Tim Buckley on DVD


Not before time. Thanks to Jay for the tip.

My Fleeting House
Documentary featuring rare performance and interview footage spanning his entire career

My Fleeting House is first-ever DVD collection of performances of Tim Buckley. This essential DVD features rare live performances from various television shows and interview footage spanning his entire career.

The DVD has eleven full-length songs, and three partial performances. This DVD also features insightful interviews with Larry Beckett (co-writer of many songs with Buckley), Lee Underwood (Buckley’s guitarist) and David Browne (author of Dream Brother: The Lives of Jeff and Tim Buckley).

The footage spans his entire career, from 1967 to 1974, and includes unreleased video of interaction with Buckley on The Steve Allen Show (1969) and on WITF’s The Show (1970). The footage is taken from various television programs from 1967 to 1974 right up to the time of his death in 1975. All but two of the musical clips are unreleased. As an additional oddity, the clip of Buckley being interviewed on The Steve Allen Show includes Jayne Meadows complimenting Buckley on his hair.

Despite having produced nine studio albums, three live albums, and many “best of” compilations—My Fleeting House is the first-ever authorized collection of Buckley’s visual performances. Several segments on this new collection have not been seen for over thirty years. MVD Visual has secured the best possible, first-generation video sources for the compilation, including footage from American, British, and Dutch television, and also a forgotten feature film. This DVD has the full approval of the Estate of Tim Buckley.

Buckley was an experimental vocalist and performer who incorporated jazz, psychedelia, funk, soul, and avant-garde rock in a short career spanning the late 1960s and early 1970s. He often regarded his voice as an instrument, a talent most exploited on his albums Goodbye and Hello, Lorca, and Starsailor. He was the father of musician and singer Jeff Buckley, also known for his three-and-a-half octave voice, who died in 1997. Buckley released his debut album Tim Buckley on Elektra in 1966. A folk-rock album, it contained psychedelic melodies written with input from Beckett. He went on to release Goodbye and Hello (1967), Happy Sad (1969), Blue Afternoon (1969), Lorca (1970), Starsailor (1970), Greetings from L.A. (1972), Sefronia (1973), and Look at the Fool (1974).

Born in Washington DC, Tim Buckley lived for 10 years in New York before moving to southern California. During his childhood, he was a fan of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Nat King Cole, and Miles Davis, although country music was his foremost passion. He left school at 18 with twenty songs written with Larry Beckett under his belt—many of which later featured on his debut album. Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black introduced Buckley to Herb Cohen, and he quickly got him signed to Elektra record company. He also met guitarist Lee Underwood around this time, who became a big part of nearly all of Buckley’s artistic endeavors.

On June 28, 1975 after returning from the last show of a tour in Dallas, Buckley snorted heroin at a friend’s house. Having diligently controlled his habit while on the road, his tolerance was lowered, and the combination of a small amount of drugs mixed with the amount of alcohol he’d been consuming all day to celebrate the tour’s end was too much. His friend took him home thinking he was merely drunk. He was put to bed by his friends, who told his wife that he’d also used some barbiturates. As she watched TV in bed beside him, Buckley turned blue. Attempts by friends and paramedics to revive him were unsuccessful. Reportedly, Buckley’s last words were “Bye Bye Baby,” delivered in a way reminiscent of the line in Ray Charles’ Driftin’ Blues. Buckley was just 28 years of age.

Arranged in chronological order, My Fleeting House traces the evolution of Buckley’s music, voice, songwriting, and backup bands.

DVD extras:
A 12-page booklet of unreleased Buckley photos
An album-by-album review by Underwood, Beckett, and Browne
Beckett (also a poet) reciting ‘Song to the Siren’

Inside Pop—’No Man Can Find the War’
Late Night Line Up—’Happy Time’
Late Night Line Up—’Morning Glory’
Old Grey Whistle Test—’The Dolphins’
The Monkees Show—’Song to the Siren’
Greenwich Village—’Who Do You Love’
Dutch TV—’Happy Time’
Dutch TV—’Sing a Song for You’
Music Video Live—’Sally Go Round the Roses’
Boboquivari—’Blue Melody’
Boboquivari—’Venice Beach (Music Boats by the Bay)’
The Show—’I Woke Up’
The Show—’Come Here Woman’
The Christian Licorice Store—’Pleasant Street’

• Official Website: http://www.timbuckleydvd.com/
• Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHCccGEUMr0

Selection #: DR-4566
UPC: 022891456698
Street Date: 5/15/2007
List Price: $19.95
Running Time: 105 minutes

The Illustrators of Alice


Latest book purchase is this large format volume from 1972, one of a number of interesting art books produced by Academy Editions in the early seventies. I also have their monographs on Odilon Redon, “insane” painter Richard Dadd, and their collection of Félicien Rops‘ pornographic and “Satanist” drawings which remains one of the few Rops books published in English.


Through the Looking-Glass by Mervyn Peake (Allen Wingate, London, 1954).

This collection is worth seeking out if you’re interested in minor Victorian and Edwardian illustrators. The book goes through each chapter of the Alice stories showing examples of illustrated editions by a wide range of illustrators and artists, from Lewis Carroll’s original drawings, Tenniel’s inimitable renderings, then on through the twentieth century, featuring artists such as Peter Blake, Ralph Steadman and even a picture by Max Ernst. The cover drawing is one of my favourites, from Charles Robinson, brother of the more famous William Heath. I also like the pictures by the great Mervyn Peake, one of the few illustrators who seemed able to overcome Tenniel’s dominance and show us something new.

The Alice books are one of the great “standards” (in the jazz sense) of illustration although I can’t say I’ve ever felt the temptation to approach them myself. Loathsome monstrosities from hideously-angled dimensions beyond space and time, yes; small Victorian girls and white rabbits, no.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Patrick Wolf interviewed


‘There was a fire inside me’

His life was made a misery at school, but all that bullying just fuelled Patrick Wolf’s ambition to become a pop star. Looks like he will have the last laugh, says Maddy Costa.

The Guardian, Friday, February 9th, 2007

PATRICK WOLF was 11 when he saw his first dream shatter. Aged six, he had vowed to become a solo violinist. “I’d heard a violin solo by Rachmaninov on the radio,” he recalls, “and it was so divine my little brain thought: that’s what I want to do.” His parents had booked him piano lessons but he told them: “I don’t like this piano, it’s like playing a calculator.” Sadly, his orchestral career didn’t unfold as planned. “I was always second violinist. They do good harmonies, but I wanted to play that solo.”

To most people, playing second violin would be a fine achievement. But Wolf—a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist—isn’t most people. You can tell by the way the 23-year-old is dressed for an average day ambling about central London. His gangly frame is clad in a checked shirt, knitted hoodie and tattered rabbit-fur jacket, his trousers rolled high above his thin gold shoes. His ash-brown hair is dyed burnt orange. Clearly, this man was born to be a pop star. And at the age of 11, disillusioned with his violin prospects, that’s what he decided to become.

It has taken 12 years and two uncompromising albums but Wolf is finally on the verge of the success he craved. Recently signed to a major label (Polydor subsidiary Loog), he’s about to release The Magic Position, an album of rapturous songs designed to soundtrack summer days and sunny adverts in which strangers hug in the street. The sleeve art captures the mood: it pictures Wolf posing on a carousel. Which hasn’t gone down too well in some quarters. “People think I’m trying to be Gary Glitter,” he says.

The trouble is that, whereas Wolf describes The Magic Position as “the most honest representation of how I live my life and what I want out of life”, the album couldn’t be more different from its two predecessors, Lycanthropy (2003) and Wind in the Wires (2005), both troubled testaments to his difficult youth. Wolf’s tale is one of bullying and depression, rebellion and melodrama, and he prefers to narrate it “with the music”. He’s been known to fabricate details: in early interviews, “I would make up stories about my life, until this legend emerged that I had been born in a lighthouse in Cork. It got out to my relatives in Ireland and I couldn’t live it down.” Since then, he admits: “It sounds quite arrogant, but I realised my life was more interesting than the fantasy.”

(Continues here)

Raw Deal


John Ireland and Marsha Hunt in Raw Deal (1948).

Yes, there was another decade besides the ’70s when Hollywood made films with downbeat endings. The NYT manages to write about Raw Deal without mentioning its director, the great Anthony Mann. Never mind, at least they credited John Alton.

Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt, Nights Are Noir in Fog City
New York Times, January 29, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 28 — The orange and blue neon lights of the Castro Theater shone blurrily on the damp asphalt beneath the crisscrossing catenary wires of the streetcars. The words on the marquee in the Friday night gloom, read: “Marsha Hunt: In Person.”

Ms. Hunt made more than 50 movies before her career was wrecked in 1950 by the Hollywood blacklist. One of them, a 1948 crime melodrama called “Raw Deal,” has gone on to an unlikely second life as a favorite of the cultish devotees of film noir. On Friday it opened the fifth annual Noir City film festival here, and Ms. Hunt, 89, was on hand to watch its dreamlike silvery hues make a rare appearance on a big — very big — screen.

Lithe and glowing, Ms. Hunt took the stage after the film and said she was surprised not only that this dark little B movie had found fans nearly 60 years after its release, but that so many of them were here, nearly filling the Castro’s more than 1,400 seats. The crowd was a mix of young and old, polished and scruffy, with only a few fedoras in sight.

“I can’t get over this,” Ms. Hunt said as the film festival’s founder and organizer, Eddie Muller, genially interviewed her at the foot of the stage. “It was a strange sort of film,” she added, “about as negative as you can get. They hadn’t coined the term ‘noir’ yet.”

She’s right. It’s hard to imagine a darker film, literally or figuratively, than “Raw Deal.” Consisting almost entirely of luminescent day-for-night photography, it’s the story of an escaped con (played by Dennis O’Keefe) and the two women who love him (Ms. Hunt was one; Claire Trevor was the other), and features, among other pitch-black set pieces, a villain (Raymond Burr) who disfigures his girlfriend with a flaming dessert, and a furious midnight brawl in a seaside taxidermy shop. At the end everyone is either ruined, dead or under arrest.

And that darkness was just fine with the moviegoers here, which applauded vigorously as the closing titles rolled, just as they had at the beginning when the credit for the film’s director of photography, John Alton, the master of all that darkness, appeared on screen.

Mr. Muller, an author and film noir aficionado, dreamed up the film festival five years ago as a way to increase visibility for the Film Noir Foundation he runs, which works to restore the movies, and to promote his own books. (He most recently helped write Tab Hunter’s autobiography.) The Castro, built in 1922 and recently refurbished, had some dead time in January, and the festival (which runs this year through Feb. 4) was born — with a bang. The first double bill in 2003, “The Maltese Falcon” and “Dark Passage” — two seminal San Francisco noirs — sold out.

“It was huge right out of the gate,” he said. ”It totally threw me.” In the years since, he’s sold an average of 880 seats a night.

Of course subject matter and city are well matched. San Francisco has a noir pedigree rivaling that of New York or Los Angeles, its fog, slanting streets, circa-1940’s office buildings and dank narrow streets creating untold scores of blind alleys for characters unlucky enough to be trapped in them. Several noirs, including “Raw Deal,” have been set here.

On Friday the weather didn’t disappoint, with a steady rain falling much of the day. The sun made a half-hearted attempt to appear around noon, then gave up and went back to bed.

The Noir City festival may not be Sundance, but it too has its celebrities and scenes. Before “Raw Deal” on Friday the Castro’s balcony was crammed for a reception, with an open bar, a jazz band and Ms. Hunt signing copies of her book, “The Way We Wore: Styles of the 1930s and ’40s and Our World Since Then” (Fallbrook, 1993).

Among those on hand was Richard Erdman, 81, a character actor whose face is as recognizable — his credits include “Stalag 17” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!” — as his name is unknown. He had a supporting role in “Cry Danger,” the first film on Saturday night’s double bill, and looked so familiar standing there at the reception that it was almost impossible not to run up to him and say, “Haven’t we met before?”

Like Ms. Hunt, Mr. Erdman seemed a little puzzled as to why exactly, so many years later, these movies are finding a new following. Asked for a theory, he thought for a moment and said: “I really have no idea. I’m not putting it down, I just don’t understand it.”

He heaped praise on Mr. Muller and his crew of volunteers for running a high-class operation. “They’re not chintzy,” he said, sipping a glass of white wine.

Film noir is enjoying something of a second golden age at the moment. In addition to the San Francisco festival, the Film Forum in New York City offered a major noir series last year, and studios like Warner Brothers and Fox have ratcheted up their noir reissues to such an extent that many films that never made it out on VHS are appearing on DVD. Just last week Warner Home Video released 1952’s “Angel Face,” starring Robert Mitchum, which had only been available on foreign or pirated VHS tapes. Mr. Muller provides the commentary track.

“With film noir, if you show it to a group of 20-year-olds, they’ll find something to get hooked on,” said George Feltenstein, Warner Home Video’s voluble senior vice president for marketing for its classic catalog. “There is a sexiness to it, there is a mystery took it. These are very seductive movies, they are not cookie-cutter.”

Warner Brothers has released three noir box sets. The first, which came out in 2004 and featured titles like “Out of the Past” and “The Asphalt Jungle,” hit No. 1 on Amazon.com’s DVD list. This year Warner’s fourth noir set will include 10 rather than 5 movies. Here’s a scoop for noir fans: Two will star Mr. Mitchum.

Whatever the machinations of the DVD business, here at the Noir City festival, everyone was in a pretty good mood by the time the second title of opening night, “Kid Glove Killer,” a super-rarity from 1942, rolled to its conclusion. This one had a happier ending, with Ms. Hunt getting a marriage proposal, delivered beneath a microscope, from a skinny and surprisingly big-haired Van Heflin.

Coats and fedoras went back on, and the crowd headed for the exits. Ms. Hunt stood by the door, shaking hands and signing autographs, as her new legions of fans emerged onto the shiny street and headed off into the night.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Film noir posters
Early Kubrick
Kiss Me Deadly

Wallace Burman and Semina


Semina, #1–9.

A Return Trip to a Faraway Place Called Underground
New York Times, January 26, 2007

Time is forever. Love is the goal. Art is what you are, not what you do. Many young artists and poets in California in the 1950s and ’60s felt and lived this way. And a traveling band of them, trailing a cloud of marijuana-fragrant air, has arrived at the Grey Art Gallery in “Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle.”

The mostly dense paintings, drawings and collages in the show make visual sense in New York today. Updated versions of their type have flooded galleries in the last few years. Yet the throwaway, amateur-proud spirit that propelled the older work is largely absent in the new. It belongs to another time and place, with a different set of possibilities and necessities, to a small imploded star, now far, far away, called Underground.

The artist Wallace Berman (1926-76) lived on that star. His name still rings only a faint bell. Actually, he was something of a mystery even to his friends, who were legion and seem to have loved him deeply. And as the show, a kind of scrapbook of art and ephemera, makes clear, three decades after his death he is well worth getting to know.

Born in Staten Island, a child of Russian Jews, he moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was 9 and turned into a classic California oddball. He loved sports, jazz, mind-altering substances, Dada, inside jokes and esoteric spiritual systems, notably the kabbalah. A spiritually minded secularist, he was intensely sociable and intensely quiet, a family man whose house was open to all.

He was also a collagist, painter, photographer and poet; his immersion in art was complete. He not only made it but also inspired others to make it, sparking hidden aptitude in startling places. After meeting him, drifters, movie stars, ex-marines and petty criminals found themselves starting to paint and write.

By temperament a collaborator, he was also, in his nonentrepreneurial way, a promoter. With other artists, he briefly opened a gallery in a roofless houseboat and gave one-day shows to people he admired. Shy of showing his own work, he had few exhibitions; one, at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in 1957, was particularly memorable. It led to his arrest for exhibiting lewd material.

The offending piece, a drawing of a copulating couple, was not by him but by a friend, Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel (1922-95), an artist, performer and occult practitioner who went by the single name Cameron. (She is currently the subject of a solo show at Nicole Klagsbrun in Chelsea.) The image appeared in the first issue of Mr. Berman’s loose-leaf journal, Semina, copies of which he had scattered around the gallery floor.

It was Semina that carried Mr. Berman, and the artists and poets he championed, beyond a local audience. He produced the journal from 1955 to 1964 on a mail-order hand press with the help of two friends, the artist and poet Robert Alexander and the photographer Charles Brittin. There were only nine issues. The print run was minute. The contents were mind-boggling.

The magazine, its pages randomly compiled, mixed Berman heroes like Antonin Artaud and Jean Cocteau with established American poets like Robert Duncan and Allen Ginsberg, then added a slew of younger writers and artists — Philip Lamantia, Jack Anderson, Patricia Jordan, Kirby Doyle, Bob Kaufman, Aya Tarlow, Ruth Weiss, Michael McClure, the great gay poet John Wieners — all barely out of the starting gate. Sent, copy by copy, through the mail, Semina defined a distinctively trippy, sardonic West Coast surrealism. New York had hard, cold Pop; the West Coast had a woozy Peyote-Funk that prefigured the hippie era.

If the journal put Wallace Berman’s name on the national countercultural grapevine, his personal influence was still transmitted through artists and poets who met him. And four dozen of them take brief, individual bows in a show — organized for the Santa Monica Museum of Art by two independent curators and critics, Michael Duncan and Kristine McKenna — that feels like both a slice of still-warm history and a reliquary.

Several of the artists are now far better known than Mr. Berman himself. Joan Brown (1938-90), Bruce Conner and Jay De Feo (1929-89) are textbook figures. Ms. Brown’s fetishistic “Man on Horseback,” a 1957 sculpture of rolled and tied cloth, is an eye-catcher. So are two sumptuously abject assemblages by Mr. Conner, who also has an outstanding show of early work at Susan Inglett Gallery in Chelsea.

And for relics, there’s the pigment-caked footstool that Ms. De Feo used while creating “The Rose,” a painting that grew so heavy with applied matter that, at 2,000 pounds, it had to be forklifted from her tenement studio.

More famous at the time were Hollywood actors like Dean Stockwell and Russ Tamblyn, who met Mr. Berman and started making art. Another was Dennis Hopper, who picked up photography and film directing. (He cast Mr. Berman in a small role in “Easy Rider.”) And there was Billy Gray. A teenage heartthrob as Bud Anderson on “Father Knows Best,” he started making stained-glass sculptures after a drug arrest in 1962 crippled his show business career.

Chemicals of all descriptions gradually pulled the Berman circle down. It comes as a dawning shock to walk through the show and see so many young faces accompanied by so many curtailed dates.

The Pop assemblagist Ben Talbert and the abstract painter Arthur Richer died of drug overdoses in their early 40s. The Hollywood child actor Bobby Driscoll, the voice of Peter Pan in the Disney film and the creator of four glorious little collages in the show, was taken out by heroin at 31. By the end of the 1960s, methamphetamines had ruined John Reed, another wonderful artist and poet; he died homeless, almost all his work lost.

Three of these four, Richer being the exception, had little if any formal art training. They could be called outsider artists, except — well, except what? They weren’t crazy enough, or poor enough, or “ethnic” enough, or in some other way picturesque enough to qualify for that exaltedly abject name?

Their work is interesting in large part exactly because it muddies market-driven aesthetic divisions instituted since their day: artist versus outsider artist, trained versus self-taught, professional versus amateur. Most of the artists in the show fall on the alternative side of the equations.

In fact, one of the things that made them a “circle,” if they can really be called that, was their shared lack of traditional bona fides. They were artists because they said they were, and acted as if they were, and because someone — Wallace Berman — said, “You are.” Where would they have stood in relation to today’s standardized, professionalized art industry? Where do such artists stand today, since there are surely many out there, living artists’ lives?

Anyway, for the purposes of the exhibition, the Berman connection is the crucial link, the bond that makes outsiders insiders. They are held within his orbit, which Mr. Duncan and Ms. McKenna, in their charismatic catalog, depict as an accepting, protective space.

Acceptance, and the psychological protection it affords, are rare and invaluable. Are they extended to artists today, to all artists, equally? They should be. They must have felt especially necessary as the cold war 1950s turned into the Vietnam War 1960s, as modern art moved into its radically disruptive postmodern phase.

And as casualties among the artists and poets gathered in the show began to grow, no high in the world could have hidden the truth that time is very short, and that love is only as trustworthy as its object. People trusted Mr. Berman; that was the bottom line. They found him steady and there. I don’t believe in gurus, and especially not in art gurus, even those like Wallace Berman who didn’t want to be one. But I can understand why, when he died after being hit by a drunken driver on the eve of his 50th birthday, there was much grief.

“Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle” continues through March 31 at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, 100 Washington Square East, Greenwich Village, (212) 998-6780, nyu.edu/greyart.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Cameron, 1922–1955