Sunday, November 17, 2013
'Police found Vicious wandering the hotel hallways, crying; he was immediately taken into custody and charged with second-degree homicide, although Virgin Records put up the money required for bail shortly afterwards. Vicious' mental state became even more erratic following his arrest, and an attempt at suicide by slashing his wrist was made several days later, resulting in a two-week internment at the psychiatric ward at Bellevue Hospital. Another arrest followed in December due to an assault on Patti Smith's brother Todd at Max's Kansas City; after serving two months in jail, Virgin supplied his bail for a second time, and he was released once again pending his trial for Spungen's murder. That trial would never take place: Vicious was found dead of what is speculated to be a deliberate heroin overdose on February 2nd at the home of his new girlfriend Michelle Robinson.'
John Lydon has spoken about his admiration for Mick Jagger, who paid Sid Vicious' lawyers when the Sex Pistols bassist was arrested for the alleged murder of girlfriend Nancy Spungen.The full interview was in The Daily Record and can be found here.
Sunday, August 04, 2013
It is with great sadness that THE GENERALIST reports the death of Mick Farren, a long-time friend and elder brother figure to me, who was a key figure in the British underground scene in the 60s and 70s. Founder and lead singer of The Deviants, one-time editor of International Times, noted NME writer, prolific author, great blogger, Mick had a big heart often hidden behind a tough troublesome front. Possessor of a big ego and an afro to match, he over-indulged in life with great abandon and pushed the pedal to the metal right up his final dramatic act - his death on stage at the Borderline in London.
Mick grew up in Worthing and us younger Worthing lads looked up to him as an iconic freak. We were the ground crew who helped create the stage and site for Phun City – the first great British free festival – which featured the first-ever performance in the UK by the legendary MC5.
Later I worked on the underground press, hung out in the Grove and saw Mick at gigs, parties and demos on a regular basis. Mick got me into the NME and I was regular writer for Thrills which he edited.
Lost touch with him during his long sojourn in New York and LA but reconnected when I helped get a flat in Brighton for him (and the cat). Fortunately I promoted one of the last Deviant gigs at the Con Club in Lewes in Dec 2012.
I very recently reviewed his last publication – a fat anthology of his writings from Head Press here. This post has links to several other Previous Posts on Mick.
Mick was a stand-up guy, always looking out for me and always buying me a beer when he knew I was virtually penniless. Fortunately I was able to tell him in person how much that meant to me before he died.
Mick was a tough nut, unafraid of speaking his mind and difficult to impress, who evolved a unique journalistic style that was pithy, sharp and dark. He loved bourbon, speed, smoke, leather jackets, cowboy boots, Gene Vincent and Elvis and he stood up with great courage to both the Establishment and his own demons. He was no angel and had no room for sentimentality. He created his own legend and in his version of events he was always centre stage.
Like many others, I miss him badly. He was a true rebel spirit.
Unpublished photos by yours truly of Mick doing a reading from ‘Give The Anarchist A Cigarette’ at Waterstones in Brighton in 1998. Top picture is the after-show party in a room above a gay club off the Steine. Mick improvises whilst Tim Rundall (I think) plays guitar and son Louis tinkles on the piano!!
Thanx to Richard Adams for sending over this pic of Mick at the Inn on the Green in Ladbroke Grove, snapped 28 May 2009. Richard comments: ‘I think he’d just arrived in England after America had taken its toll.’
Two great pictures taken by the legend that is Joe Stevens – one of them is a beauty of a colour shot of Mick and Ed Barker – together with a pithy tribute from Joe.
This is the uncut version of an article that appeared in The Guardian by Charles Shaar Murray: ‘Mick, we hardly knew ye…’
The pic, recently unearthed by Chalkie Davies, shows Miles, CSM, Micky and Chalkie in Brighton,summer of 1976.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Things have been quiet on the blogging front as I have been flat out producing a new free micro music paper to coincide with the Mumford & Sons festival in Lewes last weekend.
I wrote, edited, produced, financed and distributed the paper (5,000 copies) in just 10 weeks. It can be done.
You can read it on-line at www.lewesmusicalexpress.com
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Have just had my mind blown by watching ‘To The Wonder’ – the latest movie by Terrence Malick – one of the great filmmakers working in cinema today. You can read up on him on IMDB and Wikipedia. Also: a lengthy essay ‘Waiting for Terence Malick’ by Michael Nordine on the Salon site.
I was wondering how to explain what makes this film so special when I cam across this wonderful quote which nails it:
‘Those rambling philosophical voiceovers; the placid images of nature, offering quiet contrast to the evil deeds of men; the stunning cinematography, often achieved with natural light; the striking use of music – here is a filmmaker with a clear sensibility and aesthetic who makes narrative films that are neither literary nor theatrical, in the sense of foregrounding dialogue, event, or character, but are instead principally cinematic, movies that suggest narrative, emotion, and idea through image and sound.’
This quote comes from a great essay by Chris Wisniewski on www.reverseshot.com which discusses ‘Days of Heaven’ and ‘The New World’.
Malick directed ‘Days of Heaven’ in 1978 - five years after his debut film ‘Badlands’ - after which he didn’t direct a film for 20 years – though he did produce and write scripts. ‘The Thin Red LIne’ came out in 1998 and then there was a seven-year gap before ‘The New World’. ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘To The Wonder’ came out in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
He apparently shot two new films back-to-back in 2012: Lawless starring Ryan Gosling, with a supporting cast including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Haley Bennett and Knight of Cups which will star Bale, alongside Blanchett and Isabel Lucas.
Chris’ essay says arguably that its the editing that distinguishes Malick’s work on these two films (and others) but the contrast is the first was edited using analog technology, the second used digital.
This most interesting. Sometime back THE GENERALIST flagged up the existence of the documentary ‘Side by Side’ – produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves which skilfully examines all aspects of the film-making process and contrasts the analog and digital production methods. Its an absolute must see for anyone interested in the future of cinema. Saw a cinema screening a month or so back and now await my DVD copy from Lovefilm. Will chew on this bone further in a separate post.
Back to Malick and ‘To The Wonder’. It principally follows a love story – shot in Paris, Mont St Michel and Oklahoma – but has another level featuring Javier Bardem as a priest.
The camera is always on the move and, in this film, the main female character dances her way through it creating another level of movement. A third is movement in nature – rippling leaves and branches, grasslands, undersea swirls, lakes & waterfalls. Everything flows.
The framing is partial. People half in and half out of the frame. Dialogue is scattered as if blown by the wind which seems to be another character throughout. Ben Affleck is humanised in the process.
The relativity of when you watch a film has an effect on your perception of it. The screen I was watching it on sits in front of a window behind which is an elder tree in flower and other trees behind. They were being whipped by the wind at the same time as I was watching the wind on screen. Had to stop the film so as take a walk before the light disappeared. Slipped over on wet grass and bashed my head. Finished watching the film.
This film touches you in many places and on many levels. For some reason it kept reminding me of Godfrey Reggio’s films which form the second half of this post.
There’s a lot in Mallick’s films that suggests he is a man of belief – if not a Christian per se then perhaps someone who is absorbed by spiritual and philosophical questions.
I’d always thought that Reggio was a Jesuit priest but, according to Wikipedia, ‘Reggio spent fourteen years in fasting, silence and prayer, training to be a monk within the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic pontifical order, before abandoning that path and making the films.’
The titles come from the Hopi language. ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ means ‘Life Out of Balance’ ‘Powaqqatsi’ means "life in transformation," and Naqoyqatsi means "life as war." They are poetic/ symphonic documentaries which, in a powerful way, brings home the extent to which we are damaging the earth and alienating ourselves from the natural environment.
A hallmark of these films is some extraordinary cinematography - mainly shot using slow motion and time lapse. Ron Fricke, the cinematographer who shot these films subsequently made two films of his own - ‘Baraka’ and ‘Samsara’ both of which I watched recently.For these he built his own 65mm equipment. Back in the day I had lunch with Fricke (and my young son) after a morning press screening of ‘Baraka’ in London.
The trilogy have soundtracks by Philip Glass which makes a major contribution to their success. My son and I saw Glass and his mini-orchestra play live as the films were screened at the Festival Hall in London.
Its exciting to discover that Reggio and Glass have been working on a new film ‘Visitors’ which will premiere at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.
Steven Soderbergh, who is one of Reggio’s great supporters says:
Reggio’s “pure cinema” works are hard to sum up in a sentence, and the new film is no different. “It’s connected to the other Qatsi films in the sense it’s Godfrey’s wordless take on a certain subject, but he’s changed his game here,” Soderbergh said. “There’s more directing in it, more things he’s specifically staging for the camera than he’s done before, and there are performers in the film. He’s taken what he does and pushed it into a new area, which was really exciting for me to watch. It’s thirty years ago this year when Koyaanisqatsi came out. I watched it again, and there just isn’t a single, visual idea in that movie that hasn’t been ripped off, assimilated, regurgitated, built upon. Actually I watched all three films again, and it made me laugh how other directors just took his language and just ran with it. Here, he’s moved the goal post as if to challenge others and say, ‘Alright, let’s see what you can do with this.’ It’s so striking, but not necessarily immediately applicable to what everybody else does. They’ll have to work to steal this one.”
See: http://www.koyaanisqatsi.com/ [not updated since 2005]
"...The crisis that we are approaching today is of yet another order. For it entails the transition, not from one form of society and power to another, but to a new environment...The present crisis...is a total crisis triggered by transition to a new and previously unknown environment, the technological environment....The present change of environment is much more fundamental than anything that the race has experienced for the last five thousand years."
- Jacques Ellul
Sunday, June 02, 2013
Above is one of my favourite pictures of Mick – sporting one of the great Afros – the cover shot for a piece by Charles Nicholl that asked the question: ‘Was the Underground press a shortlived volcano? Many of its papers have folded and many youthful idealists are now veterans of progress.’ By September 1973 the glory days of the underground press were largely over but many of its writers survived and thrived. Mick, like myself and many others, joined the good ship NME in the 1970s, Time Out survived and went on to make its proprietor Tony Elliott a millionaire and of course dear Felix founded an empire that continues to thrive to this day. More of which anon.
Headpress have recently published this excellent anthology of Mick Farren’s journalism, comment pieces, fiction, song lyrics and blog posts which provides a welcome addition to his substantial ouevre which includes the excellent autobio ‘Give An Anarchist a Cigarette’.
Mick has much to say about bars and aliens, even more about Elvis. There’s standout encounters with Gore Vidal and Johnny Cash and a great exchange of letters with Pete Townshend. The early underground press stuff makes particularly interesting reading now, capturing as it does the weird headiness and naivete of the time.
Mick has a signature dark style and while holed up in LA and New York during the Bush years, bunkered down in the wee small hours with Jack Daniels for company, he produced a great string of apocalyptic essays post 9/11 which captured well the edgy feel of those times.
A natural contrarian, he remind us that, whilst admiring Bowie he feels it important to point out that this demigod also recorded ‘The Laughing Gnome.’ As time has gone on, his work has got, if anything, pithier – if that’s a word – and his smart gnomic utterances on the bleak blackness of what passes for everyday life in the 21st century continue to provide salutary reading on his Doc40 blog and Facebook.
See Previous Posts: 60s Underground: Mick Farren and The Deviants; Inside Dope: Speed Goes Global (including a review of Mick’s fast history of amphetamine; The Underground Press Gazette (stuff of Mick, Boss Goodman – who unexpectedly turned up on my doorstep yesterday) - and Edward Barker [who we all still miss].
Never one to miss a trick, Felix Dennis bounces back from his recent treatment for throat cancer with a new British and European poetry tour. You can read Sean O’Hagan’s article here although don’t expect any surprises. He singularly fails to reveal anything new plus the piece has several errors in captioning and spelling. As a longtime friend of Felix’s from the days of Oz onwards its good to see him roaring forward. The grim reaper will get him eventually but not without a struggle. These two new books have arrived in recent months
Former Senior Editor at US Maxim, Jason Kersten joined the tour bus in 2010 to record the shenanigans on one of Felix’s previous poetry outings. Naturally Felix travels by helicopter. Its a chatty account and brings to life the nutty side of such enterprises. Having attended several of the Brighton gigs on these tours I can attest the wine is good and the audience is appreciative. As the years have progressed the stage show has got tighter and Felix, being a natural showman, wins everybody over. Catch him this time round. Full details here . The book is published by Ebury Press.
‘A Garret In Goodge Street’ by Mark Williams is a limited edition history of the first 40 years of Dennis Publishing. Many of us served time on such classic mags as TV/SCI-FI Monthly, Star Wars Monthly and numerous one-off poster magazines. Needless to say I eagerly scanned the index to find mention of my name. I’m noted as one of ‘a floating retinue of ex-underground freelancers, including Jonathon Green, John May, Chris Rowley and Mick Farren.’ on page 26. In the Index it says page 29. This pic of me is on p89. Check the Dennis publishing website to see whether any copies are still available.
Finally, also receive a name check in Mick Kidd’s delightfully titled autobiography ‘From Earache To Eternity’ in which Mick entertainingly takes us through his helter skelter life story at a brisk pace. Much of it involves squatting or looking after friend’s pads, finding new girlfriends and cycling long distances.
Mick and Chris Garratt are of course best known for Biff cartoons which appeared in The Guardian for many years and many other publications. Mick has wry turn of wit and this self-published work through Dory Press really captures the flavour of those long-lost times. You can order a book direct from Mick Kidd by sending him a cheque made out in his name for £10 (inc p&p) to 42 Ferme Park Road, London N4 4ED. E-Book available here on Amazon.
Of courses memories are funny things. Mick records that he applied for the post of Business Manager at Frendz magazine. he says: ‘The Editor John May sent me a friendly letter saying it was obvious that I had no business experience but that I could write’. An article from Mick on Synchronicity was published but I have no reminiscence of the first incident.
On the following page he writes that an article on dreams was held over ‘but later appeared in Index of Possibilities, envisaged as a three-part-survey-come-UK equivalent of the Whole Earth Catalogue. In the event only the first instalment ‘Energy’ was published.’ So far so good.
‘Frendz and Index were both devised in a room in Blenheim Crescent off Portobello Road with music playing in the background. (Unfortunately the music in question was The Eagles…). Everyone sat round a large round table firing off suggestions and ideas, like a spaced out version of the Alonquin Circle. rejected ideas were dismissed with ‘impossible even on Venus’. At one point I was asked to write the dream piece while in a dream state.’
In fact Frendz was produced from 305/307 Portobello Rd and had closed before the Index started at 2 Blenheim Crescent. Full details about the Index on this Previous Post.
Mick is listed in the index as ‘Interplanetary News’ on the page on dreams entitled ‘Midnight Movies’ but the actual piece is credited to Dr Ulixes Brent, no doubt a pseudonym. In the thanks and credits Mick is listed as ‘the interplanetary explorer, for mutual rip-offs’
The correspondence files of the Index contain many letters and cards from Mick. Typical one reads:
Dear John May and the Hurricanes: I’d like to call round to see you either Tuesday or Thursday this week. I’d like to find out where Clare Hodgson lives and also tell about an idea I have for a new paper called INTERPLANETARY NEWS. The universe in 185,000,000,000,000 wacky instalments starring Frank Sinatra as the Crab Nebula and Rick van Schmidt as a blues guitar player. Some press previews:
‘This is the paper I’ve been waiting for since 1066’ – Irate, Manchester.
‘A breathtaking sweep. The editor obviously has no idea what he’s “on about”
I AM WHAT I AM WHEN IT IS
See you in the eyeshade parlour by the street of a thousand joss sticks by the great green greasy Limpopo.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
It a sense Chao and Culshaw were twins separated at birth. Both will admit to being addicted to travel.
Culshaw was dubbed by Malcolm McLaren ‘the Indiana Jones of world music.’
THE GENERALIST has known Culshaw since the late ‘70s when he was living in a well-organised squat just up the road from the Grays Inn Road office of Harold Evans’ Sunday Times. Around the same time he was editing the alternative technology magazine Undercurrents. His interest and understanding of alt politics remains intact. Between then and now he has circled the globe meeting and interviewing scores of the world’s most important musicians, usually in their home territory. A composer and musician himself, he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of what has become known as ‘world music’ and writes about it with passion, brio, understanding and humour.
Chao disappeared for years after the break-up of his band ‘Mano Negra’ and roamed the favelas of Rio, Mexico and Africa – during which the tunes, sounds and passions he found there wove their way into Clandestino – Manu’s album that slowly slowly, transmitted by travellers, sold millions and turned him into a global figure in the South – bearing comparison to Marley and Strummer. A man who spoke for the dispossessed, for the anti-globalists; whose heart and politics came from the right place.
Culshaw first set out to meet Chao in 2001 and has been chasing him ever since. They met in Brazil, Senegal, Barcelona, Paris and other places I can’t recall. This work has been at least a five-year labour of love - fraught and freighted with problems and professional difficulties. The result is a substantial and intelligent multi-level narrative that sweeps the reader through time and space, following this most mercurial of musicians through all his many moods, locations and beliefs.
We begin in Paris where Manu was born in 1961 to Spanish parents (one Galician, one Basque). His father was a journalist and the house was full of culture and cultural exiles – including Gabriel Garcia Marquez who said memorably ‘He was a pain in the neck when he was four – and still is!’
Manu and family lived outside the Périphérique and it is here that he started playing rock ‘n’ roll, then rockabilly and punk. He idolised Dr Feelgood, hung out in squats and founded a band called Mano Negra who became the biggest band in the history of French rock before disintegrating after a four-month boat trip around Latin America and a risky rail journey through the Colombian narco-war countryside.
Devastated and adrift, Manu went missing in action for three years. He began experimenting with peyote, had a mystical encounter with a white cow and roamed, never staying in one place for more than two weeks.
Manu roams and the book follows: Naples, Bogota, Mexico City, Tijuana, Chiapas, Rio, Madrid , Paris, Dakar, Barcelona, Genoa.
There is no respite in the book’s Part 2: In Search of Manu. Culshaw, intrepid reporter, meets him in Barcelona (a home base), New York, Buenos Aires (where Manu organises musical events inside a mental institution), a refugee camp in the Sahara, in Mexico (the chapter is called ‘Machetes, Mariarchi and Meths’) Brixton Babylon (where Manu met Strummer), Brazil with the Goddess and a final encounter. An atmospheric final posting from Finisterre, the land of Manu’s roots, strikes a spiritual note.
This is a great tale told with a genuine enthusiasm, relish, insight and – I would say – broadness of vision. Culshaw is equally at home explaining the complicated lineage of Brazilian street music as he is exploring the philosophy and actions of the Zapatista.This is Pete’s first book which I hope very much will be soon followed by many others.
It is also worth noting that the book itself is a satisfying piece of design and production with its fold-out cover flaps and solid binding. I also like the fact the fine black and white images in the book are peppered throughout rather than trapped in a central section
‘Clandestino’ is, like the album of the same name, a book that will grow through word of mouth and will, I believe, find a ready audience who will consider this a seminal work.
‘Clandestino: In Search of Manu Chao’ by Peter Culshaw is published by Serpent’s Tail
SEE ALSO: You can read much more of Pete Culshaw’s excellent journalism on the website of The Arts Desk, of which he is one of the founding editors.
FROM THE ARCHIVE: Article about Pete and Undercurrents magazine by Andrew Tyler in the NME in Nov 1981.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Following on from my last post, further trawling through The Generalist Archive has turned up some other pioneering music magazines from yesteryear.
Above is one of my great favourites – the first issue of Rolling Stone that I was able to buy in Britain. It was probably available in London but this was the first issue I’d spotted in the South. I can vividly remember buying it from an old-fashioned newsstand on Brighton station. It is actually Issue 25 dated Jan 4,1969. Little did I know at that point that the following July I would see the MC5 live at Phun City – their first ever British gig.
‘Irreverence’ was CREEM’s stock in trade. A hugely influential magazine, CREEM is credited with first use of the term ‘punk rock’ and ‘heavy metal’. Based in and around Detroit, they championed Iggy, the MC5, Alice Cooper amongst many others, and ridiculed the pomposity of the music business. There’s a good Wikipedia entry and more good stuff on the magazine’s official website. I like this quote from an essay by Lisa Brody:
‘CREEM employed an indelible coterie of writers of broad literary and cultural scope (and a first-rate sense of fun) including Robert Chistgau, Dave Marsh, Patti Smith, Greil Marcus, nowhere-near–famous cubby Cameron Crowe and, of course, the muddy-water stream-of-consciousness of Lester Bangs.’
Here’s a slice of Lester’s work, reproduced in an interesting essay - ‘Can’t Forget the Motor City: CREEM magazine, Rock Music, Detroit Identity, Mass Consumerism and the Counterculture’ by Michael J. Kramer.
‘Well, a lot of changes have gone down since Hip first hit the heartland. There's a new culture shaping up, and while it's certainly an improvement on the repressive society now nervously aging, there is a strong element of sickness in our new, amorphous institutions. The cure bears viruses of its own. The Stooges carry a strong element of sickness in their music, a crazed, quaking uncertainty, an errant foolishness that effectively mirrors the absurdity and desperation of the times, but I believe that they also carry a strong element of cure, a post-derangement sanity. And I also believe that their music is as important as the product of any rock group working today, although you better never call it art or you may wind up with a deluxe pie in the face. What it is, instead, is what rock and roll at heart is and always has been, beneath the stylistic distortions the last few years have wrought. The Stooges are not for the ages--nothing created now is--but they are most implicitly for today and tomorrow and the traditions of two decades of beautifully bopping, manic, simplistic jive.’
Bangs had a big influence on the NME and as I recall came to London to hang out there. He died too young in 1982 aged just 33. Nick Kent made a pilgrimage to see him which is recounted in his autobiography ‘Apathy For The Devil’. See PREVIOUS POST: NICK KENT
‘Who Put The Bomp’ was a rock music mag edited and published by Greg Shaw from 1970-1979. This issue is No 10-11 dated Fall 1973 and is devoted almost entirely to British beat groups. Wikipedia calls it a fanzine but this issue carries an emphatic headline at the top of the contents page: NOT A FANZINE.
Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus were amongst the contributors. Shaw had previously worked with David Harris on one of the earliest rock fanzines Mojo Navigator and Rock ‘n ‘ Roll News in 1966. He later established Bomp! Records which he ran until his death in 2004.
All this stuff is brought together in a book - ‘Bomp! Saving the World One Record At A Time’ by Suzy Shaw and Mick Farren. See www.bomp.com
Fusion is more of a mystery. As the name suggests, it brought together music with politics and culture. There is no Wikipedia entry for the magazine or its editor Richard Somma so don’t know when the paper started and finished. The Kinks issue (left) is dated Nov 28th and probably dates from 1969. It opened out to an A3 format. On the right is an issue Feb 1973 with a different A4 format, stapled, with glossy cover and newsprint innards.
I am indebted to the I Witness blog for the following. No idea who the writer is:
‘Once there was a fine Boston-based rock-and-politics magazine called Fusion. It survived for several years in the late Sixties and early Seventies as a solid rival to Rolling Stone. Among those writing for it were Robert Somma (Editor), Michael Lydon, Paul Williams, Robert Christgau, Lenny Kaye, Sandy Pearlman, Nick Tosches, Jonathan Demme, Robert Gordon, John Gabree, and William Kunstler. The magazine even published Peter Guralnick's first book. As far as I know, Fusion has vanished into rock history now, but I published a few decent pieces in it.’
There is a reprint of a cover story article that Robert Somma wrote for Fusion on the birth and death of the Boston Sound.
See also Robert Christgau’s ‘A History of Rock Criticism’ in which Fusion is noted as ‘cerebral’
These are rare issues of the short-lived rock fortnightly ‘Strange Days’ which was conceived and edited by my old mate Mark Williams who was kind enough to fill me in on the mag’s back story:
‘Having worked for Rolling Stone and launched/edited International Times’ music section (‘Plug ‘n’ Socket), I was keen to launch something distinctly British that embraced the irreverence and cultural values of the latter and the focus of the former. My naive mistake was to approach the UK arm of America’s Kinney Corp, then publishing Marvel Comics over here under licence, as I thought they’d ‘get it’ and wanted to move further into the young adult market. They indeed were willing, but I had to jump through hoops to keep editorial control and the stress of doing so, and setting up a new mag from scratch, got the better of me. When the first couple of issues failed to sell in the numbers Kinney expected, they pulled the plug and wouldn’t let me try and re-finance it elsewhere.’
Incidentally, the subject of the third issue’s cover story - ‘Britain’s Greatest Unknown Group’ were a Birmingham band named Bachdenkel. Find out more about them here.
SEE ALSO PREVIOUS POST: ZIGZAG MAGAZINE. Features the covers of the first 16 issues.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
This is a post triggered through reading the The Times obituary of this man – Paul Williams – billed by them: ‘Writer hailed as the ‘godfather of rock journalism.’ This intrigued me.
‘It's not too much of a stretch to say that Paul Williams invented rock criticism. Yes, there were others in the U.S., including Mike Jahn at the New York Times and Al Aronowitz at the the New York Post, Lillian Roxon as the New York correspondent for various Australian newspapers, and Gloria Stavers at 16 magazine who covered the emerging rock culture in the 1960s. But it was the critical vocabulary Williams developed, his highly intelligent but instinctive approach to music and the intellectually rigorous, emotionally transparent, spontaneous style of writing that influenced so many of us.’ – Tribute to Paul Williams by Wayne Robins on his website Wayne’s Words.
So according to Wikipedia, In January 1966, Williams created the first national US magazine of rock criticism (Crawdaddy) on the campus of Swarthmore College with the help of some fellow science fiction fans. The first issue was 10 mimeographed pages written entirely by Williams.’
According to The Times: ‘Williams was a precocious 17-year old college student when the first few issues were produced in fanzine style from his college dormitory. Within 18 months, Crawdaddy’s circulation had grown from 500 mimeographed copies to 25,000 and the magazine had an office in New York.’
Crawdaddy was launched 18-months before Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone. The magazine’s tribute to Williams by David Fricke is here
The name came from the Richmond Club where the Rolling Stones played their early gigs.
‘Wenner came to him a year later when he started Rolling Stone to ask for some advice. Williams told the future publishing magnate that what readers wanted most was hard information about the musicians they loved. “I wasn’t interested in giving it to them,” Williams told me when I interviewed him in the late ’90s. “To me it was about what we could learn about each other through our responses to music. I recognized from the beginning that Jann would leave me in the dust, but that was fine. I didn’t even try to compete.”
‘Indeed, Williams left the magazine he founded in 1968—though by that time, under his editorship,Crawdaddy! had published many of the most important voices of early rock criticism, including Jon Landau (future manager of Bruce Springsteen), Sandy Pearlman (future manager of Blue Oyster Cult and producer of the Clash’s second album), and most importantly Richard Meltzer—the first true individualist in rock writing, predating and inspiring even the great Lester Bangs. Williams gave all of them the most valuable gift any editor can give a writer: the space and the freedom to make a mess on the page. But he never stopped writing himself.’
This is the earliest issue of Crawdaddy in The Generalist Archive from 5th March 1972. Its fire-damaged (in case your wondering) and is only Section Two. [I’ve got six other issues from 1973/1974 in better condition.]
That’s Jim Capaldi, former drummer with Traffic, in the US promoting his first solo album. The mag also contains articles on Ravi Shankar, Todd Rundgren [I think that’s him on either side of Capaldi on the cover], Nilsson, filmmaker John Cassavetes and Bo Diddley. More importantly for our immediate purposes, an article by Paul Williams and Ray Mungo entitled ‘A Voyage to Japan’ which includes this fabulous photo of the two of them by Rosanne Rubinstein.
This is a real interesting discovery. Raymond Mungo (right) was it turned out, the co-founder of the Liberation News Service, a New Left Underground press news service, which published bulletins from 1967 ton 1981. According to Wikipedia he’s still alive. There’s a great post about him on the blog Yunchtime
This is the cover of one package of material from the Liberation News Service, part of a haul that runs from Issue 430 [April 27, 1972] to Issue 473 [October 18, 1972], with some issues missing, held in the Generalist Archive. Cover pic shows black activist Angela Davis with unidentified other. Packages of material from LNS was sent to all underground papers and contained pages of b&w photography and cartoons/comix plus pages of news stories, all of which were free to reproduce. Mainly political material.
Okay back to Paul and Crawdaddy. Much more on the mag in this Wikipedia entry, including its tangled history up to the present time.
This book contains the early issues of Crawdaddy. You can read some extracts on Google Books here.
The first issue (Feb 7th 1966] carried an editorial entitled ‘Get off My Cloud’ which begins as follows:
‘You are looking at the first issue of a magazine of rock ‘n’ roll criticism. Crawdaddy! will feature neither pin-ups nor news-briefs; the specialty of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music. Billboard, Cash Box etc, serve very well as trade news magazines; but their idea of a review is: “a hard-driving rhythm number that should spiral rapidly up the charts just as (previous hit by same group) slides.” And the teen magazines are devoted to rock ‘n’ roll, but their idea of a discussion is a string of superlatives below a fold-out photograph. Crawdaddy! believes that someone is the US might be interested in what others have to say about the music they like.’
Paul Williams in Times Square (via Boo-Hooray)
Fortunately there is a really great and lengthy interview with Paul Williams on rockcriticsarchive.com by Pat Thomas (with Christopher Gurk) called ‘The Godfather of Rock Criticism’. It was done in a cafe in Koln,Germany in the mid-1990s. Tribute by Pat to Paul on an npr.org blog site
The interview is full of interesting stuff. He reveals that his model for Crawdaddy! was a folk magazine called the Boston Broadside and he was also inspired by sf ‘zines. Here’s a brief bit.
Pat Thomas: How was Crawdaddy! initially published and distributed?
Paul Williams: Well, it started out completely as a fanzine, and the first issue I mailed out to record companies and radio stations, and waited for something to happen. Same thing with the second issue. And I began selling it in newsstands in Boston and around Philadelphia and New York, and each issue kind of grew a little. We really didn't know anything was happening, it might've died between the third issue--there was a big gap, I think the third issue came out in March, I was still at Swarthmore. And then I had that problem which caused me to drop out of college, that you know about, Richard Farina's death. I went back to Boston, didn't know what I was going to do, and finally put together another issue of Crawdaddy! that was mimeographed and sold it at the Newport Folk Festival in July. And that, actually, was kind of a breakthrough. We put Bob Dylan on the cover, which was a good idea [laughs]; we sold a lot of copies at Newport. Simon & Garfunkel's office actually gave me $100 to write a little bio or something, but it was a way of giving me some money so I could print the next issue. But the response to that issue was very encouraging. And the other thing was I met Jac Holzman of Elektra at Newport, and he bought the first national ad for the next issue of the magazine, so it's like, all right, now we can do the next issue!’
‘Paul had been particularly close to singer/songwriter Richard Farina (best known as the writer of the seminal "Pack Up Your Sorrows" as well as the brother-in-law of Joan Baez, via his marriage to her sister Mimi). When Farina died, tragically young, in 1966 after a motorcycle accident, a penniless Williams attempted to stow away on a freight plane going from Philadelphia to California to attend the funeral. He was caught, arrested and briefly detained. Decades later, he wrote an article about how distraught he was by being unable to say "goodbye" to a friend and hero.’
Fariña died in a bike accident on April 30th, 1966, two days after the publication of his cult book ‘Been Down So Long It Looked Like Up To Me’
Fariña is, incidentally, a very interesting cat who I was into in a big way in the 1970s due to his novel and the records he made with Joan Baez’s sister Mimi Baez Farina. There’s a fabulous book that called ‘Positively 4th Street by David Hadja which documents the relationships between the Fariñas and Dylan & Joan. Must reread this. Just discovered that Pynchon dedicated ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ to Farina.
Back to Paul Williams and the chronology of his life with details extracted from the Paul Williams website and support fund site. Williams suffered from dementia and his money had to be raised for his medical bills.
In March 1967 he was organiser of the first New York City “Be-In”
In October 1968 he left Crawdaddy! after editing the first 19 issues and moved to a cabin in the woods in Mendocino, California.
In 1969 his first book ‘Outlaw Blues’ was published and he wrote a second called ‘Pushing Upwards’. He was to produce more than 24 books in total.
In 1969 he also was present for the recording of Give Peace A Chance’ in Lennon and Ono’s hotel bedroom in Montreal
That same year he ran Timothy Leary’s campaign to become governor of California.
He also hitched a ride to Woodstock in the Grateful Dead’s limousine.
What I didn’t know about Paul Williams was that he was a huge fan and friend of the sf writer Philip K. Dick, helped gain a wider readership for his work, wrote his biography and became his literary executor for a period. He also founded the Philip K. Dick Society after his death.
There’s a great post about their relationship on the ever excellent 109.com website.
He also pulled together ‘The Collected Stories of Theodore Sturgeon’.
‘His role in science-fiction fandom and the “zine” revolution also place him as a pivotal figure in the history of pre-internet self-publishing and fan culture.’
I also didn’t know that you could hear him locking and loading a rifle on The doors’ ‘Unknown Soldier’
Or that he was introduced to marijuana by Brian Wilson while sitting in a tent in Wilson’s living room listening to what would become ‘Smile.’
Final Treasure from the GENERALIST ARCHIVE:
This is a very rare copy of the only issue of ‘Rallying Point’ – a cultural/political journal founded by Paul Williams and Michael Price. The title came from the I Ching and the hexagram ‘Holding Together.’ It was published in Jan 1974
‘When there is a real rallying point, those who at first are hesitant or uncertain gradually come in of their own accord.’
The cover shows Bob Dylan with Sam Ervin, chair of the Senate Watergate Committee. The back cover by Alicia Bay Laurel
The centre of the magazine is the complete text of ‘Neurologic’ by Timothy Leary. Editorial intro says: ‘This book is another reason why Dr Timothy Leary is in solitary confinement in a California prison. You can download the text from http://www.scribd.com/doc/2350894/NeuroLogic-by-Timothy-Leary