I got interested in The Mountain Goats from hearing Steven Page’s cover of “Lion’s Teeth” on the A Singer Must Die album. They have a varied catalog, which I’ve only scratched the surface of, but I was quite charmed by their 2015 bBeat the Champ album, singer-songwriter John Darnielle’s tribute to the professional wrestling he was fascinated by as a child and an adolescent, a lifeline to hold on to in his abusive home and school environment. Although I don’t think my childhood was a horrific as Mr. Darnielle’s, I do remember how weirdly important professional wrestling seemed (this was way before I read Roland Barthes), in that it always threatened to make sense of the chaos of reality, although often resolving into more chaos (which had the odd effect of making it seem both more scripted and more authentic). If you have memories of seventies and eighties professional wrestling, you might find this fun; if not, it may be sort of horrifying. In any event, don’t try this at home.
“Take it Outside” is a song from Everything to Everyone (2004), an album I have always liked. An intriguingly unromantic song about the price of romance and squaring that with personal integrity (this is my unironic reading of the song; however, I realize I could interpret ironically, with the speaker as the target), “Take it Outside” illustrates Ed’s increasing skill and confidence at songwriting following the global success of Stunt. I find it interesting because in my interpretation it explores a kind of heroism not usually celebrated in Hollywood movies. The last section is mostly photos I took when I saw them in Las Vegas last month. As it was an outdoor concert, it literally takes it “outside,” although to celebrate rather than fight. Anyway, I present it with apologies for putting myself in at the end, (I just couldn’t resist), and I hope you enjoy what I have always found to be a rather thought provoking song.
This is the first slideshow I have done for Lucy Wainwright Roche, Loudon’s daughter with his second wife Suzzy Roche. She is a memember of the Roche sisters, a talented folk trio, and she and Loudon obviously passed a selection of their musical gifts down to Lucy. Lucy has another studio album coming out in a few months, which I pre-ordered, and it got me listening again to her previous one from six years ago, There’s a Last Time for Everything. Her approach is completely different–almost opposite–to Rufus and Martha, who tend to do a kind of frontal assault on your emotions. Lucy tends to invite you to a comfortable, slightly nosalgic place and tends to win you over with her endearing sense of humor and remarkable warm tones. Anyway, this is a song called “Last Time” which I interpreted to be about the loss of the close childhood friendships. You could also probably interpret it as a song about the end of almost any close relationship, but I think my approach works reasonably well. Hope you like it.
This seemed like an appropriate video-slideshow for Earth Day weekend. Martha actually has a lovely official video for this song, although this one takes a rather different approach, pushing it back in the direction of the original myth as well as the consequences of upsetting Mother Earth. Prosperpine, you may remember, is the daughter of Hera and is stung by a serpent. She is carried off to the underworld by Pluto. Hera pleads with Jupiter to bring her daughter back, and he agrees, but only on the condition Prosperina hadn’t eaten anything in Hades She had, unfortunately for Hera, eaten six pomegrante seeds (hence the pomegrante in Rossetti’s famous painting). Eventually it is decided that Prosperina will spend six months with her mother in the upper world, whose happiness is reflected in the warmth, fertility, and abudance of Spring and Summer, while the six remaining months (Fall and Winter) will be spend with Pluto in Hades. tt was apparently the last song Kate McGarrigle (Martha and Rufus’ mother) wrote before she died in 2009, so I imaginine it is quite a personal song for Martha, tragically expressive of a mother’s love for a daughter she will soon be separated from. I’m actually quite pleased with the slideshow, although only a few of the photos are ones that I took. It’s also my third Martha Wainwright video, which is now starting to look like an actual fan page.
If you are interested in my Unofficial: Martha Wainwright page, you can find it at this link here
This is basically a video/slideshow that is a product of my visit to Ushuaia prison/museum in Patagonia last January. The prison hasn’t actually been in use in several decades; in fact, it has been turned into a museum by Chilean authorities. The building was basically designed as a panopticon, with five prison blocks radiating out from a central point, the idea being that you could keep all the prisoners under close surveillance from a single point. One of the blocks (included in the slideshow) has basically been preserved in its original state, although the cells are of course empty. Another block has been turned into a kind of prison museum, with each cell having an installation recounting a different aspect of the prison’s history or prison life. Another has art installations related to prison life, while another is a maritime museum, and a final one is a museum displaying the work of local artists, work that often focused on the heritage of the local indigenous peoples. I was and am quite entranced by the idea of turning a place of punishment, control, and incarceration into one of aesthetic pleasure, self-expression, and artistic freedom. It suggests the potential for a change for the better in both places and people, although I doubt it will be catching on in a big way any time soon. Anyway, I set all this in the context of Donovan’s lovely song, “Appearances,” from his Cosmic Wheels album. At least in my interpretation the song invites us to look beyond superficial differences and obstacles and towards the creation of a better, more just, and more beautiful tomorrow. In any event, I hope you like it, or at least listen to Donovan’s lovely song.
Today is the fifty-second anniversary of Phil Ochs’ death, and I thought I would repost this, which I have previously posted on the “50 Phil Ochs Fans Can’t Be Wrong” Facebook Group. This slideshow is more or less a capsule biography of Phil’s life, set to live recording (I think from Montreal) of him singing “Cross My Heart,” a song that encapsulates the contradictions in Phil’s life, contradictions that ultimately led him to take his own life, contradictions that ultimately reflect those that the America still faces. This is in some sense a calling card for a larger project, essentially a two man stage show designed for a small theater, in which one actor (who would need to be a talented high tenor as well as a better than competent guitar player) would play Phil, and the other would the playing various people in his life, starting with his college roommate Jim Glover, a brief appearance as Bob Dylan, Phil’s second manager Arthur Gorson, Phil’s third manager (and brother) Michael Ochs, and Yippee Jerry Rubin. In the second half he would need to be an FBI agent, a prosecutor, Phil’s friend Andy Wickham, and Phil’s protege Sammy Walker. About half would be Phil’s songs, and about half would be dialogue drawn from Phil published and unpublished writers and papers, biographies about him, and his FBI file. I realized from the start that there will be many legal hurdles and permissions to secure, but I have bought theatrical performance rights for a single production run to Marc Eliot’s Death of a Rebel: A Biography of Phil Ochs, which the script draws heavily upon and am currently negotiating for performance rights to about fourteen songs. I hope to be talking to a potential director this week, and at least least get some hints about the audition process as I will need two strong actors, one of whom will also have to be a gifted singer and guitar player, and the other comfortable with quick changes of fairly varied characters. I realize that I will lose money on the project, which I am trying to keep small scale (only about ten performances in a very small theater, probably in North Hollywood or Pasadena). Nevertheless, it feels like something I need to at least try to do, simply because Phil’s songs and story touched me so deeply (I did see him once, but I will save story that for another post).
Anyway, the real reason for this post is the video below, which I compiled last June, when I first conceived of this play project, drawing on internet photographs and a few which I scanned from Eliot’s and Schumacher‘s biographies of him. It seems an appropriate memorial on this aniversary of his passing.
This is really a composite of two different songs (or really, two different versions of the same song). The first is “Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)” from the Fairy Tale album (1965), while the second is “Diggin the Future” from the Ritual Groove album (2010). Although forty-five years apart, they are sort of the first and second half of the same song. The first song seems to be about turning away from materialism (which would seem to include relatively “hard” psychedelic drugs) towards the world of the spirit and personal connection; the second seems to be about turning away from destructive behaviors toward the earth (carbon emissions, burning the rainforests) and reorienting ourselves towards an attitude of love and stewardship towards the earth, that just might–in turn–both heal itself and love us back. While none of these ideas would seem to be terribly popular these days, perhaps they should be. Anyway, I made this slideshow (with a couple of video clips) in order to get these help get these ideas across, although I think they are also very much part of Donovan’s original songs. I hope you like the slideshow, and perhaps even the ideas. In any case, Donovan’s songs are pretty cool.
Here’s a slideshow mixed with a few film clips that I finished shortly before my Germany trip. The audio is actually from a late sixties or early seventies special that Donovan and Nana Mouskouri did for Greek TV. While there are other versions, this one had a beautiful delicacy I couldn’t resist. You ‘ll notice the last verse is missing , but I tried to compensate with some photos. I showed this to Donovan in Bochum (along with “Epistle to Derroll”), and he seemed to like it. I realize I have consciously shifted the song’s meaning from romantic to ecological, but I am pretty sure Donovan is okay with it. Hope you are too. An Happy St. Patrick’s Day (or, as I think of it, a celebration of all things green).
I did this about a month ago. Since I hope to be seeing Donovan Monday in Hamburg, this seems like a good time to post it here.
I had been thinking about making this video during my trip through the southern hemisphere. I had even filmed long stretches of the ocean with the intent to use it as the video portion. Yesterday, however, I ran into this time lapse video by Preston Becker on You Tube. Not only was the timing very close to the song, it was also much better and more sophisticated than anything I had filmed. He also gives explicit permission for others to use it in their projects, so I took him at his word (thank you Preston). All I really did was put this together, adding Donovan’s song and stills of Linda Lawrence and of Donovan and Linda as overlays on the video. While this is somewhat similar to what I did with “Turquoise” (a song I have since discovered was actually not inspired by Linda, but by Joan Baez), I think its different enough to justify its existence. The lovely song alone is probably enough to do that (it’s from Sutras), with its haunting Cello (?) line.
My “Song of the Sea” tour plans have slightly changed. I’m still planning to meet a friend from northern Germany in Hamburg on March 5th where we’ll see Donavan that night and then off to Brühl (near Cologne) where I’ll be meeting a cousin and his wife who lives in a nearby town. Then I’ll be running back to Bochum, where Donovan’s concert has been rescheduled on the 7th (he’s been stuck in Ireland because of the horrendous weather). Anyway, I hope everyone is doing well and that you enjoy this gorgeous meditation on love.
It may be that after “I’ll Be Killing You This Christmas,” I was feeling the need to balance out my Christmas karma, but mostly I was just poking around YouTube listening to various Rufus Wainwright tracks and I ran into this, which is actually from Renee Fleming’s 2014 album, Christmas in New York. The album is basically composed of duets between Renee and another artist, and “In the Bleak Midwinter” is the one song she does with Rufus. It’s also a lovely poem which I distantly remember from my school days, composed by Christina Rossetti of Goblin Market fame. The sad and slightly stern woman who appears twice in the slideshow is Christina (she’s the speaker, and I use those stills of her when she talks about “I”). While I’m not quite sure, I think the heart shaped key fob that appears near the end of the slideshow may actually be Ms. Rossetti’s. The music is by Gustav Holst, who some will remember as the composer of The Planets. I was trying to achieve a sombre but reverent mood, in keeping with the tone of the song, and I hope I have come close to achieving it, but obviously the final arbiter wil always be the audience.