Vagrant Journalism

Published pieces from the past, the present and of the potential future.

Posts Tagged ‘writing about music’

10 March 2006: When Drug Escapades Turn Fiendish Revelry into a California Nightmare at The Castle

Posted by Christina on March 2, 2009

nico-jimFor this assignment we had to rewrite a story we had previously read in interview form. This was, by far, one of the most interesting stories I had read and we read a lot of Lester Bangs and a lot of interviews from people who, forget fly-on-the-walls, but they were cockroaches-on-the-walls and that heavily into all the muck of this great moment in music history.

When Drug Escapades Turn Fiendish Revelry into a California Nightmare at The Castle

Danny Fields sat comfortably couched in a plush, Elektra Records company armchair in some executive’s office licking last night off his palms and fingers. Hands bright orange with none other than LSD, the company freak was at work. They paid him to be exactly who he was, too. The one guy with enough business sense to start the record company wouldn’t be caught dead out in the street, sniffing the scene for the high it was worth just to get the reality of what was cool and more importantly, what would sell. That’s where Danny came in and all he had to do was be cool, which he achieved every time he sat in that billowy chair, licking the LSD of his fingertips.

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3 March 2006: Never Mind the Buzzcocks and An Argument in Their Own Right – Buzzcocks Hawk Social Commentary from the Stage

Posted by Christina on March 1, 2009

buzzcocks_pic2This assignment explored the themes and motifs used by Greil Marcus and also by Lester Bangs in the way they wrote about musicians and music, particularly The Buzzcocks.

Never Mind the Buzzcocks and An Argument in Their Own Right: Buzzcocks Hawk Social Commentary from the Stage

The genealogy of any one genre can span through years and decades of influence. Then it’s safe to say that the Buzzcocks were definitely spawned from the influence and impression left on Pete Shelley (Peter McNeish) and Howard Devoto (Howard Trafford) after they first saw the Sex Pistols in 1976. As the Buzzcocks advanced with the addition of a bassist and a drummer, the Sex Pistols continued to rise in fame and the two bands played key roles as two of the many first generation punk rock bands that headlined the Manchester music movement in England while punk was a growing genre. The attitudes of destruction, violence, negation, revolt and rebellion, a sense of freedom and most importantly, noise .

Lester Bangs once put it that punk was “riddled with self-hate, which is always reflexive” (80). What bands like the Buzzcocks did was showcase their reflexive self-hate and broadcasted it at their shows, through their record releases and singles, through their interviews and even band promotion pictures. “Whatever makes me tick it takes away my concentration / sets my hands a-trembling – gives me frustration / I’m gonna breakdown!” There was violence in their self destructive hate, all a part of the “reversal of perspective [and] values” (67) and that was punk.

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24 February 2006: Never In a Million Years But Apparently Pigs Do Fly – A Diatribe for My Falling Anti-Hero, Billie Joe Armstrong

Posted by Christina on March 1, 2009

green_day_196933mThis was, by far, my favorite assignment. In our Lester Bangs days – and oh how excellent they were – were we exposed to a lot of interesting forms of writing about music. One was the diatribe and we were to write our very own diatribe. Whether it was part of the assignment or I took the challenge upon myself, the following diatribe is about a figure in music history I once absolutely adored, but eventually wholly abhorred by the time their self-proclaimed “rock opera” came out. Please. The only rock opera, as far as I’m concerned, is Tommy and before that was the concept album and that’s all that will ever be. I’m not going to get started.

Never In a Million Years But Apparently Pigs Do Fly – A Diatribe for My Falling Anti-Hero, Billie Joe Armstrong

Rock journalist Ben Graham, who has made notable contributions to UK’s New Music Express and Kerrang!, gets polite, prissy voiced Nancy McClean to say “masturbate” and “marijuana” in an accurately articulated London twang. The juxtaposition between her persona and her actual words make the statements more poignant, particularly since she’s talking about Green Day. Going from the piss-ridden bathroom stalls and alleyways of 924 Gilman Street to a Grammy for Dookie, though says more than any biographical narrative.

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10 February 2006: I’m Waiting For the Band…And It Happens to be X

Posted by Christina on March 1, 2009

x-masqueFor this assignment we were to practice marketing an album and having recently interviewed Kristine McKenna who had best be-friended all of X, I was completely smitten on all accounts. I wanted to do what she had been able to do for so many years, even if on a very base and scholastic level. I marketed one of the band’s greatest albums and had a lot of fun doing it. I referenced The Velvet Underground in my title, too. Referencing obscurities was something I was quite fond of and still am, but to a lesser obscure extent than before.

I’m Waiting For the Band…And It Happens to be X

Whatever was happening in the Manhattan Bowery district in New York City was unbeknownst to the club proprietors at the time. Awkwardly titled and rightfully acronymic, the area’s largest bar was Country, Bluegrass, and Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers and promised to be just that-home of voracious consumers of music. The youth of the nation looked towards New York for the birth of the punk that inspired them; Television and the Ramones were regulars on CBGB gig playbills and were soon followed by the likes of Talking Heads, New York Dolls and Patti Smith. Andy Warhol led his motley crew of artists that emerged from the 1960’s and came into the 1970’s as the godlike Velvet Underground headlined by icons Lou Reed and John Cale.

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3 February 2006: Showcasing Hybridity in the Making of ‘A Love Surpreme’

Posted by Christina on March 1, 2009

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This assignment was more like a critical essay on the theme and idea of hybridity. We were to write about how it was used in a book about music so that we understood a new level of literary journalism. Writing about something real while turning that reality into symbolic gestures – like how Ashley Kahn took the reality of John Coltrane’s mode of music making and turned it into something that symbolized the musician’s life – was something we were to practice in our own writing outside of school. We learned the importance of that here.

Showcasing Hybridity in the Making of A Love Supreme

The underlying notion of hybridity is key in Ashley Kahn’s book in that the characteristics of hybridity-various pure forms that then combine to make an even better form-further qualify the gravity and importance of John Coltrane’s signature album, A Love Supreme. Kahn uses the notions of hybridity to bring connections between the pure and separate forms that have literally mixed throughout Coltrane’s life as well as pure and separate forms that he has mixed figuratively through his music. In this way, Kahn shows how Coltrane’s life mirrored his music which, in turn, shows how truly intimate he was with his music. This fact of intimacy makes this monumental album truly personal and makes the message, whether spiritual and religious or not, all the more potent.

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27 January 2006: Johnny Thunders: Man, Musician, Gender Bender

Posted by Christina on March 1, 2009

johnny_thundersThe following set of pieces I wrote for a class called Writing About Music and for an entire quarter, I was truly in a state of euphoric bliss. The readings were excellent, my music tastes were expanding by the minute and my love for writing about the arts were perpetually challenged. The entire quarter was like the best workout my brain and writing skills could have ever had an for this class, I will forever be truly thankful.

For this assignment we were to write a sort of biographical narrative for a musician who had died too young. We were given a list from which we could pick, otherwise a vast majority of the class would have picked Kurt Cobain, Tupac or Jim Morrisson (maybe)  and everyone would have the same topic. I picked Johnny Thunders from The  New York Dolls.

Johnny Thunders: Man, Musician, Gender Bender

Who would have thought a product of England and the 1980’s most prominent, melancholic crooner would have once been the head of a New York Dolls fan club? Steven Patrick Morrissey would later organize a Dolls reunion for the Meltdown Festival in 2004 and release a live DVD by his Attack label. Sadly, this reunion lacked the presence of the band’s original guitarist, vocalist and one of its songwriters, Johnny Thunders.

If HBO has made Sopranos addicts, tuning in weekly with as much fervor as a religious zealot, and stick around for the credits, for “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory.” That’s Johnny Thunders and his New York Dolls in all their glory saying, “Hello.”

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