Friday, March 21, 2014

Early Spring Single: Summer b/w Instrumental






Early Spring Single: Summer b/w Instrumental
(Will be released on 7" this fall.)
lo fi psych love songs. Brooklyn based.
simple. noise. pop.
SHOWS:
Coco66 April 21. Contact for guest list.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Got to ball and have a good time: Chooglin' Edition Or, My Week of Malkmus

Start this shit right with "General Admission", by Endless Boogie.

When Stephen Malkmus and whichever band he's out on tour with (Pavement or the Jicks) comes to my town I step out. I'm pretty sure I started my quick ejection from the publishing industry by showing up to work bleary eyed from seeing Malkmus in Philadelphia on the 2003 Pig Lib tour. Whatever. This isn't about reality.

Despite having greater responsibilities these days I still make it my business to see Malkmus as often as I can. I have a problem-it's called fandom and any objectivity goes out the window. Is it weird? Lame? Obviously I don't care. I'm the woman whoo-hooing in the audience. I'm the one who knows which songs on the bootleg have and haven't been officially released. I'm the one keeping tally of which covers they do. I'm in this for real.

Anyway, Malkmus week started this Wednesday. In addition to J, I saw three friends I mainly know because of Malkmus and or the Silver Jews. There were mic problems which detracted from the overall quality of this show but I knew I had two more to go so this was a nice warmup. We sat with my friend K and we talked about seeing the 1st Malkmus solo show in 2000 at the Bowery where Heather Larimer screamed directly into the mic and hurt everyone's ears. My friend suggested she was playing the Bob Nastanovich role, and from that I free associated Bob Cosplay. (This is the same friend who inspired me to come up with the name of our short lived band, Sac Master.) I will take credit for inventing Bob Cosplay but I can't lay out the rules for you. That's something I'll leave to your imagination.

Highlights for me: Malkmus's goofiness. They opened with a favorite of mine from Wigout at Jagbags, "Chartjunk". He said "You don't need alcohol in NYC." A drug reference? They played a new song, "Kite in a Closet". "Father to the Sister of Thought" the Pavement cover of the night. "Baby Come On" was a crowd rouser. "Out of Reaches" was dedicated to Ben and Dan (NYC Taper guys?).

The next night I was better rested and I was ready. We were joined by our friend S. He invited J to see George Straight on Saturday but J declined. I suggested he take my parents since my mom's a big George Straight fan. I had plans--more Malkmus.

Thursday was hands down the best night of the three that I saw. I'm crossing my fingers that the NYC Taper guys got it on tape because this one is worth listening to again.

But let's back up to Endless Boogie. I'd first seen them open for Malkmus back in 2002 at the Warsaw in Brooklyn. At that time I didn't get them. Mainly because I wasn't much of a Stones fan then. I wasn't into the Boogie. The most memorable thing about those times I saw Endless Boogie was this song they did with the chorus "Mighty fine pie." Some friends of mine and I latched onto that line and when we saw them open for Malkmus a few times we shouted it out at the Boogie and they seemed  a bit confused, like they didn't expect to have any fans, or anti-fans.

Fast forward 11 years. Endless Boogie is back and I get it. To quote myself, "I finally get Endless Boogie. They're like if the Stones never found charismatic Jagger and really just wanted to cover Can's "Mother Sky"."

They completely won me over with this move: They announced that they didn't write their next song, but they were going to destroy it. They begin and after a while I realize that it's a Stephen Malkmus song that I've only ever heard on bootlegs circa 2003, Pig Lib tour. In fact, I stood in the front row of the Malkmus show at Prospect Park in the pouring rain yelling for this particular unreleased song (well, that and "Old Jerry"). I've seen the song in question labeled "Grab it and Gone" or "Gravity Bong". It's got a good shuffling beat, and Endless Boogie were doing it justice. I was psyched! Then to make it even better they joked at the end that Stephen Malkmus had recorded it in 1962 and I shouted "I HAVE THAT BOOTLEG". A guy in the audience asked me whose song it was and I said, "Malkmus wrote that." Then Endless Boogie continued to do what they do best: Boogie.

The crowd was much more in tune with the band on this night and that probably fueled the Jicks to glory. Highlights for me were "Asking Price" followed by "Stick Figures in Love", probably my favorite song on Mirror Traffic. I've enjoyed Malkmus' forays into crooner mode with "J Smoov" and "Houston Hades"--he hams it up a bit, and sometimes drops his guitar. They pulled out "Church on White", the song written in memory of the late Robert Bingham. (The Silver Jews has their own tribute: "Death of an Heir of Sorrows") Then they ended the set with "Forever 28", an upbeat number. They came back with an extra long encore of: "Outdoor Miner", a Wire cover (I couldn't ask for a better cover--I loved it), then dedicated Pavement's "Stereo" to Mark Ibold (I saw him in the audience watching the entire show) and before they followed that with "Harness Your Hopes", a beloved Pavement b-side, Mike Clark said, "This feels sacrilegious, like entering the temple." THEN, as if that weren't enough, as if they crowd hadn't already gone nuts and shouted all the choruses and sung along to the songs, they ended with a deconstructed version of "Wild Thing", Cat Power style (in the vein of her "Satisfaction" cover), performing the song but opting not to sing the chorus. It was amazing. I left with a grin on my face. An actual grin.

I had a day to catch my breath (not to mention the pain of showing up for an 8 am work meeting) before I made a quick jaunt to Philly.

I met up with my friend JT and we spent the day reminiscing and looking at our adult selves with equal parts wonder, shock, and bemusement. He's got a kid now!

The TLA sucks--sloped floor, advertisements for Midget Wrestling, etc. We overheard Malkmus usher a fan into the club and the poor guy said "I love you. I really love you." to Malkmus. I said to my friend, "There's nothing you can do with that when a fan says that to you. All you can do is say thanks and maybe take a step back." I also said that I only say that kind of stuff in my dreams.

Endless Boogie came out with Mike Clark and they did an art rock version of their usual and Jesper said, "What, are we art rock now? I thought we had a good thing going." Malkmus was head bopping along from the wings.

Our friend texted if we were ready to choogle. He'd already seen Malkmus the night before in DC.

At some point I got a cramp in my foot so I left the front section to get water and couldn't fight my way back to my friend. I ended up behind a wall of a man and his friend was extremely drunk and possibly high. He kept whoo-hooing for entire songs. I mean, a whoo-hoo it like a crash on the drums, it's meant to punctuate a particular moment in a song. When I whoo-hoo it's usually at the start of a particularly tasty lick, or at the end of a song. It's a whoo-hoo of appreciation, but this guy just appreciated everything to excess, to the point where I could barely hear the songs over his whoo-hooing. So I walked over to the stairs leading to the VIP section and asked a guy if I could go up, and he said sure. I went up, ducked under a rope and sat myself down and suddenly had an amazing view. I had a seat, but enough room to choogle if I so chose to. It was, as they say, AWESOME.

Malkmus dropped his guitar during his croon session with "Houston Hades". At some point, I don't remember when, but Malkmus looked at the setlist, said BOB, got confused, and then did a spot on impression of Bob Nastanovich lunging into one of his trademark screams for songs like "Conduit for Sale", etc. For the encore they came out and Malkmus said "Welcome back to me. Welcome back to us." Joanna Bolme, the bassist joked "Welcome back to Me" is the next album title. Jesper from Endless Boogie came out to play "Born on the Bayou" (Creedence) with the band, and then they did "Summer Babe" and it was, as my friend said, cathartic. Malkmus surprised the band by making them huddle and he quickly taught them another song and they ended the night with an impromptu 1 minute or so punk cover.

Tonight is the Oscar's but I'm a little sad that my week of Malkmus is over, so I found this hour long youtube video of a Malkmus concert in France. Check it out. At the 57 minute mark or so they go from "Us" into the chorus of "Age of Consent" by New Order. That is hands down my favorite New Order song. Then Malkmus briefly plays the riff from "Mother Sky" by Can! Then they bring it back to "Us" and Malkmus even throws in a faux French accent for one of the lines.

2014 is the 20th anniversary of the release of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and that means that I've seen at least one date on every single tour Stephen Malkmus has done since then, starting with my first Pavement show October 15th 1994 at the Roseland Ballroom (I was 16). They're shutting that place down soon. The wrecking ball comes for all of us someday, but just not yet. Not yet.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Not Quite Ke Ai

My cousin Hui Ling is a bit reckless and tarty. She took me out with some friends of hers and at some point in the night she saw one of the ubiquitous Hello Kitty plush dolls you cannot escape in Taiwan and she told me she hates Hello Kitty and anything considered ke ai ()--cute. You might better know the phenomenon as kawaii,( how it's pronounced in Japanese). Though the characters are the same in both languages, I think it's safe to say that the Japanese have taken the concept of ke ai to a level beyond anything you might see in Taiwan. Kawaii is a stereotype that dogs any Asian girl, really, that she'll be cute and frothy and throw her fingers up in an adorable peace sign when she poses for photographs. That's what my cousin rebels against, even though she does put her fingers up in peace signs when she poses for photos and thinks I'm really weird because I don't.

Though I indulge a bit in ke ai -- exhibit A. my panda collection, exhibit B. the stickers that cover my laptop, exhibit C. the tiny felt plushies I crafted myself--I don't consider myself ke ai. I don't go for the Lolita look (in the Japanese sense) and I indulge in ke ai with a bit of distance, knowing there is something ridiculous about it but, oh my god, it's just too cute! (I mean, it is too cute.)

To balance out any ke ai, there is the side of me that would probably only require a couple drinks before I agreed to sing Stray Cat Blues at karaoke. Do I feel gross about the content of that song? Yeah, pretty much, but I love it. I love it without irony and just a smidge of apology.

Which all brings me to Complicated. I became obsessed with this song a couple months ago and when this happens I go on youtube and look for interesting covers. Youtube cover videos are fascinating. Some are very highly produced and the performers treat them like professional music videos, but most are just a person in their bedroom or garage giving the song in question their best shot, and it's often subpar. Watching these videos I am glad that youtube didn't exist the 6 months I was unemployed and teaching myself Silver Jews songs. The combination of youth and boredom might have led to my uploading them for the world to hear but youtube was still a few years off so I spared myself the embarrassment.

But, hello, I didn't find any good covers by professional musicians but I found this, by a young Japanese girl who goes by Icanmake. That's it. No name, just Icanmake. She faces the camera straight on, and opens her mouth wide for the "ah ah ah AAAh Ah" part. Her guitar is junky, and slightly out of tune, but her cover is great in the way that bands like Half Japanese or Daniel Johnston  are great. I explored her other videos and found that she's written original songs. She sings in English even though she doesn't speak English (it's clear that she's learned the cover songs phonetically) and the lyrics to her original songs don't make much sense but there's a certain tyranny of sense-making in music that I could do without. Icanmake often provides chords to her songs and writes the following:
My dream is to be a psychedelic music composer !
Because I can make a lot of songs of various genres.
I think the wonderful world will be done surely if it's possible to make my power of imagination the shape. 
But ....l'm bad at singing and playing a musical instrument at all.
And l can't write English lyrics. 
So I need someone to cooperate with me.
Once I saw that her dream is to be a psychedelic music composer, I was in love. If it wouldn't be weird and inappropriate and if thousands of miles didn't separate us, I would drum for her since I already drum in a psychedelic rock band. (Also, "Rocking on the Hell"? Excellent song title.)







Which isn't to say that I didn't question my love just a bit. I've been hesitant to share my discovery because while I am part Asian and can claim ke ai as some kind of cultural birthright, it seems like a weak defense since I am a grown woman and that doesn't excuse me from treating someone like my own personal Shaggs. I do, however, honestly love this cover without any irony.

I am not under the spell of J-pop, K-pop or Canto-pop or Mando-pop and never have been. I listen to Japanese psychedelic band Les Rallizes Denudes, and you should really read that wikipedia page because their story is fascinating, but I generally avoid the pop music coming out of Asia. I've heard lots of it, on all my trips to Taiwan, but if I don't listen to contemporary American pop music it's unlikely that I'll be wooed by Asian pop.







Les Rallizes Denudes, Night of the Assasin (borrows the I Will Follow bass line).

I did recently discover a shoe gazey Chinese band, Dear Eloise that I really like. They do a quasi cover of VU's "I'll Be Your Mirror" with Chinese lyrics. This is a common practice in the Chinese music world. The most famous example is Fay Wong's interpretation of the Cranberries song, "Dream". Here is a clip from Chungking Express.

The Taiwanese-Canadian musician that goes by Dirty Beaches sampled the riff from Les Rallizes Denudes's "Night of the Assassins" for his song "A Hundred Highways". Take the bass line from a Little Peggy March song, throw it onto a psychedelic masterpiece by a mysterious Japanese psych band, and then sample it and further deconstruct it and make it new(ish)-- that's how cultural appropriation works in positive ways.

Though people think of Japan as the land of kawaii, it has also given us Les Rallizes Denudes, and girls who dream of growing up to be psychedelic music composers. Hell. The original bass player of Les Rallizes Denudes helped hijacked a plane and defected to North Korea. Not quite kawaii, and neither am I.

I did think it'd be funny to do a ukelele cover of "Stray Cat Blues", but now that I know The Official Ukelele Orchestra Of the Western Hemisphere has covered "Complicated", I've reconsidered.




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Anaconda Don't Want None

Bill Callahan is the kind of songwriter that quotes Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" in his song "Real Live Dress" and everyone thinks he's being ironic. And those lyrics being in a Smog song would be ironic if you find its inclusion unexpected, but then apparently you don't really know Bill Callahan if you think he doesn't really like a song like "Baby Got Back". This was all revealed today in an interview over at the Quietus. But plenty of people loved "Baby Got Back". My dad tormented me and my college friend by singing along whenever it thumped through the car speakers during our summer road trip in the late '90s. You could say I extracted my own revenge when we played Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, but who was more embarrassed when the words "I'm a real cunt in spring" came out of the speakers? Hard to say.

Bill Callahan is also the kind of song writer whose music becomes easier to listen to as he gets older--he's replaced noise with craft. Songs from his new record played on the radio as my uncle drove us home from my sister's baby shower. Bill Callahan's aged and I have a sister with a baby who you could safely play "Small Plane" to and call it a lullaby.

When I spent the greatest amount of time thinking about Bill Callahan I'd returned to New York from a few months in Taiwan and sat in a cubicle researching the rights for a science textbook. I was a temp and got paid about $10 an hour so I was going to listen to CDs on my discman until they told me not to. Nobody did, so I listened to Smog's Knock Knock and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's I See a Darkness. I was probably depressed. In early 2000 it seemed like I had been depressed longer than I had ever been not-depressed. When my mother found out I was officially depressed she called me a stranger when she meant to say the word strange. Same difference I guess. I actually corrected her. "Do you mean strange?" "Yes!" she said. "You are strange." I probably listened to Smog's song "I Was a Stranger" and laughed to myself about the ironies of my life. I actually taught my mother how to call me strange.

Last night we went to see Bill Callahan's tour film, Apocalypse. During the film I asked myself the same question I pose to myself whenever I see a relatively attractive man. Would I f* him? Yeah, I thought, probably. Then I noted his straight silvery hair and I decided I would tell my husband James that he's going to look just as handsome when his hair's that gray. I might have even used the words silver and fox.

After the film Bill Callahan came out and conducted an answer and question session, or a reverse q&a. He was going to ask the questions. I nudged James and told him to raise his hand. He shook his head, no. I was just pretending I wasn't going to raise my hand. Of course I was going to raise my hand. When Callahan called on me he called me a guy. Then he apologized and said it was dark. I wasn't offended. He asked if I wanted a serious or hilarious question. I said give me a hilarious question. So he asked, "Do you think about me a lot?" And now I'm going to paraphrase myself-

"Less often than I used to." He didn't quite hear. "Less often than I used to." Which seemed to surprise him and I explained that I'm older and because I'm older I know more musicians. Also, when you're in your teens or your early twenties you have more time to obsess over musicians so I did, but now that I'm older I don't obsess as much. I just don't have the time. It's not personal, I said.

A woman behind me said, "Good answer."

Callahan said something like, "You should reconsider that."

And the conversation moved on. At the end he said "Does anyone have any questions about the film? That's still a question." For the last question he assigned someone to choose a questioner and I raised my hand but didn't get picked. I would have said that in 1997 David Berman told me that Bill Callahan is very funny and charming when you talk to him in person, but the minute you put a camera on him he freezes up. I would have asked, Do you agree with that assessment, and if so, what's changed so that 16 years later you're starring in a tour film?

And it made me think about how I've changed. I'm not depressed but am I still a stranger? Am I strange?




Monday, June 17, 2013

No, The Other Shaggs

FIRST:
Our band Early Spring is playing this Wednesday at Muchmores in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 2 Havemeyer St. Near the L Bedford station. 9:15pm

Now to the business... So I decided to search spotify for covers of the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" and I came across a band called the Shaggs. No. Not those Shaggs. These guys were a '60s garage band from Notre Dame. This blog, South Bend Power Nineties, has extensive info and an interview with former members. You can listen to their album of covers, "Wink", on spotify. You can also listen to some of the cuts on youtube. Here's their version of "Let's Spend the Night Together".

And for the sake of completion, this blog has the reissue's liner notes here.

Hey, this is what they had to say about themselves: "We were a consistently entertaining and exciting party band"

Our guitarist's friend described Early Spring as psychedelic prom rock, so if that gets you excited come out to see us. 


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Permissive: A Treatise on The Rock Groupie


Does anyone ever define herself as a groupie? The word groupie is gendered in the way fan isn’t. Calling yourself a groupie would be like calling yourself a hipster in 2013. You get called a groupie or a hipster and it’s never a compliment. It’s a pejorative word. When someone labels you in that way they’re saying they know what your values are, and they find you lacking.

I can’t watch a movie like Almost Famous, and not want to throw up about the Band Aids. Are they an all girl band? NO. They’re groupies. They’re groupies that got sold to another shitty band for $50 and a case of beer. Shitty beer. Every time I see the movie I get angry. I don’t get angry because I think women shouldn’t sleep with men in bands—that’s really not my business—but I’m angry because the movie makes it seems like this is the only role women have within the rock world. Part of me wonders why the groupies didn’t pick up instruments if they loved music so much, but I already know the answer. No one ever encouraged them to.

I personally think much of playing rock shows is boring. There’s a lot of waiting, and humping equipment, dealing with strangers and trying to get people to give a shit. Once I began to play live with Early Spring I finally understood why people do drugs. They’re bored!

The thing I like best about playing a show is being on stage. Not because I want to be in the spotlight, but because when we’re playing I get to be inside the song. It doesn’t even have to be on stage, at a show. I felt this the other day at band practice. We have this song we’re recording and the solo at the end is so sad, and beautiful that every time I hear it I marvel at how sad and beautiful it is, but more than that I feel my chest swell and I feel honored to listen and play the drums, even if it’s the 5th consecutive time we’ve played the song. I get that same feeling when I’m at a concert and my favorite song is playing. There’s a communion between the band and the fans, something is shared and it’s lovely. It really is. Yet, when you label someone a groupie it is no longer about the music but the proximity to power and sex.

In Almost Famous, the lead Band Aid, Penny Lane, thinks she’s the Stillwater guy’s main lady (even though he’s married) but she’s deep enough into the sexual revolution to feel she has to pretend that she’s not hurt by the fact that she and her band of groupies was sold for $50 and a case of beer. She tells herself she wasn’t naïve. She tells herself that she knew what her purpose was, but then reality hits and she realizes that she thought Russell was a better man than he is. Or that she wanted him to be a different man than he is, except he’s exactly the man that she needed him to be because if he wasn’t, then he wouldn’t have cheated on his wife to be with her. I’m not saying that groupies are simple victims. You can be complicit in your abuse and still be a victim. Life is complicated in that way. (And like a true Hollywood movie Penny gets her redemptive narrative arc. She learns from her past, unfulfilling “slutty” ways, and emerges a better person for her suffering.)

My main problem with groupies is the problem I have with the muse. The muse is the woman a man interprets, or is inspired by, to create his art. But! But! I don’t want to be interpreted. I don’t want to inspire. I want to create.

With a movie like Almost Famous we’re lulled by the attractiveness of Hollywood actresses. The Band Aids are ethereal beings. Men want to fuck them and women are supposed to want to be them. The guys in the band are deemed fuckable because they’re in a band and almost famous. They don’t necessarily have to be attractive, but the groupies MUST BE ATTRACTIVE. There is a power imbalance between the band and the groupie even if you factor in the groupie’s beauty. Her beauty gives her an “in” but she has no power because she can be left behind, discarded or traded away, literally traded away for $50 and a case of beer.

There might even be a parallel between being a groupie and being “one of the guys”. Both modes of being are a way of getting closer to this presumed male domain, the only difference is that groupies are expected to trade on their sexuality to be accepted, while “one of the guys” makes the promise of not trading on her sexuality. In a way the women who pose as “one of the guys” sell out other women by positioning themselves as better than other women because they know things (like music, but pick anything that men have traditionally dominated with their points of view) that other women supposedly don’t.

A band like Sleater Kinney understood what reaction and desire men in rock elicit. “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” is about not wanting to be with Joey Ramone, but wanting to be him. Corin and Carrie are up there and they want you to feel what you feel when it’s a man up there. But they also know it’s not that simple. The first time a friend saw Sleater Kinney with me she squealed in my ear “They’re so hot. They’re so sexy!” She wasn’t sexually attracted to them, but she had a point. They had a blend of feminine and masculine sexual energy channeled through loud guitar music. They were unapologetic, but not afraid to question. Their music wasn’t aimed at male consciousness, and didn’t represent that male POV, but it didn’t exclude it either.

There’s been talk about “what’s wrong with indie rock”. It’s not a question I give a fuck about, but the answer given—that what’s wrong with indie rock is that it doesn’t have enough balls—that’s something I have a problem with. People have been declaring the decline of rock-n-roll for as long as they’ve been declaring the decline of literature. It’s mostly fear mongering and bemoaning a lack of serious intent. To say that rock has no balls is to imply that it’s overrun by pussies, instead. To get all heteronormative on your ass, this argument makes no sense because don’t straight men love pussy? Wouldn’t they want more of it with their rock-n-roll and their beer? I guess not! I guess they want more cock with their rock.

I came late to Deerhunter. I saw them headline with No Age, and they were touring for Cryptograms, an album that didn’t click with me. Since then I’ve grown to really love Bradford Cox’s music. He’s a real rock weirdo and I don’t think it has anything to do with his gender. Yet he said this on Pitchfork:

"Indie rock is such a bratty culture, and I don't see a lot of ugly people in it, either. I feel very proud to be hideous. Thank God I don't look like every other fucking dude wearing their girlfriend's fucking jeans out there on stage. That's weak and emasculated-- and I don't think masculinity is equivalent to misogyny. It just seems like everything is like a cat that's been declawed-- it still tries to fight with you, but it's harmless. Nobody wants to get scratched."

I won’t insult Mr. Cox and take him literally because I don’t think he even believes everything he says, but I have to say, yes, saying that rock lacks masculinity is veering toward the misogynist. If what you want in rock is provocation, idiosyncracy, and brashness, then say that because none of those things are exclusively male.  Women make art with those qualities and enjoy them as well. I certainly do!

Here’s a clip from ’99 that tries to define “indie rock”. It’s pretty stupid, but my point is that people always feel a need to define rock music and then when they talk about the decline someone has to mention the girls at the show, as some sign that things are changing. At the 5:36 mark this guy I used to know from my days as a rabid Pavement fan mentions the young high school girls at the show standing near Malkmus. They cut to a clip of a Pavement concert I was at, and they zoom in on my sister. So if you want to know what’s wrong with rock, it probably started with my cute high school aged sister in her Sebadoh t-shirt. What really irks me is the guy does a “wink-wink” by implying that the girls were groupies and Malkmus was ogling the teen girls (my sister). I was there and I can tell you, no, he wasn’t, and my sister was a fan, same as that guy, even if he didn’t see it that way.

When I was in college I was with a friend who is six years younger. We were talking to a guy in a band (who was well into his thirties) and at one point he started hitting on my friend and he asked her what school she went to (probably thinking she was in college, like me) but it turns out she was in middle school. You could see the words JAIL BAIT popping up in a cartoon thought bubble. He turned to me and asked, “What are you doing with her?” I thought, Um. She’s my friend. I’m not trying to fuck her. I don’t need to feel weird about our age difference. We like the same bands. That’s why we’re friends. Anyway, our conversation ended then and I felt gross afterwards but also hoped that guy felt like a creep. We weren’t flirting with him. We thought we were interacting on the fan level. We thought it was about the music, man.

Since a Hollywood movie is full of attractive actresses and actors we get lulled by the beauty. It all looks so cool. The musical montages erase the boredom inherent in band downtime. You don’t get this with Permissive, a 1970 British film about a band, Forever More, and their groupies.

Permissive is a terribly boring movie. It’s disjointed in a way that was supposed to be edgy but just looks confusing and sloppy. I appreciate the naturalness of the actors but my appreciation for the realness of the actors ends when I’m asked to believe that these groupies are just aching to sleep with these ugly motherfuckers. They’re being degraded for THIS? What the fuck? Seriously. WHAT THE FUCK? I know that my outrage over the power imbalance and retrograde sexual politics between bands and groupies shouldn’t be greater because the band’s butt ugly, but the downright grodiness of these dudes is insulting. If this was the 1970s, well, I don’t know how babies got made.

Permissive is about a naïve young woman who comes to London to stay with her friend Fiona. She goes to meet Fiona at a hotel and a man opens the door to the suite and points to a door. Suzy opens the door and finds Fiona having sex with Lee.

Yup- Fiona fucked this:


Suzy is then initiated into the groupie lifestyle at an afterparty at the hotel. Not only is this movie ugly, and boring, but the music is awful. It’s imitation Cat Stevens and Forever More’s 70’s folk rock. It’s interesting to think that at this same time CAN was gigging and playing Mother Sky on television. I’d rather have seen THAT MOVIE. (I did see that movie-DeepEnd-which was another British film released in 1970.)



Back at the afterparty Suzy meets Pogo, a dippy hippy drifter. After she tells him she’s hungry he takes her to his train station locker to give her a bit of stale bread and cheese out of his pack.

When she returns, she has sex with this guy, the band manager:




Look at this gap-tooth motherfucker. He looks like Mick Jagger’s ugly brother—
all menace; no charisma.

The next day gap-tooth tells Suzy she can’t join the band up north so Fiona tells her to go stay with her friend, whose group is coming to town to play a show. At this point I thought, cool, this friend is in a female band. NOPE. She’s another groupie and her “group” is the band she follows.

When Suzy goes to meet the friend she’s ousted because one of the band members pays attention to her and the friend kicks her out, afraid of the competition.

Suzy is homeless and ends up with Pogo and they wander around a dismal looking London, sleeping in parks, and busking for change to buy food. They don’t make us listen to the music Pogo plays but I’m sure it was uniformly awful and people probably paid him to stop playing.

There are jump cuts that give us flash forward peeks at the tragedies that will happen in the future but instead of looking arty, these cuts are disjointed and just spoil the ending.  There’s a difference between de-glamourizing the rock world, and not bothering to create dramatic tension. This movie doesn’t understand that. The banality doesn’t make me contemplate the profound banality of life; it just bores me. I had to stop watching every fifteen minutes because it was just not that interesting.

Here are some action shots of these rock gods:


(I know it seems like the moral of this re-cap is DON'T FUCK UGLY DUDES but just look at these guys. Who invited these dudes to the sexual revolution? Who said they could call the shots?)

After Suzy rejoins Fiona she decides to go all-in on being a groupie and after she sleeps with every band member except for Fiona’s Lee, he tries to slut shame her. She tells him—you know you want to ball me like the rest. Oh, and Suzy manages to get back at the other groupie by sleeping with her guy. Then at a recording studio Fiona goes out for coffee and Lee takes the opportunity to fuck Suzy in a bathroom. See, he did want to ball her! Anyway, Fiona finds out, can’t understand why Lee has betrayed her when she loves him, and can’t understand how her friend Suzy can betray her and SPOILER ALERT: she kills herself.

But first the cat fight:

By the time Suzy finds Fiona in the bathtub with her wrists slashed, but still conscious, her transformation from innocent naïf to wicked groupie slut is complete. She looks at Fiona, checks her reflection in the mirror, and then leaves the hotel to join the rest of Forever More. For ever more? Nah. Probably just until they get tired of her because she's just there to meet their needs. Ultimately she's something that can be callously forgotten the way Fiona is. She's just a groupie.

This was such a shitty movie. The music sucked, the sexual politics sucked, it was boring. Don’t watch it. I watched it so you don’t have to.

My bandmate offered to give me the titles of books that explore the antics between rockers and their groupies. He said he read about one band that had orgies with groupies in the middle of a set during long drum solos.

Just so you know, our band doesn’t have drum solos.







Monday, April 8, 2013

The Enemy

While watching the first few scenes in the new season of Mad Men, set in Hawaii, I remarked to my (white) husband that all the Asians (representing the Hawaiians) on screen were the most non-whites the show has had onscreen at one time. The only other significant Asian presence on the show was in the first episode of the first season where Pete's co-workers pranked him by installing a “Chinaman” and his family in his office. Mad Men is really good at reminding non-white viewers how alienating it could be to live in America during the 1960s. Large scale Asian immigration to the US didn't happen until after 1965 when the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 passed. (There was that pesky Chinese Exclusion Act to contend with before 1943.) Also important to note is that anti-miscegenation laws weren't made illegal by the US Supreme Court until the 1967 landmark court case,  Loving Vs. Virginia. (Though it appears that New York state never had any anti-miscegenation laws to repeal.)

The representation of Hawaiians and other Asians in this particular episode was still stereotypical but much less offensive than the "Chinaman" in the office. The scenes took place at a resort and the Asian's job was to sell the fantasy of exotic Hawaii. When I was a kid I came across a book that had a section about Hawaii. In particular the chapter talked about the vibrant Chinese community and the mixed-race “hapa” (mixed Asian descent). I looked at the pictures with great interest and some longing. I felt like I’d found a place in the world where people wouldn’t ask me “what are you?” (as I was so often asked as a child) because there were many people in Hawaii with a similar ethnic background. Hawaii gained a mythic prominence in my imagination (and I’ve never been, so maybe part of me likes to keep it mythical rather than be disappointed by the reality).

Later in the episode Don encounters a drunk GI who is in Hawaii on R&R from combat in Vietnam. He says something to the effect of being uncomfortable in Hawaii because while the Asians are American, since Hawaii is a state, they “look like the enemy”. 

The Vietnam War, or as it is known to Vietnamese, The American War, has always held a difficult place in my imagination because without that particular war I probably wouldn't exist.

My father was born on December 31, 1951 and his draft number in the 1970 draft was 100. He decided to enlist in the Navy before he was drafted because he wanted experience working on ships (he would later become a merchant marine). Perhaps a bad economy, and a lackluster stint in college, made joining the Navy seem like the best choice out of several worse choices. After basic training and a long boat ride with various stops in between, he eventually ended up serving in Vietnam. His R&R was spent in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and that’s where he met my mother. Did she look like “the enemy”? When I ask my father what he liked about my mother he says she had a nice smile, she was cute, and she liked to laugh. She'd been studying English at the YMCA but her English was very limited when she met my father. Still, they began a courtship.

The war was winding down, and once his obligation to the Navy ended, he could have forgotten my mother. Without the Vietnam War it was unlikely that my father, an Irish-American boy from the Bronx, would have made his way to Asia. If he had, he probably would have visited Hong Kong, or Japan instead of Taiwan, a place people usually didn’t visit unless they were in the military or had business there. But he did go to Vietnam. He did meet my mother. His service was marked by frightening (by his own accounts) river patrols at night. Maybe because of this the enemy was under cover of darkness.

Or maybe he simply didn’t think that way. Maybe he didn’t equate Asian with Enemy. When he could have finished his service he signed up for an extra tour with the hopes he’d be sent back to Taiwan. He was. My parents married. 

Their divorce...that's a whole other story.