BY LIZ & LJ/ ILLUSTRATION BY JEN
Every year, the week before my birthday, there is a festival on College Street called Taste of Little Italy. College Street is barricaded on either end of about fifteen blocks. They put up carnival rides and those types of games where you throw a ring around a doe-eyed plastic frog to win a stuffed animal of a Pokemon and there are a lot of carts selling all the different countries' interpretations of meat on a stick. The air is full of smoke that smells like the meat. For a street festival named Taste of Little Italy, it has only a very small focus on the actual country of Italy.
The day before I left for New York, I had to walk to the drugstore to buy a tube of superglue and- for better or for worse- forgot that Taste of Little Italy was on. I was listening to Graceland on headphones- no new music really found or grabbed me last month; it was a nice homey time for focusing on reliable old favs. I was born in 1985 so obviously dancing to Graceland in my living room was a magical and significant part of my childhood. I feel like recently a lot of people born in the eighties have decided to throw in the towel and accept Graceland back into their lives and hearts like the rattiest and softest old t-shirt this collective band of nostalgic twenty-nine year olds has ever known.
The drugstore closest to the eastern barricade was closed for no reason and at first I was pissed off but then decided it would probably be a cool experience to start Graceland over from the beginning and walk through the festival to the next-closest drugstore while watching people eat funnel cake and interact with bouncy castles and reach some sort of conclusion as to whether everything was horrible or not. Clearly every song on Graceland is fucking brilliant but when I say "listen to Graceland" I usually mean "Listen to Boy in the Bubble three times and then listen to I Know What I Know twice and then listen to Boy in the Bubble another couple of times and then listen to Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes and then go back to I Know What I Know and then listen to the whole album all the way through." To give credit where credit is due, Graceland the song is pretty beautiful too, but I always find the line about the girl in New York City who calls herself the human trampoline a little grimace-inducing. And I don't understand how he arrives at the conclusion that her calling herself that means he and his son are bouncing into Graceland. Sometimes you just have to accept that some of Paul Simon's "I'm a forty-two year old man" logic will be lost on you.
If the opportunity to walk through a street festival or carnival-type environment while listening to The Boy in the Bubble ever presents itself to you, I urge you to take it. "Paul Simon is really tolerant of the human condition," is the thought it made me think. It made me feel like Paul Simon and I were a little team together, on a sort of Ghost of Christmas Past-style expedition. The point was for me to walk through an event populated primarily by normies and basics while thinking the least amount of hateful and negative thoughts possible. I feel like Paul Simon believes that to be a great artist you have to see the beauty in everything which I neither do or wish I did. But it's a nice take to have on walking from one drugstore to another.
"BEST OF FRIENDS," Palma Violets (Liz)
"Best of Friends" by Palma Violets is a very mean and sweet song, but mostly sweet, I think. The lyrics at the chorus go "I wanna be your best friend/I don't want you to be my girl," which is a story I'd like to see made into a novel or a movie. In fact: if books had opening credits, I'd want "Best of Friends" to play during the opening credits to my book (although in the movie version of my book, the opening-credits song is totally "Pretty Persuasion" by R.E.M.). Anyway: the reason I'm linking to SoundCloud here is that the version of Palma Violets presented in the "Best of Friends" video is wildly incongruent to my own vision of the band. In my mind, they all should look like this picture of Jim Reid, which is how I want you to see them when you listen to the song - "scampish but soulful," I suppose is what I mean:
"WOULD YOU FIGHT FOR MY LOVE?", Jack White (Liz)
I guess at some point in the past few years everyone decided to turn against Jack White for being a megalomaniacal drag, but whatevs: I think it's great that he's so aggressively and flamboyantly his big weird curmudgeonly self. I bought Lazaretto the day it came out, and I only love two songs on it (this one, and "I Think I Found the Culprit") - but I love them enough that they're absolutely worth the $10.99, or even more. I love "Would You Fight for My Love?" partly because it sounds like a haunted house in some black-and-white movie from the '30s that Jack White would probably make a big annoying deal about loving; it's so deep how he sings the word "ghost" and then the background singers actually turn into ghosts. Also I think it's fun how Jack's always yelling at women for failing to love him as immoderately as he expects them to. His commitment to his own macho bullshit impresses me.
P.S. Reading all those Lazaretto-related think pieces (especially this one), I wonder whether Jack White is really as obsessed with Meg White as music journalists are always saying he is. I guess I hope he is, because it's romantic. Last month Filter ran this thing where Jack shared a few of his Polaroids and wrote paragraphs about them, and I loved the Meg picture/paragraph so much that I'm just going to include the whole thing here:
"This is a Polaroid I took of my sister Meg White with an SX70 Polaroid camera from the 1970s. We couldn’t use it for anything we needed to release from our band The White Stripes because she was wearing leopard skin. I think she was just getting settled in before we did some other photos in our rehearsal room, but what a beauty. Sometimes I wonder if Meg is or was real; maybe I made her up and all that happened with us in our band and our travels was in my head. Perhaps it was just me on stage by myself the whole time with a six-foot rabbit named Meg. That would only explain some things, though. What a wonderful drummer to play with, so loud and simple. But looks can be deceiving. Who could tell from this picture that she’d murdered hundreds of people? She didn’t, but if she had, you couldn’t tell from this picture. Anyhow, I was going through some old boxes recently and I came across this photo so I took it out and put it on my refrigerator. I haven’t had a girl on my refrigerator since last Halloween, but that’s a different story."
My other favorite piece of Jack White journalism lately is when the writer of the Rolling Stone cover story on Jack described his hair as "twisty." Brilliant.
This is a Polaroid I took of my sister Meg White with an SX70 Polaroid camera from the 1970s. We couldn’t use it for anything we needed to release from our band The White Stripes because she was wearing leopard skin. I think she was just getting settled in before we did some other photos in our rehearsal room, but what a beauty. Sometimes I wonder if Meg is or was real; maybe I made her up and all that happened with us in our band and our travels was in my head. Perhaps it was just me on stage by myself the whole time with a six-foot rabbit named Meg. That would only explain some things, though. What a wonderful drummer to play with, so loud and simple. But looks can be deceiving. Who could tell from this picture that she’d murdered hundreds of people? She didn’t, but if she had, you couldn’t tell from this picture. Anyhow, I was going through some old boxes recently and I came across this photo so I took it out and put it on my refrigerator. I haven’t had a girl on my refrigerator since last Halloween, but that’s a different story. - See more at: http://filtermagazine.com/index.php/exclusives/entry/jack_white_instant_manipulation#sthash.Hp5RBa2C.dpuf
"WITNESS," Cyndi Lauper (Liz)
Every three years or something I remember that She's So Unusual by Cyndi Lauper is a really good album with lots of really good songs. "Witness" is my favorite this year; I like how it's ska but new wave and it's dreamy but intense. There's a few moments in the song where she sounds like she's crying as she's singing, which is something that Jack White also does in "Would You Fight for My Love?", but Cyndi Lauper's longing moves me more somehow. I care more about Cyndi being okay.
BTW here's a cool picture of Cyndi Lauper looking ska and new wave and intense and dreamy, sometime before she became a pop star. Such killer socks and bangs.
Roxy Music, "Virginia Plain" (& every song on the first two Brian Eno albums) (LJ)
There's almost nothing I think more about than what it must have felt like to exist in London in 1972. It's a bit of a non-time, defined mostly by what it isn't. No Beatles. Poor Beatleless teenagers wearing blusher. The first result that comes up when you Google Image "London 1972" is a pinkish-hued Polaroid of a man with shoulder-length centre-parted hair wearing a red satin bomber and red satin trousers rolled up to expose rainbow-striped socks and behind him a drab sign says "drink Tizer." It's cheerful but uncomfortable. I'm obsessed with how big of a non-splash glam rock made.
"London 1972" is the "Paris 1919" of me. I am working on a novel, the first novel I've ever worked on that I am more than 75% confident I will not abandon. Usually I am hovering around the 60% mark but this time I am holding steady at maybe 83%? The whole thing starts in 1944 and keeps going up until today but the part I'm most interested in takes place in my newly-beloved early seventies. It's an emotionally desolate era for my leading lady, a several-year-long equivalent to that scene in A Hard Day's Night where Ringo is walking around dejectedly and tries to take a selfie but then drops his camera into the river. Mostly I want to have her mope around London and ask herself "If I could be doing one thing in the world right now, what would it be?"- cut to a montage of a lot of eating at fancy restaurants in the middle of the day. A lot of drinking psychotically expensive bottles of wine and a lot of stinky cheese, crudite platters and shrimp cocktail. And she'll sit in parks eating those marzipan candies done up to look like fruits. And her London will have the same hazy sunset vibe as it did on "drink Tizer" day, the same creepy/fabulous dichotomy as Bryan Ferry's black-and-green sequinned jacket and Scottish-grandpa-stodgy brown and gingham piano in the Top of the Pops performance seen above.
The whole reason I thought of this novel chunk and larger novel idea, which I'm not ready to talk about in any great depth, was because I had a week of obsessively listening to the first two Brian Eno albums. I was walking around my neighbourhood trying to remember what the Needle In The Camel's Eye scene in Velvet Goldmine looked like and hoping that there was an amazing or even just fine video of Brian Eno performing Dead Finks Don't Talk on Top of the Pops sitting on the edge of its seat and waiting just waiting to be watched by me when I got home- but there was nothing. Brian Eno was almost never on TV in the early 1970s. Maybe he was too cool for TV, maybe he was too unpopular. I'm not sure. But either way, Virginia Plain on TOTP is as good as watching early-seventies Brian Eno on television's gonna get. He plays a synthesizer while wearing sparkly white gloves. It somewhat delivers.
My book was born because Brian Eno never performed The True Wheel on British television in 1974 and I just couldn't handle it. I couldn't handle its non-existence. I had to make it up.
"BOYS IN THE WOOD," Black Lips (Liz)
If I was the music supervisor for some trashy "prestige television" drama, there'd be a sex scene where the sex starts right at the start of the chorus to this song. "Boys in the Wood" is so over-the-top-ly sexy that it's almost a parody of sexiness - but it's not, because it's really hot and dark and sweaty and a perfect balance of languid and dangerous. In my mind lyrics about white lightning and whiskey and wild boys in the woods are a little bit cheap, which is probably because they're so aligned with my own sensibilities that part of me expects Black Lips to reach a little further. But I'm so happy they didn't reach further. It's good to be indulged in the summertime.
"I WISH I WAS HIM," Kathleen Hanna (Liz)
Definitely my 18th or 19th favorite song about Evan Dando.
"EVERYBODY'S TALKIN," HARRY NILSSON (Liz)
A few weeks ago I watched Who is Harry Nilsson and Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him? which is a lovely movie with lots of fun Beatles content. One of my favorite things was the part about how Ringo and Harry loved each other soooooooo much, and would always try to outdo each other with the grandness of their Christmas gifts. I also really liked the parts where John Lennon is wearing a plaid button-down shirt, which was a great look for him:
Another neat Harry Nilsson thing is he hated singing for audiences: it freaked him out or something, he just wouldn't do it. I feel like this video of him lip-synching on a German TV show in the '60s is supposed to evoke some quietly heartbreaking sense of self-imposed loneliness, but to me he just looks suave and self-possessed, in the absolute chillest way possible. The bit at the beginning where he sort of glides to center stage and puts his hand on his hip is so cute and elegant, and his pants look fantastic. Elegantly cute and fantastically pants-wearing are such perfectly Beatlesy qualities.
The Tea Party Medley from "Born to Boogie" by T.Rex (LJ)
I think the common thread between Graceland and Virginia Plain and the first two Brian Eno albums and this seven minute long sequence of Marc Bolan sitting cross-legged in an English garden singing Jeepster, Hot Love, Bang A Gong and The Slider accompanied by a string quartet is that they all sound very fresh. Like clear air or Melona popsicles.
I didn't have too fresh of a June. I went to New York City during a heat wave. I worked and finished working and went away and came back and had a lovely birthday and then it got really hot and I sat in the kitchen wearing one of my boyfriend's wifebeaters listening to the Jeepster chunk of this medley and thinking about the Marc Bolan plaque in Stoke-Newington and feeling bummed that I still had three weeks left of being so far away from it. I thought I was going to be so weepy this whole month of counting down the days until London, but I'm not at all. I feel very icy and pragmatic like a British nurse from an old-timey war. I don't care about all the shit I'll miss because I don't have to miss it yet. I'm leaving because I don't want to live here anymore.
It's late on a boring Sunday and I didn't expect myself to write any of the past two paragraphs. I literally just finished watching the movie "Monsters University" which I was not really feeling. I only came here to write down one sentence: "Every reason why I've ever wanted to move to England is encapsulated and elucidated by this video," which is- if I'm going to be real with myself and you and not just coast on a cute sentence to make it make sense that I'm writing about what I'm writing about- only about a third of the truth. Okay. I'm moving to England because of 1/3 the T.Rex video, 1/3 because I've been to London a bunch of times and I genuinely really love it and 1/3 because fuck it. I'm just not gonna settle for not living in the place where the Beatles are from.