Robbie Fulks is a songwriter I had heard about a lot more than I’d heard until a few years ago he made an album with the Mekons. A good album.
Fulks is a good songwriter and player, the opposite of a star, but a lifer with a lot to offer if you dig in. I haven’t yet dug in far enough, but this unbelievably long and detailed analysis of Gordon Lightfoot’s life and performance and songwriting is a marvel of storytelling, aesthetic analysis and covering the whole of a subject.
For instance, Fulks listened to every Gordon Lightfoot song at least once. Except maybe not all of that last 2004 album, but many others more than once.
He relates the story of Cathy Smith, a groupie with amazing breadth who went to jail for administering John Belushi’s final fatal dose, with aplomb, because it is Lightfoot’s story too at a few points.
My point is this is well worth a read even though it is way long, and if you start to lose interest skim ahead a few grafs and you’ll be onto another Lightfootian topic that will amuse and astound, ending with an in depth analysis of Lightfoot’s writing, which is exacting and sharp and a lesson in poetry and lyrics.
The first one is I’m a King Bee, so there are some surprises. This isn’t the usual countdown, these are faves, with a surprising number from Their Satanic Majesties Request. I mean, an appropriate number. Enjoy.
A few days ago Rolling Stone published a story about a song that appeared on the internet some years back and no one can figure out who recorded it, wrote it, or where it came from. It’s not a very good song, but it is kind of catchy, and suitably mysterious.
It was apparently recorded off a German radio show in the early 1980s.
It seems like there must be other music out there that is similarly unknown. Why did this one break out?
This is about a story in The Guardian. In 1979 an experimental/noise/art/industrial/krautrock band called Nurse With Wound put out their first album. The inner sleeve listed their favorite 291 bands.
In the 90s that list became something of a challenge for fans of this sort of music to find, and some it was released on CD for the first time. Now, 40 years after it was originally released, Nurse with Wound is working with a record label trying to put together compilation sets with one track from each of those bands. This is their story, well worth reading if only for some of the band names.
Here’s that album, which is everything haters of experimental music are likely to hate, but with some interesting sounds along the way.
The first volume of the compilation is out now.
Think about this now. Rank your top five. There were 22 it seems, in the UK.
The Guardian has their own take. You can find it here.
My favorite was Eight Days A Week, I own it, but it seems it wasn’t released in the UK.
Reading the story I guess I understand the writer’s thinking, but he’s out of his mind. Here’s the My Sharonna of the birth of rock/pop music. No doubt.
Frank created a book of photographs called The Americans back in the 50s. It’s a terrific book of strikingly straightforward and revealing images full of, um, Americans.
Jack Kerouac wrote the introduction to The Americans, an obvious choice at the moment On the Road ruled the world. Kerouac also wrote and narrated Frank’s first film, a shambling tale of New York City’s bohemian lives, called Pull My Daisy. You can view it here.
Frank, of course, took the photos that made up the collagey cover of the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street.
Frank also made a tour documentary with the Stones at about the same time. It is called Cocksucker Blues and the Stones, who have said they thought the film was excellent, sued to keep it from being released because its explicit sex and drug scenes were too much even for them.
A deal was reached that allowed Frank to show the movie five times a year provided he was in attendance. I remember one year leaving the Rolling Stone magazine Christmas party early to see the film at the Anthology Film Archives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. You can find the film in pieces on You Tube, from time to time. Frank clearly wasn’t policing the copyright, nor were the Stones, as evidenced by this music video that uses some of the film.
Frank also made some dramatic films that drew notice, though the only one I saw was a shambling road picture featuring a who’s who of cool rock dudes in the late 80s (I’m talking guys named Johansen, Waits and Strummer, plus Leon Redbone).
This seems to be the whole film with German titles.
Final bonus video with Frank’s Super 8 film of the Stones.
Liz Phair has some books coming out soon. I’m not clear based on the story, but it seems like two memoirs are on their way. I’m a fan but that idea didn’t excite me until I read this interview with Rob Tannenbaum, which dropped on vulture.com today.
I’ve been a big Liz Phair fan from the beginning, so big that I actually really liked her 2003 eponymously named Liz Phair elpee, which was given a provocative 0.0 (on a scale of 10) rating by Pitchfork. It also provoked attacks on Phair by Meghan O’Rourke and others, who should all have known better.
My point isn’t that Phair is bulletproof. You’re entitled to dislike her music, obviously, which is odd and aggressive and indie most of the time, on the merits (or demerits), but she is an artist with a long history of putting her heart and soul on the line. In her defense, at some point (after four or five albums, let’s say) she should have earned trust instead of enmity from those who admired those early albums. She’s a singer songwriter, give her a break (I would think would be the default), but they turned on her brutally, dismissively. It was terrible. That issue was tackled 16 years ago, and mercifully Phair is still kicking it
Today we have a woman who is putting on hot shows (I saw her in Denver and Brooklyn recently) and despite her protestations about stage fright she seems like a live wire living for the spotlight.
This post is about the interview with Tannenbaum, in which Phair talks about a lot of things that wouldn’t be the first thing you think about a singer-songwriter promoting a book. Or two. But it’s also a chance to thumb our noses at Pitchfork and the others who dismissed the woman rather than engage with what she was trying to do. If you didn’t understand Phair you might think this commercial move was reprehensible, but it’s way more interesting to think about how that reviled album differs from both Brittany and all the indie expectations that provoked the haters.