Weekend links 376

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The House by the Canal (1945) by Algernon Cecil Newton.

• RIP Tobe Hooper. Black Hole Reviews recounts the troubled history of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in Britain, a film that was given a short-lived cinema release then banned for 20 years. Elsewhere: Who sampled from Tobe Hooper’s films? Tucktonia, a model village whose London buildings were destroyed for Hooper’s Lifeforce.

• Graphic language of the wall: Rick Poynor on Brassaï’s photographs of graffiti for Le Livre de Poche. More Poynor: National Theatre Posters: A Design History is available for pre-order from Unit Editions. There’s more from the latter here.

• “A question of queer as a kind of futurism: an attitude or tendency that connects mid-20th-century performers and photographers to contemporary digital art and fashion.” Brian Dillon reviewing Queer British Art at Tate Britain.

In evolutionary terms, the intelligence of octopuses is an anomaly. The last common ancestor between octopuses on the one hand, and humans and other intelligent animals (monkeys, dolphins, dogs, crows) on the other, was probably a primitive, blind worm-like creature that existed six hundred million years ago. Other creatures that are so evolutionarily distant from humans—lobsters, snails, slugs, clams—rate pretty low on the cognitive scale. But octopuses—and to some extent their cephalopod cousins, cuttlefish and squid—frustrate the neat evolutionary division between clever vertebrates and simple-minded invertebrates. They are sophisticated problem solvers; they learn, and can use tools; and they show a capacity for mimicry, deception and, some think, humour. Just how refined their abilities are is a matter of scientific debate: their very strangeness makes octopuses hard to study. Their intelligence is like ours, and utterly unlike ours. Octopuses are the closest we can come, on earth, to knowing what it might be like to encounter intelligent aliens.

Amia Srinivasan reviewing Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith, and The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

Royal Academy of Arts to reveal explicit side of Dalí and Duchamp.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on The Mystic Umbrellas.

Norton Critical Edition’s Periodic Table of Literary Villains.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 616 by Lanark Artefax.

Virus Fonts has a new website.

Little Umbrellas (1969) by Frank Zappa | Umbrellas (1971) by Weather Report | Black Umbrellas (2003) by Broadcast

The South Bank Show: The Making of Sgt Pepper

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Here come the anniversaries again, driven by nostalgia and the imperatives of corporations to flog you another version of that thing you already own. Anniversaryism grew out of the CD reissue boom, with one of the first significant incidents being the debut release on CD of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album in 1987. This week you can walk into a shop and buy the album yet again in a variety of formats, the 50th anniversary now coinciding happily for legions of accountants with the current boom in overpriced vinyl.

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This post is complicit, of course, just as Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention were complicit in reinforcing Sgt Pepper‘s status as a cultural monument even while carping at it; satirists always end up attached to what they attack. The latest round of retrospective attention had me wondering whether Alan Benson’s excellent South Bank Show documentary about the making of the album was on YouTube. It isn’t (but it is available elsewhere), probably because there’s a documentary in the new Sgt Pepper box set that seems to be the same film. The South Bank Show documentary was broadcast in the UK in 1992 for another anniversary, the year being the 25th since the album’s release. This is one of those television productions crafted to deliver maximum content with a minimum of fuss, so there’s no hyperactive editing, and no pointless Reactions To The Great Work from minor pop celebrities. Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are all present to discuss the creation of the music, from the first song of the sessions, Strawberry Fields Forever, through to A Day In The Life. In the film’s real coup, George Martin sits at a mixing desk in the Abbey Road studio pulling faders up and down to show how the songs were pieced together; he also explains how some of the album’s more unusual effects were produced. The film runs just under 50 minutes, and it’s notable that nearly all the songs being discussed are by John Lennon even though this is an album dominated by Paul McCartney’s voice, and the initial concept was McCartney’s. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Fool album covers
The Sea of Monsters
Tomorrow Never Knows
Yellow Submarine comic books
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
Heinz Edelmann
Please Mr. Postman
All you need is…

LSD-25 by The Gamblers

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A post last year concerned some of the songs that have flaunted their acid credentials by incorporating the letters L-S-D in their titles, the most famous being (of course) Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. While it might be an idea to follow that post by tracking down songs with the word LSD in their title, a quick glance at Discogs shows an entire blotting pad of potential candidates. So I’ll let someone else do the leg-work on that one.

This post is less ambitious, prompted by a brief history of surf music in Rob Chapman’s Psychedelia and Other Colours. The Gamblers receive a mention for being the first group to record a piece of music with LSD in the title: LSD-25 was the B-side of their first single, Moon Dawg!, released in 1960. Moon Dawg! has the distinction of also being one of the first (if not the first) surf singles, and was later covered by The Beach Boys on their debut album, Surfin’ Safari (1962). With its hyperactive drums and twanging guitar Moon Dawg! certainly sounds like a surf number, whereas LSD-25 is more like one of Link Wray’s smouldering instrumentals. I’d heard the A-side on a Cramps-related singles compilation, Loose Lips Might Sink Ships, but hadn’t heard LSD-25 before so this is a welcome discovery. Someone had to be first with the LSD reference (chosen at random by a studio engineer according to Chapman), and we could have done much worse than this.

The Gamblers only recorded one more single before disbanding but guitarist Eliot Ingber had a distinguished career playing with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, Little Feat, Captain Beefheart (as Winged Eel Fingerling), and (I didn’t know this) as a member of The Peter Peter Ivers Band (sic) on Terminal Love (1974). You may not know Ivers’ name but you’ll probably know his voice when it appears in David Lynch’s Eraserhead in the guise of the Lady in the Radiator singing In Heaven.

Previously on { feuilleton }
More trip texts
Trip texts
Acid albums
Acid covers
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson
Enter the Void
In the Land of Retinal Delights
Haschisch Hallucinations by HE Gowers
The art of LSD
Hep cats

Weekend links 254

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Gatefold sleeve for Love, Death and the Lady (1970) by Shirley & Dolly Collins. Photo by Allan Willmoth. No designer credited.

• “When you look at a lot of modern album covers, the art school obsession with the Helvetica kind of undermines it. So instead of looking at an artefact that comes from another place entirely, you are looking at an artefact that has been caught and tamed and made corporate.” Roger Dean talking to Liv Siddall about cover design in the 1970s.

• Erik Davis talks to Stephen Finley, author of Esotericism in African American Religious Experience, about hoodoo and metaphysical blackness. Related: Sun Ra’s Afrofuturist masterwork, Space Is The Place, has been reissued by Harte Recordings as a limited DVD, CD and hardcover book.

• “…she has managed to unearth a coal-seam of neglected songs and stories, incantations of the working people from across the English-speaking planet with their edge of discord left intact, the harmonies frayed by hard-won experience.” Alan Moore on the great Shirley Collins.

[MR] James’s influence, or his example, has rarely been more strongly with us than now. For there is presently apparent, across what might broadly be called landscape culture, a fascination with these Jamesian ideas of unsettlement and displacement. In music, literature, art, film and photography, as well as in new and hybrid forms and media, the English eerie is on the rise. A loose but substantial body of work is emerging that explores the English landscape in terms of its anomalies rather than its continuities, that is sceptical of comfortable notions of “dwelling” and “belonging”, and of the packagings of the past as “heritage”, and that locates itself within a spectred rather than a sceptred isle.

Such concerns are not new, but there is a distinctive intensity and variety to their contemporary address. This eerie counter-culture—this occulture—is drawing in experimental film-makers, folk singers, folklorists, academics, avant-garde antiquaries, landscape historians, utopians, collectives, mainstreamers and Arch-Droods alike, in a magnificent mash-up of hauntology, geological sentience and political activism. The hedgerows, fields, ruins, hills and saltings of England have been set seething.

Robert Macfarlane on the eerieness of the English countryside

• Lots of mixes to choose from this week: Songs from a Railway Station at Dusk by Abigail Ward; mix series The Ivy-Strangled Path by David Colohan is now up to Volume IV; a trove of occult psychedelia from The Ghost of the Weed Garden.

• “Blood Meridian was released on April 28, 1985 to little initial acclaim, but would later gain recognition as one of the most significant novels of the late 20th century.” Ted Gioia on the rise and fall of the Western.

• From the past week’s zones of research: the Gregory Pendennis Library Of Black Sorcery, and Vault Of Evil: Brit Horror Pulp Plus!

• At Dangerous Minds: Zappa meets claymation in the wonderful VHS rarity The Amazing Mr. Bickford.

Synthesizer manuals at the Internet Archive.

• Pages from The Graphic Canon at Pinterest.

Sabbath, a new song by Jenny Hval

French book covers

The Cruel Mother (1967) by Shirley Collins | The Unquiet Grave (1968) by Shirley Collins | Go From My Window (1970) by Shirley & Dolly Collins

Saga de Xam by Nicolas Devil

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Saga de Xam, a large-format comic book published by Éric Losfeld in 1967, is another example of French erotic psychedelia that remained off my radar until I got my hands on the exhibition catalogue for the Musée d’Orsay’s Art Nouveau Revival show in 2010. The glorious drawing below was used as the background for the exhibition poster, and appeared inside the catalogue with two more pages from this rare and sought-after book, described in the catalogue as “the best and most precocious example of French BD directly inspired by American psychedelia”.

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Éric Losfeld is a fascinating character, a kind of pop-culture equivalent of Maurice Girodias, the founder of Olympia Press. Both men published erotic novels, and both had problems with the authorities as a result; but Losfeld also found a niche in art and graphics, producing albums of erotic comic strips—Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella, Guy Peellaert’s Jodelle and Pravda, Guido Crepax’s Valentina, Philippe Caza’s Kris Kool—and lavish portfolios from the weirder end of the erotic art spectrum, showcasing work by Raymond Bertrand, Jean-Marie Poumeyrol and others. It’s common for Brits to consider France a more enlightened nation where sex and comic-art is concerned but in the 1960s comics in France were considered an unsuitable medium for sexual material. Many of Losfeld’s comic-books of the late 60s and early 70s endured the kind of censure that was occurring in Britain and elsewhere. An early non-erotic title was Lone Sloane: Mystère des Abîmes in 1966, the first Lone Sloane story by Philippe Druillet. This no doubt explains Druillet’s involvement with Saga de Xam a year later.

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Saga de Xam: les créateurs.

The comics by Forest, Peellaert and Crepax all featured attractive (often naked) woman as their lead characters. Saga de Xam continued the trend, a story in seven chapters that reads like an amalgam of all the comics Losfeld had published up to that point, Druillet included. The book is credited to Nicolas Devil, and based on a scenario by film director Jean Rollin. (Druillet would later design some posters for Rollin’s vampire films.) Devil, aka Nicolas Deville, was one of Rollin’s art directors who also worked for a time as a comic artist and illustrator. For Saga de Xam Devil was the principal artist in the first six chapters, and wrote most of the text and dialogue. In the final chapter other hands are involved: Jim Tiroff, an actor from Julian Beck’s Living Theatre, provided a poem in English, while the artwork is an unusual exercise in the Surrealist “Exquisite Corpse” technique with Devil, Druillet and several other artists—Barbara Girard, Merri, Nicolas Kapnist—collaborating on a series of improvised splash pages. The final chapter also features arrangements of text that resemble layouts from avant-garde art magazines. Druillet’s contributions are easy to identify since they resemble invasions from his Lone Sloane series, even including references to the Necronomicon.

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