Monthly Archives: August 2008

The bawdy origins of rock and roll

“You probably don’t doubt that the origins of rock and roll are bawdy in nature. You’ve read Gershon Legman and his fellow travelers to take note. You know why Scheherazade was not killed by the king.


Yet you don’t know American record label Federal Records and their 1951Sixty Minute Man[1], on which a male singer boasts of being able to satisfy his girls with fifteen minutes each of “kissin'” “teasin'” and “squeezin'”, before “blowin'” his “top.” The single reached #1[2] on the R&B chart in May 1951 and stayed there for a 14 weeks. “Sixty Minute” defined what was to become rock and roll which has always been about wine, women and song. —The bawdy origins of rock and roll, Sholem Stein, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1998, in a Pleasantville review.”

Note by the editor: “Big Long Slidin’ Thing” is another example in the category “dirty blues,” an often-overlooked category in rock and roll historiography.


Sixty Minute Man,” “Big Long Slidin’ Thing[3] and “Number One” (the Patrice Rushen song, which I managed to sneak in by footnote) are WMC #72, 73 and 74.

You may also like Tav Falco and Alex Chilton

Tomorrow it’s been 10 years since Charlie Feathers died.

You probably discovered him by listening to The Cramps in the eighties. Maybe via the Born Bad series.


This track is the hiccup-styled “I Can’t Hardly Stand It.” It’s WMC #71.

Discogs has its first appearance on The Cramps‘s 1980 cover of the composition, released on I. R. S. Records.

If you like C. Feathers, you may also like Tav Falco and Alex Chilton.

Whither now, anarchitecture?


Some Office Baroque footage, Some footage similar to Office Baroque

Gordon Matta-Clark died thirty years ago today. He stayed in Antwerp for a while in 1977, just before his death, working with Florent Bex, creating Office Baroque, which he called anarchitecture. Pieces of his “building cuts” were sold around the world[1].

I like him, much as I like the near-contemporary and also short-lived Robert Smithson. Whither now, anarchitecture, and other visionary environments?

“I’m mad as hell”

To Lichanos[1],

In answer to your comment[2], yes, it feels sometimes as if I have reached the limits of appreciative criticism.

I dedicate to you, Lichanos, Network, WCC #61.


Scrub to 2:48 for “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more

“Because he had a hairy backside”

Drowning in the Loire by Order of the Fierce Carrier

drownings of Carrier

Prompted by my post on the drownings of Carrier and esp. Paul Rumsey‘s gracious comments[1], Drowning by Numbers by Peter Greenaway is WCC #60.


Documentary (1/3) on Drowning by Numbers

Drowning by Numbers is a 1988 film directed by Peter Greenaway.

The film’s plot centers on three women — a grandmother, mother and daughter — each named Cissie Colpitts. As the story progresses each woman successively kills her husband, out of dissatisfaction with them, one Cissie stating: “Because he had a hairy backside“.

The structure, with similar stories repeated three times, is reminiscent of a fairy tale. The link to folklore is further established by Madgett’s son Smut, who recites the rules of various fictional games played by the characters as if they were ancient traditions.

The musical score is by Michael Nyman, and is entirely based on themes taken from the slow movement of Mozart‘s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K364. Nyman had previously used this piece as the basis for part of the score for Greenaway’s The Falls. It is heard in its original form immediately after each drowning.

Greenaway himself says:

The pretence that numbers are not the humble creation of man, but are the exacting language of the Universe and therefore possess the secret of all things is comforting, terrifying, and mesmeric…Counting is the most simple and primitive of narratives – 12345678910 – a tale with a beginning, a middle and an end and a sense of progression – arriving at a finish of two digits – a goal attained, a denouement reached…The magic of the women – why do they come in threes? To mock the patriarchal theological Trinity? Three sirens, three graces, three muses, and three witches…The women count. They count as a protective talisman. It becomes a funeral chant, a palliative. Counting is like taking aspirin – it numbs the sense and protects the counter from reality. Counting makes even hideous events bearable as simply more of the same – the counting of wedding-rings, spectacles, teeth and bodies disassociates them from their context – to make the ultimate obscene blasphemy of bureaucratic insensitivity. Engage the mind with numbing recitation to make it empty of reaction. —Peter Greenaway

Happy birthday Piero Simondo!

Piero Simondo is a founder of the Situationist International. He turns 80 today.

1957 Guy Debord photographed by Ralph Rumney, with Piero Simondo at Cosio d'Arroscia, Italy

1957: Piero Simondo and Guy Debord photographed by Ralph Rumney at Cosio d’Arroscia, Italy. [1]


The founders of the Situationist International at Cosio d’Arroscia, in April 1957[3]. From left to right; Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio, Piero Simondo, Elena Verrone, Michele Bernstein, Guy Debord, Asger Jorn and Walter Olmo.

Sholem Stein has recently noted that Situationist practices continue to influence underground street artists such as gHOSTbOY, Banksy, Borf, and Mudwig, whose artistic interventions and subversive practice can be seen on advertising hoardings, street signs and walls throughout Europe and The United States. The aforementioned use stencil graffiti.

I’m not much of an album man

“Take 4 parts blues add 2 parts country and give it to a poor white boy and you have rock.”–Duane Allman

I’m not much of an album man, I prefer singles and compilation albums. Nevertheless Sweetheart of the Rodeo is one of my top 50 albums (I feel a new series coming on).


Sweetheart of the Rodeo was the sixth album by American rock band The Byrds, released on July 29 1968. It serves here as the seminal recording of country rock. It was the most commercially unsuccessful album recorded by the group at the time of its release.

Country rock is a musical genre formed from the fusion of rock with country music, with its roots in the American folk music revival.


After the darling of the young enthusiasts, Bob Dylan, began to record with a rocking rhythm section and electric instruments in 1965 (see Electric Dylan controversy), many other still-young folk artists followed suit. Meanwhile, bands like The Lovin’ Spoonful and the Byrds, whose individual members often had a background in the folk-revival coffee-house scene, were getting recording contracts with folk-tinged music played with a rock-band line-up. Before long, the public appetite for the more acoustic music of the folk revival began to wane.

Enough facts already.

Hickory Wind[1] is WMC #69 and “Blue Canadian Rockies[2] WMC #70.

The United States of Unconsciousness

The United States of Unconsciousness is how cultural pessimists (most recently the dim-witted Roger Scruton) would like to label the olympic sport of “couch potatoing,” better known as television. That is if they (the likes of Scruton) had the fine wit, ardor and imagination of the likes of Gil Scott-Heron and Michael Franti to come up with phrases such as “Television, the drug of a nation,” poetic but seemingly straight out of Mao’s The Little Red Book (cfr Opium of the People).

However, it will take a nobrow cultural optimist to point out that many television studies have failed to point to interesting quality television such as Civilisation: A Personal View; and entertaining cult television such as South Park and Série Rose, programming which has lead to a genuine postwar global television culture.

Nevertheless, I have sympathy for the alarmists, especially if by voices of distinguished pedigree:

I give you World music classics #67[1] and #68 [2]


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” —Gil Scott-Heron, 1970


Television, the drug of a nation, feeding ignorance and breeding radiation.” —The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, 1992

“Carrier/Carrière is surrealist in drowning”

In the history of 20th century subculture, the surreal sensibility, and Surrealism in particular takes center stage.

Surrealism itself deserves a decentralized and regionalized historiography.


Polish surrealism for example brings the work of latter surrealist Jacek Yerka[1].

More than just a celebration of the new, Surrealism sought to find itself in the past and opened a revisionist approach to historiography. It sought to trace a sensibility in retrospect.

Faustino Bocchi

Faustino Bocchi (ill. above) would have been dubbed surrealist, if Breton had known him.


Arcimboldo (ill. above) would have been dubbed surrealist, if Breton had known him

In “What is Surrealism?Breton defines what we can label proto-Surrealism.

See the insets for the Carrier/Carrière debate

“Young‘s Night Thoughts are surrealist from cover to cover. Unfortunately, it is a priest who speaks; a bad priest, to be sure, yet a priest.
Heraclitus is surrealist in dialectic.
Lully is surrealist in definition.
Flamel is surrealist in the night of gold.
Swift is surrealist in malice.
Sade is surrealist in sadism.
Carrier is surrealist in drowning.
Monk Lewis is surrealist in the beauty of evil.
Achim von Arnim is surrealist absolutely, in space and time
Rabbe is surrealist in death.
Baudelaire is surrealist in morals.
Rimbaud is surrealist in life and elsewhere.
Hervey Saint-Denys is surrealist in the directed dream.
Carroll is surrealist in nonsense.
Huysmans is surrealist in pessimism.
Seurat is surrealist in design.
Picasso is surrealist in cubism.
Vaché is surrealist in me.
Roussel is surrealist in anecdote. Etc.”

This list comes from a lecture given by Breton in Brussels in 1934, either on May 12 or June 1 of that year, and published as a pamphlet immediately afterwards by René Henriquez, with as cover art Magritte‘s The Rape, which was created for that purpose. The enumeration in the lecture harks back to a list published in the first Surrealist Manifesto in 1924.

Other versions exist, one was published in the “Surrealist Number” of This Quarter. Another version was translated to Czech and published as “Co je surrealismus?” (1937), with a cover by Karel Teige. This list reprised the 1924 version.

Many of the names on the list are obscure, but I have managed to track all … but one.

When Breton says “Carrier is surrealist in drowning,” I have no idea who he means. Apparently, I am not the only one.

Marguerite Bonnet says in the 1975 André Breton: naissance de l’aventure surréaliste

… “Nous n’avons pas encore retrouvé le texte français de cet article, dont la version anglaise donne au « nom « Carrière » que Breton a corrigé en Carrier”
… “We have been unable to find the French text of this article, of which the English version gives as name Carrière, which Breton later correct as Carrier

If Bonnet confesses that she could not find the French text (published by René Henriquez) there is even more room for confusion. The “Surrealist Number” (1932) of Parisian “little magazineThis Quarter (edited by Edward W. Titus)[2]; and André Breton: naissance de l’aventure surréaliste [3] each mention additional names such as Helen Smith (surrealist in tongue), Uccello (in the free for all fight), Radcliffe (in the landscape), Maturin (in despair); and can’t agree on the spelling Carrière/Carrier.

Your impressions, Brussels

Four invisible people tagged

The hightest point of Brussels – or so it seems – is the Law Court. It’s a good place to park your car. It’s free and there is a somewhat surreal elevator to the city.






In Brussels, there is a small arcade not far from the Grand Place and the Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert, where new and second hand books are sold. You photograph L’art en Belgique depuis 1975, La Divine et l’impure, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Amours, guerre et sexualité, Philippe Garner‘s (you presume) Decorative Arts from 1940 to the Present Day (originally London, 1980) with cult brand Fiorucci on the cover.



Entering the Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert from The Grand Place side, you follow the arcade until after the intersection, on the corner is art book shop Librairie Saint-Hubert, where you photograph Into Me / Out of Me (Klaus Biesenbach, Georges Bataille and Susan Sontag) [1].




Continuing, you take some shots of the ongoing Écran Total repertory programme from Cinéma Arenberg.


By now it has started raining, this is what you see at the Regentschapsstraat, on your way back to the car, holding a piece of cardboard over your head.