and Gustav Mahler by Jens Malte Fischer, this is among the very best musical biographies I’ve read this year.

Read more:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Places of My Infancy: A Memory" by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Looking for a small book in size to read on the subway trips from Manhattan to Bushwick, I picked up the elegant Gluseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's miniture memoir of his childhood "Places of My Infancy."  The most remarkable aspect of this book is that its not about people.  Its about his home or one should say estate in Italy during the turn of the Century.

Reading this I reminded of "Against Nature" by Huysmann, but this is the real deal. At least through the eyes of an adult looking back at his life as a child.  Detailed architectural accounts of various rooms, including the dinning room which has life-sized portraits of the owners (the first one's) eating their meals.  One would think why would they want a painting of themselves eating in a room where you actually take your meal?  But that's the charm of the super rich - if one could even use the word super in this category, its more super-duper.

In his house he had a theater that can hold 300 people, and his family would allow traveling theater people to do shows for the local citizens.  Some rich, but a lot were peasants.  Eventually the theater became a movie theater.  di Lampedusa has a way to comment on changes that he remembers through his childhood.

In the book di Lampedusa admits that he is more attached to things than humans, and this is very much the tale of things - most cases the architecture of his home as a child, including detailed descriptions of rooms, furniture, etc.  But the truth (as he knows as well) that 'things' can tell a narrative better then a human at times.  Remarkable book.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman" by Sparks and Guy Maddin

Illustration by Steven Fiche (from L.A. Record)
Check out the official website for "The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman" by Ron Mael and Russell Mael (Sparks).  Hopefully a film version by Guy Maddin is in the near future.

Here's the website:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Considerations on the Death and Burial of Tristan Tzara" by Isidore Isou

Like things in small packages, there is great charm with a mixture of surprise.  You look at it or read it, and it has a big affect on you.  Letterist Isidore Isou wrote an amusing as well as a touching aspect of the great DADA (and later Communist) poet Tristan Tzara.  "I had never attended a funeral in my life, and as I always consider death a failure, hope never to tend to another" is a pretty witty commentary on the nature of life going to the other side or stopping as welll as funeral practices.

As one can gather, DADA either became Surrealists or Communists who didn't like The Letterists, who didn't like The Stalinists who didn't like abstract art and therefore a tad suspicious of the Surrealists, Ex-DADAists, and without a doubt the Letterists.   And they all showed up for the funeral of Tristan Tzara.  Who, without a doubt, is one of the great humorists on this planet.  

An excellent little (24 pages) page booklet that is a keeper.  Again, things in small packages are usually exceptionally great.  One can get this gem at