Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Peckinpah / Doe

Saturday night I was in Santa Monica, watching John Doe perform a pair of semi-acoustic trio sets at the concert space in McCabe's Guitar Shop.

Both shows were memorable, with performances of songs I hadn’t heard in the handful of times I’d seen him previously: “Employee of the Month,” from his Dim Stars, Bright Sky album and the heartbreaking “Ultimately Yrs.” from Freedom Is… The second set was looser, as you might expect. He likes to chat to his audience, and his between-songs musings are self-effacing and often very funny; he has an easy rapport with audiences that only enhances the inclusive, personable mood of his solo shows. As his music has proved for three decades now, he has a gift for direct sentiment, expressed honestly.

At one point, he dedicated a song to the late director Sam Peckinpah (THE WILD BUNCH, BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA), commenting that he wished Sam was still alive and making movies. He strummed a chord and paused, reconsidering the idea. He explained it was hard to accept Peckinpah's movies unconditionally because they’re all fairly misogynist. You can't make excuses for that kind of thing, he continued, “because it's like someone saying, 'We're going to make a movie (calling people) niggers”… But it'll be good!’ You can't do that," he admonished good naturedly. He went on to amend his endorsement of Peckinpah, clarifying that his movies are full of great parts, “especially PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID.”

Later, my date (Sandee Curry, who, coincidentally, immortalized McCabe’s for Not For Tourists) said she didn’t think of Peckinpah's movies as misogynist, at least not based on the handful she'd seen. I’ve seen and liked most of Peckinpah’s movies, but I disagreed with her. For me there was no denying the presence of, at the very least, sexist elements in his work. I suppose you could argue that Peckinpah’s films tend to be set in sexist/misogynist worlds, but then you’d only be making John Doe’s point for him, I think.

But these are strange times. Things that may have come across as misogynist twenty years or more years ago are not necessarily seen that way today, by women or men. This may be at least partly attributable to the more recent development of a philosophy based on reinterpretation and subversion, where one seeks out the kernel of truth or the admirable quality at the core of a broad or stereotypical thing and claim it for yourself, own it. Forty years is enough time for Tura Satana in FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! to undergo a cultural transformation from men’s sex object to women’s role model, and fifty is enough for pin-up queen Bettie Page to transition from the raincoat crowd to the Camille Paglia set. It may well be that the passage of thirty-odd years has provided adequate distance to reconsider even Susan George’s Amy Sumner in STRAW DOGS.

It could also be that many past offenses are dulled when compared with contemporary efforts. The unapologetic machismo of a Sam Peckinpah film is a very different beast from the unapologetic machismo frequently on display in today’s popular culture; the old fears and hatreds somehow swell up a whole lot uglier these days.

But John Doe is someone who rose to prominence through hand-in-glove collaborations with a tremendously gifted and very influential woman, Exene Cervenka, and he continues to work closely in collaboration with female artists. He's also a husband and father to daughters and, as he boasted at the McCabe's shows, is a proud soccer coach to "a group of sixteen-year-old girls" undefeated in their division. And once you’ve gained that kind of perspective, it gets a lot harder to make excuses for what you perceive as misogynist attitudes in other artists’ work, even if you like the rest of it quite a bit.

And whether you agree or disagree with his off-the-cuff reading of Peckinpah, it's somehow reassuring when someone who can draw a crowd makes a point of reminding their audience
—perhaps even as they remind themselves—that regardless of talent, nobody's entitled to a pass on the important stuff.

He's right about PAT GARRETT, too. It's a great fucking movie.

Where to begin...

Monday, October 29, 2007

He's a Demon

Everyone in attendance at the triumphant Roky Erickson show last night at the El Rey in Los Angeles surely went home with their faith in miracles fully restored. Roky was in excellent voice (and spirits), his band (according to the venue, The Explosives; according to Roky, Evilhook Wildlife E.T.) shook the house to the ground. The rabid audience couldn't get enough, stomping, cheering and singing along with a healthy selection of bona fide Roky classics. I don't think I'd ever heard Roky backed by pedal steel before, but the added dimension it brought to all the numbers made me wonder why I hadn't. Afterwards Roky stuck around to meet admirers and sign records, thereby making multiple dreams come true in one night for lucky fans. It was an incredible evening.

Here's hoping these performances are being recorded for later release, especially the El Rey show; last night's flawless concert buries the recording I heard of his show in Norway from earlier this month (currently circulating the web in unauthorized form) and the handful of 2007 clips on YouTube don't even come close.

While the recently-released Roky doc YOU'RE GONNA MISS ME is well worth a look, here's a favorite clip of acoustic Roky singing the lovely "Right Track Now" from the short documentary MEETING WITH AN ALIEN (c. 1980):

(FYI, the video continues three minutes after the song stops; you won't miss anything cutting it off after 2:38 or so.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fine Art Collectibles

You never know what might turn up on ebay.

Like the original painting used for the Super Video release of Al Adamson's I Spit on Your Corpse, for instance.

Now this is the kind of painting that makes you want to meet the artist's mother... And slap her!

There's more to be said about this particular piece of artwork, and I'll be saying it here. Watch this space.

Click here to view the full auction listing.

Thanks to Tim Ferrante

Glen & Gary & Glen & Ross

Four fucking stars.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Even better in Dutch.

Biff, Sully, the kinship of two men in hardhats. What could be finer, in any language?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tales From The Dead

My most excellent friend Jason Cuadrado - writer, editor, producer, director - has launched a website for his independent feature directorial debut, TALES FROM THE DEAD. It's an omnibus-style horror film inspired by some of the best in Asian horror from the last sixty years or so, with an equally strong nod to The Twilight Zone.

Aside from walking away from the security of a very cushy gig (working in my office) to make a film in a town where he only just moved from New York and knows almost no one (not to mention working with no budget and a punishing shooting schedule), this superfreak elected to shoot the entire film in JAPANESE - a language, I should mention, he does not speak a word of. Why? Well, he likes Japanese movies.

Still, using little more than the twin cyber magic of Craig's List and MySpace, he managed to pull in a full, dedicated crew and land a phenomenal cast, many of whom had just come off shooting the highly acclaimed Oscar contender LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA for director Clint Eastwood!

And damned if he didn't managed to pull it off. It's a real life dollar-and-a-dream story, and hopefully it'll be also be a rags-to-riches one.

Check out the teaser trailer, then be sure to sign up for the mailing list so you can follow the film's progress. Don't worry - you won't get flooded with email spam, and no one's going to sell your address. All it'll do is keep you in the loop so you can to follow this amazing story as it unfolds.

And if you know someone in the industry, why not drop them an email and pull their coat to this incredible project?

Jason is a great guy, and what's more he's been a big help to me and all the folks at www.NewTexture.com ; so will you trust me on this and allow him the opportunity to scare the pants off you?

Now go check out the site - and spread the word!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Marisa Melrose

Spotted in a Hollywood shop window...

copyright © 2007 Wyatt Doyle


The Glass Prism's 1969 LP Poe Through The Glass Prism is one of those records that has followed me around most of my life. It’s an odd one, even by 60s standards: an entire album of pop songs constructed around the unabridged poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. Later, both The Alan Parsons Project (in 1976) and Lou Reed (in 2003) would offer their musical interpretations of Poe’s work to far greater acclaim and attention, but it was The Glass Prism who got there first, their pioneering effort passed over.

Probably you’ve never heard the record; the LP did not make as big a splash as the group had hoped. But growing up just outside Philadelphia with a Dad who had more vinyl than the average record shop, Poe Through The Glass Prism – specifically “The Raven” - was something I could count on making its annual appearance every fall.

Years later, when I moved to Hollywood, I found my own copy of Poe at the venerable Cosmopolitan Bookshop on Melrose. It turned out to be a promotional copy, complete with an 8x10 of the band and a press release from RCA tucked inside. I hadn’t realized the Prism was also from Pennsylvania, and I later learned they remained a working band in the area (first as The Glass Prism, then later as Shenandoah) through 1976.

"The Raven" had been a minor hit for the group at the time of the album's release, and once you've heard it a few times, it's hard to shake it from your consciousness. The familiar cadence of the lyrics helps brand the tune into your brain, but the intelligence of the musicianship shouldn’t go unacknowledged. There is a drive and momentum to the track that mirrors the determination of the poem’s protagonist to tell his tale, just as the swirling organ reflects the madness he is surely slipping into.

Listening to the record now, I hear clearer echoes of their contemporaries Procol Harum than I might have picked up on at age 10, and recognize a kinship with other proto-prog groups of the era. It’s even not too far a leap to suggest its chilly vocal presages the classic Goth sound of a later decade.

Poe purists may well have been outraged at the notion of the Master’s words pressed into service as rock lyrics, but then there’s rarely any pleasing the purists. I choose to think the pop license taken on Poe Through The Glass Prism would have made it an ideal soundtrack to a chilly drive home after one of the much-beloved Roger Corman / Vincent Price Poe films of the era - adaptations that took far greater liberties with their source material than the Prism could be accused of.

Trolling the web to see if anyone else shared my affection and rekindled interest in The Glass Prism this Halloween season, I stumbled across some surprising news: the group is reuniting Saturday, October 27th to play a benefit show for The Edgar Allan Poe Historical Site in Philadelphia – coincidentally (if not surprisingly) one of my favorite places to visit (and soak up inspiration) from my youth in PA.

So should you happen to find yourself in the Philadelphia area near the end of the month, I urge you to not miss a rare opportunity to hear The Glass Prism perform the Poe album live.

I only wish I could be there to make the scene along with you!

For more information on The Glass Prism (and to hear their music), check out their website http://www.glassprismband.com/ and their MySpace profile www.myspace.com/glassprism .

Friday, October 5, 2007

New story by Wyatt Doyle

Now on New Texture:

"Lady Bird" by Wyatt Doyle.

Click on the title to read it, or cut and paste the URL below: