AYNITB’s Best of 2017

A/N: A post I have been meaning to publish for some months — I am sorry, yet again, for my tardiness! A proper explanation for my lack-of-presence of late is at the bottom of this post…

People say that 2017 was an awful year. This may have been true on a global scale, hence my active avoidance of news outlets over the past 12 months for the sake of my sanity — but on both a personal and pop-cultural level, I must say that my 2017 was pretty damn fine! Since pop culture is what I sporadically post about here on AYNITB, that is what I shall be discussing today… Be sure to let me know what your favourite 2017 cultural things were in the comments!

Best (New) Album: Masseduction, St. Vincent

Perhaps my all-time least favourite cliche in music writing is when X newer artist is touted as being the new prestige act — and yet, here I am, about to type that St. Vincent (A.K.A. Annie Clark) is the closest thing we have to a new Bowie. She has the slick style; the constant reinvention; the sleek, beguiling combination of the pop and the incredibly inaccessible — of course, no-one will ever match David himself, but to say she’s pretty darn cool nonetheless would be something of an understatement. Her latest, Masseduction, is at once both filled with layers of emotion and meaning, and then is just a really good pop record. The album is sharp, clean, and glamorous, a sound that is surprisingly quirky and playful and endearingly joyful for all of its detachedness — it’s kind of like the sonic equivalent of a Gucci dress. Clark’s signature virtuosic guitar-ing is still all over the record, much like her 2014 self-titled (a bonafide masterpiece that you should listen to immediately if you haven’t already!), but it really embraces its pop credentials by experimenting with layers of synths. These create an all-encompassing, chaotic sound that wonderfully disorientates the listener, and yet their staccato accenting is irresistibly danceable, producing an impressive bridge between the avant garde and the bubblegum. This experimentation in sound, aided by the songs’ mysterious lyrics, also allows for a level of exquisitely hedonistic, glittery androgyny so close to the allure of the very best glam rock! And then there’s the album’s lead single, ‘New York’, so nuanced and tender and hilariously blunt and heart-burstingly melodic and just perfectly romantic — it’s exquisite.

Honourable mentions: Jen Cloher (self-titled), Phases (Angel Olsen), Pure Comedy (Father John Misty),  Forced Witness (Alex Cameron), Party (Aldous Harding), Windswept (Johnny Jewel)

 

Best (not new) music I discovered:

I couldn’t decide on one winner so, in no particular order, here are several of my favourite discoveries of the past 12 months, summarised in a sentence or so each:

  • Suburban Lawns

Quirky, erratic postpunk from late ’70s Los Angeles, that sounds a little like if the Beach Boys were possessed by ’50s B-movie supernatural antagonists. The choppy guitar and lead singer Su Tissue’s wonderfully girly, idiosyncratic voice are particular highlights!

  • Vintage pop music

This — not an artist, per se, but a style I’ve become very into lately – began as a somewhat ironic fascination with retro kitsch, but has instead blossomed into wholehearted love for what might be some of the most exquisite songs I’ve ever heard. There is this kind of poetic, intense emotion to them, kind of naive and yet so full of the pure feeling that the cynicism our current world sometimes denies us; a romance that makes your heart melt and expand and split into tiny fractured pieces. There’s also such an incredible musical intricacy to these — the layers of ethereal accompaniment, the obscure chord progressions, the way the voices so delicately flow and bleed and tremble into each other — that, despite its technicality, transcends so many of the ideas I have about music and emotion and everything, and makes me feel as if I am floating through the stars, that I am the only person to have ever felt this on top of the world.

  • Helium

Helium are grunge — if you added in the early Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine, ’70s soft rock, and English Mediaeval folk music, all played with a voice as melodic and quirky as Joni Mitchell’s and technique as good as what my middle school violin teacher told me to practise two hours a day to achieve. One of the most unique, accomplished — and seriously underrated — bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a fan of!

  • Talking Heads

Talking Heads are among the discoveries that I should’ve made a long, long time ago, especially considering that I’ve noted the presence of Stop Making Sense in my parents’ CD collection since childhood. In their earlier work in particular, there’s a kind of detached quirkiness and a chilling objectivity that I find wonderfully and strangely endearing — and, of course, the singularity of David Byrne’s voice and wordy lyrics are equally so also. (And, it doesn’t get much cooler than Tina Weymouth’s funk-infused bass!)

  • Chromatics

Shimmery, synthy dream pop that is the sonic equivalent of city lights glittering on a misty humid night. (Plus, if a band is featured in Twin Peaks, there is a statistically high chance that I will like said band.)

  • The Modern Lovers

To paraphrase what I wrote in a previous post: among why I’ve come to love The Modern Lovers (pun unintended) so much is the way that leader Jonathan Richman contrasts dorkiness with edginess, and the comforting relatability I find in this. While I adore the music and lyrics of Lou Reed/Alex Chilton/Iggy Pop/Patti Smith/et al, I’m the first to admit that I otherwise fit the stereotype of the socially awkward goody-two-shoes perfectly, something that tends to be derided in the culture that I like. It’s kind of nice to find a similar band from this era that not only revels in this kind of nerdy awkwardness, but acknowledges that you can both be this way inclined and love edgy underground music which would otherwise bare no commonality with your person. It’s so great!

  • Joni Mitchell

As with Talking Heads, another discovery that I should’ve made a long time ago! And yet I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because Mitchell’s music requires the listener to permit themselves a vulnerability, an openness to feeling, that I think I have only recently begun to acquire the maturity needed to attain such. Again, there is a musical intricacy to her tracks that I adore, too, in the falling chord progressions and twangs of guitar fingerings and in the soft sweetness of her voice — and an intimacy, maybe in the way her guitar and piano are microphoned and in the sparse instrumentation, or maybe in the sheer welcoming warmth of her songwriting, that makes you feel as if you are the most special, luckiest, only person to have ever heard these songs softly buzz through your mind.

Honourable mentions (i.e. people I have begun to get into but will probably further delve into at a later date): Replacements, Go-Betweens, Air, Husker Du, Sky Ferreira, Throbbing Gristle, Cocteau Twins

Best New TV: Twin Peaks (dir. David Lynch)

I never know what to say when I try to write about Peaks, particularly this latest season. I could talk about how it turned the reboot trend on its head — how it self-awarely both celebrated and stomped on nostalgia in front of our befuddled, fascinated eyes; how it was so unlike anything that ever has (and, for the next few years at least, ever will) aired on TV, in its narrative structure, its visuals, its special effects, its sound, its everything — so much that it was technically bad by our layman storytelling standards, but that it transcended those anyway. I could discuss its Lynch-isms — the little references to the rest of his filmography, the incredible use of his cast of regulars (weren’t Naomi Watts and Laura Dern amazing?), the explorations of identity and trauma through the use of a non-linear narrative structure, the little moments of impassioned, almost musical emotion that he directs so well; or I could wax on the way it made me to feel emotion more rawly, of how it taught to have more patience and how good things will come in return, how its imagination captivated and befuddled me in the most beautiful, beautiful way. I even could list my favourite moments, like when Dougie wandered around a Las Vegas casino screaming that now-iconic “hellooo-OOO-ooo,” or when Laura and Coop met in ‘Part 17’, or when Audrey danced in ‘Part 16’, or that equal-parts horrific and beautiful final scene — the infamous ‘Part 8’ in general, too. But every time I’ve tried to write about it, what I’ve come up with has never satisfied, for so much of what I love about Twin Peaks is what it makes me feel — how maybe I don’t always understand it on a left-brained level, but the primal intensity of the emotions it stirs in me still evoke an undercurrent of unconscious comprehension. This feels so intimate, so personal, so unique to me — even though I assume the vast majority of viewers feel the same — that I can barely even defend what I experienced, and why I liked it. But anyway, I did. In fact, I would go so far to say that I loved it, and it’s changed the way I see the world. Scratch what I said about this being the best TV of 2017. Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series/The Return/The Third Season/whatever the powers that be are calling it this week might just be, in my humble opinion, among the most creative, innovative, fascinating, emotionally rewarding — and wholeheartedly the best — TV ever made.

Honourable mentionsSearch PartyBig Little LiesFargo, The End of the F***ing World, The Handmaid’s Tale 

Best New Film: 20th Century Women (dir. Mike Mills)

I don’t usually go to see movies twice during their cinema run, even ones I really adore, but I did just that in the case of 20th Century Women — so that gives you an idea of just how much I loved this film. It’s practically my perfect movie: it’s set in California in the ’70s, the main characters are obsessed with an assortment of obscure postpunk bands, the cinematography and special effects are incredibly artful, it features some of the best actresses working today (Elle Fanning! Greta Gerwig! Annette Bening!), and it’s funny and sad and beautifully thoughtful throughout. One of its most memorable aspects is its imagery and camerawork — the movie has a kind of velvety, sun-dappled, pink tinge to it, mimicking the idling warmth of its suburban Californian setting, and there’s this recurring special effect that phases the image and drowns it in glittery neon chaos that adds to its dreaminess and the narrative’s celebration of the art of moving forward. Of course, then there’s the soundtrack, of Talking Heads and The Buzzcocks and Black Flag and The Raincoats and even Bowie — it’d be perfect even entirely out of context, but the way it is woven into the narrative to reflect how culture can enlighten and define and make us feel is tremendously and upliftingly powerful. (The greatest of these uses occurs fairly early on in the film, when Greta Gerwig’s character delivers a monologue about the importance of the ethos of punk, outlining the very ideas that I have always adored in my favourite music.) On top of its aesthetic, though, the film is wonderfully nuanced and thoughtful in its writing. Each character feels ridiculously real, to the point that their past, present, and future contexts are lengthily established as to create so much empathy and respect for their journeys and identities; and the script’s focusing on small, physical details in each’s world (the way each dances; their bizarre hobbies; the way they speak) adds so much subtle, tender dimension that the audience is almost forced into feeling relation toward and caring for the entire ensemble a ridiculously beautiful amount. These journeys, along with its Californian, arty iconography and montages of historical events that establish just how quickly our world spins, express an idea of the thrill of living in the moment, of letting things move a little slow, of the importance of nostalgia juxtaposed with the importance of moving on, of the complexities that compose the concept of “growing up” — themes that could be trite or cliche, but that are rendered uniquely touching in the narrative’s peaceful quirkiness. A moving, stunning tale. (Plus, hearing the guitars on The Buzzcocks’ ‘Why Can’t I Touch It?’ blast out of my cinema’s surround sound speakers over the end credits was pretty cool!)

Honourable mentions: The Florida Project (a very close second fave!), Phantom Thread, Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, The Beguiled, How To Talk to Girls at Parties, Things to Come

Best book I read this year: Play It As It Lays, Joan Didion

There are two reasons why I almost didn’t think to include this on my list: firstly, that I read it back in the first week of January, and secondly, it’s affected the way that I read literature so much that I can barely comprehend that it’s only been in my life for a year. Joan Didion’s incredibly poetic tale of love and death and getting by when it feels like you can’t traces Maria Wyeth’s tale from aspiring film star to mental institution inpatient to maybe the strongest woman in all of Los Angeles. Didion’s richly glossy and sultrily objective imagery is easily its hallmark, both intoxicatingly voyeuristic as the twinkling, technicolour worlds it coolly describes crumble to desert dust, and yet full of implications and meaning and emotion and strength in its preciseness, in all the things it leaves unsaid. (As the book climaxes, this imagery even becomes physical and literal — the chapters become shorter, leaving gulfs of white space at the end of every few pages, reflecting the deadness of both the Californian desert in which the book is set and of Maria’s identity and thoughts at that point.) The narrative is incredibly written in terms of its plot as well, ensuring that its emphasis on beauty doesn’t leave it unfulfillingly shallow. It’s slow, and it doesn’t really climax until the last couple of pages, and maybe in any other scenario some might deem it boring, but its emphasis on minute details adds an everyday poignancy, giving its glamour profound emotional levity — not to mention the way this same technique performs a slow-burn reaction on the reader, allowing its truths and horrors to creep up and delicately reveal themselves so infinitely powerfully and affectingly, especially fitting in a narrative about what hides behind the glitter and dreams so many aspire to see. Then there’s its characterisation, the way it never demonises Maria despite the awful things she does, her three-dimensional-ness, the way she slowly reveals herself, her beautifully female strength in the face of everything her life throws at her; how it wafts in between third and first person perspective to greater explore the context and image of the tale, investing the audience even further in what could have been such a cliche, everyday story; its neon-lights-and-filtered-sunshine 70’s beauty. I could write about this novel for pages. No book has ever made my nerves tingle like this did.

Honourable mentions: The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood), A Manual for Cleaning Women (Lucia Berlin), In Cold Blood (Truman Capote), The Virgin Suicides (Jeffrey Eugenides), To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee — technically a reread but nonetheless!)

I feel like I should also acknowledge something else: my lack of posting over the past year. When I started this blog, I was in  middle school — I had very few other responsibilities and an insane amount of spare time. That was four years ago, and now, my situation stands somewhat altered. I am currently firmly absorbed in the very pointy end of high school (I’m in my second-to-last year and am also completing some coursework for my final year), I am working at becoming a professional musician, I make art, I’ve begun preparation for a particularly tricky violin performance exam, I have a more widened social life, and I have been lucky enough to also be able to begin writing for a couple of other online publications, resulting in my previously ample free time becoming a heck of a lot more thinly spread. I also, between my tendency to ramble a bit and the amount of time it takes me to properly edit, take a while to write things, meaning that I require some time to finish pieces to my satisfaction — time that my constantly replenishing pile of homework refuses to let me have, really only leaving my quarterly school holidays for my own projects, which also include my music, my work for the other publications, and my art. However, writing this blog has always, and will always be, one of the greatest joys of my life — I mean, where else can I publish sprawling essays about any one of my favourite things with no deadlines, and get to interact with an amazing group of fellow writers to boot! I am so sorry for my lack of time spent here at the moment, but I assure you that AYNITB is not something I’m going to give up on, and I will always be here whenever I can. I am working on several pieces currently which I plan on posting this year, and I attempt to be consistently active within the WordPress community in general, so I promise that you will still regularly see plenty of me — and as soon as I am somewhat less busy I shall properly return! In the meanwhile, you can also follow me on Instagram (@tangerinetrees99), and read more of my writing at The Mostly Books Blog and the Felicitas CollectiveThank you all so much, though, for sticking with AYNITB even with its sporadicalness — I can’t tell you all how much your readership and discussion throughout the years means to me. Bear with me over the next year or so — I promise I’ll be as active as I can whenever possible, and I look forward to being able to be a more consistent presence once my workload lessens a little! See you all soon 😆

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The AYNITB Christmas Post of 2017!

(Credit: kitschyliving.tumblr.com)

So here we are again. We’re a week out from another year’s end, and it’s the eve of The Most Wonderful Time of The Year™ – and so, naturally, it’s time for the All You Need Is The Beatles‘ Christmas Post of 2017! You may remember from the Christmas Post of 2016 that last year, I finally got to enjoy the icy-cold Northern Hemisphere Christmas I’ve always dreamt of, so I must admit that this year’s festive season is a little bit of a let down. However, I have indeed found myself indulging in a little more holiday spirit this year – I have even actively sought out kitschy Christmas music! – so perhaps the other side of the world has rubbed off on me a touch?

Anyway, I’m gonna keep this short this year, as I’m gonna go wrap presents, thrown on Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You, and watch Olive the Other Reindeer (unarguably The Best Christmas Movie!) in a sec. But alas, as tradition dictates, here are a few of my Christmassy faves for 2017 – some the same as those I’ve mentioned in prior years, but accompanied by a few new numbers as well! Be sure to let me know what you’re spinnin’ this festive season in the comments too…

David Bowie & Bing Crosby – ‘Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth)’

Big Star – ‘Jesus Christ’

The Waitresses – ‘Christmas Wrapping’

Lou Reed – ‘Xmas in February’

Wizzard – ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’

Cocteau Twins – ‘Frosty the Snowman’

Ramones – ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’

Darlene Love – ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’

Darlene Love – ‘White Christmas’ 

(I know I included another of her songs from A Christmas Gift For You above, but I adore ‘White Christmas’ so I had to add this too!)

Joni Mitchell – ‘River’

Thee Headcoatees – ‘Santa Claus’

The Sonics – ‘Don’t Believe In Christmas’

Shonen Knife – ‘Space Christmas’

John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and the Harlem Community Choir – ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’

And so, merry Christmas everyone, and best wishes for the rest of the festive season and final week of 2017 – thank you so much for your continued readership and interaction, even with my sporadic posting schedule, it really means so much to me! I am, however, planning on returning with one final post before the 1st of Jan – and I also already have large portions of my first few posts for the New Year! – so you shall hear from me again very soon. Anyway, I’m gonna sign off with a few clips that I love that didn’t really fit above: an upload of my favourite Christmas album, excerpt from my favourite aforementioned Christmas movie, and that same amazing clip I did last year…

Outside of Society!: Seeing Patti Smith Live

Just an introductory note: I never meant for this piece to be so long – I started it a few months ago, meaning for it to be a simple review of a show I’d recently attended. And then…it just sort of materialised into a reflection on what Patti Smith meant to me, what the show represented, all the feelings that “fandom” ignites in its participants…and then…I wrote a poem about the experience for my English class, so I had to include that too! I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve written – I hope you all enjoy it too! But there is also a 4,000+ word count, so read in increments if you like. I’d love to hear your feedback, though, or about any similar experiences you guys have had – be sure to leave ’em in the comments! 


PART 1: The essay.

I don’t think I’d ever really expected to be standing in the presence of one of my greatest heroes. This wasn’t exactly helped by the fact that virtually all of them lived in assorted locations on the other side of the world, and that the vast majority of them were either in their senior years – or dead. But yet, I found myself doing just that several months ago, on Easter Sunday, as I stood in the aisles of Melbourne’s Hamer Hall, dancing and screaming and revelling in the fact that, maybe 20 metres away me, was Patti Smith.

The story of how Patti became my absolute greatest living hero is like something out of a cliche coming-of-age movie. I was in a massive record store one morning a little over two years ago, in June or July 2015, when – while searching through the sales section – I randomly came across the cheapest CD I’d seen yet. It had a cover quite unlike anything else I’d seen – so stark and cool, and yet so inviting – and it carried a ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker, which seemed so very edgy and grownup at the time. I decided to buy this album – Horses – on a whim, as I slowly realised that I vaguely recognised Patti’s name from a bunch of Pitchfork articles and interviews with Courtney Barnett, an artist who I liked. I stuck it in my CD player when I got home, eager to see if she was as good as Courtney had made her out to be. It kind of confused me at first – I’d read that she played punk music, and the soft piano chords that began the album didn’t exactly align with what I thought ‘punk’ was, back then. But then, this voice sings a lyric so liberating and disembodying – “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine” – to my impressionable ears, that I physically had to stop everything I was doing for the entirety of the album’s length.

Patti’s – and David Bowie’s, whom I would discover only a couple of weeks later – arrival in my life signified a new era of my identity. If the Beatles started to teach a younger me about the importance of creativity, idealism and individuality, it was Smith and Bowie that slammed this philosophy into the essence of who I see myself as. These two artists existed on a plane where not only was it okay, but actually rather cool, to be what mainstream society deems “weird” – where liking obscure postpunk compilations and disaffected ’60s literature and perplexing art movies and a mishmash of Doc Martens and assorted op-shop clothes was encouraged; where being a girl didn’t mean that I had to wear my skirts below my knee, find a good man to stand by, have 2.5 kids, and be a perfect, God-fearing housewife, like my school at the time had taught me for the entirety of my preteen years; where I could dream about writing the greatest alternative album of the 21st Century and living in the East Village of Manhattan without being shunned. I fell madly in love with their world, and began to throw myself into it pretty quickly. In the case of Patti, by the end of that year, I’d consumed a large amount of her writings and other albums, devoured the records of her CBGB contemporaries, wrote lists of my favourite albums and books that always positioned her work somewhere in the top 3, Blu-Tac-ed a picture of her to my wall alongside one of my Beatles posters, cemented a skinny black tie as a mainstay of my wardrobe, and begun a fascination with New York City on the basis of Just Kids that’s only increased ever since. Unlike all my heroes before, Patti and David were also alive – although it was extraordinarily idealistic, collaborating with them on some multimedia avant-garde art project was a lot more possible than my previous daydreams of hanging out with John Lennon and Brian Jones could ever have been.

So let’s fastforward to a year later – November 2016. It’s now been close to eighteen months since I spontaneously fell in love with Horses. The combination of her influence on me across this time and my growing adoration of her mean that she seems kind of like a mythical goddess to me. I’ve also since become a lot more knowledgeable on the details of her career, and am aware that she’s mainly a writer, now – and that even if she had done several recent shows around the place to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Horses, I know that seeing her live is a highly unlikely event. This context should help you to understand the earsplitting scream I let out when my mum showed me an email on her phone one afternoon – an email containing a receipt for tickets to Patti Smith’s first Melbourne show in eight years. It wasn’t even particularly surprising, or anything. I knew that Patti was going to play a music festival up north around that time – and I’d read an hour or so earlier that she was playing shows elsewhere, and was already partway through planning my sermon to my parents as to why flying to Melbourne (the show closest to my hometown, Adelaide – yet still an hour’s flight away) to see her would be a sane idea. It was just this idea that something I’d fantasised about for so long was going to become a reality – that I would, indeed, be standing in the presence of probably my greatest living hero. Let’s not forget that my other greatest dream – meeting David Bowie, or at least seeing him live at the surprise Blackstar concert I (prior to January 10) was convinced would be randomly announced via an obscure social media platform one afternoon – had been crushed that January, and how this had only cemented the idea that seeing my heroes was a scenario reserved for my daydreams. It blew my mind.

I spent the six months or so that ensued in a state of excited shock. I was thrilled about what was happening, but it seemed too unreal for its inevitableness to be contended with. I listened to Horses countless times, and tried to imagine what it would sound like live. I planned what I’d wear – a t-shirt over the top of a striped polo-neck, with a black mini-skirt, fishnet tights, and Doc Martens – months beforehand. I spent one night a couple of days prior to the date printing a t-shirt reading ‘Patti Smith Is Cool’ with my mum. I reread my copies of Just Kids and M Train and Collected Lyrics: 1970-2015. I made playlists of all her songs and listened to them on repeat, and lipsynched my favourites in front of my mirror like some romcom trope. I packed my bag the night before, snuggling my copy of Collected Lyrics in between my toiletries and my tartan shift dress that I planned to wear the day after.  I couldn’t fathom, though, what the day would actually be like – constantly revisiting the material that had affected me so just made her seem even more mythical, and the idea that this person, who I’d never met and yet had changed my life, could be just as real as myself appeared to become even more unthinkable.

This even continued as the day began to arrive. I saw Blondie the week before. Although I was a good 500 metres away from the stage (at least), seeing Deborah Harry “in the flesh” was incredible – and yet, perhaps it was just that I was largely watching her on a massive TV screen, that she was too far away to really see, but I could barely get over my disbelief that the woman in front of me singing ‘Atomic’ was the same one whose records I’d memorised, whose likeness was stuck on my wall. It was almost unbearably surreal – this person, who it felt as if they only existed within the planes of music blogs and record shops and my mum’s record collection and my brain, as if they were almost a figment of my imagination, had suddenly become tangible. This lingered in my mind as the days ’til Patti crept closer- why can’t I see my heroes as real people? Are they – as I perceive them – even real? If I could only barely put this weird sensation to one side in order to dance and recite the rap part of ‘Rapture’ by heart in front of maybe my 10th-favourite band, how would I cope in front of my greatest hero in the entire world?

Me, upon arrival at Hamer Hall

Then it was suddenly Sunday, a day I’d awaited for so many months, that I’d dreamt about so much that it felt like a dream itself . I flew to Melbourne, listening to Horses and reading the entire “Early Work” section of Collected Lyrics over and over and over. We wandered around in the hours before, drinking tea in the cafes and buying takeaway rice paper rolls from the restaurants that we always visited, but it didn’t feel the same. My heart raced as I half-watched a bizarre quiz show on the hotel’s cable channels while blaring ‘Dancing Barefoot’ through my headphones, as I fixed my makeup, as I slipped my homemade t-shirt over my turtleneck, as I ran out the hotel room door, my legs shaky with excitement, and down the lift and across the city and to the concert hall. It all still seemed too surreal, like a dream sequence from my imaginary biopic film – I physically could not believe what was happening, my brain could not compute as I approached the hall, as I walked past the chalkboard out front that read “Patti Smith: Tonight!”, as I stood by the big glass doors of the foyer and watched so many people with clothes as kooky and copies of Collected Lyrics as worn as my own shuffle across to the theatre doors… I felt so heady and trembly – endlessly perplexed as to whether I was really just experiencing a super realistic lucid dream. I knew this day was so important, that no moment in my life before had received such an anticipated build-up, that it would be one that I would fixate on when retelling tales of the “good ol’ days” in middle age – my daydreams had told me as much – but I’d dreamt about it too often. I couldn’t work out whether my surrounds were real or not – I could barely replace the scenes my anticipation had conjured up in the previous months with what was becoming a reality around me. What if I’d removed myself from reality so much that the event itself would have little effect on my psyche – what if it became as insignificant, in the scheme of my life, as whatever day had preceded it?

I had to line up for half an hour to buy my merchandise. I shuffled through the foyer, my hands breaking out in cold sweat, the air humid with body heat, as piles of people crowded around me, doing just the same. I watched as the line snaked past the door, as it grew so long it could barely fit within the confines of the room – people grinning as excitedly as I was, with the same Dr Martens and mismatched vintage clothes and strange haircuts as those that Patti and her contemporaries had allowed me to wear, discussing the merits of ‘Piss Factory’ and ‘Land’ as fluently and passionately as my own thoughts. Music, and the culture that surrounded it, had always been such a solitary pursuit. It was something I read about quietly in the back corner of my classrooms, that I Blu-Tac-ed my passion for over my bedroom walls, that I bought from the privacy of a eBay username or from hard-to-find shops, that I write about on here in the comfort of my anonymity – heck, even the “rebellion” and liberation it inspired in me was merely the inward knowledge that I was cooler than most people around me had ever assumed I had the capability to be. And yet, here were these people, like me. It was the most disconcertingly beautiful thing.

A favourite photo of Patti. (credit: Judy Linn)

My mum and I chatted with the Melbourne couple behind us, in the half-hour merchandise line, who spoke of how they’d seen Patti in a small club in New Orleans, of how they’d been to literally every show and festival (they’d been to Dark MOFO!) I’d ever dreamt of attending. It wasn’t just Patti that felt magical – the idea of Melbourne felt mythical, that night, with its abounding arts culture and opportunities and “the world is your oyster” attitude so much greater than anything I’d ever known, too. I swiped the last remaining tour brochure, that someone had dropped on a nearby bench, even with the beer-glass stain that circled Patti’s face like a halo – not an activity that was even remotely dangerous, and yet, it felt so daring and adventurous. felt daring and adventurous, and all kinds of incredible like I’d never felt before.

Later, the doors opened, and I found my seat, stumbling in awe. Twenty minutes ’til Patti. Starting promptly at 8:30. Magda Szubanski sat three rows down from us; Courtney Barnett herself, perhaps the reason I even knew about Patti in the first place, was seemingly in the second row of the stalls. I sat in the dress circle, at a height almost as heady as my blood pressure. I could already feel the heat drifting up to my face, as I found my spot, the fold-down seat bouncing as I nervously shifted from side to side. I could see the roadies placing Lenny Kaye’s guitars on stage; the stage lights were switched on, too, their blue streaks bouncing off the house lights. A group of 20-something girls sat down next to my seat, one of them clutching a copy of Collected Lyrics as worn and well-loved as my own. I’d never seen another real life copy of Collected Lyrics before. My fishnets itched against my legs.

A photo my dad took.

The lights dimmed, the stage swathed in a layer of twilight-blue lighting; an image of Patti, black-and-white, steely gaze, jacket swung over shoulder – the very same image that compelled me to add Horses to my record collection two years earlier – illuminated in the background. Electric silence. I sat as far at end of my seat as I could, just short of falling off, peering intently over the dress circle balcony for the slightest billowing of a stage curtain, for an indication of her presence. And then, there she was. She stood at the stage’s centre, sporting a waistcoat, a white shirt, black straight-legged pants, brown boots, her long grey hair falling around her shoulders. She looked exactly the same as every recent picture of her I’d ever seen. I’d always assumed she’d (or that anyone, for the matter, who’d I stared at incessantly over the Internet) look different, in real life – but she didn’t. It was like in Mulholland Drive, when Diane attends a party and sees a cowboy leaving, a cowboy identical to a presence who recurs in her dreams. It was bizarre.

Soft piano chords. “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” I can’t move. So much like how I felt, that morning in 2015 – and yet, so different, so far. Patti is there. The voice floating from the speakers is from a stage a few metres below me. The woman that recorded an album that entirely changed the course of my life is standing right in front of me, performing said album. I don’t think I could tap my foot, or even smile, at that point – I sat totally rigid, at the edge of my seat, eyes frozen open. Everything was so weird and unbelievable and hazy and surreal. I feebly lipsynched along to ‘Gloria’, virtually involuntarily. Perhaps moving your lips becomes a subconscious action, when a song you’ve poured over hundreds of thousands of times is blaring out of a speaker in front of your ears…

About a third of the way through ‘Birdland’, the entirety of the stalls stood up and fled toward the stage, in a frenzied stampede. The crowed writhed to the beat, extending their hands toward the stage, closing their eyes in ecstasy, becoming more frantic as each song raced toward their climaxes. I stood up, too, in the aisle of my row. I danced and danced and danced, worse than when I dropped out of ballet school when I was seven, to the point that I had a side stitch, but I didn’t even care – I was so ridiculously, beautifully elated that I couldn’t even notice. I physically couldn’t force my face from the massive grin now spread across it, even when my jaw began to hurt. The lights bathed the crowd below in bluish stardust; they glowed behind Patti, like an archangel’s halo, an aura. She was like some kind of angel. I am the lord of the dance, said she.

Me dancing (!)

The bass pulsates through my soul. Water vapour, from everyone’s sweat, drifting around the ceiling, covers the room in a misty fog – the lights stream through, like when the moon shines through a flurry of clouds. Patti begins to perform ‘Break It Up’, and she asks us to sing along.  “Break it up!” “Break it up!” Hundreds of voices – they echo across the walls, gliding along the fog, as if they are floating toward the sky. Like when we sang Psalm 121 en masse, in Choir in Grade 4; like a chorus of angels. Patti’s halo glitters with mist. I sing along, hopelessly out of tune, my throat too dry with adrenaline to be able to determine pitch – but, again, I do not care, for I am so deliriously, joyously happy that nothing other than the fact that Patti is several metres away from me matters.

“The boy was in the hallway, drinking a glass of tea / from the other end of the hallway, a rhythm was generating.” The pounding drums of ‘Land’ build up in my chest, I can’t keep my feet still. “Do you know how to twist?” Yes I do, and it goes like this, and it goes like this… And they segue back into ‘Gloria’, and I scream the lyrics at the top of my lungs, and my mind is so numb with euphoria that I could almost cry, and I lift my hands above my head and reach for the heavens because maybe Jesus died for somebody’s sins but it’s Patti who I worship tonight, and my feet, they run up and down the aisle and I can barely feel my toes but I don’t even realise –  and Patti runs up and down the stage, dancing, yelling, her hair flying, her actual voice echoing from the loudspeaker in front of me… And then she flies across the side of the stage in front of me, and I am so close to her that I can see the wrinkles around her eyes.

And then there’s an encore, ‘My Generation’, and she ties a yellow gerbera  – from a bouquet of flowers a fan had placed onstage – around her arm and slings a silver guitar over her shoulder, and she attacks it so hard that I watch each petal of the gerbera fly to the stage floor, twinkling like gold underneath the lights. And she screams and swears and plays and dances with so much passion and fervour and noise and beauty, that we are but compelled to do the same. And then, suddenly, the noise – the most incredible, loud, fun dissonance – stops. Patti leaves. The house lights are turned on. Obscure folk music plays over the PA. I cannot move. I have never felt so beautifully dazed in my life.

We sat in our hotel bar, after Patti had left and we’d walked back to our hotel. I sat there, and Joy Division and Bowie were playing over the speakers, and my sweaty hair had stuck to my head, and my cheeks were still flushed, and it was just the strangest feeling. It was like when you awaken from a satisfying dream – when you can’t quite picture what happened, but the residue contentment still flutters in your chest. I physically couldn’t comprehend the idea that what I’d just experienced was real. In fact, I still can’t. What I’ve written here is such a small summary of what I have only begun to truly contend with – I still can barely begin to explain or define what I felt.

But it occurred to me that night. David Bowie always used to say that, in real life, to his family and friends, he was still just David Jones – it was only in the public eye, to us fans, that he became “Bowie”. So then, maybe, the Patti that I adored, indeed, wasn’t even real – maybe my love of Patti was not about her, per se. Sure, I admired her for the kind of person her music and writings portray her as – but maybe my love for her work was just as much about me, too. Perhaps I loved Horses, not just because of the music, the lyrics, but for what it represented to me – my rebellion, my liberation, my self-realisation. Maybe the show was not just about seeing Patti, but what it incited in me – how the sweat trickled down my arms as I screamed and danced, until I could barely move my legs, how I knew every word of every song, the delirious joy, the freedom I felt. That perhaps it was’t really Patti and David that “allowed” me to take pride in my differences – although, it was their music that inspired me to think about things a little more. That maybe, to paraphrase a poem I wrote:

“The person who told me that I was cool, that I was worthy,
It wasn’t Patti:

It was me.”

Another photo courtesy of my dad.


PART 2: The poem.

The Days I Saw Patti Smith

It was two years ago when 
Patti Smith’s steely gaze stared straight into my soul
from the comfort of a CD cover at JB Hifi.
I didn’t know anything about her.
But she looked so cool
and the “parental advisory” sticker on the front-right corner seemed so edgy,
and I suddenly became $9.99 poorer.
And when I got home,
and I inserted that $9.99 disc into my old CD player,
I heard a voice so disorientating and incredible that
I had to drop everything I’d been doing,
and listen to my life changing.

And then,
I realised
that everything I’d thought was right about the world
was wrong.
That perhaps I was as strange as the taunts of Year 7’s high society had told me to believe;
but perhaps that was more interesting and cool than they ever could dream to be-
“Outside of society… Outside of society…” That maybe she was right when she wrote of how that was the only place to be…
That perhaps it didn’t matter if my idols weren’t from the Bible, if I didn’t believe,
because maybe, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.”
That perhaps I wouldn’t have to settle for a life of eternal loneliness, with no man to stand by,
if I couldn’t balance a book upon my skull, if I couldn’t cook or clean or sew.
That if Patti was okay, then maybe I was, as well.

And then,
It was six months ago when
Patti Smith’s steely gaze stared straight into my soul
from a Melbourne concert hall stage.
By now, my CD played almost to an oblivion,
A copy of her Collected Lyrics with white creases of weariness across the spine.
She looked so cool, Blu-Tacked on my bedroom wall,
and the concert ticket bearing her name that lay in my suitcase en route to Melbourne Tullamarine, so full of anticipation and adoration, looked even cooler,
and when I got to use that ticket,
When I stood twenty metres from her flying white hair,
Dancing along row 3, dress circle, even worse than when I dropped out of ballet school when I was seven,
Heady with body heat and passion,
Patti was there.
And I don’t even know if she was real,
For there is nothing more surreal than seeing the wrinkles that line the face that lines your walls for yourself,
Than seeing your favourite record come to life, in its glittering, goddess-esque glory.
And the stage lights glowed around her, and the audience chanted her choruses just like we did when we sang ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in Grade 4, and the band clanged and crashed and floated in the most beautiful, beautiful way,
And she was some kind of auratic archangel
-It was Easter Sunday after all;
A presence, a voice, so disorientating, so incredible, so unbelievably real,
That I couldn’t think about anything else for weeks.

And then,
I realised,
That I was still wrong.
It wasn’t Patti that made me so self-assured, so happy,
It wasn’t Patti that me so proud of the “outside of society,”
The Patti I adored, that I gazed at while she darted across the stage, indeed, wasn’t even real.
For fandom is not about them, the people they really are,
For it is about you,
And your feelings, your memories,
The way their world colours yours,
A testing of your love at its most passionate, its most unconditional,
The truths it ignites within yourself.
The person who told me that I was cool, that I was worthy,
It wasn’t a CD:

It was me.

The Return – and a new mixtape!

So I’ve been a tad AWOL for the…entirety of this year. Apologies! As I’ve begun to enter my final years of high school and the work has become increasingly demanding, I’ve been forced to spend the time I would have previously spent on this blog revising for Maths tests and organising my Art folio. But good news! I’ve been tapping away at my laptop and planning some posts so that hopefully there will not be another six month hiatus in the near future of this website. It’s good to be back – hopefully some of you are still around!

Anyway, I’ve been working away at a massive thinkpiece about a very special concert I saw several weeks ago for a little while now, and hopefully that should go up in the next few weeks or so – and on top of this, I have plenty of other half-formed drafts to keep me going until the school holidays afford me some free time! But in the meanwhile, I thought I’d update you on what I’ve been listening to lately, and give you some teasers as to what the next few months over here might involve…

‘Birdland’ – Patti Smith

If you’ve been reading this blog for a couple of years, you’ll know that I really, really, really love Patti Smith – her work has affected me so much, and I consider her to be my greatest hero maybe only second to Bowie. So I can’t imagine you’ll be overly surprised to hear that, a few weeks ago, I flew to another city to stand twenty metres away from her while she performed Horses – and that I consider that night to be among the most beautiful and incredible experiences of my life to date. I’ll be exploring this event and its effect on my life in further detail in the aforementioned thinkpiece, but it was just so enthralling and moving and massive to be dancing down the aisles like I haven’t since I was six while my greatest living hero stood mere metres away from you and sang lyrics that have changed my life! There was this especially incredible moment when she was performing ‘Birdland’ that just cemented to me just how surreal and amazing what I was seeing was – Patti was just surrounded by this aura of stage lighting, and the song was reaching peak intensity, and everyone in the stalls just rushed enmasse, at once, to the stage, and Patti was yelling these incredible improvised lyrics into the microphone, and the entire audience were convulsing to the beat. It was beautiful. Read more about it in a few days or so when I finally finish and publish my post!

‘No Plan’ – David Bowie

This song is here for three reasons: a) I travelled to England a few months back, where I was beyond lucky enough to see Lazarus at the King’s Cross Theatre. Although I’d wanted to see it ever since its original New York run was announced, I never really thought that I actually would – not to mention the extra meaning the musical undoubtedly has carried since January 2016 – so to say that I found this to be an incredibly special and moving experience would be an understatement. The above was one of the three new songs that he wrote specifically for it, and I even hung off listening to the soundtrack when it was released several months before I saw the show so I could experience these new tunes just how Bowie wanted. All of these songs are amazing – Bowie’s original versions of them even more so – but ‘No Plan’ might be my favourite of them all… b) I preordered the No Plan EP (the release in which these original versions are housed) in its fanciest vinyl incarnation – the vinyl is white and it’s numbered and it comes with fancy lithographs – many, many months ago, and it’s supposed to arrive this week!!! And c) because it’s nearly a year and a half since Bowie passed away, so I plan on finishing and publishing the post on him that I meant to write in January but didn’t have mange to finish in time then. I also plan on showing you guys some of my pics from England, so watch this space!

‘Shadow’ – Chromatics

Has anybody else been watching Twin Peaks: The Return? I certainly have! One of my many, many favourite parts of the new series (Andy and Lucy’s son and “Helloooooo!” notwithstanding!) is the way that each episode ends with a different band performing a suitably Angelo Badalamenti-esque tune at The Roadhouse – it’s so removed from the insanity that is the rest of the show’s events, giving us a chance to debrief, and it’s just a really cool way to showcase some new tunes! The above is probably my favourite of the ones that have been showcased so far – the song is pure floaty, synthy dream pop (think Julee Cruise’s ‘The Nightingale’ from the original series), and singer Ruth Radalet looks so much like Nico I did a double-take when I first saw her onscreen, and Shelly’s (sarcastic?) remark that “James has always been cool” during its performance helped a bit too… I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here, though – and my excitement about it means that a post about it will probably be forthcoming in the somewhat near future!

‘Leaving LA’ – Father John Misty

When Father John Misty released I Love You, Honeybear back in 2015, I was kinda confused as to why the entirety of the music press was so obsessed with it – I mean, it sounded pretty enough and all, but at the time, fuzzed-up psychedelic rock (which, of course, is still my thing too!) interested me a lot more than existentialist piano ballads, and up until a few months ago I always thought that it was a little overrated. Anyway, we recently acquired a copy of the aforementioned Honeybear, and something just clicked – something about the lyrics and the melodies and the production and just the essence of each song welled up and burst into one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. ‘Leaving LA’, from this year’s Honeybear-followup Pure Comedy, somehow manages to supersede what I thought would be the near-impossible task of bettering its predecessor. My first listening of it easily became among the most magical and incredible 13 minutes of my life, and it – in all of its beautiful instrumentation, and oh, among the most literate and incredible lyrics of the past twenty years – undoubtedly deserves a place in pop music’s grandest songbooks alongside ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and the rest. It’s also restored my interest in new music – something which my aforementioned school-related busy-ness has prevented me from discovering as much as I’d like – and so there might just be a post on some of my current faves sometime soon, too!

‘I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool’ – Kate Fagan & ‘Button Up’ – The Bloods

Although I haven’t been discovering as much music this year as I’d like, I have been researching and unearthing some obscure American postpunk gems over the past few months. Unlike its oft-poppier English counterpart (which I also love – don’t get me wrong!), this incarnation of the movement was edgier than punk itself, incorporating obscure and abrasive instrumentation, primal rhythms, droning vocals, objectively bad production techniques, weird intellectualist lyrics, even oddly-juxtaposed disco guitar licks – and it’s just the absolute coolest thing ever! It was no surprise to me to learn that many of these musicians were also underground visual artists and filmmakers as well – their music easily fits as an extension of the ideas and aesthetics explored within these. Another aspect of the movement that I also particularly love was its empowerment of women; every single one of the bands I’ve discovered had at least one female member, and it’s really quite something to see how these artists could be as overtly feminine as they wished and still be considered every bit as valid as their male colleagues – especially after realising that it seems like we’ve almost backpedalled on this a bit in comparison. The above songs are two that I feel best exhibit the movement in all of its noisy, feminine glory, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to them – ‘Button Up’ especially! – for ages… Maybe I’ll compile my finds into a post sometime soon as well, if you like!

‘Hospital’ – The Modern Lovers

The other band that I’ve really gotten into over the past few months is The Modern Lovers. Founded by a Lou Reed-obsessed Jonathan Richman in Boston in the early ’70s, they were no more by 1974 and their only album was released in 1976 – but they, like The Velvets (and Big Star), have gone on to be credited with inventing much of what we call “alternative music” today. The main reason, though, that I’ve come to love them so much is the way that they contrast nerdiness with edginess, and how relatable I find this – while I adore the music and lyrics of Reed/Alex Chilton/Iggy Pop/Patti Smith/et al, I’m the first to admit that I otherwise fit the stereotype of the socially awkward goody two shoes perfectly, this something that tends to be derided in the music that I like. It’s nice to find a similar band from this era that not only revels in this kind of nerdy awkwardness, but acknowledges that you can both be this way inclined AND love edgy underground music – they’re pretty much the most relatable band I’ve ever discovered! I especially love this particular song, and I haven’t really stopped listening to it for the past few weeks…

‘Let’s Go To Bed’ – The Cure

Not particularly related to anything other than the fact that I started working at my school’s canteen one day a week, and the woman who runs it very kindly gave me a copy of The Cure’s Greatest Hits – meaning that I now own this song and can jump around my living room to it any time I wish! This makes me very pleased indeed…

Here’s some “old” faves that I may or may not have mentioned before on here that have also been in high circulation on my record player/stereo/YouTube account, too:

Anyway, it’s nice to be back – hopefully I’ll be posting and chatting to you guys a lot more again soon! Feel free to let me know what you’ve been listening/watching/reading/whatever-ing, lately, too! 🙂

And the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day!

image

Today is Christmas Eve, and in the All You Need Is The Beatles universe, that means one thing – that it’s time for the annual AYNITB Christmas post!

Longtime readers might recall that last year, I wrote of how I wished for a “cold and calm” Christmas, a slight contrast to what I’m used to. I must have been ‘nice’ over the past twelve months, then, because said wish has been well and truly granted! I’ve spent the past couple of weeks on holiday, travelling around the UK – an incredible experience that I’ll detail in a proper post once I’m home – and consequently, I’m feeling more Christmassy right now than I have since I was a little kid! The temperatures have been pleasingly chilly, and the malls have, surprisingly, been decidedly less hectic than those back home (a pleasant surprise indeed!). It’s also been simultaneously both weird and fascinating to see that all the decidedly Northern-Hemishere-orientated Christmas iconography (the ugly jumpers, the ice-skating, the genuine possibilty of snow) that seem like nothing more than urban myths to me are actually real – I even saw some squirrels and robins while wandering around Hyde Park one frosty morning! – and that the traditions that, as much as we love them, we have inexplicably inherited from this side of the world (the large amounts of hot food, the fur-lined Santa costumes, the use of Wintry plants as decorations) feel a little more appropriate in the context of the cooler climes… My UK Christmas has even been an improvement on Australia from a musical perspective, with most of the shopping complexes I’ve visited seemingly opting for playlists of the Slade/Pogues/John Lennon route, as opposed to the “Kenny G Plays The Hits of Christmas” one of back home! It’s just like the movies!

And so, to celebrate my newfound investment in The Christmas Spirit – and AYNITB tradition – here are a few of the Christmas tracks I’ve been enjoying most this year. Be sure to let me know what yours have been this year, too!

‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth’ – David Bowie/Bing Crosby

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=n9kfdEyV3RQ
‘Jesus Christ’ – Big Star
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KIO3KvvgCqA
‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ – Slade

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0A8KT365wlA
‘Fairytale of New York’ – the Pogues and Kristy McColl

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j9jbdgZidu8
‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ – Wizzard

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r89CjMZDQpQ
‘Christmas Bop’ – T.Rex

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IOpNUK1EHYA
‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)’ – Ramones

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tN2NNwZ1op8
‘Father Christmas’ – Kinks

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni04_SF-HRQ
‘White Christmas’ – Iggy Pop

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ox66JIqDdbM
‘Winter Wonderland’ – Cocteau Twins

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0UQMZ3DddgM
‘Christmas Wrapping’ – The Waitresses

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2SzjDOk_u9I
‘Just Like Christmas’ – Low

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IippcraBPKA
‘(It’s Gonna Be) A Punk Rock Christmas’ – The Ravers

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ec0TMObz2zM
‘Frosty The Snowman’ – The Ronettes

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=76sh1BWCQSc
‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ – John + Yoko, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Vfp48laS8
And for the 26th: ‘Boxing Day Blues Revisited’ – Courtney Barnett

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1Bvs-lM4F7E
And so, wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Thank you for reading, ‘liking’ and especially for leaving your comments (always a joy to read!) on here over the course of this past year – here’s to a new year of blogging in 2017!

And so, to sign off on another year, here’s Bowie giving a Christmas message while impersonating Elvis on This Is Radio Clash in 2013. Merry Christmas!!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=o5TC_HYaVMk

Some things I’ve been enjoying of late!

A/N: If you subscribe to this blog via email, you may have seen this post come up before… I accidentally pressed the ‘publish’ button instead of the ‘save draft’ one, and when I ‘trash’-ed and tried to continue working on it from there, it republished it again! Sorry – please ignore them!

Right now, I’ve just started work on a couple of other, more ambitious posts, which I’m hoping will go up at least by the end of January. But in the meantime, I thought I’d muse on some of the pop culture – the TV shows, books, movies, and (of course) music – I’ve been enjoying over the past few months!

Firstly, though, I just want to say a few words about Leonard Cohen and the relentlessness of this year’s obsession with making cool people pass away. I only started to delve into Cohen’s work a few months ago – after watching a documentary made on him in the mid-’60s that my mum and I found in our favourite record shop – but he quickly became one of my favourite artists. Mum and I spent the past couple of months enamoured with his beautifully atmospheric music and poetry, and we’d only planned a couple of days before the news to listen to his newest album, You Want It Darker, together. And so we were both saddened to hear that – so soon after we’d begun to really discover his work – that he’d passed away. He will be sorely missed.

Music

Unsurprisingly, I spend the vast majority of my time reading about music. (I don’t run a food blog, after all!) It’s from this constant reading that I unearth many of the bands I haven’t yet discovered – a method that has lead my to some of my favourite artists in the world – and these past few months have been no exception on this front. Here are some notable examples:

  • Big Star: It’s been a while since I stumbled across my first Big Star song in the middle of an art class in March, but it wasn’t until I acquired a copy of their first two albums on CD that I began to delve fanatically into their discography. The band’s music is so beautiful – filled with jangling guitars and chiming harmonies, with all the twinkling prettiness of a sunny Spring day – and their story – filled with failure and tragedy, until not so long ago when their records found themselves buried deep in the collective consciousnesses of the majority of post-1985 alternative bands – fascinating. I’ve barely stopped listening to their Third album, and founding member Chris Bell’s solo compilation I Am The Cosmos, since, and I think they may be my favourite band along with Sonic Youth right now. (Bowie doesn’t really count as a “band”, does he?)
  • The Smiths: I was entirely unable to see the appeal of The Smiths – sans Johnny Marr’s guitar skills, which I’ve always appreciated – up until about a month ago. This change-in-heart was the culmination of two events: the first one involving me reading an article about Morrissey’s musical and literary influences and thus realising that I liked about 9/10ths of the artists and authors he mentioned, and the second one being me listening to ‘How Soon Is Now?’ with headphones and then thinking it was one of the greatest things I’d ever heard. I’ve since discovered that The Smiths were every bit as musically and melodically beautiful as Marr’s guitar skills had previously suggested to me, and that Morrissey’s voice and lyrics are not actually as annoying as I had found them before, but are instead rather interesting and funny. The Queen Is Dead has been my album-of-choice while drawing and painting for the past month, now! (I still love the Cure though. I can’t choose between the two!)
  • Lydia Lunch: I’ve found Lydia Lunch rather fascinating for a little while, now – her almost gothic aesthetic, her “I could care less” attitude, her involvement in the “no wave” movement (one which I find just as fascinating as well). I’ve been listening to her album, Queen of Siam, on constant repeat for a few months, and I find her music just as fascinating as I do her image. It’s so cool! It has all the arty, underground rebelliousness of the New York punk movement that preceded her no wave – but amplified, and with all the experimental spirit and dark mysteriousness that, say, the Ramones (as much as I adore them!) lacked. Plus, she worked with Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard – who are kind of national treasures here in Australia – so she gets extra points for that too. She’s so cool – go look her up now, and be inspired!
  • Blondie: I think I may have written Blondie off as a disco band in the past, which may explain why I didn’t delve into their catalogue until a few months ago. However, I haven’t let this late start stop me in developing a fanatic obsession with their music and their image. There is something infinitely fascinating about them – the way they added pop sensibilities and glamour to the CBGB scene and yet retained all the punk attitude of their contemporaries is the epitome of cool. Parallel Lines must be one of the most perfect albums of all time because of this – it’s sleek and poppy, but still alternative-ly self-assured and outspoken. And their image deserves kudos too – there is kind of a streetwise glamour to it, dirty and brassy yet beautiful and glitzy, which is my kinda thing. Plus, Debbie Harry is also a major role model of mine both stylistically and as a female musician.

TV: Twin Peaks

It took me four months to watch every episode – Fire Walk With Me included – of Twin Peaks. I started it knowing vaguely of its “cool ” status, of how it involved cherry pie and saddle shoes and some girl being murdered and “wrapped in plastic”, and of how David Lynch was involved in it and how he had also directed Mullholand Drive and of how (as much as I enjoyed it) confusing that was and how I wondered if it would be like that as well. But by the time I finished, I was completely and totally enamoured by it. It’s been well over a month since I watched the final episode, but I miss its presence in my weekends more than I’ve ever missed a TV show before… Perhaps the reason for this is of how utterly fascinating and enthralling the show’s narrative is. Exploring the devastating fallout after the murder of seemingly-flawless homecoming queen Laura Palmer, the way that its creators (Lynch and Mark Frost) explore the duality of Twin Peaks’ quaint small-town outer, and the greed, lies and pure evil that haunt it, is edge-of-your-seat thrilling. And many of its characters – some that you are destined to adore like no other from their first scene, others that you endlessly loathe and yet find compelling as a consequence – must be among the most well-developed and enthralling (and well-dressed! Case in point: Audrey Horne) in all of TV history. Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack for the show is perfect, both for mirroring the show’s many atmospheres and as music in itself, too. It is simultaneously the funniest, saddest, most beautiful, most frightening – and undeniably among the best – thing I’ve ever watched. I cannot even tell you how excited I am to see how everything will pan out in the new Season 3 set for release next year!

ggs

And a quick word on the other TV show set in quirky, small-town America where all the main characters have coffee addictions – Gilmore Girls! Its special new season finally came out the other week, and while I won’t be able to watch it for a while as I don’t have Netflix (no spoilers please, then!!), my obsession with the original series – I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve watched it – has ensured that it’ll more than likely be well worth the wait! I can’t express how glad I am to welcome some of my favourite fictional characters ever back (though did they ever leave?) into my world, as demonstrated by my rather melodramatically excited reaction to the trailer. I can’t wait to see what they’ve all been up to over the past nine years – but I especially hope that Jess and Lane are still as perennially cool as when we last saw them, and that the former is as great an author as his last appearances in the original series suggested he was destined to be (team Jess! team Jess!), and Lane is back playing in a band…

Book: Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Joan Didion)

To quote an essay I penned on the book for my English class:

There are some books which are destined to entirely engross and change the course of your life. These books are perhaps the most beautiful, the most eloquent, the most thoughtful thing you’ve ever laid your eyes across, and you know – almost as immediately as you dive into the first chapter – that it will force you to spend the rest of your life rereading it on endless loop and quoting its every word to everyone you meet. I have been lucky enough to have been blessed with a couple of books of this ilk within my life. Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem is one of these. Perhaps it is the greatest of them all.”

Right now, I’m convinced that Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Joan Didion’s first non-fiction anthology, published in 1968 – is the greatest book I’ve ever read, and perhaps one of the greatest ever published. To me, it is almost perfect – Didion’s writing style is the most eloquent thing I’ve ever read, filled with adjectives and infinite wisdom and mystery alike; she writes of the fractured, deceivingly glamorous American “cool” that I have long been fascinated by, of a contrasting collection of figures and characters to endlessly intrigue, and of all the things both internal and external that she has come across in her personal life to which many a reader will scream “Yes! I relate!” over and over to their bedroom walls; it is also unapologetically feminine, something I hadn’t really come across in a book before and a quality that I – as a young woman – find beautiful. I’ve never been so enthralled by a piece of literature before.

Movie: Heathers 

Here are three of the many reasons why Heathers is my favourite movie, second only to The Man Who Fell To Earth:

  • It’s one of the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. The script has some of the wittiest, fast-paced one liners ever written – laced with the most ridiculous black comedy, and clever enough that they never insult the audience’s intelligence – and its merciless satire towards almost everything the world held (and holds) dear is often so cruel it’s hilarious. I don’t think anything’s made me laugh so hard, ever. Here is a good list of only a few of the script’s highlights! Plus, the plot is so twisted and kind of comically disturbing that’s it’s funny.
  • It stars Winona Ryder. ‘Nuff said. (This is coming from someone who, for a few months, watched almost exclusively movies featuring her. She is the best.)
  • And how real it is. For all of its hilarity – and its disturbing plot – Heathers is actually one of the most brutally accurate portrayals of high school that I’ve ever seen in the media. Never once does the movie romanticise or censor it – instead, it shows it exactly like it is, and the movie is all the more intelligent, confrontingly authentic and powerful for it. A reason related to this that I feel deserves a special mention of how ruthlessly disparagingly it displays the concept of high school social ladders, something that must’ve been pretty brave for a world where an originally-quirky Molly Ringwald ends up with the preppy rich kid and an even more quirky Ally Sheedy ends up being transformed into a total it-girl! The very ending – the bit where Veronica walks through the corridor (without giving spoilers away!) – is the absolute best. It’s both great humour and social commentary!

As with pretty much everything else mentioned in this post, I could talk about my immense love of Heathers for years, but let’s just leave it at a paraphrased quote from the movie itself: “It’s beautiful.” (You can deduct whether this is sarcastic or not yourself!)

And so that’s what I’ve been into over the past few months! What about you?

And just before I sign off, I thought I’d mention that today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death – hope you’re resting well, and thinking of you!

Happy Birthday John Lennon!

John by Warhol, 1971

John by Warhol, 1971

Today would have been John Lennon’s 76th birthday, so I thought I’d finally end my algebra-revision-induced hiatus (fun times in high school, haha!) and talk a little bit about him. So happy birthday, John!

I’ve talked an awful lot about John on here before, so I’ll try to stay succinct here. John is easily one of my greatest heroes, for he has influenced so much of what my life consists of today. He was my introduction to what I would have precociously termed “contemporary music” before I discovered him – he taught me of what it was in the first place, of how it worked, of what it sounded like at its very best. His work encouraged me both to persevere with and work as hard as I did my schoolwork at my creative pursuits – music, art, writing – and to, as I grew into the age where you are supposed to begin to seriously consider what you will do when you”grow up”, think about continuing them not just as hobbies but as actual jobs; and in fact, it was him who inspired me to pick up a guitar, to take my voice beyond musical theatre and the like, to try and attempt to write songs, to actually use the criticism my English teachers gave me so that my pieces on here would begin to live up to the ones I read and admired in the music press in the first place; he made me consider the workings of the world, and encouraged me to also consider and create my own views on political issues; he taught me what it meant to be a fan. I admire him so much – for his writing, his guitar skills, his humour, his art, his activism… While he is now one among the myriad of creators that I admire – in the company of those like Bowie, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Poison Ivy Rorschach, Alex Chilton, Kim Gordon, David Lynch, Joan Didion, and many, many, many more from all manner of music genres, eras and artistic fields – he will always be one of the very few who has affected me enough to change the course of almost my entire life. Perhaps only Bowie and Patti have come close to influencing me in the way that he has. My life would be so unrecognisably different if I hadn’t come across his work – I am so grateful for his affect on who I am today.

So now, I’m going to stop talking and instead leave you with some of his music. Happy birthday, John! Thinking of you…

(Please excuse this in demo form, it is still impossible to find actual Beatles songs on YouTube after the mass exodus of them that occurred around the rerelease of 1 last year…)

(Let us not forget John’s input into Young Americans, one of my very very all-time favourite albums!!)

tangerinetrees99 plays another gig!

Unless you’ve been reading this blog for a couple of years, you might be unaware that, on top of being a music fan, I’m actually an aspiring musician myself. So, about a month ago, I was lucky enough to be able to play a short set at a fairly well-known pub in my city! I performed a Bowie cover (‘Quicksand’) and a Courtney Barnett cover (‘Kim’s Caravan’), the latter being a duet with my guitar teacher. It was such an amazing experience – a few people even came up to me afterwards to tell me how much they enjoyed it! – and it was easily among the most thrilling and enjoyable things I’ve done. Anyway, here are a couple of clips from the gig…

SEE ALSO: tangerinetrees99 plays her first gig!

Pictures Of You…

 

PattiSmithHorses

The cover of Horses is a good example of truly great rock photography (taken by Robert Mapplethorpe)

Let’s face it: it is rare to become a fan of a band simply because the music is pretty good. While, of course, the music is a massive catalyst in such a decision, we become invested in our favourite artists for a myriad of reasons – and often, the visual chops of said artist is one of these. Think about it – it is difficult to picture the early Beatles without their Pierre Cardin-designed collarless suits, glam-era David Bowie without glittery, flamboyant catsuits and bright-red platform boots, The Sex Pistols without their Vivienne Westwood designed garb, The Cure’s Robert Smith without his teased hair and copious amounts of eyeliner… But of course, it’s a little difficult to be fascinated by a band’s visual presentation without seeing them first. And unless you’ve been lucky enough to see one of the above in real life, it is at this point that the world of rock photography enters the picture. (Pun intended.)

london calling.jpg

Joe Strummer (taken by Pennie Smith)

When I mention ‘rock photography’, I do not mean the kind that consists of the unimaginative awkwardness equal to that of your Grade 5 school photo. I mean the kind that appears to effortlessly capture the spirit of what music is all about – think the cover of Patti Smith’s Horses, the freezeframe of Joe Strummer about to smash his guitar that eventually became the cover of London Calling, that photoshoot of Bowie and his lightning bolt makeup…  So today, I’m going to name and showcase a few of my favourite rock photographers – the masters of capturing the spirit of rock’n’roll – and I’ll say a few words about them, too. Though, as they always say, a picture is worth a thousand words…

Mick Rock

Most famous for photographing: David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Syd Barrett

Contrary to what regular readers may assume, I didn’t discover Mick Rock’s photography via his extensive Bowie work, but through his photoshoot for the cover of Syd Barrett’s debut solo album, The Madcap Laughs. There is something so mysterious and magical about these photos – Syd (wearing smudged kohl and a pair of old velvet flares) sits among his hazy and delightfully cluttered flat, somehow effortlessly capturing the spirit of his work.

But it was his Bowie shots that made him my all-time favourite photographer. The pictures he took of Bowie throughout the early ’70s are glittery, glamorous insights into the heady worlds of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. Each shot manages to translate the theatricality, the otherwordliness, the arty intellectuality, the freakish beauty of his work into what are (in my opinion) some of the greatest photos of all time. Of course, Bowie (well aware of the value of utilising both sound and vision) was photographed many times by countless photographers – but very few others managed to instinctively get what he was all about and freeze it within a few frames of film.

But then – then – I discovered that he took pretty much every famous picture of every iconic glam artist, too! His shots of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Brian Eno – alongside the Bowie ones – take the dangerously dark glamour of the movement and turn it into something we can still find infinitely fascinating and a little rebellious today. And apart from this, he also took a myriad of other incredible pictures of every other artist of the time you can think of – Queen, The Stones, Blondie, The Ramones, The Runaways, The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie Sioux… No wonder he is referred to as “the man who shot the ’70s”!

http://www.mickrock.com/

Bob Gruen

Most famous for photographing: New York punk, John & Yoko – but also every other artist you can think of

Even if you don’t know who Bob Gruen is, you most certainly know his work – he was the guy who not only shot that famous image of John Lennon wearing his ‘New York City’ shirt, but who actually gave John said shirt in the first place! Gruen shot almost every other iconic artist of the era as well, seemingly turning up at every show that passed through New York (where he is from). Among his other famous shots include a “multiple image” of Tina Turner and a picture of Sid Vicious with hot dog mustard all over his face, but he’s also photographed everyone from Led Zeppelin to KISS to Dylan to Green Day to the Beastie Boys to Sly Stone to Elvis Costello to [insert first artist off the top of your head here]…

Asides from this, Gruen was a regular at New York’s most iconic venues, CBGB and Max’s Kansas City – so consequently, he also shot a who’s-who of New York underground music throughout the ’70s and ’80s! He photographed native artists like the New York Dolls, the Ramones, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Devo, Plasmatics, Television and Blondie – on top of non-natives, like Nina Hagen, the Pistols and The Clash – performing to their equally-fascinating audiences, juxtaposing their fashions and reactions alongside the artists themselves. In a way, Gruen is to punk what Rock is to glam – he effortlessly captures the sweaty, intimate passion that defined much of the New York scene in a way that few others have mastered. But everything he’s shot has this too. His images never fail to remind you what rock’n’roll is all about…

http://www.bobgruen.com/

David Bailey

Most famous for photographing: The Stones, Lennon & McCartney

It’s probably kind of a stretch to refer to David Bailey as a “rock photographer” when most of his legacy stems around his relationship with models such as Jean Shrimpton and the like. But perhaps it is his background as a fashion photographer that makes his pictures of a few of the biggest stars of ’60s rock so interesting and great.

My favourite of his many photoshoots is the one he did with John Lennon and Paul McCartney at the beginning of 1965. The pair are photographed in the richest tones black-and-white film can produce against a starkly cold, white background – and though the photos are obviously staged, there is a candidness to the pictures, something that seems to transcend whatever a normal photo can capture. But perhaps Bailey was always more famous for picturing The Stones; asides from shooting Mick Jagger a number of times, he also took many of the band’s album covers, including their self-titled sophomore effort, US release The Rolling Stones, Now! and most famously Aftermath. Other musicians he’s shot include Marianne Faithful and Alice Cooper.

http://www.visualartists.com/artist/davidbailey/

Janette Beckman

Most famous for photographing: British punk and new wave

While Bob Gruen was capturing New York punk, Janette Beckman was busy photographing the various circles among the British musical underground at the same time. Like him, she managed to shoot a who’s-who of her scene, her work encompassing artists like Siouxsie Sioux (the subject of her first photoshoot), Public Image Ltd, The Jam, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Undertones – even The Who! She also captured a number of American artists who passed through town, too, such as Lydia Lunch, The Cramps and Debbie Harry. Beckman also shot a number of images of young people in Britain at the time, illustrating the assorted tribes – punk, mod, ska, and so on – that found themselves scattered around the country at the time, and later went on to shoot a bunch of hip hop groups in the ’80s.

In contrast to Gruen and Rock, her images rarely show her subjects performing onstage – instead opting for staged shoots and backstage candids – but this doesn’t stop her from capturing the spirit and ethos of the movements around her. Her shots capture the passion and philosophies of the artists in fascinatingly inventive ways – the way she captures the feeling of the music is perhaps only precedented by Mick Rock. Her work is quirky and endlessly interesting, an incredible document of much of the greatest music of the time.

http://janettebeckman.com/

Brad Elterman

Most famous for photographing: candid shots of a who’s-who of ’70s rock’n’roll

Unlike the other photographers in this list, Brad Elterman did not become an official photographer until a few years into his career. This is illustrated by my favourite story about him – of how, in 1976, he was denied a photopass into Bowie’s recording studio during the making of Station to Station, so instead opted to wait outside the studio and ambush Bowie and his crew as they left that night. Despite this, though, he still managed to photograph a heap of major faces in ’70s rock’n’roll, and in a way that many of his official counterparts would be incapable of.

Elterman’s shots are candid and compelling in a way that more professional photoshoots are not. He so easily shows the emotions and lives of his subjects – his pictures are relaxed and fun, and they capture a certain realism about the whole thing. He’s photographed everyone from Joan Jett to Bowie, Dylan to John and Yoko, Michael Jackson to Joni Mitchell, and there is just something so special about each! There is no-one who has shot the rock’n’roll world with his unbelievably unique eye before or since, and it is this that makes his work so great…

http://www.bradelterman.com/

And so, who are your favourite rock photographers? What are your favourite pictures of rock music? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

It was two years ago today!

Happy birthday, All You Need Is The Beatles!

Happy birthday, All You Need Is The Beatles!

On the 5th of June, 2014, I published my very first post on this blog. And today – 13,800 views, 92 posts and 121 readers on – marks 2 years since I first made this blog live. So happy birthday, All You Need Is The Beatles! Thank you so much to you all for joining me on this ride – for reading what I publish, and for adding your own thoughts in the comments section and for sharing them with your social media followers, too. It is what turns AYNITB from a random site where I post ramblings on music to an interesting and lively community – it means a lot! I’ve certainly enjoyed the past two years with this place, and I hope you all have too… And so here’s to the next year, with all the writing, commenting and musicality that will undoubtedly arrive with it! I don’t know about you, but I for one am looking forward to it very much… 🙂