Sunday, October 31, 2010

Style icon PATRICIA MORRISON live














Just in time for Halloween, Patricia Morrison playing in Gun Club in 1981. For more on her longtime and distinct style iconography plus band lineage go to LINK.

Oh, and a vintage 1978 video below of her punk band with Alice Armandariz (now an elementary school teacher, although she still performs) The Bags!

Monday, October 25, 2010

JUSTINE FRISCHMANN phones home

There always were such butch shots of the makeup-less, short-haircutted Justine Frischmann out and about in the music media that, contrarily, I wanted to photograph the feminine side she actually presented while performing with Elastica, her mid to late '90s, 3-women/1-bloke alternapunk Britpop band. She was primary songwriter/singer/guitarist in same, and successful at it.

Elastica had: instant recognition from Justine's close personal friendliness with Britstar of the hour Blur's Damon Albarn; a chart hit or two in both the U.K, and U.S; a few band members with roles in Todd Haynes' Glam nostalgia film "Velvet Goldmine;" and a great (if disputed) sound (there were actual out of court settlements with some of the bands' heroes.) Drug problems, the usual betrayals, breakup and pop oblivion ensued such that I had to explain who they were to you.

She then wrote songs for pal M.I.A. After a surprising career change to voice-over narrator on British television, Justine later relocated to Boulder, Colorado for serious art studies and met her future husband Dr. Ian Faloona. They then relocated to San Rafael, California for Dr. Faloona's professorship in atmospheric sciences at U.C. Davis and no doubt the Bay Area art scene's resources for Justine. Fine Art had become her full time vocation, and she's considered a viable modern Abstract artist. Frischmann's most recent show, "Mother Tongue", opened in San Francisco in June 2010.

'Glad she's still expressing herself well.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

BRIAN WILSON, ROY WOOD, dual godheads














Brian Wilson, Roy Wood = sui generis godheads. Both in their respective manner are multi-intrumentalist orchestral-quality composers/arrangers who write fabulously catchy but complex songs, and sing like twisted angels. Above left, Wilson (Pet Sounds, Smile, The Beach Boys) receiving an award circa 1989, photographic problems therein recounted here LINK. Right,
Wood (The Move, Wizzard) performing with Wizzard in 1974 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Multi-instrumentalist Roy Wood may be, but only the bagpipes supplemented his guitars that night. Opening act was The Raspberries!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

WEEGEE TELLS HOW



The work of Arthur Fellig, professionally known as Weegee was a personal marker to me on how one's appreciation of art can mature. As a young art student first discovering his work in books I was appalled at the seeming exploitation of the subject matter. Revisiting much later I saw the genuine humanity in same, of which, within modern life, we all need to be constantly reminded.

Even his captions inform of same- a young girl kissing a young sailor during WWII is titled "Tomorrow he sails." You cannot look at his photo of, say, the true horror on a mother's face as she watches her child die in a burning building without emotion welling up in yourself as well. And rebooting empathy makes us all better humans.

Indeed, this very photo is in the terrific above clip of Weegee explaining his methodology. For a nine minute codification, he explores quite a lot, admitting to being a perfectionist in wanting everyone to look good, even criminals or corpses, and how innate it all must be to become a news image professional, to be that quick and that confident in all circumstances.

Yes, my own mannered work, action or studio, resembles his not a whit (except for wanting people [living ones] to look good.) I still recommend the difficult to locate film "The Public Eye" which fictionalizes Fellig quite well via Joe Pesci. The movie's continuity crew got all the old cameras and equipment correct, and there's many an insider verity about photographers in general; i.e., he doesn't like to have his own picture taken (because folks who take snapshots don't take the care with their subjects that a pro does) and when asked why he pursues this difficult and occasionally demeaning line of work (even more demeaned today) he replies "It's what I do." Spoken like a true artist.



Thank you Steve Manning on Facebook for sending me the Weegee video at top.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grand Opera, Gospel and FRED NEIL

photograph by Mort Shuman
Many types of music claim universality beyond their abstract presentations, but unless one is culturally attuned, enjoyment of same omits its intentions. Some indigenous peoples' drum music carries great meaning to them: the rest of us just intrinsically appreciate the expressive percussion for what it is. Grand Opera in languages other than one's own generally holds its own as narrative because all its myriad components from set decor to soloists try SO very hard for it to work as such.

However, sometimes an art form really does deliver specifics. African-American Gospel music really does uplift one by its very form (generally chorales with an incendiary lead vocalist, all together as one in escalating crescendo towards a glorious finale together, like sex.) It's appreciated by and enjoyable to all possible listeners, even godless heathens like me.

And sometimes one has to investigate why something persists in being so appealing despite, perhaps, a lack of initial renown or even a bad reputation professionally. No, I'm eschewing recounting the bad old days of Iggy and the Stooges, and hopefully introducing you to one of my favorite chill out musics. Meet (the late) Fred Neil.

Neil was a Greenwich Village, NYC-based folk performer of the late '50s (he wrote songs for Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison ["Candy Man" is his] amongst others) through the mid-'70s, self-accompanied on a 12-string acoustic guitar with a lot of releases you've never heard. He seems to have been badmouthed by most who actually worked with him. Sample story with two degrees of separation: he allegedly stole and sold other players' guitars for dope DURING their actual recording sessions for him.

He nonetheless had a real live, mainstream chart hit with his bright, optimistic (and eventual real-life wish fulfillment) "Everybody's Talkin'" covered by Harry Nilsson and popularized in the mid-'60s movie "Midnight Cowboy" starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight (Angelina's dad,) actors happily still at it. Then, thusly recompensed Neil cut out for coastal Florida digs and left the music world behind forever, "...banking over the north east wind, sailin' on a summer breeze, skipping over the ocean like a stone." Oh yeah!

Overall it's admittedly an archaic sound today what with its folkie, campfire harmonicas and 12-string blues. But...oh... that voice!

It is said that the sound of the French Horn is so beloved because it mimics the timbre of the human male voice: females generally like males, and males generally like themselves, hence the French Horn's universal appeal. Fred Neil's voice retains universal appeal because it is not what one ever expected in popular music then or now: deep, resonant, laconic, masculine and kind.

I mentally and physically feel better after hearing Fred Neil sing a song, whether his own or someone else's. The first video below is his own composition. And if any reader ever perceives me to be suicidal, please play the second one, a cover, for me immediately as a reliable antidote to anything unseemly. Instant re-boot to the psyche, on a limbic system level of appeal.



Sunday, October 17, 2010

SECRETARIAT AND DRUSILLA


"It seems to me that you reached for a star,
 caught it for a little while,
then it floated back up and away.
Yet it's not given to everyone, not most people in fact,
to ever hold a star, even for a little while."
 from writer Roberta Pliner in reference to Drusilla

Domestic animals can be bred and trained to any activity that comes naturally to them, but to excel in competition of same they actually have to want it as well. This isn't anthropomorphism, it's observation from any human who's ever worked with and loved animals that still have their natural instincts intact. Thoroughbred racehorses and sighthounds (the greyhound-type dogs) certainly retain intact instincts for speed, the former to race away from predators, and the latter to chase the prey. Both enjoy the act of full speed running, as both these species do it for fun among themselves as well as when called for.

Above, Secretariat
Secretariat was a genetic fluke of a horse whose planned breeding, perfect athlete's conformation that gave him an abnormally long running stride, effective training, good health and luck in having compatible owners made him a superhorse. He naturally enjoyed running so much that competitors were outdistanced without mercy, because the horse wanted to. He also wanted to win the third race of the Triple Crown by 31 lengths, a feat unequaled in American classic racing. His owner was a woman of great personal strength and conviction as well as wealth, so altogether this made an entertaining movie.

And so I was enjoying the Disney film Secretariat immensely until the groom whispered "Come home safe, Red" to the horse just before the start of that race. Then it all came flooding back.

Once upon a time I had my own superstar running animal, a Scottish Deerhound (one of the sighthound breeds) who competed in lure coursing, a simulation of hunting with the dogs chasing flapping, plastic bags (nicknamed "the bunny") on strings tugged by machines around a huge field in zigzags. The sighthounds LOVE to run and chase these, as they've been bred for 45mph speed and "prey drive" (the instinct to chase moving things) for several thousand years: the ancient Egyptians initially bred them.

And she LOVED to run and chase, often zooming around our back yard all by herself in pure joy. I could tell she'd take to coursing, but she was a small Deerhound, and the big males initially knocked her over at every start of the chases. Once I figured out, like Secretariat's trainer, that if I held her back at the start for the boys to leap ahead, she inevitably would overtake all competition and win these races, often winning the whole match against every sighthound breed there (an achievement called Best in Field.) Video of Drusilla in competition below:
By the time she was three years old, she had attained the titles "Multiple Best in Field, Field Champion, Senior Courser," rare for so young a hound. Each time at the start of a race over massive, rough fields hopefully bereft of gopher holes or debris, we competitors all would whisper to our dogs, like Secretariat's groom, "Come back safe" (far more important than winning.) But unlike Secretariat, there was to be no happy ending for her. I wrote the following forensic (and emotional) examination of her sudden death two days afterwards for the Scottish Deerhound owners' magazine:

Drusilla's neck and back pain came suddenly a week ago last Wed., she was at the vets Thurs., consultation Fri., x-rays inconclusive, dog in same pain, changed pain meds from torbutrol to tramadol and robaxin, sent to a 24-hour emergency care Sat. for IV since not eating or drinking, dog to neurologist specialist Monday (long 100 mile trip), stayed overnight for IV and MRI and spinal tap Tues., specialist ruled out osteosarcoma, disc and tumor problems, specified blood work for possible fungal disease, parasitic diseases or toxoplasma since 'foamy macrophages' vs. mycocytes indicated same, also dog was a courser out in the wild fields. Blood work done on Thurs., sent out, and dog stayed at vet for IV fluids since has stopped eating entirely and was difficult to force-feed with the pain, but does drink. Med changed to 1 and 1/2 20mg. Prednisone twice a day. Stopped robaxin since ineffective. Gave Pepcid to prevent ulcers from not eating. Did not give new med Mirtzapine for appetite stimulation since I was going to do that the next morning in order to monitor her, but Thurs. night she lost use of her legs, was panting, breathing shallowly and distressed.

We took her back to the vet Friday morning, had the specialist/neurologist confer by phone with the vets there, dismiss what wasn't applicable, say the the remaining treatment was a single-digit longshot, and that through these tests, we had eliminated the diseases that were treatable while honing in on brain damage, which is not treatable; meanwhile she was slipping (twitching, no mobility.) Through the process of elimination of the infectious agents, it must have been a degenerative brain disease that was not the ones mentioned, first affecting her neck and spine (myelopathy), then everything else. No treatment, no cure, and in that one week an unbelievably rapid decline.


She didn't make it. Rest in peace MBIF FC Lyonhil Drusilla Harris SC.

That's the clinical "forensic" part that our Deerhound community wants to hear to file for future reference and early diagnosis of others. She was only three years old, by far the youngest hound I've ever lost in thirty years of sighthound ownership.

The emotional part is more familiar to all my fellow Deerhound owners. She was, obviously, an avid lure courser, but so very, even for a Deerhound, unnaturally extra-sweet tempered that during a delay in the start of a course with three Deerhounds pulling and straining to go, she nonetheless stole a second to lick the face of a field official and then go back to pulling and straining to go.

The emotional part is the empty bed and couch, and our other dog, the rescued Golden Retriever not wanting to go upstairs at all in case she missed a 'return' of her friend who's gone; and my eyes playing tricks on me thinking I see her coming around a corner. The emotional part is the loss of a dog who could NOT be near a human without wanting to at least touch the human affectionately, draping a paw on you after she finished licking you: there is no cuddle-dog next to us in bed any more.

The emotional part is this is affecting my better half more than any dog we've lost in the last thirty years. In that last ghastly morning of her life, I said her favorite word in the world "bunny" to her before the vet's final action as in "go chase the bunnies in heaven." She didn't respond in any way. Maybe she was telling me, as a comfort, that really, truly, she was already gone even before our decision. She was a brand new field champion and multiple Best in Field. She was only three years old. The emotional part is that I can't stop crying.

Drusilla is pictured at top in blue jacket winning, and below after winning Best in Field



Thursday, October 14, 2010

KILL CITY, and photos by Suzan Carson

James Williamson and Iggy Pop, photo by Suzan Carson, circa 1975

Kill City by Iggy Pop and James Williamson, produced by the latter--- it's as much a classic as their Raw Power by Iggy and The Stooges: it's merely not as earth-shatteringly ground-breaking. It was supposed to be a shovel-ready batch of demos to reveal a more commercial if still compellingly idiosyncratic side of its makers who had been major label artists heretofore.

Instead after several years of banging heads against the usual brick walls of the music industry, Kill City was sold to and released on Greg and Suzy Shaw's alternative/garage/punk oasis in the 1970s, the Bomp! Records label.

Any artist's tenure in L.A., then as now, ends in external or self-corruption and quasi-failure 90% of the time, eventually proving no different for Iggy and The Stooges. Therefore, Kill City's subject matter grittily presages the decades later fad for keeping it real about the depressing underside of life, still only a glimmer in the eyes of punk, rap, hip hop and reggae. (This last precept I know personally, as publishers' instructions for my mid-70s book on Bob Marley and the Wailers commanded I gear it to the intellectuality of college students, as the audience one might have presumed receptive for reggae, African-Americans, still preferred the glitz of Diana Ross and The Spinners to that of urban decay in those days.)

Kill City's sound is, to steal a description of the contemporary version of Keith Richards, elegantly wasted, alternately both energized and utterly laconic, the early morning chill out from the night before's former blast of raw power.

Another writer correctly deemed it "Exile On Stooge Street" and I agree its innate quality definitely should have put those two into The Bigs alongside the Stones. Excellent song-writing, excellent playing, excellent if harrowing delivery, and now with the remastering, you can hear everything going on! (This newfound clear audio also reveals at least one of the bases of James Williamson's and Scott Thurston's sympatico, as the keyboard and guitar parts complement one another wafting in and around each. It's also mostly the ensemble David Bowie poached for his future Iggy plans.)

How can retinkering the same ingredients make such a difference, which it most certainly does? Firstly, thirty-five years ago it initially was recorded on the cheap and on the fly with donated studio time and a lead singer carted in on day passes from the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Ward. (I used to witness Iggy projectile vomiting and falling down repeatedly in the gutter in front of The Whisky when I photographed acts there. I'm ashamed to admit that my early 20s self did not call for help for a young man obviously in much physical distress, but I was young and though one doesn't like to admit same, actually didn't know everything at the time. Thank heavens for his own later moment of clarity to self-admit to the UCLA ward to rehab.)

Secondly, consider it similar to the fine-tailoring of a bespoke suit instead of someone wearing one off the rack. You just perceive that the person comes off better and classier without knowing exactly why. Everyone involved credits Ed Cherney and rightly so for the new, remastered engineering mix which invisibly highlights what actually should be.

Subjectively, I'm likewise glad my late friend Suzan Carson's photos are showcased here sumptuously with her byline credit intact for a change. Boo on Getty Images for anonymity of her legacy therein. She was a fabulous photographer and a genuinely nice person, so nice I wasn't even jealous that she got most of the assignments I might have coveted, but understandable for her as we shared musical tastes for the adventuresome in that proto-punk era. We also shared the same circle of UCLA graduate chums who had morphed into the local entertainment biz.

When I emerged from my serious illness in the 80s, she was one of the first people I wanted to see, with thoughts to jump-starting my photography after this lay off. We talked about sharing costs for renting a studio together since we sort of worked similarly and knew that we could get along (important: I got stiffed/betrayed bigtime by my best friend when I had worked at a major record company. At least after the requisite cooling off decade, this person and I were and are friends again.) Then Suzan got her serious illness, and she didn't emerge.

Lastly, I used to play the original release in darkened rooms over and over and over because it seemed to mirror the unlikely combo of arrogance and despair in my own quest to get the art out and the love in. I'm glad those days are long gone for everyone connected with Kill City and everyone survived those queasy times, with the exception of Greg Shaw and Suzan Carson, talents taken away from us all far, far too young.

L-R: Models Mary Kay of The Dogs and Kirk Henry with Suzan Carson at my shoot for a Warner Brothers tv commercial, 1986

Treat yourself to this important release. Obtain here: LINK
and get a taste of Suzan Carson's fine photography in it and one of the amazing Kill City tracks in the video below:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

HOLLYWORD, lost Spoken Word buried treasure



Harvey Kubernik, current author of five music/film biz books including the recent, deluxe "Canyon of Dreams," a lavishly photo-illustrated tome of Laurel Canyon entertainment industry history throughout this unique area's nine decades, once was the premiere producer of Spoken Word by musicians and actors (possibly because he was the one who discovered the loophole that musicians' spoken words didn't necessarily belong to whatever label owned their musical offerings.)

His releases flowed forth through an assortment of South Bay hardcore punk labels, his own Freeway Records plus Kubro, and Rhino Records via Rhino/WordBeat. This last company, however, relegated
"Hollyword," one of the best works Harvey ever curated, to a cassette-only release, hence its rarity and undeserving lack of renown.

Truth in advertising DISCLAIMER: I did the "Hollyword" art direction, front cover photography and the assorted shots of its contributors that you see displayed here, yet I'd love this work even if I hadn't. It encapsulates the music/film biz mindset of the late 1980s/early 90s so perfectly that it seems a conspiracy amongst its participants, which it wasn't. Indeed, that front cover tips off its 1990 genesis bigtime with clues galore. For one, that roundish thing, upon which I sprayed granite rock texture, with the letters spelling out the title was called a Rolodex, pre-Pda/G4 symbol of a Hollywood player's multitudes of contacts. (Harvey and the Surf Punks' own Drew Steele brainstormed the cover idea.)

Perry Farrell and his nuclear family





These non-conspirators encompassed LOL humor, poignant drama, weird little time capsules, a bit of pretentiousness, and fun verbal riffing. Lollapalooza founder/Jane's Addiction/Porno for Pyros' Perry Farrell's 9-minute moody, Faulkner-esque "Letters To Xiola" was recorded in two takes, after the first he promised a better one, disappeared into the loo for a spell of gawd knows what, returned and indeed offered an improved reading. Wait until you hear his breathy "I'm scared...and I'm excited!" This Xiola fragment morphed into a complete song on the next Jane's Addiction release, which of course went platinum. He was photographed as such a be-caprisoned freak in those days, I welcomed portraying him a normal if hyper-creative person with girlfriend Casey and pet dog Annie.

mighty Mike Watt circa 2010
Mike Watt, once of The Minutemen and fireHOSE, currently of Iggy and The Stooges, The Secondmen, Dos, and about three dozen other bands made a memorable if short contribution. His Hootpage blog (LINK) features many of his poems scattered throughout the diaries.


Wanda Coleman (also see LINK,) an author, poet and onetime television writer who's recorded with Lydia Lunch and was a Kubernik stable favorite of course has an offering. Although it's not the one included here, Coleman's live performance monologue about her rape remained one of the most moving and least cliched treatises on the subject I've witnessed.
Wanda Coleman



Pamela Des Barres, Patti D'Arbanville
Real life chums Pamela Des Barres and Patti D'Arbanville provided memorable offerings, with Des Barres' one a vintage 1966 teen angst-o-rama set to the meter of her mentor Frank Zappa's song "Trouble Every Day." (Undisclosed by her, but I'm close to their same age, I know these things.) Her then husband Michael's "Let's Put The Stones Back Together" (meaning the then feuding Rolling ones) included hilarious impressions of same.
Drew Steele of the Surf Punks, a picture of pious innocence (yeah, right!)
Others of note: the aforementioned Drew Steele, actors Katey Sagal, Gavin MaCleod, genuine and seriously worthwhile poets Tommy Swerdlow and Michelle T. Clinton, session great Jim Keltner, Hubert Selby, Jr. ("Last Exit to Brooklyn,") Danny Weizmann (Shredder of "Flipside,") avant-garde musician Anna Homler, and two dozens more including my personal favorites, Meri Nana-ama Danquah's sexual riffing on the prowess of bad boys and musicians called "The Wings of His Devil," and actor Michael O'Keefe's hilarious "The Female Impersonator" wherein his actress/model date transmogrifies, a la Franz Kafka, into a giant insectmonster bellowing "Have! You! Seen! My! Work!?!"
Yes, that's tiny type (it was for a cassette tape package, remember.) For full credits go to LINK

Monday, October 4, 2010

L.A. POETRY FESTIVAL art direction, drawing and photography by me



















The front cover featured my photograph of a flowering ornamental peach tree* in front of our house, taken with a long time exposure in the middle of the night. The original is in color with a deep, vibrant blue, but this was a two-color job. The back cover of this flyer left room for mailing addresses and features my panorama of L.A. drawing at the bottom.

Being a civic-sponsored event, they were all locals like Sandra Tsing Loh (humorist/performance artist/author and my onetime neighbor,) Luis Alfaro, Sam Eisenstein, Marilyn Hacker, Suzanne Lummis, Paul Body (ardent Facebooker,) Harry e. Northup, Luis Campos, Michelle T. Clinton (seen in my photo with "Louie, Louie" writer Richard Berry,) Joel Lipman, Danny Weizmann (Shredder to Flipside readers) and assorted actors like Hector Elizondo, Roscoe Lee Browne and Barbara Bain who read from T.S. Eliot, Rilke and Beckett.

*removed by the city shortly thereafter.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

HEATHER'S RHINO ART (not the perissodactyl)


In the beginning, Rhino Media Empire of All Things Retro (that aren't RetroKimmer) was Rhino Records, a UCLA campus-close record store somewhat similar to the fictional one seen decades later in the film "High Fidelity" starring John Cusack, as was every other one staffed by real rock afficianados in the U.S. and the U.K.

I drew the above immortal art for their April 1 - May 15, 1976 calendar flyer (based upon a nearby midnight movie theatre one, you know, "Rocky Horror Show" Friday, "El Topo" Saturday) and brainstormed the weirdest of their commemorative days for filler, such as John Denver Silly Walks Day, Our Unsung Idiots Day, ad Monty Python nauseum (which admittedly, thirty four years ago, was still fresh.) Trivia: my May 3rd drawing was based upon David Bowie's ISOLAR, a project with which I dubiously was connected (that is a LONG, whole other whale of a tale.)

When Rhino Record Store begat Rhino Records, I did the photography and art direction for their second, third and fourth ever releases: Rhino Royale (a professional wrestling themed compilation which found me stationed at the Olympic Auditoriuim in downtown L.A. photographing Andre the Giant;) Twist Again with the Low Numbers, and Saturday Night Pogo (the first L.A. punk compilation, with my photo of gonzo rock writer Richard Meltzer as the John Travolta. And please view the last of this trio, with my annotation here LINK.) Anal trivia: their first release which darkened neither my drawing table nor camera lens was An Evening With Wildman Fischer. (No personal computers to darken in those dark ages.)

For jolly insider descriptions of the original phenom in both Westwood Village CA and Claremont CA, click these tres amusing links by ex-Rhino employees Jeff Gold (future media exec, now CEO of RecordMecca.com) and Mark Leviton (future media exec and now in retirement full time radio DJ) respectively: LINK and LINK.

Stop the online presses! My drawings and graphic design are featured in this new (7/11) Rhino documentary feature teaser...

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