Tuesday, February 13, 2018

karma Camille-ion

"A further landmark in ]Prince and Michael Jackson's] uneasy rivalry came when [Quincy] Jones suggested to Jackson that Prince duet with him on the title track of his Bad album. "So we invited [Prince] over to Michael's house at Hayvenhurst. He came in and he had an overcoat on, and he had a big white box labeled camille. He called Michael 'Camille.' " Prince, it seems, had brought a gift for his host. "The box had all kinds of stuff—some cuff links with Tootsie Rolls on them. Michael was scared to death—he thought there was some voodoo in there. I wanted to take it, because I knew Michael was gonna throw it away."
- interview with Quincy Jones, GQ

"The conceptual and technical masterstroke of “Girlfriend” is the gender-morphing of Prince’s vocals... pitch-shifted to create the feminine alter-ego Camille....  Prince-watchers instantly grasped that this was the wholly logical, yet completely unexpected and surprising, extension of his androgyny, his compulsion to dissolve borderlines and barriers....  In another sense, the artificially high-pitched Camille voice was simply a technological expansion upon what Prince already did vocally: sing falsetto in the soul ‘n’ funk tradition of Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up,” where the “the sound of a woman coming from a man,” as critic Michael Freedburg wrote, served “to demonstrate to his intended lover that he understands her fears and desires as if he were female himself..... "... These forcibly etherealized vocal sounds generally connote the angelic, the extra-terrestrial, the cosmic and otherworldly. They can also be the sound of those who feel alienated from mundane normative existence, who feel like they are from some other place.

"Some Prince-ologists say that the singer chose the name “Camille” for his alter-ego after a 19th century French intersex person generally known by the name Alexina Barbin but who later called themself Camille. Barbin was brought up as a girl but was reclassified as male at the age of 22 and came to use “Camille”—in French, it can be both a female and male name—to describe the masculine phase of their short life.... Partially reproduced in a 19th century medical paper, Barbin’s memoirs were rediscovered and published in 1980. Philosopher Michel Foucault, who was gay, wrote an introduction celebrating Barbin as a sort of exemplar of the sexual misfit, whose biography spoke to and for all those “virile women” and “passive men” who live in a “happy limbo of nonidentity.” But Barbin’s story leaned more to the tragic: grappling externally with uncomprehending medical and religious institutions, and internally with persistent feelings of “vague sadness,” “inexpressible uneasiness,” and “strange perplexity,” culminating in lonely suicide at the age of 30. If it is in fact true that Prince’s “Camille” was inspired by Barbin’s tale, it’s possible that he didn’t get it from the republished memoir but from the 1985 movie Mystère Alexina.

"Prince originally intended to release a whole album of material using the Camille alter-ego and the pitch-shifted, feminized vocal sound. But the self-titled, eight-song LP Camille was scrapped, with most of the tunes resurfacing later as album tracks or B-sides..."

from my Pitchfork memorial to Prince.

The mystery deepens - was "Camille" really Michael Jackson, the androgyne king of pop, whom Prince admired, envied and wished to dethrone?  Would the Camille album have been his attempt at magical substitution, displacement, even incorporation, of his rival?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

glam / anti-glam quotes (12 of ???)

SR: New Pop seems in retrospect to have involved a step backwards in terms of women-in-pop. You had some striking and "strong" female performers, like Annie Lennox, but it was back to the format of female as front person with the music being done by the band, or their case, the guy... 

Gina Birch / Raincoats: "Yeah. I mean, after The Slits and that whole era, there was nothing interesting really until Riot Grrrl. Madonna and Annie Lennox--they were icons in a way. But they were more the hero than an inspirational force. Whereas you saw The Slits and that made you want to be creative. You see Annie Lennox and wow, she's brilliant, she sings fantastic. But there's that real distance. It's much more the showbiz model."

SR: But then you later had a bit of postmodernist New Pop type moment with Dorothy--you and Vicky's post-Raincoats band. Signed to Chrysalis Records and based around a
 kind of post-feminist idea of playing games with archetypes of female glamour. 

Gina Birch: ""Yes, Dorothy was my showbiz moment! The main thing behind it was CindySherman. I just thought her photographs were fantastic. I liked the thought that each picture told a certain story and had a certain look.  She could be a professor or someone really glamorous. Judith Williamson had written a fantastic article on Sherman's work in Screen magazine--about this idea that when you wake up, you decide what you're going to wear and that decides what person you're going to be that day. I really liked the fact that you could put on this item of clothing and throw off your personal shackles--all the kind of introspection that went into lyrics like "she looks embarrassed" on Odyshape--and just be whatever character I wanted to be. And it was very liberating to be, you know, a sex kitten if you felt like it.  For our press shots, we based it on this photograph of Joan Crawford where she was signing these glammy photographs of herself. I liked this idea that you can construct whatever image you wanted. And in many ways that's what Annie Lennox and Madonna did."

from Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews

Motown versus Motown

"Being a woman is both feeling female, expressing female and also (for the time being at least) reacting against what a woman is told she 'should' be like. This contradiction creates chaos in our lives and if we want to be real, we have to neglect what has been imposed on us, we have to create our lives in a new way. It is important to try and avoid as much as possible playing the games constantly proposed to you" - Ana da Silva, Rough Trade information booklet on The Raincoats

Friday, February 9, 2018

glam / anti-glam quotes (11 of ??)

“Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache; here’s to the mess we make.”

Mia: "Maybe I'm not good enough".

Sebastian: "Yes, you are."

Mia: "Maybe I'm not. It's like a pipe dream." 

Sebastian: "This is the dream. It's conflict and it's compromise and it's very, very exciting." 

how much do i hate La La Land? let me count the ways

the weak, weak songs - very milky-toast indeed

the weaker singing

that embarrassing tap dancing

the way the movie has its critique and eats it 

(“That’s L.A.—they worship everything and they value nothing”)

while still promoting the fame-chase ideology

the way it congratulates itself on avoiding the happy romantic ending (while having the "they achieve their career dreams" happy ending)

then there's the retroizm running through the whole thing

the "jazz"

the meta-showbiz aspect

(not so much "an ode to Hollywood as much as it is an ode to these kind of odes" says Rich Juziak - referencing the director's inspiration from Singing in the Rain - without either the rain or the singing - also minus the pzazz, the panache, the razzle, the dazzle, the humanity, the humour, or the deep intelligence. and very minus the astonishing dancing and great tunes)

glam / anti-glam quote (10 of ??)

“A man's alter ego is nothing more than his favorite image of himself.” 

― Stan Redding, Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake

“It's not what a man has but what a man is that's important. This car is fine for me. It gets me around. I know who I am and what I am, and that's what counts, not what other people might think of me.” 

― Frank W. Abagnale, Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake

"Sometimes it's easier livin' the lie" - Carl Hanratty, from Catch Me If You Can (movie) 

Frank Abagnale, Jr.: 
"Brenda, I don't want to lie to you anymore. All right? I'm not a doctor. I never went to medical school. I'm not a lawyer, or a Harvard graduate, or a Lutheran. Brenda, I ran away from home a year and a half ago when I was 16."

Brenda Strong: 
"Frank? Frank? You're not a Lutheran? "

[dialogue from from Catch Me If You Can (movie) ]

glam / anti-glam quotes (9 of ???)

I'm in with the in crowd, I go where the in crowd goes
I'm in with the in crowd and I know what the in crowd knows
Anytime of the year, don't you hear? Dressing fine, making time
We breeze up and down the street, we get respect from the people we meet
They make way,  day or night
They know the in crowd is out of sight

I'm in with the in crowd, I know every latest dance
When you're in with the in crowd, it's so easy to find romance
Any time of the year, don't you hear? If it's square, we ain't there
We make every minute count, our share is always the biggest amount
Other guys imitate us, but the original is still the greatest

Got our own way of walkin'
We got our own way of talkin', yeah

Any time of the year, don't you hear? Spendin' cash, talkin' trash
I'll show you a real good time, come on with me
Leave your troubles behind

I don't care where you've been, you ain't been nowhere
Till you've been in
With the in crowd

Billy Page / Dobie Gray / Bryan Ferry, "The 'In' Crowd'"

Thursday, February 8, 2018

glam ./ anti-glam quotes (8 of ????)

"Oh, you mean nutty! Yes, he's a nutcase. Most of these titled fleabags are. Rich nobs and privileged arseholes can afford to be bonkers. They're living in a dreamworld, aren't they sir? Life's made too easy for them. They don't have to earn a living, so they do just what they want to. We'd all look pretty crackers if we went about doing just what we wanted to, wouldn't we? Eh?"
                 -  Tucker the butler (played by Arthur Lowe) in The Ruling Class, 1972


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Monday, February 5, 2018

we can be heroes

was recently asked some questions by a graduate student relating to a project to do with personae in music

>1. In Shock and Awe you wrote that glam rock believed fantasy would set you (the artist) free. Could you expand on that statement and perhaps highlight some of the artistic freedoms that fabrication can allow?

Well, the first freedom is freedom from your existing self – the hand that Life dealt you. At least, that is the idea – whether it can really work out is another matter. I am a bit of fatalist in this regard, myself – I don’t think people ever truly achieve a permanent escape from their personality as molded by environment / upbringing / the ingrained.  I think the “given” always returns in some form. But the running away from where you started out, the attempt to fashion a new identity, can make for a compelling artistic trajectory.

One way of looking at glam that I would have liked to bring out a little more sharply if I was doing the book again is in terms of heroism. In the book I cite the ideas of Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death (which ironically won the Pulitzer Prize after his death). But I didn’t actually read the whole book until after finishing Shock and Awe.  He sees human life in terms of a quest to be heroic – to escape insignificance, to defeat death. That could involve some kind of merger with a larger collective “immortality project” – nation, faith, political creed – for which you are willing to sacrifice yourself.  In our current consumer-spectator society there are reduced possibilities for this kind of participation in a collective project. A degraded version of the impulse persists in sport – following a team. Have you noticed how football fans slip into talking about their team in terms of “we” – e.g. “we’re doing really well this season”. Talking about achievements to which they’ve actually contributed nothing! Vicarious glory, triumph by proxy.  And then following certain bands is about that as well  – U2, or Muse, or Oasis (their whole shtick with songs like “Champagne Supernova” – hedonism as a kind of heroism. That’s a song you hear drunk men singing in the street after an “epic session’ – it aggrandizes what is perfectly average and nondescript).

The heroic impulse can also manifest in the individualistic pursuit of fame, or grand artistic achievement.  Bowie was obsessed with being a hero or a superman of some kind – the impulse surely preexisted but was expanded through his reading of Nietzsche. I think this was very much bound up with his great anxiety about death. But it also came from that elitist disdain, felt keenly by over-bright adolescents the world over, for the tawdry banality of everyday life.  (“Life on Mars?” is really Bowie speaking from the heart through the mousy-haired girl).  “There must be something more exciting and grand and dynamic than this!” So Bowie basically turned his whole life into a public drama, cast himself in a series of roles using the media and record industry as his stage.  Putting himself through all kinds of turmoil and tests for the sake of artistic stimulation, and to cut a compelling figure.

The thematic of heroism crops up in later Bowie-influenced neo-glam moments – the first New Romantic nightspot is called Club for Heroes. Then you have Adam Ant with his wardrobe of heroic (or anti-heroic) archetypes – pirates, highwaymen, cowboys and Indians.  If you can’t actually be a hero - you can dress up as one.

So basically fantasy is an escape from boredom, from the flatness and dullness of real life and one’s real self. You make up a story in which you are the dramatic lead. Turn life into an adventure. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

glam / anti-glam quotes (M.E.S. special)


"Where punk was pure showbiz, international entertainment, The Fall’s eyes do not seek your love. Of course, to have Fallen is a "posture" like any other, but it is not a posture that appeals by any "style". And of course, Smith is not exactly "our Mark", his is not the face of a coal miner’s son, and maybe the very greasy hair and pullovers are a bit of a con. But it’s important that Smith remains indeterminate, for it is his quality of alienness that is so striking. He is the problem, the one who fends off the images people lower benevolently onto his shoulder – all that white crap about the white crap...

"Live, The Fall encounter the immediate problems of having to keep face without betraying an image. On record, Smith’s vision surrounds one, untarnished by a visible audience. In concert, tremendous concentration is required, even though the group is superb.... In his unhealthy, strangulated way, Smith is singing a kind of folk music, which is why the subdued but grating rockabilly beat that often supplies the accompaniment to his voice is so apposite.... The songs flow into one another until the sound – coarse and undanceable as it is – becomes literally entrancing. At this point The Fall is a frozen spectacle: Smith’s indifference to his audience and neglect of stage persona mean that one starts to concentrate on his concentration, listen to his words, absorb the work of his vision."

Barney Hoskyns, live review of The Fall at North London Poly, NME, 31 October 1981

"What Smith was really singing was a kind of folk music, a ranting and raving poetry which demanded ears rather than eyes. "In the poetry of the folk song," wrote Nietzsche, "language is strained to its utmost that it may imitate music; continuously generating melody scatters image sparks all round, which in their variegation, their abrupt change, their mad precipitation, manifest a power quite unknown to the epic and its steady flow..."

"And that "steady flow" holds good for everyone from Yes to The Sex Pistols to Joy Division. For the entertainment industry of "Rock" and "Pop" (and they are not antithetical) is a monolithic, epic construct, an enormous self-servicing scheme of comfort, hierarchy and identification, however "powerful" or "passionate" the music.

"In this absolute sense, The Fall do not belong in the same universe as your average favourite alternative pop groups. They do not fit in the market place of mild equivalences. They show up virtually the whole of the rest of rock as a gross, illusory hype."

Barney Hoskyns, interview with Mark E. Smith, NME , 14 November 1981

"Hail the new puritan
Out of hovel, cum-coven, cum-oven 
And all hard-core fiends

Will die by me 
And all decadent sins 
Will reap discipline 
New puritan 

I curse your preoccupation
With your record collection
New puritan has no time 
It's only music, John" 

- Mark E. Smith / The Fall, "New Puritan"


"Glam Rick
You are bequeathed in suede
You are entrenched in suede
Glam Rick
You've got celluloid in your genes dad
You are Glam Rick
You've cut my income by one third
You are working on a video project
You hog the bathroom
And never put your hand in your pocket
Glam Rick
You're Glam Rick

-- Mark E. Smith / The Fall, "Glam Racket"

Thursday, February 1, 2018

the Roxy girls

Interesting piece by Madeline Bocaro on the stories behind those iconic Roxy Music album covers and the models who appeared therein.

I have a bit in the Roxy chapter looking at the links between the word "model" (as in "Remake/Remodel", "Editions of You") and mannequin....  and between mannequin and sex doll. In reference to "In Every Dream A Heartache" with its blow-up bimbo, and the way that song prefigures (possibly influenced?) Ian McEwan's "Dead As They Come". The idea being that there is something fundamentally necrotic or necrophiliac about the very concept and functioning of "glamour" - freezing an image of perfection, a surface fetish in denial of messy abject interiors.

But I should really have mentioned the cover of Manifesto, the first album by the reactivated Roxy Music of the late Seventies. It's a crowd of mannequins.

Bocaro says:

"Female models are substituted by mannequins on Manifesto. Famous shop mannequin maker Adel Rootstein was commissioned for the shoot. Kari Ann, Roxy’s first album cover girl was actually the model for some of the mannequins. You can obviously tell which ones resemble her. The twins in the background are actually real people – Roxy Music fans who traveled extensively to see the band perform. The picture disc version of the album featured naked mannequins, as did the picture sleeve singles. The typography, as well as the album’s title, were inspired by the first edition of Wyndham Lewis‘s literary magazine BLASTConcept: Bryan Ferry. Designer: Antony Price"

"Sexist? What's wrong with sexy?" - Bryan Ferry


  ... or at least, if not endorsing / encouraging, then at least accepting the existence and inevitability of theatricality as a social mech...