Friday, February 29, 2008

The death of the CD

Among the details of an L.A. Times report: 48 percent of teenagers bought zero CDs in 2007.

The report, which involved 5,000 people who answered questions online, highlighted a generational split. The increase in legal online sales was driven by people 36 to 50, the report said, giving the music industry an opportunity to target these customers by tapping into its older catalogs.

That’s not to say iTunes is not popular with the younger set. Mallory Portillo, 24, an executive assistant in Santa Monica, said she hadn’t bought a CD in five years, but typically spent more than $100 a month buying music online. She will turn to illegal music sharing sites only if she can’t find new releases or more obscure music on iTunes, she said.

leap year

[Late ME., f. LEAP n.1; prob. of much older formation, as the ON. hlaup-ár is presumably, like other terms of the Roman calendar, imitated from Eng.
The name may refer to the fact that in the bissextile year any fixed festival after Feb. falls on the next week-day but one to that on which it fell in the preceding year, not on the next week-day as usual. Cf. med.L. saltus lunæ (OE. mónan hlýp), the omission of a day in the reckoning of the lunar month, made every nineteen years to bring the calendar into accord with the astronomical phenomena.]

A year having one day (now Feb. 29) more than the common year; a bissextile year. {dag}to make leap year of: (fig.) to pass over.

1387 TREVISA Higden (Rolls) IV. 199 {Th}at tyme Iulius amended {th}e kalender, and fonde {th}e cause of the lepe {ygh}ere [L. rationem bisexti invenit]. 1481 CAXTON Myrr. II. xxxi. 127 Bysexte or lepe yere, whiche in iiij yere falleth ones. 1562 J. HEYWOOD Prov. & Epigr. (1867) 207 The next leape yere after wedding was first made. 1606 W. BIRNIE Kirk-Buriall (1833) 38 In civil entries to heritage, if it be for the better, men can make leap-yeare of their father and seeke farther uppe. 1704 HEARNE Duct. Hist. (1714) I. 3 That Year was called the Bissextile; and by us Leap-Year because one day of the Week is leaped over in the Observation of the Festivals. 1834 Nat. Philos., Astron. i. 44/1 (U.K.S.) The years 1600, 2000, 2400, would be leap years.

Copyright © Oxford University Press 2005

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Larry Norman, R.I.P.

I missed this the other day: Larry Norman, the ’70s Christian-rock longhair who inspired Frank Black at a young age — Norman’s onstage catchphrase was “come on, pilgrim!” — died on Sunday at age 60. Pitchfork has the story.

Pitchfork also reports that Norman had been recording a new album with guest spots by Black and Isaac Brook of Modest Mouse, and that Arena Rock will release an anthology album in May.

Download Frank Black and the Catholics’ version of Larry Norman’s “Six Sixty-six.”

William F. Buckley, scourge of ‘Lennonism’

A blog called Zippidy Doo Da beat me to the punch in reprinting William F. Buckley’s 1990 column on John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which exemplifies the closed and arrogant mind of this influential figure much better than all that “sesquipedalian spark.”

Buckley’s piece is the epitome of ignorant pseudo-analysis, a misguided riff on a piece of music by someone who has not heard it. Keep in mind that this is the man who all but founded the modern conservative movement and served as a model for the thinking that has gone on within it. As this column shows, Buckley’s intellectual method is biased and ideological, to say nothing of his contempt for popular culture (and, therefore, of everyone who participates in it).

It’s amazing that in all of his swashbuckling rhetoric Buckley misses the central message of the song, which is represented by the word “imagine”: Lennon is suggesting not some rigid atheistic doctrine but the idea of questioning destructive systems of social control. We are asked to imagine — i.e., think about — freedom from the restraints of religion and politics, not to pray to Mao.

There’s little substance to Buckley’s argument. It’s all a performance, pandering to the lowest-common-denominator American fear of the godless. Much like a George W. Bush speech, but with bigger words — proof, if any more were necessary, that Buckley was always playing to the peanut gallery.

I remember encountering the column in a book some time in the early ’90s. Here is the part that told me what kind of person Buckley was, and nothing I have learned about him since has changed that:

Now I do not know the melody of “Imagine,” but I have the lyrics in front of me, and what it amounts to is a kind of Bible, as written by the sorcerer’s apprentice.
Imagine there’s no heaven —
It’s easy if you try.
No hell below us,
Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people
Living for today.
I venture to say that those who imagine in that direction ought to make every effort to restrain themselves.

William F. Buckley Jr., 1925-2008.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sex in war propaganda


“Psywarrior,” the web site of Herbert A. Friedman, a retired Special Forces officer who is a lecturer on military psychological operations, has an extensive history of the use of sexual imagery in 20th-century war propaganda. (It is somewhat NSFW, but not too dirty.)

Wars are fought mostly by young men, and the persuasive power of kinky pin-ups on a farm boy stuck in a distant trench is something that governments have frequently exploited for their “PSYOPs.” Friedman focuses on World War II, and his most common theme is sex as a weapon against enemy morale, with lots of flyers featuring messages along the lines of “While you’re here fighting like a chump, Johnny, look who’s back home with his paws all over your girl!” I particularly enjoy “Gentlemen prefer blondes ... but blondes don’t like cripples.”

Variations include the injured soldier returning home to find his half-nude Bettie Page look-alike on the lap of some conscientious objector. The Germans tried to appeal to what they considered a latent American anti-Semitism, giving the “home front warriors” names like Sam Levy (barely visible in the picture below right) and dreaded “Jewish” characteristics like glasses, wealth and intelligence. (Guy reading newspaper = traitorous fiend.)


Some of the most morbid of these pictures are actually quite intellectually provocative, for instance the image (at left on the top of this post) of a cheating Betty in her boudoir mirror; in its reflection, poor Johnny succumbs to Death’s embrace. That could be powerful anti-war propaganda for anybody.

Or simple pornography. The women are mannequins from the golden age of the pin-up, and the narrow range of scenarios depicted in these publications — posters, leaflets and the like — reflect the infinitely recyclable dramatic templates of porn. Vivid, salacious detail helps pierce the opponent’s psyche and get him thinking about anything but fighting. So over and over again we see an ecstatic Varga girl in the arms of “that slick fellow, that slacker,” with a caption that, in slightly different context, could be the set-up for an old-fashioned stag film:


Plain, juvenile vandalism is another topic, with doctored photographs showing Hitler grabbing his erection like a spear or mugging before a pair of naked boobs. And who knew that graphic lesbianism was considered so motivational to G.I.’s!

Korea and Vietnam are covered, though less extensively, and more recent wars get only a cursory look. But is there more to this story in the present day? Does Abu Ghraib figure in? Could it be that in the Internet age, our diet of explicit pornography has so desensitized us that only the most violent and degrading imagery excites our men (and women) in uniform? Or does Abu Ghraib not compare, since the notorious footage there was made for soldiers by soldiers, instead of by foreign spymasters? I’d like to read a broader account of all of this.

Friedman’s conclusion is that sex-themed propaganda never works. Instead of demoralizing the enemy and making him unable to complete his duties, “‘pin-up’ pictures become collectors items and often have the effect of raising morale,” he writes.

He’d certainly know better than I, but he doesn’t give a convincing explanation for the extensive and persistent use of these methods if they were so ineffective. Were they just naive attempts by desk-bound officers and politicians in the primitive early days of PSYOPs? Did they ever work at all? Is there any data on such a thing? If so, it would be fascinating to see.


Paging Brian De Palma

From Gangster V.I.P. (Nikkatsu, 1968). A yakuza attempts to escape the criminal life, but it keeps pulling him back in. One scene on a train platform has a curious similarity to Carlito’s Way — almost certainly coincidental, since these films have rarely been seen outside Japan, and even now are not widely available. But you never know.

Trailer: with English subtitles, and in the original biff-bang-pow Japanese.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

YAAAAAAGH! on film

From the official Flickr feed of the Watchmen movie, which has just wrapped. Looks like the Rorschach capture scene, of which they earlier gave us a storyboard tease.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Waiting for Big Booty Godot

The video for Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” is pure brilliance, and not merely because of the undulating orbs inside Rita G’s [NOTE: LINK NSFW!] satiny bra. Directed by Spike Jonze and West himself, it is a strange drama that begins in medias res, with our well-endowed heroine stepping out of an expensive sedan at dusk (or dawn?), somewhere on the desert outskirts of a city emanating neon. She takes a short walk, removing and then burning her fur and skirt.

You’re going to have to watch it for the rest of the story. (Please note that the video is somewhat risqué too. Perhaps you could guess this from the title.)

The video ends abruptly at 2 minutes 47 seconds, more than a minute shorter than the album version of the song. The puzzling brevity raises all sorts of questions. Who is this woman, and why does she murder poor Kanye? Did he screw her over? Or was he just the naive loser in some wicked con game? And what’s her phone number?

Jonze and West have simply given us too little information to analyze the story. It’s the Beckett theory of drama: the important action has taken place before the play itself begins, and we are left with the aftermath. Our Vladimir and Estragon here are (1) a big booty fertility goddess slash stripper and (2) Kanye as a tuxedo-clad hostage who bites it on the wrong side of her heavy shovel. Fucking awesome, yes. And those tantalizing plot gaps? We can only use our imagination. The backstory scenarios are infinite; so far I’ve got four.

SCENARIO 1. It’s Vegas, the city built on broken kneecaps. It’s an “Ocean’s Eleven” situation, the big heist, and Kanye is our Danny Ocean. Somehow the showgirl was supposed to be the mule here, or the distraction, or something: she was a bit player and he was the mastermind. Or so he thought. Turns out she was a double agent, and as Andy Garcia waits back in the penthouse suite — grinning like a motherfucker because his money remains secure in the vault — his killer queen disposes of the shithead out in the desert somewhere at 4:45 a.m. Kanye looks up at her from the trunk so innocently. He never saw it coming. He was a good lay, she thinks, and as he lies there bound and gagged she lets him know she appreciates that: the last thing he sees will be her boobs bursting out of that lingerie, her heavenly kiss the last thing he feels. But there’s some serious vagina dentata action here as she bludgeons him to death in the trunk of her own car. It’s going to be dirty back there! Why didn’t she pull him out, dispose of him less messily? Is she going to dig a hole with that shovel?

SCENARIO 2. It’s still Vegas, only this time he’s the Andy Garcia, and Ocean is the one grinning like a motherfucker back at the bar. It worked. Not only is she a fantastic lay, she’ll even take out the fucking trash. How much do you love this woman! Kanye was an easy mark. Gave no struggle as the goons tied him up. They were just about to drive off when she showed up, said she wanted to take care of it herself. Fine. The goons looked her up and down — you’re going dressed like that? — but handed over the keys. Kanye didn’t know who was going to whack him until she opened the trunk, and at first he thought he had been rescued by a bosomy angel. Her! Such a fantastic lay, so innocent when he spotted her dancing at his casino. He remembered the look on her face when he laughed at the word “marriage” and she realized his sweat and $200-an-ounce cologne were smeared on every call girl in the house. He thought he could buy her off with a fur. It was chump change. You insult me, you son of a bitch. She held up the shovel, smashed that lying mouth and just kept on smashing. Ocean is back at the bar. He said he was going to take care of her. He couldn’t believe how gullible she was. But what a fantastic lay.

SCENARIO 3. It’s L.A., and it’s Grammy night. The parties are still raging at 4:45 a.m., and even though Herbie and Amy won all that shit, it’s still good. He’s in a smart tux, king of the world if only because there are no challengers to the throne. He chuckles as he takes off in a black Bentley with Rihanna and a bunch of young sisters from somewhere or other: that British skank is probably being led back to her padded cell right about now. The Bentley pulls up at somebody’s place in the Hills — Jimmy? Clive? — and Rihanna slinks off to the pool house, leaving him with a wet kiss and “hold that thought” eyes. Five minutes later he had a sista sandwich going when she opened the door in a long fur and full Victoria’s Secret getup. Get the hell out of here, bitches! Farnsworth, gimme a hand with this asshole! That’s it, tie him up! Tie the motherfucker up! Nobody does that to fucking Rihanna!

SCENARIO 4. It’s L.A., and it’s Grammy night. It’s been a good year, but not good enough. Nobody knows how this game really works. You’ve got the biggest opening-week sales and still it don’t mean shit. He crushed 50 Cent, and yet who made the real money? The guy with the fucking sugarwater endorsement deal who hasn’t had a hit in four years, who spends half his time with captains of industry and the rest with gangsters. He had Jam Master Jay whacked, everybody knows that. Only reason the Game is still alive is all the heat. He’s no idiot. Neither are the loan sharks who run this town, who hand out deadlines and then beatings; 2 million records is dandy, but without green it don’t mean shit. He should have known that the big booty beauty who cornered him at that party in the Hills was a setup. Her hand was in his crotch and her chest was exploding out of that fur when she pushed him through the pool house door. He never saw the goons back there. 50 was sweating, shouting, as if he were the one about to get it. Don’t be an idiot, just get the money! Our hero squirmed like a girl as they put the gag on him. Fuck you, he shouted. I’m Kanye West!

Any other reads?

UPDATE: Thanks to Jesse for pointing out this interview with Rita G on MTV, which I cite as advance approval of my plot projections:

“I just think it’s great to have a cliffhanger,” she said. “It’s great when the mother goose doesn’t have to chew the food up for you and then feed it to you. Use your motherf****ing mind. It’s abstract. It’s whatever you want it to be.”

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vintage ads: Modems are sexy!


Nothing sells 4800 bauds like leggy Avengers chic!

This is from 1971. More great old computer ads at 2Spare.

Sukeban Blues

Sukeban Blues 1

Sukeban Blues 2

Sukeban Blues 2

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The future of music criticism: Just wave the cover in front of the reviewer and get yer star rating

Gawker reports on a new low for rock criticism: in its March issue, Maxim reviews the new Black Crowes album even though the writer did not listen to the record. The truth came out when the perplexed label, which apparently didn’t make advance review copies, contacted the editors of the magazine and received this response:

Of course, we always prefer to [sic] hearing music, but sometimes there are big albums that we don’t want to ignore that aren’t available to hear, which is what happened with the Crowes. It’s either an educated guess preview or no coverage at all, so in this case we chose the former.

The band’s quite reasonably outraged reponse is here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The “Fame ’90” 90

It’s the laziest form of musical cannibalism: take an old hit, remix or re-record it, and stamp a new expiration date on the thing. Hence the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86,” David Bowie’s forgettable “Fame ’90,” and the parade of exploitation that stretches from “Walk, Don’t Run ’64” to “Billie Jean 2008.” The irony is that these cheap updates have the shortest shelf-life of all.

Here are some memorable or unmemorable examples, which I submit as a public list of offenses against music. My rules in compiling this are: (1) the new date must be part of the title, not simply a descriptive suffix like “In the Air Tonight (’88 Remix)”; (2) with a few exceptions, the songs must be by the original artists (i.e., German trance mixes of “I Will Survive” do not qualify); and (3) it must be an update of an older song, thus “Freedom! 90” doesn’t count because it was actually released in 1990 (although the live version, “Freedom ’93,” does).

Suggestions are welcome: I hope to make this list as infinite as there are versions of “Rhythm Is a Dancer.”

  • The Ventures, “Walk, Don’t Run ’64,” “Walk, Don’t Run ’77,” “Walk, Don’t Run 2000” (catalog exploitation at its most unapologetic: the Ventures re-did their classic 1960 instrumental in 1964, 1968, 1977 [disco], 1986 [metal?] and 2000 [with sax])
  • Sandy Nelson, “Teen Beat ’65” (remake of 1959 hit by bubblegummer drummer; see also “Honky Tonk ’65,” “Let There Be Drums ’66”)
  • Johnny and the Hurricanes, “Red River Rock ’67”
  • Capitols, “Cool Jerk ’68”
  • Bo Diddley, “Bo Diddley 1969” (“I’m back and I’m feelin’ fine/Bo Diddley 1969”)
  • Michael Rabon & the Five Americans, “I See the Light ’69”
  • Shadows of Knight, “Gloria ’69” (supposedly released without the band’s knowledge, with guitar and bass overdubbed by studio scabs including Peter Cetera, later of Chicago*)
  • The Arrows, “Apache ’73” (as in Davie Allan and the Arrows, as in “Apache ’65”)
  • Bobby Hebb, “Sunny ’76” (discosploitation version of 1966 hit)
  • Kiss, “Strutter ’78” (compsploitation cut for Double Platinum)
  • Residents, “Santa Dog ’78,” “Santa Dog ’84,” “Santa Dog ’88” (original 1972 EP considered the first significant Residents release)
  • Alice Cooper, “Generation Landslide ’81” (livesploitation)
  • Hawkwind, “Utopia 84”
  • Sugarfoot, “Fire ’85” (solo re-do of 1970s hit by Ohio Players singer)
  • The Sequence, “Funk It Up ’85” (re-do of 1979 Sugar Hill classic “Funk You Up”; pretty much the same song)
  • The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86” (compsploitation/aborted-reunion-spoitation/egosploitation perfect storm for Every Breath You Take: The Singles; delayed full Police return by 20 years)
  • Wham!, “Wham! Rap ’86” (possibly even lamer/gayer than original 1982 single: “Hey everybody, take a look at me/I’ve got street credibility”)
  • Pet Shop Boys, “West End Girls ’86”
  • Whitesnake, “Here I Go Again 87
  • Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba ’87” (Lou Diamond Phillips-ploitation)
  • New Order, “Blue Monday 1988” (remix by Quincy Jones; No. 3 on Brit chart), “Blue Monday-95” (remix EP)
  • Petula Clark, “Downtown ’88”
  • Thompson Twins, “In the Name of Love ’88”
  • Depeche Mode, “Strangelove ’88” (oh yes that is its official title)
  • Art of Noise, “Dragnet ’88” (Aykroydsploitation)
  • Art of Noise, “Paranoima ’89”
  • Bananarama, “Cruel Summer ’89” (“new jack”-sploitation)
  • Real Life, “Send Me an Angel ’89” (charted higher than 1983 original)
  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood, “Relax 89,” “Relax MCMXCIII” (special citation for “Relax [‘Classic’ 1993 Version]”)
  • Diana Ross, “Love Hangover 89”
  • Grandmaster Melle Mel & the Furious Five, “White Lines ’89 Part II”
  • Wendy and Lisa, “Waterfall ’89”
  • Bill Withers, “Harlem ’89” (re-whatever by “Lean on Me” singer)
  • David Bowie, “Fame ’90” (remix for ChangesBowie, itself an inferior compsploitated digest of ChangesOneBowie [1976] and ChangesTwoBowie [1981])
  • Anthrax, “I’m the Man ’91” (odds-’n’-sods-ploitation)
  • Ian Dury, “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick ’91” (Stiffsploitation)
  • Mötley Crüe, “Home Sweet Home ’91”
  • Soft Cell, “Tainted Love ’91,” “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye ’91,” “Memorabilia ’91” (compsploitation)
  • Godflesh, “Wound ’91”
  • Salt-N-Pepa, “Expression ’92”
  • KC and the Sunshine Band, “Please Don’t Go ’92”
  • Ultravox, “Vienna 92”
  • Cabaret Voltaire, “Kino ’92” (B-sidesploitation re-whatever of 1980s B-side)
  • George Michael, “Freedom ’93” (livesploitation)
  • Sodom, “Skinned Alive ’93”
  • Time Frequency, “Real Love ’93,” “Real Love 2002”
  • Commodores, “Brick House ’93” (from a Lionel-less comeback bid entitled No Tricks)
  • Kurtis Blow, “The Breaks ’94,” “The Breaks 2004” (oldschool-sploitation)
  • New Order, “True Faith-94” (remix of ’87 track)
  • Bronski Beat, “Tell Me Why ’94,” “Smalltown Boy ’94” (reunionsploitation)
  • Pet Shop Boys, “Paninaro ’95” (odds-’n’-sods-ploitation)
  • Joy Division, “Love Will Tear Us Apart ’95” (compsploitation/necrophilia remix by Arthur Baker)
  • Stone Roses, “Fools Gold ’95” (remix/reissue/out of ideas EP), “Fools Gold ’99” (still out of ideas)
  • Styx, “Lady ’95”
  • Roxette, “The Look ’95” (compsploitation remix of 1989 hit)
  • Snap!, “Rhythm Is a Dancer ’96,” “Rhythm Is a Dancer 2002,” “Rhythm Is a Dancer 2003,” “Rhythm Is a Dancer 2004”
  • Snap!, “The Power ’96” (honorary mention: “The Power [of Bhangra]” from 2003)
  • TLC, “Creep ’96”
  • Sting and the Police, “Roxanne ’97” (Puffysploitation remix featuring Pras, for The Very Best of Sting & The Police)
  • Elton John, “Candle in the Wind 1997” (memoriamsploitatus Dianae)
  • Wham!, “Everything She Wants ’97”
  • George Michael, “The Strangest Thing ’97” (there’s some perverted compulsion here; isn’t this around the time he was caught jacking off in a public bathroom?)
  • Sheena Easton, “Modern Girl ’97”
  • T’Pau, “Heart and Soul ’97
  • Mötley Crüe, “Shout at the Devil ’97” (flabsploitation)
  • Jay-Z, “Friend or Foe ’98”
  • Jungle Brothers, “I’ll House You ’98”
  • Blondie, “Atomic ’98” (compsploitation remix by some douchebag or other)
  • Savage Garden, “I Want You ’98”
  • DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, “Summertime ’98”
  • Metallica, “Nothing Else Matters ’99” (Kamensploitaton)
  • Black Oak Arkansas, “Hot ’n’ Nasty ’99” (also “Jim Dandy to the Rescue 1999,” “Mutants of the Monster ’99,” “Happy Hooker ’99”) (reunionsploitation)
  • Front 242, “Headhunter 2000”
  • Violent Femmes, “Blister 2000” (Grosse Pointe Blank-sploitation)
  • Mary J. Blige and Jadakiss, “Back 2 Life 2001” (DJ Clue update of 1989 Soul II Soul hit; strictly speaking this is ineligible, but brazen theft counts or something, and besides, Soul II Soul ain’t doing it)
  • Ghostface Killah featuring Raekwon, “C.R.E.A.M. 2001” (Wu-sploitation by DJ Clue)
  • Culture Club, “Victims 2002,” “Love Is Love 2002” (box-sploitation)
  • KRS-One, “South Bronx 2002,” “The Message 2002” (oldschool-sploitation)
  • Rob Zombie with Lionel Richie, “Brick House 2003” (remake of Commodores hit for House of 1,000 Corpses soundtrack)
  • The Farm, “Alltogether Now 2004” (“official anthem of the England National Football Team at Euro 2004”)
  • Chicane with Bryan Adans, “Don’t Give Up 2004”
  • Laura Brannigan, “Gloria 2004,” “Self-Control 2004” (supposedly her final re-recordings before dying of a brain aneurysm; promptly deathsploitated)
  • P. Diddy, “Victory 2004” (Biggiesploitation-sploitaion)
  • George Michael, “Freeek ’04” (album update of 2002 single)
  • Phantom Planet, “California 2005” (second-season-sploitation)
  • M.I.A., “Galang ’05” (pazz-n-jopsploitation)
  • Seal, “Killer 2005”
  • Mary J. Blige, “My Life ’06”
  • Moby, “Go 2006” (compsploitation)
  • Right Said Fred, “I’m Too Sexy 2007” (why-won’t-you-die-sploitation)
  • Michael Jackson, “The Girl Is Mine 2008” and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) 2008” with; “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ 2008” with Akon and; “Beat It 2008” with Fergie; “Billie Jean 2008” with Kanye West (all for 25th anniversary edition of Thiller)


  • E.U., “Da Butt ’89”
  • Peter Schilling, “Major Tom ’94,” “Major Tom 2000,” “Major Tom 2003” (Bowiesploitationsploitation)


  • R.E.M., “Pop Song 89”
  • George Michael, “Freedom! ’90” (the date-stamp is not wholly superfluous: it distinguishes the track from one by Wham! also called “Freedom”)
  • George Michael, “The Strangest Thing ’97”
  • The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (a.k.a. the JAMs, a.k.a. the KLF), 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) (LP)
  • Souls of Mischief, “93 ’Til Infinity”
  • John Cougar Mellencamp, “Justice and Independence ’85”
  • Bon Jovi, “Prayer ’94”
  • Soul II Soul, 1990: A New Decade (LP)
  • Neu! ’75 (LP)
  • Kraftwerk, “Expo 2000” (1999 single) (millenniumsploitation)
  • Eminem, “ ’97 Bonnie & Clyde”
  • Jay-Z feat. Beyoncé Knowles, “ ’03 Bonnie & Clyde”
  • Alice Cooper, “Teenage Lament ’74”
  • Wang Chung, “Space Junk (Wang Chung ’97)” (trip-hoppy compsploitation new track)
  • Ruben Studdard, “Sorry 2004” (“Girl, this is my sorry for 2004/And I ain’t gonna mess up no more this year”)
  • House of Love, “D Song ’89”
  • 2Pac, “Representin’ 93”
  • Mario, “Just a Friend 2002”
  • The Exploited, “UK 82”
  • The New 2 Live Crew, Back at Your Ass for the Nine-4 (LP)


  • David Bowie, “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)” (1974 funk re-working of ’72 track; B-side retroactively date-stamped “John, I’m Only Dancing [1972]”)

* Cetera shamelessly re-recorded numerous Chicago hits after leaving the band, though he did not renew them with a date stamp. Perhaps he intended to erase the memory of the originals altogether. If only he had.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Caption contest!

That’s right, caption contest. Because I want more interactivity on this thing.

So here’s a still from “Gangster V.I.P.,” a not-so-classic 1968 yakuza flick directed by Toshio Masuda. (Coupla scenes from it here.) Funniest/dumbest/nerdiest/smartest caption by Thursday morning wins a DVD (burn) of the movie! Anything goes.

Now make with the Sonny Chiba-meets-Roz Chast zingers already. Submit by comment below. Ganbatte ne!


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pancakes = damnation

Honey for the Bears’ new 50-song album, aptly titled 50 Songs by Honey for the Bears, was recorded in one weekend last November. It is “gloriously out of tune, horribly recorded, incredibly embarrassing,” they say. But in its blunt diary-of-a-madnerd format, with skronky little song-items like “Have You Heard About the My Bloody Valentine Reunion?” and “Golden Shower of Opportunity” — average track length: 1 minute 5 seconds — it’s also an inspired feat of lo-fi pop savantism akin to 1989’s Jad Fair and Daniel Johnston.* Not quite in Jad and Daniel’s league, however, because both Jesse and Dave, the two members of Honey for the Bears (apparently named after a Television Personalities song), are entirely sane.

But the Bears boys do offer an unusual theological insight in the song “Pancakes,” essentially accusing God of rigging the sin game against man. The eating of pancakes, and by extension the enjoyment of all earthly pleasure, is equated with defiance of God’s will and the breaking of the Covenant. The pancake is the forbidden fruit of our consumerist society, the Bisquick box our tree of knowledge, representing all of man’s enlightened achievements: agriculture, science, commerce, civilization, yummy treats. The temptation to taste the fruit and enrich our lives cannot be resisted. And as “Pancakes” makes clear, it should not, though we will inevitably pay the price of damnation for this trespass. Mankind is born to rebel, born to eat pancakes, and born to burn.

Anyone who has spent more than 30 minutes with Dave Ramm — to say nothing of going on a pancake-paved four-day road trip with him — knows how essential flapjacks are to his diet. So why is it a sin to satisfy this God-given desire? Why shouldn’t man take nourishment however he pleases? It’s a similar argument to the one Lucifer makes in Paradise Lost: God created his ambitious son and then damned him for his ambition. It took Milton 10 books to get that point across, but Ramm accomplishes the same in a pithy 29 words:

Pancakes for breakfast — fuck you, Dad
Pancakes for lunch — fuck you, Mom
Pancakes for dinner — fuck you, God

Pancakes, pancakes, pancakes
We’re going to hell
Flapjack city
Oh yeah.
Listen to the song here.

* Reissued and (lamely) retitled It’s Spooky in 2001. Watch a video of Daniel Johnston performing “Don’t Play Cards With Satan” from that reissue.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Press release of the day: Artist plays concert! To people! Who paid!

Warning: the following contains graphic, nauseating detail about the onstage explosion of country star Keith Urban. It is not known at press time whether this explosion was caused by the security-defying fans of this very exhaustively described thing called a “concert” or if Al Qaeda was somehow involved. This is being investigated...


She goes by the name Marissa and last night she became the luckiest fan in the sold-out Madison Square Garden audience when she was handed a signed guitar as Keith performed “You Look Good In My Shirt.”

“Last night my friend Todd took me to the Keith Urban concert at MSG. It was my first country concert and will now surely NOT be my last. Carrie was stunning and amazing, but when Keith came out ... damn! Keith came into the crowd and into my row. I was so excited! And then he whipped off his guitar, signed it and handed it to me! I almost died.”

Urban, surrounded by Garden security, walked half-way back on the floor while playing a guitar solo, and unexpectedly went about 10 rows up where he gave away his guitar. Moments later, as his band continued to play, without missing a beat, being escorted through a frenzied audience Urban returned to the stage, picked up another guitar and continued the song.

Urban took Madison Square Garden by storm. From start to finish the audience was on its feet as he moved via a catwalk from one stage to the other. Throughout the night the audience defied security to get inches away from Urban himself. Impeccable guitar solos, awe-inspired vocals all contributed to Urban’s reputation as one of music’s best live performers.

Run, yakuza, run!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

‘A bacon steak, a perfect match’

Ween performing “Freedom of ’76” on the Jane Pratt show back in the day, as posted on the band’s own YouTube channel. Deaner’s (?) comments:

This is one of my favorite tv clips of us. “Pure guava” was still a new record and we had just written this song. I think this is one of our last performances as a duo. This was filmed early in the morning and we were very stoned.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Great moments in Grammy history: An industry with its head in the sand

Anyone bored or depressed enough to have watched the Grammy Awards last night witnessed the “surprise” “upset” of Herbie Hancock taking album of the year over the presumed favorites Kanye West and Amy Winehouse. Kanye and Amy were two of 2007’s most critically acclaimed, commercially successful and closely watched performers, and represent important archetypes of current popular music: an innovative hip-hop auteur and a strong and individualistic young woman. As big stars who have a great deal of artistic credibility, Kanye and Amy fit those roles better than almost anyone last year. So one of them should have won, right?

They did win a number of awards: Kanye took four and Amy five. (Complete list.) But why did album of the year elude them? For the very reasons that you like them and pay attention to what they do: They are bold, creative artists who have colorful and unpredictable lives. And as always, the roughly 12,000 voting members of the Recording Academy — who are much older than the pop audience, and whose ranks swell with no-name songwriters, backup singers, engineers, etc., whose livelihoods depend on safe and orderly work routines — were too reluctant or scared or clueless to give Amy and Kanye their biggest endorsement. As was clear from the broadcast itself, the music industry needs its aging, doddering heroes, people whose seats in the pop-culture pantheon are safe; it’s an insecure cult in many ways, and its fear of the new has only gotten worse as the market for recorded music has rapidly been eroded.

Grammy history is rife with ridiculous victories of the conservative and mothballed over the young and vital: “Somewhere Out There” beats “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” as song of the year in 1988, Lionel Richie’s “Can’t Slow Down” wins over “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Purple Rain” for album of the year in 1985, and so on. As Jon Pareles observed, “The album of the year award, as often happens — from Tony Bennett’s ‘MTV Unplugged’ to Natalie Cole’s ‘Unforgettable ... With Love’ to ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ — went to the album with the oldest and most familiar songs.”

This nostalgic escapism and willful incuriosity is more than just a once-a-year joke; it’s a disease that is eating the industry from the inside out. A few months ago Doug Morris, the chairman of Universal Music Group and perhaps the single most powerful figure in the music business, gave this preposterous interview to Wired magazine in which he claims he did not see the Internet revolution coming, and even as it was pounding at the door he had no idea what do to about it. “We didn’t know who to hire,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to recognize a good technology person — anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me.”

Two weeks ago at the MIDEM conference in Cannes, Morris’s boss, Jean-Bernard Lévy of Vivendi, said that “today there is an exaggeration in the industry” and that his company remains “strongly attached” to CDs and the otherwise largely abandoned DRM. What he’s saying is that the biggest record company in the world is sticking with a digital security system that doesn’t work and a format whose sales have been dropping steadily since 2000. (Last year alone CD sales plunged almost 19 percent, and this year has started off miserably.)

In other words, ignore the here and now; don’t listen to what you can’t understand — don’t even try to understand it. Instead, cling to the comforts of the past and to an outmoded, self-destructive game plan. And when it comes to honoring the artists whose music pays your salary, put aside everything that says “this is what pop music sounds like now” and just give the trophy to Tony Bennett or Ray Charles or Herbie Hancock or whoever did the Starbucks duets record this year.





Thursday, February 7, 2008

head-banging, vbl. n.

({sm}h{ope}d{smm}{ng}{shti}{ng}) [f. HEAD n.1 + BANGING vbl. n.2]

1. a. Psychol. The action or process of shaking or banging the head, sometimes accompanied by violent rocking of the body, which is often unremarkable in young children but in adults is usu. associated with mental disorder.

1928 Arch. Neurol. & Psychiatry (Chicago) XIX. 865 The ‘explosive’ phenomena selected were infantile convulsions, breath-holding, head-banging and a miscellaneous group of periodic attacks. 1953 HINSIE & SHATZKY Psychiatric Dict. (ed. 2) 650/2 Head-banging, one of the many typical physical exertions..observed during a temper tantrum in small children. 1977 P. LEACH Baby & Child iv. 218 Head banging is a slightly worrying habit even if the baby only does it in her cot at night.

b. transf. and fig. Esp. the vigorous head-shaking engaged in by fans of heavy metal music.

1979 in K. HUDSON Dict. Teenage Revolution (1983) 97 This is where the fans keep in trim for concerts, practising the subtle art of headbanging. 1987 Washington Post 4 June C4/2 In time came AC/DC, which begat headbanging, and Van Halen, which begat teen-age boys across the land with two-handed hammer-on and pull-off techniques.

2. The action or process of establishing discipline or collaboration between uncooperative parties by, or as if by, ‘knocking their heads together’.

1975 Economist 6 Dec. 57/3 Perhaps the Russians, who did some head-banging of their own with the rival Communist leaders in Moscow earlier this year, can lend a hand.

Also {sm}head-banger n., one who engages in head-banging, esp. as a fan of heavy metal music; also transf. and fig.

1979 Melody Maker 31 Mar. 18/4 Their fans are long-haired headbangers. 1983 Daily Tel. 13 June 1/1 A solemn commitment from anybody in the leadership stakes that they will get rid of the head-bangers in the party, and by that I mean the extremists and the Militants. 1985 M. MUNRO Patter 32 Headbanger or heidbanger,..this is a popular term for someone considered crazy, especially if dangerous... This usage predates the contemporary alternative meaning of a heavy-metal enthusiast. 1986 Telegraph (Brisbane) 21 Aug. 22/1 Brisbane headbangers will have a chance to scream and wave their fists when Dio plays at Festival Hall. 1989 Observer 19 Feb. 13/7 In the European Parliament, they sit alone with a few Spanish and Danish head-bangers, while the main conservative grouping excludes them.

Copyright © Oxford University Press 2005

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A conversation with Lou Reed

lou reed

I’ve been lucky or unlucky enough to have had a few run-ins with Lou Reed. Each left me stunned and confused; thinking back years later, they still make me uncomfortable.

The first couple were purely random. One day circa spring 1997, I was about to enter Generation Records on Thompson Street when three leather jackets cut me off at the door: Lou with two younger dudes. Inside, the dudes grabbed a CD began hyping it to Lou, who made the “Oh yeah? I should check that out” face. Only when they handed the disc to the cashier did I see what it was — Pearl Jam’s “Ten.” My heart sank.

A year or so later I was at Film Forum for Orson Welles’s “Touch of Evil.” Just as the lights went down two men slid into the aisle seats beside me, and the one at my right elbow was Mr. Lewis Allen Reed. All I can say is that his acute case of halitosis nearly ruined the movie.

I have interviewed Reed twice. The second time, which I may write about another time, was bar none the worst interview of my career. The first is transcribed here. Reed has become an avid photographer, and he had an exhibition split between a Chelsea gallery and the Hermès store on the Upper East Side. My editor wanted a short Q&A about why Lou-Reed-of-all-people was having a show at Hermès-of-all-places: one notch above Cosmo mentality, but hell yes I took the assignment.

The interview took place on the morning of Jan. 5, 2006, at the Steven Kasher Gallery on 23rd Street. It felt like a disaster, but listening to the tape later I was amused by our peculiar pas de deux. (Answering HIS questions, I got in a Schenectady mention and almost plugged the Sacandaga Dragons, but thought better of it.) And despite his grouchiness and my lame questions it turned out to be an interesting conversation about New York, music, light, and “another kind of beautiful.”

Most of these shots seem to be taken at night or twilight. Why is that?

It’s when the light is good. The natural light. You can just see it. It’s very exciting when the light is right.

How did you get interested in photography? How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been doing this for a really long time now, I guess. I don’t know what long means. I started because of touring. Like I’m sure a lot of people do, if you travel a lot you start taking pictures because of what you’re seeing. And some of what I was seeing I started thinking — gotta take pictures of this, it’s too beautiful.

For documentation?

Just to see it again. You may not be back here. It may not be this way. That’s the thing about light. A certain kind of light seems to be there a very short time — by the time you went and got your camera it could be gone already.

So you carry it along with you?

Well you can’t bring the light back when it’s natural light. That’s that — gone. What do you do at the Times?

I work on the Sunday arts section.

As opposed to the weekly arts section.

Well, every day, actually. But Sunday is kind of the main focus.

And what’s your background?

Journalism, music.

From where?

Upstate New York.



Where? What school?

What school? You mean like high school?

College, whatever.

I went to college at the University of Virginia.

But you’re from upstate.

I’m from upstate.

Cold up there.

It is. It certainly is. So mostly what you were talking about was ...

That’s very funny.

What is?

Cassette. [Points to my tape recorder.]

What’s so funny about cassette? It’s a classic.

It is a classic. Everybody ... that’s how I write songs. ’Cause it has a speaker.

Are you shooting analog or digital?

Oh, I started out analog. But my dream, before digital showed up — My dream was what turned out to be digital. Everything I always wanted was in digital. I know that sounds kind of sacrilegious, but uh ... Yeah.

What was the dream, the immediacy?

Sure. Sure. To see whether you got it and be able to move really swiftly. Not only to try to get it again if you missed it the first time around, but also to change it, adjust it. Like, you don’t have to camp out a week with certain things. You can actually really quickly [inaudible] the better it gets. Really going with the lenses, for instance. It’s so exciting. OK, so I was a big film fan. I fell in love with a certain lens, and I used that lens a lot in my first book.

What was that lens?

Hologon. It’s the Contax Hologon.

What did you like about that lens?

[Exhales.] Oh, it’s like, beautiful engineering, really beautiful, so gorgeous you could wear it as jewelry or something. It’s just incredibly beautiful. No distortion. I would say — you could obviously go and check with whoever — but that’s the best wide-angle lens you can find. Camera, zero.

No distortion?

No vignetting, no distortion. It’s really ... in my first book I show you pictures I took with it. Now if we could ever get digital to go to that level. And now it has, as far as I’m concerned. But you know I used all kinds of ways trying to get information between frames. Keep track of things. I like to keep track of things. Of course, that’s what a computer’s for. But you know, which lens did what at what F-stop ... [Waves hand.] Digital does that — it’s all done. The one thing it won’t tell you is what lens you used. But you think if you do this long enough you ought to be able to ...

What do you think about the way digital —

Have you seen my first book?

I have not.


These are actually the first photos I’ve ever seen of yours.

There you go.

So I’m curious.

It’s hard to talk with somebody about something you haven’t seen or know anything about, isn’t it?

That’s what reporting’s all about sometimes. Walk in —

No research, that’s it.

No research, but —

No preparation.

You can’t know everything.

Well, you can try. Maybe not everything ...

I did try. I wasn’t able to find any pictures in the last day. My apologies.

[Calls to somebody in the gallery for his book.] Just because we were talking about that lens. It’s like, I can’t describe the lens. You know what a lens does, but I’ll show you what it does. It’s like talking about music when you talk about visuals, it’s like ... it’s just really, really hard. But this lens, I just ... If a man can love a lens, [knocks table] this is an example of it.

Did you use that lens for these pictures?

You can’t.

So these are strictly digital pictures.

[Pointing to walls.] All of these are strictly analog pictures. [Looking at book.] This is the first book. The idea was a piggyback book, so you could travel with one, and then the other could sit on the table, and this that and the other. I thought after people saw that everybody would do it, but that’s not what happened. [Leafing through book.] Look at that. Mmm.

So there are a lot of abstractions here.

Ah, this is. [Still looking through book.]

What’s that?

The Village. That’s Sheridan Square.

So these were taken on rooftops.

Yeah. You can almost kill yourself doing this sometimes.

What about these, where did you take these?

Same. Different rooftops. Or down on the river.

I understand a lot of them were taken from your apartment window?

No. [Laughs.] I like roofs, fire escapes, hanging out widows, stuff like that. I like the way things look through a lens. Well, certain kind of lenses, put it that way.

So if someone was to say theres going to be a photography show called “Lou Reed’s New York” —

Well there is.

— I might expect images of people, of music people or art people. But these are almost nature photography. The city as nature.

Yeah, exactly. This is a part of — you know it’s funny ’cause, um — It’s water and light. I was thinking about this, actually. We’re an island. You forget we’re an island. And I like that. There’s this whole other thing to New York. It’s very, very beautiful. It’s especially stuff that I keep seeing and say, ‘My God, look that this.’ Every single fucking night. Or dusk or dawn, take your pick. And sometimes during the day, when the light hits. When the natural light hits. And you’ve got X space — because it’s changing, it’s shifting right in front of you. It’s so overwhelmingly beautiful, I’m just agape.

There are a lot of sunsets here. Are these digitally altered?

Oh no, no! Oh no, I really. No, these are not Photoshopped. These are — no.

’Cause there are some amazing magentas and ...

No, no, that’s why I was — [Laughs.] That’s why I was taking pictures. I really hope people don’t think I’m standing there with, like, a coloring book.

Well, some of the colors are just so amazing that —

They are.

— that it is easy to forget that in this city of buildings that there are just beautiful sunsets right there.

It’s really there. If you don’t believe me you go down to the Hudson River, watch what happens, in between, well, right now. Last week there was one that was so astonishing. The book’s done but it just can’t stop doing this. You just go, ‘My God, who’s doing this light show?’ There was one I’d never seen before. It was like a huge tidal wave of a cloud. And if you just looked at it you could think it’s a tidal wave, not a cloud. God.

And then you’ve got abstractions like this, that it seems like the light is mainly coming from buildings and artificial light. Which is the other aspect of sort of light at night in the city.

It is light at night in the city. That’s exactly what it is. And it’s for me another kind of beautiful.

The other kind is the natural kind?

Yeah. Well, natural light, and then man-made light. You know, when you’re looking at the Empire State or the Chrysler. But then you can do more than just that. And in particular if you’re looking at it through a camera. Looking through a camera is like having your own screening room. I just go mad in there. I like the viewfinder. I like living in the viewfinder. It’s astonishing what you can see through it. Trying just to catch that.

So you said that when you started you were mainly capturing things on your travels.

Yeah. Zipping around.

But this is all New York. All these all recent pictures.

These are the last two years. Two years, three years.

Has New York always been a photographic subject, or is it only more recently?

Started out all over the place. And then it just settled into, ‘Wow, it’s pretty amazing over there.’ But then it’s like, ‘Look at that sky in Africa.’ ‘Whoa, look at the sky on the Hudson.’ I mean, I haven’t even gone over to the FDR. Which, you know, you go to BAM, any time you go over the bridge, it’s just, you know, you could just do that. [Skidding chair back.] It’s so beautiful again.

Would you have to get up early to go see the sunrise over the East River?

I can’t sleep anyways, so it doesn’t matter. But it’s like, when it’s, like, 7. Looking at the East River on either side of the bridge.

In the morning?

At night. Just before it’s pure night light. Just before. There’s a moment. You can tell in a minute, in a second. It just goes away so quickly. You always have to be there before. Or else by the time you’re set up it’s not there anymore.

Do you ever do portraits?

Yeah. [Points to self-portrait.]

I mean of other people.

Oh yeah. Usually just friends. Just for fun, playing with the natural light and their features. I just did a cover for Kung Fu Tai Chi magazine. It was a cover because I understand that stuff, so it was easy for me to take a picture that caught what they were all about.

People doing tai chi?

Uh, a thing called chin na.

What’s that?

Grabs and locks. So, if you’re going to take a picture of it, it would probably help if you knew what was the power point or something as opposed to when ... when they’re looking good and they have their power up as opposed to missing that. It would be a big advantage if you’re going to photograph a baseball game if you knew something about baseball, probably.

What about the city of New York?

I think beautiful is beautiful. Beautiful Paris, beautiful this, beautiful that, beautiful Africa, beautiful Australia. It’s the light.

But do you think you know New York better than a Parisian would know New York?

Let me tell you, some of the Parisians know New York better than we know New York. I’ve had Parisians take me around to these ... [Laughs.] It’s astonishing. The French are really serious about knowing New York. I understand light. And light is anywhere. I’m not talking about going to secret places. When I’m touring, hey, I’ve got a room with a view or something — ‘That’s pretty cool, look at this architecture in Kyoto.’ But having said that, in the end it’s the light. Without the light, it doesn’t much matter. That goes for portraits. That’s why people spend hours and hours and hours setting up the light. Of course if you had natural light ... that’s why they call it natural. Natural as in organic. [Laughs.]

As opposed to what other form of natural?

Oh you know, trying to ... phony natural light. You know, some of the photographers aren’t like ... make really more high contrast — change things with the camera so it’s not just this dead thing.

What do you do with the camera?

What do you mean?

Do you sort of play with it to get the light you want?

Yeah. Also, be able to record the thing that’s there correctly. Make it come in up as least as good as it really is, maybe see if we can make it a little better. By focus.

Do you have photographic routines? Walks you go on?


Particular places you want to be?


It is a matter of being surprised?

I know where I’m going. Sometimes I go out, you know, especially with some of the lenses lately. because I know where the stuff’s going to be. What I’m interested in. Which is the light, and some of these lenses. So yeah, I’m in control of everything.

The irony is that a lot of these are shots of New Jersey, of course.

Looking across the river, sure.

The New Yorker’s best view is often of New Jersey.

Yeah. It’s a staggering view. For instance, that’s not New Jersey.

What is it?

That’s looking down toward Battery Park, I think.

Yeah, is that the World Financial Center?

It better be. And it’s ours. Statue of Liberty is over there. Well, there’s a lot of detail in that, if you ever get ambitious. These aren’t altered. Some things are put together for fun, but not that one, that’s straight.

So except for that picture of you ...

These aren’t the real sizes. Some of this..

Oh, I know they’re gong to be much larger.

It’s like if I gave you the Statue of Liberty this big, you know. Kind of misses it.

You talked about peering through the viewfinder, when it is very tiny.

But that’s me. It’s like a movie theater.

So except for that picture I didn’t see any people in these pictures. Do you think it’s easier to shoot the city without people in the frame?

What I was interested in this time around. You can do a lot of things. You can’t do everything at once. This was the city and not the people, not the people in the city.

There are some shots in here, like the clouds, could be anywhere, but somehow they look like New York clouds to me.

And they are. But you have only my word.

What makes them New York clouds?

That I took them here. That’s all. I had thought after my first book — Africa, that was pretty amazing — and the sky in Mexico and Spain is pretty amazing — but I hadn’t really paid attention to the sky here. I wanted to see if I could get the sky here as well as I have the sky there. And then it’s just every day. I’ve been doing this every day for two or three years. This is the result of that. But every day, looking at that.

So this show will open simultaneously here and at Hermès uptown, right?

They’re not exactly the same show. The more river-oriented ones are here, the more abstract light-oriented ones are over there, I think.

Why is that?

I don’t know. It just seemed like a natural division. Plus there’s only so much wall space you can hang something effectively. You know, these aren’t postage stamps or postcards.

Why Hermès?

Because the owner of Hermès is a big fine-art photography fan. Turns out he owns — when Leica were going under he bought stock in them to keep them going. He devotes the top floor of various Hermès shops to photography. That’s it. And I went over there and they had a Ralph Gibson show on the top floor of Hermès of all places. So I thought, ‘Wow!’ And then they asked me would I like to do it. I mean, you don’t get paid or anything. You don’t get a free Hermès scarf either.

Does it say anything about New York that Lou Reed has a show at Hermès?

It’s part of the charm of the city that you can be in two places at once. What I was interested in was having more people have the opportunity to see the photographs. And the person who’s in charge of Hermès loves photography and loves being able to show photographs and photographers. So I think the impulses are all correct.

Do you like their scarves?

No, I don’t own one thing from Hermès because I can’t afford it. Maybe you can. But I just told you no money changes hands. But I don’t want to have to make excuses about why are you showing something at a store on the Upper East Side? That would be really boring to have to go through that. I’m just interested in showing these pictures of this city in a nice setting. [Note: this quote was pretty much the money shot for the assigned fish-out-of-water Q&A.]

A nice setting.

One would hope. It’s not just taking a photo and printing it. There’s a real art to the book. I’m working with a printer named Gerhard Steidl. You should look at the book. He’s an amazing — what great fun. I can’t imagine more fun. [A few seconds garbled here.]

Do you have a particular inspiration or teacher in photography?



Like everything else.

There’s one picture over there that I noticed, “DA Resurrection,” which I thought was an interesting title.


I figured that was a code of some kind, but it was “Resurrection.” That’s not a title?

The DA is a designation, and TIF is TIF. As opposed to raw. But “Resurrection” is the title.

And what does the title mean?

That’s the picture. If I could explain that I wouldn’t need the picture. I just looked at that and that word was just blazing in neon. I don’t know why. There’s something about it, it made me ... the longer I look at it, just looked like literally, the resurrection in abstract to me.

Because most of them have titles like “Cloud.”

No no no no no no no no. Those are not titles. Those are just designated things. The real titles are coming in today. I’ve been working on the titles for a while now. Believe me, there’s nothing quote “Cloud.” Please. They should black that shit out. Like that one is called “Nebula,” for instance, the second from the left on the bottom. And the one is next to it is “Fly Me to the Moon” or something like that.

I [don’t?] want to show you things you haven’t seen either. It’s not just this is what was there. It’s this was what was there and this is what I see, sometimes maybe you would like that too. Or maybe not. Whatever. Just trying.

Is it difficult get an aspect of New York that hasn’t been gotten? Surely a lot of these things have been photographed trillions of times.

In black and white certainly they have, and there’s ads all over the place, but I haven’t seen anything that’s remotely like this. So for me the field is wide open because there’s this whole other way of looking at it that is to me — I’m not a photography expert by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just — this is my work, and I haven’t seen anything that looks like this. I know from looking at photographs that some things have been done to death, especially in the black-and-white world.

Snow in Central Park ...

The homeless people and the carriage in the park ... I don’t think anything comes close to what this is. This is taking advantage of these lenses and these things that are going on technically. I really, really, really like what’s going on. To me this is one of the most exciting times to be around photography that’s conceivable.

[Interview goes on for a little while. To be completed.]

Download an alternate take of “I’m Waiting for the Man” from the Velvet Underground’s 1966 Scepter Sessions acetate.

Earlier: A conversation with M.I.A.

Friday, February 1, 2008

To verb or not to verb

Bicoastal bellyfloppers Ron Revog have created a video masterwork for “Verb,” their song about the perennial Pro Tools pickle of just how high to slide that virtual reverb fader. Told from the perspective of a bedroom Brian Eno caught between the conflicting tastes of his babe and his buds, it might be the most emotionally affecting song ever written about recording studio technology.

So I made that track sound wetter
Hoping that would make it beter
But my baby liked it dry
And now I know the reason why

(Via Rudyland Records.)