Thursday, 31 October 2013

Big in Japan

I just finished reading The KLF, Chaos, Magic and the Band who burned a Million Pounds by John Higgs.  It adds to the mystery, chaos and magic of Bill Drummond, James Cauty, King Boy D, Rockman Rock, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, the KLF, the K Foundation and all the rest.  I particularly liked the idea that Art = Magic, an alchemy producing gold from base materials.

Big Bill Drummond had been guitarist in a band called Big in Japan in Liverpool in the lates '70s.  One of the first times I saw them play was at a festival in Mathew Street, just down the road from where the Cavern had once been (at that time an NCP car park) and more importantly where Eric's stood. 

We used to sit outside Erics in the daytime waiting for something to happen, misdirecting the very few tourists who passed by looking for the Cavern.  There was a Four Lads Who Shook The World sculpture above Erics but no-one under the age of 25 in Liverpool in 1978/79 gave a toss about the Beatles. 

As Big in Japan finished their set with a rousing version of their classic single Big in Japan (Biiiiiiiiiiiiig, like the rising sun, Biiiiiiiiiiiiiig, yes we're number one, Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig innnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Ja Paaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnn) the heavens opened and a wild eyed and heavily bearded Sigmund Freud grabbed me by the arm and shouted "the rain, the rain, it's because you're all sinners!"  Any other time and place this would have been an odd thing for Freud to have said but at the crossroads where Mathew Street met Button Street it seemed perfectly normal.  Freud leapt on stage (though he couldn't play) and danced with the Adorable But Jayne, Big Bill and the rest of them as the rain came down.

 Liverpool is the pool of life, replacement Jung bust (the original was nicked)

The occasion, the reason for the festival, was the unveiling of a bust of Carl Gustav Jung who had once dreamed about being in Liverpool, with rain and gloom all around, except for one spot, an oasis, a spring where five roads met.  Peter O'Halligan identified this spot . . . in a dream, he saw a manhole cover in a palce where five roads met . . . next morning he went to Mathew Street and found the drain cover, overflowing.  Incredible, huh!

manhole cover, Mathew Street, sandalled feet of thenewcornpoppy & family 

Bill Drummond wrote about a ley line, a cosmic force, that bounced from outer space, hitting the earth in Iceland, coursing through and under Mathew Street and leaving the earth in Papua New Guinea.  This explains why the Cavern and Erics were such important places.  Incredible, no?

A word about Echo, the Trickster.  Bill Drummond "managed" Echo and the Bunnymen in their early crystal days.  The cover of the first Bunnymen single on Zoo Records had a character that looked a bit like a rabbit . . .  Drummond named it Echo and identified it with the Trickster of mythology.  He didn't tell the band.

When the first album came out Drummond noticed that a tree on the cover appeared to be a rabbit's head.  Echo had reappeared! Surrounded by his bunny men. 
With a hip, hip hop we could watch the bunny men hit the top

Imagine my surprise a couple of decades later when I saw an aerial photograph of this part of the Hamble River, where I spent and spend so many of my days

This is the same spot featured in this postthis post and this one

and finally . . .

Eric's handbill, August 1978, note Dead Trout (I was a sometime member of Dead Trout) supporting The Id (later OMD), Doll by Doll featuring Jackie Leven and Big in Japan's final gig.  Not to mention Rezillos, PuniLux, John Cooper Clarke

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

What do you know about Art?

What is art? your soul flowing through you
Art: practical skill, guided by rules
Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish



Sunday, 27 October 2013

Hey, look! A Mondrian X71 Bobcat!

Excellent question, posed by Spinelli.  Spinelli is an artist who lets the art run through her, pouring out, with an inability to stop until she's finished.   But it is all about the painting (or chalk drawing) - when the picture is complete, that is it, what happens to it next is immaterial.  Spinelli is happy to give her art to the world, or allow it to be washed away by the rain.  A true artist.
More words of wisdom, this time from Mikey:  Art school should be the streets.  So over to our everyone's favourite street artist: Banksy.

When a painting or a song or a book is complete you have to give it away.  It belongs to the world.  You can't stop someone from messing about with your picture, or singing the song badly, you can't stop someone from drawing conclusions from your writing different to that which you intended. 
Banksy tried to sell his pictures in NYC a couple of weeks ago for $60 apiece.  One reason that he had few takers is probably that people assumed that the stall was run by someone like this guy (above) who is selling genuine authentic Banksy's.  Can you prove they're not?
I would love to ride in a Mondrian X71 Bobcat.
This piece is entitled Mondrian's Pollocks, bringing together two of the 20th Centuries finest.  Splatter painting; red, yellow, blue and black and white. 
This was, of course, created by an 8 year old who accidentally dropped a bowl of yogurt.   

Lou Reed

Velvet Underground & Nico
They were wild like the USA
A mystery band in a New York way
Rock and roll, but not like the rest
And to me, America at it's best
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground.

A spooky tone on a Fender bass
Played less notes and left more space
Stayed kind of still, looked kinda shy
Kinda far away, kinda dignified.
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground.

Now you can look at that band and wonder where
All that sound was coming from
With just 4 people there.

Twangy sounds of the cheapest types,
Sounds as stark as black and white stripes,
Bold and brash, sharp and rude,
Like the heats turned off
And you're low on food.
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground.
Like this...

Wild wild parties when they start to unwind
A close encounter of the thirdest kind
On the bandstand playing, everybody's saying
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground.

Well you could look at that band
And at first sight
Say that certain rules about modern music
Wouldn't apply tonight.

Twangy sounds of the cheapest kind,
Like "Guitar sale $29.99,"
Bold and brash, stark and still,
Like the heats turned off
And you can't pay the bill.
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground.

Both guitars got the fuzz tone on
The drummer's standing upright pounding along
A howl, a tone, a feedback whine
Biker boys meet the college kind
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground.

Wild wild parties when they start to unwind
A close encounter of the thirdest kind
On the bandstand grooving, everybody moving
How in the world are they making that sound?
Velvet Underground.
Jonathan Richman, Velvet Underground

Saturday, 26 October 2013

At one with the birds

Out on the river the other day I saw a skein of Brent geese flying overhead, a murder of crows attacking a solitary buzzard, a murmuration of starlings alighting on the masts of a marina of yachts and a deceit of plover, peewitting on their collective unlapped wing.  It reminded me of an email I read once, which I have fished out from the depths for you to read.  It was from Tennessee and read:

I have been sitting on my balcony off my room and I wish you all could see what I am seeing.

We have a lot of bird houses, bird feeders and hanging birdbaths of all sorts hanging off the balcony and from the trees around the house. There are a pair of Bluebirds nesting on the front porch, a pair of big Redbellied Woodpeckers nesting in a tree just outside the room and two pair of Downy Woodpeckers, about twenty pair of American Goldfinch, and Hummingbirds that all hang out around my balcony.

There are four pair of Red Cardinals, three pair of Mocking Birds, Mourning Doves, Titmouse, Robins, Bluejays, Tennessee Warblers and Hawks. Thank God we have a lot of trees that attrack them. They all come back every year.

I was immediately jealous of this wealth of bird life (especially the Mourning Doves) but then thought about it for a minute and wrote back

Wot? no whipoorwills?!

here its the wading birds: curlew,peewits, redshank, greenshank, oystercatcher, snipes, whimbrel, little egrets, heron, sandpipers, turnstones, we see all of them justabout everyday, plus the kingfisher, buzzards, ; and in the woods, outside my office window, three types of woodpecker, nuthatch and treecreeper, goldfinch, blue, great, coal and long tail tits, there's a sparrowhawk who's tried to
snatch the birds from the feeders a couple of times this last week.

there's a beauty in bird names that's missing from, say, fish names . . . no-one would ever write a song about the haddock, cod or sprat.

There's a video doing the rounds of Peter Serafinowicz singing the first (and now second) pages of Morrissey's Penguin Classic Autobiography.  I would love to hear Bonnie "Prince" Billy singing lists of bird names, US and UK.

Also, talking of birds gives me an opportunity to repeat Devon Sproule and Mike O'Neil's wonderful lines from "You can't help it" on their Colours album (that's Colours, not Colors - spelt the Canadian way).

A plane is powerful . . .

with a noble wingspan . . .

a fine tuned rush of air . . .

that's been perfected by man . . .

but a bird is natural . . .

in the wild above . . .

and when it sings it's song . . .

we look up

Friday, 25 October 2013

tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Continued:  above is a mobile phone snap of the view I had yesterday morning.  I took the picture because I liked the view.  The phone had no camera settings, so there was no technical input from me, point and shoot, point and shoot.   For me the view was a pleasant one, the image is a pleasing one.  Where does the art come in?  Was there an intention to create Art?  Or did I just want to share the view there and then with facebook so that other people would know I was somewhere with a better view than they had? 

Above is Warhol's Flowers - well, one of many Flowers pictures created by Warhol (yes, yes and Gerald Malanga and Billy Name), this one from 1967. Or maybe 1970.  Alongside is Patricia Caulfield's original photo, found by Warhol, photocopied until the detail was gone and then transformed into something else.   Patricia Caulfield was upset that her photo had been used without acknowledgement, without consideration for the photographer behind the photograph. But Caulfield's photo is not the same as Warhol's.  Warhol used the photo as inspiration, a starting point for something new, interesting, attractive. 
The river photo above relies entirely on the reality of that view.  Nothing is added. In part the limitations of the phone/camera softens the image (in the same way that Warhol's multiple photocopyings did) and takes something away.  Does the picture stand alone as an artwork? 

If I had painstakingly painted a painting of the view then I think most people would consider it an artwork (although not necessarily a good one).

Similarly a pencil sketch or charcoal drawing, even if it didn't look as good as the phone camera photograph, would be art.

 And if I'd put it through some photoshop edits so it ended up with tangerine trees and marmalade skies then it might be a piece of art. 

 Is it enough to just point and shoot? I think so. I think the selection of the image is enough.  The first picture below is taken from the same spot exactly 24 hours later (ie, 10:00 am this morning).  It is nowhere near such a pleasing image. 

The final picture is from the same spot (more or less) a few weeks ago, looking in a slightly different direction. I like the image but it lacks the feel and definition of yesterday's refelctive picture.  Remember, yesterday morning's picture contains the spirit of the wagtail.

A bird is natural
in the wild above
and when it sings
we look up
Devon Sproule, Mike O'Neill, You can't help it 2013