Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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Paris Text, the single recorded by Wayne Wolfson and the band Grenadier is a particularly successful encounter between spoken word and electronic music. The atmosphere is very cinema-like, certainly dark, and not far removed from what used to be known as "trip-hop". However, Wayne’s delivery is that of a poet, not of a rapper, and his voice, artfully distorted by sound effects, has a metallic ring that doesn’t exclude a peculiar warmth and proximity, as if a robot was whispering sweet-sour things in you ears. Wayne’s literary themes, as displayed in his earlier story Two Women, published here, center on love relationships and sexual/sensual experiences, more evocatively than graphically evoked. And as a special bonus for 3am readers, here are the song’s lyrics, by kind permission of Wayne Wolfson:
"It was the dying before the song that bothered her the most. She squeezed her eyes shut.
OU EST TU MON AMI?
She had to think, form the perfect picture behind closed eyes. To make it strong, to make it match the exact moment in the daydream when they both would let go.
It was no good, her legs already shook. In a panic she called forth a jumble of images, even of him. She hated him, but he was there in the end too.
She bit her lip. Her fingers sank all the way in. With the last of the little tremors, stopping. Remaining like a fly trapped in amber.
The horn hits a last note. Falling into nothingness the needle skips across the open space, again and again in a rhythm that matches her heart.
This dead space rhythm becomes all. This rhythm is everything.
For now there is nothing more to do. Maybe later she will try again. Just to spite herself or perhaps to keep him prisoner a while longer.
A prisoner of memory"
copyright Wayne Wolfson 2001.
Get info on the CD at www.waynewolfson.com and www.b-s-m.org/grenadier/.
HORNBY WINS WH SMITH PRIZE 04/10/2002
Bestselling English novelist Nick Hornby has won the WH Smith Book Awards: "Nick Hornby's latest novel has been named the nation's favourite work of fiction at the WH Smith Book Awards, the only major UK book prize to be voted for by the public. Nigella Lawson and Pamela Stephenson were among the other winners, while Ian McEwan also picked up a prestigious award. Hornby's fourth novel How To Be Good was voted the year's best work of fiction at the awards, which are worth a total of £45,000. Hornby has become one of the best-selling authors in the UK, and his first three books have been turned into feature films. . . ."
TONY WHITE IN 3A.M. 04/08/2002
Check out Richard Marshall's in-depth interview with Tony White: "I was working for the Post Office whilst I was writing this. I mean literally: I wrote Charlieunclenorfolktango at work! And I felt that using a phonetic depiction of speech was really crucial. Ordinary speech is excluded from literature. I didn’t want to use standard English for Charlieunclenorfolktango, because I’d have had to put apostrophes in every other word -- it would have been ridiculous. This seemed very important to me at the time; it still is. There I was, working in the Post Office, and surrounded by guys who spoke like that. But where are these voices in literature? They’re erased, absent. And if you bear in mind James Kelman’s idea that 'diacritical marks are the literary stigmata of class war', and go back to Dickens and Twain who were not afraid to use a plurality of voices and cultures in their writing, you can quite easily see that Kelman is right. That was one thing that contributed to the idea that this was something important to do."
69 THINGS TO DO WITH A DEAD PRINCESS 04/08/2002
Cult writer Stewart Home's 69 Things to Do With a Dead Princess has just been published by Canongate: "This is where the novel has a nervous breakdown. Anna Noon is a twenty-year-old student with a taste for perverse sex involving an enigmatic older man and a ventriloquist's dummy. Anna lives in Aberdeen, and her sex life revolves around the ancient stone circles in this region. The sublime grandeur of the stones provides a backdrop against which Anna is able to act out her provocative psychodramas. This is a book about the body in which the carnal is a manifestation of consciousness: a book in which it is impossible to distinguish the ancient from the post-modern. Drawing on literary modernism and recent continental philosophy, as well as pulp appropriations, 69 Things to Do With a Dead Princess illustrates that schizophrenia may well be the only sane response to capitalism."
SEPTEMBER 11: A FRAUD? 04/05/2002
Jon Henley reports from Paris on Thierry Meyssan's 11 Septembre: L'effroyable imposture: "A bizarre book claiming that the plane that ploughed into the Pentagon on September 11 never existed, and that the US establishment itself was at the heart of the New York and Washington attacks, has shot to the top of the French bestseller lists to indignation on both sides of the Atlantic. The Frightening Fraud, by Thierry Meyssan, sold out its original run of 20,000 copies within two hours of going on sale. . . . Mr Meyssan's conspiracy theory argues that American Airlines flight 77, which killed 189 people when it smashed into the headquarters of the US defence department, did not exist, and that the whole disaster was a dastardly plot dreamed up and implemented by the US government. The French media has been quick to dismiss the book's claims, despite the fact that Mr Meyssan is president of the Voltaire Network, a respected independent thinktank whose left-leaning research projects have until now been considered models of reasonableness and objectivity. . . . A Pentagon spokesman, Glen Flood, said the book was 'a slap in the face and real offence to the American people, particularly to the memory of victims of the attacks'. He said he had not read it and had no intention of doing so. Mr Meyssan's argument, which started out as a rumour on the internet and has risen to prominence largely thanks to the author's reputation and chatshow appearances, suggests that the plane could not have existed because eye-witness statements are contradictory, there are suspiciously few photographs of the catastrophe and none of them shows any wreckage. Even the rescue workers' accounts, published on the Pentagon website, are not convincing, he says. He also asks why the facade of the Pentagon did not immediately collapse from the shock of the impact, and questions the fate of the plane's passengers. 'What became of the passengers of American Airlines flight 77? Are they dead?' Read the BBC's article and visit Thierry Meyssan's Hunt the Boeing! site.
MORE HOUELLEBECQ 04/05/2002
Louise Wardle, who has made a film on French writer Michel Houellebecq (which is broadcast on BBC4 tonight at 9pm), writes in The Guardian: "Michel Houellebecq is a bestseller and a troublemaker. He is attacked as a pornographer and adored as a prescient genius. A stunned liberal establishment has no idea how to take him. 'Perhaps he should be dead,' says his friend, the novelist Frédéric Beigbeder. 'If I had had a childhood like him I would have killed myself. He is a zombie back from the dead and telling us what it is like.' How could I make a film about a novelist who does sex scenes where women are crippled by savage sex, in whose novels the female characters all end up dead or damaged, who propositions every female journalist sent to do a piece on him, whose heavy drinking and depression, by all accounts, reduce him to near-coma for weeks at a time? Why would I want to make a film about a man in whose first novel (Whatever) the central character urges his friend to indulge in the pleasures of sexual murder, and whose second (Atomised) proposes that the freedoms of the 60s brought us nothing but misery and that the solution to our misery is to clone a new species that lives in permanent orgasm. . . . When I arrive at his isolated house, on an island off the west coast of Ireland, at about 3pm, Houellebecq emerges dishevelled. He is small and thin and dressed entirely in orange. He has thin, sandy hair that sticks up. As he turns away I realise that it is an expensive implant; the tufts are formed in little straight lines across the back of his head, like a doll's. 'I've been asleep,' he says. 'Would you like something to drink?' . . . We drink and talk -- about religion, and science, and what he calls 'the suicide of the west', and the film I want to make, until 3am. . . . I leave with a sense of failure. He has not passed out in a drunken coma, nor propositioned me. He has been fascinating and viciously funny. He has giggled and played with his dog. His wife has been beautiful and kind. He did show me a movie he had just made -- commissioned by the French media company Canal Plus -- on the subject of erotica. It seemed more like soft porn, and starred his wife. 'I don't find it pornographic at all,' he said. I think he was serious. . . ."
HARI KUNZRU 04/05/2002
The latest Britlit sensation, Hari Kunzru, author of The Impressionist, has his own website. It serves as a great introduction to his work (both fiction and non-fiction).
THE IDLER 04/05/2002
Issue 30 of The Idler will come out in June. And for the first time ever, it will be in full glorious colour. The line-up includes Louis Theroux, Adam Buxton, Billy Childish, Mark Manning, Nicholas Lezard and Matthew De Abaitua plus the Crap Towns Special and Retreat Report. There's also a contribution from the one and only Johnny Ball, who writes on his hero, Descartes, and an interview with underground fishing legend, Chris Yates. Read our interviews with Tom Hodgkinson and Greg Rowland.
DISCO LEMONS 04/05/2002
Check out Disco Lemonade Meets Idiosyncratic Bunny, the first trancontinental weblog (as far as I know), written by Heidi ("Disco Lemons") in Paris and "Idiosyncratic Bunny" back in the U.S. of A. Heidi currently teaches at the Sorbonne with me (that's her in the picture, taken earlier on today at Clignancourt). Here's an extract to whet your appetite:
"I've been living in France for the past 6 months and have noticed a few peculiarities about the country and its inhabitants.
1. A love affair with the accordion. Yes indeedy. The accordion is the instrument of choice for street and metro musicians. For some reason, accordion players also have a very limited repertoire.
2. The jogging pants look. I see this as the equivalent of wearing a basketball/football jersey. The pants must be made out of that plasticky material and the bottoms must be tucked into the socks. There has to be a good 2 to 3 inches between the pantleg and the shoe.
3. The sports bag as suitcase of choice. When travelling, an inordinate number of french folk pack their belongings in those bags you see hockey players lug around.
4. Lingerie shops are EVERYWHERE. There is a reason English speakers use the same word.
5. Glasses. A huge segment of the population wears glasses and there are glasses for every type of personality.
6. Any meal is better if creme fraiche and lardons are added to it. Yuck.
7. The French have a love/hate relationship with America. They aren't shy about telling you why America sucks. However, they want to be just like the media-contrived stereotypical American. They love pumas, chucks, levis, carhart, nike, addidas, quicksilver, mcdonalds, mccain frozen food. If something is American they will buy it. But, they hate America. Yeah, and just in case you were wondering, French rap is frequently scary. Oh, and they file the Beastie Boys under heavy metal. Yup."
3A.M. editor Andrew Gallix (that's me!) appears in the 9th edition of The Vestal Review, along with Bob Thurber, Leslie What, Chris Clarke, Danielle La Vaque-Manty, Diane Greco and Benjamin Rosenbaum. Lionel Rolfe will be reading from his book Literary LA on Saturday 13 April at 5pm. The address is 1318 3rd St. Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (310.393.2923). The other participants will be Fred Voss, Joan Jobe Smith, Julie Stein and John Ahouse, curator of American literature at USC's Doheny Library. Voss and Smith are San Pedro poets. Ahouse and Stein contributed chapters to the new edition of Literary L.A.. The launch party of Lieu Magazine will take place at El Sol y La Luna, 31 rue Saint-Jacques, Paris (Metro Saint-Michel or Cluny) on Thursday 11 April at 8pm. There will be wine, food, opera, a secret history of buildings and a poetry reading by Ethan Gilsdorf among others. Another webzine sprouts a print edition: check out nowCulture.com's NC. The first issue comes out in May. The new-look taint Magazine has gone online. There are also new issues of The Barcelona Review, Pif, Stirring and spark-online. New print literary journal Night Train, which will premiere next autumn, is launching the 1st Annual Richard Yates Short Story Award Competition. Matt Stranach is looking for submissions for Survivor Type 2.1: The Travel Issue: "I am looking for anything in the way of poem, fiction, essay, report, rant, e-mail-letter/diary about travelling- from any country, from any angle." Submissions should be 50-5000 words and sent to Matt by 15 April. This issue will contain an interview with Chuck Palahniuk who was recently interviewed in 3A.M. Magazine. U.S. poet Robert Kelly will be reading from his work at Le Duc des Lombards on Saturday 13 April (5pm). Paul Ash, editor of Sniffy Linings, will be giving a talk on alternative press publishing at Borders Books in downtown Portland on 23 April with Dan Raphael. Jennifer Macaire informs us that her book, Time For Alexander, is now available: "Alexander the Great has just beaten Darius for the second time, and Ashley -- a time-traveling journalist -- is sent to interview him. Jennifer Macaire has woven a mesmerizing story of love, treachery and a desperate fight for love, set against the background of Alexander’s conquest of the world." Simon Geraghty, an Irish Graphic Designer and writer living and working in Germany, has published a book of visual poetry entitled Why Not? An Anthology of V!sual Ilk. Check it.
MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ: PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE? 04/01/2002
Brian Appleyard wonders in The Sunday Times if Michel Houellebecq, author of Plateforme, is "the most dangerous writer in the world?": "Michel Houellebecq, the most successful contemporary French novelist, was born without brakes. He drinks extensively, smokes constantly and makes ill-considered passes at female journalists. He attacks Islam, defends sex tourism and regards the 20th century as an unalloyed catastrophe. He is, however, fond of Dolly the sheep and wants to meet her. 'She bleats with a happy expression. She is a first step towards immortality. Towards total identity. Down with the individual.' Both of Houellebecq’s last two novels sold 300,000 copies in France within months of publication and now sell almost as well around the world. And everywhere, but especially in France, they cause a storm of controversy. His views seem so extreme, so calculated to offend the left-liberal establishment. But are they his views, or is he just playing at controversy? . . . One of [Plateforme's] characters has come to loathe Islam after a terrorist attack killed his girlfriend. 'Islam could only have been born in a stupid desert,' he says, 'among filthy bedouins who had nothing better to do than -- excuse my language -- shag their camels.' French Muslims condemned the book. Death threats were uttered against Houellebecq and his publisher. Further publicity events were cancelled. Worst of all, Marie-Pierre, his wife, vanished from their home in Ireland. . . . The questions to be asked are: what is Houellebecq really all about, and is he any good? Critics here dismissed one of his novels as 'bilious, hysterical and oddly juvenile', 'a deeply repugnant read'. The novelist Julian Barnes, on the other hand, said his second novel, Atomised, 'hunts big game while others settle for shooting rabbit'. He’s either terrible or magnificent: take your pick. A course can be steered between these poles, though he must first be put in context. He is, for a start, French, and French literature is not in good shape. . . . Sex gone wrong is one of his dominant themes. And his attacks on Islam and the morals of the 1960s generation may be seen as merely shocking and no more. Above all, his pessimism about the contemporary condition fits all too neatly into the prevailing, rather ponderous climate of ennui and disgust. 'In the midst of the suicide of the West,' begins one chapter in Atomised, 'it was clear that they had no chance.' His Frenchness also means that, far from being a dissident, he actually fills a traditional literary niche, of the trader in radicalism for its own sake. Sartre’s Maoism and Derrida’s philosophical cul-de-sac were both ways in which the flame of revolution was kept burning in the French imagination, even though, in practice, they changed little. We here tend to dismiss such high-flown rationalisms as mere Gallic perversity. We also think the sudden introduction of undigested ideas into a novel compromises them artistically. Houellebecq is unapologetic. 'Balzac never hesitated to launch into his theories halfway through a book. The great advantage of a novel is that you can put in whatever comes into your head: it has the same shape as the human brain.' Houellebecq does have a French tendency to overconceptualise. . . . But I don’t think he deserves to be dismissed as just another extreme French rationalist. The first exhibit in his defence is his intelligence. The science that forms the backbone of Atomised isn’t merely well researched, it is also well understood. . . . The human implications of genetics and, specifically, cloning are, indeed, as fundamental as Houellebecq thinks they are. . . . This is a writer who understands science in a way that shames the attempts of many British and American novelists to incorporate its insights. He also has an acidic understanding of the modern. He has much in common with Homer Simpson: the contemporary world seems to have hit him like a truck, both provoking and mocking his desires. Just as Homer wants beer, food, money and television, but is constantly thwarted by the consequences of his own desires, so the various Michels (both the characters so named in his novels and the author) want sexual success, but are denied it by their looks. And just as Homer was abandoned by his mother in favour of a life of hippie self-indulgence, so too was Houellebecq. He also sees that modernity has created a crisis for itself that may be terminal. He does not believe a society without religion is possible, yet he also believes religion is impossible. This hopeless state of affairs gives his novels their energy. And to attempt to replace religion with what he calls 'rational certainty' -- by which he means science -- is to court the destruction of the human species. Liberty, wealth and technology do not make us happy, but we cannot go back. We must, therefore, go forward into a post-human future. After all, 'there’s no reason to be unhappy if we can be happy'. So take the pills, change the human genome. It is all we have left. The bland, contented face of Dolly the sheep is the face of the future. . . . Is he serious? Does he admire prostitution and hate Islam? Oddly enough, that’s not the point. Novels do not necessarily reach conclusions, and there is nothing wrong with a fictional character expressing such views -- and, to a large extent, Houellebecq has become a fictional character. His fame, as the BBC4 film shows [see below], has disoriented him. The line between himself and his characters has become blurred. In the multiple catastrophes of his own life, he is living out the crisis he defines in his novels. It is a high-Romantic posture, but not necessarily discreditable. Whether he is an important artist remains to be seen. He may be, like Tracey Emin, a disturbed victim of his material and his milieu rather than their master. He certainly has serious flaws as a novelist. But he has a great, instinctive intelligence, his writing is clear and sharp and he has a rare ear for the sounds of the contemporary. If he survives, he may well become his age’s Camus or even Balzac. . . ." The Trouble with Michel will be broadcast next Friday (9pm) on BBC4.
JONATHAN COE MOURNS BILLY WILDER 04/01/2002
One of the best English writers around, Jonathan Coe, recently released an album on the French Tricatel label. Coe pays homage to the late Billy Wilder in The Observer: "'Who is your biggest influence?' I lose count of the number of times journalists have asked me this question, over the last few years. And to start with, it always had me beaten. There wasn't a single novelist whose name sprang to mind until one day it dawned on me that of course, my biggest influence wasn't a novelist at all. Now the answer I always give whenever I'm asked this question is, simply: Billy Wilder. I discovered him not through Double Indemnity, or Some Like It Hot, or Sunset Boulevard, but through his 1970 movie The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. I was in my mid-teens and a Conan Doyle fan, but as soon as I saw this film on Sunday night TV I knew that it was better than Conan Doyle. The dialogue crackled, the plot mesmerised, the music and art direction were faultless, and at the same time there was a desperate sadness to the film which co-existed with a quite unapologetic levity. ('Is Mrs Hudson entertaining tonight?' 'I have never found her so.') This combination, to my mind, was irresistible, and I know it's something I've tried to replicate in my books ever since. It remains my favourite Billy Wilder film, and it has a cult of fans all over the world. When I wrote a piece about it for Cahiers du Cinéma, the Spanish novelist Javier Morias wrote to me, out of the blue, to say, thank God, he knew now that he was not the only person to think it is one of the best films ever made. But of course, other movies have made Wilder more famous. . . . Three years ago I wrote to Billy Wilder, knowing how old and frail he was but possessed by an irrational need to tell him how much his films had meant to me -- especially The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. I posted the letter and thought nothing more of it. Two weeks later my wife was sitting up in bed opening the mail when she called out that I had a letter from Billy Wilder. 'I am dictating this out of my sick bed,' he wrote. 'Holmes,' added this most commercially-minded of geniuses, 'was not a success.' (He meant a financial success.) 'It is wonderful to see that for somebody it has become an obsession.' Unemployed by Hollywood for 20 years, perhaps he had begun to forget how much his films were loved all over the world. I do hope not. His five or six most famous movies were not his only masterpieces. I can't think of anyone who made so many truly great films."
NUMBER 174517: PRIMO LEVI, AUSHWITZ & SUICIDE 04/01/2002
Carole Angier's biography of Primo Levi, The Double Bond, is reviewed by Blake Morrison in The Guardian: "When Primo Levi fell head-first down a stairwell in April 1987, he destroyed not only his life but the illusions of his readers. Some of them felt anger rather than loss. How could Levi have survived Auschwitz, borne witness and written his cathartic, life-enhancing masterpieces . . . only to throw himself away like that? This sense of affront was childish and unfair. But Levi's narrative voice had been so candid, ironic, tender and wise that strangers felt they knew and owned him -- and, when he left with such violence, they felt betrayed. Some denied that he'd meant to do it. Theories multiplied: the banister was low, he'd been dizzy and lost his balance, his mind must have momentarily been disturbed. Why would a chemist choose such an uncertain and messy way to die? Didn't the lack of a suicide note suggest an accident? But those who knew Levi well were unsurprised. 'I feared it, everybody feared it,' his wife is reported to have said on seeing his body. Despite his dapper reserve, Levi had been quietly warning people for months. He couldn't go on, he said. The public writer might seem serene, but the private man was in torment. He'd always suffered bouts of depression, and had lately hit a new low. Fear of cancer or becoming an invalid, anxiety over his elderly mother, despair at world politics, terror of what the post would bring (when every request and invitation felt like a burden) -- there were many factors, but the legacy of Auschwitz wasn't among them. As Carole Angier puts it: 'Depression and suicide were in him from the start. It is even possible that without the experience of surviving Auschwitz, and without the mission to understand and testify to it, they might have claimed him sooner.' For Angier, depression is the great untold story of Levi's life. . . . The hidden tensions at home made Primo a timid child. He was bright, indeed top of the class ("Primo Levi Primo!"), but also sickly and small: his younger sister Anna Maria soon outgrew him. In adolescence, the puniness became a worry. Classmates taunted him for his lack of interest in girls. Some of these taunts were anti-semitic: 'Circumcision,' laughing goys said, 'is castration.' As though to assert his virility, he took up tennis, skiing and (most lastingly) mountaineering. But he remained in thrall to stronger men, taking revenge in books that show him triumphing over male rivals in non-physical ways. . . . Angier describes him falling in love with women time and again but chastely, from the waist up. Chemistry eased his sense of isolation. He chose it, he said, because it smelled clean, had right and wrong answers (unlike literature), and was 'inherently anti-fascist'. Up to the mid-1930s, fascism had been normal and unthreatening: nearly everyone in Turin was a fascist, including the Jews. But as Mussolini fell in with Hitler, the persecutions began. New laws prohibited Jews going to university. Luckily Primo had a place by then, and was allowed to complete his course. But even in the sanctum of the chemistry labs, the smell was bad. . . . To any suggestion that it must have taken special bravery or fortitude to survive Auschwitz, Levi liked to reply that, no, the best had all died. In his case, survival owed much to luck: falling ill at the right moment so he went to the infirmary rather than the gas chamber, and being in the right place when a chemist was sought among the prisoners (the lab job freed him from manual labour outdoors). Still, as his biographers rightly stress, intelligence saved him, too, not least his talent for not being noticed. . . . He memorised the rules. He mastered the layout of the camp. He calculated how many calories were needed to live. He learned to carry all he owned - spoon, wooden bowl, shoes - wherever he went, even the shower and latrine, so no one would steal them. And though he would spend the rest of his life trying and failing to fathom the Germans, in one respect he understood them perfectly. Auschwitz was a vast biological and sociological experiment; well then, he would record his observations, commit them to memory and, once he was out, if ever he did get out, report his findings. This was why, when he returned to Turin at the end of 1945, he began telling his tale almost at once: to his family, to colleagues, to strangers on buses and trains. As though to prove his authenticity, he liked to reveal the Auschwitz tattoo on his forearm, number 174517, by wearing short sleeves. Not everyone wanted to listen: we must get on with the peace, they said, not linger in the ruins of war. . . . He resented being treated as a mere witness - weren't his poetry and novels important too? But his imagination kept circling back to the year in Auschwitz, and despite his wish to escape the subject there was always more to say. What readers failed to grasp was how fictive his non-fiction could be. He needed to be believed, but believability, as he saw it, was a matter of style and persona, not fact. When real-life characters in his narratives threatened to sue for misrepresentation, he dug his heels in and wouldn't change a word. . . ."
GABBA GABBA HEY: CBGBS AND THE BIRTH OF U.S. PUNK 04/01/2002
Mark Edwards has published an interesting article on legendary NY punk club CBGBs in The Sunday Times. It ties in with the release of an extraordinary compilation album entitled CBGBs and the Birth of U.S. Punk which will be available on 8 April: "It's the spring of 1974. Two scrawny young men are walking through New York’s Bowery district on their way to Chinatown. They see a man up a ladder fixing a canopy to an awning. It reads 'CBGB', and then -- equally obscurely -- 'and OMFUG'. They ask him what he’s doing. It turns out he’s about to open a new club. 'We’ve got a band,' say the young men. 'Can we play at your club?' The man on the ladder explains that CBGB stands for Country, BlueGrass and Blues -- the music he plans to put on at his club. 'Yeah, we play some of that,' lie the young men. And that’s how the band Television got their first gig at CBGBs. . . . The man on the ladder, the man who gave the nascent American punk bands a place to play, was Hilly Kristal. A classically trained musician, with a stint managing the legendary jazz venue the Village Vanguard on his CV, Kristal seemed singularly poorly qualified to see any potential in a bunch of bands who had decided that playing your instruments well was for losers. You would expect a man used to booking the finest jazz musicians in the world to hate the Ramones and Television. It turns out that he did. After Kristal’s initial meeting with those two scrawny young men -- Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd -- Television’s manager, Terry Ork, came clean. Okay, they weren’t a bluegrass band, but maybe Kristal could open up his club on a Sunday to let them play. Kristal was having trouble paying the rent, so he agreed. As he remembers it: 'I opened one Sunday, put an ad in the paper, charged $1 admission and they played. Hardly anybody came, and nobody drank, and I thought they were the worst band I’d ever heard. I told the manager: no more.' Granted, Kristal may have refined this into an ironic anecdote over the years, but, as we discussed the early days of CBGBs on his recent promotional trip to London, I tended to believe him. Mainly because most of us -- if we wanted to elaborate on the truth -- would choose to portray ourselves as visionaries who instantly spotted a vital new musical trend, while Kristal’s memories are those of a club manager desperate to break even. There was no punk epiphany at CBGBs; there was simply a music-loving businessman looking for bands that could bring in paying customers, and, frankly, not at all sure that he had found them. 'Two or three weeks later, Terry came back,' Kristal continues. 'He said: 'I have this band from Queens. They have a following. I think you’ll like them.' Well ... they were even worse than Television.' That was the Ramones, by the way. . . . Ork brought along another band, the Stilettos -- an early incarnation of Blondie -- but CBGBs was still struggling. Luckily for Kristal, Tom Verlaine was regularly visiting Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery, a few blocks away on Houston Street, where he took tea with a poet called Patti Smith. Verlaine’s description of CBGBs and the music scene that was evolving there appealed to Smith, who had teamed up with the guitarist Lenny Kaye and started writing songs. When Smith and Television played CBGBs as a double bill, Smith’s reputation as a poet was enough to drag the arty New York crowd down to the (then) distinctly unfashionable Bowery. Their residency lasted seven weeks, during which the beautiful people visited the club and the media discovered it. CBGBs was finally on the map. . . . The CD is released only a couple of weeks after the Ramones and Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- the first US new-wave bands to be so honoured. Anyone who grew up with punk will have mixed feelings about that, as it is both an acknowledgement of the bands’ importance and an admission that time has inevitably turned those young punks -- and their audience -- into middle-aged elder statesmen and stateswomen (as well as a sad reminder that Joey Ramone is no longer with us to receive the honour). . . ."
JIM RULAND'S PUNK REVIVAL GIG 04/01/2002
Track 16 and Lazy Mick Productions present Punk Rock Revival: Celebrating 25 Years of Punk in the Southland. Treat yourself to an exciting night of readings, rants and reflections from punk rockers you know and love from the stage and page, including Tony Adolescent (The Adolescents, ADZ), Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks), Brendan Mullen (We Got the Neutron Bomb), Todd Taylor (Editor, Razorcake) and Carlye Archibeque (Fuck This Shit). 3 A.M. Magazine contributor Jim Ruland will emcee the event and read from his punk rock picaresque The Discovery of America. The Punk Rock Revival will take place on Friday April 5 at 7:30 at Track 16 Gallery, located at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Bldg. C-1 in Santa Monica, CA. For directions, call 310-264-4678. For more info, visit Lazy Mick.
A DAY IN PARIS 04/01/2002
Full moon over Paris. From my window, a few days ago.
24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE 04/01/2002
Michael Winterbottom's eagerly-awaited film 24 Hour Party People, which chronicles the Mancunian music scene from punk to acid house, goes on general release in Britain on April 5. Besides the soundtrack, you can now purchase the novel by Tony Wilson himself: ". . . Tony, in his own words, is 'a minor celebrity in the north of England', which would be as a result of more than 25 years of involvement in the Manchester music and journalism scene; from his heady days on Granada Reports, a local news show . . . to the running of Factory Records, and Manchester's, if not the North-West's, if not the UK's most infamous trend-setting night spot, The Haçienda [see photo]. And beyond. From Granada Reports came forth So It Goes, Granada's answer to Top Of The Pops. The magazine show, thrown into a graveyard-shift slot, was a frequently sketch-driven attempt to bring new music to the masses. Launching in the dirge of mediocre mid-70s chart music, the show caught the beginning of punk, a perfection of timing. 'We were very lucky,' admits Tony. 'My colleagues and I had a TV music programme, just when punk happened, and we put everyone on television for the first time, which is great, because the guy at the BBC was a complete idiot who believed that technique was all important -- if bands weren't technically skilled, they shouldn't be on television, he thought -- which meant that we had a free run for two years, on the Pistols, the Clash, the Buzzcocks, Iggy and all that shit.' From So It Goes came the Sex Pistols' infamous early concert at the Lesser Free Trade Hall (Manchester) on June 4th 1976. Infamous, but not because of rioting crowds or lightning from the sky -- 'There were only 27 people, and basically we all sat there, individually spread out over this room, just with our mouths open,' says Tony. The concert changed everyone's perceptions about music -- no longer did you have to be talented to play in a band, punk was the very antithesis of highly crafted musicanship. 1976 saw the birth of punk, and consequently the beginning of Tony's venture into Factory Records, the company set up with his colleague's flatmate, actor Alan Erasmus, to-be New Order manager Rob Gretton, and multi-dimensional producer Martin Hannett, a.k.a Martin Zero. And that's where our story begins. In Tony's relentless drive to move forward, he wasn't exactly keen on the idea of a movie focusing on the life and times of his defunct record label. 'I spent two hours trying to dissuade them from doing it,' he says. 'The past is boring, for fuck's sake...let's do now.' It was only when the Revolution team (Director Michael Winterbottom, Producer Andrew Eaton, and Writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce) put to him that the exact period that would be covered in the movie would be 1976 to 1992, that he softened his approach -- 'That was the moment that I understood that they understood -- because that is a very specific date -- it's the dawn of punk to the death of acid.' . . ."