SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 13 2003
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAMPBELL
I felt sad, serious and somber through much of yesterday, and said as much when I posted after visiting the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and our local Firehouse. But if yesterday's Second Anniversary of September 11 reflected a determination by the city to move on, then that attitude was born out personally in the evening when our 5-a-side team Crazy Legs United won its Over-30s League Championship game over at Chelsea Piers, defeating Monday Night Football Club 12-2. Considering our opponents held us to our lowest-scoring game in regular season (a 3-3 draw), it was a triumphant performance, especially as we were 11-0 up with just a couple of minutes to go. Excuse the obvious showing off: as a Palace fan, I'm not used to winning cups, and even the Arsenal supporters on our team were somewhat astonished that we get to actually keep this quite impressive trophy. It may be worth noting that our victory only serves to get us promotion to the Premier Division; now we'll really get to see if we're Palace or Arsenal...
After hanging out for a celebratory drink or three, I took a taxi home that came within a block or two of Ground Zero, and back on my own street, could clearly see the twin beams of light shining high into the sky. That was enough to get me all morose again. The news this morning that Johnny Cash has passed away, following Warren Zevon's demise a few days ago, makes it a sad week all round. All the more reason to make the most of what we have in life...
The altered view from Brooklyn Heights Promenade, taken this morning, September 11 2003.
Tributes at Squad 1 in Park Slope: all 12 men from both shifts were killed on 9/11/01.
I have nothing new to say today. I went down to the Brooklyn Promenade this morning, which has always provided a favored view of the Manhattan Skyline, and continues to do so despite the absence of the Towers. It was quiet and sombre, pretty much the way I feel right now. In lieu of any new commentary, I invite you to read some previous postings relating to September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. None have been altered since they were originally posted; they're each very much of the moment, which is the whole point of maintaining a public diary. Peace.
MUSING ON A SEPTEMBER MOURNING (Posted Sep 17 2001)
MESSAGES FROM FRIENDS OVERSEAS ON SEP 11. (Posted Sep 17 2001)
REACTIONS TO THE ORIGINAL ESSAY(Posted Sep 21)
LINKS(Posted Sep 21 2001)
COPING (Posted Oct 2 2001)
ALBUMS THAT SOUND DIFFERENT AFTER SEPTEMBER 11 (Posted October 2001)
A THANKSGIVING TOAST (Posted Nov 2001)
MUSING ON MARCH 11 (Posted March 12 2002)
ONE YEAR LATER: DID BIN LADEN WIN? (Posted Sep 11, 2002)
ONE YEAR LATER: MOVIN' ON (UP?) (Posted Sep 12, 2002)
WHY TERRORISM WORKS (Posted December 19, 2002)
WHY I OPPOSE THE WAR (Posted March 11, 2003)
Live a long enough life twenty years of awareness will do it - and you will see everything old become new again. The latest sound to come back around is that of the Jesus and Mary Chain. No sooner do I reference the defunct Scottish act's influence on hip San Francisco psychedelic punks Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (read review here) than I experience a new album and concert by Danish duo The Raveonettes, whose musical resemblance is close to the (best elements of the) Mary Chain it's astounding.
I credit iJamming! readers with extensive musical knowledge. Still, if you don't know the Jesus and Mary Chain, suffice to say that Glaswegian brothers William and Jim Reid launched a fifteen year career on the back of fuzz guitar, feedback, and Beach Boys harmonies a ferocious combination of melody and mystery that was further confused by drug and alcohol abuse, sibling rivalry bordering on fratricide, early era 15-minute gigs concluding in riots, a close association with Creation Records (Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie was once their drummer), and a latter-day careerism that saw the final album bookmarked by deliberately contradictory songs 'I Love rock'n'roll'/'I Hate rock'n'roll'.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have adopted the Reid brothers' black leather belligerence, but The Raveonettes have absorbed the melodic simplicity and pop sensibility. And their story is even more media-friendly: guitarist/vocalist Sune Rose Wagner returns to Copenhagen from an unsuccessful sojourn in New York's downtown noise-rock scene to find bassist/vocalist Sharin Foo freshly back from India studying that nation's classical music. They combine their love of the Beatles, Velvets, Dylan, Sonic Youth, sixties girl groups (and certainly the Mary Chain too), decide all the songs on their debut record will be written in one key only (Bb flat minor) and will not exceed three chords or three minutes a song. Coinciding perfectly with the garage rock revival and a fascination for all things Scandinavian, said mini-album Whip It On duly receives media adoration, resulting in international tours and a major label deal.
For the first full-length album, Chain Gang of Love, the duo have shifted up a gear. All thirteen songs are now in Bb major. As a rule of thumb, minor keys equal sad songs, major keys equal happy ones. So if Whip It On was inherently dark because it flattened the major third, Chain Gang of Love is correspondingly upbeat and anthemic. And if that still doesn't make sense, then last night at the Bowery Ballroom, you wouldn't even need to have heard the two records to know which songs hailed from which: the difference between minor and major is that pronounced.
For my part, I much prefer the newer songs, not just because they're brighter and more optimistic, but because they're better written, better arranged, more melodic, and in the right places, funnier too. For where the Raveonettes diverge from their primal influence The Jesus and Mary Chain is in attitude. The Reid brothers were permanently pissed off, but the Raveonettes are essentially contented.
Manoj, Jakob, Sune and Sharin, easier known as The Raveonettes.
Onstage, blonde Amazonian Foo stands to the right, playing bass, tambourine, singing and introducing songs with steady aplomb; Wagner stands center stage, either leaning over the microphone when his guitar is not required, otherwise distorting its sound by use of the tremelo or hand reversal. But the live show belongs every bit as much to drummer Jakob Hoyer, who's denied a hi-hat and row toms but allowed a computer to augment (or control?) the beat, and lead guitarist Manoj Ramdas, who flails and wails like the proverbial banshee. Together, this is a four-piece of serious musical skills. And the wall of fuzzed-up noise they deliver is a joy to behold.
Last night, the set warmed up with songs from Whip It On, but quickly shifted to focus on the new album, and was all the better for it. 'Let's Rave On,' the brilliant 'Little Animal,' Noisy Summer,' and 'Chain Gang Of Love' provided a phenomenal mid-set quartet. If there were weaknesses, it was only in the down-time between songs; maybe it was the laid-back New York crowd, maybe the group's own inherent niceness, but the tension of each individual song quickly dissipated into an eery silence.
For all the obvious reference points, The Raveonettes want you to understand their earliest roots. To this end, they rework Eddie Cochran's 'C'mon Everybody' so intriguingly it's a shame they ruin the element of surprise by introducing it. They encore with the first record's 'Beat Crazy' and its chorus line "Fuck you" but while the Reids would have left the stage on that note, the Raveonettes are too nice for such spite, and they morph into a disturbed and distorted version of Buddy Holly's 'Everyday' for the night's superb conclusion.
The decision to send Stellastarr* out on the road with The Raveonettes makes overly obvious sense. Each band features a blond bassist/vocalist, a demonic lead guitarist/non-vocalist, a striking front man and a commanding drummer. Stellastarr*, as weve discussed previously on these pages, owe more to The Cure than the Mary Chain, but they know equally well how to turn the amps up especially when they've got shiny new ones, such as guitarist Michael Jurin's Fender which was cranked to 11 all night. Stellastarr*'s progression has been so constant through the 18 months I've followed them that I've yet to be disappointed, but last night they really raised the barrier: they were as good as I've ever seen them. The evident confidence never turns into cockiness; the musicianship is tighter than ever but still purposefully askew in all the right places; they've earned a devout following that jumps around down the front; and they've got a debut album coming out in two weeks that avoids the temptation to polish up and make 'radio-friendly' songs that are better off becoming alt-anthems first.
Michael, Shawn, Arthur and Amanda: Stellasuperstarr*s
I could claim that I've seen Shawn, Amanda, Michael and Arthur play 'My Coco', 'No Weather,' 'Pulp Song,' 'Jenny' and 'Into The Walls' often enough that I'm ready for new material now, but you deserve the opportunity to hear those songs in the meantime. Stellastarr* and The Raveonettes are touring America for the next month. I can't imagine anyone who came of age in the 80s not coming away in love with both bands.
I guess it was one of those nights in New York. I started the evening checking my friend Patrick Carmosino's Anglo-oriented set at the Knitting Factory's Tap Room. (The Clientele, Housemartins, Paul Weller, Everything But The Girl, you get the picture.) I ended it at the Spring Street Lounge, where various Astralwerks staff music lovers have been throwing a Tuesday bash that has been sparsely attended through the summer, but which last night turned into a full-on post-Bowery frenzy thanks to guest DJ spots by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, The Raveonettes' Sune Rose Wagner, and Interpol's Carlos D. Add to these NME A-listers the Kings of Leon, who were drinking up a storm in preparation for their own show at the Bowery tonight (may as well get the booze in when you're young and the hangovers don't hurt so hard!), Stellastarr* who were (with one notable exception) looking understandably happy with their lot in life, members of Radio 4 and the Hong Kong and enough pretty young things to flesh out a full episode of Sex In The City, and it was, well... there were a lot of flash cameras gong off, put it that way.
Jarvis still believes in singles. But we knew that. Photo by Audrey of the ever-excellent melodynelson.com
Fortunately though, this hipster fest was also entirely free, and for all the predictable hysteria, everyone who showed got in for free. New York can be painfully elitist, but it doesn't have to be.
Jarvis was playing deliberately uneasy listening when I entered but ended in more mainstream fashion with Hot Butter's influential hit 'Popcorn' which I still have in 7" form on the Pye label from when I bought it in 1972 and Chris Montez' 'Let's Dance.' (Jarvis' French wife decided to lead the crowd in rebellion at the anti-smoking ban; the old "I demand my right to smoke but I'll hold my cigarette behind my head so it blows in your face" tactic doesn't gain my sympathy.) Wagner then delivered the kind of set you'd expect from a Raveonette: glorious sixties pop, from 'Dancing In the Streets' to 'Leader of the Pack' and not all-such-obvious points in between. I left him and the still buzzing night as he was working his way through a Phil Spector retrospective. The man has great taste as well as a fuzzbox and he's using them both.
I almost posted something yesterday the moment I saw the RIAA had sued consumers for downloading music files. Thought I'd see how the facts played out a little before asserting that this is the most stupid, selfish and ultimately counter-productive move the recording industry could have attempted. Fortunately, the facts do seem to be backing my initial gut reaction. The New York Post has made an overnight star of one of the 261 citizens who now find themselves facing legal charges from the music industry: a 12-year old Manhattan girl whom they've rightly placed on their front cover. The RIAA's decision to sue children who have dared spend their time discovering music (rather than watching TV, playing computer games, buying a GameBoy or, God forbid, going outside and playing sports), is its most despicable move yet, and I hope it blows up in their faces.
Listen, I love music, and I support musicians' right to earn a living. (The music industry is quite happy to send ME lots of music for free, in the hope that I'll scratch their back in return by writing positive things about their releases; I also buy music as well as paying for some concerts and occasionally downloading what I can't otherwise find when I want to immediately hear it.) But I despise the major recording industry, its long term history for screwing the artists it signs to long-term and one-sided deals, and its rapacious track record of greed, most obviously measured by selling us our record collections all over again on the twice-as-expensive (though less costly to produce) CD format, and then selling them to us a third time in 're-mastered with bonus tracks' form once they saw what a lousy job they did of it first time round.
And as I've said before, the music industry should not be surprised that having spent the last decade selling us so much teenage pap as disposable pop, that consumers decide to treat it much the way they would a Pokemon card or the latest soft drink: download a track, listen to it a few times, then bury it at the bottom of the hard drive.
Someone could write a book and believe me I've thought about it which demonstrates that the current 'crisis' in the music industry is not necessarily one for the artists, who now generally negotiate better recording deals than in the past and who have far more options for a financially successful career than being dependant on records alone. It's more of a crisis for the record companies themselves, who having spent their first 80-90 years in business ripping off the artists, then spent the first ten years of the Internet age ignoring its commercial possibilities and denying its credible potential, hoping that what they pretended not to notice would somehow cease to exist.
Let's hope the 261 defendants get themselves a powerful anti-trust lawyer who throws some lawsuits back at the record companies. How about suing the industry for selling us many terrible albums they know full well have only a handful of good songs and a shelf life of less than a year? How about a breakdown of record company expenditure, starting with the salaries of the CEOs, Presidents and A&R Directors and working down through the various 'travel expenses', 'business dinners' and dubious 'independent promoters' who are still an essential part of the process that puts so much crap music on the radio? Honestly, if ever there was a better incentive to download than the RIAA's mean-spirited lawsuits, I haven't seen it.
The NY Times has articles about the long-term implications, here and here.
The RIAA spins its propaganda here.
The Boycott-RIAA site offers another side of the corporate coin here.
Well, we won our first playoff game 12-6 last night (that's 124 goals in 11 games this season), so the members of Crazy Legs United know how they'll be spending the evening of 9/11: competing in a football match for a championship title but a mile or so up the West Side Highway from the 16-acre graveyard that once housed the World Trade Centers. I have mixed feelings about this, but as I've found with other friends who are playing gigs or running clubs, this year there's a determination to mark the Second Anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks by getting on with the good things in life. I'll find plenty time during the day to honor the dead, as well as all thank those who helped the living, and then I'll make the most of my own good health for an hour. Perhaps it will prove an extra incentive. Or maybe we'll be distracted. I honestly don't know.
The NPR show Weekend Edition put out an interesting piece commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Keith Moon's death this past Sunday, for which the only two interviewees were Roger Daltrey and myself. (The radio show can be easily accessed here; expanded interviews with Roger and me can be heard there too.) This was an interesting pairing. If you've read my biography on Keith, or at least the acknowledgements section, you'll know that Roger was the only member of The Who to flat out refuse my own interview requests. I was told that my project "conflicted or competed with his proposed film" on his former band mate. But as I wrote in the book, I had already resolved that "if I was forced to do without one member of the Who it should be Roger for the simple fact that he saw less of Keith offstage than the others" and I tried not to be too disappointed.
I've come to greatly regret Roger's non co-operation for two reasons. The first is that since Keith's death, Roger has proven particularly articulate about the drummer's life. The second is that by his non-participation, Roger was then able to denounce my biography as ill researched or ill informed. (Dave Marsh told me he did exactly the same thing with his own biography, Before I Get Old.)
The offending (to Roger) book. Read more about it here.
One major discrepancy came up in the NPR broadcast, concerning Keith's 21st birthday party at the Holiday Inn in Flint, Michigan. Weekend Edition host Liane Hansen asked me to debunk a Keith myth and that one was first to mind. I told the version I'd pieced together from several interviews that Keith did not drive a car into the swimming pool - and Roger told his version. "I saw it. We paid the bill, it was $50,000. I was there and I know it happened
Then I read in a biography that it never happened so maybe I've been living someone else's life, I don't know. But then they were interviewing ex alcoholics and drug addicts, so they were bound to get a very blurred view of what happened."
Nice to be referred to in the plural, but I really have to stress that if I had not spoken to "ex alcoholics and drug addicts," Roger would have been the only member of The Who's inner circle qualified for an interview. (Which he, of course, declined anyway.) After all, the group's vices have been well documented and members either ended up in some form of rehab (Pete Townshend, co-manager Chris Stamp) or died prematurely (Keith Moon, John Entwistle, co-manager Kit Lambert). Roger was an exception, not the rule.
And a $50,000 bill? Fifty grand? Mythology often placed it at $24,000, which I suggested in my book was as exaggerated as the events themselves, considering there weren't even any reports in the local papers of a riot at the Holiday Inn. And think: Who would have been carrying fifty grand on them that day in 1967 to pay off the Holiday Inn with such ease that the tour could book into another member of the chain the following week? Certainly not The Who; according to my best attempts at research, their entire American record company advance the previous year was $50,000. The band was hopelessly in debt, taken to piecing together broken guitars and drums and recording The Who Sell Out on their days off. Two years later, thanks to Tommy, The Who had become superstars in America and were one of the headliners at Woodstock, a festival originally intended as a commercial event, for profit; there they were guaranteed the then princely sum of $12,500. So regardless of his conviction that he saw a car in the pool, Roger's certainly not exempt from exaggerating the details alongside the best of them.
Still, though the show rightly played up our difference of opinion on this issue, the full interviews with Roger and me reveal that we see most of Keith's life and death in a most similar manner. I had no idea that, if asked for one song that exemplified Keith's drumming, Roger would choose 'I Can See For Miles', but I had already named the same song. I didn't know Roger would make the point about Keith being diagnosed as a manic depressive in modern times, or share my point about how his cocaine addiction followed his alcoholism. Nor did I know he would talk about the irony of Keith dying from an overdose of the pills that were ostensibly to help him with alcohol withdrawal, using almost the exact same turns of phrase as me.
Keith the mod in handsome times.
What I find most interesting listening to Roger's interview is his thinly veiled suggestion that Keith chose to deliberately end his life back in 1978 and his refusal to elaborate until his proposed movie on Keith's life eventually sees the light of day. Myself, I consider Keith's death an unresolved issue. There's so much evidence that Keith loved life, that he would be the last person you'd imagine wanting to leave it. And then there's so much evidence similarly intimating his unhappiness around that time, and how he might have deliberately overdosed if only to be saved at the eleventh hour, as he had been so many times before. I await Roger's movie with genuine interest to see what conclusion he draws...
But I don't wait with baited breath. The film was in the works well over a decade ago, long before I set about writing my biography. (In fact, I put the idea off for a while because I assumed Roger was telling the story on film.) It was supposedly in the works while I was researching my book, which allowed Roger to decline his co-operation. And it was apparently very much in the works when my biography was about to be published, as Roger told me when we spoke at length in the summer of 1998. This is not a story I've told in print before, but now would seem to be the right time to do so. Here goes:
A mutual friend had asked me if I could forward my phone number to Roger's management. I happily did so. And I knew Roger was in New York on business so when, on a Monday morning in August 1998, having just stepped out of the shower following a run (which fortunately meant my adrenalin was pumped high), I was not completely astonished to pick up the ringing phone and find Mr. Daltrey on the other end. Almost immediately, he asked me why I 'had it in for him'. I denied that this was the case and asked in return why he felt that way. He told me he'd got his hands on one of the 30 advance copies of an eight-chapter excerpt from Dear Boy, and that he believed I had gone out of my way to belittle him; he even asked whether it was in retaliation for his non-participation in the book.
Pictures on my wall: This is almost the exact same shot of Roger I looked up to for years as a kid
As we carried on quite an aggressive conversation, me still in my dressing gown, pacing the kitchen, my mind kept going back to my childhood bedroom in South London and the poster of the mid-1970s Who on my wall, curly-haired Roger twirling the microphone center stage as Pete twisted on his heels and Keith flailed wildly behind them. (John, I suspect, was cropped from the poster.) I tried to impress upon Roger that far from having it "in for him," he was a childhood idol and I had great respect for him. Yes, I was upset that he hadn't participated in the book, but no, I hoped I hadn't subconsciously decided to get my own back in print.
Eventually, we honed in on the source of his unhappiness quotes from Karl Green of Herman's Hermits, for whom there appeared to be no love lost, and one instance where I appeared to back Green's comment. I outwardly apologized for causing offence, while inwardly feeling surprised that someone so physically tough should prove so emotionally thin-skinned after all these years. I then did what I thought was the right thing in the circumstances and stated that, while the UK book had been printed, the U.S. edition was running a few months behind. If it made him feel better, and allowed him to understand I held no animosity towards him whatsoever, I'd remove the offending quote and my apparent support from the U.S. edition.
Yes, he replied, this would make him feel better. And would I also remove the same quote from future printings of the UK book?
Assuming there are future UK printings, I replied.
At which Roger's attitude suddenly changed. Having won the argument, he now became quite friendly. Oh, there will be future printings, he assured me. You've nailed Keith. You really seem to have got to the core of him.
I didn't tape the phone call so I can't prove that those were his exact words. But I'd testify to their meaning. Our 15-minute argument behind us, we now talked pleasantly for the next 15-30 minutes about Keith and his life, his character, his wife, and indeed, it did seem that Roger shared similar over views on the late, great Moon as me. I stressed how disappointing it was not to get these views into the book, and Roger stressed the personal importance of his movie, which he told me was about to go into production. If I could delay the book for six months to a year, he then suggested, it would be all the more successful on publication because it would coincide with a major motion picture.
Keith in the mid-70s, Dougal to the right.
I don't know if Roger genuinely believed at the time that his film was about to go into production, but even if I had evidence that that was the case (and everyone I spoke to suggested otherwise), I wouldn't have agreed to delay my book. Rather than say as much outright, I simply told the truth and said it was too late, that the book was scheduled for imminent publication. Roger seemed to find this disappointing, but we carried on talking about his own film, as well as the rival script that Dick Clement and Ian La Franais had drawn up for Robert de Niro's proposed biopic based on Dougal Butler's book about his life with Keith. Roger suggested I should see that script, which he had on hand and which he hated; he suggested we might have a drink later that week in New York. After the combative start to our conversation, we ended on an agreeable note. It was the first and last time I had a direct conversation with him.
In the five years since, Roger has regularly blasted my biography. I can handle this given the otherwise overwhelmingly positive reaction to the book, but it upsets me if only because I have great admiration for Roger and believe that we agree on Keith's general characteristics and life arc far more than we may differently interpret certain details. All the same, of course I'm glad I didn't agree to wait for his movie to come out to publish my book, given that the film has still not gone into production. And it may be worth pointing out that the same chapter of my biography that so upset Roger in the first place, that in which Karl Green badmouthed him, is also the chapter that recounts Keith's 21st birthday party in some detail. Throughout our near hour-long phone call five years ago, and despite his honing in on what he saw as both personal slurs on his own character and my otherwise accurate reporting, Roger did not dispute or question any of those details.
So, what really happened on Keith's 21st? Well, the Channel 4 documentary on that very event is due to be aired soon. I don't know what conclusions they reached. Maybe I'll look like an idiot when it's all done. And maybe I won't. Maybe we'll remain just as confused by the mythology of it all as we were when we started.
Finally, just to show how easy it is for anyone to make a mistake, Weekend Edition mangled a crucial part of Keith's final month. Hansen states that "The Who would tour in support of the new album [Who Are You] and Moon appeared to regain some of his swagger behind the drum kit. By all indications, his recovery was well under way
until September 7th." Who fans will know perfectly well that the band did not tour that album, which meant Moon did not and could not recover any swagger, which also means no one could see any recovery under way. I was surprised at this slip-up given that I stated clearly in my interview how the band, for the first time, had chosen not to tour an album. And Roger, for whom I'm happy to have the last word, clearly seems to think (as did John when I interviewed him) that this was a mistake: "We'd had two years off the road. When people say rock'n'roll kills you
Rock'n'roll doesn't kill you, it keeps you alive. It's when you stop doing it it kills you."
The full Weekend Edition, with expanded interviews, can be accessed here.
Those words, the last ones spoken in the movie Ghostbusters (uttered by Ernie Hudson on a rooftop overlooking Central Park as the heroes of the film's title vanquish the Sumerian ghost Goser) drew an enormous cheer from the 2,000-strong audience at the Central Park Film Festival Saturday night. The response was partly in celebration of the movie's corny conclusion, but also an emphatic cry of empathy. On a beautiful Saturday evening, hanging out in one of the world's great city parks, watching a free movie, with free popcorn, and free pre-film music (supplied by myself, my reason for being there), we all felt the same way: We Love This Town!
Our pride, however visceral and instinctive, was surely related to the fact that this week brings us the second anniversary of the city's worst tragedy, and with it the unwelcome opportunity to reopen the wounds and relive the pain that we've mostly, successfully, kept locked away for the past eleven months. Our cheer of mutual love for New York was also surely influenced by the frequent shots in Ghostbusters from high over the north of Central Park, looking down the splendid island of Manhattan, the Twin Towers standing resplendent at the far end of the frame. Similarly, last night's movie, Hair, which concluded the five-night festival, drew an equally loud response just a few minutes in, as the Greyhound bus bringing Oklahoma farm boy Claude to New York approaches the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey. It's a classic side-on view of Manhattan with the Twin Towers clearly visible to the far right (south) of the frame. Again, we all roared our approval. Were we cheering the movie, I wondered, the city in general, or our lost towers and the lives that went with them?
Probably, a little of all three. The debut Central Park Film Festival deliberately featured movies that themselves featured the Park, but made no reference to 9/11, either in its program notes or in any of the many introductory speeches. (Though I think it's worth noting that when choreographer Twyla Tharp introduced Hair last night, she went out of her way to stress that director Milos Forman's use of the American flag at the conclusion of an inherently pro-hippie, anti-war movie had "no irony", that as a Czech Jew whose parents died in the Holocaust and who escaped his homeland during the Soviet-led invasion of 1968, the film-maker had genuine love for America and its traditions of democracy.) Still, as a bridge between the summer we never had, and the week we wish we didn't have, the Film Festival was subtly poignant.
On a purely positive note, I had enormous fun digging out music to match each movie. The first two nights, for Annie Hall and The Producers, this meant finally finding a purpose for all the musicals and soundtracks I've been sent over the years. As I suspected, it was hard to find an appropriate groove for The Fisher King on Friday, though I enjoyed playing Judy Garland's version of the movie's Nilsson-sung theme song 'How About You'. But Saturday and Sunday more than made up for it. They were, in Yank parlance, home runs.
Saturday, I dug out all the cheesy 80s compilations I could find for Ghostbusters, and was delighted to see little kids dancing on the grass to Musical Youth, The B-52's, Blondie, UB40 & Chrissie Hynde, Thomas Dolby, the Go-Gos and Queen. These events go much quicker than you expect (especially with the pre-movie speeches), and I regret playing a couple of acts I essentially dislike in lieu of The Clash, Talking Heads, and some classic 80s New York hip-hop, all of I had brought with me. That said, this was a New York family party and a rare chance for me to be joyously populist, and when I beat-mixed out of Madonna's 'Into The Groove' and into Ray Parker Jr.'s theme song 'Ghostbusters', it was a thrill to hear a thousand people or more immediately sing along to the chorus.
Last night, Sunday, for Hair, I took a very deliberate and purposeful journey through the '60s from mid-decade bliss some might call it ignorance as exemplified by the Rascals, the Lovin' Spoonful and Harper's Bizarre, then setting off some warning signs by Dylan and Byrds before spending thirty minutes in the world of Motown and Stax. That quickly got a crowd of both old-timers and new-comers, all in their hippie fancy dress, up and dancing, and it would have been too easy to keep that mood going for the next hour, but I had a story to tell; it included playing Scott McKenzie's 'If You're Going To San Francisco' (live at the Monterey Pop Festival no less), The Mamas and Papas' 'Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon', Friend and Lover's 'Reach Out In The Darkness,' The Youngbloods' 'Get Together', Jefferson Airplane's 'Somebody To Love,' The Beatles' 'All You Need Is Love', The Peanut Butter Conspiracy's 'Its A Happening Thing', and The Grass Roots' 'Let's Live For Today'
and then stamping out the hippy utopia with a radio broadcast announcing Martin Luther King's assassination, before digging deeper into the decade's downside with Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready' and James Brown's 'Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud.'
I had a lot more I wanted to say and play in that manner, but the Fancy Dress Contest took precedent. Awarded by audience approval, there was no contest for first place: an old dear who looked like she was in her sixties back in the sixties, who had dressed in full psychdelic regalia, who'd been up out of her seat dancing to Sam and Dave almost two hours before the movie and who could still do high kicks to rival most of the 20-somethings on Broadway. I don't know what she's been on for the last 40 years; whatever it is, it works. Anyway, I underpinned the Contest with what I thought was highly appropriate given the mood and the movie - Jimi Hendrix' 'Star Spangled Banner' and 'Purple Haze' from the Woodstock concert and just squeezed in a live version of 'Underture' from The Who's Tommy before announcing the movie with The 5th Dimension's number one hit rendition of Hair's theme song 'Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In.' I had to laugh at the whole thing: I've always had something of a visceral dislike for hippy culture (I'm a mod-punk at heart) and here I was playing hippy theme music to all these dressed-up flower children weaving their way through the Summerstage crowd like it was still 1969 and we were still innocently living the Woodstock dream and peacefully protesting Vietnam
...But then you could maybe forgive them their flashbacks. The word Vietnam or rather, its barely veiled connotation is being frequently uttered these days as the post-war rebuilding of Iraq turns into a lengthy, stubborn, nasty guerilla war. I think its wrong for people to compare Iraq to Vietnam (such as I heard several times already this morning on the Brian Lehrer show) for a number of reasons which I hope you can figure out for yourselves. However, one word we found ourselves using on this web site so regularly in the last year that we ended up offering definitions is 'schadenfreude' and I think it's particularly appropriate in terms of the President's speech to the nation last night.
A Top Gun moment bound to rebound...
I didn't watch George W. Bush's last national speech, from aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln back in May, because I found the whole idea of yet another draft-dodging President flying in to an aircraft carrier like he was himself a participating soldier, too appalling a photo-op to sanction with my limited viewing time. However, like millions of others, I noted his announcement that 'major combat operations in Iraq have ended', and wanted to believe that he was right. The number of subsequent American and British military deaths and the many many Iraqi casualties too, not to mention that of the United Nations workers in the bombing of their Baghdad headquarters have proven him wrong, hundreds of times over.
I don't experience any schadenfreude in these events, not while people are losing their lives, but I imagine there are plenty civilians who vehemently opposed the war who do get a genuine, if inherently contradictory, glee out of the fact that it's now clearly ongoing. And I'm quite sure that, though they will never publicly admit it, there are many high-placed politicians in countries like France, Russia and the noun's homeland, Germany, who are experiencing a genuine sense of schadenfreude that the American President (I don't want to say the American people), he who made such a big show last spring of doing without other countries and international institutions, now admits that he needs them. Their money, their troops, their goodwill. Everything. As I say, I don't share their (likely) schadenfreude. But I do see some serious karmic retribution going on here, with Bush paying a heavy price for being so single-minded in declaring war, and for being so opportunistic (and optimistic) in then declaring it over. If karma is truly to play itself out, we'll have to wait until next November, and a much-needed change of leadership that would look outwards as well as inwards for support. I just hope we can rectify Iraq in the meantime.
At some point last year I can't find the exact diary entry I wrote about how Bush's speech to the United Nations on September 12, the day after the first anniversary of 9/11, 'hijacked' our city's sorrow and redirected it towards his own agenda, war with Iraq. I also seem to recall expressing mixed reactions to this: how I felt while he was wrong to steal our emotions, maybe it was better if attention shifted from New York to somewhere else in the world, and we who live here were thereby forced to move on. The long-term result of all this i.e. of the war in Iraq - is that, as the second anniversary of 9/11 approaches this week, I somehow suspect that New Yorkers and Americans will need to endure the occason in a kind of isolation similar to that of the Administration's policies; I don't anticipate the same international sympathy we experienced both at the time and throughout last year's anniversary week, and I'm not sure, as a nation, we have a right to demand it, either.
Maybe then, this is a week for those of us who live here to simply celebrate what we love about this city and invite others to share some of that joy from afar. That brings me back to the five afternoons I just spent in Central Park, proud to be part of such a splendid and warm-hearted civic occasion. It includes the dozen journeys I made there and back by subway last week, sharing the carriages with literally all walks of life from every corner of the world. It includes the small soggy crowd that watched Annie Hall in the rain, the families who came out picnicking on Saturday, and the old-timers and youngsters alike who dressed up for Hair. It includes the people who came out to Step On in Park Slope on Friday night and danced to everything from Todd Terry to Happy Mondays to Bobby Bland. (Yes, I was dog-tired by the end of that one.)
It includes the taxi driver who calmly got me to Central Park in time on Saturday afternoon when I gave up on the slower-than-molasses subways whose routes had been altered by track work. It includes the heavily-built guy sitting opposite me in the subway yesterday morning wearing his (American) football clothes, carrying his gridiron helmet and wearing a not-to-be-messed with East New York t-shirt, who then saw affixing my race number to my own running shirt for the Fifth Avenue Mile and asked me what I was participating in before wishing me good luck. (He then fell back asleep was he on his way to his game or tired out as a result of it? I didn't wake him to ask.) It includes the people I ran down Fifth Avenue with, as I completed the mile in a highly satisfactory 5 minutes, 30 seconds exactly. It includes the people taking part in the block party one street over from me on Saturday night, who gave up a series of enormous cheers just before midnight for what I assume must have been contest winners before turning off the party music at just the right moment. It includes all the professionals up at the Park who were so trustworthy I could even leave my headphones plugged in on stage and know they'd be there the next day. (Alright, it wasn't deliberate, but they were safe all the same.)
And looking ahead, what will be a difficult week in so many ways is going to be eased in so many others ways. Our boy just went off to his first day of school as a proud third grader, the transition marked by the fact his pre-school time will now spent in the playground rather than the lunchroom. Our 5-a-side football team has a divisional playoff tonight and if we win, we play the final on Thursday evening, which just happens to be 9/11. (Which will bring mixed feelings; let's see if we get there first.) And then our Campbell will turn 8 years old on Saturday
Where does the time go? Where indeed? That same day, two of my very best friends in the world arrive for a few days in New York City; neither has been here since our wedding a full decade ago. The city has changed in so many ways during that time. But it's character is not that different than in the five movies screened in Central Park this past week, each of which itself portrayed an entirely unique portrait of a truly unique city. We're still here. And we've still got so much to be grateful for.
SEP1-7: Film Festivities, Party Monster, Keith Moon RIP
AUG 25-31: Punk Planet, Carlsonics, Copyright Protection, Cline Zinfandel, BRMC
AUG 18-24: Black Out Blame Game, John Shuttleworth, British Music mags, Greg Palast, The Thrills live.
AUG 11-17: The New York blackout, Restaurant reviews, The Media as Watchdog, What I Bought On My Holidays
AUG 4-10: Step On again, Shaun W. Ryder, Jack magazine, the BBC, the Weather, Detroit Cobras, football and Rock'n'Roll
JULY 28-AUG 3: De La Guarda, The Rapture, Radio 4, Stellastarr*, Jodie Marsh, A Tale of Two Lions, Hedonism launch photos,
JULY 14-27: Manchester Move Memories, Hedonism is Here, Holiday postcard
JULY 7-13: Chuck Jackson live, Step On, Beverley Beat, British Way of Life
JUNE30-JULY6: David Beckham, Geoffrey Armes, Happy Mondays, Step On at Royale
JUNE 23-29: Ceasars/The Realistics live, weddings and anniversaries, Cabaret laws.
JUNE 9-23: Hell W10, The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite, Nada Surf live, Field Day debacle
JUNE 2-8: Six Feet Under - Over, Field Day, Siren Fest, Crouching Tigher Hidden Cigarette
MAY 19-JUNE 1: Ian McCulloch live, New York's financial woes, Six Feet Under, Hedonism, Tommy Guerrero.
MAY 5-18: Live reviews of The Rapture, De La Soul, Carlsonics, Laptop, The Libertines, Echoboy, The Greenhornes; observations on Chris Coco/The Blue Room, The Apple Music Store, Alan Freed, Phil Spector, The Matrix Reloaded, Rare Earth, Tinnitus and Royale!
APRIL 28-MAY 4: Flaming Lips, Madonna, Bill Maher, The Dixie Chicks, the war
APRIL 21-27: Rotary Connection, War(n) Out, Cocaine Talk
APRIL 14-20: Belated London Musings on Death Disco and CPFC.
APRIL 7-13: London Musings: Madness, Inspiral Carpets, the Affair, the Palace, the Jam
MARCH 31-APRIL 6: Music be the spice of life, London Calling: Ten Observations from the Old Country
MARCH 24-30: Six Foot Under, Peaches/Elefant live, MP Frees and Busted Boy Bands
MARCH 17-23: Röyksopp live, Transmission, Worn-Out War Talk
MARCH 10-16: Live reviews: Stratford 4, Flaming Sideburns, Joe Jackson Band, Linkin Park. Why I Oppose The War (For Now).
MARCH 3-9: The Pursuit of Happiness, Weekend Players, U.S. Bombs, Al Farooq, A New Pessimism, Brooklyn Half Marathon
FEBRUARY 24-MARCH2: Orange Park, Ali G-Saddam Hussein-Dan Rather-Bill Maher-Jon Stewart TV reviews, Stellastarr*, James Murphy, The Station nightclub fire, the Grammys
FEBRUARY 17-23: Village Voice Poll, Singles Club, Smoke and Fire
FEBRUARY 3-16: Snug, The Face, Pink, Supergrass live, Keith Moon, Phil Spector, Gore Vidal
JANUARY 27-FEBRUARY 2: Communist Chic, Spiritland, Daddy You're A Hero, Keith Moon, State of the Union, CPFC and more on Iraq
JANUARY 20-26: Divisions of Laura Lee, Burning Brides, Words On War, Child Abuse of a Different Kind, Losing My Edge
JANUARY 13-19: Pete Townshend, Pee Wee Herman, South Park and more Pete Townshend
JANUARY 6-12: Interpol in concert, Tony Fletcher's Top 10 Albums and Singles of 2002, More on Joe Strummer and The Clash, Fever Pitch and Bend It Like Beckham.
DECEMBER 31 2002 -JAN 5 2003: A tribute to Joe Strummer, Radio 4 live on New Year's Eve
DECEMBER 25-30: NO POSTINGS: ON VACATION
DECEMBER 16-24: Metro Area, Breakbeat Science, Sting makes Wine, New York Downtown redesigns, Keith Moon anecdotes, Campbell's jokes.
DECEMBER 9-15: Tiswas, pledge drives, The View from Up North
DECEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Weekend Players and Snow Lit Piano Bars)
FOR NOVEMBER 25-29 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Joe Hurley, Thanksgiving, Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin)
FOR NOVEMBER 16-24 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Longwave, The Pleased, Get Your War On, Powder, Radio 4, Supreme Beings Of Leisure, Ben Neill, Baldwin Brothers, Thievery Corporation)
FOR NOVEMBER 9-15 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes CMJ report including Datsuns, von Bondies and My Favorite, and political Eagles)
FOR NOVEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Halloween, the New York Marathon, and British Cuisine)
FOR OCTOBER 26-NOV 1 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes live reviews of The Streets, Mooney Suzuki, Sahara Hotnights, Flaming Sideburns, Stellastarr*; Jam Master Jay; Halloween)
FOR OCTOBER 19-25 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Underworld live, Atlantic Avenue antics, Girls and Boys night)
FOR OCTOBER 12-18 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Bali Bombing and stupid editorials, the Electro-Clash festival, VHS Or Beta, Ballboy, Mindless Self Indulgence, 2 Many DJs, Tom Petty, The Streets, pointless stop-the-war e-mails)
FOR OCTOBER 5-11 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Steve Earle and John Walker's Blues, Dreaming Of Britney, Girls Against Boys and Radio 4)
FOR SEPTEMBER 28-OCT 4 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes White Stripes live, Morel live, My Generation re-issue)
FOR SEPTEMBER 21-27 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Creation live, Village Voice, Wine not Whine and more)
FOR SEPTEMBER 14-20 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Firefighter Andre Fletcher, Untamed, Uncut, and more September 11 Musings)
FOR SEPTEMBER 7-13 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Sep 11 memorials, Did Bin Laden Win?, Scissor Sisters and Electro-clash)
FOR AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 6 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Strokes live, The Rising, Saint Etienne, Team USA, a.i., Tahiti 80, Dot Allison)
FOR AUGUST 17-30 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes holiday musings, wine reviews, Luna at Southpaw, and more)
FOR AUGUST 10-16 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes lengthy Who live review)
FOR JULY 27-AUG 9 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Area 2, 24 Hour Party People Party, Hootenanny Tour, 2 Many DJs and more.
FOR JULY 20-26 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Wilson Pickett, John Entwistle, rebuilding downtown NYC)
FOR JULY 13-19 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Love Parade, Teany, RenewNYC, Femi Kuti, NRA, Londonisation of New York, Britishification of Global Rock)
FOR JULY 6-12 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Mike Meyers as Keith Moon, the RAVE Act, John Entwistle, Michael Jackson, Southpaw, Moby Online, Layo & Bushwacka!,(accidentally deleted)
FOR JUNE 29-JULY 5 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup Final, John Entwistle's legacy, The Who's decision to carry on, the meaning of July 4)
FOR JUNE 22-28 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Dr. John, Doves, Mermaid Parade, John Entwistle's death, Timothy White's death, Clinic Firewater and Radio 4 live, The Who's decision to carry on)
FOR JUNE 15-21 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Liars live, GiantFingers, the Big Takeover)
FOR JUNE 8 -14 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, StellaStarr*, Jose Padilla, Dee Dee Ramone, suicide bombings)
FOR JUNE 1-7 DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Southpaw, Six Foot Under, Andrew Sullivan)
FOR LATE MAY DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR MAY'S EIGHT DAYS IN A WEEK'S MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR LATE APRIL LONDON MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR EARLY APRIL MUSINGS, CLICK HERE