Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
I am rarely without something to say, but I'm afraid to don't have much to bring to the table today, other than profanity-laden grumbles of incredulity.
But, as we begin our Great Leap Backward, I feel that -- with apologies to director Roman Polanski, novelist Ira Levin and actress Mia Farrow -- this tidy little clip from "Rosemary's Baby" pretty much sums up how I'm feeling about today's proceedings.
We’ve been back home in NYC for about three weeks now, but everyone at Chez Pablum pines to return to the comparatively carefree week we spent in lovely London (you may remember my somewhat laboriously lengthy photographic summary of same). Honestly, we could not have had a greater time, and we miss our little flat on Hortensia Road. Maybe someday we’ll get back there.
In any case, a friend of mine just posted a photo which bizarrely took me right back. Herewith a great shot of the mighty Generation X paying homage, much as I did, to the cover location of Bowie’s The Rise and Fall Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars at some point in the late 70’s. They're actually facing the opposite direction from Bowie on the cover.
And, again, here's me at that same phone box in the background of the Gen-X shot (and on the back cover of the original album).
What made the above photo somewhat extra special for me, however, was that earlier in the day before my friend Miles and I pinpointed the Ziggy spot, he’d given me a poster I’d been admiring in his Camden Town punk shop, All Ages, that being a reproduction of the original promo poster for Generation X’s first album (which I now display in my office). Yeah, it’s a mild coincidence, but I’ll take it.
Here’s some vintage footage of Generation X playing, I believe, not too far away from this same spot at one of the original locations of the fabled Marquee club. Miles and I actually went to the site of the last incarnation of that club (which is now a T.G.I. Friday’s-type bar called Montagu Pyke), but I’m not sure it was the same venue presented in this clip.
I keep expecting things to slow down, but then … why should they? There’s more political news than you can shake an angry fist at, but I don’t want this blog to become consumed by that, so I’m endeavoring to mention it sparingly. That all said, once again, I welcome the dialogue. The only way we’re all going to get through this idiotic fiasco is by effectively communicating with each other.
On other fronts, the book project rolls onward. I’ve been interviewing crucial figures in the narrative left and right, and things are taking shape, but it is a slow process. Incidentally, the documentary film project that spawned this book has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign. Find out more here, should you be interested.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of video items I thought I’d pass along.
I spotted this first one courtesy of a Facebook post by Go Nightclubbing. Honestly speaking, I haven’t the foggiest clue who Samurai Toys might have been (I’m assuming they’re a band), nor do I know what year this particular video may have been shot. Regardless, here we see “Ballistic Kisses,” featuring a somewhat inexplicable cameo by fabled filmmaker, crucial scenester, original punk and former Big Audio Dynamite member, Don Letts. In keeping, I suppose, with the band’s name, Letts is depicted showing off his nunchaku chops on a Manhattan rooftop. I’d be curious if anyone could speculate on the address. It reminds me quite about about the 2008 film, “The Tao of 9 Second Avenue” (which I spoke about here).
Next up, it’s across the river we head to Brooklyn. BC Studio mainstay and longtime Cop Shoot Cop producer/engineer Martin Bisi, who I mentioned here and recently spoke with about the book, posted this video a little while back of Arto Lindsay’s Ambitious Lovers circa 1983/1984, filmed in Bisi’s space. I’ve written about Arto a couple of times before (notably way back here). His stuff is worth seeking out.
For all the studied, speculative analysis of Blackstar as David Bowie’s final statement, he – of course – had more up his sleeve. His No Plan EP was released this week … a welcome-albeit-bittersweet gift in this season of gloom, bellicose “press conferences” and ignorance.
I find it genuinely surprising, in looking back, that in 11 plus years, I’ve never posted about Bruce Springsteen. I mean, sure, I’ve mentioned Bruce in passing –- usually in regards to my lack of affinity for his earnest, saxophone-laden fare or his professed fandom for NYC proto-punk outfits like Suicide and the Dictators -– but I’ve evidently never devoted an entire entry to the subject. Sorry, Boss-man.
To be fair, this post isn’t necessarily totally about him either. With scant few exceptions – maybe “Ties That Bind,” “I’m On Fire” and “Atlantic City” – I still find his music needlessly histrionic and sonically overblown. It’s just not my bag. That all said, I have nothing against Bruce Springsteen. I’ve always considered him to be a genuine, affable and thoughtful guy. So, while I don’t think his Jersey bar-band fare is the bee’s knees, I do have a great amount of respect for the guy.
More recently, however, my esteem for ol’ Bruce has seen a dramatic uptick, as he’s been increasingly more pointedly outspoken in the face of the looming Trump Administration. I’ve also quite enjoyed how his refreshing lack of anything even remotely charitable to say about the President-Elect has confounded large swathes of his sizable fan-base. I appreciate that Bruce simply DOES NOT GIVE ONE SINGLE FUCK about potentially alienating those folks. This has predictably been met by dismissive Trump-apologists who ultimately feel Bruce should “know his place” as an “entertainer” and just “shut up and play his guitar.”
That particular refrain has always perplexed me. With the exception of my own stubborn tolerance for KISS (I was indoctrinated at an early age), I’ve never been able to really divorce my perception of an artist’s personal sensibilities from their art. I could never understand how, say, GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was such an avowed fan of Rage Against the Machine. I just can’t understand willfully ignoring whole aspects of the content. I suppose it’s ultimately a matter of interpretation, but it strikes me that Paul Ryan virtually EMBODIES everything Rage Against the Machine hates. How does he manage to overlook that and still enjoy their music?
Governor Chris Christie had a similar quandary with his afore-cited idol Bruce Springsteen. Despite Christie very publicly professing his lifelong fandom for Bruce, to say Springsteen has never capitulated and requited that adoration is putting it mildly. That’s gotta sting.
Personally speaking, the moment I hear an artist I otherwise admire say something hateful, deliberately untrue or idiotic, I’m usually pretty much out of there. To that end, I haven’t been able to enjoy listening to Megadeth ever since hearing of Dave Mustaine’s on-stage allegation that Obama covertly orchestrated the Sandy Hook school shootings as a justification to amp up gun control. I similarly lost a lot of interest in X upon hearing that Exene Cervenka had become a chemtrail-counting, false-flag flying conspiracy theorist. Now, granted, Jaz Coleman, from my long-beloved Killing Joke, is no stranger to bug-eyed conspiracy theories that are indefensibly asinine from time to time, but then, he’s ALWAYS been that way (i.e. kinda nuts). That’s just his thing.
As far as KISS is concerned, even if you excise Gene Simmons’ political views from the equation (he leans to the right, in case you understandably had better things to pay attention to), they are pretty flatly indefensible on more levels than can be quantified. By the same token, KISS has never been a band designed to be taken very seriously, so it’s easier to do what many have sought to do with Springsteen and reduce their non-musical statements to those simply of slack-witted “entertainers.” I mean, that is indeed what they do – that is all they do –- entertain.
Springsteen, however, to my mind –- and this from a mind that doesn’t even really appreciate his music -– is more than simply an “entertainer.” Yes, he does that (and laboriously well, as his multi-hour concerts handily demonstrate), but he’s also a bona fide spokesman for a generation. He’s a revered songwriter on par with Bob Dylan (another artist I respect, but whose music I simply do not enjoy). To try to pass off Bruce as just another preening rock star just doesn’t work. He’s an elder statesman. His opinions do matter… whether you happen to espouse them or not.
Trying to discredit Bruce’s statements, actually, is tantamount to what Trump and his acolytes are trying to do to Meryl Streep in the wake of her eloquent Golden Globes speech. Resorting to his tired playbook of infantile defensiveness, Trump retaliated over Twitter by suggesting that Streep is “overrated.” Given the long and distinguished list of Streep’s unparalleled accolades, Trump’s petulant retort packed all the merit of a damp fart. Much as with Bruce, what Streep has to say DOES matter. She’s earned her place on the platform to say it, and it has validity.
Maybe We Should All Be Praying For Time. In 1990, this was a fairly audacious proposition, especially given the fact that one of the previous missives we’d received from this same source had rather presumptuously asked whether we thought it was time we’d had sex with him (as if to assert that we were collectively behind schedule in the fruition of that endeavor). Portentous of production and pretentious of lyric, “Praying for Time” arrived with a glumly earnest solemnity and spun a scenario that bordered on the doomily dystopian (or distupidian, as my kids have re-branded the term), lamenting broken skies, open hands, hungry men and a deity turned indifferent. “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” it was not.
Upon the news of the death of George Michael, I’d started to write another post along the lines of Life Without Lemmy, Life Without Bowie and Life Without Prince, continuing to hit a growingly familiar refrain as 2016 put luminary after luminary into the cold, cold ground. But then it was also Christmas, and then fucking Carrie Fisher died and then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, died of a broken heart and suddenly days had gone by and poor George’s untimely demise already seemed like old news.
In a nutshell, while my original post followed a tangled trajectory of overwritten musings about my listening habits in high school and college amid concerns that an initially furtive appreciation for George Michael clashed inconveniently with my otherwise ironclad adherence to all things punk, metal and goth, I’m just going to cut right to the chase -– George Michael wrote, crafted and recorded great and roundly unimpeachable goddamn pop music. Yes, I can happily regale you with discographical minutia about the oeuvres of bands like Kraut, Fields of the Nephilim and Lubricated Goat, but –- much as with Prince -– a fervent appreciation of those bands was rarely going to help one out on a dancefloor populated by potential paramours. In my awkward experience, more often than not, the heroically unlikely targets of my affection were keen to dance to stuff like George Michael. Sure, it would have been grand if the sounds of Shriekback or the Exploited or 45 Grave made them giddily frisky, but it rarely seemed to work out that way. As such, if you were going to even begin to catch the attention of comely _____________ (insert name of high school crush here), you’d better be prepared to dance to “Careless Whisper.”
But that just sounds like a mercenary excuse –- a means to an end. Beyond it being music that very arguably made girls I knew fleetingly more susceptible to my strenuously unpolished attempts at romance, the fact remains that George Michael’s music was simply great, by any standard, full stop. Seriously, if you can’t find something to appreciate about singles like “Everything She Wants,” “Father Figure,” “Monkey,” “Fastlove,” “Too Funky,” “Waiting For That Day,” or “Heal the Pain” (to name a small few), I’m inclined to think you’re just at war with humanity. As pop music goes, I’d rank George up there with ABBA. You may not be a big pop fan, but you have to admit –- he did it fucking well.
On top of all that, he was also, by all accounts, an unfailingly decent gent with a big heart. And if you’re upset and/or still put-off by the way he sometimes spent his downtime, you’re just being an unduly pious, judgmental jackass and very probably a homophobe. Get over that shit.
So yeah, losing George Michael –- at the mere age of 53, no less (only four years older than myself, bizarrely) –- took the wind out of my sails. He wasn’t someone you expected to see die just yet. It certainly broke my beautiful wife’s heart, prompting robust airings of his music around the apartment for the past several days.
Which brings me back to “Praying for Time.”
Once again, in 1990, this po-faced single seemed overwrought and funereal. I mean, indeed, upon its release in August of 1990, the AIDS epidemic was still in escalation, Saddam Hussein was about to kick off the Gulf War by marching into Kuwait (not that George Michael necessarily knew that, but still), and George H.W. Bush was in office, not really making many new friends by reneging on his “no new taxes” pledge and vetoing the 1990 Civil Rights Act. More to the point, “Praying for Time” felt like George Michael’s emphatic demand to be taken more seriously as an artist, but it still felt ridiculously heavy-handed. Despite my fandom, I remember penning a cheekily snide one-sentence review for a tiny music `zine about the album that spawned that single, that being the eye-rollingly titled Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. My review was simply: Listen without purchasing. Har har.
But upon hearing it again this week -– still neck deep in the wake of the wave of death that was 2016, and faced with the disquieting dawn of the age of Trump -– “Praying For Time” doesn’t feel so ridiculously overblown anymore. It feels pretty goddamn on-point and prescient.
Rest in peace, George. For your contributions, you deserved a far better fate than what was handed to you.
The Second Avenue subway line has been something of a mythological concept for so long that its recent realization has left many frankly amazed, especially in an era when bad news seems to be the perpetual order of the day. I haven't seen it yet, but I am genuinely amped to check it out. I spotted something today, meanwhile, that really made me curious about it.
When I lived on East 86th Street between York Avenue and East End in the mid-80's to the mid-90's, a subway at Second Avenue would have been an absolute dream come true. The trek from York Avenue to Lex to hop on the congested 6 train was always a time-consuming hassle. I wouldn't have cared how clean the station was or what it looked like. That would have just been icing on the cake.
Today, however, I learned that the icing on this particular slice of that cake boasts a feature near to my interest. Thanks to a link on Facebook from my comrade Chung Wong, I found out that the newly opened Q station on East 86th and Second Avenue boasts a giant portrait by Chuck Close of the late great Lou Reed. Here's the photo in question.
Now, far be it from me to ever be an insufferable pedantic, but the placement of this homage struck me as odd. I mean, for a start, Lou originally hailed from Brooklyn before moving to Freeport, Long Island. When Lou did reside in Manhattan, I don't believe he ever lived -- much less voluntarily travelled -- anywhere north of Union Square (yes, I realize Lexington Avenue and 125th Street might have been an exception). What, then, does Lou have to do with a subway station in the veritable heart of Yorkville on the Upper East Side?
The answer is probably nothing. Lou's endearingly cheerless mug was invariably placed there semi-arbitrarily via the rationale that he embodies all things NYC.
Then, however, I remembered a palpable Yorkville connection.
I believe it long existed as a widely circulated bootleg before it was included on the deluxe re-release of White Light/White Heat in 2013, but there is a recording of the mighty Velvet Underground -- arguably the quintessential downtown band -- playing in the comparatively whisper-quiet, urban backwater of Yorkville in April of 1967. Performing in the unlikely environs of a gymnasium, the Velvets plowed through a six-song set that included such faves as "Sister Ray' and the afore-alluded "Waiting for the Man." While not exactly a stone's throw from the site of Lou's new shrine-of-sorts, this performance went down on East 71st Street between First and York Avenues.
Maybe the portrait is at least on the downtown side of the station?
It turned out to be a glitch in Typepad’s site-monitoring functionality, but for some time, the dashboard of my blog was suggesting that I hadn’t received a single visit in several days. Now, granted, it being the culmination of the holiday season, that more or less made sense. People had bigger fish to fry than to visit my silly blog and read what I might have to say about this and that, watch some ancient video or look at pics of my kids doing something ridiculous, etc. But as each day went by, it kept saying PAGEVIEWS TODAY: 0. It’s been a busy few weeks, and I hadn’t been posting as frequently, but that sad numeral kept popping up. ZERO.
I started wondering, “Has it finally happened? Have people lost interest at long last? Maybe blogging really is dead! Is Flaming Pablum no longer compelling to even that paltry handful of readers?”
I first figured I should put something up immediately. I started writing a post based around a Willie Nile video from 2013, but abandoned it three-quarters of the way in because (a) just because I don’t share this troubadour’s romantic view of Bleecker Street doesn’t give me the right to trash it and (b) it felt forced and disingenuous.
Then, I thought about whipping up a post about all the latest Trump bullshit, but nobody really needs my blog to point that shit out –- especially when it’s so self-evident (go ahead and defend his North Korea tweet -– no, really, go ahead. I’ll wait right here).
Then, another easy target was Mariah Carey and her tragicomic denouement as petulant diva torpedoed by a vocationally lethal dose of karma (i.e. her botched lip-synch on New Year’s Eve), but -– really -– there’s nothing I can bring to the table on that that’s going to be a surprise (to say that I’ve never been a fan is putting it very mildly). Also, it’s January 3. No one should still be talking about it.
As I mentioned in my year-end survey, while I’m indeed very glad that 2016 is over, there’s absolutely NOTHING to suggest that 2017 is going to be any better, especially with Trump at the helm.
So, beyond all that, I don’t have much to say at the moment. I’m sure inspiration will come, but you can’t force these things. So, I’d live with the ZERO.
Then, suddenly and inexplicably, Typepad corrected the glitch. Apparently, I had over 700 views last Friday and am currently just below 628. So, people are still looking.
I’ll endeavor to have something worthwhile to look at soon.