Tuesday, January 22, 2013


After an instantaneously major setback the very nanosecond I began physical therapy yesterday at the halfway point through convalescence (sufficient pain to cause hyperventilation and screaming all last night,) a plan had to be devised today in avoidance of self-pity. (Answering the unspoken question, doctors in 2013 Southern California are loathe ever to prescribe pain amelioration to the non-dying or non-Stage 4. Too many Dr. Feelgood scares to their insurers.)

I therefore vowed to watch music dvds with tales of real life dreamers' struggles then redemption, and did so. 

First up, New York Doll about the weirdo world of Arthur Kane. It's an accurate documentary on a difficult subject with which to be objective: the post-rock-stardom life of a well known musician who bottomed out without financial success. Kane had been by far the weirdest individual of one of America's weirdest bands after all.

It provides the only cool footage of Kane's band, the legendary USA glamsters of the early 1970's The New York Dolls, besides Bob Gruen's excellent, exhaustively documented "All Dolled Up."

It's a true bridge between organized religion and rock & roll craziness, the Apollonian/Dionysian ideal, insofar as the filmmaker, a fellow Mormon like the film's subject, had to travel the same psychic distance to understand Kane as Kane had to in order to understand his newly embraced religion.

It shows the New York Dolls reunion in London's 2004 Meltdown, fun in itself, with footage of an astonishing insight of understanding backstage. Flamboyantly extroverted lead singer David Johansen immediately intuits that he's gone too far teasing Kane about the latter's newly embraced religion, instantaneously does an about face, backs off and joins in Kane's pre-gig band prayer. I like this. Also liked was his invocation to all NY Dolls living and deceased.

Kane passed away within days of the reunion of heretofore undiagnosed leukemia. Luckily this testament to his redemption remains, and truly beatific footage of a happy man awash in his life's dream come true.

Below, the teaser trailer of New York Doll:

Next up -- Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the story of Smile, an even more difficult rumination on talent deferred, holding patterns in creativity and eventual triumph due to Wilson's stature as a true titan of modern music and his own complex intelligence and concomitant demons.

Presenting the rise, fall and rise of the once lost Smile Beach Boys album, stillborn due to band politics, it was rumored to be a work which should have completed the Holy Trinity of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Raw Power for the most influential rock touchstones of the '60s and '70s. Wilson had decades of torment to work through, but fortunately retained the means to sort through (unlike Arthur) and loyal friends and some family to care.

In 2004, the Brian Wilson Band performed a completed Smile in its entirety in London, central to this film. In 1999, I actually was there to photograph its ground zero birth with The Wondermints, see LINK.

The most poignant moment in the film was not a Brian one, or even a band member noting the unspeakable, that revisiting this legendary music would only serve to stir up onerous unhappiness to Wilson, memories of the contemporary rejection of now unquestionable brilliance. To me, it was seeing Smile's lyrics collaborator, musician Van Dyke Parks collapse in his seat at the the performance end. It was if a great weight had been lifted from Parks himself just seeing that a great weight had just been lifted from his friend Brian Wilson. A cosmic sigh of relief for the both of them...
Below, the entire documentary Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the story of Smile:

Lastly, I watched the ultimate rock and roll redemption of all time.  See... LINKPerhaps those who've read this blog before are in a better position to hazard a guess! Photo below, (C) 2011 Heather Harris.

The first four words of vocabulary we learned in Synthesizer 101 class at UCLA (circa 1972, so we're talking monophonic ARP 2600s) were the descriptions of all musical sound notes: attack, sustain, decay, release.  How fitting to the lifeworks of creative types.
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