Chaps. 3,4 & 5:Edie Sedgwick: Maid Of Constant Sorrow

October 30, 2010

Edie Sedgwick

Maid Of Constant Sorrow

Chaps 3,4 & 5

Time Is On My Side

A problem with the sixties is the concept of time.  Einstein had gummed up the investigation of the concept considerably.  Time is not a static thing but moves at various speeds.  Strictly speaking time does not exist but is a human construct.  The basis of the construction is the diurnal rotation of the earth and the earth’s revolution around the sun.  There is no starting point for the revolution and no end.  Man constructed a beginning based on earth’s greatest distance from the sun and because of the Plane Of The Ecliptic, the shortest day of the revolution.  This was the most recognizable point to begin.  Without the day and the year there is no basis for determining time; there is no other vantage point in the Universe.

Time has no existence in the universe; there is only space and matter and space cannot be defined without matter.  No changes take place in the nature of space, only in matter, and time is no operative factor in those changes.  Time does not exist outside the human mind.

Time as we usually think about it is a division of the earthly day into hours, minutes and seconds; of the year into seasons, months, weeks and days.  As this is objective time keeping without reference to the passing of events or the perception of the individual subjective time is unaffected by objective time.

Now, let us say that the normal rate of perception and living is done in 4/4 time.  To try to be specific let us say the standard is time as lived by 18-60 year olds adjusted to their societal needs.  Let us just speculate that the mind in its normal state is comfortable with 4 bits of information per second and let us say that normally, whatever that means, bits of information are occuring at 20 bits per second.  That means that 16 bits a second are normally over the subject’s head; he may perceive them but he can’t record them on the spot.  Part of this is made up in sleep and dreams where removed from external stimulus the individual is able to subconsciously process additional bits that went by him while waking.  The remainder then can  only be captured and analyzed from a distance in time where what was happening can be seen but what is gained in distance is lost in immediacy.  That is history, what I am attempting here.  While the big picture can be seen, vast amounts of immediate detail are lost to memory or altered to conform to desires and prejudices.  But, that is the way it is.

The period of ’64-’66 was one in which amphetamines and barbiturates altered or distorted 4/4 time.  Under the influence of amphetamines subjects were living in, let us say, 16/4 time.  They were so alert they couldn’t sleep.  So long as they could control their obsessions  and not be hung up on details they could turn out prodigious amounts of work.  Thus to satisfy this amphetamine induced mania for work Warhol and his assistant, Gerard Malanga, could manually turn out fifty large Presley silk screen prints in an afternoon.  In fact, in this period they turned out thousands and thousands of silk screens.  There are a lot of Warhols out there.

Dreaming Dylan

Dylan is said to have literally and steadily turned out reams of material.  He left a huge sheaf at Baez’s in Carmel in Spring of ’65 which he never reclaimed.  As he said, songs just flowed through his amphetamine fueled mind.  This sort of activity ceased or drew to a close when both Warhol and Dylan ceased using amphetamines- in other word their time races slowed down and their brains slid back toward 4/4 time.

Now, when the subject’s brain was racing at 16/4 it couldn’t slow down to allow him to sleep.  Keith Richards says that in those days he slept only two nights out of seven.  Warhol said he got two hours of sleep a night during this period and some said, perhaps with exaggeration, they didn’t sleep at all for one or two years.

So, while your brain is racing along 16/4 and you feel the need for rest you have to take barbiturates, downers, to slow your time down toward 8/4 or hopefully 4/4.  This pits one drug against the other, one is speeding, one is dragging.  Too much manipulation and of course one’s time slows to 0/4 and you’re dead.

Between events being clustered and racing so fast that no one can keep up, even at 16/4 and certainly at a speed to defy analysis no one had any idea of who or where they were and what was happening.  No matter how fast the brain is racing one is still living in 4/4 time.

For those with 16/4 racing brains and no outlets such as art or writing, music, the result was chaos and self-destruction.  In addition confusion was caused by making the 18-60 years old time race as an objective standard by which all normality is measured.

When someone says that time stood still, it literally did for the subject, the duration of that stillness cannot be measured by objective time.

All I Have To Do Is Dream

What may seem like a few seconds to an outside observer is literally timeless to the subject.  The earth still turns but the mind doesn’t move, but no time is lost because time doesn’t exist.  Thus children and mature people live in 2/4 or 3/4 time in which 4/4 time is irrelevant.  It takes eons for a day or two to pass as a child while objective time becomes irrelevant if you no longer have to watch the clock.  For instance, at 72 I live in a mix between natural time and objective time.  I only have to enter objective time when it’s necessary to keep an appointment and I try to eliminate those as much as possible.  Otherwise it’s day or night, Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall.  I frequently don’t pay attention to what day it is because I don’t need to know and I don’t care.  It doesn’t make any difference; it is always my time.

Doctors try to evaluate your memory by applying the needs of 18-60 year olds who are living according to the demands of objective time.  So, since we live at different time races those whose speeds differ have a difficult time understanding each other.

Give Me Mo' Mo' Mo'

Chapter 4

Speeding Down The Highway

Lest we associate amphetamines at this time with illegal drugs let’s look at the scene in NYC.  Sometime in the early sixties Feel Good doctors were dispensing massive does of amhetamines and vitamins.  the most notorious, or well known, of these doctors were Max Jacobson and a man referred to as Dr. Roberts.

Jacobson appears first on the scene with a patient roster of astounding celebrity which included then President John F. Kennedy.  Lyndon Johnson took a shot but perceived the situation for what it was and didn’t go back.

George Plimpton

The Beatles mention a Dr. Robert in one of their songs and he’s the man we’re concerned with here in ’65 no to be confused with   Dr. Roberts.  Dr. Roberts  administered to some of the Warhol crowd including Edie Sedgwick.  There is an astonishing account of his practice in Stein and Plimpton’s Edie.  Quite an extensive account.  To excerpt it I’d probably have to have permission; I’ll check into it.

These doctors were carelessly giving incredibly huge injections that kept you speeding for a week or two.  But needles, syringes and drug could be obtained easily and they were which brings us to a member of the Factory entourage, Brigid Berlin.  She was not old money but came from a very affluent background.

She, obviously laboring under several mental disorders, was an indiscriminate and unsound dispenser of the drug.  She ran around the Factory injecting all and sundry with the same dirty needle.  Her forte was to inject herself straight through the seat of her jeans.

Jean Stein

Andy, himself, used something call Obetrol which is described as a very high quality amphetamine producing a pleasant  and stimulating high.  While this drug kept Andy up with the exception of an hour or two of fitful sleep it also allowed him to work, work, work, industriously and with intense concentration for hours at a time.  Fifty Presleys in an afternoon, think about it, assembly line pace.

Without a work outlet one had to find other ways to work off the excess energy.  Non-stop talking is one but, hell, I can do that all day without the benefit of drugs.  Since all these people at the Factory were living in 16/4 time they could communicate on that level with each other.  There wasn’t an awful lot of intelligence being communicated.  Warhol did us the service of recording 24 hours of what passed for communication and published the result as a book or novel he titled ‘a’.  This book is virtually unreadable but as dedicated to my art as I am I am living proof that it can be done.  Let’s hear from anyone else who had the patience.  The gang was big on non-verbal communication.  There are mostly a lot of incomplete sentences in the book but the conversation is forwarded in a pastiche manner each participant adding a phrase so that a sort of idea is parsed out.

As might be expected the group was low on conventional 4/4 morality, but at 16/4 they seem to have worked out a morality that all could accept but one I certainly would reject.  Beatings, theft and random sex in view of others or not with anyone or anything seemed to be the moral basis.  While Andy disavowed responsibility for anything that hapened at the Factory he was in fact the leader functioning as Magister Ludi.  In the novel ‘a’ he is referred to as Drella, a combination of Dracula and Cinderella- a vampire and a fairy.  He was in truth a bloodsucker.

He essentially took a whole group of Catholic homosexual Undermen and gave them a clubhouse and a certain immunity under the umbrella of his name and fame.  Even then he and his Factory were a thorn in the side of legitimate society, the police visiting the place on a regular basis.  And rightly so.

This was the scene, the environment that Chuck Wein brought Edie into.  It seemed to suit her state of mind, she stayed.

Magister Ludi

Dylan also was an amphetamine freak at the same time while using alcohol, LSD, marijuana and heroin.  Warhol who was a perceptive observer said that Dylan’s songs were the amphetamine speaking.  According to Andy, Dylan took other people’s words (and tunes) and because of the amphetamine was able to make them sound as though  his own.  He also astutely divided Dylan’s output into two periods; the first, social protest and the second, personal protest.  Pretty much half a side of Another Side, plus Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde.  Once again, he knew whereof he spoke.  We’re concerned more with the personal protest here taking little or no interest in the social side.

Dylan’s personal protest by its very nature must be autobiographical.  Indeed, Suze Rotolo identifies many of Dylan’s songs as referring to her.  She should know.  Dylan was quite taken with her.  He obviously suffered a painful feeling of desertion whan at her mother’s insistence in 1962 she left NYC to study in Italy.  This absention definitely changed the relationship although as Bob was never too constant a lover it is difficult to see how.  Ego was hurt, I guess.

Although the relationship was reassumed on Suze’s return her sister, Carla, and her mother disapproved finally breaking the couple up.  The break up produced the autobiographical Ballad In Plain D in which Dylan vented his emotions in a loud screaming complaint that was a direct predecessor to his magic mantra ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’

Chapter 5

I Can’t Stand The Pain In Here

According to accounts Dylan began writing Like A Rolling Stone in June of ’65.  It began as 20 pages of ‘vomit’ according to Dylan, cut down to 10 and then to its released form.  The 45 was a successful disc reaching the Billboard Top 10.  The song is quite obviously about Edie when one learns the background.  Many New Yorkers who were aware of the scene expressed their opinion that it was about Edie, pointing out further their belief that Warhol was the Napoleon in rags.

If first written in June then Dylan had made a considerable psychological investment in Edie since the previous December of ’64.  One wonders where he found the time to cultivate a relationship with her between the two dates.  He wrote recorded and released ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ between the meeting with Edie and April.  He had performance dates.  He divided his time between NYC, Woodstock and Carmel.  In the last mentioned place he was staying at the home of Joan Baez while keeping Sara in Woodstock and maintaining some sort of relationship with Suze.

The extent of the rage and hatred of ‘Stone’ seems to be out of all proportion.  According to the song Dylan is in a jealous rage because the ‘She’ of the song has deserted him for this ‘Napoleon in rags.’  ‘He calls to you, go to him now.’  What exactly did Dylan intend to do with Edie that he should become so emotonal?  There is no question but that he intended to marry Sara; also none that he would marry either Joan, Suze or Edie.  Quite simply they weren’t Jewish and Sara was.  Dylan had no intention of marrying outside his religion.  He intended to obey the Biblical injunction, which he takes as the literal word of God, to be fruitful and he wanted his children raised Jewish.

So what, then?  What did Edie represent to him?  Apart from being an uptown girl, in Volume I of his autobiographical Chronicles he suggests that one looks for the model of ‘She’ in his mother.  I found this puzzling.  I couldn’t make it fit the lyrics.  None of the ‘facts’ of the song seemed to fit what is known of his mother.  Then I saw Dylan’s 2003 movie, Masked And Anonymous.  This is a delicate subject of which I am only going to skirt the edges.  But, if one reads between the lines of Jack Fate’s soliloquy at his father’s death bed about his mother and faher, the lyrics of Freight Train Blues and what I’m hinting at here the fog should thin out somewhat.  Remember that Dylan said his mother was connected to ‘Stone’.   Since the song is about Edie it follows that Dylan associated his mother and Edie in his mind; there was a situational similarity to him.

Now, from August ’65 to the recording of Blonde On Blonde nearly the whole of Dylan’s output is centered around Edie, Warhol and the Factory.  One of Dylan’s more vicious songs was ‘Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat’ which is about Edie.  When Edie dissipated her inheritance she bought a slew of fur coats and a lot of jewelry.  She had the leopard skin pill box hat.

Dylan’s mother was also known for having a lot of jewelry and several fur coats.  Dylan recorded his version of Freight Train Blues long after 1968 when his father died.  Now, immediately after his death the business owned by his father and two uncles either went bankrupt or was forced to close.  In other words there was no more money left in the business.  While Hibbing was not a flush market there was no competition either.  So Abe Zimmerman’s exit came at a propitious moment, or….  At any rate there was no more money.

Just as Edie went through her money so Dylan’s mother kept her husband hopping in all likelihood straining the finances of the appliance store that, after all, had to support three families.  Dylan, then, may have conflated Edie with his mother’s extravagance and whatever he had planned for Edie would have been done to his mother surrogate.  In fact he was quite brutal to Edie, destroying her in the end.  Thus one avenges oneself on one’s mother, ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’  He is probably one of those people who reject but can’t tolerate rejection because of his mother’s rejection of him per Jack Fate.  According to his soliloquy in Masked And Anonymous his mother essentially rejected him plnging him into a deep depression from which he has never recovered if the movie is any indicaton.  The movie too is autobiographical.   He felt:  ‘Nobody leaves me, I leave them.’  ‘That’ll be the day when you leave me’ as Dylan’s hero Buddy Holly put it.  This was possibly the cause for the eruption of Ballad In Plain D.

Obetrol

In March of ’65 Edie entered the corrupt, even criminal, world of Warhol’s Factory.  One can only speculate why Chuck Wein took her there.  Perhaps the empresario was having a difficult time getting Edie launched and thought he could get her into Warhol’s hideous movies.  Having run through her inheritance Edie was getting desperate for money.  Perhaps in her naivete she thought movies were movies and movie stars made big money.  Certainly one cause for her break from Andy was his refusal to pay her.

Warhol, in his own delusions believed that Hollywood would come knocking on his door cash in hand.  That that never happened was probably a major disappointment.  At any rate when this vision of the respectable Overmen appeared in this dump of a studio Andy went ga-ga.  In fact, Edie was his ticket, his entry into the Upper East Side crowd.  Just as Fred Hughes was to show him how to make money, Edie opened society doors to him.

This King of Scurf was creating quite a scene at the Factory.  At the same time he gave a clubhouse to the Undermen, as a leading figure of the art world which, after all, is an upper class affair of wealth, he had a foot in that camp.  Led by the more louche of celebrities the Factory was becoming a party destination.  So Edie added some instant uptown glamor.  Old family, old money.

Whether it was the hope of money from movies that kept her there or whether this degrading atmosphere filled some psychological need Edie stayed on thereby sacrificing her reputation.  I imagine there’s always the hope that once you get your face up there something will pop.

Sometime between March and June Dylan became enraged that Edie was at the Factory making some pretty lame Warhol movies with little or no commercial appeal.  Thus his work from this time on reflected his tug of war over Edie with Warhol.

Edie says that she didn’t get into heavy drugs before she joined Warhol’s menagerie.  This may be true but as Warhol said:  How do you stop someone from doing what they want to do?  I would imagine the effects of electro-shock are very long lasting and discombobulating.  Lou Reed of Velvet Underground was certainly whacked out from electro-shock.  As I write my mind keeps going back to the time I stuck my finger in the socket as a child.  I mean, it is vivid, so I can’t imagine what Electro-shock does to you.  Perhaps speed replicates what electro-shock does do to you.  Perhaps speed replicates or complements the feeling of electro-shock in some way.

Of amphetamines Edie is quoted as saying:

The Ghost Of Electricity

The nearly unendurable torment of speed, buzzarama, that acrylic high, horrorous, yodeling, repetitious echoes of an infinity so brutally harrowing that words cannot explain the devastation nor the tone of such a vicious nightmare.

Could be close to the feeling of electro-shock.  Kind of reminds me of my finger in the socket.  Dylan’s seach for the ‘high mercury sound’ must also have been the result of speed.  Cacophonous songs like ‘Highway 61’, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ and ‘Rainy Day Women’ come to mind.

Perhaps also the amphetamine high reflected and complemented the deranged vicious goings on Warhol allowed at the Facatory.  The sado-masochism.  Brigid Berlin, or the Duchess as she was alternately known, roaming around with her needle and syringe ramming it into anyone will they, nil they, not much choice there.  Beatings going on back in the shadows, is it any wonder that Dylan referred to Warhol as Dr. Filth in Desolation Row.

It is difficult to ascertain dates in existing sources but possibly between June and August Dylan invited Edie and Andy to a concert in upstate NY so, there was significant interaction between the three before Highway 61 Revisited.  Side one of that record doesn’t reflect Factory activity as much as side two.  I suspect all three songs on that side reflect Dylan’s sitation with Andy and Edie while Desolation Row definitely does.  Now, while at the time there were few listeners who had any idea of what Dylan’s lyrics meant except for possibly a few, of which Warhol definitely was one.  He must have recognized the reference to himself in ‘Stone’ and also in Positively Fourth Street.  These songs were hits.  ‘Fourth Street’ was pulled from airplay shortly after relaease but when I first heard it the sound just blew me away.  I heard the put downs but too fleetingly to grasp them.  Hank Williams on steroids.

Stop! In The Name Of Love

Dylan, then, was making, on Warhol a blatant attack over the airwaves of all America plus reviling Edie in a hideous manner.  What did Andy think, what was his reaction?  Having vented his feelings even more violently than he had in Ballad In Plain D, Dylan’s next move was obvious.  Having lost Edie in March he meant to reclaim her in October.  And so this epic battle for the person of Edie Sedgwick began.  She was only a pawn in their game.

Chaps. 6, 7 and 8 are up on the next post.

Chaps 9,10, 11 and 12 are now up on the post following 6,7 and 8.

 Chaps 13, 14 and 15 are now up also.  Chap. 16 and end is in contemplation

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