Friday, May 26, 2006

Superstar DJ !

To La Bar du Retro last nite for 'Who's in your Record Bag?'.
My set list ran thus:-

Psychic TV - Papal Breakdance
Into a Circle - Inside Out
Banshees - Make up to Break Up
Andi Sex Gang - Ida Ho
Gene Loves Jezebel - Worth Waiting For

I hadn't done it for a few weeks, the last time being Hayloid's birthday when I was far too pis*ed to be playing records and f*cked up everything; that put me off for a few weeks (oh! the shame)... however last nite I ROCKED! Horrah!! (and quite probably due to a couple of pints of sturdy pepsi max prior to said set).

Psychic TV worked well... it's not even a very well known PTV but one bloke came up to the booth to thank me for playing it so I was very chuffed by that. Into a Circle and/or Getting the Fear always sounds cool... and even Crazy G came dashing up to say he wants it on his iPod 'Oh my GOD is this Bee's voice! WOW!' Indeed it is. Still criminal that In2aO weren't MASSIVE in my humble opinion.

I love the Banshees 'Make Up'... one of their famous early tunes and it's on The Scream reissue. I think Andi's tune sounded good but not sure about Gene Loves. I love that album tho - 'Immigrant'... it's years old now but every now and then I like a bit of gothy 'soft-rock' kinda thing.

In other news we saw the Tiger Lillies at Soho Theatre on Tuesday avec Dawn Right Nasty... I absolutely adore the TL's and wrote about them on my former blog site:- (scroll down, it's called 'From Hell') but that was a show ('Mountains of Darkness') in conjunction with Alexander Hacke and the current Soho Theatre production is solely the TL's and was, if anything, even more brilliant than I could possibly have imagined. Their dark 'demonic jazz cabaret' appeals to my twisted nature AND my sense of humour and with song subjects as diverse as sticking hamsters up your arse, raping one's mother and removing her skin, beastiality, suicide, lonely schizophrenics gassing themselves and all assorted dementia inbetween you never know whether to laugh, cry or, well, just be plain shocked really... Even if you are sitting there thinking 'he can't sing THAT can he?!' the double bass, mad drums and sleazy accordian keep you feet tap tap tapping, and his voice has to be heard to be believed.

If there are any tickets left, Go! It's only on until the 3rd June. A must for all the family.

Oh and Le Bar du Retro have started serving MARTINIS! There's a little chalkboard with a choice of martini cocktails and you get BOWLS OF OLIVES! Oh lord, whatever next. A tinkling piano!? Where are we for god's sake the f*cking Delano Hotel (one of my fave places on earth btw) !!!???... I haven't worked out whether this is a Wonder Wendy initiative or a brewery promotion but I'm staying well clear... I have to stick to weak lager due to the fact that I drink at a hundred miles an hour so I would be on the floor within minutes... I'm also one of those people that speed up as they get drunk whereas most people slow down so I'm stepping away from the chalkboard... (....who am I tryin' to kid!?).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pervy Pottery

To the British Museum to see the 'Warren Cup'. I walked from Holborn through the backstreets of Bloomsbury, past Howard Hodgkin's house and Atlantis the Occult bookshop in Museum Street (ghosts of Yeats and Crowley). I like Bloomsbury best on overcast Autumn afternoons. It puts me in mind of secret societies, and conversations about magic in dark sitting rooms with ticking clocks and candlelight. When I first met Peter Ackroyd we arranged to meet outside the Museum gates on such an afternoon. At the time I was obsessed with the 'House of Doctor Dee' and spent entire afternoons in the backstreets of Clerkenwell looking for it. When I told Peter this he said 'oh you silly cow it's all a fiction darling you should know that' and of course I did... but I like the idea of blurring fiction and fact. I often forget which is which.

Anyway... Luckily I didn't have to fight my way through too many Sunday afternoon tourists as the cup in just inside the doors in an antechamber. The cup is Roman, but depicts Greek figures, and was probably made in the first century AD by Greek craftsman for a Roman client. It's made of silver and I thought it would be massive, more of an urn than a cup, but it's only 11cms high. It's in a glass case and spotlit from below casting strong shadows.

On both sides are male couples. The first side depicts a bearded older man with a smooth muscular youth lowering himself down with the help of a sort of ceiling strap (bet you can't get those in Clone Zone) whilst a boyservant peeps at them from behind a curtain.

On the other side the older seemingly dominant partner is himself a youth and his 'Beloved' (as they were called) is younger still. In fact, very young.

The first owner of recent times was the American Anglophile Ned Warren, the commissoner of Rodin's 'The Kiss'; thereafter the cup was in a private collection. The British Museum paid £1.8 million for the cup six years ago. It was offered to them half a century ago at a fraction of that price but as the signage guiltily admits because of the climate of the time the object was rejected by the trustees as it would have been impossible to display without risking a huge public outcry.

The room is small, and the cup is center-stage. I expected to find a small crowd of Shocked-of-Tunbridge-Wells types pursing their lips around it but in fact all of life was there and very interested and fascinated everyone looked too... although a number of teenage boys were a bit wide-eyed it has to be said.

The cup is padded out by other examples of early AD sexual depiction on pottery, plates and assorted knick-knacks including some very athletic women with women and even (gasp!) some heterosexuals.

My favourite thing was a large green flying phallus (yes, with wings) with various smaller dicks attached and hung with bells. I asked in the shop for a replica but they don't have one, but quite what you'd do with it I have no idea. I suppose it could be a sexy windchime... I should think it added a sort of frisson to Roman swinging parties and maybe they rang it when it was time to change ends and/or partners.

The first older partnership shown looks at least nearly-legal in a modern context and makes one think that perhaps the Greeks weren't 'all that bad' but then I can't help thinking that the focus of this side of the cup is actually on the boy peeping through the curtain rather than on the partnered figures.

We know now that at that time there was no word to describe homosexuality. Men did not live together and same-sex relationships were not recognised socially, so I was interested that the museum have also hung contemporary visuals of chaps together.

This appears at first glance to be an apt context I can't help thinking that the cup has little to do with gayness by and large, or at least gayness as we we understand it.

"The Warren Cup: Sex and Society in Ancient Greece and Rome" is on until early July

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bertie Berlin... and Last Weekend

Bank Holiday Saturday was a bit of a right-off... which was a shame as I did want to go to Duckie, but only the spirit was willing. The weekend had started with lashings of lager beer (what a surprise!).... as I was lured at lunchtime by my friend Big Nose. We put the world to rights outside a tiny Olde City pub behind Aldgate in the sunshine over several freezing Carling Extra-Colds... Friday evening I'm ashamed to say we did more of the same with the added pleasure of Mrs Big Nose in attendance at Ye Olde Watling by St. Pauls. It's tres Dickensian: lots of dark corners and old wood. If you're ever looking for a pub near St. Paul's go there instead of one of the blond-wood brigade in the new Paternoster Sq.

I did however purchase a fantastic pair of Raybans in Selfridges (part of my grand plan to revive 'The Glove' photo-shoot fashion: polka-dots, shades, white jackets, and tiger tooth necklaces) but I did get to spend the rest of the day on the sofa (wearing said Raybans) with a bunch of art magazines and Bertie Marshall's new book 'Berlin Bromley'. I've been waiting for this to come out since the reviews started appearing weeks ago (how annoying is it when stuff you want gets reviewed ages in advance !!) and anything club-cultural generally has me hooked.

Bertie (or rather Berlin) was a Bowie fanatic 'Scenester and Rent Boy' and an original member of the Bromley Contingent. He was befriended by the pre-Banshees Siouxsie and Steve Severin. Siouxsie is referred to as SS throughout the majority of the book but not all of it... I don't know whether that's Berlin's pet name for her or perhaps she sues..... Anyway, they hung out at Louises Club and Seditionaires and idolised Cabaret and Christiane F and danced the nite away at Sombrero's on Ken High St and clipp-clopped their way around the West End in a haze of Vodka and Purple Hearts.

The book lurches from Bromley to Soho and back again and there are some lovely moments especially if you're a Banshees fan. I met Siouxsie and Budgie once at an Alan Bennett play of all places at the Piccadilly Theatre. Budgie was chatty and we discussed the lighting and the sets, Siouxsie floated up, all long black fur and gauloise, saying 'Who's it TOO?'... which was slightly embarrassing as I hadn't asked for an autograph and nor would I but we had a good chat for half an hour or so. Once she'd stopped being Joan Collins I enjoyed her lively mind but I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at how interesting she was. I remember being struck by her big beautiful face, like a large square moon.

Anyway back to Bertie Berlin... Boy George lends his celebrity endorsement having written the forward... Amazingly there are a few spelling mistakes and the page-and-a-half chapters don't seem to work after a while (it sort of feels as though it was left unedited); there aren't any pictures either which is a shame cos that would add a lot in terms of texture and I bet he's got tons of great ones. In fact the only pic is the one Steve Severin took on the cover in which Berlin is posing on a bed in a kind of half-drag (but with hairy legs).

Berlin's early rent boy scenes are pretty brutal and the book really does only focus on about two years of Berlin's life experience and I wanted to know more about what happened to him afterwards. There is an epilogue however and he actually travels to Berlin for the first and only time, the place that fostered and informed his attitude and personal culture, probably to recoup something of his earlier energies or at least to connect in some way with the place that so much of what moulded him came from but he seems downbeat and depressed and is running out of funds. We don't really get to find out what happened to him between the two years covered by the book and the recent depression of a squat in Berlin with no money, no fags and no german and probably the crushing realisation that you never get the carefree years back.

It's punchy and short (which suits me due to my damaged attention span) and very readable. It's got BAGS of atmosphere and although I've read quite a lot about 'that scene' it was interesting to read something believable and in the first person rather than something ghosted or distant. I think to call it the 'Post Punk Naked Civil Servant' (as it says on the cover) is being a bit generous... the Marketing Dept I guess. But it's published by SAF, who I think are pretty cool having published 'England's Hidden Reverse' about David Tibet, Coil, Throbbing Gristle and that rather astonishing cast of avant-garde characters so it's worth investigating for that alone.

Artistically I am currently wrestling with collage. I'm up to my neck in repeated images of blown up childhood photos, holidays, my brother and sister, the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, model villages and pixie houses with 5' high boards and enough spraymount to asphixiate a small city.

I completed a HUGE repeated image of a photograph of the Boscastle flooding on Sunday while G was at 'the last home game of the season' (whatever THAT is). I felt emotionally pulled by this large printed riot and set about attacking the board with paint.

I have had some success with my collage explorations and I maintain that the only way to make something worth looking at is to to go mildly mad behind closed doors and lose youself. Normal people would call it 'getting into it'... I mean I make car noises when I paint street scenes for god's sake. Idiot child or serious artist?! Probably idiot child.

Talking about going mildly mad, on Monday we went to Gothic Nightmares at 'Ye Olde Tatey' which thankfully we caught on it's last day... it's a lavish show (but closed now so no point in raving about it) centred around the darkly romantic paintings of Fuseli, William Blake and other loony visionaries. It didn't really tell me anything new, and I'd seen almost all the Blake's before. I was looking forward to finding out more about the connection between literature and dark gothicky painting, but the show didn't really expand on that. I was surprised quite how much the dark romance seeped into popular culture with cartoonists and satirists borrowing well known art-imagery for their cartoonic ends. I guess the print culture was massive and people would have known the paintings from prints that would have been all over the place. I hadn't seen the Fuseli's much and was struck by how practised they were. He's a better painter than Blake for sure, but while Fuseli has technique in spades he didn't have Blake's vision. This was apparent in the last room of the show called 'Revelations' as in the 'Book of'. It was obvious that Blake HAD seen all this stuff, Angels and Devils, or thought he had. He had the ability to see beyond the usual, whereas Fuseli could copy it and inject some playful imagination. I still adore bonkers William Blake.

We also saw the Tate Triennial, which I wasn't expecting to enjoy as it's had such bad reviews. They do it every three years and it's all about new developments in British art and although she's one of my cultural heroes quite what Cosi Fanni Tutti is doing amongst this gang of mid-30-somethings is beyond me! But I was THRILLED to see her... But I would suggest that it's not one for the fainthearted. From the website:-

"For this Triennial, Cosey Fanni Tutti presents her live actions from the late seventies. During this period, she consciously utilised the pornography industry as an apparatus to convey multiple identities. Modelling in the sex industry was one aspect of a wider art project. As founding member of the performance art group COUM Transmission and the Industrial band Throbbing Gristle, Tutti's changing self-image was deployed equally in the worlds of art, music and pornography.

Some of the material you will see beyond this wall was first displayed in 1976 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London in an exhibition entitled Prostitution mounted by COUM Transmission. Tutti's accompanying captions provide an anecdotal chronicle of and reflections on her lived experience".

I never ever thought I'd see stuff from 'Prostitution'. Cosey was/is terrifically brave and the work is powerfully self-exposing. It must have caused such an outcry at the time.

Needless to say I had to give more than one person a 'Paddington Bear Stare' for nervous tittering...

It's on until 14th May.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lost in Music... or rather Not

Oh dear... I feel terrible. Not hungover or anything, just mildly guilty at having walked out of a gig for the first time in my life. And not just any old gig you understand, the Sisters of Mercy Gig.

'The Sisters' are dear to me historically, but Tuesday night at the Astoria was pretty bloody awful. The sound was TERRIBLE!.... Muffled and quiet, squealing feedback and not in a good way. The band kept the gaps between songs to about 5 seconds to cover up the screeching. I don't know enough to know whether this the fault of the venue or the band but the Astoria is hardly large and we were able to have a conversation at normal volume while an unseen Mr Eldritch droned inaudibly somewhere in the customary cloak of dry ice only a short distance away.

Even diehard fans were shouting 'off, Off OFF!' and people were leaving in droves... Ordinarily I'd see it through but this was very bad. I couldn't even make out what they were playing. It was like listening to something in another room!

Comedy value was had however by Crazy G sympathising on the way out with a statuesque lady goth. When G said 'yes I complained as well but they didn't want to know' she looked him up and down said 'well, I'm not surprised dressed like that!' and swooped off with a twirl of her cape. It seems that grey-marl Duffer tops cut no mustard with vampiric ladies of the nite or indeed gothic mixing desks. Dawn and I rather enjoyed poor G's knock-back as you can imagine and we repaired to the pub for a titter. Ha!

Well, in honour of their long-standing importance, and to remind me of the good times, I held a little Sisters disco in my head on the walk to work the morning after courtesy of my iPod. My favourite Sisters tunes are Heartland, Temple of Love (the original version only, please), Alice, Body Electric, Body and Soul, Afterhours, Train.... I could go on. The sad thing about last nite was that the last time I saw them they were great and I couldn't stop dancing. Anyway, I enjoyed my own little inner concert in the sunshine. I had smoke and mirrors AND laserbeam searchlights.

In contrast I LOVED Morrissey on Bank Holiday Monday at Alexandra Palace with Hayloid, Skinny Jake and Kevin. Also met up with Ritchie Rich and saw a few familiar faces.

Hales gets SERIOUS Morrissey Mania and was beginning to blub before we'd even left the Retro... the atmosphere build-up was so tense I thought she was going to burst and needless to say the poor love was practically SCREAMING by the time he eventually took the stage with 'First of the Gang'... I did wonder whether we should have been slightly nearer the medical tent..

Morrissey did 'Still ill' which sent shivers down my spine (how great is it that you can still see someone who can do that!!??) and 'How Soon is Now' but not 'Everyday is like Sunday' or 'Last Night I Dreamt' or Piccadilly Palare' which are my faves. Actually probably just as well for Hales that he didn't do 'Last Night I Dreamt' otherwise we could potentially have had a serious casualty on our hands... (believe me...something akin to beatlemania is alive and well and we've two Sundays at the Palladium to go yet... NURSE!! THE SCREENS!!!)...

We've seen Morrissey a few times before and he seemed more fluid and relaxed this time. At the Albert Hall he was a tad wooden but slightly better at Earl's Court. I'm not a massive fan but always like to see him and I like the laddishness of the crowd, although the Morrissey crew doesn't feel a aggressive these days.

Ally Pally is a great venue with the added bonus of punters being able to smoke and drink anywhere (this is becoming increasing difficult at larger places): you couldn't do a thing at the Cure the other week. The orange squash and no fags brigade are taking over! Only one encore which seemed a bit disappointing but then I guess you should always leave the crowd wanting more... which makes more sense than dispelling them after five songs!