Little Richard: ‘awopbopaloobop alopbamboom’

On the evening of May 8, 1970, I was covering a rock concert at The Grand Olympic Auditorium at 18th and Grand in Downtown Los Angeles. For years the Olympic had been home to boxing, wrestling and Roller Derby (the Los Angeles T-Birds) but from 1969 to 1970 the auditorium shared it sports events with rock concerts. Groups included Mountain, Jack Bruce, Ten Years After, Frank Zappa and the Mothers, Quicksilver Messenger Service and, on this night Little Richard. Little Richard was on his comeback trail after years of religion and gospel, and after being overshadowed by the British Invasion and American rockers who appropriated his music for their success. But on stage, Little Richard gave unequaled dynamic shows (rivalled only by James Brown).

The Olympic was a disputed cultural arena in Los Angeles at this time. Hard-core conservative fans of wrestling and boxing resented having to share their “home” with dirty, “unwashed hippies,” and the LAPD, under the stewardship of Chief Ed Davis, was well-known for its racial and cultural profiling (i.e., blacks and long-hairs). Rock events were well-attended by the LAPD, who patrolled outside and inside the building. During Little Richard’s outrageous concert I was wandering around in the audience, covering it for my college newspaper, taking notes, noticing the cops hassling — and arresting — people. At one point I was in the bathroom and overhead two cops laughing about a bust they had just made — “did you see his face when I smashed his head into the urinal” one commented.

As the evening wore on, Little Richard’s on-stage theatrics and loud music grew wilder and wilder. The audience was whipped into a rock ‘n’ roll frenzy, and Little Richard began inviting the crowd up on the stage. Only the stage — basically the ring at the Olympic — couldn’t handle the weight. In a 1990 interview with Rolling Stone Little Richard tells the rest. “Collapsed. The piano fell. The stage fell. One guy broke his leg. It was pandemonium: The crowd was screaming, and they kept screaming. I was on top of the piano, and I was screamin’ too, ’cause I was fallin’. Everybody was screamin’. Screamin’ and screamin’!”

That was all the LAPD needed. In short order scores of cops showed up, closed down the concert, and chased everyone away. Rock concerts at the Olympic pretty much died out after that. (But, in 1980, the Grand Olympic once again became a musical venue. Public Image Ltd. kicked off a half-decade of punk rock music performances that brought the auditorium a reputation for being a notorious Punk Rock venue. In June 2005, the Glory Church of Jesus Christ, a Korean-American Christian church purchased the entire property, and the Grand Olympic Auditorium ceased to exist).

Little Richard died May 9. He was 87. Richard, whose real name was Richard Penniman, was born in Macon, Georgia in December 1932. He had been in poor health for several years, suffering hip problems, a stroke and a heart attack. Richard’s agent, Dick Alen, said: “Little Richard passed away this morning from bone cancer in Nashville.

His 1955 song Tutti Frutti, with the lyric “awopbopaloobop alopbamboom,” and a series of follow-up records helped establish the rock “n” roll genre and influenced a multitude of other musicians. Richard’s career began when in the late 1940s but his early recordings with RCA Victor garnered little success. His breakthrough came when he signed to Specialty Records in 1955, releasing a run of wild and flamboyant singles – Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Rip It Up, The Girl Can’t Help It, Lucille, Keep A-Knockin’ and Good Golly, Miss Molly, among others – that made him a star on both sides of the Atlantic.


Posted on May 9, 2020
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Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider dies

Electronic rock artist and noted “sound fetishist” Florian Schneider has died. The co-founder of Germany’s hugely influential Kraftwerk was 73.

“Kraftwerk co-founder and electric pioneer Ralf Huetter has sent us the very sad news that his friend and companion over many decades Florian Schneider has passed away from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday (in April),” group publisher Warner Music announced May 6.

Kraftwerk, founded by Schneider and Huetter in 1970, is best known for its epic “Autobahn” of 1974, and remains a popular touring act. A private and shadowy figure, Schneider stopped performing with the “robot pop” act in 2006 and left the group soon after. Rumors of his death had circulated earlier in the year.

“Kraftwerk are to contemporary electronic music what the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are to contemporary rock music,” Moby told the New York Times in 2009. David Bowie was an enthusiastic fan, adopting some of the band’s sounds on his album “Low” and naming a song after Schneider.

While electronic music existed as a genre for most of the 20th century, even making occasional appearances in the mainstream, Kraftwerk’s brand of hypnotic industrial atmospherics ultimately mutated (via other artists) into synth pop, trance, house, ambient, techno and EDM. (“Kraftwerk” means “power plant.”) Tangerine Dream found even more success as a fellow traveler hailing from Germany’s experimental music scene.

With its blips, synth-swirls and bop-bop vocal snippets, the 22-minute “Autobahn” offered a virtual journey on Germany’s freeways. Despite the length and electronic foundations, “Autobahn” proved surprisingly breezy and accessible. A radio-friendly edit provided the unlikely hit. Kraftwerk returned to transportation mode in 1983, with cycling fans Schneider and Huetter wheeling out the single “Tour de France.”

While Kraftwerk found only limited success in the United States, its live act, in which the players performed as emotionless humanoids, wormed its way into popular culture via new wave act Devo and performance artists Blue Man Group.

Schneider, son of a famed architect, liked to create his own instruments such as the synthesized-singing Robovox. He played flute, violin and some keyboards, and was dubbed by his partner as a “sound fetishist.” Eventually, Schneider said, “I threw the flute away.” He co-wrote and co-produced almost all of Kraftwerk’s music.

The band recorded its first album in 1970, utilizing the avant-garde and psychedelic sounds found in Krautrock of the day. The group eventually disowned its first three albums, preferring to begin its revisionist discography with 1974’s “Autobahn.”

Key recordings include “Trans-Europe Express” (1977), “The Man-Machine” (1978) and “Computer World” (1981). Kraftwerk was frequently sampled, notably on Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” and Dr. Dre and Jay-Z’s “Under Pressure.”

The band was short-listed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2020.

Kraftwerk is currently scheduled for a summer tour in North America.

 


Report courtesy of Psychedelic Sight


Posted on May 6, 2020
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Dylan Takes on JFK Assassination, Walt Whitman

In what is his longest studio song (almost 18 minutes) in his 60-year career, Bob Dylan last month released “Murder Most Foul,” an amazing epic that uses the assassination of JFK (lest you ever forget, Nov. 22, 1963) as a jumping off point to examine the highs and lows of post-innocence America. Dylan launches into a series of lamentations hearkening back to the Old Testament’s Book of Lamentations:
 

‘Twas a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts and we’ve come to collect
We’re gon’ kill you with hatred and without any respect
We’ll mock you and shock you, we’ll grin in your face
We’ve already got someone here to take your place
The day that they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing
It happened so quickly – so quick by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes

 

What’s New Pussycat – wha’d I say
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
It’s beginning to go down into a slow decay

 
He points his finger at those responsible for JFK’s murder, then goes on to provide a laundry list of pop culture heroes, from the Beatles  through the Stones , Oscar Peterson and Stan Getz, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Carl Wilson, and many, many more, who have tried to salve our wounds:
 

Hush li’l children, you’ll soon understand
The Beatles are coming they’re gonna hold your hand
Slide down the bannister, go get your coat
Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
I’m going to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age

 
But it’s the lamentations that stand out:
 

They killed him on the altar of the Rising Sun
Play Misty for me and that Old Devil Moon
Play Anything Goes and Memphis in June
Play Lonely at the Top and Lonely Are the Brave
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play Lucille
Play Deep in a Dream and play Drivin’ Wheel
Play Moonlight Sonata in F sharp
And Key to the Highway by the king of the harp
Play Marchin’ Through Georgia and Dumbarton’s drum
Play Darkness and death will come when it comes
Play Love Me or Leave Me by the great Bud Powell
Play the Blood Stained Banner – play Murder Most Foul

 

From BobDylan.com:

Murder Most Foul

Apr 06, 2020

Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years.
 
This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting.
 
Stay safe, stay observant and may God be with you.
 
Bob Dylan

 
The lyrics are available at BobDylan.com
 


 
 
Shortly after this, Dylan released another single, “I Contain Multitudes” on April 17. Its title comes from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself, 51”: “Do I contradict myself?/ Very well, then I contradict myself/ (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” It’s Dylan’s embrace of his past and present, his “Song of Experience,”
 


Posted on May 4, 2020
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‘How to Read Donald Duck’ Returns to US Shores

It’s back.

“How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic” by Ariel Dorfman (who was the cultural adviser to President Salvador Allende from 1970 to 1973 during the short, glorious years of socialism in Chile) with the Belgian sociologist Armand Mattelart, was an instant best-seller in Chile in 1971.

The comic-book-sized publication took a political (Marxist) look at the capitalist ideological underpinnings of the Walt Disney-Donald Duck comic books and how they promulgated imperialism in Chile (and elsewhere) — not to mention the American model of consumerism, sexuality and culture. If you were (or still are) a reader of Donald’s adventures (along with his three nephews and Scrooge McDuck) you’ll recall the many trips the characters made to “backwater” third-world countries where they conivingly tried to “swindle” the “natives” out of their rices — gold, diamonds, ores and minerals, oil, and their land — only to enrich their own coffers (Scrooge loved to “swim” in his vault of billions) – or create a revolution against “bad” governments.

According to Dan Piepenbring in the New Yorker (June 3, 2019):

“The book was translated into nearly a dozen languages, including English, and sold half a million copies. But American publishing houses blanched at the prospect of a lawsuit from Disney, which was known to litigate early and often. In 1975, a small imprint agreed to a modest run of about four thousand copies. The books were printed in the U.K. and shipped to the U.S. But, when they arrived in New York, Customs impounded them, on suspicion of ‘piratical copying.’ The books reproduced panels from Disney comics without permission. Customs invited lawyers from both sides to plead their cases. Disney argued that parents might pick up the book thinking it was a bona-fide Disney publication, unwittingly delivering radical propaganda to their children. Customs ultimately sided with the authors—but, citing an obscure nineteenth-century importation clause that was intended to curb the arrival of counterfeit books from abroad, the agency admitted only a miserly fifteen hundred copies into the U.S.”

In 1973, Augusto Pinochet seized power from Allende, in a violent military coup that was underwritten by the US; under Pinochet’s rule, the book was banned, as an emblem of a fallen way of thought. Copies were burned and thrown into the ocean.

Fortunately, the First Edition of the book was republished by O/R Books in 2018 and an updated version was published by UK Pluto Books in 2018. It includes a new introduction by Ariel Dorfman in addition to the original preface to the English edition by Dorfman and Mattelart, as well as the introduction to the English edition by translator David Kunzle.

Here’s Ariel Dorfman from an article in The Guardian, Fri 5 Oct 2018:

“Probing hundreds of Disney comic strips – sold by the million on newsstands in Chile and countless other lands – we had tried to reveal the ideological messages that underlay those supposedly innocent, supposedly apolitical stories.

We wanted Chilean readers to realise they were being fed values that were inimical to a revolution that sought to unshackle them from centuries-old exploitation: competition rather than solidarity, prejudice rather than critical thinking, obedience rather than rebellion, paternalism rather than resistance, money rather than compassion as the standard of worth.

We wanted Chileans to realise they were being fed values inimical to a revolution … to understand how previous rulers had presented subjugation as normal, natural and benign

It was not enough, we felt, to change the economic and social structures that benefited a rich minority and their international corporate allies. It was also imperative to understand how the previous rulers of our land had presented this subjugation as normal, natural and benign; how they had been covertly selling us an American model of success and consumer affluence as the false solution to poverty and misdevelopment.

Just as copper and other resources usurped by foreign hands needed to be recovered for the nation, so too did our dreams and desires. We had to take back control, forge a new identity, devise new forms of entertainment. Our book was meant to contest the authoritarian plots imported from the US, to open spaces for stories of our own making.

We used the Disney cartoons to suggest the aseptic, oppressive sexuality in the Duck family, the way third-world natives were depicted as savages and idiots, the way riches were never produced by workers but always by investors, and how villains were portrayed with racial bias. In this realm, female Ducks are flirtatiously worried about their beauty, yet strangely asexual (Daisy: “If you teach me to skate this afternoon, I will give you something you always wanted.” Donald: “You mean …?” Daisy: “Yes … my 1872 coin.”) And the model jobs for the Duck nephews when playing a game at school about the adults they want to become: “I’d like to be a banker!” says Dewey, echoed by Huey: “I’ll pretend I’m a big landlord with lots of land to sell.” Or take the witch doctor who brags about his nation being modern because “Gottee telephone. Only trouble is only one has wires. It’s a hot line to the World Loan Bank.”

For further reading:

The New Yorker

LSE US Centre

We Are the Mutants


Posted on May 1, 2020
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Genesis P-Orridge, COUM and Throbbing Gristle Founder, Dies

I know this obit is over a month old but I have been way behind on things. Genesis was an art-genius and ahead of his time — In the mid-70s his art group COUM was pushing the boundaries of conceptual and performance art. Along with partner Cosey Fanni Tutti they put on the Prostitution show at the ICA in 1976 in London, causing the Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn to declare COUM ‘Wreckers of Civilisation’. Cosey was arrested for obscenity. Shortly after that I helped sponsor their first US visit, and was able to procure two shows for them in Los Angeles — shows at which their outrageous brand of performance so disgusted local performance artists (including Chris Burden) that they walked out. They stayed with me for about a week in Echo Park — and what was the one thing they most wanted to do while here — go see “Deep Throat.” Their rock group Throbbing Gristle was a pioneer in industrial and electronic music. Cosey has a great book “Art Sex Music” and she’s still very, very active in the music and art scene in Europe. RIP Genesis.

 

Genesis P-Orridge in New York, 2007.

Genesis P-Orridge in New York, 2007. Photograph: Neville Elder/Redferns

Obit from The Guardian, March 15, 2020

“I am at war with the status quo of society and I am at war with those in control and power,” said Genesis P-Orridge in 1989. “I’m at war with hypocrisy and lies, I’m at war with the mass media.” P-Orridge, who has died of leukaemia aged 70, stuck to the task of delivering aesthetic shocks and trampling over cultural taboos with impressive dedication and across multiple disciplines.

Perhaps best known for work with the bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, P-Orridge, who used s/he as a pronoun, wrote songs about mass murder, mutilation, the occult and fascism. Throbbing Gristle’s track Zyklon B Zombie was a reference to the poison gas used in the Nazi death camps. Hamburger Lady (from their 1978 album DOA) was inspired by the story of a burns victim.

Unstintingly harsh and abrasive, Throbbing Gristle nonetheless built a select but dedicated following. Their album 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979) – an exercise in Germanic electro-pop rather than jazz-funk – took them to No 6 on the UK indie chart.

Psychic TV, in whose oeuvre a playful pop music sensibility could be discerned, among experiments with electronic noise, psychedelia and droning repetition, seemed to favour subtle infiltration rather than the bludgeoning approach of Throbbing Gristle. They reached 67 on the UK pop chart in 1986 with Godstar, a song about the death of the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones. More remarkable was their project, starting in 1986, to record a live album on the 23rd of each month for 23 months. They managed 14 in 18 months, but this was enough to earn them a Guinness World Records entry.

But music was only one of the ways in which P-Orridge channelled their creative energies. Psychic TV made their debut in 1982 at a four-day multimedia event in London and Manchester called the Final Academy, which featured artists including William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin – whose cut-up writing technique had been a powerful influence on P-Orridge – in a mix of music, literature, film and video. In 1969, P-Orridge had begun laying the groundwork for future explorations by forming COUM Transmissions, a group based in Hull who performed improvised theatre and music shows. They adopted a logo of a partially erect penis, and infused their work with Dada-inspired absurdity.

They became successful enough to win grants from the Yorkshire Arts Association, the Arts Council of Great Britain and the British Council, though this did not bring with it a yearning for respectability. Their performances became increasingly extreme, featuring body-cutting and involving P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti (AKA Christine Carol Newby) having sex onstage. In her autobiography Art Sex Music (2017), Fanni Tutti made allegations that P-Orridge had been a violent and manipulative partner, which were denied by P-Orridge.

Throbbing Gristle was founded on 3 September 1975 (on the 36th anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany), comprising Tutti and P-Orridge alongside Chris Carter and Peter Christopherson, and for a time continued alongside COUM.

COUM’s show Prostitution, staged at the ICA in London in 1976, provoked uproar with its pornographic images, sculptures fashioned from used tampons and transvestite security guards, prompting the Scottish Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn to describe P-Orridge and Tutti as “wreckers of civilisation”.

P-Orridge was born Neil Megson in Longsight, Manchester, the child of Muriel and Ronald Megson. Ronald was a travelling salesman, jazz drummer and former actor who had survived Dunkirk with the British Army in 1940. The family moved to Essex, then later to Cheshire, where Neil attended Gatley primary school and won a scholarship to Stockport grammar school. In 1964 Neil was sent to the private Solihull school.

There tastes for literature and the avant-garde were developed and Neil became fascinated with the writings of the magician and occultist Aleister Crowley. (In 1981 Neil would form Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth, an association of occultists.) In 1965 Neil founded his first band, Worm, with some school friends. They recorded an album, Early Worm (1968), but only one vinyl copy of it was produced.

In 1968, Neil went to Hull University to study social administration and philosophy, but dropped out the following year and moved to London joining the Transmedia Explorations commune in Islington. By the end of 1969 Neil was back in Hull, where COUM Transmissions was developed with John Shapeero.

The later phases of P-Orridge’s life were in some ways the most startling. P-Orridge moved to the US in the 1990s, following allegations (that subsequently proved false) in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary that s/he had been involved in satanic ritual abuse.

In 1993 P-Orridge met Jacqueline Breyer, who was working at a New York S&M dungeon. She adopted the name Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, and they moved in together in Queens, New York. They married in California in 1995, the year that P-Orridge was badly injured while escaping a fire at the Los Angeles home of the record producer Rick Rubin. He was awarded $1.5m compensation in 1998.

The couple set about using plastic surgery to become mirror images of one another, beginning with matching breast implants on Valentine’s Day 2003, and continuing with work on eyes and nose, liposuction and hormone therapy. They dressed in identical outfits, and P-Orridge coined the term “pandrogyny” to express the idea that they fused into a third person, Breyer P-Orridge, who only existed when they were together. P-Orridge subsequently preferred the self-descriptor “we”, though did not object to being called “s/he”.

This pandrogyny project was cut short when Breyer died of acute heart arrhythmia in 2007, an especially painful loss at a time when P-Orridge was beginning to receive highbrow acclaim. The Invisible-Exports gallery in New York staged a retrospective of their collages, 30 Years of Being Cut Up, and in 2009 Tate Britain purchased their archive.

Marie Losier’s documentary film The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye was released in 2011, and in 2016 the Rubin Museum of Art in New York hosted Try to Altar Everything, an exhibition of P-Orridge’s paintings, sculptures and installations. In 2018 s/he published Brion Gysin: His Name Was Master, a collection of interviews and essays.

In 2003 P-Orridge had unveiled PTV3, a new band drawing on the legacy of Psychic TV. They released four albums and several EPs between 2007 and 2016. In 2018 they performed at Heaven in London.

P-Orridge is survived by two daughters, Genesse and Caresse, from a first marriage, to Paula Brooking, which ended in divorce.

Genesis P-Orridge (Neil Andrew Megson), musician, writer and performance artist, born 22 February 1950; died 14 March 2020

 

 


Posted on April 14, 2020
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