Monday, November 28, 2011

I need to scratch my head

Image of Ken Russell from "A Ken Russell Interlude" by Kimberly Linbergs in Cinebeats.

Wild Billy Childish's the Buff Medways, The Medway Wheelers
Coco Robicheaux, Hoodoo Party

The Prisoners, The Last Fourfathers
The Nightingales, Out of True
The Nectarine No. 9, It's Just the Way Things are, Joe. It's Just the Way They Are

  • RIP Coco Robicheaux. I talked to Coco a couple of times but never in a professional hipster-interfacing capacity and somehow never saw him perform, which I will now forever regret. But his incense smokin', voodoo talkin', Stagger Lee walkin' demeanor was for real, the New Orleans thing that gives the city its shimmer.

    Coco Robicheaux, "Time Has Come Today"
  • RIP Ken Russell. Ken Russell's films were a revelation to me in my early film snob days. They possessed a Felini level of brittle charmed ennui with a late night Skinemax level of depravity, all wrapped up in absurd magic. It was the kind of film practice that you couldn't fence in as "good" or "bad" but more just "wow."
  • Altered States, Tommy and Gothic are probably the best known of his films, but I particularly loved The Music Lovers, a histrionic biopic about Tchaikovsky. More pointedly, the train scene where Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson don't get it on in the most hallucinatory manner. (NSFW)

  • There is a short essay about Ken Russell in my first book Darkness, Racket and Twang (Only $5.99 for the Kindle version)

    Ken Russell's In Search of the English Folksong on OvationYou might know Ken from his cult faves "Gothic" or "Lair of the White Worm" or from odder affairs such as "The Lovers," his hallucinatory soap-operatic feature about Tchaikovsky. Ken operates on a weird plane at the corner of Fellini and Pee Wee Herman, with a little Argento thrown in for flava, in a tea-and-crumpets English pomp stylee. 
    It opened with a dream sequence with Ken wearing these square sunglasses that had the word "falling" built into the frame. He was seated in a Lawrence Welk-vivid garden gazebo, where a dowdy English soprano is lolling out a sea shanty. He awakes, plays some 78's for his dog, and then announces, pushing his face through a bouquet of flowers, that he was going to go in search of folk music among the folk.He stumbles through some Teletubbies countryside to a pub, where a metal outfit named "So What" appears and breaks into song. Ken focuses a camcorder on the trashy/foxy lead singer, and then they are all of a sudden outside, with the band playing atop picnic tables. Throngs of English youth appear from the bushes to do what seems a modified frug around them. Ken then has a drink with the guitarist and follows him home, where he poses in front of a corvette festooned with a rebel flag license plate and sings a country-ish song. Then, here come the fruggers again...This was all in the first ten minutes. And I fear that I'm not making it sound random enough. After the first commercial break, it seems that he's calmed down and is now documenting actual folksingers, sadly sans frug. Eventually it has Fairport Convention frolicking in a church under a disco ball, but nothing else so far is up to par with the opening sequence. Ken Russell has a particular talent for walking that fine line between the perverse and the asinine, and this BBC budget affair captures it better than anything I've ever seen of his.

    Here is a scene with his dog..

  • Somebody asked me if I was serious when I said I actually liked Lulu, the almost categorically panned recent collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica and my answer can be found at the end of the Ken Russell piece. It walks a line between perverse and asinine. It is a risky flailing of artistic emotion from a group of people who have long paid their dues, crafting personae. Sure, Lulu is head scratcher, but good. I need to scratch my head. I wish more art made me scratch my head rather than does the absurdity of the news. I wish there were more guys like Coco around about whom I wondered if the voodoo thing was for real than demon-scared politicians about whom I'm compelled to ask the same question.

    I wish there were more Ken Russells steering the vast resources of the BBC into the choppy waters of the puzzling. I'm thrilled Lou Reed convinced the most boring metal band in the world to bellow "I AM THE TABLET" with the confidence of a madman. The more I listen to music of the 70's, like even the hugely popular music like Chicago, I'm struck how weird it all is. How surprising things were. The world could fall apart any minute back then, just like it can now.  I am glad a few people are willing to keep it appropriately weird.

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