Freaky Repost: “I Talk to My Haircut”

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I don’t quite feel like counting down favorite bands tonight, so I’ll continue the theme week, well, next week.  Maybe I’ll even expand it.  I’m crazy that way.  Because I spent much of the afternoon running errands, and since one of those errands was getting my hair cut (thanks, Frank!), this seemed like an appropriate repost.

So Dangerous Minds has once again turned me on to a little bit of insanity I’d never heard of. The two albums released by Reverend Fred Lane appear to be completely bananas. Which makes them pretty damn awesome in my book.

I freely admit that I choose this song because I dug the title, but it turned out to be a pretty fun listen. Although I was pretty entertained by the other clips I heard, too, so you should just search him on YouTube. It’s all pretty strange. What I hear most in Reverend Fred Lane’s music is the roots of another absurdist musical favorite, They Might Be Giants. I have no idea if John and John ever listened to this guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

Of course, Reverend Lane isn’t a real guy. Or, he is real, but he’s not a reverend. Or named Fred. It’s a persona created by an artist named T.R. Reed. The music encompasses pretty much every genre of American music, while the lyrics are Dada-esque in nature (read: they make no sense whatsoever). This isn’t novelty music, per se, but more like performance art. What stands out most is the freewheeling abandon of these tracks. Reed clearly decided at some point to not limit himself in any discernible way. This is what the phrase “anything goes” was invented for. He just tossed everything in, including the kitchen sink.

This stuff is wonderfully weird, but it’s not mainstream in any way. The Reverend Fred Lane is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Which of course means that these recordings are currently out of print. I hope someone realizes there’s a market for this stuff and re-release it. Soon.

Freaky Friday: “I Talk to My Haircut”

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So Dangerous Minds has once again turned me on to a little bit of insanity I’d never heard of.  The two albums released by Reverend Fred Lane appear to be completely bananas.  Which makes them pretty damn awesome in my book.

I freely admit that I choose this song because I dug the title, but it turned out to be a pretty fun listen.  Although I was pretty entertained by the other clips I heard, too, so you should just search him on YouTube.  It’s all pretty strange.  What I hear most in Reverend Fred Lane’s music is the roots of another absurdist musical favorite, They Might Be Giants.  I have no idea if John and John ever listened to this guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

Of course, Reverend Lane isn’t a real guy.  Or, he is real, but he’s not a reverend.  Or named Fred.  It’s a persona created by an artist named T.R. Reed.  The music encompasses pretty much every genre of American music, while the lyrics are Dada-esque in nature (read: they make no sense whatsoever).  This isn’t novelty music, per se, but more like performance art.  What stands out most is the freewheeling abandon of these tracks.  Reed clearly decided at some point to not limit himself in any discernible way.  This is what the phrase “anything goes” was invented for.  He just tossed everything in, including the kitchen sink.

This stuff is wonderfully weird, but it’s not mainstream in any way.  The Reverend Fred Lane is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.  Which of course means that these recordings are currently out of print.  I hope someone realizes there’s a market for this stuff and re-release it.  Soon.

Freaky Friday: Two Virgins

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Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins is the first recorded collaboration between John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  Lennon had become enamored with both Ono and her work after visiting one of her gallery shows.  They had not yet married, and the Beatles had not broken up.  But Two Virgins signaled a clear shift in Lennon’s artistic direction.

This is only music in the loosest sense, but it is pretty radical stuff.  Sound effects, repeated noises, screaming, and an overall feeling of chaos are jarring to people expecting the Beatles.  Two Virgins was not popular with a lot of fans.  But listening to it now, it’s easy to see how ahead of its time this work was.  This album, as well as Unfinished Music No.2:  Life with the Lions and Wedding Album were explorations in a very personal aural landscape.

On one level, the work is somewhat self-indulgent.  Lennon and Ono seemed to be doing whatever appeals to them with no real thought to listeners.  But I think that’s also part of the point.  The inward-looking nature of these sounds, the intimacy of just the two of them recording together, creates a very strange psychological landscape.  And although it is rather personal in nature, I think there’s still room for the listener to gain something from the experience.  The repetition is meditative for me.  My love of John Lennon is no secret, so I will readily concede my bias here.  But I think this is the kind of thing that could be played in a dark auditorium or art gallery as part of an installation.  It might not be for everyone, but I find the experimentation of Two Virgins mind-opening.

Freaky Repost: Laurie Anderson

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Sorry I totally spaced on posting yesterday.  I’ve been running around doing stuff today, so I didn’t really prep any good new freaks.  Here’s one of my favorite old freaks for your re-enjoyment.

 

Laurie Anderson is an artist. Her work is a brilliant commentary on American culture, values, and mores. She is the author and creator of herself. For women, that last statement is very important, because so much of what women do in this culture is defined, at least in part, by their relationships with men. But Anderson has never been in anyone’s shadow. She got her start in New York in the 1970s, during that amazing heady period when punk and disco were born. Now Anderson was never a punk or a disco diva; her musical sensibilities were wide-ranging, but much of it could be traced back to experimental music. It’s also important to note that while Laurie Anderson uses music as a medium, she isn’t really a musician. She’s an artist.

One of her earliest installations at a gallery was a jukebox that played 45s of songs she wrote. One of these was “It’s Not the Bullet That Kills You (It’s the Hole).” These songs were never released as songs, although a few copies are still around. This particular song seems to be about misplaced values and a culture of violence, a world where the victim gets blamed for the crime (sadly, this is still familiar for some crimes).

It doesn’t hurt that Anderson’s compositions are attractively catchy. She’s clearly got a tunesmith’s ear for what works musically. Her songs are interestingly literate, with good hooks. She often creates instruments to help craft her songs and performances. One of her earliest creations was a violin with a tape recorder attached to it, which eventually evolved into her tape bow violin. It creates eerie sounds that perfectly echo the dread underlying much of her work.

Of course, Anderson is at her best when she’s performing. Her concerts aren’t really shows, but more like experiences. In 1986, she released Home of the Brave, a film version of performances at the Park Theater in Union City, New Jersey. Some kind soul has posted the entire film on YouTube, which I’m including here (thanks, LegeCre). It is by turns thrilling and unsettling. Enjoy.

Freaky Friday: “Butcher Baby”

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The Plasmatics were as much performance art as they were Punk.  In a lot of ways, Punk is one of the ultimate forms of performance art.  It’s about creating a persona and personification of chaos and anger; the music, even when it’s really good, is secondary to the reaction Punk performers get from the crowd.  The Plasmatics had a heavy emphasis on visual performance, thanks to founder Rod Swenson’s MFA from Yale.  He teamed with the fearless Wendy O. Williams to create a band that exploded on the stage–sometimes literally, as they were fond of blowing up things during their shows.

I’ll be honest, when I was a teenager, Wendy O. Williams scared the hell out of me.  She was tough and unafraid, using her body the way someone like Iggy Pop did: as just another prop to shock the audience with.  What is remarkable is how unremarkable a performer like Williams is in Punk, which is one of the most egalitarian genres out there.  There is a genuine rejection of sexism and traditional gender roles in Punk.  Yeah, I’m sure many individual punkers are misogynistic creeps, but they’re going against the spirit of the movement.  Because Punk was about rejecting societal norms, and it was still pretty radical for women to have such agency and control, even when the music first hit the scene.  Wendy O. Williams represented everything that scared conservatives about Punk.  She had control over who she was and how she represented herself.  She was arrested more than once on indecency charges, but she never backed down.

After the Plasmatics, Williams continued with a solo career through the 80s, but eventually retired with Swenson to Connecticut.  She led a relatively quiet life working with animals and at a food co-op.  (Williams was  a vegetarian and animal rights activist.)  She had been troubled for years, and after two previous attempts, Wendy O. Williams committed suicide in the woods near her home.