|October 31, 2009 | Found Images
This is a picture by the Canadian photographer Jeff Wall that I saw at the Art Institute Of Chicago the other day. At first it looks like a New Orleans scene, but it’s not ; note the starfish and coral in the grave. Wall is also known for his record covers for Sonic Youth and Iggy Pop.
Phil Alvin of The Blasters talks about how record companies are actually furniture companies. Very entertaining. File under ” sad but true ” .
The Blasters : ” American Music “
This is from Retro Thing.
Unbelievably, the Vulcan Cylinder Record Company still manufactures phonograph cylinders. Their modern process incorporates a molded resin cylinder that is considerably more robust than historical recordings. Each is hand crafted in Sheffield, England and their catalog is available by mail order. They can even make custom cylinders from your recordings, if such a thing tickles your fancy.
Prices start at £13, with hits like The Charleston Fox Trot and Everything is Hotsy Totsy Now priced at £15 each. Incidentally, one of the main reasons cylinders fell by the wayside was that they were challenging to duplicate in large quantities. A standard record can be duplicated using a stamping process, but you’d be lucky to get 100 copies from a master cylinder before the artist had to re-record it.
The photo features Thomas Edison ( circa 1878 ) with an early phonograph that recorded on tin foil. The glass plate negative is part of the Library of Congress collection, and the high resolution scan underscores the simplicity of the era – the base and fittings of the machine are well worn from constant use, and the foil appears to be partially recorded. As for 31-year-old Mr. Edison, the grime under his fingernails reveals that he spent the vast majority of his time squirreled away in his machine shop.
You should be working on your Halloween costume now. If you’re having trouble thinking of something, here are some ideas from my copy of Dennison’s Bogie Book, 14th edition, 1926.
Here’s some early New Orleans hip hop – although this one gets lumped in with the classic bounce tracks ( such as on the Real New Orleans Bounce Compilation ), it is not itself bounce. As with most of the MCs from these early, underground recordings, very little is known about Warren Mayes. He left behind a bunch of stuff, much of it on cassette, but he never again achieved the profile he did with this song, and he was murdered in 2000. The strange thing about this record is that there are two versions of ” Get It Girl ” – the first is the familiar one, the one that I still sometimes hear booming out of cars, and then there’s the second version, which is the same backing track with a completely different, unknown rapper. Same lyrics and everything, same flow, and nothing on the record label about who or why.
Warren Mayes : ” Get It Girl ” Version one
Warren Mayes : ” Get It Girl ” Version two
Tank were a punky, Motörhead-style 3-piece NWOBHM band that was formed by Algy Ward, who had been the bass player in The Damned. I bought this record when it came out way back in 1982, not because I was hip to metal yet, but because The Damned’s ” Machine Gun Etiquette “, which Ward played on, was one of my favorite albums. Still is, really. Anyway, this song’s a great one.
Tank : ” Turn Your Head Around ”
This story is by Luc Sante, and is taken from his blog.
I quit smoking ten years ago, but before that I smoked for thirty years, starting at age 13. Like junkies and alcoholics, I’m a lifer. I quit because I was afraid of dying, but that’s about the only thing that could have made me quit, and I continue to have a deep and convoluted relationship with nicotine and the forms and guises under which it travels.
I first heard Picayunes mentioned in Frank O’Hara’s 1964 poem “The Day Lady Died.” It’s July 1959 and he’s preparing to go to Easthampton for the weekend, back when the Hamptons contained more poets and painters than rich people. He’s buying supplies and hostess gifts here and there in midtown Manhattan–recording everything in his seemingly casual diaristic way that’s really as meticulously arranged as a collage by Braque, down to the all-caps names that are after a fashion glued in–and then he sees the NEW YORK POST with her face on it. The pleasantly hectic course of the day, ticking away like a taxi meter for 25 lines, is abruptly flicked off and he’s thrown into memory. Billie Holiday has died.
He buys the Post from the tobacconist at the Ziegfeld Theater along with a carton of Gauloises and a carton of Picayunes. For years I had no idea what Picayunes were. By the time I was a teenage poet reading that poem again and again, wishing I could write like that and for that matter live like that, the New York of the poem seemed like a vision of glamour from the deep past, even though it was little more than a decade gone. I did smoke Gauloises when I could afford them, but there was no more tobacconist at the Ziegfeld and nobody I knew had ever heard of Picayunes.
Then, years later, I met George Montgomery, who had been O’Hara’s roommate at Harvard. I learned many things from him–he was a fount of every kind of lore and custom and means of appreciation. One of them was that the perfect way to end a meal was with a cup of black coffee, a piece or two of crystallized ginger, and a Picayune. He bought his at Village Cigars, at the head of Christopher Street. They were made in New Orleans, where they shared a name with the local newspaper, and they were the only American cigarette still at that time made, like Gauloises and Gitanes, from black caporal tobacco.
I didn’t visit New Orleans until many years after that, and even though I had by then quit smoking, I went off in search of Picayunes, but they were no longer manufactured. Their absence was conspicuous, because they went along with the city and its Afro-Franco-Hispano-Italo- Caribbean style, with the chicory coffee and the lagniappes and all the rest of it. It made sense that the most culturally distinct city in the lower 48 would boast a distinct local cigarette. Picayunes in their day were another symbol of the elegant separateness that would eventually provide the federal government with its excuse for sacrificing New Orleans. Anyway, nowadays local pride is reserved for team sports.
A crazy Goddamn song, I guess it was their theme song, by Sacramento punk band Tales Of Terror.
Tales Of Terror : ” Tales Of Terror “
Related to my last post. Click on the photo to go to the story.
The House of Tiki was located on the south side of Chicago, around the corner from where I grew up. It was open from 1962 until sometime in the late 90s — I took this picture in 1999, after it had closed. It was a sticky, seedy, dark place, walls painted black, tiki-obligatory taxidermied pufferfish hanging from the ceiling, layers of duct tape on the vinyl booths. It was the kind of bar where eccentrics, neighborhood misfits, and blarney-spewing old men end up by default. I used to walk past this place every day on the way to grade school, and as I observed it through the years it came to symbolize adulthood to me ( or at least drunken college-hood ). I did end up stopping in for a beer once in the early 90s while on tour, but I did not try any of the ” Polynesian specialties “. There’s a surprising amount of information about Ciral’s on the internet, like this.
Ah, The RZA. The fantastic genius of the recording studio. My hero. He was on NPR yesterday talking about his new book, the economy, and a bunch of other stuff. Here it is.
Wu-Tang Clan : ” Method Man ( Home Grown Version ) “
Here’s ” Get Retarded ” by MC EZ & Troup. I don’t think this was a hit, although I remember hearing it around NYC at the time. MC EZ was Craig Mack, who was later responsible for the monster hit ” Flava In Ya Ear “, which you heard everywhere in 1995. I love this track. It’s grimy, spacy, and yes, sort of retarded.
MC EZ & Troup : ” Get Retarded ”
Here’s a picture I took of Donita from L7, Los Angeles, July 4th, 1998.
Beowülf was a band from Venice, CA. White Zombie had an odd connection to them because we were both signed to Caroline Records, who also released albums by two other Suicidal Tendencies-affiliated punk-skate-thrash-metal groups, Uncle Slam and Excel, who we shared bills with several times. We did, in fact, play a show with Beowülf on my first WZ tour, which was during Summer 1989, a few months after I joined the band. It was in a garage in Albuquerque, NM and I don’t remember much about it ( it’s hard to remember much about this period at all except that I was very excited to be in a cool NYC band, have my own Marshall stack, and be on a nationwide tour, which meant that, for the time being, I was not homeless ) except that we were well-received ( Albuquerque is one of those American cities, like Phoenix, Houston, and Detroit, which is not the least bit glamorous but where the people are fanatical about heavy music. If you have a rock band, these are the very best places to play ) — I’d been a little apprehensive about these guys because of their Suicidal/ Venice gang image, but they were friendly if, as was usually the case at the time, unsure as to what to make of us. I remember also that they went on a beer run and got into a semi-serious accident.
Anyway, I always liked this song, which is from their 1988 LP ” Lost My Head… But I’m On The Right Track ” — they get a perfect double-bass Motörhead kind of tempo going and just blaze away, with a cool, rolling feel that’s at once aggressive and laid-back.
Beowülf : ” Muy Bonita ”