Tuxedomoon: some queer connections

roques18.jpg

UK poster insert by Patrick Roques for Desire (1981).

Yes, more Tuxedomoon: there’s a lot to explore. It’s always a pleasure when something that you enjoy one medium connects to things that interest you elsewhere. From the outset Tuxedomoon have had more than their share of connections to gay culture—to writers especially—but it’s more of an ongoing conversation than any kind of proselytising concern. This post teases out those connections some of which I hadn’t spotted myself until I started delving deeper.

The Angels of Light: Not the Michael Gira group but an earlier band of musicians and performers in San Francisco in the early 1970s. The Angels of Light formed out of performance troupe The Cockettes following a split between those who wanted to charge admission for their shows, and those who wanted to keep things free to all. Among the troupe there was Steven Brown, soon to be a founding member of Tuxedomoon:

The group began as an offshoot of The Angels of Light, ‘a “family” of dedicated artists who sang, danced, painted and sewed for the Free Theater’, says Steve Brown. ‘I was lucky to be part of the Angels—I fell for a bearded transvestite in the show and moved in with him at the Angels’ commune. Gay or bi men and women who were themselves works of art, extravagant in dress and behaviour, disciples of Artaud and Wilde and Julian Beck [of the Living Theater] … we lived together in a big Victorian house … pooled all our disability cheques each month, ate communally … and used the rest of the funds to produce lavish theatrical productions—never charging a dime to the public. This is what theatre was meant to be: a Dionysian rite of lights and music and chaos and Eros.’

Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds

(Special Treatment For The) Family Man (1979): A sombre commentary from the Scream With A View EP on the trial of Dan White, the assassin of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. White’s “special treatment” in court led to a conviction for manslaughter which in turn resulted in San Francisco’s White Night riots in May, 1979.

James Whale (1980): An instrumental on the first Tuxedomoon album, Half-Mute, all sinister electronics and tolling bells as befits a piece named after a director of horror films. Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is not only the best of the Universal horror series, it’s also commonly regarded as a subversive examination of marriage and the creation of life from a gay perspective. (Whale’s friends and partner disagreed, however.)

joeboysf.jpg

Cover art by Winston Tong.

Joeboy San Francisco (1981): The Joeboy name was lifted from a piece of San Francisco graffiti to become a name for Tuxedomoon’s DIY philosophy. It’s also a record label name, the name of an early single, and a side project of the group which in 1981 produced Joeboy In Rotterdam / Joeboy San Francisco. The SF side features a collage piece by Winston Tong based on The Wild Boys by William Burroughs, a key inspiration for the band which first surfaces here.

In one piece, the band cites its influences as: “burroughs, bowie, camus, cage, eno, moroder”. Can you say what you admired or drew on vis-à-vis these artists?

William S. Burroughs — ideas concerning use of media — tapes, projections, his radical anti-control politic in general as well as his outspoken gayness. Early on we duplicated on stage one of his early experiments projecting films of faces onto faces.

Simon Reynolds interview with Steven Brown

Continue reading “Tuxedomoon: some queer connections”

Wroblewski covers Burroughs

cities-1982.jpg

Picador, 1982.

Being an occasional cover designer I naturally have a more than passing interest in how the books of favourite writers are packaged. I’ve mentioned a couple of times how much I liked the covers that Thomi Wroblewski produced in the 1980s for UK editions published by Picador and John Calder. Wroblewski is a designer who also creates his own artwork using a variety of media, with some form of collage being a common technique. Burroughs has had a number of decent designs over the years but Wroblewski is one of the few people loosed on his books who seemed to fully appreciate the tenor of the writing, and was able to convey something essential without ever being too abstract or too illustrative. I’d have been happy to see him design a complete range of the titles.

reader-1982.jpg

Picador, 1982.

Most of the covers here have been swiped from the excellent Burroughs page at Beat Book Covers where you can judge Wroblewski’s work against other editions. An exception below is the art for an unknown edition of The Wild Boys, a picture described as being from 1988 so it may have been on a Picador cover I’ve never seen. The only cover at Beat Book Covers using that art is a later Russian edition. If anyone can say when and where Wroblewski’s picture was first used, please leave a comment.

job-1984.jpg

Calder, 1984.

Also below is an album cover from Wroblewski’s parallel career as a music designer. Minutes was an audio magazine released in 1987 on the LTM label, and is included here since two of the tracks were Burroughs readings. The album has never been reissued but a copy from the vinyl can be downloaded here. Worthwhile mainly for WSB and Winston Tong of Tuxedomoon.

For more about the elusive Thomi Wroblewski, Momus wrote something about him a couple of years ago. There’ll be more about The Wild Boys, and Winston Tong, tomorrow.

Continue reading “Wroblewski covers Burroughs”

Weekend links 58

delpozo1.jpg

Oya by Alberto del Pozo (1945–1992). Also known as Yansa, Oya is Changó’s third wife. She is the goddess of the winds and of lightning and is mistress of the cemetery gates. Passionate and brave she fights by her husband’s side if needed. Her favorite offerings are papaya, eggplant and geraniums. From Santeria at BibliOdyssey.

Austin Osman Spare is a good example of the dictum that quality will out in the end, no matter how long it remains buried. Overlooked by the art establishment after he retreated into his private mythologies, a substantial portion of his output was equally ignored by occultists who wanted to preserve him as a weird and scary working-class magus. One group dismissed his deeply-felt spiritual interests in a manner they wouldn’t dare employ if he’d been a follower of Santeria, say (or even a devout Christian), while the other group seemed to regard his superb portraits as too mundane to be worthy of attention. Now that Phil Baker’s Spare biography has been published by Strange Attractor we might have reached the end of such short-sighted appraisals and can finally see a more rounded picture of the man and his work:

[Kenneth] Grant preserved and magnified Spare’s own tendency to confabulation, giving him the starring role in stories further influenced by Grant’s own reading of visionary and pulp writers such as Arthur Machen, HP Lovecraft, and Fu Manchu creator Sax Rohmer. Grant’s Spare seems to inhabit a parallel London; a city with an alchemist in Islington, a mysterious Chinese dream-control cult in Stockwell, and a small shop with a labyrinthine basement complex, its grottoes decorated by Spare, where a magical lodge holds meetings. This shop – then a furrier, now an Islamic bookshop, near Baker Street – really existed, and part of the fascination of Grant’s version of Spare’s London is its misty overlap with reality.

Austin Osman Spare: Cockney visionary by Phil Baker.

Austin Osman Spare: The man art history left behind | A Flickr set: Austin Osman Spare at the Cuming Museum | HV Morton meets Austin Spare (1927).

• More quality rising from obscurity: Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End. Skolimowski’s drama is one of unpleasant characters behaving badly towards each other. Anglo-American cinema featured a great deal of this in the 1970s when filmmakers disregarded the sympathies of their audience in a manner which would be difficult today. John Patterson looks at another example which is also given a re-release this month, the “feral, minatory and menacing masterwork” that is Taxi Driver.

delpozo2.jpg

Echú Eleguá by Alberto del Pozo. Among the most ancient of the orishas Echú Eleguá is the messenger of the gods, who forges roads, protects the house, and is heaven’s gate-keeper. In any ceremony he is invoked first. He owns all cowrie shells and is the god of luck. A prankster, Echú Eleguá frequently has a monkey and a black rooster by his side. Like a mischievous boy he enjoys gossip and must be pampered with offerings of toys, fruit, and candy.

Minutes, a compilation on the LTM label from 1987: William Burroughs, Jean Cocteau, Tuxedomoon, Jacques Derrida, The Monochrome Set, and er…Richard Jobson. Thomi Wroblewski designed covers for a number of Burroughs titles in the 1980s, and he also provided the cover art for this release.

Mikel Marton Photography: a Tumblr of erotic photography and self-portraits.

From Death Factory To Norfolk Fens: Chris & Cosey interviewed.

NASA announces results of epic space-time experiment.

Oritsunagumono by Takayuki Hori: origami x-rays.

Plexus magazine at 50 Watts.

Mother Sky (1970) by Can | Late For The Sky (1974) by Jackson Browne.

William Burroughs book covers

wsb1.jpg

This site has a great selection of Burroughs’ cover art. By no means complete but pages like this are always fascinating for showing the variety of visual interpretations that can be brought to a single title. Also nice to see how books looked in their earlier editions before they achieved status as “classic” works. And sometimes you see odd book title variations, so Queer in some foreign editions has become Pederast.

wsb2.jpg

Too many great designs to choose from so I’ve picked out a couple of favourites by Thomi Wroblewski for Picador editions of the early Eighties. Cities of the Red Night remains my favourite Burroughs novel and I still toy with the idea of doing an illustrated edition one day.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive