I’ve also excised portions from my original post to make amends.
Thanks for reading, Alex
In the past couple of months, I've had this weird, recurring thing with John Lurie. I think it started back in September, when I tracked down the Criterion Collection edition of "Stranger Than Paradise," the viewing of which rekindled my curiosity about the man's legacy in the pantheon of New York City musicians. I knew he'd formed the so-called "fake jazz" ensemble Lounge Lizards during the nuclear winter of No Wave in the late `70s/early 80's (featuring Anton Fier of the Feelies on drums, Arto Lindsay of DNA on guitar, his brother Evan on keyboards and a gent named Steve Piccolo on bass), but what I credibly know about jazz -- fake or otherwise -- isn't much. I did know that Lurie seemed like an incredibly cool cat, and I enjoyed the snippets of music I'd heard by him in various films. I'd always loved the lulling "Bob the Bob," although that particular piece, as it turned out, was recorded by a completely different line-up from the afore-cited incarnation of the band.
In any case, after that, I started searching again with half-an-eye for that debut Lounge Lizards disc. Again, while I'm normally not a big saxophone fan (maybe I'm just haunted by FEAR's scathing indictment of the instrument in its association with NYC), I felt it was music I should know about, given my fascination with all the fixtures around it.
In November, meanwhile, you may remember I sang the praises of the new photo blog I'd encountered called New York City 1990's: Photo Archives by Gregoire Allessandrini. If you've not checked it out, you really need to do so at once, as it's just an amazing trove of images from the era in question. But, while pouring over Gregoire's shots, I came across this excellent shot of posted flyers and bills on a wall in Hell's Kitchen, and sure enough -- there was Lurie's name once again. That's the shot in question at the top of this post, by the way. I hope Gregoire doesn't mind me using it.
Some time after that, I went down to Chinatown to check out the latest incarnation of Downtown Music Gallery. While there, I finally picked up a copy of the Lounge Lizards disc. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting. Not being a big jazz guy, all I can say it that it has some great, compelling moments on it -- along with some moments that didn't really grab me. Suffice to say, there are a couple of numbers wherein the amount of dizzying noodlrey gets a bit out of hand, but ultimately that's just a rock-head talking about jazz. What do I know?
On a recent, aimless Christmas-shopping expedition, I dialed up on the album on my iPod as I was walking around SoHo and across Canal Street. I frequently do this -- call up certain music while walking around certain neighborhoods. I'll listen to Television or the Ramones when walking through the East Village. I'll fill my headphones with Murphy's Law or the Cro-Mags while walking by the site of the old Ritz. I'll blast Missing Foundation when traipsing through Tompkins Square Park. Invariably, while my subconscious intention may be to magically transport myself back in time, these endeavors rarely work. Too much has happened since those respective eras. As such, walking down Courtlandt Alley off Canal in the direction of 77 White Street (the former site of the Mudd Club) while listening to the Lounge Lizards might sound like a romantic notion, but it did nothing to magically conjure anything other than the confirmation that everything is different from how it once was ... a point that was already self-evident.
Anyway, while I enjoyed the chaotic elements of skronk n' honk on the debut Lounge Lizards disc (the combination of Lurie's horn with Lindsay's scratching, squealing guitar discord being an interesting dynamic), I think I was really hoping for something more along the more melodic lines of the afore-cited "Bob the Bob." I did a little research and learned that said track was originally released on the 1988 album, Voice of Chunk (a disc which featured Marc Ribot taking Arto Lindsay's place on guitar and bass duties handled by future Skeleton Key mainman Erik Sanko). Clearly, this was the album I needed to go fetch.
As I might've guessed, however, the album is long out of print. "No problem," I thought, "This is New York City! I'm sure I can find it here somewhere." Quite often, I can be a naive chump who believes his own bullshit. This was one of those times.
Unable to find it at any of the paltry few likely spots left on the map, I decided that a trek back down into the maze of Chinatown to Downtown Music Gallery on Monroe Street was in order. So yesterday, that's what I did. They were sure to have it, I thought.
I was wrong, of course.
Whatever. I still wanted to track down that album. At this point, my best options were all on the Internet, but as I've whined before, I don't really enjoy that so much. Yes, I can actually prize Voice of Chunk for a tidy sum on eBay or seamlessly acquire its mp3s on iTunes, but fuck that! I want to buy the disc from an actual shop. Apparently, that's a tall order.
So, anyway, as I was lamenting all this this morning, imagine my surprise when my friend Tim Broun of Stupefaction fame posts this amazing clip of John Lurie himself, filmed as recently as this past November, speaking lucidly and affably about his days filming "Fishing with John." In it, the man sounds completely normal and is frankly hilarious.
I'm lifting part one from Tim, but check on his site tomorrow for Part Two.
Weird, though, right?