Sunday, July 31, 2005

A la Recherche de la Gigs Perdu

Russian Rolling Stone, Aug. 2005 | Click on the image to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

Just back from Russia, and I must say, in retrospect of a couple of very jetlagged days back home it was probably the most satisfying series of gigs in a foreign land I've done in years, the overwhelming sense of Russian Soul suffuses my recollections here, a cheerful earthiness, a deadpan irony, a Gogolesque black humor that seems very close to the heart of my own Jewish sensibility...some random observations: motoring down the corruscated main drag that connects Saint Petersburg to Moscow in Andrey's BMW in an epic 14 hour journey this time mostly by daylight listening repeatedly to Jane Birkin's sensational live "Arabesque" album, the best driving music ever, Jane performing her ex Serge Gainsbourg's songs with Arab musicians providing inventive arrangements and appropriate melismatic instrumental flourishes, we must have listened to this oh about 37 times coming and going and it haunts me still, just ordered it from Amazon in fact--some footnotes: Jane B was an older classmate of Caroline's at Miss Ironside's School for Girls in London (along with Koo Stark) and I of course fell in love with Jane's celluloid image via her romp with David Hemmings in his photo atelier in "Blow-Up" in 1967; later on in the ensuing years, I purchased the 45 of Serge and Jane's exquisite "Je T'aime (moi non plus)" and used this as the entrance and exit music for the Yale Film Society's marathon showing of "Deep Throat" in spring of '73 (must have projected THAT film about 37 times over 3 consecutive days of filthy lucre-mongering indeed, thanks to Joe "Compendia" Bianco for providing us with the print--wonder where he got it from?--Hi Joe!). More Russian road ruminations: Stopping at a trucker's cafe (well, shed is more accurate) at midnight by the cerrulean glow of the famous Russian White Nights with shashlik grilling on open flames spewing sparks like fireflies along the highway edge and wolfing down greasy barbecued chicken and a thick sludge of bittersweet coffee and sugar and milk, a confection Andrey swore was the same formula served at his primary school. Playing the final evening's concert in Saint Petersburg's legendary underground Club Moloko (milk--remember the Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange--horror show, yes indeed). This joint didn't actually resemble Kubrick's cinematic vision of same but still had an appropriately retro-futurist feel to it, kind of a cross between a honky-tonk and a bunker on the frontlines of some nameless conflict (maybe the one between the landlord and the tenants upstairs, who have been bugging for years 'bout the noise level generated onstage)--me and Alexei Pliousnine and the drummer from Aquarium (one of Russia's legendary bands originally fronted by Boris Grebenchikov) created a soft explosion of sound that shook the rafters in an improv melee that touched upon Beefheart, avant-metal, the freest of jazz improv and fat gonzo rockabilly changes that had the large and supple crowd there transfixed, I started both sets solo and took requests and "Fata Morgana" was one that got much requested as melodies from my instrumental version of this as yet unrecorded original composition (written in a hotel room during the Quebec City Summer Festival 3 years ago and had performed at the SKIF Festival last year in Saint Pete) were still echoing in people's it has morphed into a real song with lyrics and I performed it on steel guitar with abandon...yes it was a great honor to play in Russia again, I am still buzzing about it and can't wait to play there again!

Meanwhile I had dinner here on Friday night with Howie Klein, who was originally a proto-punk mover and shaker and music journalist in San Francisco when I lived there in '77, later the label supremo behind 415 Records which released the great Romeo Void records, later in cahoots with Seymour Stein at Sire Records (and later the former president of Reprise), and as we strolled and kibbitzed and reminisced on a beautiful midsummer night's eve past what once was the office of Crawdaddy Magazine on 6th avenue (over what is now the recently picketed IFC Theater) and I recalled how much I anticipated each new issue's arrival (this was pre-Rolling Stone and the only other source for hip journalistic takes on the nascent underground band scene at the time was Don Paulson's Hit Parader) and of being inspired by the wild writings inside by Sandy Pearlman, Richard Meltzer, and of course the overwhelming enthusiasm of editor Paul Williams, and Howie told me he had once sold copies of the mag on the street outside the Crawdaddy offices...while strolling thus, the sacred dream of living a life in music overwhelmed me joyfully, and I was flush with exaltation, and "opened my heart to the whole universe" (pace McGuinn) and realized once again that, to paraphrase Jonathan Richman (Gods and Monsters bassist Ernie Brooks' confrere in The Modern Lovers):

"I'm (still) in love with the rock 'n roll..."

And here's a blast from the past...Gary in Taipei, Taiwan 11/76

photo by Frederique Bonhoure | Click on the photo to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

further on



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