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Sunday, November 23, 2014

THANKFUL FOR ROCK N ROLL


It's been a fun day and I've really done nothing. Started the day when the mail brought the dvd of a movie made in 1978, BLANK GENERATION, starring then-current punk rocker Richard Hell. The film was an effort to make a somewhat avant-garde film of the day, the time of Andy Warhol films, Nick Roeg's PERFORMANCE, that had Mick Jagger in it and was pretty good. It was a time when all that went before was regarded "irrelevant" and some artists were seeking relevance in "youthsploitation" film making. This one was like a European attempt to make a film using a New York punker. The film had a French element, not only in the lead actress being French, but it had a French quality in the making, in how it looked, in how it progressed. It had an avant-garde German sense too, influence of Fassbinder, director Ulli Lommel being German and associated with Fassbinder. And there was plenty of Andy Warhol influence. He included Warhol for a short scene. Italian director Antonioni attempted an American avant-garde film in the time of protest and hippies, Zabriskie Point. The film missed the target. I suspect Antonioni was interpreting American youth from a European intellectual perspective, which doesn't apply in America. As in Lommel's film, I felt the European intellectual director was only able to see the emptiness in American youth. They don't have enough American experience to understand American motivations, especially in the young. I felt like Ulli Lommel found in Richard Hell's song, The Blank Generation, his own interpretation of what he saw of the American young in New York. His approach to Hell's character, Billy, was to point out his blankness by way of Lommel's take on the meaning of blank; uncommitted, indifferent, short attention span, impetuous, nobody home.


Though it had the quality of a homemade movie and a script not even thought out, it had a charm about it, a freshness, even today, thirty-five years later, that held my interest. The more I place it in its context of the day, the more interesting it becomes. I see Warhol films of the time, John Waters films of the time, Nick Roeg's films of the time, Jim Jarmusch; Blank Generation is coming to me more and more as a French/German attempt to make an American punk film. It's a stretch imagining a German intellectual filmmaker having a punk attitude. He didn't. Yet he made a punk film. He did that very well. Making a film without a plot was new in that time. Today, it seems like plot is a thing of the past. Melody has gone out of rock. Rage Against the Machine from the 1990s flew in the face of melody. The film without a plot seemed perhaps more contemporary now than it might have then. Warhol was a "pioneer" in that regard. Boring was avant-garde in that time, too. Films had avoided boredom before. It was the time of Julian Beck and Judith Malina's Living Theater. Their Paradise Now can be seen on YouTube. And it was the time of Andre Gregory, best known in My Dinner With Andre, where the conversation is around that time in New York's avant-garde. Looking at Blank Generation in its context, it becomes more interesting. I'm re-seeing it in my mind's eye without any memory of a time in the film that didn't hold my interest. I don't want to see it again soon, would rather digest what I saw first time around. I remember thinking when it was over that this is a film that would reward a second viewing, going into it knowing what to expect and paying more attention to photography, which was often extraordinary without trying to be. First time, I paid attention to the characters. Next time I'll see more. I believe another viewing is in order, though not soon. I'll wait months, until the images have left my head and I don't remember more than a brief slide show of still scenes.

the rolling stones

All the rest of the day I've been playing the Rolling Stones' album Black & Blue, 1976, Ron Wood's first album with the Stones. I play it over and over. I gets louder and louder. Hand Of Fate is playing now. I had most of their albums on LPs that don't get played anymore. I don't want to replace all my Stones albums on cd, so I only have on cd a few I really love. I bought Stripped on cd, live, very small venue, very bluesy. Later, I bought their first album, also very bluesy. Black & Blue has that emphasis on blues the Stones do so well. It's been in my mind for a few years, remembering how well it satisfied my liking for Stones music. Their blues is the aspect of the Stones that turns me on. It's the core of their sound. Mick Jagger is one of the poets in rock. His song on this album, Memory Motel, is beautiful songwriting. I hear the Stones best when I put their stardom out of my mind and hear a bunch of guys making music. Ron Wood's lead guitar is just right for the Stones. I saw him and Keith Richards in a brief interview where Keith was asked which of them was the best. He said, Ron would say he's the best, though neither one of us is very good, but put us together and nobody can beat us. He did not exaggerate. In the time of Sixties rock, the Rolling Stones hard rocking was It for me. Their live album, Get Yer YaYa's Out, my neighbors heard far more than they ever wanted to. The Stones were my Little Richard of the Sixties. It started with their first hit, Time Is On My Side. I've always associated it with James Brown's first hit, Try Me.


In this time of the life, I'm enjoying looking over the music I've loved along the way. It's a great variety that includes Baaba Maal of Senegal and Five Finger Death Punch. Rock n roll has been the thread that ran through all the experiences of my life from its beginning unto my end. Bob Dylan was in there since his beginning. I loved his acoustic sound and loved it even better when he went to rock. He transformed rock when he plugged in. His readiness to change kept him fluid. His willingness to step outside the mainstream, whichever one he's in at the moment, came to his most recent five albums, my favorite of the whole progression of his music. I felt like he came into what he'd been working toward. I'm glad Dylan and the Stones are making music into their seventies. Before their generation, only black musicians were appreciated into their old age. Rock n roll is a very strong interest in my life, not to play it, but to appreciate an art form with what seems like an infinite range of what can be done with it. It absorbs every music that gets near it, adds a new sound, constantly changing, every generation making big changes. I remember someone I knew who was a Sixties rock old hippie, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Neil Young. When his boy was of an age that he was hearing his own music, he found some late Seventies punk, Adam and the Ants, Devo, and dad said, in my hearing, "That's not music! The Beatles are music!" It threw me back to jr high listening to early Elvis, being told from on high, "That's not music! Glenn Miller's music!" I said to peer speaking to his child, "Did you hear yourself?" He had heard himself very well. I just shook my head. Whatever. I saw Frank Sinatra in concert, 1988, and enjoyed it. I was so drunk I saw two of him through the whole show, unable to pull the images together into one. I say I saw Sinatra twice.



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