Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Long Goodbye and Ball Four/"Yeh I've Been Searchin'"/Marlboro Man

Is The Long Goodbye the second best Altman film of the 70's after Nashville? Filmed primarily in Los Angeles in 1973 (released in 1974), I do know that The Long Goodbye is the only one that has Jim Bouton in a compelling and understated supporting actor role. What I associate now when I watch The Long Goodbye (other than Jeremy Blake), is Bas Jan Ader's One Night in Los Angeles, the first part of his work In Search of the Miraculous (1973). In that work (image below), Ader spent a night walking from the Hollywood Hills to the Pacific Ocean. It is the same nighttime trajectory that Marlowe takes in his car to find out what happened to his friend Terry Lennox.

As I recently re-read Bouton's "Ball Four," it turns out he got a call at 3AM from Elliot Gould telling him that he "was going to be in a movie with him called The Long Goodbye, directed by Robert Altman and [he] should catch the next plane to California." Bouton's "audition" consisted of shaking hands with Altman at the airport. Obviously Gould and Altman were big baseball fans, and figured that Bouton had taken enough heat over the book to give him some paid work - check out Jim on What's My Line about 15 weeks after Ball Four was published below.

The Long Goodbye has aged well, and may be Gould's finest work. Though consciously self-referential to the history of noir both on film and in fiction, it was of its time to such an extent that if I want to project myself and feel what Los Angeles of 1973 felt like, I watch it (Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence filmed around the same time works somewhat though not as successfully for me). Name me another film that has the old Ships in Westwood as part of a chase scene of sorts.

Throw in Neil Young's On the Beach and "Rubber Legs"-era Stooges, No Other, Heart Food and the Imperial Dogs' Unchained Maladies and you just may have 1973-74 Los Angeles covered for me. Even Neil gets in a baseball reference in "For the Turnstiles" to tie it all up in my head:

All the bushleague batters
Are left to die
on the diamond.
In the stands
the home crowd scatters
For the turnstiles,
For the turnstiles,
For the turnstiles.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Otis! is Kobaïan for Love

Like myself, you too have had periods of time where nothing crossed the turntable other than Magma and its various offshoots. A universe unto itself. Where I have been wrong is the arbitrary cutoff of around 1977. Thanks to Damon, I have been introduced to Christian Vander's brilliant, very personal tribute to Otis Redding from . . . 1981. How this would have factored into my listening at the time I can't say, but I have matured enough to appreciate this on all levels over 30 years later. And while I am at it, add Vander to the list of GREAT drumming singers, enough to give Karen Carpenter a run for her money on pure emotive raw power.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sounds Single of This and Every Week/The Saints on Return of the Saint/Don Rickles and the Germs

So the Dickies were the first of the Masque-era Los Angeles punk bands to hit the UK followed by the Go-Go's the following year. I haven't had a chance to read Alice Bag's memoir (try finding a copy in NZ), but you could do a lot worse than read the first half of Belinda Carlisle's memoir Lips Unsealed for some debauched tales of the era. I digress. The Saints were among the first to show the Brits how it was done, after the Ramones of course, and shared the stage with them as well in the UK. I am reminded of Dylan in No Direction Home trying to divine where all those early songs came from. Do Chris Bailey and Ed Kuepper wonder the same thing? Dylan and the Ramones where living in one of the most culturally rich cities in the world surrounded by scenes which offered early support. The Saints incredibly created some of the 1970’s most perfect music while in Brisbane. Anyone who has not heard The Most Primitive Band in the World which dates from 1974 really needs to do some backpedaling. While Brisbane 1973-74 was not like the backwater portrayed in the seminal Australian film Wake in Fright (which each and every reader of this site needs to see), it was close enough which makes the foundling Saints’ achievement even that much more incredible. These were not kids hanging out at the Riot House, seeing Iggy crawling on the sidewalk on the Sunset Strip, or camping outside Freddie Mercury’s hotel room and then forming a band. As I have said before, one of the truly unacknowledged cultural movers and shakers of the last half century is named Lenny Kaye. It was his Nuggets comp that hit Brisbane in 1974 - two years late you may note - (along with the contempo Dolls, Stooges, MC5, various 50's greats, the Missing Links etc) that powered this earth shattering music. Proof that record nerds who are fine musicians can change the cultural world, no? Anyway, here you have the review that changed the game, and an interesting video curio. My old pal Maxwell in LA is who hipped me to the original Saint on telly. So it makes total sense that the actual Saints who by then had decamped to the UK make an appearance on the Return of the Saint show in 1978. In the same year, and it is buried back in my subconscious that I saw it at the time it was broadcast (along with Joe Namath’s short lived Waverly Wafers), the Dickies appeared on Don Rickles’ CPO Sharkey AND the Germs got their first name check on national US television. Check it all out below.

Now this is the kind of thing that I would screen if I was given an IMAX theater with a bar: