May 1st, 2007


Watched a pretty good movie last night.  Aaltra, a Belgian road comedy about two Belgian men, both complete jerks and long-standing enemies, who become crippled by some farm machinery during a fistfight and subsequently go on a roadtrip to Finland (basically hitchhiking) so as to sue the manufacturer.  It’s somewhat in the manner of Aki Kaurismaki, the great Finnish director (The Match Factory Girl, The Man With No Past, etc.)—extremely understated and deadpan.  The men annoy everyone they come in contact with, once to the point that they are abandoned by a family who befriended them, left on a beach in their wheelchairs, stuck in the mud as the tide comes in. 

Speaking of Kaurismaki, I recently watched his movie, The Calimari Union, telling the story of 17 men named Frank, most of them derelicts of one form or another, who go on a quest to, essentially, cross town (Helsinki).   It’s one of the strangest and funniest satires ever made and marks the first appearance of Kaurismaki’s rock and roll band, the Leningrad Cowboys, who went on to be featured in three Kaurismaki films, including an outstanding concert film (Leningrad Cowboys—Totally Balalaika Show).  If you’ve never seen Leningrad Cowboys Go America, you owe it to yourself.  It is, in my view, the best rock and roll movie ever made.  Be that as it may, the Cowboys with their foot-long pompadours jutting forward like the prows of ships and wraparound shades and shoes whose conformation matches their hair are not to be missed.  Their tour of armpit bars in the American South in a Cadillac hearse they buy from Jim Jarmusch is beyond hilarious—my favorite scene is their performance of a country song (“I have always been a farmer/on Collective 49…”) written between sets in a shitkicker bar, partly because it reflects on an experience I had in Sandusky, Ohio, when I brought a funk band down to those precincts and found that the people in the bar we were playing at couldn’t dance to our music–-they were so qualuded out, they were attempting to do the Bump and missing each other—and we were forced to do some on-the-spot writing.  But that’s another story…

Anyway, here's another review in a shameless attempt to induce you to buy my book.... EF3E45862572CB000CAD62?OpenDocument

At His Satanic Majesty's Inquest

"I take medication for schizophrenia, but I wouldn't say I'm schizophrenic. But I have a bipolar personality, which is strange. I'm my own worst enemy. I have devils inside that fight me."

So said Phil Spector a few weeks before his trial for murder in LA, where the prosecuting attorney has lined up four women who will testify as to Spector's threatening them with a gun.  Too bad the prosecutor can't summon the Ramones from beyond the grave -- Spector famously waved a gun at them while recording "Rock and Roll High School."  Three chords, three hundred studio takes, and the wall of sound came crumbling down.

What is it about these musical geniuses and the Devil?  Daniel Johnston, Brian Wilson, Roky Erickson, Simon Finn, Phil Spector — mental illness obviously interacts with their brilliance, but so does the recurring figure of Lucifer.   The Devil doesn't just get all the good music.  He also seems to know His way around a recording studio.   Too bad he coldn't get Spector a better wig.
  • pgdf

Sixties Novels, Part 8

REMEMBER JACK HOXIE, Jon Cleary, William Morrow, 1969

Here's a novel that might actually be worth reading, given its author's high professional standing. A career spanning sixty years. Novels turned into films (THE SUNDOWNERS; THE GREEN HELMET; THE HIGH COMMISSIONER). A fan-favorite detective series.

Still, I confess that the name Jon Cleary meant nothing to me until a few moments ago, when I first googled him, and discovered his long and respected track record:

Additionally, I drew a blank on the eponymous Jack Hoxie, silent film cowboy, until the web turned up his story:

I assume he takes on symbolic meaning in this novel, and does not actually make an appearance with horse and school-marm.

Notwithstanding all that esthetic high-mindedness, the paperback I hold in my hand still manages to convey the smarmy, over-the-top essential savoriness of Sixties Novels that we've come to know and demand. I think I need do nothing further than quote the copy.

First, the front-cover blurb: "The underground smash! A novel that turns you on to the freaked-out world of rock!"

Then, from the back cover:

"This book will blow your mind, do happy things to your head, and (maybe even) bring a shamefully traditional tear to your eye!

"What do you do if you're a super-straight 41-year-old widower with a son who's suddenly an international rock star?

"What do you do when you're plunged into a world of ear-blasting sound, mind-blowing drugs, pulse-racing sex, and nerve-rending kids--millions of kids who hate you for not being 20?

"What do you do when a beautiful swinger comes on to you and (worse yet) you come on right back? When you discover the pungent green herb on the dining room table isn't oregano? When you're into what's happening way over you're short-haired head?

"If you're the heavy hero of this beautiful book, you do the only thing possible:


You'll receive no better advice today.