Friday, September 30, 2005

Freaky If You Got This Far

There are many great traditions in recorded popular music. Two of them go parallel: the contractual obligation album and the anti-music industry impresario song.
Three examples of the latter are Cocaine Decisions by Frank Zappa, Van Morrison's Bigtime Operators and, coming back to italian land, Elio E Le Storie Tese's Sos Epidos. That same band had to release a contractual obligation album in 1990, titled The Los Sri Lanka Parakramabahu Brothers (a.k.a. Il Disco Pacco Di Natale), to be released from Epic/CBS Records. It is, to fans, critics and band members themselves, the lowest point of their recording career.
Frank Zappa's "contractual obligation" for Warner Brothers consisted in the repackaging of his monumental quadruple LP project titled Läther into the three infamous "ugly cover" albums -Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favourites- released in 1978/79 (more info about those at Zappa Patio and here).

Ah, and Van Morrison's contractual obligation album. Which is the reason i'm telling you all this.
In 1967 the young Van Morrison was in the early stages of his solo career. He was signed to Bang Records, a company owned and administrated by Mr. Bert Berns, also author of the odd pop song lyric himself. Berns was certainly not the most honest of entrepreneurs if we consider his behaviour towards Van The Man: both albums from this period were released while the artist was on tour, without him being informed. And heavily overproduced, without the artist's consent. So of course Van wanted out from Bang Records.

What changed things was Berns' sudden death on December 30th, 1967. Warner Brothers Records was already interested in Van working for them, so an agreement was reached that the next ten songs he recorded would belong to Bang Records, after which he was free to go happily on his merry way.

So what happened next? Bert Berns' widow Eileen, quoted in Steve Turner's Van Morrison biography, tells us this:
"He then turned over a tape that he must have spent ten minutes making.(...) It consisted of ten bursts of nonsense music that weren't even songs. You could never have copyrighted them. There was something about ringworms and then he sang something about 'I gotta go in and cut this stupid song for this stupid lady' and so on"
"To cut a long story short, I had two small babies, one of them born three weeks before Bert's death, and I just wanted to get on with my life, and didn't bother to take him to court and sue him over the songs I didn't get. So I just let it go."

(From: S. Turner, It's Too Late To Stop Now, Bloomsbury, London, 1993)

Those sessions are now available online, and are absolutely hilarious.

Even if you don't feel like right-clicking "save file as" some 31 times, at least go here and read the improvised-in-the-studio lyrics. And don't tell me all this wasn't worth it.

(Moral: In 1968 Van Morrison recorded Astral Weeks for WB Records, which is still considered one of the five greatest albums in the history of rock. Outtakes from it were never published, and are presumed lost. But these Bang Records masters are freely available on cheap compilations and now even online. All things considered, i wonder who got the last laugh.)

(Via KillUglyRadio)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Avventure di un evaristico in Coneglianoland.

The press conference was scheduled for 4 o'clock in the afternoon, in Sala Giunta of Conegliano Town Hall. Myself+2 enter the place ten minutes early, following a random journalist who would remain partially unaware of us for the rest of the proceedings.
We reach the small early eighteenth century, lavishly decorated conference room and stand waiting, unsure whether to sit or not on the few available chairs. Few seconds pass and the journalist, a dark-haired lady early in her thirties, starts mumbling into her cellphone and eventually says out quite loudly "they decided to move it to the piazza downstairs, since it's such a nice day", in a manner which sounded too much like a personal reflection for us to accept it as her admitting our existence.
We go back down two flights of stairs where a very polite public relations lackey stops us all from exiting the building, and asks us for identification.

A small parenthesis. We had entered the town hall building unauthorized and uninvited so we could attend a press conference. The press conference was moved to the outside Piazza, an open, public space. This man was blocking us from leaving the place we weren't supposed to be in, demanding a justification for our inexplicable desire to simply walk out of a door, albeit in a pleasantly polite manner.
What makes me wonder now (i didn't really give the matter much thought at the time) is this: what would have happened if we didn't make it past him? Would we have been condemned to remain inside the eighteenth century construction for the rest of our lives, or until somebody actually realized we had nothing to do with the place? Or would we have been automatically whisked off to some otherworldly, extradimensional limbo? We'll never find out, i suppose, but the matter still troubles me.

Back to the events. The journalist in front of us says "i'm a journalist from Messaggero Veneto, and this is my press i.d.", flashing a card from her wallet. The man, unimpressed, lets her out.
He then turns to us: "e voi?" ("and you?")
"They're with me" i answer, pointing at my companions. "I'm from a website."
"Really? That's great!" said the surprised doorperson, his face suddenly lit up. He gives us a big smile and allows our exit.

On our way to the center of the piazza, where the chairs were already set, the personalities were already taking place and the waiters from the local Festa Dell'Uva were already opening complimentary wine bottles, Fabrizio, the friend who had invited me to the town in the first place, asks: "What if he'd asked you the name of the website?" I think this thoroughtly and sort of mutter out that yes, that would have been something of a problem. After twenty seconds of further reflection, i say out loud "Hey wait! I really do have a website!"

Therefore, my posting this account here retroactively justifies our presence there yesterday.

(A few disapproving eyes turned towards us, but it was too late for their owners to kick us out.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Art Craziest Nation

The Walker Art Gallery of Liverpool is exposing a mini-exhibition of modern art masterpieces. their creators, and reknowned art patrons. In lego.

(Above: Joseph Beuys - The Pack, 1969. Recreated by The Little Artists.)

The exhibit was created by John Cake and Darren Neave a.k.a. The Little Artists, below pictured while jumping on Tracey Emin's Bed.

Whilst perusing the online gallery section, links below the works may provide a valuable who's who for the world of People Who Do Stuff.

Art Craziest Nation, Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, 20 August 2005 - 29 January 2006.
Disclaimer: Please note that Art Craziest Nation is a single exhibit. It is not a Lego exhibition.

And i'm still wondering what that means.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Good company.

Albums i took to chile with me:

Cornelius - Point
Pizzicato Five - the fifth release from MATADOR
Antonio Carlos Jobim - Composer:the Warner Archives
Elio e le Storie Tese - Grazie per la splendida serata vol.1 live in treviso 2.7.05
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica
Giuliano Palma And The Bluebeaters - The Album ft. Gino Paoli
Elio e le Storie Tese - Ho fatto 2 etti e 1/2 lascio? Rolling Stone Edition
Frank Zappa/Ensemble Modern - The Yellow Shark

Albums i took to chile but eventually never listened to:
Arto Lindsay - Salt
Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

Plus of course a flurry of tapes.

Voilà le chat!

In response to a billionth of a billion requests, here's a picture of the cat, visibly unscathed by the weeks we were away. We left a sibling behind to attend all its wishes and desires, which usually revolved around the general ideas of eating and sleeping. In the picture, he is doing neither.

Friday, September 02, 2005


So X tells me to say hello to Y. Y is X's former girlfriend.
Of course i will, i tell him.
But as he leaves i realize how familiar this scenario is: if i tell Y that X says hello, she will say "oh, that bastard. Tell him that next time he wants to say hello, he could at least pick up a phone and do it himself". And if then X asks what Y said, i will have to answer the truth and he will think or say out loud "why do i even bother?".
Otherwise i can just keep quiet about it in the first place. Never tell Y that X says hello. Problem temporarily solved.
But what if then X asks me what she answered? Can i say "oh sorry i didn't tell her"? Of course not! So i can choose between telling him that she says hi back, or telling him oh-that-bastard-etc. anyway.
Both these last two options would bring disaster: X would either decide to call Y inspired by a fictitious good response, or continue carrying a grudge due to her fictitious-but-realistic (because as i said earlier, i know how these things go) response.
So i have two options, each with two possible solutions. And all four of these solutions would be disaster.

Current opinion: not telling Y that X says hello. Unless of course conversations with her get particularly boring.
Because after all, why do i even bother?


Remember(no, of course you don't) in february, when i told of Daniele Luttazzi's show in Udine, which he concluded with a stunning performance of the Jerry Lewis Invisible Typewriter Sketch? Remember when i said that the Leroy Anderson composition that acted as background to that was oh-so-deserving of a konishi remix?
Well, guess what. Konishi went ahead and remixed it.

Um. Wierd.