Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Star Is Torn (Vicious's anti-theatricality)

Vicious, interviewed by Vermorels, on Who Killed Bambi, Russ Meyer, The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle etc

Q: What sort of films do you yourself like?

SV: I don't like any sort of film. I hate films.

Q: What it is about them that you hate?

SV: Because people have to act parts in them. Play people who they're not, do you know what I mean?  And it's pretence, it's lies, it's just shit. It builds things up to be not what they are. Like if you filmed a day in the life of me, for instance - like a day in the life of a pop star, right - and you saw him going around in a flash car and whacking up smack and doing this and that and the other, and like a day in my life is like getting up at three o'clock, going to the office and hustling ten quid out of Sophie or something and going, and fucking going somewhere and waiting hours to fucking cop some dope, you know what I mean? And like that is the most boring thing on earth. It's as boring as sitting at home and drinking beer or fucking any other shit thing to do, you know what I mean. And like films are about lies, they're about making things look glamorous. And nothing's like glamorous, everything's a load of bullshit. And it makes me sick to think that people will act out parts and, you know, like make it all seem larger than life, just so that some crud out there can get off on some fantasy: that life is wonderful really and one day.... You know when I was like ten years old and when I used to... think that Marc Bolan was great, and I used to think to myself what a wonderful life Marc Bolan must have, just think. And if only I could be like him, gosh, just think of the things he must do. And like I do the things that he done before that stupid bitch crashed his fucking mini for him, or something, and like he probably did exactly the same thing as what I do now; sit in my mummy's front room cos I don't have anywhere to live.... It's fucking full of shit and I hate it all. But there's nothing else to do. It's better than doing nothing at all and it's certainly better than doing something I don't want to do.

Sentiments redolent of Holden Caulfield's in The Catcher in the Rye - 

“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.”

"I hate actors. They never act like people. They just think they do...if an actor acts [a part] out, I hardly listen. I keep worrying about whether he's going to do something phony every minute"

"If you do something too good [as a thespian], then, after a while, if you don’t watch it, you start showing off. And then you’re not as good any more."

Friday, September 24, 2021



I appeared as a "grinning English expert" myself in this NPR item on the 50th anniversary of Electric Warrior - alongside the voices of Joe Elliott from Def Leppard, Tony Visconti and Mark the magician himself. 

It is a near-perfect dream of a record, marred by only one dud 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

A Star is Born (Lydon's anti-theatricality)

 “I got the name Public Image from a book by that Scottish woman, Muriel Spark, who wrote ‘Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. When I was in Italy, somebody introduced her writings to me. I checked out some of her other books when I got home. One of them was called ‘The Public Image’. It was all about this actress who was unbearably egotistical. I though, Ha! The Public Image. Limited. Not as a company, but to be limited – not being as ‘out there’ as I was with the Sex Pistols.” - John Lydon

"I love books. I love the texture, the feeling, everything about them. Especially the way the words come alive in my mind. A beautiful turn of phrase can really affect me. It lets my mind wander around inside of somebody else's....  Some books, like where I took the name for Public Image, from Muriel Spark, called The Public Image, it was just a cheap little small book. But it's just, to my mind, a very well-told story about corruption and how industry can rot your brain if you're not careful. It's a good reminder. I got a good sense of grounding from it, and I also got the name for the band. Success! And I don't think that book cost me more than a pound in a junk store." - John Lydon 

"Out of all the fascinating alternate takes, B-sides, rare compilation-only tracks and never-before-released sketches that comprise this expanded reissue of Public Image Ltd’s post-punk landmark, it’s a live version of “Public Image”  that is the real revelation. Part of an impromptu June 1979 concert in Manchester, the song keeps collapsing and restarting. “Shut up!” snaps John Lydon, responding  to audience jeers. “I told you it’s a fucking rehearsal.” Another PiL member explains that the drummer, Richard Dudanski, only joined three days ago. PiL relaunch the song only for Lydon to halt it with “Miles too fast!” The jeers erupt again and the singer offers a sort of defiant apology: if the crowd really wanted to “see mega light displays and all that shit,” they should go watch properly professional bands who put on a slick show. “But we ain’t like that... We’re extremely honest: sorry about that... We admit our mistakes.”

This performance—an inadvertent deconstruction of performance itself—takes us to the heart of the PiL project as well as the post-punk movement for which the group served as figureheads. At its core was a belief in radical honesty: faith in the expressive power of words, singing and sound as vehicles for urgent communication. After the Sex Pistols’ implosion, Lydon was trying to find a way to be a public figure again without masks, barriers, routines, or constraining expectations. So it’s especially apt that “Public Image”—PiL’s debut single, Lydon’s post-Pistols mission-statement—is the song that  fell apart at Manchester’s Factory Club. “Public Image” is about the way a stage persona can become a lie that a performer is forced to live out in perpetuity. Lydon sings about “Johnny Rotten” as a theatrical role that trapped him and which he’s now casting off. Starting all over with his given name and a new set of musical accomplices, Lydon was determined to stay true to himself. The group’s name came from Muriel Sparks’ novel The Public Image, about a movie actress whose career is ruined but who, the ending hints, is freed to embark on an authentic post-fame existence. Lydon added the “limited” to signify both the idea of the rock group as a corporation (in the business of image-construction) and the idea of keeping egos on a tight leash.

"A comparison for Lydon’s search for a new true music—and a truly new music—that would leave behind rock’s calcified conventions is Berlin-era Bowie’s post-glam quest for a “new music night and day” (the working title of Low). Indeed it was Virgin Records’ belief that Lydon was the most significant British rock artist since Bowie that caused them to extend PiL such extraordinary license and largesse when it came to recording in expensive studios. That indulgence enabled the recording of three of the most out-there albums ever released by a major label..."

- SR, review of Metal Box reissue for Pitchfork

Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello.

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha.
You never listen to word that I said
You only seen me
For the clothes that I wear
Or did the interest go so much deeper
It must have been
The colour of my hair.
Public image.
What you wanted was never made clear
Behind the image was ignorance and fear
You hide behind his public machine
Still follow the same old scheme.
Public image.
Two sides to every story
Somebody had to stop me
I'm not the same as when I began
I will not be treated as property.
Public image.
Two sides to every story
Somebody had to stop me
I'm not the same as when I began
It's not a game of Monopoly.
Public image.
Public image you got what you wanted
The Public Image belongs to me
It's my entrance
My own creation
My grand finale
My goodbye
Public image.
Public image.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

mirroring mirrors mirrored

(via Andrew Parker)

"Being imbedded in this huge crystalline structure that has no top, bottom, or sides, this feeling of suspension, this feeling of polite claustrophobia or acrophobia, this feeling of fakery or loneliness seems complex, associatively enveloping and valid to me as a work of art, wonder, sensuality, pessimistic theory, and partial invisibility." 

 - Lucas Samaras 


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