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!

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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!

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

A very suitable picture for today's post!

A very suitable picture for today’s post!

For pretty much my entire life, I’ve loved books. There is nothing quite like getting engrossed in a good read, in my opinion. And considering I write this blog, I (obviously!) love The Beatles! And one of my favourite Beatley things to do has always been to read Beatley books…

When I first got into The Beatles and knew nothing about their history, it never occurred to me to Google them for some reason. Instead, I collected (and borrowed) a mini-library of Beatley books. And that is how — along with a few documentaries and the internet (once it did finally cross my mind) — I learnt the story of The Beatles.

My Beatley library is relatively large, and grows almost every month! It includes everything from some of the best books I’ve ever read (the books below, plus a few more), and some of the worst (*cough*GeofferyGuiliano*cough*), and everything in between. So today, I thought I’d write a bit about four of my favourites — so here goes…

The John Lennon Letters (ed. Hunter Davies)

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The John Lennon Letters is a must-have title. Released in 2012, the book collects nearly 300 of John’s letters/notes/drawings/cards/etc; the earliest a thank-you card from when he was ten, the latest an autograph from the 8th of December. These writings provide an invaluable insight into John’s life. Ranging from a few of the infamous Melody Maker letters from him and Paul’s 1971 feud, to a beautiful Christmas card he made Cyn in 1958, some song lyrics which he never finished on the back of a postcard, to witty replies to hate mail, the letters are anything from hilarious to heartbreaking to angry to informative and just about anything in between. They portray John as a very intelligent guy, and show what he was like behind the spotlight. Davies adds notes to put them into context and also transcribes them. This was one of the first Beatles books I read, and was how I first learnt about John!

LIFE With The Beatles: Inside Beatlemania (photos by Robert Whitaker, compiled by LIFE magazine)

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This book is somewhat large and awkwardly shaped, but it is beautiful. Robert Whitaker was The Beatles’ official photographer from 1964-1966, and among other things took the infamous Butcher Cover. LIFE compiled pretty much all of his Beatles photos and sorted them into years. And my, was Whitaker a talented photographer! Wherever they were from 1964-1966, Whitaker was there, too, and the results that ensued were amazing. As demonstrated with the Butcher cover, he clearly had a penchant for the experimental, and his photos add a fresh new photographic voice to Beatles lore. With images ranging from John staring into his own reflection at Kenwood, to John, Paul and George’s guitars sitting in Customs in 1966, from Paul + George playing with a birdcage, to The Beatles hanging out with Mick Jagger backstage at one of their Christmas pantomimes, there are some truly special shots in here. Many of the photos have anecdotes from Whitaker next to them. In short, this is a beautiful, beautiful book!

All The Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release (Phillipe Margotine + Jean-Michael Guesdon)

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This book is my Beatley bible. Think of it as all a more informal Mark Lewishon-style book, with prettier formatting, more information on the songwriting side of things + lots of cool photos! Right from the engaging introduction written by Patti Smith (who I’m also a fan of!), the book goes into the genesis, recording, production, technical details and (for some of the songs) related facts for each of the 213 titles in the Beatles’ discography! From this book, you’ll learn who wrote what, who played what, where each song was recorded, how many takes it took, who produced it… You’ll also read on its impressive 671 pages about what each song was written about, or who recorded it first if it was a cover, and often little anecdotes about the song, too! A photo also accompanies each song, and most of them are quite rare. The formatting is beautiful, too, and the book comes with three posters. I learnt so much from this book, and is probably one of the most informative titles in my collection!

The Beatles’ Anthology (The Beatles)

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This is the mother of all Beatles books; their “autobiography”. Part of the Anthology project from the ’90s (which saw an eight-part documentary and three double albums of unreleased material released too), this book is chock full of practically everything a Beatles fan could want! Detailed interviews with Paul, George and Ringo were conducted for the project and it is through their words that the story of The Beatles is told here. John’s perspective is not neglected, either, as the researchers have found hundreds of quotes from the many interviews he gave over the years. George Martin and Neil Aspinall were also interviewed, and many other important figures in Beatles lore (such as Brian Epstein, Mal Evans and Stu Sutcliffe) also have quotes included. The book covers practically everything! Whether you want to know about Hamburg or Pepper, Shea Stadium or the rooftop concert, you’ll find it here. Not to mention that the story comes from the people who were actually involved, making it all the more valuable. Other highlights include pictures from the personal archives of each Beatle, unseen writings, and other things that add to this highly-illustrated book. A most invaluable addition to anyone’s Beatley library!

What books on The Beatles have you read? Have you got a favourite? Be sure to send me a postcard, drop me a line below…

Oh, and happy birthday to Pete Townshend for May 19th! As a huge fan of The Who, he is one of my favourite guitarists, and not to even mention a really awesome songwriter! Happy birthday, Pete.

Hope you have a great day, wherever you are, and good day sunshine until next post! 🙂