Category Archives: Music Musings

WILD STRAWBERRIES


“Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.”
El Gallo, The Fantastiks

I grew up without a TV, for many reasons primary school was a bitch because of this void but despite the crippling circumstances I did have something. That something wasn’t my contribution to a discerning discussion on who was cooler–Charmander or Pikachu; no, when it came to TV  I was an outcast, or in Pokemon terms an N’s Pokemon. Due to an unexpected twist of fate our street was chosen for a reality TV series, so for a good 15 mins I was a reality TV star, who didn’t own a TV. 

Instead of the ole box my parents owned a record player and I would spend hours scouring over the record covers; imagining stories for the scratchy symphonies that oozed out of the pirrouting pancake. The faces and figures that covered these record players were my gods, my high priestesses, my saints that lured me into other worlds. The other day, whilst, searching through an op-shop I happened upon a sublime dose of nostalgia-my fingers traced the cities, the sudden peaks and troughs of the purple lined title, the illustrated curves of the girl in a tangerine glow surrounded in a carnivalesque grasp by three men-one tall, her lover and two other farcical patriarchs.

It was The Fantastiks record that I had listened too, when I was a wee thing. I tried and remembered  ‘a kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow’ ‘a forest where the woodchucks woo … and vines entwine like lovers’ of a boy, a girl, two fathers and a wall and how these people and places were a meditation away from melancholy. Too much nostalgia is toxic stagnation but a little bit now and then is pure medicine for the soul. Here are some  record covers that take me to place behind the moon, beyond the rain to a strawberry somewhere.

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Norma Tanega: Deadpan Folk

Norma Tanega
I love discovering forgotten gems from yesteryear, I suppose it harks back to the days when I used to go treasure hunting in the muddy creek below our house. I came across Norma Tanega, when her single ‘You’re Dead’ was used in the credits of Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi’s (Boy, Eagle Vs Shark)  fangtastic mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, about Vampire flatmates living in Wellington, NZ.

Norma Tanega was a camp singer in the Catskills, when she signed up to New Voice Records in 1966. She became a ‘one hit wonder’ when her strange, novelty single, ‘Walkin’ my Cat Named Dog‘ reached #22 on the US Billboard Charts.

The hit became popular in England and so Norma was asked to perform it on Top of the Pops, it was here in a rehearsal that she first saw Dusty Springfield. I’m standing there with my guitar, like a dork, while this woman, I had no idea who she was, stood on some scaffolding and went over and over this song until it was, of course, perfect.” The song was You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, Dusty’s #1 hit at the time. The lights went up in the studio and Norma, confused, asked Dusty what was going on and so Dusty explained the English tradition of a union tea break for electricians and cameramen, this sparked up a conversation between the two. Norma was in a relationship with Dusty Springfield during the 60s and as a prolific storyteller, provided lyrics to her songs, ‘No Stranger Am I,’ Earthbound Gypsy, Midnight Sounds.’  Just goes to show that behind every great woman is another great woman.

I am just obsessing over the dusty wryness and husky sincerity of Norma Tanega’s voice. There is a very deadpan delivery to her macabre and hilariously uncanny songs, which flatters the kiwi in me. Here is her song ‘You’re Dead’

[JUNE] IN THE RAILROAD EARTH

Railroad Train by Edward Hopper

“The restlessness and the longing, like the longing that is in the whistle of a faraway train.
Except that the longing isn’t really in the whistle—it is in you.” 

                                      – Meindert Dejong, The Little Cow and the Turtle 

I have been thinking about Trains of late, I recently went to see a Miyazaki double feature, Spirited Away and The Wind Rises, where those beautiful iron beasts carry the wanderlust/lost on a spiritual trip to the afterlife or to an other life. I spent a good solid month in a small town in Wisconsin called Prairie Du Chein, and every night I was serenaded by the whistling soliloquy of the distant train and it was true, it was a displaced wail for a longing inside of me, a longing I knew couldn’t be fulfilled in a tiny town (no matter how much I romanticized it). The trains whistle still haunts me inside, I can feel it like a force of breath between my ribcage.The wailing between the rails guarding my unconscious. I long, so I play Vashti Bunyan’s Train Song.

I am on a bit of train binge at the moment, I am, as it were, loco over locomotives. It especially amuses me that trains petrified Freud, he suffered from Siderodromophobia (fear of train travel) through his childish eyes the steam jets from a train looked like souls burning in hell. In his self-analysis he said the rocking of the train reminded him of the loss of his mother, love thy mother.

The following is a list of my favorite train tracks, films, books, poetry ladeda.

LITERATURE

pawprints

Ghost Cat by Joy Cowley 

A couple years ago,
A deaf old cat named Mack
Went for an evening walk
Along the railway track.
He didn’t hear the whistle
Of the midnight train.
‘Dead!’ said the engine driver.
‘We won’t see him again.’
Me-ow!

The driver was mistaken
The ghost of Mack came back
To haunt the midnight train
On the section of the track.
The driver said he saw him suddenly appear.
His coat was grey like mist
His eyes were cold and clear.
Mee-ee-o-ow!

And sometimes lonely travellers
Bound for the distant places,
Woke up after midnight
With pawmarks on their faces.
They gave a cry of terror
As a pale grey shape slid by,
And through the darkened carriages
They heard the ghostly cry.
Mee-ee-ee-ee-o-o-o-ow!

This poem by children lit darling Joy Cowley was probably my first exposure to terror, the accompanying picture drawn by a child called Waaka Harris didn’t help to nullify the unease. Between the whistle of the train, the callous response of the engine driver, the iridescent haunting of a Cat, with such a congenial name like Mack, I was absolutely petrified but also disturbingly beguiled on my first train trip.

 

Railway Rhymes by CL GravesRailway Station

“When books are pow’rless to beguile
And papers only stir my bile,
For solace and relief I flee
To Bradshaw or the ABC
And find the best of recreations
In studying the names of stations.”

Ah to escape by train from life’s shit, now that would be a great adventure. There is something therapeutic about studying the names of streets and stations. The best part about studying train stations from a moving train is that it flashes by and it is gone, and it’s on to the next one. Ponder and release.

Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Train lit. has been embroiled in the world of what I am going to call hard-boiler crime. The Train in Patricia Highsmiths psychological thriller opens a platform for a psychopathic playboy to prey of those in transit-physically and mentally. An A to B journey for Guy Haines is derailed by a strangers proposition-a moider swap, he will kill his unfaithful wife, if Guy kills his father.

 

 

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

What appears to be a formulaic whodunnit on a train, opens up a space for derailing ideas of crime and punishment. It sparks on the terrors of train travel, being cooped up in space of compartmental collapse with strangers, who could perhaps kill you. Exotic landscapes are rendered  impressionistic by the trains speed, and whodunnit becomes a landscape to the shaky forefront of human ethics. 

 FILM

In 1986 the Lumiere brothers created the first unintentional horror film, when their train sent audiences (unfamiliar with how film worked) screaming from the auditorium, solidifying the symbolic power of the train on screen. The terrible, terrific imprinted forever on the collective unconscious.

Click on the pictures to watch a scene from these films.

North by Northwest

North by Northwest, Alfred Hitchcock, 1959

The reason why I attribute train travel to sexy espionage, slinky martinis and comfortable sleeping lounges, Amtrak quickly dissolved those romanticized views. The end of this film has the best sexual innuendo involving a train.

Once Upon a Ti

Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone, 1968 

Trains have and still are intrinsic to the myth building of the West in the American consciousness. Sergio Leone capitalizes on the ‘traveling’ nature of the Western to redress the mythological expansion of the iron horse across the west-frontier building on crack. Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack, accentuates the plodding, dying whistle of the demi-gods on horses, as the train makes tracks across the western narrative.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki, 2001

There is something so peaceful about a train taking spirits home, train as travel to the afterlife. The train scene lulled into a slumber by the medicinal music of Joe Hisaishi is like a meditative pause. It opens a space for a long sigh after life is done.

La Bete Humaine

La Bete Humaine, Jean Renoir, 1938

Jean Renoir’s poetic realist masterpiece takes us into the coal clogged, hellish belly of the industrial monster. In this locomotive infested world, the plights of suffering male,sacrificial woman and popular front are fought in the slinky, oilskin shadows.

The Music Man

The Music Man, Morton DaCosta, 1962

The opening scene where a honky salesman rap coalesces with the rhythm and sounds of the train, as if the men are having synchronized sex with the train, not to mention each other is just brilliant. The fact they are salesman (prostitutes in suits) jostling in synchrony with the grind, steam and steady thrust of the locomotive will have you in hysterics.

The list could go on and on so here is a montage of train scene from the films I love.

TRAIN TRACKS


Click on the picture below to  listen to my  Spotify playlist, TRAIN TRACKS

Trains

DERAILED LOVE
5:15 The Angels Have Gone – David Bowie
All Aboard – Muddy Waters
Jumping someone else’s train/another journey by train – The Cure
Downtown Train – Tom Waits

LONGING WITH A LONESOME WHISTLE
500 miles – Peter, Paul and Mary
Train Song – Vashti Bunyan
Blues in the Night – Ella Fitzgerald
Homeward Bound – Simon & Garfunkel

THE GREAT ESCAPE
The Draize Train – The Smiths 
Gone Darker – Electrelane
Long Black Train – Lee Hazlewood
High Speed Train – R.E.M

REEL ROAD
The Sixth Station (Spirited Away) – Joe Hisaishi
Farewell to Cheyenne (Once Upon a Time in the West) – Ennio Morricone
Conversation Piece (North by Northwest) – Bernard Herrmann
Lara’s Theme (Dr Zhivago) –  Maurice Jarre

Train

“In this fast movin’ world that we live in nobody rides ’em much these days
Maybe I’m a little sentimental cause I know that things have to change
But I’d still like to go for a train ride cause I’ve got a thing about trains .”

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Throwback Tuesday Tunes

 

Slowdive

Ah Shoegaze, although I was still a mere nymphet during the 90s and was engrossed in tween pop groups (just had a side thought, suddenly, whilst thinking about 90s pop songs, um ‘Hit me Baby, One More Time’ sounds like a pop thumbs up to domestic violence and I remember singing it coyly to boys at the school disco, hmmmm). Anyway, my babysitter was obsessed in the other 90s, the 90s I will always have faux nostalgia for you know: Harmony Korine, Smashing Pumpkins, Fiona Apple, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and My Bloody Valentine. I remember going into her room, even though I was threatened to stay out and looking at the posters of a baby swimming in a pool, of a guy wearing a handkerchief tied around his head like a bow, of a woman with a black bob and a black dress lying on a bed, with her legs crossed in the air and a cigarette in her right hand; this was a far cry from the tween coated walls of my room, suffocating in Spice Girl jetsam. I remember my babysitter playing a song; it was otherworldly, between sleep and sheet, between longing and lust and it stuck with me but overtime I forgot who sang it.

I discovered the genre of shoe gaze through dream-pop group Beach House and remembered that song I once heard in a time of being babysat, a nostalgia I couldn’t quite place, perhaps because it spoke to an inexistent space in my soul, an unrequited invitation to the universe. I finally found it today it was Machine Gun by Slowdive and I have been listening to it on repeat. It’s like reacquainting myself with a lost love, blessed by a lifetime of lost lovers. It’s funny but the band was born in the same year I was born.

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Mysterious Roots: TWIGS

Twigs

An artist/s(?) of intrigue at this fine hour is the question-marked Twigs–a lamenting ringmaster of erotic glitches, fractures, echoes and ruptures. Think The XX meets Matty Walker (from Body Heat)–a femme fatale of RnB, a figure slinking in shadows, teasing us with a lusty minimalism of beats, pants and aches but also a lamenting vulnerability as her name suggests.

She has released four videos, all teasing us with flashes of this mysterious someone ‘behind the red curtain’ and dragging us into an oscillatory odyssey. Will she turn the light on or relish her mantled manifestation? All I know is my temperature is running a couple degrees higher in anticipation for more.

A very (not so) merry indie xmas to you …

Merry Indie Xmas

I chuckled over this, it tis the season to be parodied …

To listen to snippets of the songs click here

Merry XXmas

Love this sombre cover on what was already a bit of sad gem …

STORY TIME WITH ALICE GLASS

Storytime

so I finally did get my proper dose of gyrating against sweaty flesh, whilst being digested by the apocalyptic distortions, primal yelps, and winsome cries of Alice Glass and Ethan Kath. If you haven’t seen Crystal Castles live, do so when they infiltrate your neck of the woods.

A few days later they released their third child–Crystal Castles (III) and there is one track that has become my bedtime story– Child I Will Hurt You. The euphonious melody is accompanied by lyrics that conjure Little Orphant Annie’s warning, An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you, Ef you Don’t Watch Out!.’ It is Blakean indeed–an oscillatory odyssey between innocence and experience. LISTEN BELOW

An artist I have wandered across, who captures a similar oscillatory odyssey is folk-artist Juliana Swaney, here are some of her creatures–lost in the woods.

 Adulescents Boy and Horse

THE MATHEMATICS OF POPULAR CULTURE: LOVE + ABUSE = RAINBOW SPEW

ok so what is the deal with Calvin Harris’s collaboration music videos making abusive relationships so appealing. I understand the dude doesn’t direct his own videos but come on. First it was the Skins–esque inspired Rihanna video We Found Love, the moral of which: you’re in an abusive relationship you get to spew rainbows, ah cool. Now it’s Sweet Nothing  feat. Florence Welch, the moral of which: you are in an abusive relationship, you get to rock a sweet black bandage bra, whilst spastically dancin like a banshee in slow mo. In fact these videos have the opposite appeal to intended, they inspire me to search for an abusive relationship just so I can glamorously make the fuck you ‘Great Escape.’ In this day and age, where domestic violence is on the ascent, patriarchy has its invisibility cape on and where Pussy Riot were jailed for yanking at that cape, must popular culture mantle domestic violence and the ‘battered woman’ in shiny lights, slow mo, rainbow spew and indie desaturation. I tsk, tsk thee pop culture, oooo I wonder where Florence got her bra?

Yours invisibly,
Anyones Ghost