Monday, December 20, 2010

"Who'll remember the buns, Podgy?"

Wow!  Dig that photo.  Could that be some new, hip, psychedelic folk rocker from England or Europe engaged in that post-Incredible String Band thing?  Ah, no...wait, oh god, it's a photo of yours truly found from the archives of oblivion.  41 years ago?  Oh, how the body aches, the conscience reels.  Has it been this far down the path?  Oh well, Happy Christmas folks.  And this coming from a pagan.  Well, sort of pagan.  More of a hip gnostic.  At least that's what I thought.  Dig the colour coordination of the photo.  That really was the true colour of my hair.  Note the matching hues of the ensemble: brown cord coat; gold turtleneck; flowing Siegfried locks; Michael Caine Ipcress File-style horn-rimmed glasses; and rust suede zippered high-heeled Beatle boots from Hardy Shoes.  Too cool, man.  Carnaby Street comes to Orange County.  At least in that photo, which I think was taken in Brea, I lived in Diamond Bar at that time having fled the cultural oasis of Fullerton.  But I digress. 

Back to Christmas.  Or Paganmas to us Nancy Druids.  But religion aside (because my fanaticism was never in this area), I've always enjoyed the rich humour that comes from this time of year.  Cynicism came early.  Does anyone remember Stan Freberg's A Green Christmas from his album, Stan Freberg And The Original Cast?  The Goon Show Christmas programs were always a hidden pleasure.  The Beatles carried on the tradition with their Christmas discs for fan club members.  Each year becoming more surreal.

Christmas shows on Space Pirate Radio were always fun.  How many people enjoyed each season listening to Chef Bruno's Christmas album?  Which one was your favourite?  "Chet's nuts roasting by an open fire.  Jack Frost's nipple in your ear..."  Or "Oh come Marianne Faithfull, riding in her Triumph.  Oh come Marianne Faithfull, oh come on me." Or maybe "Good King Senor Wences Saw."  Mayhaps these classic tunes were inspired by the early days of Pogo: "Deck us all with Boston Charlie.  Walla Walla, Wash an' Kalamazoo!"  To this day, I can't hear a Christmas song in a store without rewriting the lyrics in some demonic sort of way.  Recently, I've retooled Andy Williams doing "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year."  Seriously, it comes on in Albertsons and I start singing:

It's the most horrible time of the year.
Family is dying and people are crying and living in fear...
It's the most horrible time of the year.
This can really change how a person looks at you in the produce section.

On stage, after doing Nothing Is Sacred and Casanova's Lips, I seriously wanted to rearrange the classic Dickens story with my play, A Christmas Maggie.  ("But isn't it A Christmas Carol, Mr. Scrooge?"  "I don't know Carol, but I did know Maggie and that's why it's A Christmas Maggie.")  It was an insane idea, of course.  But I wanted to do it anyway.  Scrooge, for all outward appearances, would be true to the Dickens period, except at the time, on his frock coat lapels he wore buttons that said "Nixon Now" and "Bomb Hanoi."  It was definitely a '70s piece.  Scrooge was a letch, attempting to seduce the wife of his employee, Bob Crotchairs.  In one scene, Ebeneezer, enjoying the view of the amply endowed Maggie Crotchairs, puts on a pair of 3D glasses and stares at her in a heightened sense of abandon.  Anyway, the play never made it to the stage but it did end up in various forms on Space Pirate Radio.

There were certainly many other Christmas moments on the program.  We all did our shopping with Don Wenow (from Our Gay Apparel).  And how about those holiday specials from Madame Rhumba's House Of Certain Pleasures ("Where else are you gonna get those rectum sticks?  You won't find them at Robinsons").

The holidays were a lot of fun spent among friends, especially if those friends were the multiple personalities that peopled my imagination on Space Pirate Radio.  Over the years, many a show was done on a Christmas morning and it was not a bad way to spend the holiday. 

So I hope the end of the year is good for you.  Here we are wrapping up a year's worth of these glowing, nocturnal emissions.  Heinz 57 varieties.  Did you ketchup? 

No Christmas would be complete without a message from the Beatle Pope, Pope JohnPaulGeorgeRingo II: "I've got nothing to say but it's okay.  Good morning, good morning, good morning."

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Oh, dazzling. People have to wear sunglasses."

Hello katz and kittenz.  A happy December to you all.  Well, here we are, creeping up to the watermark of one year using the modern cathode ray tube form of communication.  It's been lots of fun having the flashbacks and reliving those days of yesteryear on Space Pirate Radio.  My thanks to everyone who wrote in and shared their memories of all the crazy times we had.  I am very gratified by those people who, along with myself, discovered the music for the first time and enjoyed the sonic experience.  And there were a lot of sounds.  There was so much new stuff to listen to and I am pleased that so many friends and listeners tuned in to the unusual way that I mixed the sounds up.  It was always an experiment.  Fresh and new music, firing up my enthusiasm into a form of audio alchemy.  For the most part, for me, it was pure and total joy.  I am glad that that feeling communicated to so many. 

So it always comes down to the music.  I found that a really good new work by an artist would inspire me to come up with my own work.  I think I have mentioned in the past that Tangerine Dream's Atem album clinched it for me that I would do Space Pirate Radio.  I remember Can's Future Days album helping me to write my entire play, Casanova's Lips.  Amon Duul II would inspire from their lengthy pieces on Yeti and Dance Of The Lemmings.  Ash Ra Tempel, Popul Vuh and so forth.  Inspired work would inspire me.  So I was always glad when people would tell me that they would listen to Space Pirate Radio while painting, writing or working in the darkroom.  And other pleasures too. 

So back to the music.  In the heyday of the show, I spent a lot of time at concerts.  In recent years, my hermetic side seems to have taken over.  My lovely wife has made up for my traveling limitations by attending as many concerts as she can, as I used to in the '70s and '80s.  We have attended together a fair amount of memorable shows, but probably not as many as I would like. Magma and Porcupine Tree in San Francisco stands out.  Also in San Francisco, seeing Kraftwerk at the Warfield.  So if you regularly check in, you may have noticed there has not been an entry for the past two weeks.  One, because the little lady has been traipsing after Roger Waters and his new production based on the lead actor of the Wiseguy TV series: The Wahl (Call Him Ken); two, after punishing her for that indiscreation, we visited my old stamping ground, the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, to see and hear "the voice of Yes," Jon Anderson (who then would be the "knee, elbow and buttock"?  Choose your favourite member, past and present).

Well it was good to get out.  The fall of the house of the elderly ushers at the Lobero Theatre kindly allowed my new Mach I scooter, equipped with the iron & wine lung and kiss me catheter, escorted us down to our second to the front row seats.  Ah, the Lobero.  "I've traipsed on those boards," the Crypt Keeper said to his wife.  Singularly unimpressed, even descriptions of the stage layout backstage and ancient anecdotes failed to impress the little one from the Pleadian glow of seeing Olias himself.  Even turning off my Darth Vader breathing device in case there happened to be someone possibly recording the show, and the fact that I never interrupted or made any sarcastic comments during any part of the performance, added little to my cache.  "Look, honey, it's our first concert since Kraftwerk at the Greek Theatre, where that drunken asshole drenched us with his oversized Budweiser.  And it's Jon Anderson."  Well, it didn't matter.  This aged cynic suddenly remembered why he had devoted his life to the so-called world of progressive music.  Ah, yes, progress.  It's coming back to me.  The dream is not over.  Jon Anderson, like Lazarus, has risen from the dead.  He's not screwing up.  He's in top form.  He's talking about love and light.  And if I had a dollar for every time that was mentioned, these tickets would be paid for.  I dig it, man.  Seriously, though, he's in fine shape and that little inner glow is coming back.  Ah, yes, I remember. 

Actually, I haven't enjoyed a concert like this in a long time.  It reminded me of mellow shows in the past.  Shows that could be gentle and yet still retain an incredible power.  Gentle Giant at the Arlington was one.  Of course, being in the Lobero helped.  As I said before, it's a familiar theatre--a dear old friend, actually.  And even being in the front, in front of the speakers, one was not murdered as one would under most concert experiences.  Yes at the Santa Barbara County Bowl was very intense.  Rick Wakeman at the Ventura Theatre forced one out to the lobby on occasion. 

My wife still has a certain amount of physical and psychic strength to put up with that kind of environment, which is why she saw Roger Waters for two of his three Los Angeles shows while I opted out to do working man things.  I have good memories of Roger Waters and I'd like to keep them.  I want to remember the Roger Waters who gave me a glass of chardonnay--not the Roger Waters who thinks fox hunting is a divine right of the English upper class.  I saw The Wall when it was done for real twice in Los Angeles.  This was when founding member Rick Wright was for hire.  I saw The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking in Oakland.  And when I was at the top of my game, I had VIP access to Roger during the Radio KAOS tour at the Los Angeles Forum.  Somewhere out there, a photographer for Sony took a dozen pictures of yours truly and Roger after the show.  I've never seen them.  Drug-addled record company people could never help me to get copies for my old man scrapbook.  If by chance the lonely David Hemmings Blow Up character who took those shots should come across this rant and said photos still exist, I'd love to see them 23 years later.  Columbia Records used to be pretty good about this.  We'd get invited to all types of listening parties.  The first time I heard Roger Waters' Pro & Cons was at the Griffith Park Observatory with the light show by Laserium.  Still, even though Space Pirate Radio played music before anybody else did, I was not the music director and as far as the record company was concerned, I was not the one to bribe for that all-important record ad on Tuesday.  What a business, folks.  But I digress.

So I'm happy to say that the music still inspires.  The Jon Anderson show covered all the phases of his work that have been important to Space Pirate Radio.  I was pleased to hear a Basil Kirchin style of progressive jazz in his guitar chord changes.  Whether that was intentional or just me didn't matter.  Unlike the Roger Waters shows I didn't attend, this performance gave me that "space cadet glow."  Nothing personal against Roger.  I guess I would be a lot more enthusiastic if he decided to take Atom Heart Mother out on tour.  Now that would be courageous. 

Best of the season to you all.