Digging the Rubble

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1: The Psychedelic Snarl.

A few words in praise of Rubble, the 20-disc collection of (mostly) British psychedelic singles released by the Bam Caruso label from 1984 to 1991. A reader of Rob Chapman’s Psychedelia and Other Colours would find the Rubble series an indispensable companion to the second half of the book which explores the unique styles of British psych. Ideally you’d read the book while having these and other compilations close at hand, something I didn’t manage so I’ve been going through the discs myself this week, listening out for some of the many singles that Chapman discusses. The Rubble title is a nod to Lenny Kaye’s 1972 collection Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968, the first reappraisal of the garage/psych era whose success spawned Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond, 1964-1969, a not-so-good attempt to do the same for the UK, and Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the Second Psychedelic Era, 1976-1995. The original Nuggets was followed by the long-running Pebbles series which sprawls over 28 discs collecting obscure garage singles.

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2: Pop-Sike Pipe Dreams.

What I like about the Rubble series, apart from its covering a favourite zone of musical history, is the way that each volume is titled in a suitable manner beyond a mere number: the title of volume 8, All The Colours Of Darkness could have been used by Coil during their LSD period. Then there’s the sleeve designs by the great Phil Smee, one of the founders of Bam Caruso, the collector of many of the featured singles, and a first-rate artisan of psychedelic graphics: there’s a Louis Wain cat on volume 2, and more of those letterforms by Roman Cieslewicz on volume 10. Smee deserves a post of his own but covering such a lengthy career would be a daunting task: Discogs lists 784 separate releases, and that’s only his design work. The design on the first run of Rubble albums was credited to “Harvey S. Williams”, a Smee pseudonym playing on the name of Elektra Records art director William S. Harvey. Harvey S. Williams was also the designer of the short-lived and rather wonderful Bam Caruso magazine, Strange Things Are Happening, issues of which are advertised in the inner sleeves of the early Rubble albums. (The magazine borrowed its title from a 1968 single by Rings and Things which is featured on Rubble 4.)

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3: Nightmares In Wonderland.

The Rubble series has been reissued on CD many times, and is currently available as The Rubble Collection, a glossy cube containing all 20 discs in card sleeves together with two booklets that reprint Phil Smee’s original sleeve notes and band photos. The Rubble albums sound a little rough today when many of the songs which were taken directly from old singles have been resurrected and can be heard elsewhere in better quality. Subsequent compilations have also cherry-picked many of the better selections but this is still the ideal place to start if you want to immerse yourself in the toyshop/kitchen sink surrealism that is British psychedelia.

• See also: Richard Norris reminiscing about working at Bam Caruso, and choosing 20 favourite British psych records.

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4: The 49 Minute Technicolour Dream.

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Weekend links 100

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How to become a mermaid and dissolve into sea foam in just seven surgical operations (2010) by Carla Bedini.

D.I.Y. Magic was a regular feature in the late Arthur Magazine that’s now become a book by Anthony Alvarado: “Think of it as jail-breaking the iPhone of your mind. Teaching it to do things that its basic programming was never set up for. Advanced self-psychology.” A first edition letterpress silver foil cover is limited to 1000 copies. | More magic: Jimmy Page’s unused soundtrack for Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer’s Rising finally gets an official release on March 20th.

Julia Holter‘s tremendous new album, Ekstasis, has been rocking my world this week. She’s interviewed at FACT where you can also hear the opening track, Marienbad, which receives extra points for being derived from that film. And there’s more: Ritual Music, a live performance at Sea & Space Gallery in Los Angeles, and Fur Felix, a film by Eric Fensler.

Brute Ornament, an exhibition of new work by Seher Shah and Kamrooz Aram opens at the Green Art Gallery, Dubai, on Monday. While the UAE is out of reach for most of us, the gallery site has samples of the work on display.

• This week’s mixtape arrives courtesy of BUTT magazine: Rock Bottom Mix by Cesar Padilla, a blend of acid, glam, grunge, punk, surf and stoner rock. Elsewhere, Richard Norris lists his 20 favourite UK psychedelic records.

the name is BURROUGHS ? Expanded Media at ZKM, the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, is a comprehensive exhibition presenting for the first time in Germany the artistic output of William Burroughs.

Boneland by Alan Garner will be published in August, a new novel that concludes a narrative thread begun with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen in 1960.

• Coming soon (so to speak) on BFI DVD, The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome, more gay obscurities receiving quality attention.

The Northampton Chronicle reports on Alan Moore’s forthcoming novel about the town, Jerusalem.

Susan Cain is playing my tune (again): Why the world needs introverts.

• Techniques of terror: Carl Dreyer‘s Danish Gothic dissected.

• NASA has the latest map of Everything.

The male sex toy revolution.

Lucifer Rising Sessions (1972) by Bobby Beausoleil.

Weekend links 17

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Aladdin Sane (1973). Cover photo by Brian Duffy who died this week.

• Among the obituaries this week: artist Louise Bourgeois; poet and partner of Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky; film director Joseph Strick, a man who dared to film James Joyce’s Ulysses; photographer Brian Duffy.

The dustbin of art history: “Why is so much contemporary art awful? We’re living through the death throes of the modernist project—and this isn’t the first time that greatness has collapsed into decadence.” Admirable sentiments but galleries and dealers have far too much invested in the corrupt edifice to let it collapse any time soon.

• Edinburgh film festival to screen ‘lost and forgotten’ British movies including the director’s cut of Jerry Cornelius film The Final Programme.

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Delectable Bawdville burlesque boy Chris “Go-Go” Harder. Via EVB who have more pics.

Homobody by Rio Safari, “a scrappy diy zine about queerness”. Obliquely related: Lizzy the Lezzie, animations at the Sundance Channel.

• Richard Norris aka Time and Space Machine puts together a psychedelic mixtape for FACT. Fab stuff.

• Diamanda Galás has a message for critics: “Stick to reviewing plant life and leave the Witches alone.”

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine will be the first US survey of Gysin’s work in NYC next month.

• Geeta Dayal’s study of Another Green World by Brian Eno reviewed at Ballardian.

• For type-heads: font anatomy wallpaper by Sigurdur Armannsson.

If it was my home: visualising the BP oil disaster.

Antony Gormley’s Breathing Room III.

The Paris Review has a new blog.

• Bizarre juxtaposition of the week: John Martyn’s sublime Small Hours with, er… The Clangers.

Alan Moore interview, 1988

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Originally published in Strange Things Are Happening, vol. 1, no. 2, May/June 1988. Note: “Vincent Eno” was Richard Norris, later one half of dance/ambient outfit The Grid with Dave Ball. See also the Watchmen round table discussion on this site.

Vincent Eno and El Csawza meet
comics megastar ALAN MOORE

Amidst smouldering heaps of superlatives flung in the direction of the comic genre of late, one name stands head and shoulders above the crowd: ALAN MOORE. But don’t just trust the gushing blurbs on the back of Moore’s works (‘Alan Moore has reinvented the comic book genre’ and so on), take it from your pals at Strange Things – Alan Moore is beezer!

With Watchmen the comic book format legitimately became what the media manipulators were attempting to tell us all about – the graphic novel. Watchmen is a work to be read and re-read, loved and cherished. Poetry, Cinema, narrative, music… they’re all here. The advent of such a work is as exciting in literary terms as the publication of the earliest novels, and you’d better believe it. Because within the next two years, the work of Alan Moore and his contemporaries is going to eclipse Watchmen and zoom into overdrive. As Alan says, ‘the next two years are going to be good for comics.’ Some understatement.

Turning into the first true comic megastar wasn’t an easy ride for Alan.

‘After school I did a variety of awful horrifying jobs,’ he recalls. ‘They look great on the dust jacket of your first novel, but were shit to actually live through! I started off by working at the skin division of the local Co-operative society. We’d go to work at seven thirty in the morning, drag these blood-sodden sheepskins out of vats of cold water and urine, chop off extraneous testicles or hooves and throw them at each other in this concentration camp gaiety we’d established to cope with the grimness of our surroundings. People there were splattered with this chemical for removing wool from hide, these blue marks all over them.

‘Then I climbed up the social ladder and became a toilet cleaner for a hotel. After that I went through a number of grindingly tedious office jobs; finally I had to make the jump into writing because we’d got a kid on the way and if I’d waited until after the baby was born I’d never have had the nerve. I decided that life being as short as it is, and as far as I know us getting only one crack at it, it just seemed important that I shouldn’t spend any of it doing something I didn’t want to do.’

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