Blondie

Looking Through The Heart of Glass

Da Capo Press 1998 Edition

I just finished reading Debby Harry’s biography Making Tacks/The Rise of Blondie written by herself, Chris Stein (photographs) and under the general supervision of Victor Bockris who aided in the formation of the text and the selection of the photographs. It seemed the perfect time to read and review it since she just announced the release of Pollinator, Blondie’s 11th album, due for release on May 5, 2017 by BMG Rights Management. I was really looking forward to read this book since Debbie Harry and Chris Stein are the two founding members of Blondie, a band whose music would be omnipresent on ”the soundtrack of my life’s movie”, if such a thing would indeed exist.  Blondie has always managed to preserve their uniqueness and integrity throughout the years. Making Tracks/The Rise of Blondie is a story of perseverance, hope and faith. Seeing how often everything could have just gone down the drain, this is the ultimate proof that you really have to give it all you’ve got to make it… Sometimes even giving it what you haven’t got…Yet!

Young Debbie reading a book.

The prologue (added in the 1998 Da Capo Edition) is in fact a very juicy conversation among Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Victor Bockris, recorded in 1980 when Blondie was at the top during which it appears that Chris may hold the upper hand in their couple, a subject that is rather downplayed otherwise. It also sets the tone for the lavish story, the rocky early days and the forces at work behind the creation process since Chris and Debbie obviously are at the very  core of Blondie. For the rest of the book, the story is told almost exclusively from Debbie’s point of view, constantly keeping us captivated with a very uplifting, spontaneous, straight forward and witty narrative as she goes on and about everything and everyone meaningful in her life; ”I don’t know exactly where I came from because I don’t know who my natural parents are. Chris thinks I’m definitely an alien because I fit the description in a book he read of a race of females who were put on this planet from space”.  Right in this first sentence, one can immediately sense the hurting and the wounds but also the way Debbie has learned to deal with it, and how Chris later came into play. Young Deborah knew what she was destined to be before the age of six and never wavered in her firm conviction; ”I always knew I was a singer. When I began singing with the radio I was struck by the fact that I knew the next note before it was played.”  

Very early on, she was a trendsetter during her High School days, dying her hair every possible color starting as soon as 1959 and always dressed in black, not giving much thought to what would people might say. ”When I was a freshman I started to draw attention to myself, with the orange hair and mostly black clothes(…)I always dressed intuitively and emotionally”.

Chrissie Hynde, Pauline Black of Selector, Debbie, Poly Styrene, Viv from The Slits and Siouxie Banshee. ©by Chris Stein 
Debbie and Joan Jett ©by Chris Stein

Making Tracks/The Rise of Blondie gives a very moving image of how Debbie was trying to become an artist during the mid sixties, working small jobs and passing auditions, painting, she was already singing in a folk group called Wind in the Willows. It was hard but at the same time we get to see how much that, from the sidelines, working as a waitress at Max’s Kansas City by the end of the sixties, she observed, watched and learned.”When I worked at Max’s I loved all the people from Andy Warhol Factory, like Eric Emerson, Viva, Ingrid, Taylor Mead, Ultra Violet, International Velvet, Candy Darling, and all the superstars. I was just a baby growing up in the middle of this whole incredible scene, watching Andy Warhol’s eight-hours movies and listening to all kinds of fantastic music very close up at the front.” 

Debbie And Andy Warhol ©by Chris Stein

Now of course you also get to know, in parallel, what was up with Chris Stein, how his mother was a  beatnik painter and his father died when he was only 15, how he also always was into music, painting and arts in general. He is responsable for most of the incredible amount of wonderful pictures that can be found throughout the book, giving a visual dimension for each period that Debbie takes us through. Chris and Debbie went to a lot of events and shows at the same time but it took awhile before they would bump into each other. They had very similar tastes and both enjoyed seeing live the Velvet Underground, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane. Getting influences by both the NYC and the LA scene. Chris had his own isssues, he’d taken a lot of acid and was experiencing long preriods of seing everything as cosmic dust (!). He even received his draft notice in an asylum where he spent threee months after completely flipping out at the beginning of ’69. He was twenty and this was a delayed reaction to his father’s death. Still managing to insist he had all that was needed to be NOT eligible to join the war effort, got out of there with a 4F and rushing up to Woodstock. Debbie was there too, she had served Jefferson Airplane their dinner at Max’s the night before they left for Woodstock. They just didn’t know each other yet so they went separately, never bumping into each other.

Debbie Devolves ©by Chris Stein

Debbie had a lot of issues of her own, being so depressed that she couldn’t sing without bursting into tears. For a while she managed to keep it all together by using various drugs but 1969 was a very pivotal year for everyone. ”Paying for the drugs and doing them became a bigger drag than the problems I was trying to solve(…)It was a tremendously down period and we all had to shake off the freakouts that occured in ’68 and ’69(…)All that sadness and tragedy just kept going through my head. I love the blues, but I didn’t want to sing them. I wanted to entertain people, have a good time, and be happy.”

Debbie looking fabulous on front of CBGB’s©by Chris Stein

So she quit the drugs and took a sabbatical from the whole scene for three years, during which time Chris, having been released from the nuthouse for good, went on welfare and, sponsored by the division of vocational rehabilitation, was studying photography at the School of Visual Arts, and making some of the connections that would eventually lead to the fatefull event of Debbie and Chris finally meeting.

Chris Stein and Blondie (Not from the book!)©Robert Rosen REX

The Stillettoes

The Stillettoes Amanda, Elda and Debbie ©by Chris Stein,1974

Debbie gives us a very detailed description of what she was trying to accomplish musically with The Stillettoes who were Elda Gentile, Rosie Ross (later replaced by Amanda) and Debbie; ”a combination of the aggressive Shangri-La’s rock and the round solid vocals of an R&B girl group. The overall idea was to be entertaining and danceable. The original group included Tommy and Jimmy from the Miamis, Timothy Jackson and Youngblood. Tony Ingrassia was the choreographer and worked  on giving them a cohesive look so that they each had a stage concept.” 

Eric Emerson©by Chris Stein

Chris became involved with Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps via the School of Visual Arts by giving them an opening act with the Dolls and quickly became friends with all those people who hung out on the periphery of the Dolls and became Eric’s roadie. He was invited to the second Stillettoes gig at the Boburn Tavern on 28th Street by Elda herself who was the mother of Eric’s children. ”The most striking thing about collaboration is that it often happens in dreams. A microsecond of dream will unfold an elaborate scene in a flash.It’s an amazing form of communication and it happened between Chris and me the first time we saw each other when I was singing and he was in the audience(…) I was very nervous so I delivered a lot of songs to him. We had a psychic connection right away, which struck me particularly because I’d previously only had such string psychic connections with girlfriends”. Chris joined the group on Elda’s request.

Blondie

Early Blondie: Gary Valentine, Debbie, Chris Stein and Clem Burke

Now I gave you a very detailed insight of the early days but the book is even more exhaustive, leaving absolutely no stones unturned as the group slowly takes shape, requiring numerous musicians replacements, new musical directions, new looks and styles, the final result of all this evolution being the band worldy known today as Blondie, still having at it’s very core Debbie and Chris Stein. Reading it you really feel as if you are right there with them, reliving every moment and all aspects of what was to become a very unique band, not really punk, not really disco, Debbie insists on saying that Blondie was a pop band, nothing more, nothing less. Making Tracks/The Rise of Blondie is a very fascinating journey to the top with all its up and downs, the tours, the crazy people, the shady promoters, the providential roadies, the tragic and the funny anecdotes, and everything stardom life is about. Chris Stein and Debbie Harry being always the very core of Blondie, you get to see them on various pictures with all the punk and post punk icons as they go on tour around the world several times, living their success with an integrity as persons and artists that is rarely seen.

Starting on the Bowery’s very distinct selective CBGB’s club with The Ramones and all the other bands that have now become legends, Blondie was to later gain the international success and go around the world more then once to become one of the most successful bands to have risen from NYC. Here are a few people that you can see with Debbie and/or members of the band on photos included in the book: Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Devo, H.R. Giger, Siouxie, Chrissie Hynde, Andy Warhol, The Screamers, David Bowie, Ray Manzarek, Suzie Quatro, Joan Jett, Cherie Curie, The Buzzcocks, The Screamers, The Ramones to name very few, thanks to Chris Stein who really did an amazing job!

Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, David Johansen and Joey Ramone ©by Chris Stein
Debbie and Iggy ©by Chris Stein
Debbie and Bowie ©by Chris Stein

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debbie Harry during the video production of the “Koo Koo” project with HR Giger ©by Chris Stein

You also have a very interesting insight on various projects she was involved with like Blank Generation, a seminal movie about Richard Hell, a remake of Godard’s movie Alphaville that sadly has never seen the day, a promotional clip involving HR Giger‘I Know You Know”. I also happened to watch a cult sci-fi horror movie from 1982: ”Videodrome”, directed by David Cronenberg. Deborah Harry plays the role of Nicki Brand, a sadomasochistic psychiatrist and radio host. I found Debbie’s performance more than satisfying and the movie to be very prophetic.

Robert Fripp as Lemmy Caution, Debbie Harry as Natacha von Braun; from the never made remake of Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville. Hair by Mary Lou Green ©by Chris Stein

The book doesn’t contain the usual formal complete list of everything Blondie or it’s members have been involved with nor a complete discography but rather focuses on the narrative and it’s quite ok since it’s done in a way to sustain the readers interst in the story Debbie tells with a suprising gift for writing. Such a list would have been a cool addition but I’m pretty sure it’s not that hard to find on the internet.

     Making Tracks is not only about The Rise of Blondie but also about how they all handled its success. It does not contain a complete discography nor every movie she has played in Every true Blondie fan should read this book since it contains everything you want to know delivered with Debbie’s very witty way of seing things that always sustains your interest since it is written from a very intimate point of view and as I said before the photos are a very important ingredient in making you ”part of the gang”. The whole story is very cohesive and never boring. I will leave you with this quote written by Debbie near the end of the Heart of Glass Europeen Tour that I found very interesting as she compares the UK culture with the US:

”Politics is business-getting enough money to win, keeping enough to stay in power and make more as a politician. The politicization of art in the sixties was very hypocritical. It existed in the minds of the people who wanted it to exist, but the people who were in power were definitely not having anything to do with it.

Debbie Harry and the Buzzcocks during Blondies European Tour, by ©Chris Stein 1978

I don’t think there’s too much difference between the americans and British scenes, Everybody wants the same thing for themselves and their culture, but the methods have to be different because of the differences in the way the cultures operate. In America Iggy was a radical force without saying anything political. His presence and what he did was a radical phenomenon. If somebody can get on the subway and wipe out the minds of the people who see him, he’s having an effect on them and doesn’t need to say anything. I hope the kids in England realise that we all want the same things, we’re just going about it in different ways.”

Debbie with Iggy Pop by ©Chris Stein

Almost all of the pictures above are taken from the 1998 edition of Making Tracks/The Rise of Blondie and taken by ©Chris Stein. I only posted very few of them. The book is litteraly loaded with awesome pictures, most of them are very hard to find.

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Great Punk Stuff on Tape

converse-punkAll Star Punk Footage

Here are some of my favorite documentaries, films or shorts about punk in general, a specific era, style or band. Each of them have this extra edge that somehow gave me an itch to watch them again.

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) 

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Penelope Spheeris’ documentary on the Los Angeles punk scene. Filmed between December 1979 and May 1980,  featuring Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs, and X was this was the first of a serie of 3 ”Decline movies”.

UK-DK  

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Featuring interviews, live concert footage, and a feature on how punk was transformed from a trend to a way of life, UK/DK is a comprehensive look at the skinhead/punk movement. Some of the most notorious bands on the scene are featured, including The Exploited, The Vice Squad, The Adicts and many more bands from UK.

Born to Lose – The Last Rock’n’Roll Movie 

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Veteran documentary filmmaker and hipster Lech Kowalski creates this film about his friend and hard-partying rock god Johnny Thunders, member of legendary proto-punk band the New York Dolls. Through archive footage and interviews with such musicians as Dee Dee Ramone and Sylvain Sylvain, the film details his stint with the Dolls, the formation of his other band, the Heartbreakers; his rise to fame, particularly in Japan; his descent into heroin addiction, and the mysterious circumstances of his death in a New Orleans hotel room in 1991. Born to Lose: The Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Movie also contains some rarely seen concert performances in Max’s Kansas City and the Mudd Club. The photo on the poster is by photographer Marcia Resnick.

D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage

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From the interviews with seminal bands in their earliest stages, D.O.A features live performances by the Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys, Generation X (with Billy Idol), The Rich Kids, the X-Ray Spex, and Sham 69, with additional music from The Clash, Iggy Pop, and Augustus Pablo to the live coverage of the first Pistols show in America, D.O.A: A Rite of Passage” is thus far the ONLY film to truly capture the feel, spirit and philosophy of the era. A near-comatose Sid Vicious is hilarious, as is the truly terrible, ersatz punk band Terry and The Idiots, whose leader is interviewed about the scene throughout the film. The depictions of a very bleak, “no future” England sum it all up as succinctly as the music itself.

Jubilee

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Jubilee is a 1978 cult film by Derek Jarman heavily influenced by the 1970s punk aesthetic in its style and presentation. Shot in grainy colour, it is largely plotless and episodic. Location filming took advantage of London neighbourhoods that were economically depressed and/or still contained large amounts of rubble from the London Blitz during WWII. Unlike the others this one is really a movie, not a documentary and that is why I thought it would be interesting to include it on the list.
The Plot: When Queen Elizabeth I asks her court alchemist to show her England in the future, she’s transported 400 years to a post-apocalyptic wasteland of roving girl gangs, an all-powerful media mogul, fascistic police, scattered filth, and twisted sex. With Jubilee, legendary British filmmaker Derek Jarman channeled political dissent and artistic daring into a revolutionary blend of history and fantasy, musical and cinematic experimentation, satire and anger, fashion and philosophy. With its uninhibited punk petulance and sloganeering, Jubilee brings together many cultural and musical icons of the time, including Jordan, Toyah Willcox, Little Nell, Wayne County, Adam Ant, and Brian Eno (with his first original film score), to create a genuinely unique, unforgettable vision. Ahead of its time and often frighteningly accurate in its predictions, it is a fascinating historical document and a gorgeous work of film art.

UK Subs – Punk Can Take It

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Fresh from making his cinematic debut with The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, director Julien Temple wrote and directed this short promotional film Punk Can Take It for punk band the U.K. Subs. The promo mixed live performances—shot during the U.K. Subs’ tour to promote the single “Stranglehold”—with a comedic pastiche of Temple’s source material—a Second World War propaganda film London Can Take It, which had shown the plucky Londoners’ resilience to Germany’s bombing campaign. In Temple’s film the U.K. Subs provided the “symphony of war” while Eddie Tudor Pole and Helen Wellington-Lloyd are embattled punks fighting for victory against crass blood-sucking commercialization of the music they love. The U.K. Subs (short for “Subversives”) were among the original bands who led the British punk charge in 1976. Still performing and recording today, this film captures the Subs at an early high point in their career under the pairing of Charlie Harper (vocals) and Nicky Garratt (guitar) who created a blistering output between 1979-1982.

BLITZKRIEG BOP (1978)

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If you were disappointed by the shitty CBGB’s movie made a couple of years back starring Alan Rickman, then you will get a better sense of the energy, talent and musical revolution that took place at CBGB’s in the mid-1970s with this hour-long TV documentary Blitzkrieg Bop . Focussing on The Ramones, Blondie and the The Dead Boys, Blitzkrieg Bop mixes live performance with short interview clips and a racy newscast voiceover. It’s recommended viewing.

Punk: Attitude

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Punk: Attitude is a film by Don Letts. It explores the “punk” revolution, genre and following from its beginning in the mid-1970’s up to its effect on modern rock music and other genres. The cast is a veritable list of alternative musicians and directors offering their opinions on what has been called a musical revolution. One of the film’s celebrated attributes comes in the form of its cast, showcasing the who’s who of punk tock/alternative culture contemporaries like David Johansen, Thurston Moore, Henry Rollins, Captain Sensible, Jim Jarmusch, Mick Jones, Jello Biafra, Siouxsie Sioux, and Darryl Jenifer.

Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead

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From Lemmy filmmaker Wes Orshoski comes the story of the long-ignored pioneers of punk: The Damned, the first punks on wax and the first to cross the Atlantic. This authorized film includes appearances from Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones (The Clash), Lemmy and members of Pink Floyd, Black Flag, GNR, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Buzzcocks, and more. Shot around the globe over three years, the film charts the band’s complex history and infighting, as it celebrated its 35th anniversary and found its estranged former members striking out on their own anniversary tour, while still others battle cancer.

Gimme Danger (The Stooges)

 

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Jarmusch has commented: “No other band in rock’n’roll history has rivaled The Stooges’ combination of heavy primal throb, spiked psychedelia, blues-a-billy grind, complete with succinct angst-ridden lyrics, and a snarling, preening leopard of a front man who somehow embodies Nijinsky, Bruce Lee, Harpo Marx, and Arthur Rimbaud. There is no precedent for The Stooges, while those inspired by them are now legion.“He added that the film “is more an ‘essay’ than a document. It’s our love letter to possibly the greatest band in rock’n’roll history, and presents their story, their influences and their impact, complete with some never-before-seen footage and photographs. Like the Stooges and their music, ‘Gimme Danger’ is a little wild, messy, emotional, funny, primitive, and sophisticated in the most unrefined way. Long live The Stooges!”

Blank Generation

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A movie by Ullie Lommel featuring Richard Hell, Andy Warhol and Carole Bouquet. Nada, a beautiful French journalist on assignment in New York, records the life and work of an up and coming punk rock star, Billy. Soon she enters into a volatile relationship with him and must decide whether to continue with it, or return to her lover, a fellow journalist trying to track down the elusive Andy Warhol. Also a 1976 documentary by the same name HERE featuring Patti Smith, Television, Ramones, Blondie and Richard Hell.

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“Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90)” is a documentary film that examines the early DIY punk scene in the Nation’s Capital. It was a decade when seminal bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Void, Faith, Rites of Spring, Marginal Man, Fugazi, and others released their own records and booked their own shows—without major record label constraints or mainstream media scrutiny. Contextually, it was a cultural watershed that predated the alternative music explosion of the 1990s (and the industry’s subsequent implosion). Thirty years later, DC’s original DIY punk spirit serves as a reminder of the hopefulness of youth, the power of community and the strength of conviction. There is also an earlier documentary called ‘A History of DC Punk” that predates Salad Days’ overlook of the DC Punk scene.

The Punk Rock Movie

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Roxy club disc jockey Don Letts was given a Super 8 camera as a present by fashion editor Caroline Baker.When Letts started to film the acts at The Roxy, it was soon reported that he was making a movie, so Letts determined to film continuously for three months.  The film features live footage of The Clash, Sex Pistols, WayneCounty & the Electric Chairs, Generation X, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Slits, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Eater, Subway Sect, X-Ray Spex, Alternative TV and Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers. Backstage footage of certain bands, such as Generation X, The Slits and Siouxsie and the Banshees, is also included. All live footage was shot at the Roxy, except that of the Sex Pistols, who were filmed at The Screen On The Green cinema in London on 3 April 1977. The performance was Sid Vicious’ first public concert with the band.

DANNY SAYS

Danny Says is a documentary on the life and times of Danny Fields. Since 1966, Danny Fields has played a pivotal role in music and “culture” of the late 20th century: working for the Doors, Cream, Lou Reed, Nico, Judy Collins and managing groundbreaking artists like the Stooges, the MC5 and the Ramones. Danny Says follows Fields from Phi Beta Kappa whiz-kid, to Harvard Law dropout, to the Warhol Silver Factory, to Director of Publicity at Elektra Records, to “punk pioneer” and beyond. Danny’s taste and opinion, once deemed defiant and radical, has turned out to have been prescient. Danny Says is a story of marginal turning mainstream, avant garde turning prophetic, as Fields looks to the next generation. When I asked Legs McNeil what documentary I should watch, this is the one that he pointed out to me so imagine my joy when I saw it was featrured on Netflix. I’ve watched it twice in a row, and then some more…

ROCK’N’ROLL HIGH SCHOOL

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Vince Lombardi High School continues to lose its school principles. The students are more concerned with rock ‘n’ roll than their education until the new principle, Miss Evelyn Togar is hired. She promises to set Vince Lombardi High School straight, and get the students focus back on education. However, a Ramones concert is coming to town, and Riff Randall, the biggest Ramones fan at the high school, plans on getting tickets to the concert in order to give them a song that she wrote entitled “Rock N’ Roll High School”. A series of events including Miss Togar taking away Riff’s tickets, a record burning and a taking over of the high school by Vince Lombardi High students and the Ramones, leads to a school evacuation by the police and an even more surprising ending!

The Great Rock and Roll Swindle 

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Let Malcolm McLaren show you how to achieve fame and fortune by making your pop group the most despised band in the world! This film about the brief but eventful career of The Sex Pistols primarily focuses on McLaren, their manager, as he presents his ten-point program on how to achieve success through chaos, ineptitude, and abusing the music industry. Despite some remarkable footage of The Sex Pistols’ infamous Jubilee Day performance and clips from their final concert in San Francisco, there’s surprisingly little screen time devoted to the group actually performing. Instead, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle offers McLaren’s agit-prop philosophies on music, culture, politics, and the entertainment industry, as well as an amusing (if often inaccurate) account of the band’s rise and fall. Along the way, we’re also offered some curious animated sequences, “film noir” episodes starring guitarist Steve Jones, footage of the band recording with exiled British train robber Ronnie Biggs, and Sid Vicious singing “My Way” (he had been dead for over a year by the time the movie was released). The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle began life as “Who Killed Bambi?”, a project written by Roger Ebert and directed by Russ Meyer, which closed down after two days of shooting when funding fell through. By the time McLaren and Julien Temple got it off the ground (with a radically different script), Johnny Rotten had left the group, which explains why the band’s front man is hardly in the movie. The rest of the group broke up a few months later. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Punk’s Not Dead

 

Of course that doesn’t cover them all but it’s a fairly good start. There is also very good documentaries about The RamonesMC5, The Velvet Underground, The New York DollsCrass, The Stranglers, Joy DivisionThe Dead Kennedies and Black Flag (just click on the band to acess link) Enjoy the view!

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Donna Santisi

LA Punk Scene in the 70’s

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Debbie Harry kicking ass!

Donna Santisi was one of the very few and lucky photographers who were able to capture the new punk rock craze and scene that had spread from New York to Los Angeles. On any given night Donna would be at The Whisky A Go Go, The Starwood, or any number of clubs with camera in hand to capture on film what would soon be  the hardcore punk scene. I don’t think anybody was ready for this explosion, especially The parents of the newly found punk rockers that their children turned out to be. Ask the Angels!

ATA Kristian Hoffman Lance Loud Mumps- Tomata K.K. Screamers
Kristian Hoffman & Lance Loud (Mumps),Tomata de Plenty & K.K. (Screamers)
Tom Verlaine from Television
Tom Verlaine from Television ©Photo by Donna Santisi
Tommy Gear and Tomata du Plenty from The Screamers
Tommy Gear and Tomata de Plenty from The Screamers ©Photo by Donna Santisi
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Iggy Pop ©Photo by Donna Santisi
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John Cale (Velvet Underground)
Sex Pistol Drummer Paul Cok and Genny Body from Bacjstage Pass
Drummer Paul Cook (Sex Pistols) and Genny Body (Backstage Pass) ©Donna Santisi 
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Danielle Faye (Zippers) wirh Vicki Blue (Runaways)
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Joan Jett and Debbie Harry ©Photo by Donna Santisi
Lita Ford from The Runaways
Lita Ford from The Runaways
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Vicki Blue from The Runaways
The Zeros
The Zeros ©Photo by Donna Santisi
Lita Ford (Runaways)
Lita Ford (Runaways)©Photo by Donna Santisi
ATA Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads)
ATA Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads)
Missy, Maggie and Mercy of The Heaters!
Missy, Maggie and Mercy of The Heaters!
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Patti Smith
Joey Ramone (Ramones!)
Joey Ramone (Ramones!
joan-and-who
Leather! Joan Jett and a helping BFF! ©Photo by Donna Santisi
Joan Jett, Tropicana Motel 1979 ©Photo by Donna Santisi
Joan Jett, Tropicana Motel 1979 
Bowie '90 Sound and Vision Tour
Bowie ’90 Sound and Vision Tour
debbie-harry-joan-jett-1024x698
Debbie and Joan Jett © Photo by Donna Santisi
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Joan Jett with Chrissy Hynde (The Pretenders)
sioux
Siouxie Sioux
patti-smith-smiling
Patti Smith
Alice Bag, lead singer for The Bags
Alice Bag, lead singer for LA Punk band The Bags
joan-jett
All Pictures in this article by © Donna Santisi

All copyrights on all images © Donna Santisi

Nico 1988

 A Biopic About Nico

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     When it’s announced that a figure with a famed history is getting a biopic, it of course feels a. inevitable, b. secretly kinda exciting insomuch as it prompts internal dream-casting brainstorms, and also prompts the often very unmet hope that perhaps this could be one of those biopic that doesn’t suck, and c. mildly skepticism-inducing in that it probably won’t entirely un-suck. But there’s always that category of hope to keep us writing these announcements, apparently!

     The latest such announcement is a biopic about Germanmusician/model/personality /Warhol/Velvet Underground  collaborator, Nico. Though German singer Nico is immortalized for her work with The Velvet Underground as well as her 70’s solo work, she later led a fascinating, if overlooked, life until her sudden death at 49. Those final years will be the subject of a new biopic from Italian director Susanna Nicchiarelli titled Nico, 1988

     The dream-casting bit of this process is going to be cut short in the next sentence, as the star of this biopic has already been cast. Nico will, per Variety, be played by Danish actress/musician Trine Dyrholm (she’ll also perform her songs in the film), who won the Silver Bear for her role in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. According to Pitchfork, the film will focus heavily on performance, and the film’s director, Susanna Nicchiarelli, said they’ll “tell us more than any other dialogue or situation in the film.”

     Many makers of biopics seem to have realized, thankfully, that the best formula for making one such film (supposedly done with immense success in two upcoming Pablo Larraín films — Jackie and Neruda) is not to try to capture the person’s entire life in one film, but rather to focus on a moment or particular period. (Such has increasingly been the trend, and the genre happens to be improving because of it.) This film, titled Nico, 1988, will, as it titularly states, do the same, focusing on the last year of her life (she died in July of that year after suffering a heart attack during a biking accident.) Apparently, Nico, 1988 will actually begin in 1987 as she embarks on a solo tour — with her son going around Europe with her — and attempts to get off heroin.

Nicchiarelli said in a statement:

Most people think, as Andy Warhol once said, that after her experience with Velvet Underground and the Factory —and after having had sex with most of the rock stars of those years — Nico simply ‘became a fat junkie’ and disappeared. But is this how her life really went?

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Nicchiarelli wrote the screenplay based on interviews with Nico’s son, Ari, and her manager from the time. Note that a biopic about Andy Warhol starring Jared Leto based on a biography of the famous artist written by Victor Bockris is also in the making.

A list of Nico’s close friends over the years:

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Click for Original article in

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YOUNG CHUN

Fabricated Beauties

“My art is a fabrication of reality – the way I see it in my mind. Music, culture, childhood memories, and the people in the environment that surrounds me influence it. When I pass by strangers or a situation taking place, my mind begins to create stories about them – imagining their lives, the triumphs, the tragedies, and the happiness or sadness they experience – which becomes the inspiration for my artwork. But, there is truth in my art. It comes from the way I am feeling at the time I am constructing a painting, and it is the feeling I am trying to convey.”                                                                                                                                       Young Chun

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Coney Island Blondie

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Debbie Harry, Coney Island, NY, 1977 — Image © Bob Gruen

WHEN HARRY MET DEBBIE…

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“Hi, it’s Deb.  You know, when I woke up this morning I had a realization about myself.  I was always Blondie.  People always called me Blondie, ever since I was a little kid. What I realized is that at some point I became Dirty Harry.  I couldn’t be Blondie anymore, so I became Dirty Harry.”

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”People always called me Blondie, then I became Dirty Harry”

New Jersey’s own Debbie Harry is an icon and sex symbol (those dead eyes and daft lips…) of the 1970s Punk/ New Wave/Art scene.  She originally hailed from Hawthorne and went on to graduate from Centenary College in Hackettstown — all just a long stones’ throw from the killer stomping grounds.  Eesh. Her career nearly ended before it began when she jumped into the back of a car driven by a serial killer.

”It was the early Seventies, maybe .72. I was trying to get across town to a party. It was two or three o’clock in the morning and I was staggering around on huge platform shoes. This car kept circling around and some guy was offering me a ride. I kept refusing, but finally I took the ride because I couldn’t get a cab.

I got in the car and the windows were are rolled up, except for a tiny crack.  This driver had an incredibly bad smell to him. I looked down and there were no door handles and no cranks. I started scanning the inside of the car and there was absolutely nothing. The inside of the car was stripped. The hairs on the back of my neck just stood up.

I wiggled my arm out of the window and pulled the door handle from the outside.  I don’t know how I did it, but I got out. He tried to stop me by spinning the car but it sort of helped me fling myself out. I fell out and nearly got run over by a cab.

Afterwards I saw him on the news: It was Ted Bundy.

Debbie Harry, NYC, 1976 —  Image © Bob Gruen
Debbie Harry, NYC, 1976 —  Image © Bob Gruen

1978 — Debbie Harry of Blondie — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis
Debbie Harry, New Jersey, 1978 – Image © Bob Gruen
Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop, Toronto, Canada, 1977 — Images © Bob Gruen

Debbie pictured with her iconic Warhol portrait © Brian Aris
Debbie pictured with her iconic Warhol portrait Image © Brian Aris
1982 — Debbie Harry of Blondie — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis-
Los Angeles, California, 1977 — Clem Burke, Jimmy Destri, Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Gary Valentine. — Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis
A young Debbie Harry

1978 — Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis
1978 — Debbie Harry, lead singer of Blondie — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
1979 — Blondie — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis
CA.1980s — Debbie Harry of Blondie — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
Los Angeles, California, 1977 — New wave band Blondie, from left– Gary Valentine, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Jimmy Destri, and Clem Burke. — Image by © Henry Diltz/Corbis
1978 — Debbie Harry with a Knife — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
Debbie Harry, Basquiat, Fab Fred, NYC 1981 — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith
Debbie Harry during a Polaroid shoot with Andy Warhol. Photo by Christopher Makos, 1980.
Ca. 1970s — Rockers Vicki Blue, Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, David Johansen, Joey Ramone, and Mickey Leigh perform a fake wedding ceremony. — Image by © Corbis

Debbie Harry in Leather Knickers, Punk magazine centre-fold shoot by Chris Stein 1976
Debbie Harry in Leather Knickers, Punk magazine centre-fold shoot by Chris Stein 1976
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Debbie Harry (Blondie)/Joan Jett (The Runaways/Blackhearts) 
1978 — Joan Jett and Debbie Harry of Blondie backstage at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia, PA at a gig featuring The Runaways, The Ramones & The Jam — Image by © Scott Weiner/Retna Ltd./Corbis
Debbie Harry and Nancy Spungen
The Clash with Al Fields, David Johansen and Debbie Harry, NYC, 1979 — Image by © Bob Gruen
Ca. 1970s — Debbie Harry of Blondie booty-bumpin’ a beater.
1978 — Debbie Harry and Chris Stein — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis
1978, Philadelphia, PA — Chris Stein and Debbie Harry — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis-
New York — An early publicity photo of new wave band Blondie. From left– Gary Valentine, Clem Burke, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Jimmy Destri — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis
1978, London, England — Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie at the opening of Blondie in Camera exhibition at the Mirandy Gallery — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis
1978, London, England — Debbie Harry of Blondie at the opening of Blondie in Camera exhibition at the Mirandy Gallery — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis
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With unknown friend, David Jones

Debbie Harry, 1969

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Original idea by JP in

Perverse Portraits

Tokyo People Photographed in their Bathtubs

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For his series Couple Jam, Tokyo-based Photographer Hal visited underground Tokyo bars in the Red Light District.

These hidden places in Shibuya and Kabukicho, were more than influential for the photographer, as there he often finds models to pose for his perverse but interesting photographs. From strippers to businessmen, Hal invites whoever wants to take part in his projects, as long as they’re willing to share their tight set with a fellow model.

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This type of work, that interferes with the models’ surrounding and inner world by testing their limits, can be perceived as a social event causing a beautiful artistic result, with the photo-shoots taking place in the models bathrooms. “I think of the bathroom as being one of the most private and intimate place in anyone’s home, this provoked a shyness in the models, and created a unique excitement and inspiration in the scene,” explains the photographer.

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The Man Who Fell to Earth and Sold the World

The Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud. 

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British musician David Robert Jones aka David Bowie died in New-York on Sunday January 10, 2016, two days after his 69th birthday. His death really hit me hard. I had often fantasized that if there was a movie to be made about my life, for sure they would have been more than a couple of Bowie’s songs on the soundtrack. I can without a doubt  say that Bowie’s music has been a constant throughout my life, no matter how I changed, no matter what place I ended up being watching the sunrise or whom I found myself to be with, Bowie was there, humming along as I walked passed through life, no matter which path I had chosen nor how wild was the wind, Bowie always seemed either to fit perfectly or to be perfectly unfit for the situation. Each tune telling me in a very special, unique way that I’m ok, and if I’m not doing ok, that, at the very least, I am not the only one who feels alone and locked away in space and time, huge thanks to aliens and Major Tom. 

 THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH 1976 British Lion film with David Bowie
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

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   I vividly remember myself setting myself up to listen Space Oddity from start to finish. That album was the first of a long and important part of my vinyl record collection. I was expecting something very new wave, very edgy. I was so pleasantly surprised  by the deep felt lyrics and conquered by the very planetary folk essence. It definitely had a knack to it and I felt a deep intimacy and sensitiveness through the whole album. I was conquered and intrigued.

Arnold Layne’s Moonage Daydream

Syd Barrett by George Underwood who was David Bowie's childhood friend. David owns this painting, he is a huge Syd fan.
Syd Barrett by George Underwood who was David Bowie’s childhood friend (Underwood is the one responsible for punching him in the left eye during a fight over a girl that left David with faulty depth perception and a permanently dilated pupil, which gave a false impression of a change in the iris’ colour) . David owns this painting and is a huge Syd fan (and always remained Underwood’s close friend).

     I was already a huge fan of Pink Floyd’s early days with Barrett and everything that was shining behind those ”crazy diamonds”. David Bowie first released “Moonage Daydream” under the project name Arnold Corns,  inspired by Pink Floyd’s song “Arnold Layne”. Arnold Corns’ version of “Moonage Daydream” was recorded in April ‘71 and released as a single in May of that year, with “Hang on to Yourself” as its B-side.  The song tells the story of an alien messiah, who is born to save the world from impending disaster. Surprisingly, it was a flop, but Bowie recognized he had hit on an idea that was too good to waste, and developed it for the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  Later, on PIN-UPS ,  Bowie showed again his admiration by making a cover of  Pink Floyd’s early tracks, ”See Emily Play” written by no other than the original frontman Syd Barrett .  I saw in Bowie the same Oddity coupled with some space, alien, extraterrestrial, Life on Mars and the wild psychedelic thoughts of The Man Who Sold the World .  For sure Bowie’s deep sympathy and interest for Barrett must also have a little something to do with his half-brother Terry, who had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. A lad insane… As some would put it…   david-bowie-aka-ziggy-stardust-wallpaper

So If you try and follow that thread all the way one can gather all the main roots of Bowie’s first albums…. From Syd Barrett‘s psychedelic fascination for astronomy, LSD and schizophrenia coupled with Bowie’s appreciation for Brian Eno and Roxy Music, VU and Iggy to a lad insane all dolled up!!  I’m referring here to The New-York Dolls who certainly had something to do with Bowie’s early very openly effeminate look of his early days, giving birth to Glam Rock as Bowie saw it. The thread being picked up later on by krautrock, leading to ”space” music which in turn influenced largely techno music… Now this no small influence… Bowie never invented anything of this but per se but he sure did picked it up because the vibes were in the air, moonage daydreaming with Arnold…  Bowie space

     I see Bowie as a one of the pioneer of  ”modern” music along with The Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop and Joy Division. He also committed some of the best glam rock and art rock stuff with glitters of gold that was ever done along with The Dolls, The Heartbreakers, Brian Eno/Roxy Music and to his credit he was aware of the Velvet Underground and The Stooges before a lot of people, before he was known himself . What he added was this theatrical and artistic dimension that was first introduced by VU, managed in their early days by Andy Warhol,  plus the whole persona/opera aspect that the Who have also explored on very early. The Velvets and Warhol, were one of the first to really exploit the aspect of performance other than the musicians themselves, in modern rock. Andy Warhol’s lights engineer Danny Williams pioneered many innovations that have since become standard practice in rock music light shows.  

The Exploding Plastic Inevitable effects featured while VU were performing onstage but the show was offstage as well with lots of special effects.
The Exploding Plastic Inevitable effects featured while VU were performing onstage but the show was offstage as well with lots of special effects.

From May 27-29 the Exploding Plastic Inevitable played The Fillmore in San Francisco, where Williams built a light show including stroboscopes, slides and film projections onstage. At Bill Graham’s request he was soon to come back and build more. Film maker Jonas Mekas (who pioneered film projections during concerts at New York’s Cinematheque), Andy Warhol and Danny Williams influential ideas contributed much to the legendary Fillmore Auditorium’s prestige and were also used at the Fillmore East and Fillmore West, both opening in 1968. Bowie was clever enough to realise that there definitely was something there. He used all these ideas in his very own way, perfecting the art of performing an opera like show, impersonating Ziggy while at the same time pushing the whole concept of space and extraterrestrials and alien life. Don’t get me wrong here.. I’m not saying he was a plagiarist… He just so happened that everything he was about was probably at least partly incorporating all of these ”trends” already and of course I’m totally skipping T-Rex, Slade, Suzy Quatro, Glitter, etc, etc, etc… But Bowie just caught the vibes that were in the air and made a mold that would be his from then on to Eternity… From Cosmic Folk to… everything else…. Bowie was always inspired by what was the very best and he made sure he got the very best in order to create the very best. It seems that everything started with the new folk created by Bob Dylan back then in one way or another… So…. Barrett and Bowie ”invented” ”Cosmic Folk” and from there, it was like…..Ziggy played guitar and took it so very far… Became the Thin White Duke..and so much more… 

English model Twiggy poses with David Bowie in Paris for the cover of his 'Pin Ups' album, 1973. (Photo by Justin de Villeneuve/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
English model Twiggy poses with David Bowie in Paris for the cover of his ‘Pin Ups’ album, 1973. (Photo by Justin de Villeneuve/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I heard recently that this gut instinct attraction to anything that glows or shines like gold, silver, diamonds and any precious stones comes from a very primal need we had for water during the pre-historical times of our evolution and has now become part of our genes legacy. So in a very poetic manner, one could say that we needed glam rock like we need  water. The relief we got from drinking the source of life that is water was and is still related to seeing the ripples and twinkle the sun would make when playing on the surface of this precious vital liquid, reminding us of our Gods and of the very sources of life on Earth. The Sun and the Water. While Richard Hell rightly felt we were the Blank Generation, Bowie made us realise how small we are under the stars… And we felt it, we felt the immensity of our Universe. I always felt that Bowie’s contribution to music was rarely bleak but rather uplifting, he always made us stare into the mystery of the universe without losing sight of all that was going inside another parallel universe, one filled with an overactive imagination and very deep, heartfelt but nevertheless human feelings.  BTW I always felt that those Diamond Dogs were inspired by the Nova Trilogy written by William Burroughs…. It just precisely the kind of creatures that would come out of his novels and bite your balls.

As befitting a post-apocalyptic work, Dogs was born from the frustration of failed opportunities. Bowie initially endeavored to create a TV musical adaptation of George Orwell’s totalitarian milestone 1984—until the social critic’s widow refused permission. Around the same time, Rolling Stone’s London bureau arranged for Bowie and William S. Burroughs to interview each other, which introduced the singer to the author’s Nova Express. Immediately thereafter, Bowie began penning lyrical non sequiturs via that novel’s cut-up technique, and planned a Ziggy musical to be similarly shuffled each night. This, too, faltered, although it inspired new tunes. These two projects, sharing dystopian themes, fused together to form the mutant Dogs.”Barry Walters for Pitchfork

Bowie and Burroughs
Bowie and Burroughs

I always saw Bowie as universal as he was intimate and had the power of attracting us to the most mysterious but positive sources of life.  

Lou Reed performing in UK at Scala Cinema,King's Cross,London on 15th of July 1972.
Lou Reed performing in UK at Scala Cinema,King’s Cross,London on 15th of July 1972.

Personally I see 1972 as a stepping stone in Bowie’s career mainly because it was then that he so kindly invited over in England Iggy and The Stooges and Lou Reed for a memorable series of shows , seizing this occasional dream and turning it in one of the most important album in the history of modern rock by producing Lou Reed’s Transformer‘. I thought that it was really nice of Bowie to offer a helping hand, share his technical, musical and artistic abilities/facilities,  the place he had in the spotlight by then by opening his arms, and the Gates of England (Europe?),  by showing to the world who were his greatest, most important, I could almost say revered (?)influences, Lou Reed (formerly from the Velvet Underground) as well as Iggy and the Stooges.  This was not as you all know a one time thing… He really helped Iggy Pop as much as he could to write and produce The Idiot and Lust for Life, even touring with Iggy!Brian Eno was a major producer on at least 3 of Bowie’s album known as the Berlin Trilogy” (”Low” , ”Heroes” and ”Lodger”)  though the album was mainly recorded in France and only mixed in West Berlin. Iggy Pop was of course cited by many as THE major influence for Ziggy Stardust.Iggy…. Ziggy… But the opinion as to the inspiration behind Bowie’s 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, has always been divided; Mick Ronson, guitarist on the album, who died in 1993, credited Iggy Pop. “Mick said Bowie was looking for a rock star name beginning with Z – just like a plumber looks for a name beginning with A, to be at the front of the phone book,” said Christopher Sandford, Bowie’s latest biographer. “He met Iggy in 1971 and put a Z in front.” But we all know there’s more to it .  Another Bowie biographer, Peter Gillman, claimed the name was a composite of Iggy Pop and a US performer called The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. He is sceptical about Bowie’s announcement. “Look at how the lyrics describe him. `Loaded’, `Well hung’, `God given ass’. He was talking about himself.”

Bowie on the cover of his 1977 album "Low.
Bowie on the cover of his 1977 album “Low”

The album ”Low” marked a decisive shift in his musical style toward an electronic and avant-garde approach that would be further explored on the subsequent albums “Heroes” (1977) and Lodger (1979). Despite all these influences and collaboration Bowie was more than the sum of it. He always added is own touch and constantly went out of his way to give us the very best.  I think Bowie should be remembered as the ”Warhol” of music, always seeing and seeking the very best out of everyone and everything that was ”in the Universe”,  had the humility to help as well as being helped. Let’s not forget that even if he wasn’t the first one to do so, he really helped to change the perceptions towards homosexuals, cross dressing (”TV”s) and transgender, helping perpetuate the movement started in New-York by Warhol that the Velvet Underground had already strongly approached in NYC as well as throughout the US and Bowie somehow managed to making it a mainstream thing in the UK! We all know how much admiration Bowie had for Warhol (there’s a track called Andy Warhol on Bowie’s album Hunky Dory that was of course dedicated to Warhol) and how deceived David was to only get a remark on how nice his shoes were by the master of Pop Art! Nevertheless, glam rock really was the musical embodiment of Warhol’s thinking as well as many universal truth like the principal of the yin and the yang, the fact that there are greater forces at work here such as the universal attraction and major power that the sun and water still hold over each and every human being, only proving that this fascination we have from gold, diamonds and other shiny things only being a lure whereas we should be more focusing on, as mentioned before, water, fire, stars, planets and..loving the aliens?

David Bowie as Alex from A Clockwork Orange with a background that says a lot to me..
David Bowie as Alex from A Clockwork Orange with a background that speaks for itself.
Artwork ©Butcher Billy
Spiffy GIF Artwork ©Butcher Billy

The Dark Angels of Altamont

Gothic Requiem for the Flower Power

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Click on pic for complete documentary about the events that took place at Altamont in 1969.
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Click film about Altamont 

     I thought it would be interesting to gather some bands that, for a short while during the late 60’s had a look that was some sort of mix between romanticism and what is nowadays called ”goth” with a slight psychedelic touch. I thought some of you might not exactly know what I am talking about…So… An image being worth a thousand words, here are images of some well-known bands that already had the looks of  that style that have become so trendy lately and could very well demonstrate precisely what I am trying to explain.  I wanted to do this for a while now because it is a short and unfortunately rather unexplored period, I thought it looked so cool and mysterious that I was immediately drawn to it the first time I looked at that picture on the Deep Purple album that has that Hieronymus Bosch (see picture further below) painting on the cover that illustrates a hellscape and portrays the torments of damnation in a manner I have never could even have fathomed before; Large explosions in the background throw light through a city gate and spill forth onto the water in the midground, their fiery reflection turning the water below into blood. The light illuminates a road filled with fleeing figures, while hordes of tormentors prepare to burn a neighbouring village. A short distance away, a rabbit carries an impaled and bleeding corpse, while a group of victims above are thrown into a burning lantern. The foreground is populated by a variety of distressed or tortured figures. Some are shown vomiting or excreting, others are crucified by harp and lute, in an allegory of music, thus sharpening the contrast between pleasure and torture. A choir sings from a score inscribed on a pair of buttocks, part of a tryptic that has been described as the “Musicians’ Hell”.  Being quite young (something like 7 or 9) the painting and the picture in the back also had a  lasting effect on me and reflected on something I had never experienced before, the painting was downright scary and the guys from this band called Deep Purple that I had never heard before were looking so detached and relaxed, I already had that fascination with Dracula at the time so I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I just felt there was something there and I wanted to delve into those medieval Dark Princes. Later on I recognize it was my first experience with the ”Gothic look” and I immediately recognize it when it came back to the surface much later on and I was surprised no one ever mentioned that it was already there during the end of the roaring sixties…Yes it has been indeed revived later on but to me it always lacked the wild romantic, psychedelic-romantic touch of the 60s and its unleashed and uncanny feeling, probably related to the fact that so many things went totally out of control during the end of that decade… Some words automatically comes to mind…JFK (the first victim? 22/11/1963) … Charles Manson…Viet-Nam…Black Panthers…Martin Luther King… The death of the 4 most significant Rock USA Icons within 2 years to the day!!! Brian Jones from the Stones was the first to depart on July the 3rd,1969, Jimi Hendrix on September 18, 1970, Janis Joplin on October 4, 1970 and finally Jim Morrison, also on July the 3rd, 1971 was the last one to leave this world, like I said, 2 years to the day after Brian Jones. One could say in French (since Jim died in France) that ”le jour ‘‘J” definitely is July the 3rd because it started with Jones (or JFK in 1963???) and ended in July with Jim, taking Jimi and Janis in between for their Last Journey.  Maybe I’m just sensing the sheer terror and the unfathomable deception that took place on December the 6th 1969 ”all across the USA”…ALTAMONT!  Everyone seeing and feeling that even The Stones on which some had built high hopes for future generations were fragile, could, and had in fact been shattered...(I think I’m shattered!) Is it possible some of those artists/ musicians/ songwriters/ poets who were just about to become prophets for generations of fans to come who felt it coming and  what they felt was a genuine urge to mourn. Knowing what we do now, we must admit that they were very much right to do so…  Here is my tribute to all of those who felt all what was about to become the death of the dream of all those kids from the 60s (Talking ’bout my Generation) and which became the HELL that we live in today. Maybe some of you think Hell is too strong of a word but if you really take a look back and see what those kids wanted the world to be and compare it to what it’s become now, I would really think HELL is the right word. Don’t you think??? 

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Black Sabbath 1971
Deep Purple Goth
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Deep Purple 1968

Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett era)

Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett era)
Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett era) 1967
Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones 1967
The Who
The Who 1968
Mick Jagger and John Lennon
Mick Jagger and John Lennon 1967 by David Magnus. ”All You Need is Love” (Is it Really?)
Keith Richard
Keith Richard 1968
Sharon Tate And Roman Polanski’S Wedding. 1968
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Davie Bowie
David Bowie 1968
OK now you have fun finding who's who...
Hendrix, Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett and lots of friends…1967
And of course, The Velvet Underground in their very unique way.
The Velvet Underground in their very unique way. Here with Andy Warhol in 1965.

Lou Reed
Lou Reed
Lou Reed 1971-72
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Nico, obviously a major influence
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Brian Jones
Nico and Brian Jones at Monterey Pop Festival,1968
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John Cale from The Velvet Underground, 1966
Arthur BrownTHE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN 1968
ron-ashton800Ron Asheton (From The Stooges) in the Nazi suit he wore at Iggy’s wedding to Wendy Weissberg in 1968!  (Pic taken by Jenny Lens, MFA in 1976)
60s Model Penelope Tree
60s Model Penelope Tree
Jim Morrison from The Doors Jim Morrison, The Doors 1969
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JanisJanis Joplin 1967
The Beatles- Last Photo Session, 1969
The Beatles- Last Photo Session, 1969

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The Stones at Altamont
THE STONES AT ALTAMONT BY LOIS STAVSKY (CLICK ON PIC FOR MORE DETAILS BY LESTER BANGS)

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FAN XIAOYAN’S FLESH AND STEEL

Steel Dreams Are Made of These..

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It’s the arrival of a new era, a new kind of human being, a new power, a new sen­sa­tion… a sur­re­al­is­tic vir­tual world in which men and women are equally physically adapted in terms of strength and abilities.  Fan Xiaoyan‘s series of sculptures flesh and metal are combined with an acute severity, exploring the mechanics of penetration with unsettling force. Cyborgs are a metaphor for the technological advancement of the human race and Xiaoyan uses cruder machinery such as saw blades, engine rotors and piping to convey a more primal, sexual robot humanoid.

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Weaponized Cyborg Working Tank Women from Fan Xiaoyan
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Weaponized Cyborg Working Tank Women from Fan Xiaoyan
Cyborg Working Women from Fan Xiaoyan
Weaponized Cyborg Working Women from Fan Xiaoyan
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Weaponized Cyborg Women from Fan Xiaoyan

Weaponized Cyborg-Women from Fan Xiaoyan

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Cyborg Nannies from Fan Xiaoyan
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Steel Naked
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Tirelessly
She, who reads blindly, shouldn't have read,2010,Stainless steel and brass
She, who reads blindly, shouldn’t have read,2010,Stainless steel and brass
T he Winding Earthly
The Winding Earthly

Maison Blanche/CoquillageMaison Blanche/Coquillage

Juxtapoz /The Sculptures of Fan Xiaoyan

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Double Protection by Fan Xiaoyan

Beat Punks

A Brief History of the Counterculture from William S. Burroughs to Kurt Cobain

Bull Will.

An interview with Victor Bockris on his book Beat Punks

by Phil Weaver

I’m a huge fan of Victor Bockris’ book Beat Punks, a collection of interviews and photographs documenting the relationship between the Beat generation and the punk movement in the 1970s downtown New York scene. The book does a great job of illustrating the cross-pollination of two generations (’50s Beats and ’70s punks) that resulted in one of the most extraordinary cultural flowerings of the 20th century. I recently talked to Bockris about some of the ideas behind the book, and I was pleased to hear he’s about to begin work on a follow up with interlinking prose. He didn’t want to give away too much about the forthcoming book, so I proposed a general interview on the history of the counterculture’s clashes with the establishment in the mid-to-late 20th century. Burroughs was the through-line in a cultural revolution that began in the ’50s with the Beats, blossomed in the psychedelic explosion of the late ’60s, peaked in the ’70s with the Beat-Punk fusion, burned out in the neoconservative revolution of the ’80s and was briefly revived by Kurt Cobain and the alternative wave of the early ’90s. Throughout this era many of the leading figures of the counterculture found themselves the targets of harassment and campaigns of repression, yet they still managed to produce some of their best work. I wanted to trace this multigenerational struggle for the liberation of the human spirit with the great author and raconteur Victor Bockris, biographer of William S. Burroughs, Andy Warhol and Keith Richards, and the man dubbed the “poet laureate of the underground.”

PHIL WEAVER: Describe the counterculture’s confrontation with LBJ.

VICTOR BOCKRIS: Key point: the counterculture changed dramatically in 1965. Before then it had been populated by a relatively small, international collection of avant-garde artists in every form, left-wing political activists, civil rights activists, academics and members of the clergy. With the appearance of the electric Dylan and semi-radical songs by the Beatles and the Stones (“Satisfaction”), an enormous new group became countercultural enthusiasts overnight: college students listening to Simon and Garfunkel, and high school long hairs known as folkies now folk rockers. Consequently, demonstrators grew in numbers of younger enthusiastic girls and boys. Johnson had been popular in 1964, even into ’65, but he was forced into supporting the Vietnam war to a ridiculous extent. The brutal, burning napalm dropped on the civilian population, and the well-oiled anti-war machine did a good job of dramatizing the suffering of women and children. Johnson was a far superior President than Kennedy, but his classically Stetson-hatted good old boy image was easy to turn into a bogeyman.

Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy
Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy

By 1966 the demonstrators rarely gave him any peace. Their “Hey hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” chant wafted into the White House from Lafayette Park across the street. Every time he left or came back they were always there. In his mind, they became the voice of the youth. He had been a rebellious youth himself, and it began to drive him nuts. This was greatly exacerbated by his fear that the country really wanted another Kennedy in the White House and the seething hatred of Robert Kennedy. The irony was that the arrogant Kennedy brothers were incapable of getting any bills passed, because they did not know how the Congress really operated, where Johnson was a master politician – probably the best we’ve ever had as President. Johnson tried to explain how the Senate worked, but Kennedy just didn’t want to hear anything from that “old galoot.” That kind of name calling might be funny in high school – not when you’re running the country (and too busy fucking badly to pay attention). Think of how successful the Kennedy administration could have been if they’d used Johnson like a cruise missile. This is a naive thing to say, but if memory serves this is one of the corners of history where the truth was of no importance – image took over. This initially benefited the counterculture. When Johnson refused to run for President in 1968, he later wrote that the hawks of war on his right and the anti-war demonstrators on his left gave him no room to further contribute to the well-being of the nation. It is shocking (does that word still exist?) to see only recently the outpouring of reverence for John Kennedy, despite everything written about him since his death, while Johnson fades in the nation’s memory. This embracing of huge lies is what allows us Americans to go on supporting just the kind of atrocities by our nation we fought so hard to erase in World War II. Bombs, genocide and unbelievable lies shower down upon us daily. It seems that we live in an increasingly immoral nation. Where is the peace movement? Where are the heroes who stood up against all the power of the United States to reveal the elements of control? People like William Burroughs and Andy Warhol. People like Muhammad Ali, who turned his back on many millions and almost destroyed his life by standing up against the war machine when everybody told him he was crazy?

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Andy Warhol and Muhammad Ali. Photo by Victor Bockris 1978

That’s only to mention the world famous. But this is what happens, I believe, when the education system writes the counterculture out of existence. Does anyone remember that it was the first time in history that an international population of a non-military people, with no political or religious base, played an unquestionable role in changing the way we live by bringing down one American President and creating an atmosphere in which the next was driven from office? Also, please note the appropriation of many of the counterculture’s key practices, which have been manipulated into today’s mainstream. Any humanist interested in the well-being of our nation’s history could see the counterculture as one of the greatest, most imaginative, most nurturing contributions we have ever made to the world. The media always finds violence – often created by the media itself – to undercut the best things about this country. New York Punk was not a violent movement, it was very loving, but once one Yobo, (in persona of poor dumb manipulated Sid Vicious) believed he had murdered his murdered girlfriend, punk was all about violence.

Sid Vicious going to court,1978 Adam Scull(CreditImage©GlobePhotos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Sid Vicious going to court,1978 Adam Scull (CreditImage©GlobePhotos/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Change is always dangerous for its agents, but anyone who watched the carefully managed police and FBI undercover riots in Chicago must find it hilarious to see the peace movement turned into Sodom and Gomorrah, when the shoe was really on the other foot. We still live with the extraordinary conflict of the Catholic Church threatening endless pain to those advocating the joys of love from behind a logo of a guy nailed to a piece of wood. My favorite example of robbing the beautiful truth from the population was, and still is maybe, the image of Jack Kerouac, who wrote the most loving, tender and exemplary celebrations of the beauty of America, being hounded to death by the establishment. America is a beautiful place, but it’s hard to see sometimes because of the waters of slaughter.

Jack Kerouac. Photo by Allen Ginsberg. 1964.
Jack Kerouac. Photo by Allen Ginsberg. 1964.

WEAVER: Can you talk a bit about William Burroughs’ clashes with the establishment in the 1970s?

BOCKRIS: Bill was very active in the early 1970s; he was still living in London. He published The JobThe Wild BoysThe Last Words of Dutch SchultzExterminator and Port of Saints. Of these books The Job is the most political. In terms of clashes with the establishment, everything he wrote and said in interviews continued his attempt to reveal their attempt to control the population. But to be specific, you have to look at the reaction to him in different countries. In England he was protected by his relationship with Lord Goodman, a powerful behind the scenes financial lawyer for many powerful government figures.

Lord Goodman
Lord Goodman

He did not have such connections in New York, but after trying to move back there in 1965, and again in 1972, he had been threatened by the police who were trying to set him up for a bust. By the time he did return, the fall of Nixon had turned him into a prophet, and he was embraced as a king returned from exile. So I think he avoided any particularly overt confrontation during the 1970s, due to his desire to find a new life and continue writing.

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Jean Genet, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg march in Chicago 1968

His clash with authority came in more subtle ways than marching in the streets as he had in Chicago in 1968. His “Time of the Assassins” columns in the rock mag Crawdaddy! would have been read by teenagers and college students, and his appearance at the many readings he gave across the country would have been very influential.

Burroughs’ “Time of the Assassins” column in Crawdaddy! magazine mid 70's.
Burroughs’ “Time of the Assassins” column in Crawdaddy! magazine mid 70’s.

He was also interviewed by the still existing underground press. The name Burroughs was a clash with the establishment. When I knew him in the late seventies he was virulently critical of U.S. foreign policy, but I recall him definitely not wanting to draw attention to himself in public.

WEAVER: Describe the relationship between William Burroughs and the punks. 

BOCKRIS: Burroughs’ relationship with the punks was, as I see it, a vital connection which drew attention to the vitality of his writing. This happened on two levels. First Patti Smith and Richard Hell were both Burroughs fans before he moved back here. She was the first to note his presence.

Patti Smith and William S. Burroughs. Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe.
Patti Smith and William S. Burroughs. Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe.

The Nova Convention was the big turning point in terms of his recognition, the first time he brought together several new subcultures based in the punk ethos. Then over 1977-1982 I introduced him to Lou Reed, Blondie and The Clash among others; they were thrilled to meet him. He appreciated their interest and enjoyed their company. They were his children.

William S. Burroughs and Joe Strummer from The Clash. Photo by Victor Bockris.1980.
William S. Burroughs and Joe Strummer from The Clash. Photo by Victor Bockris.1980.

However, there was a strange disconnect. Every beautiful punk girl I knew had a copy of Junkie on their table, but they were all taking heroin. It was like they had not understood the book, which was an indictment of being a junkie. It had nothing to do with Bill that a 24/7 heroin supermarket protected by the police suddenly emerged blocks from CBGB’s, but there were bags called Dr Nova. Heroin decimated the New York punks. When he made all those spoken word records, a number of punks contributed. Burroughs’ profile grew considerably during the 1970s. The support of punk, and his inclusion in the punk press, had a lot to do with it.

Timothy Leary, William S. Burroughs, Les Levine, Brion Gysin and Robert Anton Wilson at the Nova Convention. Photo by Marcia Resnick. 1978.
Timothy Leary, William S. Burroughs, Les Levine, Brion Gysin and Robert Anton Wilson at the Nova Convention. Photo by Marcia Resnick. 1978.

WEAVER: In what ways was the punk rock ethos inspired by the Beats?

BOCKRIS: The New York punks came out of the same ethos as the Beats. I can only speak for the New York punks. That is to say, there were three generations of American artists operating under the umbrella of a shared reaction to WWII (for civil rights against genocide and the bomb): the Beats (1950s); the artists of the ’60s personified by Warhol (including the Rolling Stones, Goddard and Truffaut, Antonioni etc); and the Punks of the 1970s, with the whole thing coalescing in the late seventies.

Andy Warhol at the Factory.NYC mid 60's. Photo by Stephen Shore
Andy Warhol at the Factory.NYC mid 60’s. Photo by Stephen Shore

I mean, Elvis was punk; Lennon was punk; Richards, Dylan, Reed were all punks. Punk is Beat speeded up, like the Stones are Chuck Berry speeded up. Blondie, Patti Smith, Television, later Richard Hell, Iggy Pop and on and on were all influenced by Rimbaud and Celine and the surrealists and comic books – just like the Beats.

Arthur Rimbaud at the time of his first communion.
Arthur Rimbaud at the time of his first communion.

They were all influenced by Warhol. The difference between Lennon and Richards, and NY punk was the Warhol influence. My book Beat Punks should have been called Beat Warhol Punks, it just doesn’t read so well.

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Debbie Harry during a Polaroid shoot with Andy Warhol. Photo by Christopher Makos, 1980.

WEAVER: Describe some of the tactics the establishment used to repress the counterculture in the 1970s.

BOCKRIS: Nixon’s administration targeted the counterculture from both ends. They put the IRS on famous counterculture artists like Warhol, Mailer, etc. They hounded Terry Southern, a great writer (author of CandyDr. Strangelove and Red Dirt Marijuana), nearly to death.

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Terry Southern

Warhol was audited every year until his death. The IRS were vicious. Meanwhile the FBI infiltrated the yippies and hippies and caused riots at demonstrations by manufacturing violence. They also sowed rumors like Allen Ginsberg was an FBI snitch. The overall effect was to bring the counterculture to its knees by 1973. Groups like the Stones, Lennon and Dylan rose above the corruption and carried the flag. Burroughs’ return to New York in 1974 took on a larger importance just because he returned to take his rightful place as the King of the Counterculture on the fall of that great yahoo demon, “Tricky Dick” Nixon.

William S. Burroughs. Photo by Victor Bockris.
William S. Burroughs chez Blondie 1981. Photo by Victor Bockris.

In fact, 1974 was a great year for the counterculture: Ginsberg won a National Book Award for The Fall of America (poems); Ali regained the World Heavyweight Crown he lost in 1967 after refusing to be drafted; Warhol won an MLA Award and moved to a new upscale Factory. In 1975 he published The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. If you pause to ask, who else could have used such a title and been taken seriously by the New York Times, you can gauge a sense of how far the counterculture had come. Don’t forget this was a worldwide movement, so these American artists were being given credence as the leaders of the new way of life that would find its terrible climax in 1983.

William Burroughs and Andy Warhol have chicken fried steak at the Chelsea Hotel as Victor Bockris narrates. Segment from BBC Arena documentary, Chelsea Hotel.

WEAVER: Describe WSB’s involvement with magick. Did he use it against the establishment?

BOCKRIS: Bill’s involvement with magic dates back to the time he spent in Paris with Brion Gysin. Read The Beat Hotel by my favorite writer Barry Miles, or pick up his brand new bio Call Me Burroughs. It’s great. In “The Electronic Revolution” (essay in The Job) Burroughs explains the ways he used the tape recorder to change reality. I remember one night he read from the Necronomicon in an attempt to call up Humwawa, but several people there were on verge of flipping out so he canceled it. They really thought Humwawa was gonna sweep them away! Bill believed in magic. He certainly practiced magic everyday. To him writing was a magic act.

Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs and The Dream Machine
Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs and The Dream Machine

WEAVER: What effect did the Reagan-era 1980s have on the counterculture?

BOCKRIS: The counterculture in New York was delivered a knockout blow by the combination of the heroin epidemic and AIDS in 1983-1985, which I consider to be the end of the counterculture as we had lived it.

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Victor Bockris at the Chelsea Hotel, 2005. Photo by Phil Weaver

Of course, Reagan was the great yahoo, but I think the counterculture was too exhausted to confront him, as they had President Johnson. There’s much more to that. Reagan oversaw the great theft of the rich that changed the way America operates. He was a murdering corpse, a kind of Edgar Allan Poe version of Howdy Doody. I remember Burroughs telling me in 1991 that we were looking at a very grim decade. He was always much more aware than most of us of what was really happening.

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Kurt Cobain’s high school drawing of Ronald Reagan

WEAVER: In what ways did Kurt Cobain revitalize the “Beat Punk” ethos?

BOCKRIS: Kurt Cobain’s image revitalized the Beat Punk Ethos:

1. Because his real being suffered as a result of the straight world, and his music and words like “Rape Me” were consequently a universal howl of rage, which captured the attention of teenagers around the world.

Kurt Cobain in 1991. Photo by Charles Peterson.
Kurt Cobain in 1991. Photo by Charles Peterson.

2.  His awareness of Burroughs and desire to collaborate with him were similar to Patti Smith’s homage to Burroughs in 1974. Cobain became the agent of Beat Punk continuity who connected his generation to the Beats. Mind you, there were many other musicians, filmmakers, writers doing the same. By 1995 the U.S. literary establishment recognized the Beats far more widely and positively than ever before. There was a great revival of Kerouac in 1995. All his books are now in print and sell. College reading lists are not complete without at the least Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac. I think it’s pretty much established by now that the Beats began the whole cultural revolution of the late ’50s to early ’80s. Burroughs had his vision of a love generation in 1958.

Kurt Cobain and William S. Burroughs at WSB’s home in Lawrence, Kansas
Kurt Cobain and William S. Burroughs at WSB’s home in Lawrence, Kansas

Each decade seems to have a pivotal celebrity death which becomes a turning point and an international gathering place. I remember John Belushi’s death in 1982 was heard in New York, and around the world, as the shot that announced the beginning of the end of the counterculture.

1975, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA --- Comedian John Belushi, in a bumble bee costume, skates at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink for a skit on Saturday Night Live. --- Image by © Owen Franken/CORBIS
1975, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA — Comedian John Belushi, in a bumble bee costume, skates at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink for a skit on Saturday Night Live. — Image by © Owen Franken/CORBIS

I remember Kurt Cobain’s death a decade later was eerily similar, the difference was that there was no deep audience for it, there was no counterculture to pick it up. So the question is what happens then? When the young civil rights worker Medgar Evers got murdered in the 1960s, his death catalyzed the people to rise up. When Brian Jones was found dead in his badass swimming pool at midnight (a great fantasy) in 1969, it made the Rolling Stones the most pain-stained suffering band, at a time in America (early seventies) when the more pain you were in, the cooler you were.

Brian Jones
Brian Jones

I called Burroughs when Cobain died, and it turned out we were both in the middle of reading a short, recently published mass paperback bio of Kurt, which I still have. Bill chuckled in a Burroughsian manner and said he thought it was pretty good. Bill used to get really upset when certain special people he would meet in relation to his work died. He would recognize them.

Victor Bockris and William S. Burroughs at WSB’s home in Lawrence, Kansas. Photo by James Grauerholz.
Victor Bockris and William S. Burroughs at WSB’s home in Lawrence, Kansas. Photo by James Grauerholz.

Of course Kurt Cobain was a Beat Punk. I knew many people who had stopped following the latest music in 1991-1992, but they all had Nirvana’s first LP. And we all got it; you didn’t have to say anything about it it was totally accepted as part of us.

Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain

So Kurt Cobain broke through the surface with his music and his band, but he also spoke loudly with his songs. I’ll never forget hearing him sing “Rape Me” over and over again in the subway, in the streets, on the radio, in the deli, in the cab, “Rape Meeeeee, Raaape mee!” I thought it was so brave.

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He backed those songs up with his body and his behavior. Cobain was one of those stars (like James Dean) who can almost play their way into your intuition.

James Dean
James Dean

Everything he did was a confrontation with the establishment.

Most rockstars do that from the comfort of protection. You felt Cobain was never protected. He was so drawn, he got to look like he was bleeding on the cross. That’s how far he got. Seems like Jesus Cobain crossed a line… oh Lord, where is this taking me?

cobain
Kurt Cobain

Interject: Could the above description of Cobain be applied too William Burroughs? No. They each had their own trips. Cobain’s life was the most vivid line of connection to the beat punk movement at the time, but people did not make as much as they could out of it. Sid Vicious got a film and endless fucked up books celebrating his stupidity. There is also a beat punk connection between Sid and Kurt. They both received the same out pouring of pain from all those little girls chasing them in their black mini-skirts.

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Ali Wanted To Be…

In Depth Interview with Victor Bockris, Author of ”Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven”

by Tobe Damit

Victor walking around the camp with Ali holding his daughter in his arms, 1973. photo ©Bockris-Schmidlapp.

Foreword by Victor Bockris:

The Ali-Warhol Photo Tapestry shown up above as the ”banner” for this article is 60 x 32 inches and comes in various forms ranging from The Ali-Warhol Boxed Set (on 24 separate canvases) to the popular vertical edition on one large print thirty by six four inches, three images across and eight down. It is a beautiful and historic work executed by the Bockris-Schmidlapp team. Copies still available.

In order to enjoy this interview as I hope you will it helps  to know that I am talking about two slightly different Ali books. The first one called Ali: Fighter Poet Prophet was published in October 1974 on the day after Ali defeated George Foreman and regained his World Heavyweight Champion Crown. It was authored by Bockris-Wylie and contained over sixty splendid photographs by Peter Simon. It was also the last book published by the notorious Maurice Girodias’ Freeway Press. Bockris-Wylie was a writing and interviewing team of myself and my early seventies collaborator Andrew Wylie. Girodias, a great friend of mine, was a legend for publishing in the nineteen fifties some of the best books of our times, from Nabakov’s ”Lolita” to William Burroughs’ ”Naked Lunch”. The second one called Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven” published in 1998 in the U.K. and 2000 in the U.S. by Victor Bockris consists of the original book without the photographs but with a new introduction and final chapter on Andy Warhol’s Ali portrait visit as well as over one hundred stills from Anton Perich’s Ali documentary, parts of which were filmed when Bockris-Wylie was visiting Ali in 1973. To snatch from flames the burning pages of  those days were to twist words into breathing wires in my brain. Let this flog of  memories attend you best. -Victor Bockris

Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie by ©Elsa Dorfman

This interview was done to complete the article ”Beat Muhammad Ali” previously posted in LAN by Tobe Damit.

Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven by Victor Bockris.

LAN: In ”’Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven”, you explain the important role Gerard Malanga played in the birth of the whole project but I want to know why and when you got convinced that Ali was such an important player in the counterculture of the 60’s?

By November of 1972 I had established myself as a poet in Philadelphia by publication of two well reviewed books of poems and a documentary about me on local TV. I had included interviews in both books of poems when I found in them the poetry of human speech. I was now shifting my focus from writing poems to conducting a series of interviews with poets. In fact, in collaboration with Andrew Wylie I was about to embark on a collection of these interviews called ‘The Life of Poetry” . By 1972 poets had become more relevant than ever. We clung to the counterculture as the best thing to come out of the nineteen sixties, but in the early seventies it was constantly being attacked by the Nixon administration and poets were often our most articulate voices. The problem was it was virtually impossible to make money to help finance our work on ”The Life of Poetry” (unpublished) from interviewing poets. One afternoon Wylie and I asked ourselves, “Who is the most famous poet in the world?”  The great British poet W.H. Auden, who was the Professor of Poetry at Oxford University in England, had just died. Some radical British students were suggesting that Muhammad Ali should be voted Oxford’s  new professor of Poetry. When we read in the local newspapers that Ali had playfully replied he would be delighted to accept the position, we instantly knew we should do a big interview with Muhammad Ali the Poet. Since the Supreme Court had reversed the sentence he received in 1967 for refusing to be drafted, Ali had increasingly been marketed as the champion of the  underdogs and anti-war protestors around the world. Furthermore, by becoming a Muslim in the sixties and staging his key fights of the seventies in third world countries he certified his credentials as one of the world’s best known anti-war voices. As far as we were concerned the fact that he used his fame to attract attention to the cause of World Peace made him one of us. I got the phone number of his training camp from a sports writer at a Philadelphia tabloid. It was ninety minutes north of us in Pennsylvania. Andrew was usually better at getting interview appointments than I was, but on his occasion since I had a strong British accent I made the call. Much to my surprise, Ali answered the phone on its second ring and when I asked him if we could do an interview about his poetry he gave us an appointment two days later. When we first met him that November morning at 10 a.m. Ali was stark naked. Was this his response to being asked about his poetry? Was he in fact in the tradition of Allen Ginsberg, who sometimes took  his clothes off during a poetry reading, emphasising how naked his poetry was? I have to ask these questions because I am looking for comparisons between my people. You have to wonder otherwise why write at all? Ali was coming off two victorious fights that year and approaching the top of his post sixties game. He was full of energy, he looked terrific. I think he granted us the interview because talking to young people who liked him kept him alert. He was a masterful talker cum rapper and being asked about his poetry sent him into a great long, funny rap about the origins of his poems.  As an indication of how in tune he was to our expectations, at the end of our first visit to Fighter’s Heaven Ali asked me to be his spokesman to, ”The white longhairs in the colleges”.

Muhammad Ali: A Poet In And Out Of The Ring. Gettyimage

LAN: I use the term ”project” for this book because it feels to me that it gave birth to numerous side projects that all had roots in what you were doing. Could you please elaborate on who was doing what and what were the ending results and concrete repercussions of all those things taking place ”in the side lines”?

Your are right in this perception. Between September 1971 to June 1972 I worked with Andrew Wylie and Aram Saroyan on our proto punk poetry press, Telegraph Books.  We published ten volumes including Patti Smith’s first book ”Seventh Heaven”, the Warhol Superstar Brigid Polk’s book Scars as well as my ”In America”. This work and my subsequent work received a lot of press attention in the Fall of 1972 leading up to the Ali interview. Outstanding amongst these works was an interview I did with Patti Smith and a poem I wrote called 1972”, which consisted of a list of some three hundred names of the counterculture’s favorite stars. It began with the names of the Rolling Stones, who reached their zenith in 1972 with Exile On Main Street”These two pieces, published together at a new friend Jeff Goldberg’s Red Room Books, marked the beginning of a new period. The first Ali interview, which became the base of the book Ali: Fighter Poet Prophet”, was published the same month it was conducted in Phildelphia’s underground weekly, The Drummer.  It too was a transitional piece, taking us beyond poets to interviewing the One Hundred Most Intelligent People. Rock and Roll was central in my work, which has provided something of a bridge between the Sixties and the Seventies, leading up to Punk  Rock/Art. That was another thing that tied Ali in with my favorite subjects: during the early years of the 1960s Andy Warhol, Keith Richards and Muhammad Ali were all written off in the mainstream press as punks! Punk after all dates far back in time, for punk as I understand it describes a person who is fully committed to transforming themselves into who they want to be and equally committed to their calling. Above all they always do the very best they possibly can and never retreat or surrender. In its June 1974 issue Penthouse magazine featured our Ali interview, which made him happy because it was one of the few times when what he actually said was published instead of some phony rewrite by an editor.

The ”other book”: ”Ali: Fighter Poet Prophet” authored by Bockris-Wylie photographs by Peter Simon.

LAN: The Deer Lake training camp obviously represented a lot more to Ali than just a place to train with these huge rocks painted by Cassius Clay Sr, each one of them bearing the name of a great boxer; What was the very first impression YOU got about the camp itself?

Ali’s training camp Fighter’s Heaven has not received the attention it deserves as one of Ali’s greatest achievements. It was his idea. He was tired of paying huge sums of money to house his entourage in hotels and train in other people’s gyms in Miami. Ali decided to build his own camp and he found a good place at the top of a hill leading off Highway 61 in Deer Lake Pennsylvania. When I first got there Ali only had the gym, the kitchen and his log cabin built. The boulders had not arrived yet, but he worked on the place every time he stayed there. It was his drive that got it done.  Between 1972-1973 he surely turned it into a perfect place to get his head, body, spirit and fight together with his team.  Ali treated everybody he employed well, he often gave guys without the money to develop their skills jobs as sparing partners, etc. Ali made it clear to me how much he gained from living there, fresh home-grown vegetables, fresh water, fresh air, endless space to run, great camaraderie among his men. The camp also had an inspiring view across many miles of open country. He had great visions for the camp and every time we visited him he was showing us new stuff. One day he introduced us to Mr Moyer, who was just beginning to deliver the huge boulders on which Ali’s father would paint the names of the greatest champions. Ali got the idea from Archie Moore, who had the same thing in his camp when Cassius Clay trained there in 1962. Ali was exultant about the whole thing. It always felt good to be there. In between 1972-1974, the greatest period the camp ever had, Ali was close with his wife and children I often saw them there.  Everything and everyone was on his spot. Building organizing and running what became his superb camp was the most sustained and successful things he ever did outside the ring. The good vibes and solidarity of Ali’s camp had a lot to do with his victories in Zaire and Manilla. The camp still operates today. He could have made money renting it to fighters, but Ali chose to rent it free to organizations who ran summer camps for poor black kids from the ghettos.

The camp still operates today. He could have made money renting it to fighters, but Ali chose to rent it free to organizations who ran summer camps for poor black kids from the ghettos.

LAN: Obviously this book was never meant to be about boxing per se. It seems that Ali was really proud about his poems and other aspects of his personalities. This must have been very thrilling. Would it be accurate to say that it was really important to Ali that people recognize him to be more than just an athlete at this point in time?

The main thrust of the Ali book was to make this transition in the popular conception of Ali. At this time he had in view defeating Frazier in their second fight and defeating Foreman to win back his crown. Many things interceded before he got there, but Ali made it clear to me in 1973 and 1974 that he soon planned to retire. Then it became retire after the third Frazier fight in Manilla in 1975. Ali had really enjoyed touring the colleges in the late sixties. Travelling was in his blood. He’d been led to believe Elijah Muhammad was going to give him an assignment to travel to mosques around the world. Ali dreamed of travelling around the world giving inspiring lectures seeking peace between East and West. It all made sense. After the Foreman and Frazier fights he would have enough money to support his family for the rest of their lives. It is quite possible he could have played a role in bringing east and west together via his Muslim religion. Unfortunately, none of this would ever happen. Ali’s business manager, one of Elijah Muhammad’s sons, took 50% of his income and the rest of Ali’s money after high taxes was so poorly handled he never had enough and was forced to keep fighting, like a cash cow for his handlers,  until everything was used up. It was one of the most vicious examples of what can happen to a man of Ali’s calibre when he des not have control of his resources, but trusts others to take care of them. This is never a good idea.

Ali applauds during a speech given by Elijah Muhammad at a convention of the Nation of Islam in Chicago

LAN: I think it’s a correct assumption to say that Ali truly revealed his ”real self” to you. What aspect of Ali’s blazing personality was the most striking to you?

I don’t think Ali revealed his true self to me. I mean Ali was complex, holding in himself contradictory motivations which left him supreme in his profession but weak outside of it. He once told one of  his daughters that he had never been able to feel  anything. He had insecurities. I saw none of these things. Remember I had asked for an interview. What he gave me on that first day was eight hours of his time, from talking to riding in his bus to watching one of his fights on video while Ali sat behind me and flicked punches just past my ear. He was playful. He was joyful. Nearing the end of this marathon visit to Fighter’ Heaven he became a little more personal. Over the years I knew him he always recognized me but never knew my name.

‘I’m so mean I make medicine sick’! Muhammad Ali. Photograph by ©Chris Smith/Hulton

LAN: The book contains an outstanding collection of his poetry; Ali read a lot of his raps and poetry to you. I know most people had heard his raps and rants (!) but was it the first time that he was reading complete poems he had written, commenting them and explaining the events and emotions involved. Do you think he was considering becoming a writer one day?

While Andrew and I were interviewing Ali between 1972-1974 our friend Anton Perich was shooting a documentary about Ali, which included the day Ali gave us a real poetry reading. Many years later I was sitting at a table in a nightclub in Copenhagen when I noticed a silent film of a man moving his head and body back and forth in a rocking motion projected slightly larger than life on a wall to my right. Loud disco music was blowing through the room that  seemed so perfectly in time with the man in the film I was thinking they should put this music on the soundtrack of the film when I suddenly realised ”WHATTT!?!” I was looking at Anton’s film of the poetry reading Ali had delivering so hypnotically at us thirty years ago. That image sums up the power of Ali’s delivery. He undoubtedly had a love affair with language but he also communicated with the language of his body.  We have to bear in mind that most of Ali’s poetry was copied from or translated from religious texts. This is no different from Bob Dylan taking songs from the past and making them his own. Ali’s voice was his greatest weapon outside the ring. Asking, “Can Muhammd Ali  write?” is like asking, “Can David Bowie act?” In the verbal department Ali was the most impressive world athlete of all time. Ali mesmerized the world with the language that he used. Millions of Ali’s words in interviews have been published all over the world. His verbal pyrotechnics were not the product of a slow mind. The man was sharp. If he had travelled the world giving speeches those speeches would have turned into books. Can he write? The man had a Great Rap! His gift was in the delivery of the poems and in working them into his raps, his strength was in the performance of the words. He was a great communicator. He could have gone on to be a great orator. Except by the time they were through with him Ali no longer had a voice.

LAN: There is a very interesting chapter about Warhol’s visit to the camp. Warhol seemed a bit ambivalent towards the champ even if Andy still managed to produce Ali’s favorite portrait, it seems there was sort of some ”disconfort” in the air when they actually met for the shooting. What would be your take on it?

Warhol taking photos of Ali. Thursday, August 18, 1977 Photo by ©Victor Bockris.

Andy Warhol’s visit to Fighter’s Heaven came three years after publication of ”Ali: Fighter Poet Prophet”. He had read the book and took me along as a buffer. I had also just published a profile of him which asked the question, ”Who Does Andy Warhol Remind You of Most? Answer: Muhammad Ali.” From the introductions onwards I was struck by how rude Ali was to Warhol. I’d never seen him behave like that. At the same time as we walked over to the gym to take the pictures he annealed himself to my side and talked nonstop. Ali acted this way because he knew Andy was gay. After he finished taking the pictures and got a perfect pose it seemed as if Andy had cracked the ice with Muhammad, who invited us on a tour of the camp. This delusion came crashing down when we got to his cabin and, after reading us a new poem he had written on the Concorde the previous night, Ali pulled a thick stack of index cards out of a big briefcase and proceeded for more than thirty minute to harangue Warhol about the gay influence on the nation. Suddenly I was astonished to see Muhammad abruptly break down in confusion saying he did not know what was happening but he could not talk anymore. When Andy told me afterwards he was so glad Ali kept staring into his eyes, I realised he had delivered the Warhol coup de grace, in which Andy would slice people up with his eyes, instantly discombobulating and dismissing them. Believe me I’ve been on the receiving end of it  and it is extraordinarily effective. On that occasion, Andy Warhol was much stronger than Muhammad Ali.

Warhol, Ali and his daughter Hana by ©Victor Bockris,1977 

LAN: Do you know what were Ali’s feelings towards ”The Greatest”?

 One day Ali started complaining about how his publishers were treating the book. “Look at this,” he said handing me a  cheap xerox  invitation to its launch. The book might have given Ali an opportunity to sing his story, but his manager hired a well-known Black Muslim propagandist to write the book and it was not accurate. The way his managers marginalized or ignored Ali should have sent shock bells of warning ringing in his ears, but Ali’s fixation on his mission did not allow him to doubt his people. It was a dilemma he never overcame until his fourth wife, Lonnie Ali, took over his finances. So far as I know he never read the book, which is a sad conclusion to his only book contract. Thus is a boxer neutralized and boxed in. His lack of control over his book would soon become a lack of control over his life. You could say Ali got much more from the Muslims than they took from him. Elijah helped to transform Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali which led to Ali becoming the most famous man in the world. He was also a strong father figure Ali really needed. But the Black Muslim’s did not just take the majority of his money they took way his voice not just once but twice. The first time was in his autobiography. Then by forcing him to fight  his last five years of brutal fights (1976-1981) they took it away again. By the time they were through with him Ali  was no longer able to give any speeches. Was this like some kind of mafia torture where they maximize the suffering? Ali won’t say a bad word against them, but people said he was frightened of the Muslims from the beginning. They destroyed and killed people with seeming immunity. No one was ever caught for killing Malcolm X in broad daylight. The bottom line was just like any crook they got the money, but they also neutralized the Champ. It’s a dark road between Ali and the Black Muslims. After Elijah’s death in 1975 Ali slowly changed his affiliation to the regular Muslims. I don’t want to go there because more than anything Ali was a huge Beacon of Light in a darkening world. When he came into it he was happy along with the Kennedy’s Best and Brightest men.  Then as the evil came out of the land and started shooting down those other beacons so did the evil come to Ali. That he overcame that evil again and again, even prevailing over the broken years of the mid 1980s is his greatest achievement. It took a great man to rise above all the corruption, theft, greed and murder, but he did. That is why he remains to this day that bright Beacon of Light. Now Ali’s light will never go out because it has become a star. Those of us who look up at it from all over the world see different things. For me Ali will always stand for his artistic integrity as a very strong voice for world peace. That’s what he wanted his message to be. He wanted to be seen as a man of peace.  That is what his message was. So let it go forth.

”The book might have given Ali an opportunity to sing his story, but his manager hired a well-known Black Muslim propagandist to write the book and it was not accurate.”

LAN: When Ali got your book, ”Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven” do you feel he genuinely loved the book and that it played an important part compared to all the book that have been written about the champ? If so, what makes it so special to him and/or to the public in general?

I first showed the book to Ali in the Spring of 1975 while we were walking down Central Park South in New York followed by a crowd of a hundred or more people. Bedlam surrounded him as he walked to a restaurant to have dinner. Cops shouted from horses, “Ali! Ali!” Cabs came to screeching halts, people yelled out of car windows, kids ran amongst our feet as he paged through the mass paperback book complaining about the clarity of the pictures on its cheap paper. He was also pissed because he had planned to use the photo he had given us which we used on the cover somewhere else! It was partially in humor. We had left a box of two hundred copies of the book in his suite at the Essex House hotel. We never told him that, just as the advance copies were starting to sell like hotcakes, the printer shredded the entire edition of 50,000 copies of the book because our publisher had not paid his bill. I always wondered what happened to those two hundred copies we gave Ali. Then in 1996 I got a copy of a book of Ali’s favorite photographs of himself called Muhammad Ali in Perspective by Thomas Hauser. It included a Howard Bingham photo of Muhammad holding the book up and reading it at a table sitting next to Lonnie. Both of them wear expressions of supreme satisfaction. I had never seen a photograph of Ali reading a book other than the Koran. Anyway I continued working on Ali projects like The ALI-WARHOL PHOTO TAPESTRY by Bockris-Schmidlapp (See top of the page). Then in 2000 my book ”Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven” was published in the U.S. and I sent Lonnie and Muhammad  copies. They thanked me. Then In 2009 Lonnie sent me a letter saying that she was reading the book to Muhammad when he went to bed at night. It reminded him of a time in which he almost broke free from his violent profession to become the man of peace he wanted to be so now the book brought peace to him. What more perfect image can we end on? 

Ali riding his horse in Deer Lake ”fighter’s Heaven” training camp by ©Anton Perich

LAN: Indeed!! Thank you so much for your time but most of all in this precise case, I’d say thank you for letting the whole world know that Ali was much more than just one of the greatest boxer in the world. Looking back, how do you feel about having accomplished that??

I always loved the Ali book. It was my first book of prose and I loved everything about it. It was beautifully designed, it contained the only collection of Ali’s poetry. It as alive with his voice. I knew it was good, we also received a positive quote from George Plimpton we used on the cover and postcards praising the book from our friends Ted Berrigan and Eartha Kitt. By the time it was published in 2000 I had a better perspective of the book as part of my  Collected Works in fourteen volumes. Back in 1979 Andy Warhol wrote, “Victor Bockris only writes about three people, Muhammad Ali, William Burroughs and me.”  It is the relationship  between these names I see as my accomplishment. My achievement is that I was able, without planning, to write a connected series of books about outstanding artists of our times who shared in common an ability to communicate attitudes and  take actions which combined to play a large role in creating an enlightened counterculture in this country and around the world. And that counterculture, based on its international population’s efforts to stop the war in Vietnam and its lasting influences on our lives today, should in turn be recognized as one of America’s greatest achievements. 

Muhammad Ali by Andy Warhol
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The Mystery Blogger Award

Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto Enigma. She describes it as an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blogs captivate; inspires and motivates. They are the best and deserve the recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging and they do it with so much passion.

As with all awards, the Mystery Blogger Award comes with some rules that should be listed on your Mystery Award post but of ocurse, no one is obligated to accept and act on the award.

  1. Post the award logo/image on your blog.
  2. Thank whoever nominated you and give a link to their blog.                                      Thank you so much, Robert Goldstein !!!
  3. Mention the creator of the award and give a link as well.

Tell your readers 3 things about yourself:

1-I don’t like drinking alcohol  2-I was a very lonely child  3-I met Nina Hagen in person as we were both drinking at the Tunnel’s bar in New York in the 80’S.

Nominate 10 – 20 deserving bloggers and notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.

  1. Heavy Cloud
  2. Chrissy
  3. Victor Rangner
  4. Janet
  5. Rossy
  6. Doru
  7. Hobo Hippie
  8. joliesattic
  9. Alphastare
  10. Jennifer Paetsch
  11. Antonio Westley
  12. The Evilcyclist  
  13. David Bowie Is
  14. J.Gi Federizo 

Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; including one weird or funny question:
1-If you could meet with anyone in person dead or alive who would it be? 2-If you cloud instantly be gifted for something or have  a special power what would it be?   3-What is your favorite book? 4-What has been your favorite decade and why? 5-Do you have a sex fetish (don’t lie!) and which one is it?
                       

  1. Share links to your best posts:                                                                                           Warhol’s Bio/Recent Movie Deal/Interview with Victor Bockris and The Dark Angels of Altamont/Gothic Requiem for the Flower Power

Henriette Valium

ICTUS LUMEX IDATUS BORGIA

Click!

Henriette Valium is a comic book artist and painter based in Montreal, Quebec. Born Patrick Henley, ever since his beginnings in the early 1980s, his provocative and hallucinogenic style has kept him well away from the mainstream comic book industry. 

Valium is for sure one of the greatest cartoonist of all time. For the last three decades his creations have been widely dispersed in numerous underground anthologies, fanzines, self-published oversized silkscreen comics, and various mixed-media collaborations. He’s become a regular in almost every independent zine, compilation and catalogue in North America and Europe. The heavy black lines and manic detailing of Valium’s psychotic storylines demand attention, weeding out any casual readers.

In his extremely peculiar way, Valium explores the rotting decay of an urban environment that he obsessively renders and depicts in horrific, sometimes nonsensical way. He’s hilariously fascinated as well with every possible corruptions of the human body and it’s mind: sickness, addictions, abnormal sexuality and social decay, exposing our culture’s fears and hypocrisies with an acute, caustic, sharp and absurd sense of humor. Many say that his books are more about creating an experience than reading a comic book. I say there’s nothing wrong about being both.

Collage by Valium©

Valium has been exposed all around the world for his works of art and collage. Google him. This is just a very tiny part of his work. Enjoy the roller coaster ride!

©Henriette Valium’s Lâcher de ChienS
©Henriette Valium’s Lâcher de ChienS
©Henriette Valium’s Lâcher de ChienS from Descant 164. Comics ar art?? Manu Ter in Facia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front and Back from Valium’s ”Coeur de Maman” (Mother’s Heart”)©

All images above by ©Henriette Valium.
The Palace of Champions (2016)
VALIUM® A brand of diazepam used as a tranquillizer given to people to calm their nerves when they are very depressed or upset.
The Real Stuff! Valium by ©Johnny Faucher

Beat Muhammad Ali

Afterthoughts on Bockris’ ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven”

by Tobe Damit

I was reading ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven’, one of a mutlivolumesque serie of very thorough biographies written by Victor Bockris, treating of everything that has to do with some specific thinkers and doers that were behind the 60’s counterculture and social revolution. Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven” was published the day after his victory over Foreman in 1974 and it was Ali’s favorite book about himself (and mine too!). If you check out the author’s bibliography you will find some of the most iconic figures of that revolution: All of which can be related in one way or another to Beat Punks. I’ve already reviewed in-depth his remarkable biographies about Andy Warhol and Lou Reed . By the way, I intend to review all of Bockris’ biographies in the near future here on LAN.

So, in the blue corner, you have all these writers, painters and musicians and then, in the red corner, there is a real boxer, an athlete so good that he left for sure a permanent mark in the boxing world. And you may ask yourselves ”How did he get there? How does Ali fit in with all these people who triggered a revolution in the 60’s?” Let me just say for starters that they all, in their own ways, shed some blood, sweat and tears. Muhammad Ali was much more than an athlete or an inspiring success story. Most people remember him from the early days of his celebrity for being a loud mouth. He sure was one. For each and every opponent he fought he would ”bust some rhymes”, taunting his opponents, predicting in how many they would go down, making fun of them any which way he could as well as giving names and meanings to his fights like Thrilla in Manila, (Ali-Frazier III in Manila, Philippines, October 1, 1975) and Rumble in the Jungle (Ali-Foreman in  Kinshasa, Zaire, October 30, 1974) that led to a documentary called ”When We Were Kings”.

Ali remembers the origins of his poetry: ”It was ’62, when I fought Archie Moore. Moore rhymed with four, so the publicity for that fight was:
Moore will
hit the floor
in round four

Then I fought Henry Cooper, I said:
This is no jive
Cooper will
leave in five

*This is a quote from Ali in Bockris’ ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven”.

Doesn’t that sound like rap to you?? It sure does to me. The very roots of rap were precisely a verbal fight between 2 opponents and organized as such in official contests and in my mind, those verbal assaults were the very first rap rhymes ever made. Some might deny him that but he did write poems. Now Ali also was a success story and a very good story-teller, you can’t deny him that. The very first ”big book” I read was Muhammad Ali very own striking autobiography ”The Greatest” that was later put into a mediocre movie in which Ali played his own character (of course!). Doesn’t it sound a lot like ”8 Mile’ to you?? (except for the fact 8 Mile is a good movie and Eminem a good actor). The irony is that ”The Greatest” was a fake bio written by a back muslim propagandist. Ali never read it and did not like it.  Bockris’ book about the champ was Ali’s favorite book. Victor gave it to him in 1975 and Ali had himself photographed with the book in the 1990s. His wife told me she was still reading the book to him in 2009! Because it is the most accurate account of his inner life and what he planned to do after he retired from boxing in 1975. The horror of the fights he was forced to fight from 1976-1981 made it especially appealing to the peace loving champion.

But first and foremost, Ali was an actor in his own life. He was an artist as a boxer, as a promoter, as a poet, as a spiritual figure, as a counterculture thinker, as a civil right champion, as a family man, as a life coach. Furthermore as you read Victor Bockris’ ”Muhammad Ali In Fighters Heaven” you are told that they were rocks painted by Ali’s father, Cassius Clay Sr., and transported by a guy named Harvey Moyer, huge rocks on the grounds of his training camp on which were painted the names of great adversaries, each of them representing a milestone in Ali’s life, installations that should be considered as conceptual art to be on the technical side of this but his skills were in every detail. These rocks meant a lot to Ali. What made Ali so inspiring is not so much what he did as how he did it and who he was, because who he was always transpired in the way he did things. Reading through ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven’‘,  you can very well imagine how everyone around him; his family, his supporters, trainers, organisers, doctors, lawyers, etc. were all devoted and loyal to him because they loved him as a person. He was running things with love and discipline, using one or the other along the way as required by the circumstances. Always true to himself and his beliefs, as a man, as a father, as a colored man and as a muslim.

One of the milestones on the training camp grounds. This one dedicated to Sonny Liston (obviously). This was taken during his training for the ”Rumble in the Jungle” fight.

Ali saw in his birth name Cassius Clay the mark of the slavery that was a burden to his colored brothers and that is the reason that he changed his name and his faith.

Muhammad Ali Remembered, by Those Who Knew Him as Cassius – The New York Times

On April 28, 1967, with the United States at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” This guy did what many thousands people promoting peace never even dared to do. This ”Black Muslim guy”, who was mistreated for as long as he can remember in his own country precisely because of the fact that he was black, said to the face of his recruiting officer that he had no intentions whatsoever to go kill another human being at the other end of the world, whom he had never met and further more who had never caused him any harm. Now it may not seem such an act of bravery but don’t forget that this young fellow still officially and originally named Cassius Clay, born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, this Muslim Black Boxer who at age 18, won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and turned professional later that year, was arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges, and stripped of his boxing titles.

He successfully appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971, by which time he had not fought for nearly four years and thereby lost a period of peak performance as a boxing athlete. Ali’s actions as a conscientious objector to the war had made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation but he definitely paid a very steep price. Those years were lost forever for him and for all of the world to see him boxing at his best even if he is still considered by many to be ”The Greatest”.

Andy Warhol-Muhammad Ali at Fighter’s Heaven, 1978©Photo by Victor Bockris

Of course the ultimate integration as a counterculture figure was Ali’s placid but unmovable resistance to go fight the Viet Nam war. And the unveiled interest Andy Warhol had towards him just confirmed the fact that Ali had become one of the greatest leading spirits of the 60’s and the 70’s.  The encounter of Andy Warhol to Ali’s training camp is detailed in Bockris’  ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven”. A man who’s dazzling virtuosity within the prize ring was matched only by his articulate and outrageous showmanship and integrity outside it.

I can see no better ending than to leave you with a poem written by Ali himself. This one of three poems that were exclusively published in ”Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven” for the first time… This one is a poem about…

FREEDOM

Better far from all I see
To die fighting to be free
What more fitting end could be?

Better surely than in some bed
Where in broken health I’m led
Lingering until I’m dead

Better than with prayers and pleas
Or in the clutch of some disease
Wasting slowly by degrees
Better than of heart attack
Or some dose of drug I lack
Let me die by being Black

Better far that I should go
Standing here against the foe
Is the sweeter death to know
Better than the bloody stain
On some highway where I’m lain
Torn by flying glass and pain

Better calling death to come
Than to die another dumb
Muted victim in the slum

Better than of this prison rot
If there’s any choice I’ve got
Kill me here on the spot

Better far my fight to wage
Now while my blood boils with rage
Lest it cool with ancient age

Better vowing for us to die
Than to Uncle Tom and try
Making peace just to live a lie

Better now that I say my sooth
I’m gonna die demanding truth
While I’m still akin to youth

Better now than later on
Now that fear of death is gone
Never mind another dawn.

– by Muhammad Ali (January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016). ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven” contains an outstanding collection of his poetry, along with his commentary on how he wrote the poems.

”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven” also contains a complete utterly interesting chapter detailling the historic encounter that took place when Warhol went to Ali’s training camp to take pictures of the champ. Here’s a glimpse…

Andy Warhol was far from the only artist to depict Ali in his art, though Ali himself said Warhol’s piece was “by far the best painting I have ever had of myself.” The painting, he felt, successfully conveyed his “many moods.” In preparation for these prints, Warhol traveled to Deer Lake Pennsylvania where Ali was training for a match with Ernie Shavers. It was at the training camp that Ali and Warhol met, and where Warhol took the photographs that would eventually become Ali’s portrait. Initially, Warhol seemed unafraid of the larger-than-life boxer. After being teased about the excessive price the pictures would be sold for, Warhol asked “Could we, uh, do some, uh, pictures where you’re not, uh, talking?” According to Bockris is “Nobody had ever told the champ to shut his famous mouth in quite such a not-to-be-trifled with way.” By the end of the shoot, however, Ali managed to unnerve the artist. When Warhol was finished taking photos he reached to shake Ali’s hand and mumbled, “Thanks er, champ.” The boxer spun around and furiously demanded, “Did you say tramp?” Ali laughed, but not before Warhol lost his cool in a brief moment of panic. *Direct quote from the chapter recounting Warhol’s visit to the camp in Bockris’ ”Muhammad Ali In Fighter’s Heaven”. 

This post is dedicated to Ali’s children: Laila Ali, Maryum Ali, Rasheda Ali, Asaad Amin, Hana Ali, Khaliah Ali, Jamillah Ali, Mya Ali, Muhammad Ali Jr. It is dedicated as well to all the children victims of crimes against humanity or civil rights violation. 

Read interview with the author here

All rights reserved tobedamit.com 2017

Transformer/Interview with Victor Bockris

by Tobe Damit
by Tobe Damit

After I posted a very extensive review of Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story (2014 updated edition) here in Loud Alien Noize under the title ”The Beauty of the Beast”. I felt the need to ask the author, the well known punk-era writer,   Victor Bockris about certain aspects of the biography and his relationship with Lou. He was kind enough to answer them, for your pleasure as well as mine.

LAN: This is a really in-depth biography, I have read several of your books and never before have you gone so deep into someone’s psyche. What is it about Lou Reed?

Victor Bockris: Transformer is the result of a close friendship with Lou between 1974-1979. This is from Rock’n’Roll Animal to The Bells. A solo workaholic rock star such as Lou is by definition a lonely guy. When I started hanging out with him he was living with a long time girlfriend he had known since 1966 at the Factory. Barbara Hodes had gone to Long Island and helped pull him out of his post Velvet’ slump, also offering him a nest in Manhattan. The first night Andrew Wylie and I went out drinking with Lou in fall 1974 the three of us were sitting around a table drinking when he suddenly said, “I haven’t felt this happy in years!” I was stunned. The point is Lou was looking for people he could really talk to. He wanted to emote about his life. No bullshit. We were the same way. And once Lou got a friend he wanted that friend to be available to him at any time. We called ourselves Bockris-Wylie. The first thing Lou did was break us up. Then he developed separate relations with both of us. All my time with Lou was spent in his apartment or mine talking about his problems or mine. He gave me much good advice I rely on to this day. Lou opened his psyche to me and that is why I could write about him so accurately. He once gave me a piece of paper on which he had written “From Lou#3 to Lou#8 ‘Hi!’” Writing from a psychological angle was the only way to start a biography of Lou Reed.

Lou Reed and Barbara Hodes at The Bottom Line, NYC. February 12, 1974. © Bob Gruen
Lou Reed & Barbara Hodes,The Bottom Line,NYC,1974©Bob Gruen

LAN:How would you describe the first impression you got from Loud Reed the first time you saw him in person?  

Victor Bockris: I first met Lou in 1974 shortly after interviewing William Burroughs, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali. I did not know that much about him so Bockris-Wylie met him on equal grounds, which probably helped. He was so lovely sweet kind and funny we got into a really cool conversation. I started telling him looked he looked like Frank Sinatra ands he came right back about Sinatra laying down Heroin at the Sands with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. Then right in front of my eyes Lou transformed into the young Frank. It was so startling I glimpsed something dark in him. I almost fainted and ran to the bathroom trying not to throw up. The whole thing was so connected by the end of the interview he invited us to have dinner with him. Mick Jagger had called in the middle of it and we were committed to sending him a re-edited transcript the following day. So we had to decline. Later in the week we went out for that drink in Answer #1.

photo of Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie by Elsa Dorfman
Photo of Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie by© Elsa Dorfman

LAN: During the years you were the closest to him, What would you say his state of mind was and what seemed to be his main concerns?

Victor Bockris: Lou’s state of mind changed a lot during the five years I knew him. When he started living with Rachel he felt a lot more secure and protected, but he was suing his manager and most of his royalties were in escrow. For a man with an international rep touring the world he was quite poor. Of course Metal Machine Music had blown a hole in his fan base and pissed off a lot of people, but one of Lou’s greatest strengths was his courage to do it ”His Way”. There was also a truly perverse side to Lou that was his greatest weakness and his greatest strength. His greatest concern was making music that rocked but also dug deep into his psyche, like Kill Your Sons. It was amazingly moving to see Lou Reed on stage in those days singing into a storm of abuse – “It’s your life cocksucker Lou REEED ain’t no kind of human being!” – the poor bastard – but the Glory of Love now might just see you through. He was as great as Rimbaud. That was Lou. He was so beautiful he could make you cry.

LAN: At what point did you feel the need to write his biography? How did it happen?

Victor Bockris: In the summer of 1982 Andrew Wylie suggested I write a biography of Andy Warhol, saying he could get me an advance of $100,000. There was a limitation on who I could write about because I had to have spent some time with my subject. From thereon we came up with Keith Richards. In 1992 after I completed the Richards biography Lou Reed was the only big international star I knew well enough to write about. In each case Andrew got me the $100,000 advance. By the time we signed the Lou Reed contract in 1992 my books were being published in six to twelve countries, so were able to sell foreign rights to the Reed book before it was finished.

LAN: Did Lou knew you were writing his bio?

Victor Bockris: He did. In fact I heard that Keith Richards visited Lou shortly after we informed Lou I was going to write his biography. According to a witness Lou cried “I’m next – why me?” And they both cracked up. Lou had always complimented me on magazine articles I’d written about him. I also heard he appreciated my book Uptight: The Velvet Underground Story. The odd thing is that Lou could never have had the career he had without the vast number of highly appreciative well written articles about him from 1972 until his death in 2013, yet he always said he despised rock writers. Actually he befriended number of them across those forty years. I suppose if you are a star you can’t go round saying great book about me. It would not be cool.

Lou Reed, Denmark, May 16th, 1974 Credit: Jorgen/Angel/Redferns/Getty
Lou Reed Live,Denmark,May 16th,1974©Jorgen/Angel/Redferns/Getty

LAN: What was the first time and circumstances you saw him performing on stage? 

Victor Bockris: At the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden in 1974. It seats around 4,000 and it was packed. As I indicated in Question 3 in those early years Lou’s concerts were like shock rallies lit by Andy Warhol’s suggestion Lou used the bright white light Albert Speer employed for Hitler’s rallies at Nuremberg. Lou Reed’s hardcore audiences had a love-hate relationship with him on stage, which perfectly reflected his persona and lyrics. As a punk rocker Lou’s art was based on contradictions. Everywhere he went he was offering himself as a conduit for the confused emotions of outsiders. He was their priest.

9 October 1974 at the Felt Forum, New York City
Lou Reed Live at the Felt Forum, NYC, October 1974.

LAN: You set up quite a few meetings between artists and you arranged for Lou Reed to meet up with Burroughs, I bet you were very nervous about it. Where you personally satisfied with the outcome? 

Victor Bockris: The 29 minute conversation between Burroughs and Reed I tape-recorded in August 1979 was one of the best pieces I have ever done. We arrived over an hour late, but when we got there we found William having cocktails with four friends. After going round the table putting everybody down, Lou asked Bill questions like did you have to sleep with your publisher to get your books published and did you cut off your toe to avoid the draft? Bill’s guest froze in horror, but he thought Lou was funny and hip. When Lou said, “We who play cannot stay,” Bill did something I‘d never seen him do before, he walked Lou down the stairs and out into the street. When Lou asked Bill, “Can we get together for a quiet dinner?” Bill agreed. However when I said “We should do that,” Lou replied, “What’s this we? I just wanted to get together with Mr. Burroughs.”
When I got back upstairs into the Bunker and tested my tape all I could hear was a buzzing noise like an out take from Metal Machine Music, under which was the faint rumble of voices. I immediately sat down and wrote the whole thing out verbatim from memory. Like I said, it was a memorable experience.

Lou proudly exhibiting Burroughs' Naked Lunch
Lou proudly exhibiting Burroughs’ Naked Lunch

LAN: I feel that this is the best biography you have ever written. How do you personally feel about Transformer??

Victor Bockris: ”Transformer: The Lou Reed Story” was the third in a trilogy of biographies written one after the other with but a few weeks break between them. I did feel Transformer benefited from my experiences writing the Warhol and Richards books. It was also more of a story and had a good sense of humor running through it. I had a more emotionally close relationship with Lou than the others. So yes, it is in some sense the best written. But the Warhol biography is a better book because it deals with a much more significant figure. Of course I updated the Lou Reed book in 2014 with Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story. So far it remains the most accurate and in-depth account of Lou’s life. I cannot imagine how anybody could beat it.

LAN: If you could say one last thing to Lou right now, What would it be?

Victor Bockris: His death awoke me from the dream of life. His relationship with Laurie Anderson brought out the best in him. And his last album Lulu may well be the best thing he ever did. It was also hugely successful reaching 36 on the Billboard charts and selling over 100,000 copies in it’s first weeks of release in Europe, going into the top ten in seven nations. I was amazed by the number of critics who said it was a disaster, just like the critics had called Berlin a disaster in 1973. WAKE THE FUCK UP!

Lou Reed & Metallica
Lou Reed & Metallica

LAN: What are you up to now? Should we be expecting a new book in a near future?

Victor Bockris: So far this year my agent Helen Donlon has sold ”The Burroughs-Warhol Connection” in Korea and ”Warhol: The Biography” in Russia, both new countries for my books. We also have the film about Andy Warhol starring Jared Leto based on my book to look forward to. Meanwhile I am obsessed with finishing a memoir about my life as a writer. My lips are zipped on that one.

LAN: Thank you so much! I really appreciate that you made time for this interview! It’s always so interesting to know a little more about the circumstances and facts surrounding the writing of a book. It’s always delightful to hear your stories! I cannot wait to hear about your memoir! Hopefully I will finally be able to read more about your life as a writer! This should be totally and utterly entertaining!!

Victor Bockris: THANK YOU TOBE FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY TO REVISIT LOU REED, WHO IS STILL AMONG THE TOP FIVE ARTIST IN MY MIND. IT WILL ALWAYS GIVE ME IMMENSE PLEASURE TO LISTEN TO HIM SING. I wish somebody would take the time to look into Lou’s oft repeated claim that each of his albums was a chapter of his great electric novel. Oh yeah, the ace photographer Bob Gruen used to live above an apartment occupied solely by Lou Reed’s guitars and the man whose job it was to tune them. Bob said the sound of a hundred guitars being tuned never stopped, and sometimes they throbbed with such intensity the floor of his pad would shake and tremble.

Victor Bockris in his room at the Chelsea Hotel, 2004 Photo© Keith Green
Victor Bockris in his room at the Chelsea Hotel, 2004 Photo© Keith Green
All rights tobedamit.com 2016
All rights reserved tobedamit.com 2017

Spiffy Custom Honda Ruckus

Ruk Studios NYC

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You could have your Honda Ruckus Honda Scooter custom made just for you. The Ruk Studio NYC team will put their craftmanship to your service and customize Honda Ruckus that are usually available to the public looking like this: 16523935_10208483086820449_408696783_o

And make it look like this:

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With a GY6 engine (1 gal =149 mi) and custom made tanks that will last twice the distance!  Tijuan Aikens wants to make this little babies customized and sold on the same spot right here in NYC! For starters, 6 models will be built, 2 of them will be customized by artist Eli Rivers and presented during the American television series BLACK INK CREW.

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Click on image for more models

Visit their website and help RUK STUDIOS NYC  build your dreambike! This obviously already has become a trend, so next summer, if you want a custom one built and sold in NYC, they can be yours for prices going from 800 to 1400$ US! RUK STUDIOS NYC needs your help to start rollin’ so go have a look at their gofundme page  for a nice kick off start!

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Questions?: go to RUK-Studios NYC

https://www.gofundme.com/NYC-RUK-STUDIOS

Vivian Maier

Streetwise ”Mary Poppins” Never Missed a Shot!

maier2

by Tobe Damit

Vivian Maier never displayed publicly any of her pictures while she was alive but left behind a very impressive collection of photographs. She was never published and many of her negatives were never even printed while she was alive. Impressive in quantity for sure, but also in terms of quality. Vivian Maier’s photos have this ethereal but also very human quality to it,  a sense of tragedy, a sense of humanity, an eye for the details, the framing and a perfect timing, all this coupled with a dark and bizarre edge.

An American of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before coming back to New York City in 1951. Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others. Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings.

Vivian Maier was a very secretive, mysterious person and if John Maloof wouldn’t have gambled 400$ at an auction, buying a full box of negatives without even looking at them first, nobody would have gotten the chance to see the amazing pictures that gained this unconditional sympathy Vivian seems to be getting from a constantly growing number of admirers. Trusting his gut instinct about this woman who had now passed away, leaving behind her a huge trail of clues (she was a pack rat!) that would be very helpful for anyone who would try to know as much as you can possibly know about a person who is now deceased, Maloof proceeded to not only connect the dots about her life but also, and maybe more importantly, to have her works revealed to the public. With the help of a few people, he started to devote his life to this arduous and challenging task: put the name Vivian Maier in history books. This article is my way of helping him to do exactly that because I truly think that’s where her name belongs. I want her to have the posthumous love and recognition she never had during her life.

Now there is a documentary about her written and directed by
John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, books and numerous exhibitions and events occuring all around the world as we speak but much of the art world establishment still hasn’t accepted Vivian Maier’ work. She didn’t defend herself as an artist, she just did the work and it’s so good that it’s winning over people who were dismissive of it previously and fortunately people aren’t waiting for that kind of validation anyway. They don’t care and they are already claiming Vivian’s work for themselves and her work can now be seen around the world. 

‘Nuf said, here are a few pictures I chose, a very small part of the very legacy Vivian Maier left behind for us.  You can also watch for free the documentary called ”Finding Vivian Maier” that reveals the incredible story of this mysterious nanny, who loved taking pictures.  But let’s have a look at the pictures first.

September 24, 1959, New York, NY
September 24, 1959, New York, NY
August 16, 1956, Chicago, IL
August 16, 1956, Chicago, IL
Emmett Kelly as the clown figure "Weary Willie", Undated
Emmett Kelly as the clown figure “Weary Willie”, Undated
March 1954. New York, NY
March 1954. New York, NY
August 12, 1954, New York, NY
August 12, 1954, New York, NY
Undated, Canada
Undated, Canada
1959, Grenoble, France
1959, Grenoble, France
Christmas Eve 1953, East 78th Street & 3rd Avenue, New York, NY
Christmas Eve 1953, East 78th Street & 3rd Avenue, New York, NY
1961
June 25, 1961
Undated
Undated
May 5, 1955. New York, NY
May 5, 1955. New York, NY
Armenian woman fighting on East 86th Street, September, 1956, New York, NY
Armenian woman fighting on East 86th Street, September, 1956, New York, NY
Undated, New York, NY
Undated, New York, NY
April 19, 1971. Chicago, IL
April 19, 1971. Chicago, IL
May 1953, New York, NY
May 1953, New York, NY
January, 1953, New York, NY
January, 1953, New York, NY
Audrey Hepburn at the Chicago premiere of "My Fair Lady" at the RKO Palace Theater. October 23, 1964
Audrey Hepburn at Chicago premiere of “My Fair Lady”, RKO Palace Theater. October 23, 1964
August 22, 1956. Chicago, IL
August 22, 1956. Chicago, IL
December 2, 1954, New York, NY
December 2, 1954, New York, NY
May 16, 1957. Chicago, IL
May 16, 1957. Chicago, IL
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER - 2014 FILM STILL - Woman at the NY Public Library still - Photo Credit: Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection
Woman at NY Public Library
January 9, 1957, Florida
January 9, 1957, Florida

All photos credits Vivian Maier/ John Maloof Collection

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Click and Watch”Finding Vivian Maier”