Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys

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The great Hal Willner is doing his eclectic thing again. A marvellous collection of folk ballads. Nice cover as well, from Howard Pyle’s celebrated pirate paintings.

Disc: 1
1. Cape Cod Girls—Baby Gramps
2. Mingulay Boat Song—Richard Thompson
3. My Son John—John C. Reilly
4. Fire Down Below—Nick Cave
5. Turkish Revelry—Loudon Wainwright III
6. Bully In The Alley—The Old Prunes
7. The Cruel Ship’s Captain—Bryan Ferry
8. Dead Horse—Robin Holcomb
9. Spanish Ladies—Bill Frisell
10. High Barbary—Joseph Arthur
11. Haul Away Joe—Mark Anthony Thompson
12. Dan Dan—David Thomas
13. Blood Red Roses—Sting
14. Sally Brown—Teddy Thompson
15. Lowlands Away—Rufus Wainwright & Kate McGarrigle
16. Baltimore Whores—Gavin Friday
17. Rolling Sea—Eliza McCarthy
18. Haul On The Bowline—Bob Neuwirth
19. Dying Sailor to His Shipmates—Bono
20. Bonnie Portmore—Lucinda Williams
21. The Mermaid—Martin Carthy & the UK Group
22. Shenandoah—Richard Greene & Jack Shit
23. The Cry Of Man—Mary Margaret O’Hara

Disc: 2
1. Boney—Jack Shit
2. Good Ship Venus—Loudon Wainwright III
3. Long Time Ago—White Magic
4. Pinery Boy—Nick Cave
5. Lowlands Low—Bryan Ferry w/Antony
6. One Spring Morning—Akron/Family
7. Hog Eye Man—Martin Carthy & Family
8. The Fiddler/A Drop Of Nelson’s Blood—Ricky Jay & Richard Greene
9. Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold—Andrea Corr
10. Fathom The Bowl—John C. Reilly
11. Drunken Sailor—Dave Thomas
12. Farewell Nancy—Ed Harcourt
13. Hanging Johnny—Stan Ridgway
14. Old Man of The Sea—Baby Gramps
15. Greenland Whale Fisheries—Van Dyke Parks
16. Shallow Brown—Sting
17. The Grey Funnel Line—Jolie Holland
18. A Drop of Nelson’s Blood—Jarvis Cocker
19. Leave Her Johnny—Lou Reed
20. Little Boy Billy—Ralph Steadman

Previously on { feuilleton }
The music of The Wicker Man
Davy Jones

Le horreur cosmique

hpllibrio.jpgI’ll be in Paris this week so some French-related postings are in order.

Michel Houellebecq’s HP Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (which I still haven’t read) has been in the news again recently, with a number of reviews appearing in UK newspapers and magazines, most of which present the by-now rather tired spectacle of reviewers who normally wouldn’t give any of this nasty pulp stuff a second thought having to take Lovecraft seriously because Houellebecq is a serious author. (“He’s a bad writer!” they bleat. And Lou Reed is a bad singer; you’re missing the point, you fools.) The Observer last week had one of the better ones. Last year the Guardian published an extract from Houellebecq’s book.

Curious how often it requires the French to make the Anglophone world look anew at marginalised elements of its own culture; Baudelaire championed Edgar Allan Poe, it was French film critics who gave us the term “film noir” when they identified a new strain of American cinema and the Nouvelle Vague writers and filmmakers were the first to treat Hitchcock as anything other than a superior entertainer. The French have always liked Lovecraft so it was no surprise to me at least when Houellebecq’s book appeared.

Oddly enough, the only association I’ve had so far with French publishing is the use of my 1999 picture of Cthulhu’s city, R’lyeh, on the cover of a reprint of HPL stories from Houellebecq’s publishing house (above). Something I’ll be looking for in Paris if I have the time will be more of Philippe Druillet‘s Lovecraft-inflected work. Druillet has been working with the imagery of cosmic horror since the late 60s and even illustrated the work of William Hope Hodgson, one of HPL’s influences and an English writer the broadsheet critics have yet to hear about. Take a look at these pictures for stories written before the First World War then go and look at some stills from the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. What was once the preserve of Weird Tales and other pulp magazines is now mainstream culture.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Davy Jones
Charles Méryon’s Paris

Davy Jones

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No, not the dreadful singer from The Monkees but he of the undersea locker and also the new villain in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Bill Nighy plays this splendidly-designed character, with the assistance of some CGI to get those tentacles working. I’ve still not seen the first film but the look of this makes me more interested in the series as a whole.

Aside from William Hope Hodgson‘s sea tales, the pirates plus voodoo/Sargasso Sea angle has rarely been exploited properly in fiction. Tim Powers had a go in On Stranger Tides but the results fell rather flat. In film there’s been hardly anything apart from the Hammer oddity The Lost Continent (1968), based on Uncharted Seas, a Dennis Wheatley potboiler that plundered Hodgson’s Sargasso Sea stories. The new Pirates film may be about to amend this situation; Davy Jones looks like something dreamed up after a heavy diet of Hodgson and HP Lovecraft.

Watchmen

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This year sees the 20th anniversary of the publication of Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. This landmark comic book, one of the few to deserve the designation “graphic novel”, remains a particular favourite of mine, and one that still excites today for its consummate command of the comics medium. The following is a very long round table discussion with Watchmen‘s creators from issue 100 of Fantasy Advertiser, first published in March 1988. It’s surprising that this doesn’t seem to have been posted anywhere else on the web as it’s an excellent discussion into some of the details of this great book.

Spoiler warning: this piece discusses in depth just about every revelation in the story so you’d be advised to skip it if you haven’t read the book.

MARTIN SKIDMORE: Alright, let’s have a starting point… just what is it about Watchmen that distinguishes it from other…
STEVE WHITAKER: Cream cheeses?
MS: …superhero comics on the market?
DAVE GIBBONS: Is this in the form of direct questions to us, or…
FIONA JEROME: No, we’re all gonna talk.
DG: Well, I’ll have a schnoozle then…
SW: The thing that I think distinguishes Watchmen from other comics is that the series holds together more like a novel. Your climax isn’t in the last 3 panels in Watchmen 12. There are long quiet tracts with exciting bits or…moderately exciting bits (LAUGHTER) In terms of Jack Kirby Wham! Smash! Pow! it’s all very quiet. There’s a lot of suffering but…
MS: …it’s all emotional rather than physical suffering.
ALAN MOORE: It’s a difficult question for me and Dave to answer, probably one that you could answer better, but if I had to say anything then it’s the degree of structure that me and Dave have applied to it—I can’t think of many examples of that degree of structure, that degree of layering.
FJ: I was going to say: especially visually you don’t get such a use of motif certainly not in American comics.
MS: Doug Moench has used it occasionally.
FJ: But not with the same complexity and not filling-in with written structure as well.
PETER HOGAN: The thing is: you’re given a world. The characters, alright, they’re based on the Charlton Characters but they’re new as of page 1. Even so, they’re characters with a history that comes out over the course of the thing… Their world has a history… it has a cohesion to it.
SW: Something that quite interests me now we’re talking about structure and stuff, is the symmetry—there is a real symmetry to Watchmen and the way the characters are set up.
DG: Two arms… two legs. (LAUGHTER)
MS: Perhaps the Comedian and Rorschach…
SW: I was thinking more of Osterman and Ozymandias.
MS: That’s right—the intellectual and physical, chaos and law…
AM: It’s difficult pinning down what’s symmetrical to what—I mean to me, at least to some extent, there’s an equally good case for contrasting Nite Owl and Rorschach.

Continue reading “Watchmen”