And then... again
Happy Cat was my onetime Bushwick roommate Bill Berger, of Uncle Wiggly, World of Yadoosh, Smack Dab and WFMU fame. This tune is from a strange compilation CD I assembled a dozen years ago for Homestead called Soluble Fish whose name has somehow mutated over the years, but I really don't know how, to include a phrase I have always despised. Hah! Funny how that works. I still love this song for mix tapes.
The name for that comp. came from Andre Breton, who at the time was totally my main man. I wanted to be him! Seriously. When you first get into modernist art and stuff, it's hopefully in high school, as that gives The Banquet Years a lot more of a chance to burrow inside your gestating brain, sending you on a search for all the interesting little supporting and secondary actors like the oft-brilliant newspaper humorist Alphonse Allais and Jacques Vache. Or not. Mostly it's that the whole thing about the primacy and "validity" of the whole deal, from expressionism to fluxus and the last gasps of the giant with the East Village scene in the '80s (which I followed pretty intently from afar, as I didn't arrive in NYC myself until the Fall of '86) -- it just seems to mirror the arc of adolescence so perfectly. Especially since I really got into art in seventh grade via Roger Dean's Yes album covers, which looked so fresh yet again for about three miliseconds a few years ago. Conversely, getting all into postmodernism and its discontents at the college age seemed to mirror the development of one's own critical faculties so nicely.
I was lucky to get turned on to the work of Nancy Spero at a young age thanks to her connection to my then-hero, writer Antonin Artaud. Have you ever seen stuff from her Codex Artaud series? Super rad. I keep going back to her work, especially the Vietnam War series, the relevance of which is at a high point again. That's actually why I am mentioning her just now. Back then I was full of myself and enthused about stuff enough that I used to just look people up out of the phone book to interview them. I was always surprised at who was in the regular old phone book -- as a teenager I had these great and strange though not always very welcome conversations with D. Boon, Lucas Samaras, Mike Watt, Charles Bukowski, Alfonso Ossorio, Thurston Moore, and (my favorite person in the entire world to this day) Steve Albini. Some of them gave me stuff for my 'zine, some of 'em told me to fuck off, but all were a bit surprised that a 16, 17-year old kid was calling them on the phone to ask them retarded questions about their work without a teacher putting them up to it or something.
The day I called Nancy in 1987, she said "why don't you come on by now," so I did of course -- her studio being right near my school, right on the border of the West Village and Soho. She opened the door and we were both wearing the same shirt, a red and white checkered job from the Gap. The coincidence was pretty funny. I was still dressed in clothes my mother had got for me (no one else was wearing beige corduroy pants in 1987, believe me). Anyway, Nancy was so open and sweet and had me in for tea and looking at art and talking about stuff for a few hours. I never knew the importance of the great artist Jean Dubuffet's trip to Chicago (where those guys used to live, both of them I think having gone to the Art Institute) until talking a bou tit with them. That helped me also understand how Chicago was so advanced yet isolated in the '60s, what with the Hairy Who/ Chicago Imagist thing, Spero/ Golub, and the discovering and showing of self-taught/ visionary works by Yoakam, Darger, etc. long before others.
Her husband Leon Golub, a great painter who passed away not too long ago -- both made amazing and largely un-polemical works concerned with human/ civil/ feminist rights -- anyway you probably know their stuff or maybe it looks boring to contemporary eyes? -- not to mine. But so Golub was flipping out over my 'zine which surprised and pleased me greatly and he started bringing out his old issues of ZAP comix to commune with me. It was cool and weird. Later I interviewed Spero with two of my best pals, and the tape got fucked up, so I just got permission to reprint the best piece I'd ever read on her, from a fairly small-run feminist art 'zine, written by Pamela Wye -- not this particular article but that one is pretty good too... They seemed to me to be an amazing and very mutually supportive couple, from what I could tell just being around them a little bit. I still have them in mind though when I picture the perfect couple.
I know that none of this has much to do with music or whatever, but I am interested in the idea lately of what goes into a realistic and functioning "relationship" and yes I know that's boring but it's on my mind. I'm also tripping out over coincidences, which it's very hard for me not to see as a spiritual thing seeing as I am part of the AA/ NA cult and, you know, I've been brainwashed with God stuff as a result (not Jesus stuff, mind you, God Stuff -- I'm sure Christ was a righteous dude and I thank him profusely for the Easter bunny, and for the Swan Silvertones. Amen.)
PS: Of all of 2005's invented trends in music criticism, this one about "instant covers/ tributes" is... probably the most boring. And is it very accurate? OK, he's got a few good current examples on his side, but I recall many '80s/ '90s bands covering contemporaries (totally off the top of my head, Yo La Tengo -- Scene Is Now, the Grifters -- GBV, Minutemen -- Meat Puppets, etc.) or near-contemporaries (Camper Van B. -- Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr. -- the Cure, Nirvana -- Meat Puppets, etc.) Not to mention how many people in the '60s did each other's songs; I realize things were still very songwriter/ Brill Building back then which is a different beast entirely but I don't know, it just seems almost as weak and ill-informed re: pre-Internet music phenoms as a friggin Pitchfork piece... As a freelance writer, I know what it's like to just pitch a bunch of stuff to someone and then, whoops, they pick your lamest and most ill thought-out pitch as the one article they want you to write. So that must be what happened here, right?