Have you heard of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men? If not, you can’t say you know all of David Bowie’s groups. Fifty years ago, in his very first television interview, Bowie appeared in the capacity of its spokesman, as well as that of “President of the International League for the Preservation of Animal Filament.” “I think we’re all fairly tolerant,” says the 17-year-old then known as David (or even Davey) Jones, “but for the last two years we’ve had comments like ‘Darling!’ and ‘Can I carry your handbag?’ thrown at us, and I think it just has to stop now.” Cliff Michelmore, host of the BBC program Tonight where this all went down in November 1964, asks if such behavior surprises him, because, “after all, you’ve got really rather long hair, haven’t you?” “We have, yes,” replies the proto-Bowie Bowie. “I think we all like long hair, and we don’t see why other people should persecute us because of this.”
John Doran meets the inimitable 30th Century Man to discuss Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))) and front runner for album of the year
“When Richard Strauss conducted his opera Salome on May 16, 1906, in the Austrian city of Graz, several crowned heads of European music gathered to witness the event. The premiere of Salome had taken place in Dresden five months earlier, and word had got out that Strauss had created something beyond the pale – an ultra-dissonant biblical spectacle, based on a play by an Irish degenerate whose name was not mentioned in polite company, a work so frightful in its depiction of adolescent lust that imperial censors had banned it from the Court Opera in Vienna.”
If people had been outraged by Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé with its implicit references to necrophilia and incest; as the basis of his “ultra-dissonant” opera, Strauss leant on and amplified these themes to help create a massive succès de scandale that simultaneously shocked, delighted and disgusted contemporary Austrian society. But it was a success that doubtlessly overshadowed his musical innovation.
Over a century later, the second track on Scott Walker and Sunn O)))’s outstanding album Soused – ‘Herod 2014′ – revisits The Bible to retell an even more disturbing story: that of the King of Judea (Salome’s grandfather) and his campaign of mass infanticide. As moving and as brilliant as this track is – and it is moving and brilliant – it demonstrates how the potential of art to create controversial shock and awe has all but vanished. How could a listener be dismayed by this ancient tale of terrible violence done in the Middle East – or the sonic shroud it is presented in – when just a click away on YouTube there is footage of aid workers and journalists being beheaded in Syria and families being decimated in the Gaza Strip for all to see.
A contemporary of Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Francesco Scavullo, William “Bill” Helburn was at the top of his profession from the early 1950s through the 1960s, with bylined covers and editorial images in the pages of such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, Life, and McCall’s. Helburn also worked extensively in advertising. Throughout his career Helburn strove to grab the viewer’s attention, “Shock value was a term that was used. And I meant to shock people as much as I could.” A few years ago Gillian McCain went to Connecticut to buy some photos and talk with Helburn. Below is their conversation, edited. We thought it was apropos to publish this the week Bill’s book William Helburn: Seventh and Madison – Fashion and Advertising Photography at Mid-Century is released. Also, stay tuned for upcoming interview with Debra Tate on her photography book.
A new documentary about Kurt Cobain is set for release in 2015.
The Brett Morgen film is called ‘Montage Of Heck’ and will premiere next year on the HBO channel in the US. Pitchfork reports that it is the first “fully authorised” film about the Nirvana frontman. His daughter Frances Bean Cobain is acting as executive producer on the project.
In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
There are few modern inventions that give me more pleasure than the “shuffle” feature on whatever device I’m currently using to enjoy music. I recently received a free iPod Mini courtesy of Behind The Candelabra—swag works!—and it’s been my running companion for the last few months, all loaded with some of my favorite bands and tracks. Anyway, that’s a long way to go to say this new iPod granted me a listen to Jonathan Fire*Eater’s “Give Me Daughters” the other day, and I couldn’t believe how fantastic it still sounds. The band existed just briefly, roughly 1994 to 1998, riding a tidal wave of completely justified hype that eventually drowned it. (The story has a happy ending, as three-fifths of the band formed The Walkmen, which is still very much a growing concern.)
Yesterday we featured Charles Bukowski’s first-ever recorded readings. Perhaps you found them, in their way, inspirational, but for me the feeling of inspiration always leads to a question — who inspired my inspirer? In the case of Bukowski, the poet has, in his work, clearly named one of his main inspirations: the work of 19th-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The author of Crime and Punishment might at first seem to have little in common with the author of Ham on Rye, but often the most resonant inspirations don’t involve much direct resemblance. And as Bukowski remembers in the poem he gave Dostoyevsky’s name (albeit in one of the other standard spellings), his ancestor in the world of letters did more than just get him writing:
Mark Dery shines a light into the literary unconscious of Joanna Ebenstein, director of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
Joanna Ebenstein has been known, on occasion, to wear a black dress with a white Peter Pan collar, which, given her fascinations—death masks, decapitation, books bound in human skin, conjoined twins, wax models of pathological anatomy, that sort of thing—invites the inevitable comparison to Wednesday Addams. This makes her cringe, I suspect: morbid interests notwithstanding, Joanna is determinedly not a goth. She is, as Flaubert advised, understated in dress and demeanor—“as ordinary as a bourgeois” at first glance; it’s what’s in her head that’s “violent and original.” She wears old-fashioned, wire-rimmed spectacles and parts her cornsilk-blond hair on the side; the combined effect is a scholarly studiousness, and the no-nonsense air of a librarian, which she is. A confessed “book hoarder” from the age of 13 on, Ebenstein conceived and created the Morbid Anatomy Library, a contemporary cabinet of curiosities that began in 2007 as an exuberant, inexhaustibly curious blog; evolved into a lecture space and a sort of Masonic Lodge for suitably morbid souls; and is now a full-fledged museum in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood.
Below is Robert Plant and Jon Bonham’s first interview on British television. I love that they are smoking on TV, but that’s just me! Pretty cool that they laugh when asked about all the money they now have, reminding the straight interviewer that it took many years of struggle and touring to reach that point.
Led Zeppelin were named the best group in the world in 1970. What’s happened to popular music? We live in a world where Taylor Swift and The Foo Fighters are on top. That music is unlistenable to most people i know. I always imagine it must be the pre-teens buying that crap. I have a feeling something is changing…. mediocrity just can’t hold sway for much longer.
Last week marked 36 years since the release of the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, a record dogged by rumours of containing subliminal messages that, when played backwards, seemed to suggest Paul McCartney was dead. The cult of myths surrounding the Fab Four goes far beyond ‘Paul Is Dead’ conspiracy theories, however. Here’s that and 14 other strange, suspicious tales about the Beatles blown open…